Flutterby™! : Cost of a child (continued)

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Cost of a child (continued)

2001-06-20 15:10:42+00 by Dan Lyke 8 comments

I haven't read Paying For It: what children fully cost enough to do basic fact-checking on, but I wanted to continue the cost of a child discussion in a separate place so that we didn't make that page way too long to load. So this is just an entry to hang another discussion off of.

[ related topics: Child-Freedom ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:54+00 by: Dan Lyke

Larry, in the previous thread you said that the low birthrate in China was causing a lack of aunts and uncles. I'd think that the larger ratio of adults to children would cause more adult attention.

As for what I'd have missed out on if I didn't have aunts and uncles, I'd have missed a lot of the experiences that I hope I'm offering to kids now. And one of those I think of in that light was an unrelated adult with attitudes much like mine (where ever you are now, Bill Kennedy (of considerable model railroading fame), thank you for showing me that I could pick and choose the bits of being a grown-up that I wanted to.).

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:54+00 by: Larry Burton

Basically, what I was commenting on was a change in the traditional family structure. Good, bad or indifferent, that has now changed in China with the second generation of the one child family now becoming parents. Your decision to be an "Uncle" rather than a father is comendable in that you are not just opting out completely in helping to shape the future generations. I wonder, though, how many people are willing to be "Uncles" or "Aunts" to an unrelated child.

#Comment made: 2001-06-20 18:18:36+00 by: sethg [edit history]

If you're going to do such a complete accounting for the social cost of raising children (including the cost of maintaining the road in front of the house that a family-with-children just bought in a new subdivision -- sheesh!), you have to do an equally complete accounting for the social benefit, which only becomes visible after said children grow up.

Let me try to recast "children are our future" in terms that would appeal to a childless person's enlightened self-interest:

Imagine Joe Retiree living off the dividends from his IBM stock. Why can IBM pay dividends to Joe? Because it has employees who are producing the products and services that IBM sells, and IBM returns some profits from that sale to its investors. If IBM employees did not already have a baseline level of education subsidized by the state, then either IBM would have to spend more on training them (reducing IBM's profit margin), or the employees would have to spend more on their own education (either by spending less on other things or by saving less -- both of which would impact retirees' returns).

If everyone in Joe Retiree's generation had decided not to reproduce, then as soon as IBM's last employee retired, IBM wouldn't have any dividends -- and as IBM's work force got older and older, the stock market, anticipating this, would bid down the value of the stock. Furthermore, since intelligent investors buy stocks because they're willing to accept short-term risks in exchange for long-term rewards, as the cohort of investors got older and older, they would sell off IBM, driving the price down even faster.

Everything I've said above regarding IBM goes for every other interest-bearing investment you could make in anticipation of retirement: All of them assume that there will be a generation n+1[Wiki] that will be productive enough to pay returns to generation n[Wiki].

You can't say the same thing about boats.

Note that I haven't even mentioned Social Security.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:55+00 by: Dan Lyke

Actually, all that I ask is that there be enough adults around when I retire that I can purchase services from them. Obviously, the less adults to provide services, the more expensive their services will be, so there's a curve there that bears further evaluating, but...

Modulo the .COM lunacy of the past couple of years, the existence of unions and the real estate price curve indicate that we have a glut of adults as a commodity.

What we're short on is capable[Wiki] adults.

Now it's fairly well shown that the out-in-front overrides-everything-else indicator of how the children are going to be is the parents, both in who they are, and in how they're involved in the upbringing of their children.

Given that, if I'm going to contribute to the upbringing of children, I either want to be supporting parents whose efforts I believe in, or I want those children taken from their parents and raised in a manner I think is appropriate.

Anything else is just bad wealth-redistribution which should really be dealt with at an income tax level.

#Comment made: 2001-06-21 02:41:58+00 by: Pete [edit history]

I've been busy, so I'm addressing several previous posts in this single post:

>Pete, I realize an educated populace benefits society.
>My concern is over who should be responsible for paying
>for education. My position is that parents choose to
>take on the responsibility of raising a child and I
>submit that the choice of becoming a parent should
>involve being solely responsible for the expenses of
>rearing that child, including education.

You recognize that you benefit from the education of children, but you are unwilling to pay. This is hard to reconcile with the statements flowing through here equating the subsidized education of children with enabling freeloading by parents.

>As Dan commented earlier, the EPA superfund is helpful
>to society, but the sole responsibility for a factory's
>pollution rests with the factory owner. The superfund
>is for lawbreakers, ie., those who don't meet their
>responsibilities. I am not opposed to subsidized
>education of the children of parents who are negligent
>parents, ie., neglectful in their duty as parents to
>financially support their children. Non-negligent
>parents should fully pay for the education of their
>children because it's part of the responsibility of parenting.

This analogy is predicated upon the idea that the birth of a human being is a crime or other abuse of the community that must be compensated for, an idea you have failed to support. It would give me great pleasure to watch you try.

This post in it's entirety also reveals that you still fail to grasp a fundamental truth--subsidizing the education of a child is not a subsidy to the parent. The state supports the education of children to benefit 1) the children, and 2) the society at large.

Dan Lyke
>In a perfect world, I'd imagine a situation where you
>could buy child insurance to cover things like
>disabilities and development issues. This would let
>parents distribute the risk over the subgroup that
>wants to participate in that activity.

The interest group this expense should be, and _is_, spread over is those that live amongst the populace, as that is the group that benefits from having an educated populace.

>It's really very cool to see community based antediluvian chat happening.

What flood?

>Debra: While I agree that idiots will always be among
>us, I don't want govt enabling idiocy. Whether the
>negligent parents have the cognitive skills to have
>seen their limitations or not, I strongly feel govt
>does a disservice to the children, the parents, and
>to all of society when it removes the natural
>consequences of stupid behavior. Those with lower
>cognitive skills tend to learn primarily by trial and
>error. Removing error from the equation removes
>their chance of learning.

Thankfully, society aims to shield children from the mistakes of parents instead following the model you espouse of using these distinct human beings as a sort of vodoo doll, the abuse of which is intended to affect a change in their progenitor. Society's interest in turning every child, without regard to the quality of their parentage, into educated participants is a really basic idea that you have shown no evidence of grasping yet, making it especially amusing when you speak about imagined hordes of drooling idiot breeders with "lower cognitive skills" out there, especially when in the next breath you say you want to educate the parents by stopping the state from educating their children. Good one.

And I wouldn't be too dismissive of trial and error; it is the foundation of the scientific method.

>We realize the danger of improper operation of a car,
>so we support testing for those who operate a car.
>Regardless of your ability to buy a car, one must pass
>a test to legally drive.

This is incorrect. An unlicensed driver is free to purchase and drive a car, just not on public roads. Licensing is about the _privilege_ of driving on public roads.

>I submit that improper parenting is dangerous to society
>and parental testing is warranted.

Driving (on public roads) is a privilege. Is the Flutterby crowd really going to stand up and say that the use of ones genetalia is a privilege that flows from the government?

The default state of privileges is "off," the default state of rights is "on." I don't think you've thought through the full implications of turning reproduction into a "default off" affair. What more slippery slope and shorter path toward genocide could there be than to require action by a government for reproduction to occur? None, absolutely none. Attacks by governments on population segments they find unworthy have a long history, one I don't wish to empower for the future.

Think I'm exaggerating? Think it can't happen here? Think it can't happen now? Think again:

The House of Delegates voted today [2/2/2001-ed] (85 to 10) to express regret for Virginia's policies of selective breeding during the 20th century, including the forced sterilization of 8,000 mostly poor, uneducated men and women for supposed hereditary "defects."

Virginia passed its Eugenical Sterilization Act in 1924 -- which targeted "socially inadequate offspring" -- on the same day it passed the Racial Integrity Act prohibiting marriage between whites and nonwhites.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld forced sterilization at the Lynchburg facility in a case involving a woman named Carrie Buck, who had become pregnant as a teenager. In allowing her sterilization in 1927, Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes assessed Buck, her mother and her daughter, then declared, "Three generations of imbeciles are enough."
Virginia performed forced sterilaztions until 1979. Enough.

And did you catch what was the only state to outdo Virginia in this regard? "Only California, with 20,000 sterilizations, had more than Virginia."

>Those "parenting tests" would bring back the notion
>of error to the equation of parenting. Those who
>fail the tests would face more required parental
>education and society would help the kids, the
>parents, and itself by singling out those who would
>potentially parent dangerously.

I think you misjudge where the real dangers lie.

Dan Lyke
>>Many, many times the very people who can't support
>>or manage their kids *can't* see their limitations.
>Absolutely, and as long as we keep not sticking it
>back in their faces, because breeders (as distinct
>from parents) will continue to pump out kids unless
>they are much more conscious of the social and
>biological pressures which are pushing them to

Now Dan signs on to the idea of withholding education from children in order to create educated parents.

>Again, you buy a car and are fully responsible for
>the expenses and upkeep, but you can't drive like a
>bat outta hell just because you alone paid for the car.

Again, incorrect. You can't drive like a bat out of Hell on _public_ roads because driving on public roads is a privilege that flows from the government. See above in this post for the other immediate implications of this as applied to rights vs. privileges and parenting.

And what I originally wanted to address in this post, but don't have the energy to do justice to right now is what I alluded to at the close of my last post, why the government is so slow to come down hard on struggling parents, which would go a long way toward addressing some points in Dan's last post.

#Comment made: 2001-06-21 05:30:36+00 by: topspin [edit history]

Pete, you are misinterpreting my statements. Read:
>I am not opposed to subsidized
>education of the children of parents who are negligent
>parents, ie., neglectful in their duty as parents to
>financially support their children. Non-negligent
>parents should fully pay for the education of their
>children because it's part of the responsibility of parenting.

I clearly state I am NOT opposed to the subsidized education of the children of parents who are negligent, but I AM opposed to subsidized education for the children of parents who aren't negligent and can afford to educate their own kids. Again, I believe parents are responsible for the expenses incurred from their choice to have a child. Children are FIRST the responsibility of the parents and SECOND the responsibility of society if the parents are irresponsible or extenuating circumstances are involved.

I am NOT equating simply having a child with a crime. I am equating having a child which you cannot support with a crime against society. I am NOT advocating punishing the children for the crime, but the parents. I am simply suggesting what is common sense in any other endeavor: if you choose to take on a responsibility in society and cannot meet that responsibility, you face consequences for failing to meet your chosen obligations. Bankruptcies, negligence lawsuits, malpractice lawsuits.... these are not news.

You misinterpreted my call for parental testing. I am not suggesting "controlled reproduction" or eugenics, rather I'm calling for a way for society to identify existing parents who aren't pulling their parental weight in society.... who aren't getting involved in their kid's lives.... who aren't making financial decisions with their kids in mind.... who aren't being responsible parents.... and single them out for education and possibly sanctions by society. I'm suggesting parental testing to return responsibility to the equation for negligent parents. As I said, most parents are VERY responsible, even sacrificial, for their kids and family. I think society has an interest in identifying and admonishing those parents who are cavalier about their children's needs.

As for rights vs privileges, education is a privilege, not a right. If society is going to subsidize the privilege of public education, it has the right of regulation. Expecting certain things from the parents (via testing) is part of maximizing the investment in the child's education, unless you want to suggest the education process occurs only at school and the home environment has nothing to do with the success of a public education. Regulating parenting behavior is part of educating the child, IMO, because it teaches the kids about societal consequences, responsibility, and parenting skills.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:56+00 by: debrahyde


>>Biological processes practice eugenics, that's part of nature.<<

Not nearly as much as it use to, given our medical advances. My son would probably be dead already if not for his meds. And I know countless other children who would've died even younger as well. In the daily course of living, death and disability is a far and distant thing for most of us. And it's probably better that way, given how hypervigilant our society seems to be.

Granted, we don't understand and fear death and disabled like our greatgrandparents did. We can't imagine their natural tragedies visiting us today. I, for one, can't imagine the typhoid epidemic that took my maternal grandfather's first wife, plus his mother and sister. I can't imagine spooning soup to three small children from the sickbed, the way he did.

And how did I handle the parent of Fosterboy? I called the state. You might find that whimping out, but I wasn't about to let him bring his violence to my doorstep. Plus, the man was way beyond reasonable discourse. There was no opportunity to influence him; the best I could do was shelter his kids and call the state.

You still haven't answered the class aspect of this issue though.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:31:57+00 by: Dan Lyke

First off, so that we can keep things from getting too personal here, I suggest a revision to the terms of debate. I, and I think Topspin shares this view, am arguing from a point of philosophical purity. Pragmatism, unless I'm willing to completely alienate myself from the world, involves compromise. I'm just trying to push towards a philosophically better world.

Pete said:

This analogy is predicated upon the idea that the birth of a human being is a crime or other abuse of the community that must be compensated for, an idea you have failed to support.

If the community undertakes responsibility for the raising of a child, the birth of a child is the incursion of a liability upon the community. What's so hard about that?

Even if the community doesn't take such a responsibility, if we say that a child has rights, and if, as in, say, Objectivism, those rights are based on a very small humans-to-available-resources ratio (and this is assuming Objectivism's positive rights, not, for instance, Marxism's negative rights), then if we don't make the parents responsible for that use of resources we must lay the responsibility on the child.

That way, the presumption of being born in sin and obligation, lies Christianity.

To go back to the Superfund analogy, having a child is like acquiring hazardous materials for a manufacturing process. If you are responsible, then that manufacturing process may indeed result in a product which provides value to the society in which you hope to sell it, without harmful byproducts. If you are not responsible, future generations will end up spending millions attempting to collect and safely store the product of your misdeeds. Just as Superfund is insurance, so is public education.

In fact, if we took the enlightened northern European approaches to manufacturing, that manufacturers are responsible for the life-cycle and disposal of their products and the packaging, we'd require parents to post bond up-front.

Pete also commented that:

The interest group this expense should be, and is[Wiki], spread over is those that live amongst the populace, as that is the group that benefits from having an educated populace.

I don't buy that argument for the same reasons you'll hear me argue against roads as an unecessary and unfair subsidy of overly polluting technologies. Yes, this system benefits the populace, but only in a myopic way that precludes change in any meaningful time-scale to better modes.

And, in response to Todd's use of "antedeluvian", Pete asked: "What flood?".

September, 1993. (and those involved in this discussion, even if you joined the online community after that, should take this as a compliment.)

In response to my assertion that biological processes practice eugenics, Debra said:

Not nearly as much as it use to, given our medical advances.

I disagree. It's more that our medical advances have changed the rules by which we evolve. We still evolve, it's just that the rules of evolution favor a different set of genes than when the culling mechanism was who could outrun the predators. For instance, the rules as they stand right now don't favor whatever genes Topspin and I would pass on if we'd chosen to reproduce. Is creating a society in which I could not imagine raising a balanced, healthy child who could

And I don't tackle the class aspects because I believe that there will always be classes, some organisms are more adaptable than others. The only way to handle classism is to make sure that the social pressures which create the classes are just.