Skip to comments.Family Free-Riders (Childless adults are economic free riders)
Posted on 03/06/2006 7:12:09 AM PST by FreedomSurge
Economically, every society needs children.
Children are the producers of the future This means that children are in a sense a necessary economic good. A society that does not produce enough children, or that cannot produce enough children who grow into economically productive adults, is doomed to poverty.
Every long-term investment we make, whether in the private or public sector, is predicated on the idea that there will be a future generation which will actually produce a return. It doesn't matter what economic or political system rules the present, it will need children to secure its future. Even the most self-centered individual would eventual realize that if the next generation cannot produce, his own welfare will suffer.
So, collectively we all need children and benefit when they grow into productive adults, but the cost of raising children is increasingly being borne by fewer and fewer in the general population.
Childless adults are rapidly becoming economic free riders on the backs of parents.
In the pre-industrial era, children almost always contributed to the economic success of the family directly. Agriculture depended heavily on the labor of children, and children brought further benefits by extending support networks via marriages. In the industrial era, however, children began to contribute less and less while consuming more and more. Nowadays, children usually return very little if any economic benefit to the parents.
Being a parent costs one economically. Although we socialize some cost, such as education, parents pay most of the cost of raising a child. Parents also lose out in non-monetary ways such as in a loss of flexibility in when and where they work. If an individual sets out to maximize his lifetime income, avoiding having children would be step one.
In our atomized society, children do not provide a boost in status, networking or security that offsets their very real cost. I think this economic loss may explain why many people shy away from having children. Many people simply do not want the loss of status that will come from having their disposable income consumed by rug rats.
Like all free-rider situations, this one will eventually cause a collapse that hurts everyone. As the percentage of parents in the population shrinks, the cost of being a parent will rise. More and more people will be tempted to conserve their own resources and let someone else shoulder the burden of creating the next generation. Eventually, the society will either produce too few children or, probably more likely, will not produce enough children with the skills and habits needed to carry on the economy
There is already grousing in some blue zones by the childless that they shouldn't have to subsidize the "breeders'" children. How long before child-hostile places like San Francisco become the norm?
I'm not sure how to address this problem from a public-policy perspective, but the next time you run into someone bragging because he chose not to have children, call him a parasite and see how it works out.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY FREERIDERS!!!!
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