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A "Parent License" variation

2004-10-19 02:41:34.897074+00 by Shawn 37 comments

The recent turn to the subject of parenting in last week's thread about young lesbianism scare-mongering reminded me of a new spark I had on the old idea of Parent Licensing.

Every so often the half-joke resurfaces that "we should sterilize everybody at birth and require parents to get a license before they can have children (by having the process reversed)". Seriously considered, this idea raises all kinds of Orwellian questions - and rightfully so. Who gets to be the gatekeeper, deciding which individuals are worthy enough to procreate? Then it struck me...

Ostensibly, the purpose behind the creation of the institution of marriage was to provide a stable home environment for the rearing of children - parents who had committed to being there for their offspring. Why not then make the reverse procedure automatic upon obtaining a spouse? Or maybe even after a short waiting period - to keep people from getting hitched for a week so they can have a kid. Nobody (nor organization) sitting in judgement over the prospective parents, just a stated and accepted promise of establishing a family environment.

Obviously it's not perfect, but then neither is life. The biggest issue I see is that marriage is not yet available to all, and that the government has too much control over that aspect of our society. In the pipe dream known as The World According To Shawn freedom to marry would be coupled with the Procreation Promise.

What do others think?

[ related topics: Children and growing up Privacy Sociology Civil Liberties Marriage ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-19 07:32:37.668082+00 by: Diane Reese

Well, this may sound a little off track at first, but it feels relevant.

My first baby was a mistake. An accident. A failure of birth control. Until the moment I realized I was pregnant, I had never seriously considered having children, I just assumed I would not. (I had never in my life held a baby until that child was placed in my arms, by the way.) After talking it over, we decided to go ahead, and the resulting human, my older son, is without false modesty one of the most amazingly bright, perceptive, and fascinating people I have ever met. This was not an easy decision: my now-husband was at that time still married to a woman who had left him and taken their daughter with her, and their divorce was not final until 3 weeks before Greg was born -- we were unable to mention my pregnancy to anyone in Charlie's family in TX out of fear of possible roadblocks to the divorce. Despite its difficulties and the inherent sacrifices involved, I found parenting to be unexpectedly rewarding, and 2.5 years later we added a second son whose creativity and energy shine like the sun. (And then I got fixed so we would not add a third child to the earth.) I cannot wait to see what they both bring to the world in their lives.

Had I been sterilized awaiting reversal upon betrothal, I may never have gotten pregnant (we were not married until Greg was four months old), and the world would be without these two bright lights for the future. In addition, I would likely never have known what a downright fantastic parent I am: I'd always doubted that, but *damn* I'm good if I do say so myself. I recognize that I do not represent the average in many regards, but given my experience I can't endorse your concept, Shawn. Interesting thought, though. (PS: Sterilization is often not reversable. Mine better not be, at least!)

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-19 07:43:31.52621+00 by: dexev


I must have missed this in the original post, but what problem(s) are you attempting to solve by forcibly sterilizing the entire population?


#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-19 14:51:45.264121+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

Diane; point taken. I'm glad your discoveries were so positive.

Sterilization is perhaps not quite the appropriate word, but I don't know the terminology well enough to present another. What I envision is a reversable procedure which puts the reproductive mechanisms into a somewhat hibernative state.

mike; large numbers of children not being raised in any meaningful fashion. Instead, being foisted off on teachers, television, etc.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-19 16:17:53.001343+00 by: flushy [edit history]

That type of solution only covers the symptom, but does nothing for the cause.

Teens getting pregnant? Educate them.

Children unruly, ill tempered, uneducated, and show no respect or hold no responsibility? Be tough. If the parents object, be tougher on the parents.

This "It's not my fault but my genes" mentality has to stop. If you have a chemical imbalance, we put you in the funny farm. If you have "bad" genes, should we just incinerate you?

Shawn, I will not allow you to take away my liberty, or the freedom of my fellow citizen. I may not like him. I may think him to be a lousy parent, but you are far more dangerous to me than him.

It really scares me to think that you were actually serious. Are you the type of person that nods in happy agreement, when Homeland Security deems it necessary for more "security checks".

HLS: "DNA samples from everyone!"

people: "yay!! let's get those bad terrorists!"

HLS: "You must register with the local government if you wish to travel by any means."

people: "yay!! we are safe yet again!"

HLS: "You must wear this beacon and shock collar."

people: "yay!! look how safe we are!"

HLS: "ok, the government is so great that no voting is necessary. Why break a great thing?"

people: "hey! what about.." BZZZZZ "yay!! we have a great government."

HLS: "We shall now be called Big Brother. You will love us. If not, you will be reformed."

people: "yay!! Big Brother is wonderful! We love him so!"

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-19 16:19:03.565243+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger [edit history]

Shawn: Your solution doesn't address the problem. It doesn't even address the symptoms of the problem.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-19 16:58:17.397079+00 by: sethg

Every "reversable procedure which puts the reproductive mechanisms into a somewhat hibernative state" has side effects.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-19 17:34:53.435789+00 by: Dan Lyke

I think all of you are taking this entirely too literally. Shawn's question needs to be read with a certain other modest proposal in mind.

First off, Shawn's satirizing those who've proposed that marriage should have some sort of externally defined goal. Judging by the reactions here, I think he's also done a pretty good job of showing up the silliness of the current federal programs which seek to increase marriage in the hopes that it will give more children of single parent households two parents (or, if you wanna be totally stereotypical, "a father").

I'm deliberately staying away from the "type of children" argument, 'cause that way lies irresolvable conflict and we'll end up with another one of those 45 comment entries (not that I'm trying to stop that)... But I'll bet Shawn agrees with me that we're roughly 10x overpopulated, and that if Shawn met Diane's kids he'd also agree with me that those two are part of the one in ten that we want to keep.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-19 18:03:41.314661+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

Given the number of times something has been called a "modest proposal" here, I'm beginning to wonder if there are any immodest proposals.


Perhaps that doesn't seem like a lot to you, but to me it feels like the modest proposal is over-used.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-19 19:51:48.643857+00 by: Dan Lyke

Given that I'm such a sucker for cliché, five six over the six and a half years of Flutterby seems rather tame, actually.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-20 10:23:32.53665+00 by: dexev


I know Shawn was engaging in hyperbole with his suggestion, but even a "modest proposal" needs to have a problem that its trying to address. You're saying 'overpopulation'; Shawn's saying 'kids aren't being not raised (right)'. I'd like to know both of your reasons for those responses -- Dan, are you really suggesting that the ideal population of this country is 29 million? Or are you speaking globally -- the population of the world should be 600 million? Heck, we could probably all go back to being hunter-gatherers at that point.


#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-20 10:57:57.731864+00 by: Dan Lyke

Even at the U.S. alone, that's still roughly civil war era population levels. Yes, there are issues with population size necessary to support a technology level, but that size is large enough to support basic mass markets while still being small enough that the environment can absorb the impact of human habitation.

As for kids not being raised right, I live in a fairly gifted place, and I have the "that person has no business having kids" reaction regularly. Often for reasons that wouldn't be solved with Shawn's solution, but...

It's 3 in the morning and I'm not as coherent as I'd like, I'll try to come back and give this a stronger response later today.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-20 14:38:30.951025+00 by: ebradway

How, exactly, does a population size become necessary to support a technology level? I can see how a large capitalist market would enhance development of consumer technology. But how large does it need to be and how fast do we need our rate of technological development?

I believe we are quickly reaching the point where we HAVE to have the technology to support the population and unless we are really closer to Gaia than most of us think, our technology will start failing to maintain our population once the environment gets too screwed up. That is, once the air becomes unbreathable, will we have sufficient technology to make it breathable? Once the water is undrinkable, can we make it drinkable?

The population level we had at Civil War era was small enough not to impact the environment negatively in a way would require technology to compensate. What would the world be like today if world population levels flattened out then?

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-20 15:55:23.834999+00 by: jeff

I'd really like to see some economic philosophies emerge which view the world economy and environment together in terms of homeostatic terms, lest we end up with a planet like Mars.

I've seen widely varying numbers that Earth can theoretically support between 10-50 billion people in equilibrium with the environment.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-20 16:05:15.403176+00 by: meuon

On the 'embarrassing things of life' topic.. I had dinner with my son Ryan (20) last weekend. I'm not a great parent and hadn't seen him since he bought his own bus ticket back to his mom's a couple of years ago. Although I can't agree with some of his choices, I'm looking at him from a different perspective. He's living with a girlfriend, a cute little thing in their own apartment, he working (kinda) and taking care of himself... Not bad overall, dispite a few motorcycle wrecks and other issues. His future is looking brighter and I'm proud of him for overcoming some real issues in his life.

My point being: You have to be really bad to mess up raising a kid. But I'm sure 'licenses' are NOT the answer.. Some practical classes would have been useful, I took them and worked with a therapist much too late to do any good. I came out with two simple truths: They have to know/grok they are loved, at the core level and with no doubts. Some kids need some real discipline to know they are truly loved.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-20 17:05:43.266002+00 by: ebradway

The Global Commons concept was created to tie economic development to environmental impact. The problem is that countries like the United States refuse to reocognize any outside authority when it comes to how their businesses impact the Global Commons. A recent example is Bush's refusal to sign the Kyoto Protocol along with a sizable group of citizens want the US out of the UN. (It is interesting that Kucunich supports Kyoto and not the UN).

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-20 18:38:55.668428+00 by: dexev

Eric, I think I understand Dan's point about population levels for technology. Even after all of the infrastructure has been developed and built, there are economies of scale in the ongoing operation that require a certain number of users. Take the phone/internet network -- it may not be economically feasible to have a high-speed connection between two cities if the cities are below a certain size. I see this here locally. Whey I SSH in to work from home, all of my packets go through Seattle because it's not worth the investment to tie all of the big lines together in town.

Dan, I'll 29 million being Civil-war level population sounds reasonable, but remember that this country is twice as large as it was in 1965. What are your goals for such a reduced population; where do you see the benefits?

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-20 21:59:47.401065+00 by: Shawn

flushy; I'm sorry, I guess I wasn't clear enough:

this idea raises all kinds of Orwellian questions - and rightfully so is an anathema - nay, an obcenity, a festering pile of sheep dung thrown, hurled rather, in the face of freedom. All peoples everywhere should cry out in anger and defiance at the mere proposal of such a thought.

The original proposal - which I really do often (in a cyclical way) hear expressed and is, as Dan notes, born of the dual issues "the world is [becoming] overpopulated"/"those people should not have children" - is heinous in it's implementation, yes.

My modification of the original proposal - some kind of "parental license" - was intended to address precisely the concerns and fears you express, flushy. If you feel it does not adequately meet those concerns, fair enough, but I'd ask you to not completely ignore the effort.

While it was actually not my intent to satirize or engage in hyperbole, neither am I attempting to start any kind of grassroots campaign around this premise. I was simply thinking out loud. My post was, by no means, a completed proposal intended for immediate implementation. Rather, it was the first spark of idea in a potential thought, with the invitation to all of you to help me think it through.

Satire potential aside, yes Dan, I do agree with you - albeit without the actual numbers. I have no idea to what degree the world may or may not be overpopulated. Furthermore, until this thread I had no idea that the concept of overpopulation was even in question. In my circles, it's generally accepted as a given.

Amongst the plethora of spasming joints, I have received some thoughtful and interesting feedback, which is really all I was after. Thank you. (And by all means, feel free to continue.)

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-20 22:13:43.120139+00 by: Shawn

Oh, yes. I also think that the my "idea" does address the problem, by encouraging a shift in the way our culture views parenthood. It promotes the idea that having children is a choice, rather than something that is just expected to happen to us.

When something is a choice, then we actually have to think about it. I believe we also care more about it - are more likely to treasure and respect the outcome of that choice. Phsycologically, we feel that we have actually been involved in the process that led us to that result. We have affected control over our own lives.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-20 23:43:26.791366+00 by: Dan Lyke

Eric, we long ago passed the point where we have to maintain a certain level of technology to maintain the population. We could probably handle the lower crop yields of organic farming versus pesticides, because so many other aspects of farming have been made efficient, but there's absolutely no way to sustain the sort of population densities we do without, say, tractors. Or modern irrigation systems.

I believe that it takes a certain market size to support a given technology level for the reason dexev suggests; when the population is smaller R&D costs rise compared to manufacturing costs, at some point you hit that magic point on the price curve where something has to give, and that something will be R&D funding. So technology will progress more slowly, unless your two populations are distributed differently along some other curve. Whence the desirability, at least in theory, of some metric for allowing people to become parents.

As for what it would solve... Ansel Adams says in his autobiography that on a clear day from San Francisco you used to be able to see the Sierra Nevada. Charlene's father reports pre WWII standing shoulder to shoulder down Baker Beach, hauling fish out of the ocean as fast as he could bait and cast. We pump water hundreds of miles, over mountain passes, because substantial portions of the food every one of us eats are grown in desert. And, yeah, you Chattanoogans are snickering right now, but look at how much of your produce comes from the desert, and look at what's happening to Georgia's water table.

Now the argument can be made that agriculture is such a small portion of our GNP that cutting the costs of agriculture by allowing it to happen in more favorable climates, by cutting the costs of fishing and harvesting natural resources, and even the 20% of California electricity costs that allegedly go to pumping water, most of it for that aforementioned irrigation, wouldn't have much of an impact. Perhaps that's true, I'm having trouble finding the right statistics (in a reasonable amount of time) to make the case that this would affect consumer costs, rather than just the, what, 3% or so of the economy that goes directly to farming.


It takes one hell of an ostrich to ignore that we're inching up the curve on housing, and freeing up that portion of the economy would do good things. Let the natural processes cut down on pollution and we might cut down health care costs (although frankly that seems to be a "how much pain will we endure to keep people alive" sort of thing).

Meuon, you may think it takes a hell of a lot to screw up parenting, and you may be right. But I've seen the results of screwed up parenting, and have helped various people work through some of the issues involved with that (and let me say for the record right here that any quibbles or complaints I may have with my parents are on a completely different scale than what I'm talking about here), and... well... it happens, more often than I'd like, and it's a pretty damned horrific thing.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-21 00:04:50.08946+00 by: Dan Lyke

Oh yeah: I also want to thank those of you asking the questions. Sometimes in the big Flutterby threads I think "wait, we're spending time discussing that?" In this case I'm having to think a bit and do a bit of poking about (even though I'm not doing much citing, I'm trying to make sure that any numbers I spew at least have a passing acquaintance with reality), and I'm enjoying that.


#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-21 03:49:06.338269+00 by: crasch [edit history]


Many of the environmental problems you raise are caused because the resources in question (fisheries, water, clean air, beautiful scenery) are commons. Nobody owns them (or, as in the case of water rights, the ability to transfer those rights is severely compromised by government regulation). As a result, everyone who uses those resources has little incentive to manage them for the long term--anything they fail to take today will be taken by one of their competitors.

If people had property rights in those resources, and if the negative externalities (pollution, unsightliness) could be incorporated into the cost of goods, then the population would naturally be limited to "sustainable" levels (as the price of scarce goods rose, the costs of having children would increase, and fewer people would have them).

See this link for pointers to market solutions to these problems: http://www.perc.org/publicatio...rcreports/dec2000/freemarket.php

Housing, even in the Bay Area, could be a helluva lot cheaper without all of the zoning regulations. Among many other regulations that drive up the price of housing:

  1. you can't house more than N number of people in a given house
  2. you can't build smaller than N square feet
  3. you can't put more than N buildings/acre
  4. you can't build buildings more than 2-3 stories high
  5. you can't live in an RV in the backyard
  6. you can't build with renewable, low-impact methods (straw bale, underground, papercrete)
  7. you can't put a trailer or other "mobile home" on the land (outside of mobile home ghettos)


Housing prices in the Bay Area are high because people use the government to protect their houses from price competition, not because there's an intrinsic shortage of space.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-21 04:36:13.511275+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

Shawn, even making parenting more obviously a choice does not solve the problem of poor parenting or poorly prepared parents.

Some people set out to reproduce without considering how their lifestyle would have to change to effectively parent.

The only place I'm aware of that imposes wide restrictions on who can be parents is China. It would be interesting to see how well parents there meet your standard of a good parent.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-21 05:15:36.810307+00 by: dexev

Dan, there's a guy out at one of the UC campuses (Davis, maybe, or Santa Barbara) that's doing an intesive farming project -- subsisting entirely on what he's able to grow on 4000 square feet. All manual labor, no outside soil amendments. I think the article was on sfgate -- I'll try to dig up a cite if you want. This is prime, year-round farmland, so double or triple that number if you want -- there's still plenty of carrying capacity on the Earth for growing food. And for the other necessities of life, too, I would suggest.

Let me re-phrase your initial statement and see if you agree:

We have continued using the same living habits that were acceptable when there were 100 million people in the country, except that now there are 300 million people and the side-effects of those earlier habits have become unmaintainable.

Is that consistent with what you mean?


#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-21 17:36:20.758567+00 by: crasch


I'd love a reference to that guy doing intensive farming, if you can find it.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-21 20:32:34.312021+00 by: dexev

Here it is:



#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-21 21:25:31.232116+00 by: Dan Lyke

crasch, true, but if you set up for non-created elements to be property, then you've got to provide for your children or having children is an act of violence.

And, yes, all of those things about housing density and zoning restrictions are true, but they're also a large part of what gives a property its value. There's a reason Marin County property is more valuable than Berkeley property, and much of that has to do with the additional rights held in common by the residents of Marin.

Cool article on the intensive farming. Any idea what the labor costs for those techniques start to look like?

And even if that's economically viable, just because we could pack people in cheek to jowl and feed 'em algae, can you tell me why we should? Or, let's turn this around: Give me a justification for a population density over, say, a person per square mile.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-21 22:29:15.6192+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

the costs of having children would increase, and fewer people would have them

With our current cultural mindset, I don't think this axiom is realistic. People routinely continue to pursue detrimental courses of action despite the eventual cost. Or, to put a finer point on it, my observations would lead me to believe that the majority of people don't pre-consider the cost of having children - they just have them because they're expected to.

Larry Mike (sorry, I saw this but forgot to make the change before submitting); True, my proposal doesn't address poor parenting directly, but no proposal occurs in a vaccum. I don't deal in magic bullets. There is no ultimate solution that solves everything. I'd absolutely encourage parental training, classes, etc., but I draw the line at forcing any doctrine on others. (Therefore, no mandatory classes for parents - a concept my proposal is intended to work around.)

Some people set out to reproduce without considering...

Which is exactly what my proposal is intended to address. Making it a choice clears the path for this consideration. It leads them to the water - drinking is, of course, up to them - but we know they've at least been exposed to it.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-22 01:41:28.078719+00 by: semiotic_pirate

I think the proposal concerning children shouldn't be centered around marraige, at least not marraige as we currently think of it as.. maybe we should have legally binding contracts between people that consciously decide to have children together, and that the contract lasts a set amount of time and can be renewed if desired by both parties, however dissolving the contract would not relieve the parties of the cost of upbringing. We have to change the concept of family, of the possessive ownership of people that our current view of marraige entails.

As far as poor parenting, it should be taught just like anything else... (just like I think basic economics should be taught to prepare young people to handle their finances intelligently.) This could be supplemented by the same sort of pre-child counseling/classes that some people attend previous to marraige.

And I definitley agree with having to change property rights and how they are applied in order to preserve the environment over the long term for society as a whole. That's one of the research projects I'm going to be getting involved with at school. (Conservation techniques that were used with the Lobstermen in Maine, and possible application to other fisheries businesses.)

I'm distracted while reading this, hopefully it adds something to the discussion.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-22 08:24:58.913727+00 by: dexev

Dan, I agree that to continue our current lifestyle, there need to be drastically fewer people in the world. I just don't see it as a realistic option in the short or medium-term, and I'm not eveb sure that it's a good idea in the long term.

I believe that depopulation, at the rate it would need to happen to avoid even the medium-term problems, would be horrific. Disease, war...the whole Four Horsemen. It may already be too late, sometimes I think that it is, but it shouldn't be something we strive for.

Once we've made it through the medium term (the next 100 years or so), it isn't a pressing problem any more. The population will be naturally decreasing. We'll likely be moving on to other worlds (a very-long-term survival necessity, anyway). We'll see enormous technological advances that make it even easier to live in a crowded world.

Our biology drives us to fill all available space with copies of ourselves. We have the power as individuals to choose not to, but as a species it's inevitable. A world where inefficiency (a person per square mile) is the norm isn't in equilibrium -- at least not at this stage of our evolution.

It's not that I think fitting more people into less space is better, just that it's inevitable.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-22 08:45:25.19722+00 by: dexev

Shawn, you say that 'you draw the line at forcing any doctrine on others', but that's exactly what your proposal would do. It would enforce somebody's idea of a 'family environment'. Who, in this proposal, gets to decide what makes a 'family environment'? A man and a woman? Two women? Four women and a man? A single woman? Five women and six men? Children have been successfully raised in all of those environments (except possibly the last). Does anything go, or are some groups of people permanently banned from having children?

What enforcement action do you take when the 'family environment' falls apart? Do you go to prison if you get a divorce, or do you just lose your child? Who decides if a situation is a 'bad family environment'. We have very, very permissive laws now on when a child gets taken away from their family, and good kids are still routinely removed from good homes.

You want to take responsibility for my child's well-being away from me and give it to a bureacrat.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-22 14:58:39.927783+00 by: Shawn [edit history]

that's exactly what your proposal would do

I can see how you might make that mistaken assumption, but look more closely:

Who, in this proposal, gets to decide what makes a 'family environment'?

The people who are party to it. As I stated originally, my proposal would have to go hand in hand with a reform of the definition of marriage. Any of your suggestions would be perfectly acceptable.

What enforcement action do you take when the 'family environment' falls apart?

None. The proposal is not about enforcing a particular family environment, it is about helping to recognize having children is a choice and to think about that choice before making it.

Who decides if a situation is a 'bad family environment'.

I said nothing about "good" or "bad" family environments - I just said an environment was necessary. The whole point of my proposal is to do away with the judgement aspect.

You want to take responsibility for my child's well-being away from me and give it to a bureacrat.

No, I want to keep responsibility far away from the government and help you recognize your responsibility in the matter.

Allow me to present an analogy:

A local sex-positive club (where members in numerous variety have varying levels of sex with each other) has a standing policy. Before engaging in sexual activity, you must first have a discussion about safe sex (what you're going to do about it, etc.) There is nothing which dictates what you must talk about, or what agreement you must come to - you are simply required to have the discussion before continuing.

My proposal is similar. You don't have to create any particular family environment that follows any particular guidelines - you simply must establish the intent to have a family environment (and at least make an attempt to follow through on it) - whatever that means to you. No judgements, no government control, no forcing people to live according to a particular doctrine.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-22 15:14:47.452887+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger

No judgements, no government control, no forcing people to live according to a particular doctrine.

But there is "government control" and "forcing people to live according to a particular doctrine."

You've decided that people shouldn't be able to have children until they "choose" to do it. To make children a choice, you want to enforce some sort of reproductive blockage until people establish the intent to have a family.

Now, if you mean that people could choose to follow your proposal or not, then go for it.

But it sounds to me like you want to enforce your particular <del>doctrine</del>proposal on people.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-22 15:18:19.571334+00 by: Mark A. Hershberger


dexev, thanks for the url. We want to start growing our some of our own food. This makes me think we could get more from it than I thought.

#Comment A local sex-positive club made: 2004-10-22 20:09:34.933057+00 by: baylink

Hmmm... :-)\

I'm wondering, here, if the old practice of the Paris Metro is pertinent. They used to have premium cars, for which you were charged twice as much to get on.

That was all, no special features or maintenance. They were just less crowded (like toll expressways), because they charged.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-23 01:02:06.043124+00 by: polly

i am thankful, after reading all the comments above that i had my daughters in 1978 and 1979, both accidents of not remembering to take the pill. i functioned fairly well as a single mom and the girls turned out to be pretty decent people. really the only time i had problems was when i got married, the husband tends to interfer with my philosophy of child rearing. i do NOT know where they get their licenses to raise kids, must have been the k-mart blue light special.

excessive children seem to be products of low income/poverty level families, hence, the "bad parent" issues. until a better method arises, the methods of fighting "overbreeding" is education, not that that seems to be working.

on the kiling mother earth issue, i vote to do away with all fossil fuel consuming vehicles and ride a horse or mule. that's my vote.

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-26 14:54:38.132544+00 by: Shawn

All I can say, Mark, is that I don't have that broad a definition for "doctrine".

#Comment Re: made: 2004-10-27 00:00:22.835998+00 by: crasch [edit history]

dexev -- thanks for the link!

Dan --

And, yes, all of those things about housing density and zoning restrictions are true, but they're also a large part of what gives a property its value. There's a reason Marin County property is more valuable than Berkeley property, and much of that has to do with the additional rights held in common by the residents of Marin.

Yes, you're right. Property values in Marin are higher in part due to zoning regulations. However, you seemed to be blaming high housing prices on population growth, and I was pointing out that high prices depend on supply and demand, and that zoning laws (which restrict supply) bear as much blame as population growth.

As for whether those zoning laws are desirable, I have no problem if you want views unsullied by high rises, or houses, or what have you--as long as you pay for it. If you buy the land, and then refuse to allow anything to be built on it, more power to you.

However, zoning laws are imposed by whoever controls the zoning board. Wealthy, older, existing homeowners are highly motivated to protect their investment, and have the time and money to push their candidates. So they tend to control the zoning boards, and naturally, pass regulations that protect their property values. They don't have to compensate homeowners who would prefer to say, build an apartment building, or the renters who might wish to live in said apartment. They get to impose their will by legislative fiat.

Is this socially optimal?

Ask yourself this: is it okay for the RIAA to push for regulations such as the DMCA, that preserve the profit they make from monopoly control of songs?

I would say that if you can't legally play non-DRM songs on your mp3 player, the value of your player has been reduced.

Moreover, I think that we're missing out on a wealth of intellectual goods because of draconian copyright laws, including but not limited to:

As with copyright law, zoning laws do protect the profits of existing homeowners. The benefit to existing homeowners is easily seen and measured. However, I think Bay are residents suffer many negatives as a result of zoning, including:

These effects are less easily seen because the people harmed may not even be aware that they've been harmed, or make the connection between the harm they suffer and zoning laws. For example, maybe that engineer who can't find work would've been able to find a job, if the company that would've hired him hadn't moved away.


Would I like to live jeek by jowl? Well, it depends on what I'm getting in return. Personally, I'm agnostic about what the optimal population density should be. Certainly, a lot of people vote with their feet, and choose to live in high-density areas such as Hong Kong or New York.

However, I do strongly feel that resources will be more wisely used if strong property rights exist (so that people have incentive to manage the property for the long term). I also believe that negative externalities (such as pollution) should be internalized so that the people who enjoy the good are the one's paying for the costs. For example, I favor ending subsidies for childbearing, such as tax-supported schools, welfare, and so on.

I think if you eliminate the commons and internalize costs, population growth will be naturally checked by the cost of bearing children. I think we're seeing that now, as most Western countries are experiencing low growth or population declines, as citizens decide that the opportunity costs of having children are too high.

I don't favor licensing parents because I don't trust the government with the power. (Would you want DMV staff deciding whether you can have children? If not, why would you expect the quality of personnel at the parent licensing board to be any better?). The enforcement costs and unintended consequences would also likely be quite high.

Rather than licensing, I would entertain the notion of requiring parents to buy insurance against the possibility that their children might impose costs on someone else. For example, we might require that parent's post a bond whenever they have a child. If the child is ever convicted of a crime, the bond would then be forfeit and would go to pay the costs of compensating the victim and paying for incarceration. Children would continue to be under their parent's authority until they bought out their parent's bond.