August 1, 2014

Childfree? Consider The Economy?

Chart of Birth Rate in USA between 1934 and th...

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If you are listing pros and cons and asking questions of parents and people like us to determine if you want to remain childfree, for now or permanently, you may do those of us that have already made the decision a favor by choosing to breed.

What? What about all those posts about saving the planet and your relationship and your money? What about giving voice to individuals and outliers? What about confronting taboos and exercising your right to think for yourself and CHOOSE?

Well, as readers of WNK may have already seen, we are here to provide a broad base of information and varied perspectives, so that one may make an informed choice and feel supported, regardless of what that choice may be. To that end, we need to talk about the economy.

The real and hidden costs of raising children, personal finances and lifestyle etc. are certainly worth addressing. And we at WNK. like many others in the child-free community, try to.

UNLIKE others in the CF community, including a child-free blogger that wrote “Going Child-Free To Save The Economy” and “decided that breeders are to blame for our current high level of unemployment”, we (Okay, I) studied economics, worked in finance and have a mathematical and theoretical grasp on reality that isn’t overwhelmed by anger or idiocy or child-free ideological extremes.

And, oh yeah, before we “decide” something, we research and read. On our Facebook site we previously posted stories about how Russia and South Korea are taking steps to increase the birth rate in order to bolster their economies. Check out the links.

Yesterday, Bloomberg News ran this story:

Births at 11-Year Low May Extend U.S. Housing Slump Amid Consumer Cutbacks – Bloomberg.

The piece identifies a nasty Catch-22 ensnaring the childless and child-free lately. Some of us are deciding against raising kids, or postponing, because we are struggling financially; and our decision is in turn hurting the economy.

While many reading this piece don’t want to make or raise babies, the reality seems to be that we need more kids to feed our fierce economic machine. In capitalist, consumption-based America, if we are not growing, we’re dieing. Inflation is not necessarily our friend, but deflation (decreased demand, less consumption, fewer jobs, a shrinking population and shrinking GDP) is definitely our enemy. So the government adopts policies (that many of us claim are discriminatory) to encourage the population to make more babies. And if more people join the ranks of the child-free, federal tax deductions or credits may only be the beginning.

If you don’t want to believe, won’t read the stories or do research to see what not having kids can do to a capitalist economy, look overseas please. Asia is struggling, and Japan may reveal the path that our low birth rate having country will be following: A real estate bust followed by over fifteen years of low interest rates and meager job growth combined with an impossibly slow housing recovery and constant fears of deflation further shrinking the value of their assets and their entire economy.

Now, on a resource-strapped planet riddled with pollution and populated with too many that are abused, poverty stricken or starving, this is an admittedly simplistic view of how breeding, or not, affects the economy. It is an equation that does not account for environmental costs and wars and other negative externalities. But market economies like ours are insatiable beasts. And unless or until we are ready to face the flaws of capitalist, consumption-based religiosity (which will likely involve some serious suffering) we may soon run out of ways of keeping our economy functioning for most of us unless we get behind immigration reform and this baby making thing.

There may be few alternatives?

I guess we can have more pets or just become more obese? Many of the child-free appear to be animal lovers (someone please explain the link), and while Fido and Frisky consume enough to create jobs (the U.S. pet industry is worth $55 billion annually) , they will never drive a car or need public schooling. Obesity may also be working as a growth strategy. One person can consume enough for 1.5 or 2 people and get sick along the way to feed the booming healthcare industry maybe?

Questions? Critiques? Need more clarity? Please comment or contact me.

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  • http://www.ramonacreel.com Ramona Creel

    I find the suggestion that anyone who disagrees with you is “overwhelmed by anger or idiocy or child-free ideological extremes” a bit arrogant — there is plenty, PLENTY of logical, mathematical, and rational evidence supporting the idea that breeders (especially American breeders) are doing significant damage to the environment and the economy (go check out data from the U.S. Census Bureau, WHO, Labor Department, etc.) Drawing the conclusion that we need to bolster our birth rate in order to boost our economy by comparing American economics to the Russian and Korean systems is flawed logic in and of itself (we’re not functioning on anything resembling the same level). I absolutely agree that the problem is more complex than just telling people to stop having babies, and that wasn’t even what I was suggesting. Mine was simply a rant spawned by the fact that we need an impossible 150,000 new jobs a year to keep up with population growth — not an attempt to dissect every single cause of our country’s fiscal woes. You mention the need to “feed our fierce economic machine” and that “market economies like ours are insatiable beasts” — I personally believe this sort of consumption-oriented approach has gotten our country into the trouble it’s in now. A society which is dependent on insatiable consumption is completely unsustainable. When you say, “unless or until we are ready to face the flaws of capitalist, consumption based religiosity we may soon run out of ways of keeping our economy functioning for most of us,” I would agree with you 100% — but that’s something most Americans are unwilling to do, especially those who feel they have the right to produce as many offspring as they want, regardless of the resources they consume to do it.

    • http://brianwnk.wordpress.com brianwnk

      Ramona. Thank you for your passion and thank you for blogging and commenting. You and I actually agree on a lot, including your remark “that anyone who disagrees with [me] is ‘overwhelmed by anger or idiocy or child-free ideological extremes’”. I know that is not true, and not what I intended; and I do not lump you into that group as much as I want to say that it exists. Reading the comments to your post, it clearly exists there, as it does on social media, in our CF communities and in political parties.

      A lot of people are currently disenfranchised or just angry; and there is a lot of screaming and blaming by people that simply do not understand economics. It’s dangerous and contagious, and that is why I singled out your “rant”, which did not seem to refer to WHO or other data about the perils of population growth on the economy? I don’t deny that they exist, (I hope you will follow up with some) and I agree that our model is not sustainable and that we have a steep mountain to climb or some financial miracles to find before we feel secure on our financial feet, in the U.S. and perhaps globally.

      The reality may be that we can’t afford to admit that right now as a society/country. We NEED growth, badly. We NEED inflation. We need to turn $15 trillion into a small sum of money. How? Inflation. We NEED to make the massive losses from bad real estate seem miniscule on financial institutions’ balance sheets. How? Inflation. And while we try to get that train rolling so that your house and mine will be worth as much as they were in 2006, we need to increase GDP and raise some taxes and spend more money to stimulate the economy. And we probably need more babies and immigrants, now and eventually. Russia, South Korea, Japan and others are all valid comparisons, regardless of scale I think (not sure I understand your argument there) and all of those story links point in a different direction from your post – I think(?).

      If you insist that “the conclusion that we need to bolster our birth rate in order to boost our economy” is “flawed” then you should take that up with Bloomberg, the BBC or the sources of those stories.

      But sincerely, thank you for what you do and thank you for responding.

      • http://brianwnk.wordpress.com brianwnk

        Ramona,
        After rereading my post, I pretty clearly did place you in that group. I had a problem with you deciding “that breeders are to blame” and reading some of the commenters agreements after your post troubled me. I can be arrogant, especially when intentionally trying to stir things up in the CF community. But I invite/welcome other points of view and disagreements. I did not lash out at “anyone that disagrees with me” as much as the contingent that declares, blames and decides based on anger, idiocy or ideology… and ultimately deciding to be child-free would’t help the economy if taken to the extreme, so much as it would leave s extinct :)

  • http://cureforspace.com Brigitte Starkey

    Being an only child myself, and having produced only one child by choice as well as convinced many women to stick to one birth–and they fully appreciate their choice, my observation is that people concerned about the economy and ecology are generally more aware of the issues at hand and actively support the welfare of our capitalistic state and their loved ones. Now, there are a whole lot of people out there who are oblivious, and the more they are the more children they seem to have. In other words, us who read blogs like this are in the know about our economic problems and will continue to do what will be best for all of us, but what percentage are we of the whole? And how large is the percentage that does not support our economy because of their ignorance?

    I have had many discussions on this subject with quite a varied reaction. I think the most interesting is the view of well-to-do “white” individuals that I have heard say: If we don’t produce we will be overrun by (you pick). Frankly, I think they should be spayed.

    Now, we won’t be able to solve our economic issues in our life-time, so let’s educate the children we have on this planet…ALL OF THEM!

    And I do applaud couples and individuals who choose to be childless, if you are aching to rear a child, they are out there!

    • http://brianwnk.wordpress.com brianwnk

      Thank you for adding to the discussion Brigitte. If you care to elaborate, I’m curious about how you convinced others to start/stop with one baby. And why? And no matter where people come out on whether it is good or bad for the economy to “breed”, I hope they will act in their own self interest. I have. And I hope their choice is informed by the truth of their desires and the availability of a wide range of information and opinions from sites like Ramona’s and WhyNoKids.com (and on Facebook as Why No Kids?)

  • http://www.ramonacreel.com Ramona Creel

    Thanks for the reply Brian — I do agree that there are a lot of CF folks out there who are simply angry, and they turn to attacking breeders instead of offering logical arguments for not having children (in fact, I have a blog coming out on 12/21 that you might like, called “Child-Free Pride, or Breeder-Bashing?” I have a problem with this, which I why I generally try to approach my blogs with a sense of calm and lack of name-calling (at least relative to many of the other rants I’ve heard online — I’m normally pretty even-keeled, so please forgive me the occasional “breeders are to blame” comment!) Go read some of my other posts, and you’ll see that, while I make liberal use of a snarky and cynical sense of humor, I do try to be fair about most issues. And that’s why I was so taken aback at being accused of “anger, idiocy, and child-free extremes” — I think I’m actually a very reasonable no-kidder, and I often end up butting heads with the “kids are evil” contingent because I don’t feel that all reproduction should be eliminated. I just ask for a little bit of restraint, a little moderation, and a conscious decision if you’re going to have them.

    But more importantly, I don’t feel that inflation is the way to boost our economy — we inflated for years, and once the bubble burst, we were screwed. As the 80′s taught us, inflation may work for the upper-income tiers, but it doesn’t actually “trickle down” and it’s not going to help those at the bottom (I’m also a former social worker, so my sense of how well the economy is doing has little to do with who can afford luxury cars and big houses — in my mind, it’s all about how our poorest citizens are faring, and even during the “boom” of the Reagan years, that wasn’t very good compared to other industrialized nations). I believe that (as with reproduction) a sense of moderation and personal responsibility is the key to long-term sustainable growth for everyone, top to bottom. Folks who spend more than they make (and that includes companies) need to be reigned in, we need to cut back on gross excesses, we have to require more transparency and accountability from corporate America and government spending, and we need to be more aware (and disapproving) of companies like Wal-Mart that destroy communities and rape the environment and take advantage of captive labor pools in third-world countries in the name of saving a buck. We must start demanding MORE of ourselves as a society. And I don’t just mean more “production.” GDP is a relative measure (and it actually increases when bad things happen, like war and divorce, environmental pollution and disease, because these all generate income when it comes time to clean up the mess) — so I’m not convinced that’s the end-all-be-all solution to our problems. We are supposedly the richest and most powerful country in the world — when are we going to start holding ourselves to a higher standard? That’s when things will improve in more than just relative terms.

  • http://www.ramonacreel.com Ramona Creel

    Oh, and I’ll try to be better about quoting stats in my blogs — I’ve been quoting the same numbers over and over and over again related to population and resources consumed by each new child and all that, it gets a bit repetitive. But clearly, when I don’t site a source, I get busted — so I’ll be conscious of that in the future! Thanks for keeping me in line! ;)

  • Brigitte Starkey

    Brian, you wanted to know: Somehow I have the ability to make people think on a global level. Making people aware of their options is part of my service…and it seems I’m always “on.”

    I don’t believe in blindly convincing anyone when it comes to lifelong choices but I do always point them to resources where they can get informed. If we get people to open their eyes and minds we are half-way there to curing this planet.

  • http://brianwnk.wordpress.com brianwnk

    Thank you both. Great points and interesting comments. Ramona, please keep us posted on your work/blog and don’t be afraid to share links directly on our Facebook page. A note to my own comments about inflation: of course inflation without growth is destructive for everybody, but spending money, whether that is the government or individuals that can afford it is needed to stimulate the economy and keep us from swallowing the bitter pill of deflation I think. I agree that serious changes are needed, but I don’t know if we can afford to make some of them now. Keep in touch and continue to keep me in check when I am the one doing the name calling? :) (And sorry about the misspellings…)

  • Stephon Agave

    What about immigration to replace the Americans not being born?

    • http://brianwnk.wordpress.com brianwnk

      Absolutely Stephon. There are a number of stories on the web that discuss how immigration reform can help the economy, including a link at the end of my post I think. Acknowledging and welcoming the immigrants that are already contributing to our society, and collecting taxes from them may be a decent place to start, along with keeping talented professionals and students in our workforce by allowing them to stay. Thoughts?

  • Stephon Agave

    (Okay, I) studied economics, worked in finance and have a mathematical and theoretical grasp on reality that isn’t overwhelmed by anger or idiocy or child-free ideological extremes.

    Word. I can’t tell you how many CBC forums/lists/groups etc I ditched because of the endless, nasty, whining.

  • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

    Wow, I just found this blog and I thought I might stick around, but after reading this entry, definitely not. Capitalist exploitation and the upcoming crash in oil, food and fresh water as a REASON for breeding? Is this some kind of sick joke? April’s Fools in December? I’m not interested in what you’re selling…

    • http://brianwnk.wordpress.com brianwnk

      Hi Francois.

      Thank you for reading and commenting. I understand your frustration. If you had read on and explored the site a bit, you would have found many pieces about population problems, the impact of birth rates and the population on the environment and our societies, and the desperate need for family planning.

      I do think you may have misinterpreted our intent. My wife and are are child-free, in part, because our concerns about the environment, society and the systems that have trapped us in a seemingly impossible cycle of growth by necessity. One in four kids in the US went to bed hungry last night and we have more people living in poverty than any time since 1993. We can’t afford the kids we have now, yet we need to grow and consume more. So what do we do? That is up to us individually, but this story offered some evidence (via links) of what other countries are doing to fight deflation and bolster their economies. We are not here to promote ideology or ignore other points of view. If that’s what you want, there are plenty of places to get it.

      I don’t think you and I disagree though. This piece was written simply to highlight another point of view (using material from CNN and the BBC and more) and acknowledge the Catch-22 that market economies are trapped in regarding the economy and our need to grow constantly. I also wanted to present evidence (the linked stories) to readers that countered another bloggers claims. That blogger took issue with the piece as well, as you might expect. She is intelligent and thoughtful and we had a good back-and-forth in the comments section.

      I admitted that the POV presented in the story was simplistic and did not consider the negative effects of overpopulation. But the system we live in provides many incentives to have children and blaming breeders for the mess, I felt, was wrong-minded too. So we wanted to stir things up, support other points of view with links to news, and invite others to offer there thoughts too. The piece was by no means an attempt to promote one view, so much as it was to shoot down a singular view (“blame breeders”) and invite some more questions, comments, criticism, which I hope it will continue to do. Someone will offer up evidence of the cost of resource shortages and traffic and hunger and other costly inefficiencies we get as we try to keep growing and continue to offer economic incentives to families to make more babies etc. etc… And we will proudly post it here.

  • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

    An oversimplistic economic analysis does not shoot down the view that we should blame breeders. We’re all on an amusement ride that hurtling towards a brick wall and you’re shouting “WELL MAYBE WE SHOULDN’T ONLY BLAME THE AMUSEMENT PARK OWNERS! IF THE RIDE JUST STOPPED SUDDENLY BEFORE WE HIT THAT WALL, WE MIGHT SCRAPE OUR ELBOWS OR GET A CONCUSSION!”

    Sorry… I don’t buy it.

    • http://brianwnk.wordpress.com brianwnk

      Fair enough. You are officially invited to post a guest blog with links to articles and evidence (it’s out there) noting the economic impact of overpopulation. In the meantime, you may want to take your complaints to the IRS, CNN and the BBC. An amusement ride is nothing without people and money to ride it and run it, unfortunately… Thanks again for your contributions to the conversation. Your comments are welcome here. And please note, that my voice is only one of a variety here at WNK.

  • http://francoistremblay.wordpress.com/ Francois Tremblay

    Thanks for the invite, but no thanks. There are plenty of other blogs to read on the topic, and I have no particular reason to stick to this one.

  • http://childfreematchmaker.com Vern Southern

    Wow. I can’t believe what I am reading. We should all breed so capitalists can continue to make money? With the global population 7.2 billion and climbing the projection is we could reach 20 billion by the year 2050. When we run out of oil to sell, trees to cut down for houses and the air and water is so polluted nothing will grow, what then? Having more children is not the answer. Changing the way we consume it the solution. Consuming more efficiently and limiting the number of people on the planet will make life better for everyone.