Today's post is from a guest contributor: my hubby.
In recent weeks, the less-educated and more reactionary on the political right have been calling the President a "fascist" (apparently talk radio blowhards weren't generating enough anger from using "socialist"). Anyone familiar with history, or the first pages labeled "F" in the dictionary, knows how ludicrous this is. But the irony of our democratic society, where pronatalism is inextricably bound to the political right and religious zealots, is this: many of the complaints leveled at the president from them could be solved by us adopting a single concept from Communist China:
ONE CHILD PER FAMILY.
Now, of course I'm being facetious, knowing it would never happen here. But before you grab the torches and pitchforks, hear me out a moment.
As discussed here on my wife's blog, the average cost of raising an American child is several hundred thousand dollars, not including college or weddings - an extraordinary burden on parents, especially in this economy..but wait! It's often NOT on parents.
Despite a declining US birth rate, 4,247,000 children were born here last year. The growing poverty rate in the US was listed by the government as 13.2% for 2008. If you apply that percentage to the number of children born, it's credible that close to 321,700 of them were born to parents who are, or will be, partially or completely dependent on taxpayer support to provide for the kids. Multiply that times the average cost per child: a possible 64-billion-plus eventual taxpayer dollars, times the adjusted birth numbers, for each fiscal year!! Of course, once the children arrive, we have a moral obligation to see that they don't end up dead or living in the streets. But one of the many problems with pronatalism is that it's message isn't selectively parsed - according to society, religion, and the media, EVERYONE should have kids.
Consider just one example: Nadya "Octomom" Suleman is reviled for her selfishness, as well she should be. But, change the channel, and we have the sickening spectacle of 'poor' Kate Gosselin raking in the dough as she bequeaths a video diary of self-pity and infidelity to her own octo-brood. Her relative mental stability and likability compared with Octomom's becomes semantic: she appears on the surface to be more fit as a mother than the average apathetic, unemployed and/or drug-addicted mom..but the end result is still another narcissistic child-woman who bought into the 'more is more' philosophy of child rearing, and now depends on the profitability of our voyeuristic culture to try to put strained carrots on the table.
In rural areas, the 'quiver-full' philosophy has a better chance for a happier outcome, given that others in the community often step in to help with care, yet it also has more sinister undertones: in misogynist cultures (which traditional ones usually are), the easiest way to keep women 'controlled' is to keep them breeding..and, as Christianity declines in popularity worldwide, what better way to produce converts than to 'manufacture' them? Of course, at the moment of conception, none of these outcomes is guaranteed - so then the taxpayers must step in. A popular bumper sticker seen on cars owned by conservatives in the '70's, during the peak of our mismanagement of the welfare system, read: "The more we feed, the more they breed." The racial implications of that statement notwithstanding, every pronatalist should pause to consider how the breeding imperative has backfired on the stated value of fiscal responsibility that many of them espouse. Many pronatalists have fought for decades to eliminate comprehensive sex education in schools, especially regarding realistic birth control options (and abstinence doesn't count as one of those when you're talking about teens - sorry, it's just human nature, not politics!). The result, of course, has contributed to the problem outlined above, as people without knowledge consistently make bad choices. But luckily those pronatalists have been losing of late, as statistics show.
Irony strikes hard again, though, as many of the apoplectic, socially sheltered talk radio fans chanting for the president's death due to the kind of projected spending that I've outlined above, would direct the same level of anger and obstinacy toward their own children if greeted with: "We don't want kids".
Of course, we'll always need new citizens. But as we continue to become a less agrarian and industrial society and a more technical one, creating more 'laborers' becomes less of an imperative. And if smaller government is an ideal of fiscal conservatism, it stands to reason that a smaller, yet just as productive, society would be also. Knowing that quality education for everyone is also the key to this, this speaks to another frightening trend: It's the dumb ones that tend to breed the most.
Sorry, call me elitist, but a major aspect of intelligent people is planning. Great leaders, generals, scientists, businesspeople..they all have this in common. If the financial, emotional, and pragmatic aspects of child rearing were carefully considered by everyone..the fewer children who WERE born would be so well cared for, loved, and developed, that almost every American would have a shot at greatness..and before you could say "welfare state", we'd have transformed ourselves to most-profitable-nation-on-Earth status!
So consider all this, America (and the world), and then ask yourselves: wouldn't a little sacrifice of technical "freedom" result in a better life for all of us? Of course, this is the same argument used to make torture seem patriotic, so I'll stop typing now..and you can all resume the procreation!