Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Rule of the Child-less

This interesting bit from USA Today tells us that in 1976 only 1 in 10 women in their 40s were without children. Today that number is 1 in 5. Another statistic cited: "In 1970, for example, 73.6% of women ages 25-29 had at least one minor child at home; 30 years later, 48.7% did." The article quotes Barbara Dafoe Whitehead (the author of the famous "Was Dan Quayle Right" article many years ago and of many good books since) who points out the obvious truth that this necessarily shapes the culture in a different direction. "People who are rearing children and have children in the household no longer represent the dominant force in society or politics," she says. And that means alot. Everything from what kinds of ads appear on T.V., to what kinds of shows, to workplace policies, to government policies will be affected and are affected by this shift. The character of these changes is still open for debate. I have my doubts about the goodness of them.

Discussions - 52 Comments

Julie...what it means is that the adults fail to grow up. They fashion their lifestyles to please themselves without much thought for their communities or their societies. They live long, affluent lives, and when they finally end up in rest homes it’s our children who wheel them out to catch the sun in the courtyard. And the fact that most work hard and pay taxes doesn’t change the ultimate truth -- these volutarily childless people are demographic and cultural parasites.

And the real terror will come when our children get tired of these superannuated teenagers who didn’t bother to raise anybody.

The number of women in the 20-something age group with young children may be down, but is the fact that so many women are waiting until their thirties to have the children really that alarming? I’ve waited, and I know that I will be much more concientious of what is influencing my child as a 30-something mother of young ones than I would have been as a 20-something. I’m smarter about determining right from wrong and stronger to take the stand for my kids whereas as a 20-something I probably would have been pushed around a lot more by things such as the media. You mention workplace policies being affected by fewer numbers of children, but won’t it be affected for the better with more mature women having the children? We’re more valuable, more vocal, more secure to demand the changes that need to be there. I think policy changes that will come about by women being older before they rear children will be for the better. We will more experienced, articulate, and precise in the changes that will be needed to rear the next generation of Americans.

Heather: Speaking as one who waited until I was 29 to have children I have mixed views on the question of whether or not it’s better to wait. I don’t think there’s a pat answer about that. But the fact remains that with so many in their 20s who are childless the "youth culture" that predominates in America anyway is necessarily skewed toward these untethered types. The more alarming statistic is the number of women in their 40s who have never had children.

Dain: Parasites? That’s a mouthful or, to be more accurate, a keyboard-ful. I wouldn’t be too quick to say that across the board. I know many people who are childless who wish it were otherwise. They are not bad or parasitic people. My heart goes out to them. But there is something disturbing in a trend toward people who CHOOSE to be childless as a positive good. For some it is, obviously, a wise choice. For others it is a childish one. Who has room for a child when you want to be a child yourself?

So Dain, does this mean you’re in favor of homosexuals adopting children? The gay couples who adopt would then have someone to provide care for them in their old age, and the number of unwanted children would be reduced. Everybody wins, right?

Now remember, you can’t have it both ways- you can’t say that all adults who, as Ed puts it, "don’t bother to raise anybody," are "parasites" and then insist that we shouldn’t permit gay couples to adopt.

Phil, gay couples are not my concern...I look at homosexuality as an ailment, remember? Such a condition is not something to celebrate or sanction officially...in my view, such couplings are inherently dysfunctional and aren’t even on the radar screen of acceptability, so why would I want to give them the "right" to raise children (so as not to be parasites)? Dumb idea - if they can’t get something as fundamental and straightforward as sexuality correct how in the word would they advise children on the matter? In short, being gay (by definition) makes you demographically and cultural parasitic, and adopting children won’t change that (indeed, it will just deprive some heterosexual couple from adapting that child). And don’t get me starting on the artificial insemination of lesbians...eeeewwww.

Julie, you’ll notice I said "voluntary childlessness." I am not labeling barren/infertile people parasites. They are simply unfortunate and don’t have the gifts/responsibilities of most of us. They should be first in line for adoption.

This is a trend driven by the fear of overpopulation in the early seventies. You have less children, it’s inevitable you’ll have less families. I can’t see anything wrong with it. To generalize that people who don’t parent will automatically fail to mature... well, I know lots of immature parents. You could argue that they don’t have any money left over for drugs, but it’s not the same thing. :)

Daniel K -- do you realize Italians will be extinct in 100 years? Populations must a least replace themselves...fertility isn’t something we can turn on and off like a water tap.

Besides...the "population bomb" people were wrong. People are the ultimate source of wealth...it’s the thinly population regions of the world (for the most part) that are languishing in poverty.

Dain, I wasn’t really talking about barren or infertile people who might adopt. (I did notice that you said "voluntary childlessness.") I also certainly wasn’t talking about homosexuals and Daniel K’s logic escapes me (though I don’t personally have any objections to homosexual couples adopting children if those children might not otherwise have a home because no one else will adopt them). I was actually talking about some wonderful people I know who--for whatever reason--never seem to have had the good fortune to meet a mate and have children. And we all know such people. There’s "choosing" and then there’s "choosing." You can pick apart their "choices" all day long and come up with all sorts of reasons why they should not be single. But you haven’t walked in their shoes and you can never speak authoritatively about something so personal to an individual. Some choices are not exactly of our choosing (or are the result of having few or bad choices) and compassion dictates that we temper our language at times in acknowledgement of that fact. To blanketly call all so-called voluntarily childless people "parasites" still strikes me as a bit unhinged and, apart from that, just plain mean. Dain, I beg you to consider this carefully. Whenever there is a seed of truth in your remarks, it seems to get swallowed up by the nastiness of them. And the trouble with that is that it persuades no one and it makes it more difficult for people who wish to make a similar point to do it effectively. It is not impossible that that is what you mean to do, I get that. But if you are sincere you should ask yourself whether you were reading your remarks as a voluntarily childless person, would you dismiss them as the work of a crank or consider whether they might have a point and whether you might reconsider your options?

Dain, remember a few weeks back when NLT was having its big love-fest about how polite conservatives are? You were very involved in that discussion, which I found to be pretty amusing, I have to say. The consensus seemed to be that conservatives are mostly polite and have thoughtful debates while liberals just scream and call people names.

Then in the days subsequent to that discussion, you’ve been at your most spiteful and arrogant. Now you’re calling everyone who is homosexual or chooses not to have children a parasite, and saying things like "Dumb idea - if they can’t get something as fundamental and straightforward as sexuality correct how in the word would they advise children on the matter?"

Yeah Dain, I’d say you’re a model of mature, polite discourse. Those jerks over at the Kos should look to you as an example of how to do it right.

Have I been dishonest? Have I lashed out at another poster on ths thread? Have I said something that was intellectually bankrupt? I could easily sugarcoat my thoughts in flabby euphemisms and obtuse references, but sometimes what you folks obviously consider "circumspection" just doesn’t make my point. Often being painful blunt pushes through the haze to get to the matter...that’s what I like, whether you folks like it or not.

So, let me restate what I mean: Getting married and having children isn’t a "lifestyle choice," it’s a moral duty for everyone capable of those actions. "Not wanting to bring a child into this world" or "not meeting Mr./Mrs. Right" or "not making a good parent" are just restatements of cowardice and shirking one’s responsibility to return the life that was given you. Of course, I suppose there are other ways of repaying one’s debt to their fellow human beings (say, like being Jonas Salk), but simply living, breathing, paying your taxes and "being a good person" doesn’t cut it.

Am I judgmental? Damned straight...most people are. The difference is I’m honest about it.

Getting married and having children isn’t a "lifestyle choice," it’s a moral duty for everyone capable of those actions.

Mind if I propose an addendum to that Dain? Getting married and having children isn’t a "lifestyle choice," it’s a moral duty for everyone capable of those acions and capable of raising the children in a healthy environment.

A lot of married women take their babies to visit daddy in prison. Those babies grow up, in way too many instances, to be just like their daddies.

Every day I pass children in the courthouse halls and predict the number of years until they are prosecuted for the crimes they will commit. I also see kids waiting for their cases to be called in juvenile court, sitting between both parents, all three of them looking scared to death. I can tell just by their expressions these kids will not be repeat offenders.

If people capable of having children have an obligation to get married and have children, they have an exponentially greater obligation to raise them to be good, law abiding citizens.

Agreed, UG. The duty to have children also entails the duty to raise them to the highest standard you can manage and to do one’s best to protect them from evil, ignorance, and danger.

Being a fully-responsible adult is never easy, but it’s increasingly impossible when society doesn’t insist on people becoming those adults.

Good grief, no wonder our society is in trouble.

I suppose there are other ways of repaying one’s debt to their fellow human beings (say, like being Jonas Salk), but simply living, breathing, paying your taxes and "being a good person" doesn’t cut it.

How generous of you to cut Dr. Salk some slack. I’m sure he would’ve appreciated it. But if your point is that there are multiple ways of contributing to society aside from reproducing, aren’t you then backing off on your initial claim, that "volutarily childless people are demographic and cultural parasites"?

This is definitely one of the most absurd threads I’ve ever seen here, and of course, Dain is playing a major role in that absurdity. I’m waiting to hear policy suggestions on how to prevent anyone left-of-center from reproducing (without birth control or abortion) and how to ensure conservative birth rates increase, for the sake of natural rights or whatnot.

Some of you must be utterly surreal in the bedroom, on those relatively rare occasions when it’s used for anything other than sleeping. "My dear spouse, the time has come once again for us to secure the future of our nation, our soil, and our people, and reproduce. Also, I saw a Democratic bumper sticker on the neighbors’ car, and they have two children, so it only makes sense that we should commence in making our third. Please lay down."

No, John...Salk saved millions of lives. You can’t repay a demographic and culture debt by just going to work or improving the lives of those around you...you have to add to the next generation. That’s the lesson of basic biology...I cite Salk because he sure as hell did that, big time.

As for this other personage, get thee behind me, trollface.

And, by the way, I know Salk had a son. He apparently understood his responsibilities were varied. If Dr. Salk can save the world and still have children, anyone physically and mentally able should at least be able to rear a child or two.

Look...the childless have every right to be childless!

Thank you, Mr. Libertarian. I guess people don’t have any higher responsibilities to one another...interesting (wrong, but interesting).

Thank you Julie and Uncle Guido for pointing out some obvious flaws in Dain’s comments.

If one is not in a committed relationshp or in a position to rear a child in a healthy environment then I feel it is more responsible to not have children than to have them.

I look at my Uncle, now in his late 50’s. He is a law abiding, tax paying veteran. He was never married until recently. His current wife does have 3 children from a previous marriage and he supports the youngest as well as a troubled cousin that now resides in the home.

Contrast that with a cousin who began at the age of 16 and had 4 children within 6 years to be left to her parents to raise.

I have to say Dain is on to something, though he speaks harshly about it.

People are the ultimate source of wealth. is true even if just in the simplest economic terms. However, I am not able to have anything but pity for those who failed to have children for whatever reason: ones of fortune or foolishness.


Having just come from the new kitchen/dining area dedication at the senior housing apartment complex we are involved in, just anecdotically, I have to say that those people with children and grandchildren are happier and seem to be living longer. I know many of the people who live there, or lived there, having heard their life stories over dinners in the last nearly thirty years. Those who invested in children reap a profit. The childless have a right to be childless, but they pay.

I know many baby-boomers who have never "gotten around" to reproducing. My children are not going to be able to take care of all of them. I used to laughingly tell my "Population Bomb" fan friends that I was making up for the fact that so many of them were not reproducing. Now I wonder who is going to contribute to Social Security and pay for their retirement. Again, my children can’ take care of ALL of them.


Yet the article seems to indicate that delaying child-rearing is the issue - all of those women going to college and trying make "careers" that we have discussed elsewhere? It does not mention this in the article, but that delay makes fertility more of a problem for those women. Women are much more fertile in their twenties than as they grow older. While you read of grandmothers giving birth with the use of fertility drugs, this is surely not going to ever be the norm. Women who wait will have a harder time getting pregnant at all and may have missed opportunity without realizing. Also, and please trust me on this, going through pregnancy, childbirth, and even infant care/child-rearing in my twenties was LOTS easier than when I was nearly forty. Also, a point about waiting to have children is that there is less time to have them and that will mean smaller families. Again, my children can’t take care of all of them - OR this is making a shaky demographic for the care of the elderly in the future, which is one of Dain’s points.

Obvious flaw? What obvious flaws, Nicko? None of this drive-by sniping on this thread, if you please.

Craig--I have never laughed so hard while reading this blog as when I read your post above! That was really good. Thanks, I needed that. And since that’s the best you think I’m going to get, now can you pass a cigarette? I especially loved the bit about the bumper sticker. I saw a Kerry one today and it’s got me thinking . . .

People don’t have any higher responsibility to others unless they voluntarily enter into arrangements that entail those responsibilities. Having a familly is a great responsibility and as Kate suggests I am sure it has many great rewards. If we are going to get down to the business of calling a spade a spade... I find your comments to be quite in keeping with the central tennets of fascism...namely that the individual exists to serve the good of the state and society. So if you get to call me Mr. Libertarian then I get to call you Mr. Fascist.

To all you Libertarians and Fascists, Hayek predicted that when communism finally fell and freedom reigned everywhere in the advanced West, there would be a population explosion. That’s because he was basically a libertarian sociobiologist: He thought that wealthy, powerful, and free animals living in a very good environment would do what nature intended--perpetuate the species. Boy was he wrong! Can Mr. Darwin explain why animals in such a fortunate condition would decide to vote for themselves against their replacements, to be individuals at the expense of being good species members etc.? As a non-Fascist, I agree that you can’t make people have or blame people for not having kids? But as a social scientist I can ask why the Europeans and non-religious Americans aren’t having them.

Well, Peter, I suspect it’s because people respond to incentives. It’s not as though we’re living in Hayek’s ideal society. Any country with a national old-age pension system will experience a decreased birthrate, simply because the system removes one of the prime incentives for having children.

Industrial societies will have lower birthrates than agrarian ones, because there’s less need for labor in the fields. Societies whose economies are dominated by publicly-owned corporations will also see lower birthrates, as there are fewer family-owned businesses to be passed on to the next generation.

Why is there a correlation between the level of secularism and birthrate? I wonder if it isn’t more that the correlation is between secularism and industrialism. An industrial society is not as subject to the vicissitudes of nature. If you live in an agrarian society you’d better darn well pray for rain (but not too much) and for the locusts to stay away--it’s literally a matter of life or death.

There is a very close connection in American between observant religious belief and fertility. Take out our evangelical and orthodox believers, and our birth rate is the same as the France that is fading away. The evangelicals live at the same level of industrial development, are very entrepreneurial, and qualify for social security etc. Here’s the American paradox: Those individuals who believe that Mr. Darwin teaches the truth about our origin and destiny are living proof that he doesn’t. Those believers who live in alleged Darwin denial are having kids, raising them well, and more or less willingly stepping aside for their replacements, serving their species as a Darwinian would predict. The economic determinism, incentive model doesn’t really account all that well for what we can see with our own eyes about the way Americans behave today. And, John, we in Georgia still pray for rain in the summer, although, believe me, I’m much more of an industrialist than an agrarian. Air conditioning and integration are what made the South the best place (easily) to live in America.

John, I would expect such a comment from a Randian zombie...you confirm my suspicions. That radical individualism/contractualism just doesn’t fly...we are social animals, and we have obligations to the people around us. Calling me a fascist doesn’t make it so, and it would only be true if I thought that people were wholly owned by the collective. I think that notion is just as silly as your notions about individualism and contract.

True conservatism (not the glittery false crap know as libertarianism) is about balance -- meeting the needs of the individual AND the collective, because neither can exist without the other. THE PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY OF THE INDIVIDUAL IS TO PERPETUATE THE SPECIES. This is a species-duty, and an absolute requirement of keeping the collective going.

As for the primary responsibility of the collective toward the individual, we discuss that every day here on NLT. The collective provides common defense, some measure of justice, opportunities for making a living, a variety of activities, learning...etc. None of this is possible without a collectivity, John. I suggest you read the psychology of feral children...without society, there are NO INDIVIDUALS.

So, the bottom line is pretty straightforward: People who don’t procreate (intentionally, of course) and don’t properly rear children are cheating us all. And yes, I’m extremely intolerant of it...it is the height of selfish narcissism, and we are facing cultural and demographic extinction as a result.

Peter, there’s nothing to disagree with in what you’re saying. It’s certainly clear that religious people have more children than non-religious, probably because the former feel a sense of obligation that the latter do not. There could be social pressures--the sorts of people who attend church tend to associate with likeminded people, and those people probably come from and have large families themselves. Let’s face it--it’s hard for couples without children to maintain friendships with those who do, and vice versa.

However, the tendency toward religious belief is undoubtedly stronger in agrarian societies than industrial ones, probably for the reasons I mentioned above (I pray about the weather sometimes, too, but surely our lives aren’t dependent on weather patterns the way they are in premodern societies). Does this explain why there are believers in industrial societies? Certainly not--but identifying and offering tentative explanations for aggregate social tendencies and trends is probably the best that we can expect of social "sciences."

And Peter, I know lots of people who believe in Darwin and have children. It isn’t that simple. I believe in Darwin yet I am intensely pro-natal. Indeed, sociobiology and conservativism are very compatible.

What’s going on is that our economy doesn’t allow affluence to be translated into fertility. To become well-off enough to afford two or three children, you have to work 8-hour days, increasingly in occupations that are human capital-intensive (long years of schooling). Moreover, housing is expensive, and our de-industrializing economy forces married women into the labor force (which I established on another thread). None of these economic facts encourages childbearing. When you add secularization, consumerism, and other narcissistic traits to the mix, you get lots of self-absorbed couples who have no reason whatsoever to have kids.

At the risk of doing some violence to religious creed, I suspect the reason religious people have more children is because they have a sense of higher purpose, and also they tend toward more "traditional" lives (meaning that women have more freedom to stay home with the kids). But I think you can get the same sense of higher purpose from Darwin.

Get out of here Dain... World population is climbing at a good rate....population of the world as a whole is not in decline. If some demographics are not reproducing themselves then so be it. Individuals have a responsibility to perpetuate the species? Nonsense. With 6 billion+ people in the world I hardly believe that arms should be twisted when it comes to getting people to reproduce...or to not reproduce for that matter. I would hold this position if the population fell to 1 billion or went up to 20 billion respectively.

Althought I think this conversation started out on ludicrous grounds I would argue that the urge to perpetuate the species is based upon the pleasure derived from sex... The cost of attaining this pleasure when compared to the cost of attaining other competing pleasures is what in the end dictates birthrate to some extent. Mitigating against birthrate is birth control which has to some extent allowed people to enjoy the pleasure without unintended (or from the perspective of the species intended consequences) consequences. Since people maximize pleasures given limited resources..it wouldn’t be suprising to find that more wealth, liberty and freedom might not result in a higher birth rate. In point of fact nature didn’t "intend" any of this in the first place. Man by conquering nature was able to be wealthy and powerfull and make such an environment good. Certainly nature intended that the south be unbearably hot..but airconditioning frustrated that intent. In fact birth control frustrates natures intent to make sex about procreation...and if you want to know why birthrates are low....either people are having less sex or they are having less "unprotected" sex. Why do some people have more kids than others? Different market basket...different priorities...different ideas, values, actions, choices! This is the only life you have, you are forced to make choices, to alocate time, money, energy among competing goods, values, gods, idols, and even God himself.

Yea, that’s right, John...plenty of people in the world...why worry? Using that same logic I could say "Why worry about ecological degradation...the universe is chock-full of planets! Or "Global GDP is on the rise...those folks in Ethiopia don’t need to worry!"

Utterly illogical, John. This is why I hate arguing with extreme libertarians/objectivists. They always miss the forest for the trees. Distribution, John, the organization of reality, that’s what matters. Your logic holds only if you find nothing of value in what is distinctively Western, or you find nothing desireable about European DNA. It’s all interchangeable to you, yes? People are just sacks of molecules...their cultures are inconvenient externalities, easily malleable, not worth conserving.

And you aren’t the only person to reject a human drive to reproduce...opting instead for raw materialism (sexual gratification). Of course, that doesn’t explain why ANYONE would have children today, now does it? I agree that the sex drive predominates our reproductive cycle, but I seriously doubt the complete lack of a drive to reproduce. There are just too many inconvenient facts that can’t be explained by the "sex alone" school of thought.

John Lewis:

John, I am afraid I have to disagree with most of your analysis. You are viewing children as a 100% cost, but I think a better analysis of them would be as a good that provides certain benefits. I think reproduction has decreased for two reasons: 1. The ability to control it (although infanticide was common in the ancient world, particularlly in Rome, so it has always been controlled, not just before birth) 2. the cost of the good has increased a great deal.

The cost of having a child has increased a lot if one wishes to be a responsible parent, and children these days provide little economic value to offset that cost. In the old days children could work a farm at an early age, and they did not have to go to college, etc. Nowadays, children provide little economic support to their families, and must be sent to college if they are to have a good shot at a good life after leaving the home (what parents want). Also, as more people are born, competition for resources will increase and the cost of food, gas, etc. will increase as well further increasing the cost of children.

Children still provide certain benefits though, love and the like. The problem with these benefits is that they fall victim to marginal problems (I forget the exact economic term). A parent only needs so much child love and other intangible benefits, and it is hard to see that having 4 children provides 4 times the love, etc. that 1 child provides. Therefore, as the cost goes up, it makes sense that people have less children.

John, if you are the John I knew in college, email me sometime. If you are in Ohio I’d like to see you sometime, see how you are, etc.

First Dain writes:

THE PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY OF THE INDIVIDUAL IS TO PERPETUATE THE SPECIES.

But then in response to John Lewis’s point, that the species is in no particular danger of extinction, he writes:

Your logic holds only if you find nothing of value in what is distinctively Western, or you find nothing desireable about European DNA.

Thus it is not the species that he’s interested in, but the race. No wonder he hates "arguing with extreme libertarians/objectivists"--they ultimately force him to reveal his true colors.

Oh, I see, again with argument by labeling and political correctness. Culture isn’t completely bounded by DNA, but human beings do come in varieties, those varieties have distincive cultures and values, and some of those varieties aren’t replicating themselves. Just so happens I belong to one of those declining groups, and it concerns me. It is EXTREMELY unlikely that replacing them biologically with other groups will replicate the things I care about. My universe is bound up with these people, and many of the things I love are bound up with them as well. So sue me.

I’m done here...you folks aren’t acting like intellectuals...you are using the tools of the Left...name-calling as a substitute for logic and evidence. Disgusting...you have to resort to calling people fascists and racists when you can’t counter their arguments in more legitimate ways.

And I think you both should be ashamed of yourselves. I care about my group...that doesn’t imply hatred for any other group, nor does it suggest aggressive actions toward any other group. Wanting them to REPLACE themselves on this planet is not a crime.

John, how dare you quote dain’s own words?! You are name calling!

I care about my group...that doesn’t imply hatred for any other group, nor does it suggest aggressive actions toward any other group.

Hmmm, where have I heard that before? Could it be here?

By the way, Dain, my wife and I are about to adopt a baby--from China. She’ll be between 9 months and a yaer old when we get her, so she’s alive right now. She doesn’t have a shred of "European DNA" in her, but although she doesn’t know it yet, she, too, is "American, but born in the wrong place."

Congrats, John! That’s very exciting. She will be very lucky to have you as parents.

Right, congratulations, John. America really should be a home for the homeless...and now your house too.

Dain,
It wasn’t a "drive by". I don’t usually agree with Julie and Uncle Guido - they both made points that I very much agree with.


I’m sorry, but I just find your argument on this topic all over the map and not at all realistic.


I thought the two examples I gave, might point out that responsibility goes much further than simply reproducing.

That’s OK, Nick. No need to be civil, as it turns out...I’m just a worthless member of the KKK...fascist trash, don’t you know? My opinions are useless because I’ve been morally exterminated.

Bai bai

Mark Steyn’s article here discusses, in my opinion very persuasively, points dain makes in this thread.

Steyn’s article covers all the relevant wisdom on this matter. The birth dearth is a national security problem in Europe. It would be one thing if citizens were genuinely assimilating or intermarrying with their Islamic immigrants or adopting lots of Chinese babies. But they’re not. Even in America: The population is rather quickly getting older and lonelier. The category male, alone, and 65 or over is exploding. When these guys get Alzheimer’s (the default way of dying as we push back heart disease and cancer), their social security checks and medicare benefits aren’t going to help them much. Increasingly, we’re going to be RULED by the old and lonely, and there’s going to be an expanding welfare state based on redistribution in their direction. Something like 80% of caregiving in America is still voluntarily done by women, but that number will also decline rapidly. Government will end up filling the void, and probably doing a bad job of it. Our "individualism" has eroded both large and extended families and self-sacrificial organizations like the legendary Sisters of Mercy. Anyone who thinks there’s no incentive to have a good number of children nowadays has a very limited time horizon. (I’m in my fifties and only have one, and I’m bothered when I think about it by the burden that may end up falling on her.)
Again, you need to read the chapter in STUCK WITH VIRTUE on Caregiving, which also appeared in THE NEW ATLANTIS.

Dain, I beg you to consider this carefully. Whenever there is a seed of truth in your remarks, it seems to get swallowed up by the nastiness of them. Comment 9 by Julie Ponzi

Hmmm, where have I heard that before? Could it be here? (comparing Dain to the KKK)

Perhaps Julie’s comment TO Dain might be considered by people who comment ABOUT Dain as well.

John, congratulations for your new baby. There is an old saying, "all babies’ diapers stink except those of your own." (maybe it’s not all that old. In fact I think I just made it up 16 years ago when we had our first 2 (twin girlies)). I did notice, though, that our 4th baby’s diapers did smell worse than our first. Kate, any thoughts on that?

John, all joy in your adoption! How very happy for all of you in your family!


My babies’ diapers stank, all of them. However, I did not shrink back, but manfully....no, not manfully....but you do the job and are inured.


As must be Dain, to the abuse he takes here, as he makes the hard points no one else wants to hear. The Steyn article is excellent on the topic. This situation will affect us in so many areas, from Social Security (how long before we are supporting 2:1?) to elder-care to immigration, which we must needs have and make the legal type much easier, if we do not reproduce the native population. Part of Peter Lawler’s comment 43 (how did we get there?) speaks to the "older, lonelier population", which is the baby-boom coming to the senior years. The BB has dictated so much of America’s political decision-making, but how old will we be before the younger generations are simply sick of us?

Steve, I am the same John...or perhaps slightly different. In any case I agree with your analysis. I didn’t mean to sound as if I was viewing children as cost alone... With the right woman I would raise 6 loving kids...I would move out to the country and buy a small farm just so I can make them bail hay. I would coach football and wrestling...return to my roots in a sense. But my main point is that kids are a lifestyle changer...Being a modern day Cincinatus or Renaisance man is difficult but not impossible...for some it may be impossible...and so I would say that both men and women are sort of stuck struggling with the costs/bennefits of embarking upon the life they trully want to live. We have to make comprimises with career and ambition...when we desire things which are extremely difficult if not mutually exclusive.

Lord, if I could have done one thing differently in college it would have been playing football and wrestling for all 4 years...Like I started out doing as a freshman. I certainly would not have turned out the same... To some extent I believe my character declined the more I studied and learned...or the more time I spent engaging others in long drawn out discussions. It declined because of what I left on the back burner.

Certainly we can talk about declining birthrates...we can also talk about the decline of multiple sport atheletes...ultimately for me what we are talking about is the toll taken by the need to specialize/proffesionalize. To take anything seriously requires placing other things on the back burner... It is human nature to feel angst at what we must have left behind.

In all seriousness the only thing I got from my study of Churchill was the element of his character(secret to sucess?) that sought to break up his day with different hobbies and engagements, even naps. If I always seem to bounce around it is because I hope that the answer to why birth rate is falling can be solved in part with a world view that seeks to integrate a multitude of activities within a days time... The fact that people feel too schedule oriented nowadays to have as much sex...the Japanese problem...why perhaps it can be solved by a sort of DaVincian or Churchillian approach to life. One that isn’t as time/schedule oriented?

OF course Churchill didn’t have 6 kids....but if you don’t have to solve the Nazi problem...perhaps you can spend more time in a fruitfull relationship.

In other words Steve...I am talking about viewing all choices according to the opportunity costs involved. Women must realize that embarking on a career may envolve and entail choices/responsibilities that conflict or add difficulty to raising kids. Ditto for men, a career can get in the way of a familly. For a recent movie that explores this in a simple way watch Click. Adam Sandler ends up a rather miserable CEO...because he fails to fully evaluate the opportunity costs involved. Strange that I should get so emotional about opportunity costs...but I actually cried watching this movie. It is somewhat sad to see that the true price of success is not only the labor involved but the things that were given up or cut out in order to make way for the labor. If conservatives like Julie or Kate want to talk about feminism missing the boat by not taking into account the opportunity costs entailed in a career...well, they are quite right to do so. As for paterns like the one mentioned in the original article... I suppose they point to a certain pattern or concensus in terms of evaluating opportunity costs...In this mix the values of feminism may have played a part in "freeing" a generation of women to work...but what was cut out? That is to say...women who spend more time working...in turn spend less time doing what? Having sex? Raising children? Cooking?

Man and woman, rich and poor alike have but 24 hours a day.

So here’s a little more mud on the water:

Is the Catholic Church wrong to demand of it’s priests and nuns that they not marry and have kids?

John,
24 hours a day was my "on" time being the mother, for many years. No, maybe still, only the demand is less.

The things you mention and a lot more, were part of my job. So were diapers; even washing them in the early days, and lots of other really stupifyingly tedious things. Raising and teaching the children was fun and more than fun. I liked cooking, too, as it was a creative part of the day, and almost always gave pleasure. I read, studied, learned for fun. I do not see what you are complaining about there as I thought I was building my character, or building something. Maybe books were the substitute for conversations I did NOT have, as there was no one who wanted to hear about the things I thought about. One of the reasons I home schooled my children was to make people I could talk to. That worked very well.

Of course, I did NOT take anything that seriously and studied everything I wanted to know about. After all, I was studying for fun - something I learned from Churchill. I didn’t know how much information I had accumulated having fun like that until I returned to Columbia to finish my BA one summer. There I found out that my escape from the tedious things about my job might have some admirable use. Someone, kids, not even my own, might like to hear about it. People even pay you to talk about what you know, sometimes in long discussions.


John, sometimes you don’t get to do all of the things you want to do at once, but different things can happen in sequence. Your vision of a life for yourself sounds like a good life. Why don’t you do that someday?


Didn’t Churchill have four children? And he solved the Nazi problem. Not bad.

Of course the Catholic Church is not wrong to demand that. The idea being of course that they do not want people with competing/clashing obligations/responsibilities. Of course this might deter some who could ballance both quite well...it may not be wise in all cases...but it has a definite logic to it. The role of priest or nun in the catholic church is a calling. In some sense I think that those at the heights of certain secular occupations have also made those careers into callings...In the state of Texas this is so bad that even something like high school football is a calling...and so you see fewer multi-sport atheletes...in order to reach the ever rising peaks people specialize at a younger and younger age. Whenever you dedicate your life to a single purpose for any long expanse of time...you start to feel squeezed by it...it closes off other competing time claims...including romance, marriage, kids...but I suppose you don’t feel the squeeze if it is really a calling.

Look at the divorce rate in the Army. It is ammazingly high...part of this is lack of virtue/morals...but another large part is the time commitment or "higher purpose/duty" of fighting/trainning that keeps people seperated for long spans of time. Our volunteer Army would probably quickly dissipate if it tried something as ham handed as banning marriage...but in a sense the sucessful marriage is rare enough in the army that among the lifers it effectually does ban marriage for all but the most dedicated of couples.

This is part of the reason I reacted so strongly to the view that procreation is a duty...if people are to be free to choose the duties they take on...then they must be the ones to figure out how to ballance the conflicting obligations they will face in life. Not everyone can take on certain duties...often times the duties they already have will conflict with what they are trying to take on. In a sense one can see the statistics that julie mentions as a reflection of the difficulties inherent in ballancing both a career (which in a high competition arena or in catholicism...requires an incredible devotion/calling) with marriage(which more often than not also requires incredible devotion). Extremely difficult stuff, not impossible but hard. At the highest levels... ultimately people will be forced to prioritize one or the other. So you are back to opportunity costs and the bitch of making a really difficult/binding choice (or an easy one?).

I can’t help but think of 1776 back when the army had 1 year enlistments...your enlistment is up...Washington himself begs you to stay...you are a farmer with a family...do you go home and harvest the bumper crop or do you stick around with Washington? A difficult decision even if you are trully commited to the Glorious cause...but somehow Washington mannaged...and we are still free to make those really difficult decisions today.

He had five children, actually--although one died at the age of three. Does anyone know what kind of parent Churchill was? One wonders how often he even saw his children.

John Moser,
All of Churchill’s children seemed to have some problems from Randolph’s drinking to unfortunate acting careers, suicide and marital problems. Mary was ok and Randolph had a useful career.

Here’s a brief sketch. Churchill’s children

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