Why Do We Encourage Breeding?

This has been a long-standing pet peeve of mine, along with disproportionate emphasis on families (as opposed to individuals, people, humans, citizens), particularly by government and politicians.

Don’t Hate Me Now

I suppose I should start with a disclaimer,  lest I be thought of as some evil child-hater or something. I don’t hate children. I often like them, in fact. Of course that’s irrelevant because like them or not, if people stopped having children, it would mean the end of the human race. Nor do I hate parents. While I can’t understand what motivates some to want to have five, ten, twenty, or more children, I think everybody should have the right to raise children if they so chose, provided they are physically, emotionally, and financially up to the task.

Once Upon A Time

What I object to, however, is the encouragement we give, as a society, to reproduction. There might have been a time in history when it made some sort of sense to attempt to “go forth and multiply,” making as many of “your own kind” as possible to populate the earth. That’s probably why governments and religions alike originally got into the business of encouraging  breeding as well as frowning upon recreational and other non-procreative sex.

Biological Programming, Or Social Conditioning?

Now, however, we have plenty of humans on this planet. Some might say we are on the way to having too many, or are even there already. All the while, the world’s population continues to grow at an exponential rate. Yet we’ve been socially conditioned to ooh and ahh and coo and congratulate people for simply doing what most humans have been biologically programmed to do. Those of us with different programming and those who intentionally don’t have or don’t want children are looked upon like there is something wrong or we are somehow shirking our duty as humans.

Governmental Encouragement

While some governments actually attempt to control the birthrate by limiting their citizens’ reproductive rights, we here in the US do the absolute opposite. We offer financial incentives for breeding, in the form of tax deductions. We all subsidize babysitting (“child care”), education, and medical care for children.We have laws that favor breeding (or even just potentially breeding) families over single individuals or non-traditional family units. We even have laws that attempt to limit birth control, making it more difficult for responsible citizens to plan if, when, and how many children they’d like to have. Perhaps it is time for the human race to start practicing minimalism with regard to reproductive habits.

Am I Alone?

Am I the only one who thinks this way? Or am I just the only one willing to actually say so? With all the financial difficulties our government has, why has nobody suggested eliminating all child-related tax deductions? How much money would that save? Are they afraid that people only have kids for the tax write-off, and once we stop subsidizing breeding, nobody will want to anymore? Should I start looking over my shoulder from now on because I’ve spoken out against America’s sacred cow of incentivized breeding?

What’s Your Take?

Where do you stand on this issue? Should government stop rewarding people just for proving their fertility? Should we encourage responsible parenthood and smaller families? What would you do if you got to make the rules?

35 responses to “Why Do We Encourage Breeding?

  1. Women have been demonstrating outside of clinic buildings and capitol buildings for decades. Women have been giving themselves and each other home abortions for decades. Women have been paying for birth control for decades. Actions speak, and no one listens.

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      True, Meg. Women have been demonstrating for decades for their reproductive rights. What few seem to talk about, however, is the preferential treatment (including parents) that children and parents receive over childless adults.

      • Mike,

        And well they should. If you are retired or solely or mostly just living off a pension, who is laboring to fund you? If you have remained childless (either through chance or choice) throughout your life, it is the children, grandchildren, even great-grandchildren of others who bore the bulk of the risk, cost and care of birthing and raising children.

        As a father of 9 children (by one wife), I can tell you how the financial and especially care burden for children typically does NOT end when they leave home.

        But ALL of their income is ‘socialized’, with the 7.65% taken out of their gross wages PLUS the 7.65% their employer has to pay to the Federal government to MATCH the 7.65% taken out of employees’ wages, that no one, other than the employer and government see, or are even generally aware of! (Those, who are self-employed, like myself, have to pay 15.3% of ALL of our income, which rate is 7.65% HIGHER than that paid on/for employees)!! To make this clear, if I earn $107.65, I have to pay 15.3% of it in self-employment tax. Of the $100.00 paid to an employee by an employer, the employer remits $15.30 to the Federal government. That includes the $7.65 they take out of their employees’ paycheck/s for FICA (which is combined SS and MediCare), and the %7.65 their employee doesn’t even see, and which most, like I say, are completely unaware of. But a self-employed person has to pay 15.3% or $16.47, which $16.47 is 7.65% MORE than the $15.30 paid that cost an employer and his/her employee combined out of $107.65, an equivalent amount.

        Sure, societies have to fund schools for children. However, those costs are sooner or later recovered by the taxes adults pay both when they have children in their home, and when they do not.

        However, the much greater cost for (as Merle Haggard put it in one of his songs, “your so-called ‘Social Security'”), plus MediCare (which, BTW, is about 600 percent of the cost of Social Security itself) is NOT recovered from a childless person and/or couple by the ‘investment’ of a child and/or children that they have brought into the world and raised.

        Sure, having children is a choice. And many more these days than ever before have chosen to have few if any children. However, as you said yourself, without children, civilization eventually will go out of business. But, in the intermediate term between now and then, the risks of childbirth (deaths during childbirth have doubled in the U.S. during the past two decades) is, comparatively, still high. And, the costs of raising children has steadily risen. And the care factor for children, which while it cannot be given (nor should it be) a monetary figure is, as it always has been, very high. Therefore, the costs incurred by parents of children, whether monetarized or not, are, as always, high. Why should those who have few if any children benefit, as they indeed have long done and now do, in retirement or disability, from the fruits (labor and wages) of those who do incur those very real and largely direct expenditures of money, sometimes death, and emotional and other care burdens?

        Phil Longman, who wrote “The Empty Cradle” (and, BTW, a man who has no biological offspring, and only one step-child) has written in that book, and elsewhere, how parents should receive far, far, far greater tax deductions and/or other allowances than they do, which correspond with the far, far, far greater costs and burdens they bear!

  2. Well this is a sticky one, Mike. :)

    What I see we have is a sort of forced progression.

    I think most of us would agree that babies shouldn’t be left to starve and die. They shouldn’t be allowed to get sick and die because of easily preventable illnesses. If I had to put a reason on this, I’d say it’s because “it’s not their fault”.

    So we have a compassionate society. That’s not a bad thing.

    But when any two random people can pop out a kid on a whim, even by accident, now you have a situation where people who aren’t using the best of planning skills can create a significant load on society *because of* society’s compassion.

    You could remove the incentives, sure. But that assumes that there’s planning going on – and I don’t know that’s a safe assumption here.

    The problem I see is that you’re trying to place limits on a biological function that’s tied to one of the great recreational pastimes of our society. How would you legislate something like that?

    • Hey Robert,

      I took it as Mike not suggesting they legislate procreation, simply that they stop rewarding it.

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      Children deserve the same societal safety nets as all citizens. Parents should not get preferential treatment – tax write-offs and other incentives, for example. Conversely, non-parents should not be penalized, as they are in Arizona, for example, where (assuming they qualify financially) childless adults are no longer eligible for AHCCCS (Medicaid), but parents are.

      As for your last paragraph, Robert, this is the 21st century — we not only know where children come from, but we know how to prevent them — even while continuing to enjoy said recreational pastimes.

  3. If I made the rules, there would be massive birth control education starting around 10 years old. I don’t believe in abortion, I believe birth control. Any idiot can reproduce with no talent required and unfortunately, most people are not equipped to provide for and properly raise a child. Let alone 2 or more.
    I don’t think the government should reward anyone for having children. Our tax system encourages it, is grossly unfair and needs total revamping. I like the same % across the board for everyone.
    I have children (grown), my husband doesn’t and he is continually told he needs some. WTH?

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      I agree – education and a revamping of the tax system would be a big help. Of course that flat tax would have to be a true flat tax, with absolutely no exceptions, exemptions, or deductions.

      The problem is that something like that would never see the light of day. It would put too many accountants and lawyers out of work, and the filthy rich might have to start pulling their own weight for a change.

  4. Hey Mike,

    Aaron from Greenimalist posted on this from an opposite perspective a few months back. It got pretty heated.

    Patrick and I have both decided not to have children. It’s a complex decision, but a large part of the reason behind it is a desire to not add to the ever-expanding population statistics. It’s our small act to reduce the load. I have always been surprised to discover the tax benefits that come from marrying, buying a home, a qualifying new car and having children. The current tax laws definitely appear to favor the traditional family unit.

    Lately I’ve been thinking Patrick and I may marry, simply because of the retirement benefits of a shared income. Ridiculous thing to think about, especially after around sixteen years together without a marriage license. ;) Great post to share.

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      Yep, there’s an example right there. Two people living under one roof pay more taxes if they don’t have a government issued license to cohabitate and, they hope, make more taxpayers.

  5. I feel I shouldn’t really comment on this one. Since I’m gay, I’m not breeder stock.

    In Texas, we all pay school taxes on our property, however, regardless of whether we have children and whether or not the schools in the taxing area are any good or not. So we are all involved in this discussion, I just don’t have anything else to say.

    Gip

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      I’m not sure what your being gay has to do with it, Gip. Although it isn’t expected of us, many gay people choose to raise children, and even make them, and others have them from relationships or marriages they were in before they came out.

      The fact that you’ve chosen not to breed should be all the more reason for you to be concerned. Your tax money is being given disproportionately to children and those who create them.

      For the record, I’m gay too, but that really doesn’t matter for this issue.

  6. Am I the only one who thinks this way?
    See http://www.vhemt.org/ “May we live long and die out”

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      Interesting site. Thanks for sharing it. I’m not sure I’m in favor of letting the race die out; I just think we need to slow down a bit and, especially, stop encouraging and rewarding those who want to have kids.

  7. Interesting point!

    From my perspective the idea of forced reproduction comes from many antiquated drivers and ideas-Religion, Politics, Strength in numbers, and poor education.

    Religion-The old “go forth and multiply” line seems to a common thread. When the world had a couple hundred million people this was a probably a good idea at the time. Considering the number of wars/conflicts, life spans, environmental impacts and large labor requirements of life having someone to carry and work was probably a good idea. Consider all of advances in technology, life spans and automation-Do we really have the same drivers? What about the other parts in the religious texts that suggest love, compassion and environmental responsibility?

    Mix a little organized religion into the pot-and now you have cultural ideas that have carried on for over a thousand years. Is religion wrong? Not entirely-but the people who have controlled and warped the ideology have shifted the message and intent. Objectively study any religion in the word and there is a common message of Love-Humanity-Forgiveness-Freedom-Enlightenment. Why any religion in the world would ever seek to control sex in all forms has to be motivated by one thing-POWER!

    Politics-You are dead on! Why does the government encourage reproduction with economic policy? Same reason as RELIGION-POWER and CONTROL! Look very closely at most of the decisions and laws of our politicians…are they really motivated by HUMANITY and general good of citizens or even the world?

    Strength in numbers-This is a very old school idea. The larger the # of people the greater control and perceived strength of the people against invasion and genocide from competing thoughts. This idea should have died over 400+ years as technology and strategy advances provided this point wrong. Look at the AMERICAN REVOLUTION-Japanese in WWII for two simple examples-Colonists beat the largest SUPERPOWER in the world and Japanese conquered China and most of Pacific with fewer people.

    And before someone calls me on it-a just and carrying people would NOT let genocide exists…regardless of their faith! There is always a religious, economic or politic motive behind genocide.

    Poor education-The very fact that people have reproduction accidents in this modern society makes you question intelligence and which idea (RELIGION OR GOVT) the people have swallowed. Sure go ahead and have 5 kids-the GOVT will take care of the children and GOD wants you to have CHILDREN…with NO recourse. If we really took time to explain the complexities of human sexuality, true ideas of religion, place more value on individual freedom/thoughts and intelligence then maybe a couple (who chose to have children based on economic and nurture capabilities) would then have 1-2 children that they could nurture into free thinking, intelligent citizens.

    Before we though everyone in the box that has two or more children-I am simply suggesting that most people are NOT equipped to love and nature more than 1-2 children (maybe even less). Considering divorce rates are 50%+ how can someone possible love 1-2 children when 50%+ of the people can NOT even love the person their spouse. Should we even have marriage anymore?

    Reproduction is necessary-No question. But if you look at the true messages of faith (Christian, etc) they seem to focus on freedom, humanity, love, compassion, and forgiveness. In my opinion the world would benefit if we educated people on negative influences of POWER in religion, politics and business and focused more on qualitity vs quantity it would fundamentally change how people see the world.

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      Thanks for commenting, Ivan. Good observations about the origins of the problem. I wonder if some of the reason it has moved from religion to government is because at one time, the church was the government. And, sadly, too many religious fanatics are trying to regain control of government. Scary.

  8. I chose not to procreate, but instead chose to rear older adopted children. I won’t say more than it is sometimes difficult to live your ideals.

    These folks who have 6, 12 or 19 children, like the Duggar family, are more political than religious. If these “quiverfull” families remain in small communities in a few years they will have total control of the politics in their region which will give them more influence in their state politics and eventually the nation’s politics.

    I was heavily influenced by Zero Population Growth as a young woman. While I sometimes wished for a large biological family, I am satisfied now that that part of my environmental footprint is non-existent.

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      Adoption is an excellent option. It allows you the experience of raising a child, while giving an otherwise unwanted child a caring parent. Thanks for commenting and adopting.

  9. wow. what a great discussion to come back to!
    i’ve been away.
    my husband and i didn’t have children. i made that
    decision (he’d already had the operation) when i married
    him at 19. he was 29. i was just totally in love and stayed
    that way until he died, 16 years later. would do it again.
    i actually have never regretted it. i love my nephews and
    children in general… but i never felt i wasn’t “fulfilled.”
    these people who have “litters” just leave me cold.
    my dad had an interesting perspective… he said if we each
    just replaced ourself, it would even out and the earth could
    support its load. my parents had 2 children (my brother and i)
    my brother became a scientist. he has the unusual theory that
    mother nature gleans us like she does all animal species when
    they become too prolific to support. interesting but disturbing
    theory!!
    tammy j

  10. Mike | HomelessOnWheels

    Hmmm… could that be why natural disasters seem to be on the rise? Nature’s way of curbing overpopulation?

    Thanks for commenting, Tammy.

  11. I completely agree with not understanding the drive to have children. And this is coming from a mother of two! I never chose to have children, but life happens (against abortion since I’m against killing in general despite the age or species). I can understand the tax breaks being a parent. Raising kids is freaking expensive! If we didn’t get that bit of help, I’m not sure how we’d make it some times. Yet, I still, at the end of the day, agree that SOMETHING needs to be done ASAP to curb this population epidemic. What pisses me off the most is the amount of money people spend to biologically have children (IVF etc.). There are so many children who need a good home, and adopting one would cost about the same and possibly less than having a biological child. If we hadn’t accidentally had biological children, I would have adopted in a heartbeat. I think there should be more monetary incentives to adopt over having biological children. Finally, as for the drive of why people have children, I could go on and on about the evolutionary aspects on this one (evolutionary psych & bio were my majors). But I’ll digress and just leave it as yes, you’re not alone in thinking breeding is highly overrated :)

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      I didn’t even think of that one – the great lengths people will go to to enhance their ability to reproduce, or to try to make babies they might otherwise be incapable of. You’re right – if these folks want to be parents so badly, there are plenty of unwanted children that need homes. Thanks for commenting!

  12. This is a great discussion! I was going to leave a longer comment, but Ivan had already expressed many of my ideas.

    I had my two children at a young age. I am glad I had them and happy about the way they turned out – intelligent, conscientious and thinking for themselves. When I was growing up, being a mom was drilled into my head as a right of passage and a sound thing to do, something that everybody did in order to be complete. Otherwise you ran the risk of “growing old with no one to bring you a glass of water”. But when I was raising my kids, I was open and honest with them about sex and reproduction, and always pointed out that when they grew up, they had a choice either to have children or to remain childless. I never glossed over the tremendous responsibility and heartbreak that came with being a parent.

    As far as child subsidies… It sure helped me a lot to have discounted childcare through a state program when the kids were young. I was a single mom and had to work from 8 to 5. No support system. It also helped tremendously that a local non-profit paid for their summer camp a few years in a row, until my income improved. But the problem lies deeper than subsidies for families. This wouldn’t be an issue if we had universal access to reduced work hours, decent health care, affordable daycare and quality education. Let’s advocate for a society where people and corporations pay their fair share of taxes, and where human services are prioritized over war. I am for a single tax rate without any deductions, except maybe for charity donations. The contradiction is not between children with families and childless adults, its between institutionalized greed and us the regular people.

  13. Unfortunately, the lower your reproductive drive, and the more you understand the downside of having children, THE MORE CHILDREN YOU SHOULD MAKE. As “Idiocracy” humorously explains:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXRjmyJFzrU (click my name)
    Have you heard of one/two child policy?
    Countries with negative growth rates must either make up for it via immigration or scale down some industries (any new schools built?), so the issue is very political.
    Chill out and remember, dead people lead the fight against overpopulation! YOU can follow suit! YOU can initiate others into this cause!
    gtg, someone’s loitering at my RV…

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      That’s rather frightening. I’m not sure the solution is to encourage smarter people to breed – while it might improve the smart-to-stupid ratio, it won’t help the overpopulation problem. Perhaps we need to figure out how to discourage stupid people from breeding – but how? I’ve seem bumper stickers that read “stupip people shouldn’t breed” but of course the target audience is probably not reading them, and may not be capable.

      Anyway, thanks for commenting and sharing that video!

    • You’re welcome!
      If people with lower reproductive drive (smarter people) outbreed people with higher reproductive drive (dumber people), then the future will have an easier time curbing overpopulation.
      It’s kinda like cultivating a great seedless crop, like the sterile banana.
      Here’s the main idea to keep in mind: deep conscientiousness regarding overpopulation should DISinhibit your breeding – if you like kids, and if you can support them, have as many as you want. If you don’t have the recklessness, find the discipline. Otherwise, you are only making room for less deserving specimens.
      Perhaps making contraceptives simpler and more universally accessible, like by introducing a “the pill” for men, will decrease reproduction more significantly among stupid people, who are more likely to unintentially reproduce, and less likely to plan their families.

  14. I am a single mother of two. I had to divorce their alcoholic father, but he was not an alcoholic when we had these kids so it’s not as if I planned this. I would have still had my kids even if there were no financial incentives, so to speak, so really the financial incentives make no sense. If someone is actually choosing to have babies for a tax break, they shouldn’t really be parents! That being said, I take any deductions I can get and they help, but that’s really not the point of this article.

    I also think it’s terrible that people have to have kids in order to qualify for benefits. I think the birth rate would go down if one didn’t have to have kids to get into the “system”. Medicaid should cover the childless as well.

    Our system is messed up, because on the one hand we have overpopulation, environmental degradation, etc. but we feel we must provide incentives to breed because this system depends on growth. Stocks need companies to sell more and make more money year after year. We need more people to buy all the houses builders and building. We need more workers to pay in to social security…so we encourage breeding and immigration. I wish we could come up with a more sustainable system that didn’t depend on constant growth, which we all know can’t last anyway.

    • Mike | HomelessOnWheels

      Thanks for commenting, Trixie! Your last paragraph makes a good point. I wonder if there is any way we can move from a growth-based economy to a static and sustainable economy?

  15. Great comment, trixie2212, I totally agree.

  16. Mike,

    I have a perfect solution. Childless adults need pay NOTHING for the care and/or education of children, on one hand. On the other hand, they receive NO benefit from the fruits of others’ labors, including the unrecompensated fruits of bearing and raising children. In other words, you pay NO taxes to feed or educate children. And, no one, but the parents of those children, receive the fruits of those children when they are adults, in terms of things like Social Security and MediCare. That works for me! How about you?

    I receive no governmental benefit for breeding, and you receive no governmental benefit for NOT breeding! That’s just and fair!

  17. @ diligentdave: As far as I know every legally working person pays social security. That means that someone’s child has nothing to do with your social security being paid out. However SS is a problem becasue even though you are paying in that money is used to pay Suzi Blankenship a 86 year old woman who is currently drawing SS. It’s not like the SS you pay in is sitting in an account waiting for you to hit 65 to start withdrawing it. The money that is being paid in right now is being used right now. So child or not if you have contributed to SS you should get a check. If we were paying into a dedicated account then what about the SS of people who died before 65 what should happen to that? Should left over family receive that check, should the government be entitled to it? Should you decide if it may make its way to a charity?

    • The oversized Baby Boom generation is draining the system for our (metaphoric) grandchildren. As counterintuitive as it sounds, the SSA should take enough of an administrative fee at both ends of the money flow to ensure that there’ll be something left for the current contributors. This has nothing to do with encouraging breeding, though – it’s about dealing with the consequences.

  18. I am OK with (school taxes) our taxes going to pay for the children of other people to get an education. Whether or not I choose to have children, I recognize that an educated population is super dooper important.(apparently, I didn’t get one :) If we are going to allow people to have children, we have to provide the children with an education, even if the parents aren’t willing or able to provide it.

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