Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bad people don't have kids

I read the rational optimist blog and most of the time I agree with the blogger in question.  He is an atheist who shares a lot of my views on religion and freedom - he seems like a real libertarian who votes Republican because he really believes in self reliance and small government rather than big government that supports corporations, Christian bigotry, and the military (which is the usual Republican stance).  I don't agree with many of his political posts though and this one about the EU crisis is no exception.  In particular he espouses a viewpoint I really cannot tolerate:  Having children is equatable to moral behaviour and sensibility.  He criticizes the EU for not having enough children to support them in their time of crisis while managing to ignore the fact that the US does exactly the same thing.  Both areas have birth rates far below replacement and both rely on massive immigration to support their aging populations.  He thinks the Europeans should have sex more as some kind of antidote to financial problems.

The idea that having children is a noble and inherently worthwhile thing to do is pretty well entrenched in our culture.  I think that this sort of thinking is pretty necessary if you want an advanced nation to actually have a birthrate anywhere close to replacement since an awful lot of people really would prefer to continue to live life without the constraints of children.  Children have their own benefits, of course, but they have enormous costs too and many people will be happier without.  The world has no shortage of young people interested in moving to a rich nation to work at the moment and quite frankly the only way we are going to get our population lower is to go through a time when babies are scarce; the idea that every nation can fix its problems by having an eternal baby boom is ridiculous.

This does mean that as the world population peaks we are going to be facing the immense problem of an abundance of very old people and a lack of young people to do the work of supporting the old.  That is an inevitable situation and we had better think up answers for that problem rather than just trying to breed our way out since we *know* that more babies is not viable long term!  For the moment the strategy of constantly bringing in immigrants into the first world is functional but at some point the world population is going to start dropping and then the current system is not going to be workable anymore.

From a personal perspective I found that the advice on having children was very much like the advice on relationships that you can expect from people:  That is, not very useful.  I have been in relationships that weren't right for me and nobody said anything until afterword where they questioned my judgement; while I was in the relationship though I got nothing but encouragement.  My mother tells me that within minutes of meeting Wendy she was sure that Wendy would make a great partner for me, this despite the fact that Wendy was married to somebody else at the time.  She didn't say anything of the sort until long after though! The same sort of story applies to having kids.  I got lots of encouragement but precious little information or deterrence.  Not that I would have listened to anybody anyway in either case.  The two situations have in common that I wouldn't do what I was told by anybody else and that people didn't tell me what they really thought; I guess I got the information I deserved.

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