Productive adults don’t want to have (as many) children as before, and that points to other problems

Population demographics is back again.  This weekend, Ross Douthat offered an op-ed “The Sterile Society”   Some of what he says seems to fall out of the sexual harassment scandals – that we won’t let men be men anymore.  Indeed, there is a fear in some circles that we lost a sense of the value of chivalry and heterosexual complementarity.

Douthat goes through some ways how reducing teen pregnancies and divorce have boomeranged.  No, there aren’t happier marriages.  Fewer families with ample children to carry on a prosperous civilization (the movie “Children of Men”) are being formed in the first place.   Douthat refers to other studies supporting the idea that women really want more children but maybe the men don’t.  He seems to be invoking what George Gilder called “Sexual Suicide” in a damning book back in 1973 (and then “Men and Marriage” in 1986).

I could recall my own attitudes as a teen, documented elsewhere, that there is nothing inherently “sexually” exciting about people depending on me for physical needs.  Up to a point, where I focused on academics and employment, that could be a good thing.  But then, as economic and personal workplace pressures mounted, marriage and family sounded like a private afterthought.

Hyperindivdualism, beyond having blurred the value of lineage as a kind of vicarious immortality, seems to have built a world where personal responsibility is atomized, and our past dependencies on others are kept hidden, like in a recycle bin. Yet, real life can present challenges, where we suddenly are thrust into situations of providing for others whatever our choices.  These can include caring for parents, sibling’s children (sometimes with inheritances – like the series “Summerland” or film “Raising Helen”); or being thrust into parenting roles when working as a substitute teacher, as I found.  This sort of sudden quasi-parenthood is a lot more meaningful for someone who did have his or her own children, or at least adopted them. Indeed, public and tax policy should be very diligent in how it handles responsibility for dependents other than one’s own natural children. Having kids is the most straightforward way to put “your own skin in the game” before being heard.

Curiously, the Sunday Times has a counter position by Alanna Weissman, “Doctors fail women who don’t want children”.

Michelle Goldberg supplements things with a piece, “No Wonder Millennials Hate Capitalism”.  Yup, the various GOP tax plans seem to slam the “losers” or disadvantaged or struggling, and act as if they wanted to defend an ideology of moral superiority for those at the top. It’s as if they want to protect the most privileged of us from getting our hands dirty taking care of accidental dependents who fall into our paths with leaking shoes we have never worn. Yet, having babies is what teaches people how to do that, and until recently conservatives generally wanted to encourage more children (at least “the right babies” – you know the debate about Sharia taking over Europe some day). Providing for others seems to constitute its own imoral leg, and would be there even if we could subsist in a world of mental sex and fantasy only.  “Right and wrong”, whatever Dr. Phil thinks, usually involves non-binary situations.

(Posted: Monday, Dec. 4, 2017 at 9:45 PM EST)

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