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Another Doofus Attacks Single People

I’m getting really, really tired of the steady drumbeat of hand-wringing from far too many people about the fact that more people are remaining single instead of getting married, many of whom also don’t have kids. As someone who is both single and childless, it’s a little tiresome to be told by one dumbass after another that I’m selfish and can’t be virtuous. Benjamin Schwartz does it again in a review of a book on the subject.

Individuals don’t transfer values from one generation to the next. Individuals are biologically incapable of producing a next generation except in the crudest possible sense of the term. Socialization—the process through which a person internalizes what is good and bad, meaningful and meaningless—is shaped by one’s relatives, the friends and associates who surround a person, and typically a canon of texts that is revered and consulted for guidance. The values of expressive individualism guarantee that the values of future generations will be more or less up for grabs for the simple reason that expressive individualists have a difficult time replicating (the demographic data don’t lie) and an even more difficult time socializing a child.

It’s true that expressive individualists do connect with one another for varying periods of time and do at least fairly often have children. But the deliberately atomistic quality of their value system makes it difficult for these children to understand, let alone continue, whatever moral traditions their parents may affirm and display. In this respect, today’s expressive individualists bear some comparison to a 19th-century millennial sect called the Harmony Society. Founded in Germany in 1785, the Harmonists were a Protestant community that flourished in Indiana between 1825 and 1850. At the time, its members were known for their social conscience and economic success. Yet these virtues weren’t enough to ensure the sect’s survival for one simple reason: It promoted celibacy. The Harmonists, like today’s expressive individualists, were ethical, hardworking, productive people, but their way of life proved unsustainable because their values failed to foster successor generations…

Nonetheless, American individualism seems to have been fed a rich diet in recent decades. That diet has consisted of both the general infusion of market-fundamentalist metaphors in our social and intellectual life and by a range of technological innovations. Both phenomena threaten to deplete stock of social capital. Individualism has come to mean no limits on our freedom of maneuver, no obligations arising from a shared history, community and culture. As a matter of objective and, yes, quantitatively measurable reality, we are indeed “going solo”, and most Americans seem to be fine with that—as the generally positive reception of Klinenberg’s book seems to reflect.

The recognition that we are who we are because of our elders raises uncomfortable questions about our responsibility to future generations. If someone in my past forsook instant gratification to allow me to become who I am, does this obligate me to do the same? Am I responsible for ensuring that certain values outlast and outlive me? America’s strength is a function of many factors, but certainly one of them is that for generations citizens answered these questions affirmatively. The popularity of “going solo”, which Klinenberg’s data strongly affirms, doesn’t necessarily mean that Americans are answering “no” to these questions. It’s worse than that: As more of us spend more of our lives alone, we’re less likely to even confront them. By default, we are now allowed the novel conceit that selfishness is a virtue.

And if someone was actually suggesting that others stop getting married or having children, this might be relevant. But it isn’t. My existence as a single person without children does not force or even encourage others to do the same; they can do whatever the hell they want. And I have no obligation to society to get married or have children. My life belongs to me, not to moral busybodies like Schwartz. Don’t like it? Then fuck off.

Comments

  1. says

    Those of us who are choosing not to have kids are bequeathing an environment free of our descendants to the selfish and destructive breeders who will eventually ruin their own biosphere through overpopulation and consumption. Yeah, we’re selfish all right.

  2. eric says

    Socialization—the process through which a person internalizes what is good and bad, meaningful and meaningless—is shaped by one’s relatives, the friends and associates who surround a person, and typically a canon of texts that is revered and consulted for guidance. The values of expressive individualism guarantee that the values of future generations will be more or less up for grabs…

    Utterly idiotic. Its like it never occurs to him that single people can be ‘relatives, friends, and associates.’

  3. dingojack says

    “Individuals don’t transfer values from one generation to the next”.

    Uh – Mr Schwartz, tell that to rabbis, teachers, coaches, mentors and etc.

    Dingo

  4. schmeer says

    How popular was the Harmony Society blog? It’s sad to think of all those 18th century blog readers never procreating and dooming their ideas to only spread as far as the web could take them in 1750. How fortunate that Dispatches can reach a few more people than that, huh?

  5. cptdoom says

    Those of us who are choosing not to have kids are bequeathing an environment free of our descendants to the selfish and destructive breeders who will eventually ruin their own biosphere through overpopulation and consumption. Yeah, we’re selfish all right.

    We are also leaving financial capital to our communities and to our extended families, which tends to enrich them. Damn, I feel more selfish already.

  6. says

    I’m a math professor. I have quite as many children as I want. My disinclination to wed and spawn does not appear to have seriously detracted from my ability to participate in the socialization and enculturation of family members, friends, colleagues, and students.

  7. says

    He essentially criticizes single childless people’s values and then says we don’t transfer our values to the next generation.

    What is it he’s complaining about then?

  8. Pierce R. Butler says

    … the novel conceit that selfishness is a virtue.

    Which conceit overwhelmed and consumed the concept of “novel” with Atlas Shrugged.

    Mr. Schwartz, please try tilting at a modern megawatt windmill.

  9. Nathair says

    the selfish and destructive breeders who will eventually ruin their own biosphere through overpopulation and consumption.

    And, just for balance, another doofus attacks parents breeders.

  10. alanb says

    What the next generation needs is more people who feel coerced and bullied into being parents. Because that’s the best way to create committed, enthusiastic parents.

  11. chrisstaab says

    Why is it that when Ed gets personally offended by something that someone else said, he has to write a blog about it? Hmmmmm……I guess it’s therapeutic.

  12. dingojack says

    By Mr Schwartz’s criterion the Vatican must be the most immoral country on earth (a stopped clock and all that).

    Top five countries in descending order of ‘virtue’
    Liberia, Burundi, Afghanistan, Western Sahara, East Timor [UN 2005]
    Zimbabwe, Niger, Uganda, Turks & Caicos Is., Burundi [CIA Factbook 2011]
    Qatar, Liberia, Niger, Belize, Burkino Faso [World Bank 2009].

    I sure Mr. Schwartz would love to migrate to these paradises of virtue, right?

    Dingo

  13. Gregory in Seattle says

    Individuals are biologically incapable of producing a next generation except in the crudest possible sense of the term.

    Getting married magically makes one fertile?

  14. birgerjohansson says

    This guy makes me think of “The Monsters” by Robert Sheckley.
    Spawning = passing on good values indeed.
    (quote: “Damn! I have to go home and kill my wife!”)

  15. dingojack says

    Chris, don’t you have a radio show to write?*
    Dingo
    —–
    * for the whole 30 people who share your opinion

  16. chrisstaab says

    Ok,…so Ed says “I’m getting really, really tired of the steady drumbeat of hand-wringing from far too many people about the fact that more people are remaining single instead of getting married, many of whom also don’t have kids.” Well I would have to say that if you’re a middle aged individual who doesn’t have anyone to share his/her life with, and has produced 0 children, then what good are you to the human race?

  17. dingojack says

    Chris, you rally are an unimaginative person aren’t you? Is this congenital, or was surgery involved?
    Dingo

  18. says

    I wish these anti-singles would stop treating me like a piece of meat that exists only for sex. I have feelings, you know! They just don’t happen to include romance right now.

    Meanwhile, I’ve got to get my own head above water.

  19. footface says

    I’m a parent, and while that doesn’t make me an expert, I don’t believe any parent anywhere ever made the decision to have children selflessly.

    “We didn’t want children, but decided to anyway. You know, for the benefit of society.”

  20. chrisstaab says

    HAHAHA!!! dingojack: “you rally are an unimaginative person” ??? And they say my grammar is bad. LOL

  21. Akira MacKenzie says

    Reader’s Digest version: “Stop having sex for pleasure, find a Stepford wife to marry and boss around, and breed kids whose heads you can cram with supersticious religious bullshit (i.e. “values”) so they can do the same!”

  22. hieropants says

    Man, I was all set to agree with him when he said individuals don’t create generations because it’s true – children are shaped by the entire society they grow up in and all the people who have a hand in providing for and educating them, not by a single solitary parental figure. But then he apparently thinks that only parents can be a part of that society? What?

    Even if I hadn’t done volunteer work specifically helping kids learn about stuff in my field of experience, I’m still contributing to the society that shapes them through the work I do, the opinions I express, and most of all the taxes I pay. If I don’t wind up having kids of my own, I’ll still be helping to shape their generation – I’ll just be spending time/effort on kids that already exist rather than new ones.

  23. dingojack says

    Yes you can’t even get the ball back over the net! :D
    Still can’t think of functions for such people as you described might play in society?
    Or do those five imaginary cops do your thinking for ya?
    Dingo

  24. dingojack says

    Pardon me Chris* ‘the functions’
    Dingo
    —–
    * the paragon of spelling and grammar excellence (psge)

  25. says

    The idea that someone must have children and indoctrinate those children with the “right” kind of ideals and morals in order to be a useful human being puzzles me.

    My sibling and hir spouse are not going to have children, despite that fact that they medically could have at one time. That doesn’t mean they aren’t adding to this society. And they most certainly are not detriments to society. If anything they contribute a well rounded affect by showing that it’s absolutely okay not to have children if that is one’s choice and that they can leave behind ideas and thoughts that others can learn from and pass on. All without having children of their own.

  26. raven says

    Wait a minute!!!

    Wasn’t jesus the godman himself, single and childless? YES!!!

    How about the Apostles? IIRC, none of them were married or had children.

    Catholic priests are supposedly single and childless although lots of priests have children.

    It says many places in the New Testament that being single, childless, and not having sex is some huge virture. Jesus even recommends that men cut off their testicles “if they can bear it”.

  27. Akira MacKenzie says

    hieropants:

    But then he apparently thinks that only parents can be a part of that society? What?

    I suspect it has to do with the ability of parents, especially fathers, to discipline (i.e. torture) their children when they misbehave or choose not to adhere to daddy’s values.

  28. says

    If parenting is the only way to really transmit values, and single people have the “wrong” values, where the hell does he think the values came from? How is parenting a solution when the majority of single people were parented?

  29. dingojack says

    God has no parents…
    [Adam Savage]‘Well there’s ya problem!’ [/Adam Savage].

    Dingo

  30. raven says

    Benjamin Schwartz illustrate the banality of evil. Or how major stupidity blends in with evil.

    It’s the idea that humans are all the same and what works for one person has to work for all.

    A lot of people should never have had kids!!! Or have them.

    They don’t have the temperament, financial means, intellectual ability, or something. We’ve all seen it many, many times.

    A few examples of thousands.

    1. A 16 year old girl keeps showing up in the ER with her baby. There is nothing wrong with it except that she has no idea what to do with it. CPS locates her parents in Texas. They are both meth addicts so far gone that sometimes they forget they even have a daughter. CPS promptly loses the parent’s address.

    2. Guy is an OK guy, hard working, smart. He is also a schizophrenic who responds well to medication. He meets his wife at group therapy. She is similar. Schizophrenia has a high hereditary component. Their kid…..(you don’t want to know.)

  31. raven says

    troll:

    Ok,…so Ed says “I’m getting really, really tired of the steady drumbeat of hand-wringing from far too many people about the fact that more people are remaining single instead of getting married, many of whom also don’t have kids.” Well I would have to say that if you’re a middle aged individual who doesn’t have anyone to share his/her life with, and has produced 0 children, then what good are you to the human race?

    A stupid moron like christaab is a net negative for the human race.

    Chris, head down to Planned Parenthood and get sterilized right away. Jesus recommends it in the New Testament and you will do the universe a huge favor.

    This is BTW, the 12 year old kid who isn’t too bright who keeps showing up and lobbing stupid comments into the thread. Look chris, the adults are talking among themselves. Don’t you have some toy trucks to play with or something?

  32. says

    Well I would have to say that if you’re a middle aged individual who doesn’t have anyone to share his/her life with, and has produced 0 children, then what good are you to the human race?

    And I would have to say that you don’t appear to be very bright. Not having a partner or children hardly means that a person has no one to share his/her life with.

  33. plutosdad says

    I’m not sure what chrisstaub’s point is, that infertile people should kill themselves? Because what good are they? Also all those priests definitely should kill themselves, they actually CHOOSE not to have children. So Paul was dead wrong on that point, not sure why that line is still in the Bible then. So should all artists and writers throughout history, what good are they? Also friends, screw friends, they aren’t any good, all you need is a wife or husband of the opposite sex and to make babies, that’s the only way to be good.

  34. dingojack says

    My maths teacher was not married but managed to teach about ‘The Golden Ratio’ (phi) which is definitely a value!*
    Dingo
    —–
    * φ = ((the square root of five) plus 1) divided by 2 [more and more closely approximated by dividing the greater by the lesser of a pair of consecutive Fibonacci numbers].

  35. raven says

    Benjamin Schwartz should never have had kids. Someone so stupid they are dangerous just shouldn’t.

    Ben, we don’t need any more stupid people. We have enough!!! Just stop.

    Half the US population has an IQ of less than 100. For Ben, that is 155 million people.

    Absent from his discussion is the reason why many people these days don’t have kids.

    It’s the economy, stupid. It’s the economy, stupid.

    The birth rate is both the USA and Europe started dropping when the Great Recession hit. It hasn’t recovered. Most responsible adults capable of coherent thought won’t bring children into an uncertain world that they can’t support.

    If you are looking for people to blame, blame Moron Bush and the Tea Party/GOP. They wrecked the economy for a generation and the drop in fertility is just one of the effects.

  36. Musca Domestica says

    So, when these “individualists” do have kids, and become single parents, they lock their child in a room to make sure they won’t get tainted by any values, traditions or relatives? And people should have children even if they don’t want to, ’cause that’s the right thing to do?

  37. abb3w says

    @17, chrisstaab:

    Well I would have to say that if you’re a middle aged individual who doesn’t have anyone to share his/her life with, and has produced 0 children, then what good are you to the human race?

    The hymenoptera find worker drones quite useful. So does the IT field.

    And there’s the occasional opportunity to provide some small hints to younglings that not everything they’ve been taught as absolutes necessarily is so.

  38. baal says

    And I have no obligation to society to get married or have children. My life belongs to me

    QFT.
    Benjamin Schwartz (and many religious moralists) have a rule that says everyone has a duty to god to create as many new souls as possible (mostly so that they can suffer, which makes them understand god better and then they can get dropped into hell*).

    This is morally backwards. Children should be parented by people who are both capable and want to raise children. It is a better experience for everyone involved (and society).

    As pointed out in this thread, single people are not a detriment to society. Evenmoreso, check up on the grandmother theory . By extension of Mr.Schwartz’s view, we should kill everyone over 40. They are pretty much done procreating (yeah I know not all over 40 can’t esp the males but on the whole, they don’t).

    Lastly, let’s not call chrisstaab a kid. It’s an insult to kids everywhere. Its post at #21 (excessive formatting and special characters etc.) suggests that it could use some emotional support (along with savaging of it’s lack of reason in it’s comments).

    *ok religionists, how many get saved? Do other christians limit the number or type of saved?

  39. D. C. Sessions says

    My existence as a single person without children does not force or even encourage others to do the same

    On the contrary, Ed: your example is a warning to us all.

  40. dingojack says

    baal – OK if not a ‘kid’, how about a ‘billy’* (or ‘nanny’)?
    Dingo
    —–
    * or ‘wether’ even?

  41. says

    Staaby disgorged:

    Why is it that when Ed gets personally offended by something that someone else said, he has to write a blog about it?

    I get the impression that Staaby isn’t terribly clear on what this newfangled blogging thing is all about.

  42. raven says

    Dismal job prospects for class of 2012 Just half of those who’ve graduated since 2006 have full-time jobs, and the trend isn’t improving. Majors that fared better

    Here is one of the headlines today.

    Half of all college degree holders this year don’t have full time jobs.

    So according to Ben Schwarz, they are supposed to get married and have kids. And then what?

    1. Send the kids out to forage on the streets and in dumpsters?

    2. Go on welfare and food stamps?

    Most sane and responsible adults won’t even adopt a pet dog or cat they can’t take care of.

    And it was Bush and the Tea Party/GOP who wrecked the economy for a generation. I await Schartz’s next article where he calls the Tea Party/GOP a threat to modern civilization who should never be elected to any office for the good of our children and their future.

  43. scienceavenger says

    Benjamin Schwartz, meet these never-married people:

    Molly Ivins
    Edward I. Koch
    Janet Reno
    Condoleezza Rice
    David Souter
    Susan B. Anthony
    Joan of Arc
    Elizabeth I
    Mark Zuckerberg
    Gore Vidal
    Jean-Paul Sartre
    Katharine Hepburn
    J. Edgar Hoover
    Leonardo da Vinci

    Obviously these people’s eternal lack of matrimony made it impossible for them to contribute values to society. /snark

  44. says

    You know what’s bad for kids and bad for society? People who don’t want kids having kids, and then raising them in a home full of anger and resentment towards them.

  45. dingojack says

    I hear Leonardo da Vinci got married a couple months ago too
    – in an LDS tabernacle!
    :) Dingo

  46. oranje says

    I’m loving the canon of texts that is revered and consulted for guidance part. I’m assuming to him the canon consists of one text and never changes. He just had to make a sociologically dubious assumption about value constructs to project his idealized worldview…

  47. says

    Didn’t take long for the “I am better than parents” crowd to hypocritically show up. a sampling of people who apparently should not have had kids:

    1. A 16 year old girl keeps showing up in the ER with her baby. There is nothing wrong with it except that she has no idea what to do with it. CPS locates her parents in Texas. They are both meth addicts so far gone that sometimes they forget they even have a daughter. CPS promptly loses the parent’s address.

    so instead of it being a massive failure on the part of our educational and social welfare systems, she just “shouldn’t have kids”? This is bullshit. Nothing you have written shows that she doesn’t want to take care of her child, just that she hasn’t been afforded the tools to do so. I am sure she can learn if given the opportunity.

    2. Guy is an OK guy, hard working, smart. He is also a schizophrenic who responds well to medication. He meets his wife at group therapy. She is similar. Schizophrenia has a high hereditary component. Their kid…..(you don’t want to know.)

    …is probably schtizophrenic, but that doesn’t mean that they should not have children or that their childs life is not worth living. You don’t get to decide on behalf of others if life is worth living with mental illness- the people with the illness get to decide that. Believing that parenthood should be determined by a certain level of fitness instead of by desire is called eugenics, btw. What the fuck is wrong with you?

  48. Robert B. says

    It’s wrong to be single, huh? Well, then I hope this Benjamin Schwartz is voting for people who will allow me to get married. Otherwise I’ll be in a bit of a bind.

    Schwartz:

    Individuals don’t transfer values from one generation to the next.

    It’s almost like he’s never heard of teachers, writers, artists, coaches, or (since bad values are still values) clergy. Believe me, those of us who want to transfer our values to future generations are finding ways, whether or not we have kids.

    raven @ 38:

    Half the US population has an IQ of less than 100.

    Um. The mean performance on any IQ test is arbitrarily assigned a numerical rating of 100. In other words, half of the population of people who take IQ tests will always have IQ’s less then 100, by definition.

  49. Azkyroth, Former Growing Toaster Oven says

    People who aren’t willing and able to take care of their children should not have them. CHILDREN have the right to stable, competent parents and a decent standard of living. Children are not property.

    It’s almost like he’s never heard of teachers

    Kinda makes sense, when you think about it.

  50. Nepenthe says

    @skeptifem

    Personally, I have two choices: I can reproduce and make it highly likely that my offspring will live a rather unpleasant, perhaps quite short lives due to the medical maladies I will pass on or I can refrain and produce no offspring who have a disproportionate chance of suffering. While no one can or should be able to force me not to reproduce, it would still be unethical for me to do so.

    See also Huntington’s. If you know you have Huntington’s and you have genetic children anyway, you’re an asshole, full stop. The social model of disability goes only so far; there are conditions that, objectively, suck donkey balls.

    And I’m pretty sure that raven was referring to the parents of the 16 year old who have, in their meth-addled state, have forgotten that they chose to take responsibility for a whole new human life as the people who should not have reproduced. If it’s unethical to do that to a dog, it’s sure as fuck unethical to do that to a human being.

  51. raven says

    skeptifem:

    What the fuck is wrong with you?

    I know what is wrong with you.

    You are unable to think, reason, read for comprehension, and seem to be perpetually angry at everything.

    But I don’t really care enough to bother with your massive string of gibberish right now.

    Half the US population has an IQ of less than 100.

    Um. The mean performance on any IQ test is arbitrarily assigned a numerical rating of 100. In other words, half of the population of people who take IQ tests will always have IQ’s less then 100, by definition.

    Irrelevant. I knew that 40 years ago. It is still a true statement.

  52. raven says

    Personally, I have two choices: I can reproduce and make it highly likely that my offspring will live a rather unpleasant, perhaps quite short lives due to the medical maladies I will pass on…

    I don’t want to feed the skeptifem troll who clearly is incapable of rational thought. Also patient confidentially.

    1. The kid of the 2 schizophrenics has already tried to commit suicide twice and once almost succeeded. It is 15 years old.

    2. Sure, they have every right to marry and have as many kids as they can and want according to our society’s rules. That isn’t in dispute. The question is whether it was a good idea. Their kid right now is headed for a nightmare existence and a short life. In some states, the average lifespan of a schizophrenic is 15 to 30 years less than the general population.

    I’ve seen that myself. One girl died of anorexia. It took several decades and at the end, the organ damage was irreversible and even tube feeding didn’t help. Another accidently locked himself out of his house at night and died of hypothermia in his front yard.

  53. Robert B. says

    @ raven:

    Yeeeess, it’s a true statement. But it doesn’t mean anything; it has no weight as evidence. Half of people would have IQ’s less than 100 no matter what. If everyone in the country was magically made smarter in their sleep tonight, so that the average person had a brain like Einstein’s, an IQ test administered tomorrow morning would still assign half of America an IQ less than 100. So I’m really confused as to why you brought it up.

  54. says

    I tend to agree with skeptifem. I’m not trying to argue that anyone should be single and childless, only that it’s equally absurd to argue that people should get married and have children. What people should do in this regard is what is most conducive to their own well-being. I come from a large family and have 27 nieces and nephews. Neither my parents nor my siblings were being selfish by having kids and I’m not being selfish by not having kids. I’m just being me, and that just happens to be the way it worked out.

    Unlike a lot of people, though, I just don’t believe in the notion that life has to fit some blueprint that society puts in place, that you have to be married at 22 and have kids by 25, or anything remotely like that. Life is largely random, or at least contingent. You may never meet someone that you really sync with, or you may meet them and then they die of cancer, or can’t have children, or you decide you don’t want children. I’m not opposed to having children; if circumstances had worked out differently and I’d met someone I wanted to share my life with, we may well have had children. But neither choice has anything to do with being selfish, and even less to do with any desire to pass on values to the next generation. It’s my fucking life, not anyone else’s — and that goes for people who have children too. It’s no one else’s business.

  55. michaelraymer says

    I’m glad chrisstaab has been removed from the conversation here, but I have to point out how frustrating it is that so many people seem to share his views. I fail to understand the logic of how, in a world with 7 billion people (and counting), adding a couple more is somehow automatically a positive contribution. I’m in a long term relationship that began over 12 years ago. But neither one of us has any desire for children, so I guess we’re somehow failing society? Ha ha… Oh, and my significant other’s mother was trying to goad her into having children, and told her, “Don’t you want to have someone take care of you when you’re older?” As if that’s some sort of ultimate reason to have children. As if there’s any guarantee that any children you have will outlive you, or even care about you when you’re older. That has to be one of the worst arguments for having children that I’ve ever heard. The only argument that works for me, that I could possible see, is wanting to raise a child properly, i.e., not filling his or her head with religious or other nonsense. Teaching a child how to think rationally. That has some appeal (especially since it would be the opposite of my childhood) but even that’s not enough of a reason by itself. And obviously I agree with what Ed said in his comment, that I’m not saying everyone should be single and no one should have children, but that these are individual choices with no “right” or “wrong” answers. My gripe is with the campaign of persuasion that ensues when someone thinks a person has made the “wrong” choice of either being single or not having children.

    And on the subject of being single, I don’t see why it’s a “problem” as so many view it. It’s almost like relationships are a sort of status symbol in American culture – it’s just another thing you’re expected to “have” in the same sense a person has a car. But no one ever stops to think rationally and ask the question, is this something I really need or even want? And the idea that single folks are somehow misanthropes or emotionally distant or whatever is also ridiculous. I think I read somewhere that people have a hard time imagining life from a perspective other than their own, so maybe that’s why everyone in a relationship insists that everyone else must be, too…

  56. scienceavenger says

    I’m sure skeptifem and others will go apoplectic over this, but when one looks at the condition of the planet due to our 7 billion members (and by extension, the likely future of the human race), and what we know about the impact on children’s lives from being raised in deficient and/or abusive environments, be they mental or physical, it seems to me absolutely barbaric and anachronistic in the extreme that society should have the attitude that any random fool should be allowed to produce and raise as many children as he’s capable of.

    IMO, future historians will look back at this attitude with the same bewilderment that we look upon bleeding people with leeches, or allowing people to pollute rivers and streams as much as they please. Given the realities of our situation on an ever-depleted, exhausted earth, it borders on insanity, ideology uber alles, and to hell with the consequences.

    And full disclosure, I’m one of those childless people raising children produced by others.

  57. Nepenthe says

    What people should do in this regard is what is most conducive to their own well-being.

    Having a child is not like buying a boat. Reproducing necessarily involves the well-being of a human being besides the one(s) having the child. It may be conducive to Warren Jeffs’ well-being to feed his ego by having tons of kids, but it is not conducive to the well-being of his children to be born into a cult. Having a child might give a teenage couple in dire straits the warm fuzzies, but if they can’t take care of that child, they’ve harmed someone else. That is selfishness of the highest order, to say “Reproducing will make me happy, who cares if I’ve fucked over my offspring”.

  58. ArtK says

    Selfish: Having a child when you are unable to provide for its health and well being, simply because you want one or feel societal pressure to do so.

    Unselfish: Declining to have a child when you know you aren’t capable of raising one well, even if you want one or society is pressuring to have one.

    As groups, single/childless, married/childless, single/childed, married/childed have no inherent superiority over any of the others. Each is able to contribute positively to society. Each is also able to contribute negatively to society. We could cite examples of saints and demons in each category ’til the cows come home and nothing would ever be resolved. We each tend to think that our particular choice is the superior one, but that’s just simple human egotism.

    Mr. Schwartz is simply trying to paint his tribe’s standards as being superior by denigrating every other tribe’s standards. Despite what he wants, being married and having children is neither necessary nor sufficient for making a positive contribution to society.

  59. joe_k says

    Robert B @54 – I think you are confused about how means work. If the world had a population of three, of those three people, their respective IQs could be 105, 105, and 90. Their average IQ would be 100 (as the average IQ of any population is by definition), but only 1/3 of the population would have an IQ of lower than 100.

    I agree that Raven’s statement is pretty meaningless, but you are wrong that 1/2 of people will always have an IQ lower than 100. If the median IQ of a population was defined as 100, then you would have a point.

  60. Robert B. says

    @ joe_k:

    Okay, that’s technically true. (Though since the standard deviation of an IQ test is similarly fixed at 15, the three IQ’s would be something like 111, 111, 78).

    In practice, IQ test results are large data sets that fit the normal distribution very well. The median is going to be almost identical to the mean.

    (I also ignored the fact that IQ is integer-valued, not continuous, so a nontrivial number of people will have an IQ of exactly 100.)

    Really, since raven said “half” rather than “50%”, I figured he wasn’t trying to be extremely precise, and so I wasn’t either.

  61. eric says

    scienceavenger:

    it seems to me absolutely barbaric and anachronistic in the extreme that society should have the attitude that any random fool should be allowed to produce and raise as many children as he’s capable of.

    IMO, future historians will look back at this attitude with the same bewilderment that we look upon bleeding people with leeches

    I disagree. Right now we have a country with child-bearing rules (China). Those rules turn out to result in an industrial society that is no less barbaric – and in some ways more barbaric – than no-rules industrial societies. And frankly, as a solution to overpopulation it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work either in objective terms in keeping the rate at ~2, or in relative terms as compared to the alternative solution of education + social equality for women, which works a lot better.

    So, you are proposing an nonworking, overregulated and governmentally intrustive solution to a problem when we already know of a better solution that is none of those things. I very, very much doubt that historians will agree with you. If you became czar and instituted your policy, you’d likely have historians say “why did scienceavenger spend so much time and effort enforcing a 1-child rule to no real effect when Europe’s working solution was staring him right in the face?”

    There is simply no reason to force Ed’s choice on people. 1. Educate the population. 2. Give women both the means and opportunity to control their own lives. Do those two things, and the problem pretty much fixes itself.

  62. caseloweraz says

    Michaelraymer wrote: “I fail to understand the logic of how, in a world with 7 billion people (and counting), adding a couple more is somehow automatically a positive contribution.”

    I believe one common argument is that having more people raises the net creativity, or ability to innovate, of the world as a whole. This is perhaps most notably expressed in Robert Zubrin’s latest book Merchants of Despair. It is IMO a bogus argument. If larger populations are more creative, why are not Russia and China the most innovative nations on the planet? Or consider the U.S. today versus in 1950 when it had half its current population.

  63. says

    One of the best teachers I ever had never married or had children, however she taught and influenced thousands of kids over her 30+ year career.

    My decision not to have children doesn’t preclude me from having a big role in the lives of my brother’s children or being a teacher/mentor to other kids. I would be a terrible parent but I like sharing my interests and skills with kids. I was at a geek convention a few weeks ago in their Artists’ Alley and I spent a good chunk of my time talking to teens who wanted to know about being an artist and giving them feedback on their sketchbooks. This is how I’m contributing to improving the future, by passing on my ideas and skills not my genes.

  64. says

    @Joe K:

    Robert B @54 – I think you are confused about how means work. If the world had a population of three, of those three people, their respective IQs could be 105, 105, and 90. Their average IQ would be 100 (as the average IQ of any population is by definition), but only 1/3 of the population would have an IQ of lower than 100.
    I agree that Raven’s statement is pretty meaningless, but you are wrong that 1/2 of people will always have an IQ lower than 100.

    Robert B is not confused, although now I think you’ve confused him. The 3 IQ scores you proposed (105, 105, 90) do not exist in a universe with a population of 3 because a deviation IQ cannot exist for a population of 3. That population size is not large enough to develop deviation scores because normal distribution of performance measurements is not possible with P=N=3. Deviation IQ does exist in that world.

    In this world, test performance is normally distributed in a population large enough to create standardization samples large enough to derive deviation scores. And with a deviation IQ with mean set at 100, the median is 100 and the mode is 100. Always. Every time. Every day. Statistical law. 1/2 of scores will fall below the average and 1/2 will fall above.

  65. zmidponk says

    Nepenthe #63:

    Having a child is not like buying a boat. Reproducing necessarily involves the well-being of a human being besides the one(s) having the child. It may be conducive to Warren Jeffs’ well-being to feed his ego by having tons of kids, but it is not conducive to the well-being of his children to be born into a cult. Having a child might give a teenage couple in dire straits the warm fuzzies, but if they can’t take care of that child, they’ve harmed someone else. That is selfishness of the highest order, to say “Reproducing will make me happy, who cares if I’ve fucked over my offspring”.

    The thing you seem to not realise is that, leaving aside exceptions like Warren Jeffs, with most parents, their happiness quickly becomes intrinsically linked with that of their kids, and, even before they actually become parents, they wouldn’t exactly be happy with the idea of their own offspring being brought up in an unhappy household. So, to take your example of ‘a teenage couple in dire straits’, the only way they would deliberately choose to have a kid they can’t properly look after and support is if their own ignorance and naivete lead them to believe they can, which isn’t really anything to do with selfishness.

  66. Sarah says

    @71 zmidponk

    I think that’s a fairly rosy view of parenthood. People do choose to have children they can’t really look after all the time. And they do so deliberately either because they like the idea of another human being in the world that loves them, or because they think it will make their partner love them, or it will fix some problem in a relationship etc etc. I think many of these people don’t actually consider what it really takes to raise a child.

    Plus, if it were really true that for all parents their happiness is intrinsically linked to their children we’d have a lot fewer abused children in the world.

    I wish what you say is true, but if it were I wouldn’t have two siblings. I’d be an only child.

  67. dingojack says

    SkeptiFem – I think you kinda missed the point. The point isn’t that the parents in the two quoted examples should be prevented from having children, rather, that their choice does not automatically make them less than those who choose to have children. Particularly if those parents think that doing so would be for their own interest rather than those of the child.
    Their bodies, their choice.
    Dingo
    —–
    PS: Two friends of mine have chosen not to have children because of a history of schizophrenia and major depression in both partners’ families. They are still contributing to society, just not as parents of possibly seriously unwell children.

  68. anat says

    To caseloweraz (#68): It has been argued that it wasn’t number of people per se that leads to creativity and innovation but number of interactions between them (and the more free and less structured those interactions the better). So many people spread out in low density or many people who are limited in the interactions they can have (by law, culture, working environment etc) do not lead to accelerated innovation.

  69. zmidponk says

    Sarah #72:

    @71 zmidponk

    I think that’s a fairly rosy view of parenthood. People do choose to have children they can’t really look after all the time. And they do so deliberately either because they like the idea of another human being in the world that loves them, or because they think it will make their partner love them, or it will fix some problem in a relationship etc etc.

    But, in each of those cases, the idea that the kid they’re having will not be cared for and looked after properly would hurt, not help, the reason they’re having the kid, so they kinda have to take into account the wellbeing of that kid. If they subsequently find out they are unable to look after the kid, it’s because they thought caring for the kid would be far easier than it actually is, which isn’t selfishness, per se, but ignorance.

    Plus, if it were really true that for all parents their happiness is intrinsically linked to their children we’d have a lot fewer abused children in the world.

    I actually said ‘most parents’ not ‘all parents’ precisely because there are kids who are deliberately abused and/or neglected by their own parents. My experience is that these parents are the minority.

  70. says

    You don’t get to decide on behalf of others if life is worth living with mental illness- the people with the illness get to decide that.

    People with mental illness, who can’t control their own lives, get to choose whether to have kids? How internally inconsistent is that?

    Believing that parenthood should be determined by a certain level of fitness instead of by desire is called eugenics, btw.

    So people who CHOOSE not to have kids, because they don’t feel they can give their kids what they’d owe them, are guilty of “eugenics?” Sounds ‪like someone is misusing that loaded word to demean people who want to control their own lives. Again.

    You are aware, are you not, that women who want to use birth control are routinely accused of “eugenics” these days?

    Right now we have a country with child-bearing rules (China). Those rules turn out to result in an industrial society that is no less barbaric – and in some ways more barbaric – than no-rules industrial societies.

    Um…was China less barbaric before they wrote those child-bearing rules?

    So, you are proposing an nonworking, overregulated and governmentally intrustive solution to a problem when we already know of a better solution that is none of those things.

    Who here is proposing any such solution? NO ONE. You’re just making shit up.

    I think we’re seeing a variant of Godwin’s Law here: when someone mentions China in a conversation about people who volunratily choose not to have kids, that someone is either a right-wing idiot or a right-wing liar.

  71. says

    Oh, and what’s with the “Most Active” list algorithm here? This post didn’t pop up on that list until three days after the last comment. WTF?!

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