Skip to comments.The Decadence of Procreation (Hating Humans)
Posted on 12/05/2012 6:06:16 PM PST by nickcarraway
Its no longer news that babies have become a status symbol. Weve gotten used to judging celebs bumps and observed the rise of the baby-centric fashion statement. The excitement this week over Kate Middletons royal fetus and the medical bills already associated with it serves as another reminder that, like a dressage horse or a third vacation home, children might be covetable, but theyll certainly cost you.
To be a status symbol, a good must be inaccessible to the masses. And indeed Americas birth rate, as New York Times op-ed columnist Ross Douthat reminds us this week, has plummeted along with our economy. American fertility plunged with the stock market in 2008, and it hasnt recovered, Douthat writes. This time, the birthrate has fallen fastest among foreign-born Americans, and particularly among Hispanics, who saw huge amounts of wealth evaporate with the housing bust. But its not just the economy, stupid. Douthat has another theory: The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe.
I agree that this is a problem with decadence. But the decadent thing is having children, not remaining kid-free.
Last year, the Department of Agriculture estimated a middle-income couple spent $12,290 to $14,320 a year per child. More recently, the Times' Nadia Taha published her calculations of how much it would cost her and her husband to have a child: A safer apartment. A better health-insurance plan. Lost wages. College. Total lifetime tab? $1.8 million.
How is it, again, that not having babies is the decadent choice?
Part of what I imagine makes parenting so hard is the challenge of making financial compromises, and the emotional fallout from those choices, Taha writes. It must be difficult to accept that no matter how you set aside your own interests, you cannot afford the very best of everything for your child.
No wonder the birth rate is dropping fastest among foreign-born women. Immigrants come to the United States because they seek a better financial future for themselves and their children a wider range of opportunities than they had back home. When the financial reality is that the United States doesnt offer these things, its no wonder immigrants stop having kids (and stop immigrating here altogether).
Usually, we see the make more babies! argument directed at white people. (Headline you never see, despite the steep decline in children born to immigrants: Numbers of Latino Children Falling Fast.) Even though he acknowledges the dropping immigrant birth rate, when he talks about the decadence factor, Douthat isnt referring to the child-free motivations of hardworking newcomers. Hes talking about women like Nadia Taha. Middle-class and upper-middle-class Americans who are loath to relocate to cheaper cities, to take on massive debt, and to prioritize child-rearing above their own professional pursuits. Hes talking about women who realize that having kids is like signing on for a second full-time job from which there is no leave. I recently asked a good friend who has a 2-year-old whether she and her husband were managing to maintain some semblance of a life outside parenting. She replied, Yeah, we finally found a babysitter we like. But shes $15 an hour, which means that going out to dinner is like a $200 evening. The decadence factor is inseparable from the economic one.
In a follow-up post on Tuesday, following backlash over his decadence argument, Douthat returned to his theory that childless Americans choose conspicuous consumption over child-rearing. He asked, dont we have some sort of collective obligation to procreate? And if that basic obligation exists in some form, then surely there comes a point when a culture in which its crowded out by other goals, other pursuits and yes, other pleasures can be aptly described as whats the word Im looking for decadent? I suppose wanting to live in a big city with lots of job opportunities and not sleep in the same bedroom as your child and eventually send that child to college the expenses that Taha added up arrived at $1.8 million can be classified as pleasures. But mostly theyre about maintaining a lifestyle that few of us would describe as decadent.
Douthat also notes that, in the global scheme of things, were in a great position to procreate: Is there any population better situated to bestow fulfilling, flourishing, opportunity-rich lives on future generations than the inhabitants of rich democracies?
Id add one more rich in there: Its the rich inhabitants of rich democracies who are best-suited to bestow opportunity-rich lives on their children. On some level, even women who live in palaces seem to recognize this. In The Queen of Versailles, Lauren Greenfields documentary about Jackie Siegel and her husband David, who set out to build Americas largest private residence, the couple has seven kids and a raft of assistants, drivers, and nannies to help care for them.* After the real estate bubble bursts, and theyre forced to lay off the help, Jackie says, only half-kidding, I never would have had so many kids if I didnt have nannies to take care of them.
Whn most people get married they expect to have children.
Now that’s called decadence?
Geez: What a world.
The writer is an idiot.
Although if they want to ban leftist freaks and celebutards having kids, I might go for that.
I'm always amazed at how people accept these bullcrap figures regarding the cost of raising a child. If it costs $1.8 million to raise a single kid, how is it that families grow in the poorest parts of the world? And why does she factor in college expense as part of the cost of having a kid? Bizzarro world of feminists.
So if your sitter costs $15 per hour and you go out for a quiet 2-hour dinner it costs a total of $200?! Maybe you should reconsider the yacht setting for your $170 lobster and filet meal...
My seventh grandchild came home from the hospital this afternoon. I guess my daughter and her husband haven’t been told they were decadent to produce two children in 2 years.
well, prepping for a rainy day is “selfish” to leftists.
These people are all insane.
They throw out numbers just to see if they stick I think
...yet more tripe from a feminist who probably couldn’t get laid if she offered to pay for the room.
Perhaps if all of the elite, eugenicists, would just march themselves off of a cliff, the world would be a better place.
To the extent there are any shortages of resources in the world, they are imposed by oppressive governments.
I married the best person I ever met. She has the traits and characteristics that I think should be projected into the future. Our Son has many of her traits and characteristics and it makes me grateful to know that he will carry forward all that is wonderful about her.
“Where a man’s treasure is, there you will find his heart.” It sure does cost money to raise children, but where else can you get such a great Return On Investment? The first time I held his cheek to mine, I was hooked. Every New Year, I think , “Wow! What a great year! He’s grown so much! How can it get any better?” But it gets better every year.
I don’t view my Son as a cost for me or society. I see him as a tremendous asset. He is well trained and capable of doing much good. I also have a niece who is severely handicapped, physically and mentally. But everyone who knows her loves her. She is the best model I know to teach fortitude and unconditional love. She is a blessing.
I understand that there is great sorrow and fear in this world. There is pain and suffering and death. But having a child is opening the door and looking out into the dark and lighting a candle and stepping out, knowing that daylight is near.
I have many friends of my generation (I am 60 years old) who never wanted or had children. For the most part, they are like wrinkly adolescents. They have lots of adult toys and go on vacations a lot. Most of them are quite liberal in their politics. I often think that they ought to be grateful to those of us whose children will be providing their Social Security payments when they retire in a few years. It’s funny that they think they are so smart and sophisticated by not having children. But really, if they are so strongly convinced that they are right, why don’t they attempt to pass on their values to the next generation? To me, it’s just not civilized.
I think to reform this broken SS system, we should mandate that 25% or more of your support come directly from your own children. :p
Too bad Miss Friedman’s parents didn’t act more responsibly instead of burdening this world with yet another “Greenwich Village Idiot”
How do middle class families manage to have children, when the average wage is a bit below 50 grand a year? It will take them 35 years just to make and spend that first 1.8 million.
I think someone’s full of it with their numbers.
Most couples I know are middle class, and most of them are average wage, and most of them have 2-4 kids.
Must be the yacht lessons or the skiing lessons or the flying lessons or the driving lessons....a waste, of course, if you’re a Kennedy.
A factiod from a 1960s Buckley column stuck in my mind: in a survey of the tony-arty set around '65 or so, most of them said they preferred black and white TV to colour. These were people who could have easily afforded colour if they wanted it. In other words, they preferred the more primitive kind of TV because it wasn't "popular."
Much later, I found out that this is a common affectation of the chattering classes from the book The Intellectuals And The Masses.
Over in the UK, there are lots of those people. [Warning: They tend to want the UK to become a Republic, but they are not "Republican."] In days of old, they were pegged as schemers. They may still be to a large extent.
Just think about this mindset:
“It must be difficult to accept that .. you cannot afford the very best of everything for your child.
The very best of everything? Who really thinks that way but for a subculture of selfish yuppies? I’m all for their not reproducing. They’d make wretched parents who’d raise an even more horrid child.
Already been done - in Science Fiction
Each person “Issued” stock at birth
20% held by each parent
5% held by the Government
55% is “Yours”
Income goes to the “Corporation”
Stock can be bought and sold on open market, as made available
Marriage involves exchange of stock
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