Stupid Reasons to Have More Kids
A list with counter-commentary:
“In the past kids assisted in farm work, and child labor was legal; the incentive then was to have many kids. But today kids take forever to be economically productive and are much more expensive. Thus many people have fewer kids. Circumvent the incentive structure by training your kids useful at younger ages.” -Various authors
I don’t think this is a factual representation of the dynamics. In the past people had lots of kids for two reasons. One, sex caused children. Two, any group which failed to have enough children survive into adulthood would die out quickly and visibly. Making children useful at younger ages might give us some semi-useful 8 year-olds, who are helpful with the little ones. However, in a larger family one parent is still going to be a 4⁄5 time domestic engineer, even with help from the 8 year old and not contributing to GDP. I don’t see how this pronatalism 3+ kids stuff works without pulling one parent out mostly out of the GDP equation. TANSTAAFL.
“Technological innovation is more likely when the next generation is bigger. As the gains from technology slows to a halt, so too will the stock market cease to grow. In a world that is not growing, many financial instruments will collapse.”—https://pronatalist.org/
AI is probably going to allow GDP to keep rising. Eventually, we won’t need people at all, and the stock market will be fine. Don’t worry about it.
“National greatness, and staying ahead of China for world influence requires that we have the biggest economy. To do that, we need more people.” -Matt Yglesias, One Billion Americans.
Yeah, the guy who has chosen to have one child is going to inspire me to make the sacrifices involved in having four. It might be good for America, but the ‘ask’ here looks like it is that I sacrifice my utility for Matt’s one kid, and thus is not cooperate-cooperate. I’ll jump when you jump.
“You might not like the sacrifices of having children now, but look out over the course of your life. The cost of children is finite and the pleasure of grandchildren is, while not infinite, very high. Most people don’t want to limit their number of grandchildren. On the margin, you should increase your chances of having more grandchildren by having more kids!” -Bryan Caplan, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids
Bryan Caplan, at least, has
threefour kids. Looking out over the long-term sure sounds good. And, I remember Solon of Athens identifying eudaimonia with being a grandparent of healthy, smart grandkids. It sounds so nice! But, first economists told me to move for more productive work, and now they want me to have kids with no grandparents around to help me with them. Thanks guys! This sucks.
Long-term thinking for someone in their late 20s about grandchildren only works when there is enough financial and psycho-social slack to make the long-term optimizing choice. I mean something like the following: The cost of children is not merely financial, but also a huge logistical problem—random sickness, work-life-friends schedule conflicts, transportation costs, shifts in the network of people you have time for. Just as people living paycheck-to-paycheck don’t invest, nor does a couple up to their eyeballs in career capital investment invest in having more than the minimum acceptable number of grandchildren.
“Don’t be a mesa-optimizer for sexual stimulation. Try to recouple sex and children in your life. In fact, not only that, become a meta-optimizer! Create social environments that make sex reinforce your love of partner and increase the quantity of love both partners offer to the next generation (by increasing children). Those children will in turn become lovers of others, accelerating the growth rate of love in the world!”—LoveBot 2084
Evolution doesn’t care whether we circumvent the sex->children dynamic, because evolution is not a person. I’m not cheating nature by not having kids. Some moral rules might make evolutionary sense, but evolution does not create right and wrong. That’s a Naturalism Fallacy.
“Children are not that hard to raise. Lower your obsession with saving for college and buying expensive summer camps and caring so much about having the highest consumption standard of living. Only the first few years are tough in terms of sleep and work.” -Bryan Caplan again, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids
Except, when I have four kids, that “first few years” is actually 15 years, and the lovely spouse who has the higher income job would experience a huge opportunity cost staying home, and the other spouse who specializes in prosocial nonprofit work would experience an opportunity cost too. How is that tradeoff going to work?
“If you are not willing to make the sacrifices to have 2.1+ kids, why should anyone else? Hypocritically you wish for other people to carry the burdens, while you reap the benefits of a consistently and sustainably growing society. Free-riding scum. Irresponsible lout.”—Deontology-ish
What’s with the ad hominem? You sound like some sort of reactionary, did you know that? In any case, immigration might solve the problem both in the short-term, through creating higher productivity, and the long-term, through cultural change. Though for now, who, of those who hope immigration will solve the problem, are being the solution they want to see in the world?
“The statistical value of a human life is between 2 and 10 million dollars in a Western Country. The cost of raising a child to 20 is around $300,000. Those re turns after only 20 years beat every hedge fund in the world. If you allow that the dollar values there correlate to utility, then you’ve created a ton of utility at very little cost.” -Utilitarian-ish
But no, this is a ridiculous accounting method! Comparing the average actual cost of raising a child to the statistical value of human life is apples and oranges! The real comparison should be the total economic cost of having children to the total economic benefit. And none of that, “existence-is-infinitely-valuable funny business either!” Still the scales probably would weigh in favor of children (median US lifetime income is $1.7 million). Nonetheless, this proves nothing! Children are utility monsters. Help! I am being utility mugged! If I accept this logic I’d be compelled to have as many kids as possible!
“Life is good and worth living. Create more of it, because it is good. Eventually the sacrifice becomes sweet as your utility function updates towards an appreciation of kids. When you realize just how good it is that this new toddling space-invader is enjoying life, you will be at peace. Thus the righteous person considers kids as the default option and requires a very strong reason to not raise the additional kid.”—Virtue Ethics-ish
When I understand how Aristotelians think, I’ll let you know. In the meantime, this “inherent sweetness of life” stuff seems mystical (along the lines of infinite utility). Having children is hard. Is Aristotle going to acknowledge that? No, he’s a dude and thinks kids are a woman’s job. Sorry, sorry that’s an ad hominem. Stick to the object level! As for the argument, eudaimonia consists of a balance of many competing goods and for any couple that will include career and lifestyle sacrifices. How much consumption can we afford to sacrifice? It seems pretty bare bones already…
Are these reasons all bad? They are okay and yet, for many, not compelling. Can one really be intellectually convinced to go through the deeply visceral experience of conceiving and raising children? Yes, some people for sure; for us, perhaps especially! But we need more than that. We need visceral experience and a community of practice to clear the way.
So in addition to the reasons above I submit to you my visceral experience from yesterday as an additional reason to have kids.