License to Breed

 

On the last episode of the Ricochet podcast, our heroes discussed the difficulty of encouraging people — but especially impoverished minorities — to have and raise children under the right circumstances; i.e.,  in wedlock and within stable family structures. James mentioned the hypothetical possibility that we could require people to obtain a “parenthood license” before we permit them to breed. He figured such a thing could never happen. People would be outraged. It would be worse than the voter ID debate.

I’m inclined to differ. I think many liberals would love this idea. In fact, some of them already do, and sadly, some libertarians are happy to join the chorus:

What about parenting, then? Why require a license there? The first important point here is that the children who are going to be the recipients of the care (or “services,” though “customers” is clearly the wrong word) are not rationally autonomous and fully formed adults capable of making their own decisions. They are, by contrast, vulnerable beings that we hope will become fully formed persons. Until they do, they are decidedly vulnerable to those they come in contact with—and more (and more often) vulnerable to those they come in contact with regularly: parents. The duration of exposure to one’s parents is a factor. The intensity of the exposure is as well (see Note below). No one is in a position to harm a child as often as a parent. And the damage they can do is extreme. We know of a case of a father raping a two week old, a mother throwing boiling water on her daughter, another parent drowning her children, and the list goes on. These are the sorts of harms that a licensing program might avoid. As it is now, these are the sorts of harms that get the state involved—after the harm is already done.

For the record, I don’t think James was really recommending this kind of scheme, and I certainly hope he’s right that Americans wouldn’t stand for it. Let’s run a thought experiment, though.

Suppose some fiendishly clever researcher came up with a contraceptive that could easily and cheaply be added to our water supply. So long as they were on the drug, women would be infertile, but the effects could be neutralized temporarily with a kind of “antidote” drug that the government would control. Couples who wanted children could go through some sort of certification process, and, if successful, they would be issued a sufficient supply to enable a pregnancy. If they wanted more children, they could apply for more.

Wouldn’t this really be a liberal dream? The autonomous family has always been a thorn in the progressive side. With the help of parenting licenses they could neutralize the conservative breeding advantage. Require couples to receive instruction in good progressive parenting before they could even have a family. And needless to say, this would be the perfect way to ensure that everyone is perpetually available for sterile sex (whether or not they want to be).

I grant that it would probably take a little while to bring the general public on board. And even for liberals there would be some internal division about how to handle requests from impoverished single women (who aren’t in an optimal position to raise children, but who are reliable producers of Democratic voters). I definitely think, however, that liberals would go for it. What do other Ricochetti think?

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  1. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Tuck:

    Merina Smith: Children need that most boring of all things–stability and some form of consistency.

    You should read the book Savage Continent that anonymous just reviewed, and then ponder how out of the utter chaos of the post-WWII period in Europe, in which parentless children were legion, emerged one of the most peaceful and refined group of nations ever to be seen in history.

    That contrast has been one of the most remarkable things so far in reading that book.

     But that happened in a society that had basic decent values which ours doesn’t any more.  

    • #31
  2. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Since we are asking the taxpayer to subsidize children, educate children, feed children, rescue children, provide medical care for children and provide daycare for children.  Why should the taxpayer not also have a right to have a say in when to have children and who is to have a child?  
    As a taxpayer I really get tired of people acting irresponsibly and then DEMANDING that I pay for their bad decisions.

    • #32
  3. MarciN Member
    MarciN
    @MarciN

    Rachel Lu: Suppose some fiendishly clever researcher came up with a contraceptive that could easily and cheaply be added to our water supply. So long as they were on the drug, women would be infertile, but the effects could be neutralized temporarily with a kind of “antidote” drug that the government would control. Couples who wanted children could go through some sort of certification process, and, if successful, they would be issued a sufficient supply to enable a pregnancy. If they wanted more children, they could apply for more.

     There’s a great novel and movie here.  

    • #33
  4. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    Fake John Galt:

    Since we are asking the taxpayer to subsidize children, educate children, feed children, rescue children, provide medical care for children and provide daycare for children. Why should the taxpayer not also have a right to have a say in when to have children and who is to have a child? As a taxpayer I really get tired of people acting irresponsibly and then DEMANDING that I pay for their bad decisions.

    This is the trap, isn’t it?  Politicians get one group of voters on their side by saying “Hey, I’m going to give you stuff and make someone else pay for it.”  Then they say to another group of voters, “Boy, you’re kind of getting screwed.  You better give me the authority to control people’s behavior so you don’t have to pay so much.”  We hand over not only our earnings, but our rights to make our own decisions and keep re-electing the same old con-men.

    • #34
  5. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Most eight-or-more-person families I know are anything but moochers. They’re typically uber-capable do-it-yourselfers, frequently homeschoolers, frequently people who hunt and fish and garden for some portion of their own food, frequently the sort of people who buy fixer-upper houses and have their teenagers installing drywall there. Almost always people who know how to make the most of whatever they’ve got. And their kids usually grow up to be very capable and productive too.

    Large families are not what’s wrong with America today, that’s for sure.

    • #35
  6. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt
    @FakeJohnJaneGalt

    Randy Weivoda:

    This is the trap, isn’t it? Politicians get one group of voters on their side by saying “Hey, I’m going to give you stuff and make someone else pay for it.” Then they say to another group of voters, “Boy, you’re kind of getting screwed. You better give me the authority to control people’s behavior so you don’t have to pay so much.” We hand over not only our earnings, but our rights to make our own decisions and keep re-electing the same old con-men.

     Not really a trap.  People expect to have some say in what they pay for.  So if you take government money then you should not be surprised that it comes with conditions.  If you do not like the conditions then don’t take the money.  

    • #36
  7. user_385039 Inactive
    user_385039
    @donaldtodd

    Rachel Lu: #15 “Children have always been such a problem for liberals. For libertarians too, actually, if they fit into a more libertine, autonomy-at-all-costs sort of mold.”

    If I understand things correctly, 2.11 children per couple is mere replacement value.  Since we appear to be at 1.74 children per couple in this country, those who find children problematic should be in a state of celebratory madness.

    • #37
  8. Howellis Inactive
    Howellis
    @ManWiththeAxe

    The welfare state really is the issue here.

    In a non-welfare state all families would be compelled to provide for their own children, and thus would only have them if they thought those children would be worth it to them. Each family (even if only one person) would have to produce at least as much as it consumes.

    In that case, society’s only remaining reason to limit childbirth as in the hypothetical would be if having a child creates external costs that outweigh its external benefits. In a non-welfare world it’s likely that the benefits (military service, contributions to insurance risk pools, providing for elderly relatives) greatly outweigh the costs.

    • #38
  9. BastiatJunior Member
    BastiatJunior
    @BastiatJunior

    Rachel Lu:

    Most eight-or-more-person families I know are anything but moochers. They’re typically uber-capable do-it-yourselfers, frequently homeschoolers, frequently people who hunt and fish and garden for some portion of their own food, frequently the sort of people who buy fixer-upper houses and have their teenagers installing drywall there. Almost always people who know how to make the most of whatever they’ve got. And their kids usually grow up to be very capable and productive too.

    Large families are not what’s wrong with America today, that’s for sure.

     Amen!!!

    • #39
  10. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    Fake John Galt:

    Not really a trap. People expect to have some say in what they pay for. So if you take government money then you should not be surprised that it comes with conditions. If you do not like the conditions then don’t take the money.

    But it doesn’t work like that.  One of the arguments successfully used to persuade people that we should have mandatory seat belt laws was that some people are on Medicare and Medicaid or are just uninsured.  If one of these people has an accident and is seriously injured, the taxpayers have to pay their medical bills so it’s only fair that we force them to wear seatbelts.  Is there even one state that only applies the law to people on Medicaid/Medicare/welfare, etc?  Of course not, we all surrendered our freedom to theoretically save a few bucks. 

    If you think the population planners only want to restrict others rights and not yours, you are more optimistic than I am.

    • #40
  11. user_645127 Inactive
    user_645127
    @JenniferJohnson

    Merina Smith:

    …Children in general are a real fly in their ointment. And sorry libertarians, but for many forms of your persuasion, they are for you too. Everything changes when the world has to take account of the needs of children…

    Merina, I think you will like this graphic I made, and Dr. Morse’s blog post: 

    http://www.ruthblog.org/2014/07/19/the-sexual-state-the-purpose-of-our-government/

    • #41
  12. Julia PA Inactive
    Julia PA
    @JulesPA

    Donald Todd: I think it might garner a lot of support, and even those who think it only a temporary fix will find that once the government is involved, it is a temporary fix that moves into perpetuity, and therefore must be maintained.

    The reason we don’t need a license? Because humanity has existed for eternity without one. The only reason it is a topic of discussion is because so many other BAD ideas and policies have been established, and a parent license seems like it might fix the maze of problems we face.

    It would never be temporary. And eventually, bureaucrats of shifting priorities would control the criteria for the license, which might or might not live up to the ORIGINAL GOAL of the license.
    Imagine, having to earn the right to be a parent by proving you mastered the “common core” of parenting. Oh. My. Goodness.
    Yet I fear many would want to go for it.

    • #42
  13. Julia PA Inactive
    Julia PA
    @JulesPA

    The King Prawn:

    The nightmare in this is the committee that decides the standards by which the bureaucrats hand out the licenses.

     The common core of parenting includes who-knows-what??? but definitely is the wrong path. 

    • #43
  14. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Merina Smith: Liberals would do this in a heartbeat if they could.  They’d just love to restrict children to proper lefty homes.  It drives them crazy that conservative Christians are the ones having kids.  Children in general are a real fly in their ointment.   And sorry libertarians, but for many forms of your persuasion, they are for you too.

    I think it’s worth noting that no one on this thread — libertarian or otherwise — has endorsed parental licensing.  No one.

    • #44
  15. Julia PA Inactive
    Julia PA
    @JulesPA

    Fake John Galt: Since we are asking the taxpayer to subsidize children, educate children, feed children, rescue children, provide medical care for children and provide daycare for children.  Why should the taxpayer not also have a right to have a say in when to have children and who is to have a child?

     This is what we try to “un-do” with a parent license? That would be the original goal, but it would never last. The parent license isn’t a slippery slope, it is a toboggan slide, ready to put together.

    • #45
  16. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor
    Midget Faded Rattlesnake
    @Midge

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Merina Smith: Liberals would do this in a heartbeat if they could. They’d just love to restrict children to proper lefty homes. It drives them crazy that conservative Christians are the ones having kids. Children in general are a real fly in their ointment. And sorry libertarians, but for many forms of your persuasion, they are for you too.

    I think it’s worth noting that no one on this thread — libertarian or otherwise — has endorsed parental licensing. Not one.

    Personally, I took the article as a post-modern spoof on already-existing licensing laws.

    I’ll concede that the spoof is likely unintentional, but “as a spoof” still strikes me as the best way to read the thing.

    • #46
  17. Rachel Lu Contributor
    Rachel Lu
    @RachelLu

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Merina Smith: Liberals would do this in a heartbeat if they could. They’d just love to restrict children to proper lefty homes. It drives them crazy that conservative Christians are the ones having kids. Children in general are a real fly in their ointment. And sorry libertarians, but for many forms of your persuasion, they are for you too.

    I think it’s worth noting that no one on this thread — libertarian or otherwise — has endorsed parental licensing. Not one.

     Well, possibly FJG, on condition. But yeah. 

    • #47
  18. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas
    @CUDouglas

    Side Note: For the record, we don’t like it when liberals force us to take ownership of crazy things said by supposed right-wingers, so we shouldn’t force Libertarians here to take ownership of things said by supposed Libertarians. Down with the Fallacy of Composition!

    There seems to be a wing on the Libertarian side that likes to tear down social pillars and replace them with government endorsed substitutes. I would contend those don’t entirely understand the term “Libertarian” and are applying it incorrectly to themselves. I posit that if you support a big government substitute for a societal institution, you are doing Libertarianism wrong.

    Ricochet Libertarians are a cut above.

    So there.

    • #48
  19. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake: I’ll concede that the spoof is likely unintentional, but “as a spoof” still strikes me as the best way to read the thing.

    Unintentional satire?

    • #49
  20. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Merina Smith: Liberals would do this in a heartbeat if they could. They’d just love to restrict children to proper lefty homes. It drives them crazy that conservative Christians are the ones having kids. Children in general are a real fly in their ointment. And sorry libertarians, but for many forms of your persuasion, they are for you too.

    I think it’s worth noting that no one on this thread — libertarian or otherwise — has endorsed parental licensing. No one.

     I didn’t say they had, just that children are hard to reconcile with libertarian philosophy.  

    • #50
  21. user_517406 Inactive
    user_517406
    @MerinaSmith

    Jennifer:

    Merina Smith:

    …Children in general are a real fly in their ointment. And sorry libertarians, but for many forms of your persuasion, they are for you too. Everything changes when the world has to take account of the needs of children…

    Merina, I think you will like this graphic I made, and Dr. Morse’s blog post:

    http://www.ruthblog.org/2014/07/19/the-sexual-state-the-purpose-of-our-government/

     Yes–very good points!  Also, love the graphic!

    • #51
  22. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    C. U. Douglas:

    Side Note: For the record, we don’t like it when liberals force us to take ownership of crazy things said by supposed right-wingers, so we shouldn’t force Libertarians here to take ownership of things said by supposed Libertarians. Down with the Fallacy of Composition!

    There seems to be a wing on the Libertarian side that likes to tear down social pillars and replace them with government endorsed substitutes. I would contend those don’t entirely understand the term “Libertarian” and are applying it incorrectly to themselves. I posit that if you support a big government substitute for a societal institution, you are doing Libertarianism wrong.

    Ricochet Libertarians are a cut above.

    So there.

    Exactly right, C.U..  If a person scours the internet I’m sure you can find the odd self-identified libertarian who supports repealing the second amendment, increasing taxes on the wealthy, outlawing home schooling, and a plethora of things that the vast majority of libertarians disagree with.  As I recall, Mitt Romney for years was pro-choice.  That hardly means that Morman Republicans in general hold that view.  It’s a Gotcha game that shouldn’t be taken seriously.

    • #52
  23. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    Uh, no, what a gross over reach by government into an area of life it has no business dealing in.

    • #53
  24. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha
    @PettyBoozswha

    I think there is a bright line distinction between requiring a license for any procreation and requiring those who are living a lifestyle so disorganized that they require government assistance – food stamps, Section 8,, welfare, etc. – to temporarily be required to take Norplant or some other effective contraception for the duration of the dole. And I believe perfecting a male contraceptive should be a top priority for the NIH and pharma industry as well. If the people that populate the Ricochet chattering class would be forced to have real contact with the underclass in this country – work a few years in child support enforcement, for example, as I did –   your philosophical objections might be tempered by reality.

    • #54
  25. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Merina Smith:  I didn’t say they had, just that children are hard to reconcile with libertarian philosophy.  

    About as hard as it is to reconcile social conservatism with adulthood. ;)

    • #55
  26. user_2505 Contributor
    user_2505
    @GaryMcVey

    Like some other Ricochetti, where I live I’m surrounded by liberals. Where i grew up in new York, we were surrounded by liberals. The idea that they’d go for this “in a heartbeat” is ridiculous. Every droning PTA meeting I ever attended was teeming with liberal parents. They are not anti-child. Some people here live in such a bubble it’s amazing they can breathe. 

    How would we like seeing the HuffPo do a hypothetical on whether or not conservatives would make black people take a white pill? Imagine that it quickly got 55 mostly approving comments about what inhuman racists we are. 

    We have a serious political dispute with our neighbors. They are not monsters. Saying they are, even emphatically, even repeatedly, does not make it so.

    • #56
  27. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Gary McVey:

    Like some other Ricochetti, where I live I’m surrounded by liberals. Where i grew up in new York, we were surrounded by liberals. The idea that they’d go for this “in a heartbeat” is ridiculous. Every droning PTA meeting I ever attended was teeming with liberal parents. They are not anti-child. Some people here live in such a bubble it’s amazing they can breathe.

    How would we like seeing the HuffPo do a hypothetical on whether or not conservatives would make black people take a white pill? Imagine that it quickly got 55 mostly approving comments about what inhuman racists we are.

    We have a serious political dispute with our neighbors. They are not monsters. Saying they are, even emphatically, even repeatedly, does not make it so.

     Some of them are.

    Did you see the interview with Ruth Bader Ginsburg a few years ago in the New York Times (?) where she expressed surprise that Roe v Wade was so controversial since there was so much concern about growth in populations “we don’t want to have too many of”?

    • #57
  28. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    Gary,

    Never underestimate peoples need to reinforce their perceived moral superiority through vacuous internet commentary.

    • #58
  29. user_2505 Contributor
    user_2505
    @GaryMcVey

    Jamie, you’ve hit upon the internet’s Prime Directive….

    • #59
  30. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

    Merina Smith:  I didn’t say they had, just that children are hard to reconcile with libertarian philosophy.  

     This is quite possibly the worst comment I have ever read on Ricochet. 

    • #60
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