Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Creepy, short-sighted, (and ultimately juvenile) libertarianism

Ronald Bailey doesn’t seem to like kids much, perhaps because they can’t buy his books or otherwise support his "voluntarily childless lifestyle." As Matthew Yglesias (whose position has its own problems, according to our pomocon friend) notes, this calculation works--I’d say might work--until you’re old. But perhaps Bailey doesn’t care about the loneliness of old age without children and grandchildren, or perhaps he doesn’t plan to grow old. And it’s quite likely that he’s utterly indifferent to the cost of social insurance and other government programs that provide benefits to the elderly. Does he care about a functioning economy, one vibrant enough to generate his private retirement income? Who’s going to collect his trash, clean his streets, and keep him safe from criminals and terrorists? Or won’t there be any terrorists and criminals in his largely child-free future, where all the unpleasant stuff is taken care of by robocop and robotrashman?

But let me return to the central point: one of the things that makes us human is feeling and living up to responsibilities for others, which is manifest much more powerfully in child-rearing than even in marriage (especially if you’re talking about two "autonomous adults," each of whom is earning an income sufficient to support himself or herself). Bailey’s position seems to run away from adulthood, because it isn’t much fun. The libertarians I respect are grown-ups who aren’t afraid of grown-up responsibilities.

I hold out the possibility that Bailey is better than his argument, but if the argument shows the man, it actually shows the adolescent.

Discussions - 13 Comments

Masculinity run amok.

I suspect Bailey's comments are coming from a place in his heart he doesn't really understand.

My life mirrors Bailey's -- I'm 49 and have no children, nor will I. My wife and I made the voluntary choice not to. But that was 15 years ago and I often wonder if I made the wrong decision. And I wonder too if the shadow of that decision will haunt me more with each passing year.

Long story short ... I suspect Bailey will one day come to understand things more clearly, but for now his view is from a different angle.

And it’s quite likely that he’s utterly indifferent to the cost of social insurance and other government programs that provide benefits to the elderly. Does he care about a functioning economy, one vibrant enough to generate his private retirement income? Who’s going to collect his trash, clean his streets, and keep him safe from criminals and terrorists?

I would've thought the answer would be obvious, Joe--immigrants. Sure, you can argue that the libertarians are short-sighted, selfish, or whatever you like. But the fact is, it isn't just the libertarians who aren't having kids. Your objection to Bailey is that he's daring to explain and indeed defend what's been happening for years, in spite of repeated hectoring by conservatives. There aren't enough of my generation around to care for the baby-boomers, and there will be even fewer of the next generation to take care of mine. This is why no substantial measures will be taken to halt the flow of immigrants; given our population's demonstrated unwillingness to reproduce, our economy will be more dependent on foreign labor in twenty years than it is today.

John,

You're probably right that libertarianism--like just about everything else in America--is built on the backs of cheap foreign (or immigrant) labor.

And you're also right that it's not just the frankly doctrinal libertarians who aren't having (enough) kids. Folks like Bailey just give a name to and frankly defend an attitude and way of thinking that needs to be examined and criticized. And I'm not about to turn down that opportunity.

Libertarianism is adolesence.

There aren't enough of my generation around to care for the baby-boomers, and there will be even fewer of the next generation to take care of mine.


That is factually untrue and shows an ignorance of basic ecomomics. A) there are plenty of people to "take care" of the boomers, for the right money. At the correct price point people will switch from usless professions (e.g. lawyer) and become health-care aides. B) If we ended all immigration today, Americas population would continue to grow pretty rapidly. It's a myth that we NEED immigration to grow our population.


There is also a fundamental flaw in this whole Ponzi scheme concept. Population cannot increase indefinitely, even if some people want it to for whatever twisted reasons of their own.

Please leave Julie out of it.

That is factually untrue and shows an ignorance of basic ecomomics. A) there are plenty of people to "take care" of the boomers, for the right money. At the correct price point people will switch from usless professions (e.g. lawyer) and become health-care aides.

And who will be willing to pay the "correct price"? The cost, naturally, will be passed on to consumers, and it won't be long before we hear of an "elder care crisis," with skyrocketing costs. The government will inevitably be called upon to solve it. That's "basic economics" for you.

Yes . . . if ever there was a good excuse for not giving up one's maiden name . . . and yet . . .

Joe, I agreed with all of the sentiments expressed in your post, but I don't think they necessarily followed from Bailey's article. You may be reading too much into it.

Don in AZ, only you and your wife know whether you made the right or wrong decision, and I won't pretend I have useful advice to offer. However, if the decision "haunts" you, as you say, it isn't too late to adopt.

If we ended all immigration today, Americas population would continue to grow pretty rapidly. It's a myth that we NEED immigration to grow our population.

This is an interesting claim. Do you have a source for it? Are you saying that there's an inverse relationship between immigration and the birthrate? Or that current rate is sufficient to meet our future needs, even without further immigration? If that's true, then all the talk of "Demographic Winter" is nonsense, right?

Just a personal note: Ron Bailey is a friend, and though I don't share many of his views, he is one of the sweetest, gentle guys you'll ever meet. I also think he wouldn't be offended if I said he'd probably make a lousy dad. Just not cut out for the task. So he might have made a good choice for himself, even if for reasons we can dispute.

I'd probably have to say that most hardcore libertarians I've known (and having formerly worked for the Institute for Humane Studies I know quite a few) would probably make terrible parents. In fact, it's been my experience that many of them had unhappy childhoods themselves, which may explain not only their desire not to procreate, but also their intense distrust of any sort of authority.

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