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The PJ Tatler

by
Bryan Preston

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March 15, 2013 - 9:52 am

Kathy Shaidle and Dr. Helen both weigh in on the question of whether childless adults are better or worse for society.

I’ve expressed my differences with Shaidle in the past, regarding cultural topics like gaming and sci-fi. No need to go over that ground again.

It should be beyond obvious that having kids is good for society. For one thing, no kids pretty much means no society at all before too long. Additionally, if you have a set of values and there’s a competing set of values out there, the group that has the most kids is probably going to win over time because they’re going to transmit their values to their children. If you’re not having kids, to whom are you transmitting your values? Your blog readers?

But I just have one real question to toss into the debate: What sort of government policies do aging childless adults end up needing, and therefore voting for when they’re old?

If you don’t have kids and grandkids to help you when you’re old, who will take care of you when your health is failing?

Culturally, we’re dismantling the social structures that once provided us with the means to help the poor and aging outside government. The church and family are both under massive, sustained assault from the broader culture.

If they’re destroyed by our generation or the next one, as seems increasingly likely, what’s left to fill in the gaps?

You can try “going Galt” when you’re young and haven’t taken on the adult and forward-looking responsibility of raising the next generation to understand what individual liberty means, but it’s tough to stay Galt when you can barely walk or feed yourself, and you have no one but the helping hand of government around to help you.

Bryan Preston has been a leading conservative blogger and opinionator since founding his first blog in 2001. Bryan is a military veteran, worked for NASA, was a founding blogger and producer at Hot Air, was producer of the Laura Ingraham Show and, most recently before joining PJM, was Communications Director of the Republican Party of Texas.

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All Comments   (22)
All Comments   (22)
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Having children or not is a personal choice. There plenty of good reasons not to, none the least the way the country is headed. As it is, taxes, increasingly intrusive and controlling government, increasing costs in a failing economy and a culture the worships the chaos and immorality that is killing it are causing many to avoid having kids, not just here but in Europe and other places as well.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We shouldn't forget that what is good for society is not necessarily what is good for the individual, in the same way evolutionary pressures on a species in the short term are blind to the long-term success of the species. Right now the current social structure makes marriage dangerous for many individuals, especially male individuals... for reasons so thoroughly enumerated that retreading them again would be pointless. Meanwhile, the PERSONAL benefits of reproduction are nonexistent. And don't come back with "that's not true because people who have no children don't pass on their genes". That's neither here nor there. That's a diffuse, abstract problem, and in some ways antithetical to individual success. If "advancing your career" is hard, "advancing your career, while dealing with kids" is undeniably harder.

And incidentally, a desire to live off the government in old age is by NO means necessarily inferred by this. Getting sufficient career advancement, to make a large enough salary, to provide for an independent retirement, is a very viable goal. It's a question of which provides for your old age better... two or three people who are midway along in their careers and who... however much they love you... probably still don't care about you quite as much as, well, you? Or getting that significant increase in ability to focus on career, disposable income, and flexibility that staying single provides, while minimizing risks of ruinous divorces and unexpected family crises... all to compile a nest egg you personally will be able to direct the disposal of?


And you can likewise decry the hedonist tendencies of the new generation if they generally care more about arranging for their own comfort than they do about providing progeny. You have reason to complain. But you do it in the same spirit *I* can decry the way gravity pulls a mug I've dropped downward. I might have reason too. Maybe the mug was expensive, and it'll be hard to replace... but blaming a law of nature doesn't solve this. Similarly, there's no value in blaming humans for doing exactly what demographics, statistics, and human drives predict they'll do. Your rhetoric is sound, no one denies it... but I suspect even a great number of well-meaning and reasonable millennials you'd presumably hope to sway with it would be comparing your statements with their own calculations of their personal success. Face it: your scolding is transient, but relative poverty has staying power. To summarize: having kids may be good for society, but for the individuals living within society, on whom the actual pressures act, it is often not at all good.


But in all fairness, your other point is valid... actually producing offspring will give a serious competitive advantage to groups that have passed on some workaround or other that helps override the individually-favored selective pressures. Society, I have great faith, WILL self-correct in this way... it may pick up a funny idea or two, depending on who wins, but we'll soldier on and work 'em out, eventually. As to what millenials will do to build up the welfare state... if you think I'VE been optimistic so far, I could say the same to you for thinking this system of government will persist, in this state, long enough for a new POTENTIAL tribe to make any difference. Either George Orwell will be spinning in his grave or it will have all been knocked down and recently put back together, and in those conditions people get... touchy about anything resembling the old system. I doubt the millennials and their choices will make any lasting difference to anyone.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Speaking as a mother of young adults who no longer practice the religion they were raised in, I suspect that one prospect that makes people think twice about childbearing is: In a society where there is so little support for parents in passing on traditions; where parents have much responsibility for their children but less power over them than in the past (that power having been assumed by government and its schools and "experts"); where people live in fear of accusations of child abuse for any strictness of standards or discipline (or alienation of affection in case of ugly divorce)... well, it might not be worth the effort, expense, or potential sorrow of raising children who might very well grow up to be hostile strangers to you. (Glenn Reynolds once wrote penetratingly of this problem.) All possibilities contemplated, my family got off fairly easily.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Why are we having this discussion? Indeed! The parents of today's potential parents never fully left their adolescence behind. Why should we be surprised that their progeny is still mired in childhood?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In my office there are thirteen employess-counting spouses that makes twenty-six adults. Between us we have fourteen children. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that those fourteen children's future payyments into social security will not sustain we twenty-six adults.

Why don't people have children? Honestly, I believe that part of the problem is that young people are stretching out their adolescence to the point that by the time they finally reach emotional maturity they are just too old to have children. Secondly, young people honestly believe that Uncle Sam will always be there to take care of them. I recently had a twenty-something year old tell me that he had been paying into social security "his whole life" and expected that money to be there for him when he retired. (I suppressed both my giggles and my desire to sarcastically reply "THAT long?")

Personally, I think kids can be a great big pain in that backside but they are the only way I know of to end up with grandchildren so in the end they are worth it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
i think that you are posing the question wrong. clearly society needs children. but should all people have children? a society needs many types. the childless pay taxes for the schooling of the children of others. single people pay greater tax rates than married. some people are driven and not emotionally able to commit to raising a family. they maybe hugely successful in other ways.
what is good for society is very frequently different from what is good for an individual. an obvious example is D-Day. society need people in the first wave going ashore. being in the first wave was not in any individuals best interest

society needs kids or it ceases to be. society does not need everyone to have kids. at least not in this country at this time.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well, the only way to get a guarantee is to have no kids, and guarantee that no one will be around to care about you.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
That's no guarantee, either. My dad's aunt never married (sweetheart was killed in WWII), and when she was old she was cared for by her younger sisters and nephews.

Your bigotry blinds you.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Bigotry? Justify that accusation.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Bryan you are obviously right but we really must put a priority on taking back the schools. We need the ability to fire teachers as we once did.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thank you, Brian, for returning pjmedia to a common sense position. I'm beginning to wonder if this is a conservative site at all or just a place for Libertarian hedonists to vent.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
+100

Over the last several weeks I have been arguing that what we call Libertarians today are no longer part of the Conservative movement. Real Libertarians like Hayek and von Mises understood that small government requires strong private social institutions like family, church and social clubs. The people who claim to be Libertarians today are more like the Russian Social Revolutionaries who allied themselves with the Bolsheviks in 1917. Libertarians are now playing the useful idiots for the Progressives. The destruction of our social institutions, aided and abetted by these clowns, will the turn the country into one big socially dysfunctiional Detroit ruled over by Progressive elites.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I should add that if you bin policy issues into three groups, e.g., social, economic, international, Libertarians generally agree with Progressives on 2 of the 3 bins, differing only on economics. My advice to Libertarians is to switch parties. You might be plus if you can move the Democrats away from statist economic policies.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thanks, agree with your assessment 100%
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I am wondering the same thing too. Good vibrant debate is something that should be welcomed. But lately an increasing number pf posts are basically rants and don't stay on topic.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I'm not sure what's "common sense" about bashing people who don't have children. It's a source of pain for a lot of people--what does piling on accomplish?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
No one is "bashing" anyone, other than you, who called me a "bigot."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Even people who have kids have no guarantee that their kids will be helpful to them in their old age. In the end, we're all on our own.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Great point! What is often missed by those who advocate that children used to care for their aged parents is that 50-60-70 years ago, adult children often lived near or within the same dwelling as their parents. This is not so today. Some elderly parents may live in Florida or Arizona while their children reside in Boston or New York or Chicago. In the end, elderly couples have to depend on each other and eventually 1 will be alone.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Your absolutely correct. My mother-in-law just passed at 87 and had been in an excellent nursing home. My wife went virtually every day. Some folks hardly if ever saw a relative visit. One has a restraining order on a son who only wants Dad's money. No guarantees in this area.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Uhhhh . . . . . I think you completely, totally, absolutely missed the main underlying point of Bryan's post. Perhaps this comment of yours, like the whole "should we have children" red flag, is another sign of our decline.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Um, no, I didn't 'miss' the main point, I commented on one aspect of it, and then was interrupted. Perhaps you're just a jerk looking for people to pick on.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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