I basically agree with Ross Douthat here

by on December 2, 2012 at 12:19 am in Current Affairs, History, Philosophy | Permalink

The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe. It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.

His link is here, and I willingly admit that I am in some ways part of the problem.

Thanatos Savehn December 2, 2012 at 12:30 am

What’s as interesting as Douthat’s article is the vehement denunciation of reproduction by Anglos demonstrated in the comments. The view of Susan Sontag that “The white race is the cancer of human history” seems to be widely held by whites. Any thoughts as to why?

F. Lynx Pardinus December 2, 2012 at 2:09 am

There’s only 20 comments on the NYT piece, of which only one uses the word “white,” but not in any negative sense.

Steve Sailer December 2, 2012 at 7:33 pm

There are 360 now, most of them vociferously against more babies, many demanding more immigration instead, and some accusing Douthat of, horrors, wanting more babies from married white American women and fewer babies from unmarried nonwhite illegal alien women.

Mike G December 4, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Not to mention that Slate had a piece saying the exact same things.

Jeffersonian December 4, 2012 at 5:14 pm

I think it’s a perfect illustration of the deepest recesses of the progressive mind and its devotion to a gaseous ideology called “multiculturalism” which, in the words of Mark Steyn, one demonstrates one’s sensitivity to other cultures by being totally insensitive to one’s own.

Walter Sobchak December 4, 2012 at 6:42 pm

Folks: This is not news. Here is a satire about the attitude from 127 years ago:

I’ve got a little list — I’ve got a little list
Of society offenders who might well be underground,
And who never would be missed — who never would be missed!

* * *
… the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
All centuries but this, and every country but his own;

No. 5a: Song (Ko-Ko & Chorus)
“As someday it may happen that a victim must be found”
The Mikado by Gilbert & Sullivan
http://math.boisestate.edu/gas/mikado/webopera/mk105a.html

Eric Brown December 4, 2012 at 5:03 pm

Apparently you missed the Slate response, as well.

Jeffersonian December 4, 2012 at 5:17 pm

I started to read that, then a little voice in my head said, “waaait a minute.” It just had that…ring….to it. I checked the byline and knew I was wasting my time.

Brad December 4, 2012 at 5:56 pm

That ring… did it sound like totally unhinged lunacy devoid of any connection to what it purportedly responds to?

Jeffersonian December 4, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Why yes, yes it did, Brad. Had it included a few charateristic F-bombs, I wouldn’t have even needed to check the byline.

shrikanthk December 2, 2012 at 2:10 am

The reason is that Western civilization is that rare civilization which can laugh at itself! This attribute of Westerners is their civilization’s greatest strength as well as weakness!

The Anglos are the most self-effacing race on earth, totally unwilling to acknowledge the remarkable contribution of their forbears towards the creation of the modern world.

prior_approval December 2, 2012 at 3:06 am

Just because you are successfully trolling is no reason to go over the top.

shrikanthk December 2, 2012 at 3:47 am

Can trolls ever be successful?

Bernard Guerrero December 3, 2012 at 1:22 pm

He replied….

Steve Sailer December 2, 2012 at 7:37 pm

“The reason is that Western civilization is that rare civilization which can laugh at itself!”

Right.

Unfortunately, fewer and fewer get the joke anymore.

axa December 2, 2012 at 12:06 pm

explained at: http://stuffwhitepeoplelike.com/full-list-of-stuff-white-people-like/

basically it is a pose to pretend to be smart.

Steve Sailer December 2, 2012 at 7:31 pm

“What’s as interesting as Douthat’s article is the vehement denunciation of reproduction by Anglos demonstrated in the comments.”

Good question.

One factor is that Anglos have frequently taken the lead in limiting their own reproduction. Gregory Clark’s analysis in “A Farewell to Alms” of 1200-1800 shows that the English were, to a sizable extent, already practicing what Malthus preached in 1798 for 600 years before him by delaying marriage until couples could afford it.

Monty Python summed up the Anglo ideology in The Meaning of Life:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bKFa6sVH_1k

So, many of the anti-Anglo reproduction comments in the NY Times come from Anglos who presume, in that charming Anglo way, that all they have to do is criticize in themselves what they wish others would stop doing, and the others will get the message and knock it off.

The irony is that this aversion to overcrowding and impoverishment helped make the Anglos the world-champion conquerors. Whereas other groups, such as the Chinese, bogged down due to overcrowding their homeland, the Anglos set off to conquer the world.

None of this makes Anglos popular.

Steve Sailer December 2, 2012 at 8:04 pm

“What’s as interesting as Douthat’s article is the vehement denunciation of reproduction by Anglos demonstrated in the comments. The view of Susan Sontag that “The white race is the cancer of human history” seems to be widely held by whites. Any thoughts as to why?”

Of course, a lot of the whites who hold that view about Anglos aren’t Anglos.

But as you imply, it is interesting how much Anglos have favored population control down through the centuries. For example, much of the birth control / eugenics movement of a century ago consisted of progressive Anglos noticing that they had been limiting their own population for generations, so they’d better start promoting contraception for others (especially Irish Catholics) before they got swamped.

Today, you can’t come out and say things like that in public, but some WASPs may well still think that way in secret. For example, Bill Gates III comes out of a population control / environmentalist background, and a lot of his charitable activities appear to be triple bankshot attempts to get nonwhites to control their own populations. For example, let’s give college scholarships to nonwhites, and maybe they’ll stop having kids so young. Or, let’s develop a malaria vaccine, so Africans don’t have so many spare kids.

Memnon December 3, 2012 at 6:00 am

Are you so blinded by your racial-centric worldview that you are unable to comprehend that humans better than you might see alleviation of poverty and help for the suffering as an end in itself? This is sad, sad moral dwarfism.

Petar December 4, 2012 at 11:29 am

Also, it is evolutionary beneficial.
Most people do not care about your morals. Deal with it.

Bart December 5, 2012 at 12:26 am

Are you so blind that you cannot see that attempting to alleviate poverty by treating its symptoms rather than its causes is ultimately guaranteed only to increase the very malady it attempts to alleviate? The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and we are stoking the engines on the express train to perdition.

You can give a man money, until yours runs out. But, you cannot give him genuine self-respect, the thrill of substantive accomplishment, or the motivation to reach for the best within him to achieve. Those things must come from within.

askeptic December 4, 2012 at 5:11 pm

“…widely held by whites…”, or is that by white metrosexuals, the unmarried cohort that voted overwhelmingly Progressive in the current election?
I doubt if that thought has much veracity out in The Country Class, particularly among Fundamentalist Christians, who are far more numerous than the “intellectuals” at the NYT would care to admit.

Xiaoding December 4, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Far more numerous, and far, far, less effectual!

Orson December 4, 2012 at 5:23 pm

Thanatos Savehn asks: “The view of Susan Sontag that ‘The white race is the cancer of human history’ seems to be widely held by whites. Any thoughts as to why?”

Puritainist self-hate and guilt induction, environmental correctness, and unhappiness built by Leftists, generally. (Which I find unsurprising – because if I were, I would be too.)

Bart December 5, 2012 at 12:17 am

“The view of Susan Sontag that “The white race is the cancer of human history” seems to be widely held by whites. Any thoughts as to why?”

Perhaps she is right. A cancer, after all, is a malignant progression in which a body turns against and destroys itself.

chuck martel December 2, 2012 at 12:32 am

If the US really wanted more children it would shut all the TV stations down after 10 PM. Nine months later the baby boom starts. A significant but unspecifiable number of men will refuse to marry and have a family when a legal system/government waits in the wings for the opportunity to turn a failed relationship into a cash cow. There’s no valid reason that the government or the legal profession should be involved in family affairs.

TheCrankyProfessor December 2, 2012 at 1:06 am

If hetero sex is really just something to do if there’s nothing on TV then we’re doomed!

BobB59 December 4, 2012 at 5:26 pm

I was the 5th of nine children. My college roommate upon discovering this fact asked “Nine???? Don’t your parents own a television set”?

Jwill December 2, 2012 at 12:40 am

I don’t know, I just see it as a consequence of a society with a high degree of specialization. If I am helping create things that did not exist before, I am contributing to innovation over stagnation. There’s no reason my contribution needs to be a child. Many smart and productive people who had some major competitive advantage are going to be merely average parents. The optimum number of childless adults is not zero.

Cliff December 2, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Average parent is more than good enough if your genes are good.

Jim Clay December 3, 2012 at 8:58 am

Two points:
1) Your work is probably not nearly as important as you think it is.
2) The impact of kids is much larger than you think- particularly when you think of them having kids, those kids having kids, etc.

Orson December 4, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Jwell buy a false notion: ” I just see it as a consequence of a society with a high degree of specialization.”

This birth dearth didn’t exist before the Great Recession! No, it is the achievement of the secular Left’s obsession with equal misery and trying to spread home ownership around to even the unqualified.

In other words, the Left’s “achievements” result in failure and decline. Duh.

Rahul December 2, 2012 at 12:46 am

Were these selfless men of the past really having children to play their part in grand civilization building? How virtuous!

Are we sure it wasn’t a mere combination of lack of effective birth-control, religious pressures and the utility of a captive, cheap, labor force?

shrikanthk December 2, 2012 at 1:35 am

Rahul: Believe it or not, men were more selfless a couple of centuries back.
It’s a pity that people of our godless generation are not able to relate to how men and women thought a few centuries ago.

Men had a greater threshold for pain. And a genuine desire to make money for future generations (a desire which encouraged more thrift and hard work than what was necessary). This desire has weakened over the past few generations.

Alexei Sadeski December 2, 2012 at 1:49 am

It’s a bit tough to make money with the intent of giving to future generations when the total intergenerational tax rate is 75%… This is a very recent development.

Also is ridiculous to consider “selfless” the Belgian men whom pillaged central Africa two hundred years ago.

shrikanthk December 2, 2012 at 2:05 am

Well one can always pick the odd episode to denigrate the past.
The modern world was ushered into Africa by those very colonial pillagers who are demonized collectively.
Slavery all around the world was abolished in the 19th century not because of the pressure of the liberal intelligentsia but the moralistic Christian Right!

Randy McDonald December 2, 2012 at 5:31 am

The villagers who survived, sure. (Half the population of the Belgian Congo being killed in a generation is an impressive proportion. Makes Generalplan Ost look underachieving.)

So Much for Subtlety December 2, 2012 at 6:03 pm

Half the population? Given that no one knew how many people lived there to start with, it is hard to come up with any sensible figures. But half? Given they did so much worse than the Generalplan Ost, it is likely that in fact the figure is unreliable.

Xiaoding December 4, 2012 at 6:15 pm

Well, HALF of the moralistic Christian Right. The other half of the moralistic Christian Right, thought slavery was ordained by God.

prior_approval December 2, 2012 at 2:16 am

+1 trolling – this sounds almost like a sincere comment. But then, some people have a higher threshold of pain than others.

Cliff December 2, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Let’s label everything we don’t agree with trolling!

Micha Elyi December 5, 2012 at 5:18 am

+ 1 trolling

F. Lynx Pardinus December 2, 2012 at 2:25 am

“Believe it or not, men were more selfless a couple of centuries back. ”
Keep in mind that exactly a couple of centuries ago, the big thing going on in the US was that we were engaged in an economically and militarily woeful attempt to teach Britain a lesson, with New England considering secession and actively working against the US war policy because it was in their economic self-interest.

shrikanthk December 2, 2012 at 2:56 am

We were not discussing the self-interest of nations here. But the degree of selflessness in individuals.
The point is that the smaller the government, the stronger the families and communities.
So it is not a surprise at all that people had more kids, and looked out more for their extended families 200 years ago.

Randy McDonald December 2, 2012 at 5:32 am

Family structures were more authoritarian, yes, what with abuse being normative and women being legal non-persons. More selfless? Well, if you weren’t lucky enough to be an alpha male belonging to the proper social classes, sure.

Bernard Guerrero December 3, 2012 at 1:06 pm

To repeat the point I made below, altruism’s got nothing to do with it. Religious dogmas designed to limit birth-control and increase population growth were widespread because they were adaptive from a social standpoint, in the sense of producing societies that tended to out compete rivals in a pre-modern-technology world. Consider an ancient or medieval society that practiced a large degree of birth control, as opposed to fairly trivial stuff like Spartan exposure. Given typical pre-modern mortality rates, particularly in urban settings, you’ll get a group that that can’t maintain viable urban centers and gets swamped by rivals that plunge headlong into the Malthusian cycle. Sure, those cultures will suffer through awful boom-bust cycles, but they’ll be around to do so.

Bristol December 2, 2012 at 3:21 am

“Believe it or not, men were more selfless a couple of centuries back.”

They also burned people alive at the stake and thought it was moral. It is easy to create a narrative of declining virtues when the phenomena of cultural value shifts are actually more multifaceted and complex.

As for “godless generation”, most young people still believe in a god, even though there probably isn’t one.

Cliff December 2, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Did they, really?

Bristol December 4, 2012 at 11:54 am

Yes.

JonF December 2, 2012 at 4:04 pm

I actually don’t believe it. Human nature does not change over any historically meaningful time period. People have fewer children because:
A) they do not need to have six to eight children to ensure that two or three survive.
B) they have effective ways to prevent conception
C) Children cost a lot more than they used to, while the “return” has been reduced to almost nothing: kids no longer go to work to help the family as soon as they are able, and when they are old enough to start work, the income they earn is their own, nor the family’s.

And far from being “decadent” the fact that people have fewer children now is an exercise in prudence– something moralists used to understand as a principle virtue.

CC December 2, 2012 at 1:55 am

+1 Rahul

So Much for Subtlety December 2, 2012 at 2:30 am

Rahul, the very next article is about Japanese family-owned businesses. It seems that the best way to get a decent manager is to adopt one. That is, small-scale civilization building, on the multi-national company scale, is linked to having children who inherit. That is more important, and appears more motivational, to Japanese businessmen than just money.

So I think we can agree it was not a mere combination of a lack of effective birth-control, religious pressures and the utility of a captive, cheap labor force.

sort_of_knowledgable December 2, 2012 at 9:58 am

Adults were adopted. There was no extra motivation to have children to inherit your business if you were to recruit outsiders and adopt them into the family business.

So Much for Subtlety December 2, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Adults were adopted. Rather than just paid. And they did well. That is, a professional manager does better if he is adopted and knows his children will inherit the company than if he is simply hired and given a wealth of stock options. You are looking at it from the wrong end.

sort_of_knowledgable December 2, 2012 at 5:50 pm

But the manager’s children will not necessarily inherit the company because he will also be expected adopt the most talented person available as his successor, in which case his children wouldn’t do any better than if the manager was given a wealth of stock options. Now it could be that the manager’s children have the inside track and an outsider is adopted only when the natural children are clearly inferior.

So Much for Subtlety December 2, 2012 at 6:06 pm

You have misunderstood the concept of adoption. It means the person being adopted will pass on the company to his children. If all of his children turn out to be incompetent, which is unlikely, then perhaps he would be expected to adopt someone in his turn – often marrying him to his daughter in any case which means it will still support his descendants. But how often does a competent manager fail to produce a competent heir? The general rate seems to be once in every five generations so for a family to fail twice in a row would be very surprising.

sort_of_knowledgable December 2, 2012 at 7:29 pm

It’s not clear to me that is what adoption means. From a book on a famous go player.

“Like many traditional arts, the go schools adopted the iemoto system, in which the head of the school would adopt his most talented disciple into his family and make him his heir. in most cases the heir was not the actual son of the head of the school.”

It could be that business are different than the arts and has multiple measures so it is hard to say that one person is better unlike go where a match would expose small differences in skills. Or business are following a different system

Jan December 2, 2012 at 8:40 am

Rahul nailed it.

Bernard Guerrero December 3, 2012 at 1:02 pm

I wouldn’t call it “altruistic” (blech), but I suspect that the latter two factors you cite were widespread because they were adaptive from a social standpoint, in the sense of producing societies that tended to out compete rivals in a pre-modern-technology world. Consider an ancient or medieval society that practiced a large degree of birth control, as opposed to fairly trivial stuff like Spartan exposure. Given typical pre-modern mortality rates, particularly in urban settings, you’ll get a group that that can’t maintain viable urban centers and gets swamped by rivals that plunge headlong into the Malthusian cycle. Sure, those cultures will suffer through awful boom-bust cycles, but they’ll be around to do so.

phwest December 5, 2012 at 7:06 am

They are not only adaptive for societies, they are adaptive within societies as well. One of the factors behind the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire was those same values. In an era when the pagan population was demonstrating exactly the same low/no children behaviors that we see in the modern era Christians rejected those values and gradually grew from a minor offshoot of Judaism to the official state religion of the Empire.

That certain values are adaptive for “pre-modern” societies does not mean their importance disappears in the modern world – particularly when there remains enough pre-modern pockets around the world to provide the population to fill in the void left by the declining “moderns”. It has not yet been proven that the values of the secular West can provide a foundation for a civilization that can sustain itself for more than a few generations.

There is a disturbing amount of evidence suggesting that it cannot.

Mister mister December 2, 2012 at 1:41 am

Embrace antinatalism.

Bernard Guerrero December 3, 2012 at 1:14 pm

I do. The fewer of your kids around to compete with mine, the better. Win-win! (There will always be enough to dig society’s ditches, etc.)

prior_approval December 2, 2012 at 2:14 am

‘The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe.’

A sentence only a man could write, a generation after effective contraception became available (and in places such as the U.S., first legal in the U.S. in 1965 after Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479). A man unlikely to take years out of a full time job to merely share the burden of child raising, much less assume it fully.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Griswold_v._Connecticut

8 December 2, 2012 at 2:52 am

A man unlikely to take years out of a full time job to merely share the burden of child raising, much less assume it fully.

Yes, this is exactly the decadence he is talking about. Traditional women today still see child raising as a joy, not a burden; in fact they consider working a full-time job to be a burden. Many women would choose to stay home, but cannot afford it. Their husbands work harder to earn the money to support a larger family, but immigration and feminism policies, plus globalization, have swelled the labor pool and held wages down.

prior_approval December 2, 2012 at 6:48 am

‘Yes, this is exactly the decadence he is talking about. ‘
One man’s belief in decadence looks an awful like all women’s submission to what men want them to do – including not bothering fathers with any of the actual burden of raising the father’s children.

Strangely, we rarely talk much about single fathers doing the work of raising their cildren, do we? The seeming unquestioned assumption being that children are just women’s work, and any other idea is just ‘decadent.’

Cliff December 2, 2012 at 10:32 pm

How do the sentences you are writing relate to anything under discussion? I don’t see any assumption that raising children is women’s work or that women need to submit to men.

James Solbakken December 5, 2012 at 3:01 pm

“‘Yes, this is exactly the decadence he is talking about. ‘ One man’s belief in decadence looks an awful like all women’s submission to what men want them to do – including not bothering fathers with any of the actual burden of raising the father’s children.”

This being the attitude, in general, is it any wonder why men and women are AFRAID to stick their necks out and make the commitment and do the hard work and put up with all the hassles of creating society’s hope for the future? For example, what about the SUBMISSION that MEN must perform, i.e. giving up their “freedom” to come and go as they please in order to provide for a family? Men and women used to submit themselves one to another in the Lord in order to populate the Kingdom of God.

Now that people are carefully indoctrinated to be selfish and self-centered, I am not surprised at all that we are in deep trouble. In fact, I’m surprised we’re still alive at this point. God is certainly doing a miracle by preserving us so long past our natural expiration date!!!!

Susan December 3, 2012 at 12:24 am

Have you read The Feminine Mystique? Heard of the high rates of Valium prescriptions among housewives? Watched The Stepford Wives? The only place most women adored being relegated to the domestic sphere with the children is in the imagination of men.

John Skookum December 3, 2012 at 12:44 am

There is a lot more imagination on the feminist Left about what women “ought” to want, and talking to today’s young women about Stepford wives is likely to draw as many blank stares as rabbiting on about why they should all be in corsets and hoop skirts.

I have seen a survey showing something like three out of four working mothers would happily chuck it and stay home with the kids if their husbands could make enough to replace their salaries. I’ll see if I can find it and post it here.

Dave December 3, 2012 at 6:52 pm

Apparently they enjoy “being relegated to the domestic sphere with the children” in their own minds as well.

Per Forbes: “84% of working women told ForbesWoman and TheBump that staying home to raise children is a financial luxury they aspire to.”

Rob Crawford December 4, 2012 at 5:03 pm

“Have you read The Feminine Mystique?”

Have you read “Warriors of Gor”? Either is as representative of reality as the other.

Micha Elyi December 5, 2012 at 5:35 am

The Stepford Wives is a second-rate movie based on a novel by Ira Levin. Like another of his novels, Rosemary’s Baby, the plot is driven by female hysteria. Relax Susan, both stories are fiction.

Yes, I’ve read The Feminine Mystique too. Its author also employed fiction. Hint: A suburban homemaker wife does not live in a concentration camp.

P.S. If females really don’t want to be “with the children” then why do they fight so hard for custody in a divorce?

James Solbakken December 5, 2012 at 3:06 pm

“Have you read The Feminine Mystique? Heard of the high rates of Valium prescriptions among housewives? Watched The Stepford Wives? The only place most women adored being relegated to the domestic sphere with the children is in the imagination of men.”

If that’s the case, then why do women get mad when I suggest men should stop pestering them?

If that was my mother’s attitude, for example, why shouldn’t I hate my mother’s guts? Hhhmm?

Why shouldn’t I hate all women for being selfish and self centered, psychotic and megalomaniacal.

Greg December 2, 2012 at 3:01 am

@prior_approval: Griswold does not mark the time when contraception was first legal in the US. Griswold says that the law in Connecticut ban on contraception was unconstitutional because it violated married people’s right to privacy. Contraception was already legal in some states (I think in most states, if I recall correctly.)

Engineer December 2, 2012 at 4:18 am

Contraception was for practical purposes legal in CT also. Griswold was brought to make a political point.

prior_approval December 2, 2012 at 6:31 am

A bit of an overview of some 20th century American history –

‘The birth control movement in the United States was a social reform campaign from 1914 to around 1945 that aimed to increase the availability of contraception in the U.S. through education and legalization. The movement began in 1914 when a group of political radicals in New York City, led by Emma Goldman, Mary Dennett, and Margaret Sanger, became concerned about the hardships that childbirth and self-induced abortions brought to low-income women. Information about contraception was considered to be obscene at the time, so the activists targeted the Comstock laws, which prohibited distribution of any “obscene, lewd, and/or lascivious” materials through the mail. Hoping to provoke a favorable legal decision, Sanger deliberately broke the law by distributing The Woman Rebel, a newsletter containing a discussion of contraception. In 1916, Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the United States, but the clinic was immediately shut down by police, and Sanger was sentenced to 30 days in jail.

A major turning point for the movement came during World War I, when many U.S. servicemen were diagnosed with venereal diseases. The government’s response included an anti-venereal disease campaign that framed sexual intercourse and contraception as issues of public health and legitimate topics of scientific research. This was the first time a U.S. government institution had engaged in a sustained, public discussion of sexual matters; as a consequence, contraception transformed from an issue of morals to an issue of public health.’

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birth_control_movement_in_the_United_States

ad*m December 2, 2012 at 4:17 pm

“[…] some of the fundamental convictions that form the basis of our Birth Control propaganda, and which, as I think you must agree, indicate that the campaign for Birth Control is not merely of eugenic value, but is practically identical in ideal, with the final aims of Eugenics.”
Margaret Sanger, “The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda,” Oct 1921.

Eugenics started as progressive, left-wing movements. Out of political expedience this is ignored nowadays by liberals.

Please ignore “prior_approval”, almost nothing he/she writes withstands scrutiny.

The Original D December 2, 2012 at 9:57 pm

Out of political expedience this is ignored nowadays by liberals.

In what sense? Do you think liberals secretly want to embrace Steve Sailer?

What a non sequitur. The political landscape has flip-flopped a couple times since eugenics was taken seriously. I don’t place a lot of value in an argument that’s based on “yeah, but 100 years ago people like you thought THIS!”

Steve Z December 2, 2012 at 8:53 am

Griswold not only did not mark the first time contraception became available, it was also meaningless, because the law in Griswold was never enforced. Griswold was a case concocted by the plaintiffs. Furthermore, the “right to marital privacy” found in Griswold makes no sense, since going to the doctor to get a contraceptive is not private – there’s a doctor involved. There is no freestanding “right to privacy” in the Constitution.

JonF December 2, 2012 at 4:07 pm

If there’s no right to privacy (basically a right to left alone) implied in the Constitution then many of the other rights therein make no sense.

The Original D December 2, 2012 at 10:00 pm

Yeah, because the only legitimate way to get contraception is through a doctor, a profession that is defined by the state.

Matt December 2, 2012 at 11:17 am

Interesting how there’s a lot of talk about how the West is dumb for encouraging women to defer reproduction to focus on career and hedonic experience, but the fact that the West also encourages this for men is wholly dismissed as having any effect. Not even just “OK, but less effect than with women” but total dismissal.

Bernard Guerrero December 3, 2012 at 1:20 pm

Well, biologically speaking, you only *need* a relative handful of guys breeding, and their “biological clock” isn’t as straightforward (not sure about impact of father’s age on likelihood of Downs, etc?) Of course, that route presents a bunch of additional problems.

Steve Sailer December 2, 2012 at 8:14 pm

The deal with the Griswold case in 1965 was this:

Contraception was widely available in Connecticut in all sorts of discreet manners, but the law overturned in Griswold made it hard for a birth control clinic to open publicly on the street. The ethnic/class disparate impact was that Yale men had no trouble limiting their family sizes, but poor Irish Catholic women had a harder time asking around about birth control since many feared they’d be ratted out by somebody in their social network.

Prominent Yale men of the time who were population control activists included Senator Preston Bush and his son George H.W. Bush. George had five children himself, but he could afford it. The point of WASP population control activism had long been to make birth control more available to the kind of people who couldn’t afford so many children (e.g., Irish Catholic Democrats)

Chris December 4, 2012 at 5:30 pm

Contraception was legal and widely available in the US decades before Griswold.

Griswold codified that laws against contraception for married couples were unconstitutional. (Why? Why not?) It did not introduce widespread availability; contraception was available long before.

El December 2, 2012 at 2:23 am

I always thought the ‘retreat from child rearing’ was a combination of 1) better adherence to a couple’s actual preferred number of children and 2) changing socioeconomic conditions lowering that preferred number.

Lack of effective birth control in the past meant that additional, unwanted children happened more frequently; additionally, I suspect women have always wanted fewer children, but their lack of empowerment meant they had little say. At the very least, I look around at my female friends, single and married, and none of them want to sign up any more times than they feel is absolutely necessary for a 9 month process that is at best exhausting, and at worst an endangerment to their health and a mortal blow to their careers .

And (2) will continue to drive the birth rate lower – a continued demographic shift to urban dwelling alone will make it that much harder for couples to afford each additional child. The real estate cost alone is so much exponentially higher in a city, not to mention health costs, all the random classes and activities people think their kids need these days, schooling (including higher ed).

8 December 2, 2012 at 3:00 am

One counter factual is the amount of time spent with children. I think this falls into Caplan’s wheelhouse, but even into the 1980s, parents let their children run wild all over the neighborhood. Therefore, it’s possible there is simply a shift towards high-investment offspring. But if that’s the case, if people want to raise the cost of children, then why does immigration and welfare policy favor the opposite? It’s a recipe for failure of society. Whereas, Japan, which locks the border, really has no societal/cultural problems once they overcome the baby boom bulge.

Daniel Dostal December 2, 2012 at 4:12 pm

“Whereas, Japan, which locks the border, really has no societal/cultural problems once they overcome the baby boom bulge.”

You trollin?

So Much for Subtlety December 2, 2012 at 3:21 am

The fact that you acknowledge urban housing prices are driving down the number of children women have is proof that the first half of your argument is either wrong or not the whole story. Urban women would have more children if only they could afford it. Thus the retreat from child bearing is not merely better adherence to a couple’s actual preferred number.

The paradox of housing prices is interesting because the main effect of more women working seems to be higher house prices. I wonder how much of that increase in production has been taken up simply by the cost of housing. I would guess it would be a significant percentage. Of course governments don’t mind as it means more tax revenue, but arguably we would all be better off with fewer women in the work force and more at home. Something I think most women seem to want.

affenkopf December 2, 2012 at 4:18 am

Or one could go the way of France with high number of women in the work force and still have a birth rate above replacement level.

Engineer December 2, 2012 at 4:23 am

That requires accepting a large number of immigrants who subscribe to socially conservative religions and not breaking out their fertility statistics.

affenkopf December 2, 2012 at 5:22 am

I think the French system of government child care has a lot more to do with it. Other European countries with similar number of immigrants have much lower birth rates.

So Much for Subtlety December 2, 2012 at 4:48 am

France does not collect figures on who is having children. But a reasonable assumption is that the French are not having children. French citizens of Algerian origin are. Thus you have women out of the work force, and often out of education, having children and you have women in the work force not having them.

affenkopf December 2, 2012 at 5:25 am

Than why does France have much higher population growth than other European countries with similar immigrant populations? Free nursery schools might have something to do with it.

Randy McDonald December 2, 2012 at 5:40 am

“But a reasonable assumption is that the French are not having children. French citizens of Algerian origin are.”

_Why_ is that a reasonable assumption?

Going to the data, fertility is high across France’s regions, with immigrant proportions not mattering much–Ile-de-France has a high fertility rate, yes, but so does Brittany.

More to the point, patterns of fertility in France differ substantially from, say, those of West Germany.

http://demographymatters.blogspot.ca/2009/09/on-contradictions-between-traditional.html

Rates of childlessness are substantally lower, while female participation in the work force is higher. The greater tolerance in France for non-traditional family structures, including families marked by cohabitation and families with working mothers, is largely responsible for the relatively high levels of fertility in France.

Millian December 2, 2012 at 6:16 am

Randy McDonald: It is a reasonable assumption for MR commenters because it is the most racist possible explanation. Obsessing over racial differences is a sacrament here.

So Much for Subtlety December 2, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Affenkopf, I would be surprised if anyone has a similar immigrant population as France. Which countries do you have in mind?

Randy McDonald, it is a reasonable assumption because of Occam’s Razor. The French state has tried for nearly 100 years to increase the French birth rate. They have comprehensively failed. Now they succeed with a few minor changes? I would be surprised. The immigrant population has higher birth rates at home. Why wouldn’t they in France?

If rural Brittany had a similar high birth-rate I would concede that I was wrong. Does it?

Millian, perhaps you are right. Perhaps not. I think it is worth finding out, don’t you? And it is not just the readers of MR who obsess about race. Most non-White people do. Most academics do. You can hardly go to a Liberal Arts college without finding people who interpret *everything* through the prism of race. Most of the Left does. That is why their go-to criticism is racism. They project. It is just that MR readers seem willing to varying degrees to consider race from a viewpoint other than the “Whites are a cancer on the world” position.

Randy McDonald December 3, 2012 at 2:50 am

Actually, as a quick perusal of the relevant statistics would indicate, France after the Second World War experienced a pronounced and strong baby boom, stronger than anything else in continental Europe.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demographics_of_France#Vital_statistics.5B12.5D

It’s common knowledge that French policymaking and social engineering did help sustain fertility at levels substantially above levels now prevailing in most of France’s neighbours. Even at its lowest levels, in the early 1990s, the French TFR of 1.65 children per woman was substantially above levels prevailing in West Germany (last that high in 1973), Italy (1980), or Spain (1985). Unlike in any of those countries, fertility has risen, broadly and sustainably.

http://www.demographic-research.org/volumes/vol19/16/

As for Brittany, 2% of the administrative region’s population is first-generation immigrant.

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C3%A9mographie_de_la_Bretagne

Immigrants and people of immigrant background–at least coming from higher-fertility countries–do contribute to French fertility, yes. North Africans play somewhat the same role in French demography as Hispanics in the United States’, to the same degree, as a small minority that bumps national figures up somewhat.

So Much for Subtlety December 3, 2012 at 6:21 pm

I am sure that France had a baby boom after World War Two. But that does not address my point. It was, in a way, merely deferred births because so many people put off having children during the War. As such, it had nothing to do with government policy. If you look at those figures, you can see France’s birth rate was a catastrophe for most of the rest of the 20th century. A serious political problem given the looming German threat for much of that period. An issue that the French government did everything it could to rectify. To no avail.

Where and when is it common knowledge that French policymaking and social engineering did help sustain fertility at levels substantially above levels now prevailing in most of France’s neighbors? What is more, for what years are you talking? If you mean the first half of the 20th century you’re not merely wrong, you’re grossly wrong. As the German demographic threat was a major political issue in France.

I am sure that today France has higher birth rates than the rest of Europe. But they also have an older and larger Muslim population which is largely jobless. Nothing to do but stay at home and have children. As France does not collect race or religious data we have no way of knowing whether it is immigrants or French natives who are having children. On the other hand Brittany has a lower birth rate than the French average. Despite being more rural and more (formerly) Catholic. That does not look good for your argument.

So we can agree that immigrants contribute to French fertility. Hispanics contribute so much to American fertility that White Americans will become a minority in their own country fairly soon. Is it so unreasonable to suggest that the French may face the same problem?

Randy McDonald December 3, 2012 at 7:23 pm

A quick look at demographic statistics for other European countries reveals that the baby boom of France was much stronger than that of West Germany or Italy–West Germany only broke 2.5 children per woman in the 1963-1966 period, for instance, while French fertility was higher than 2.5 children per woman from 1946 straight through to 1971.

I’ve provided multiple links to pages and papers explicitly describing the contours of French demographics in the 20th century, stating specifically that France after the Second World War experienced the sort of strong population growth that wasn’t equally by its large neighbours. (“If you mean the first half of the 20th century you’re not merely wrong, you’re grossly wrong”? Well, yes. _I never said that._)

For immigrant fertility, I’d point you to Toulemon’s paper “Fertility Among Immigrant Women in France.”

http://paa2006.princeton.edu/papers/61103

It notes that fertility among North African immigrants is higher than the French average but is falling, that fertility among southern European immigrants is _lower_ than the French average but perhaps rising, and that in any case the fertility differentials aren’t that significant. (At present, the North African countries of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia that play such a noteworthy role in immigration to France have lower fertility rates than West Germany did it in its own abbreviated post-war baby boom.)

If you want to assume that there are Muslims everywhere in France, even in areas which
I am sure that today France has higher birth rates than the rest of Europe. But they also have an older and larger Muslim population which is largely jobless. Nothing to do but stay at home and have children. As France does not collect race or religious data we have no way of knowing whether it is immigrants or French natives who are having children. On the other hand Brittany has a lower birth rate than the French average. Despite being more rural and more (formerly) Catholic. That does not look good for your argument.

“Hispanics contribute so much to American fertility that White Americans will become a minority in their own country fairly soon. Is it so unreasonable to suggest that the French may face the same problem?”

At present, Hispanic Americans amount to 16.7% of the American population and as of 2008 evidenced a TFR of ~2.89 versus a national average of ~2.08.

http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/2012/tables/12s0083.pdf

How you go from a TFR a mere 50% higher than a replacement-level average to non-Hispanics becoming a minority nationally is beyond me.

How French Muslims, who form at most a tenth of the French population and have TFRs lower than that of American Hispanics, could do the same strikes me as even more obscure.

Your conflation of “immigrant” with “Muslim”, incidentally, is flawed, inasmuch as at least half of the immigrants in France don’t come from North Africa but from points elsewhere in the world: southern Europe, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia, eastern Europe.

The data I’ve provided suggests that fertility generally among the French is substantially higher than elsewhere in Europe, not merely the immigrants. You seem to be ignoring or misreading the data–the link I provided earlier on the demographics of Bretagne

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C3%A9mographie_de_la_Bretagne#F.C3.A9condit.C3.A9_par_d.C3.A9partement

clearly indicating that the Bretagne region as a whole, and the individual departments of Côtes-d’Armor and Morbihan, evidence fertility rates substantially _above_ the French average. How can you say “On the other hand Brittany has a lower birth rate than the French average”?

So Much for Subtlety December 4, 2012 at 6:18 pm

You are still looking at a tiny period of the twentieth century. It does not reflect France’s experience of the entire century at all. Nor is there any reason to think government policy had anything to do with it.

Toulemon’s paper “Fertility Among Immigrant Women in France.” is interesting. Notice it says that French born women – not the same as ethnically French women – have a TFR of 1.7. That looks like France’s above replacement rate is entirely due to immigrant communities. Especially as the French-born category includes a lot of children of immigrants because the French community is so old.

I did not say non-Hispanics would become a minority nationality. I said that Whites would. America will soon be a country with no clear majority.

In 1950 France included Algeria. It was part of France. It’s population was something like a tenth of the rest of France. It’s population now is some 40 million people. France has just over 60 million people. So if the French do nothing and everyone continues to have children at the same rate they do now, with no more immigration at all, the French can expect to be a minority in a Muslim country within one person’s lifetime. But of course the French-French will continue to have fewer children. Immigrants will probably tend to the mean over time. But that still means their population will grow. Immigration and marrying the cousins from back home will continue. So it won’t take that long.

It is flawed, but immigrants from Southern Europe do not matter. They do not blow themselves up on the Metro for one thing. But also, as you point out, their TFR is lower than France’s. As are Eastern Europeans by and large. As is many East Asians. These are not a problem. Many immigrants from the Caribbean are actually French. Which leaves the problem cases – immigrants from North Africa and increasingly the rest of Africa. Many of whom have a problematic relationship with the French.

I am not sure the data does. Even if it does, 1.7 is the difference between steaming towards an ice berg and having hit it. It is not much of a difference.

I agree that is what Wikipedia says and I am inclined to believe it. But I did follow your earlier links and I came to one that said that Brittany had a lower birth rate than the rest of France. Which is why I assumed it was right and said so. Notice that rural, traditionally Catholic Brittany is still below replacement. By some way.

Cliff December 2, 2012 at 10:37 pm

France is above replacement rate? That would be news to me. Pretty sure it’s below 2?

Randy McDonald December 3, 2012 at 8:53 pm

The increase of fertility rates above 2.0 children per woman is recent–2.00 in 2006, 1.98 in 2007, 2.01 in 2008, 2.00 in 2009, 2.03 in 2010, and 2.02 in 2011.

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/D%C3%A9mographie_de_la_France

babar December 2, 2012 at 7:58 am

why can’t women build houses as their work? then they could do it as cheaply as they like.

Engineer December 2, 2012 at 4:21 am

I suspect women have always wanted fewer children, but their lack of empowerment meant they had little say.

You are projecting. Try talking to some women in socially conservative communities. My wife still gets sad about the fact that we only have 2.

prior_approval December 2, 2012 at 4:28 am

‘Try talking to some women in socially conservative communities.’

With or without permission of their husbands?

oneeyedman December 2, 2012 at 7:13 am

My understanding was that international surveys show a strong statistical relationship between female desired family size and actual family size.

Someone from the other side December 2, 2012 at 7:33 am

Not in Europe they don’t.

Childless and hell-bent on remaining that way. I should see about ensuring that, once and for all.

Engineer December 2, 2012 at 7:37 am

@p_a
My wife doesn’t wear a burka, But she might ask you to put one on.

prior_approval December 2, 2012 at 9:13 am

Well, except for this reality, which is not just true in India –

‘Data from India’s 1998–99 National Family Health Survey and a 2002–03 follow-up survey for which women in four states were reinterviewed are analyzed, and the factors associated with the intersurvey adoption of contraception and the experience of an unwanted pregnancy are examined. Women who experience physical violence from their husbands are significantly less likely to adopt contraception and more likely to experience an unwanted pregnancy. A prospectively measured indicator of unwanted pregnancy identifies a higher prevalence of unwanted pregnancies than do the traditionally employed retrospective measures and is more successful in establishing a relationship between unwanted pregnancies and domestic violence. The results demonstrate a clear relationship between a woman’s experience of physical violence from her husband and her ability to achieve her fertility intentions. The need to improve the measurement of pregnancy intendedness is clear, and a move toward using prospective measures as the standard is necessary.’

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2715158/

I was not kidding about with permission of the husband – as the research above notes, many women who wish to use contraception and try to avoid unwanted pregnancy have to deal with the reality that their husband will use violence to prevent them from doing so. And quite obviously, such men are unlikely to want anyone talking to their wives about effective birth control.

So, do we ask those women in the presence of their violent husbands, or not? Because obviously, that would make a difference to their answers. In other words, when asked without their husband’s permission or awareness, those women will provide a different answer than the one made with their husband’s permission or awareness.

And referring to what a woman wears or not seems a very strange way to handle the reality that men will use violence to force women to have unwanted children. Especially in rural settings, which is often considered to be a measuring stick for ‘socially conservative.’

So Much for Subtlety December 2, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Prior_approval, the fact that women who suffer domestic abuse do not use birth control does not prove that husbands will beat them if they use birth control. It may be that poorer people are both likely to suffer domestic violence and less likely to use birth control. It may be that educated people are both less likely to beat their wives and more likely to use birth control. No doubt Roissy’s fans might come along and say that husbands who beat their wives are more sexually desirable and so their wives are more likely to want to make sure those genes are passed on. Any number of explanations with varying degrees of plausibility.

buddyglass December 2, 2012 at 6:04 pm

There are interesting consequences for humanity, however, if the steady state is for women (on the aggregate) in wealthy economies to want children at a level that does not sustain population. Solve for equilibrium in the global context.

mrmandias December 4, 2012 at 5:12 pm

At least in Europe, couples tend to have fewer children than they would prefer. I’ve seen some evidence that the same is true in this country, though not as much.

So I would throw our your (1) and change your (2) to changing economic conditions lowering the number they actually have.

Rahul December 2, 2012 at 4:12 am

How does this ” retreat from child rearing” picture mesh in with the fact that American child mortality is at an all time low, and spending on school-education per-student is close to an all time high?

Maybe we’ve shifted from quantity to quality?

shrikanthk December 2, 2012 at 5:12 am

Well the decline in child mortality and increase in per-capita education spending are natural consequences of economic growth.

if anything the higher child mortality rates in the earlier centuries should’ve deterred couples from having kids.

Millian December 2, 2012 at 6:18 am

No, you are completely mis-reading the effect of high death rates. If you want a certain number of adult kids to provide for you in old age, and if death rates are high compared to today up to the age of 30 due to infant mortality in youth and war and maternal mortality in young adulthood, then you need to have more children than today, not less.

oneeyedman December 2, 2012 at 7:18 am

My understanding is this is something of a myth about pre industrial society. Old people are net producers not consumers as a group in most,maybe even nearly all, traditional societies.

Mark Thorson December 2, 2012 at 9:30 am

Yes, there’s a graph in Time on the Cross which shows this.

Millian December 2, 2012 at 9:49 am

I was not really referring to pre-industrial society, but to early industrial society. The economics of pre-industrial society are not helpful in answering this question. War and maternal mortality were common causes of death among young people in the 1910s, for instance.

shrikanthk December 2, 2012 at 7:47 am

Well all this is based on an assumption of rationality. An assumption that people budgeted for say 10 pregnancies hoping that out of the 10, atleast 4 will result in robust adults 20 years hence.

Not sure if couples thought that way.
I think Douthat is spot on. People had kids because they liked having kids. The fact that not even significant mortality rates deterred them suggests a very high threshold for physical and emotional suffering.

Rahul December 2, 2012 at 10:59 am

So now the men of those glorious times are not just selfless but also irrational?

Perhaps, irrationally selfless?

Chris December 2, 2012 at 11:10 am

People had kids because they liked having kids.

If this is true, then obviously they weren’t selfless, and Douthat is wrong.

Engineer December 2, 2012 at 11:14 am

People had kids for various reasons. Some primary ones: perpetuation of the family, 401K alternative, perpetuation of the nation, sense that children are a main joy in life, religious obligation,

Engineer December 2, 2012 at 5:59 am

Douthat writes:

In 1990, 65 percent of Americans told Pew that children were “very important” to a successful marriage; in 2007, just before the current baby bust, only 41 percent agreed. (That trend goes a long way toward explaining why gay marriage, which formally severs wedlock from sex differences and procreation, has gone from a nonstarter to a no-brainer for so many people.)

Indeed.

mavery December 2, 2012 at 11:21 pm

The causality actually makes more sense the other way.

“Marriage is for the gays, too” –> “Children are not that important to a successful marriage”

makes more sense than

“Children are not that important to a successful marriage” –> “Marriage is for the gays, too”

mrmandias December 4, 2012 at 5:52 pm

On the ground, the decline in childbirths and association between marriage/children preceded the movement for gay marriage. If there’s a connection, which I suspect, its Douthat’s way, not yours.

Millian December 2, 2012 at 6:26 am

Normally, TC requires more evidence before agreeing with a unilateral condemnation of a single individual, never mind a whole 2-3 generations.

We know that Cowen often engages in defences of, or intellectual affiliation with, people with unpopular views, like racists such as Steve Sailer. However, it seems from his unargued condemnation here that this defence of people with unpopular positions is due more to a desire to be a contrarian gadfly than to a sense of intellectual consistency or fairness.

The quote makes sense if, by “decadence”, you mean “women having more sovereignty over their own bodies”. The stoic Classical morality did not have much time for women either, even relative to the standards of the time.

Millian December 2, 2012 at 6:29 am

A good MR post would be TC considering six or seven reasons why people who disagree with him believe that birth rates have fallen.

As it stands, he is simply contributing to another phenomenon he dislikes: the imputation of bad motives (decadence, whatever that means) to people who disagree with him.

oneeyedman December 2, 2012 at 7:21 am

Actually he was attributing bad motives to a group in which he included himself, so it isn’t just a matter of comparative status.

Millian December 2, 2012 at 9:50 am

I did not write that he was trying to raise his status (i.e. based on behaviour). I wrote that he was imputing bad motives to people who disagreed with him (i.e. based on beliefs).

shrikanthk December 2, 2012 at 8:01 am

Neither Cowen nor Douthat are imputing bad motives.
They’re just empathizing with a widely held conservative view.
Something that George Gilder, the Reagan era intellectual, articulated several decades ago.

The rise of feminism – the feminization of men – the way these movements encouraged the welfare state. These trends have been discussed now for a long time.

This is not a condemnation of modern life, but just a perceptive observation of the same.
But liberals who like to believe that progress is continuous and that today is always better than yesterday in every respect don’t like hearing these views

Engineer December 2, 2012 at 8:13 am

This is not a condemnation of modern life, but just a perceptive observation of the same. But liberals who like to believe that progress is continuous and that today is always better than yesterday in every respect don’t like hearing these views

Bingo.

The same people who are critical of the pursuit of selfish interest in the economic sphere somehow think that it will all just work itself out when individuals pursue selfish interests in the personal sphere. But it’s just not so.

shrikanthk December 2, 2012 at 8:28 am

Yep. Well put.

Also it’s the liberals who caricaturize free market as the “pursuit of self interest”. In fact it is not so.
Innovation in the free market is not motivated by self interest, but altruistic creativity and a desire to amass wealth for posterity.

There’s less incentive to innovate in a decadent society where people only care for their “selves” in both the economic and personal spheres. This has no doubt contributed atleast a little bit to the Great Stagnation that Tyler bemoans.

Matt December 2, 2012 at 11:27 am

pursue selfish interests in the personal sphere

Well, pursuing personal interests is what makes it a personal sphere. The dispute is what is the personal sphere (if anything).

Daniel Dostal December 2, 2012 at 4:22 pm

echo chamber much?

Cliff December 2, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Daniel,

Yep, they broke the rule of no more than two people in a row who agree on anything. I hope no one comes along after me and agrees with us!

Claudia December 2, 2012 at 8:36 am

It’s not a perceptive observation, it’s a cop out. Cultural mores change, yup, But you know what? Economic and political institutions can too. Looking back longingly at days of old…when women had more babies and men were men…can be a fun pastime but it does nothing for our current struggles. Change is disruptive but we don’t have to take such gloom and doom view of it. (I know that’s a fun pastime for some too.) No political ideology has a monopoly on good ideas for our current, actual society…actually I doubt any of them even have the problems figured out.

Engineer December 2, 2012 at 8:41 am

Looking back longingly at days of old…when women had more babies and men were men…can be a fun pastime but it does nothing for our current struggles

Yes but the point is first to acknowledge the situation – as Douthat and Cowen seem to but many people do not.

Francis Fukayama used to believe that contemporary capitalist democracy was the endpoint of human development. He asked whether it contained a “cultural contradiction” that would lead to its breakdown. The demographic collapse seems to be the answers.

shrikanthk December 2, 2012 at 8:53 am

We look back to the past because the past provides us with time tested principles and cultural guidelines and markers.

It’s the present cultural mores that have necessitated a welfare state to take care of single women with kids and a police state to take care of single men.

Claudia December 2, 2012 at 9:03 am

Disagree, shrikanthk.

As an aside, I watched Lincoln last night with my dad. Loved it…favorite part the compass speech. I think your argument about the past remind me of some side characters in the movie, but I just can’t place it …

ladderff December 2, 2012 at 10:47 am

Claudia, argument by innuendo is becoming your go-to move.

Claudia December 2, 2012 at 12:30 pm

ladereff, would you like me to assess your go-to move? See I have refused myself a popular one here. I do NOT attack individuals, but I am also not satisfied with being a wallflower. I took issue with his *argument*: “We look back to the past because the past provides us with time tested principles and cultural guidelines and markers.” I am sorry but that wrong-headed argument came up repeatedly in Lincoln. At times it holds, but not always and when it fails we can stay far astray. I did not want anyone to infer that shrikanthk is or is like a racist. And yet, his *argument* that the past always tells us the path forward is, in my opinion, a dangerous, conservative (little c) notion. Also I should be able to express my disagreement with someone’s argument without personal attack or reprimand. If it’s any consolation, my new go-to move here actually involves less voice and more exit.

Andrew' December 2, 2012 at 11:53 pm

Maybe cultural mores don’t change as much as the marketing campaigns.

Millian December 2, 2012 at 9:53 am

Blaming social change on “decadence” is imputing bad motives. It is a condemnation of modern life. Do you think “decadence” is a word used to praise or to condemn? I subjectively disagree with some of your other points, but you are free to hold them – I think you are objectively incorrect to say that talking about “decadence” is not a form of condemnation.

If I were to take objection to anything else you said, it doesn’t seem to me that “liberals” under the American definition, like Paul Krugman, believe the things you think they believe. Krugman loves the 1950s.

shrikanthk December 2, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Claudia : Anything taken to an extreme is undesirable.
Did I ever say that past tells us everything we need to do?
All I am saying is that I will think real hard before we put aside the conventional verities on marriage and gender roles that have evolved over the last 10,000 years!

The reason why history is often so much more useful than “Reason” is because it encompasses a wider range of circumstances. Historical wisdom has undergone many more natural “stress tests” than the inferences drawn by the exercise of human reason.

Micha Elyi December 5, 2012 at 7:23 am

…George Gilder, the Reagan era intellectual…
shrikanthk

1973 was the “Reagan era”? That’s when George Gilder wrote Sexual Suicide.

Cliff December 2, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Where do you and prior_approval come up with these claims that women wanted to be below replacement level fertility all along but men beat them until they had more children? Is there any evidence of this? I just can’t believe that men want more children than women do, surely there has been a survey or something?

Rahul December 2, 2012 at 6:39 am

“Today’s babies are tomorrow’s taxpayers and workers and entrepreneurs, and relatively youthful populations speed economic growth and keep spending commitments affordable. […] it isn’t clear that the United States can continue to rely heavily on immigrant birthrates to help drive population growth. ”

Why not import in the right kind of immigrants instead? And I don’t mean the haphazard crop of illegal immigration. We don’t even have to wait till “tomorrow” for them to pay taxes and serve as workers. Doesn’t this speed up the process of keeping the ” workers per retiree” ratio on target?

Instead of relying on “immigrant birthrates” why not directly rely on immigrant numbers? Is there any danger of the pipeline drying up anytime soon?

One argument might be if our native harvest of youth is wiser and superior to potential imports but frankly, that’s a hard case to make. Do we want more children for their own intrinsic value or as a utilitarian means to producing more workers and taxpayers for the future?

Doji Star December 2, 2012 at 8:38 am

I currently live in Singapore, with (near?) the lowest birthrate in the world, and this is basically their strategy: to import foreign labor directly, low skill workers to keep suppress wages at the low end to maintain competitiveness, and high skill workers to pay the big tax money and support housing prices through rents and purchases (given that the vast majority of Sings own housing). I’m not saying it’s a bad idea. Why NOT outsource child-rearing and education to another country? Also, if you don’t give the workers residency, they must go back home when they get old and retire and won’t consume social services. It does cause a lot of social problems and resentment among the natives, however, and, in the long run, I guess it would turn a nation into the country equivalent of a downtown mostly full of commuters.

Rahul December 2, 2012 at 11:03 am

I think Singapore gets the residency-denial part wrong.

In any case, the alternative of encouraging a spurt in native fertility is going to produce de facto citizens anyways.

The Wobbly Guy December 2, 2012 at 8:41 pm

Well, we can give them residency, but there are no guarantees they’ll still stay either. Not when the purchasing power parities are so much in their favor when they take the money earned here in Singapore back to their home countries.

Also, we don’t really ‘own’ our housing. We just lease it from the govt for 99 years. Alas.

However, your last sentence is entirely correct. Are we going to become a transient nation?

Jan December 2, 2012 at 8:47 am

Yes. I am only thirty years old, but I occasionally think of how the US can really “keep up” to pay for my Medicare one day. Less likely and more logical than massive tax increases I think is a more liberal immigration policy. This is especially necessary in the health care field, with looming expansion of insurance coverage and deficit of qualified docs.

Steve Sailer December 2, 2012 at 4:01 pm

To follow up on Rahul’s suggestion, whenever I go to see my kids’ sports competitions, I always root for the other team if it looks like it’s going to win. After all, who cares about your own kin? Being on the winning side is all that matters!

Oh, except that I get the impression that Rahul wants more immigration into America of people with names like Rahul, so he is _rooting_ for his kin when he tells us not to root for our own.

Daniel Dostal December 2, 2012 at 4:26 pm

My, those words have twisty little definitions, don’t they Steve?

Steve Sailer December 2, 2012 at 5:29 pm

Thanks for that 100% content-free response.

Jan December 2, 2012 at 6:15 pm

The Grand Wizard strikes again. Another totally absurd comment.

Petar December 4, 2012 at 11:50 am

I am not sure what is totally absurd about it. Maybe the fact that all non-white groups in America (and Europe) are tribal and whites are not? Or the way that the media and academics say this is a good thing and do everything in their power to prevent it from changing?

Paul December 2, 2012 at 6:33 pm

The children of South-Asian immigrant I have met all seem pretty indistinguishable from upper middle class white kids. Kind of like the kids of East Asian immigrants. Most of whom seemed pretty disposed to marry upper middle class white kids and have their progeny become upper middle class white kids. So I am not sure why people who want Anglos to retain control of the nation would object to more high skill immigration, when in all likelihood high skill immigration would mean a lot more educated immigrants from those parts of the world.

Cliff December 2, 2012 at 10:49 pm

I’m sure you do not know Rahul well if you attribute such motives to him. It’s also not very clear what your “team” is supposed to be. Just white people?

Corey December 3, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Jesus Christ.

jh December 3, 2012 at 3:48 pm

lol steve, they mad. they so mad

Claudia December 2, 2012 at 6:47 am

I think Douthat went astray with his cultural exhaustion / present-bias at the end of the article. ‘It’s the economy, stupid’. Greater economic instability puts a real damper on child rearing which is a disruptive life event too, The unstable or dynamic nature of the modern economy doesn’t just take away grinding, but secure jobs in the factories. It also pushes people to hone their specializations in years and years of schooling. (And a delayed start to child bearing is likely to reduce the overall total.) The fact that birth rates dropped so much in the recession and particularly among immigrants is a sign of how important economic conditions are, but these economic trends were in place before too.. Small measures, like telecommuting and backup child care can do some good in smoothing out the work disruptions of family life. More worklife flexibility (incl. validating multiple career paths) is a good way to manage economic instability … and boost the birth rate. The demise of community is related and reinforcing..

Personally, I always thought I would be part of this problem too. I did not think having children could be compatible with a successful career…and I always knew working, not tending house was my comparative advantage (ever baked a cake with salt instead of sugar? oops).. I was right on both counts, but fortunate enough to still have two children. I do not cherish my kids for their future selves (utterly fear teenage years), but for who they are and how they affect my life are now. No I will not be the best that I could have been professionally, but I am good with that (does the world really need even more too smart economists?) and I can still provide for them. Some semblance of life stability was important before each birth and I suspect that’s a missing ingredient for many now.

Engineer December 2, 2012 at 4:13 pm

I do not cherish my kids for their future selves (utterly fear teenage years)

It’s OK to just come out and say that you are not comfortable with the coarseness of the culture ….

Daniel Dostal December 2, 2012 at 4:27 pm

A bit too Socratic for most.

Claudia December 2, 2012 at 7:26 pm

Nah, I actually have a high tolerance for coarseness…I am here, right? I doubt my concerns about the future are unique to me or my generation of moms.

Engineer December 3, 2012 at 10:39 am

I actually have a high tolerance for coarseness…I am here, right?

MR comments.are subdued rather than coarse. To see coarseness, it’s necessary to visit the liberal blogs eg. this “A-list” liberal blogger (who has appeared on CNN): http://crooksandliars.com/john-amato/ross-douthat-kidding

Claudia December 3, 2012 at 11:19 am

some MR comments are coarse…in the sense that they strip others of their humanity. sure it could be worse, but it could be much better. this is the MR post that made me question this place: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2011/05/incentives-installment-1438.html maybe coarse is not the right word, but some adjective that is neither cheerful nor hopeful must be. you are of course free to disagree and to say what you want how you want. I decided in the end that was more important too, but that doesn’t change my impression of what it is.

Jeroen December 2, 2012 at 7:19 am

So not wanting to contribute to the current overpopulation of the world is decadence now? Right. *roll eyes*

shrikanthk December 2, 2012 at 7:42 am

The world is not overpopulated.
In fact the world is a rather deserted place.
The population density if one considers the land area is around 50 per sq.km I think.

America in particular is a sparsely populated country.

Rahul December 2, 2012 at 7:55 am

So, at what point would your calculations consider the world sufficiently populated?

babar December 2, 2012 at 8:01 am

when we are swimming in our own filth and apple products

shrikanthk December 2, 2012 at 8:05 am

I am not clever enough to hazard a guess.
Having said that, the people who worry about man’s ecological footprint and raise Malthusian fears aren’t too clever either.

A lot depends on how much agricultural productivity can improve in this century. The last 2-3 decades haven’t been great from an agri-productivity standpoint.

Bristol December 2, 2012 at 8:37 am

We still have wildlife to replace. Some ecosystem services are best utilized by leaving wildlife partly intact, but the conservativist preference is not optimal. As long as we are not using these resources, “overpopulation” is greatly misleading.

And yes, some animals live there, but if you care about them, you should also realize they die agonizing deaths all the time.

Marginal Devolution December 2, 2012 at 11:20 am

Bristol:

Conservationists (or ones like me) don’t care about the animals dying or not, they care about the untouched state of nature.

The sustainable (i.e. one that won’t require eventual correction somehow, by technology or death) number of people, according to the scientists that have studied it, is about 2 billion. Today, with our 7 billion, we will consume 1.5x the resources that the earth produces, meaning we are cutting into our ecological savings.

Brian Donohue December 2, 2012 at 12:16 pm

2 billion? And you say this is science? Uh-oh.

Look to the person on your left. Now look to the person on your right. Yup, they’re both gonna have to go.

Rahul December 2, 2012 at 12:50 pm

@BrIan Donohue

Science never promised happy conclusions……

PS. I agree with you about that number being absurd.

Bristol December 2, 2012 at 9:50 pm

“Conservationists (or ones like me) don’t care about the animals dying or not, they care about the untouched state of nature.”

Yes, this is the attitude I sincerely fear, because it will pointlessly perpetuate massive amounts of preventable involuntary suffering. It is unclear to me why anybody would be motivated to care about “the untouched state of nature”. Why would anybody believe this is the optimal state of this system?

I don’t know where the “2 billion” estimate comes from, but it seems utter nonsense. The important phrase is this: “that won’t require eventual correction somehow, by technology or death” – should we not count chemical fertilizer as a “correction by technology”? What about vertical farming? And so on.

Cliff December 2, 2012 at 10:53 pm

“The untouched state of nature” is not an intelligible concept. Mass extinctions happen all the time in a geological sense. Animals expand uncontrollably and dramatically alter ecosystems all the time. Are you lobbying for a return to a lifeless planet? Do you not consider humans to be a part of nature?

mulp December 4, 2012 at 12:20 am

Bristol is looking forward to taking his kids to the zoo to see people living in cages given all the other species have been eliminated so only deviate people are considered wildlife.

Bristol December 4, 2012 at 11:58 am

I don’t have children. Reproduction is a victimization process. It is non-consensual and causes suffering. We have an obligation not to harm strangers. We have no obligation to bring benefits to strangers. Potential children cannot consent, and should be treated like strangers.

However, the same is true for wild animals: They are born without consent and suffer without consent – considerably. No need to preserve such a system.

Adam December 2, 2012 at 8:13 am

Yes, clearly the one resource that humans require is land area — of any variety — so it makes most sense to measure population density by dividing the the non-wet surface area of the globe by total number of people. This is an especially apt way to look at America. It’s amazing how we underconsume!

Jan December 2, 2012 at 8:50 am

It ain’t about the proportion of landmass we occupy, but about other things, like water, fossil fuels and food production.

Millian December 2, 2012 at 9:56 am

“America in particular is a sparsely populated country.”

The Netherlands would be too, if it had huge deserts and mountain ranges as well as coastal areas. Think!

shrikanthk December 2, 2012 at 10:25 am

Well I do understand why America is not as densely populated as Netherlands!
But still this country can support more than 40-50 per sq.km!
Especially in an ideal world with low trade barriers allowing import of deficient resources.

Bristol December 2, 2012 at 10:40 am

There are value structures that can be built in deserts or mountain ranges. This may improve with technology innovation. Deserts have a high energy input, for instance.

With desalination techniques and vertical farming, energy, water and food are somewhat fungible.

Bristol December 2, 2012 at 10:44 am

….and by fungible, I mean substitution.

Jeroen December 2, 2012 at 1:29 pm

@Shrikanthk: I know you’re basically trolling here, but that’s a ridiculous statement. Population density is only part of the problem. It’s the surface we need to feed/clothe/… everyone.

So, either we need to become a lot more efficient with what we have or we need less people. (Or colonize other planets)

shrikanthk December 2, 2012 at 10:04 pm

I don’t know what constitutes a troll.
I never said the population density is the only thing to be concerned with.
It is a part of the problem yes. But a part we cannot overlook.
You talk of efficiency. But if the most efficient/productive countries on earth are not producing enough kids who can help improve efficiencies, it is a problem.

buddyglass December 2, 2012 at 6:07 pm

Despite what people may report, I very much doubt that’s a significant factor in the lower birth rate. I can’t think of anyone who really wants more kids but declines to have them out of an altruistic concern for overpopulation.

Cliff December 2, 2012 at 10:54 pm

Well, there are many people who profess that is their reason for not having kids. Hard to know if they would have any kids if you took that reason away.

mrmandias December 4, 2012 at 5:31 pm

There is also social pressure. Many people are conformists.

I don’t know how much that matters, but I bet it does matter.

Prakash December 2, 2012 at 8:35 am

Modern societies have to embrace SENS and especially applications where women’s fertility and vitality remains undiminished until menopause. Beyond menopause, except fertility, all other vital parameters should be maintained. Despite being a man, I have to agree that the transhumanist utilitarian priority is female aging.

That will provide at the minimum, a 28 year period of fertility in which women would look, feel and be young. Even 10 years spent in advancing a career would leave a substantial period in which the responsible section of society can choose to reproduce to the average rate of 2.1.

Millian December 2, 2012 at 9:56 am

Man thinks women should try to be hotter – stop presses.

Daniel Dostal December 2, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Hotness through physical improvement is a good thing. Hotness through makeup and perfume is not. Supporting the former and not the latter does seem to be important today.

Micha Elyi December 5, 2012 at 5:56 am

Ha ha. How large is the cosmetics industry?

Who consumes 90% of its output? Females who think they should try to be hotter. Clothing industry, too. And cosmetic surgery. Don’t forget diet foods.

P.S. Why is it that Cosmo and Glamour always have a female on the cover? Because females want to look at hot females.

The Anti-Gnostic December 2, 2012 at 8:42 am

Left to their own devices, K-selection groups appear to be voting with their ovaries and their policy preferences for, e.g., national parks over more housing and resource extraction. Tax-hungry governments with their economists’ mania for ‘growth’ add 1 to 1.5 million to the US population every year. My prediction, white middle class backpackers won’t win these debates.

mw December 2, 2012 at 8:50 am

At least buried amongst all the bloviating, Douthat acknowledges the existence of the hard numeric evidence of Sweden and France as positive controls for government spending. Of course I understand that data doesn’t lend itself to creative flowery theorizing verbiage, but it is on the other hand data.

Ryan December 2, 2012 at 9:36 am

“The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, … a decadence”

This trend is not the result of a night of passion in which judgment is impeded by one too many cocktails. It seems more likely that it is the carefully reasoned conclusion that a younger generation has made in response to their upbringing and possibly in response to the older generations’ use of resources.

Paul December 2, 2012 at 9:38 am

Let’s not forget that the cost of child rearing in the U.S. has gone up dramatically. It is no longer socially acceptable to let 5 year old kids roam in the neighborhood and do whatever they feel like, or to send them to their room for more minutes than their age, or even to spank them (and let’s face it, whatever you think about spanking, it is a lower cost method of achieving good behavior than methods in use today). Today’s parents are expected to provide a constant menu of stimulating and developmentally appropriate activities for their children, at least through high school. Parental life is organized around children more than ever before. This may not be true of everyone, but it is certainly true on average of the classes of society experiencing lower fertility.

Douthat’s observation of a retreat from child-rearing mistakes margins for averages. Many parents would like to be parenting less at the margin, which may result in people having less kids. It is because the average level of investment per child is so much higher than it was 20 or 30 years ago.

Susan December 3, 2012 at 12:16 am

Actually, spanking is a low-cost way to achieve poor behavior: it leads to more tantrums, lower levels of attention, lower levels of self-regulation and more oppositional behavior. Basically the research says, if you want a miserable life spank your child.

Paul December 3, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Good one. Actually all the “research” in this class says, “follow X parenting strategy, or you/your child will be miserable.” Where X is whatever somebody is trying to sell. Don’t be deceived.

Micha Elyi December 5, 2012 at 6:21 am

Actually, you’re wrong.

One could argue that what Susan mentioned is only correct about 95 to 98% of children and that a few children are always going to be the proverbial “bad seed”. (I am willing to stipulate any degree of badness of your own seed that you care to assert.)

I’ve noticed numerous* unwed mothers beat their tiny children.** I wonder if these lazy parents are aware that they’re teaching their children that hitting is an acceptable way to get ones own way. I also wonder what they’ll do when their child reaches adolescence and can dish out more damage than momma can.

*’Numerous’, like ‘many’ is not a number and cannot be used to form a percentage.

**Yes, this is anecdotal evidence.

Edward Burke December 2, 2012 at 10:03 am

from strannikov’s “HIGH DEFINITIONS”: “Parenting: the begetting of children so that they may be raised by someone else.” Cf. “Maturity: the ruse by which the infantile, the puerile, and the juvenile extend their terms in office.”

Brian.donohue December 2, 2012 at 10:12 am

I don’t share Russ’s general “where will we find the people” hand-wringing, but the excerpted paragraph is obviously true and incontrovertible, no? When I was growing up, 4 and 5 children families were not uncommon.

Having been through most of the parenting cycle myself now, I have to say that is insane.

Millian December 2, 2012 at 3:29 pm

How can a moral condemnation be “incontrovertible”? Especially one as weakly-explained as that of Douthat, and as weakly-supported as Cowen’s reluctance to say why he holds the beliefs he chooses, apart from social conformity around the gadfly GMU right-wing men’s dinner table.

Brian Donohue December 2, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Look, I’m just copping to the idea that my generation is more self-centered than my parent’s generation. My own experience overwhelmingly supports this view, but I suppose YMMV- maybe your parents are baby boomers.

This manifests itself in all sorts of ways, like “No way am I having five kids.” It doesn’t make me a bad person, nor is it cause for hurling silly calumnies against the author of this blog.

mrmandias December 4, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Depends on where you live. We have five kids in a small house but with a big yard and mild winters and the burden isn’t too bad. We’ve made a conscious choice not to do nice vacations very often, stuff like that, and we have to live like parents for another decade or so, but that’s something any adult can do. No heroic effort is required.

jdm December 2, 2012 at 10:15 am

I regard the near universal drop in fertility rates as one of the few bright spots in world affairs. Not because I hate children (I have two of my own), or don’t appreciate that they keep the economy and culture dynamic, and not because I prefer what is to what might be, or value the current generations over future ones. In fact, it is exactly the opposite – I think fertility drops, and the resulting stabilization of the population are essential prerequisites in order for future generations to thrive. The world is on track for a human population of around 9 billion. Those 9 billion are going to want food and electricity and cars and big houses and everything else that people reading this blog enjoy. It’s very doubtful (to me) that the earth can support that many people at US standards of living for an indefinite period of time, certainly not with current technology. If the immediate cause of the drop in fertility rates is decadence, so be it. As a side note, I find it odd for economists, who typically argue for the primacy of personal preferences, to decry an individual’s decision to not have children.

mike December 2, 2012 at 10:42 am

“The world is on track for a human population of around 9 billion.”

The problem is not the quantity, but the expected quality of the additional 2 billion. They may “want” a US standard of living, or even a Jetsons standard of living or whatever you can dream up, but they will be incapable of producing or even maintaining it. That is why the barrenness among the most capable and productive is so disastrous.

jdm December 2, 2012 at 11:09 am

That may be. But people in most places are able to build and maintain 500 MW coal powered electricity generation plants. The resulting enormous carbon emissions from the growth in this activity alone are likely over the next few generations to make life rather difficult for our descendants.

go December 2, 2012 at 12:27 pm

You mean white people right

the problem is that white people (who are the only ones capable of creating a 21st-century standard of living) are not having kids

and the descent of MR into the HBD morass continues

JonF December 2, 2012 at 4:16 pm

Anyone can generate a 21st century of living, provided they are living in the 21st century. The laws of nature, the laws of economics, and human nature are the same all over.

Bristol December 2, 2012 at 10:11 pm

Racism needlessly confounds this discussion. The differences in IQ, creativity, and productive personality traits, are higher between individuals than between races (if any). A dysgenic hypothesis must be based on selection between individuals, not races.

I personally don’t see this as a problem of economics, because the rate of technological innovation, including cognitive and collaborative enhancements, outweighs the speed of dysgenic selection effects (if any). It could become a political problem if religious fundamentalists (quiverfull, Islamic fundamentalists) gain more democratic weight, assuming children keep their parents’ values with high stability.

Cliff December 2, 2012 at 11:07 pm

I agree that within-genetic population selection is important, but your second sentence is not a meaningful one. What does it matter whether differences within populations are greater than between populations? It is also far from clear- consider that certain genetic populations are considered to differ in IQ, on average, by greater than a single standard deviation within the populations.

And are you arguing that “cognitive enhancements” are actually happening now? What are you basing this on, the non-g-loaded Flynn effect? I respect that position that cognitive enhancing treatments will shortly become available, although I am skeptical, but that doesn’t seem to be what you are referring to?

Bristol December 2, 2012 at 11:47 pm

Cliff, I meant cognitive enhancement in the broadest sense, including improved access to learning and information (for those who want it). I would count online education and even wikipedia, which did not exist just a few years ago and now allow people to dispose of some types of ignorance and gain some types of skills at a very chap cost, if motivated.

In the upcoming decades, we will very probably have more statistical knowledge on correlations between genes and favored cognitive traits, due to cheaper genome sequencing. Barriers to artificial genetic selection are still high and the total effects on population still small, but I think it is moderately to highly unlikely that this will be true in 30 years – and ongoing from there. In the long run, this will very probably overpower any selection effects from ordinary differential reproduction rates, unless a disruptive AGI or brain simulation breakthrough comes first, which could render the whole problem category obsolete.

Bristol December 2, 2012 at 11:50 pm

“What does it matter whether differences within populations are greater than between populations?”

It can remove the racist angle from the discussion, which is both a distraction and political mind-killing. The question is not whether people with high skin pigmentation reproduce more than people with low skin pigmentation, but whether people will less productive cognitive traits reproduce more than people with more productive cognitive traits.

Susan December 3, 2012 at 12:14 am

You presume “capability” and “productivity” and inborn virtues rather than the product of a specific context and lived experience, available to anyone born into that situation. A poor child in the US being adopted by a middle-class family rather than a poor family gives them a 12-point IQ advantage over a poor child adopted by a working-class family. We, as citizens of a republic, should always be skeptical of claims to genetic dynasties of competence.

guest December 5, 2012 at 7:03 am

” A poor child in the US being adopted by a middle-class family rather than a poor family gives them a 12-point IQ advantage over a poor child adopted by a working-class family.”
Citation needed.

no name given December 2, 2012 at 10:19 am

Why does Tyler say “…I willingly admit that I am in some ways part of the problem.”?

Thanks for clarifying.

prior_approval December 2, 2012 at 10:35 am

I believe the general director of the Mercatus Center and his apparently Moscow born wife Natasha are childless.

However, as has been pointed out by Cowen’s co-blogger, I’m not exactly a loyal reader, so it is quite possible that assumption is mistaken.

Cliff December 2, 2012 at 11:09 pm

They do have one child, I don’t know if biological or adopted.

Tom West December 2, 2012 at 11:13 am

I think for the most part, people have children for personal reasons rather than the good of society. The “good of society” are things that make oneself feel even better about the decision after the fact.

Personally, I think it’s simply that the opportunity cost of children has, with all our modern developments, risen enough that the birth rate for a wealthy modern industrialized society is almost certainly slightly to somewhat below the replacement rate.

Some government policy may slightly reduce the opportunity cost and some social developments (expectation of high-investment parenting) may slightly increase it, but the opportunity cost of 20-25 years of parenting is constantly growing as our wealth and ways of entertaining ourselves grows. I don’t think we saw a radical drop instantly because there’s some happiness in being part of the majority and it took a while for being childless to become a comfortable norm.

I do worry that as couples with children become less frequent that it goes the other way and there are pressures to not have children in order to fit in with the mainstream of society.

mrmandias December 4, 2012 at 6:03 pm

One of the more robust conclusions in social science is that social security and other old-age pension schemes have a slight but measureable depressive effect on birth rates.

The social pressure to be within + or -1 of the average family size is real. If you have 4 or more kids, you will definitely get raised eyebrows and even officious strangers suggesting that you’ve exceeded a reasonable family size and should definitely stop now.

A Berman December 2, 2012 at 11:17 am

The problem is self-limiting. Here’s how we Jews are solving the problem of low birthrates (though not in the way that perhaps that certain Jewish denominations have hoped):

http://www.thejewishweek.com/news/new-york-news/sweeping-changes-jewry-seen-ny-population-survey

Chris December 2, 2012 at 11:27 am

The word “Catholic” appears neither in his column, nor Tyler’s post, nor the first 105 comments. Is it really possible to talk about a Ross Douthat post about natalism without mentioning that?

Engineer December 2, 2012 at 11:29 am

The word “Catholic” appears neither in his column, nor Tyler’s post, nor the first 105 comments. Is it really possible to talk about a Ross Douthat post about natalism without mentioning that?

Some questions just answer themselves.

Matt December 2, 2012 at 11:34 am

It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be.

I would say that, by and large, people are interested in specific things, not abstractions like “stagnation” and “innovation”. People largely want “fast”, “safe”, “free”, “powerful” and “rich”, &c., not “new”. If anyone fails to sell the “new” to people, it is probably because they do not understand this.

I think people largely had children in the past because they enjoyed having power and authority over them, and they no longer are permitted to do so by the wider society. Authoritarian families tend to have more children.

Collin December 2, 2012 at 11:35 am

How do fix this as a higher number of children has a negative impact on wages for women and it is starting to have for men? (Having at least one children oddly enough increases wages but the higher number decreases.) Please show work that the economy and job market work against people having more children?

I am tired of past societies having (with limited and sometimes illegal birth control) more children is because of they had more virtue. My guess is virtue had nothing to do with it.

lords of lies December 2, 2012 at 11:54 am

yet again, the land whale in the room is ignored. women, american women in particular, have gotten fat. really fat. obesity is at record highs. something like 70% of all americans are overweight or obese. since this matters more for women’s attractiveness, it is simple to conclude that some of the childlessness is a result of men not being turned on enough to bother with the procreative act. you can throw in video games and porn as two more male-centric distractions leading us away from a pro-natalist culture.

Rahul December 2, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Ah! That explains why everyone’s having so much lesser sex these days.

Micha Elyi December 5, 2012 at 6:02 am

Other than you, who said “everyone”?

Look again, this blog is named Marginal Revolution. A change at the margin often has a big effect.

Tom West December 2, 2012 at 3:38 pm

it is simple to conclude that some of the childlessness is a result of men not being turned on enough to bother with the procreative act.

I’m sorry – I normally try not be insulting, but this thesis is so stupid it defies… well, anything.

Therapsid December 2, 2012 at 7:27 pm

Is it really so inane to suppose that lack of physical attraction may make men less disposed to having children?

If your wife is already morbidly obese, why would you want her to put on more weight and have children? And why would you be willing to sacrifice financially and psychologically for such a specimen of womanhood?

Tom West December 2, 2012 at 10:52 pm

It pains me to actually have to address this seriously, but let’s take the easiest case. We know that there’s a positive correlation between class and weight and there’s a negative correlation between class and # of children, so this doesn’t even pass the smell test for correctness.

I understand the ‘player’ mentality at work, but can we try to put on our reality hat here and acknowledge that the vast majority of sex (and the vast, vast majority of procreative sex) does not take place under the auspices of males cruising for “hot chicks”? I know the “game” culture is all the rage, but please, let’s remember that it’s a quaint sub-sub-culture that mirrors very little of the reality for most people outside of a few alphas and a larger coterie of worshipers moaning “why can’t I get sex with a cheerleader?”.

Therapsid December 3, 2012 at 12:22 am

Let me say it in the briefest terms possible: stating that physical attractiveness is important to men is not a new discovery made by the manosphere and game proponents.

lords of lies December 3, 2012 at 11:18 am

“We know that there’s a positive correlation between class and weight and there’s a negative correlation between class and # of children, so this doesn’t even pass the smell test for correctness.”

i believe you meant to say that there’s a negative correlation between class and weight. anyhow, your counterpoint is hardly definitive proof of the contrary: you have to look at total fertility to see if something like female obesity is having an effect. total fertility, for whites at least, is down across the board, and lower among the upper classes than the lower classes. but i was not arguing that no other factors were in play. please do read for comprehension.

“I understand the ‘player’ mentality at work,”

who said anything about a player mentality? stop putting words in my mouth. the overwhelming majority of men desire sex with slender babes. that the slightly less than overwhelming majority of men don’t have the option to fulfill their desire for sex with slender babes doesn’t mean the desire itself doesn’t exist, or that those men stuck with land whales are expressing revealed preferences.

“but can we try to put on our reality hat here and acknowledge that the vast majority of sex (and the vast, vast majority of procreative sex) does not take place under the auspices of males cruising for “hot chicks”?”

no shit. that the vast majority of sex happens between people who would sooner have sex and children with better looking alternatives if they could, should be a surprise to no one.

“I know the “game” culture is all the rage,”

what’s with this invocation of game anytime someone here talks about natural and innate sex differences that should be obvious to anyone who has lived a day in his life?

“but please, let’s remember that it’s a quaint sub-sub-culture that mirrors very little of the reality for most people outside of a few alphas and a larger coterie of worshipers moaning “why can’t I get sex with a cheerleader?”.”

every man wants sex with a hot cheerleader; not every man can get it. it is not just “alpha males” and their “worshippers” who want those cheerleaders. my thesis is that the rising rate of female obesity over the last 50 years — a rate which almost perfectly coincides with the decreasing fertility rate — has so sapped the focused animal lusts of men and their willingness to stick around that it has played a role in dinging total fertility. among other considerations, of course.

Corvinus December 3, 2012 at 12:14 pm

“It pains me to actually have to address this seriously, but let’s take the easiest case. We know that there’s a positive correlation between class and weight and there’s a negative correlation between class and # of children, so this doesn’t even pass the smell test for correctness.”

Actually, you’re wrong. This may have been true in 1990, but the upper classes are having more children and the lower classes fewer.

Tom West December 3, 2012 at 2:47 pm

every man wants sex with a hot cheerleader; not every man can get it.

Sorry, but if you’re going to quote the principle dogma of the ‘player’ culture as fact, then you’re so deep into the ‘player’ mentality that you’re unaware that it’s a subculture (and mostly a pretty sad one at that).

In the real world, long term relationships, which are usually predicated on love and the desire to be loved, have an awful lot to do with who is having sex, *especially* procreative sex.

Extreme obesity (both male and female) has a variety of health issues associated with it, but this rant is just beyond over the top. If it wasn’t for other posts you’ve made, I’d have assumed you were parodying game culture.

Susan December 3, 2012 at 12:08 am

People didn’t used to bathe, their teeth rotted in their mouths and they hung their clothing in the latrine to keep it from being eaten by moths, and yet our society continued; I think we’re safe.

Have you never heard of birth control? Occam’s razor and studies of sexual behavior say your hypothesis is the product of a desperately, misogynistic fear of being lonely for the rest of your life and not from actual data.

lords of lies December 3, 2012 at 11:33 am

“People didn’t used to bathe, their teeth rotted in their mouths and they hung their clothing in the latrine to keep it from being eaten by moths, and yet our society continued; I think we’re safe.”

women were also likely much slenderer then, too. i hate to tell you this, because you seem unready to hear it from a man, but obesity is a much greater hit to a woman’s sexual market value — her bangability — than bad teeth or moth-eaten clothes.

“Have you never heard of birth control?”

nowhere did i say that there are no other factors besides obesity contributing to fertility decline.

“Occam’s razor and studies of sexual behavior say your hypothesis is the product of a desperately, misogynistic fear of being lonely for the rest of your life and not from actual data.”

and you’d have a small penis if you were a man.

listen, lady, your scattershot and all-too-predictable insults notwithstanding to the contrary, the horrible toll obesity takes on women’s attractiveness is real, and is not conditional on the desperation or lack thereof of the very many men who are turned off by such modern grotesqueries. in fact, the men you most desire — the sexually and romantically fulfilled preselected alpha males of your dreams — are the very same men who are most vigilant about putting into practice the hypothesis that men would actively avoid sex with fat women if they had the choice to do so.

ps obesity is linked to fertility problems in women. score another one for your lord and savior of the cathedral of lies.

Nick December 2, 2012 at 4:10 pm

Yes, you AND Ross are part of the problem (if you actually take Ross’ theory seriously), since Ross doesn’t have children either. I ask you, is it self-hate that at least partially motivates bloggers and bloviators such as Ross and yourself?

Corey December 3, 2012 at 12:49 pm

No, it just indicates that they don’t really believe what they’re saying. Bryan Caplan, as crazy as he is, actually has 20 kids or something – he gets my grudging respect for that, at least.

TC and RD support having more children in the abstract, as long as someone else is doing the hard work of raising them. Do you think Tyler could read 500 books a year if he had one or more screaming babies at his home?

mrmandias December 4, 2012 at 6:07 pm

And people in favor of higher taxes don’t voluntarily pay more, Al Gore doesn’t walk everywhere he goes, anti-racists live in monoracial neighborhoods, TV preachers hire hookers, and on and on.

So what?

Micha Elyi December 5, 2012 at 6:43 am

Do you think Tyler could read 500 books a year if he had one or more screaming babies at his home?
–Corey

Perhaps. All mine enjoyed being read to and as infants they didn’t care at all what I read as long as I made it sound dramatic. Didn’t have to be in English either. When they learned to talk I had to make some adjustments.

Also, consider the possibility that you’re the cause of most of the screaming you’re getting from your babies. I found that keeping in mind that they’re tiny people with their own motivations and desires helped me anticipate problems and avoid them.

Females who pooh-pooh the vocation of motherhood seem to me to be ones who underestimate the challenges in the adventure of raising children. And the mothers of my acquaint who complain most about “screaming babies” are just plain lazy; they ignore the challenges instead of meeting and overcoming them. Watch episodes of Supernanny for examples. Nine out of ten “screaming babies” (of ages ranging from pre-toddlers to teens) are trained to be that way by their parents mothers.

CIP December 2, 2012 at 5:24 pm

The only thing more reproduction will bring us is more war. Societies become rich when they have fewer children, as can readily be seen from gapminder charts of fertility vs. Gdp per capita.

The planet already has more people than it can support.

Karin December 2, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Absolutely agree! My spouse and I – both educated, decent, hard-working people – decided twenty years ago when we were in our twenties that we would never procreate. Why? Because the world already had too many humans (5.4 billion then, 7 billion now) and we couldn’t in all conscience bring offspring into such a war-mongering, polluted, resource-scarce world. It wouldn’t have been fair to the planet or to our potential kids. This is not about selfishness or child-hating or a lack of commitment. It is about trying not to make a bad situation worse.

So Much For Subtlety December 2, 2012 at 8:40 pm

These two are trolls, right? The population of the planet has never been better fed. We are not even close to the planet’s carrying capacity – which may be soemthing like ten times the present population.

The planet is in a uniquely peaceful period. There has never been so little fighting as now. The pollution across the world is increasing – in China for instance. But it is rapidly decreasing in the developed world and so there is no reason to think it will continue to increase once East Asia and India become rich. We have never had so many resources as we have now. Nor is there any sign we are going to run out any time soon.

There has never been a better time to bring a child into the world.

Karin December 2, 2012 at 8:51 pm

Wow, that’s a new one! Never been called a troll before. And no. I am serious. Not to mention mightily puzzled by YOUR bizarre views.

So Much For Subtlety December 3, 2012 at 2:48 am

What is bizarre about them? Every one can be demonstrated. I am more curious about your views. If you really believe them, why don’t you and your partner relieve the world of your consumption by euthanasia?

Corvinus December 3, 2012 at 12:18 pm

What is bizarre about them? Every one can be demonstrated. I am more curious about your views. If you really believe them, why don’t you and your partner relieve the world of your consumption by euthanasia?

Yes. The fewer hopeless environmentalists the better.

DINKs like Karin will be a major factor in Social Security blowing up in the coming decades.

Bristol December 4, 2012 at 11:54 am

New rule: People are no longer allowed to make the “why don’t you kill yourself?” argument without having established the right-to-die as a basic human right, affirmed and guaranteed by the laws and medical profession of their state.

If you think it’s no big issue, look up suicide attempt survival statistics. And no, “They only survived because they didn’t really want to die” – without further evidence – is no longer allowed either.

prior_approval December 2, 2012 at 10:54 pm

You honestly believe 70 billion humans could live at the same time on this planet?

Honestly?

Hilarious – and I’m not being subtle.

shrikanthk December 3, 2012 at 12:28 am

Well. Definitely not possible today.
But in a distant future with significantly higher productivity, a world population in excess of 25 Bn not inconceivable. It will only mean a pop-density of 150 per sq.km.

Lots of deserted areas on earth today. Areas with very habitable climates. Think Kazakhstan, Canada, Australia.

I don’t think economists in Malthus’ generation could imagine the planet supporting 6 Bn people. You never know what the future holds!

So Much For Subtlety December 3, 2012 at 2:51 am

The UN produced an upper figure once. It was in the mid-tens of billions I believe. That was a while ago and technology has moved on. Yes, I think that something like 70 billion people could live on this planet. We would have to use most of the land surface useful for agriculture to produce food. At a much more productive rate than it is being used now.

Why do you think that is hilarious? Remember even in the US large areas of land (the Eastern seaboard for instance) have fallen out of agricultural production and have reverted to forest. Even though the US is producing vastly more food than it used to.

Brian Donohue December 2, 2012 at 10:35 pm

Are you saying that your parents made a bad situation worse?

Karin December 2, 2012 at 11:51 pm

Yes.

Brian Donohue December 2, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Well, we’ve never met, but I’d probably disagree, FWIW.

Cliff December 2, 2012 at 11:15 pm

Surely the causation is the other way around? If arguments like the one below yours are real, it’s very sad. For someone to believe that their children would be a net negative for humanity, even considering the kids and themselves. I hope such a momentous decision was made after considering actual data and not just based on assumptions/biases. Violence is far lower today than at any time in history, the world is better fed, there has never been a greater opportunity for smart people to make the world a better place. I strongly encourage smart and hard-working people to have children, even socialists!

Andrew' December 2, 2012 at 11:58 pm

We need more smart people and fewer dumb people. And as for war, just don’t fight. It’s that simple. I will refrain from making any jokes or racial or cultural assumptions, mainly because I don’t believe most of them.

If you fly over Mexico City (because I don’t fly over even better examples) or are aware of astronauts then I suspect what I’m saying will be obvious to you.

Abelard Lindsey December 2, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Do any of the people obsessing over the long-term effects of the birth-dearth consider effective anti-aging life extension such as SENS as an effective solution to the problem? Most problems that people argue incessantly over end up being solved by a technological solution. Liberal artsy people often decry such as a “mere” technological fix. However, it is my experience that technology solutions are often the positive-sum solution to any given problem (everyone gets what they want), whereas the political solution is often zero-sum. Positive sum solutions are always preferable to zero-sum ones.

Perhaps SENS and stem-cell based regenerative medicine are the appropriate solution to the birth-dearth.

Chris December 2, 2012 at 8:58 pm

SENS is no sure thing of course, but neither are the technological solutions to overpopulation that people propose. I do find it odd that the same people who blow past any mention of energy problems or agriculture shortages with hand-waving technological solutions are the same ones who flip out over possibly mildly declining population.

That said, no, Douthat would not consider SENS an “effective solution to the problem”, because his actual problem, as the quoted paragraph makes clear, is a psychological aversion to modernity that an increasing number of people simply do not share. We like “the comforts and pleasures of modernity”.

Andrew' December 3, 2012 at 12:03 am

SENS is a sure thing. It’s just a question of time. I think we’ll cure aging before we cure cancer. Most aging-related diseases appear to be coming back consistent with the premises of SENS. Cancer is the tricky problem of recognizing self from self (with a growth advantage). Once we’ve cured cancer we’ve recognizing self from non-self is easy- so we’ll likely have the tools to cure every microbial disease. We already (speculatively) have the all-virus RNA vaccine in the pipeline.

Petar December 4, 2012 at 12:11 pm

“SENS is a sure thing.”

How delightful – a real prophet able to predict the future. Will you also tell me next week’s lottery numbers?

Abelard Lindsey December 4, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Yeah? Well I like modernity and, unlike Douthat, consider it quite sustainable. And, yes, I do regard the development of radical life extension as inevitable as the development of the airplane or telephone. Its only an issue of timing (do I personally make it or not). “Making it” personally is my mission in life.

Petar December 4, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Another lunatic claiming to predict the future…
JFYI, not a single human invention was inevitable, it was all due to chance. Your post factum justification does not change this fact even a bit.

Micha Elyi December 5, 2012 at 6:56 am

No particular invention was inevitable, I’ll grant you that. But invention increased at an initially small but exponentially growing rate in the West after Christianity took hold and the Roman Empire fell. See Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success.

Susan December 3, 2012 at 12:04 am

Wait, aren’t we economists? If you want people to have children, pay them. Otherwise all bearing children does is make women’s lives worse and risk their physical health. Why would any economist expect them to do that against their rational interest?

shrikanthk December 3, 2012 at 12:50 am

I don’t like this “glorification” of rational interest.
Markets have never been about rational interest only. They have been buttressed by traditional values.
Free markets don’t work in the absence of social conservatism. Because markets by their very nature demand conformity, thrift, hard work and an altruistic desire to make dough. Decadent societies don’t promote these virtues.

And when you say that bearing children makes women’s lives worse you are making a value judgment. This is what Douthat calls the “old left-wing distaste for faith and domesticity”

Rahul December 3, 2012 at 1:42 am

“altruistic desire to make dough”

Isn’t that an oxymoron?

shrikanthk December 3, 2012 at 1:48 am

No it is not.
Most successful businessmen/entrepreneurs are not motivated by a rational pursuit of comfort, but often by a religious zeal, a desire to leave behind a legacy and a puritanical distaste for idleness and retirement.

Abelard Lindsey December 4, 2012 at 5:14 pm

Seriously? Because I am driven by hard work, thrift, and a desire to excel. Yet, I’m no social conservative and actually consider it to be a mental disorder (seriously! It is because it represents inappropriate boundaries psychologically speaking). Indeed, the aforementioned values I believe in are the core of rational self-interest.

Besides, I am not convinced we are a decadent society. The metrics of social decay are crime, drug addiction, and teen pregnancy. All of these are significantly improved since 1990. This suggests that society is less decadent (and more functional) than it was in 1990.

The Anti-Gnostic December 3, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Otherwise all bearing children does is make women’s lives worse and risk their physical health.

That cannot be the case or homo sapiens would have gone extinct long before we had enough excess wealth to debate whether to “pay” people for all those life-worsening, health-risking children. (And if we’re paying people to have children, then that necessarily means somebody else has less resources to spend on their own children, even to the point of net-payors deciding to forego children.)

Enough talk like yours, and I am going to start re-thinking my attitude on Muslim immigration. See you on the prayer mats, Susan.

prior_approval December 3, 2012 at 2:31 pm

‘all those life-worsening, health-risking children’

You are familiar with the risks associated with child birth, right? Here is a bit of an overview –

‘The death rate for women giving birth plummeted in the 20th century.

The historical level of maternal deaths is probably around 1 in 100 births.[14 – See for instance mortality rates at the Dublin Maternity Hospital 1784–1849] Mortality rates reached very high levels in maternity institutions in the 1800s, sometimes climbing to 40 percent of birthgiving women (see Historical mortality rates of puerperal fever). At the beginning of the 1900s, maternal death rates were around 1 in 100 for live births. The number in 2005 in the United States was 11 in 100,000, a decline by two orders of magnitude….’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maternal_death#Maternal_death_rates_in_the_20th_century

And note that rate is not 1 of 100 mothers, it is 1 of 100 births. And when one looks at ‘typical’ rates of pregnancy, it is reasonable to assume 10 children per fertile woman, though of course, many infants did not survive to childhood (look for yourself, though there are a lot of variables), and many children did not survive until adulthood.

So, do you have any plans to engage in an activity over the next couple of decades which involve a greater than 10% chance of dying?

Or have you never actually considered just how deadly giving birth was until the last century or so? Because a two orders of magnitude reduction in dying is actually a pretty noticeable effect. A reduction in favor of those who faced it exclusively, that being women in this specific case.

The Anti-Gnostic December 3, 2012 at 3:39 pm

The statement was that “all” bearing and raising children can do is make women’s lives worse and risk their health. That is not and cannot be the case. If you think it is, that’s your opinion, but the people who inherit the future will be the ones whose parents disagreed with you.

Micha Elyi December 5, 2012 at 7:13 am

I also noticed her use of the bait-and-switch trick of using 19th century statistics to justify feminist birth-phobic behavior in the 21st century. Heh heh.

Also, the feminists ignore that, despite the alleged holocaust of female deaths during childbirth in The Bad Old Days, life expectancy didn’t differ much by sex until the 20th century when female life expectancy rose well above men’s.

mrmandias December 4, 2012 at 6:12 pm

I disagree with the “all bearing children does” part. Your own children move your heart like nothing else can. Any definition of rational interest that precludes having children is a crabbed definition that’s useless in the real world.

But your first two sentences are spot on. France, Australia, and other places have shown that decent child subsidies have marginal effects on birth rates. Even the fact that America’s recent birth rate crash coincides with the Obama-Bush Recession shows that economics matters.

Andrew' December 3, 2012 at 1:04 am

I’d settle for stopping penalizing them. Having kids is an exercise of letting a host of busybody douchebags into your life in exchange for the privilege of doing all society’s work for it.

Matt December 3, 2012 at 3:49 am

I’m sure this has been asked upthread, but I think a good way to test this would be –

– Polling people and seeing with attitudes to future time orientation or “innovation” correlate positively with number of children or negatively.

If they correlate negatively, the idea of some general “anti-innovation” “pro-stagnation” spirit (not like those “vibrant” fundamentalists and poor countries!) being responsible for the desire for fewer children is wrong.

Floccina December 3, 2012 at 11:06 am

I willingly admit that I am in some ways part of the problem.

Don’t worry Tyler the Ana baptists and Orthodox Jews got your back. So will the population get more religious as time goes on.

Floccina December 3, 2012 at 12:09 pm

One thing that caused me to delay having children is the propaganda. Many people talked about having children like it was death to fun and career. (That seems to have changed a bit recently.) To me my children provided a great excuse to have fun. Also, there exists this foolish idea that children are expensive, but normal health children are very cheap to raise. I told my children that I spent less raising them (I sent them to cheap religious schools) than was spent on other people’s children paid for by my taxes. An extra bedroom for a few children, diapers, food and few doctor visits does not cost much (and they do not even consume the bedroom) but people write and talk about spending $200K per child! . Nonsense. Bryan Caplan is right people need to chill out about children for one thing studies show that they do just as well in “bad schools” as in “good schools”.

Urso December 3, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Pretty much agree with this. A recurring theme in this whole comment thread is that raising children is some incredible burden on people (and specifically on women).

I just cannot comprehend the mindset that progressing in one’s career is what one should *really* be doing in life, and that children are an unwelcome hindrance at worst; a sometimes-pleasant distraction at best. Yet so many commenters seem to take that as a given.

The Anti-Gnostic December 3, 2012 at 3:55 pm

It never occurs to all the special snowflakes out there that 98% of us, even the privilege-laden white males, don’t have “careers.” We have jobs. Of the ones who have “careers,” 98% of them will be forgotten by all their fellow careerists within a month (more like a week) of their death or retirement. And women are clamoring to join that? Do they realize what a scam it all is?

Claudia December 3, 2012 at 4:15 pm

As far as I am concerned we are all “special snowflakes” … and we should have the right to choose our own life path (with all the fruits and trials that it entails). I said upstream that I was never adept around the house, but I pitched in. It irked me no end that I was scolded as an adult woman because I did not enjoy cleaning. I will do a lot of stuff because it needs to get done, but don’t tell me what I should find worthwhile or easy. It’s deeply paternalistic and I bet most folks here would bristle if the tables were turned on them.

Engineer December 3, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Who said anything about housework?

The point was that the culture’s promotion of the self-actualization thru career thing has gotten old. And that the idea is actually not good for society.

A typical response on this thread seems to be: “yeah well … back in the old days then there was slavery, sexuallly repressed teenagers, feudalism, uncomfortable underwear, housing discrimination etc.”

The Anti-Gnostic December 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Nobody enjoys cleaning. We clean because we have to.

As for “career,” again, unless you’re Jonas Salk or Isaac Newton, the rest of us will have every trace of our existence obliterated from the workplace within a week of death or retirement. There is no way such a time-limited, purely monetary endeavour is worth more emotional involvement and energy than family life.

Claudia December 3, 2012 at 5:20 pm

“Nobody enjoys cleaning. We clean because we have to.” Not true. I was married to a counterexample for over a decade and I know where to find plenty more who love “sauber machen.” But I agree work is often work. But people should get to choose the work that seems least like work for them. Home production is the sweet spot for some, the ivory tower for others, and the corporate tower for others still. We seem to agree that work has some drudgery to it, but child rearing is not all sunshine and roses either. I would argue that the benefits likely exceed the costs in both cases, but I can see reasonable people allocating across the options. At my work, I like to say that I am easily (and thankfully) replaceable, but I am not perfectly interchangeable. Sure at home I am less easy to replace or interchange, but I enjoy the various challenges. I certainly do not begrudge others who choose differently.

Urso December 4, 2012 at 10:00 am

What’s interesting to me is that you’ve framed the two choices as “toiling away to increase the bottom line of a Fortune 500 company” and “housework,” as if there’s no possible other option. It’s curious how this strain of feminism (not by any means the only strain, but the predominant one) is so unflinchingly corporatist and careerist in its outlook.

Tom West December 4, 2012 at 10:27 am

There is no way such a time-limited, purely monetary endeavour is worth more emotional involvement and energy than family life.

No matter what we choose, we’ll be essentially dust no matter what once the last person who personally knew us dies.

I tend towards the family side of things, but let’s face it, on the job you tend to get praise from your boss, company from your co-workers, a paycheck, which, in modern society, is essentially the base metric for respect, and the satisfaction of having completed a job. Also, most jobs are ~8 hours a day.

Child rearing, on the other hand, is ~30-40 hours a day when the kids are young, and often not a lot of positive feedback. You do get love in return, but if you’re successful, oddly enough, not a lot of gratitude until much older. (After all, most happy children take their parents love and affection so much for grated, they can’t imagine not receiving it any more than they can imagine a world without air. It’s only much later when one realizes to one’s horror that not everyone is so privileged that gratitude true emerges.)

Finally, if you’ve done a good job, your children will establish independent existences that will intersect with yours, but won’t form the base part of your life.

I like my family life because I’m somewhat domestically minded, but I certainly don’t expect most or even a majority to prefer it over one’s job.

Of course, in reality, most of us try are really simply choosing a ratio between both. I know of no-one who would personally choose exclusively one or the other.
In the end, if you’re successful, the kids make it out into the world on their own and

uffy December 3, 2012 at 4:21 pm

So women should simply stop seeking financial gain if it in any way hinders their child-rearing capacity? Career or job – whatever we agree to call employment – it’s the only thing I know of that can pay the bills.

Is just taken as a given that male wages would close any gap in household income were women to pursue additional child-rearing responsibilities? What of additional costs?

The Anti-Gnostic December 3, 2012 at 5:28 pm

So women should simply stop seeking financial gain if it in any way hinders their child-rearing capacity?

I think they should, knowing that careers are fleeting, over-rated things. Of course everybody has to answer that question for themselves.

DINK households don’t net out very well, actually. If one of the spouses makes less, he or she is basically just paying the taxes. If the incomes are equal, then they just end up paying somebody else to raise the children.

The Anti-Gnostic December 3, 2012 at 5:32 pm

*double income households

Engineer December 3, 2012 at 3:59 pm

I just cannot comprehend the mindset that progressing in one’s career is what one should *really* be doing in life, and that children are an unwelcome hindrance at worst; a sometimes-pleasant distraction at best. Yet so many commenters seem to take that as a given.

Yes Indeed. In the community where I live a couple with 0 or even 1 kid is viewed with silent kind of pity. i just cannot fathom the kind of sentiment you accurately described.

uffy December 3, 2012 at 4:06 pm

It’s incomprehensible to you that a huge economic expense could in any case be considered a “burden”? “Progressing in one’s career” is often the only way possible to afford passable housing, health care and education as most businesses do not simply provide free goods to parents.

mulp December 4, 2012 at 1:33 am

“Pretty much agree with this. A recurring theme in this whole comment thread is that raising children is some incredible burden on people (and specifically on women).”

If the woman’s husband is working, like she is working, part-time 30 hr/week @$10/hr in a warehouse with no benefits, especially no child leave, isn’t having a child a burden?

The most common male job is related: truck driving. Granted lots of truck driving in short distance deliveries, but they don’t pay that well. The best paying are medium to long distance driving, but those take you away from home for extended times and require rigid adherence to schedule.

The attack on Obama has been that all the jobs created in the past 35-40 months are primarily paying in the $10-12/hr range, heavily part-time.

Meanwhile, US businesses are extolled for their high productivity increases from replacing full-time with benefit workers who do 30-35 hr of real work in a 40-50 work week – eg, work 9-7 with no customers to serve from 10-11, and 2-4.

Micha Elyi December 5, 2012 at 7:02 am

A recurring theme in this whole comment thread is that raising children is some incredible burden on people (and specifically on women).
–Urso

Those who’ve chugged the feminist Flavor-Ade have to believe it – to do otherwise is to deny the feminist Females Are Victims narrative.

mulp December 4, 2012 at 12:52 am

Ok, historically, women had many children, unless they died in childbirth before having lots of children, or they were infertile, or were chaste and remained at home caring for her brothers and sisters and elders.

Children then died at high rates before age 5.

Thus high birth rates led to virtually no population growth except over thousands of years, or when civilizations improved living conditions and provided public health facilities, like the Roman and Inca water works, long before the London invention of public health policy is figuring out how cholera spread.

It took perhaps a thousand years to double the population of the population in the best of conditions, But since I was born, the population has nearly doubled twice.

Having more than 2.1 children was not indulgence, but selected for the species to survive. Any lineage where women had 3 children but 1.5 children died before fertility would be quickly eliminated. Having 5 when 3.3 die is the same as 1.7 with no deaths.

When the Spanish hit the American shores, the native populations suffered death rates that reduced the population of the Americas by at least 50% and perhaps 90% within a century simply by spread of disease. (Lots of evidence of civilization in the Americas was purposely erased to justify Christian subjection of the uncivilized savages. Inca and Maya record keeping was explicitly destroyed as policy.)

Isn’t the real indulgence the lack of suffering loss of children by death from disease?

I have not seen Tyler et al call for returning to the time of Lincoln when many women had many children, and many suffered as Abraham and Mary Lincoln did the loss of their children.

KOK December 4, 2012 at 5:33 pm

It isn’t just the white race – it’s worldwide – a unique worldwide birth bust in all societies and at all income levels. No government intervention stops it. The only groups still having children are those who still believe in one of the traditional religions such as Judaism, Catholicism, Islamism, animism. (But not including so-called religions which are really ideologies such as socialism, communism and consumerism.) Hence a Great Revival will end the bust. That all we need.

Xiaoding December 4, 2012 at 6:36 pm

“The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe. It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.”

Well, the world is just full of moralistic prigs, just bursting to blame some people for something, isn’t it?

Society needed lots of kids in days past, because they tended to die a lot. No more.

In addition, we needed people to make sutff. The more people, the more stuff you could make.

THOSE DAYS ARE GONE.

So, really no need for bunches and bunches of kids. Two is plenty, at least in the first world. Any more is a hobby.

In addition, the defective nature of natural reproduction is beginning to become apparent. As robots make more and more of our stuff, such that we no longer need as many children, science advances, so that we no longer will need so many parents as well. In other words, if we need kids, we will make kids, in the kid factorys.

All quite simple and obvious to people with a couple of brain cells, but the moralistic posuers among us need a mental framework to feel superior to the rest of us.

This is why Romeny lost. The blindness, and denial, of the right, to the future, is simply stunning. It cetainly stuns me, every time I think of voting Republican!

John December 5, 2012 at 11:22 am

Good grief. You do realize that _Brave New World_ was a DYStopia, not a Utopia, right?

If things go horribly wrong in the future, and we embrace a totalitarian, humans-as-commodities model of society and family, you could be right. But your comments are currently false and irrelevant for the most part, and pernicious in that they in fact encourage a reduction in the intelligence and character of coming generations.

Xiaoding December 5, 2012 at 7:51 pm

The future will not be denied, and it doesn’t care about you.

It also doesn’t care about “Brave New World”.

It will be what we make of it…”we” being those without blinders on.

Speaking of people as commodities, what about having tons of kids, because you need them in your old age? People have been “commodities” for quite awhile.

Dianne December 9, 2012 at 2:23 am

After all this blather we all know on thing for sure: Ross is absolutely right.

KK December 14, 2012 at 12:43 am

See Movie: Idiocracy

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