Can the State Influence Baby-Making With Policy?

They're sure as hell trying.


On today's Reason Roundtable Matt Welch stokes Katherine Mangu-Ward, Peter Suderman, and Nick Gillespie on natalist policies, public-school hesitancy, and gender disparities.

Discussed in the show:

1:16: How policies do or do not affect people's personal decisions re: baby-making. Plus, child subsidies, and universal basic income for parents.

21:31: Parents give pause to their children returning to public schools after 2020 proved public schools to be finicky and teachers unions to be nasty.

32:54: No, the high rate of unemployment and gender disparity in the recent Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs report are not surprising.

41:19: Weekly Listener Question: I work with small business owners, many of whom are
restaurant owners. Many are in the process of applying for the newly available Restaurant Revitalization Fund operated by the Small Business Administration. The program opens today (May 3). However, if you are not a woman, veteran, or socially or economically disadvantaged (read: from a certain race) business owner, you will not be considered for support from this program for 21 days, regardless of need. From a libertarian perspective, do you feel that this is a discriminatory or racist program, or is this a fair approach to supporting small businesses?

54:15: Weekly Media Recommendations.

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Assistant production by Regan Taylor.
Music: "Angeline," by The Brothers Steve.

NEXT: John McWhorter: 'The Idea That America Is All About Despising Black People? That's Fantasy.'

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  1. You’ve got it backwards. The state imposes policy and uses fertility as the excuse.

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  2. What about welfare babies?

    1. They are now referred to as EBT card members.

      1. They’re referred to a “legacies”, to make them think they have a shot at Harvard.

    2. You mean Biden voters?

    3. “Preferred Citizens” – Those with a complete dependence on the state are a rare but valued commodity. As such, they are preserved and left sequestered until such time as they become necessary to retain power, similar as and to the extent of toilet paper in April 2020, completely expendable and flushed when their purpose has been served. These are basically left to self-propagate and otherwise ignored until such time as they are activated by threatening them with loss of sustenance if anyone else gains power.

      1. “…basically left to self-propagate and otherwise ignored until such time as they are activated by threatening them with loss of sustenance if anyone else gains power.”

        subsidized sleepers

    4. Future Democrats

    5. Investment banks, farmers, and property owners?

  3. As a Koch / Reason libertarian, my main concern is increasing Charles Koch’s access to cost-effective labor. Therefore I want the US government to discourage reproduction since Mr. Koch prefers foreign-born labor — especially from Mexico.


    1. Koch didn’t get his way in the GOP, so now he is a Democrat, and he has never been a libertarian, just a fake libertarian.

  4. You know who else tried to influence baby making via state policy?

    1. Chuck E Cheese

      1. I had a friend from Germany while I was in grad school; told me the catch phrase back in the Third Reich was “women, spread your legs; Germany needs soldiers”

    2. Nazis and the Vatican.

    3. The CCP?

    4. King Henry VIII?

    5. The Ayatollahs? Moammar Kaddafi? Nicholai Ceauşescu?

  5. Suderman is right: paying people to have kids just doesn’t work, the Nordic economic model more or less shows that. People are having fewer kids because for most people it is a lifestyle choice, not a necessity. Furthermore it’s a pretty significant choice, and so the amounts that government tries to bribe people into having kids just isn’t enough to induce most people to make such a significant choice.

    1. One effect it does accomplish is taxing and oppressing the Involuntary Childless, Empty Nesters (parents whose children have grown-up and presumably left,) and the Childfree By Choice, That in itself is reason enough to oppose government-subsidized Natalism.

      1. It’s not exactly subsidized (definitions and conditions vary) and I’m fairly certain that the unnecessary costs imposed elsewhere by the government are larger. That’s not to say that the childless should be subsidizing childbearers, but to say that you’re being a bit artificially divisive. If you had your choice between ending child subsidies or cutting everyone’s property taxes or income taxes, would you really choose the former?

        1. If it is a benefit granted by government to one individual or group at the expense of others, then it is a subsidy and if “divisiveness” matters, then subsidy is the real division creator.

          And judging from the present political climate, neither ending child subsidies nor cutting property and income taxes are happening anytime soon, so it is both a false dilemma and dealing in hypotheticals. My choice would be both and yet I and everyone else get neither.

    2. And as kids become more of a lifestyle choice, and people make more demands that government do something “for the children”, having children becomes more and more of a burden. You can’t make them work, you can’t just send them outside for the day to get them out of your hair (in some places), you can’t even send them to the store for beer and smokes. Why fucking bother? And why have more than one or two if you do?

  6. Haha. Our oldest (now 15) was also born at Sibley. We we’re “only” 29 and I still joke that the experience was like an after school special about teen pregnancy.

  7. Can Gov-Guns Influence??? You bet they can!

    It’s not Government if its not using Gun threats. Otherwise it would just be an idea, product, suggestion or organization. The very truth this nation was founded upon and a truth that has been forgotten.

    Individual Justice is the ONLY reason to threaten criminals with guns. Gov-Guns don’t belong in free-enterprise, markets, education or any of the MILLIONS of politicians “plans” that aren’t about Individual Justice and Individual Freedom.

  8. From a libertarian perspective, do you feel that this is a discriminatory or racist program, or is this a fair approach to supporting small businesses?

    From a libertarian perspective; race has nothing to do with it, the government taking taxpayer dollars to fund small businesses is unfair, especially because the government mandated them closed in the first place.

    From an objectivist perspective; yes, it’s racist.

  9. >Parents give pause to their children returning to public schools after 2020 proved public schools to be finicky and teachers unions to be nasty.

    What? My local schools have been great. Maybe you should reconsider your life choices.

    1. I’m reminded of the article that Nick wrote effectively titled, “Why Can’t Rural Deplorables Just Move [To The City]?”

      1. Lol. 2020 should have been a crash course in all manner of reasons why.

        1. OK, piqued my interest. The article was titled “If Rural Americans Are Being ‘Left Behind,’ Why Don’t They Just Move?”

          Shameless self-aggrandizing:

          January.9.2018 at 7:10 pm

          Zombie apocalypse, nuclear strike, conventional outbreak… hell probably half the stuff Nick frets about at the magazine is averted or ignorable by the majority of people in flyover country.

  10. We have to begin decoupling human labor from productivity. Any economically advanced country will see reduced birth rates and thus fewer workers per old person.

    I certainly value the continuing exploitation of resources for shits and giggles. There are alternatives, but they mostly blow. If we want to explore the universe and make ourselves immortal, we need to keep turning bits of the universe into electricity.

    Assuming we can keep doing that without completely destroying the habitable environment we live in, we can’t rely on human labor to facilitate that wealth. Automation does not compound the problem; automation is the solution.

    You just have to give up your ridiculous moral qualms about what other people will get up to if you don’t force them into capitalist servitude for 50 years. They’ll get up to excellent life-affirming things as long as they have a decent education. And you’re going to pay for it all.

  11. Two worthwhile policies:

    1) Bigger tax credit / deduction for each child. Benefits only those earning enough to pay taxes, so supposedly incentivizes only those who can afford to raise a child.

    2) Incentivize employers to provide childcare to employees. Benefits mothers willing and able to work. Also demonstrated to increase fecundity among working women in several societies.

    In addition, remove all legal / regulatory impediments to surrogate motherhood. Make such contracts enforceable so that young, healthy women can earn serious money bearing children for older, more mature, wealthier couples who are ready to start / grow families.

  12. Do you believe this is a discriminating or racist initiative, or do you believe it is a fair approach to promoting small businesses?

    From a libertarian standpoint, race has nothing to do with it, and the government using taxpayer funds to subsidise tiny enterprises is unjust, especially since the government forced them to close in the first place.
    Yes, it is racist from an objective standpoint.
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  13. While in graduate program, I had such a German colleague who reminded me that now the slogan during the Third Reich was “ladies, spread your legs; Germany needs troops.”
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