On having more kids

7 07 2011

This article is the suggested reading for this post.

Reading certain conservative cultural sites, one problem that they see particularly in developed societies is that people are not having children. The logic (which I do see) goes that if we are to have any sort of safety net, we need actual workers working in order to support all of the retired workers or those who can’t work. Fair enough, the math is pretty easy in that regard. But if you take societies where the unemployment rate is 10-20% for the general population, and higher among young people (those of childbearing age), then what incentive do people have to start a family? In other words, I see how the evil Pill and rampant fornication on the part of my parents’ generation may have got us into this mess considering current economic laws and expectations. I just don’t see how such laws can get us out of them. It just seems a nice example of Monday morning quarterbacking.

In the short term, I don’t view this solution as being anything more than advocacy for the expansion and worsening of the working class slum. And no one is going to do that voluntarily. People can argue that this is what we have to do to pay the piper. We’ve been living high off the hog for far too long, and people have to start producing eight children with no visible safety net so they can all compete for the meager jobs that are left. That, and going back on the gold standard and abolishing the central bank. That will solve the problem.

That just seems like the economics of fantasy land.

I make a modest lower middle class income. I don’t think it would be a good idea for me to have more than two kids. If I have more, God should come down and slap me upside the head.


Actions

Information

49 responses

28 12 2011
Stephen Spencer

I suppose that we could make this very complex. I would only point out:

1. When the natural functioning of our bodies becomes an exotic and complex problem, that probably means that we’ve out smarted ourselves.

2. Selecting yourself out of the population is not the path to the future.

19 07 2011
Renée

No, it didn’t work out great. It was difficult and painful to varying degrees for everyone involved, but my brother and I both happy to be alive. I can’t be certain, but I hope our parents and extended family think it was worth the trouble it to have us.

In no way do I suggest that we should advocate pregnancy at 15 or that anyone turn a blind eye to the pitfalls on the off chance that everything will turn out all right. It won’t. The best case scenario is that the baby is adopted by a loving family, but even that involves a great deal of pain and heart-ache for the biological mother. All that can be said for teen pregnancies are that they are better than the alternative, which is abortion.

19 07 2011
Renée

turmarion
My interest in this conversation is how families who wish to follow church teachings can do so and what family model the church should be advocating in light of Humanae Vitae. Of course individual families have to make decisions about what is best for their particular situation within their own moral framework.

You bring up a great point about the different requirements of hunter-gather societies and agricultural ones and how neither of them relate all that well to the present.

I wish I had more specifics to give you, but I haven’t found much on the internet and my information comes from a presentation I attended about ten years ago. It was given by an anthropologist who had observed what I’ve been describing in Africa, and abstinence was not a factor. This pattern of natural child spacing was observed in sexually active women and was not unique to this one tribe. It fit in with a whole body of research. The purpose the information was to compare this tribe with a similar one which had switched to using formula (courtesy of US aid). Consequently the women in the other tribe started getting pregnant much soon than they had previously.

So what is the point of bringing up hunter-gatherers in a conversation about present? Humanae Vitae advocates using reason in family planning. That means instead of being at the mercy of circumstances as previous societies were, we can use scientific knowledge to figure out optimal situations. For the same reason that I believe a low carb diet (kinda sorta pre-agricultural) is healthier than a high carb (agricultural) diet, I am inclined to think the healthier family pattern (physically and emotionally) is the hunter-gatherer one. It’s the one that has been successful over thousands of generations of human history. (See ‘FrontLines: Spacing Children 3 to 5 Years Apart Is Best’) Many American doctors recommend spacing children at least 2 years apart based on a study in the February 1999, New England Journal of Medicine that linked low birthweight and prematurity to babies conceived within 6 months of a previous birth, compared to those conceived 18 to 23 months following the last baby. Since we are a church of faith and reason, these studies should be taken into consideration when the church discusses natural family planning. Reason demands that factors that impact the health of the mother and child be taken into consideration, no matter what ideals Catholics of previous generations advocate. As you suggest, they are based on an outdated agricultural model.

I am not suggesting prolonged breast feeding or long term marital abstinence to achieve hunter gatherer-like families. However, Catholics could use NFP to space children similarly for optimal family health and happiness within the framework set up by Humanae Vitae.

18 07 2011
turmarion

Researchers who study primitive societies report that children are typically weaned very late and as a result children are naturally spaced between 3 to 5 years. I do not know under what conditions this is.

I hadn’t seen this post when I last posted. Usually it’s hunter-gatherer societies which practice this patter of weaning. The conditions are not scarcity, exactly (most hunter-gatherers are pretty healthy and get enough to eat), but the calorie intake is right at the correct level and there’s not much margin for a loss of food. Also, there’s much mobility in order to keep up with seasonal food sources, so frequent pregnancies would be problematic.

Some very simple agrarian or semi-agrarian societies do this, too (such as the aforementioned Ya̧nomamö, who combine simple slash-and-burn agriculture with a semi-gathering lifestyle), but I’m not aware of such spacing in fully agricultural societies (e.g. Ancient Egypt, Medieval Europe, and most cultures before industrialization). In fact, in agricultural societies, as has often been noted, there is a strong motivation to “pop ’em out” as much as possible, since settled agriculture requires as many hands (children) as possible to run the farm, and children are parents’ insurance for old age. Of course, Catholic social teaching developed in settled agricultural societies, not among hunter-gatherers. Thus, while you’re right that official teaching doesn’t say that couples must have as many children as possible, that is still the unspoken ideal among many, many people in the camp of those who support Church teaching.

We now live in neither a hunter-gatherer nor an agricultural society, of course. The question, therefore, is how existing norms are to be applied, and if such norms are in fact adequate.

18 07 2011
turmarion

Many fine results and wonderful people have come out of “ill-advised” sex, of course; and in fact many wonderful and fine results have come out of all kinds of “ill-advised” actions.

However, I wouldn’t want my daughter, when she’s sixteen, to hook up with a guy that seems like bad news–in short, to have “ill-advised” sex–in the hope that it would all work out in the end. With no prejudice at all towards those whose seemingly ill-advised situations worked out, kids still need the tools (whether it’s learning to say “no” or having contraception available, depending on one’s ethics) to try to make the best decision possible.

To put it another way, saying “I did X and it seemed a big mistake at the time, but it worked out great” is not an argument that everyone else ought to do X also.

18 07 2011
turmarion

Another thing you have to remember is that in hunter-gatherer or early agrarian societies where such long nursing periods are the norm, there are also usually taboos against intercourse during the nursing period (see Chagnon’s books about the Ya̧nomamö Indians). Thus it’s not just a matter of nursing suppressing ovulation (which to an extent it does) but abstinence for periods far longer than NFP requires.

Given that neither four-year-long periods of nursing or abstinence are workable in our society, how do we use “the knowledge of how nature works to plan for children”?

Certainly more spacing and 6-8 children instead of 12-15 is better; but it goes back to the coherency of the Church’s teaching in the first place. If one starts from the premise that the Church’s teaching is correct, then the issue is how to implement it. If on the other hand one thinks that the Church’s position is inconsistent and incoherent, then the issue is to demonstrate that the Church is, in fact correct; or, failing that, to shift the conversation to how and when contraception is permissible.

18 07 2011
Renée

Francesca,
I can’t speak to personal situations since biology and lifestyle produce so many variables.

The following info is from ‘Fertility While Breast Feeding’ at Love Your Baby dotcom. I’m not posting the link because I don’t want my reply to be delayed waiting for approval.

“Ovulation in the non-lactating woman may occur as early as three weeks after she gives birth. The chance of ovulation in the fully-breastfeeding, amenorrheic (meaning period has not returned) woman is less than 1-2%.

Frequent nursing stimulates prolactin levels, which suppress the surge of the follicle stimulating and luteinizing hormones and ovulation does not occur.

It has been shown in clinical trial that exclusive nursing is 98-99.5% effective in preventing fertility while breast feeding as long as all of the following conditions are met:

The infant is less than six months old.

The mother is amenorrheic (not menustrating).

The baby is breastfed around the clock without receiving other foods, supplements, or pacifiers.

These three facts are the foundation for Lactational Amenorrhea Method. The scientifically proven method utilizes lack of fertility while breast feeding.

A mother whose infant is less than six months old, has not had her periods return, and is fully or nearly fully breastfeeding is less than 2% likely to conceive.

Suppression of fertility while breast feeding is achieved through frequent nursing day and night.

Research has found that fertility will be reliably suppressed during amenorrhea as long as the majority of feedings are at the breast and the mother and baby go no longer than four hours during the day or six hours during the night between feedings.

Once the baby begins sleeping through the night there is an increased likelihood of fertility returning.”

Researchers who study primitive societies report that children are typically weaned very late and as a result children are naturally spaced between 3 to 5 years. I do not know under what conditions this is.The scarcity of food may force older children to continue receiving most of their nutrition from their mother or the mother’s fertility may be suppressed with less breast feeding than the above guidelines would indicate because of poor nutrition or other factors.

Again, I am not bringing this up to advocate this method of birth control. The purpose is just to point out that natural fertility does not typically mean a pregnancy every year. For Catholics the ‘ideal’ of a child born for every year of the marriage and a house overflowing with children should be replaced with children spaced every 3-5 years, or even more since fertility tapers off with age.

18 07 2011
Francesca R

Sorry, by “8 months later” I mean, when the baby was 8 months old.

18 07 2011
Francesca R

Renee, do you mean the children get no source of nourishment other than breastfeeding until they are 3 or 4? Or are they breastfeeding and also eating solids?

I breastfed all my babies for a long time and slept with one of them for 6 months. After every baby my fertility returned about 8 months later.

18 07 2011
Renée

Without that ill advised sex, neither I nor my brother would be here, and for all the trouble my existence caused my 16 year old parents and their families, they would all be very sorry about that. I would be, too.

18 07 2011
Renée

Actually, when children are breastfed exclusively, it is a highly effective means of preventing ovulation for most women. In more primitive areas of the world, mothers will typically breastfeed until children are around 3 or 4 and not get pregnant again until after they are weaned. This is what I meant by natural spacing. Of course I am not advocating breast feeding that long in modern society, but we can use the knowledge of how nature works to plan for children.

I would argue that Catholics following the teaching of their church about being open to life and not using artificial contraceptives do not have to ‘pop one out every year.’ Not only can that be financially ruinous, it is bad for the health of the mother and child. Recent studies in developing countries indicate that the health of both increases significantly if children are spaced 3-5 years apart.

If that were the model for Catholic families instead of a new baby every year, many families would top out at 6 to 8 children instead of 12 to 15 or more, It also could make children more welcome over the entire course of the marriage and easier to integrate into other aspects of the parents’ lives.

17 07 2011
C. Wingate

There is no particular natural spacing; different women’s physiology kicks the cycle off again after pregnancy at different times, whether they nurse or not. We nursed ours out reasonably late (#1 got teeth early and switched to solids well before he was one) and we still could have had a kid about every year if we had wanted it that way. People who are spacing their kids out four years apart are either too tired to copulate or they are doing something to interfere with the spawning process.

Besides, I don’t think it is generally good for kids to be spaced that far out.

17 07 2011
Renée

One thing that often gets lost in the discussion on large families is spacing. Natural spacing typically allows for about 4 years between children. The Western idea of large families popping out a kid every year is due to the practice of using wet nurses and early weaning.

Using NFP to space children more naturally, would not overly stress most families or lead to families that require their own buses. In fact, it would probably be less stressful than the current trend of spacing the requisite 2 or 3 children as closely together as possible. Talk about putting pressure on a marriage.

If current studies are right, that life long health and happiness are the result of keeping active, having a purpose, and staying somewhat stressed, a naturally spaced family could be the way for the highest percentage of people to have healthy and fulfilling lives.

15 07 2011
venuleius

Turmarion,

This isn’t the place to get into it here, but I think it’s wrong to say that modern physics destroys Aristotelian physics, at least, not in the sense you are describing. I think what you have to realize is that Aristotle isn’t asking the same questions as modern physicists are and, besides, the modern scientific conception of nature isn’t equipped to speak for or again teleology. This is not a defense in the actual outcomes of Aristotle’s thought, just a note that the pre-modern conception of nature is not necessarily rebutted by the modern, even if the modern has displaced it as a basis for scientific inquiry. (A good place to begin looking at this is Joe Sachs’ translation and commentary of the Physics.)

As for looking at things through the modern conception of nature, that’s fine. But I’m not sure that’s what the Catholic Church is up to.

14 07 2011
turmarion

I think the whole Aristotelian-Thomist teleology is a bad way to go to begin with. My background is in math and physics, and I know enough of the latter and enough about Aristotle’s physics to be pretty sure that his concept of teleology is completely destroyed by the modern understanding of physics (he saw gravity as teleological, for example). It works better when applied to biology, but is problematic there, too.

If one takes the young-earth creationist view that God created all creatures as they are now and that said creatures have never altered, then one can do teleology–God made this organ for that purpose, etc. However, except for Discovery Institute hacks, no one who understands the science doubts evolution. Now, it’s not incompatible with God–theistic evolution is perfectly valid–but it makes teleological arguments much harder. E.g. a YEC can say, “God obviously gave giraffes long necks so they could eat foliage of tall trees.” However, evolution proceeds in a manner that is prima facie non-teleological. Early giraffes didn’t evolve long necks “in order to” reach trees; rather, all ur-giraffes with shorter necks died off with climate change and plants with higher foliage. Had there been no long-neck mutations, there’d have been no giraffes, period.

One might argue that long-necked giraffes were God’s ultimate goal and that He jimmied evolution to get them; but that posits more than we know. Maybe He wanted short-necked giraffes at one time and not at another. Maybe He wants something else that hasn’t evolved yet and the giraffes we see are an intermediate stage. Maybe He doesn’t want giraffes any more and their decline from poaching and environmental destruction is part of His purpose. For that matter, maybe He allowed some parts of creation to run randomly; maybe, in short, He wasn’t specifically shooting for any particular type of giraffe–he just shook the cosmic dice and long-necked, spotted giraffes are what He rolled!

Thus, while theistic evolution assumes that God is directing the process in some way in order to get the results He wants, evolutionary processes have every humanly observable appearance of being non-teleological. Therefore, in my view, we need to be very, very careful in assuming that we actually do know what God intended an organ or an organism or a function to be like. His intentions and any teleology in the created world are much subtler and more obscure than we’d like to think.

Given these complexities, it might not be altogether wrong to compare humans and other primates (compare, not emulate!) in such matters. If, as seems incontrovertible, God created us by evolution from ancestors common to gorillas, chimps, baboons, and so on, studying the similarities and differences may give us a little insight into His purposes. Y’never know.

14 07 2011
turmarion

A sexless eternity awaits us all: and most aren’t going to like it…

Jesus said that the elect do not marry nor are given in marriage. He said nothing about sex. He said they would be like angels–but Milton, in Paradise Lost actually posited that angels actually do have sex. Not the reproductive kind, but a total merger of each into each–sort of the actual heavenly fulfillment of what the unitive goal of earthly intercourse seeks.

Not that I’m saying that’s how it is, and I’m certainly not positing houris. I don’t know–and no one else does, either. None of us know in this life. My point is that it’s specious to argue for earthly ethics on the basis of life in a Heaven of which we really know nothing beyond its existence as long as we’re in this life.

14 07 2011
Francesca R

Um, but in this sexless eternity, we’re not going to be afflicted with concupiscence, right? Nor will we have marriages to maintain. So how is it relevant to our current sexual behaviour?

14 07 2011
venuleius

Wingate,

I am not disputing your first paragraph here, but I am questioning how this conflicts with a teleological conception of nature. To speak of a “purpose” means to speak of an “end” (which H.V. clearly does). But I would also state that while H.V. sits as the strongest articulation of the Catholic Church’s position in modern times, it’s not necessarily the best. It obviously presupposes a much larger intellectucal backdrop (even if it fails to deploy it in all parts). I suppose that does raise the question–to borrow a bit from jurisprudence–whether the “holding” of the teaching can still be maintained if the “reasoning” is flawed (or incomplete). But I suppose those who want to defend the Catholic Church’s position on contraception can simply say that H.V. is correct in its final pronouncements, but you have to step back and go behind it to get a fuller sense of why.

As for your second paragraph, I’m not sure I follow it in light of this paragraph from Section 10:

“In relation to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised, either by the deliberate and generous decision to raise a numerous family, or by the decision . . . to avoid for the time being, or even for an intedeterminate period, a new birth.”

Here you have two different definitions of “responsible parenthood” which are both subject to a very vague “overarching” standard (stated in the following paragraph) of husband and wife “recogniz[ing] fully their own duties towards God, towards themselves, towards the family and towards society, in a correct hierarchy of values.” What this means in practice isn’t clear, though I’ll hazard an example. If a husband is a soldier who must routinely go abroad for years at a time (less a problem now than in the old days, but still), “responsible parenthood” may dictate that he shouldn’t use every trip home to knock-up the Mrs. if he’s not going to be available to rear his children. But that’s just a speculative example. The same could be said, I suppose, for a man who is going to go serve time in prison. In fact, that’s probably the better example since, unlike the soldier, the man in prison can’t even provide material support for his family.

I don’t think any of this is “monkabee-ish” because it has nothing to do with the Ortho-mystical, sex-as-wretched-evil, faux aesceticism which pervades in that culture. The way I read this is that H.V. creates two conceptions of responsible parenthood, both of which are subject to a very general standard which, upon closer inspection, doesn’t break from the Catholic Church’s wider teachings on conscience, prudence, and good judgment in all things. To return to my soldier/prisoner example, is it monkabeeish for the Catholic Church to teach that when you’re away from your wife, it’s not ok to masturbate or sleep with other women? “Oh, but I’m married and I’ve tasted that sweet fruit–it was one thing to hold back before I lost my flower, but now it’s an impossibility!”

14 07 2011
C. Wingate

V., A quick read of the most germane sections of H. V. reveals that it hardly touches upon the teleology of sex, and in the most plain references to such (sections 8 and 9), it begins by addressing the unitive purpose first, and then only in the last paragraph steps up to procreation. The acting principle that, in the contest between the unitive and the procreative, it is the former which must give way, is never explicitly stated and sees no justification.

The other interesting part of this all is that in Section 10 a duty to regulate one’s fertility is laid out in about those many words. The phrase “regulation of fertility” is repeated several times, as a responsibility, not something that is to be avoided. The implication is that after you have had a reasonable number of kids, if NFP doesn’t work you must give up sex entirely until the machinery stops working, thereby abandoning satisfaction of the unitive purpose. This is rather monkabee, to use Owen’s phrase, and it’s certainly an argument for not marrying young. It also doesn’t fit the theory we get from some quarters that you should just keep humping the kids out until menopause puts a stop to it.

14 07 2011
venuleius

I am sure this is repeating crap from my blog, but the deployment of the word “nature” is typically misleading in most arguments after, say, 1600. The Catholic Church still relies, for the most part, on a pre-modern teleological conception of nature (though modern theologians and later Thomists tried to discard this when they could). It doesn’t mean comparing men and chimps, it means constructing a philosophical anthropology to ascertain the nature of man, i.e., his natural ends. So, the Catholic Church teaches about the “natural ends” of sex, but it doesn’t use the sex life of gorillas to posit what is “natural” for a human being. (Given some of the sexual behaviors of gorillas and other primates, they’d make a terribly poor example for any Catholic to use.)

13 07 2011
turmarion

Lvka: [Annulments] are very hard to obtain or implement….

?!
??!!
???!!!

In the United States, something like 97% of annulments applied for are granted. Hard to obtain??!! Moreover, though the US has something like five or six percent of the world’s Catholics, over eighty percent of the world’s annulments are granted here. Hard to obtain and implement anywhere else maybe; certainly not here.

Btw, most divorced Catholics (in the US, at least) who remarry without getting an annulment, for whatever reason, usually just leave the church altogether, or find a parish liberal enough not to hassle them. I don’t approve of that, but the point is that subtle subversion or sabotage of the divorce culture is the absolute last thing happening here if you look at the facts on the ground.

Your last paragraph I’d broadly agree with, though I differ with you on the morality of contraception. At least it sounds much more humane than “do it and accept the consequences or don’t do it at all”.

13 07 2011
SAM

In my humble opinion, nfp is a very easy way for American conservative Catholics to have their cake and eat it.They go on about being pro-life,but they want the easy life just as much as any liberal Catholic or protestant.Ok,the church endorses it,so we should accept it.With nfp you plan your life.The same way those using contraception.

13 07 2011
turmarion

Lvka: NFP is obviosuly as sinful as other contraceptive practices….

Thank you! That’s a point I’ve tried to make many times here and elsewhere. When you boil it all down, there is really no logical, intellectually consistent way to say that NFP is different from contraception. This is the basis of my criticism of current Catholic teaching–it proclaims contraception to be gravely sinful and puts forth great litanies about the evils it results in; and then turns right around and trumpets the virtues of NFP to the heavens, seeking to get everyone on board. This, simply, is hypocrisy; or to be charitable, gross intellectual confusion. The Church needs either to say that no form of preventing conception, NFP included, is acceptable; or that contraception is acceptable in the right context. It vehemently refuses to do either. I’d say it needs to do the latter, you’d say the former; but we apparently agree on the inconsistency involved.

BUT at least [NFP] has an ascetic characteristic to it….

Well, this puts where you’re coming from in slightly clearer perspective. In fact, I agree that modern Christianity has lost much of its ascetic character, and that this is a bad thing. I also agree that some kind of return to asceticism is necessary. However, context makes a difference. For example, there are a few “victim souls” who deliberately and consciously refuse medical treatment for painful conditions so that they can practice the ascesis of patient endurance and offer up their suffering for the good of the world. I have great respect for this. The thing is, though, that such people are rare, and what they do is not a paradigm for most people. To use such victim souls to argue that I shouldn’t take an aspirin for a headache or get treated for cancer would of course be absurd.

This is what, to me, you seem to be doing when you say, “If you do X, you have to accept its consequences.” You seem to be promoting an ethos meant for very, very few as normative for everyone. That is the key point to which I objected and object.

13 07 2011
turmarion

Me: Anyway, I said nothing about teens or premarital sex. Lvka:…except in the last paragraph of your previous comment

Fair enough–errare humanum est–but that wasn’t the main thrust of the post.

There’s a reason totalitarian systems collapse. You can’t enforce large masses of people to indefinitely do anything they don’t want.

Perhaps I’m being dense, but I don’t see the relevance to what I wrote.

“Work” has nothing to do with “the employer wants to maximize his own profit to the detriment of the employee”….

But historically that’s exactly what it’s been. Once more, do some ind-depth study of labor history in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. For that matter, look at some of the union-crushing activities going on right now, as workers lose hard-earned rights gained decades ago.

To defend my analogies (by which I still stand) in detail would be beyond the scope of posts here; but go ahead and reject them–that still isn’t the core of what I’m saying.

You say, “If you’re going to X, then accept its consequences; if you don’t want to accept the consequences, then don’t do X,” where X in your original statement is “having sex”. Implicitly, you’re saying that there is a sharp binary division in any human activity: either you choose to do it, and accept the consequences, period; or you don’t do it, period. Implicitly, at least, there’s no middle ground. To put it another way, you seem to be saying, “If you’re going to do X, then you must accept any and all consequences thereof and you’re not morally permitted to take preventive action against such consequences, since this is an abrogation of your responsibility.” Now, if I’m putting words in your mouth, please correct me; but this is what it sounds like you’re really saying. It is this all-or-none thinking that I disagree with.

Try this analogy–if I choose to drive a car, I accept the consequences–getting a license, obeying the law, and taking the finite risk that I might be injured or killed in an accident. If I’m so afraid of accidents that I don’t want to chance them at all, I shouldn’t drive. Reasonable, right? However, if I do choose to accept the consequences of driving–including the risk–does that mean I shouldn’t wear a seatbelt? I think most people would say, certainly not. To accept the consequences or risks of one’s actions certainly doesn’t mean to forgo any and all protections against those consequences or risks. Riding a motorcycle is riskier than driving a car, but one doesn’t accept those risks by not wearing a helmet.

Thus, it seems clear to me that the “If you’re going to do X, then you must accept any and all consequences thereof and you’re not morally permitted to take preventive action against such consequences, since this is an abrogation of one’s responsibility,” idea that you put forth does not hold up in the real world. The only way it remotely is valid regarding sex is if you assume a priori that 1. each and every sex act must be open to life, even if there is a health or other risk to the woman if she becomes pregnant, even if the couple are not ready, etc.; and 2. to try to minimize, ameliorate, or avoid the consequences of a particular action is always and everywhere immoral. However, neither of these notions is self-evident; and to one who does not accept them, your argument fails.

Thus, whatever you may think of my food and labor analogies (or the car analogy either, for that matter), I don’t believe your moral reasoning here is valid unless one buys the unspoken premises it’s based on, which I don’t.

13 07 2011
Hector

Re: The reason so many teens in the US have premarital sex (as far as I as an outsider from Romania can tell) seems to be mostly out of peer-pressure

If you really want to know the reason people in the U.S. (and, nowadays, in most of Europe, North America, and Latin America) have premarital sex, it’s because they don’t see a reason not to. Plain and simple. The advent of reliable contraception has made it possible to have a regular sexual relationship (if you’re careful) without much risk of pregnancy, most of the old STI’s (with one big, glaring exception) are treatable, and the RC arguments in “Humanae Vitae” (and, even more so, the ‘Bible says so’ argument of the evangelicals) are unconvincing to just about anyone outside the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox confessions, and even to most laypeople inside those churches.

We can argue about whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, but people are not going to refrain (for a matter of a decade, or multiple decades in some cases) from something as nice as sex unless they see a good reason to do so (moral or practical). Most people, today, don’t. If contraception was widely unavailable, or generally frowned upon today, it would be a different story, but in the age of the Pill, it’s difficult to make a consistent argument against premarital sex in principle. In this sense, I think the “Humanae Vitae” argument that contraception, homosexuality and premarital sex are _all_ wrong, is more intellectually consistent than the evangelical Protestant argument that the first one is A-OK, and the second two are grave sins.

13 07 2011
turmarion

Historically, there have been many periods in which a large minority or even a majority of women were pregnant at marriage. The most famous is Ann Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife, who gave birth to their first child six months after the wedding. Part of the reason we don’t note that in general is that at that time the social pressure forced such couples to go ahead and get married–thus premarital sexual activity was less obvious.

I can’t speak to Romania, but I know the rates of premarital intercourse with or without children in most contemporary Western countries are pretty high, so it’s not unique to the States.

Anyway, I said nothing about teens or premarital sex. The context of this thread has been married couples having large families. If a couple want to do that, fine. However, there’s no really good, robust argument that can paint NFP as any different in essence from contraception. If someone wants to argue that all sexual acts in marriage must be performed with a view to pregnancy and that even NFP is not permissible, while I’d disagree with that, at least it’s consistent. If one wants to argue that couples may use contraception as needed to control the family size, that’s logically consistent, too. What’s not logically consistent is to say that every marital act must be “open to life”, but it need not occur in fertile periods, and that contraception is wrong but NFP is OK. That view simply can’t be forced into being logically consistent.

Obesity is a much more complex issue than you imply, but I don’t have the time or inclination to go into it here.

You can’t fire all people, (you run out of business). (Companies aren’t “God Almighty”, to impose their will in an all-powerful manner).

I’d suggest you study American history during the so-called “Gilded Age” from about 1880 to World War I, and the history of the labor movement in America. All too many companies pretty much did “impose their will in an all-powerful manner”, and there were literally small-scale wars (see, e.g., the “Coalfield Wars”) to win workers’ rights. There’s a reason Western capitalism nearly collapsed, and that workers’ protections had to be granted. Protections that are getting eroded away these days, alas. In any case, I stand by both analogies.

13 07 2011
C. Wingate

But often, maybe most of the time, they cannot be annihilated or even controlled, so where does that leave us with sex?

12 07 2011
turmarion

Me: If you want to eat, then accept its consequences. Lucian: Precisely: bulimia is an absurdity.

I wasn’t speaking of bulimia specifically; nor did I say you (or any specific person) are obese. Since I don’t know you in person, that’d be impossible, anyway. Let’s look at it like this: “If you want to eat, then accept its consequences” implies that the only permissible way to eat is in a perfectly healthful manner, regardless of how much it may cost to obtain the best food, regardless of its availability, regardless of one’s physiology, etc. The corollary is that someone who is overweight is so totally through his own fault. He is, in short, a gluttonous slob who lacks willpower.

Carrying this forward, one could argue that diet foods, special products, etc. are not permissible, since they are trying to “escape” the consequences of eating. It has been shown that in obese people the metabolic rate “resets”–in short, the body, when you go on a diet, thinks you’re starving, so it slows the metabolism down, making weight loss even harder. But if one assumes that the “if you want to eat, then accept its consequences” aphorism is the only way to go, then one can’t even allow for that. You’re stuck.

“If you want a job, accept its consequences.” Listen to Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Fifteen Tons” someday. My grandparents worked in Appalachian coal mines in the pre- and immediately post-WW II era. The company owned the stores and the houses, and paid the workers in scrip–which could be redeemed only at the company store–which set any price it liked. If anyone complained, they were fired. Look up the Coalfield Wars some time. The point is that capitalists always use the trope, “Hey, you took the job–you have to accept the conditions.” (even if they underpay you, don’t give you insurance, destroy your health, etc.) No one refuses a salary, because they usually need it–but by your rationale, there would be no place for fighting for workers’ rights.

I’m not saying that these are your actual views of food or labor relations–just that to argue “If you want X, you have to accept its consequences” is a shallow, trivial, and lazy way of arguing. Almost all of human history has been a long march of progress in science and technology which was developed for the express purpose of shielding humans from negative consequences such as disease, early death, and poverty. One might argue that this is morally questionable, since one should be on the hook for consequences–but that’s a separate argument.

I assume even you would not deny medical treatment to someone whose smoking caused cancer, or to a heart patient who was obese, or to someone who worked under dangerous conditions, right? But by your own argument, that’s exempting them from the consequences, right?

Or put it like this–would you rather a couple of horny teenagers endure the consequences of sex by getting a vile venereal disease or by bringing an innocent child into the world whom the proceed to raise poorly? Or is it better if such things are avoided by, say, a condom? I assume you’d say that abstinence is best, and in the abstract, I agree–but given the real-world options in many cases, it often boils down to ill-advised sex that has negative and even life-ruining consequences, or ill-advised sex that at least gives the participants a second chance.

12 07 2011
C. WIngate

Well, the natural consequence of having sex while using contraceptives is (usually) no babies, so what’s the problem, anyway?

This couple are a classic example of how NFP is profoundly unnatural. Do baboons and gorillas use calendars and thermometers? They do not. Look, the only real natural requirement in this is to keep the species going. If you’re an American, if you have two or three kids, you’ve done your part.

12 07 2011
turmarion

If you want to have sex, then accept its consequences. And if you don’t want to accept its consequences, then don’t have sex.

If you want to eat, then accept its consequences. And if you don’t want to accept its consequences, then don’t eat. The solution for our obesity problem, right?

If you want to have a job, then accept its consequences. And if you don’t want to accept its consequences, then don’t have a job. So much for workers’ rights, huh?

I could continue, but I trust that the simplistic, bumper-sticker nature of this is evident.

10 07 2011
Francesca R

Here’s a recent article from the New York Times about a couple who wrote an anti-contraception book (“Open Embrace”) early in their marriage, but later decided they couldn’t bear to have any more kids and they hated NFP:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/09/us/09beliefs.html?_r=1&src=recg

8 07 2011
turmarion

I’ve heard folks argue not only that you should let nature take it’s course….

Even for this case, it’s odd that such people will say things about letting what happens happen and trusting God and letting nature take its course with procreation; but they never say such things about malignant tumors. I mean, letting nature take its course and hoping you don’t die without treatment would be an act of even greater trust, right?

8 07 2011
dave138

Sometimes I wonder if it’s a case of “the grass is always greener…” I think I might like to have a large family (although I’m probably too old now, starting in my mid 30s), but this is mainly because I’m an only child. Couple that with growing up out in the country, and it was pretty lonely. Of course, I’ll admit that, if I grew up in a cramped row house with 9 siblings, my views would likely be different.

The nuttiest folk I have seen on this issue are in the Protestant, largely Reformed, “Quiverfull” movement. I’ve heard folks argue not only that you should let nature take it’s course, but that you should actively try to have as many children as possible– even when it leads to abject poverty, even when there are genetic problems involved, even when the wife’s health and/or life is at risk.

7 07 2011
C. WIngate

Well, my paternal grandfather was born nearly a hundred years before my eldest was born. Long generations run in my family. We just tend to marry late and dally a few years before settling down to the procreating. A lot of my grandmother’s siblings didn’t get that far: my one great aunt (who was her own sister-in-law) married but had no kids, and her eldest brother and youngest sister lived together their whole lives and never married. If I had a do-over I wouldn’t have waited so long, but when you don’t get married until you’re thirty there’s only so much you can do without getting mixed up in that illegitimacy thing.

To the degree that social class is involved I suppose our Marxists can rejoice that the bourgeoisie is breeding itself out of existence.

7 07 2011
C. WIngate

V, here’s your data. Skip to p. 20 for the good stuff. The short form: specific religion doesn’t matter as much as does religiosity. Even Episcopalians have kids at about the same rate as current Catholics; they just wait longer to start. The irreligious have a lot few kids.

Another telling datum: immigrants as a rule have more kids than the native-born. America’s higher birth rate is kept up in part by our higher religiosity, but also in part part by Hispanic immigrants whose total fertility rate is twice everyone else’s.

A third thing to consider is that the Catholic effective birth rate was held down by the percentage (don’t know how high it was) that went into religion and therefore never (theoretically, at least) had kids. Weird factoid I didn’t know: there are over twelve times as many female as male religious in the USA.

7 07 2011
Anonymous

venuleius,

There are people in the country who exist where they are of advanced age and care nothing but drugs in the life and practically receive free health care, and they sometimes receive free healthcare against their will and after discharge they promise to go back to the same lifestyle that brought them in hospital in the first place. I sometimes wonder if that money is better spent on children.

7 07 2011
venuleius

Owen’s remarks on the need for public money to support children with potential health problems (or just to support a large family period) is something that has to be factored into any discussion over elderly care under the modern banner of “Life Extension At All Costs.” Assuming one has a limited pool of money to disperse to the population to assist in medical care or basic needs, is it heartless to say that it should go to families with children rather than an 85-year-old-man who opted to smoke and drink his whole life and is now riddled with all sorts of health complications? Where should society’s investments lie?

The problem with viewing this matter through a strictly consequentialist looking glass is that an argument for denying public resources to the elderly in favor of the young can be flipped into a larger argument of denying public resources to anyone period. As more than a few conservatives in this country would say, if a couple cannot afford to have more than X number of children, well, they shouldn’t have them. If you subsidize the procreation of children through food stamps, medical assistance, etc., then you are creative a perverse incentive for more “drains on the system” (though this conceptualization can be challenged, it’s often (and perversely) held as a shared assumption by both proponents and opponents of public aid to families for the rearing of children). Here’s where libertarianism or, I should say, my own quasi-libertarian instincts, break down. (However, I do think one can make a strong consequentialist argument that all of society has a vested interest in the “next generation” and therefore should be more willing to provide resources for their proper care and education than they would for the extension of life for the elderly.)

Ok, so all of that coldness aside, I honestly don’t have a very strong view on “what is to be done” except to say that if there was a law put on the books to provide more public aid to families, I would support it (maybe out of self-interest?), even if it meant slashing state or federal budgets for medical aid programs to the elderly. But then again, all of the elderly in my family have passed on, so maybe I’m just cold to the whole program of extension-of-life care.

7 07 2011
Anonymous

If i see a Catholic couple with no kids or with 11 kids, it is ultimately really none of my damn business.

7 07 2011
Anonymous

I have heard the historic norm was about 4-5 children for a Catholic household. We have to remember that childhood and maternal death were more frequent back then.

7 07 2011
owen white

“The female uterus.” As opposed to the male uterus, of course.

Long morning this morning.

7 07 2011
owen white

I happen to know a number of large families. One “set” are Catholics I know from my days at the Catholic bookshop. The large families of my friends there are all novus ordo Catholics. One of my best friends there has 11 kids, another has 9. I know several families from that “set” who have 5 or 6 kids.

The guy with 11 kids now has kids having kids. I am pretty close with his children as well, and the ones now having kids attest that they do not plan on having large families.

The other “set” of large families I know are the Evangelicals (and Byzantine Rite Evangelicals within Orthodoxy) who choose to have a large family. These folks have a different quality about them because they don’t believe artificial birth control is intrinsically wrong, they just like having big families and have the money to pay for them. Here again, most of the older kids in these families, as they get into childbearing years, don’t seem keen on having large families.

With both the Catholic and Evangelical large families I know, there is a fairly high rate of kids departing the faith of their parents. I don’t mean high relatively speaking – I suppose it is on par with usual rates of children leaving the faith. But I would guess that in a typical family with 8 kids, 4 leave the faith (or retain it only nominally – I know kids from large families who go to church Easter, Christmas, and when visiting their parents), and of the 4 that don’t leave the faith maybe one or two will have 3 or more kids. If I’m right here the demographic payoff will not be all that great.

Last I checked, it was Prot Evangelicals who averaged considerably higher live births than other religious groups (Mormons are high too), even Catholics. I recall reading an article a few years ago that argued that were it not for Prot Evangelicals in the U.S. the U.S. would have birth rates similar to what one finds in Europe. Correspondent to this is the well written about fact that the politics of younger Evangelicals is shifting away from the Dobsonista convictions of their parents. Perhaps in future decades we will see some of them return to “moral majority” sorts of political postures, but that isn’t a bet I would take. The political ebb and flow seen in the overall history of Evangelicalism is such that would suggest that for a generation or two we will probably see movement away from the politics dominant in Evangelicalism for the last 40 years.

One side note – of the ten or so families that I have known well that have 5 or more children, most of them at some point have received state aid. My friends with the 11 kids mentioned about had hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills paid for by the state of MN when a child was born needing emergency surgery and weeks in the hospital. Our closest friends, with 6 kids, have a severely disabled son who has received over a million in state aid. A former employer of mine (a quite bourgeois blue blood fellow), with 5 kids, had a severely disabled daughter who received millions in state aid over the 13 years of her life. Another family I know, with 10 kids, has been on state aid a number of times. It’s an interesting phenomenon – almost all of the large families I know are middle class families, but most of them at one time or another have received state aid. The more kids you have the more likely things are to go wrong with some. The female uterus isn’t generally going to pump out 5+ live births without occasional hiccups, and the genetic risks of a woman having her 7th or 8th or 9th child well into her 40s are such that the statistical likelihood that very expensive care will be needed increases significantly. When we transition to a Paul Ryan economy in which (because of “unfairness”) society is not responsible for sick children and chooses to let them die, and middle class families going for large numbers of children have kids die in their arms because they can’t afford care and the church raffle didn’t raise the $750,000 they needed, well, the charm of large family life may be reduced such that this also has an effect on the number of people willing to go for a large family.

7 07 2011
venuleius

Almost every person I know who has opted to not have children or delay having a token child until they are well into their 30s (or later) are immediately defensive when they find out that at 31, I already have three. To the best of my recollection I don’t think I have ever come out swinging against anyone for not having children, choosing to shack-up with their potential fiancés/fiancées before an engagement ring is procured, or opting for the typical casual-sex lifestyle that many in my generational bracket maintain unless/until they are too unattractive to the opposite sex to make it payoff (eventually they figure out it’s better to lockdown someone than wind up with no one at 2am on a Friday night). Even so, the realization that other people have opted to go another route strikes them as a standing condemnation of their choices and so they mount all sorts of hollow defenses (many of which you’ve already identified). My personal favorite, to be honest, are the assertions that they’re not having children out of some heroic act of social responsibility. Every time I hear that claim made, I am quick to ask what social causes they divert their energies/resources to. Thus far, the answers have been, at best, vague.

As for the judgmental attitude of the hedonistically childless toward those with children, I’ve always assumed it comes part and parcel with their already shabby defense mechanism. The only reason I think I’ve avoided having that nonsense spit into my face is because I don’t fit the mold of the generally uneducated, lower-class bumpkin who has never heard of the birth control pill (the standard image many of my peers have of those who procreate before the age of 30 while making less than the median household income). (I have no doubt, however, that plenty of derisive comments have been made about my wife and I behind our backs.) I used to get more worked up about it, especially after my first son was born, but now I couldn’t give a damn. Given their attitudes, I suspect most of the people who are self-consciously “anti-kid” for hedonistic/lifestyle reasons would make terrible parents. For my own selfish reasons, I have no interest in having the rotten fruit of their copulations interacting with my bundles of joy from Heaven.

7 07 2011
venuleius

Do you know what the birth rates were for Catholics? The reason I ask is that this would have been the period of time in America when Protestants were claiming that it was “unfair” that the Catholic population was increasing due to the Church’s hostility to contraception. I suspect that Catholic birth rates dropped as well during this period, though I wonder if the proportional decline was less/same as Protestants.

7 07 2011
venuleius

I didn’t say that!

No, but seriously, I share your skepticism that there will be a “magical replacement” in this country of secularist liberal kids with religiously conservative kids. But if you want a rapidly developing case study, I would keep an eye on what happens in Europe in the next two or three decades. There you will see a replacement of native Europeans with their modern European sensibilities with first and second generation Muslims with their decidedly Middle Eastern sensibilities. The contrast is more stark than anything we may witness in America, mainly because even the children of large, religiously conservative families share in some of the same overlapping values and aspirations of children from secular liberal families. Also, I agree with you that the number of families having 6-8 children constitutes only a fraction of the population. However, even if religiously conservative families have 3 children while secular liberal families have 1 or 2, eventually the former will overtake the latter in terms of raw numbers (though that could take a century). However, this simplistic sketch of mine competely ignores the potential intellectual/worldview transformations which can occur between the parents’ generation and the emergence of their children into adulthood.

None of this really addresses the stickier point of how you address an ageing population with increasingly higher life expectancies and the attendant demand that everything under the sun be done to prolong their existence. I have speculated (albeit without much in the way of evidence) that the elevation of near-unlimited health care to the level of a “natural right” goes hand-in-hand with secularization and the belief (implictly held among religiously minded folks as well) that this world constitutes the only horizon; the end of one’s natural life becomes the ultimate horror rather than a tragic, though redeemable, part of humanity’s movement toward the eschaton. (I’ve also speculated that this is tied into Hobbes’ foundation of liberalism on the summum malum, i.e. fear of a violent death.)

7 07 2011
turmarion

Great post–I like how you point out that subculture large families aren’t the same as the standard issue large families of yore. Also, it was the generation that was used to large families that used the opportunity to reduce family size as soon as it became available.

I’d like to put another spin on it, based on reading the original article you linked to. The tone is interesting. Now I never myself denigrate couples I know on having any particular number of kids, or none at all; and I realize that childless couples have been shunned, derided, etc., so I can understand the sensitivity. Still, I notice a rather defensive, self-righteous, snarky tone in the article. “Breeder” is used an awful lot in the article of couples with children. The idea that many people regret having had children and that raising children is, well, tough is pounded again and again. There’s an awful lot of talk about having “time for ourselves” and doing the things couples with kids can’t.

The two things that are emblematic of this are the uncle/dad chart on the last page with dichotomies such as: Drives Dodge Viper/Drives Dodge Caravan; Is first in line for the new Scorsese flick/Is first in line for the Wiggles live show; Cleans lipstick off his collar/Cleans Enfamil off his collar; and so on.

The other is this quote from the articles author: “As we head out for our after-work hike, followed by yellow curry in Thai Town and then an Arctic Monkeys concert, we wave goodbye and smile, pretending not to notice their faces frozen in exhaustion.”

I notice how glaringly the childless here are pushing a consumerist, hedonist, bourgeois, upper-class, yuppie lifestyle. It’s almost saying, “We chose not to have kids so it wouldn’t cramp our exciting, glam lifestyle!” No quotes from a couple where the wife is a greeter at Wal-Mart and the husband works part time who just can’t afford kids; or don’t want kids and are confirmed in that choice by their financial situation. I notice also that none of them say, “Gee, I just don’t think I have the right temperament to be a good parent” (which if you’re honest with yourself is an awful good reason not to have them) or “Being childless gives me more money to donate to my favorite causes and more time to devote to them” or “This way I have more time to study things that really interest me.” Nope, it’s all about Thai food (gee, I have a child and we go out for Thai sometimes…), Dodge Vipers, and the Arctic Monkeys!

In short, they’re framing it as one more manifestation of capitalist consumerism and class; which in my mind is shallow and selfish. I’m not saying it’s shallow and selfish not to have kids–I’m just saying that pseudo-yuppie fantasies of living high on the hog while not giving a damn about people (childless or not) who can’t do that isn’t a good reason. Of such people I say, if you don’t want kids, don’t have them–you don’t have to defend that choice to me. Just defend it for the right reason and don’t feel you have to shoot snark at those who have children and who mostly don’t give a damn about whether you do or not.

7 07 2011
Leah

Birth rates also dropped during the Great Depression, and then rose again during the post-war era. Seriously, why would Ma and Pa Joad have another “blessing” if they have no work, no house, and no food? If we can ever get out of this economic hole, birth rates will probably raise somewhat, though not to the point that some conservatives want. Even during the baby boom, I think that family size may have risen to four or five children. Once a family started having eight+, people started talking.

7 07 2011
Arturo Vasquez

You had me until the last part wherein you speculate that the children from conservative households will become some sort of majority. I don’t want to read too much into that on your part, but similar arguments, particularly from conservative Catholic websites, have always seemed ridiculous to me. How many families with eight kids do you know outside of very boutique milieus (traditional Latin Masses, etc.)? Am I just living in the wrong part of the country, or do other people not have any coworkers / friends / casual acquaintances who have more than two or three kids as well? Where are these legions of religious conservatives who are popping out the babies like candy from a Pez dispenser? I would like to know, because even the Mormon families I knew growing up maxed out at four to six kids, i.e. about the size of my own Mexican-American family. I guess it was just weird seeing white people having that many kids.

And those arguments presuppose that somehow these “religiously conservative” families are going to do something radically right, whereas their predecessors with similar numbers of kids did something “radically wrong”. All this without the help of the religious ghetto, a traditional religious culture, a supportive hierarchy, etc. Good luck with that, I guess. I can only think of Steve, an Italian-American man who grew up in New Jersey with seven brothers and sisters, Catholic school, the whole shebang. He rolled up to the SSPX retreat center when I was living there more than ten years ago, with his hippie van and nose flute. Every time he told a story about his childhood, he was noticeably traumatized by it all. I don’t think any of his brothers and sisters remained Catholic, and he only came back later in life, and he had no kids. So what makes one think that just popping out the kids and “raising them right” is going to bring about the Great American Reaction? Color me skeptical.

And before you get your panties in a bunch, I was addressing other arguments and perhaps not yours directly. I know you consider yourself all slick and like to say, “Hey, I didn’t say that”. Fair enough, but take this for what it’s worth.

7 07 2011
sortacatholic

I am utterly convinced that 1968 was the year that God died.

Sure: the Paris student riots, the Chicago DNC convention, and the flowering of philosophical and political dissent fueled skepticism about all power structures. 1968 was also Humanae Vitae. For many Catholics, God died that summer. Chairman Mao only had a walk-on bit, really.

I’ve chatted extensively with Catholics in the 50’s and 60’s. What younger, more liturgically conservative Catholics don’t realize is the way in which HV fueled the liturgical apathy and neglect after the Council. “Why should we care which way the priest faces at Mass, or whether Latin is retained?” For most people, such questions have the practical relevance of an anorak inspecting a Ming vase on Antiques Roadshow. The new god is bodily autonomy. Why would anyone expect differently, even Pope Paul? Surely Paul knew that God had died for many on the day of promulgation; not in regards to the atonement, but rather in the hearts of those who knew that they could never live up childrearing ideas nigh impossible in a post-modern/post-industrial society.

“Eunuchs from birth” like me often never had to worry about crying babies at 3 am. Now I realize that religion is the slave of autonomy, and not the other way around. Time to find a boyfriend and fuck all of this piddling crap.

7 07 2011
venuleius

Eh, this argument only has purchase if you build a society where the social safety net is comprised of wages the government has skimmed from workers. It has a lot of salience in a number of Western European countries which have built a social system that demands a replenishing (and, because of rising life expectancy, growing) work force to pay into the safety net. That’s not necessary, mind you; but it’s the time-bomb system they’ve created without anticipating that that the contemporary expansion of wealth and the modern conception of the “standard of living” has come at the price of having less children and expanding the workforce to include women.

In the U.S., I would like to think we still have options for creating viable safety nets which don’t require the scenario you’ve sketched (though the opportunity is quickly passing). The “classical” argument for having children is that at least one of them (if not all) is going to contribute to caring for you in your old age, though the demand for high-life expectancy coupled with the cost of medical care for the elderly basically puts that promise out of reach for most children. And so the elderly increasingly have recourse to state funding for their care, which has to be paid for somehow (i.e., out of the pockets of their children and the children of other people as well). This is not how things “were supposed to be,” I suppose, but it’s how they are for the time being. What’s the solution? I would like to think it’s people “virtuously” foregoing costly medical care and accepting the end of their lives, but I know that’s not going to happen and I certainly don’t want to vest a state regulator with making that determination. The “heartless” option is to shift the cost burden on the family of the person needing medical care and when the money runs out, so does their access to treatment. Is this “unfair”? I don’t know. Compared to what? Asking everyone to pay into a system which ultimately benefits only a fraction of the population while having the simultaneous effect of reducing the resources available to the large amount of (relatively) young persons paying into the system, i.e., resources they could be diverting to, say, care for their children or even provide for their own retirement? These are not easy problems to resolve.

Personally, I don’t think the population issue is that important for the time being. A fraction of the population which happens to be “religiously devout” will continue to have large families, but a bulk of American society, particularly the casually religious (if not outright secularist), will continue to have 1, maybe 2, children. The only reason the U.S. population has not shifted to the negative is because of immigration. (We have less problems with Hispanics rolling in here than Europeans do with Muslims showing up on their front doorstep.) If the conservatives in this country had their way and we really did shut down the borders (or did a better (i.e., more draconian) job of keeping them locked down), the U.S. population would go into decline, though in a generation or two, it would mean that a large percentage of children-becoming-adults would be the offspring of religiously conservative persons with, shall we say, a much different temperament than the current American mainstream. Would that be such a bad thing? I wonder.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: