Monday, January 26, 2009

Fewer kids are not the answer

This morning’s Drudge Report has Nancy Pelosi saying “birth control will help the economy.” This is because, she claims, and a Democrat spokesman on Fox News just echoed her claim, that fewer children will “reduce costs to the states and federal government.”

This idea is a fallacy, of course, and one The Wall Street Journal does not tackle in its own editorial “The Stimulus Time Machine.” The Journal points out that the Democrat controlled Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found only 2/3 of the $355 billion dollar stimulus package would be spent in the critical first two years of the plan and noted in passing that this report has disappeared from the Congressional website, soon, perhaps, to reappear revised more positively.

The Journal’s second point is that $1 spent by the government on stimulus won’t result in a Keynesian $1.50 economic boost, adding that if it did, why not simply “spend $10 trillion” so we could “all live in paradise.” In reality, says the Journal, $1 in government spending takes $1 from the private economy and will only multiply if the government spends it more productively than the private economy—which is a giant oxymoron.

In fact, the Journal finds, the stimulus spending is “about promoting long-time Democratic policy goals, such as subsidizing health care for the middle class and promoting alternative energy.” And let me add promoting “family planning” (which, preponderantly, means abortion) a word Pelosi, a little out of character, studiously avoided, using instead “contraception.”

Where does anyone get the idea that contraceptives are unknown and hidden from the “sexually active” teens and young people most likely to produce children who require aid from the state and federal government? Condoms are handed around like candy, and used for a variety of purposes (water balloons come to mind) but don’t make much of a dent in the out-of-wedlock birth rate, nor, apparently, does the pill. This is the practical argument against spending millions of the billion-dollar stimulus on “contraception” (especially contraception internationally that would have no effect on the U.S. economy).

The ethical argument is that “family planning” really means providing abortions.

Americans are deeply divided on the issue of abortion, most falling into the indecisive middle… “I don’t like abortion; it is killing, but….” The “buts” comprise, mainly, disruption in the life of the mother, i.e., inconvenience, but a few do support abortion to reduce government welfare spending and because of the fallacious belief, dating from Thomas Malthus and particularly from the 1968 book The Population Bomb by doomsayer and entomologist (specializing in butterflies, according to Wikipedia) Paul Ehrlich, which claims the world is overpopulated.

Statistically, this is hogwash. Birth rates are declining worldwide, especially in the developed nations of the West. In 2002 the United Nations predicted world population would peak in 2050 at 9 billion. Current estimates place the population peak at 7.5 billion in 2040. And world population has shifted from the developed West, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa (32% of world population in 1950, according to, to 12% in 2000). The shift has been to the underdeveloped third world. Obviously, as Reason magazine pointed out in 2004, “[f]ertility does not correlate with food availability.” The more food available, statistics show, the smaller the population increase. Indeed, population increase swings into the negative in almost half the nations of the world. For example, Japan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare has predicted a population of fewer than 500 people in 3000 if the country’s average birth rate of 1.4 children per married couple continues, says WND.

The birth rate required to replace population is 2.1 children per hopefully-married couple. Most European nations fail to meet this standard. The United States barely replaces population, but does so only because of immigration. Index Mundi ( lists the top ten countries in total fertility rates as Mali, Niger, Uganda, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The U.S. ranks 125th out of 220. No European nation matches us (The UK is 172nd; Germany, 190th; Spain 203rd, and Italy 204th.), but every Middle Eastern nation exceeds us. Of course this has a few strategic implications.

And then there is economic fact. A falling fertility rate means an aging population. Fewer children growing to be working adults means social spending programs for the elderly (Social Security, Medicare etc.... the same programs Democrats pledge to shore up) must be paid for by fewer and fewer younger workers. And there is less innovation. When Nancy Pelosi says fewer children mean less cost for the states’ and federal governments, she is extremely myopic…and dead wrong. The inconvenient truth is we need all of our children to continue to prosper as a nation. And we need all of our children to continue to exist as a moral nation.

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