Inventions profoundly change us. The horse, once ubiquitous, is now a pet – displaced by the car. Horse trips of 15 to 30 miles per day have been replaced by trips of that length to the store. Because of the car, cities expanded, commutes were longer, distant houses became more valuable, etc. The birth control pill seems to be doing to parenthood what the car did to horses. And new analyses in the Lancet, examining demographic trends across the globe, have world leaders quite concerned [DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30677-2].
Tribal societies such as Israel, Pakistan, and much of Africa are less affected by the pill. Tribes often go to war, killing the males while incorporating women and girls into the tribe. People in small tribes can see that the tribe lives or dies by the vitality of its population. But in large societies, citizens often don't even know how their food got into the store much less sense the need for constant replenishment of babies. The pressure from parents and grandparents, coupled with whatever curiosity attends parenthood and what is commanded by religion, are no longer generating enough children in most countries.
Were the U.S. more Christian, Paul’s admonitions that "who will not work should not eat" (2 Thess 3:10) and "I want younger women to marry [and] have children" (I Tim 5:14) might undergird a religious campaign for parenthood. Gallup in 1956 asked, “Do you believe in God?” and 98% of adults said "yes" with U.S. women averaging 3.3 children. In 2022, 81% said "yes" and women averaged 1.8 kids – so baby production has declined along with a belief in God.
Tinkering with baby production is risky: China seems "stuck" in its 35-year-long one-child policy. Thirty-five years was long enough to change "the norm," and now the Chinese think one child is fine or ideal. China’s experience warns us that a strong strategy can "reset" parenting desires. Once reset, the strategy may continue. Recent polls in the West report expanding fractions of our youth don’t want to have kids, and fewer kids if they want any. So, new strategies, not just stronger pushing of the old, seem called for.
Imagine a country that had few or no children for a while. Eventually, as is happening in Italy and So. Korea, entire communities would devolve so the old (the infirm, etc.), no matter how much money they had, would be begging for help. EVERYTHING depends on having a fresh supply of children. Social security depends on it, ongoing production of goods and services depends on it, the value of money depends on it, etc. If money can’t buy help, medical care or food, it is worthless. For wealthy countries, other than defending against invasion, generating children (or perhaps getting enough adequately skilled immigrants) is a matter of survival.
The following suggestion to bulk up our demographic is made assuming: 1) It would be desirable to find some way to make parenting so attractive that many in the "don’t want kids" group will want to be parents. These encouragements may have to be coupled with penalties (e.g., the horror of being "an old maid" in the 1946 Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life); 2) children will transform most parents into decent parents (and influence their parents toward more conservative attitudes); 3) potential parents might respond to attention, approval, and money; 4) children from single parents are better than no children (or a random set of immigrants); 5) children from married mothers and fathers are more apt to be well socialized than those raised otherwise; 6) because many parents have spent time parenting instead of getting degrees, parents with equal skills should have equal access to jobs; 7) children are negatively affected by divorce, so it should be discouraged; and 8) job "qualifications" are often an attempt to favor the degreed instead of treating those with the same skills, no matter how acquired, equally.
"Low-Cost" Promotion of Those Who Have Contributed to Society’s Future
Demographic collapse is an existential threat. While nothing governments do is free (and always seems to end up costing more), changing hiring practices to favor parents looks to be relatively inexpensive and something we could live with long-term.
Here is how we might do it:
Every governmental entity has new openings because of retirements, deaths, etc. Also, many entities contract with governments to provide services, and governments give grants or issue calls for bids on projects. What if we made the government more parent-friendly? This could be done without tremendous fiscal cost by requiring every government job-opening at the local, state, and federal levels to favor parents. Likewise, every government contractor or recipient of a government grant could be required to follow the policy.
We could accomplish this by giving 1 hiring advantage to applicants who are parents but no longer with dependent children under the age of 18. The same job opening would give 2 hiring advantages to an unmarried parent who is raising children at home and 3 advantages to a married parent raising children at home. That is, an applicant who was a parent with about the same skills as an unmarried applicant, would be given the job. If multiple parents with about the same skills applied for the job, the one with 3 advantages would get the government position over those with 2 advantages or 1 advantage. Because we want married parents with three or more children, those married parents with three or more children with at least one child at home might be given an extra half-advantage. Thus, parents might have half an advantage or even 3 ½ advantages.
Since divorce negatively affects children, parents who divorce after the parental favoring initiative is enacted might lose half an advantage toward government employment. In recognition that some divorces (such as child sexual or physical abuse) protect the children, a legal way should be created so that those parents who seek a divorce "for the sake of the children" can try to prove it. However, the burden of proof will rest on the appealing parent. Dissatisfaction with, or not feeling "in love," attraction, etc., toward the other parent, is demographically irrelevant. The good of the children – in this case, children not having to live with the burden of a divorce, not the "happiness" of the partners – is the primary interest of society.
Government jobs are often highly desired. Since demographic collapse is an existential threat, this parent-favoring policy should override other hiring policies designed to favor those of a particular sex, race, etc. (e.g., the so-called "civil rights" biases). Since personnel is policy, over time this parents-first scheme could transform the bureaucracies – and the rules they make – into a more skills-based and family-friendly force. While all businesses don’t provide services to a government entity, this policy would also tend to make the general workforce more skill-based and employ more parents.
Throwing money at mothers who have children has been tried with modest success in Russia, France, and other countries. Giving mothers money for children appears to work sporadically and seems to "wear off" (and funds lots of single female parents with not-as-well-socialized children).
What ideas do you have to solve or partially solve our looming demographic problem? If solutions were obvious, they probably would have been tried. German Chancellor Bismarck said: “The Americans are a very lucky people. They're bordered to the north and south by weak neighbors, and to the east and west by fish.” U.S. luck continues because the freedoms and economic benefits it offers make it a prime destination for immigrants. As such, the demographic crisis may hit the U.S. much later than in most countries. But no matter how lucky we might be, action must be taken before we find ourselves in a rapidly declining demographic such as South Korea or Italy.© Paul Cameron
The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.