It’s often said that people that cannot pay their own way should not have children. This is something I used to believe very fervently. I still do believe it, but I have come to believe it’s a lot more complicated than people make it out to be. This post is about the problematic nature of that broad statement. For the purposes of this post, I am going to rely on the following assumptions:

  1. If we restrict trade imports, it will lead to a decline in outsourcing and an increase in American jobs. As a result, there will be more jobs and the wages of those jobs will be higher than they currently are because the workers will not be competing with Asians willing to work for pennies on the dollar.
  2. If we restrict immigration (legal and illegal), it will lead to fewer candidates for each position. As a result, there will be more jobs available for actual Americans and the wages of those jobs will be higher than they currently are because the workers will not be competing with immigrants who do not have the leverage to ask for better pay.
  3. If we increase the minimum wage to a livable wage, it will lead to higher wages that allow more people to make a livable wage and fewer people will rely on welfare.
  4. If we increase the Earned Income Tax Credit, it will lead to more people making a living wage through the pay they receive from their employer and the tax breaks and credits they receive.
  5. Government works programs have the ability to create jobs that result in a net increase in the total number of jobs. As a result, the worker-to-vacancy ratio decreases, more people are working, and wages increase.

Whether these assumptions are actually true or not is subject to debate. I don’t believe they are all true (though some are at least partially true). For the sake of tihs post I assume these things simply to avoid the discussion getting sidetracked. Most likely, each of you (except Larry and other fervent libertarians) believe that at least one or two of the above is true. That’s all that is important. Now, back to the subject at hand.

Whether one is actually paying their own way depends on a number of factors. It depends on the talent or intelligence someone has, the skills they are willing and able to develop, their personal drive, and (this is the important part) the opportunities available to him or her. While the overall strength of the economy is also important, that last part is crucial because in many cases the opportunities available to them depend on the very same government that, in the absence of their ability to find a job, will help them get by through more direct support.

If one is a hard-core, cut-throat libertarian and does not believe that any of the above are legitimate, then the number of people that are truly paying their own way may be very small indeed. To some extent, it means that everyone whose job is under threat because of immigrants or outsourcing but whose job is saved is actually dependent on the government for their livable wage. This is not to argue against these policies. From a non-libertarian’s perspective, the fact that the government might have needed to intervene in order to protect jobs elicits a strong “So what?”. People who are given a job to do (that pays a livable wage).

But that’s the rub. Those that are not given a job to do because the government has declined to intervene or those that do not take jobs that would not support their families or those that have to take jobs and can’t support their families on them are not always going to be substantively different – from an ethical perspective – from those of us fortunate enough to have the skills, connection, and luck to find jobs that do pay well enough to support oneself. Now, we could argue that things in the US are good enough that anyone with a degree of intelligence and werewithal can make a living wage if they so chose. That may be true, but it is not necessarily so.

What do we do about the cases of people that are perfectly willing to work and would prefer to support themselves if given the opportunity but simply lack the opportunity? Do we say that these people should not reproduce? Simply because society has not found a way for them to contribute? Maybe you’re thinking “it’s not society’s job to help people find ways to contribute”, though if you believe any of the Six Assumptions are true and support those policies on that basis, you have to some degree determined that it is indeed the government’s domain to help people find ways to contribute. Maybe you’re thinking “well, to some extent maybe, but not to help everybody.” If so, you’re determining the ability to reproduce based on who you think should be assisted in supporting themselves and you’re using the fact that they can support themselves (with our assistence) to justify their reproduction over those that cannot support themselves without our assistence. (Keep in mind, I am not talking about people that refuse to work or have no interest in working.) It’s a lottery, of sorts. And maybe from a government perspective that is a good idea if you can only help some but not all of those that would be able to support themselves with job protection or assistence, but in terms of fairness or morality towards and between individuals that do not have the right skills in the right economy, it doesn’t hold much water.

To repeat an important point, the question of whether the position that only people that pay their own way should be reproducing is a fair and reasonable one to take is also dependent on how one views the American economy. If you believe that people are being left behind due to circumstances outside their control and their abilities and that the only way to rectify this is through some of the Six Assumptions, you’re standing on weak ground. If you look at the American economy and believe that anyone that wants to make it here can, then that position makes a good deal of sense.

However, even if that was the case yesterday and is the case today, (or if that would be the case if we would just change some policy or another) it is not necessarily the case tomorrow regardless of our policy decisions (unless we go Luddite). One can easily imagine a future in which automation results in an increasing number of Americans being made redundant. That our manufacturing employment sector is struggling is hard to dispute, but our manufacturing output is actually quite strong. The difference is that machines are making things more than people are. This could continue to the service sector as well. Then, by the end, we have a whole lot of engineer-types that are still useful and only menial-types (and artistic-types) that have the connections to get one of the very, very few jobs in their sector. So imagine for a moment where we reach the point where 40% of the population would be better off if the bottom 60% disappeared tomorrow. Does that mean that the bottom 60% should not be reproducing?

Now, even if you do not believe that this high-tech future could come to pass for one reason or another, the policy implications on the Six Assumptions can still be there. Or at least the first two. Imagine that some combination of 30% of Americans including but not limited to most of America’s best and brightest can work it out so that they can give the remaining 70% of Americans their walking papers and be better. They can simply import talent that they can export just as soon as they stop being useful. They can outsource everything except what they do. As a result, as employers they can get by paying their employees considerably less. The products they buy and services they get are cheaper because the labor required to produce (or pick or mine) them are cheaper. Life for them – and remember that they are by and large the maximum producers and capital holders – is dramatically improved. The Bottom 70% are not paying their own way since their very existence makes life slightly less convenient for the Top 30%.

The primary counterargument would be that the Bottom 70% comprise the majority and therefore it is their livelihood, and not that of the Top 30%, that should be taken more into account. Maybe so, but it’s unlikely that this happens all at once. Most likely it’s the Bottom 20% that first stops being able to reproduce. Then it’s the next 20% (in all likelihood the next 20% – and maybe the first – includes intelligent but uncharismatic or personally difficult people). And so on and so on. But beyond that, where precisely do you draw the line. Is the Top 60% really acceptable so that getting rid of the Bottom 40% making their life somewhat better is worthwhile simply because 60% comprises a majority?

Your mileage may vary greatly, but here are my three main takeaways from this line of thinking:

First, the ability to pay one’s own way is highly dependent on factors beyond one’s control. A person that sails in one society sinks in another. Some people will sail in any society and others will sink in any society, but beyond that it’s really quite variable and dependent on matters of economy and government policy. As such, the moral distinction between being able to pay one’s own way versus not being able to is marginal unless one lives in a society where everyone that works hard can pay their own way.

Therefore, if a society is wealthy enough that it can help people support themselves that otherwise would not have a place to, it should do so. This is one of the things that I believe we have society for. I am not advocating welfare or foodstamps here, because the primary distinction ought not be between those that can pay their own way and those that can’t, but rather between those that are willing to try work hard and exhibit reasonable discipline to try to do so. It’s not about wealth distribution per se (because I am including trade policy and immigration policy, to the extent that they help). It’s an imperative to to the extent that society can, it should find a way for as many people as possible to contribute however they can and allowing them to live a respectable life for doing so.

Third, If a society simply cannot support the weight of its redundant but able workforce, then that’s a different matter but an unfortunate one for those that are ultimately excluded. And we should bear in mind that those we are excluding are often going to be victims of circumstance rather than lazy bums.

Now, this post is more political than I usually get here at Hit Coffee, but I’ve kept it abstract for a reason. I don’t want to get to debating the merits of individual proposals for How To Save The Middle And Working Classes or anything like that. Everyone has their theories. I have my doubts about at least a few of the Six Assumptions, so don’t take this post to mean that I am advocating any of those policies. I mention policies from the right and left merely to cover more ground. While I am aware that there are reasons put forth to restrict immigration having nothing to do with jobs or wage-suppression, this post is not about those other reasons. Also, this post is looking at those that cannot pay their own way that are generally well-behaved. The negative externality of crime is not applicable here as that could theoretically be addressed without regard to one’s ability to pay one’s own way.

Update: I make a reference to “Six Assumptions” in the most. I am referring to the five above. There were originally six, though I eliminated the 6th and can’t remember what it was. Also, a big thanks to Web who fixed an HTML problem on my part and made the post readable.

Update II: Maria is contesting the notion that (outside of the immigration population) there is a problem with the lower end of the economic spectrum reproducing in especially high numbers. Honestly, the Idiocracy meme is almost so hardwired it hadn’t even really occurred to me that it might be illusory. A collection of anecdotes where my intelligent but largely non-reproducing family and social network could be something of an exception and the babies that Clancy delivered or stood in the deliver room for the past decade or so might be distorting our perspective. So As it is always good to question the assumptions we sometimes erroneously take for granted, I’m going to look into it.

Update III: Okay, it took me about two minutes to find links demonstrating that birth-rate indeed negatively correlates with education (and thus likely means). What I can’t find, though, is any indication that this is a trend that is becoming more significant. In fact, according to the links I have found, we were dysgenic all of last century. Before the Pill, before the the New Deal, before the Great Society, before abortion. Anyone with any data on how this trend is accelerating or decelerating would be greatly appreciated. It appears as though it is cyclical with the economy with the correlation being strongest during bad economic times. But I’ve only seen references to that as a trend. No data references.


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42 Responses to Paying Your Own Way (Updated)

  1. web says:

    If someone chooses to have kids on limited funds – say, someone who went into a vocation (Clergy? Teaching?) that traditionally pays little, but raises their kids in a family that generally lives within its means but may need help from time to time, I think that’s fine.

    At the point when someone with no job at all has kids specifically because the state support for the kid will increase family income, or else has a larger number of kids than their job supports for the same reason, that’s where I consider it to be a problem.

    Societal ideas on marriage come into play here as well. The framework of two people who live together, have a decent bond to each other, and work together to provide not just the monetary necessities but the rest of the environment to raise a child, isn’t to be underestimated.

  2. rob says:

    Biology denialists both left and right never accepted that after losing a factory job many people don’t become web developers or research chemists because they can’t. It is cruel, perhaps even evil for the wealthy and professional-managerial class to drive a huge fraction of Americans out of productive work. I agree with Trumwill on organizing society so that more people can be responsible citizens.

    There may be an ethical difference between people who can’t contribute and people who won’t. It isn’t super obvious to me though. Given the choice between saving one Einstein or five severely retarded children from a burning building, I’m saving Einstein. Well I would run away, but that’s super wrong.

    Who has kids matters. People are disproportionately descended from those who had the most children live to adulthood in the generations before. It seems pretty obvious, but Darwin was the first person who figured it out, and he’ll be remembered forever. Liberals and Jesus conservatives feel that everyone has the right to have as many children as he or she possibly can. Those children have rights to be nurtured and provided for. That’s not sustainable over long periods of time. Like everything else in a well-regulated society, reproduction will have to be. On the other hand, the more I find myself thinking about economics and biology, the more I feel like I’m arguing for gentle fascism. So I think that I’ll stop.

  3. web says:

    There may be an ethical difference between people who can’t contribute and people who won’t.

    There, somewhat, lies the problem. If someone’s skills lie in an area that benefits society, but has a traditionally low monetary value, then I don’t see a reason to say “you’re not contributing enough to have kids” on the basis that they went into a field such as social work, or kindergarten/elementary teaching.

    As Mike Rowe (host of “Dirty Jobs”) points out at the end of this clip from a talk he gave, we’ve also gotten into a false mode whereby we think everyone has to “love their work” rather than having work be work and perhaps one’s passion being in the off-work times, and where we think a lot of people who have a single career are somehow less desirable than people who jump from job to job to job. Not everyone can start their own business; not everyone should really want to.

    Where the oddity comes in is when people take it to extremes. There are those who, rather than being unable to contribute to society, choose not only to make a burden of themselves, but actively have kids for the express purpose of increasing their burden (e.g. family income from the state).

    To a lesser extent, there is also the misguided notion that certain people unable to take care of themselves should still be able to have kids. One of my uncles is 50 years old, with the approximate mental capacity of a three year old. He’s lived with his mother, and then in a state-run institution, because he is incapable of taking care of himself. I personally think it a bit ridiculous that, by law and court decisions, there is no provision for either the state or my family to have some form of sterilization procedure performed on him or others like him – as much for their protection as for society’s.

    And yes, there have been residents of the facility he’s in found pregnant from time to time, and paternity showing the father being another resident.

  4. logtar says:

    The Web guy has a point, maybe not for this discussion in general but for the US. We have been told that you should love what you do to be happy, and that is a lie. If you love your job you are lucky, but most people are not going to love what they do… and the basis of being happy in your job have more to do with attitude than the actual job. I was super happy flipping burgers, and would love to do that all day for a job… but that does not support my standard of living so I got a degree and do a different job now that I like.

    That same notion goes for a lot of people that won’t work. I would go as far as saying that a majority of the simply think that most available jobs are bellow them. So sure, we can curve immigration and outsourcing, but if the people that we have here won’t take those jobs we end up in the same place as before and now we have to pay more for things.

    I know the question is “should those people reproduce?”. This would be the only group of people that I would consider for such measure.

    Then again, this would not happen here in the US. I know plenty of people that look at China’s limiting reproduction as a bad thing, but where would the world be if they did not.

  5. rob says:

    To a lesser extent, there is also the misguided notion that certain people unable to take care of themselves should still be able to have kids.

    Yes. There was a court case a couple years back in Chicago, I read about in on feministe, or feministing, a woman who had been in a severe accident and required a caretaker wanted to have a child. The care giver, her aunt, went to court to have the niece sterilized. The court ruled no, effectively raising the bar for invasive coercive sterilization. Without knowing details, it seems like parenting would fall to the aunt who didn’t want to raise a child so much that she went to court to avoid no. A car accident caused the woman’s disability, so there’s no genetic angle. One can probably fined the post and comment thread on one the sites.

    Yeah, there are people who want to adopt, and there are even people who take in foster children. It may be wonderful that there are people willing to raise children who aren’t theirs. They’re people helping with a problem, that’s not a good reason to have policies that encourage unwanted and neglected children. The supply of foster and adoptive parents is pretty limited. My mom volunteered with as a court appointed child advocate, she said that besides a child’s relatives, only pretty hardcore Christians had foster foster children.

    I should point out that I’m on the parasite end of the scale, so the dog I’m rooting for, he probably ain’t mine.

  6. trumwill says:

    Web, what if the assistance is permanent and substantial? I’m not talking about people actively seeking to live on the dole, but rather a situation where society basically has to give them work to do because too many of the jobs have been replaced by (for instance) automation? What if we advance enough or find a way to find a society that doesn’t really need them? Doesn’t need half of the population?

    If a society doesn’t need half of the population in the sense that resources are stretched too thin, that’s one thing. But if a society doesn’t need half of the population because of its relative wealth (so it can afford to automate, immigrate, or outsource), that to me is another. It seems to me in the latter case that the primary distinction needs to be made primarily on behavioral grounds rather than sustaining grounds.

  7. trumwill says:

    There may be an ethical difference between people who can’t contribute and people who won’t. It isn’t super obvious to me though.

    It’s not just between those who can’t contribute and who won’t, but those who can’t due to some inherent and those who can’t because their niche has been replaced by robots, immigrants, or an outsourcing center in India. It’s hard to make that latter distinction, though, which is why I focus more on the former.

    The supply of foster and adoptive parents is pretty limited.

    In the latter case, the supply is limited when you’re not dealing with infants. When you’re dealing with infants, there’s a long-arse waiting list.

  8. ? says:

    Trumwill: you are very . . . oblique about what specific policy proposals you favor or oppose, so I won’t make any assumptions about them one way or the other. But on a theoretical level:

    If we increase the minimum wage to a livable wage, it will lead to higher wages that allow more people to make a livable wage and fewer people will rely on welfare.

    This depends entirely on the elasticity of demand for unskilled labor.

    If so, you’re determining the ability to reproduce based on who you think should be assisted in supporting themselves and you’re using the fact that they can support themselves (with our assistence) to justify their reproduction over those that cannot support themselves without our assistence.

    These decisions are not always simply a matter of picking the winners and losers. There are all sorts of budgetary, legal, and social constraints on what kind of assistance we can render or are willing to render. For instance, in the not-too-distant past, we use to have in place myriad social controls impeding the propensity of the left half of the bell curve from reducing their limited potential with incontinent sexual behavior. But some people — and you know who you are — didn’t like those controls, so . . . pffft, they’re gone. Meanwhile, most of the alternative interventions fail either in the absolute or cost-benefit analysis.

    Keep in mind, I am not talking about people that refuse to work or have no interest in working.

    This isn’t nearly as bright a dividing line as you appear to believe. Sure, somebody might say he wants to work, but he lacks the moral character, emotional stability, physical health, or mental accuity to be employable in this or any other conceivable economy. She might say she wants to work, but then she shows up late, or drunk, or high, or violent, or insubordinate, or not at all. He might say he wants to work, but then he scares away the customers or steals from his employer. There is no amount of EITC or minimum wage laws that make these individuals economically viable.

    Now, for our present purposes, I’m not making any moral judgment about these people. I only need to be able to draw statistical inferences about the likely social outcomes for any offspring they might produce.

  9. Maria says:

    Does automation eliminate jobs, or does it create higher value jobs? Jobs as the machinists, engineers, and mechanics who design, produce, and maintain the automated production machinery are pretty hard to outsource, as they have to be close to the job site. No one is going to pay $$$$$ to ship some huge piece of production machinery to India to be repaired by 50 cent an hour mechanics.

    The US still leads in manufacturing heavy machinery btw. One of the few manufacturing sectors where we do maintain a dominant edge.

  10. web says:

    Will,

    Given that (real) unemployment in the US is still hovering around 10-15%, and hovered around 20-25% in the Great Depression, I don’t see (absent an incredible change somehow) unemployment ever reaching 50%.

    That being said, part of the relentless march of human society is the point we reach where overpopulation becomes a going problem. One solution (not joking) was the invention of the flush toilet, which enabled the packing of a lot of people together in a smaller area and allows for today’s population-dense cities.

    One problem is that for a large number of the world’s poor, the modus operandi is to have as many kids as possible. Birth control isn’t an option, superstition (sometimes masquerading as religion) blocks even the use of free condoms. So in areas like the Middle East, or poor African nations, or India, or South America, where population growth just pushes on its own. And even in the more “developed” nations, circumstances have made it so that the most heavily growing portions of society tend to be the lower-class “parasites” (the higher-class “parasite class” being those who thrive on the transfer of what others have created).

    I’m a fan of the movie Idiocracy. As an allegorical tale, it hits the mark just about square-on.

  11. trumwill says:

    you are very . . . oblique about what specific policy proposals you favor or oppose, so I won’t make any assumptions about them one way or the other.

    Purposefully so. I don’t want to get into the merits of trade restriction or immigration restriction or minimum wage law because everyone’s got their own bag to carry. The policy prescriptions for what I am proposing can be used to support a number of things that I actually disagree with (because I doubt the efficacy or because I believe it is outweighed by the negative externalities). My main goal is the present the three bolded arguments at the end.

    This isn’t nearly as bright a dividing line as you appear to believe. Sure, somebody might say he wants to work, but he lacks the moral character, emotional stability, physical health, or mental accuity to be employable in this or any other conceivable economy.

    Fair point. We can consider those that are incapable of working in any economy along with those that seek to live off the public dole. If I had a policy prescription, it would be geared towards (a) finding work for those that are willing and able to work and (b) giving those willing and able to work a livable wage before (c) deciding that they’re not paying their own way.

    Now, for our present purposes, I’m not making any moral judgment about these people. I only need to be able to draw statistical inferences about the likely social outcomes for any offspring they might produce.

    Outcomes for whom, though? The social outcomes for their kids that are born are almost always going to be better than if they were not born. The social outcomes for those around them may be negative… unless those around them are similarly banned from reproducing. Getting rid of the Bottom 50% may produce real positive gains for the Top 50%, but worse ones for the Bottom 50 if they desire reproduction.

  12. trumwill says:

    Does automation eliminate jobs, or does it create higher value jobs? Jobs as the machinists, engineers, and mechanics who design, produce, and maintain the automated production machinery are pretty hard to outsource, as they have to be close to the job site.

    Well, it does both. If you produce ten machines that do the work of twenty people and have one person whose job it is to oversee the machine and fractions of people involved in the design and production of this machinery that equal .2 people per machine, you’ve employed a couple of people at the expense of twenty relatively low-wage people.

    Our manufacturing sector remains strong, output-wise, despite a really weak job market in part because of this phenomenon.

  13. trumwill says:

    Given that (real) unemployment in the US is still hovering around 10-15%, and hovered around 20-25% in the Great Depression, I don’t see (absent an incredible change somehow) unemployment ever reaching 50%.

    It’s not unforseeable. As things become automated, I am not certain that our jobs sector will really be able to keep up. Even if the jobs are often there, the ratio of willing worker to job available could be so high that people working a lot more jobs than present will not be able to support themselves.

    Even those that are employed are often failing to pay their own way if they rely on government policy to protect their jobs or wages and rely on government assistance by way of the EITC and other government programs to get by. I’d imagine that if you calculated in the cost of educating their children alone, you would see a very high portion of the population that’s not actually paying their own way. It wouldn’t surprise me if it were around 50% or even higher.

    It’s not at all inconceivable to me that we could reach a point (at some point in the future or now with some economic restructuring) where we need half of the population we have and we can give the rest their genetic walking papers. If you’re okay with that due to overpopulation, then I think we’re deadlocked.

  14. Maria says:

    Our manufacturing sector remains strong, output-wise, despite a really weak job market in part because of this phenomenon.

    Even so, at least we would keep some blue-collar jobs in the US, keep some tax base in the US, and lower our enormous trade deficit with China and other countries. As opposed to outsourcing which takes all jobs away, takes all tax base away, and increases our enormous trade decifict with China an other countries.

    And I’m not convinced that the job creation ratio of increased automation is as you described. Did you not just use those figures hypothetically? Perhaps the ratio is five (higher paying, more secure) jobs created for every 20 (lower paying, less secure) jobs eliminated.

  15. Meadowlark says:

    If I had a policy prescription, it would be geared towards (a) finding work for those that are willing and able to work and (b) giving those willing and able to work a livable wage before (c) deciding that they’re not paying their own way.

    Are there working Americans dying on the street or going hungry right now? Don’t we kind of have (a) and (b) covered at the moment?

  16. trumwill says:

    Maria, to be clear I am not proposing outsourcing in lieu of automation. I mostly bring up automation as an example of an employment problem for which there is no easy fix.

    The 2-to-20 ratio is indeed hypothetical. I think that it depends on the nature of the equipment as to what the ratio is. I also think, however, that one of the goals of those creating the equipment and the software is to require as little in the way of human maintenance as possible. I expect that the ratio will increase over time.

  17. ? says:

    Outcomes for whom, though?

    Crime? Mental illness? Addiction? These externalities are born disproportionately by other poor people, but they are born by everybody to one degree or another. This is the present reality. Which interests me a lot more than gaming out some hypothetical dystopian scenario.

    The social outcomes for their kids that are born are almost always going to be better than if they were not born.

    Unless we are talking about abortion, as opposed to birth control, then you are making a Monty-Python-esque parody of the prolife position.

  18. trumwill says:

    Are there working Americans dying on the street or going hungry right now? Don’t we kind of have (a) and (b) covered at the moment?

    Could be! As I said in the post, if one believes that the soil is rich enough that you can get ahead in this country with hard work and diligence, then a lot of this is moot. We should keep in mind, however, that (a) it may not always be the case and (b) they get by in part due to the support infrastructure that a lot of people who support limited reproduction at the bottom would prefer dismantle. Of course, the libertarian would respond that absent government the economy would be robust enough that this would be the case in any event. I don’t believe that, but I understand that point of view and once upon a time shared it.

  19. trumwill says:

    Crime? Mental illness? Addiction? These externalities are born disproportionately by other poor people, but they are born by everybody to one degree or another. This is the present reality. Which interests me a lot more than gaming out some hypothetical dystopian scenario.

    As I said at the end of the post, this is something of a separate thing for me. If you want to limit the reproduction of criminals and the mentally ill, that’s not on the basis of being able to provide for oneself. It’s the difference between cutting off reproduction for the bottom 5-10% and cutting it off for the bottom 20-50%.

    Unless we are talking about abortion, as opposed to birth control, then you are making a Monty-Python-esque parody of the prolife position.

    Is it that much of a parody, though? I mean, isn’t that kind of the Catholic position on birth control. And masturbation, vasectomies, and tubal ligations for that matter?

    In any event, I’m not trying to make a parody of any position here. Just pointing out that creating a policy in which one would not be born in the future is uncomfortable for those that would not have been born if the policy had not been enacted in the first place. A child never born due to infertility or birth control is a long way off from one that’s aborted which is (in my view) a ways off from one that dies after birth.

    Maybe to you it’s a frivolous or unserious point. It’s a relatively minor one for me, to be honest. But then, I’m not Catholic.

    -{Modified to remove a pointless paragraph and add a few examples}-

  20. Peter says:

    One problem is that for a large number of the world’s poor, the modus operandi is to have as many kids as possible. Birth control isn’t an option, superstition (sometimes masquerading as religion) blocks even the use of free condoms. So in areas like the Middle East, or poor African nations, or India, or South America, where population growth just pushes on its own.

    Fertility rates in most of those regions have fallen significantly in just the last decade or two. Some of the poorest African countries still have high rates, as do a few outliers elsewhere such as Afghanistan and Yemen, but they’ll probably come around soon enough.

  21. Maria says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_territories_by_fertility_rate

    Worldwide fertility rate chart bears Peter out. Of course it is Wikipedia, so grain of salt and all that, but I’ve seen other sources that are basically in line.

    All regions are converging toward Western norms of fertility, some at a lower pace than others (Africa and a few Muslim countries.)

  22. trumwill says:

    Fertility rates in most of those regions have fallen significantly in just the last decade or two.

    I remember in high school there was a “population bomb” demonstration in sociology class that was downright frightening as the number of yellow dots filled the screen. The time horizon was between then (1990 or so?) and 2025. Made a real Malthusian of me for a little while. What the chart did not reflect is that reproduction rates do change. Particularly along with industrialization and economic opportunity.

  23. trumwill says:

    Does anyone have some good numbers on whether the lower classes in the US are actually reproducing at higher rates than in times’ past? As a portion of the population it’s undeniable, though (and this is a genuine question) how much of that is the upper classes reproducing in much smaller numbers?

  24. Maria says:

    trumwill: Nobody’s producing at “higher fertility rates” in the US except for illegal Hispanic immigrants, and a few outliers like Mormons and Amish. Native-born Hispanics have a slightly higher fertility rate than whties or blacks, but not huge.

    Illegals have the highest fertility rate in the US, as noted by a recent study which pointed out that 8 percent of all births are to illegal immigrants.

    These are off the top of my head but if you hunt around you could probably find them:

    “non-hispanic” whites: 1.9
    Asians: same as above
    blacks: 2.0-2.1
    hispanics total: 2.3 to 2.4, something like that
    illegal hispanics: 3-something

    Immigration is the prime contributor to population growth in the US, something like 80 percent of all population growth is due to illegal and legal immigration.

  25. Maria says:

    PS — Obviously the numbers above do not divide by income/class but it’s probably safe to roughly assume that white and Asian incomes are higher than black and Hispanic ones.

  26. web says:

    Will,

    That’s a false statistic. Comparing fertility rates of the lower (with a higher population of lower intelligence) classes against their own past performance isn’t quite right.

    You need to factor in (a) increased survivability of the kids of the dunce classes (and with increased medical access, this has gone up) along with (b) increased proportional representation of the dunce classes against the overall fertility rate.

    A nation can still breed itself into idiocy if the dunce classes never change their breeding pattern, if the more intelligent people slow their fertility rate into near nonexistence.

  27. web says:

    Maria,

    There are another whole host of problems brought in by the statistic you offer, but they’re of the sort Will really didn’t want entering this discussion.

  28. trumwill says:

    Web, it can’t be a false statistic unless the data is wrong. It may be an irrelevant or misleading statistic. But I consider it an interesting one regardless as a distinction between saying “their behavior has changed and this is awful” and “our behavior has changed so we need their behavior to change too,” though some may not see a distinction there or may not see the relevance of it (and immigration patterns do indeed muddy that distinction). It tells us how much of the dysgenic patterns are due to the upper classes breeding less and how much of it is due to the lower classes breeding more. The portion of the population is arguably a more important statistic, but neither is irrelevant. I never implied that proportions were unimportant. I was just curious about changes in patterns over time.

  29. trumwill says:

    There are another whole host of problems brought in by the statistic you offer, but they’re of the sort Will really didn’t want entering this discussion.

    Indeed. I appreciate the fact that we are treading carefully here.

  30. Maria says:

    There are another whole host of problems brought in by the statistic you offer, but they’re of the sort Will really didn’t want entering this discussion.

    Then you can’t really have the discussion at all, because native-born Americans, regardless of class and income level, are not reproducing above replacement levels.

  31. trumwill says:

    I’m not sure that replacement levels matter to those that are concerned about dysgenics and people having children that they are incapable of supporting. Close the borders up tomorrow and while I am sure many would be thrilled (because there is a tremendous overlap on these two issues), it wouldn’t solve the main two problems, which is poor people having kids that they cannot afford to support and dysgenic reproduction patterns that can occur above or below the replacement rate.

  32. web says:

    Will,

    I’d love to see a breakdown of rates by income bracket, rather than the somewhat misleading “race and legal status” question. It seems that will get to the heart of the issue easier, though it is very true that the statistic Maria quoted on illegals would contribute to a trend higher in the lower income brackets.

    Maria, I was referring to the problems involving poor/illegal youth and underage crime or gang membership, and as well the resurgence of certain diseases that the US hasn’t seen in decades. That was what I was warning away from discussing.

    Overall, except for governmental ponzi schemes like Social Security, it seems that a global population retraction would probably not (in sum total) be a bad thing. Certainly the housing market might suffer a bit, but it could help eliminate some of the slum-housing problems faced by many urban centers too.

  33. Maria says:

    31.I’m not sure that replacement levels matter to those that are concerned about dysgenics and people having children that they are incapable of supporting.

    will, the numbers will say that any “dysgenic” native born fertility is insignificant compared with imported “dysgenic” fertility. Sorry but that would be like being concerned about getting your cold sore treated while ignoring your advanced melanoma.

    Again, it can’t be discussed without discussing the dreaded “i” word. Sorry.

  34. trumwill says:

    If I believed it’s the case that the problem can be solved by securing the border (all other considerations being insignificant), then that does indeed make it an immigration discussion and as such I would have refrained from posting on it.

  35. Maria says:

    If I believed it’s the case that the problem can be solved by securing the border (all other considerations being insignificant), then that does indeed make it an immigration discussion and as such I would have refrained from posting on it.

    Okay if you want to just limit it to native-born Americans, where are all these dysgenic native-born Americans procreating like crazy?

    Inner-city ghettos? Yet the numbers don’t show it. They’re having kids, but not huge numbers of kids. And the birth rate is, unfortunately, balanced by lower life expectancies (compared to other ethnic groups) and high incarceration rates.

    Rural America? The numbers don’t show it. West Virginia has a below-replacement fertility rate just like most white-majority states.

  36. Maria says:

    Here is a state-by-state comparison of birth rates if anyone is interested:

    http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0763849.html#axzz0wv3tP8ru

    Notice that the poor white states like W. Virginia and Tennessee only have a little bit higher fertility rate than the rich white states (New England.) Also the Southeastern states with large black populations do not have that high of a birth rate either.

    Higher birth rates are found in the border states (California, Texas) and in a few states with majorities of socially conservative, but presumably mostly middle-class white people (Alaska, Idaho, Utah.)

  37. trumwill says:

    I’m a poor spokesman for dysgenics-fear as it is not something that weighs as heavily on my mind as on the minds of others. Web or Phi would probably do a better job explaining (unless they, too, would cease worrying about it if the immigration issue were successfully tackled).

    But the gist of it is this: Regardless of absolute numbers, it’s the distribution of the population that is more important. If the capable stop reproducing, the demographics get skewed towards the incapable. This is an issue whether the replacement rate is .5 or 2. See Web’s Comment #26. Whether we blame the capable for failing to reproduce or the incapable for continuing to reproduce or for not cutting reproduction enough (see My Comment #28), the problem remains.

    So is the maldistribution (absent the immigration issue) occurring? Maybe not! It sure seems like it is based on what I’ve seen among those around me and from Clancy’s job, but it could be illusory. The racial breakdown suggests that it may indeed be perceptual. If so then all the better, as far as I am concerned. What I’d really like to see is an economic breakdown. Then, when I look at my friends and my siblings and siblings-in-law that have decided to go childless (or in some cases have even already had vasectomies) and I consider what Clancy deals with day in and day out, I can reassure myself with the idea that (at least as far as the non-immigration population is concerned) it’s not changing as much as I think it is.

  38. stone says:

    I view it as: Some people’s children are a contribution to society as adults, and others are a drag as adults. We need to encourage the former and discourage the latter. I strongly suspect the set of those whose parents supported them on welfare tends to fall largely into the latter category, but I’d be happy to be convinced otherwise.

  39. Maria says:

    For what it’s worth my sis-in-law is an OB-GYN and she absolutely agrees that the stupids are outbreeding the smarties, but her perspective is skewed by practicing in a border state and accepting many Medi-Cal patients, if you catch my drift.

    That said, it’s encouraging on the whole that the worldwide fertility rate is declining so quickly.

  40. trumwill says:

    Maria, we actually used to live in the southwest for a couple years before you started commenting (though I don’t know how long you’ve been lurking). Clancy dealt with what you’re talking about there, but she also dealt with rural whites in Mormonland, urban blacks in the south, tribespeople on a reservation, and urban whites in the northwest. None of these locations have given her much solace in that regard. Jury is still out on rural whites from the non-Mormon west.

  41. Maria says:

    In fact, according to the links I have found, we were dysgenic all of last century. Before the Pill, before the the New Deal, before the Great Society, before abortion.

    I guess that you could argue that the difference would be that before the welfare state, lower IQ people would lose some population due to child mortality and/or diseases or accidents caused by stupidity, etc.

    Once the welfare state breaks down, presumably we will return to some of those situations.

  42. Maria says:

    Regarding the desirability of a fiscally conservative, manufacturing-based economy versus a debt-ridden, consumerist-based economy, you might be interested in my post here:

    http://mariatheproblem.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/two-economies/

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