Where Do Kinder Come From?

 

dinosaurAs a bit of a demographic loser – I’m not the only one in these parts – I tend to be drawn to articles that attempt to explain why humans appear to be the first species in history purposely choosing extinction. The WSJ Online had an article brushing on this topic from the perspective of an American living in Germany. However, before I could get to the author’s explanation on why our family trees are turning into inverted pyramids, I was taken aback a bit by the opening paragraph….

BERLIN—My three-year-old daughter has just returned from a five-day trip with her Kita, or preschool, to the countryside. This would be unheard of back home, where helicopter-parenting is de rigeur. But I appreciate the less-fearful attitude of German parents who shun constant supervision of their children

As the father of a four-year-old girl, I am a little shocked by the notion of sending a child at such a young age off on some state-run, week-long field trip. I probably tend to spoil my kids a bit – I view the trips to Toys R Us as a better bet on securing me retirement lodging than my IRA – but I don’t see myself as a “helicopter parent” and don’t think it is a sign of a helicopter parent to think that toddlers are better off spending their nights with family than with their public school out in the countryside. Not to harp on what occurred 80 years ago, but I would have thought Germany would have learned that sending young kids on government-organized trips away from home was not the best of ideas.

Anyway, once I got past the first couple sentences, I was less surprised and simply unimpressed with the article’s conclusions and prescriptions around child policies. The author, Michele Faguet, references the grim reality of current German demographic trends….

Their anxiety has become more acute in recent years because of Germany’s low birth rate: At about 1.4 children per woman, it guarantees a shrinking workforce. One economist has even forecast the potential disappearance of the German people within 300 years.

And later suggests the U.S., which sports significantly higher fertility rates – though falling – than Germany, should emulate German policy, if not all the social norms, regarding families….

I happen to believe the U.S. could learn a lot from the German model of state support for childcare and healthcare as well as its more relaxed style of parenting. Given the number of American families I see living in Berlin, there are a lot of parents who probably agree. At the same time, it would be nice to experience the joys and challenges of parenthood in a more tolerant and friendly social environment where a helping hand or a kind word from a stranger is the rule rather than the exception.

Other than how to reach extinction incrementally faster, based on the numbers, I’m not clear exactly what the U.S. could learn from the German model. On the other hand, I don’t think the U.S. – or any other industrialized country – has the answer as to how to achieve at least a replacement birthrate level.

One may think “Who cares if birthrates continue to collapse? I’m tired of going to the museum and fighting through all the school kids to get a look at the bones of the previous critters that ran the planet!” But, I think the issue becomes…. How to you get from point A to point B without complete disaster? Meaning, how does a society where the majority of federal expenditures are based on transfer payments from workers to retirees gracefully reduce its working population?

In a world of billions there are – of course – innumerable reasons why fertility rates are decreasing and I don’t think there are any simple policy gimmicks that would turn this trend around. As a first step, I think prioritizing discussion of birthrates and their impact on the future of the country ahead of the latest on the Kardashians would make sense. But, I dream.

There are 33 comments.

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  1. Adam Koslin Member

    No, see, talking about the Kardashians is great for the birthrate. They’re so horrible that they’ll inspire all the sane people to do anything possible to outbreed that clan of loonies. :P

    • #1
    • May 20, 2015, at 3:54 PM PDT
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  2. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever Post author

    Adam Koslin:No, see, talking about the Kardashians is great for the birthrate. They’re so horrible that they’ll inspire all the sane people to do anything possible to outbreed that clan of loonies. :P

    You may have a point. What I thought was a lame show that caused me to visit the liquor cabinet when my wife put it one may have actually been a brilliant plan to turn around entitlement programs…..maybe we’ll be OK after all

    • #2
    • May 20, 2015, at 3:58 PM PDT
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  3. SkipSul Moderator

    I’ve done my bit for posterity – I’m ahead of the birthrate curve with 4 girls.

    • #3
    • May 20, 2015, at 5:45 PM PDT
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  4. Limestone Cowboy Member

    Pleated Pants Forever: One may think – “who cares if birthrates continue to collapse?” <snip>

    –I think the issue becomes…. How to you get from point A to point B without complete disaster? Meaning, how does a society where the majority of federal expenditures are based on transfer payments from workers to retirees gracefully reduce its working population?

    Soylent Green?

    • #4
    • May 20, 2015, at 5:55 PM PDT
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  5. Sabrdance Member

    Give in to the Dark Side PPF. We’re doomed. DOOOOOOMED. And in future generations the living will envy the unborn…

    • #5
    • May 20, 2015, at 5:56 PM PDT
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  6. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever Post author

    skipsul:I’ve done my bit for posterity – I’m ahead of the birthrate curve with 4 girls.

    Skip – You’ve done your bit and more. If other people – including myself – contributed so much we would not be in the condition we are in.

    I also can’t imagine the damage done on the checking account. A trip with my one daughter to the American Girl store and I’m tapped out…..not to mention my son at the Lego store

    • #6
    • May 20, 2015, at 6:00 PM PDT
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  7. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever Post author

    Limestone Cowboy:

    Soylent Green?

    Cowboy – it’s funny you say that, I’ve been thinking about a way to write a soylent green post without pissing people off even more than I have with my previous posts…….still working on it

    • #7
    • May 20, 2015, at 6:02 PM PDT
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  8. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever Post author

    Sabrdance:Give in to the Dark Side PPF. We’re doomed. DOOOOOOMED. And in future generations the living will envy the unborn…

    I gave in to the dark side a long time ago. Actually, only post on Ricochet in between trips to Costco to build up the canned food stockpile in the bunker

    • #8
    • May 20, 2015, at 6:05 PM PDT
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  9. Petty Boozswha Member

    Why is it assumed a dramatically lower population will be a bad thing? In living memory almost half the US population were farmers – today less than 1% are legitimately farmers [not hobby farmers tilling the subsidy and tax code fields] and we could easily exist with a fraction of that number. Manufacturing employment is following the same spiral and I would wager other employment will follow it as well. A nation of leisure class people waited on by robots would have a much better chance of success with a smaller population. Watch Japan, life there does not look so dire.

    • #9
    • May 20, 2015, at 6:09 PM PDT
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  10. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever Post author

    Petty Boozswha:Why is it assumed a dramatically lower population will be a bad thing? In living memory almost half the US population were farmers – today less than 1% are legitimately farmers [not hobby farmers tilling the subsidy and tax code fields] and we could easily exist with a fraction of that number. Manufacturing employment is following the same spiral and I would wager other employment will follow it as well. A nation of leisure class people waited on by robots would have a much better chance of success with a smaller population. Watch Japan, life there does not look so dire.

    Petty – agree that, in many ways, Japan is less bent on national suicide than other industrial countries, but their debt to GDP is way north of 200%. Being so spendthrift, the U.S. is only north of 100%. Unless these robots become much more advanced much more quickly, decide to start paying taxes, and don’t decide to just take over…..I don’t see how this math works out

    • #10
    • May 20, 2015, at 6:15 PM PDT
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  11. Petty Boozswha Member

    Don’t tax you and don’t tax me, tax that robot behind the tree.

    • #11
    • May 20, 2015, at 6:44 PM PDT
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  12. Sabrdance Member

    Petty Boozswha:Watch Japan, life there does not look so dire.

    Depopulated towns? Children who don’t grow up and instead live in their parents’ homes well into their 30s? Suicide rates that would make Americans blanch? The barbarians may not be knocking on Japan’s door, but the wolf certainly is.

    • #12
    • May 20, 2015, at 7:37 PM PDT
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  13. Derringdoo Inactive

    I see low birth rates as a byproduct of the continued infantilization of the European population in general. The government guarantee of medical care for life and a comfortable retirement until one “becomes a burden” means that there is that much less of an incentive to replace yourself.

    Added to this is low infant mortality, which means that most of the children born could expect to see adulthood, takes the pressure off late twenty-something adolescents to do anything about sorting out their life goals until it is too late for many of them.

    I am a fan of the notion that things that cannot continue forever won’t. There will be an upheaval (retro-renaissance?) of some kind over the next generation to restore a little bit more of the sense of life purpose that many here and in Europe and elsewhere must be missing.

    Secularists may have banished God from the public square in most of the civilized world, but they have not banished the hunger for a connection to something infinite. Infinite government will not sate it.

    • #13
    • May 20, 2015, at 11:17 PM PDT
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  14. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    Pleated Pants Forever:

    skipsul:I’ve done my bit for posterity – I’m ahead of the birthrate curve with 4 girls.

    Skip – You’ve done your bit and more. If other people – including myself – contributed so much we would not be in the condition we are in.

    I often feel guilty for not having managed to breed yet. (Thanks, Mark Steyn!)

    On the other hand, anything bred from me will have been bred from problematic stock indeed. My life is not a “natural” one. Does the world really need people like me to pass on our defects?

    Or are we better off allowing the Rachel Lus of the world to pick up my slack? You know, women who blithely insist that female fertility is naturally healthy for all women because that’s how it happens to work for them?

    • #14
    • May 21, 2015, at 6:17 AM PDT
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  15. Valiuth Member

    Yes our species truly is doomed. Why look at us we live longer than we ever have, there are more of us than there have ever been, and our lives are more comfortable than ever. I don’t buy these population doom arguments. There is no biological imperative for any species to have continuous population growth. The continuous population growth experienced in the last several centuries is a historical anomaly created by vast technological improvements in medicine and agriculture. What you are seeing now is a return to normalcy.

    • #15
    • May 21, 2015, at 6:27 AM PDT
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  16. Pleated Pants Forever Inactive
    Pleated Pants Forever Post author

    MFR – I would never presume to understand an individual’s circumstances enough to recommend that it is in his/her best interest that he/she specifically have children.

    However, having had the pleasure of briefly meeting you and extensively reading you on Ricochet, I can say without any doubt that the world would be a better place if it had more people of your charms and talents……even if I am still jealous that you attended the more prestigious HS ;)

    • #16
    • May 21, 2015, at 6:42 AM PDT
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  17. SkipSul Moderator

    Midget Faded Rattlesnake:

    Pleated Pants Forever:

    skipsul:I’ve done my bit for posterity – I’m ahead of the birthrate curve with 4 girls.

    Skip – You’ve done your bit and more. If other people – including myself – contributed so much we would not be in the condition we are in.

    I often feel guilty for not having managed to breed yet. (Thanks, Mark Steyn!)

    On the other hand, anything bred from me will have been bred from problematic stock indeed. My life is not a “natural” one. Does the world really need people like me to pass on our defects?

    Or are we better off allowing the Rachel Lus of the world to pick up my slack? You know, women who blithely insist that female fertility is healthy and “natural” for all women because that’s how it happens to work for them?

    Don’t feel guilty, it’s not like what’s happened to you has been entirely in your control. There are lots of women who would love to have children but cannot, which is why it is such a great travesty that so many other women abort their own. We are not all dealt the same hands (or knees) in life.

    • #17
    • May 21, 2015, at 6:48 AM PDT
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  18. EJHill Podcaster

    Petty Boozswha: Why is it assumed a dramatically lower population will be a bad thing? … A nation of leisure class people waited on by robots would have a much better chance of success with a smaller population. Watch Japan, life there does not look so dire.

    It’s not the size of your population it’s who is doing the populating. The upper and upper middle classes practice birth control while the lower, less educated (and therefore less economically mobile) continue to have kids. This is the real danger in the income inequality debate. You will have a smaller, mostly white economic class with jobs and a large population of undereducated with envy, hatred, and way too much time on their hands.

    Japan is a 98.5% ethnic Japanese. There’s no competing culture, no religious clashes. You can’t compare their society to ours. (Or Scandinavia, the favorite societal mirror of the progressives.)

    • #18
    • May 21, 2015, at 6:54 AM PDT
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  19. Ekosj Inactive

    I recommend taking a peek at this Article by David Goldman “Demographics and Depression”

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2009/05/demographics-depression

    • #19
    • May 21, 2015, at 7:04 AM PDT
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  20. Johnny Dubya Inactive

    Those of us who grew up in the ’70s had it hammered into our brains by our teachers and the media that humankind was on its way to an overpopulation apocalypse. This notion in the zeitgeist may be seen most luridly in the futuristic science fiction movies of the era, such as “Soylent Green.”

    The current hyperventilation about global warming reminds me of that earlier scare. Of course, the warmists have hedged their bets by changing “global warming” to “climate change.” If only Paul R. Ehrlich and the other overpopulation theorists had called it “population change,” they wouldn’t be laughingstocks today. They would have had a 100% chance of being right. Birth rates below replacement rates would have been chalked up to “population weirding.”

    • #20
    • May 21, 2015, at 7:21 AM PDT
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  21. FloppyDisk90 Member

    Meaning, how does a society where the majority of federal expenditures are based on transfer payments from workers to retirees gracefully reduce its working population?

    Immigration.

    • #21
    • May 21, 2015, at 8:29 AM PDT
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  22. The Question Inactive

    In some ways this is the fundamental problem in the progressives’ thinking. They don’t pay any attention to economic growth, or if they do they think economic growth is bad. The foundation for all economic growth is people, and the Left doesn’t see procreation as a vital function, but rather as a hobby in which some people like to indulge.

    The reason why progressives can’t understand how anyone could reasonably object to gay marriage is because they don’t see a capacity for procreation to be any more significant than a difference in skin pigment. People used to think skin pigment was really important, and they were wrong. People also used to think procreation was really important, and they were right.

    • #22
    • May 21, 2015, at 8:57 AM PDT
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  23. FloppyDisk90 Member

    The reason why progressives can’t understand how anyone could reasonably object to gay marriage is because they don’t see a capacity for procreation to be any more significant than a difference in skin pigment.

    Unless you’re saying that SSM will cause one of the following:

    – Heterosexuals will have fewer children because of gay marriage

    – Heterosexuals will choose gay marriage over traditional marriage

    – Homosexuals would have had children but for the fact of gay marriage

    ….I don’t see how SSM has anything to do with the heterosexual fertility rate.

    • #23
    • May 21, 2015, at 9:16 AM PDT
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  24. The Question Inactive

    FloppyDisk90:

    ….I don’t see how SSM has anything to do with the heterosexual fertility rate.

    I’m not saying that SSM will cause any of the things you mentioned. I’m saying that if we think that procreation is not particularly important, then there is very little reason to distinguish between same sex and opposite sex couples.

    I don’t feel a motivation to condemn gay relationships, but I do think it is a major error to classify homosexual and heterosexual relationships as being two varieties of the same thing. The two activities are functionally very different.

    It’s been said that SSM is not a problem so much as it is a symptom of a deeper problem, and I agree with that assessment.

    • #24
    • May 21, 2015, at 9:37 AM PDT
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  25. James Gawron Thatcher

    PPF,

    As a first step, I think prioritizing discussion of birthrates and their impact on the future of the country ahead of the latest on the Kardashians would make sense. But, I dream.

    You’re dreaming the right dream.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #25
    • May 21, 2015, at 10:12 AM PDT
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  26. Miffed White Male Member

    EJHill:

    It’s not the size of your population it’s who is doing the populating. The upper and upper middle classes practice birth control while the lower, less educated (and therefore less economically mobile) continue to have kids. This is the real danger in the income inequality debate. You will have a smaller, mostly white economic class with jobs and a large population of undereducated with envy, hatred, and way too much time on their hands.

    The first 5(ish) minutes of the movie idiocracy should be playing on a loop somewhere where we can expect upper and upper-middle-class-types to see it.

    • #26
    • May 21, 2015, at 10:21 AM PDT
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  27. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    FloppyDisk90:Unless you’re saying that SSM will cause one of the following:

    – Heterosexuals will have fewer children because of gay marriage

    – Heterosexuals will choose gay marriage over traditional marriage

    – Homosexuals would have had children but for the fact of gay marriage

    ….I don’t see how SSM has anything to do with the heterosexual fertility rate.

    Well, one or more of these may be true. I submit that I don’t know, and you don’t know, and no one else knows (except God, if you’re a believer).

    I would phrase some of your possibilities differently:

    – SSM may cause fewer heterosexuals to marry and have children.

    – SSM may lead to there being more homosexuals and therefore fewer children.

    The Conservative point is that, when we don’t know, we should be very hesitant to make sweeping social changes. You don’t knock a column out of a building until you’re sure it’s not load bearing.

    • #27
    • May 21, 2015, at 11:25 AM PDT
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  28. James Gawron Thatcher

    Arizona Patriot:

    FloppyDisk90:Unless you’re saying that SSM will cause one of the following:

    – Heterosexuals will have fewer children because of gay marriage

    – Heterosexuals will choose gay marriage over traditional marriage

    – Homosexuals would have had children but for the fact of gay marriage

    ….I don’t see how SSM has anything to do with the heterosexual fertility rate.

    Well, one or more of these may be true. I submit that I don’t know, and you don’t know, and no one else knows (except God, if you’re a believer).

    I would phrase some of your possibilities differently:

    – SSM may cause fewer heterosexuals to marry and have children.

    – SSM may lead to there being more homosexuals and therefore fewer children.

    The Conservative point is that, when we don’t know, we should be very hesitant to make sweeping social changes. You don’t knock a column out of a building until you’re sure it’s not load bearing.

    AP,

    I’ve never heard it put more succinctly. Nice.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #28
    • May 21, 2015, at 11:31 AM PDT
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  29. FloppyDisk90 Member

    @27,

    Well, you’re correct in the sense that I don’t know for sure that I’m not going to be hit by a falling piano when I walk outside. There’s risk in everything. I don’t doubt your sincerity but I definitely don’t think that SSM will result in significant numbers of heterosexuals changing their identities or modifying family plans. If it does then SSM is simply a puff of wind at a pillar that was rotten anyway.

    • #29
    • May 21, 2015, at 2:39 PM PDT
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  30. Chris Johnson Inactive

    My three boys are borrowed, from my “single Mom” beloved. They have accepted me. Almost. I believe this is more than just common in other households. They have the best Mom and the worst Dad. I somehow managed to avoid having any kids that were mine, to the best of my knowledge.

    I only have so much say in my boys lives. In every case, from the midst of a divided family, my voice about math, or homework, is undermined.

    I only bring this up, as I think my situation is far more common than people may guess. I try to keep boys polite. I try to get them to attend school. Everything I do is contested by the former dad, that ignored them throughout their entire childhoods.

    • #30
    • May 21, 2015, at 5:51 PM PDT
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