Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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China’s Coming Gender Gap

The infamous "gender gap" is about to take on a whole new and literal meaning in China. This interesting little story indicates that in less than 15 years there will be 30 million more men of marriageable age than women. The cause, of course, is China’s tough one-child population control policy and an entrenched preference (for social, cultural, and financial reasons) for boys. Much could be said about the dangers this bodes for the future . . . not the least of which is this: with those kind of odds, think of how aggressive their young men will have to be to win a bride! What will they do with all that excess aggression and pent up anger in the losers? It’s not good for us but it is an interesting prospect for their armed forces.

Discussions - 11 Comments

This has been a problem over there for some time. It is also a problem in India
The causes are different, though also social, cultural and financial.


Actually, the way I have heard that this plays out is that parents are afraid to allow their single off-spring to be placed at risk. This is said to lessen the likelihood of war, and when have we last seen China’s army put at any risk? (Not that I am complaining.) There is another problem in a population composed entirely of single children. Said children, (especially adored only sons) are inclined to be self-centered and acquisitive after very sheltered childhoods. That might explain the fierce turn towards capitalism and away from the communal ideal in China. (I am not complaining about that, either.)

Still another problem cited is a possible increase in homosexuality as Chinese men have fewer heterosexual options.


China Daily said one way to solve the problem would be to create a proper social security system so rural couples would not feel they needed a son to depend on when they get old. And what kind of person thinks that people only have children for the old-age benefits?

Kate, people always have children for selfish reasons...if that weren’t true, fertility wouldn’t have dropped like a rock in the developed world (and most other places these days). Our love of and willingness to sacrifice for children shouldn’t cloud the cold, hard fact that people reproduce for selfish reasons. At this point, people are having only enough to satisfy the "urge" and that’s it. The main reason children have become unpopular is that they are an economic and social burden at this point...very short-sighted calculus, but then again, people are very short-sighted. And just you wait...designer babies are next (unless they make them illegal). For many elites, children have become an accessory, like their dog...essentially status symbols.

You have it quite wrong, Dain. People opt against, not for, reproduction today for selfish reasons: "It is too much of a bother"; "Kids will mess up my lifestyle".
The Chinese male surplus is just another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences. Seemed a good idea at the time, Mao, but....

Kate, your point about parents being protective of their single-male-child is a good one. However, your final comment leads me to believe you haven’t put enough emphasis on the foreign Chinese culture. The answer to your question: most Oriental societies. It’s both a cultural and pragmatic decision, and the proof lies in the fact that Chinese orphanages are filled with little girls.

It’s safe to say that the Chinese will indeed become our rival super-power in the not-too-distant future. (I’m sure this plays no small part in the Bush administrations decision to overhull our relations with India).

dain, You are not altogether wrong, but all people do not have children for selfish reasons. I did not, beginning with finding myself pregnant and not willing to kill the inconvenience. God had something to do with the rest of the story, but that is hard to explain. I have spent many years in the company of other women who did not have their children for selfish reasons, at all. Admittedly, I have met many parents who were wildly selfish, some who even home schooled their kids for selfish reasons. Bizarre?


But Tom T. is right, too. Most people I went to high school or college with did not reproduce themselves because it all looked like too much trouble. It IS too much trouble for most people and I think for any child’s sake, most people ought not have children. However, for the future of the world, I wish all of those people would just get over themselves, produce lots of children and save Western Civilization.


I loved that article about Nancy Pelosi’s daughter, who might have had any sort of childhood with a mother like that. My daughter-in-law has the most appalling parents and is as lovely a person as you would want to have in your family, in reaction and response to her up-bringing, not in spite of it. You just never know how a person is going to turn out.


Andrew, the points above are not mine, but I do not recall where I read them. They just sounded plausible to me and so I kept them in my head. And yet, to your answer: perhaps the Chinese journalist is looking to America and Europe where the Social Security-type old-age welfare programs DO prevent a need to have children, especially sons, to support the aged. If our SS system crashes, I may be one of the few in a relatively (pun intended)good position, with children who are already arguing over who "gets" to have Mom when she is old. Of course, in all honesty, I tell them that when I am old and even crankier than I am now, they will all be singing a different tune and arguing over where to put me away. At least they can efficiently distribute the cost.

Tom and Kate, although I will concede that some non-planned pregnancies result in having children from non-selfish reasons, planned children, particularly in wedlock, always have some selfish motives. Often these motives are laudable...family survival, a form of personal immortality, concern for the nation/tribe/etc., doing God’s will, but nonetheless these are forms of "payoff." Very few people decide to have children in order to endure endless sacrifice with no personal gain, and indeed, throughout most of human history children have been viewed as an economic asset, but of course that has changed (explaining why many ’tribes’ of us are slowly going extinct.

Oh my. I had children, apparently in order to endure endless sacrifice with no personal gain. My most selfish motive is that I enjoy the love that family engenders. Sitting here, looking about my house, filled with second-hand furniture and books, parts deconstructed and never rebuilt, because the money went to colleges or orthodontia, thinking about personal gain, I know I am one of life’s fools. I tell you, I know many such, families as big as mine(6 children)and even to double my number. All parented by fools like my husband and me. "Payoff?" We’ll see. That never seemed the point.

Kate, I think you are dwelling on the exceptions...6 kids? Come on, that’s like 1% of families or something? I too have children, and I too have suffered economically to do so...and yet, as with you, I don’t mind. Nonetheless, if we look around the world, it’s pretty clear that people are abandoning childbearing. Fertility rates are like 1.3 in Southern Europe!!! In Japan they have a full-blown gender war going on, with women living with their parents well into their 30s...all to avoid marriage, loss of jobs, and children. People all over the world are choosing personal "freedom" over parenthood.

I don’t like it...this selfishness is distasteful and short-sighted. Nonetheless, I made up my mind long ago to do my best to face realities head on.

It’s really very simple, the "disagreement" between Dain and Kate. Dain believes that everything that in any way benefits the person choosing may rightly be described as "selfish." Kate sees that she has benefits from childrearing--not tangible ones, but especially love--and so wonders if there is not a seed of truth in the charge. Yet common sense tells her that it is not really true and that the sacrifices she has endured for the sake of her children are too numerous to be called anything so crass as selfish. She is right. Doing what is in one’s self-interest, rightly understood, is a different thing than selfishness. It is the basis for all morality. What is right is always in our best interest--even if it seems to cut against our material or tangible gain.

Dain’s position is odd coming from him because he does not seem to be a rational choice libertarian type but, rather, a traditionalist conservative. But this line of argument is right out of the RC play book (and, as far as it goes, it can be useful so I don’t entirely dismiss it). Dain himself has found it useful as a means to dismiss reason. He believes that the RC argument explains what has happened but he, unlike the rational choicers, finds it distasteful. On the other hand, Dain’s preference for purely traditionalist views on right and wrong as opposed to those derived from natural right and supported by tradition, leave him open to the mistaken belief that reason is fully and properly understood by the rational choice crowd. And thus, he rejects reason and calls it selfish. Unfortunately, the only real reason he can offer for calling reason selfish is that it is contrary to a tradition he prefers. This is not a strong argument because the RC type can, quite readily, retort that he prefers to create his own tradition. And what is the reproach the traditionalist can offer? Finger wagging and appeals to our fathers? But our "fathers" have done many things any rational person would know to condemn and, indeed, many things Dain would not (I hope) himself do. Are those part of our tradition?

The problem with a rational choice and a traditionalist view of the matter is that neither of these allow for a proper recognition of human weakness or, one might say, for sin. The rational choice theorist believes that when given free reign, all will turn out to the good because reason will govern the macro-political sphere as people do what is in their interest. The traditionalist believes that people should ignore their interests and do whatever it is their duty to do according to their tradition. Each foolishly believes (contrary to what parenting ought to teach them) that people will flourish in this model without any other outside assistance. The RC believes "mistakes" to be impossible. The traditionalist knows mistakes happen, but refuses to fortify society against them by providing the young with a sound basis for arguing against true selfishness. Instead, all reason is discounted as selfishness or foolishness and life goes on. Or not, at least not as one might have had it had reason been permitted to gain a better footing. It is sufficient to tell a 5 year old that something is wrong, "because I said so." It may not be sufficient for the 7 year old. It is certainly not sufficient for the young adult. At some point, your tradition must be passed down and for that to happen, the young must either freely choose it or be forced to choose it. Force has worked very well in the Muslim world. I think it would fail miserably here where men are, quite rightly (and--dare I say it--within our tradition), accustomed to living free.

Our tradition is freedom stemming from our equality--which is little more than a recognition that none of us is so splendid as to go through life without mistakes or so beastly as to never do anything noble. We are men, not gods. We are men, not dogs. If we understand these things fully and pass them down to our young unvarnished and freely, they will be embraced as they should and our future as a great nation will be secure. And that would be a very wise, prudent, and good thing to do--even as it is within our own self-interest.

Julie, beyond self-justification in comment #7, I was trying to sting dain into his admission of #8. We have discussed having children on here before, and I knew that the selfish motives for having children he ascribes to "people" were not his. I figure that if he and I, the many people I cite, and now you, raised children for goodness’ sake and were not being selfish in bearing and raising our children, maybe we could extrapolate that there were many other people in the world who do not have children to satisfy the "urge" nor for other selfish reasons.


But I am glad we provoked your essay, which is good. I don’t argue with you.


dain, I know you are right about personal selfishness, I just think there is still less of it than you suggest. As in, it is not absolute. I know of parents with smaller families who are just as dedicated to their children. I sit and comfort one young mother of a single child who has miscarried an incredible number of times in her attempts at sustainable pregnancies. She and her husband are doing a beautiful job with the one they’ve got. There are many people in the world who give of themselves because it is in their natural order of things. IF more of the people of the world were like that, earth might be a very pleasant place to live. That more aren’t, that we are men, as Julie says, I guess we are, all of us, facing that hard reality all of the time. I cite this
above in another comment, but it supports your complaint against the world, so I’ll put it here, too.

Kate: My problem with Dain’s posts here (as in most threads) is that while he correctly and cleverly objects to many of the things that are wrong with the world, his criticism rarely suggests a reasonable alternative. The point of his posts seems to be to complain and condemn and to demonstrate his own and his tribe’s moral superiority to the rest of the world. Complaints and condemnation have their place, to be sure. But their place is not EVERY place. And to be useful, complaints should try to persuade. It is difficult to persuade with a hammer.

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