Saturday, 9 October 2010

A Lifestyle Choice?

We are living in a very artificial environment these days, we have modified the environment in such a way to make it safe and pleasurable. Looking around my humble dwellings I see many products that give comfort, security and entertainment which would be unfathomable to even recent ancestors of mine. While I can reflect on just how far our species has come, it also serves as a reminder of just how much I can control certain aspects of my life. I for a large part choose my lifestyle.

Of course I'm lucky in a way, having been born in a wealthy country with much advanced technology and societal values (cue the cultural relativists) means that I'm able for a large part be self-determined. While my socio-economic status still restricts me in many things, for instance I don't have a solid gold throne, it's still enough that I can make decisions about what I want to do with my life within my means. I say I, but really my decisions are connected to my family, my social group, and the greater society around me.

Because of this, I think, it's often forgotten that we are still natural beings who are limited and in-part controlled by our nature. It's a fact of life that we're going to die, and for most of us it's going to be a slow degenerative process. Likewise we have certain drives and desires, we have to eat for example. One of those drives is sex, and that's why abstinence-only education fails. People have sex and its a fact of life. And sex can mean babies, and babies mean an investment of resources so that the cycle can continue once more.

When I was a kid I wondered why there were some adults who hated children, because adults to be adults by necessity were kids first (I wouldn't have put it that way when I was a kid). It was hating a necessary fact of their existence and that's a very confusing thought for a child to have. Yet now I'm an adult (well, legally) I can see it from a different perspective and at least empathise with that view.


So what does the artificial environment and babies have to do with one another I hear you ask? Babies are something we can to a large extent control through artificial intervention. Contraception is a wonderful thing, it enables people to have sex with a much reduced risk of pregnancy. And for those who don't want children there are more permanent interventions to be had. Our education and our circumstances mean that we can reflect on that choice, so in general people can choose whether or not to have children.

One question I remember from Ethics at university for whether an action was ethical was "what if everybody did this?". For this situation it's tricky because if everyone had kids then the population would experience unsustainable growth and if no-one had children then there would be no replacement population. So in order to make a sustainable population that doesn't spiral out of control it would seem that individuals have to make different choices about how many kids to have.

And that's just it, it becomes a choice. But is it a choice in the same way that's it's a choice like getting a pet or even a couch? If someone chooses to have children then that's their choice, the reasoning goes, but why should I have to pay for parents to help raise their children when my lifestyle choice doesn't get that funding? After all I don't have kids, so shouldn't the government be helping me with getting a kick-arse home theatre system if I so choose? They won't even fund my dog, I have to pay for my dog's food and collar, the reasoning continues, yet parents get government money to feed and collar their children. It's unfair that the government is rewarding people for one particular lifestyle choice (and an annoying one at that) but not mine.

And so the argument goes. If you want children then you should be responsible for it, everything from the act of coitus up until the child leaves home. After all, we can be responsible thanks to birth control. If someone is thinking of having unprotected sex and didn't consider the financial and time investment 15 years down the track, then it's their own damn fault. And even if you don't use birth control before the act, there's post-coital methods like the morning after pill or abortion. And even if that's not enough then you can give the baby up for adoption. So what excuse do people have left not to take responsibility for the child? Why should the government fund that lifestyle choice?


The simplest answer I can give to this line of reasoning is that a dog or a couch can't become a doctor. I can see the value of a dog as a companion animal but I can't see it growing and distributing food. My couch is nice to sit on, but it's not going to write a book or do research. The fact that children turn into adults is sufficient reason to consider the difference between having a child and having a puppy. It by necessity is more than an investment in lifestyle, it is an investment in its long-term survival.

And that's exactly why it cannot be viewed as a lifestyle choice. Because while any individual can choose to have children or not, the more that choose not to have children are putting a strain on the long-term survival of a society. Instead of investing the time and money directly, they are seeking to avoid any sense of responsibility. Taxation and benefits for raising children is an offset of that lack of direct investment, a realisation of the necessity of replenishing a population and working towards ensuring its continuance.

In the west family planning combined with other health and technological benefits already mean that birth-rates are dropped even towards unsustainable levels. Education and in particular education of women has meant that there's already great control, so it does seem odd that anyone would complain about couples having children receiving government benefits. This is why I think such arguments are made about lifestyle costs, because the moment one reflects on the fact that children are a needed continual resource the decision not to have children becomes a selfish one. And worse still it promotes a form of classism, where the poor are demonised and made into scapegoats because they didn't take the adequate steps to reflect the long-term investment that child-rearing is. The fact of the matter is that certain people need help, to begrudge them is absurd and to deny them is both abhorred and a sure way to perpetuate the cycle. It gets to the point where this argument is not about anyone's lifestyle choice but wanting to punish people for doing things they wouldn't do themselves.


As sceptics we are meant to aspire to use our critical thinking faculties, but I think at times this is taken too far. We can forget that our passions are what drive us to use reason in the first place, that voice of impartiality that brings us beyond the subjective and be able to make cases external to the self. Because of that some sceptics shun what it means to be human, taking reason and rationality to the point of abstractness that it misses key points about what it means to be human. Yet reason is what we use because we care and these arguments stem from that fact, and that only serves to reason away what makes life worth living.
"Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them." - David Hume

34 comments:

sofianna said...

"And that's exactly why it cannot be viewed as a lifestyle choice. Because while any individual can choose to have children or not, the more that choose not to have children are putting a strain on the long-term survival of a society. Instead of investing the time and money directly, they are seeking to avoid any sense of responsibility."
Sorry Kel but I disagree. As a 37 year old woman who has chosen to be child free, I haven't taken any maternity leave or free health services related to pregnancy and giving birth. Nor do I claim child benefit or the health in pregnancy grants that (currently) every mother in the UK (where I live) can. Instead I have more time and money to donate to charity (6 charities plus I sponsor a child). So yes I feel I am DIRECTLY contributing to society, just in a different way.
I am not childfree because I hate children; I actually quite like most children. I don't know anyone who truly HATES children.
We don't abstain from sex, we are passionate but we avoid pregnancy. It is simple and no different from those who have had a certain number of children and have decided no more. Are they also unnatural and passionless?
If we do change our minds we would rather adopt, we don't feel the need to create a 'mini us' when there are so many children already in existence equally deserving of a bright future. We don't have dogs, but we have 2 cats, rescued, which we had neutered. They more than earn their keep in terms of pest control in our highly productive veg garden and house, stress relief and entertainment but we are under no illusion that they are a lifestyle choice.
Who will look after us when we are old - we will take care of ourselves as far as possible and pay our way with the money we save by not having children. Due to (in general) longevity of life and huge holes in the pension system most people are going to have to work much longer and with more automation of jobs, I suspect we won't need quite so many people in the next generation. Unemployment is on the rise. There aren't enough jobs and I can't see this changing anytime soon.
You talk of empowerment and education (2 things I support). In the UK, the bloated maternity pay and leave system has in my opinion set the women's movement back by decades, employers are now scared to hire women between the ages of 25-45 in case they have children! This is of course illegal but they just find another reason. How is that empowering us? BTW I work as a recruiter so although I don't condone it, I am aware of it happening.
We all know we need some babies for the next generation, but perhaps not quite so many? Sure there will be a financial hit but this is inevitable at some point, our consumer driven society is unsustainable when there is a limit on jobs and global resources. I also don't agree with the 'but what if your child becomes a scientist or cures cancer' argument. Sure, some of them will but many will fail to get a job and just become another drain on society. Also I feel it’s wrong to breed children purely to support us when we are older and there is no guarantee they will do this anyway! You seem worried the childfree will take over the world and there will be no future generation. We are still in the minority and many developed countries are seeing increased birth rates. I feel you are worrying about problems that don't exist yet whereas I see the devastation that overpopulation is already causing. From the oil spills, to the floods in Pakistan, it all stems from one thing - too many people needing too much stuff
Some of us are just trying to be responsible and not add to the problem whilst contributing to the society we are lucky enough to live in.
I don't crave flash ‘kick ass home theatre systems’ myself but even if I did, well don't forget the purchasing of such luxuries provides a job for someone somewhere! So whether the childfree spend their extra money on charities or 'things' it all contributes somewhere

sofianna said...

Also regarding the ageing population issue. It is true that all countries where people are generally living longer will suffer some effects of this, either now or at some point in the future, no matter how dense their populations. It’s a problem we can’t escape from unless we stop treating sick people. However given the choice I would rather have to tackle this from a position of still having enough natural resources per person – land, food, water, fuel than have to tackle the ageing population issue as well as food riots, droughts etc.
And as for how the ageing population is affecting my country already. As far as I can see (mainly from my experience with my elderly neighbours) the problem is a lack of funds being pumped in to pay for food and nursing. Not a lack of people to work in such jobs. So if there were a few less parents being paid child benefit (as the UK government is proposing with its removal of child benefits for those earning over £44,000) perhaps some of that extra money could be directed towards the elderly. No wait, we have to pay off our deficit first, which has spiralled out of control as our population increased. Why? Because the way our societies are run currently, on average, people cost more money per capita than we contribute. And so the negative spiral continues...
I am generally not a negative person by nature, anyone who knows me in real life will say I am a smiley, eternal optimist /realist hybrid! I actually think anyone who chooses to have a child (and takes responsibility for it) can be seen as doing something that shows hope and promise for the future. However my science degree (which included population dynamics) makes me unable to ignore the numbers, so I am of the “less is more”, “quality over quantity” camp. So my ‘contribution’ is to not add my offspring to the negative spiral.
I am enjoying consuming less (in all areas of my life – I am currently on a diet too lol) and enjoying life experiences more. I don’t worry about what I might be missing by not having my own children, but what I already have. I don’t condemn parents, I adore(d) mine and there needs to be a balance. I want a future generation! In these cash and resource strapped times I think we need to be sensible in all areas of our lives whilst still having fun. When we die we won’t have children to leave our estate to, we intend to bequeath it to charity. I am a huge wildlife enthusiast and around here we are lucky to have fantastic nature reserves. But round the edges all I can see is new housing developments and land for sale (for development purposes) and this saddens me. I will leave you now Kel as I now have the lyrics of Joni Mitchell whirling round my head.
“ Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got, till it's gone, they paved paradise, and put up a parking lot….”

Kel said...

Sofianna, I think you completely missed the thrust of what I was saying. My focus was on what the government does because the governing body of a society has an interest in maintaining that society.

"Also I feel it’s wrong to breed children purely to support us when we are older and there is no guarantee they will do this anyway!"
It's not to support us, but the fact of the matter is that as people retire it'll mean a skills shortage and a breakdown in societal function. It's not that they're there to purely support us, they'll act in their own interests like almost everybody who ever lived. But we need them for us to continue our quality of life, if indeed life at all. To think about it another way, crops need water but water doesn't need crops. If you dry up a river for short term gain, you won't have the ability to grow any crops in the future.

"Some of us are just trying to be responsible and not add to the problem whilst contributing to the society we are lucky enough to live in."
This is the problem, not everyone is like you. The pretence that everyone can be bastions of responsibility is wishful thinking, it doesn't work! Some people have much better self-control and forward planning than others. What you're proposing has been tried for many things in many different ways and it doesn't work! Even if I grant your proposition that people ought to be more responsible (I think they should, but this argument again is about government obligation) what you're proposing doesn't fit with how people operate. Meanwhile there are ways of achieving those positive outcomes at least to a degree, and those are what people rally against. It's insanity, and coming from educated people too just makes it sad. Joe-sixpack teabagger I expect it from, but not educated adults.

"However given the choice I would rather have to tackle this from a position of still having enough natural resources per person – land, food, water, fuel than have to tackle the ageing population issue as well as food riots, droughts etc."
Yes we live better than kings of the past, but again the population troubles aren't in developed countries. Prosperity (among other factors) has meant decreased birthrates. There was an interesting documentary on TV recently exploring the issue of how many people the earth can support. The take-home message? The way forward is through better education and understanding of environmental management.

The problems of poverty require significant investment. Even if we accept that unfettered migration is a solution, there still has to be a significant investment in education and training for that to be possible. Yes any child is deserving of care, though I can understand why parents prefer their own (something about selfish genes) and why people would want their own child. Again you're fighting human nature in a battle you just can't win. But even if we could break that desire, there still has to be significant investment in making them useful for the continuation of society. You've got that investment either way, so why would you deny what people are going to do anyway?

Kel said...

But this is all getting very off-topic. Remember how this all started, the topic was about supporting other people's children in our own countries. Somehow we're now talking about global poverty, which is a really tenuous link at best. We've gone from what our (respective) government does with its money for the citizens under its protection, where Slutski McPoverty shouldn't be subsidised for being a baby-factory, to a justification of this position because of any given baby in the 3rd world. It's gone from not wanting to pay for freeloaders in our society to the world should be egalitarian. And for what? The only thing I can gather is that the decision to be childless isn't enough without having to make the case that it's purely like owning a handbag; that the mum pushing her infant in a stroller with a screaming toddler dragging on her cheap clothes is purely something she's done out of her own volition, and even worse that she's taking advantage of the system and those tax dollars could have gone to a more worthy project or even be better spent by the individual whose tax dollars are going to it. It's not only absurd to treat having children in such a way, but it's a denial of what it means to be human.

And for what? Cognitive dissonance theory suggests that once a decision becomes solidified it means extreme justification. Like someone buying a car they normally wouldn't buy telling everyone that they ought to buy a car like that. Implying that it would not be enough just to be childless (which is a good thing that some people don't have kids) but that everyone else who does have a child should have to bear the burden of it. But only in our society where our tax dollars matter...

sofianna said...

I was simply replying to the comment you made about us childfree avoiding responsibility.

I never said owning a child is like having a handbag that is ridiculous! However for some it is a lifestyle choice. I had a friend who had had 3 children recently admit to me that she was thinking of having another because she couldn't face going back to work. That is a lifestyle choice. I'm not saying her children won't grow up to be good members of society but her choice was made on the basis of her wanting a certain lifestyle.

Define 'society'. Society as we know it is changing due to population pressures. And actually modern genetics theory suggests that human society is highly evolved and that altruism plays just as important a part as genetics. Those who choose to be childfree can (and do!) play just as vital a part in society.

I repeat I am not saying that people shouldn't have babies. However surely you can understand why some people get sick of paying for other people's choices when their own choices which are equally valid in today's society are ridiculed and belittled. We are made out to be selfish, irresponsible child haters! Why?

I know accidents can happen but to just ignore all responsibility in the first place is unacceptable to me.

I think the benefits system should be there for those that truly need it. It is a system that has only actually been relatively recently introduced and was put in place to offer encouragement and support post world war. It is long overdue an overhaul.

I know women who use their child support to pay for the hairdresser and their health in pregnancy grant (I think its about £190 and thank goodness its being scrapped) to buy a new laptop (when they alrealdy had one) I can't speak for anyone else but this is what I mean when I whinge about my hard earned tax money paying for people's lifestyle choices. And actually today in many cases it does seem to be more about the 'yummy mummy' lifestyle - the flash baby buggies and designer baby clothes and all that plastic kinder crap that goes with the whole performance and, sometimes, less about the actual parenting bit.

BTW I support the optimum population trust which encourages those that want them to have children but stop at 2. I think the benefits system should follow this model.

sofianna said...

"My focus was on what the government does because the governing body of a society has an interest in maintaining that society."

One would hope that would be the case. Ours however seems to have a pretty short term view of things. The way they let they freed up the banks to go crazy which led to the credit crunch and recession doom and gloom. All they talk about is pushing for positive growth, since this is what our fragile economies are based on. This is unsustainable in the long run due to finite resources. They just keep hoping that more consumers will solve the problem, hence encouraging baby making. I disagree with their blanket approach. I can see past the smoke and mirrors that has created a baby obsessed society which frowns on those who choose not to procreate.
Society isn't going to fall around my ears because I choose not to breed. I strongly believe that society would be more positive and strengthened by gradually lowering the population. And this is another reason why I am anti huge swathes of government money going to parents willy nilly (which is what happens currently in the UK) when many of them simply don't need it and the country (and not to mention the world) is overpopulated anyway.

sofianna said...

"It's not to support us, but the fact of the matter is that as people retire it'll mean a skills shortage and a breakdown in societal function."

There is such a hole in the pension system that the retirement age has already been increased over here. Many more people will work until their dying day. My Dad was one of them. As i said looking at what is happening already, the benefits system is bloated at the child end, I think the child benefit system is long overdue an overhaul and some of that money should be diverted from those that don't really need it, to provide better care for the elderly, which in turn would provide some jobs for the younger generation. We have the workforce already.

sofianna said...

Prosperity (among other factors) has meant decreased birthrates. There was an interesting documentary on TV recently exploring the issue of how many people the earth can support. The take-home message? The way forward is through better education and understanding of environmental management.

Couldn't agree more as I have said. but it is not just the numbers , it is the amount they consume. And the trend for birth rate is changing, Australian fertility for example is the highest its been for a decade

Kel said...

"I repeat I am not saying that people shouldn't have babies. However surely you can understand why some people get sick of paying for other people's choices when their own choices which are equally valid in today's society are ridiculed and belittled. We are made out to be selfish, irresponsible child haters! Why?"
Can you please read what I wrote? The crux of my argument was the vested interest a government body has, not the individual. Again I'll stress that. Just like a government has a responsibility with certain kinds of infrastructure, with certain social policies, with protection, etc. The government that diminishes the capacity of the society is a bad government.

"I know accidents can happen but to just ignore all responsibility in the first place is unacceptable to me."
And it's unacceptable to me that people think that because something isn't in their best interests therefore it's not in society's best interests. Again I'll stress that my argument is about government acting in the interests of maintaining society and I'm not questioning child-free people. In fact I think they're necessary and it's a good thing that many people are choosing to be childless rather than having a totalitarian state dictate reproductive rights. But again I'll stress that I'm arguing about what is the role of a government body, and they have the obligation to ensure the welfare of all their citizens. That includes babies born to poor people. What you seem to be arguing for is that those who are financially irresponsible should be cut from the ability to give that child a minimum standard of care. Even if you accept the mantra of personal responsibility, you're punishing children for a parent's actions!

"I know women who use their child support to pay for the hairdresser and their health in pregnancy grant (I think its about £190 and thank goodness its being scrapped) to buy a new laptop (when they alrealdy had one) I can't speak for anyone else but this is what I mean when I whinge about my hard earned tax money paying for people's lifestyle choices."
And poor people buy TVs and get tattoos and use drugs and contribute nothing back to society. Yes it's appalling that those on the bottom of the socio-economic dare want at least some luxuries in their lives. That's sufficient reason to deny them the ability to get essentials, as well as all those other people who are stuck for whatever circumstances who don't do that. It's easy to pull the terrorist out of a line-up and justify persecuting all Muslims...

"BTW I support the optimum population trust which encourages those that want them to have children but stop at 2. I think the benefits system should follow this model."
So if a parent who is on welfare has a third child, you're advocating crippling that family and reducing the quality of life for those children?

"I can see past the smoke and mirrors that has created a baby obsessed society which frowns on those who choose not to procreate."
I don't think it's society that does that, the human species wouldn't be here if there weren't those mental faculties that make people baby crazy. I think you're going from one extreme to the other, prosperous societies are having less children and family planning is becoming the norm. I'd hardly call that baby-obsessed. If individuals pressure you about having children then that's sad.

sofianna said...

"It's not only absurd to treat having children in such a way, but it's a denial of what it means to be human."

Um having offspring isn't unique to humans.

Adapting to our environment to the extent we have and evolving such a complex society, however, is.

To me, being human means caring. I do care for the long term survival of humans which is why I would prefer support goes to those that really need it.

Kel said...

"As i said looking at what is happening already, the benefits system is bloated at the child end, I think the child benefit system is long overdue an overhaul and some of that money should be diverted from those that don't really need it"
This is a much more pragmatic view and something that obviously needs to be addressed. Again my argument was about government responsibility and the obligation they have. This is a very different argument, and something I can get behind. However this is very different to denying the poor childcare for what is seen as an unjust redistribution of wealth.

Kel said...

"Um having offspring isn't unique to humans."
Really? I just assumed that all other species were created ex nihilo by an intelligent designer ;)

"To me, being human means caring. I do care for the long term survival of humans which is why I would prefer support goes to those that really need it."
And children born into poverty don't need it? Are you saying that you think that poor children should be put into even worse situations because parents of the poor might use your money on a nice haircut?

sofianna said...

People decide of their own accord to stop at a certain number of children. I am not advocating force but free will and common sense. What is the difference between encouraging people to decide to stop at 10 or stop at 2?

Would the withdrawal of benefits with a 3rd child really plunge any families you know into poverty? For the families we know, that wouldn't be the case. There would be a fair amount of whinging but poverty, actual poverty - no! But as I have said i do agree with benefits where is needed and this should indeed go to the poorest as well as investing in education.

I find it funny that you advocate education and empowerment and here I am a woman who has responded positively to education and has empowered herself to decide not to have children for very good reasons yet you seem to think that now I am not contributing to society and you kicked off your blog taking about adults who hate children then talk in the next breath about those who choose not to have them. Sure you didn't say all childfree hate children directly but the implication was there.

I do believe that sometimes the government acts for the good of society. Ours is proposing to scrap child benefit for those who earn more than a certain amount and I support this fully. It makes sense given the challenges our debt ridden society is currently facing.

I don't need to make extreme justifications for my choice to be childfree.

I know that having a child is not the same as owning a couch but I do believe that parents already get plenty of special treatment already and tax breaks. I think general child benefit should be abolished and those funds directed to the segments of society who actually need it.

Kel said...

From the Australian Treasury website:

The ageing of the population is caused by two factors. Firstly, Australian families are, on average, having fewer children. Birth rates started declining in the late 1960s, and have been falling ever since (Chart A1). For the last 20 years or so the birth rate has fallen below the replacement rate — meaning that without migration Australia’s population would eventually begin to fall.

The decision to have children is certainly an individual one — it is not (and should never be) the role of governments to tell citizens how many children they should have. However, governments can ensure that programs are in place to assist parents in bringing up their children.
-----
growth in the number of people of workforce age is expected to fall from around 1.2 per cent per annum over the last decade to almost zero in forty years’ time. In 2002 there were more than five people of working age to support every person aged over 65. By 2042, there will only be 2.5 people of working age supporting each person aged over 65.

sofianna said...

I have never said anything about denying the poor! In fact, exactly the opposite. If you recall this all started when a friend of your posted a link to a tongue in cheek article in the UK about child benefit being cut for those earning more than £44,000 which was written in response to alot of middle class whining. As I keep repeating , I don't agree with not supporting parents at all but the current system is weighted too far in that direction. If it wasn't then maybe there would be more money available for education and care for the elderly.

sofianna said...

like I said, the ageing population issue does need to be addressed but throwing more babies at the problem won't make it go away in the long-term it just moves it forward as a problem for future generations. And when fresh water and food runs out as a result of human population growth, this won't be a problem any more.

Aren't there already fresh water shortages in Australia?

Kel said...

I have never said anything about denying the poor! In fact, exactly the opposite. If you recall this all started when a friend of your posted a link to a tongue in cheek article in the UK about child benefit being cut for those earning more than £44,000 which was written in response to alot of middle class whining.

Comments from the thread:
Nxxx Rxxx - ‎"people...choose to have children. If you can’t afford a baby, don’t have one." Can I hear a "Hallelujah"?

Mxxx Cxxx - Family planning SHOULD be like buying a couch. Just because you can physically have a child doesn't mean you should.

Jxxx Exxx - Exactly Mxxx, and if they have kids without planning, it shouldn't be everyone else's responsibility to help them afford it.

Nxxx Rxxx - Agree with Mxxx and Jxxx. I'm happy for my tax to contribute to essential services, like public education. I'm NOT happy to foot the bill for burn-outs like my roomie's step-daughter, who also bludges welfare.

Lxxx Rxxx - If you can't afford one you should not have a right to have one.

Jxxx Mxxx - NO ONE should be paid to have kids, of you cant feed em dont breed em.

Sxxx Kxxx - As a hard working UK tax payer, I am sick of having to pay for other poeple's lifestyle choices when I get very little back myself.

sofianna said...

"Are you saying that you think that poor children should be put into even worse situations because parents of the poor might use your money on a nice haircut?"

No I think the poor should get support. Actually my hairdresser is a single parent so a downturn in business would effect him too!

sofianna said...

The only comment I made was the bottom one and I stand by that. For many, it is a lifestyle choice as I have said above. I know people who freely admit to it being a lifestyle choice they don't give a rat's arse about society.

I advocate responsibility - what's wrong with that?

sofianna said...

and I stand by the can't feed em don't breed em comment in that I wish people would consider their responsibilities before reproducing. There was a time when we briefly considered having a child but we were in a poor financial position so this was factored into our decision not to. However once children do come into this world I do agree with supporting them - its not their fault.

You talk about education, what woudl that education actually say to the recipients? Educating them about birth control and the benefits of smaller families? A diplomatic/politically correct version of 'can't feed em don't breed em' and if people are going to do what they want anyway according to you , what's the point in educating them?

Kel said...

"The only comment I made was the bottom one and I stand by that."
I realise the only comment you made was the bottom one, however the whole blog post wasn't a reply to you or even those there, but comments I've heard in general on this topic. It's also the same line of argument that Teabaggers in the United States are using to argue against tax and something I hear from many libertarians.

"For many, it is a lifestyle choice as I have said above. I know people who freely admit to it being a lifestyle choice they don't give a rat's arse about society."
If someone gives money to charity because they want to give and someone who gives money because they fear hellfire, does it make any difference to the charity? Individuals can have children or not, the society needs a particular birth-rate to ensure a sustainable population. If that can be achieved through policies that work towards promoting individual choice then that's great. Because the alternative is a totalitarian option, where the government is making people act a certain way whether they want to or not. The individual's role is not to be the government and the government's role is not to be the individual.

sofianna said...

also to put perspective to my response about getting little back myself. I don't actually expect anything back in return , I pay my way. But the system, as it stands, is unfair and heavily weighted towards parents full stop. Within the ranks of those parents are ones who do need help - they should get it. But many do indeed just milk the system for all its worth. I know people who have boasted about having another child to get a large council house then spend most of their time down the pub neglecting all of their children.

sofianna said...

"the society needs a particular birth-rate to ensure a sustainable population."

I agree, pretty much the entire scientific community advocates a smaller population in order to remain sustainable. They think we have overshot by c5 billion. By sustainable I mean survival of the species with enough food to eat and water to drink. What do you mean?

Kel said...

"and I stand by the can't feed em don't breed em comment in that I wish people would consider their responsibilities before reproducing."
You're wishing for an ideal that cannot be achieved without serious eugenics.

One other theme I've argued is that some of the proposed solutions don't work!


"A diplomatic/politically correct version of 'can't feed em don't breed em' and if people are going to do what they want anyway according to you , what's the point in educating them?"
People are heterogeneous, we're working with populations and population outcomes. There's still teen pregnancy in countries like Japan or The Netherlands where there's comprehensive sex education, but the figures are much lower than those rates in other countries. Different people have different levels of compulsivity, risk assessment, planning, etc. These are factors you have to consider because otherwise you're punishing others for not having your own level of control. Not everyone is as responsible as you are, that's a reality the government has to work in even if you find it grossly unfair.

Kel said...

"But the system, as it stands, is unfair and heavily weighted towards parents full stop."
I think you've misunderstood my entire argument. I've been arguing that the government has an interest in helping parents out. If it's too weighted, that's a very different issue.

"But many do indeed just milk the system for all its worth."
There was some interesting survey data released in the US in the last week about the perceptions of wealth compared to actual wealth. While I couldn't find comparable in England, it turns out that almost all people think the poorest of society have more than they really do. They believe there's a much more equal distribution of wealth than actually exist. I'd really like to see the percentages of those who just "milk the system for all its worth", if you could provide them it would be grateful. Otherwise this is just the same crap that on current affairs shows that keep the middle class outraged at the expense of those who can't fight back.

"I agree, pretty much the entire scientific community advocates a smaller population in order to remain sustainable. They think we have overshot by c5 billion. By sustainable I mean survival of the species with enough food to eat and water to drink. What do you mean? "
Are you deliberately being obtuse?

sofianna said...

no I am not being deliberately obtuse. I just think we have different definitions of 'sustainable'

sofianna said...

I am talking purely from peronal experience of people I know personally who admit to milking the system. Many of these are in the middle classes.

I am reasonably aware of how little some of 'the poor' have. For example my elderly neighbour who subsisted on cup a soup, couldn't afford heating and died alone despite having children to supposedly take care of him. My father grew up in extreme poverty with no education but worked all his life to pull himself out of poverty. He taught me the value of hard work.

It is well known that the benefits system over here actually keeps some people in poverty because the way it is set up makes it hard for them to justify getting a job. But in any social class there will also be the plain work shy.

sofianna said...

"If someone gives money to charity because they want to give and someone who gives money because they fear hellfire, does it make any difference to the charity?"

And what's the difference between my hard earned cash going on child benefits for a yummy mummy type who doesn't really need it so she can get her nails done or my spending it myself on something I want. It all goes into the ecomony, right? the argument works both ways.

Kel said...

No, you're being obtuse in taking a word I used in a particular context to put in your own meaning in a separate context and completely twist my point around. Now clearly you are an intelligent person so I'm wondering just why you made such a blatant misrepresentation of what I said. If you're not being deliberately obtuse I can only conclude that what I write is incidental to how you take it. Either way, stop it.

But just in case it was not clear from the context what I was writing about I'll state it again as simply as I can. An ageing population is unsustainable, a society cannot function if there aren't replacements coming in for those who exit the workforce. These problems exist for countries great and small and irrespective of the resources consumed. The consumption of resources is another problem for a sustainable population but clearly not the one I'm talking about. Even if we take the global population as too big, there are still going to be problems with not having enough people in the next generation. The tragedy of the commons aside, there are still sustainable population troubles to address.

sofianna said...

"You're wishing for an ideal that cannot be achieved without serious eugenics. "

That is a huge leap to make. I applied the 'can't feed em, don't breed em' suggestion to myself, we decided not to have children. We haven't had children. No eugenics involved!

Kel said...

"That is a huge leap to make. I applied the 'can't feed em, don't breed em' suggestion to myself, we decided not to have children. We haven't had children. No eugenics involved! "
Okay, that time I wasn't clear enough. The simplest way to put it is that those people who don't have the genes that enable better control and responsibility are more likely to spread through the population because they outcompete those who do have such impulse control. While the genetics isn't as simple as that, it's an illustration of why it is that way. Some traits tend for reproductive success, in this case those traits are antithetical to your view of how people OUGHT to behave. That extreme personal responsibility has shown not to work time after time in society after society, because as I said people are heterogeneous. You're expecting people who aren't like you to be like you and then complaining that they aren't when in fact they can't be like you because they don't have the capacity to be like you unless of course you try to breed those deviant traits that aren't like you out of the population, hence eugenics.

sofianna said...

we have had an ageing population for many years now and the world hasn't fallen off its axis yet, that is the lesser of 2 evils to cope with in my opinion.

I am not being deliberately obtuse, just expressing my opinion which I thought you were inviting us all to do by posting the link to your blog.

You keep accusing me of wanting to keep the poor downtrodden and not caring about them when the exact opposite is true.

We both seem to want to same thing, free will, free speech, a fair society, education, empowerment and positive future for all. I think we just disagree in parts on how best this is to be achieved. I welcome such debates :) and take on board what you are saying as well. Right I will leave you in peace now.

Kel said...

"I am not being deliberately obtuse, just expressing my opinion which I thought you were inviting us all to do by posting the link to your blog."
Yes, I was hoping people would express their opinions and I do welcome that. What annoyed me though was taking what I said and not even trying to comprehend it, only to twist it and make a completely different point. That's not the spirit of good faith.

Anyway, thanks for the interesting discussion. It is an issue that should be debated and discussed and that children definitely aren't like buying a couch!

sofianna said...

OK I lied, I am back again but I just had to address this

"You're expecting people who aren't like you to be like you and then complaining that they aren't when in fact they can't be like you because they don't have the capacity to be like you unless of course you try to breed those deviant traits that aren't like you out of the population, hence eugenics."

OK I do see your point there but I haven't always been like this, I took alot of granted in my 20s and didn't even think about the consequences of child bearing on society is was all to do with whether I wanted a baby or not.

People change their views as they get older and they are influenced as much by environment as genetics. My parents were reproductively successful, they had me. My brother has had a child, I haven't and part of my decision might well be down to circumstances that occured in childhood, nothing sinister but environmental nevertheless. I am pretty sure my decision to be CF has nothing to do with genetics otherwise if that followed i would have my own.

I would never force the decision not to have children on anyone.

You say expecting others to have personal responsibility is unrealistic because humans aren't like that. Isn't it unrealistic to expect others to not only have personal responsibility to take care of themselves but also provide for others who choose not to take reponsibility as well? Isn't complaining about it only reasonable human behaviour?

And I have to add, sure I whine about having to pay more than my fair share, but at the end of the day, I still pay it.

Right I really will leave you in peace now lol. Thanks for posting this in the first place and allowing me to contribute :)