Real Patriots Go Bareback

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In a heroically incoherent column in today's Wall Street Journal, German politico Silvana Koch-Mehrin complains that her country is caught between falling birth rates and an "expensive social welfare system." The solution, she argues, is to expand that social welfare system and introduce "country-wide day-care infrastructure," thus encouraging women to get knocked up at a pace Germans can be proud of. But there is a catch:

…the current passionate debate about how to raise the birth rate reveals a rather conservative streak in Germany's society. The focus is solely on why women fail to deliver the next generation of tax payers.

That does sound creepily sexist. Should a progressive nation be treating its women as factories for taxpayers? Sure, explains Koch-Mehrin, as long as we remember that men are people-producers too:

There is usually no mention at all of the (lacking) contribution from men. Luckily for them, they are not accused of being childless. In 21st century Germany, childbearing has become a women-exclusive topic.

Problem solved! When society is careful to "accuse" both men and women of daring to be childless, we'll be well on our way to the ideal state. (Like France, according to Koch-Mehrin.) And as Will Wilkinson has pointed out, why should natalist policy makers restrict their concerns to quantity and not quality? If making sure appropriate numbers of children are produced is an excuse for government intervention, what aspect of a child's development is not? They'll have to be good revenue producers, after all, to pay for all of that daycare.

NEXT: Dropping Our Guard

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  1. That article was creepy. I’m pretty sure that “the off-whites are out-breeding us” has the worst pedigree of any idea in Western history, and why it keeps coming up astonishes me. I do think that it’s worth examining why Germans have small families and marry infrequently, but the tone of this article — have more kids For The Fatherland — was really icky.

  2. They can just adopt the drastic and dangerous pronatalist policies of Ceausescu’s Romania. Foolproof social engineering!

    Well, except that these policies are like pissing into the wind:

    Although government expenditures on material incentives rose by 470 percent between 1967 and 1983, the birthrate actually decreased during that time by 40 percent. After 1983, despite the extreme measures taken by the regime to combat the decline, there was only a slight increase, from 14.3 to 15.5 per 1,000 in 1984 and 16 per 1,000 in 1985.

    After more than two decades of draconian anti- abortion regulation and expenditures for material incentives that by 1985 equalled half the amount budgeted for defense, Romanian birthrates were only a fraction higher than those rates in countries permitting abortion on demand.

  3. Let’s see… it’s a densly populated, urbanized country with higher land values than red-state American, and unlike the Turkish immigrants, the German middle class is unwilling to give up its middle-class lifestyle to raise kids?

    This recently dawned on me on a trip to Santa Monica, CA, when I found out that the house I was staying in- a very average two-bedroom house, only a little over 1,000 square feet- was worth $1.4 million. Where I’m from (South Dakota), a third of that will buy you a 5-bedroom McMansion. Raising more than one child wasn’t financially practical for this family- they can’t afford the living space! No wonder birthrates are lower in urban areas… it’s not a moral difference, it’s simple economics. It would be interesting to get the Freakonomics guys on this problem, it seems like the sort of thing they’d eat right up…

  4. childbearing has become a women-exclusive topic.

    In the US, this is so by Supreme Court decree.

    Also, of course, biology, but whatever.

  5. Try to liberate yourself from the Wheel of Birth and Death and you’re unpatriotic.

  6. The return of Lebensborn! (Oops, I think I just dropped the Godwin-bomb on this thread)

  7. B.P.,

    I think you mean “Lebensraum”.

    I do think that it’s worth examining why Germans have small families and marry infrequently, but the tone of this article — have more kids For The Fatherland — was really icky.

    I think they do it for the same reasons Americans do. (Which boil down to, “they don’t have to”.) But America is mostly spared from such discussions–for now–by high levels of immigration.

  8. Nope, lebensborn.

    http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Holocaust/Lebensborn.html

    (I don’t know how to make the fancy links in message boards)

  9. B.P.:

    <A>lebensborn</A>

    Thus, lebensborn.

  10. Thanks for the help. I will try to only use this power for good. I will now test my abilities…

    run away, it’s corn syrup

  11. Yes, Grasshopper. But can any man afford such arrogance?

  12. Let’s see if this works:

  13. You sit by yourself, Grasshopper. What do you think of?

  14. It would be interesting to get the Freakonomics guys on this problem, it seems like the sort of thing they’d eat right up…

    Funny you mention that! Your post reminded me of how hard it would be to have kids in Chicago. I recently read an article about people in Chicago adopting overseas. They profiled a couple who have 2 of their own, and have adopted two.

    The father was the author of “Freakonomics”!

    http://www.freakonomics.com/blog/2006/03/08/my-wife-jeannette-gets-her-props/

  15. Well, obviously I failed. Here’s the cute and paste link to a Concerned Women for America editorial stating that this study has to be wrong: http://www.cwfa.org/articles/10634/MEDIA/life/index.htm

  16. You sit by yourself, Grasshopper. What do you think of?

    That reminds me of a highly derivative “radio” play (actually performed for a tape recorder) that I wrote in grade school. (I made my brother and my cousin voice the parts.) This is the only part I remember:

    MASTER POO: Weedhopper! Have you been smoking behind the statue of the dragon?

    YOUNG WEEDHOPPER: Yes, Master Poo.

    MASTER POO: You know what happens to boys who smoke, don’t you?

    YOUNG WEEDHOPPER: Yes — everytime they want to smoke, they are bothered by rude old men.

    (PS: No smoking pun was intended with the use of the name Weedhopper. I was too young to know of such things at the time.)

  17. Progressivism is thus revealed as an “everyone owns everyone else, but some own more than others” philosophy.

    Will eminent domain someday be invoked to seize unproductive wombs?

    This was all fairly predictable, once healthcare started to become a publicly funded service. To reduce costs, it was necessary to change people’s unhealthy behavior. Hence, seatbelt laws, helmet laws, the war against fast food, anti-smoking laws, etc. When everyone else’s expenses are necessarily affected by your decisions, everyone else reserves the right to tell you how to live your life.

    It’s a short step from cutting costs to enhancing revenue, which is the essence of the German proposal. In either case, however, individuals are viewed by the state as resources (or resource-sinks). How ironic that the ideology that tries to paint itself as pre-eminently concerned for human welfare, so quickly dehumanizes by its policies.

  18. From a purely economic perspective, reproduction has no modern value. Or that is to say, outside of a pre-indutrial society, there is no economic value to children. The value of such behaviour is purely esoteric.

    Since there is no market value on human reproduction in a modern society, there is no reason to reproduce.

    The only correct response to the present market conditions, where the individual is severly penalized for reproduction, is to cease and desist procreation.

    Having children is like purchasing stock in a company that you know for a fact is going to fail.

    Of course, being a good libertarian, I want the market to make all decisions, and the market says child bearing is a losers bet.

  19. Oh, Karen, that CWA press release is priceless.

    “Those who make virginity pledges have shown greater resolve to save sex for marriage” [as measured by the fact that they took a virginity pledge, apparently].

    ?The Harvard report is wrong. I know numerous couples who have saved sex for their wedding night.” Hahahaha!

  20. Johnny-

    I live in Santa Cruz CA. The whole town — whose ruling elite wear their “progressive” labels as proudly as a union label — is my source.

    Now, maybe Santa Cruz “progressivism” isn’t the same as original, turn-of-the-century “progressivism,” or even that variant which European countries such as Germany adopted (I have my own opinions on that, which we can get into at some point, if you wish), but around here, it is very cool — very “progressive” — to keep raising taxes for social services, and to keep restricting behavior for the good of all (and the environment!). We have a downtown smoking ban, for instance, and for a long time traffic policy within the city aimed at OBSTRUCTING the streets (with planter-barriers, speed bumps, and narrowed lanes) so people would “voluntarily” decide to avoid their cars and, perhaps, use the publicly subsidized bus system. Other examples of “progressive” elitist-paternalism (but never use “paternalism” — smacks of the patriarchy!) abound.

    Having looked at the history of the Progressive movement, I can understand why some people might say (indeed, have said) that Santa Cruz-style “Progressivism” (which seems very similar to the Berkeley flavor — I lived there, too, during the 1970s) is practically the antithesis of the original idea, or at least a corruption or betrayal. Perhaps I am guilty of judging “Progressives” as some people judge “Libertarians,” by the examples of poseurs who have affected the label for political advantage, and not from the most ideologically authentic. On the other hand, Santa Cruz gets a lot of press for its “progressive” policies. So I wouldn’t be surprised if most people get their ideas of “progressivism” from such news stories, instead of political history textbooks.

    I think I can put together a list of high-profile Dems here in CA, who fit my earlier description, who call themselves “Progressive,” and who would be lauded as such in my hometown. I’ll give it a shot and get back to you.

  21. Less Germans is a wonderful thing for the rest of the world. Those bastards are about 30 years overdue to start a massive war.

  22. I think the idea here is to expand the social services so that women can be more free to have kids along with whatever else they want out of life. What would really help would be a more positive nationalism that raises incomes for those who work, freeing up families to have single worker households, and freeing up more time for family, by disincentivizing ridiculous wealth (God, I wish Roosevelt were here today!) and freeing up that wealth to truly trickle down to the masses.

    JMJ

  23. Ah, Jersey, thank you for that comic interlude.

  24. Which one of the two old men on the Muppet Show were you, Isaac?

    JMJ

  25. What Europe needs is a fertility Marshall Plan. I volunteer to help out. While German women wouldn’t be my first choice, I’m a charitable guy.

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