Thursday, March 04, 2010

Refusing to sow the seeds of prosperity

When the economy tanks, it's trendy to blame either the president in power or his predecessor, whichever one you voted against. In reality, there's dang little that a president can do to affect the economy very much, at least in our checked-and-balanced system. Little nudges here and there are the most we can - or should - expect from a chief executive.

So I don't hold either President Obama or President Bush responsible for the current recession. It was going to happen anyway, sooner or later. Later it might have been worse.

That said, I think we're inexorably headed for a crash that will make this one look like a minor slump. It will hit just as my Generation X begins to head into the later years of our lives. Already, we're the first generation since the turn of the last century to earn less money overall than our parents. And we're shaping up to be poorer than our children, too.

But that's for those of us who have children. Mark Steyn enunciates what I've been saying for years to anyone who will listen: Contraception and child-aversion are literally going to be the ruin of our country.
What’s happening in the developed world today isn’t so very hard to understand: The 20th-century Bismarckian welfare state has run out of people to stick it to. In America, the feckless, insatiable boobs in Washington, Sacramento, Albany, and elsewhere are screwing over our kids and grandkids. In Europe, they’ve reached the next stage in social-democratic evolution: There are no kids or grandkids to screw over. The United States has a fertility rate of around 2.1 — or just over two kids per couple. Greece has a fertility rate of about 1.3: Ten grandparents have six kids have four grandkids — ie, the family tree is upside down. Demographers call 1.3 “lowest-low” fertility — the point from which no society has ever recovered. And, compared to Spain and Italy, Greece has the least worst fertility rate in Mediterranean Europe.

So you can’t borrow against the future because, in the most basic sense, you don’t have one. Greeks in the public sector retire at 58, which sounds great. But, when ten grandparents have four grandchildren, who pays for you to spend the last third of your adult life loafing around? [Emphases mine]

This is another case in which there's not a heck of a lot the government can do. It's societal attitudes that need to change, and government is notoriously bad at accomplishing that.

As Steyn points out, each generation is eventually dependent on the generation following it to pay the taxes that will support us. The way our economy is structured now, we're dependent on generations not yet born to repay our debts. This would be possible if there were going to be enough producers to support their elders who are becoming consumers. But Americans are trying hard to ensure there won't be.

Look at the vile way the Duggar family is spoken of in liberal circles. (This attitude isn't limited to political liberals, but that does seem to be where it's strongest.) They're called creepy, brainwashed, disgusting. One assclown wrote a screed four and a half years – and three Duggars – ago that still makes me want to take a two-by-four to his skull.

How a person reacts to the Duggar family – or even to our own eight kids – says volumes about how much he cares about the future.

Now, I know people who have no children for valid reasons. I'm thinking of one blog-friend (whom I won't link because I don't want to embarrass her) who says frankly that her own upbringing was so screwed up that she doesn't think she could raise children well. Obviously there are people who have never married, or stayed married, and so aren't in a position to raise kids. And naturally there are people who simply can't produce any. So it goes. Families like ours can fill a little bit of the gap.

But what about the vast number of Americans who simply don't want to have children, or who intentionally have only one or two, because they don't want to go to the trouble? They don't want to have to shop at Wal-Mart, or pre-plan their evenings out, or work at a job that allows time for a family. That's their choice, you say? Their preference? Practicing responsible family planning? Phooey. That's selfishness. It's the equivalent of dining-and-dashing. And the party at the next table is going to be stuck with the tab.

As we see in Stein's article, the current crisis in Greece is the same thing we're gearing up for. Currently we're coasting on the fecundity of our grandparents and great-grandparents. But twenty years from now, there will be no legacy left. To quote Robert Heinlein, nobody owns his genes; he's merely their custodian. Non-breeders have no right to leave the rest of us in the lurch this way.

What we need is to stop regarding children as a hassle, or as a burden, or as a commodity. That's right, the "As God is my witness I will give birth to something that looks just like me" people - the ones who insist on fertility treatments and in vitro fertilization instead of adopting children who need parents - have the same crappy approach that the intentionally childless have. In both cases, they're treating children as something other than what they are: little people. Human beings, the same as themselves.

Now, it sounds like I'm making a contradiction here. Are children people, or are they taxpayers? The truth is, they're both. They're human beings whose existence is intrinsically a good thing. And they're also our future. They're worth having and worth investing in. A society that values them will be a society that benefits from them. A society that prevents, aborts and objectifies them is headed over the precipice. It's probably already too late.

H/T to The Paragraph Farmer.

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