Fertility rates are below replacement levels in every country in the developed world except Israel. While the leaders of these countries view this decline with alarm, it represents a logical response to the realities of the modern world. Below are a few reasons for this infertile phenomenon. My discussion is pertinent only to the modern era when birth control made having children optional.
Prior to this time children game along whether wanted or not. They also served a purpose; they helped with the family’s work, cared for younger siblings, and in the age of the nuclear family they provided for the wellbeing of their aged parents. Of course old age wasn’t as frequent then as today and this burden was not prolonged or onerous.
Today the nuclear family is more fissile than U-235 and the government is increasingly expected to support the elderly. So the only benefit from bearing and rearing children is the satisfaction of an emotional need for offspring that is essentially an evolutionary hangover. The downsides are so great that any rational calculus would conclude that they are not worth the effort.
A commonplace, but erroneous, statement is that the biggest expense most people incur is buying a house. Wrong! It’s having a child. There are a lot of different numbers spread over the internet about how much it costs to raise a child including a college education. But it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of $1 million. Drop it in half and it still costs more than a house. That’s just for one kid. Can we really expect a lot of people to have two or more?
This amount fails to include the emotional turmoil attached to a child that is welded to family life like steel to the hull of a ship. Each time it (children no longer have gender) gets sick there’s not only a cost, but parents worry about them such that their mental health is jeopardized. But the early childhood years quickly pass and they find themselves living with a teenager who likely hates them, but still wants the car keys.
Then they’re off to college where they learn that all the conditions of life which allowed them the luxury of leisure and education are the result of malice, exploitation, and inequity. Thus, parental ignorance is added to the reward of raising a child to what is laughably called maturity. Furthermore, this collection of woe produces one of two equally unpleasant denouements. It returns home and lives in the basement until it’s 50 or more, or it moves 2,000 miles away and doesn’t return calls, emails, or texts. This is worth a million dollars?
A number of countries are trying to offer inducements, financial and otherwise, to encourage more offspring. They’re doing so because their fertility rates have fallen below the point where there soon won’t be enough people to tax to support the welfare states which, in varying degrees, all of them have adopted. Even if there were no extensive social commitments to the poor, infirm, and the aged the number of children born annually in the desirable regions of the world is insufficient to avoid societal and cultural collapse. The bounties given to parents who procreate at the governmentally approved rate is orders of magnitude below the cost of rearing them and will fail.
Such a collapse is yet another reason not to have children. It’s a bit down the road and will therefore affect somebody else’s children not the ones you won’t have. It’s an act of kindness to keep your future children perpetually in that state.
Another cause of collapse that may intervene before the inverse population bomb explodes is the unsustainable debt that envelopes the globe like a fog of poisoned perfume. There’s already talk of declaring a Jubilee year like that described in Leviticus when debts would be forgiven. Imagine how hard it must have been to get a loan when the Jubilee was just around the calendar. Polonius only got it half right – “Neither a borrower nor a lender be.” Borrow more and lend less is what now what works.
Many people worry about climate change and accordingly want to do their part in reducing carbon emissions. They can help by increasing the number of children they plan not to have. Imagine the competitive virtue signaling that’s possible under such a regime. Mary can declaim that’s she’s not having four, while Jane outbids her with 5, and Olivia blows them all away with a baker’s dozen. Not having children is even easier than it appears.
You can outsource the production of children to the world’s poor by increasing immigration. Only the fertile and willing should be admitted. It’s up to them to produce upwardly mobile progeny who will earn enough to be taxed. The prosperous and barren seniors will really have golden years.
“To have committed every crime but that of being a father.”
― Emil Cioran, The Trouble with Being Born
I’ve had all these thoughts for many decades. Back in the ’70s it was so hard to find a man who didn’t want children. Took me 7 years. How times have changed.