More Robot Babies, Please

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Last week the London Times ran a less-than-groundbreaking "Europe needs more babies" opinion piece, this one by avowed "eco-puritan" Melanie McDonagh. Understandably, McDonagh is worried about her pension and health care in the absence of gurgling future taxpayers. But the folks at The Economist blog will not be guilted into breeding:

Longman and McDonagh seem to envision breeding and childrearing as a sort of public good likely to be underprovided if individuals are left to their own selish devices. Those of us who decline to yield future workers are free riding off all that "human capital" produced by altuistic pram-pushers. But, as always, there is too little altruism to go around. So we should go for the next best thing: tax incentives.

There is something inherently repellant about a social vision in which wombs and their fruits are conceived primarily in terms of future labor productivity and tax receipts. But you don't have to be repelled to see that the "kids as public goods" picture doesn't add up.

First, it should be obvious that nations don't have to have pension systems highly sensitive to worker-to-retiree ratios. A shift to a system of mandatory personal retirement accounts immediately solves that problem. And then there are substitutes to native-born children. People born in other countries can also work and pay taxes. Indeed, if yours is a rich country, billions of less-rich people would like to come there. So let more of them come. And then there is technological progress, which allows machines to do some formerly human jobs, and increases the productivity of remaining human labour.

There is no reason a nation with a shrinking population cannot maintain steady rates of GDP per capita growth if mechanization and labour productivity gains keep up a good pace. Indeed, George Mason economist Robin Hanson argues that soon enough robots will be doing almost all the jobs [pdf] anyway. So it is easy enough to imagine a country that maintains a high standard of living as the population eventually shrinks to … nothing. People differ rather vehemently on this issue, but I see nothing wrong with a population dwindling away entirely, as long as living conditions remain high.

There is much more, all of it worth reading. But ultimately you have to wonder whether lengthy refutations of pro-fertility economic (as opposed to cultural) claims are just a waste of pixels. Worries about population decline, like worries over overpopulation that preceded them and worries about immigration that coincide with them, are tied to a particular vision of a particular society–and it's not a vision that is likely to be argued away by positing the sustainability of social security accounts.

Singapore's natalist agenda is in place largely to help maintain the Chinese majority; John Gibson warns American non-hispanics that it's time to "do your duty" and "make more babies." McDonagh is worried about population decline, yet she somehow sees fit to promote immigration restrictions as a coping mechanism. All of which is why Mark Steyn's Oh-shit-the-Muslims-are-breeding polemic America Alone is a less intellectual book than Philip Longman's economically inclined The Empty Cradle, and probably a more important one.

NEXT: Would you give up your immortality to ensure the success of a posthuman world?

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  1. I think i like this plan of forcing lots of women to have my children….

    …now if i can only figure out how only i get to have this government service and no one else does…

  2. I think I missed a step. Why is America Alone both less intellectual AND more important than The Empty Cradle? I thought the premise of the paragraph was that “Breed, damn it, breed!” books were so trivial that it’s a waste of pixels to refute them. Shouldn’t neither be important?

    There’s a scent of eugenics hovering over all of this debate. I wish it would go away but I don’t think it will.

  3. wombs and their fruits

    I just threw up a little.

  4. I meant economic claims as opposed to cultural claims, which tap into deep-seated anxieties about societal change (as does Steyn’s book.)Sorry for the confusion.

  5. I think the USA should help European women make more babies. I envision a massive “dick lift” carrying volunteers across the Atlantic, and I can already see our doughty boys splashing ashore at Normandy.

    I personally volunteer for action in France, Italy (note to self: bring hair-removal products), Germany, and/or Sweden.

    Those who are unable to actually serve on the front lines can also participate in massive “sperm drives” back home. One way or another, we’ll get those hot Euritamoiselleins with child.

  6. Here is the problem. In traditional societies, children were an investment; in return for your care, they worked in the fields when they were young, and they took over the farm and looked after you when you were old. Tradition ensured that that implicit contract was strictly enforced, as did lower mobility–if you never left your village, refusing to look after your parents would be considered shameful and you risked ostracism.

    In a modern economy where people are much more mobile, such implicit contracts are impossible to strictly enforce through social pressure. They are no longer even necessary, in a modern monetary economy. Why spend your money on an ungrateful child who’ll just move on as soon as he’s grown when you can put your money into financial investments that’ll to pay for the care you’ll need when you’re old?

    (Not to mention in a society where women are allowed be something other than a mother or a nun, and more lucrative opportunities than either one are available, they will certainly take them–which is as it should be.)

    Today, people only have children because they like children–in other words, children have become almost purely a consumer good. Not to put too fine a point on it, children have ceased to be beasts of burden and have become pets–and very expensive pets at that.

    The trick is to make it cheaper to raise children, in money and time. The Economist article actually cites the fact that in countries where employers have made it less costly for women to raise children as well as do their work (by working on work-life balance issues), higher birth rates are noticeably higher.

  7. Or rather just “birth rates are noticeably higher.”

    The extra “higher” is courtesy of the Redundancy Department of Redundancy.

  8. Women are brood mares for the state.

  9. How many babies has McDonagh pushed out, I wonder?

  10. Kerry’s right, economic arguments will not win when the underlying assumption that people do not own themselves but are instead the property of the group remain unchallenged. The best we can hope for right now, and in just about every other issue, is shackling the arms of the state so that the collectivists and their crazy ideas cannot have free reign.

  11. Now that I have two kids of my own, I always try to make other child-bearing-age couples aware of the tremendous amount of sacrifice (but only when you’re asleep or awake) that is involved in having children. I can definitely see why so many are deciding to just enjoy their independence.

  12. NAL,

    No kidding. As all parents have learned, there’s no going back to the old days.

    Childless Reasonoids…if you’re still on the bubble regarding kids…think long and hard. I’m not one that has bought into the miracle of kids. Frankly, my life isn’t better or worse post kids, just (completely) different.

    But my kayaks continue to collect dust.

  13. children have ceased to be beasts of burden and have become pets–and very expensive pets at that.

    I put my daughter through several years of Tae Kwon Do instruction. It was very expensive, but now I have my own personal bodyguard.

  14. George Mason economist Robin Hanson argues that soon enough robots will be doing almost all the jobs

    How does this “work” out so to speak…..

    Back in elementary school in the early 70s my Weekly Reader touted all the affluent luxury we would have once robots did all the work. Problem is you still need a job and you have to compete with Robots.

  15. But my kayaks continue to collect dust.

    Got any folders ?

    I’m looking for a Klepper or Long Haul double.

    I don’t have children so I need a boat I can haul with a sports car.


  16. I put my daughter through several years of Tae Kwon Do instruction. It was very expensive, but now I have my own personal bodyguard.

    another satisfied customer of adorable assassins, inc.

  17. There is something inherently repellant about a social vision in which wombs and their fruits are conceived primarily in terms of future labor productivity and tax receipts.

    Amazing what you can do when you insert the word “primarily” into someone’s argument.

    A shift to a system of mandatory personal retirement accounts immediately solves that problem.,/i>

    Except for those people who’ve been paying into the system, and whose money has already been spent providing for the previous generation, based on the promise that the generation that follows them will hold up their end.

    But, hey, why be cranky? Anything that gets Reason magazine to acknowledge productivity growth and abandon the “Social Security is about to collapse!11!!!” rhetoric is a good thing.

  18. joe,

    the TAGS

  19. The tags hate me.

  20. How does this “work” out so to speak…..

    Back in elementary school in the early 70s my Weekly Reader touted all the affluent luxury we would have once robots did all the work. Problem is you still need a job and you have to compete with Robots.

    The nature of the work simply changes. When you save energy in one place, it gets reallocated somewhere else because people’s needs and desires are not limited.

  21. Problem is you still need a job and you have to compete with Robots.

    One word: computer.

    Back in the day, “computer” was the name of a profession. It described one who did complicated math professionally. And I’m not talking mathematical theory. I mean multiplying five digit numbers together, calculating logarithms, that kind of stuff.

    Today, nobody competes with a ThinkPad to get a job doing long division. Likewise, people in the future won’t be competing with robots for jobs, as those tasks will cease to be considered “jobs” at all.

  22. If the author doesn’t like Steyn’s vision of reality and the ugly future how about Milton Friedman’s: “unlimited immigration into a welfare state is suicidal”. But then so is much of libertarian ideology within the noose of the welfare state.

    You aren’t very confident in the future or prospects for liberty when you look at children as designer accessories to yuppie lifestyles and through “democracy and demographics”, outsource the future to medieval mystics.

  23. First, it should be obvious that nations don’t have to have pension systems highly sensitive to worker-to-retiree ratios. A shift to a system of mandatory personal retirement accounts immediately solves that problem.

    That’s absolutely wrong. A personal retirement account has exactly the same problem as a government pension, namely that future services for retirees will be provided by future workers, and if there are too few future workers, it doesn’t work.

    Everybody can’t save at once, for the same reason that governments can’t save. Money isn’t wealth. It’s a ticket in line to say what the economy does next, presumably something for you, and the number of tickets in line is always kept matched to what the economy can do at once.

    Saving money doesn’t help!

    How do private retirement accounts fail in detail? What happens is that everybody buys at once, driving stock prices up; and then everybody sells at once at age 65, driving stock prices down, so their nest egg disappears when they try to get at it. Nobody’s buying because there are too few future workers wanting to save for their own retirement.

    The result is that you have to retire later in life, when there (coincidentally!) are fewer retirees and more workers. What is this balance point? The same as if the government balanced its own pension system by raising the retirement age.

    You can, of course, save more on your own to retire earlier, but everybody can’t do that ; and that applies whether there’s a government pension system or a private one.

  24. MP, NAL,

    Wow. Having a kid was the greatest thing I have ever done. Every day is more fun than the last. I want another. It’s great, great, great!

    You really think it’s “meh”? Maybe it’s your kids. 😉

  25. highnumber:

    As a parent, what do you think it would take to get the kid in the apartment above me to stop crying? It’s been going non-stop since mid-May. I’ve never seen it, but from the sound of it, I’m guessing it’s a toddler.

    My current options appear to be calling Family Services (not very libertarian-ish, I know) and moving to another county. Surely there must be a middle way?

  26. Everybody can’t save at once, for the same reason that governments can’t save. Money isn’t wealth. It’s a ticket in line to say what the economy does next, presumably something for you, and the number of tickets in line is always kept matched to what the economy can do at once.

    This is not correct. There is a distinct difference between investment and consumption. The latter is indeed standing in line for today’s economic output. But the former is in fact pushing the economy to produce more in the future at the expense of some in the present.

    In other words, those tickets to say what the economy does next can be used to say what the economy does next year. You cannot pretend that this has no effect on future economic output. That effect counterbalances the apparent bubble of investment value that you find analogous to the pension pyramid of the current government retirement scheme.

    So long as P/E ratios remain sane, the stock market is not a bubble. It is a real mechanism that can in fact delay some production from working years to retirement years and enable consumption of that higher production at that time.

  27. abandon the “Social Security is about to collapse!11!!!” rhetoric

    so joe…what is going to happen to Social Security?

  28. Son of a!

    Does the child have parent(s)?
    Perhaps their assistance could be utilized.

    My boy (smallface, he’s known as around here), 16 months young, cries sometimes. In those cases, usually he’s hungry, tired, thirsty, or his diaper is wet. (Poopy diapers don’t seem to bother the kids, just every other person on the planet.) Sometimes he is just frustrated. This crying ends quickly, unless one of the other conditions also apply. I can usually stop the crying pretty quickly. That, or I’ve learned to shut it out.

    If the parents can’t help, try getting a mean dog. Kids love dogs.

  29. My current options appear to be calling Family Services (not very libertarian-ish, I know) and moving to another county. Surely there must be a middle way?

    sounds proofing.

  30. I appreciate the advice, but mostly I wanted a chance to vent and to point out that in some cases, parents who aren’t thrilled with their kids end up with kids no one else is thrilled with, either.

    I just have to wonder whether the child is spoiled (throwing tantrums at the slightest provocation), or if they’re seriously doing something to it. I can’t think of a single evening I’ve spent at home where the child didn’t cry. Something up there ain’t right.

  31. joshua,

    Exactly the same thing that’s been happening for 70 years. Government offices cutting checks twice a month. I guess it’s all digital now.

    Only the most pessimistic scenario shows any deficit at all, and the Trust Fund has never, ever performed like the pessimistic scenario.

    The average growth in American GDP since the end of the Civil War – 142 years, none some cherry picked period has been 3.4%. If we average 3.3% growth, there will never be a deficit in Social Security.

    There is a small outside shot we might have a small deficit over the next few decades. If so, it is something we will see coming a mile away, and will able to adjust to with little disruption. But probably not.

    I don’t think anything is going to happen to Social Security. It’s strong, and Americans love them some Social Security.

  32. My current options appear to be calling Family Services (not very libertarian-ish, I know) and moving to another county. Surely there must be a middle way?

    If you have reason to think the child is being abused or neglected there is nothing “un-libertarian-ish” about calling CFS.
    Although I believe parents should have great leeway in raising children as they see fit the kid has rights. DCFS workers can get a good idea if there is anything wrong. They do not remove children lightly and are used to unfounded complaints.

  33. …and the Trust Fund has never, ever performed like the pessimistic scenario.

    Well, of course, since the “Trust Fund” has never, ever existed at all, I suppose one could say that was true.

    Now, if you want to talk about the continued intergenerational transfer, that will work out just fine, as long as our descendants are willing to be saddled with Swedish levels of taxation.

    But, then, hey, even the Swedes are starting to buckle under the weight of Swedish levels of taxation.

  34. Revision:

    Well, of course, since the “Trust Fund” has never, ever existed at all, I suppose one could say that was true since the “Trust Fund” has never, ever performed like the pessimistic or optimistic scenario.

    Since, in fact, being non-existent, it has never, ever performed at all.

  35. and Americans love them some Social Security.

    Them? Michael, is that you?

  36. What happens is that everybody buys at once, driving stock prices up; and then everybody sells at once at age 65, driving stock prices down

    Publicly traded companies produce value and so increase the value of the stock. No zero sum game there.

  37. No matter how you slice the argument, Charles Murray comes out on top.

    Stratification along the lines of IQ is taking place just as predicted, in all races and cultures.

  38. “Now, if you want to talk about the continued intergenerational transfer, that will work out just fine, as long as our descendants are willing to be saddled with Swedish levels of taxation.”

    But then if you off-shore procreation, they won’t be your decedents and therefore will be that much less likely to wear the tax saddle, eh?

    PS. Trust Fund???? ROFLMAO There’s NEVER been any Trust Fund. The Feds use accounting that would make a WorldCon or Enron accountant cringe. Someday the USA will repudiate all it’s debt. I just hope that the US armed forces are in good shape if I’m still around when that happens.

  39. Well, on the kid thing, I have to agree with highnumber. I’m just sorry I didn’t start younger, that’s all. (Also, my sons are both spending the night with friends because my husband is scheduled for emergency gall bladder surgery tomorrow morning. Thus I’m rattling around the house by myself, which is miserable. You have no idea how much I love the Internet tonight.)

    On the subject of the actual post, however, I tend to agree with Kerry here. Despite the fact that “the off-whites are outbreeding us!!” has the worst pedigree of any idea ever expressed in English, it’s still got a powerful emotional appeal to frightened people. I don’t understand it, but it’s there.

  40. Miss Howley, have you actually read America Alone, or just about it?

  41. @joe

    Except for those people who’ve been paying into the system, and whose money has already been spent providing for the previous generation, based on the promise that the generation that follows them will hold up their end.

    Well, therein lies the problem with making promises on behalf of people who aren’t even born yet. They may just decide they don’t want to honor other people’s commitments. And how can they be held morally accountable for promises they didn’t make?

    And by the way, if the polling data is to be believed, young people are a whole lot less enthralled with Social Security then previous generations. They know damn well demographics dictate they’re going to be paying a whole lot more into it then they can ever expect to get our.

  42. @Kerry Howley

    There is much more, all of it worth reading.

    Um, yeah….

    So it is easy enough to imagine a country that maintains a high standard of living as the population eventually shrinks to … nothing. People differ rather vehemently on this issue, but I see nothing wrong with a population dwindling away entirely, as long as living conditions remain high. All individual lives come to an end, but they are not therefore worthless. Societies don’t last forever either, and neither do nation-states. A society that fades away in high style might count as a spectacular human triumph, not a failure. Where’s the underprovided public good in steady-growth population decline?

    Well, I suppose hedonistic nihilism could be considered an option, at least by the same kind of people who considered the 9/11 attacks a great example of performance art. I expect that the publishers of the Economist and Reason may very well willfully remove themselves from the gene pool.

    However, as Longman and others have pointed out, not all segments of the population are necessarily decreasing at the same rate: social conservatives are still fairly prolific. It’s less likely that society will become extinct than it is that our high-styled nihilists will simply decline into irrelevancy, to be displaced by those who hold a philosophy more conducive to survival, if not necessarily as fashionable among the trendier set.

    *cue Billy Idol singing “Dancing With Myself”*

    @An Ottawa Reader

    Here is the problem. In traditional societies, children were an investment; in return for your care, they worked in the fields when they were young, and they took over the farm and looked after you when you were old. Tradition ensured that that implicit contract was strictly enforced, as did lower mobility–if you never left your village, refusing to look after your parents would be considered shameful and you risked ostracism.

    In a modern economy where people are much more mobile, such implicit contracts are impossible to strictly enforce through social pressure. They are no longer even necessary, in a modern monetary economy.

    Yes, and let’s remember what replaced those traditional relationships – in a large part, it was the welfare state. It’s not a coincidence our political dichotomy is bounded by liberals, who generally favor government as care taker and place less dependence on traditional support relationships, and social conservatives, who generally favor reliance on more traditional support relationships and less intervention by government. Both of those political positions protect particular dependency relationships between the individual and his community.

    Libertarians tend to regard their combination of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism as something of a Reeses Peanut-Butter Cup of politics – Two Great Tastes That Taste Great Together. That’s something of an overly simplistic view, the problem there being that it offers no useful vision of the individual’s and the community’s reciprocal obligations to one another, other than as economic actors. If you want to understand someone’s politics, consider the relationships they’re dependent upon. It goes a long way in explaining why libertarianism is the political equivalent of a unicorn.

  43. And by the way, if the polling data is to be believed, young people are a whole lot less enthralled with Social Security then previous generations. They know damn well demographics dictate they’re going to be paying a whole lot more into it then they can ever expect to get our.

    Well that and the amounts they will receive compared to the amounts they can get from private accounts will push SS into obsolescence.

    Sure anyone aged 15-40 get the shaft….but honestly do you think the baby boomers are going to spend all that cash they have in IRAs or whatnot? No, they are going to give most of it to their kids….and the kids will invest it and it will grow…by the time the kids get to retirement SS will be so small of an income source it will be irrelevant….the government only has to make it annoyingly difficult to get the checks….this will make it a defacto welfare program for the poor….an inefficient welfare program at that….easy pickings for complete reform or cutting.

  44. “Hedonistic nihilism” is self-contradictory. If pleasure matters, then something matters, and if something matters, then nihilism is false. Pick one, please.

  45. Perhaps there’s a little too much stress in and on our society when we have to convince people to screw.

  46. And by the way, if the polling data is to be believed, young people are a whole lot less enthralled with Social Security then previous generations. They know damn well demographics dictate they’re going to be paying a whole lot more into it then they can ever expect to get our.

    Speaking as someone relatively young (24), I can say that everyone I know in and around my age group thinks SS is a scam, and that represents a lot of different political persuasions. I think the people who paid into it their whole lives should get something back out of it, but the cash should come from income tax receipts and not further transfer payments. As for the small amount I’ve paid into SS in my 12 years of employment? I would gladly give it up for the ability to opt out once and for all.

    “Hedonistic nihilism” is self-contradictory. If pleasure matters, then something matters, and if something matters, then nihilism is false. Pick one, please.

    Semantic smackdown!

  47. euthanize baby-boomers; that takes care of the SS problem. Besides, its fascinating how the whole euthanasia debate ramped up in the late 1980s and early 1990s at right around the same time as most boomers realized their parents were becoming a chore to look after.

    Wouldn’t it be a beautiful bit of irony if the most immature, narcissistic and pathological generation of all the North American generations got it in the end from the kids they’ve let down on so many fronts?

  48. “the problem there being that it offers no useful vision of the individual’s and the community’s reciprocal obligations to one another, other than as economic actors. If you want to understand someone’s politics, consider the relationships they’re dependent upon. It goes a long way in explaining why libertarianism is the political equivalent of a unicorn.”

    That’s only a problem if you believe that a philosophy on government needs to address anything other than proper role of government and it’s relationship to the governed. In the libertarian view, the relationship between the individual and the community is shaped by free-will and free-association. People can live as they wish and associate with like-minded people if they wish. They can form communities based on whatever values they hold.

    One could argue that the Amish are libertarian. Certainly they have a tight knit society that supports itself and operates on a strict code. But none of it is mandated by the government and any adult is free to leave.

  49. “Hedonistic nihilism” is self-contradictory. If pleasure matters, then something matters, and if something matters, then nihilism is false. Pick one, please.”

    You’re a clever wench, Howley.

  50. “Wouldn’t it be a beautiful bit of irony if the most immature, narcissistic and pathological generation of all the North American generations got it in the end from the kids they’ve let down on so many fronts?”

    BK, you poor unloved thing. Perhaps you weren’t breast fed as an infant?

  51. “Speaking as someone relatively young (24), I can say that everyone I know in and around my age group thinks SS is a scam, and that represents a lot of different political persuasions. I think the people who paid into it their whole lives should get something back out of it, but the cash should come from income tax receipts and not further transfer payments. As for the small amount I’ve paid into SS in my 12 years of employment? I would gladly give it up for the ability to opt out once and for all.”

    I am 54 and I have thought more or less the same thing all of my adult life, and so have all of my friends. The problem is, you ain’t getting out and neither am I.

  52. If you aren’t going to have any kids you should have to employ a young immigrant for at least eighteen years. It makes me ill to think my children will be paying social security to all my friends that are too playing to sacrifice anythying for their future.

  53. Should be a ‘busy’ in there.

  54. Son of a! should take heart. My #1 grandson cried so much for maybe a year that his parents were really getting discouraged. Then he stopped and is now, as his mother says, “low maintenance”.

    I think most of the contributors to this discuassion can fairly be described as “degenerate”. Maybe they should read Darwin’s Origin of the Species and Descent of Man; the Bible would help, too. Each generation is but a tick in the clock of Eternity. The human race is a relay race and refusal to pass the baton is irrational.

  55. “The human race is a relay race and refusal to pass the baton is irrational.”

    you’ll take my sperm when you pry it from my…

    what i meant to say is that perhaps there are more ways to contribute to the future than having children. generally speaking, the greatest short and long term impacts are not due to who births what person but who brings forth what innovations, wars, religions, etc.

  56. Perhaps there’s a little too much stress in and on our society when we have to convince people to screw.

    Lamar, I don’t think the Euros are having any trouble screwing. The problem some people seem to be having is that they’re doing it without procreating.

    I always find it amusing when leftists find common cause with social conservatives.

  57. Steyn is right, if the people over in Europe don’t start having more babies now, their societies will morph into Islamic ones. Already the Islamics are taking over France and Holland, in Sweden there is a Muslim Rape Wave.

    America can react by banning any more Islamic Muslims from entering the United States. No student visas, no working, no refugees, nothing.

    It is up to us to save western civilization.

  58. Islamic Muslims — as opposed to the Christian, Hindu, or Jewish Muslims?

  59. I am going to convert to Islam just to annoy the hell out of you, RealityCheck.

  60. And-d-d-d,

    We’ve covered the “Muslim Rape Wave” here before. They were great when they opened for the Soundtrack of Our Lives, but they started to suck when they opened for U2 and started playing stadiums.

    Besides that, there is no “Muslim rape wave.”

  61. i really liked MRW’s first 12″ “christian girls are easy” with the b-side “taste my jihad (remix).”

    but then they totally sold out.

  62. @Kerry Howley

    “Hedonistic nihilism” is self-contradictory. If pleasure matters, then something matters, and if something matters, then nihilism is false. Pick one, please.

    Gah! I’ve been whacked with a dictionary! Oh, the pain! The pain!

    No, I won’t pick one, but if it makes you feel better, I’ll put a hyphen in there – Hedonistic-nihilism. There – feel better now?

    *pat* *pat*

    What would you have me call it? These yo-yo’s are so preoccupied with ensuring their own comfort and pleasure that they’d rather see the cumulative efforts of hundreds of generations go down the crapper than risk having their buzz harshed? I’m not finding a lot to admire here.

    I’m afraid people whose world-view includes extinction as an acceptable option aren’t the kind of people I’d look to intellectual leadership. They certainly have nothing to say to me!

    Fortunately, Darwin seems to dispatch with defective thinking at least as quickly as he does defective mutations.

    My only hope is that idiots like this don’t get the opportunity to fuck up society too much for the people who actually have something invested in it’s future, and the future generations who will actually have to live in it before the bouncer shows them the door….

  63. Isaac,

    As genuinely fascinating as the semantic quibble you raise about the terminology used to describe Social Security’s balance sheet is, I’m going to focus on the second half of your statement, about Swedish levels of taxation.

    Why would we need Swedish levels of taxation, when we don’t provide Swedish levels of benefits? Besides, we’ve got American levels of immigration and productivity growth.

    The worker:retiree ratio has dropped from 14:1 in the 60s to about 4:1 today, without ill effect, because of our productivity gains; and now, with IT boosting productivity faster than at any time since the industrial revolution, I’m supposed to panic over an estimated 0.1 drop in that ratio?

    I don’t think so.

  64. As for Social Security’s alleged unpopularity, the same thing was true among young people around 1980, too. So, how’s that going?

  65. As genuinely fascinating as the semantic quibble you raise about the terminology used to describe Social Security’s balance sheet is,…

    So the government lying to the people about the existence of a “Social Security Trust Fund” is just fine with you, huh?

    O-kaay.

  66. Yes, Isaac, I am just fine with the government sending out letters saying “We’ve got a hundred quadrillion dollars stashed in a U-Stor in Monmouth, New Jersey, so we’ve totally got that Social Security thing covered.”

    Oh, wait a sec, they don’t do that?

    What, exactly, is it that’s got your knickers in such a twist here? Who’s lied about anything? It’s a shorthand term for a commonly-understood concept. Chill.

  67. All I’m saying, joe, is lower FICA taxes to levels required for current benefits, now and raise taxes later if and when it’s needed.

    If you need to levy taxes to meet current outlays then levy taxes. Don’t pretend you’re collecting and insurance premium and investing it for the future.

    Is that too much?

    Better yet, abolish FICA and pay for a means tested income supplement to old people who need it out of general revenues.

    Oh, and being old isn’t good enough. If you haven’t saved enough for retirement and you can still work, guess what? There’s nothing magical about turning 66 that entitles you to sponge of other people. This sentimentality about geezers has got to end.

    “We’ve got a hundred quadrillion dollars stashed in a U-Stor in Monmouth, New Jersey, so we’ve totally got that Social Security thing covered.”

    Oh, wait a sec, they don’t do that?

    Al (Lockbox) Gore as good as said it.

    And an awful lot of people believe it apparently for the same reason they believed Saddam was involved in 9/11.

    You seem to be awfully selective about honest in government.

    I mean to say you have no trouble going along with Pat Leahy’s “semantic quibble” with Gonzo’s testimony. 🙂

  68. “honesty in government.” that is.

  69. I’m surprised at you, joe, continuing to support such a blatantly no-progressive method of raising revenue. 🙂

  70. Anyone convinced by economic and “interests of the state” arguments for having a child ought never to have one.

  71. Isaac,

    If I had my druthers, I’d drop the income ceiling and lower the marginal rate on FICA taxes, to make is more progressive. Or, better yet, drop stupid-assed payroll taxes altogether, and replace them with a combination of carbon taxes and income taxes.

    Al Gore was always quite clear that he was proposing to pay off debt with the Social Security surplus, so I’m not sure what you’re on about.

    Tell you what – if anyone out there is saying that the government has an actual asset set aside for future Social Security benefits (or future Pentagon spending, or future courthouse construction, or any other program that’s funded on an annual basis), they should totally knock it off.

  72. Now we’re just talking past each other, joe. 🙂

  73. Babies are a pain in the ass, and I hear teens are as well. I have three between 10 and 5 years old and I think it’s great. Table set and cleared each night, garbage bagged and taken out, dishes put into and taken out of dishwasher, recyclables bagged and taken out, carpets vacuumed on weekends, we’re working on the laundry next. Plus they are good excuses to see “kids” movies.

    Skiing and snowboarding in the winter, camping and swimming in the summer with people who trust you, don’t get wasted and hurt themselves, and want to learn something from you.

    I’m not looking forward to the teen years but when they hit their mid 20s they might be interested in hanging out again. Or not.

    To top it all off, my parents are both in their 80s and in and out of hospitals for the past 10 years. There is a difference in care received from the staff because my sibs and I and spouses and children are parading in and out visiting. Of course, there’s no guarantee that my kids will be there for me when I’m older, but there’s a much better chance of it happening than if I was childless.

  74. white females not having babies is a good thing ; G-d, I hope pro-natalist policies don’t become in vogue for the Caucasian feminazi after 34 years of sacrificing millions of children to the “gas chamber” otherwise masquerading as Roe V. Wade

    We need fewer white females – not more of them. Personally, if the islamo-whackos start targeting these psychopaths in Europe and elsewhere, I will be one of those thinking its richly deserved.

  75. I stopped reading, and realized this was a prank, when you said that “shift to a system of mandatory personal retirement accounts immediately solves that problem. And then there are substitutes to native-born children. People born in other countries can also work and pay taxes.”

    Given the general rapid decline in birth rate, I’m not too sure where you are going to find educated youths willing to come to your country, pay lots of taxes? The supply of hghly skilled labour is getting really very limited… Not to speak about the sudden lapse of morals of liberals at depriving the third world countries of their brightest elements so that they can enjoy supposedly a nice pension and affordable medical care (the infrastructure, the nurses need to be paid by active and youthful members of the society).

    Oh, and a diminishing population — even with your own little selfish nestegg — means a lowering of the value of most of your assets (demands will decrease and I doubt flood-proned citizens of Dacca or war-torn Congolese will buy houses in the US or Germany just to prop-up their value and hence the private equity of dying-off whites, with what money ?).

    I find the name of this magazine very pretentious. So liberal and conceited.

  76. An Ottawa Reader made an important point early in the discussion, that “in traditional societies, children were an investment.” This is true, yet An Ottawa Reader understated the case and got distracted by mobility and tradition.

    First, “traditional societies” actually refer to 99% of human history and still to most of the world today. In other words, this is the standard, time-tested and eternal model: normal reality. The modern welfare state, by contrast, is a brief, aberrational experiment, the prognosis for which is rather dubious.

    Pace An Ottawa Reader, normal reality was not held in place mainly by tradition (though tradition undoubtedly did respect that arrangement), nor did mobility demolish it. Both things can be explained much more simply by economic incentives.

    For most people through most of history (and still in most of the world today), there was a very self-interested reason to reproduce: if you didn’t have children and didn’t bring them up properly, no one else would care about you when you became old or infirm. In other words, if you didn’t have well brought-up children, the chief victim of that omission was you.

    In the last century, the usual suspects who always seek to intrude the government more deeply into your personal life decided how great it would be if instead of everyone bearing the consequences of their own actions, the government would take responsibility for everyone. Formerly, your incentive was to have children because you would be a main beneficiary of their accomplishments. But in today’s welfare states, you benefit from everyone else’s children rather than from your own.

    In the modern welfare states, you bear most of the cost of your own kids, but your retirement is paid for by everyone else’s kids, so by definition the fundamental economic incentive of the welfare state is to exploit other people’s kids and to avoid raising any of your own.

    In a game where your retirement costs are borne mainly by the children of others, while your own children’s productivity is largely confiscated by the state to pay for someone else’s retirement, it doesn’t take the average citizen long to figure out that having children is only for suckers and immigrants.

    So long as the welfare state exists, its perverse incentives will not change. No matter how governments try to fake out their citizens by giving them back little bits of what the state would otherwise have taken, there is no way they can overcome the welfare state’s fundamental hostility to familial child-rearing.

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