- Jul 2011
Colby Cosh: Two cheers for population decline? How about one-and-a-half? | National PostShould we shame people who have lots of children? A writer named Kristen Pyszczyk is getting static this week for answering with a frank “Yes” in a CBC editorial pegged to the birth of some TV couple’s fifth child. “As a feminist,” Psyszczyk wrote, “I tend to oppose any cultural conversation that involves telling a woman what to do with her body. But …”
I had thought feminism was a matter of principle rather than a mere tendency, but, anyway, Pyszczyk points out that women in the democratic West are “groomed” intensely for motherhood, that people who live (after necessarily being born) in the West inevitably have enormous environmental footprints, and that maybe we should consider a little frank baby-shaming, since “Shame is a powerful tool for changing behaviour: it’s how we introduce new and existing social conventions.”
There’s no arguing, factually, with that part in quotation marks. Indeed, most of these premises seem sort of uncontroversial, though they may have weaknesses or exceptions Pyszczyk is ignoring. Her argument has found no enthusiastic takers that I am aware of, and is kind of an indefensible mess overall (with its sci-fi elements and puzzling cameo by Prince), but I have to admire its banzai spirit. Damn the torpedoes: there is no stopping short of ultimate logical consequences here!
If rapid population growth led by large families (and that’s how it happens) is in some sense undesirable, that must mean applying some political, moral or social penalty to enthusiastic breeders. If you don’t want these penalties to include “shaming” — which might just mean a mix of mild heckling and soft prejudice — then what do you propose? A tax on childbirth? Streams of infertility propaganda from the Anti-Sex League?
Ms. Pyszczyk really has one very sharp point, and it is not that we should definitely make fun of celebrities who have five kids. It is that our ultimate ideas about demographics are confused and somewhat contradictory.
I am sure people who have actually had large-ish families will tell me that they already get the stinkeye on airplanes or in hotel lobbies, and I am one-thousand-per-cent certain that this is true. Any child past the second one, assuming they didn’t arrive in obvious pairs or trebles, is a countercultural signal. Having many children is a sort of advertisement for a personal set of values that privilege domestic pleasure over careerism and ecological accounting.
It is a modest way of dropping back from the productivity peloton. It indicates a determination to live as one’s ancestors did, which is bound to be taken, by some, as a deliberate challenge —perhaps even a matter for political suspicion. (What other “old-fashioned” views might those weirdos have?)
What you notice as a childless person is, of course, how pro-fertility our public policies are. We subsidize daycare, and lavishly subsidize a public education system that is about 50 per cent daycare. We offer tax credits, increasing ones, for procreation. Every infrastructure expense that underwrites a suburbanized world of large houses, minivans and spacious backyards is a baby subsidy in disguise.
There are medium-term economic justifications for all this that are more or less convincing: the retirement of the baby boomers shows the harm and hassle that demographic discontinuities can create. But even economists rarely, if ever, discuss the wider question of “What is the right number of residents of Canada?” The answer “More, more, more” is presumed, never investigated.
There is, I think, an unexamined fog of ideas behind this presumption. There’s the vague notion that fertility is a sign of social health — which, if true, does not imply that positively encouraging population growth, as a matter of gaming an economic endpoint, is itself healthy. There is also a very loose, unexpressed instinct that national greatness or prestige requires the existing Canadian population stock to more or less replace itself, as an alternative to a demented open-borders free-for-all. We want future Canada to consist, mostly, of our own children.
Any politician who explicitly said otherwise — who embraced the replacement of the Canadian population, which Pyszczyk, in passing, does — would be inviting annihilation. But, then again, many early-1970s environmentalists were in favour of both zero population growth in industrialized countries and tight immigration controls to discourage Third Worlders from expanding their eco-footprints.
This is an unheard-of position now — the view that a rich, cold country like Canada, one which we would now say imposes structural per-capita environmental costs on mommy Earth, should happily consider going into managed population decline through natural decrease and shuttered borders.
Would individual Canadians be worse off if Canada were a country of five million people? Of two million? Of half a million, mostly bunched up in a few cities? I do not see any economic reason to think so. And the spectacle is worth imagining, if only because we still have the overall shape of a resource-extraction colony, and resource extraction is getting less labour-intensive at a terrifying pace.
If we care about national greatness, small countries can be great. If we care about utilitarian factors, about vaguely quantified happiness, then our policy choices can be judged on their own merits, irrespective of what numerical size they lead our country towards. As a matter of brute, oversimplified math, we would certainly have more to “invest in future generations,” as the politicians like to say, if those generations were a lot smaller.
Kristen Pyszczyk's article: It shouldn't be taboo to criticize parents for having too many kids - CBC News | Opinion
All very interesting...
I am not sure what I think on this.
Looking back at Russia, for example, demography is very important for Putin
I wrote here about all the programs, federal and regional, they have over there, to stimulate fertility, and the new payouts for babies introduced just now: http://politicalhotwire.com/world-politics/183603-more-money-babies.html
And in Moscow, for example, the Mayor Sergey Sobyanin also introduced an additional perk for newborns for 2018
a box of stuff, everything a baby will need, blankets, bottles, baby clothes, toys, etc
Since January of 2018, all new moms receive this before leaving a birthing house in Moscow. This will especially however benefit more the fathers, who otherwise would be running around stores, buying all this shit for the baby, while mom is locked up in the birthing house: https://letidor.ru/novosti/n1-s-yanvarya-2018-goda-v-roddomah-moskvy-nachnut-vydavat-pridanoe-dlya-novorozhdennyh-19090.shtml
It is a national issue there, on two sides.
On one, the goal is to ensure that the white, Slavic population remains the dominant national ethnic group, and, to this end, not only are there measures to stimulate fertility, but also immigration and refugee programs give strict preference to people from ethnically complimentary neighbors, like Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova, for permanent residence and citizenship, like this big family from Donbass
versus, for example, those from the Muslim, Central Asian -stans, who are allowed in, for use as temporary cheap labor, on construction sites
or for municipal street cleaning and basic maintenance
But they are discouraged, often harshly, in some cases, violently, from applying for citizenship and staying long term. Nobody wants these people to have the right to vote. Russian Muslims, about a tenth of the population, have too many votes as is, far as Slavic nationalists are concerned. They will not cede those guys MORE influence in the country...
Other side of this issue, is geopolitical, especially in the ex-Soviet region itself. Russia wants to continue to dominate its neighborhood, as it had for centuries. Majority of Russians, frankly, still see themselves as an imperial nation, destined by God to reign over their smaller, weaker neighbors... This, btw, is what is basically clashing in Donbass today: Russian imperial nationalism vs. Ukrainian ethno-racial one. Just like back in the 1920s...
To do this, however, they must remain big. Their 150 million population allows them to loom over the other, much smaller Republics.
It also allows Putin to maintain a large military
for all his adventures not only in the Near Abroad, but farther away, Syria, reportedly Libya too, etc
He does love the military, especially the women, I should say
Canada, on the other hand, is a very different place. We are not at war with anyone, have no neighbors we would seek to dominate (given that we have only the US as one neighbor, South; and aforementioned Russia, up North... who could Canada possibly dominate, anyway, Greenland, I guess lol); we are a peaceful, democratic country, with a small military. We are a part if NORAD and NATO and such, so, can also count pn many allies to help ua defend ourselves, should it ever come to that, God forbid...
So, yes, we don't need to breed so much.
However, Canada is still vastly underpopulated. There is lots and lots of beautiful space here, for all of us
Nothing wrong with having a big family IMHO My wife and probably will also go for a third, at some point. This is a wonderful place to live, we are only happy to bring more children into it, not to mention it is a enjoyable experience (for me, at least, though, I am not the one giving birth, of course hehe)
Also, demographics is power. Putin does actually get this right. Sure, there are small countries, in Scandinavia, etc, Iceland, et al, that have great quality of life and are anazing places for their people, and that's great, I am happy for them.
But, if we want to also be a serious player on the world stage... Yes, we do need to be bigger. That's the truth.