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  • Family Free-Riders

    Posted by Shannon Love on March 3rd, 2006 (All posts by )

    Economically, every society needs children.

    Children are the producers of the future This means that children are in a sense a necessary economic good. [Update: I mean “good” in the sense of a created product like steel, not in the sense of a positive or negative] A society that does not produce enough children, or that cannot produce enough children who grow into economically productive adults, is doomed to poverty. Every long-term investment we make, whether in the private or public sector, is predicated on the idea that there will be a future generation which will actually produce a return. It doesn’t matter what economic or political system rules the present, it will need children to secure its future. Even the most self-centered individual would eventual realize that if the next generation cannot produce, his own welfare will suffer.

    So, collectively we all need children and benefit when they grow into productive adults, but the cost of raising children is increasingly being borne by fewer and fewer in the general population.

    Childless adults are rapidly becoming economic free riders on the backs of parents.

    In the pre-industrial era, children almost always contributed to the economic success of the family directly. Agriculture depended heavily on the labor of children, and children brought further benefits by extending support networks via marriages. In the industrial era, however, children began to contribute less and less while consuming more and more. Nowadays, children usually return very little if any economic benefit to the parents.

    Being a parent costs one economically. Although we socialize some cost, such as education, parents pay most of the cost of raising a child. Parents also lose out in non-monetary ways such as in a loss of flexibility in when and where they work. If an individual sets out to maximize his lifetime income, avoiding having children would be step one.

    In our atomized society, children do not provide a boost in status, networking or security that offsets their very real cost. I think this economic loss may explain why many people shy away from having children. Many people simply do not want the loss of status that will come from having their disposable income consumed by rug rats.

    Like all free-rider situations, this one will eventually cause a collapse that hurts everyone. As the percentage of parents in the population shrinks, the cost of being a parent will rise. More and more people will be tempted to conserve their own resources and let someone else shoulder the burden of creating the next generation. Eventually, the society will either produce too few children or, probably more likely, will not produce enough children with the skills and habits needed to carry on the economy

    There is already grousing in some blue zones by the childless that they shouldn’t have to subsidize the “breeders'” children. How long before child-hostile places like San Francisco become the norm?

    I’m not sure how to address this problem from a public-policy perspective, but the next time you run into someone bragging because he chose not to have children, call him a parasite and see how it works out.

    [Update: In looking at the comments I thought I would make some points more explicitly.

    (1) This is an argument about economic behavior. Individuals may or may not have what others would think of as valid personal reasons for not having children but that is irrelevant to the economic argument.

    (2) Except for some trivial income tax deductions, parents pay all the taxes that the childless do plus all the significant cost of rearing the children. Children provide no economic return to their parents. The entire population benefits from the productivity of the next generation but only parents pay the very real economic cost of creating the next generation.

    (3) History has shown that individuals will gravitate towards the wealth maximizing behaviors in the short-term even if every individual understands that long-term the behaviors will be self-destructive for everyone. The free-rider problem is just the inverse of the tragedy of the the commons. The only difference being that instead of consuming a resource free-riders avoid expending resources. In the modern world, childlessness maximizes an individual’s wealth. It is reasonable to presume that more and more people will avoid having children in order to maximize their own individual wealth. This is a textbook free-rider problem.

    (4) Carried to extremes, this free-rider problem could have significant economic consequences. If productivity growth does not match the shrinking population then the economy will falter.

    (5) My “parasite” label was directed at those who are arrogantly proud of their childless status and contemptuous of parents. Their attitude is all the more grating because most of them are Leftist who demand that the state coerce my children into paying for their retirement.]

    [Update 2006-03-03 18:38:09: I find it interesting that although I make no policy recommendations in this post, many commentators feel free to criticize me for the recommendations they imagine I imply, some even go so far as to evoke Reductio ad Hitlerum.

    Secondly, people who claim that the childless subsidize the children of the parents misunderstand the matter on two points: (1) In this context, any subsidy that the childless provide in the form of taxes, which parents do not also pay is trivial. Stop deluding yourself. You’re making out like bandits. (2) We are talking about economic return here, not quality of life. Children today provide no significant economic return to the parents. So, even if the childless were providing a significant subsidy to parents that wouldn’t provide any economic benefit to the parents. The disparity in wealth that drives the free-rider problem would still exist.]

    [Update 2006-03-03 18:38:09: whoops, the next to last line of the previous update should read So, even if the childless were providing a significant subsidy to children that wouldn’t provide any economic benefit to the parents]

    [Update 2006-03-03 18:38:09:You can often identify a free-rider problem by asking the simple question, “what would happen if everybody chose the suspected free-ride?” For example, suppose the fire department was supported purely by voluntary contributions. If everyone contributed equally, the fire department could function to some level. If everyone chose not to contribute it couldn’t. Not contributing to the fire department while others did would be a free-ride.

    The same applies to child rearing. If every adult cranked out at least one kid, that might cause its own set of problems but we could confident that the human race and the economy would continue to survive. However, if every adult sought to maximize their own short-term economic benefit by avoiding the cost of rearing children, then the economy would eventually collapse.

    Clearly, not having children and assuming the real cost of turning a fetus into an economically productive adult is a free-ride in the economic sense.]

    [Update 2006-03-03 18:38:09: I have made another post with more thoughts here.]

     

    211 Responses to “Family Free-Riders”

    1. Gabriel Mihalache Says:

      Excuse me but this is just silly… You don’t have children because you must create the next generation, that’s what a soviet central planner or a robot from Mars might think… you do it because you want to, need to, feel strongly about it. Children are “consumption goods” to their parents and future capital goods for the labour market.

      Lifetime income is rather neither here nor there. What’s the marginal value of a child? That can only be revealed in action so it’s tautological.

      And as for your free rider worries, it’s simple, desocialize it. Let everyone pay for their own expenses, remove the moral hazard component of welfare and allow private and voluntary help programs.

      Also, ignoring the holism/collectivist elements in talking about what’s right for the economy of the community or whatnot, if there will be a shortage of children then we can expect the price to rise, in other word, children with be more valuable so people will have more of them until a new equilibrium is reached.

      It’s an “atomized world” because it’s a world of atomized preferences. Let people live their lives according to theirs, not yours. Techno-babble based on “market failures” literature can’t disguise the collectivist and authoritarian bias of this text.

      Nice try, though. ;-)

    2. Russell Wardlow Says:

      Gabriel,

      Were you being ironic in that first paragraph? At first you deride the idea of reducing the idea of children to abstract societal or economic terms, and then classify them as “consumption goods.”

    3. Gabriel Mihalache Says:

      My point is that if we are to model them as goods or bads for the purpose of estimating the parents’ choices, then it would be most realistic if we would see them as consumption goods, consumption which also generates a positive externality as the author noted.

      As far as externalities go, I’m one of those wacky people that don’t see the legal case for taxating the free rider if the system if not contractual.

      In that sense, I don’t support taxing gays, for example, because they get an advantage from interacting with the next generation created by and at the cost of others simply because they didn’t sign any contract with the parents.

    4. Gabriel Mihalache Says:

      I’ve been thinking about it and I must appologise to the author. My initial critique completely fails to address the point of the text. ;-)

      My initial thought was that parents are being subsidized by the taxes of non-parents but obviously that was not the intent.

      As for the actual point, that non-parents benefit from the children of parents, well, that’s a particular case of the idea that we all benefit from the existence of others. Children benefit from the existence of non-parents, parents benefit from the existence of non-parents, and so on.

      You don’t have any contracts and you can’t even begin to expect to be able to price all these externalities. On the whole I suggest we’ve even, more or less.

      I think that the error starts here: “Economically, every society needs children.”… I would say that, economically speaking, there are no needs, only preferences. That’s the lesson of Econ 101.

      Sorry, again, for my initial hasty comment.

    5. Brett Bellmore Says:

      Yes, and the very next thing my Econ 101 prof said was, “You don’t need to live, you only prefer to live.

      Having children might only be a “hypothetical” imperative, but it’s a darned strong one, given that species extinction isn’t on most people’s agendas, nor is starving to death when you become too elderly to labor on your own behalf, and find that everyone else is in the same boat.

    6. Mitch Says:

      I love economics, but there are plenty of things in life that do not lend themselves to economic methods of thought. The objectivists make the same mistake the Marxists did. Homo economicus died childless.

    7. Ginny Says:

      One of my students, clearly repeating his father’s complaints, said that his father shouldn’t have to pay any school taxes. None of his kids were going to school in his district, since his parents were divorced. Yes, I said, others’ education makes no difference to your father.

      Everything out there isn’t some idiot like Bemmish; education also means that the guy can give you change at McDonalds and someone is coming up with another energy source for your father’s tractor. And college isn’t just Ward Churchill; for instance, that kid was sitting in a class where his seat was subsidized pretty hugely by the state and then by the taxes paid by those in the county in which his father lived, if not his mother. And his father had clearly not taught him to look at the world tribally, willfully – this guy needed an education that broadened his horizons a bit. He also needed to learn to look at facts that didn’t support his own thesis, not to just throw them out.

      That example, which has stayed in my mind, is ironically posed by a parent who wanted no responsibilities for any other’s child (and I suspect little for his own) rather than my childless friends who are more likely to keep such opinions (if they have them) to themselves.

      Yeah, my kids are taking goods out of the common pot, but, if I raise them right, they will be putting a hell of a lot more into that pot than they’ve taken. And, sure, Hillary’s view of the village raising a child is deeply flawed, can be deeply irresponsible, can be deeply & tragically ideological – but there is some truth to it. A good society reinforces a good family’s teachings, it respects the vulnerability & potential of children.

    8. Joshua Says:

      From the original post (with my emphasis added):

      A society that does not produce enough children, or that cannot produce enough children who grow into economically productive adults, is doomed to poverty.

      Children who are raised poorly are the ones most likely to become wards of society (e.g. incarcerated criminals), as opposed to productive members, in adulthood. It seems to me that societal wards are the real free-riders and economic drags, not childless adults who are otherwise economically productive. For this reason, my view is that if you really aren’t inclined to raise children to the best of your ability, with all that doing so entails, then it’s probably in society’s best interest that you don’t, well, breed any.

    9. Ginny Says:

      We don’t need to talk criminals, some are driven to disrupt workplaces & marriages; high maintenance adults (low productivity on the commercial & domestic fronts as well) come from troubled children. But a society that doesn’t reinforce & value the importance of children & child raising is more likely to produce such children.

    10. Paul K Says:

      “Having children might only be a “hypothetical” imperative, but it’s a darned strong one, given that species extinction isn’t on most people’s agendas, nor is starving to death when you become too elderly to labor on your own behalf, and find that everyone else is in the same boat.”

      I don’t think that species extinction was what Sharron or Gabriel were talking about. Human species birth rates are way above replacement rates right now. The only place you can argue that birth rates are below replacement rates is in specific cultures. We are not facing the extinction of the species, only the possible extinction of some cultures.

      Regarding starving to death, well, there are lots of folks doing that right now. Once again, the issue is not whether humans are going to starve, but which cultures are going to go from being self-supporting to non-self-supporting. Sharron’s point, if I understand it correctly, was that people who don’t have children are not bearing a fair share of the cost of maintaining the prosperity of the society, because children are a necessary component of that prosperity.

      My problem with the “free ride” argument is that children are a necessary but not sufficient component of prosperity. I don’t know how to compare the cost of raising a child to the cost of any other un-compensated activity that a person engages in that contributes to the prosperity of the society. For example, Adam Smith used the differences in the amount of policing in London and Paris in his lectures in jurisprudence. The police force in Paris was much larger because there were far more crimes in relation to the size of the population than there were in London. There was a direct relationship between the costs of government and the libery, independence, and prosperity of the people in those two cities on the one hand and the public morals of the citizens on the other. Civic virtue is an un-compensated activity with a direct impact on societal prosperity.

      In other words, how do I compare the cost to the prosperity of the society of people who don’t have children, to the cost to the society of people who raise a brood of serial murderers?

      Even in the area of specific cultural demographics, I’m very reluctant to extrapolate data into the future. My favorite example of the dangers of invalid extrapolation is from Mark Twain:

      “In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period, just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact.”
      – Life on the Mississippi –

      Finally, I would like to be there when Sharron calls the Pope a “parasite.” I’m not sure that was where she was going, but he certainly fits her definition. Around here, the epithet is “DINK” for Dual Income, No Kids. I was a Dink until last spring when my wife’s best friend died unexpectedly (on Mother’s Day by coincidence) leaving a ten-year old daughter. I went from having no children to being a surrogate parent at the age of 50 in a single weekend. My personal experience has been that the time commitment far outweighs the financial burden.

    11. w sol vason Says:

      People who have children and raise them to child bearing age pass their genes on. People who live long enough to make sure their children also have children and make sure their children’s children grow old enough to reproduce have a reproductive advantage over everyone else.

      People who live in societies have a reproductive advantage over people who live as hermits.

      Reproductive advantage determines whether societies survive. Societies which encourage unlimited reproduction do NOT have a reproductive advantage. A scoiety must make sure that just the right number of children are born. Too many cildren and scarce natural resources needed for food and shelter are used up. Too few children and the society is unable to defend itself against more populous neighbors.

      The US in the 1700’s and 1800’s is a perfect example of the impact of reproductive advantage on the existence of a society. The aborigines used a stone age technology to balance their population perfectly with available resources. The European interlopers who had an infinitely more developed technology realized that America had unlimited resources and so while the aborigines reproduced at replacement rates the Europeans bred faster than rabbits.

      So the Europeans won because they had more children. Because resources were unlimited, for the first time in history, the Europeans kept the losers around.

      Societies which lose the reproductive advantage either disappear from history or end up owning wagering parlors.

    12. LotharBot Says:

      There’s nobody here named “Sharron”, but there is someone named “Shannon”.

    13. Lenny Says:

      “There is already grousing in some blue zones by the childless that they shouldn’t have to subsidize the “breeders'” children… the next time you run into someone bragging because he chose not to have children, call him a parasite and see how it works out.”

      The particular link that comes to mind is that under the current system my investment in productive children will be the source of his/her social security check…

    14. Paul K Says:

      Oops. Sorry Shannon.

    15. Enoch Says:

      Oh, is it now a fact that I, who opted not to have a “family,” am “a parasite?” How uppity and critical! Personally, I saw the world as it was and is and forever shall be and decided not to persue the production of progeny. How dare you insinuate I’m a parasite. If you were to face reality, children are parasites. Much the same for ridiculous, house-bound cats and dogs. Pets would sooner devour you, if and when they had the chance. Children do much the same, in their own inimitable way. Welfare cheats are parasites. Crooked politicians are parasites. Liberals are parasites. Journalists and writers are parasites. Would you like to confront me with your absurd accusations at a proper venue, perhaps? Parasite, indeed!!! If you find yourself so concerned with the paucity of population numbers, do decide to add a few of your own pups to diminish this “new” dilemma. But, please, contain yourself and keep your own house in order.

    16. Enoch Says:

      Oh, is it now a fact that I, who opted not to have a “family,” am “a parasite?” How uppity and critical! Personally, I saw the world as it was and is and forever shall be and decided not to pursue the production of progeny. How dare you insinuate I’m a parasite. If you were to face reality, children are parasites. Much the same for ridiculous, house-bound cats and dogs. Pets would sooner devour you, if and when they had the chance. Children do much the same, in their own inimitable way. Welfare cheats are parasites. Crooked politicians are parasites. Liberals are parasites. Journalists and writers are parasites. Would you like to confront me with your absurd accusations at a proper venue, perhaps? Parasite, indeed!!! If you find yourself so concerned with the paucity of population numbers, do decide to add a few of your own pups to diminish this “new” dilemma. But, please, contain yourself and keep your own house in order.
      Posted by: Enoch on March 5, 2006 06:05 AM    Permalink

    17. LotharBot Says:

      Not all who choose to be childless are parasites. Consider such examples as career soldiers, clergy, and spies — people who give great benefit to society in one way or another, but often choose not to have children for one reason or another.

      On the other hand, there are those who choose not to have children simply so they can consume more themselves. I used to be active in the online “overpopulation” communities, and I was always amazed at how utterly selfish some people could be while hiding behind the veneer of “doing what’s best for the planet”. Very often, their arguments came down to “I want to be able to use as many resources as possible, so I’m not going to have kids. If you don’t have kids, that leaves even more resources for me. So stop having kids.”

      The problem nowadays is simply that far too many people have made that choice — they’ve chosen not to have many children because they don’t want to spend the money. This leads to a major demographic shift, where extra strain is put on my generation (20-somethings) to care for previous generations.

      There’s nothing wrong with an individual choosing not to have children. But there is something wrong with a society greatly reducing the number of children they have without ALSO changing their habits as they age.

    18. Tyouth Says:

      With the greater portion of the population being net recipients of public largess (see much earlier posts re. who pays taxes) and not contributors it’s clearly arguable that a smaller population would be a more economically efficient.
      (Really, it’s far more likely that the “producers” per capita are greatly reduced in larger poplulations).

      Enoc has a point that’s driven home by the portion of real estate taxes home owners pay toward education – kids in the home or not.` In my area it’s aprox. $8000/kid/year to educate the population. A twenty classroom school, then, brings in a cool $5 million/year. Following these rates for 16 years of education and $80 million is spent to get 600 or so kids through the system.

      Will these monies be returned to society, with interest? I doubt it, maybe someone else will break it down.

    19. LotharBot Says:

      Tyouth, the problem isn’t with the size of the population… it’s with the distribution. When society as a whole decides to increase or reduce the average number of kids, we have to understand and deal with the consequences of that. The Baby Boom had consequences in terms of education costs — new schools had to be built, new teachers had to be hired, and so on. People deciding to have significantly fewer children has its costs too — the percentage of people in the workforce will shrink, and therefore there will be less production (for everyone), unless changes are made to the timing of retirement.

      Larger populations have greater “momentum”, in some sense… it’s harder to change course when each person has less effect. Other than that, I don’t think size plays a significant role.

      Two things to remember when you’re calculating cost of educating a child: first, he’s expected to pay quite a bit in taxes throughout his lifetime, and second, the teachers whose salaries account for most of that $8k/year do generally spend that money and put it back into the economy. As much as I like to argue that we need a more competitive (and therefore lower cost) education market, I think providing education for everyone at least up to a point is a positive-value transaction. (We can argue about exactly at what age no-strings-attached free education should be cut off, of course.)

      If the ratio of working adults to children is high (because we’ve had low birthrates), we can probably reasonably afford to educate every child for much longer than if the ratio is low. If we’ve got 30 adults paying for each child’s schooling that’s pretty different from having 1.2 adults paying for each child’s schooling.

      This effect may, in some sense, cancel out the later strain on the smaller, younger generation — a lot of the childless paid for my education, so it makes sense that I shouldn’t be upset at paying part of their retirement. The only question is how much of their retirement I should pay. That’s where the demographic questions come in — if a generation decides to have (more/fewer) children, how should retirement age, retirement planning, etc. change in order to not unfairly burden either generation?

      If a whole generation decides to have fewer children, they also need to invest more intelligently or else work longer in order to balance that out so that the younger generation doesn’t get screwed. Each individual needs to do their part, though. Whether “their part” was producing children who are now paying for their retirement, or investing so they’ve got a comfortable amount of stored wealth, or paying taxes that covered my education, it’s all good. My worry is that, in aggregate, the generation nearing retirement didn’t do enough of these things (because a large number of them chose not to do enough), and that’s going to negatively effect my generation.

    20. lindenen Says:

      The looming Social Security crisis is largely caused by people choosing to not have children. If participating in SS was contingent upon having at least two children or at least adopting children to raise, then the system would become more stable, not perfect, but better.

    21. NorthShoreHI Says:

      There is always an alternative to suffering the “economic cost” of having fewer children that are expected to support an ageing population – and that is to import additional workers into the economic system.

      The arguments presented here suggest that failing to have children will reduce the ratio of workers to ageing non-workers at some point in the future. This is true – if the system is closed and the only future workers are those that are raised from childhood within the system. But that is very unlikely going to be the case.

      I doubt very much that the western economies will really allow themselves to fall into unsustainable ratios between workers and non-workers. Instead, they will allow the rapidly reproducing populations (India, Muslim societies, etc.) to enter their economies as workers to support these ageing pensioners.

      This is exactly what has precipitated the changing cultures of France, the Netherlands and even Denmark. The pressure to keep a sustaining workforce will be great.

      So, “No,” the real costs of reduced reproductive rates will not be economic as portrayed here – workers will always be found… Instead the real cost of reduced childbearing will be borne in the form of cultural dilution.

    22. Locomotive Breath Says:

      Social Security is based on the premise that everyone would have kids. When it was created the only way to NOT have kids was separate bedrooms. Childless couples and unmarried people were the objects of pity. Now the situation is reversed. Why should my kids go to work to support people who never had kids? The DINKs and swinging singles should ge able to retire quite nicely on the money they saved NOT raising kids. What? They forgot to save it? Too damn bad for them.

    23. ajacksonian Says:

      To take out a broad brush and impugn without knowing each and every case is to sit in judgement of those that have made very personal decisions for very personal reasons. To further go and decide that such individuals that have been impugned are parasites, free-loaders and, in general, non-contributers to society is to paint with an extremely broad brush, indeed.

      I honor my ancestors as best as I am able and must needs give what little I can to help others. My family and extended family I help as best I can, though now my means are very limited. These means are limited by the faulty flesh that houses me and I deem that even half my problems are not worth passing on to another generations via the way of my flesh. I do not nor ever had the energy to be promiscuous and so leave no progeny behind me. I do my level best as I am capable with what the flesh has left me to pass on things I think of value to future generations as best I can. I look around me and, as a whole, see no dearth of children and, indeed, a welcoming attitude towards those with families to come and take up the values of liberty and freedom.

      In elden days I would take extreme umbrage and would let that wild beast of my forefathers have its way. I understand very well how, in a duel, Andrew Jackson would shoot a man clean through if they wasted their shot and expected same from him. In such days one who tarred indiscriminantly was expected to back up their accusations with their life. He protected the honor of his wife as he saw fit and to many it seems a brutal way.

      I understood the problems that were likely to beset me and prepared *well* not to be a burden upon others. I expected different than what I got, but the preparations serve me well and I am no parasite though my flesh falters and takes some small part of my mind with it.

      And now, to have that forethought, those plans and the thinking and acknowledgement of those plans to be disparaged so broadly by one unknowing… I wish for a few minutes to have better flesh than was bequeathed to me, to have the spirit and faith of my forefathers and mothers in Poland who know and value liberty, and to have the bear shirt and battle axe and strength of resolve of that other part of my family and let them speak through my flesh one last time, though in taking up such I would likely perish from its use.

      And I would hope that the accuser would have the honor to stand so similarly and prepared to back up their words. And if they chose not to do so, then the thoughts and deeds of Mr. Jackson would remind me where honor lay.

      We live in times when some peoples are broadly accusing others of being many dishonorable things. Our Constitution was laid upon foundations to give each their say, but that they own up to their responsibilities so that they understood the effects of what they say. And if the words are meant to incite, then one must bravely accept the repurcussions of them as words have meanings to many beyond the horizon that you see in these latter days.

      If Shannon Love wishes to join the barbarians roasting cartoons, defiling territories of other people and generally giving cause for unrest and violence, then so be it. They, like Shannon Love, stand in judgement without knowing or caring of each that hears their words. There is but one end to that since we have removed the means and methods to enforce the belief of such words save upon the role of nations.

      Disparagement is not free, nor never has been as it disquiets the discourse with vituperation and impertinance. To do so freely and to not acknowledge that one is degrading the fabric of society, a fabric set to give each individual their due in how they lead their lives with repsect to themselves and others, is to speak irresponsibly and to tear apart that which has been given to us as a gift from those before.

      And in this case to those who ask if the question were to bring up a general problem, I would respond that that can be done without disparaging the choice of free people to exercise their rights and liberties and responsibilities. For that is what has been done upon me and I, for myself only, resent it bitterly and deeply.

      I am sorry to any that I have I may have hurt with my feelings and such impertinance as I have responded with, save Shannon Love. That one may take them as is their wont.

      Good day to all, save that one.

    24. Blind Mind's Eye Says:

      So I can I stop paying my Social Security taxes to support childless parents?

      This got me thinking about the actual contribution of childless parents to society, and I think that there is a very simple way to end this little problem once and for all. If an adult has neither adopted a child nor raised one of their own, nor made a…

    25. Kevin Says:

      Nonsense, you’ve got it exactly backwards. I, as single guy, SUBSIDIZE other peoples’ children. You are aware of that, aren’t you? I pay higher income taxes than some parent with the same salary same because I don’t have a couple additional personal exemptions to report on my 1040; no child care tax credit for me either.

      Who do you think pays for YOUR kid’s eductation? I do, that’s who. I pay property taxes and sales taxes and God knows what other taxes to pay for the education of little slackers who I don’t know and who are probably not learning anything.

      Then when your shiftless brat winds up in jail, I have to feed him.

      I know a woman who moved away from Utah because the state tax burden of supporting all those Mormon children is so onerous.

      And mind you, though I subsidize other peoples’ children, no couple has ever yet come to consult with me about that prior to having sex.

    26. GW Crawford Says:

      Not having children? Try living in my apartment building!
      Mostly immigrants with little or no skills (or English) they have HUGE families
      They do leave notices on Muslim prayer meetings, so they are having plenty of offpsring to propagate THEIR ideology
      I pay my taxes to subsidize education, cheaper bus passes for kids, parents to leave work early because junior got a tummyache. I am NOT a parasite
      On the other hand, the uneducated, uneducateable masses in my building get welfare
      Now, who’s the parasite?
      (oh, just for reference, the wife of Mahommed Fara Aideed was living in Canada on welfare when her husband was prolonging the civil war in Somalia)

    27. anonymous Says:

      “I’m not sure how to address this problem from a public-policy perspective…”

      Immigration and natural selection.

    28. L. Chasen Says:

      BRAVO Paul K.! Beyond the fascinating, provocative discussion on this site comes his reminder that whatever our individual choices, we can respond to basic human imperatives. I hope his and his wife’s rescue of an orphan shows him a child is a desirable “good,” but however this sudden change in his life turns out for him, he did a wonderful thing. And the rest of us who depend on there being a productive next generation or who just care about the suffering of children (that is, whatever position one takes on Shannon’s claim) should thank him.

    29. Bilwick Says:

      OK–I’m a parasite. I didn’t ask to be; but assuming it’s true, what–as I think Lenin liked to ask–is to be done? What, in other words, do I do with that information? Should I go out and father a kid or two just for the sake of doing my “share”? Given the fact that unless my novel gets published and my agent gets me some sweet deal for the movie rights, I am barely able to support myself, isn’t that going to make me a bigger parasite when I have to depend on the State to subsidize my breeding? And wouldn’t it be preferable that I marry first? (And fat chance of that happening even if I were of a marrying termperment: the so-called “starving artist” is about as desirable to most women as a herpes virus.)

    30. Helian Says:

      It’s hard to read Shakespeare’s first 15 sonnets with any biological insight and still conclude the man was a mere mortal. For example, from Sonnet XIII,

      “O, that you were yourself! But, love, you are
      No longer yours than you yourself live here.
      Against this coming end you should prepare
      And your sweet semblance to some other give.

      It beggars the imagination to think he could have written something like that 250 years before Darwin. He’s right, you know. Objectively speaking, does it make more sense to conclude that “we ourselves” are our conscious minds, which will exist but a moment, or the genetic material we all carry, which has been alive for upwards of three billion years, and is, potentially, immortal?

      With that in mind, it makes little sense to penalize those who don’t have children. After all, “they themselves” will die. They will suffer the ultimate ignominy of being the weak link in that three billion year old chain of life. Morality, like everything else that is an essential part of us, is there because, in the past, it helped us to survive. Failure to survive is the ultimate act of immorality, and it is self-punishing. It hardly behooves us to heap coals on the fire. What would be the point?

      The consequences of a declining population are not necessarily so grim. Europe did not implode after the Black Death. Far from it! We are far too prone to think in the inconsequential short term, rather than the essential long term. Would you be moral? Would you give your life purpose? Have children! Do you prefer status? Do you prefer nice things? Do you prefer a career? Do you prefer keeping up with the Joneses? Then, with a smile and a wink, I wave goodbye.

    31. j.scott barnard Says:

      I’m too am a parasite who’s been paying property taxes for years that benefit the education of other people’s children and society as a whole. Because I don’t have the $1000 per child tax credit, I pay more in income taxes as well. I could go on and on…it’s all a wash.

    32. Tom Says:

      “If participating in SS was contingent upon having at least two children or at least adopting children to raise, then the system would become more stable, not perfect, but better.”

      If that were the case I would have stopped at one.
      Who would voluntarily join SS?

      On a note to Kevin, and others, while you are paying for other kid’s education, who do you think paid for yours?

      The costs and benefits of children spread over a lifetime and between generations. The older generation paid for your education, and you will pay for their SS and the education of today kids, who will pay for your SS.

    33. Fritz Says:

      I think Shannon got it right in a broad sense and all the comments not-withstanding, a society that does not produce children will suffer from a lack of people to supply services such as doctors, people to operate utilities, and so on. While any single person deciding not to have children is of no consequence, when society as a whole does it, we all suffer. So in that sense the broad thrust of the article is right.

    34. Paul Dietz Says:

      I suggest the following arrangement: give parents a claim on part of their children’s future earnings, say a fraction of the federal income tax paid by those children. This will act as an incentive to not only have children, but also to raise them and educate them in a way that enhances their future earning potential. It might also encourage single mothers to find the most genetically promising fathers.

    35. Kevin Says:

      The older generation paid for your education, and you will pay for their SS and the education of today kids, who will pay for your SS.

      So I guess I made the point — that I am in fact NOT a free rider as accused, but rather a subsidizer of other peoples’ children? Good. After all, *I* would never have accused all the childless people of the 1970s and 80s of being free riders. Thanks for paying for my education. You paid for my college too.

      And, I’d much prefer a system in which *I* pay for my social security. In other words, privatization, with me given a chance to contribute throughout my working life to a segregated private account. Being very well informed in matters financial and economic, I don’t suffer primitive irrational fears and superstitions about such an excellent solution.

    36. Terri Says:

      I’m surprised no one has mentioned the rapid increase in infertility of the modern world. I actually find it a little hurtful to be called a parasite or a free loader or whatever when myself and any number of my friends just can’t have kids. (yes, of course there is adoption as an option but that doesn’t solve the essence of the problem here, just re-distributes it.)
      Any quick search will show the numbers. This on has a quick graph to peak at.

    37. m Says:

      I’d say it is a non-starter for singles to whine about paying taxes to subsidize others. Married couples with children pay the same taxes (often times even more (eg., AMT and marriage penalty due to our wonderful progressive tax system) AND pay out of pocket (with aftertax dollars) for raising children up through collefe and beyond.
      The non-economic point, however, is that singles and childless couples are free-loading on society/culture. Yes, we can import fast-breeding immigrants, but at the cost of debasing our culture. Where a heartbeat equals a vote, demography=destiny, and childless people are on the wrong side of history.

    38. Bill Says:

      Perhaps the appropriate “public policy perspective” to the issue is to abolish public policy.Endless carrot and stick tinkering by auhoritarian central planners has likely exacerbated(if not created) the problem.

      Does it matter how “society” replaces/increases its productive members? Immigration adds to population and if the demographics hold favorable what does it matter? We ,as a “society” can simply replace the production of offspring with the importation of younger citizens.

    39. SJ Says:

      Of course, to really complete the analysis, Shannon needs to account for the economic costs of all the idiot children bred by less than capable parents . . .

    40. Kevin Says:

      Yes, we can import fast-breeding immigrants, but at the cost of debasing our culture.

      Oh real good point, Adolf. Sig Heil!

    41. Ernest Brown Says:

      M:
      “Yes, we can import fast-breeding immigrants, but at the cost of debasing our culture.”

      Kevin:
      “Oh real good point, Adolf. Sig Heil!”

      If the immigrants worship at the same shrine as Hitler, it does tend to debase Western liberal culture. Just ask Theo Van Gogh…

    42. Pierre Legrand Says:

      Uh…perhaps I can comment on the reasons for having children since I have three of the little buggers. Would have had more but the Warden (She who must be obeyed) declared I would have to carry the 4th and 5th to term myself. Not having a handy way of aquiring a uterus we stopped at 3.

      You have children because they are the single most fulfilling event in life. I don’t say this as a 20 year old who had children by accident but as a 49 year old who became a father at 40 after I had led what some would say was an ideal life of self centered “fulfillment” ie partying, whoring, ridiculous hours at work etc etc.

      Realize now that my selfish reasons for not having children didn’t take into account the selfish reasons for having children because I had no idea what I would gain prior to having them. Hugs, adoring children falling asleep in your arms, watching them learn some new facinating fact and then having them beaming because they showed off their newfound knowledge, waking up in the middle of the night as one of them squirms into your arms because of a bad dream, seeing the evolution of a baby into a child…sheesh anyone who hasn’t done it has absolutely no idea what they are missing.

      Economic reason? They make me feel good and I have never worked harder in my life to provide for them. Probably a lot more productive now then I have ever been…

      Course I would be amused if someone would have the gall to walk up to my dear wife and call her a breeder. heh…I imagine that I would go all Jacksonian on them.

      Pierre Legrand

    43. Debbie Krongard Says:

      As several commenters have pointed out, a childless person or couple, is likely not a “parasite” in the present because most childless adults work productively, pay taxes that support societal needs like education, etc. during their lifetime. The issue, however, that IS of consequence, is that when a society as a whole begins to reject having and raising children for whatever reason (in the U.S./Europe’s case this seems largely because people, women especially, are choosing to pursue careers rather than have children) that sociey sets itself up for economic failure in the future. That is because, as the author of the original article points out, much of our economy depends on the concept that there will be young people coming of age to help run that economy. They also help pay for all the things governments pay for by their income taxes, property taxes, and the sales taxes from what they purchase. Obviously, if there are no kids/many less kids the economy will be hurt as will the government’s revenue. Europe right now is facing either allowing many more immigrants in to both work and maintain their population, or having to drastically change the programs for old age, the sick, etc.
      Other commenters here are also correct in pointing out, however, that having unlimited kids is a detriment as well, IF their parents can not afford to pay for their education, health care, and housing. Having large families made sense in the agricultural age where the kids could become productive members of society at a young age helping on the farm. But in our society where you are not even allowed to work until age 15 in most places, a large family is a monetary drain until the kids come to that age. This is not a problem if the parents can afford it…but it is a problem for society when the parents become dependent on the government to help support those kids. Once they come of age and work, however, then they are a positive boost to the economy.
      So – economically speaking, for a society there IS such a thing as too many kids, and there IS such a thing as too few kids. I wouldn’t label folks who don’t have kids parasites, but I do think that if you are an adult or couple who chooses not to have kids you should recognize that perhaps your old age and definitely the economic future of the country after you die is affected by your decision. You are saying to the next generation – “Good Luck – hope it works out for you”
      On a personal basis, I don’t know the solution to that. I certainly don’t advocate forcing people to have children who don’t want them any more than I support forcing people NOT to have kids who are having “too many”. But I think as a society we should try to be supportive of families that choose to have a couple kids – there are some advantages already in the form of tax benefits, of course, but in some societies the idea of having and raising kids has become almost taboo. This phenomenon is not yet strong here in the US, but has been gaining strength in Europe.
      Conclusion – demographics matter and demographics ultimately means kids. Finding a happy medium of enough kids to sustain a viable economic and cultural society but not overloading the system with too many kids is the challenge we face. There were two interesting articles related to this topic recently: the NYT had an article about young people leaving Vermont and the financial problems that exodus is causing the rapidly aging state and in today’s Washington Times there is an article about Germany’s efforts to increase its birth rates. Just FYI here are the fertility rates for Europe (and this INCLUDES their immigrant populations) Germany: 1.37, UK: 1.74, France: 1.90, … the U.S. is 2.07, and Japan is only 1.38. A fertility rate of 2.1 is needed for developed countries to reach “replacement” level.

    44. Peter Jackson Says:

      It looks like Shannon has discovered a basic reality of capitalist societies, namely that the economic contributions of virtually everyone benefit virtually everyone else. In any market configuration, there will always be externalities. The question is how well this system or that system minimizes and mitigates those externalities. Perfection of economic transactions simply isn’t one of our options. The freer and thus more disbursed throughout private society these costs are, the less of a political issue they will be.

      And for your sake Shannon, I hope V. Postrel doesn’t read this. If she does, she’s going to fisk you a new one!

      yours/
      peter.

    45. Poulette Says:

      Oh c’mon all you non-breeder males getting indignant about supporting “other people’s brats”—just acknowledge you don’t want the loss of time, spontaneity and income that comes with kids. Then go and thank all those mothers who had them, otherwise you’d be bonking women your own age instead of that voluptuous 18 to 20-something that single (and married) men prefer. If other people didn’t have kids, you’d have no cheap labor to cut your lawn or serve you that $1.50 McDonald’s meal. If other people didn’t have kids, you’d be looking at SI Swimsuit issue with a bunch of plastically-enhanced 60 year olds. Give me a break: it’s not about saving the planet, it’s about saving your dimes. Just admit it, stop being self-righteous, get rid of the welfare state so no one is paying directly for anyone else and I think people wouldn’t really care quite so much. Then when you die and leave all your money to “Save the Carrots”, you’ll be employing those idealistic other people’s children in their first job out of college.

    46. Inspector Callahan Says:

      On a note to Kevin, and others, while you are paying for other kid’s education, who do you think paid for yours?

      My parents did, with the tuition they spent sending me to a Catholic school. Because they didn’t think the inner-city school monopoly I would have been forced to attend, was worth what they were already paying in property taxes. So in effect, they ALSO (even though they had kids) paid taxes for your kids. Be sure to thank them.

      Besides all that – I didn’t ask the government to socialize the school system (or social security, or anything else). Neither did my parents. This whole socialist deal stinks from the get-go, and the answer given by the author of this piece is that we all need to have more kids so that we all can pay ADDITIONAL money into this lousy system?

      No thanks. The biggest parasites are people who have kids, and expect others to pay for their upbringing. Which, in effect (the public school system), is about 90% of American parents. Becoming a parent turns otherwise objective folks into knee-jerk reactionaries. Socialist ideas (and the politicians who push them through) thrive in that kind of environment.

      The DINKs and swinging singles should ge able to retire quite nicely on the money they saved NOT raising kids. What? They forgot to save it? Too damn bad for them.

      I couldn’t agree more. But see, American parents have an absolute demand to keep such things as social security, and public school systems, as is. Which means I’ll continue to pay for kids whose parents didn’t save, and retirees who DIDN’T save for their retirements, even though I’ve made my own investments in my retirement.

      In other words, if the above statement were the prevailing wisdom, Social Security and public schools wouldn’t exist, rendering this whole discussion moot.

      TV (Harry)

    47. Zeke Says:

      Kevin and others,

      I think, thet the trade-off econimics that Shannon brings up are too complicated for a comments section.

      To make it even more complicated. A shrinking labor force will cause costs to go up. Its nice that you have put money into the system, but what are you going to buy when you are 70? Who will build your house, do your taxes, fix you computer,…people.

      To be real hitleresque about it, the real blue state issue is that the people that will produce the most talented offspring are doing the least. a senior partner at a firm where I interned said at the intern group meeting / which was one of his retirement parties. “The most important thing that you people can do for society is to have children, and lots of them” Now that’s not to say that that’s the only place talented people will come from, but its hard to say its a good idea to shutdown growth from that section of the population.

    48. Bomb-a-rama Says:

      Childless adults are rapidly becoming economic free riders on the backs of parents.

      If I could afford the cost of raising children, I would. Otherwise, creating public charges is in no one’s interest.

    49. TallDave Says:

      Good points, but there’s one flaw in your assumptions:

      Every long-term investment we make, whether in the private or public sector, is predicated on the idea that there will be a future generation which will actually produce a return.

      This might have been true even just 25 years ago, but recently something has fundamentally changed: people are no longer a non-replaceable commodity.

      Why? Because of the imminent rise of truly intelligent thinking machines and the increasing sophistication of robotics (check out, for instance, the robotic pack mule being built for the Army; it can actually take a hard kick and stumble but extend a leg to stay upright, recover, and keep walking).

      Lest you think this is just the fantastic dreams of head-in-the-clouds futurists, consider Japan. They are actually expecting a major decline in population, and planning for robots to fill the gap.

    50. Helian Says:

      >>”If I could afford the cost of raising children, I would. Otherwise, creating public charges is in no one’s interest.”

      What you really can’t afford is the cost of not having children.

    51. Bezuhov Says:

      “Homo economicus died childless.”

      Like Europe?

    52. Stevely Says:

      Dear ajacksonian:

      That is the most preposterous thing I have ever read. Thanks for providing amusement on a dreary Monday morning.

    53. Inspector Callahan Says:

      Oh c’mon all you non-breeder males getting indignant about supporting “other people’s brats”—just acknowledge you don’t want the loss of time, spontaneity and income that comes with kids.

      Poulette – I think the focus was on childless couples – not single tom-catting men.

      My wife and I have been married for 12 years. We consciously chose not to have kids, for several reasons:

      1. I have a heart condition, and I didn’t think bringing kids into the world for my wife to raise alone, would be such a great idea (I therefore pay higher income taxes).

      2. My mother-in-law lives with us; with her questionable health, we’re taking care of her (saving taxpayers and health insurers money by not having her in a nursing home).

      3. I don’t know that I have the emotional wherewithal to raise a child (potentially saving taxpayers money the trouble of housing said child in jail/psychiatric help/ etc.).

      So please, tell me again how I’m the drain on society, and those who forgo the above 3 reasons and have kids anyway, aren’t drains on society.

      TV (Harry)

    54. yesbut Says:

      I agree. But, it was not my choice not to have kids. We tried mightily, even to the point of spending some $30K in infertility treatments. The problem was that we were just too focused on our careers and, we waited too late. If I could turn back the clock and do things differently, I would.

      Let this be a warning to you young folks out there. Have your children now, before it is too late. Take it from me. No matter how successful you are, you will never be in a position in which you are “comfortable” making the sacrifice to have children. The needs you have right now will simply change to other needs. Do it now.

    55. Andrew Says:

      Poulette: “Oh c’mon all you non-breeder males getting indignant about supporting ‘other people’s brats’—just acknowledge you don’t want the loss of time, spontaneity and income that comes with kids. . . . it’s not about saving the planet, it’s about saving your dimes. Just admit it, stop being self-righteous. . . .”

      Ok, I’ll admit that as soon as you admit that people don’t have children out of some high-minded desire to help society. They do it for the “selfish” reasons Pierre describes above, for the egotistic desire to spread their own genes, or in many cases without really thinking about it at all.

      We all make choices based on our own preferences and self-interest; stop pretending yours are based on saving the planet.

    56. Katherine Coble Says:

      In our atomized society, children do not provide a boost in status, networking or security that offsets their very real cost.

      Clearly you are not a member of a Baptist church.

      Perhaps no one on the planet feels more left-out of things than us childless Baptists. We have no need of Parent’s Night Out. We never get to look cute messing up our lines in a Christmas program. We don’t get to take our dogs to other people’s houses for get-togethers (even though our dogs are better behaved than some of the L’il Baptists). There is no Sunday in May where the whole service is dedicated to People Who Haven’t Created A Baby.

    57. Bilwick Says:

      Arguments on why one “should” have children, however intellectually stimulating, strike me about as useful as the case, made by Maggie Gallagher and other social conservatives, that one “should” get married. An individual who makes a decision to get married because Maggie Gallegher convinced him that he “should,” and then has children because Shannon Love convinced him that he “should,” would be a bonehead. And not very marketable as either a marriage or parenthood prospect. Can you just hear the lamebrain’s marriage proposal? Provided he believes in full disclosure–which he certainly should, especially in this context–it would be along the lines of, “To tell you the truth, I’ve never really wanted to get married, much less have kids. But I’ve been doing some reading lately, and it’s convinced me that marriage would be good for both me and society; and since childless people are parasites, I also think it’s my duty to have children.” Yeah, women will love to hear that, Poindexter.

    58. Al Gibson Says:

      Ms Love,

      I know numerous people my age (40s) who have children, yet continue to rely on their parents for income, paying bills, buying houses and cars, etc. Most of these people have been on and off welfare and other government subsidies over the past 20-odd years. All of them have or have had drug, alcohol, or divorce problems. Because of this, even though it’s anecdotal, I think your opinion is seriously lacking.

    59. Wondering out loud Says:

      I’m tempted to say something referring to the “Mutterkreuz” of a few decades back, but that might invoke Godwin’s Law.

      Oops.

    60. steveb Says:

      What nonsense. In reality, it is the recipients of various “free” (i.e. taxpayer-funded) kiddie services (most notably education) who are the free riders here.

    61. Helian Says:

      >>”Arguments on why one “should” have children, however intellectually stimulating, strike me about as useful as the case, made by Maggie Gallagher and other social conservatives, that one “should” get married.”

      From your own point of view (not mine) you “should” have children, Bilwick, even if it’s embarrassing for you to explain why to a woman. In fact, the use of the word “should” in this case is the only instance of its use that can have some objective justification.

    62. T.Rush Says:

      Simply put, the “parasite” label belongs with the hordes of families with 6 children they cannot afford to support leeching off of the misdirected social programs in this country.

    63. Portia Says:

      I know what we all learned in school, but in fact I very much doubt the world population is sustaining let alone increasing. And don’t tell me that’s not a matter of opinion. Go and look at your “statistics”. The ONLY countries whose population is supposedly increasing are those that are, so to put it, on the dole. UN subsidies, help from richer countries, etc, it’s all based on that per-capita number and on having larger numbers of citizens. Beyond that, with the best good will in the world, how good do you think census are in third world countries, really? They’re a mess in the US, being comped for cities who are sure you couldn’t “transient” population and “people who don’t like authority” — how do you think the rest of the world is, exactly? Some years ago — I think six — there was an article in Scientific American about how in real terms population might already be falling in … I think… Pakistan.

      The no species chooses to go voluntarily extinct thing is bs. It’s a collectivist falacy. It would make perfect sense if the species came into your bedroom or office and made decisions for you. It doesn’t. You do. And you make decisions based on your own resources and what you can do with them. I know people in Europe who would like children and literaly can’t afford them or can’t afford more than one. To pay the tax rate, both parents have to work. Then each kid is a drain on the finances via day care and you’re not even raising your own kids, etc. So — that’s how decisions are made. The species doesn’t choose to be extinct, but each individual, one by one and man on man (or woman) chooses to not have children in order to survive a little longer.

      Look — I’ve been saying this for fifteen years, long before anyone even admitted to population dearth in Europe — we’re going out. Not with a bang but with a whimper. Part of it is the infertility thing — I too have seen a huge amount of it among younger couples — and part of it not being able to afford kids.
      There is poor effed up Africa. When AIDS runs its course there, how much of a population do you think it will have? Real population, not what the kleptocrats in power tell you?

      When the boomers start to die off in numbers, or even retire in numbers, there’s going to be a great bubble burst. Economic bubble, social bubble, etc. And meanwhile in the schools, social studies teachers are still trying to convince my teens to sign a contract not to reproduce…

      After the blackdeath there wasn’t an economic crash because most societies were NOT market economies. They were subsistence economies. The collapse of population redistributed wealth so that all of a sudden there was an excess. And by the way, right after that there was a population boom.

      I’m not in the market of predictions, but I can see what’s in front of my face. I’m not going to tell you that we’ll go extinct. I have a friend who is a biologist and who says humans are scavengers and as such our population is always a bell curve. And there seem to be markers in our genes pointing to several bottlenecks in the past.

      HOWEVER I am saying it’s time to stop talking about children as a drain. And it’s time to stop teaching children we’re in the middle of an uncontrollable population growth. There’s lies, damn lies and statistics.

      We are a technological market society. This means each new person is potential inovation, each new person is potential earnings and, more importantly, potential creativity. How do you measure what the missing children have already cost us? Perhaps the child who would have invented a fairly painless age-reversal process was never born? Or simply the child who would have invented a cheap, feasible way of space travel? Or just the one who would have come up with a better alternative to antivirals?

      If we don’t turn this around, we won’t leave enough people behind to turn off the lights on civilization.

      Go forth and multiply and fill the corners of the Earth. What the heck, there’s other planets. Stop worrying about overpopulation and start worrying about our species going quietly into that good night.

    64. Ginny Says:

      Aside from econmics, shouldn’t we worry about the beliefs of a society that thinks it is not worth reproducing? To live amidst the splendor that is Italian art and walk through the light that seems to fall only on Tuscany with such beauty, to live in a country that defined the rule of law and led men to the kind of civilization that transcended petty tribalism and to think that your culture isn’t worth defending and reproducing is sad.

    65. Helian Says:

      >>”If we don’t turn this around, we won’t leave enough people behind to turn off the lights on civilization.”

      Any alligators or bald eagles reading this blog are bound to consider this an ironic comment.

    66. w Says:

      Leftist who demand that the state coerce my children into paying for their retirement.

      Seems like a valid demand since we’re all paying for someone else’s retirement right now. They could have set up so we pay for our own, but that would have done no good for the founders of social security.

    67. Sandy P. Says:

      How about treating costs of raising kids as investment instead of disposable income?

      That would send our supposedly negative national savings rate thru the roof.

      Red states are outbreeding blue states, blue states better get used to it. NY,IL,MA will all lose reps after the 2010 census. Hmmm, maybe that’s why some on both sides want the electoral system changed.

      And this is what you get when you remove the risk from the individual and put it on the government. Another reason for SS reform.

      I adopted, for some of the reasons above, but for those who remain childless, you might actually live to 100 or more. I would think you’ll take so much more out of the system than you ever put in.

      “Free” education??? About 2/3 of my property tax bill goes to education. Have you checked school fees lately?

      Unless you’re targeting your comments to the poor in our society.

    68. Bilwick Says:

      You’ve sold me, Helian. I’m going to convince some woman to marry me (even though I don’t want to get married), and bear my children that I don’t actually want (and can’t financially support), all for the good of society. We should be one big happy family.

    69. Starlight109 Says:

      Lets follow the implications of this “economic” theory.

      A woman choosing to have a abortion is, by your logic, a shirking parasite. A wise government ought to insure a strong National Future by banning birth control methods or abortions for women between 22 and 36 (get ’em educated enough to be good mothers then chain ’em to the stove) ???

      After 3 healthy children, a woman can get a license to stop reproduction because she has done her share.

      Does this influx of childern require a father(s?) in the home (for 18 years?). How do we insure domestic tranquility in that event?

      The Wall Street Journal recommends the same program but for different reasons – to insure we have enough soldiers to beat the next generation of Islamofaschists. See: Link

      Huuuuummmmmmmm.

    70. Happily ChildFREE Says:

      As a married man for over 25 years with no kids I say THIS IS GREAT NEWS!

      Based on all the aggravation, crime and other nonproductive and destructive activity children execute from the moment they start screaming their lungs out after exiting the birth canal, I’d say we childless couples have a free ride goody bag coming to us.

      Today’s parents are mostly morons who were raised by moron parents of their own.

      Bring on the bird flu already!

    71. Helian Says:

      >>”You’ve sold me, Helian. I’m going to convince some woman to marry me (even though I don’t want to get married), and bear my children that I don’t actually want (and can’t financially support), all for the good of society. We should be one big happy family.”

      It’s not for the good of society, Bilwick, it’s for your own good. And if you can read as much wisdom as I’ve devoted to this blog today, and still not get the point, it’s just as well if you delete yourself from the gene pool.

    72. Bilwick Says:

      Helian, it’s for my own good to produce children I don’t want and can’t pay for? Maybe I am being dense on this, but how is that for my own good? (And I’m not referring to some good that I indirectly derive from living in a society of breeders.) I mean, in terms of my own immediate (and by immediate I don’t mean “right now,” but right here, in this individual life that I live, and which is the only life that I get? Bottom line that for me, will you?

    73. Malvolio Says:

      If we agree that the ultimate desired product is productive adults, then we must agree that the real root of the problem is not parents subsidizing the childless, but the sexually active subsidizing the celibate.

      Think about it: sex is the way we get children, and children are the source of adults. Clearly, there is no economic reward to having sex, so sex (and hence children and hence adults) will be underproduced. The only way to address this problem is for the government to subsidize each act of coitus.

      One might argue that only heterosexual, vaginal sex should be subsidized, but that would have significant equal-protection issues. Moreover, just as the goverment protects honey, sugar, and mohair protection alongside strategic goods like steel, we should prepare ourselves for the inevitable broadening of procreation subsidies, not only to non-procreative sex, but to sex-precursors, such as heavy petting, French kissing (to be renamed “freedom kissing”), and flirting. Perhaps it can be done in the form of a tax credit, just fill out 1040SX, detailing each…

      Okay, I’m kidding, but I hope you get the point. People don’t have to be “incentivized” to have children and more than (most) people have to be paid to have sex. Nature has given us an internal drive that transforms child-rearing (like sex, eating, and for that matter, going to the bathroom) from a means to an end.

      Even if (as in the European case) economic and social considerations can so greatly blunt the instinct for parenthood that the population actually begins to decline, the US faces no equivalent risk. The US, unlike most countries, can make productive citizens not only from children but from the citizens of other countries! Yes! A Chinese biologist, for example, can become a Chinese-American biologist. An Turkish computer programmer, and a Czech mechanical engineer, and a Pakistani radiologist can become American. The reverse process is quite impossible.

    74. bdog57 Says:

      Bwahahahaha!!!

      You guys are funny. I fully support your right to be self-serving. The world needs less of you and you seem to agree. A win-win situation if there ever was one!

      As for me, I’ve got 4 (boys!) at the tender age of 27 and plan on having at least 2 more. I can support ’em, raise ’em, and teach ’em to shoot a gun. Damn right we’re gonna take over.

      They cost more in time and energy than they do money, frankly. Monetary arguments are a steaming pile. I could be living like a king if I didn’t have children; as it is, I have all the necessities and some of the niceties. Again, it’s not your money that matters, it’s your time (hint: the KEY to raising children right). This is where people balk.

      To those that want children but can’t have them, this does not apply to you. I’d recommend adoption -I adopted my stepson- but I know it’s not for everyone.

      Still, I know quite a few people who have chosen the childless route, and it’s almost always about the “inconvenience”. Nobody wants to mess with the long hours and loss of disposable income/time. They never seem to appreciate that it was exactly that sacrifice made in their behalf that ensured that they would enjoy their adult years.

      Far be it from me to encourage you to procreate. By all means, abstain. Stupidity of such magnitude need not be propagated.

    75. amy Says:

      If I pay taxes now, I pay mostly for my parents, for their Medicare and Social Security. I do not pay for other people’s children. Those children will pay for their parents (and for me, if I won’t have any children).
      In my country there are 5 mil. working adults and 20 mil. mostly retired people. They have to raise taxes or abandon the pensions and healthcare for elderly. But at this point, raising taxes will lower the number of children even more, since people are already stretching their finances and both parents have to work.

    76. Inspector Callahan Says:

      They never seem to appreciate that it was exactly that sacrifice made in their behalf that ensured that they would enjoy their adult years.

      So let me see if I got this straight – because I was born, I have a duty to create someone else to be born. Wow, that’s logical. Way to back up that opinion with some hard evidence.

      Do you see what I mean when I say that when people become parents, they tend to lose some of the objectivity they’ve been given?

      TV (Harry)

    77. Helian Says:

      @Bilwick

      >>”Helian, it’s for my own good to produce children I don’t want and can’t pay for? Maybe I am being dense on this, but how is that for my own good? (And I’m not referring to some good that I indirectly derive from living in a society of breeders.) I mean, in terms of my own immediate (and by immediate I don’t mean “right now,” but right here, in this individual life that I live, and which is the only life that I get? Bottom line that for me, will you?”

      Again, Bilwick, look at the excerpt from Shakespeare’s Sonnet XIII. Better yet, look at the first 15 sonnets. “O, that you were yourself! But, love, you are no longer yours than you yourself live here.” I’m not quoting Shakespeare to be cute, or to go all cultural on you Bilwick. The man was a genius, and his insight in this case astounding for one who lived 400 years ago. Shakespeare is telling us that that which is essential about ourselves, and that which is, in fact, our true self, is not our consciousness. It’s astounding that so few people can grasp what he’s trying to tell us, even today. What makes more sense to you, Bilwick? That the essential “you” is your consciousness, which is here today and gone tomorrow, or that “you” are your genes, which have been alive for over 3 billion years, and are potentially immortal? Your consciousness is not “you” Bilwick, but merely a transient tool, created by your genes because, like every other aspect of our being, it has helped us (our genes) to survive. Nature doesn’t do absurd things, Bilwick. It doesn’t construct a consciousness just to make the consciousness happy. The consciousness must be there for some purpose. If it does not serve that purpose, then the being that consciousness is a part of is sick and immoral, in the truest and most objective sense those words can ever have. The being is not sick and immoral from society’s point of view, but, in this case, society’s point of view is irrelevant. It is sick and immoral from its own point of view.

      You ask me what is good, Bilwick. “Good” does not exist in a vacuum. It depends for its existence on a conscious mind. If there were no conscious mind, there would be no “good,” because “good” is a purely subjective term, even though most of us perceive it as an absolute. The ability to think of things in terms of “good” or “evil” is there purely and entirely because that ability has helped us to survive. Failure to survive, then, is the ultimate evil, in the truest and most objective sense. Having children and insuring they survive is, from your point of view, Bilwick, the ultimate good. It is the good in itself. It’s as simple as that.

      From my point of view, of course, your survival is a matter of indifference, except as it serves my own. However, blog readers, and especially commenters, tend to be a more intelligent than average lot. It’s to my advantage that as many of them as possible contribute to the gene pool. Hence the broad hints I’ve been dropping here. May those hints and your own above average intelligence lead you to do what is good.

    78. Bilwick Says:

      So I guess reading Helian and bdog we’re all agreed then? Everyone in the world should get married and procreate. (Because you have a mystical cosmic obligation to carry on the species; because it’s good for the economy; because it relieves the burden people who already have children have to carry–or if doesn’t relieve it, redistributes more equitably–and because your parents had kids, and if they didn’t have kids,where would you be, you slacker bastard?) The only exception being people who don’t want to have kids, because (hold on for a mind-bending, circular and Calvinist-tinged Catch-22 here) not wanting to have kids proves you’re some sort of unter-mensch who shouldn’t be procreating to began with. I think we can all live with that.

    79. Pierre Legrand Says:

      bdog57

      Right there with you. Selfish desire to spend more time with “me” is what drives most of those who don’t want children. And I say fine…you shouldn’t have children since we have enough of those sorts of people. That sort of shortsighted self adulation should not be duplicated.

      Which is exactly why it is delightful that Blue Staters are so in love with themselves that they don’t want to share. Less of them in 10 years….wait till we start gaining even more power. It is gonna be fun making their lives a sheer living hell, like it is for those of us who are dismayed at having to live in a culture they created.

      But it is fun to read all the lame excuses they use for justifying spending more time with themselves.

      Oh Well…

      Pierre Legrand

      PS Oh and to the person who declared that parents of children are morons…careful where you say that. Cause if my wife is in range, you will be in pain.

    80. Shannon Love Says:

      Bilwick,

      Maybe I am being dense on this, but how is that for my own good?

      Economically, it isn’t. That is rather my point. You, as an individual will be better off short-term and possibly long-term (over the course of your lifetime) if you don’t have children. You will also have much greater freedom of action in all spheres of your life if you do not have children. If your goal in life is to maximize your own wealth and freedom then you shouldn’t have children.

      However, if everybody makes the same choice that you do civilization, and will end. Enough people must elect to take the economic and personal hit of raising children or you personally, as an individual, are screwed. This is what makes free-rider/tradegy-of-the-commons problems so dangerous (and intellectually interesting).

      As an individual, you seek to maximize you own interest by avoiding the cost of parenting while gambling that others, in Happily ChildFREE’s formulation, who are “mostly morons who were raised by moron parents of their own.” will continue to crank out the kids that you need the economy to have so it can keep you alive.

    81. Aaron Says:

      you do it because you want to, need to, feel strongly about it. Children are “consumption goods” to their parents and future capital goods for the labour market.

      Lifetime income is rather neither here nor there. What’s the marginal value of a child? That can only be revealed in action so it’s tautological.

      I should point out that this is contradictory to two of my three anecdotal experiences with the “militant childlesS”. One was actually not so militant, and their specific words were “I don’t plan to have children, it just costs too much”. This from a $70,000/year marketing guy.

    82. ArtGal Says:

      It is a gross misconception that those of use who have chosen to be childless are doing so out of economic incentives. More money to spend on ourselves is merely a side bonus; the real reason is the time commitment. Personally, I am more than happy to pony up property taxes and support the education of my neighbors children – as long as they are in school, they aren’t out breaking into my house. A well-raised, educated child is more likely to get a decent job and be a benefit to society and not end up sucking up community resources like welfare or jails. I am totally supportive of parents; they do a job that I have no stomach for and no interest in. Many of us who chose to not reproduce did so knowing that we would make terrible parents because we are just too damn selfish with our time. If anything, those attacking us in this thread are doing so out of xenophobia; our Mexican immigrants are more than making up for falling birthrates of educated whites. As for the Social Security argument; sorry, the problem is not a failure to engage in large scale reproduction. The problem is a failure of the US population to plan for and save for retirement and be self-sufficient. To complain that SS is in trouble because of abortion or childless couples is to buy into a false socialist, welfare state argument. It is not my job to bear children to pay for your retirement, it IS my job to open an IRA and take care of my own needs.

    83. veryretired Says:

      Funny stuff, Shannon. I love all the sputtering indignation.

      Those who want kids and family should have them, and, I would hope, enjoy the roller coaster ride that is not like anything else in life.

      Those who don’t want kids and family should not have them. Just don’t complain too much when my grandkids decide not to expend very much in the way of resources to warehouse you when you reach the drooling and diaper stage.

      If you think that’s harsh, read back through the comments by the childless and sip the venom they add to every comment about how put upon they are by others’ kids.

      What goes around, comes around.

    84. Bilwick Says:

      I see your point, Shannon. It’s kind of similar to people who dig ditches and clean toilets. I’m a writer (well, it’s my vocation, anyway) and would rather die than do that kind of thing for a living; but I acknowledge that if everyone had my attitude we’d be up to our neck in undug ditches and filthy toilets. And I’m glad there are people procreating so that there will continue to be people who dig ditches and clean toilets and do all the other jobs (about 99.999% of them). So as the kids say: get busy, people. Turn out your kids while I write my books, and as long as you leave me free to live my life (and not tax me to pay for your kids’ education, etc.), I’ll be busy writing my books (my unborn children) and leave you free to have as many kids as you want. Ultimately everyone pays a price of some kind anyway for their life-choices: you don’t force yours on mine and I won’t force mine on yours.

    85. Lanny N. Says:

      Ineteresting that majority of the commenters misses the point that motives and consequences are hardly equivalent. Motive is delusion while consequence is what you pay with blood money.

    86. jerk Says:

      I’m a 43-yo childless male. For me to create children would require the participation of a female. So far, though I have tried and tried, no female has desired me.
      Am I a morally culpable “free rider”?

    87. cb Says:

      Agreed, veryretired.

      Read a good article in Foreign Affairs, I think. One of his points was that society tends to stay conservative, family-oriented because outliers don’t breed, ie today’s baby-boomer liberals. Interestly, if you think about it in terms of politics, liberals tend to want the government to have social programs, whereas conservatives tend to believe that welfare should be handled by families. Hmmm…maybe ’cause liberals ain’t got no family. Have fun in retirement boomers! I can’t wait for the political battles in the decades to come, predictable as sunrise.

    88. Bilwick Says:

      Erratum on my previous post: I meant to type “do all the other jobs (99.999% of them) that I don’t want to do.”

    89. bdog57 Says:

      “So I guess reading Helian and bdog we’re all agreed then? Everyone in the world should get married and procreate.”

      Actually, I suggested that you NOT procreate. The libertarian in me forbids encouraging you either way, and the pragmatist in me says that there’ll fewer of you to fend off when society breaks down (I give it 20-30 years). Win-win, really.

      “So let me see if I got this straight – because I was born, I have a duty to create someone else to be born. Wow, that’s logical. Way to back up that opinion with some hard evidence.”

      By the sounds of it, your birth was hardly the apex of your parents’ difficulties with you. But I digress.

      The point is that they were willing to sacrifice much in your behalf. Your unwillingness to do so speaks volumes. To say nothing of the idolatry that such a lifestyle portends -you may as well substitute “Me” for “Baal” or “Ashteroth” and it amounts to the same.

      Again, if you don’t want to procreate, I shan’t encourage you (Re-read the last sentence of my previous post for more insight). I just wouldn’t consider the choice to serve oneself a noble one.

    90. cb Says:

      Bilwick is a perfect example. Guess who’ll be bitching about the responsibilities of government to it’s elderly when he’s old. Your books aren’t changing your diaper, and you’re condenscension isn’t going to get you many friends when you want my tax dollars.

    91. Tee Says:

      As a child growing up in California in the 70’s, I distinctly remember being taught in (public) school that an overpopulated world was draining resources and destroying the earth. The solution presented to us for this problem was to have less children, or none at all. For example, in “health science” we were taught that disposable diapers were filling the limited space of landfills at an alarming rate, yet cloth diapers required use of toxic detergents and depleted non-renewable water resources. The implication left with us impressionable 14 year olds was that the best choice was not to have children at all, lest we create more “parasites” to leach the life out of our planet. Imagine this message being taught to a generation or two. Now, thirty years later, the childless who didn’t breed their own “parasites” are now themselves the “parasites.” It’s a case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    92. Synova Says:

      I don’t see any reason at all that my children should have to pay taxes for Happily ChildFREE’s drooling and diaper years.

      And it’s not just money. Unless we can program robots to change diapers we’re going to need people who are willing to do those jobs. Why should my children work in nursing homes if they can find better work?

      Maybe that’s why so many progressive sorts are into assisted suicide and euthenasia. They know that when they can’t take care of themselves that there will be no one willing to do it.

      For those that really have *no* desire to have children but who appreciate that other people do (as opposed to despise other people that do) you can support the general good of reproduction just by saying so… often. When you see someone with more than 2 kids you can turn to your friend and say, “It’s so great that people are willing to have a bunch of kids.” or “It would be good if more people had bunches of kids to make up for those of us who don’t.”

    93. Shannon Love Says:

      Jerk,

      Am I a morally culpable “free rider”?

      No, because the term “free-rider” is a morally neutral term of art within economics. It has nothing to do with being a good or bad person, it has to do maximizing economic gain.

      Suppose you exactly duplicated at the moment you entered workforce. Your duplicate, lets call him Notajerk, has all your skills ambition etc. except that at some point in his life he will have children. Now, all things remaining equal, which of you will have the greater economic wealth at say age 65? You will.

      You will also benefit from the production of Notajerk’s children to pretty much the same extent that Notajerk does. So economically, you get something you didn’t pay for and hence received a free-ride.

    94. Tom Grey - Liberty Dad Says:

      If the main parasital action of the childless couples is their retirement, the obvious fix is to push a system of forced savings which is personally owned.

      Use of home-owner equity is also quite possible, and other ways of retirement pay.

      Of course, smoking could prolly reduce the SS crises — having more retired folk die sooner. Voluntarily, of course.

      The real issue is the culture. The no-children “meme” culture is doomed in demographic competition with multi-children cultures.

    95. Capitalist Tool Says:

      I think your economic argument may be bunk, and here’s why. As ArtGal has just stated, people choose to have children for many different reasons. Economic conisderations are generally not one of them. It is the restriction on personal freedom that leads most people not to have children. For a woman especially, to overcome her motherly instincts takes something greater than a higher paycheck. When you boil the economic arguments down, one simple answer is to just cut the overall tax burden (currently about 35% in the US) by something like 33%, basically wiping out SS and Medicare, and maybe, just maybe that would increase birth rates. But I doubt it.

      If you read your history you’ll find that Rome depopulated itself long before the barbarians were at the gates. A simliar depopulation is underway in almost the entire Western world, including Japan and Russia. Maybe you should analyze why, in the face of all this economic evidence to the contrary, people still choose to act irrationally and have children.

    96. cb Says:

      “Of course, smoking could prolly reduce the SS crises — having more retired folk die sooner.”

      I’ve never understood why smokers ‘raise the cost of health care.’ I guess that’s just the state and insurance firms looking for ways to increase revenue. If you ask me, I should get a refund of all my cigarette taxes and get a discount on my medical coverage. LOL

    97. Bilwick Says:

      Thanks for projecting a Golden Years of infirmity, poverty and living on the dole, “cb.” You’re a regular Mary Sunshine. Not every old person has to have the State change their diapers. But granted your scenario for my declining years is correct–and admittedly if one ventures forth on a career in the arts, the dice are loaded against you. (Jack Lemmon once said an actor has to be the kind of guy who, if told up front, “You know, your chances of ever leading any kind of decent life from your art–let alone be anything what the world defines as a ‘success’–are so low as to be almost non-existent,” responds: “Okay, I can do that.” I would say that goes at least double for writers.) Granting that, should I then give it up and take some soul-deadening job with International Widget just to avoid your scenario, and insure that I am financially capable of supporting children who can support me? If so, the problem of who or what will support me and change my diapers when I’m in my dotage will be immaterial, as I will have cut my own throat years before. (I’m also picturing, in the “sliding doors” universe “cd” had projected me into, being in an “encounter” in a psychiatrist office with my son and his shrink–because I can only assume that a kid brought into the world and raised only out of sense of duty would eventually need a shrink–blurting out, in a moment of truth, “I never wanted you, you ungrateful little snot! I just had you because the geniuses as Chicago Boyz told me I would one day need a kid to change my diapers!” Again, I have no quarrel with people who have kids and can afford them; but I wonder if some of the pro-breeding bigots on this blog take into consideration what would be non-economic costs of putting the everyone-must-have-kids dogma into actual practice.

    98. Easycure Says:

      You make it sound like we all have a choice in whether we have kids or not.

      My wife and I have been trying for 7 years to have kids and spent much extra money for doing so. I’d venture to say that we’ve put just as money into trying to get pregnant as we would have if we had been successful having kids early in our marriage.

      Free-ride? That’s bunk. Childless couples pay our fair of taxes.

    99. Shannon Love Says:

      Capitalist Tool,

      I think your economic argument may be bunk…

      The USDA estimates that it cost a middle-class family $170,460 to rear a child to age 18. That’s per child. A three child family would be on the hook for over half-a-mil. Please don’t tell me you don’t think that a half-a-million dollars doesn’t impact a middle-class person’s economic behavior.

      The relative cost of raising children has climbed although the industrial age. It has risen something like 13% just between 1960 and 2000. Socialism in Europe and restrictive real estate laws in Japan have made it proportionately more expensive to establish a household and have children. That is why the birth rates there have fallen so sharply.

      As children become more expensive to produce, with no countervailing economic return, fewer and fewer people will elect to have them. I don’t see what is so radical about that argument.

      I’m going to sink over $300,000 into my kids.
      Do you think I’m likely to $300,000 back? You are just as likely to receive economic benefit from kids as I am. If you likewise haven’t paid the cost of their rearing then you are a free-rider.

    100. Synova Says:

      I’ve referenced this post in relation to a screen play I’m writing. All Wealth is Biological

      “And I think that will appeal to young men BECAUSE they’ve been told since they were little that having children is bad, children are consumers, that THEY are a drain on the world’s resources, a hinderance to their parents, and probably shouldn’t have been born. Wait! You say they weren’t told that? What message is sent every time a teenager is told that having children will ruin their lives? They aren’t so old that they aren’t going to associate that with their own existance.”

    101. gassy Says:

      Great topic! Glad you raised this issue. Furthering Tom Grey’s comment about multi-children cultures eventually dominating no-children cultures, is an excellent column by Mark Steyn in the Wall Street Journal (“It’s the Demography, Stupid”):

      http://www.opinionjournal.com/extra/?id=110007760

      From the column: As a famous Arnold Toynbee quote puts it: “Civilizations die from suicide, not murder”–as can be seen throughout much of “the Western world” right now. The progressive agenda–lavish social welfare, abortion, secularism, multiculturalism–is collectively the real suicide bomb.

    102. veryretired Says:

      It is truly fascinating how many people commenting here cannot seem to consider Shannon’s post in economic terms without turning the subject into a morality play.

      I repeat, if you don’t want kids, don’t have them. All that means to me is that there will be less competition for my kids and grandkids to get into good schools and get good jobs.

      But, as always, there is a catch. When the squeeze comes, as it certainly will when medical science keeps millions of elderly people alive long past any productive years, or even coherent years, my kids and other people’s kids will have to decide how much to spend on taking care of you.

      Their priorities may differ considerably from yours, and they will be in charge.

    103. Stephanie Says:

      Great, thought-provoking article. From looking at the comments though, it seems that a lot more people need to take a basic economics class. Most of them don’t realize that if it can’t be quantified, it doesn’t fit in the economic discussion–and that is perfectly OK when talking about the science of economics.

      In all, it is unfortunate that those who choose to have the next generation at the expense of their own financial well-off-ness are so stigmatized in our society. If we as a society looked more at the long-term economic return on children *for everyone* I think our attitudes toward parents in general, and child-rearing specifically, would look a lot different.

      Thanks for being willing to put this out there and brave all the idiot comments.

    104. cb Says:

      Bilwick,

      I’m not telling you to have kids. You said you don’t won’t to pay for other people’s kids education, well, I don’t want to pay for your healthcare or retirement, so why don’t we just abolish public schools, property tax, social security, and medicare.

    105. steveb Says:

      Shannon Love posted:

      “However, if everybody makes the same choice that you do civilization, and will end.”

      This is a meaningless argument, as demonstrated by the following irrefutable corrolaries:

      If you don’t take a job as a sewer scrubber, and everybody makes the same choice that you do, civilization will end (when we all die of cholera).

      If you don’t take a job as a cop, civilization will end (when crooks find no resistance to their desires to rob and rape and murder).

      If you don’t take a job as a soldier, civilization will end (when furrin devils find no resistance to their desires to invade).

      Obviously, this argument isn’t even internally consistent (given that nobody can possibly clean the sewers AND police the streets AND guard the borders AND…).

    106. Bilwick Says:

      So, bdog, you say you DON’T think everyone should procreate, right? Then why do you seem to be so irked with those of us (me and Inspector Callahan) who are saying exactly that? Do you think that the mere fact of one’s existence–and of therefore having parents–conveys on one an obligation to become a parent, or do you not? If not, why the snide response to Inspector Callahan, who raised just that question? Granted, snide remarks are easier than a logical argument; but it seemed to me in “rebutting” Inspector Callahan, you were merely providing another example of the circular Catch 22 I mentioned earlier: “Everyone should be a parent, except people who don’t want to be, because such people are so deeply flawed they should be out of the gene pool to begin with.” If all you’ve got is some appeal to a collective good, please spare me, Ellsworth. I’ve got a built-in mumbo-jumbo detector, and you might as well be saying “Have kids because Cthulhu demands it.”

    107. Bilwick Says:

      Great post, steveb. Would that the other posters here were as logical, instead of invoking the tribal gods of State, Race and Society.

    108. steveb Says:

      Shannon Love posted:

      “Suppose you exactly duplicated at the moment you entered workforce. Your duplicate, lets call him Notajerk, has all your skills ambition etc. except that at some point in his life he will have children. Now, all things remaining equal, which of you will have the greater economic wealth at say age 65? You will.

      You will also benefit from the production of Notajerk’s children to pretty much the same extent that Notajerk does.”

      Are you seriously asserting the people give to random strangers anywhere near as freely as they give to blood relatives?

      Human nature just plain doesn’t work that way (as evidenced by the crash-and-burn performances of socioeconomic systems that try to *make* people act that way).

    109. Helian Says:

      @Bilwick

      >>”Do you think that the mere fact of one’s existence–and of therefore having parents–conveys on one an obligation to become a parent, or do you not?”

      You are obliged to have children from your own point of view, and in your own interest. You certainly owe no such obligation to me, or to society. Your decision should have nothing to do with economics, the good of society, or whether you can afford it.

    110. TM Lutas Says:

      While I agree with the main thrust of the argument of the piece, I can’t agree with the first sentence.

      “Economically, every society needs children.”

      Of course, this is not true. The society of Burning Man does not need children. But the exceptions in this case do prove the rule. The key is that multi-generational societies need children and that more ephemeral constructs do not.

      Those who live childless and spout venom at the “breeders” do not complain at the benefits of the multi-generation ethic that they busy themselves destroying. They only complain about the costs of continuing the cycle to the next generation.

      More here in my own post on this site.

    111. steveb Says:

      Helian posted:

      “Your decision should have nothing to do with economics, the good of society, or whether you can afford it.”

      I’m with you up to that last part. Having children without considering whether you can afford it is outrageously irresponsible.

    112. Bilwick Says:

      Helian writes: “You are obliged to have children from your own point of view.” Since my own point of view is that I am NOT obliged to have children, that is one bizarre statement.

    113. El Perro Patron Says:

      So, did you choose to discard the very real costs to society of overpopulation, resource depletion and healthcare & infrastructure costs associated with unlimited breeding, or do you believe that those things are not real problems at all? I feel that by not having children, I am helping to maintain the quality of life for not only my fellow human beings, but for all life on this planet. Sure, if everyone thought like I did, our economy would collapse and we’d be extinct very soon. But that is never going to happen. The need to breed is a very strong instinct in most people, so no worries about there not being a next generation. But anytime that individuals choose not to breed just helps to offset the economic and environmental costs of those who are still breeding. Anything we can do to move toward zero population growth will only help to sustain life on this planet.

      Have you checked out the statistics on the other side of your argument? I suggest reading Elinor Burkett’s book, The Baby Boon. In it, she describes how the childfree often pick up the slack for the breeders in the way of tax credits, child-care benefits and flextime policies, not to mention the additional work done by the childfree when their coworkers have to run off to meetings with teachers, games, pediatric appointments or emergencies. Workplace Daycare is a benefit that all workers pay for but only a few take advantage of. She also argues that “family friendly” policies are in direct violation of the 1963 Equal Pay Act that mandated “pay for work done, rather then for the number of dependents.” When someone takes their government mandated six week maternity leave, who picks up the slack at work?

      http://www.powells.com/cgi-bin/biblio?inkey=16-0684863030-2

      By the way, Joshua’s comments that mal-adjusted children of indifferent parents are the are the real free riders was right on the money. Instead of encouraging everyone to breed indesctriminently, society should be encouraging people to truly examine their real will, desires and skillsets. There’s just too many people out there who have no real parental skills or instinct who nevertheless pop out a few simply because its the “normal” thing to do. Our prisons are filled to the brim with the products of people who never should have been parents in the first place. We should be applauding those who have examined themselves and come to the realization that “I am just not good parenting material.” If more people were wise and honest enough to make such self-assessments, society would have far fewer crimes, far fewer psychological ailments and far less stress on its infrastructure.

    114. Helian Says:

      @steveb

      >>”I’m with you up to that last part. Having children without considering whether you can afford it is outrageously irresponsible.”

      It might hypothetically seem outrageously irresponsible from society’s point of view, or from my point of view, or from your point of view. It could never be irresponsible from Bilwick’s point of view. From his point of view, it is good to have children, it is good to insure their survival, and it is good to insure they have the maximum possible likelihood of procreating themselves. These things are good in themselves, period. From Bilwick’s point of view, a priori, and likely fallacious, arguments that he cannot afford children are self-defeating and wrong-headed. If he has children, it will be necessary for him to afford them, and it is highly unlikely he will not find a way to afford them. It is even highly unlikely he will need to take a boring job turning out widgets to do so.

    115. Helian Says:

      >>”Since my own point of view is that I am NOT obliged to have children, that is one bizarre statement.”

      When speaking of your point of view, I refer to your best interests, not your current opinion of what those best interests are.

    116. Al Says:

      Is it possible that the ease of divorce, combined with the monitary penalty on Men, decrease the “attractiveness” of starting a family, if I’m to use your mechanical worldview?

    117. Bilwick Says:

      Can someone else explain Helian’s argument–if there is one in the formal sense–to me? I’m not being snide but I cannot fathom what he is talking about. For example, he states: “From his [presumably me, Bilwick, if I’m interpreting it correctly] point of view it is good to have children.” On Bizarro Planet, maybe; from my point of view here on Earth One it is NOT good to have children. (That is, not good for me.)

    118. Rayna Patton Says:

      I don’t get it. Is there a shortage of children? Not that I see. As a matter of fact we are due to have seven billion humans in the not too distant future. Then on to 8 billion…
      Property taxes are paid based on value of property owned, regardless of children living in the property. That means childless people (also old folk, whose kids have long since flown the nest) are paying to educate other peoples’ children. Checked out the tax system? It’s clearly pronatalist, and unfair to childess people. And in the few countries (not ours!) where there are proportionately more childless couples, people will have to work longer, or be receptive to new immigrants, who almost invariably come with heaps of children. It is not enough to say that we want to stay ethnically or racially as we always have been so we have to breed more ourselves.

      All in all this fuss about people who don’t want children (as if it is a failure of patriotism or economic responsiblity) is ridiculous, and is usually promoted by xenophobes or business interests who want a huge “army of the unemployed” as Marx called it. To people who don’t want to have children, I say sincerely, “Good for you!” Bringing children into this world is a sobering responsiblity, and noone should consider doing it unless the are deeply committed to the idea.

    119. Bilwick Says:

      Oh, wait, I think I just discovered the Rosetta Stone to Helianese: “When speaking of your point of view, I refer to your best interests, not to your current point of view of what those best interests are.” Sorry–I didn’t know we were dealing with the All-Knowing Helian the Great, whose crystal ball knows what every individual’s best interests are better than they do. Even if he’s never met them.

    120. Steve Waldman Says:

      Tempers sure do run high on this issue.

      Artgal:

      As for the Social Security argument; sorry, the problem is not a failure to engage in large scale reproduction. The problem is a failure of the US population to plan for and save for retirement and be self-sufficient. To complain that SS is in trouble because of abortion or childless couples is to buy into a false socialist, welfare state argument. It is not my job to bear children to pay for your retirement, it IS my job to open an IRA and take care of my own needs.

      You know, all those financial assets in your IRA regardless of any high nominal return, will be worthless when you retire if the economy at that time is not producing enough real goods and services to support you, all your colleagues with their high-value IRAs, and the people still working. Childbearing is not the only way to square this circle — technology and immigration are alternatives. But re: technology, “hope is not a plan”, and there are social and financial issues associated with relying too heavily on immigration. (I support both high technology and very open borders.)

      I’ve got a somewhat, ehm, sterile, not at all libertarian, and really quite obvious policy idea related to this issue, here.

    121. Helian Says:

      >>”Sorry–I didn’t know we were dealing with the All-Knowing Helian the Great, whose crystal ball knows what every individual’s best interests are better than they do. Even if he’s never met them.”

      What are you angry about, Bilwick? That I took the time to suggest that something you consider to your advantage is not really to your advantage? I’m just expressing my opinion, like everyone else, and have no monopoly on the truth. Nevertheless, I hope you will think about what I am telling you. If you conclude I am wrong, perhaps it is just as well from both of our points of view.

    122. ArtGal Says:

      Shannon did mention something in her above post that I agree with: the cost of establishing a household for the rearing of children is prohibitively expensive. I haven’t seen anybody here mention housing costs, which is probably the single biggest factor and expense facing parents.

      I don’t have the leisure ATM to find the statistics, but I will bet my next mortgage payment that the states with the largest decline in middle to upper class birthrates are those with the highest housing costs. Skip the red-state/blue-state idealogy for moment and look at populations and housing costs. How is a young couple in Southern California ever to get out of a two bedroom starter house (let alone a one bedroom apartment) to house a growing family? The answer is that they can’t. They are either restricting their reproduction or they are moving to a state with lower housing costs.

    123. brendan Says:

      I think it’s hilarious that so many people in this forum are going out of their way NOT to recognize the biggest elephant in the room, namely, THE WRONG KINDS OF PEOPLE ARE HAVING BABIES THESE DAYS.

      Steve Sailer:

      The increase in welfare payments during the 1960s allowed poor African-Americans, after a century of progress toward white patriarchal norms, to rapidly revert back to African family structures, with a consequent reversion toward African levels of social malaise.

      In both the American inner city and in Africa, the quantity of children has been abundant, but the quality of upbringing has been low. Men, lacking assurance that they are the fathers, have less incentive to invest in educating and disciplining children. So young males are more likely to grow up to be violent and irresponsible. And the weary cycle spins on.

      While Latinos in American enjoy better paternal investment than African-Americans, their illegitimacy rate is still double that of non-Hispanic whites. Some are assimilating toward white norms, but others seem to be assimilating toward African-American family structures, creating a new Latino underclass.

      Latinos, especially immigrants (and in particular, illegal ones) have by far the highest fertility in America, at 2.82 babies per woman, compared to 1.85 babies for non-Hispanic white women.

    124. El Perro Patron Says:

      A few more points I just thought of:

      Envy. I think there is a certain amount of jealousy and envy that parents have of the childfree. Yes, we have more freetime to do things we find worthwhile and we have more expendable cash. I think its envy that causes some of you to call us “parasites.” Like the terrorists, do you hate me for my freedom?

      Also think of the social dynamics. At Christmas and birthday times, I spend money on my breeder friend’s children. Obviously, there is no need to reciprocate. And when I invite them to my home for a meal or out to dinner, I have to feed their children. When they invite my wife and I, they only have to feed the two of us.

    125. Jamie Says:

      Veryretired, thanks for beating me to the punch. And it’s not just about my three kids, my parents’ (so far) four grandchildren. For those in the thread who have argued that all we have to do is import more labor, I suggest that they keep in mind (as you said, veryretired) that it’s the new labor, whether imported or locally produced, that will control the purse. One problem Europe is facing is that “traditional” Europeans are being rapidly outbred by Muslim immigrants, whose priorities are significantly different from their own; how long will the Euro-welfare state survive when today’s European Muslim children are the ones deciding how much goes to eldercare? If these kids are adequately assimilated, if they internalize the values that the “traditional” European retirees need them to, maybe there’ll be no great problem getting them to continue to fund what is now “traditional” European retirement. But what if, instead, they decide to cleave to the values taught by their own families, or even just to give, personally, to the people who have shown them the most support, and reduce their tax burden through their votes?

      I’m doing my best to raise my kids to be compassionate and responsible – but, as the Catholic church used to say (and may still, I haven’t checked lately), not to give so much to charity that they become charity cases themselves. I will never encourage my kids to impoverish themselves in order to support me – much less people who despise them simply for existing, and me for my role in bringing them about.

      On a high level, I care very much at what rate our society reproduces. But I’d much rather have my husband and me and like-minded people – people who don’t see children as across-the-board juvenile delinquents whose attendance at school is the only thing protecting society from them – disproportionately represented than to try to encourage reproduction among people who call me a “breeder” and liken kids to pets. You people I can do without. Just as you’d much rather do without me. I can live with that.

      People who choose to be childless but don’t consider themselves superior to the child-ful as a result, please stop reading here; the rest of this comment doesn’t apply to you, nor to those who are childless without choice. Those (I presume) few rest of you, be very careful; you may just reap what you sow. Exactly what you sow.

    126. Mary in LA Says:

      I agree with Terri. I’m childless, not at all by choice. Two miscarriages and two failed IVF attempts have left my husband and me with nothing but broken hearts. If you wish to count us in the ranks of “parasites”, so be it.

    127. Anonymous Says:

      “So, bdog, you say you DON’T think everyone should procreate, right? Then why do you seem to be so irked with those of us (me and Inspector Callahan) who are saying exactly that?”

      Point to my “irked” remark and I’ll address it. I’m pretty sure that I noted that I’d be happy to “outbreed” you and yours. Just don’t try to equate the childless by choice with the childrearing by choice.

      “Do you think that the mere fact of one’s existence–and of therefore having parents–conveys on one an obligation to become a parent, or do you not? If not, why the snide response to Inspector Callahan, who raised just that question?”

      Absolutely. Then again, I believe that we lived as spirits before coming to Earth, thus there are others -many of whom we were no doubt close to- who are waiting to gain a physical body. You, no doubt, do not share these beliefs.

      Even so, from furtherance of one’s posterity to the furtherance of one’s ideals, procreation makes sense at a purely primal level as well. Yes, I think something is wrong with you if you don’t believe that there is much in our way of life that is worth passing on to the next generation.

      “Granted, snide remarks are easier than a logical argument…”

      Ah, but it’s a target-rich environment.

      “…but it seemed to me in ‘rebutting’ Inspector Callahan, you were merely providing another example of the circular Catch 22 I mentioned earlier: ‘Everyone should be a parent, except people who don’t want to be, because such people are so deeply flawed they should be out of the gene pool to begin with.'”

      Sounds like a reasonable argument to me. It’s a statement with a caveat, nothing more. If you don’t want to be a parent, any child you have may suffer -as you’ve stated. That said, people have a remarkable way of rising to the task and many of those who are childless by choice would make great parents. At any rate, if you’re not going to pass on the notion that our society is worth fighting for anyway, it’s probably best that you didn’t procreate.

      “If all you’ve got is some appeal to a collective good, please spare me, Ellsworth.”

      As I’ve stated, it does the “collective good” no good to have kids out there without concerned/willing parents.

      “I’ve got a built-in mumbo-jumbo detector, and you might as well be saying ‘Have kids because Cthulhu demands it.'”

      Actually, for the nth time, PLEASE DON’T HAVE KIDS. Thanks.

    128. Patrick (gryph) Says:

      The children take care of their parents, who are living ever-longer and incurring greater medical costs. Otherwise the parents go on the public dole full-time. Also, single people make up the work lost by people with children. You should think more kindly of the worker-drone, you would have a lot more trouble trying to survive without him.

    129. Anonymous Says:

      “Envy. I think there is a certain amount of jealousy and envy that parents have of the childfree. Yes, we have more freetime to do things we find worthwhile and we have more expendable cash. I think its envy that causes some of you to call us ‘parasites.’ Like the terrorists, do you hate me for my freedom?”

      Ah, that’s rich. Like I’d trade all 4 of my kids for the “good life”. You can’t take it with you, big fella!

      All that said, you guys on the other side continually discount the positive aspects of raising children: the intagibles. The hugs, the breakthroughs, their triumphs and failures.

      Wouldn’t trade it for a boat on the lake. Wouldn’t trade it for a successful career in music -which I would love- as opposed to my current trade of engineering. I might suggest that the sacrifice is worth it…and ends up being far more fulfilling than the job or whatever else is the center of your life.

      Nevertheless, I’m glad you’re “happy” with your lifestyle. Hope it works out for you (Seriously).

    130. Eric Says:

      OK, economic terms. Why raise kids in the expensive USA when you can offshore this function to the third world and probably get more thanks in return?

    131. roux Says:

      Hey, I did my part. Two boys and two girls.

      If you’re lucky and you raised them right they actually become self sufficient. I’m just not quite there yet, three in college and one still in highschool.

    132. Andy Says:

      Not a word about the recreational and joyous aspects of having children. Humf.

    133. TallDave Says:

      I think there’s one other consideration, besides the issue of increasing technological replacement of human inputs, that tends to argue against Shannon’s assumption that children produce future economic benefits to society at large, which is that some proportion of individuals never produce a net economic input to society.

      Career criminals, people spending a certain percentage of their lives in prison, or those whose income is mostly derived from various forms of welfare (private or gov’t, and keep in mind this includes public goods like roads)… there are certainly cases where society would benefit if individuals had never existed.

      So I think it’s fair to say you’re only doing future society a service if you raise good kids (no pressure, parents! ;)).

    134. Capitalist Tool Says:

      Shannon,

      I just don’t buy the economic argument, and I generally take an economic view of most issues. I’ve looked at this issue from the economic standpoint. Maybe you’ve got a case for why people have 2 kids instead of 4. But I still don’t buy it. I’m young and single, so while I’m not facing the decision, I can plan ahead. If I have 2 kids, I’m going to have to pay to send them to college, and incur all these costs that you mentioned. If I have 4 kids, I just spread the cost out over 4 kids. If I have 6 kids, they’ll all have to work or get scholarships to pay for college. How about if I take a year out of my prime working years to move my entire family to China, or India, or whereever, for a unique experience? I don’t worry about the money. It has a 0% factor in my decision to have children, and I can put a $$$ figure on anything.

      It’s people without savings, and without children that ought to be wondering how they’re going to pay for retirement. In 20 years time, the parents and their children might vote to cut off funding. This whole issue is only a problem because people are expecting to have their retirement paid by people who were never born.

      Have you seen this article by Allan Carlson about the effects of socialism on the family? It goes along with your post.
      http://www.mises.org/story/1406

      By the way, I didn’t mean to imply that your argument is bunk, I totally agree with your conclusions. I only disagree in it’s effect. I think people are wealthy enough in dollar terms to have as many kids as they want and that birth control, women in the workforce, later marriage ages, culture, etc. have a much larger impact.

    135. Jon D. Says:

      To the anonymous commenter at 3:20 PM —
      Best comment yet. Could not have said it better myself.
      I have known a few childless by choice married couples over the years and you can’t escape the feeling that they have this big empty hole filling up the void where the kids should be, or it’s occupied by something material.
      Nothing can fill the place in the heart that your own children fit so perfectly, not even neices or nephews. It’s very difficult to understand unless you have your own.

    136. Inspector Callahan Says:

      By the sounds of it, your birth was hardly the apex of your parents’ difficulties with you. But I digress. The point is that they were willing to sacrifice much in your behalf. Your unwillingness to do so speaks volumes.

      Nice, bdog. Classy. I put my reasons for not having kids in another comment. If you’d bothered to read those comments, instead of spouting off about someone you know NOTHING about, you probably wouldn’t have made the above comment. Or maybe you still would have, based on what I’ve seen of your friendly, open-minded personality. I’m only guessing, because I don’t know anything about you.

      Selfish desire to spend more time with “me” is what drives most of those who don’t want children.

      Those weren’t my reasons at all, Pierre. Apparently you hadn’t read my comment either. Interesting how you quipped about “lame excuses”, when you don’t even know my reasons. Look up a bit and you’ll find my reasons.

      What I do see in this discussion (unfortunately for Shannon Love, this wasn’t the route I think she wanted to take with this discussion), is that parents on this board definitely have a kind of superiority complex. They’re doing God’s will, propagating the species, and I’d better be damn glad they are.

      Well, if it’s any consolation, I am glad you are. Because I don’t have the physical and emotional wherewithal to do it. There are a lot of people who SHOULDN’T have kids – I see some of these people on a daily basis.

      One thing I can never be accused of – having kids when I shouldn’t have.

      TV (Harry)

    137. Kurt Says:

      It is articles like these that irritate no end. I have chosen not to have kids for reasons entirely my own that are not anyone elses business. However, I do not look down on people who do have kids as “breeders”. Having kids is alot like being an entreprenuer. It takes a committment of time, effort, and money. Also like entreprenuership, not everyone is cut out for it or has the desire to do it.

      The absolutely worse thing in the world is for people who really do not want them to have kids and do a lousy job of raising them. The kids grow up screwed up and the parents end up screwed up as well. The newspapers and other media are full of stories of child neglect and abuse. How anyone can find this desirable from a humanitarian stand-point, let alone an economic one; is completely beyond my comprehension.

      Let the people who are into having kids have as many as they want and can support. Stop hassling people who don’t want kinds into having them. Let everyone do their own thing and work to achieve their own dreams and goals in life and everything will be fine.

      Both the pro-child right and the anti-child left need to BACK OFF and stop being busybodies, sticking their noses into everyone elses business, where it does not belong.

      For those of you who think childlessness will lead to extinction, have you considered another approach to the issue? Check out SENS (www.gen.cam.ac.uk/sens) and you’ll see what I mean. A non-linear solution to a linear problem.

      Call it “thinking out the box”.

    138. bdog57 Says:

      I inadvertently did not attach my name to posts at 3:07 and 3:20. They’re mine.

      “Nice, bdog. Classy.”

      About as classy as this line of yours earlier:

      “Do you see what I mean when I say that when people become parents, they tend to lose some of the objectivity they’ve been given?”

      I might add that as someone who has experienced single life and parenthood, I’m a little more qualified to talk about objectivity, but that’s neither here nor there.

      You make a mistake in assuming that I did not read your previous post. Having RE-read your post and my response to it, I stand by everything I’ve said: Don’t want ’em, don’t have ’em (which you agree with).

      Just don’t equate what you’re doing with what I’m doing.

      BTW, I consider open-minded an epithet, not a compliment. Thanks for not lumping me in with that bunch. Call me a bigot and you’ll really make my day. :)

    139. freerider Says:

      I take your point Shannon Love, I am therefore going to impregnate a minimum of 50 women this year, I figure that I can convince at least 10 of them to not have an abortion and can thus contribute the cheap labor our society so dearly needs.

      Just think, in a mere decade, I bet I can have 100 children to more than pay my debt to society, ensuring our future prosperity.

      I bet Rush would get a hoot out of finding out he is a freerider, I know I do.

    140. Grul Says:

      The reasoning is wrong, even from an economic perspective. It assumes a lot of things.

      1- Workers are a scarce resource: False, not in this market. The US, and most developed countries, are not having problems finding workers. They are having problems keeping them away.

      2- Having children is the most cost eficient way to procure workers for our society: False again, for the cost of raising and educating a single American children I can easily procure planeloads of Indian computer programmers, Polish Machinists and welders and Russian Nuclear physicists. Any other speciality you can thing of is equally easily procured in the open market.

      So, if we are going to analice this issue from an econimic perspective we must conclude that we must have less children and import more qualified workers.

      Anyway, if anybody thinks I am a parasite for not procuring workers for our society by not having children, I will be more than happy to sponsor two or three IT guys from Bangalore and may be throw a Russian professor or two into the bargain for free if that makes them happy and keeps them from raising any more complaints about my personal life.

    141. JohnMc Says:

      Shannon,

      First, I was born in the State of Florida and lived most of my youth in that state. During that period, pre-Disney, two primary income sources existed 1) Farming and 2) Retirees. So I have experienced the ‘free rider’ concept you expouse and it is false. Many a retiree would grouse about having to pay school taxes in one breath but realize if they want hospital care, they need to have an environment that attracts parents with those skills, that want good schools. So it is a two edged sword. In a high retirement environment, e.g. Free Ridder, the need for support services increase not decrease. That need drives the anically parental prefered options that the retiree population would want to eliminate. At some point balance is reached.

      Second, since having children is a choice, and we live in a post agricultural society, the economic rationale for children has been gone for at least a century. The desire to have children is therefore noneconomic to begin with, with delfates your argument somewhat. So if my originial intent to have children in the first place is not economic and I fully understand the burden then so what?

      Many people drive expensive cars. They don’t have to but it is their choice. Such cars are an economic burden vs using a Yugo or public transport. But the reason was never economic.

      Third, support services for things like schools are support by most systems via real estate millage. As such, the Free Rider would actually pay more as the housing they would tend to acquire will be higher in value than the parent led family due to increased disposal income. So in a peripheral way the Free Rider is really a Free Loaner due to the higher assessments they would pay.

    142. Dr. T Says:

      Applying a “free rider” label to adults who do not produce the economic “good” called children is nonsense. It is no more economically logical than calling people who do not raise crops agricultural “free riders” eating on the backs of farmers.

      Economically, scarcity of a product (children, in this case) will result in two things: an increase in the value of the scarce product (which will tend to make it less scarce) and the development of alternate methods of achieving the benefits conferred by the scarce product. In the “too few children” scenario, alternate methods could be increased longevity and productivity of adults or an immigration policy that encourages an influx of young families.

      I believe we should drop this entire subject and stop maligning childless adults. Raising children should not be an economic obligation, and people ill-suited to child rearing should not be pressured into having children. We have a more than sufficient supply of poorly raised children and dysfunctional families.

    143. ArmyGirl Says:

      All you willfully childless people, don’t deceive yourself in your “me” worship (forgive the punctuation as I’m quoting from memory):

      =====
      Sin of self-love possesseth all mine eye
      And all my soul, and all my every part;
      And for this sin there is no remedy
      It is so grounded inward in my heart.
      Methinks no face so gracious is as mine,
      No shape so true, no truth of such account;
      And for myself mine own worth do define
      As I all other in all worths surmount.
      But when my glass shows me my self, indeed —
      Beated and chopped with tanned antiquity —
      My own self-love quite contrary I read:
      Self so self-loving were iniquity.
      ‘Tis thee, myself, that for myself I praise:
      Painting my age with beauty of thy days.
      =====

      The speaker of the sonnet sounds like a reformed example of one of y’all. Maybe you, too, will one day sing a different tune (or wish you had).

      I have very much enjoyed this post and all the comments, as these issues are very near and dear to my heart.

      I know this post began from a strictly economic viewpoint but the wider cultural implications are inescapable.

      Western societies need to wake up and realize a) we should be filled with gratitude every day for all the umimaginably wonderful things we have, b), we are in a war for survival, and c) what we have is worth fighting for. I don’t know how strongly any of y’all feel about it but I can say being female makes the thought of worldwide Sharia that much more repulsive.

      I joined the Army when I woke up, thinking I could thereby make a contribution. Gradually I realized the best thing I could do for my country is have children. Astonishly, around that same time the world’s most perfect husband offered me his ardent addresses (and yet I still have no faith in the supernatural, go figure). We are being good soldiers and waiting out this deployment in Iraq (where I am safer than I would be back home on the freeways every day, thank you very much), but after that, the baby-making begins in earnest.

      What should our culture do to promote a higher birthrate? I think the problem may involve, first of all, the prolonged infantilization of children. Is there really any reason a 15-year old can’t be as mature and responsible and intelligent as an 18-year-old? Is there any reason we, for all our amazing technological innovations, can’t produce children who have the brains and werewithal to start their secondary education at this younger age (well, yes, the reason is government schools and teacher’s unions…)? That right there would give back to females another three precious childbearing years. Let’s say a female goes through eight years of schooling and another five to get established in her career — she’d still only be 28 at the end of all that. We’ve innovated as a society, to the great benefit of all, by bringing women into the paid economy. Now we just need to innovate again to correct for the side effect — too few children — of that boon.
      Cultural factors stand in the way as of now, but if we as a society can wake up and realize a), b), and c), a massive cultural shift will occur and the “how” will no longer be an obstacle. I pray to God or whoever that that happens.

      Your defense budget tax dollars paid for these bloviations. Thanks!

    144. Kurt Says:

      To breed or not to breed.

      Salon had this same discussion several years ago. The consensus was that people who wanted to have kids and had them as well as the people who did not want kids and did not have them, were roughly equally happy with their life choices and had little or no regrets. It was the people who wanted kids and could not have them as well as the people who had kids but did not want them who were the most miserable in life.

      I have noticed this myself in my life. Generally, people who get what they want tend to be happy. Those that don’t, aren’t.

      Personally, I am not a “kids” person. I am very much an “adult” person (and I don’t mean sexually, for those of you with dirty minds). I mean that the activities that give me happiness in life are those that I do with other adults. I have lived in SoCal in the late 80’s (that adult playground) and through out Asia in the 90’s (that blade runner like place) and found happiness in both places. I have enough perspective to know what I want out of life and what I find fulfilling. It’s not the “family” thing.

      Does this mean I look down on people who have kids? Not at all. I have many good friends who are happily married people with kids. They would never want to trade their life for mine. I would never trade my life for thiers. We respect each other and deal with each other on the basis of mutual respect and rational self-interest.

      Many of you here both with and with out kids, clearly show considerable invective. Perhaps you are not happy with your life choices? This is the only conclusion I can draw from this.

      The left wing liberals say we are over populating the Earth. The right wing conservatives say we are dying off. I think both views are bunk and I disregard them completely. Both views are meerly position statements by people trying to promote political agendas. I refuse to buy into either of them. A plague on both of thier houses.

      Finally, why the assumption that the aging process is “immutable” and, thus, not ammenable by biotechnological means. Biotechnology is a rapidly growing field. Some say that it has entered a “Moore”s Law” like progression like the semiconductor industry. They call it when Moore’s Law meets evolution.

      The people who say that aging can never be eliminated sound to me alot like Lord Kelvin who, in 1903, declared that heavier than air flight was nothing but a fantasy.

      Non-linear solutions for a linear world. Think outside the box, not in it.

    145. Impacted Wisdom Truth Says:

      I invite anyone whom thinks I am a “free-rider” because I do not have children to look at my property tax bill (a good portion of which goes to pay for schools) and explain to me how it is “free.”

    146. Frank Says:

      You might consider that some of us childless couples have decided not to procreate for reasons other than economic ones. For example,I will never have any offspring because, well, basically I hate children. Children hate me, too. Who would want to live in a house with so much hate? Not me !!

      I do laugh at my friends who coo “I love you” at thier newborn babies. I can’t help thinking, this little person doesn’t even have a personality yet. What’s to love? If someone I lived with cried all the time and pooped in thier pants, I’d ask them to get out of my house. Still, mothers and fathers profess thier great love for thier newborn babies. Curious.

    147. LotharBot Says:

      For those who don’t know: Shannon has started a new thread that clarifies a lot of things.

      One important point I took from that thread is that we as a society make it too expensive for people to have children (because of our socialist policies), and therefore people have fewer children. Europe has it worse because they’re more socialist, and having a child is incredibly expensive in some European countries. We need to move away from that — reduce the burden of government.

      (For those of you who think this is a conservative blog and Shannon is a Republican who wants to tax everything, you’re way off. This is a mostly libertarian blog.)

    148. speedwell Says:

      I don’t have kids, and I don’t care whether or not you do. My reasons are private, and if you don’t like that, you can take your “parasite” and stick it in your ear. I don’t need your kids to support me; I am responsible for myself; taxes are something I pay because the government makes me do it at gunpoint. I think society and the economy could manage just fine if the birthrate went down, as population fluctuation is just one variable among millions, and furthermore, I don’t need to know the age of the guy behind the counter at McDonald’s. Shakespeare is dead and God is fiction. Real libertarians leave people alone to make free choices, so bugger off and leave me alone already.

    149. Tyouth Says:

      I reckon Andy was right quite a few comments back when he said (in effect) “that the act of procreation only rarely is planned for with respect to the parents’ economic welfare in mind and never with the good of society in mind”.

    150. Pierre Legrand Says:

      Inspector Callahan:
      Repeat after me Inspector…I am not the center of the world and not even the center of this conversation. Witness the word “MOST” in that quote you supplied…shall I supply you with a definition of most?

      Envy. I think there is a certain amount of jealousy and envy that parents have of the childfree. Yes, we have more freetime to do things we find worthwhile and we have more expendable cash. I think its envy that causes some of you to call us “parasites.” Like the terrorists, do you hate me for my freedom?

      Also think of the social dynamics. At Christmas and birthday times, I spend money on my breeder friend’s children. Obviously, there is no need to reciprocate. And when I invite them to my home for a meal or out to dinner, I have to feed their children. When they invite my wife and I, they only have to feed the two of us.

      hehehe…Thats the funniest thing I have read in this thread…talk about clueless. Christmas with just you and your wife…oh baby that sounds FUN! Nah I prefer building toys at 3 in the morning, putting bicycles, pedal cars, dolls, candy into stockings, all ever so quietly, leaving hints that Santa was here…then waking up after a couple of hours of sleep to see 3 of the happiest faces on earth when they witness the miracle of Christmas. Yea I would MUCH rather being alone with my wife…hey wait THATS why I have 3 kids. Sheesh I forgot I already did that gig…been there did that, t-shirt, mug and it ain’t all that.

      But I don’t begrudge anyone for not having children. I would not have had them had I not found my wife…searched for years for her. Now Eleven years later I still think she is the most beautiful women in the restaurant when we go out. I still walk around when we are together like the cat that just ate the canary…

      For those of you who have tried and not been able to have them….words cannot express my sorrow at your disappointment.

      For those who call me or worse my wife breeders careful I am not within earshot when you do.

      Pierre Legrand

    151. grepon Says:

      This discussion lends itself to lines of thinking that their should be laws, or that the tax subsidy the childless pay, via the government, to the fecond should be increased, OR strictly equivalently to that, that the fecund should get deeper tax breaks.

      WELL, that’s what they are doing in places like FRANCE, and it’s NOT working very well. True, their birth rates are higher than those in most of the EU(1.9 per woman vs 1.3 in Italy or Spain), but as Mark Steyn has noticed and noted that has something to do with the extraordinary reproductive rates of northern african, culturally muslim women. France has higher populations of them than the rest of Europe does. Half of the resulting children will be raised as breeders, poorly educated and subservient to males.

      So, interestingly, this whole “childless” category has an icky gender element to it, doesn’t it. Women in France are essentially being made to have kids through oppressive means..essentially enrollment in a cult and/or lifelong oppression by their male relatives. In the rest of the post-Christian white French population, the women are free, better educated, and not having many kids, despite all sorts of lavish state subsidies to encourage just that.

      I’m not sure if I buy Mark Steyn’s argument that post-Christian occidental European culture is DINKing itself out of existence through lack of faith in God. I DO agree with him that creating a welfare/social security/nanny state BREAKS the bonds between generations, and replaces the family as central to the life of the individual. I myself think that the crushing taxes that the current generation of europeans are paying render them less disposable income to permit things like an additional room, a roomier car, and so forth that childrearing demands. Also, such high taxes and high unemployment and general depressiveness and cynicism don’t lend themselves to a feeling of hope and joy in raising kids. In any case, the attempts the technocratic welfare states have made, mainly in the form of throwing money at people to get them to have more kids, have not worked on native europeans, though the north african imports are signing up for every single euro-dime.

      The model here in the USA should be to keep the nanny state minimal. That’s an ideal way to keep the childless from any sort of freeride. If there is not much to pay to begin with (i.e. nearly zero social security, ultra low income taxes) you minimize any sort of transfer payments or notions of a freeride for ANYONE.

    152. Catkin Says:

      I am single pay twice as much in taxes as the average married couple or persons who get to deduct all their kids and their mortgages as well. I did the HR Block tax cut software and found out I was paying twice as much as the average married couple was. So don’t call me a free rider when I pay twice the taxes!

    153. holmegm Says:

      >I am single pay twice as much in taxes as the
      >average married couple or persons who get to deduct
      >all their kids and their mortgages as well.

      That’s because we pay those expenses! Of course if you don’t spend money on anything deductable, you don’t get to deduct it.

      Deductions soften the blow, but even if you could deduct 100% of something, you’ve still paid for it. That doesn’t change the economic argument being presented here (which I don’t necessarily agree with – I think simple rising hedonism is a more likely explanation).

      Let’s pretend that you could deduct 100% of what you spent raising children. OK, a taxed dollar spent on yourself is still more for you than an untaxed dollar completely spent on somebody else (which is 0 for you).

      By your logic, you should give your whole paycheck to charity. There, no taxes at all! Great strategy ;)

    154. Seerak Says:

      *sigh* another demonstration of why non-Misesian economics is a huge joke.

      In no sense — economic, moral or physical — does another person’s choice to incur a certain expense make me any sort of “free rider”.

      Now, if you step away from that piece of nonsense, then a real issue does turn up — that having children is a huge cost for parents, even with the transfers of educational subsidies and child tax credits. An examination of what those costs are, and whether any of them are artificial (i.e. imposed ultimately by government fiat) would be telling.

      For instance, how many people are scared out of being parents by the risk of getting labelled a child-abuser by an overzealous government worker, because one’s child bruises easily? (No BS, my brother has this problem)

      How many parents are scared out of parenting by the screaming bratty results of someone else’s horrible parenting? Count yours truly on that one. While I have reason to believe that I could raise my children to behave properly, I can’t be sure of that for lack of — well, experience. And as any childless person who dares to reach conclusions about the screaming dervish in the next booth throwing potatoes all over the restaurant soon finds out, they are Not Allowed an Opinion — because (cue the massed millions of Bad Parents worldwide invoking their invincible mantra against any criticism): “You Have No Kids, So You Know Nothing: STFU.”

      As already pointed out elsewhere, if there are too few children, the increasing demand for them (for labor) coupled with decreased supply will result in a boost in per-worker costs. In other words, jobs will hunt people and drive salaries up. That will have to be paid for by us retired old people who had the foresight to save up. In a free society, there would be some way for us oldies to invest in student loans; we shoulder the cost of their expensive college education which helps them become productive, then we pay for their care of us in our dotage via the returns from said investments. In other words, those with capital invest in the future productivity of those who don’t.

      If that doesn’t result in an increase in the birth rate, then there is a problem — but it’s cultural, not economic.

      What happened to “The Population Bomb”?

    155. El Perro Patron Says:

      and the next time someone calls you a parasite…

      punch them squarely in the nose and see how it works out.

      “Leftists who demand that the state coerce my children into paying for their retirement?”

      You mean those same “leftists” who paid taxes all their lives to support the infrastructure that allowed your children to have schools, roads, sewers, military protection, etc that allowed your children to grow up, get educated and get jobs that allow them to earn a living and pay into the system that supports their elder’s retirements?

      Get off your high horse. Your children are not raised in a vacuum devoid of the economic benefits of society. Everyone pays into the upbringing and well-being of your kids regardless of whether or not they themselves choose to breed.

      When you move your family to a deserted island where you are solely responsible for their upbringing, then you can complain about those who expect to be repaid back in their old age for contributions they made in their earning years.

      Oh, and a little sidenote for Pierre Legrand… you are obviously a moron who shouldn’t have bred yourself. You make the assumption that children wind up being little carbon copies of themselves, a common misconception for foolish rightwing egotists. But in the real world, children often turn out quite differently from their parents. This is a good thing, this is how society evolves and progresses. I know that rightwingers are usually in mourning for some kind of nostalgic myth of their childhoods that has calcified in their minds. So discussing sociological evolution and progress in an anathema to you.

      The bottom line is, no matter how much you breed and no matter how much you try to browbeat your offspring into following in your philosophical footsteps (or maybe in direct retaliation to your browbeating) your kids will become what they will become. Period. Perhaps they will turn into more red state reactionaries. Or perhaps they will become educated, creative, thoughtful and compassionate blue-staters. Who knows?

      You can’t guarantee an outcome no matter how hard you pray or yell.

    156. El Perro Patron Says:

      Note to Helian: Just because you can memorize and regurgitate Shakespeare does not make you wise. Your use of use of the quotes added absolutely nothing to the argument, other than to make yourself look like a pseudo-intellectual pompous ass. I love how you think you can tell strangers that you know what is in their best interest, despite their own desires. That the mark of a true totalitarian.

      Rayna Patton makes the most sense of anyone on this thread.

    157. Anonymous Says:

      Funny how an internet faux tough guy like Pierre Legrand likes to make veiled threats at anyone who uses the word Breeder but doesn’t seem to have a problem with non-breeders being called parasites.

      If you’ve bred, you’re a breeder. Get over it. If you choose to interpret that as a derogotory term, that’s your paranoia talking. Grow up. By the way tough guy, I’ll use the word in ear shot of anyone I please.

      You know, I’ve never really had a problem with breeders. Most of my close friends all have kids, whom I enjoy spending time with. But after reading this thread, I find the pomposity and righteousness of a few of the breeders on this thread to be nothing short of stomach-churning. It makes me proud of the decision I have made not to breed. I’d hate to think that my children would be forced to spend their school days hanging out with the products of such vile and repulsive parents. I’m going to send my urologist a Father’s Day gift this year.

    158. xiaoding Says:

      There seems to be a mis-perception here. That would be, that the present state of this country, it’s greatness, came about because of people having children, and that those that didn’t, and don’t, somehow detract from this greatness. This is false. It is a lie that parents tell themselves to feel better, I suppose.

      Can’t recall the exact number, but I read somewhere that the number of abortions in the last fifty years is just staggering. We would be in the situation of Mexico right now, if it were not for population control. Therefore the greatness of our country springs from population reduction, not increase, or at least a relative decrease. You are wrong, Shannon. This country is overpopulated, we could stand at least a thirty percent reduction in population with no ill effects at all.

      Society regulates itself, and it does not care what parents think. Decling fertility rates? Thats society saying “we have too many people”…have less.

      We do not need more people to defend the country against the barbarians, we need smarter people, who have greater recources, who can outlast the barbarians, and who can devise more efficient ways to kill them. Nature is telling us to increase our brains, not our brawn. We got too much brawn. Brawn needs water, and food. It’s a liability, in the present world. Feed a soldier for a day, or build a robot for forever. One robot can kill a million soldiers.

      I find your argument a variation on fighting the last war. More people mattered in the 1800’s, this is 2006, differenet world!!

      xiaoding

    159. Anonymous Says:

      However, if every adult sought to maximize their own short-term economic benefit by avoiding the cost of rearing children, then the economy would eventually collapse.

      Your argument falls apart (over and over again) because it is based upon an absurd premise. People don’t have children because of ideas they might have about the economy– they *never* do this. It is always personal, always desire-driven. Sometimes it is just plain biological– that ticking clock for many women is very powerful and decides everything.

      In any given population, there will always be a proportion of individuals who opt out of having children (and will typically do other things that contribute to the wellbeing of the economy and common good as a result) but the vast majority of people always will have children– and always because of personal desire. You might whine about more people choosing to be childfree, but we are never going to have a situation in which *everyone* makes that choice. Your economic reasoning does not represent how people actually make their decisions.

      It’s a little bit like asking what would happen at my company if *everyone* decided to take paid family leave all at the same time– and using that as an argument against providing family leave. Its patently absurd. The scenario proposed isn’t going to happen in this way and it is not a valid argument.

      Have you actually studied economics? I’m curious. This whole post just sounds like a lot of axe-grinding, self-pity, and envy to me.

    160. Anonymous Says:

      Why should my kids go to work to support people who never had kids?

      Because those people who have not have kids paid their fair share into the social security system while they were working, which supported those who were unable to work at that time, the elderly and the disabled. They did their part.

      This is how social security works– you get out what you put in. It has nothing to do with raising children. It has everything to do with working and contributing to the system.

    161. Mr L Says:

      This is how social security works– you get out what you put in. It has nothing to do with raising children. It has everything to do with working and contributing to the system.

      Laffo! That’s not how it’s funded today — especially since the benefits we award our retirees seem to increase in number and value over time. We weren’t paying for pills and eyelid surgery in the WWII days, and medical costs seem to be leaping upwards at around 15% a year.

      Right now all SS is money-in, money-out. You’re funding the retirees of today, the next generation funds your retirement tomorrow. If it wasn’t that way, we wouldn’t need SS, since you can get better returns with a 1% compounded interest bank account.

    162. Kurt Says:

      I think any kind of demographic projections beyond 30-50 years that do not take into account the prospect of radical life extension (i.e. SENS) are completely meaningless. This is the big flaw in the predictions made by people like Phillip Long and Mark Steyn.

    163. Kurt Says:

      I think any kind of demographic projections beyond 30-50 years that do not take into account the prospect of radical life extension (i.e. SENS) are completely meaningless. This is the big flaw in the predictions made by people like Phillip Long and Mark Steyn.

    164. Pierre Legrand Says:

      Funny how an internet faux tough guy like Pierre Legrand likes to make veiled threats at anyone who uses the word Breeder but doesn’t seem to have a problem with non-breeders being called parasites.

      Even funnier how those of you who go around calling people names are nameless anons. For myself every single word I type on the net is under my name…easily looked up if you care to. As far as I have been concerned for the last 10 years on the net if you don’t want to put your name behind your thoughts then the rest of us should be as ashamed of them as you are. Dehumanizing childbearing and childraising is simply your attempt to convince yourself that it isnt the single most rewarding exercise in life. Breeder is an insult, you know it and I know it and that is exactly why it is used. It is not being a tough guy to simply state that those who insult me to my face will face consquences. Anyone will react badly to being insulted to their faces…the net allows people to get away with it. That is a sad state of affairs.

      Oh, and a little sidenote for Pierre Legrand… you are obviously a moron who shouldn’t have bred yourself. You make the assumption that children wind up being little carbon copies of themselves, a common misconception for foolish rightwing egotists. But in the real world, children often turn out quite differently from their parents.

      hehe..And you have done a study on your “facts”? Often? You sure about them thar things you call facts?

      Pierre

    165. Bill Says:

      I’m a father of 9 (6 daughters, 3 sons) age range 5-21. I find life difficult but fulfilling. I do think that the relative lack of childbearing will give them greater economic opportunities, but fewer opportunities to make good friends and find good spouses. We send them to Catholic schools through high school. They have to work , join the service, or take out loans if they want to go to college, which for some reason they all (3)have so far. Our life’s not cheap, but it’s a doable thing if you manage your money. I’ve worked 2 jobs for over a decade. soon I won’t have to.I find having children makes life interesting and gives me a better perspective on my own upbringing and its struggles.

    166. Nicole Tedesco Says:

      The childless adults, by virtue of the extra time and attention on their hands (especially for childless women who do not end up biologically predisposed to focusing all of their attention on their children), have the option of spending more time and attention on their careers. This, in turn, helps to increase the wealth of the society the children of their day will inherit. A childless adult has the opportunity to author a book which can introduce children to new ideas. A childless adult can spend their time running future companies like Google which can help the children find the knowledge they need. A childless adult can devote their time to teaching the children as they grow up. In short a childless adult has the opportunity to inject wealth into the common society in ways that the childful parent cannot.

      Really, someone has to be left to do the “dirty work!”

    167. Joshua Trigsted Says:

      The real problem to me, and part of the reason I may never have children (although the biological urge, which incidentally makes this post unnecessary, will probably overcome me at some point), is that in modern society it seems that instead of more intelligent people being more likely to reproduce, universal access to hospitals (if not health care) and the availability of birth control have had the effect of making survival of children less important than the desire to have children. The result is that people who neglect higher intellectual pursuits for more anamilistic pursuits, and/or those who are too idiotic/catholic to use birth control are those who tend to reproduce now. There are no stats to back this up, probably because studies in this area could never get funding because of their politically incorrect overtones, but I suspect that there is a more or less direct inverse correlation between intelligence and number of children on is likely to have. I don’t want my genes to continue in a world that is regressing, and by the time the intelligence starts progressing again my genes will be washed out and the world will be unrecognizable to me.

      Also, the author’s argument assumes all too readily that moral/political standards will remain largely unchanged in the future. On the contrary, moral standards change depending on the situation in which people find themselves. Perhaps this is why Social Security reform is such a huge issue when just one generation previous it was unthinkable to take it away or seriously change it. If your “free riders” become as big a problem as you think they are, then society will adapt by becoming less generous to helpless people. At that point the desire to raise children for future dependence on them will be greater and people will have more children. You have apparently forgotten this economic aspect of parenthood in your analysis, because you claim that parents receive little economic benefit from having children. In fact, depending on parenting style, children can be a huge financial boon. Just look at Tiger Woods or the Williams sisters, or the countless other children who grow up in households where failing in any pursuit is a shame upon their ancestry. Parents may not get their investment back, plus interest, but they often get quite a bit in return, depending on how many children they have. Consider the possible benefit of having enough children so that the hope of winning the parenthood “lottery” by birthing a J.P. Morgan or Britney Spears becomes a realistic possibility.

      Finally, here’s a list of ways that my life, other than overall drop in intelligence already mentione, is worse because people, especially stupid people, have too many children:

      1) Fear of violent crime committed by the children of the barbarous

      2) Consequences of regrettable political decisions made by leaders elected by the barbarous

      3) (Hate to say it) Diminishing resources and beauty of the natural world caused by increasing consumption and 2)

      4) Many, many more!

      I think I’ve shown that your article hideously oversimplifies the issues you are attempting to address, and yet I don’t claim to be an expert. Perhaps you should spend a great deal more time thinking before you start writing.

    168. Freddy Says:

      First and foremost, kids are not asked if they want to exist in the first place. They don’t have the luxury of knowing what kind of world they’ll be given to live in. Children grow up and get all the schooling, learning, traveling, socializing, and getting a degree from University… And then they’re kindly asked to work at the box factory and get excited about supporting the economy and then getting married and having children of their own? And if they don’t do it willingly they’re branded all sorts of things. I’m sorry but there is going to be immense problems with that particular cookie-cutter. While I think you’re trying to have a genuine and thoughtful conversation on childless adults and its effect on the economy I feel like you’re just skipping over some blaring problems that need to be addressed first. If you really want to take a step in the direction of adding a tax to childless adults… Then what about stupid people who shouldn’t have children? – or – For-profit organizations who disregard their harmful effects on society? – or – People who consume products that are bad for them such as fast food and alcohol? – or – Companies who market prodcuts that hurt people and the environment? – or – Political opportunists who take advantage of the public’s trust and have a detrimental effect on society and the economy? etc… etc… etc…

    169. ThePoliticalDookie Says:

      Interesting perspective…how do you address those that have children without the means to afford for thier care?

    170. Russ Goble Says:

      I’m glad I’ve read this site a few times prior to this post, otherwise I’d think this site is populated by a bunch of fairly ignorant statists. This post does little justice to the distinguished gentlemen pictured at the top. First off, the original post is rather silly and gets sillier with Love’s updates. It is obviously a great conversation starter in that sophomore year of college philosophy class sort of way. You know, the type of discussion that brings up a hypothetical possibility (in this case everyone deciding not to have children) and discusses the pro’s and con’s with people treating the hypothetical as if it is remotely possible to occur.
      Her original point that population decline could be bad is OK on its face. But, then in her update she says:
      “If every adult cranked out at least one kid, that might cause its own set of problems but we could confident that the human race and the economy would continue to survive. However, if every adult sought to maximize their own short-term economic benefit by avoiding the cost of rearing children, then the economy would eventually collapse.
      Clearly, not having children and assuming the real cost of turning a fetus into an economically productive adult is a free-ride in the economic sense.”
      Of course, the chance that every adult will decide to stop pro-creating is…uh…unlikely, to be polite. So, what are we discussing here? I guess, Love was trying to bring up the thought exercise that if we begin to experience population decline because TOO MANY people are not having children, then we doom ourself to decline. Again, that’s a fair enough point taken at face value, but it’s a much more complicated point.
      Unfortunately, most of the comments have centered around the philosophical discussion of the pro’s and con’s of children, with the message board bad mouthing between “breeders” and “parasites” creating the most (unnecessary) passion. With a few rare exceptions hardly anyone has alluded to the rather sacrosanct idea of personal choice and personal liberty. Not to put too Randian a point on it, but I didn’t sign any social contract. My choice to have two children and to consider a third is completely up to me and my wife and is based on a whole heap of issues (finances, being only one of several competing factors). Those that choose not to have children do so based on their own choices. Its their right, and while I’m not one to lecture people about not judging (we have brains, and can judge when we want), I have a real problem when people accuse others of not living their lives just like they do. It’s arrogant at best, and leads to quite sinister policy ideas at worst.
      So, let me get this straight. Children provide a long term benefit to childless adults because of the long term investments made by those counting on continual growth. But, children do not provide an economic return for their parents? Its certainly possible that I misunderstand, but it strikes me that what Ms. Love is saying is that those children provide the supposed benefit to childless adults once THEY become adults. If that’s the case, then why don’t they provide at least the same benefit to their parents as well. I certainly hope she isn’t implying that the only benefit children provide (once they grow up) is the benefit of added tax revenue for government benefits doled out to retirees, some of which never had children. I hope her worldview expands beyond the idea of social security and Medicare. If it did, she’d recognize that when those children grow up, they are quite likely to “give back” in ways not limited to government taxes. And when they do, almost certainly, their parents will be at the front of the line. I know myself and my siblings are subsidizing some of my mother’s lifestyle now that she is in her 60s. And I know I’m not alone. Is she getting a net FINANCIAL return? Possibly not. But, and this is where Love’s conversation piece really misses the point, she has a lot of emotional benefits that I know she would not trade for the world. And I know my mother is not alone in that.
      Going back to my earlier pseudo-reference to Ayn Rand, one thing the objectivists who follow her often miss, is the emotional price and benefit of family. People who have kids do so because it’s not about money. There is an emotional need to have offspring. Its possible that that need is not entirely rational (in economic and academic sense), but it is very real. And I know of very few parents who regret their choice to have children. Again, if you choose not to go that route, you will get different types of benefits, many of which are financial and emotional too. Again, to each his/her own. I am not interested in who is right or wrong for having children. Yes, in the abstract, if we all stopped, we’d go extinct (and, no I don’t see immortality as an eventuality). But, there is something instinctual about wanting to have children, so the part of this discussion that focuses on whether or not children are good or bad is really tiring. You might as well argue over the existence of God. There is no provable right or wrong answer. I’ll delve deeper into the economics and the point that most people are missing separately since I’m running long on this post.

    171. LotharBot Says:

      Russ,

      Shannon is male.

      Also, a number of you seem to *still* be stuck on the idea that Shannon is advocating taxing the childless. This is simply wrong. The only things I’ve seen Mr. Love advocate have been reductions in certain socialist practices that make people “on the margins” or “on the fence” less likely to have children. I haven’t seen any condemnation of those who choose not to have children, only condemnation of a system that leads to people choosing not to have children due to unnecessary economic (and social) pressure.

    172. Russ Goble Says:

      The economic point that I haven’t seen anyone really make is regarding the potential of individual humans to meet really any challenge. I think Peter Jackson (Dude, I totally dug your LoTR movies!) was kind of getting to this as was Dr. T. Someone referred to the essential supply/demand model of a dangerous lack of children. But, a post on a site that’s kind of dedicated to Friedman and Julian Simon (not to mention Hayek and Reagan) seems to view economic growth as entirely dependent on the number of people, regardless of the quality of those people’s output. How utterly statist (to borrow from Virginia Postrel). Humans, particularly those in the U.S. and other pockets of economic prosperity, are constantly producing more and more for “society. I only read through about a 1/3 of the comments and browsed through the rest (I’m a breeder with a family, not enough time, yo) and I haven’t seen anyone mention mundane statistics like Productivity or Per Capita GDP (apologies if someone did mention these, but Ctrl-F didn’t find anyone referring explicitly to the economic concept of productivity and no mention whatsoever of GDP per capita). I’m certain the math is far more complex, but it seems pretty basic that population decline isn’t a big deal if productivity and GDP per capita keeps going up (at least stays ahead of some sort of equilibrium). I know this interrupts the lifestyle attack mode that many of the comments here are in, but these seem to be pretty pertinent points.
      Whether its robots in Japan, or anti-aging advancements or carbon nanotubes, we keep advancing, sometimes at a staggering pace. And most of these advances are achieved by a relatively small percentage of the population. The rest of us add value at the margins in our own way, when allowed to freely pursue such improvements. On a per capita basis, however, we seem to be improving at a pretty good clip. This discussion is seems oblivious to that.
      The whole theory behind the EU’s supposed economic comparison to the U.S. is regularly based on the number of people (which is nearly a quarter higher in Europe) in that suppose economic dynamo. Yet, the U.S. is leaving it in the dust economically. Why? Or rather, how am I grading this? GDP per capita is one reason. Productivity is another. Real income growth is another. All of these are related, of course. And I would believe a site dedicated to Chicago Economists would have this as its base assumptions. Yet, this discussion seems to be taking place in a void where all humans produce the same, the primary difference being the ones who have to support children that are providing future retirement vehicles for those without. I have long viewed the demographic time bomb of Europe as a problem completely caused by the welfare state, not by the rather sorry state of marriage and child rearing. If your socialist entitlement model is based entirely on those that are working supporting those that are not (now, we’re talking about REAL free riders) then, yes, your population of working adults is quite important. And given that such social models are run by people openly hostile to risk taking and other assorted demons of free market capitalism, they have forced what working population there is into a stagnant economic model that makes growth that much harder. The U.S. could certainly go down that path, and is partly there, but we still have much more freedom than our supposed betters in Europe.
      Sure, immigration plays a big role in our growth and our ability to stay ahead of the demographic problems of Europe. We certainly have many of the elements that points toward Europe-style decline. The assumption that we should have current workers supporting those that are not working (be they retirees who’ve “done there part”, or the stereotypical welfare mom) is one that will make this a self fulfilling prophecy. But make sure you understand whose at fault. It is NOT those who have chosen to be without children (I mean, Bill Gates gave jobs to a whole shedload of people before he ever had a kid). It is those that have decided to suck their fellow taxpayers dry. It is those who have decided that free markets and risk takers are inherently bad. It is those that view safe and secure mediocrity as preferable to the uncertainty of potential excellence. It is those that have decided we need to rig the system to make sure there are not any great successes or terrible failures. That way we can all stagnate in the comfortable, yet declining middle. Again, I would assume the readers and writers of this site would find this self evident. I guess not. Disappointing. Yes, Virginia Postrel would fisk this post if she comes across it, though she’d probably believe its not serious enough to respond to. I’m a sucker in that I couldn’t resist.

    173. Russ Goble Says:

      “Russ, Shannon is male.”

      Sincere Apologies.

      Lotharbot, I take your point about Shannon’s policy prescriptions. Still his point in this post is sophmoric. I see no reason why there should be any more of a clash between those with children and those without. Of the potential clashes we already know of (blue vs red state, socialists vs conservatives vs libertarians, dynamists vs statists, Christians/Jews vs Muslims, illigal immigrants vs nationalists, and on and on) I see this potential problem as minor and pretty insignificant. It is sympton of larger problems. If Shannon Love’s beef is with socialists policies then he should say so. And he DOES make a pretty value-loaded judgement towards those without children. Calling them parasites doesn’t leave a lot to misinterpret.

      Worse, itt’s terrible analysis. Most “DINKS” are going child free, if many studies as well as the posters here are to be believed, because they want to be more productive and wealthier, have more time for leisure, etc. This would imply that they probably consume (and probably save) more than those with kids. Then they are providing plenty of economic benefit themselves through there spending and investing. You can call them selfish if you want, but do not call them parasites.

    174. LotharBot Says:

      I believe Shannon’s “parasites” comment was a light-hearted response to the “breeders” insult, not a shot at all childless people. Reread that section of his original post — the point is not that people who have no children are parasites, but that those with the “children = bad, breeders = bad” attitude deserve a little blowback.

      People are making far too much of that one line. (IMO, Shannon would have done well to simply not include it, but it’s too late for that now.)

    175. singleguy Says:

      Being raised in the 70s and 80s I like many others was taught that population growth was going to kill us, and that western resource consumption was unsustainable. I was also raised as an athiest. This gloomy picture of the future colored my outlook on life and made me think that having children was a “guilty” pleasure. These days I have a hard time not wishing I’d been exposed to some other ideas back then.

      On the topic of demographics, I found some interesting statistics here:
      http://ars.userfriendly.org/users/read.cgi?id=26370&tid=109925

      Surprisingly, even the Middle East is experiencing sharply declining birth rates. The US is higher than some Middle Eastern countries. Another thing, the birth rates seem to have stopped declining in most western countries, some are seeing slight gains.

    176. Chester White Says:

      Comments from childless people that parents get some big tax break subsidy are quite amusing.

      Having a kid and trying to justify it partially with changes to your taxes? It ain’t no money-making proposition, y’all.

    177. Chester White Says:

      The mere existence of Social Security creates a partial non-incentive to have kids, even without the money-draining effect.

      What did people do before the 1930s if they didn’t foresee attaining a lot of wealth to sustain them in their declining years?

      They had more kids so that somebody would be there to prop them up if need be.

    178. Beef Stooge Says:

      Maybe if the current breeders did a better job of raising and disciplining the kids with which they’ve already littered up society the rest of us would feel more comfortable having offspring.

    179. H Says:

      Penalising the childless? Breeding for the good of the state? How very reminiscent of Romania under Ceaucescue. Or Germany in the 1930s and 40s. And how very arrogant to presume that participating in the creation of a warm body makes one more important than someone, however hard-working, law-abiding, creative or intelligent or generous, who either cannot reproduce or chooses to abstain from reproduction.

      The argument that the unchilded do not contribute to society is laughable. Fact – unchilded people continuely subsidise the childed through heavier taxation. Fact – unchilded people go to work and by doing so contribute to the economy. Fact – unchilded people, or those who have fewer children later in life, tend to be more highly educated, therefore more likely to be on the cutting edge of developments in the arts and sciences than parents. Fact – a child in and of itself is not a contribution to society.

      Your child may turn out to be a genius, granted, but is far, far, more likely that he or she will simply turn out to be an unremarkable mediocrity with no great contribution to make. Indeed, one’s child may also turn out in various ways – such as indulging in criminality – to be a more of a burden and drain than an asset.

      Also, would you care to tell me how any random oaf who knocks up several random women in his lifetime, or any random female who allows herself to be impregnated during her fertile years, is superior to, and has contributed more to western civilisation than, say, the likes Jane Austen, Emily, Charlotte and Anne Bronte, George Eliot, Emily Dickinson, Virginia Woolf, Dorothy Parker, TS Eliot, WH Auden, Henry James, Marcel Proust, Joseph Conrad, Samuel Beckett, Gustav Flaubert, Franz Kafka and DH Lawrence, all of whom died unchilded, for example?

      Contributions to society cannot be as easily quantified as ‘one child good, no children bad’. Quality is more important than quality in anything other than a agricultural-based economy.

    180. LotharBot Says:

      H,

      perhaps you should read the thread and figure out what’s ACTUALLY being said instead of just giving a knee-jerk response to what you IMAGINE was said.

      Nobody has suggested penalizing the childless, and nobody has suggested the childless are worthless. All that’s been suggested is that society as a whole needs to remove some of the barriers to childbearing because otherwise there won’t be enough children to sustain the economy in the future.

      The “free rider problem” is a technical term that says, essentially, there’s an activity that everyone will benefit from no matter who pays for it, but because the activity is expensive some people will choose not to engage in it and let others bear the costs. This makes those people free-riders with respect to that particular activity, though not necessarily free-riders in life as a whole. That’s not a perfect description of the scenario (since the childless *do* pay some percentage of the cost of children through their taxes), but it is a decent approximation of what’s happened recently in western society.

    181. steveb Says:

      “That’s not a perfect description of the scenario (since the childless *do* pay some percentage of the cost of children through their taxes)”

      A much larger point on which the description breaks down is the assumption that everybody benefits more or less equally. Even leaving out nonmonetary rewards (which isn’t really valid — if it were, many routine phenomena should have foundered on the shoals of free-riderism long ago), there is the obvious fact that normal people simply aren’t going to devote anywhere near the same resources to helping J. Random Stranger out of a jam as they will to Mommy and Daddy.

    182. xiaoding Says:

      “Nobody has suggested penalizing the childless, and nobody has suggested the childless are worthless. All that’s been suggested is that society as a whole needs to remove some of the barriers to childbearing because otherwise there won’t be enough children to sustain the economy in the future.

      I don’t think you can say that, the economy will be different, yes, but it will always be there, will it not? Perhaps we need to define “sustain”. Then, there is the question of why a certain form of economy should be sustained, as opposed to another. Don’t you beleive in the free market?

      The “free rider problem” is a technical term that says, essentially, there’s an activity that everyone will benefit from no matter who pays for it, but because the activity is expensive some people will choose not to engage in it and let others bear the costs. This makes those people free-riders with respect to that particular activity, though not necessarily free-riders in life as a whole. That’s not a perfect description of the scenario (since the childless *do* pay some percentage of the cost of children through their taxes), but it is a decent approximation of what’s happened recently in western society.”

      Aha! But your argument rests on the assumption that having children is a benefit. Prove it! I submit it is not, at least in the overwhlming numbers you propose. Would you have us emulate China, India, Africa, etc.? How is mass starvation, overwhelming poverty, mass ignorance, no clean water, rampant disease, a benefit? How will more warm bodies help fight off the killbots that our smarter, less populated foes will devise? We need more than MEAT in todays world.

    183. LotharBot Says:

      xiaoding said: “in the overwhelming numbers you propose”

      I didn’t propose any numbers at all, “overwhelming” or not. All I proposed is the removal of certain barriers to childbearing. I did not propose that everyone should have 12 children, or even that people should average more than 2 children. Just that we should remove certain STUPID barriers we’ve put in place that make having children more expensive. (I’m proposing we make the market more free; at present, there are artificial constraints on having children.)

      I’m operating off of the assumption that most of us would like for the economy to be sustained — that is, we’d like to be able to maintain our standards of living in the future. People like to have nice stuff, but if we don’t have enough children we won’t have enough people active in the economy to produce enough nice stuff for us. I don’t think I need to define or argue this; I’m taking it as a given that people want stuff and that it’s good to retain economic prosperity. (I said nothing about sustaining the “form” of the economy; you pulled that out of thin air.)

    184. Shannon Love Says:

      I don’t think you can say that, the economy will be different, yes, but it will always be there, will it not?

      Not if there were zero children born. That fact alone should give show you how flawed you viewpoint is.

      I think your big conceptual problem is that you think of children as being the end product. They are not. What we are really talking about is the non-existence of freemarket support for producing Net Productive Adults (NPAs) i.e. adults who produce more resources than they consume.

      It is trivial to crank out babies but it it is non-trivial to turn a baby into an NPA. Creating an NPA requires hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of thousands of man hours. Right now the market provides neither incentive nor resources for creating NPAs. They are created by hobbyist who support their hobby with unrelated economic activities.

      We have learned to think of children as a drain because people do not produce during childhood. But childhood is just the production phase of an NPA. The questions you should be asking are: (1) Does the economy (and your own enlightened self-interest) require NPA’s? (2) Does the free-market provide material support for their production?

    185. xiaoding Says:

      Shannon:

      “I don’t think you can say that, the economy will be different, yes, but it will always be there, will it not?

      Not if there were zero children born. That fact alone should give show you how flawed you viewpoint is. ”

      Really? Lets change a few words…how about “not if there were 10 billion children born”, would that not also show how flawed your viewpoint is? I suspect numbers matter. The fact that there are less children being born then you would prfer does not mean the end of all life. I do note, however, that you now talk of educated adults as the result. I thought that was my point, not yours! Fewer children = better educated adults, who can then do more. More children = less educated adults, because there are fewer resources available per child.

      Does the free market provide incentives for NPA’s? Well, is it supposed too?

      Lothar:

      “xiaoding said: “in the overwhelming numbers you propose”…

      I didn’t propose any numbers at all, “overwhelming” or not. All I proposed is the removal of certain barriers to childbearing. I did not propose that everyone should have 12 children, or even that people should average more than 2 children. Just that we should remove certain STUPID barriers we’ve put in place that make having children more expensive. (I’m proposing we make the market more free; at present, there are artificial constraints on having children.)”

      I start from the premise that this country is already overpopulated, so, of course, any more than replacement numbers is overwhelming to me. In fact, mere replacement is also overwhelming to me. I am very happy with reduction. Thus, any artificial restraints are welcome! I wonder though: why were these restrains implemented? One would think they would be very unpopular, since we all need warm bodies to pull the plows, on our own, individually sized farms.

      As far as maintaning the standard of living…for who? If there are fewer people, fewer people will be needed to make stuff, right? Not to mention the effect of computerization and robotization on manufacturing efficiencies. Or do you mean, we need more children, so the old can be maintained in their wealth? How cheery. But my reply would be, that you have not proven that having children in the numbers you suggest would even do that! I maintain it would not, that indeed, a reduction would actually achieve both our aims. More is not always better!

    186. LotharBot Says:

      xiaoding,

      The problem with the “less people total means we need fewer people in the workplace” mentality is a simple problem of demographics. What matters is not the raw number of people, but the distribution — how many are (productive) members of the workforce, how many are living off of investments, how many are leeching, etc. in relation to the other quantities.

      The problem we are beginning to face is a serious reduction in the percentage of productive adults vs. total population. A big reason for this is that we’ve created STUPID restrictions that lead to people producing fewer of the type of children who will grow up to be productive adults. A big reason for this is because of the “overpopulation” whiners who don’t know jack about actual population dynamics but who want to feel good about themselves by trying to limit population.

      A reduction in children would only meet both of our aims if it was a reduction in the sort of children who will mostly leech off of society in their adulthood. Rather unfortunately, the way the system is set up right now, there are forces that make people have more of that type of children and fewer children who will actually become productive.

      Your naive appeal to reduce the number of children in order to increase quality is completely broken. The problem with the current system is that the people who are most discouraged from having children are the ones whose children would usually be of the highest quality.

    187. Shannon Love Says:

      xiaoding,

      how about “not if there were 10 billion children born”, would that not also show how flawed your viewpoint is?

      10 billion children would be problem but zero children would be the end. No children born today means no productive adults tomorrow. You personally need other people to create the productive adults whose labor you personally will need in the future.

      You completely misunderstand the problem. Cranking out BABIES is not the issue. Cranking out productive ADULTS is. You don’t understand the argument. You are just engaged in a kneejerk reaction to other arguments you have read in the past.

      Fewer children = better educated adults, who can then do more.

      Not unless the state intervenes to offset the free-rider problem.

      Does the free market provide incentives for NPA’s? Well, is it supposed too?

      Since economically productive adults are the core of the civilization and make all economic production possible it would be best if the free-market did allocate resources to their production. Right now the free-rider problem has created a socialized response which has had ambiguous results and created a vastly expanded state.

      I really am amazed at people whose terror of children is such that they let it overwhelm their own enlightened self-interest. You shouldn’t count on other people spending hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of thousands of man hours for no economic return just to produce the products you will need in the future. That’s just stupid.

    188. Francois Says:

      US population grew 13% between 1990 and 2000. Tell me again about this “population decline”?? Yes, it was largely due to immigration, but, people are people. If childless people had been forced at gunpoint (as so many of you appear to believe should happen) to breed, there’d be even MORE children in already-overcrowded schools, even MORE cars clogging the highways and getting in your way, even MORE surly teenagers causing trouble because their parents were too busy at home with the rest of the “large family” they’d been mandated to squeeze out by the likes of Shannon and Portia.

      Get real, folks–MAKING people have children they don’t want is NO solution. These children would grow up unwanted, resented, and thus never get the head start in life that “wanted”, loved children have, crucial to the process of learning to be a productive citizen.

      Take a stroll through a prison sometime, or a methadone clinic. Each and every one of these folks was someone’s “child” at one time, and obviously their parents weren’t prepared to do the work of rasing them. My hat is off to those folks who DO take on this task, but it’s not something you can mandate.

      There was a time when citizens of Romania were REQUIRED by the government to have a minimum of four children per couple. Hmmmm, why yes, that IS the same Romania where we now hear about reams of orphanages chock full of pitiful, unwanted children living lives of misery because nobody could or would parent them. I ghuess Shannon et al see Romania as the ideal state, because there are certainly plenty of children there!!

      The biggest flaw in logic made by so many of the “Breed For the Motherland, Heil!!” crowd above is “OK, so YOU don’t have kids, but what if NOBODY did?” Well, we are FAR from that case, so it’s a moot point. Again I remind you: US population increased 13% from 1990 to 2000. This is a “shortage”? When we get to where the majority of people aren’t breeding, THEN your argument might have some value, but none of you mention that one of the biggest ’causes’ of women having fewer children is EDUCATION: an educated woman has fewer children tha an uneducated one.

      Thus, if you really want us to be like those African countries where womnare essentially walking incubators, popping out 10, 11, 12 children without any thougth of how they’ll feed them, then you should work towards restoring the Glass Ceiling, banning women from universities, and keeping them home, in the kitchen, and ready to spread their legs for society!!

      Sheesh. With all of the REAL problems this country faces, you’re worried that people aren’t breeding children they don’t want. Get a life.

    189. Francois Says:

      Shannon wrote:

      Not if there were zero children born. That fact alone should give show you how flawed you viewpoint is.

      The fact that your response to EVERY valid argument is “BUT WHAT IF PEOPLE STOPPED HAVING CHILDREN ALTOGETHER, HUH?? HUH????”

      I have not heard *one* person say that people should stop having children altogether. You only make yourself sound ridiculous when you boil the “I am not having children because I feel that my life is better without them” viewpoint into “What if NOBODY HAD CHILDREN????” Again, I haven’t seen anyone who suggests that.

      Folks who have children do so for their own very selfish reasons: “I want a little mini-me!” “I want to carry on the family name!” “I want my precious DNA to survive!” “I want my son to be the next Tiger Woods!” I want, I want, I want, I want. Spare me the “All parents are selfless saints” routine, please. Noboy on either side of this discussion made their choice based on the good of society; you had your kids because it’s what YOU wanted to do. I didn’t, because it’s what I wanted to do. Most people in this world have wants that are more in line with yours, therefore we are in NO danger of your oft-shouted mantra “What if nobody had any children????!!”

      What we are really talking about is the non-existence of freemarket support for producing Net Productive Adults (NPAs) i.e. adults who produce more resources than they consume. It is trivial to crank out babies but it it is non-trivial to turn a baby into an NPA. Creating an NPA requires hundreds of thousands of dollars and hundreds of thousands of man hours.

      Yes, it does. And fmilies with fewer children have a much easier time raising NPAs than families with more–more attention and resources per child. And, extended families with childless adults have even MORE resources that can be aimed at those children: “doting uncles” who help pay for the kids’ education, spend time withe the kids when they’re young, etc., and of course, leave their inheritances to neices and nephews because they have no heirs of their own. I’ve read anthropological studies that show that this benefit to a family group may be precisely why the “childless meme” has survived through evolution–because societies with greater grownup-to-child ratios produce better-raised children since each child has more attention and resources. Back to the above example, if said “doting uncle” had kids of his own, he wouldn’t be around nearly as much to take care of the nieces and nephews, give generous gifts, or contribute to their college funds. Nor would the n/n be recipients of his inheritance (which would be smaller anyway, since he would have been spending it on his own kids).

      Your smug analysis neglects all of the benefits that NPAs produce *because* they don’t have children. Childless workers are usually the ones who stay late to finish the project while the parents drop everything at 5 PM to get home to the kids. Therefore, the entire firm/company benefits economically because someone (a non-parent, almost always) was willing to stay and put the firm’s benefit above attending a soccer game. Due to this, the same parent who left for that soccer game ends up benefitting when the firm itself grows economically. OTOH, if all of the workers had kids and rushed home at the end of the day, there likely wouldn’t be quite as much business coming in to the firm, and therefore not quite as much economic benefit to all of them.

      Nonprofit organizations, where much of the work is done by volunteers, will tell you that their hardest workers are nearly always nonparents ( or empty-nesters). It makes sense, since these are the folks who have the extra time to put in those long hours at the soup kitchen or the cancer society or the AIDS agency. If Shannon could wave a wand and all of these volunteers were forced to have children, then all of these services would suffer greatly while the former hard-core volunteers were now home changing diapers.

      Don’t call people free riders without realizing all of the work and time that childless people are able to put into the running of this econimy while YOU are off at Chuck E Cheese’s at a birthday party or sitting home singing Barney songs.

    190. Shannon Love Says:

      Francois,

      Your post is a textbook example of the wrong thinking on this subject. You encapsulate every misconception neatly:

      (1) It does not matter if individuals choose to have children for selfish reasons. It only matters if the economic system provides enough material resources to produce the number of future productive adults the economy needs. Whether parents enjoy raising children or not is irrelevant. We don’t base our need for say steel or pharmaceuticals on whether the people who make them enjoy their work.

      (2) The fact that person without children is more economically productive in the short run than a comparable parent is actually part of the problem. People who avoid the cost and time of child rearing probably do consistently produce more but unlike parents they are directly rewarded for doing so. The market signals that it wants people not to have children and to instead devote their time and energy to work. People who forgo children get to accumulate all the wealth that parents spend on children AND they get all the future benefits produced by those children. That is what makes them free-riders.

      The thought experiment of “what would happen if their were no children” is intended to shock people like you out of your complacent attitude. You spend so much time thinking of children as a drain on society that you haven’t considered at all what will happen enough do not grow up to be productive adults.

    191. Shannon Love Says:

      Francois

      …you’re worried that people aren’t breeding children they don’t want…

      No, I am worried that people are not raising up enough productive adults. You should stop thinking of the problem as being not enough children but not enough Net Productive Adults. In this view, a child is just the production phase of the Adult.

      In any case, it is clear from all the research that most people who want to be parents would like to have more children but cannot afford to do so. This isn’t about forcing people to have children but rather in creating an efficient market that by economic signals supports the rearing of enough children into productive adults to support a future economy. At present, such a signaling mechanism is broken.

      By the way, the fact that you think this is some nativist argument just shows how clueless you really are. Read the actual post and the related ones and stop kneejerking.

    192. Debi Says:

      There is so much in this article to disagree with… but I’ll stick with the hard, statistical evidence.

      http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/Taxes/P148855.asp?GT1=8011

      According to MSN money, in the United states a childfree individual pays almost double in income tax what someone married with 2 children does. How is that trivial? Oh wait, it isn’t.

    193. Shannon Love Says:

      Debi,

      According to MSN money, in the United states a childfree individual pays almost double in income tax what someone married with 2 children does.

      So the person without children ends up with less money than the parents? I doubt it. The big tax difference in the chart is actually not between parents and non-parents but between married and non-married. Two people filing jointly pay less tax than a single individual.

      Various subsidies reduce the cost of parenting but they don’t come even close to offsetting the enormous cost. At the end of the day, you still end up with significantly more money in your pocket by forgoing child rearing.

    194. Francois Says:

      I do notice that you conveniently ignored my (absolutely true) statistics on how US population grew 13% in the 1990s, and thus there is no emergency to stop poppin’ out them babies. Typical.

      By the way, regardubg NPAs…what about the babies that grow up into NON-productive adults? Can we get a tax refund on what we spent on them? Paid for by their parents, of course. Surely you must agree that the parent of a NON-productive adult is far more of a drain on resources than the chilless people you call “freeloaders”? After all, they took both the regular tax dollars AND the generous child subsidies, yet still managed to raise rapists, murderers, or other felons. Surely even “free riding” childless people rank above those who produce criminals who need to be institutionalized at societry’s expense? Not that you’ll admit this, of course.

    195. elizabeth f Says:

      Of course Shannon is a male. Only a male feels that breeding for all is a good thing, because it’s the women who pay for it, physically, emotionally, and financially. According to the Census data, only about 40% of American children are supported by their fathers. Most deadbeat dads get away with making the rest of society pay for their procreation.

      Putting such intense societal pressure on women to breed is setting them up, since no one wants to talk about the dark side of family values, which is domestic violence. I noted that none of the breeders-uber-alles people mentioned that the leading killer of children are their parents, and this has always been the case, and not just in our species. Killing and eating one’s young is quite common in the animal kingdom. Once a woman has children, she is dependant on handouts from the husband and/or society. She can’t ‘regret’ her choice; she’s trapped.

      Let’s not forget the very real physical price reproduction has on women. Even a “normal” childbirth is quite damaging to a woman–if a person did the same sort of damage to the woman, it would be called “mayhem”, “attempted murder” and all sorts of other nasty things.

      But the greatest absurdity in Shannon’s argument is that it is based on so many fallacies. He is basically describing a Ponzi Scheme, which is what capitalism is. Too bad no one listened to Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, the Rebel Girl of the Wobblies. She preached to women not to have wage slaves for the capitalists, and that’s exactly what’s happened. We can’t house and employ everyone here now, so why promote breeding?

      It’s rather a pity Shannon doesn’t know much about reality. Such as the fact that for every population, when growth excedes carrying capacity, there is a population crash. The fact that more and more resources are required to raise a child indicates that we’ve overgrazed our range.

      For survival of the fittest to work, it means that the young of those breeders unable to support their own young are supposed to die. Our world now subsidizes the unfit, and the results were discussed in a study published in the journal Evolution a few years back. You see, there is a very, very strong correlation between early and frequent childbearing and low IQ in women. Women who have no skills or abilities feel that breeding children they can’t raise is somehow good–and if you’re a poverty pimp living off the misery of the results of breeding when one shouldn’t, I guess it’a a good thing.

      I guess if one hates women and wants to keep them all subordinate, the best way to do that is to convince them that their only value is that of a breeding animal. And don’t forget that the leading cause of death to pregnant women in the USA is homicide–invariably by the babydaddy who doesn’t want to be. Laci Peterson would be alive today if Scott had gotten a vasectomy. This is no new thing. Didn’t you read Dreisers’ _An American Tragedy_ which was set at the turn of the last century?

      “Unrestrained growth is the philosophy of cancer” Just as the cancer kills the organism that sustains it, we are killing our planet and making it unlivable for us. To doubt this reality indicates insanity.

      Just as the fate of every individuals is death, the fate of every species is extinction. Overbreeding will inevitably result in massive death, because no pyramid scheme is sustainable. But go ahead, think what you will. Shannon, dearie, you are suffering from Delusions of Adequacy and obviously haven’t put much thought into your thesis. I’d say you’re just another woman-hating freak who wants to reduce us to being property. The attacks on abortion and contraception are signs our society is going the same way every war-prone society goes–a high birthrate leading to economic problems, thus motivating war and providing sufficient cannon fodder.

      But why bother learning history; it’ll just repeat itself.

    196. elizabeth f Says:

      Shannon, dearie, there’s just one more thing. What if your absurd premise, that everyone would simply stop having children, did come true?
      WHO WOULD CARE? Your premise is absurd as the ranting of the antiabortion nutbars, “what if your mother had gotten an abortion” : WELL, THEN I WOULDN’T HAVE TO BE HERE TRYING TO MAKE SENSE TO SOMEONE AS CRAZY AS YOU ARE.

      What a pity you never read The Martian Chronicles. The topic of species extinction is addressed. Another Bradbury story I loved was “The Small Assassin” which is the best story written by a man about the horrors of human reproduction to a woman.

      Shannon, dearie, you are totally confused about causality.

    197. Ginny Says:

      What a wonderful comment.

      Do you have any sense that your diatribe is sexist? I’m not sure what “proof” you have that Shannon is a “woman-hating freak,” and am curious what prompted you to say that.

      I wouldn’t agree with all of his arguments but they are not derived from sexism. That you would assume someone who respected and wanted to encourage child-bearing is sexist says a good deal more about you than him. That you would argue that bearing children, a natural function of our bodies, is equivalent to “attempted murder” is funny but reveals a disturbed perspective.

      Your comments, however, indicate other beliefs that are less wrong than disproportionate. Yes, parents are more likely to kill their own children than are strangers. But your context implies you have little sense of the proportion of such acts and that you have even less sense of why most people would sacrifice themselves for their children.

      At least your allusion doesn’t appear to reflect a belief that we, as humans, are cancers on the earth. I was waiting for that one. Sure, we’ll probably become extinct. I don’t think Shannon’s belief that reproduction should be encouraged is likely to have much bearing one way or another on that.

      Capitalism is not a Ponzi scheme – though such aberrations may appear in capitalist society.

      This seems to arise from the cheapest kind of anti-male bias as well as a weak & cynical understanding of human relationships.
      If you were trolling to irritate, well, you irritated me – probably more than Shannon. If you are serious, then I am sorry you see life in such a distorted way. Your ideas are likely to subvert many of the pleasures possible in this life.

    198. elizabeth f Says:

      Yes, Shannon is a sexist jerk, because he repeats the same pronatalist propaganda that every war-prone society has as long as we’ve been keeping track. He doesn’t even mention the reality that having children costs women a huge amount, in terms of earning capacity, in terms of the sheer physical toll that human reproduction takes. Women who have children become dependant for largesse from husbands and society, and thus can’t ‘rock the boat’ by demanding to be treated as human beings.

      Breeding is a ‘natural function’ but we are supposed to be rational, not driven by instincts and hormones. We can’t support the human beings here now, and we should be telling women that it’s in no ones best interest, especially the children’s, to add to the casualty list.

      And yes, capitalism is a Ponzi scheme. A very elaborate and complex Ponzi scheme, since you can’t have unrestrained growth in anything.

      As far for not understanding human relationships, you are way off base. I know them only too well. According to the TV ads, women have a 1 in 4 chance of being victims of domestic violence. Those are horrible odds. In fact, about 80% of the violent crimes in the USA are committed by cohabitants–the stresses of living together make a huge number of people lose it, which is why every person needs his/her own space. If a woman never cohabitates with a man, she has a 0 in 4 chance of being a victim of domestic violence. If you controlled for this by removing single women, then the odds of being attacked increase. Do the math.

      The reason feminism failed is that you can’t have a union of scabs. Most women will gladly sell out other women, will gladly turn a blind eye to the abuse of other women, and thus, by going along to get along, help perpetuate this cycle.

      Does the name “Quisling” mean anything to you?

      Didn’t think so, Auntie Tom.

    199. Ginny Says:

      On this blog (as in freshman English rhetoric classes) we generally like links that show the sources for statistics. “According to TV ads” is not very convincing. Neither is your argument.

      You don’t seem to understand that men and women are of the same species. If you enjoy living your life alone, that is fine. That can be a fulfilling choice.

      Most men, however, do not brutalize their wives. While women do feel that their children take from them much, they generally feel they give back more. When we live with others we give up some of our independence. Most of us intermittently feel that loss. Most of us more often feel that the others with whom we interact enrich our lives. You don’t have to believe that. And, for you, that may well not have been your experience. As those who live in a family should not consider your life empty, you might be wiser not to consider ours oppressed.

      Your argument seems derived from a mind so captured by a narrow & cramped ideology that it can’t examine its own arguments. It is you who need liberating. Facts can make you free because they are solid – you can stand on them. YOu can’t stand on figments of someone else’s imagination. Again, your argument is not based on fact – from the rate of reproduction to the form of capitalism to human nature.

      As far as carrying capacity, ask yourself why at this time are we more worried about obesity in children than starvation? Ask yourself why women live longer than men if childbearing is such a strain on our bodies?

    200. elizabeth f Says:

      Dearie, I gave you the facts. 1 in 4 women are victims of domestic violence. That means not all, or even most, men abuse, but far too many do. If you have a problem with the DoJ stats that even the TV ads use, what evidence is up to your standards? You didn’t bother using any at all in your response. Did a happy dancing unicorn give you all your facts?

      Childbearing is a strain on a woman’s body, as any woman who had children can tell you. Only our species has a significant risk of maternal mortality, due to the large head size of the species, and the fact we’re bipedal.

      Only American children are getting so fat, and if you had any medical knowledge, you’d know that a person can be malnourished and obese. The rest of the world still has lots of starving children, or those Christian children charities are all lying, as is Unicef.

      Women who breed have a lowered life expectancy, and maternal mortality worldwide is far from what you describe. You need to pull your head out of your ass and realize that the real world isn’t like your little ‘burb . .. tell me, have you even gotten out of school yet?

      Now, can you actually come up with an argument with actual proof? Like the FACT that the standard of living for Americans is getting worse, not better. Can’t you see what is right in front of you? Or are you so isolated from reality and history that you really don’t know?

    201. Ginny Says:

      Those aren’t facts – facts can be seen at places such as official sites, such as Family Violence Statistics, which indicate that the rate of family violence fell from 5.4 to 2.1 per thousand between 1993 and 2002. This is not, obviously, 1 in 4.

      My point was that the earth was producing enough food; at this point, the problem lies more in distribution and the use of food as a weapon.

      Sarcasm doesn’t really carry your argument. If you want to believe that childbirth is a difficult and even painful experience, you are correct. That it is much less deadly than for previous generations (in all but the most primitive of modern societies) is also a fact. That it is, in fact, seldom fatal in modern societies is a fact whose importance we should all keep in mind.

      My impression is that you are spending a lot of time trying to reassure yourself that the path you have chosen in life is not only your choice but the only good one. You might ask yourself what you need to prove – I don’t care if you make this choice intelligently.

      Intelligently doesn’t mean buying into the hogwash you are peddling in these posts nor considering, as your earlier posts indicate, men as a separate and enemy species. That would mean you are losing many of the pleasures of this life which can come down to conversations and fellowship with your fellow humans.

      No, I don’t see our standard of living as getting worse. Are you speaking of longevity, level of pain & illness, access to opportunity for education, material well-being? Are you even discussing wars & violent deaths in the world at large? In America? What are you talking about?

      By most of those standards, an American – and indeed, inhabitants of the world – born this year is much better off than one born a hundred years ago.

      Personal attacks are not convincing – whether aimed at the original writer of this post nor at me.

      Trolling may give you pleasure but it is probably a waste of my time to respond to you. Remarks of extraordinary naivete uttered with such an unearned world weary sarcasm probably indicate that it is the world you need to experience and talk is not effective at this time in your life.

      If you live – really live – you’ll find a much more complicated world than your ideology lets you see now. Good luck. Of course, you’ll find experiences that reinforce your opinions if you see the world through that narrow prism – but it won’t be a real life you are living.

    202. elizabeth f Says:

      Oh, lord, not that again, that the problem is with distribution . .. that is utter bullshit. Of course you can’t distribute insufficient resources to all. And even if you were right, since we can’t seem to get the distribution aspect down, FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES THERE ARE INSUFFICIENT RESOURCES. Because those who need them don’t get them, IE THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH RESOURCES.

      And what do you mean by ‘primitive’ societies? That’s most of the world. Most of the world doesn’t live at Western standards.
      http://www.endabuse.org/resources/facts/
      Easy breakdown of stats, both nationally and internationally.

      As for your idiotic idea that things are better than they were 100 years ago, maybe true, but it’s not true for 50 years ago. And our life expectancy in the USA isn’t even in the top 10 worldwide. Our maternal mortality rate is a shame–but since it’s mostly poor, minority women doing the dying, I guess they just don’t count as much as YOU do.

      MORE STUFF:
      http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/factsheets/ipvfacts.htm
      http://home.cybergrrl.com/dv/stat/statgen.html
      here’s some on maternal mortality
      http://gentlebirth.org/archives/matmrtlt.html

      Listen, sweetie, if you want to get married, live with a man, and then get beat up, I don’t care. You probably will since you seem to think it can’t happen to you, and as such, are far more likely to set yourself up. Of course, you’ll blame everyone but yourself, and insist that it’s not your fault, when in fact since you chose to connect with that man, it is your fault.

      That’s what gets me about domestic violence, the women choose to be there, choose to stay, and then cry and whine when things get out of hand. That’s one of the things you missed–it’s up to the woman to stay out of harm’s way, and since we know there is such a high rate of abuse, any woman who stays around after the first slap has it coming.

      It’s rather ironic that the move to create ways for women to escape domestic violence over the past 30 years has resulted in a drop in the rate of MEN getting killed by wives, but the rate of wives being killed by husbands hasn’t decreased.

      As for YOU being unaware of standards of living going down, you must be very young. My parents’ generation could afford to own homes, have one wage earner, etc, and now, fewer and fewer ‘families’ can afford the basics we took for granted in the 60s and 70s. We weren’t a deficit spending nation back then, had a trade balance, and there were no homeless–we had cheaper rents and jobs. The platoons of homeless on the streets of america began in the Reagan years.

      Your youth doesn’t excuse you from doing historical research, and simply asserting that you aren’t aware of a problem doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    203. Lex Says:

      This Elizabeth F person takes a jeering and insulting tone, calls people “idiot”, etc. So far it has been tolerated, for reasons I cannot really understand. It is not my post, so I won’t deleter her last comment myself. But I hereby request that Shannon remove that this last one of hers. If it were a comment on a post of mine I’d delete it. I say this not because of the merits, which I don’t think it has, or not much — and that is forgivable — but because of the tone, which is not. She has a lot to say. She needs her own blog, where she can let her own low standards prevail to her heart’s content.

    204. Jonathan Says:

      I agree and have banned her IP. Her arguments are welcome (though I think they are poorly reasoned and supported); her tone is not. If she wants to abuse us she can set up her own blog and do it from there.

    205. Dillon Says:

      My wife and I have been married for 10 years, spending the last 9 trying to conceive a child with no luck,including surgeries on both of us, ivf, and various trials and tribulations. Now as I surf the internet, I come across an item accusing me of being a freeloader for not having kids. I pay school taxes, listen to everyone talk about Johnny’s little league baseball games, and generally take a seat behind everyone in both of our families with kids.
      Now I get to read something finally telling me how big a loser I am.
      Wow, what arrogance. I guess anyone can snap their fingers and have kids whenever they want.
      Walk a mile in my shoes, you ass.
      Oh, by the way, adoption usually starts @ around $25,000.
      Since I have blown my money on IVF and other infertility treatments, I do not have $25,000

    206. Lex Says:

      Dillon speaks in a way for a very large number of people whom you never hear about in the news, it seems — the many, many couples who want to have kids but can’t. As a pro-Life Catholic, I am of course opposed to abortion on principle. But as a ChicagoBoy, I often wonder how it can be that thousands of children are discarded while within shouting distance there are families who are suffering because they cannot have children. Why does it cost $25,000 to have a child when people are discarding them like trash? Why can’t these two groups — people who have are pregnant but don’t want to be, and people who cannot get pregnant — get in touch with each other? So much good would come out of it.

    207. Dillon Says:

      Wow, no response from the author. If Shannon (Love?) still follows up on this thread, I wish a response would be given to my post.

    208. Pirate Jo Says:

      “You said you don’t won’t to pay for other people’s kids education, well, I don’t want to pay for your healthcare or retirement, so why don’t we just abolish public schools, property tax, social security, and medicare.”

      YES!!!!! That’s the best idea yet.

      The more the government meddles, the more people feel entitled to control their neighbors’ behavior.

      There’s no reason for me to care if you drink and smoke to much, as long as I’m not forced to pay the consequences of your decisions.

      Why should you care if I was a bad financial planner my whole life, if you aren’t forced to pick up the tab and support me?

      What difference should it make to me if you have a lot of kids, as long as you are paying for them yourself?

      What difference should it make to you if I have NO kids, as long as there exists no Social Security that allows me to mooch off of your kids?

      (Although hasn’t anyone considered the idea that if you have kids you are creating future drains on that system as well?)

      Remove the government from ALL those aspects of our lives, and let people live as they see fit. Then we all do as we please, associate with whom we wish, and we all mind our own damn business, as things should be in a free country.

    209. anon Says:

      not being a parents is freedom and i love it… i am glad that no man fell for me till now.. i am not being egositic or anything, it’s just that today less people want to assume the responsability of a family..and men are too way boring… they always want to be loved and that bugs me and is an obstacle to my freedom, i’m aging because i[‘m already 33 but who cares i don’t like children and being married, i had relationships also, and was a swinger in the past u sed to date from the internet whether men are single or married…. still had relations with them… everybody knows i think… just that today life is not about family but it is about having fun…i think

    210. anon Says:

      wow this page is very insultive to those who have another idea than having children… what’s wrong if a person don’t want to have children ? let him live his own life maybe he prefers that way. i’m one..so am i strange? duh!!! i can get any man for having fun, but not for a family… if i am a person who enjoy swinging then i can have any opportunity in fact i was a swinger before , as i explained in the previous posts, definately a person who spends and goes to night clubs till late hours wouldn’t want to get married and let alone have kids

    211. Shannon Love Says:

      anon,

      what’s wrong if a person don’t want to have children ?

      Nothing is wrong with individuals deciding not to have children based on their personal situation or preferences but the fact remains that somebody must have children and have access to the resources necessary to raise them up to be productive adults. In the present system parents shoulder enormous economic burdens to create the future adults that will produce the economy that people like you will need. As the cost of raising children climbs, fewer and fewer people can afford to do so.

      Those who follow a “live for today” ethos can only do so because someone else plans for tomorrow.