Wednesday, July 24, 2013

NYTimes: Conservatives are Janus-faced on the issue of family size and having more children

Eduardo Porter has an important perspective on the “Business Day” page for the New York Times today (Wednesday July 24, 2013), “Pro-Baby, But Stingy with Money”, link here.  Porter refers to a December 2012 piece on the same topic by Ross Douthat, “More Babies, Please” which in turn referred to a Pew Research study that showed that the US had dipped to its lowest birthrate ever in 2011 (link given here Nov. 30, 2012)

Porter’s main point is that conservatives may talk like they are pro-baby and may tend to have more children, but they are likely to oppose more government programs to help families with children.  Ironically, it’s the singles (and often LGBT people) who would have to “sacrifice” to provide more public money to families with children – a point that “conservatives” actually miss.  The singles may get particularly hard later in life by eldercare demands.

 US Fertility dropped after the baby boom as more women worked as professionals, and then gradually recovered.  But it is true that it has tended to drop during hard economic times, and is creeping back lower because there are fewer immigrants from high birth-rate countries.  And many countries in Europe are quickly learning the economic challenges of a low birthrate, aging population.

Douthat had alluded to the idea that as countries get richer, many people are loathe to make “sacrifices” for future generations.  It may be that they are already making the sacrifices for eldercare for their previous generations.  That logic sounds suspicious, and would suggest that as a matter of course, many adults don’t naturally want children unless there is a social pressure to have them.

Yet that sort of thinking seems to be behind Russia’s recent “crackdown on homosexuality” (or pro-gay speech), discussed on the LGBT blog Monday  The fear is that many men will decide that the don’t want or need children, and that having to support a nursing mother isn’t sexually interesting any more.  Again, there is something to this:  it’s interesting to you if you know that everyone else will or has to do it.

Certainly, the disconnect between marriage and having children in public thinking (and the less insistence on gender as well as psychological complementarity) has a lot to do with the sudden growth in public acceptance of same-sex marriage

This sort of thinking was common a half-century ago, but we didn’t see it.  Now, it is a direct challenge to individualism and modern ideas about choice and personal responsibility that goes with it.  

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