Accidentally finding pictures of underground metal bands is one of the many joys of the Internet.
The numbers are in: As of 2011, America’s birthrate is the lowest it has ever been. Our birthrate is so low that for the first time in a long time, we’re having fewer babies than the French and the British – although that may just be because a majority of Americans have gotten so fat that nobody wants to have sex with anybody anymore, out of mutual disgust and fear of exercise.
From where I’m sitting (usually in front of my computer, due to fear of exercise), it doesn’t seem like America’s birthrate is declining, but that’s largely because most of the girls I went to high school with are apparently having some kind of contest to see who can have the most babies in the shortest amount of time. (Several girls are tied for first place with two babies apiece, but it’s still very much anyone’s game.)
The statistics, however, don’t lie. Birth rates dropped sharply with the onset of the recession, and they’ve stayed low since. As of 2011, there were only 63 births for every 1000 women of childbearing age. I don’t know how we pulled that off when we’re still one of the world leaders for teen pregnancy among industrialized nations, but somehow we did it.
When I first read this information I didn’t react all that strongly, largely because I couldn’t think of a witty thing to post about it on Facebook. But the issue of America’s ‘baby bust’ has been a subject of some discussion, most notably by Ross Douthat in a New York Times opinion column titled ‘More Babies, Please’*, wherein he laments the decline in our birthrate as the result of Western ‘decadence’ found in rich nations, wherein married couples with the stability and financial means to have a baby opt not to in favor of dedicating all that time and money to something that doesn’t habitually shit itself and require a college education.
*This was actually the rejected title for Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal.
Other columnists have argued against Douthat’s point – Conor Friedersdorf at The Atlantic pointed out that the birthrate is tied to a number of factors that aren’t decadence, while Ann Friedman at The Diet New Yorker suggests that babies, not the lack thereof, are the real decadent move.
Me, though? I still can’t get my head around why we’re whipping ourselves into a moral panic over the fact that people aren’t having babies. Sure, it’s important for our country’s future that the next generation be large and robust enough to take care of our whiny, entitled generation after we hit retirement age, but demonizing not having children seems like taking things a bit too far.
I never want to have children for three reasons:
1) I love money and personal independence.
2) I could never love something that vomited or urinated on me.
3) Having a child is simply creating a person that you will one day have to explain 9/11 to. I don’t think I could handle that.
Yes, my reasons for not wanting a child fit Douthat’s point completely – they all involve the words ‘I’, ‘me’, or ‘money.’ Hell, it’s the very definition of the self centered worldview he’s rallying against. What I’m saying is this: If any decision you make should ever be completely self centered, shouldn’t it be the decision about whether you’re going to create a human being, spend two decades raising it, and play an integral role in its life for the rest of yours? Shouldn’t you make sure that having a baby is going to be a thing you want to do? And if you decide that you are too ‘self centered’ for a kid, isn’t it better that you figured that out before having one?
Now, I don’t know this firsthand, but I have reason to believe that having a child turns certain aspects of your day-to-day life upside down, such as all of them. Is it really such a dick move to look at the life you’ve spent 20 or 30 years building for yourself and say, “You know what? I don’t want this turned upside down. Everything is rightside up at the moment and I like it that way.”
If not having children is selfish, it’s the most victimless kind of selfishness there is. If you weigh the odds and decide that you don’t want to have a kid, you’re very selfishly not bringing a child into the world who you’re emotionally unqualified to raise, a child who, as a direct result of your shitty parenting, would probably become a terrorist or a serial killer or a Congressman or something.
We should definitely make it easier for families to have children – federally mandated paid maternity leave, anybody? – but at the same time we shouldn’t look down our noses at people who decide not to have children. To children or not to children is a personal decision from top to bottom; societal pressure shouldn’t even enter into it.
Because there’s really no reason for that pressure to be there. It’s not like every human needs to be out there fucking up a storm to perpetuate the species – there’s over seven billion of us, for Christ’s sake. At this rate, we’re in danger of perpetuating our species into extinction.
All I’m saying is, a few less babies here or there isn’t going to screw us that badly in the long run. If anything, it’ll make air travel a lot more bearable.
Truman Capps likes the idea of the Capps hair gene ending with him.