Monday, April 03, 2006


I intended to write today about how happy I am that baseball is back, and maybe even indulge in some "let them use steroids!" ranting. However, I read this little article on the BBC about the so-called "childfree-lifestyle." It caused me some mixed emotions, so I thought I'd write about it instead.

Childfree women are women who do not want to have children. Ever. Not surprisingly such people can be the brunt of criticism. Society has always put a premium on families. Some people would argue that this is just another example of religious and cultural conformity, but obviously there are underlying advantages. A society that doesn't procreate is a short lived society. Further, people with children are probably more likely to work, pay taxes, obey laws and have kids that do all those things, too. I'm sure there have been some kind of studies on these things, but I'm not quoting such things here. This just seems like common sense.

Family size in industrialized nations has been shrinking for a long time now. Thus it was inevitable to start seeing more people who don't have children at all. Personally that doesn't bother me at all. I know how difficult it is to raise children. It is draining physically, emotionally, and economically. I think it's better for people who can't handle such things to not have children. I'm not about to start telling anybody what to do on anything, especially such an important decision.

Now I have to admit that a part of me suspects that many people who chose not have children are actually quite capable -- at least from a physical, emotional, and economic perspective. So it's easy tempting to label such people as being selfish. I won't do that. They have no obligation to have children. Nobody should make them. I think there is a "natural" desire among people to procreate. Again, there are some obvious Darwinian advantages to such a desire. So it's probably a tough decision for people to chose to go against that.

Things don't stop there. Of course some of the no-kid-and-proud-of-it types start to get rude about the whole thing. Check out this quote from a British woman is happily childfree:
I think that people who have three children are encroaching on the planet's resources - I can't believe the amount of waste that children produce.
Like I said, rude. Maybe once Jane gets past her peak productivity years, somebody should euthanize her all in the name of conservation of resources.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. As mentioned earlier, societies have always placed a premium on families. Today that is reflected in tax-breaks, at least in the United States. Of course I think we're all taxed way too much anyways, so it's hard for me to be against any particular tax break. I can understand some people thinking it is unfair, but it is an inevitable consequence of progressive taxation.

Progressive taxation is based on the principal of taxing marginal utility. If you're rich you derive less additional utility for each extra dollar you make, than somebody who is poor. Why? Well the poor person is going to spend the money on something like food, clothing, basic shelter, etc. The rich person will spend it on something less essential, i.e. something with less utility. That's why it's "fair" to have higher tax brackets for rich people.

By the same token, a person with a child receives has more marginal utility from additional money than somebody with no child. Why? The person with the child will use that money to feed, clothe, etc. for the child, thus the higher utility.

So maybe if you did away with progressive taxation, then you could justify no tax breaks for families. I don't know if that's what these childfree advocates want or not, i.e. a flat tax. If not, then that would certainly be an inconsistency in their arguments and would suggest that their stance is purely motivated by self-interest (which is ok, but generally not a good enough reason to get the majority to agree with you.)

Now some of the other things being argued against is government guaranteed maternity/paternity benefits. We don't have much of those in the US, though they are more common in Canada and Europe (including Great Britain.) I would have to concur on this one. The government should not force an employer to give maternity or paternity benefits. It should be between the employer and the employees. A government mandate of it inevitably leads to the situation where an employer would hire an employee, but can't because of the potential cost from . So instead the employer does not hire the employee, who then goes unemployed.

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