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!
On the merits of the post I agree. So many problems in our world and country stem directly from the fact that we have too many people and those producing the most children also tend to be least able to provide for them.
BUT, one huge factor standing in the way of any sort of limitation on population growth is the fact that we NEED growth. Not in a good way, but in a 'preventing economic collapse' way. We need more and more people to be born every year to buy things, to earn money, to pay taxes, to pay into social security or the whole thing comes crashing down. The US predicts a deficit of $9 trillion over the next 10 years, and that assumes we continue the growth machine (GDP/population/housing/consumption). If we get zero population growth (and all the things tied to it) we would probably go bankrupt and witness the collapse of our government. It's a damned if we do, damned if we don't situation.
Also, respectfully, I think the post is a little too political for what you normally cover on this blog (which I love of course). Narcissistic parents and the pronatalism culture is spread equally among the left and right. I don't see anyone on the left calling for an end to the many subsidies we provide to parents.
Keep up the great work, but no need to get too political you know? :-)
Ironically, you often hear the opposite approach: We need to have more kids because we need them to pay the Social Security of the aging population.
Thanks for your post and I respect (and welcome) your thoughtful opinion. If you'd like steer my content, however, please send $29.99 for a subscription. As of right now, I am doing this for free, so I will post whatever tickles my fancy (and that would include my hubby's political rants ;)
I had a similar thought the other day. While the pro-lifers, mainly conservatives, will fight tooth and nail against abortion or any kind of sex education, their stance changes dramatically when they are faced with paying for all these new lives with their taxpayer dollars. It seems very hypocritical to me and even more ironic that they don't realize the double meaning of "the children are our future."
Have you ever seen the movie "Idiocracy"? If not, you should rent it...it's hilarious and very applicable to this discussion.
Good point, Vivyan. And every time I see abortion protesters, I wonder to myself how many of them are willing to adopt all the unwanted children they want to save.
I really enjoyed this. And agree with it completely. I'm generally not a political person per se, but I do feel very strongly on issues like this. It really comes down to just being a discussion, though, because the chance of any of this being implemented in our country is nil.
Interesting post! I come from a more libertarian viewpoint, and would like to see a LOT less government spending as well as a LOT less government in our lives.
"...how many of them are willing to adopt all the unwanted children they want to save"
EXACTLY! This has always been a HUGE problem I've had with those nut-job "pro-life" protesters. Are THEY going to take care of all the babies they "save" from abortion? Hell no!
" I come from a more libertarian viewpoint, and would like to see a LOT less government spending as well as a LOT less government in our lives."
DITTO! Get the hell out of my bedroom and my wallet, PLEASE!
Excellent post. I see what Dave is saying, too, though. I would stand behind a one-child policy. I have an "only" by choice, so I really wouldn't be affected. I'm not so much against breeding as I wish people would allow the death rate to creep ahead a bit more.
Between NICUs keeping IVF babies alive* and selfishly desperate people keeping their aging, vegetable parents hooked up to machinery for years, we're not allowing nature to take it's course at all anymore. I saw a news item the other day boasting about some recently born babies being able to live to their 100s. People have forgotten that death is part of life.
*Nothing against life-saving technology, but come on...we're literally manufacturing people now. It's gotten out of hand.
Oh, and I thought I'd add this. I remember reading some years ago about this new baby boom prompted by 9/11. It scared everyone straight...back in time. I notice many women in the generation ahead of me (I was in high school)turned away from the "We can have it all" career-driven attitude to "a woman's place is in the home". Birth rates went up, people began getting married sooner. I really wish I could find that article, because it had some valid points.
Thanks for the good points, Dave. As I said, the post is partially facetious; of course we need to replace our 'expired' citizens, as I pointed out. However, you had one inaccuracy in your reply, and it's why I chose to 'politicize': "the pronatalism culture is spread equally among the left and right". Pronatalism ITSELF is spread all across our culture, but the "pronatalist culture", that is; the culture that ENCOURAGES AND GLORIFIES out-of-cotrol procreation, is absolutely intertwined with, and largely perpetrated by, conservative culture. I'm not here bash anyone's values, but three of the major tenets of conservatism all contribute heavily to this, especially among non-critical thinkers: tradition, organized religion, and the unconditional lionization of the family. And this applies worldwide, not just in America. One example: the leaders of one major religion (the second fastest growing in the world) actually STILL claim that, per God, birth control should NEVER be used, despite the irreversable consequence to every aspect of life on Earth - possibly as early as mid-century. And one of the reasons you "don't see anyone on the left calling for an end to the many subsidies we provide to parents" is that, as I metioned in the post, once the kiddies have arrived, we're morally obligated to keep them alive and guarded (although Wifey and I have called for 'and end' plenty..and loudly!!)
Excellent post! This line is what really spoke to me the loudest:
"Sorry, call me elitist, but a major aspect of intelligent people is planning. Great leaders, generals, scientists, businesspeople..they all have this in common."
I wonder if you've ever seen the movie 'Idiocracy'? It is a comedy that addresses this exact issue, and the story is about the long-term effects of intelligent, educated people limiting the number of children they have and the uneducated (or people who simply lack forethought) breeding without regard for exactly *how* their offsrping will develop. I would love to see a blog post about your (or Firecracker Mandy's) review of this movie if one has not already been done.
I couln't agree more to everything you just said. It's the dumb ones who are breeding and producing dumber citizens who will do little for the rest of us. Then, we will all be faced with unemployement, lack of resources and fewer social rights.
It's not true that we need more new people to pay for our retirement, there are WAY too many already and there are no enough jobs for everybody.
In Spain where I live there is 40% unemployement among the young people, so will anyone explain to me how are these people contributing to the economy if they are parasites? There is a huge financial crisis here but many of them don't really want to work either.
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