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  • Family Free-Riders Revisited

    Posted by Shannon Love on November 13th, 2007 (All posts by )

    Over at Business Week, Karyn McCormack covers some of the same ground that I did in my infamous Family Free-Riders post by asking “Is Raising Kids a Fool’s Game?” It’s worth checking out.

    [Related Post: Family Free-Riders, Family Free-Riders Part II, Paying For Productive Adults]

     

    3 Responses to “Family Free-Riders Revisited”

    1. Joshua Says:

      There’s also the vanishing sense of civic responsibility (i.e. raising children for the sake of societal/cultural continuity) to consider.

      In a way, starting/forming families is like voting in a presidential election: Each individual “vote”, as it were, is for all intents and purposes meaningless in the grand scheme of things; the outcome ultimately hinges upon what everyone else in the society does, over which, of course, you have no control. You can have ten kids and raise them all to be upstanding citizens, but even if you could somehow have a thousand, that’s still a drop in the ocean. But here’s the real kicker: If the millions upon millions of other people’s kids are indeed collectively sending the community/nation/whatever to hell in a handbasket, not only will your ten well-raised kids be powerless to stop it, but they will also be condemned to live in that hell too.

      So, it seems to me that having and raising children isn’t so much an investment in the future as a high-stakes wager upon it, against odds that rival the Powerball lottery. Small wonder, then, that fewer and fewer people are taking that bet, or that those that are taking it have emotional and intangible motivations for doing so.

    2. Knucklehead Says:

      The failure to reproduce has NOTHING to do with financial costs and everything to do with navel gazing narcissism.

      It’s costs such as these that make 28-year-old Bahar Zaker in Syracuse, N.Y., want to put off having kids, maybe forever. “We can’t imagine how we would manage the costs of kids,” says Zaker, who has been married for three years to a philosophy professor and is finishing her thesis on French surrealist art at the University of California. One big hurdle for her is the price of education, and she questions whether it pays off. “The costs of education are going up, and you’re not always sure the value of the education is going up with them,” she says. But she also admits that not having kids is a lifestyle choice. “We both like to travel,” she says.

      These idiots aren’t worried about what it costs in dollars and sense. They are overwhelmed by the thought of not being able to contemplate the lint that comes out of their own belly-buttons so they can blather vapidly about the deeper meanings and artistic merits. Notfuhnuttin’, but philosophers should be mighty, not ordinary, intellects and NOBODY should ever spend a PhD worth of effort studying French surrealist art. Maybe we’re all lucky they won’t bother having kids and if they do they’ll outsource raising them. There are worse things than over-educated morons but the list is short.

    3. Shannon Love Says:

      Knucklehead,

      The failure to reproduce has NOTHING to do with financial costs and everything to do with navel gazing narcissism.

      High cost does definitely play role. If nothing else, it prevents people who do have children from having as many children as they would like. Most surveys show that most current parents would like more children but cannot afford them. The cost factor is also revealed by the fact that, contrary to stereotype, the wealthy still have more children per capita than those with less wealth.

      Even so, the modern culture of narcissism does play a role. Many people do seem to think it entirely acceptable to think of their immediate needs first and those of children, society and the future last. For people raised by TV and pop culture, the benefits of parenting pale when compared to the loss of personal indulgence.

      On the other hand, we should remember that prior to the 20th century, it was common in all human cultures that 25% of more of the adult population never married and had children. Spinster aunts and bachelor uncles populate 19th century literature because they were common characters in the life of the day. With the vast surge in material wealth and freedom, marriage and parenting rates soared, reaching their peak in the mid-1950’s when a historically unprecedented 90%+ of the population married. Part of what we see today might be a reversion to the older pattern.