Friday, July 24, 2009

Liberal economics and replacement-level fertility: Are they contradictory?

I'd like to refer our readers to John C. Caldwell and Thomas Schindlmayr' 2003 paper "Explanations of the fertility crisis in modern society: A Search for Commonalities", originally published in Population Studies 27.3, pages 241-263. This paper is a detailed examination of the dynamics behind lowest-low fertility, examining historical trends, government policies, family structures, and so on in a wide variety of countries (Mediterranean Europe, post-Communist Europe, Japan and so on). Their conclusion? The factor common to these different countries and responsible for the shift to lowest-low may well be our globalized economy.

[A] global economy governed by liberal economics creating a high degree of economic individual insecurity may be incompatible with societal replacement. Cohort fertility levels are quite likely to move to ever-lower plateaux, each transition being governed by some severe shock to the system. The mechanisms may be ever fewer couples planning to have more than two children, some deliberately remaining childless or settling for one child, but more failing to achieve a two-child family because of intervening temptations for education, occupational advance, travel, companionate pleasures, or expensive housing.

There are too many different groups of countries with very low fertility and different specific explanations for their situations for us not to conclude that there must be a common deeper explanation for all their conditions. Over-arching conditions common to all developed countries determine fertility decline, but local and sometimes transient idiosyncrasies shape the timing and tempo (see Watkins 1990). That explanation at its broadest must be the creation of a world economic system where children are of no immediate economic value to their parents. Related integral factors include, among other things, rising educational attainment for women and labour force participation. Yet, differences at the national level in legislation, policies, and the response of the population to these institutional settings, as well as family structures, partner relations, childcare expenses, and attitudes towards children determine the shape of the decline. Certainly at present the situation is aggravated by many peoples feeling the cold blasts of liberal economics to a greater extent than previously, but the acceptance of liberal economic policies is largely the outcome of the decision to award economic growth a higher priority than demographic growth. It may be a system to which the world will adjust, much as it is claimed the Anglo-Saxon world has.

The broadest explanation would echo the 1937 view of Kingsley Davis (1997) that ultimately the reproduction of the species is not easily compatible with advanced industrial society. This is a consequence of that society’s rewards in the form of a career for women outside the home and the almost measureless temptations of the modern consumer society. The example of the richest countries, and the impact of modern advertising in the context of a global economy and a near-global political system, makes people in poorer countries yearn for the same possessions, especially motor cars, often giving the desire for such possessions priority over children. There is an extraordinary simultaneity in the contemporary world. Children do not easily fit in with a great deal of travel, and the entertainment they provide can be replaced by the electronic media and other pleasures. Yet couples will probably continue to regard two children as ‘ideal’, partly because they provide a unique and different kind of fulfillment, and usually admire even parents who make little impression on their peers. There is an awareness too that children will ultimately build up a network of relatives, the only adequate network many people may possess; and that, even in a wellinsured welfare state, children may be needed in old age for company as well as physical and financial assistance. These advantages may prove to be sufficient to raise fertility to replacement level or higher in nationalistic states facing declining numbers and with a mandate from their electorate to spend hugely to overcome the difficulties faced by women or couples who want all the modern world can provide but who, if that provision can be maintained, are willing to have children as well. This time may not come for decades but it is likely that prototypes will begin to develop.


In their different ways, France and the United States might be these prototypes. Then again even in these countries there's dissent, as evidenced by French writer Corinne Maier's No Kids: 40 Good Reasons Not to Have Children. She received substantial international attention for her thesis.

Q: Your two children, Laure and Cyrille, 14 and 12, are old enough to read your book and to be affected by it. What was their reaction?

A: When it was released I explained to them what it is about but they haven't read it because they aren't very interested in what I do. They prefer to read Harry Potter and (books by) Stephen King.

Q: What about their friends, and their friends' parents?

A: My name is different. They have the name of their father so nobody knows who I am.

[. . .]

Q: How would you characterize the reception to the book, aside from its huge success on the stands? Has the reaction been hostile? Welcoming?

A: Some people laughed because it was written to be funny. Other people thought it was shocking. Some people wrote to me to tell me that I was a monster. Some journalists wrote that my book was in extremely bad taste and a bad read. Many people disliked it and said it was inappropriate. They thought that a mother of two should not be allowed to write such things about children because, of course, "children are our future" and "they are so important," and "nothing is more beautiful than a smile on a child's face."


And in Canada, a place with a TFR of ~1.5 and cohort fertility of ~1.7, the front cover of the latest issue of English Canada's newsmagazine MacLean's is promoting the article "The Case Against Having Kids" (They can hurt your careeer, your marriage, your social life, your bank book. Why bother?).

Stay tuned.

30 comments:

J said...

Isnt it obvious hat fertility decline is a direct consequence of the availability of anticonceptives? Iran cut its fertility in only four years without any change in social arrangemetns or globalization, by making available the pill through rural clinics. Why the emphasis on sociology when it the pill explains it all or most?

Edward Hugh said...

Hi J,

Well the pill is obviously very important everywhere, since it puts women more in charge of the reproductive process. But then we still have variance at the decision level between countries. eg the pill is probably more easily available in Sweden than Italy, but in Sweden young women have more children, and in Italy less, so the explanatory power breaks down at this level, which is why economics and sociology also matter.

Randy said...

"Why the emphasis on sociology when it the pill explains it all or most?"

The sociology explains why women use the pill and other contraceptives, and why they use it in the particular ways that they do.

Randy said...

And let's not forget the men in this equation. Most of the people I know who aren't interested in becoming a parent are in fact men.

There are all other kinds of reasons, issues I won't mention her for time's sake. Suffice it to say that discussing fertility's a complex issue.

jpbenney said...

Randy, I can only congratulate you!

You are absolutely right that society explains why people use contraceptives, and not their mere availability.

Anarcho-capitalists would argue, as Hans Hoppe does, that eliminating all public welfare and incentives for women to enter the labour market (e.g. minimum wage, child labour and anti-discrimination laws) would restore fertility even in industrialised cities to levels observed in agricultural societies.

The problem with this argument is nothing more than that no country which has industrialised has been able to stem fertility decline except the very few possessed of enough continuous flat land for economic unsubsidised agriculture. These countries are found only in Australia, Africa and parts of the US. That suggests, as do the numerous revolutions in Europe and Asia, that industrialisation in nations which would not be food producers in a globalised division of labour inevitably leads to public support for big government and democracy, with the consequence of lowest-low fertility.

Randy said...

"[E]liminating all public welfare and incentives for women to enter the labour market (e.g. minimum wage, child labour and anti-discrimination laws) would restore fertility even in industrialised cities to levels observed in agricultural societies."

I'm very skeptical of that. Assuming that women _did_ lose their jobs in large numbers, they'd suffer immediate hits in their standards of living. In the real world, such events invariably result in _falling_ levels of fertility--post-Communist Europe comes to mind. For that matter, an Iran that's run by misogynists of one sort or another is also seeing a sharp decline in cohort fertility and TFRs.

This assumes that women would necessarily lose their jobs in large numbers. In most developed countries, women form a majority of university graduates:

http://www.20-first.com/778-0-trend-of-women-as-the-majority-of-talent-will-continue.html

That's even the case in Iran:

http://www.forbes.com/2009/07/21/iran-gender-politics-islam-forbes-woman-power-womens-rights.html

Can businesses really afford to miss out on so many skilled workers?

Finally, Hoppe's point--like so many points--ignores the vital role of men in reproduction. Why aren't men interested in becoming parents? See

http://books.google.ca/books?id=iwdjF4r_OF0C&pg=PA122&lpg=PA122&dq=men+role+fertility+decline&source=bl&ots=hPI6-PErZm&sig=4OwgsmJ6hPIpNSej-ZE56MCJ7Wk&hl=en&ei=nvNrSpXnIYTiNY7zsPkG&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2

and most especially this

http://www.demogr.mpg.de/Papers/workshops/010623_paper11.pdf

My favourite quote from the second?

"A recent study from the Netherlands finds that the investments in children are equivalent to the price tag of a luxury car. It is named “the Porsche option”(Kalle et al. (2000). Who wants a Porsche and who wants a child? The study finds that men prefer the Porsche. Women want a child sooner, men want to postpone. Women want a third child more often; men tend to take “a blocking position”. The conclusion drawn is that “Male power in decision making [therefore] seems to be mostly blocking power (or postponing power) (point 4.4)."

Heh.

"The problem with this argument is nothing more than that no country which has industrialised has been able to stem fertility decline except the very few possessed of enough continuous flat land for economic unsubsidised agriculture. These countries are found only in Australia, Africa and parts of the US."

Canada, my country, has abundant agricultural land, concentrated equally in the west as in central Canada, but the national TFR is in the ~1.5 range and cohort fertility nationally in the ~1.7 range.

Australia does have relatively high fertility, but lower than the United States. As well, the Nordic states do have relatively low population densities (relatively higher on account of relatively inhospitable landmasses) but all maintain high fertility.

France,

http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agriculture_en_France

is the largest agricultural exporter in the European Union, despite a population density much higher than the other polities you named. Even if it is uneconomical in the end, France also has a TFR/cohort fertility comparable with that of the United States.

Randy said...

Edward:

"But then we still have variance at the decision level between countries."

And within countries, too. Canada comes to mind. I'm not talking about Québec, which now has one of the highest TFRs in Canada at ~1.65--higher than the national average for the first time since 1959~-but about internal variations within English Canada, ranging from a Newfoundland and Labrador verging on lowest-low fertility to an Alberta that has almost American levels.

jpbenney said...

Randy,

what Hans Hoppe says is that if the government totally eliminated regulation of the private sector and support to those who could not work, then there would be much more incentive to have children as a form of social insurance.

People like Hoppe believe that the cost of children would fall dramatically if farm subsidies and zoning which make housing unaffordable, were abolished. They believe the free market would always provide adequate housing supply and space in the absence of the controls mentioned above

Edward Hugh said...

"[E]liminating all public welfare and incentives for women to enter the labour market"

Well, this is effectively the experiment that is being run in Latvia now, and as I am charting on my Latvia blog, fertility is plummeting. So are these sort of ideas available to empirical testing, or are they just dogmas?

Edward Hugh said...

"what Hans Hoppe says is that if the government totally eliminated regulation of the private sector and support to those who could not work, then there would be much more incentive to have children as a form of social insurance."

As I say, watch carefully what happens next in Latvia and Ukraine, two countries where this dystopian experiment is being conducted before our very eyes. We will soon know if it works or not.

Outland said...

I'm a bit surprised at this blogpost to be fair.

I've been reading up on fertility declines for quite some time, but I've always thought that there are many, many different poltical, sociological, economical factors involved, setting up different kinds of changes, hitting different kinds of people in different ways.

Liberal economic policies may hurt the middle class, IF they both face all its bad effects (derelegulation of labor market, job insecurity, etc.) AND are also overtaxed by the government (to transfer welfare to the lower classes. Middle class families usually decide to have more kids, if they can pay for them in the long term -- uncertainty will decrease the size of their family planning.

In countries where liberal economic policies are allowed to blossom and benefit daring entrepreneurs and/or hard-working people, men and women, it might be interesting for them to have more children -- this low time preference of middle classes, is, btw, also one of Hans Hoppe's main arguments. I missed it in the earlier comments. It certainly makes his case a better one.

OTOH, I'm convinced by the arguments of the writers of this blog that the demographic transitions have fundamentally altered people's perceptions towards family formation and fertility. After the DT sets in, it is indeed very hard to get fertility up again, governments can't seem to do much about it.

Anyway, I don't believe liberal economics are the main culprit here. They may be an ingredient in the whole soup of factors, but hardly the silver bullit.

PS

Is there any chance that one of the writers here, could make a table with all the different factors decreasing fertility, by naming the recorded correlations from studies? I've at least seen a dozen factors named already the last few years; increased women's education and work participation, waning religiosity and patriarchy, availability abortion, etc., etc. Hell, I've even seen reports about decreased sperm quality in men.

Edward Hugh said...

Hi,

"I've been reading up on fertility declines for quite some time, but I've always thought that there are many, many different poltical, sociological, economical factors involved, setting up different kinds of changes, hitting different kinds of people in different ways."

I think you are right, there are many different factors, and free market economics (which we aren't against) is but one of them.

The point is, not to treat markets as dogma, and to be prepared to try to arrest the harmful side-effects when they are noted. Look at the most recent financial crisis, for example. People have stepped in and done a lot to try to stop the financial system melting down.

Some are opposed to this on principle, that is their right, but we wouldn't agree.

Same thing goes for fertility. There is now automatic homeostatic correction mechanism. As I am pointing out to another commentator, take away the institutional support of a modern functioning economy as we are seeing in Ukraine and Latvia, and fertility simply collapses. This is very different to a pre moden society with a Malthusian type regime like Ethiopia or Afghanistan.

So, theoretically speaking, where Adam Smith seems to have gone wrong is assuming the Malthusian correction was permanently valid. It isn't, and in post Malthusian societies, there is no hidden hand correction, because the population dynamics can spiral out of control. This is simply the intellectual foundation for a more sophistocated view of the whole issue. You cannot simply sit back and wait for this to "correct" or you will be swept away with the flood.

Basically, I think those famous global "imbalances" which underpinned the most recent financial crisis are all about this, but that, here, is perhaps a side issue.

Essnetially, it is inherent to any post traditional social structure (with or without the welfare state) that the individual can "free ride" the externalities which belonging to a society offers.

The point is not whether pensions are private or public, but that you can, without having offspring yourself, save for your old age. But spending these savings depends on having a society which you yourself will have done nothing to reproduce. That basically is the "flaw" in the so called "liberal" argument. This was always Wittgenstein's critique of Hayek. You can't have freedom to exercise without a society in which to exercise it. But you can get the society for free, just like the fresh air you breathe, without contributing anything.

Outland said...

"Same thing goes for fertility. There is now automatic homeostatic correction mechanism. As I am pointing out to another commentator, take away the institutional support of a modern functioning economy as we are seeing in Ukraine and Latvia, and fertility simply collapses. This is very different to a pre moden society with a Malthusian type regime like Ethiopia or Afghanistan."

I agree with this. This is a great observation.

CV said...

Hi Outland,

"Is there any chance that one of the writers here, could make a table with all the different factors decreasing fertility, by naming the recorded correlations from studies? I've at least seen a dozen factors named already the last few years; increased women's education and work participation, waning religiosity and patriarchy, availability abortion, etc., etc. Hell, I've even seen reports about decreased sperm quality in men."

Well, my forthcoming master's thesis contains a view on the drivers of fertility "decline" ... and I will be reproducing parts of this in coming entries. Basically however, it is extremely difficult to get a PRECISE handle on this.
For once, the analysis is very sensitive to the scientific discipline. E.g. economic theory explains the decline in fertility through the lense of family economics and parental investment theory which has led to the idea of the quantum effect which states that women/families shift from quantity to quality throughout the demographic transition (i.e. a time series perspective) but also in a cross sectional perspective with the prediction that low income cohorts have more children than high income cohorts. The quantum effect is also sometimes used by economic growth theorists (Galor and Weil) to explain the onset of the demographic transition itself in the sense that the technological development itself surrounding the industrial revolution caused a shift towards a demand for more quality instead of quantity.

Now, the thing here is that if you go to the study of anthropology and evolutionary theory the quantum effect is also present but in an entirely different guise and has to do with fitness maximization and the trade-off (inherent in human evolution) between mating, growth, and maintenance. This would be the life history theory propounded by e.g. Ruth Mace but also Kaplan is a very influential author on this whole subject.

The tempo effect on the other hand is another more recent phenomenon in the context of the contemporary post-war demographic evolutions where fertility has fallen, to a large extent, because women choose to have their first child later (and many subsequently fail to reach replacement level as a result). The narration of this effect is taken from sociology and life course theory since evidently the postponement process itself is a life course phenomenon.
So, already from sketching the playing field it is quite complicated … but that does not that we should not try to get a handle on this.

Incidentally, this is also why you hear so much harping from me about deterministic perspectives on fertility (i.e. mono-causal explanations) where the endpoint is known. The process is simply too complex to merit this kind of treatment.

Claus

Outland said...

"You can't have freedom to exercise without a society in which to exercise it."

This is why I dropped libertarianism a few years ago.

I came to this conclusion, from a different angle, because I was convinced by the conservative argument that a society needs order, structure, institutions before liberalism (especially post-60s left-liberalism) can allow relaxation of autority. In countries like Somalia, I doubt a left-liberal Dutch system would be a good thing.

"But you can get the society for free, just like the fresh air you breathe, without contributing anything."

That's true to a point. It doesn't hold up for entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators, who help society improve (selfish gene principle: they work for the good of the group.)

But you must mean the average man in the street who can decide not to have kids, yet can still enjoy all of the benefits of new generations who will have to pay for his childlessness. That's a hard question, I don't know what can be done about free-riders at all these days. The usual solution is to dissolve welfare to a minimum for creating impulses to work. But this can only go so far.

My father suffered and died from MS, while my mother died from cancer 8 years earlier (back then, I was 19.) I know that, without any state support, I and my sister would have been out on the streets, work somewhere in sales (at best, way below potential anyway) and never had any schooling whatsoever.

Edward Hugh said...

Hi Outland,

"That's true to a point. It doesn't hold up for entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators, who help society improve (selfish gene principle: they work for the good of the group.)"

I fully accept. But I did say "can", not must. Obviously many entrepreneurs, leaders and innovators contribute a great deal to society, and not always for self interested reason. Sometimes the best strategy for entrpreneurial success can be quite simply altruism, and I am sure other entrpreneurs do what they do for absolutely non selfish reasons. Maybe Warren Buffet, for example, isn't in it for the money at all. Maybe he just likes the feeling of being "the best investor". But then maybe he is or maybe he isn't, I wouldn't want to advance an opinion on that.

Anonymous said...

J,

France had a low TFR in the 1930's. The pill didn't exist then. The pill is only recently made legal in Japan and is still not the major anti-conception methode. I think this is enough to discredit your thesis that fertility decline is a direct consequence of the pill.

ps. Ceausescu's Romania TFR wasn't that high considering its anti anticonception policies. People just don't want that many children.

Randy said...

@ Outland:

"Anyway, I don't believe liberal economics are the main culprit here. They may be an ingredient in the whole soup of factors, but hardly the silver bullit."

Not the silver bullet, perhaps, but the kind of individualism associated with the primacy of a consumer's needs _does_ contribute notably, by making children just another economic option.

@ Anonymous

And Romania's TFR dropped like a stone in the several years after Ceaucescu's overthrow.

Anonymous said...

That is not the point. Ceaucescu had "pro-natal" policies*) that make those of Vatican City look liberal and it's TFR at the time was only 4.



*) I would be really surprised if teaching the calender method was legal.

Renee said...

Just wanted to chime in. I've been reading this blog for a few months now and enjoying. Not an expert, but definitely an oddity. I live in Lowell Massachusetts with four children.

I never expected as a teenager or even in college to be a stay at home mother or having more then the ideal two. Growing up one doesn't really think about marriage and family, you spend most of one's social time avoiding it and not preparing for it.

I guess I'm blessed I have an education (law degree) and my parents taught me how to use credit well and not to abuse it or more importantly let a boyfriend take advantage of it. My husband and I struggle with the cost of living and student loans. While everyone is excited that we have a large family, people are concern for our material lifestyle. We don't live in the suburbs, our home still needs a lot of work, our digital camera is outdated, we don't have cable or satellite, and we have only one working TV and computer.

The funny thing is that even by the time I was married at 23 I still wasn't thinking of having kids, it sort of just grew on me. What I thought would be a short stint of changing jobs after the second baby at 27, turned into two more children not going back to work.

Like I've said in many ways I lucked out. I have my parents and in-laws living within minutes. Also for my last two years of college and before I got married I lived at home. Also I went to a relatively cheap law school, Massachusetts School of Law which at the time in the early 2000's was about 12k a year for tution.

While there are many factors, but the main one I would put my finger on is that people just don't think about it one way or the other, because they are occupied and distracted with other things.

I should mention now that I'm now a practicing Catholic. The children made me more religious over time. Also I practice Natural Family Planning, at first the Billings Ovulation Method, then nothing but ecological breastfeeding, hopefully I will be a part of a study with Marquette University regarding NFP. What introduced me into NFP was nor religious doctrine but a secular book "Taking Charge of Your Fertility"

Should note after the study we may still be open to children, when your sex life is always open to the possibility of having more children we have definitely redirected how we spend and prepare our finances.

Anyways my concern is I value my education and established economic independence. I believe it has a great benefit to the marriage and family as a whole. I think it is unfortunately to sometimes read that the reason to have an education and being economically independent, as a woman, is in case of divorce rather then tools to strengthen the family.

Aslak said...

Renee, I think that what you said here is actually very important:

"While there are many factors, but the main one I would put my finger on is that people just don't think about it one way or the other, because they are occupied and distracted with other things."

This blog tends to focus on the economical perspective, but there are so many other factors that are important. There is for example substantial evidence that introducing electricity and television in developing countries substantially reduces fertility rates, simply because, as you say, it makes people distracted with other things. It also allows people to views shows and series where people tend to have smaller families, so that might have an effect too.

In the developed world, I think it's more of a question of to what extent society allows you to have a family while either studying or working combined with the sheer cost of raising children that explains the variation in fertility.

Aslak said...

Perhaps I should add that cases such as yourself is the exception rather than the rule -there simply aren't enough women like you in most societies that are willing to stay at home much beyond their maternity leave (in countries that have those), to achieve a reasonable level of overall fertility. The majority of people want it all, or perhaps at least "some of it all", so I think society needs to provide for that.

Renee said...

It's hard for professional women to ramp up a project and leave for three months at a time.I know in the legal field there is talk about transitioning, which helps. I know in Massachusetts have transition seminars not just for women, but men who may have not practiced law for some time. Making professional continuing education more common place would benefit would benefit everyone, my husband who has been with the same employer for nine years finds himself out of touch new technology and practices.


--------

I would point towards on what it means to be a good parent.

Like everyone else in my suburban public school, we're all one of two maybe three if a family had a surprise. It seemed all one's parents care about was their child getting good grades and not getting pregnant. I wish not to speak ill of my own parents, but that's the message I got.

In "Rocking the Cradle of Class" by Hara Estroff Marano author of "Nation of Whimps"

Here are some snippets...

"THE '70S SHIFT

It all started in the 1970s, when postwar optimism came to a crashing halt against stagflation and the oil crisis. The American economy shifted dramatically. "Parents translated that into a fear of not passing on their class status to their kids," says Mintz. Their solution: Give the kids whatever advantages possible and introduce into childhood the alien idea of specialization. "Nervousness about globalization made parents so concerned about competitiveness that they began believing they had to do everything in their power to not let their kids lose."

"WHAT ARE KIDS FOR?

In agricultural societies, there is an overt economic relationship between parents and children, and it's based on reciprocity. Parents provide food and shelter; kids contribute labor and the promise of care in old age. But in modern societies, kids seldom take on the burden of caring for elderly parents, so there's no economic payoff. Parents shell out lots of money for education, iPods and other gear. What do the children do in return? Why even have them?

RESUMES ON TWO LEGS

"We treat children as projects, as things to be helped and shaped and pushed and prodded," says Mintz. "It's the sense that I am going to create a resume on two legs." Parents have always dreamed of perfection, but it used to be a very surface thing -- posture, strict feeding schedules. Now, he says, perfection is defined so exclusively in terms of achievement that no other path to adulthood is acceptable. As he laments in Huck's Raft, there's no room for "odysseys of self-discovery outside the goal-driven, overstructured realities of contemporary childhood."

Renee said...

con't

---------

While newborns and preschoolers are cute, I think people reject having children because they turn into teenagers.

A very personal article/observation from Paul Graham (lower half)

"Now adults have no immediate use for teenagers. They would be in the way in an office. So they drop them off at school on their way to work, much as they might drop the dog off at a kennel if they were going away for the weekend.

Teenagers now are useless, except as cheap labor in industries like fast food, which evolved to exploit precisely this fact. In almost any other kind of work, they'd be a net loss. But they're also too young to be left unsupervised. Someone has to watch over them, and the most efficient way to do this is to collect them together in one place. Then a few adults can watch all of them.

If you stop there, what you're describing is literally a prison, albeit a part-time one."

On a sadder note.... a Boston Globe article on teenage suicide of affluent teens.

“Four too many”
"Life in Needham was called too competitive, too much about “keeping up with the Joneses.” Kids were deemed “spoiled rotten.” Parents talked about feeling isolated in “a very, very busy town” and stressed out about saying both no and yes to their kids. They said they wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between someone who was depressed and someone considering suicide. Teachers talked about the intense pressure that kids faced at school and at home. “The parents went to Harvard,” said one, “and their kids are going to go to Harvard.” At least one student seemed to agree. “It seems like we’re only statistics – how many of us will get into college,” the student said in a focus group. “No one really cares about who we are."

We idolize children, yet at the same time neglect them as human beings. We give children everything, but don’t know how to give affection. We try to make them independent babies, but we meddle in their affairs when they are into their 20’s and beyond. We protect them from the slightest physical harm from basic hygiene and nutrition to bullying to wearing seat belts to STDs, but we do not give them the true character building tools to make decisions on their own. We don’t teach them to have lives of their own, but hold them captive to our expectations.

Are we over scheduling them or are we making them fat and lazy?
Which one is it?

Anonymous said...

Renee,

Children, and what they achieve are a symbol of status. The higher the status of the child the higher the status of the parent. That is there main purpose and that is why it is better to have two high performing than ten average performing let alone one bad apple (which is more likely with ten)

Renee said...

"That is there main purpose and that is why it is better to have two high performing than ten average performing let alone one bad apple (which is more likely with ten)"


I'm not disagreeing with your observation, but if children are about performance and bragging rights does anyone ask what the children think of this?

Anonymous said...

The bragging rights come when the children are adult so ask your kids in 30 years

Renee said...

This post is a copy of the other

Well I'm 32.... so I have those 30 years.

Very few of my peers have children. I think the Boston Globe article I noted on teenage suicide, that treating children as trophies isn't a good idea. I've taken a radically differing view of parenting from my parents, in a good way I think my parents see how the trend of 'trophy children' wasn't the best idea. While they're embarrassed I don't live in a new development or get promotions they're they only ones that can say they actually have grandchildren.

Average isn't as bad as it seems. I'm not putting down knowledge and skills, my point is the goal education isn't about bragging rights but understanding. There is a lost of philosophy and meaning in the push to be the best, and without meaning I think many individuals see no point or value in having kids if they don't have to have them.

I don't believe that parents like my own who had smaller families had true ill intent, but there are consequences we should acknowledge. My unmarried childless peers also think my husband and I got something going here, even though they wouldn't have kids in a million years.

Miacek said...

Outland ''I came to this conclusion, from a different angle, because I was convinced by the conservative argument that a society needs order, structure, institutions before liberalism (especially post-60s left-liberalism) can allow relaxation of autority. In countries like Somalia, I doubt a left-liberal Dutch system would be a good thing.''

I fully agree with you. Economic libertarianism a la Hoppe (I've read some of his pieces that are online) is not based on empirical evidence, rather, it is a utopia (and yes, the Eastern European dystopias come to my mind, too). Secondly, post-1960 liberalism won't work. It's not increasing liberty that we face in e.g. Belgium, but rather some weird bureacratic nanny-state tyranny, where every word you utter may be determined 'offensive' to some minority groups (whichin their turn, of course, needn't follow similar rules). No, economic libertarianism is rather dubious, socially libertarian ideas won't work for long.

Anonymous said...

If high inflation wipes out the value of savings accounts, and Social Security and Medicare go bankrupt, the Duggar family, and other families with large numbers of well-brought-up children, will still have a decent retirement. A little money or free labor from each of 20 children will go a long way for people like the Duggars who don't spend much on clothes or food.

I saw a study a few years ago that said that children of divorce generally are willing to provide personal care and financial help for an aging mother, but are far less likely to provide personal care for their fathers, although some of them provided financial help to their aging fathers. In times of severe financial upheaval, people who don't have a strong family network are going to suffer.