The Child-Free Generation’s Hard Bargain With Capitalism

David Sessions

David Sessions is a writer and contributor at The Daily Beast, and studies European intellectual history at New York University. He is the founding contributor of the religion blog Patrol.

Related Post Roulette

269 Responses

  1. LeeEsq says:

    Is it really the system thats causing people to have fewer or no children latter in life though? The 19th century was a time of near constant population booms and its not like the capitalist system was any less brutal than. Yes, middle and upper class women did not work but lots of women did have to have to work in some rather harsh conditions to make ends meet. Lots of fathers were working long and brutal hours to.

    What really changed was the nature of childhood. For most of human history, children were an economic asset who did all sorts of labor to help their family. Even in middle and upper class families, where kids weren’t sent to work in the factory or field, kids provided economic benefits sooner than latter through bringing them into the family firm, securing the family line, or a marriage alliance. This thankfully change during the 19th century and childhood as we understand it today was more or less in place by the early 20th century. Times were generally prosperous enough to allow this, especially after WWII and the subsequent boom. Since people are struggling and kids aren’t an asset in an economic sense, people don’t have kids.Report

    • LWA in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I would hazard a guess that is we allowed children to enter the workforce, and manage spreadsheets, schedule Outlook and GoToMeetings, write up meeting minutes, then you would see a return to children being economic assets.Report

      • Troublesome Frog in reply to LWA says:

        I would hazard a guess that is we allowed children to enter the workforce, and manage spreadsheets, schedule Outlook and GoToMeetings, write up meeting minutes, then you would see a return to children being economic assets.

        Let’s face it: a child making PowerPoint slides probably isn’t all that much less productive than an adult making PowerPoint slides.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to LWA says:

        More productive, economically, since we probably wouldn’t be paying the child as much.Report

    • Cava05 in reply to LeeEsq says:

      “What really changed” was that effective birth control was invented. Adult human beings like to have sex. It’s a basic drive. Until very, very recently in human history (ie. the last 45 years), being a (hetero)sexually active adult meant that you would have children unless you had an underlying fertility issue. Full stop. Having kids wasn’t a choice the way it is today. It was almost impossible not to have kids. Their economic value to the family was beside the point. They existed because the only way to stop them from existing was not to have sex, and that rarely works for long.Report

      • Kim in reply to Cava05 says:

        ” Having kids wasn’t a choice the way it is today.”
        … because homosexuality is a new thing?
        Old maids existed since time immemorial.
        They were frequently childless.Report

      • Cava05 in reply to Cava05 says:

        Yes, of course there have always been people who by choice do not have heterosexual sex and therefore do not have accidental pregnancies and unwanted children. But do you not think circumstances are different today for a heterosexual couple that wants to have old-fashioned heterosexual intercourse on a regular basis but doesn’t want to have children? It used to be almost impossible to do that without having a kid or two or ten. Birth control was ineffective, and abortion was dangerous and illegal. That context was missing in the comment I originally replied to. Even though they helped out on the farm, I’m not sure if my great-grandmother really “chose” to have 12 children and several miscarriages. Once she got married, she didn’t have a way not to be pregnant almost every year from age 18 – 40.Report

  2. NewDealer says:

    1. I remember reading somewhere that the rate of people in any given generation who don’t have children (by choice or outside force) is roughly 20 percent and this has been true for many decades if not generations. I would say we notice childfreeism more these days not because the numbers are changed but because we live in a post-Industrial and post-Agricultural society. In the past, these people would have merely been spinster aunts or bachelor uncles who lived with the family or very close by and were sort of on the shadows of life. A good number of them might have been closeted homosexuals. Now the child-free have better careers, discretionary income, etc.

    2. A lot of my female friends have been posting an article on facebook about how the science of fertility is wrong and based on a centuries old study. They take it as hope that they can have kids post-30s.

    3. Humane is something that is very hard to quantify. I’ve seen people express the opinion that humanity should go the way of the dodo and this is the compassionate choice for the world. I think these people are nuts. Only humans would argue that their eradication is good and/or necessary for the planet. I’m a humanist and love people. I want to see the human race thrive and continue. Hence the need for people to have children. Not everyone but more than not.

    4. As a person in his early 30s, I see a lot of friends from HS and College are having children or getting pregnant. I am not planning on having children any time in the mere future for a variety of reasons (mainly a lack of any long-term relationship where this ever came up in discussion.) Then again these things change quickly. I’ve certainly seen people go from care-free single, to married, to pregnant (more than once) in what seems like a blink of an eye to me as an outside observer.Report

  3. Will Truman says:

    Great post, David, (and welcome!). Now I’m going to have to rework my planned post on “What To Expect When No One’s Expecting.”

    Lee, it’s not that having children is more expensive than it used to be, though for the reason you point out it isn’t. It’s that the rewards for not having children – or having fewer of them – are greater today than ever. That’s why fertility rates plummet as nations develop. The opportunity costs that come with having children rise precipitously. So many more neat things to spend your money on. So many things to spend your time on. And so on.

    NewDealer, In addition to the post on No One’s Expecting, I actually plan to write a post on the fertility debate. The science is the science, yet so many people (on every side of the discussion) read the science to align with their preferences and politics. I hope women that really want children aren’t actually going to wait till they’re past their thirties. For many, it’ll be fine. For others, it won’t.Report

  4. Mike Schilling says:

    Conservative commentators, as is their wont, tend to moralize the problem, arguing that it’s social “decadence,” not economic rationality, that leads people to avoid the “responsibility” of having children.

    There’s a subtlety you omitted. White people fail to have children because they’re irresponsible. Non-white people do have children, but it’s because they’re irresponsible.Report

    • morat20 in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      You missed a chance to throw in another two-fer — all those kids on welfare, but shame on them for having an abortion! (And also, we sorta shut down Planned Parenthood near them, so no Pill either!)Report

    • … or maybe I shouldn’t bother writing that post on the subject.Report

    • LWA in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      White men decline to marry their girlfriends, because they are on strike to protest an unjust system that oppresses them;
      Black men decline to marry their girlfriends, the lazy shiftless bastards.Report

      • morat20 in reply to LWA says:

        Hmph. That (the first bit on the unjust system) makes me think of the Men’s Rights movement. You know, I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who belonged to one of those who wasn’t just an absolute berk of the highest order.Report

      • LWA in reply to LWA says:

        Yeah, I was going to cite the new book by Helen Thomas which is a whine-fest of male grievances.Report

      • Burt Likko in reply to LWA says:

        The tropes go on — men decline to marry their girlfriends because our permissive society gives license to premarital sexual indulgence, thus disincentivizing marriage and proving that the sexual revolution was actually against the best interests of women, those sluts.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to LWA says:

        Does anybody have any good statistics on what percentage of people were virgins at the time of their marriage before the sexual revolution? To keep things simple I’ll be content with the period between the end of WWI and 1960, when the birth control pill was introduced.

        Prostitution was around forever and as far as I can tell from old movies, which might not be the most reliable source, men were kind of expected to have some sexual experience before marriage at least even if they were theoretically supposed to be virgins. Somehow I can’t really imagine all those leading men in romantic comedies as never having sex and I’m pretty sure the audience at the time was supposed to feel similarly.* Even women are implied to have a certain amount of experience even if the expectations for virginity was higher.

        *The exceptions are Cary Grant in Bringing Up Baby or Henry Fonda in about everything but especially the Lady Eve. Grant and Fonda were better at portraying innocence than Tracy or Gable.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to LWA says:

        No One’s Expecting has some statistics on women, though not on men:

        1960-64: Half of women had sex prior to their wedding night.
        1975: Almost 80%

        1960-64: 1.6% of women had sex more than five years prior to getting married.
        1975-69: 21.9%
        (The average age of marriage between these points rose from 20.3 to 21.1.)Report

      • Kim in reply to LWA says:

        Will and Lee,
        Such numbers are naturally quite suspect, as a woman/girl can no longer be a virgin and not know it. Particularly in times when visiting a gynecologist was not something one started at puberty.Report

  5. LWA says:

    This is an excellent post, which is to say I agreed with it heartily.

    Of course the part that caught my eye most was the notion of the tension between our desire for economic vitality and spiritual fulfillment.

    It is often assumed to be a trump card, the argument that “this will lead to higher prices/ fewer jobs/ lower productivity”.
    As if we are on the ragged edge of starvation, as if 1 dollar tee shirts and 64 oz. Slurpees somehow justify the price we pay to get them.

    I think there is a crisis in our economy, where jobs have become disconnected from our ability to form an identity or life narrative. If, as it seems clear, a 20 year old can expect to go through 5, or 10 jobs, or even 3 or 4 complete changes of career over the next 45 years; And if they can expect to suffer a dozen layoffs, downsizings, banking panics and market crashes; If they can expect no support system of childcare, healthcare, or elder care, except what they can purchase with their flickering irregular wage income… how does someone create a meaningful life? How do you form families, communities, institutions in that sort of chaos and disruption?Report

    • morat20 in reply to LWA says:

      Matt Y, everyone’s favorite (for a reason) economic punching bag was just opining about how one real problem is how nobody ever moves anymore and how that’s just screwing them out of great jobs!

      Which is, of course, the sort of blather that can only come from a man who writes tiny op-eds for a living.

      The rest of us? We have mortgages, sometimes on underwater houses. We have spouses with careers of their own. We have children, family, friends….heck, nobody actually PAYS relocating expenses anymore.

      So what, we’re supposed to find the money to move, cross country, and hope we find a job? Keep flying there (with money pulled from our unemployed behinds) and interviewing? Derail your spouse’s career for yours — when his or hers might be all that’s keeping food on the table?

      I was…deeply annoyed…when I read that. Moving isn’t frictionless, it has deep costs — basic economics (the only kind he really knows) covers that! And the costs are higher now than they were in a single-worker household.Report

      • LWA in reply to morat20 says:

        As an architect, I look at how we design buildings as an expression of our underlying aspirations.
        Have you ever wondered why the most popular designs for commercial buildings are predominantly modern, and fairly scream out Progress! Technology! SpeedTransitionChangeDisruption!
        Yet the most popular home designs announce Tradition…Security…Stability…Permanence. Olde Tyme HearthenHome Estates.

        Exceptions abound of course, but these are definable patterns, which haven’t changed much in the past century.

        We want to make money in the chaotic jungle of the marketplace by skipping like a stone across a succession of venues, shedding our provincial identiy to take part in a global market, yet get in our cars and go home to Bedford Falls, where we have lived for 40 years, and where we will raise our children and grandchildren.

        As David points out, this is a weird paradox, our embrace of the very thing that causes our agony.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to morat20 says:

        He made clear he understood that there are always reasons not to move (i.e. he acknowledged the friction), but his point was that they seem to have become more persuasive to people in recent decades, since, despite the recent tough times, people are moving less than they used to. His point seemed to be that it would be worth figuring out why this is the case (my working theory is that we’re just further along in the Big Sort at this point, so more people have just figured out where it is they want to live, but that theory might well have big holes in it), because it actually is holding back re-employing the workforce (which is destructive because over time unemployment turns into skills loss and lessened employability).

        I say this as someone who’s probably at least as resistant to the idea of relocation as a necessary part of modern life, and certainly to having it offered as a simple solution to unemployment, as you are. But I didn’t take Yglesias to be offering a simple solution, but just saying that if there are things holding back mobility in this recovery compared to others, it’s important to figure that out, because it really is a factor holding back recovery (he says; OTOH, Yglesias didn’t seem to address the possibility that the particular pattern of this recovery might be the thing holding back mobility rather than the other way around – a valid critique of that piece).Report

      • NewDealer in reply to morat20 says:

        I too was annoyed by that column. Then again, I am annoyed by almost all of Matt Y’s columns.

        Even for renters, there are costs of moving. Those costs could be the very real problems of needing to rebuild a social life. The fact that moving with a job or school in place is very different than moving to a place with the hope of getting a job, etc.

        In fact Slate today had a post about the physical problems of loneliness:

      • NewDealer in reply to morat20 says:


        Can you point to pieces in Matt Y’s essay about where he said we should figure this out?

        Maybe Matt Y just rubs me the wrong way but he seems like he is rather ivory-tower in his arguments and likely to double down instead of acknowledging critiques. He seems like he will be the Tom Freidman of my generation. I am just waiting for him to start introducing a cab driver into his posts about why “classical economics matter more than ever.”

        He also has a bit too much Star Trek in his head about what the future will be like.Report

      • morat20 in reply to morat20 says:

        Michael Drew: People are moving less for the simple reason that we moved to a two-income family setup.

        If I move to get a new job, my wife must find a new job wherever we’re going and vice versa.

        Matt, if he’d bothered to engage his brain for even 15 seconds, would have seen that really BIG generational difference right up front. He didn’t, too focused on his clever little point to wonder if there might be some large, obvious difference.

        That irked me the most about his article. There’s an obvious, brand new (as in new over the last 4 or 5 decade and especially the last 3 as wealth concentration sky rocketed and two-income families became practically necessary to stay in the middle class — also know as ‘the folks who can hope to afford moving for a job) explanatory concept right there at hand.

        That’s not even getting into a zillion other reasons. But if Matt there had bothered to engage his brain or — more likely — if Matt had a job experience even vaguely like the average American, that would have been flamingly obvious.

        But Matt doesn’t have that experience. He just tossed off a nice little piece reeking of privilege. It reminded me of one ex-coworker of mine, sneering at the ‘lazy’ folks who complained about their wages. It didn’t occur to him that most fields — even ones populated by far smarter and more industrious fellows than himself — weren’t headhunted, and didn’t have the luxury to quit knowing they’d pick up a better paying job in a week, or have the leverage to demand (and get) a sizable raise based on the threat of walking out.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to morat20 says:

        The paper he cites actually discusses the role that two incomes plays, basically saying that it’s not explanatory. I know this because Yglesias says as much in his piece. [ed: Sorry, he said it in a different piece than the one I think you’re talking about.]Report

      • Will Truman in reply to morat20 says:

        “Brad Plumer’s written up the latest stab at this from Raven Molloy, Christopher L. Smith, and Abigail Wozniak (PDF), and they confirm that obvious answers like the rise of two-earner families don’t really fit the trend data. Nor do demographics explain it.” -Matthew Yglesias, first paragraph.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to morat20 says:


        I described my impression of the basic point of the column; he didn’t seem like he was facilely telling everyone having a hard time finding a job that they ought to move to me. Your take was different and that’s fine, but I have to say I’m not at all inclined to have my view of the column swayed nor to feel any need to defend it to you when you go out of your way to pretty much say that you’re inclined to read whatever this author has to say in a determinedly uncharitable light just because of who he is. That’s your own thing you have to work through, apparently.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to morat20 says:

        …That goes for everyone regarding Yglesias, by the way. if any part of your argument against a particular piece he wrotes includes an appeal to the fact that you have a generally low opinion of him, I’m not going to have much time for any of your argument. I don’t really have any time for the new, hip bash-Yglesias trend. If he writes a bad piece, fine, take it up if it’s worth it to you to do so. But I don’t care that you otherwise don’t like him. And I’m going to do the best I can to extend that approach to all other authors. If someone’s truly that bad generally, then presumably we won’t need to spend our time pointing out the badness of particular pieces, and if we do then presumably it;s because they;re particularly bad on an issue we want to make a particular point about their particular badness about, in which case using our exogenous (to the piece in question) dislike of the person or his oeuvre won’t really help us make our point about the particular badness of the piece in question.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to morat20 says:

        Oh, but, indeed, yes, I can “point to pieces in Matt Y’s essay about where he said we should figure this out.”

        After considering the research Will quotes him considering, he then goes on to say, “It’s a fascinating analysis of the data, but a little unsatisfactory as an answer to the question. “How come people don’t move to new states to get new jobs as much as they used to?” “Well, people don’t swtich jobs as much as they used to.” But: Why?”

        So that’s one piece. There are others, but I think the most prominent one would be the title of the piece: “Why Don’t People Move Anymore?” It seems like that suggests that his point is that it would be worth figuring out why people move less these days. (And for all I know, despite the findings of the researchers Yglesias cites, it could be the simple explanation morat offers. I do find myself wondering about the basis for morat’s condescending dismissal of Yglesias’ simplistic takes on economics when his own takes seem equally if not more simp)listic. Maybe morat is secretly a credentialed economist and is just not sharing that information with us.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to LWA says:

      Here is another thought I had.

      My parents are prime boomers. Born in 1946 and 1947. Theoretically and probably, they got a large chunk of the pie that my generation and younger are pinning for. I was born in 1980.

      A few weeks ago I was having dinner with my parents and another lawyer friend of theirs. He asked me about how I found the market/post-law school life. I said I enjoyed it and was doing better than I did in theatre (not a very hard task) but I thought I would have been offered a permanent position by now, I graduated law school two years ago. My mom said something along the lines of “I don’t know why.”

      My parents don’t think (or are being blind out of worry) that this current economic situation is new and original territory. They think the same thing happened when they were young. My mom likes to say how it took my dad a year or so to get his first law job and it was not for a prestigious firm and he stayed there for three years. It also paid less than his former day job salary. They also like to say that even though I always saw them as being successful, it took them a long time to get where they are.

      This could be true or we can be in a new economic reality/normal and maybe my worries and anxiousness about being a permanent freelancer are real. My mom is also found of saying that just because a job is full-time with benefits does not mean that it is permanent and you can walk in thinking everything is normal and be let go. She wants me to hang up my own shingle but I don’t think she understands the inherent risks of that.

      Perhaps my parents are right and what 20 and 30-somethings are complaining about has always been true and we look back on this when we are older as just the necessary struggle of building a career. Or perhaps this is a new normal and we are in the Great Stagnation because all the low-hanging fruit have been plucked. The problem is that it takes decades to find the answer to this question.Report

      • Lyle in reply to NewDealer says:

        Actually you do hit a point there. We tend to remember how our parents were in our teen years, not in our first few years. In the past at least the raise in pay with experience had made things easier than a few years earlier.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

        I have often felt like one of the problems with my generation is that we felt like, getting out of college, we should have something like what our parents worked a decade or two to achieve.

        (I do think that expectations have been dialed back since 2007-08, though.)Report

      • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


        I think we are close to the same age, right?

        I’ve argued this before but I think a lot of the media and culture is to blame. I graduated college in 2002, 9/11 happened early in my senior year and Tech Bubble 1.0 had already crashed. There were no jobs then. I was sort of lucky for having my I’m going to Japan to teach English even though that is not a career job.

        But I remember when the media was focused on all these young hot shots making boatloads of money at 23 and 24. Then I remember a few years later when they were focused on the few who got high-paying consulting and Wall Street jobs or Mortgage jobs during the Housing Boom (the one that led to the current crisis). Now I see the media focused on Tech Boom 2.0 and the young people making boatloads of money.

        The other side of this equation is Girls with their less than stellar jobs but impeccable educational credentials.

        Our media has decided on a false narrative of being successful right out the gate or always being hand in mouth. We like to make snide jokes about English majors serving coffee. This is an easy narrative. The harder narrative is the real one of people having their careers advance in fits and starts with steps forward and backward. Good days and bad days.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

        I think I have a couple years on you, but I think we’re close. I’m 35. I agree that popular media does have quite a bit to do with expectations.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to LWA says:

      FWIW my parents are pretty liberal people and not Republicans of any stripe.Report

  6. Andrew says:

    As one of those choosing to be child-free, aside from many of the ideas raised in this article, there are certainly other reasons why I have no desire to bring a child into this world at this point… Namely, I’m not particularly optimistic about the future of the human race over the next century, and even less optimistic about the future of the US economy. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it would be irresponsible to bring children into this current climate (I’ll leave that type of BS to “conservative commentators”), but I can’t imagine being able to provide a better world for my potential future offspring than I have had…

    Oh, and maybe I’m also a little selfish and would rather spend money on vacations and beer than on diapers and tuition…Report

    • James K in reply to Andrew says:

      What’s the source of your pessimism?Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to Andrew says:

      Among the many reasons my wife and I chose to be childless were the expenses involved in childraising and a shared dislike of activities associated particularly with young children. (Some teenagers do interesting things. Five-year-olds uniformly do not. YMMV — if you like doing five-year-old stuff with your five-year-old, awesome! Have a blast! Just not my cup of tea is all I’m saying.)

      Not among the reasons was any sort of intentional response to the prevailing cultural and economic paradigms the OP addresses. I like the observations that the OP makes, but they weren’t what we were thinking about. We were thinking about what sorts of decisions would make us happy, and having children seemed like, for us, a decision less likely to maximize happiness than not.

      I’ve never felt the least bit of guilt about not reproducing. I’ve never felt that I owed anyone the assumption of the role of father. I was sorry that my in-laws and my own parents were disappointed that Natasha and I would not be giving them grandchildren, but again, the happiness of our lives was the paramount decision and they came to accept that — after all, as parents, what they wanted was for their children to be happy. It just took them a bit of time to get comfortable with the idea that our vision of happiness was not quite the same that theirs had been.

      Certainly I’ve never felt like I owed the capitalist economy a baby. I’m not nearly so solicitous of their well-being as I am that of my family’s. The capitalist economy cares nothing for my well-being, after all, except to the extent that I am able purchase the concern of another market participant with the monetized fruits of my labor.

      Now, I’ve an interest in the culture and the economy being sustainable and healthy, of course. But if there’s one thing our culture, and our economy, have proven excellent at over historical time, it’s been the ability to import labor. The United States has always offered a superior package of civil liberties and economic opportunities to people in the market for societies better than their own.

      So my own contribution towards making our economy sustainable has been doing my part to maintain this nation’s status as a place where people can be free and can have a reasonable opportunity to improve their economic conditions. As long as the USA is a place where those statements are true, we will never have a labor shortage.Report

    • Kim in reply to Andrew says:

      ” I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it would be irresponsible to bring children into this current climate”
      People I trust go there. Good people, with a good pulse on current events and enough vision to see the future.Report

  7. Will Truman says:

    The strength of the argument for capitalism’s (and the lacking safety net’s) argument is logical. Which is that it makes a great deal of sense to think that of course fertility is going to be going down in countries that don’t invest in parents. And of course a society that prizes individuality and atomization is going to take a hard look at the money pits we call children.

    The weakness of the argument, though, is the rest of the world. Which is to say that declining fertility isn’t an American issue due to American sensibilities about capitalism, markets, and government. We actually have higher fertility numbers than most of our peers. We have immigrants to thank for a lot of that, but even native fertility rates are decent and higher than many countries with better safety nets. Further, other countries have tried financial support as a means to spur fertility, and it’s met with limited success outside of a couple of countries (and it’s not clear the results in France and… Sweden, I think, I’ll have to check my notes, are reproducible elsewhere).

    Nor can we blame it on financial insecurity in general. Countries with citizens that have less financial security than we do have higher birthrates, and peer countries have unusually low birthrates. Further, even here in the US, immigrant populations reproduce more and the native population reproduces less, the less wealthy parts of the country (and, often the parts most stingy with welfare programs) tend to have higher birthrates, and fertility is inversely correlated with education (a sign of financial security).

    So what’s going on? There’s something else at work. Something cultural, one would assume. And it could be that culture’s interaction with capitalism that’s having an effect. Or maybe not. There is an argument to be made that the ambition that comes with capitalism results in fewer children because children are an impediment to ambition… but it’s an awfully argument to support outside of the fact that it intuitively makes sense.Report

    • Fnord in reply to Will Truman says:

      Despite the fact that I feel American work culture is a debilitating societal illness, I’m forced to agree with Will that the hypothesis doesn’t seem to match the actual distribution of fertility rates.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Fnord says:

        @fnord , thanks. Here’s something interesting, though. You talk about our work culture, but one of the points that Last really drives home in his book is how much more work we put into parenting. Working parents spend as much doing child-related activities as stay-at-home parents did fifty or so years ago. The statistics were pretty remarkable.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Fnord says:

        Is it American culture of work or something else completely?

        There are nations with more reasonable work-life balance attitudes and nations with noticeable more zealous work cultures (both by necessity and choice)

        But I don’t think we will ever have a society that considers less than 35-hours of labor/work a week to be adequate in terms of full-time employment.

        I think that work has a moral aspect or people put a moral aspect upon work.Report

    • James K in reply to Will Truman says:

      This is what I was going to say. The Us actually has a high birth-rate for a developed country.Report

    • Lyle in reply to Will Truman says:

      I think if you combine financial insecurity with children ceasing to be an economic asset you have a good part of the world wide trend. There was lots of insecurity 150 years ago, famines happened nearly world wide, diseases were rampant etc. So citing insecurity alone won’t make it as it was greater back then. However back then children tended to provide a benefit economicallyReport

  8. David – This is a really excellent, thoughtful post, hitting on many elements of the issue that I haven’t seen in the loud media buzz about the no-kids trending. I did wish you’d given more notice to religion; arguments of economics are lost on many ‘true believers’ who may serve as a source of guilt, pressure and stress on women without children whether they chose to be childless or not.Report

  9. Murali says:

    The atomisation of society has less to do with capitalism and more to do with certain western cultural tropes. The first is the idea of the hyper-nuclear family. The polite way to talk about it is an ethos of independence which drives people to get away from parents and siblings as soon as they hit adulthood. By contrast, we can imagine that a person may live with his wife and kids in a separate house from his parents, but not really separate. Or, in fact, it should not be unreasonable to think of someone’s aged parents staying with him and his spouse and kids. The less than polite way to talk about this is an almost pathological adversarial relationship with the members of your family. It is apparently normal to want to get out of the parent’s house as soon as you hit adulthood. Its not like American parents are particularly strict with their children, but its like children are being tortured while they live in their parents house. Having your retired parents stay over (if sit coms are to be believed) is like a personal hell. Also, how many of you guys are on good terms with your siblings and are not likely to get into a shouting match with them if you were to spend any extended length of time with them? I mean, if the premise of the movie failure to launch is supposed to make sense, you are a loser if you are in your thirties and still living with your parents.

    Part of this has to do with suburban sprawl. People need to move if they are to get a decent job since suburban and rural areas have a small variety of jobs. Of course, this is less blameable on capitalism and more on government regulation to limit the size and density of cities. But a lot of the cultural pressure to move has nothing to do with the economics of it and is simply perverse. Having your parents move in with you can keep costs down. Staying close to your extended family also does that. It also provides a ready social network and informal safety net. There is no relentless logic of capitalism that forces the atomism that people feel. That has more to do with the peculiarities of American or maybe western culture.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Murali says:

      Part of this has to do with suburban sprawl. People need to move if they are to get a decent job since suburban and rural areas have a small variety of jobs.

      You’re right about ruralia, but less right about the suburbs. The suburbs are where a lot of the jobs are.Report

      • Murali in reply to Will Truman says:

        I always imagine the suburbs as the place you live if you want to work in the city but not live in it.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:


        That is true of my experience with the suburbs generally. People move to the suburbs to get a house in a neighborhood with a good public school district but they still commute to the city. I think this is more true near the major American cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, SF, LA, DC.

        However, there are lots of places where the jobs have moved to big suburban office parks.Report

      • Some of it depends on how you define suburbs. There is an argument to be made that once a place has enough employers, it ceases to strictly be a suburb. But I tend to view places such as Redmond and Round Rock as suburbs (to Seattle-Tacoma and Austin, respectively) rather than cities, since they’re sprawling and were suburbs before they were their own thing.

        Anyway, I’ve more often commuted out-bound for the city to work as I’ve commuted inbound. Judging from traffic, though, a lot of people do make the opposite trip, of course. But a lot of commutes these days are actually suburb-to-suburb.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:


        I think this is somewhat true but I wonder if we are going to see a reversal. My articles say that people in our generation and socio-economic group are tending to stay in cities instead of moving to the suburbs once they start families. The newer tech companies are building in SF instead of Silicon Valley.

        Only Joel K still roots for the suburbs.Report

      • NewDealer is quite right, though I think with the exception of a couple of those examples, it’s a matter of degree. I think Anaheim kind of took off as a suburb, initially at least. Northern Virginia is full of employment opportunities, though that’s arguably a case of the core expanding. Some of these things are kind of hard to define.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Will Truman says:


        Does Redmond have a government that is independent of Seattle?

        Same with Round Rock and Austin?

        If yes, they can count as suburbs. If not, they are not suburbs.Report

      • It’s possible that the trend will reverse. But honestly, it’s really hard to tell because the boosterism is so much that the suburbs have been declared dying for almost a decade now. It’s one of those issues where I am skeptical of the coverage. No one “roots” for the suburbs… except the overwhelming number of people who actually live in them.Report

      • ND, I tend to think of them as suburbs, but I get pushback when I do. Yes, they have their own governments.Report

      • Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

        Ugh, Round Rock. It’s like a major shopping center with houses, Dell, and minor league baseball.Report

      • Murali in reply to Will Truman says:

        Also, the suburbs as a whole may be where a lot of jobs are, but because of the low density, I doubt you can get the kind of concentration and diversity of jobs that you’d find in a city. So I expect suburban living to contribute to moving out if the job you want is not in this suburb, but that one over in the next state.Report

    • greginak in reply to Murali says:

      You are correct about American cultures strong pressure for kids to get out as soon as they can and for families to spread out. I don’t think that has anything to do with sprawl or government though. It is odd thing we have. Families that do stay close, and there many of them, do offer a ton of support and help that almost everybody needs.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to greginak says:

        I think it’s related to the fact that we are a country with a really strong history of moving around and finding “our own spot.” This influences both the atomization referred to in the OP as well as sprawl.Report

      • greginak in reply to greginak says:

        Yeah i agree. We have defined our own spot as someplace else from where we grew. That isn’t all bad but it has its issues.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to greginak says:

        I think it is pretty common in the Anglo sphere and possibly in Scandanavian countries from what I hear. I don’t know about other Western countries. A while back, the NY Times liked to run articles about 35 year old Italian men who still let their moms do their laundry.

        But you are right. My family is very close and my parents provide a lot of support but they would find it socially stunting for me to live at home at 32, almost 33.Report

      • Murali in reply to greginak says:

        think it is pretty common in the Anglo sphere and possibly in Scandanavian countries from what I hear.

        I blame Christianity. The evangelicalism of Christianity tends to destroy traditions that help maintain extended familial and clan structures.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to greginak says:

        Murali, I don’t think thats quite right. The nuclear family existed in at least in some form since Ancient Greece. European family life never revolved around an extended family they way it did in other continents even before Christianity.Report

      • Murali in reply to greginak says:

        People had connections to clan and tribe which are just extended family structures and these were weakened by Christianity*. Of course within clans and tribes they lived in nuclear-ish families, but the extensive social support structure was there.

        *Take what I say here with a heavy dollop of salt. My remarks about how Christianity breaks up extended families is from seeing the way in which classmates and platoon mates who did convert relate to not only their immediate family who didn’t, but to their extended family as well. In many ways they are closer to their church mates than their families, which I think is unfortunate and more than a bit creepy.Report

      • Glyph in reply to greginak says:

        Murali, your use of the word “evangelicalism” (which is usually used now to refer to Protestantism) leads me to suspect you may be excluding “Catholicism” from “Christianity” (which, considering the root of “evangelicalism” – “evangelize”- and the history of the Catholic Church, would be ironic – but the way the term is now used, it is almost exclusively related to Protestantism in my understanding).

        You may need to be more precise with your terminology, since most (Americans at least I think?) consider Catholicism a form of Christianity, and many Catholic cultures (particularly Latin-derived ones in Italy, Spain, and South America) are certainly far less family/clan-atomized than the Anglo/Norse/German/Dutch-derived etc. ones. It would certainly be at least suggestive if the Western cultures that are now fairly atomized but used to be more clannish (German/Norse/Scots etc.) became less clannish when they passed through either their primarily Catholic- or Protestant-phases.

        IOW, you *may* be onto something, but confusion in terms could be why people are questioning your thesis.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to greginak says:

        Religion is the flower which grows on the bush of Culture. Blame Christianity if you want — but as Glyph and Will point out, religion isn’t the problem so much as the culture which gave rise to it. For without Culture, Religion is a big nothing. It’s nothing but a collection of books without a community to practise it.

        As for your complaints about Christianity, this may seem a bit tu-quoque but if you don’t mind, I’d like to point out Hindus systematised the caste system somewhat after Christianity emerged. Much later. Though the Mughals had sorted people out, the caste system truly takes on its current ugly forms under British colonial rule, for they enforced it far more exactly than Hinduism had ever thought to do, rewarding this caste, punishing that one. They did the same everywhere: in Nigeria, they preferred the Ibos to all the others. In America, they formed alliances against the French with the Iroquois Confederacy. Everywhere they went, the British played favourites.

        It’s a hallmark of British colonial rule, that they left a legacy of tribalism.Report

      • Murali in reply to greginak says:

        Glyph, I meant evangelical with a small e. Even Catholicism is evangelical. Spreading the Good News is an important part of Christianity protestant or otherwise.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Murali says:

      This is a really interesting take from a non-Western prospective.

      I get along with my family but I also like having a space of my own. Though I would rather live with LeeEsq than a random person from Craigslist.

      But it is really important to remember that in many other countries, it is fairly normal for families to live together and not have it be seen as a sign of being pathetic or failure to launch.Report

      • Cascadian in reply to NewDealer says:

        My experience would support Murali’s statement.

        Moving to Canada has been a fascinating experience for me. Vancouver is incredibly cosmopolitan. There are huge South Asian communities here. My partner has an associate at her firm that is Sikh. He and his wife both have professional careers but still live in his parents house. This was hard for me to comprehend and yet there it is.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to NewDealer says:

        Thank you for rating me higher than a random person from Craigslist. ;).Report

      • Kim in reply to NewDealer says:

        The “space of our own” is all about having sex.
        Same as people insisting they need to buy a car.
        (well, if you don’t want to have sex in a backalley or graveyard…)Report

    • Fnord in reply to Murali says:

      Taiwan, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea are all actually worse on the fertility front than most of Europe. I don’t think this hypothesis stands up to the data, either.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Fnord says:

        I remember a lot of hand-waving about low fertility rates when I lived in Japan.

        The big term at the time was Parasite Singles.

        These were women who lived at home and worked low-paying jobs but because they had no rent type expenses, could spend all their money on luxury products.

        Last I heard the tendency was to blame it on so called “plant men”

        There was also a lot of concern about young people opting out of the salary-man corporate structure in favor of low-stress part time jobs and working on their own thing. These people were called “Freepers” which they got from Freelancers.Report

      • Murali in reply to Fnord says:

        I’m talking about atomism not fertility.Report

      • Fnord in reply to Fnord says:

        Then take it as a different criticism of the OP, that it’s wrong to associate atomism with low fertility in the first place.Report

      • Kim in reply to Fnord says:

        as far as I’ve seen, governments’ encouraging incest (which ought to reduce atomism) doesn’t seem to be going well either.
        [No, I don’t know what the fuck they were thinking. I doubt they did either, truth be told]Report

  10. Brandon Berg says:

    So you guys will run just about anything as a guest post, huh?Report

  11. Caleb says:

    Yikes, that was painful to read.

    As Will pointed out above, the actual distribution of childbirth rates vis-a-vis economic wealth and security on a global scale is, if anything, the exact opposite of what is asserted. Poorer nations have astounding birth rates, while the US hobbles along at just below replacement. Most European nations, with their programs more similar to the authors proscribed “livable wages, family-friendly hours, and affordable housing and education” are even lower.

    I don’t think you can even blame the US’ particular “culture of individuality” (or whatever it is the commentators are talking about.) I doubt anyone would call Japan ‘individualistic,’ yet their birthrate is at a European 1.39. China’s is at 1.58. (Granted, the one-child policy doesn’t help there.)

    I’m sorry, but the author’s argument doesn’t even pass the laugh-test. Take this reality disconnect and add in the penchant for pinning a conceived monolithic embodiment of “capitalism” as the causal source of complex social trends, plus loaded ideological phrasing, and you get an incoherent mess of an essay that defies the principle of falsifiability. It’s ‘not even wrong.’Report

    • Morat20 in reply to Caleb says:

      I betcha availability (and legality) of family planning is what does it.

      Look, women who have a choice about getting pregnant? Most aren’t gonna pop out a dozen babies, even if they can afford it.

      Women who can’t get, are culturally pressured against, or can’t afford birth control? They’re gonna have babies. A lot more than they want, probably.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Morat20 says:

        Oh, that’s a really big part of it. But only part. Levels of ideal and desired fertility are also higher in many of those countries. Lee’s comment above touches on that, which is that kids used to be an economic asset and in some parts of the country they still are. Also, like Greg says, in poor parts of the country you can’t count on kids living the same way that we can over here. There are also religious and cultural issues at play. Fertility hasn’t just fallen in the US due to increased access to birth control. There has been a cultural shift as well. Cultural shifts that have been greater in some countries and haven’t occurred in many developing ones.Report

      • Kim in reply to Morat20 says:

        Declining fertility rates mean lots of girls having sex without condoms.
        Still no babies.

        Real culture shift.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Caleb says:

      Despite my criticism, I really liked it. Even if atomization and American individualism isn’t the cause of our fertility decline, it is kind of hard to argue about sacrifice for society by having children, while arguing against sacrifice in the form of taxes. That we’re all in this together when it comes to our kids, but take care of your own. There is a gap there that David identifies.Report

      • Caleb in reply to Will Truman says:

        There certainly would be a gap, if those two assertions were made concurrently together within the same paradigmatic framework. I don’t see any evidence for such a case.

        It’s easy, and takes little effort, skill, or creativity, to contrast and deconstruct the conclusions of two or more exclusive (or at least non co-extensive) theoretical frameworks. All you have to do is conceal the fact you are comparing apples to oranges. Rhetorical flourishes, and references to broad, multivariate concepts are enough to hide the ball.Report

    • David Sessions in reply to Caleb says:

      Caleb, I think you may have misread my intent; I’m not making any kind of empirical argument, which it would have to be in order to be “falsifiable.”

      I don’t assert anything about “the actual distribution of childbirth vis-a-vis economic wealth….” Zero. I’m trying to use a conceptual tool (Marxism) to work out the structural logic of why we might be behaving the way we are, in this country right now (the situation is very different for Germany, Sweden, France, etc, which is why I left them out of the post). Thus, I’m not making any kind of causal argument that IF we had XYZ social policies in the U.S., then we’d have a higher birthrate (I suspect we might, but it’s impossible to know: those kind of policies work to an extent in France and Sweden, and not so much in Germany.)

      I’m trying to get at the “existential” calculus that people make when thinking about their lives in terms of the system they live under (this particular system, right now). As having children has become more and more of a question, something people consciously decide whether or not to do, there has been greater attention to the opportunity costs. Nearly everyone on here agrees there is no cold economic logic that makes having kids an obviously beneficial choice, and people are aware of that. People used to assume everyone will have kids, and never thought about if they wanted them or could afford them. Lots of people who lived through that now realize, “Hey, I have a choice in whether or not I repeat that cycle, and I’m going to think hard about it.” And because we’re already all conditioned to think about things in terms of its benefit to ourselves as individuals, our own calculus is much more powerful in our thinking than the abstract social arithmetic of replacement levels, welfare benefits, etc.

      So I think this is yet another capitalist autoimmunity: as an “economic logic” or “economic reason,” it is continually undermining its conditions of possibility. There needs to be production of children/laborers to keep it going, but since the logic of atomization and self-interest pushes people to look out for their own, the social ties are too weak to make sacrifice for the common good a positive motivation to do something hard and unpleasant, like raise an expensive kid. Of course, our cultural ideology is reactionary and powerful, and convinces a lot of people that this basic common-sense self-interest is selfish or morally deficient, etc. But if you’re looking for political agency in a system that doesn’t allow for much, choosing not to have that kid is one of your most empowering options: it leaves you with more time and resources, and also (if you want to be super ideological and radical) deprives the system of its future sustenance.Report

      • Caleb in reply to David Sessions says:

        The validity of the “conceptual tool” (as you put it) is dependent on the framework of premises in which is is applied. A relevant and coherent subject is identified, inputs are defined, and a explanatory model (or conceptual tool) is applied. Whether the results have explanatory power or not determines validity. What you do is make the framework fit the tool. It’s the “Texas sharpshooter fallacy.” Basing your analysis only on inputs that will fit the designed output is no way to do critical analysis.

        You assume that the “systemic” need for laborers to sustain current production (which thus creates a socially driven impetus toward childbearing); and cultural proclivities towards individualism (which creates incentives not to have children) are the product of the same monolithic conception of “capitalism.” I see no basis for this assumption. That rationally self-interested persons would contemporaneously choose to not raise a numerically similar subsequent generation has no contradictive effect within a framework that values individual choice in that area. Likewise, a framework which insists on the continuation of current production levels and trends will not recognize the validity of individual reproduction choice if it negatively impact its goals. But the fact that it does so is not inherently self-contradictory. You assume that these two frameworks are the same. Why?

        In addition, the process (uh…”existential calculus”) by which humans make decisions is one of almost innumerable and at least partially changeable inputs and functions. Despite efforts of sociologists, psychologists, and social psychologists, the vast majority of this process is unknown. It is a black box when it comes to causality between inputs and outputs. That you can take an output and trace it back through to relevant causal inputs with any degree of certainty for any given person strikes me as an absurd proposition. (Even if the case is made statistically [which you deny doing], the number of relevant factors makes the probability of accurate assertion dubious.)

        But you take this paradigm and plop it into an analysis which asserts that the “logic of atomization and self-interest” itself has a positive qualitative effect on the output of individual economic calculations. How is this? Why does social pressure to get a “big shot job” influence me to do so (perhaps to the exclusion of raising children, while the increasing atomization of society mean that social pressure for me to raise children no longer has that strong an effect. If society is increasingly atomized as you say, why aren’t people dropping out of “the system” to have more kids? (Or do anything else they individually want but were socially pressured not to do.) If atomization is happening like you say, and having the effect that you say, then why isn’t the effect seen across the board?Report

      • Kim in reply to David Sessions says:

        You’re missing the forest for the trees. And vice versa.
        Not only does your theory fail to explain transient events,
        it also fails to explain the large scale correlations.Report

  12. Cascadian says:

    I agree with just about everything in the OP and thought it was quite good at that. So, why do industrialized civs have a problem with breeding?

    My parents were twenty and twenty one when I was born. That was not a problem. Looking at a young family today, I just whistle and wonder how they’ll make it. It’s not like there are blue collar family wage jobs just floating around.

    Having kids is different these days. I was floored when I started doing research in anticipation of little one that there were waiting lists for the good preschools that I might already be too late for and she wasn’t even born yet.

    It’s not like the old days on the farm where you could just drag your tikes around to educate them. If you want your little ones to succeed it takes amazing amounts of energy and money. It would make sense that societies where Tiger Mums roam would have a lower birth rate. It takes so much energy to raise a kid for the 21st century that even the wealthy can only have a couple.

    There is also a change I believe in the relationships we hope to have with our children. Being an absentee father is no longer an endorsed role. If you’re really going to spend quality individual time with your kids while holding down a career you have to limit how many there are. At some point you go from playing man on man to a zone defense. I don’t think people want to play zone any more.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Cascadian says:

      You bring up a very important class distinction.

      Where I come from, you would be seen as not having much economic prospect if you had a kid at 20 or 21. Generally that would be sophomore or junior year of college. Even 23 or 24 would be seen as too young. What about graduate school and making a few promotions first?

      My parents generally encouraged me to work on the career first and think of having a family later. Then again, my mom was 34 when I was born.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Cascadian says:

      The reason why there are a waiting list for Pre-K is that the United States doesn’t have enough them thanks to Richard Nixon. A little known fact of Nixon’s presidency is that Congress passed universal pre-K legislation during the Nixon administration. Nixon vetoed it because the Evangelicals did not like it since they thought it would destroy house-wifery or something like that.Report

    • ThatPirateGuy in reply to Cascadian says:

      As he number of well compensated blue collar jobs decreases is that not a rather significant sign that the economy doesn’t want more people?

      The future might have even bleaker job prospects as automation becomes even more ubiquitous. Combine that with increased pessimism about the future thanks to a more connected world that gives you ever more bad news and the fact that nothing will be done about climate change and you would be forgiven for thinking my wife and I crazy to be trying to get in the family way.Report

  13. Cascadian says:

    “Where I come from, you would be seen as not having much economic prospect if you had a kid at 20 or 21.”

    Me too. Just from the other side.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Cascadian says:

      Having a kid at 20 or 21 is historically kind of young. We have reliable evidence that the age of marriage was 25 or 26 on average in the Anglosphere from the 1600s to the 1960s.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Though your stats are correct, that wasn’t universally true. In medieval times, the age of marriage was much younger, sixteen, often as low as fourteen, right after puberty. Among royals, the onset of puberty was the usual age, for they were betrothed as little children.

        The age of puberty has gone down, a side effect of more protein in the diet. If people were marrying in their late 20s, prospective grooms had to achieve financial independence, usually buying a house, before they could go in search of brides. The old custom of carrying the bride over the threshold arose from this fact. But women did marry early, as early as seventeen or eighteen, out on the American prairies.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        How about in Scandinavia, where the age of puberty was 17ish?Report

  14. roger says:

    I doubt if there are many sentences or thoughts in this post which I agree with or which could stand up to scrutiny by anyone remotely familiar with history, human nature or economics.  It is filled with factual errors and it represents an incoherent worldview which discards reality in the pursuit of propaganda. The fact that several progressives were impressed by it, says something about the left in general.

    The first few paragraphs lay out that falling birth rates is a problem, especially to pay for social welfare benefits which were not properly funded.  Somehow this must be capitalism’s fault. But it also alludes to some inherent perverse logic of growth built into capitalism, which is elevated throughout as some boogeyman.

    Then it goes on to suggest that “Everyone agrees westerners should pop out more laborers.” and government policies should encourage them to do so. I disagree with both conjectures . The second for obvious libertarian positions of why in the heck would I want the government interfering with anyone’s decisions on family size? The first in more ways than I can describe. I think people should decide themselves;I think we need human capital of every type, not just labor; I think it is possible that fewer people can still deliver rising living standards if institutions allowed, and so on.  

    Then it steps into the supposedly unprecedented modern pressures of tradeoffs between work and family.

    Does anybody other than the author and hardcore drank-the-poisoned-Cool Ade progressives honestly think the pressures are worse now than in prior generations? Seriously? Does anyone not laughing at this statement have any familiarity with standards of living, work hours, conditions, trends in leisure and such? These are the social science equivalents of saying the earth is flat and held up by turtles.  

    “The situation at the convergence of all these trends is something like this: the American economy, like all market economies, needs people to have children to fuel its growth…”

    This sentence assumes a lot.  First, that there is any such thing as a growing prosperity outside of market economies or those riding their creative coattails.  The anthropomorphizing of the institutions of markets is at best humorous. 

    “Yet in typical capitalist fashion, society has placed all of the burden of producing new laborers on individuals.”

    As opposed to giant cloning vats? I jest but again, note the Big Kahuna anthropomorphizing of institutions and the assumption that we need another Big Kahuna State to step in and relieve us of this burden. 

    “Not only do you have to sell your time for wages to survive, but you also have to spend your wages raising the next generation of laborers so they can face (likely) even worse economic and ecological chaos.”

    As opposed to what… Feudalism? Marxism? Hunter gathering? And what is this assumed trend of worsening economics and ecological chaos? You do all realize that free enterprise has delivered an average per capita living standards that are steadily growing…right? That the average westerner lives at a standard somewhere between twenty and a hundred times better than pre capitalist ancestors? And that wealthier people consistently improve their environment? You are aware of the environmental record of Socialism? The per person environmental footprint of pre capitalist farmers? 

    Then it goes into stuff about how capitalism somehow has this perverse indisputable logic that consumes 100% of human resources. Umm, you do realize that leisure has been a major product of rising prosperity, right? That we have several times as much leisure as we did about 150 years ago?  That the lower classes have the most leisure? That our generation has more leisure than prior ones? 

    I am aware that some progressives have no concept of where prosperity comes from. That they believe prosperity comes from a little government fairy (or is it a union fairy?). However, I would think those at the League have been exposed to enough non-progressives to see though this illusion. Somehow, the first system ever actually capable of delivering huge increases in leisure through less time at work and in the home, is now blamed for the opposite. 

    I understand that when progressives get together at dinner parties they can lie to each other about this stuff to shore up their fragile and fractured world views. It is like hard right evangelicals getting together and chatting about how Moses refused to let dinosaurs on the boat. However, you guys need to be careful of exposing this silliness to those outside the club.  

    • NewDealer in reply to roger says:

      Your elephant undies are showing again, Roger.Report

      • roger in reply to NewDealer says:

        Why is that, New Dealer? Is it because only partisan republicans can disagree with progressive propaganda? Or is this just the best defense you could come up with?Report

      • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

        Well, to start with, you seemed to immediately jump to the assumption that Sessions is a raging progressive.Report

      • roger in reply to NewDealer says:

        How does my jumping to this conclusion imply conservative tendencies? Do only conservatives jump to conclusions on this topic? Or do only conservatives use the term?

        Is the proper term leftist? Post modernist? Anti capitalist intellectual? If so, please substitute the correct term for my sloppy labels.

        Of course the real dispute isn’t with labels. It is with substituting truth with propaganda. Seriously, it is not acceptable to take a trend which moves one way, tell everyone that the trend is moving the opposite way*, and then blame that force responsible for the trend moving in the desired direction as the problem.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to NewDealer says:

        Roger, you seriously don’t think comments like this

        I understand that when progressives get together at dinner parties they can lie to each other about this stuff to shore up their fragile and fractured world views. It is like hard right evangelicals getting together and chatting about how Moses refused to let dinosaurs on the boat. However, you guys need to be careful of exposing this silliness to those outside the club.

        and this

        Of course the real dispute isn’t with labels. It is with substituting truth with propaganda.

        don’t reveal your undies?Report

      • roger in reply to NewDealer says:

        If my underwear are labeled “bright eyed seeker of wisdom and truth.” Then yes. My undies are showing.*

        SW, without calling me a fascist again, can you please explain how anything I wrote logically implies I am a closet Republican? Is there some reason you guys need to force a classical liberal into your ideological boxes?

        Honestly I do not understand this strange defense mechanism. I assume it is because you guys have proven to yourself that republicans are Neanderthals, so when presented with any argument you are incapable of rebutting you just dismiss it as jibberish coming from the cave men.

        * I am making a jokeReport

      • Stillwater in reply to NewDealer says:

        Well, I’ll stand by the comment imputing a fascistic strain to your reasoning in the following sense: your arguments against liberals (and conservatives as well I guess) are based on an ideologically driven picture of what constitutes the “ideal” society, the realization of which requires people to subvert or reject their own personally determined values in favor of “objective” objective values which, if realized, will lead to the Higher Society. And I see two types of strains in your thinking supporting that conclusion. The first is an infatuation with the idealized model such that there is an implicit faith that theory will track perfectly into practice. The other is that individuals have a role to play to realize the idealized model, which they ought to play, in order to realize a Greater Good, even if playing that role leads to worse outcomes for them.

        Maybe fascistic isn’t the right word. Ideological zealotry might be closer. As I said before, I tend to think you confuse the normative with the descriptive and descriptive. That might be because you think your theory is justified by both a priori as well as empirical evidence. And that might be true. Yet lots of people continue to reject your view and your response to them and their disagreement is that they are ignorant self-deluded propagandists locked in a circular spiral of their own logic.

        My criticism of your view is similar: if it’s both a priori true as well as empirically demonstrated, then you – as a matter of definition! – are engaging in a circular argument. There is no possible way for it to be false. You might find that a selling point for your views, actually. I don’t.

        I also want to add I don’t feel that way about all the libertarian views expressed at this site. Jaybird’s existential libertarianism has lots of appeal to me. Kuznicki’s “attack at the edges” approach makes sense to me. But I reject a theory which on the one hand proposes a theoretical framework to achieve important individual and social goals while in the other logically entails a critique of the thought processes and reasoning of people who disagree with that model.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


        Good points. The lines that really brought in the elephant undies comment were the swipes about progressives and their dinner parties.

        This is a very annoying Republican culture war cliche. This is a constant othering that I don’t know how to solve but the idea that liberals especially liberals from urban environments are not really American. Our cultural preferences and stuff we do render us to be more European and “outsiders”. Real Americans do not have dinner parties, they have BBQs in the backyard with Bud or something like that. Real Americans don’t serve leg of lamb, they just grill some burgers and hotdogs.

        Roger painted a cartoonish and monolithic portrait of liberals that comes straight from the Palin resentment playbook. People complain when I do this about libertarians or Republicans on this site with comments of FYIGM or Shorter X.

        This divide/fight is one of the great mysteries of American politics that certain cultural likes and preferences are inherently snobby and wrong. These usually roughly correspond to upper-middle class tastes (something many conservatives indulge in like local coffee or microbrews and wine.Report

      • Russ Nelson in reply to NewDealer says:

        if you think that libertarians are Republicans, you will never understand libertarians.Report

      • roger in reply to NewDealer says:

        At no point in my philosophy do I ever recommend people do something which which is harmful for them for the good of society. My philosophy is built upon the concept of voluntary, positive sum, constructive actions. I do not oppose minimum wage because I think the poor should suck it up, I oppose it because I believe it harms the poor as well as the rest of us.

        If it is true that my theory (which looks a lot like classical liberalism) is justified both logically and empirically, then there is good reason for me to continue to advance it. First, it will expose it to better attacks, and thus to my improving it or revising it.  Second, if it really does by some long shot lead to the better world according to commonly accepted values as I believe, then I can gain personally, “utilitarianally” and altruistically by promoting it.

        If it is not justified logically or empirically or normatively, I would love you all to show me why. This frequently results in people intentionally distorting my arguments into absurd straw men (if you can’t refute an argument, find one that you can refute), and ad hoc arguments (I remember a half dozen choice names and accusations last week alone).

        When I lay out four or five specific arguments in defense of a position and the result is no counter to any points but instead an accusation that only a fascist would say this, then I assume the other party is engaging in a desperate defense mechanism. When I provide census data on leisure or work hours to prove a point on investment in children and the argument suddenly shifts over to this must imply that I think all poor people are lazy, then I assume the other side just threw in the towel.  

        “My criticism of your view is similar: if it’s both a priori true as well as empirically demonstrated, then you – as a matter of definition! – are engaging in a circular argument. There is no possible way for it to be false.”

        This I find fascinating.  I give logical explanations supported by empirical facts.  This is by definition not a priori, as a priori is all deduction and no empirical support. Right?  And this is your argument against my belief? Does this not assume that better arguments are by definition either illogical, not supported empirically or both? Honestly, I must be missing something, as I am sure that is not your argument. Is it?Report

      • Stillwater in reply to NewDealer says:

        If it is not justified logically or empirically or normatively, I would love you all to show me why.

        Oh, we’ve tried. That’s why I’ve concluded that there is no evidence – logical, empirical, normative – which you would concede constitutes a legitimate disagreement with your views. There is none.Report

      • roger in reply to NewDealer says:

        New Dealer,

        My comment was about observing you guys playing inside baseball. For the record I have been to my share of liberal dinner parties. It is nothing like FYIGM.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to NewDealer says:

        if you think that libertarians are Republicans…. erm, is Rand Paul a Republican? Inquiring minds want to know just how the Libertarian thing is defined. I’ve been tormenting the self-described Libertarians around here, cheekily asking them for some definitions — and getting nothing in return except for what they’re Not. This has stymied conversation somewhat and led some of these Libertarians to say some harsh and screamish things, things that would make a grown man cry — weeping with laughter, that is.

        The Libertarians and the Marxists. Both are defined by what they’re Not.Report

      • roger in reply to NewDealer says:

        Ok, let me turn it around then. What evidence do YOU have that convinces you that I am wrong, and what exactly am I wrong on in your opinion? The value of free markets? The adverse affects of price controls or coercion in employment contracts?

        I rarely bail on conversations or debates. I try to specifically counter any objection, usually in ways which are backed by well established economic theory and personal practice.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to NewDealer says:

        What’s a “free” market, Roger? Let’s just start there.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to NewDealer says:

        Ok, let me turn it around then. What evidence do YOU have that convinces you that I am wrong, and what exactly am I wrong on in your opinion?

        ROger, have I ever disagreed with you about your views? Those are my areas of disagreement. My contention is that you’ve never conceded that those disagreements are justified or legitimate. I mean, just the other day LWA said that his disputes with you resolve to a difference in values. I don’t know how you can refrain from conceding the legitimacy of that criticism even if you disagree with him. Instead, you try to account for disagreement in terms of your own theory, reducing his and other’s views to an ideological confusion or a partisan-motivated delusion. Which is ironic, don’t you think!Report

      • roger in reply to NewDealer says:


        “My contention is that you’ve never conceded that those disagreements are justified or legitimate. I mean, just the other day LWA said that his disputes with you resolve to a difference in values. I don’t know how you can refrain from conceding the legitimacy of that criticism even if you disagree with him. Instead, you try to account for disagreement in terms of your own theory, reducing his and other’s views to an ideological confusion or a partisan-motivated delusion. Which is ironic, don’t you think!”

        I made an argument which in simplified form was that adding a third party to override and extinguish voluntary positive sum interactions destroys value for those parties interfered with.  You can actually see this by looking at supply and demand curves. I also suggested it would create a counterproductive battle around the definition and control of the long discredited economic concept of a supposed “just” price.

        LWA responded not with any counter to these points, but with the observation that:

        “I assert that the belief systems of human dignity, the value of work, and many other things beside, ARE something that can legitimately be imposed on others…..Note your argument, that 3rd party interference would inhibit economic freedom- who made a value judgement that this was of paramount importance? I certainly didn’t. Why should your moral valuation be binding on all of us?”

        Thus LWA did as you suggest introduce separate values. My response:

        “What makes your judgment, removed as it is from the situation and values of the poor person you override, better than theirs? Certainly we would demand a high burden of proof. Just as importantly, it specifically and demonstrably destroys value according to the person you are trying to help. Again, I would require a huge burden of proof before you could convince me this stood any chance of helping those you are specifically limiting. My argument was not that you shouldn’t do it based upon my values. My explicit argument was that you should not do it if you value prosperity or the well being of the poor. They were logical arguments and could be negated if you show my premises or conclusions are incorrect. Care to try?”

        Ok, now this is important…. My final argument basically reduces down to a statement, that if my premises (which were not challenged) are true, that LWA is stating that his values of personal dignity override the well being of the poor*. This is indeed a normative claim. Is it one which you and LWA are willing to make?

        After all, note that the poor are familiar with dignity when they choose a job. In addition they experience it personally, not on some abstract level. They weigh their expected gains and losses and compare and weight their varying values. LWA’s claim is that his (or some third party’s) abstract, distant take on dignity and just price SHOULD override the decision of the person actually experiencing feedback. Thus you are also saying YOUR interpretation of dignity and justice should override theirs. That the serfs are incapable of running their own lives. 

        Do you and LWA really believe this? Do you believe yours or a third party’s interpretation of justice is superior to that of the individuals involved? Do you value abstract dignity over the well being of the poor, as defined by the poor?

        If so, which side of the debate is really representing the poor?

        * You guys often switch the argument around and say we are arguing for general prosperity on the shoulders of the poor. The latter part is incorrect.  The persons prevented from interacting are harmed the most.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to NewDealer says:

        I made an argument which in simplified form was that adding a third party to override and extinguish voluntary positive sum interactions destroys value for those parties interfered with.

        Is this a matter of a priori logic for you? If so, then it would be impossible for you to accept the conclusions of studies showing that raising the minimum wage has negligible effects on employment. You wouldn’t even need to read those papers prior to rejecting them (tho, you would might find it an interesting exercise to read them anyway in order to reveal the flaw in the authors’ reasoning).

        On the other hand, your conclusion (as stated!, mind you) cannot be empirically determined for a couple of reasons. One is that people dispute whether evidence establishes your conclusion. That is, lots of people argue that the value-destroying effects of raising the minimum wage (to the extent they exist) are less than than the value-adding effects. Another is that if the conclusion is determined by evidence, then it doesn’t hold necessarily – unless you’re understanding the evidence in terms of an a priori theory (see the first paragraph).

        Ok, now this is important…. My final argument basically reduces down to a statement, that if my premises (which were not challenged) are true, that LWA is stating that his values of personal dignity override the well being of the poor*. This is indeed a normative claim. Is it one which you and LWA are willing to make?

        concluding with this statement:

        Thus you are also saying YOUR interpretation of dignity and justice should override theirs.

        First, you criticize LWA of imposing his value judgments on the poor and arguing for policies consistent with those judgments, implying – by exclusion, I suppose – that this is a perfect example of how you and LWA differ wrt these issues. He imposes a value-determined judgment on the poor and derives policy thereby.

        But then something weird happens. By way of contrasting your view from LWA’s, you say the following:

        After all, note that the poor are familiar with dignity when they choose a job. In addition they experience it personally, not on some abstract level. They weigh their expected gains and losses and compare and weight their varying values.

        Here we have you imposing – in the guise of pure description – a moralistic picture on the poor: that they (as a matter of fact!) receive dignity from choosing a job; that they (as a matter of fact!) exhibit their subjective rationality by the act of choosing. Those are – and I hope you can see this – value judgments (one of which is purely a priori; the other of which supposes a whole slew of factors outside the scope of the comment).

        Your conclusion from this little bit of reasoning is that

        LWA’s claim is that his (or some third party’s) abstract, distant take on dignity and just price SHOULD override the decision of the person actually experiencing feedback.

        It seems to me, ROger, that you also have a distant take on dignity and on what constitutes a just price for labor. One that is purely normatively determined (at this point), and one which empirical evidence will support only to the extent that evidence is evaluated with those a priori values in mind. So it seems to me that you and LWA are all square on this issue: both of you guys view the world thru a value scheme. So what we have here is a disagreement wrt what initial values individuals should adopt when it comes to policy proposals and desired outcomes.

        Note that the word “should” in the last sentence is ambiguous between prescription and description. It’s important to keep that in mind, I think, since collapsing the distinction leads to all sorts of circularities begged questions and (frankly) incoherence.

        OK. With that out of the way, I want to step back out from this micro-dispute to hold a bigger picture of what I think is in play here. Most liberals – and I’m sure LWA would agree with this – accept markets, believe that markets are important and useful mechanisms to achieve individual and social goals, believe in “capitalism” in some sense of that word, etc. Your criticism of liberals in general, however, is that if they (we) don’t accept the normative, idealized model which you endorse, we can somehow be criticized as being anti-market; anti-capitalist; pro-coercion; pro-BigGummintCommies; liars and propagandists; etc; etc. WHich is a straw-conclusion if ever their was one.

        THe arguments are taking place at the edges of things, and you consistently – for what I called “ideological” reasons upthread – insist on viewing them as core differences. Which personally I think is a mistake. But I also think it’s a problem for your view that you feel justified in interpreting the disagreements in the terms that you do.Report

      • roger in reply to NewDealer says:


        Enjoying the dialogue. Sorry for the delay. On interference with wage levels…

        My conclusions come partly from 30 years of being responsible for actually establishing prices and living with the effects. My experience matches the research and the theory. Who’d a thunk?

        I have read the research and have listed my summary several times. The closest thing to a consensus is that SMALL changes in minimum wage have small, very difficult to measure effects on hours worked, employment, working conditions, quality of worker (from less skilled to more), turnover, profits, prices and four other factors. Net result is to shift the economy to what is seen (a worker making 75 cents more per hour) from what is not seen or measurable. Concentrated visible benefits and distributed, opaque costs and externalities. This too matches my experience and theory. Small changes are tough to measure.

        However, studies also show that between two thirds and three fourths of all changes to minimum wages go to those neither poor nor near poor. In other words, you gain visible benefits to some, mostly non poor for economic inefficiency when small changes are made to minimum wages.

        The consensus among economists is that LARGE (significant) interference with wages would have large and measurable effects on the above eleven factors.

        Certainly I would require extraordinary evidence if someone suggested the world was square or substantial interferences with prices does not affect supply and demand. I make it a personal mission to be familiar with these types of topics. 

        If you want links, let me know. If you have any earth shattering ones that say something different, send ’em my way.

        I will respond separately on the more interesting area of value conflict.Report

      • roger in reply to NewDealer says:


        ROGER; “adding a third party to override and extinguish voluntary positive sum interactions destroys value for those parties interfered with.”

        SW: “Is this a matter of a priori logic for you?”

        Honestly, it can be illustrated mathematically. The fact that it matches experience and theory is kind of cool though.  

        ROGER: “LWA is stating that his values of personal dignity override the well being of the poor*. This is indeed a normative claim. Is it one which you and LWA are willing to make?”

        SW: “… You criticize LWA of imposing his value judgments on the poor and arguing for policies consistent with those judgments.”

        Yes. With emphasis on the word “imposing.”

        ROGER: “After all, note that the poor are familiar with dignity when they choose a job. In addition they experience it personally, not on some abstract level. They weigh their expected gains and losses and compare and weight their varying values.”

        SW: “Here we have you imposing – in the guise of pure description – a moralistic picture on the poor: that they (as a matter of fact!) receive dignity from choosing a job; that they (as a matter of fact!) exhibit their subjective rationality by the act of “choosing”. Those are – and I hope you can see this – “value” judgments (one of which is purely a priori; the other of which supposes a whole slew of factors outside the scope of the comment).”

        I respectfully disagree, though you can quibble with my original wording.  My belief is that to the extent dignity is a factor to them, that they can weigh it in their decisions. It is quite possible they receive zero dignity, that they get negative dignity, or even that they are absolutely oblivious to the concept. Implicit in my comment is that there are lots of values, some of which are contradictory. Every person has different values and weights and contextual environments, and AS A GENERAL RULE, a reasonable assumption is that most rational adults are better at weighing and balancing their values than a third party.  When you add the fact that they experience feedback and thus can learn, while third parties are less affected or even inversely affected (third party can gain while affected party suffers). Thus, as a rule of thumb, we should be very cautious before overriding personal judgment. 

        I can again argue this logically and can draw upon empirical data supporting this in fields ranging from biology, evolution, history, political theory, and more. Do you disagree with this?  

        ROGER: “LWA’s claim is that his (or some third party’s) abstract, distant take on dignity and just price SHOULD override the decision of the person actually experiencing feedback.”

        SW: “It seems to me, Roger, that you “also” have a distant take on dignity and on what constitutes a just price for labor. One that is purely normatively determined (at this point), and one which empirical evidence will support only to the extent that evidence is evaluated with those a priori values in mind. So it seems to me that you and LWA are all square on this issue: both of you guys view the world thru a value scheme. So what we have here is a disagreement wrt what initial values individuals “should” adopt when it comes to policy proposals and desired outcomes.”

        I have already addressed the allegation that I only read papers that match my warped view of the world. I believe for a non economist, I am extremely well read on the both sides of the debate and I am professionally intimately aware of real world interferences in prices. Certainly nobody is without biases.  Do you believe I am less informed or have less experience or are more biased than you on the topic?

        My argument is that when a third party prevents an expected positive sum, mutually beneficial action from occurring, that the expected value of that interaction is prevented from being created. To the extent you interfere with voluntary choices made by the poor, you are quite likely harming them according to the values of the poor person you are imposing your values on.  I am not making any assumption on what values the poor person does have or should have. 

        If you think poor people are incapable of deciding what is in their best interest, then say so.

         If you think your projected views of dignity imposed over others is worth harming the others based upon whatever values they hold, then say so.  

        My guess though what you are really saying is that you sincerely want to believe that if you impose substantial interference in wages despite the lack of any provided empirical or logical justification, that you will create a better set of institutions which will hurt some poor people, but help others and in general lead to a world which is more pleasing to you (and hopefully the poor). Conveniently, if you are wrong it is no skin off your back.  You can feel good about it as unemployment rises and class mobility freezes. 

        I am not imposing my values on anyone. I am using logic, reason and experience to state that imposing values on others tends to be counterproductive regardless of what our values are.  This is true for egoists, utilitarians and altruists, and any combination thereof.  Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to roger says:

      So, Roger, to be clear, anyone who feels that this modern economy presses them for time to an increasing degree compared to earlier times (whether ten, twenty, forty, or sixty years ago) is suffering under some kind of delusion, illusion, or other misconception, because it simply isn’t?Report

      • roger in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Nope. Lots of folks feel pressured by time. The error is to make sweeping statements that things are getting worse in terms of leisure, when the opposite is the case, and then blame the institutions of property rights and freedom of contract.

        The error is to bemoan how we are collectively getting poorer, when the opposite is the case, but then suggest that it this negative trend is due greatly to free enterprise.

        This argument is the equivalent of Roseanna Roseanna Danna going on Saturday Night Live and blaming the MVP of the team that won the SuperBowl for losing the Superbowl. …..oh, never mind.

        My take away… The author doesn’t like capitalism and would like to blame it for any real or imagined problem in the world.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

        I don’t really see those claims in the piece, Roger. I see the claim that capitalism pressures people in advanced societies to work ever more, more, and more. It doesn’t really address the possibility that it does this by partly creating ever higher and higher expectations for what constitutes a not-below-average level of material affluence, but not addressing that doesn’t deny that it’s the case, and if it is the case, it being the case doesn’t mean the pressure to work more, more, and more doesn’t exist.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:


        things are getting worse in terms of leisure, when the opposite is the case

        I’m not clear how this sweeping claim is consistent with anyone feeling that they, or people generally, are increasing pressed for time by this economy (i.e. apart from their own choices). Whom is the economy pressuring more for time apart from their own choices to try to increase their material gains from it?Report

      • Kim in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Michael AND Roger,
        lookit the graphs of productivity versus pay.

        Folks can be going batshit insane, and still have “roughly the same leisure time”Report

    • Murali in reply to roger says:

      Gently, roger, gently. The vast majority of countries and the populations living in them think that people’s fertility choices are everyone’s business. Even if that itself doesn’t make us reconsider our position, we should still be gentle when challenging it.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Murali says:

        The funny thing about that, Murali, is that, after all the dust settles, the OP’s basic motive here is to express agreement with you and Roger (and me, and, you know, strangely, almost everyone else here if I were to hazard a guess…) about that position.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to roger says:


      You make a lot of good points, though I wish you had made them differently. I also think that you had posited this as bring primarily a broadside against capitalism, when I think it was more about pointing out the incongruity of believing in markets and yet lamenting the low fertility rates. Markets rely on rational behavior, and rational behavior lowers fertility rates. That we’re encouraging people to do one thing with one frame of mind, and then lamenting that they are not doing something else with another frame of mind.

      If you (collective second person) don’t think society has a stake – or should have a stake – in reproductive numbers, I’m not sure that this post is actually speaking to you.

      I am skeptical of the notion that capitalism harbors much of any of the responsibility for what’s going on in the US (see my 6:41 comment). But it is an issue with a whole lot of moving parts, and one of those moving parts may well be a combination of the emphasis that we are supposed to put on our careers and the economic insecurity that many feel when it comes to global capitalism.Report

      • As an aside, you sidestepped one of the biggest libertarian critiques. One potential contributor to lower fertility rates is a government program: social security.

        You’re critical of Sessions’s point about parents assuming the burdens of child-rearing, but another way is looking at it this way: While a lot of the costs are private, the (alleged) benefits are socialized. The Duggars and the child-free alike will have access to social security even though the Duggars spent the money, time, and effort raising the kids that are putting the money into the coffers.

        Of course, a libertarian will look at this as a reason to stop it with social security and liberals might look at it as a reason to financially help parents (or maybe not, figuring we can outsource the rearing to other countries).Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

        Some decades ago, I was involved in a small way (building the database for ) a statistical study of the Indian state of Kerala, comparing it to China. Both were small-c communistic societies, both were rice cultures. Kerala was routinely returning Communists to the Indian parliament. Both had declining birth rates, Kerala’s was somewhat higher.

        The people who ran this study observed both populations educated girls, for Communists do believe in education of children. But China was only educating girls for six years. Kerala educated their girls for twelve years. The difference, they concluded, was the number of years of education for girls. At roughly 11.4 years of education, a girl will statistically have fewer than two children. She will have them later in life, they will have far better survival rates and those children will be educated as well.

        The best birth control device seems to be a textbook, not a pill or a draconian One Child state policy.Report

      • roger in reply to Will Truman says:

        Re-reading the title and just about every paragraph, it is a deceptively argued, factually incorrect attack on market-based economies. Look at the conclusion in the last two sentences. To paraphrase; until we can get a better set of economic institutions it is logical to let other people’s kids be exploited by the system.

        It would be the equivalent to arguing that Pearl Harbor was attacked. The British did it. Let’s get ’em.

        The fact that I agree Pearl Harbor was attacked and that I agree this is a bad thing has nothing to do with me agreeing with either the argument or the conclusion.

        This is not a minor quibble. This entire post lacks logic and truth. I guess it really must be postmodern.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

        Roger has supplied no facts of his own to gainsay the argument. The USA is obsessed with its children and has been for generations. Fact. Birthrates in industrialised countries has dropped. Fact. We might argue about the causes: I say it’s education of girls which has led to them having a choice in the matter of having children. What’s Roger’s explanation for declining birth rates among educated women and a population explosion in countries such as Egypt, where women aren’t educated? He doesn’t have one.

        Exploitation isn’t a bad word. It means the extraction of profits from a given process. Time is money: if you’re at work, you can’t go to your childrens’ games. Nor is there any argument about the impact of declining birth rates on the social systems currently in place. Again, Roger has nothing to say about these facts: fewer workers are now supporting more non-workers, elderly and young alike.

        Children are expensive and becoming more expensive, as any parent who’s sent his children to college will tell you. As workers are obliged to move from place to place in pursuit of work, a growing trend, the old support structures of the extended families are pulled out, forcing little children into expensive child care situations.

        When I was in Japan, they’d have public service announcements on the television, “Have more children. It’s good for Japan.” Now the elderly of Japan, a very numerous population, are being cared for by imported Filipinos. I might add, just before he died, my father was cared for by just such a Filipino, my elderly mother being incapable of caring for him.

        David Sessions’ essay comes to a sharp point here: On all of these issues, the media conversation inevitably reaches an impasse; it is able to diagnose a problem, but not to suggest any real solution.. Does Roger have a solution? He might begin with a refutation from the facts but all of them support Sessions’ conclusions and not his own.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

        Come to think of it, so was my mother. She spent her last years in a nursing home, cared for by imported Filipino nurses.Report

      • Last makes the case for the confluence of a whole bunch of things (in no particular order): birth control, women’s education, women in the workplace, social security, delayed marriage, divorce, abortion, the increased investments expected in raising children, and car safety seat requirements.

        But no, the facts don’t really support Sessions’s conclusions. Which doesn’t mean that Sessions is wrong, but it means that it can’t be supported.

        Roger’s answer to declining fertility is that (a) it’s not caused by capitalism and (b) it’s none of our damn business if others choose to have kids. The first hasn’t been refuted, and the second is subjective and/or speculative.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

        Which conclusions can’t be supported? That It’s a tragedy that anyone in the wealthiest country on earth should have to conclude that a humane lifestyle is mutually exclusive with having children ? This seems eminently supportable from the facts. You may not want to call it a tragedy: conclusions aren’t facts, themselves. I was a stay-at-home Dad for six years, writing software in my living room with babies on my back, well, one at a time. I had understanding clients, Sears and Panasonic, who made arrangements for my family while my wife was going back to school.

        But I took a huge cut in my billing rate. I lived pretty tight and flew awfully close to the ground, financially, for those six years — by my standards. But I did get to raise my children. There is a trade-off between work and family life and it has a price tag attached to it, denominated in American dollars. What exactly is your point, Will?Report

      • The conclusion that American-style capitalism is to blame for the decrease in fertility. While it seems intuitively true, it’s not supported when you look at other countries with similar or greater birthrates. Supporting evidence would be, for instance, that countries that work less have more children, countries with more robust family welfare systems have more children, and so on.

        I mean, there is an argument that capitalism causes fertility drops insofar as capitalism makes nations wealthy and wealth brings about changes that result in less fertility. But that was not, I don’t think, the argument that Sessions was making. Sessons, to my mind, was arguing that it’s the bad things (longer hours, less pay, financial insecurity) that is causing the decline.

        I really liked the piece, and I think he may be on to what is a factor that interplays with other factors. But it doesn’t appear to be a key variable.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

        Where’s the evidence for those conclusions, Will? More to the point, where’s Roger’s evidence, not that he’s going to furnish any; that seems to be a given. Capitalism as evidenced by every major industrialised nation going back into antiquity, has amply demonstrated how this works. The upper crust doesn’t marry below its station and produces fewer children. Those children are selectively weeded out by inheritance rights. Soon enough, a class of financiers arises to manage this wealth creation process and the old nobility is quickly supplanted by an oligarchy. Thus it has always been and I see no reason to believe it will ever be otherwise.

        Capitalism, like gravity, creates planetary bodies, attractors for wealth for ever fewer people. I have no problem with how capitalism works: I contend the wealthy may have to become astronomically wealthy if the poor are ever to rise in the world. But let’s not deny facts here: capitalism does create wealth — but only for the few and not for the many. Capitalism can be harnessed to the benefit of the many, with fine results for all involved. After all, capitalism depends on the spending of money. If the poor have some money, they will spend it. If the wealthy have money they will invest it.

        But unless the poor are actually buying things, investment in that economy becomes pointless and the money will move elsewhere, where it will return profits to the investor. Children are an investment in the future. If parents can’t afford children, the wife will miserably take her pill every day and with every passing month will grieve, however imperceptibly, that she can’t really afford a child at this point in her life. That’s a problem created by capitalism, Will. Granted, it’s a bit facile to say things would be otherwise if capitalism weren’t in effect. But look at where capitalism isn’t working, places like Egypt, where the poor do have children and lots of them. What explains that trend?Report

      • Blaise, the piece focused on American-style capitalism of the long work weeks, low pay, financial insecurity, and so on. Not on the material success that comes with capitalism. The argument against this is a look at social democracies in Europe, with all of the family support structures that is supposed to be at the root of our fertility problem, and… they have a lower birth rate than we do, for the most part.

        The argument for Capitalism having caused it (or played a role) is that capitalism causes wealth, and wealth causes declines in fertility. That’s a stronger argument. One I am not sure Roger would even object to (Roger, what say you?). But that is not the argument that I read Sessions as making.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

        Yes, it did focus on American capitalism. Europe is no argument against this trend: Europe is a perfect argument for it. A tongue in cheek replacement for the Irish National Anthem

        Ireland, Ireland, once we were poor,
        Then we were wealthy; now we are poor again.
        Cows and horses, donkeys and sheep,
        Munster and Leinster, Connacht and ******.

        Chinese, Polish, Africans too,
        Doing the jobs we don’t want to do.
        An Irish stew, a nation of nations,
        Working for peanuts in petrol stations.

        I chimed in to say the explanation for falling birth rates is the education of girls. Where girls aren’t educated, they start popping out babies and create nightmares all the while. The Arab Spring is showing the world just how all this plays out. It is not a pretty picture and its root cause is unmanaged capitalism, the short-sighted bottom-line thinking which won’t invest in people.

        As for Roger, when did he ever come up with proof for anything?Report

      • I chimed in to say the explanation for falling birth rates is the education of girls.

        I think there are a lot of reasons. That’s certainly one of them. Within the US, even. There is an inverse relationship between fertility and a woman’s education.Report

      • roger in reply to Will Truman says:

        Actually, I don’t think I did offer any solutions to falling fertility. I suppose I could build a non-subjective, logical argument that it would be counterproductive to our intended goals to interfere from a position of coercion with people’s freedom to decide the issue for themselves.*

        I do agree that falling fertility may be a problem, especially considering the perverse way our politically designed safety nets are funded. I even agree that rising prosperity and science have contributed to lower fertility (along with most of the factors you mention), just not in the way David suggests. Most importantly, I do NOT believe dismantling the engine of prosperity and leisure is a good prescription for a solution. The important thing in terms of prosperity is not total GDP, it is living standards. Free markets don’t just expand the total size of the pie, they expand the size of the average and minimum slice. Time will tell if they are capable of doing so in a shrinking population.

        Other economic systems do not grow sufficiently fast and do not generate enough surplus for older people to live off absent lots of kids. Thus they are inherently subject to the Malthusian curse and a zero sum struggle for survival, which is much, much more catastrophic to human well being than falling fertility. Billions of deaths is generally considered a kind of bad thing.

        I could be more specific in recommendations if anyone is really interested. In general it involves doing what is necessary to continue to grow per capita wealth. This comes about via the invisible hands of science and free enterprise (using institutions to channel self interest into widespread well being).

        * most of my arguments actually are built upon the form of, IF this is our goal, then THIS follows. This is not subjective. It is logical and contextual. My only normal working assumption is that most people are some range or combination of altruists, egoists and utilitarians. Thus I try to build my arguments to apply to all three groups. I rarely argue progressives have the wrong values. My arguments are usually that their actions will not lead to their intended goals. David doesn’t want billions of deaths. His prescriptions of undermining capitalism will take us there though.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

        In general it involves doing what is necessary to continue to grow per capita wealth. This comes about via the invisible hands of science and free enterprise (using institutions to channel self interest into widespread well being).

        Ooh. after that first sentence, I thought you might be going on about Socialism. But you did get as far as Institutions — which means you like what socialism produces, just not how it’s done.

        As for Invisible Hands and other such magical thinking, let’s put all that rubbish in the box labelled “Theology” and leave it there.Report

      • roger in reply to Will Truman says:

        As many of you know, I have decided it is best for all parties involved that I not correspond with Blaise for well documented reasons involving threats and name calling. It never ends well.

        If anyone is interested in the invisible hand though, this explains it fairly well.

        It comes about via particular institutions which align self interest with the interests of others. A similar dynamic works in science. The institutions of science align self interested activities in such a way that generates knowledge and superior explanations of natural phenomena.

        Interestingly, the French Academy of Science actually tried to operate other than through the obviously “Britishy” invisible hand of self-interested behavior for a brief time. It did not work well.Report

      • David Sessions in reply to Will Truman says:

        Will, wanted to reply to your 8/24 12:27 comment.

        You’re right that I didn’t talk about capitalism producing wealth, which almost always leads to a decline in fertility – I assume we all agree that’s obvious.

        But it seems like you may be reading me to argue that the bad work conditions of capitalism (long hours, low wages, etc) have a causal relationship to the decline in fertility, and that is decidedly not what I intended to say. The statistical decline is caused by many complex factors (i.e., that Last identifies). But I’m trying to understand more from an existential perspective why certain people who reflect on the issue of whether or not to have kids think about it in one way or another.

        I think for a lot of people, that calculus is simply “I have a comfortable life I don’t want messed up, I never really wanted kids anyway, etc” (ie, the Time cover story). But for others (including myself), there’s a conflict of desires: I would love to have kids, but I’m not going to do it at enormous cost to my economic security and my sense of self (ie, moving somewhere I don’t want to live, taking a job I don’t want.) I would see it as: capitalism allows me a certain level of personal satisfaction in life, but I have to work pretty hard to get it. And if I have to work that hard, take on that much debt, etc, just to achieve that level of satisfaction, I’m not going to be very moved by being told the system needs me to spend my already limited resources on raising kids. So as I think you correctly summarized in other comments, the fact that the system refuses to socialize the cost of children (either through state subsidy or making various kinds of organic community possible), it undermines its own need for people to see reproduction as their social duty.

        But I admit this very theoretical analysis may not say all that much; if there are still millions of people without economic opportunity who have a high birthrate (and there is), it may balance out the people higher up the ladder who are making a more self-interested decision. So it would be wrong to say the kind of calculus I’m describing is itself the cause of the falling birthrate – I didn’t mean to suggest such a thing.Report

      • David, that’s certainly fair. To be honest, it seems very odd to me that there isn’t a causal relationship, for the very reasons you refer to. And someone commented along those lines not very long ago. That, combined with having just finished No One’s Expecting last week, has put a whole lot on my mind. Some of which I may have projected onto you.

        From a conceptual standpoint, though, I agreed with your post and liked it. It did identify a disconnect within certain modes of thinking. Many of the childfree are simply applying the same values that they’re inculcated with regard to their career and the market and applying it to family.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman says:

        Heh. As many of you know, Roger tends to Go Personal when his theological assertions are tested. There is no making a man reason, not while he fearfully clings to his fragile axioms. A letter from Galileo to Johannes Kepler:

        Dear Kepler,

        What would you say of the learned here, who, replete with the stubbornness of the viper, have steadfastly refused to cast a glance through the telescope? What shall we make of this? Should we laugh? Or should we cry?Report

    • LWA in reply to roger says:

      I find it telling that Roger’s retort to the OP was to demonstrate how much better off we are in material and financial terms, than pre-capitalist societies.

      Which is to say, capitalism is great at producing stuff. And if all we wanted was a world in which GDP was ever increasing, and people were free to do what they wanted without restriction, that would probably be that.Report

      • roger in reply to LWA says:

        You missed the part where I also mentioned it is responsible for outrageous increases in leisure and a better environment. I could have added that it also leads to an escape from Malthusian Darwinism, contributes to freedom, morality, world peace, lifespan, opportunity, artistic endeavors and intellectual pursuits.

        Not that I am an expert on any of this, but I did once watch Fox and Friends in the morning. ;^)Report

      • LWA in reply to LWA says:

        In what way does capitalism contribute to morality?Report

      • Glyph in reply to LWA says:

        I don’t know that capitalism contributes to morality itself (it’s amoral) but to whatever degree it contributes to wealth and leisure time creation, capitalism can contribute to moral causes (since I can now direct some of my extra money or time to virtuous causes, instead of constantly directing all my energy and resources just to keeping me and mine fed.)Report

      • roger in reply to LWA says:

        If you are interested in the argument, I would start here :

        Or if you prefer video;

        I could go on for hours though, from formal research papers on reciprocity and generosity to the moral writings of Adam Smith, to the recent Pinker book on dramatic reductions in violence or McCloskey’s treatise on Bourgeouis Dignity.

        The really short answer though is that properly structured institutions allow self interested actions to be converted into positive sum, win win outcomes. This shifts the game from win/lose to win/win and fosters universal values and replaces factions and clans with worldwide networks of constructive cooperation.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to LWA says:

        Capitalism is as fundamental (and amoral) as the law of gravity. Capitalism is nothing but bargaining: if it’s a hard bargain or an easy one, that’s irrelevant. But the bargain we make with capitalism is up to us as human beings and it’s not a bargain any one person can strike. It’s not as if we can’t make a better deal with capitalism, we can. Intelligent societies do enforce terms on those deals. It’s not as if capitalism can’t cope.

        There’s an old truism about how if you gave everyone a hundred dollars, in six months all those dollars would be in six pockets. But nobody was forced to spend that money on anything. They bought things they wanted. I wonder at turns if charity wouldn’t be more effective if we just gave a sufficient grubstake to poor people and let them determine how to spend it. Cut out all the middlemen, that’s a fact.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to LWA says:

        And if all we wanted was a world in which GDP was ever increasing, and people were free to do what they wanted without restriction, that would probably be that.

        Sentences like this one always seem to carry the hidden assumption that “I, or someone very much like me, will be in charge of doing the restricting.”Report

      • Glyph in reply to LWA says:

        Also in charge of reciprocity allocation.Report

      • Glyph in reply to LWA says:

        Although it’s probably implied, I should make explicit that of course excess leisure time and money generated under capitalism could just as easily be directed to immoral causes as well, so LWA may see that as a wash.Report

      • Glyph in reply to LWA says:

        For example, Bill Gates is now directing his enormous fortune towards some of humanity’s most fundamental challenges.

        On the other hand, he gave us Windows.

        Savior, or Gozer? Only time will tell.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to LWA says:

        You could argue that Gates eventually realized how harmful Microsoft’s domination of the industry has been, which is why he left Ballmer in charge.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to LWA says:

        Bill Gates didn’t give us Windows. That was Nathan Mhyrvold, a man now obsessed with committing horrible crimes against food.

        Windows wasn’t really the problem. All those third-party components, crappy drivers, especially, they were the problem. MSFT kept pushing sticks into everyone else’s bicycle spokes, too. When IBM took good ol’ DOS and virtualised all its interrupts with the OS/2 operating system, that was viewed as a threat and MSFT strangled OS/2 as quickly as it could. IBM was too stupid to live: had they taken OS/2 and built a nest for it on their mainframes, as they now do with Linux, they would have made MSFT compete. But such was not to be.

        Bill Gates was a monster but not a particularly evil one. He always appreciated the Mac and what Apple had done. Gates always considered MSFT a software company and to this day, I believe MSFT still releases its Office products for the Apple operating systems first.

        Gates is the Andrew Carnegie of his day. Both men were utterly ruthless in the business world and equally results-oriented in their philanthropy. Carnegie said “He who dies rich dies disgraced.”

        Time has already rendered a verdict on Bill Gates. He’s in the pantheon of intelligent philanthropists. He’s provided the necessary example for other wealthy people, notably Warren Buffett, who’s backed the Gates Foundation to the hilt.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to LWA says:

        There hasn’t been a new version of Office for Mac since 2010.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to LWA says:

        Office 365 works on Mac. Even MSFT knows the days of shrink wrapped boxes are almost over.Report

      • Kim in reply to LWA says:

        And like Carnegie, Gates is a self-made man.

        I’ll say nothing against folks like him, regardless of what they spend their money on.
        That is capitalism at its finest, rewarding folks that work hard and climb high.

        They are not the Kochs, the Heinzes, the Scaifes.Report

    • North in reply to roger says:

      Roger, I think you’ve drifted a bit partisan in your comments; which IMO is fine if it’s being done consciously but is something you may wish to examine if it has been an unconscious development (possibly in response to the League’s new population of red meat lefties*).

      This one doesn’t parse for me as well. While I agree that this particular article is written from a liberal viewpoint the subject of population bust/decline is primarily a conservative issue. In liberal/left crows centrists like me can airily dismiss it “we’ll just import the needed population from immigration, problem solved”. The population fretters on the left have very limited responses, some talk about cultural imperialism or robbing poor countries of their people and such but the centrists just roll their eyes and move on.

      On the conservative side, however, the right wing population fretters retort that we’re immigrating the “wrong sort of people (culturally, ethnically, religiously etc) and the center righties start looking genuinely worried. They can’t just dismiss those concerns (charitable read: conservatives believe excessive immigration is deleterious to the social and cultural fabric of the country, uncharitable read: conservatives have an unhealthy racist streak.)

      Anyway my base point: population decline is a much more salient concern for right wingers/conservatives than it is for left wingers/populists. Also you could have written your comment in a more libertarian tone and it would have been pretty much rock solid. Your republitarian tone lately has been shooting all kinds of holes in the substance of your arguments (and those who debate with you spend a lot of time prancing in and out of those holes instead of having to address any of your weakened concrete points).

      *full disclosure, it’s a development I like.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to North says:

        I have never heard anyone make the “robbing other countries” argument. Do people really say that?

        I’ve heard the occasional (read: one) liberal argue that immigration reform will lower blue-collar wages even more. This is generally the right-wing populist response to oppose immigration reform though.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to North says:

        Well, I think we have to acknowledge that our brain gain is someone else’s brain drain.

        Last makes the argument that the biggest problem with “We’ll just import them” is with fertility rates falling abroad, there may not be enough to import.Report

      • roger in reply to North says:

        Thanks North.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to North says:

        I’ve heard the occasional (read: one) liberal argue that immigration reform will lower blue-collar wages even more. This is generally the right-wing populist response to oppose immigration reform though.

        You probably won’t hear that argument outside of manual labor/blue collar circles. Back in the day, it was the prevailing sentiment given the observable fact that illegal immigrants were consistently hired to perform blue collar work at much lower hourly rates. I saw that on job sites working my way thru college all the time. Frankly, I don’t know why anyone would deny the argument except on “McCain” grounds: illegals do the work Americans don’t want to do, but that just begs the question. (Roofing? Framing? Concrete? Painting? Drywall?)Report

      • Will Truman in reply to North says:

        Go to Idaho, and you’ll find that there are actually a lot of people willing to do a lot of jobs that Americans won’t do. It’s not like construction doesn’t occur in Idaho, and it’s not all being done by their immigrant population.

        I have a hard time squaring the desire for higher wages at the bottom with bringing in lots of other laborers who will undermine any bargaining leverage the first set of workers have. I’m still working through it, because I really do want both of those things.Report

      • Lyle in reply to North says:

        On immigrating the wrong kind of people: Nothing new here, the Irish were the wrong kind of people in the 19th century, the Italians (and other southern Europeans) in the early 20th (along with roman catholics). It appears that people unlike the speaker are always the wrong kind of people. So its nothing new here, partly IMHO a stop the world I want to get off idea that the society is changing and these folks don’t like the direction it is going. Of course we also see changes that happen on the basis of new generations arising which again lead to the eternal idea that the younger generation is going to hell in a handbasket.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to North says:

        New Dealer,
        I have never heard anyone make the “robbing other countries” argument. Do people really say that?

        It’s not uncommon among the academic left. It’s an anti-imperialism approach. They focus on how imperialist countries extracted natural resources from the places they dominated, giving little in return, and extend that to corporations that extract natural resources from developing countries and supposedly give nothing back in return.

        I’m not sure if it’s still as popular a position as it was in the ’80s and ’90s, because I learned to avoid contact with those folks–not that they’re entirely wrong, by any means, but because most–or at least the most vocal–of them were driven by ideology, rather than analysis. Listening to them was like listening to street-corner preachers.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to North says:

        the Irish were the wrong kind of people in the 19th century

        What do you mean “were”?Report

      • North in reply to North says:

        @will-truman Will, I am completely unswayed by the “population growth rates are falling the world over” retort. I would respond with “Good! Maybe if countries have to worry about keeping their people then that will accelerate reform/development. Ceteris Parabus in a declining global population world the population living under liberal humanitarian regimes will increase both as a percentage and likely in raw numerics compared to their illiberal competitor states. May this happen soon.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to North says:

        I’ve had these discussions with various Do Gooder Liberal Types, who seem convinced the villains are the Greedy Corporations. The facts all point to the Local Villain in Charge, not the rapacious external entities. Greedy Corporations are greedy, that much is true. It is in their nature. And yes, they will bribe the Local Villain in Charge: that’s how business is done. The Villain demands the bribe and the amoral exec pays the bribe. We might wish otherwise, and wish the ordinary people wouldn’t be chased out of their forests and off their lands so the loggers and strip miners can loot the nation. But it’s completely obvious who’s doing the looting and who’s getting rich from it all: the Local Villain and his villainous cronies.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to North says:

        @north , well, whether it’s a good thing for the world or not, it would undermine the notion that if we need more people we can just immigrate them in.Report

      • Lyle in reply to North says:

        Replying to J@m3z Aitch Aug 24 at 4:12 pm. I was referring to the US in my remarks. Today I would say there is little animus against those of Irish extraction, after all Regan was Irish, as was Tip Onell. Also the discrimination against Roman Catholics has evaporated in the last 60 years with a significant fraction of the supreme court being catholic.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to North says:


        I was just being snarky about the Irish. Kind of a Blazing Saddles thing.Report

      • North in reply to North says:

        @will-truman Will, my point is that if we reach a point where liberal western democracies have difficulty immigrating in adequate labor to meet their needs it would necessarily be due to one of the following:
        -The developing worlds governments have somehow chosen to cut off the ability of their people to emigrate by force. I’d submit this is logistically near impossible and if they somehow pulled it off the first world would have excellent economic and humanitarian grounds to poke holes in whatever barriers the developing world had erected.

        -The developed world has somehow erected barriers to immigration that are strongly effective. In this case, with economic labor shortfalls, the first world should go “what the fish are we doing?!?!” and tear them down.

        -The entire developing world has caught up (or nearly caught up) with the developed world in standards of governance, livability and opportunity so people are disinclined to emigrate to the developed world. In this case we should be dancing in the streets.

        Barring those three scenarios the developed liberal democratic world should have a nearly limitless pool of immigrant labor to draw on to support their own demographic structures. The illiberal and non democratic world, on the other hand, could suffer potentially suffer massive inversions of their demographics (the young flee to the liberal world) in which case they can cry me a river. The sooner they collapse or liberalize to compete for diminishing human resources the better.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to North says:

        @north We’ll have to see what happens with Mexico, first. One of the predictors of emigration levels for a particular country for the US is reproductive levels. Moreso than wealth, actually. The concern being that even if Mexico is substantially poorer than the US, immigration will tail off simply because there are opportunities there, closer to home.

        Last uses, as an example, Puerto Rico. He argues that PR immigration to the mainland dropped off not because PR’s economic situation became closer to ours, but that lower fertility rates started keeping Puerto Ricans closer to home because there were sufficient – if not great – opportunities there.

        That may be wrong, or it may be right. I’m not sure. We’ll have to see what happens with Mexico. Or maybe a good comparative analysis of South America would do the trick.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to North says:

        Mexico had a huge contraception drive about 40 years ago. Mexico’s population went up in the Baby Boom, alongside ours. It dropped off quickly thereafter, far quicker than the USA. As a result, for many decades now, Mexican women have their kids then get their fallopian tubes tied. That’s what my wife did. It’s the preferred method after the last kid. Not as common up here in the States.

        From what I see, the big Mexican and Guatemalan emigration to the USA is over. The more enterprising Mexicans have already left for the USA and they’re here for the long haul. They’ve already had their kids here. Some will return to Mexico in their old age, I’ve seen some of that. Lots of gringos are going south to take advantage of favourable exchange rates and the low cost of living, especially to Costa Rica. Easier to get personal servants down there.

        Mexico’s a huge country. Hard to lump its problems into one pile. Mexico City / Distrito Federal is its own problem domain. The drug-violence-plagued north of Mexico is yet another problem. Southern Mexico, the areas I know far better, are practically in open revolt against the authorities. Mexico is both better and worse than it used to be.

        Curious factoid: Hispanics are more likely to have children in the USA than their countries of origin.Report

      • North in reply to North says:

        @will-truman I would agree Will, we shall have to see how things go but even eliminating Mexico the first world can merely import labor from somewhere else.Report

    • J@m3z Aitch in reply to roger says:

      Yeah, Roger went off the rails in his last two paragraphs, or if it was a joke he didn’t deliver it well. As a screed, he should have held onto it.

      But if you all set that aside–Roger, are you willing to withdraw those last two ‘graphs?–you could actually respond to his substantive points, which aren’t easily dismissible as simple ideological positions.Report

      • roger in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        I have been involved in dozens of conversations in this forum where progressives argued that prosperity, average wages, working hours, vacation, and working conditions come primarily from government or union interference. I assume they believe it. The part about fairies was hyperbolic though. In addition, it certainly does not apply to the more serious members of the left such as Nob or North (I said some, not all).

        Most importantly, I do think there is a group think among those on the left and right where they spread myths and half truths. As I pointed out, David’s article hit upon quite a few of these. However I did screw up on the dinosaur comment. It was Noah.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        At best, though, those paragraphs allowed your critics to focus on something other than your actual argument. So it was not very pragmatic.

        At worst, the line about sitting around at their dinner parties lying to themselves and each other was exactly the kind of inflammatory rhetoric that pisses you and me off when it’s directed by liberals at libertarians. I like to criticize them for that kind of rhetoric, and you deprive me of a leg to stand on unless I am non-partisan and criticize my own folks for it, too.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        And when the obvious is pointed out to you, Roger, that you’re an inveterate and incorrigible Straw Man Arsonist — I don’t know of anyone but me who’s had a kind word to say about trade unions around here. Even I say the trade unions have fallen on hard times, beaten down at every turn. Americans are working longer hours. Wages have stagnated.

        The government is interfering, all right, though that might not seem clear to you. Walmart has entered a twilight of a Food Stamp Subsidised workforce and it’s not alone. When a Walmart employee pays for her groceries using a government issued benefits card, this society is in trouble.

        Myths and half-truths are the bread and butter of this place, the staff of life. But the only fairies flitting around here, sprinkling foo-foo dust about mythical Free Markets are the likes of you, doughy gentlemen wearing big wings like so many Victoria’s Secret models. Grown men still acting like spoiled teenagers, blaming the Gummint and long-defeated Trade Unions for the ills of present times. We had a generous thick slice of your precious Free and Unregulated Markets back in 2008. As the Japanese say when they don’t want what you’re serving, mo kekkou desu == I’ve had enough of that.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        It’s exactly like a Jack Chick tract, where the atheists/Jews/Mormons/Catholics know perfectly well that Protestantism is the one true religion but don’t feel guilty about their lies until the last panel, where the poor innocent child they’ve deceived is burning in hell. And equally convincing.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Well, you know, Mike, God makes inscrutable choices. His Invisible Hand is hard at work everywhere, smiting the wicked and rewarding the just. Just like the Free Market.

        It’s never the actions of other people or the hardness of people’s hearts. Though it may seem hard to understand, it’s your lack of faith in the Invisible Hand which limits your imagination. it’s all going to work out Just Fine and if you don’t approve of it, as Mr. Zappa pointed out, “it is best in cases like this to pretend you are stupid.”Report

      • LWA in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Although, in Roger’s defense-

        Tomorrow I am in fact going to a dinner party, stocked with liberals, and I probably will discuss the corrosive impacts of free market capitalism and approvingly cite David’s article.

        I will not, however, consume any brie or white wine.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Jesus Christ, Blaise and Mike, do you two really think you’re any better on this score? Everyone here ought to take a good hard look at themselves and realize that what we’re all accusing each other of petty much the same goddam things. It’s not a liberal thing and it’s not a libertarian thing. All sides do it, so for Christ’s sake stop acting so damn superior. You’re both full of shit up to your eyeballs, just as much as anyone else here, including me.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:


        Brie is good, but I recommend red wines.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        This is not some Sheltered Workshop for the Ideologically Handicapped, James. Roger has not demonstrated any ability to defend his positions from the facts. Stones, glass houses, etc.

        Libertarians are not the only ones who start with the definitional premise of what they are Not. I’m similarly defined. I’m not a Republican. Used to be one and still might be, if their deeds matched their rhetoric. I love a woman who still defines herself as Republican and a Tea Partier to boot. She makes a better argument for Libertarian thought than I have ever seen here. Self-reliance, independence from overweening government interference, she still has a McCain-Palin button hanging from her rearview mirror. Somehow she and I have managed to get along just fine, our contrary politics only serving to enhance what we have in common. It’s perverse, I’ll grant you, that I should love such a woman, but it’s true nonetheless.

        I’d be considerably less cruel if I weren’t confronted by such smugness and putting of words in Liberals’ mouths. But that mattereth not. Being the asshole that I am, I ask for no quarter and give none. You’ve persuaded me of many things, I’m not immune to what you’ve had to say and this is not buttering you up in some false sense of camaraderie, getting close enough to stab you yet again. But Roger is a different story. I will not be reduced to some facile redress and riposte, attempting, yet again, to explain Liberals don’t conform his cartoon vision of us.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Blaise, You really need to stop complaining about people stealing your schtick.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:


        Recommending red wines? Commie…..


        I have defended the need for trade unions and believe they are vital to American political and economic life. Or should be. Then again, look at my screen name.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Nobody steals my schtick, James. At any rate, I’m certainly not complaining about it. Ride in to Roger’s rescue, if you can. Remonstrate with him in your inimical fashion, put an arm around his neck, lead him off to a quiet corner and see if you can get him to stop saying Dumb Things. He won’t listen to you any more than he would to me or anyone else around here.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        ND, you prefer white wines? (Racist.)Report

      • NewDealer in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:


        I drink all wines.

        Except Merlot.Report

      • Shazbot3 in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        I don’t know if it is racist, but I would avoid black wine, if I were you.Report

      • Shazbot3 in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        I like beer. What is the best beer?Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        New Dealer,

        That reminds me of an anthropologist I knew who ordered lamb and a brandy once when he was out to dinner with some other academics, and was criticized for such “masculinist” choices. His thought was “It’s not steak and whiskey, for god’s sake.” So the right would call him an effete liberal and the left thinks he’s retrograde. There’s no way to win. So someday we’ll sit down to share a red wine and my commie self will argue that the New Deal was a capitalist scheme to thwart the revolution by buying off the industrial reserve army, you conservative shill. 😉Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Smug, putting words in others mouths, saying dumb things…it’s amazing how much your criticism of others sounds just like a critique of yourself. Have you been writing your comments while staring in the mirror?Report

      • Can we move on from this particular subthread of the subthread?Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        New Dealer,

        So Pinots are OK, Cabs are OK, but not Merlots? Isn’t that a bit like saying you like 70 degree weather and 80 degree weather, but not 75 degree weather? 😉Report

      • Cascadian in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        “I like beer. What is the best beer?”

        For the ones you might me able to buy, Elysian IPA. Boundary Bay IPA out of Bellingham is my favorite but they don’t bottle.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        I don’t know, Will. I’m thinking about going all in and shooting for the ban hammer. Go out in a blaze of inglory.Report

      • kenB in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        It’s threads like these that make me miss the old name for the site — just a bunch of ordinary guys, don’t get your expectations up too high…Report

      • Glyph in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Shaz, for your “type” I’d recommend this one:

      • NewDealer in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:


        It was a joke from Sideways.

        You are probably right that there is no way to win. I often feel like that academic. To conservatives, I might as well be a commie and to those further on my left, I might as well be a ultra-Capitalist elitist.


        Porters and Stouts are my favorites for beer. Saisons are also good. Also Belgian Trippel and Quadruples.


        I am yearing for the IPA craze to die down in the microbrewery scene. Though Saisons are becoming trendy.Report

      • J@m3z Aitch in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Ah, see, I never saw Sideways, so the joke went right over my head. Rightly or wrongly, it struck me as an aging boomer movie, and I avoid those like the plague (sincere use of the term “bucket list” has caused me to kill three times already, and I rejoice at the impending future of a world without boomers).Report

      • Cascadian in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        @newdealer No way. IPAs are my favorite beer. Have been for some time now. I don’t like sweet. Every now and then I’ll have a triple or a white but my standby is IPA.

        I think its also a regional specialty, especially those made with Cascade hops. I’m not familiar with East Coast IPAs. I’ve read that they are more herby and less floral.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        The Lazy Monk does not indulge in any of these IPA trendy beverages. Just wonderful beer. No ales though, just lagers. Helps that it’s within staggering distance of my home.Report

      • I’ve not seen Sideways, but this is hilarious (and how I immediately caught ND’s reference).Report

      • Jaybird in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Okay. Here’s me sincerely trying to help you.

        You want a Claret or a Bordeaux. Here’s the general theory behind the wine: “Crap. We only have this many cab grapes, this many chard grapes, and this many (miscellaneous) grapes. Maybe we should mix all of them together.”

        Buy a bottle of this. Drink it with someone you like a lot. Buy a second bottle.

        If it doesn’t work at this point, the problem is with you not picking someone you liked a lot. Not on the wine. Not on some “I REFUSE TO DRINK MERLOT!” bullcrap that you picked up from someone who picked up from someone who saw Sideways (a movie about people you wouldn’t want to emulate anyway).

        Just get the grape, get the loved one, and as the haiku says:
        no human voices
        just the birds and bees and gods
        and eternal sea

        More than that? You’re deliberately making room for things to go wrong.

        Limit those opportunities.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Seriously: Google “elbow mirrorball” and listen to this song with the other person. Make out with them. If, at the end of the session, you’re saying “you know what? Un-uh.”, then let them go. These things happen. If, however, you’re thinking about stuff like “the future”? Good enough. Let it work out.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to J@m3z Aitch says:

        Wine snobs — may I generalise a bit here? When Jaybird talks about drinking with people you like a lot? Booze snobs are not people you will like a lot. They are buzzkills at parties, the death of dinner table conversations, the aggravation of bartenders and sommeliers, annoyers of liquor store owners everywhere.

        Want a good glass of wine? Take the grand tour. Go to a good liquor store and talk to the wine buyer. He’ll put a decent bottle in your hand. Take it home and work on it for a while. Take some notes. Price is no indicator of what you’ll actually like but vintages matter. A single year can make a world of difference. Return to the aforementioned wine buyer and give him some feedback. He’ll put another bottle in your hand. Find something you like at a price you can afford? Buy all you can lay your hands on, you’ll go on liking it.Report

  15. Damon says:

    We don’t have a “market capitalist” society. We have a “Corporatist” society. Second, you confused economic ramifications on the “market” not on the gov’t devaluating the currency. The us dollar has lost over 75% or more of it’s buying power in the last half century or so. Why do you think 2 incomes are necessary now vs back in the day? And it’s not the economy that needs new workers, it’s the ponzi schemes of Social Security and Medicare that need new taxpayers to fund their wealth transfers.

    Frankly, regardless of the points above, I chose not to have kids for completely different reasons: i didn’t want them. I didn’t want them because I didn’t want to spend the time and/or money to do so.Report

    • Russ Nelson in reply to Damon says:

      No, Damon, we have a mix of corporatism and market capitalism. That’s the problem with the word capitalism. It means two diametrically opposite things. if you use it without a modifier, you are not communicating, you are confusing.Report

    • LWA in reply to Damon says:

      I think this is why Americans have such a hard time even using the word “capitalism”; for anyone of Boomer age or younger, there existed in the world only two poles- Capitalism, or Communism.
      Only two, no more. Whatever was Not Capitalist, by definition, was Communist.

      So any critical comment about capitalism brings out ferocious defense.

      It would probably be helpful if there were a recognition that there are a lot of shades and variations of capitalism, to the point where there really isn’t an such thing as capitalism, pure and simple.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to LWA says:

        Capitalism is a motor. That’s all it is. There are as many applications of motors as there are devices which use them.

        Socialism is a transmission. It’s connected to the motor of capitalism. Some transmissions are inefficient and so are many socialist schemes. I prefer a manual to an automatic transmission in my own vehicles. Though I’m told automatic transmissions are much better these days, I have trouble believing it.

        Society is a vehicle. Capitalism propels it down the road through the transmission and drive train. Everything must be matched up, force, mass, acceleration, the entire mechanism must work in concert. Sorta helps to have an intelligent driver at the wheel, too, one who won’t drive stupidly and burn out any of the components and change the oil and put fuel in the car — or more importantly, one who won’t take his hands off the steering wheel and crash into other cars.

        Capitalism doesn’t vary. Anywhere there’s money, there’s capitalism. Money is power, motors generate power. The only variance is in the application. Some motors are more efficient than others but most of the inefficiencies are elsewhere. Communism failed because people like to own things. Even in the most authoritarian, statist regimes, black markets always spring up. Black markets are proof of inefficiencies in a political system.Report

    • Damon in reply to Damon says:

      I should have used the term “free market”. People often make the assumption that capitalism = free market. We don’t have a truely free market.

      Intersting that no one has responded to my comments about the devalued dollar….Report

  16. LeeEsq says:

    The other issue is whether we actually need an increase in fertility. Technology and globalization are killing lots of jobs. If you don’t think that new categories of work are going to come along and replace the jobs that no longer exist than we have the question of what these children are going to do when they grow up. We also have seven billion people on this planet and we need to be concerned with environmental impact of more humans. The main reason why an increase in fertility might be desirable is that we are going to need people to take care of us during our old age.Report

  17. North says:

    Since I utterly reject the notion that everyone agrees that we need to be having more babies (I emphatically do not) a lot of the rest of the (interesting) post falls apart for me. I have absolutely no qualms at all with plummeting birth rates. The liberal, economically open nations will not have any difficulty finding the workers we need to keep our economies and demographics in balance; we’ll simply import the workers (who will joyously move here) from antediluvian hell hole nations.

    That population growth is slowing even in much of the underdeveloped world also doesn’t bother me. Shall nations actually have to begin worrying about keeping their population up? Good! Shall nations have to gradually start worrying about their people migrating elsewhere?! Wonderful!! More please! If the populations of this globe continue to move to countries where people are more able to happily flourish and away from countries where people suffer while the overall rate of global population growth declines or even reverses I would call that a global triumph of a historic scale. Long may it continue.

    I do think the article levels to many bullets and arrows at capitalism itself which I think is mistaken. The system merely shrugs and says “do what you wish to make yourself happy”. No one is whipping people to have megacareers, no one is whipping people to have hordes of kids, if you want a megacareer and no kids, good for you. If you want kids and no megacareer power to you. If you want both, good luck. Or if you want just an ordinary career and a life that is focused outside of your job that’s an option too (it’s the one I indulge in). If the incentives are pointed away from having a horde of children I’m entirely sanguine about that; we’ve got plenty of humans rolling around the place. Maybe there’s a good reason our natural incentives are flashing amber on the subject of more humans.

    My prescription: more education for women, more legal equality for women, better policies for the kids that we do have and a lot less hyperventilating over population bust fears (good luck on that latter one, our modern media/internet needs grist for its mills). The population growth will diminish until the incentives align for it to grow again and I can think of nothing that would be a more humane solution for the pressures we, as a species, put on the planet than a natural decline in global birth rates and population levels.Report

  18. Rufus F. says:

    And yet, the people who have it roughest in the economic system are in a rush to have as many kids as possible. Where I live, you’re over the hill if you make it to 30 without a few kids in tow.Report

  19. Shazbot8 says:


    Hard to say how much the birth rate in the U.S. or in more commie countries like Sweden is influenced by capitalism and socialism.

    I know the Shaz-wife2000 and lots of our super-white middle class friends waited to have kids till we are truly ancient (I myself am 934) and don’t want many, partly because of economic fears about housing, schooling, job loss, health insurance (OMG, so scary to have kids without insurance to pay for delivery) etc. I personally spent much of my life feeling like a failure in this regard: unable to provide a household fit for children.

    But then birth rates are higher amongst poorer people, IIRC, who feel left behind by the system, and amongst immigrants who aspire to move up in the system. So capitalism hasn’t effected very opposite groups in the same way, or it has and something else effected them more.

    I’d say the gross, average birth rate itself will tell you very little because it averages over the experiences of many: rich, poor, immigrant, native, religious, non-religious.

    But I’d also say that it does suck, for me anyway, that it seems very very difficult to have kids and this is largely caused by a system of education, job stability, and especially health care that makes having children risky. In a more socialist system, I would feel safer and would have had kids earlier, IMO.Report

  20. Shazbot8 says:

    Also, great post.

    I’m not sure that I agree with the sociological and economic analysis, but very interesting.

    The other factor here, similar to what you are discussing, is something I might call “decadence.” If you are happy without kids, why bother having kids? In a world where people are happy because they value material wealth and they have material wealth, kids are just going to get in the way of getting what you want.

    In brute terms, it may be that the values of consumerism that are inculcated in capitalism (including in mixed systems like Sweden’s) are antithetical to valuing having children. (Maybe this is the point of the OP) Children get in the way of you enjoying your Iphone and Lexus and Vitamix Blended Drinks. If you value those material goods, you shouldn’t value having children, which is -ultimately- an act of altruism.Report

    • North in reply to Shazbot8 says:

      I think I agree. If the values of consumerism do flat out disincent for child bearing outside of those who are genuinely passionately desirous of children then that would strike me as the final answer to Malthus.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Shazbot8 says:

      ND commented on this above. In the past being a life-long single as an adult wasn’t really that good of an experience. Society did not offer much leisure time or options and social mores made sex outside of marriage somewhat more difficult to obtain. The type of society created by capitalism, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it decadent, gives single people many more options for happiness even if you aren’t in a romantic relationship.

      There is still one problem though, nobody is going to young or middle-aged forever. People get old. One real thing that kids can do for their parents is take care of them in their old age. You need a certain amount of young people to take care of the old people.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Shazbot8 says:

      I will point it out again but I think the child-free set is louder in volume than it is in numbers.

      The number of people who stay childfree has been relatively equal for several generations now. Something along the lines of 20 percent. The U.S. still has a fairly good birthrate for a developed nation, excellent even.

      We just concern troll the childfree now because they can enjoy themselves instead of being the spinster aunt and heartbroken bachelor uncles.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

        Can you cite a source on that, ND?

        It could well be that the focus on the child free is misguided. We’re still left with the issue of fewer kids, if one is concerned* about such things.

        * – “Being concerned about something NewDealer is not concerned about” =! “concern troll”Report

      • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:

        It seems I am a bit wrong and it raise to about 18 percent but that still strikes me as a low number. If it gets to 35 percent we can be concerned.

        But it really does read like concern trolling when it comes from social conservatives but I imagine we have very different versions of what the good life is. I often hear a tone of “How dare people make independent decisions and choose to enjoy their lives as they see fit!” Ross D needs to find a way to work on this if he wants child-freeness to be taken seriously.

        Keep in mind that I think some child free people can say very horrible things about children and I am not child-free myself. I’m more of a “I never thought about it because it was never relevant” kind of person.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

        So childlessness (childfreedom?) has almost doubled since the mid-70’s, albeit from a lot number. Honestly, though, whether it’s at 10% or 35% isn’t the important thing. I think people tend to focus on it because if you want more baby it seems like it would be easier to get the couple that has none to have one than the couple that has two to have three. I think that’s actually probably backwards. But the important statistic is overall fertility rate.

        You are right that the US fertility rate is higher than other countries, but arguably that says more about the precarious situation other countries are in than it does about our lack of need to be concerned.

        I honestly go back and forth a bit on how concerned we should be about it. So much of our historic growth has been predicated on population growth, and some key government benefits are predicated on the same.

        On the other hand, I suspect it’s like Global Warming. Whether we get concerned or not, there simply isn’t anything we can do about it. So it’ll mostly be about bracing for impact. And it could solve the “excess labor capacity” problem I also find myself concerned about. A concern that seems mutually exclusive with natalist concerns. That’ll be the subject of my post on the issue.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to NewDealer says:


        I suspect that the trends that cause childlessness to be on the rise also are the trends that allowed your wife to become a Doctor.

        How many of these new childless women would have been unhappy and stymied housewives in past generations?

        This is why I consider Ross D. to be a concern troll. He does not seem to think of the past as being not good in some or many ways.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to NewDealer says:

        Trolling implies insincerity. I have no reason to believe that Douthat is insincere.

        I think there are a lot of reasons for the decline in fertility. A lot of them the biproducts of good things (Last says so, multiple times, in his book). But it doesn’t follow that there isn’t a problem. A problem doesn’t go away just because it’s a product of a solution to a previous problem. I think you’re working off a false dichotomy here. Replacement-level fertility doesn’t require that women be kept barefoot and pregnant.Report

  21. LWA says:

    My takeaway from David’s article was less about fertility, than the contradictions in our political dialogue. Maybe I am also fuzzing it together with his other articles over at Patrol.

    As I mentioned somewhere upthread, when I look at America, I see a culture that aches for all the products of a community- family, traditions, a life narrative;
    Yet we also strive for individual self-expression and emancipation from those same structures.

    This is not at all new- everything from Greek tragedies to the Bible to Dickens have commented on this.

    But what is relatively new is that in modern America the power of individualism has grown so much more powerful, and capitalism, while maybe not causing it, fuels it.

    If we accept that personal self-realization is a good thing- and I think it is undeniable that in America this is an intensely powerful force- then this works fortuitously with the tendency of capitalism to reward new and fresh, while disrupting and destroying the old.
    I know for libertarians, this is not seen as a problem- but for the American social conservative movement it is. I would argue, that for American liberals, is is a problem as well. The contemporary liberal program relies much more on concepts like security and communal obligation than it does on individual expression.Report

  22. Brandon Berg says:

    I don’t really feel like fisking this whole thing, but I do want to call out this one particular bit of silliness:

    The goal of the system—not a dastardly plot, just the indisputable logic of capitalism—is to achieve 100 percent exploitation of its “human resources.” That means that as close as possible to 100 percent of your time and energy should be “consumed” by the system: you work your hours, then when you’re done, you spend all the rest of the time and all your paltry wages investing in the system’s next class of laborers.

    The system doesn’t have a goal. The System doesn’t impose goals on you. If you want to spend every waking hour working, you can do that. And you’ll probably make more money than a person working 40 hours a week. So if you’re single-mindedly fixated on making as much money as possible, maybe you should consider doing that. But there’s no one telling you you have to. If you want to work twenty hours a week, you can do that. The System doesn’t care.

    Capitalism isn’t about maximizing GDP. It’s about maximizing social utility through individual utility maximization subject to constraints such as restrictions on violence and theft. If leisure is worth more to you than any employer is willing to pay you for your time, then you take the leisure time instead of working more, and the system doesn’t care. You make less money, obviously, but life has trade-offs under any socioeconomic system, and no one’s telling you you have to maximize your income at all costs.

    You want to have ten kids? Go for it. You want to work 120 hours a week at an investment bank? No problem. You want to start your own business? Best of luck. You want to work part-time at a bowling alley? Great. You want to take a year off to backpack around South America? Have a blast. As long as you pay your own way, Capitalism doesn’t care.

    You know who does care? The tax-and-spend welfare state. The system that gets a piece of the action every time you get a paycheck, and has to support you when you don’t. How does this post not mention Social Security even once?Report

    • Murali in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      The goal of the system—not a dastardly plot, just the indisputable logic of capitalism—is to achieve 100 percent exploitation of its “human resources.”

      I can’t believe I missed that. Dear god, that really does sound like boilerplate Marxist stuff. Appalling stuff indeed. Or shorter me: dispute dispute dispute!Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Murali says:

        It’s understandable. My eyes were rolling so much that I could only see every other line.

        At its core, the post addresses a legitimate problem: Having children produces externalities, mostly positive, in the long run, and since parents can’t capture the externalities they tend to underproduce children. But the core is wrapped in layer upon layer of ridiculous left-wing shibboleths.Report

      • Jason Kuznicki in reply to Murali says:

        I’ve got to admit, I found it amazingly underwhelming as well.

        You can’t get absolutely everything you want in life. And that’s not the fault of there being only 24 hours in the day. It’s the fault of capitalism, which also — unique among economic systems — says that individuals have babies.

        Sessions’ problem isn’t with capitalism. It appears to be with biology. And maybe with time itself.Report

  23. NewDealer says:

    @jaybird @blaisep

    I was making a joke!!! I wasn’t being serious!!!

    I will drink MerlotReport

  24. Just Me says:

    For me, I didn’t have children because I couldn’t afford to economically or emotionally. I was already taking care of my mother, you don’t get tax breaks for that or very much help either might I add. So I made the decision to take those child bearing years, income and energy and focus them on taking care of family that was already alive. Plus I have 7 other brothers and sisters who have plenty of children.Report

  25. Sky says:

    This all feels a little hyper-rational, whereas I think a lot of the decision must be inherently emotional.

    As an aside, is there anything to a genetic imperative argument in favor of having children? That is, my parents had kids, my parents’ parents had kids, and so on and so forth, resulting in me. Who am I to decide that all of that was, in a sense, for nothing? Don’t I owe my ancestors an obligation to see to it that the family perpetuates?

    Just random ruminations. For reference and comparison purposes, my fiancée and I are childless, getting married in a month, and intend to have children.Report

  26. Barry says:

    ” Having kids wasn’t a choice the way it is today.”
    Kim “… because homosexuality is a new thing?
    Old maids existed since time immemorial.
    They were frequently childless.”

    • Kim in reply to Barry says:

      Namecalling instead of an argument?
      How trite.Report

      • Barry in reply to Kim says:

        I’m not name calling – well, yes I was 🙂

        I was also trying to say in a short and pithy way that your argument was innumerate. It’s perhaps the most common fallacy seen on the internet and in the media, that ‘something has always existed/happened’, with no thought to changes in quantity and/or magnitude.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kim says:

        I’ll grant you that one.
        All I was trying to assert was that there was a choice, in eons past, and that people kinda frequently (5%?) made that choice.

        One might also comment on the use of anal sex as a form of birth control…Report

  27. Barry says:

    Will Truman: “I have often felt like one of the problems with my generation is that we felt like, getting out of college, we should have something like what our parents worked a decade or two to achieve.”

    I believe that the data shows that salaries/wages have been basically flat for a loooong time (in the USA). In law in particular, I believe that starting legal salaries have regressed by a couple of decades (while law school prices are now at a Star Trek level of astronomical). For anybody who’s starting out recently graduating from college, they/their family paid far more in inflation-adjusted costs that the salaries would justify.Report

  28. Barry says:

    BTW, in terms of difficulty in moving leading to labor shortages – if so, we should see significant chunks of the labor market seeing higher wages[1]. We don’t.

    [1] There will always be niches, and small spots where things are happening.Report