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Postmodern Village
est. 1999
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A Reconsideration of the Economics of Offspring
By Beckstein O’Rushbaugh and Dischragg D’Sudza

Recent calculations of the cost of raising a child from infancy to age 18 are $250,260 for the all-important income bracket above $65,000, according to the otherwise unreliably left-wing MSN. One must ask, given this information, a very basic economic question: does it make sense for a household to, in fact, raise a child? All other things being equal, one must always consider the return on investment. It is true that children may, at some point, partially reimburse the engendering party in terms of errands and chores while young and unskilled nursing care and/or financial assistance in acquiring or maintaining nursing care while middle aged.

But this is not guaranteed. Nor is it generally enough to make the investment in offspring turn any reasonable sort of profit, which, as we are all aware, is the primary motivating factor in all worthwhile activities, especially those that require much time and incur serious opportunity cost. Chances are, most people, equipped as they are with retirement income, long-term care insurance, and entitlements, won’t even break even on the offspring-investment.

A worthwhile exploration would be why couples even bother to manufacture children in the first place. Granted, the process is, unlike most other manufacturing schemes, more pleasant than not. But it is also fraught with peril: even in an era of affordable and relatively reliable prophylactic techniques, out-of-market-plan conception rates of 10% are not uncommon. The cost of even risking an economically adverse outcome of coitus would seem to militate against rational actors engaging in it, especially considering that, unlike other forms of risk, the chances of any profitability are, as has been noted, next to nil and the out-of-pocket costs enormous.

Yet history shows us that human beings, while perfect rational actors in a marketplace, are also prone to occasional bouts of personal folly.

If a properly funded marketing campaign could get couples to practice birth control 100% of the time—and the success of the Transformers movie series and the career of pop stars like Ke$ha suggests one could—then we would still be saddled with a 10% birth rate just by sheer bum luck. Abortion could be recommended for this portion, but our political allies on the right and their adherence to certain traditions might find that objectionable, eroding the political power of the hard-working, job-creating successful class, thus doing more harm than good.

Still, a solution to this economic irrationality suggests itself: rather than trying to make the cost of rearing offspring a concern of the private sector and therefore a private sector liability, these costs, like the costs of environmental cleanup, the costs of feeding an idle population after corporate right-sizing, the costs of educating new workers, the costs of the unexpected negative outcomes of collateralized debt obligations, should rightly be borne by the public sector.

And while we deplore Big Government as a matter of principle, the benefits of taking the burden of child-rearing off the consumer and therefore away from all that is right and holy, the interests of business seem to outweigh any unfortunate (and temporary) spike in the size and the scope of regulating agencies.

In fact, we propose that government be simultaneously shrunk during the implementation of this plan by using the aforementioned marketing campaign to decrease the adverse effects of copulation, and by purposefully underfunding the foster care system into which the remaining accidental human juvenile liabilities (HJLs) would inevitably be warehoused. Thus uncoddled, they would be forced, at an early age, into the competitive marketplace. The benefits of such an incentive would be twofold: first, HJLs would be forced to learn early on the value of competition. The most important moral lesson of capitalism, namely rational self-interest, would be inherently understood as a matter of course. That poor guidebook The Lord of the Flies would, under this plan, seem like so much child’s play. This would have the ancillary effect of stamping out within a generation the pernicious elements of liberalism/socialism that still manage the occasional burdensome electoral success in this nation.

The second benefit would be to lessen the number of human juvenile liabilities to begin with. Not all HJLs will be able to survive the competitive childhood marketplace, and, indeed, this is one of its chief features: it weeds out those unfit economic entities in favor of those that are more robust. This would lower the burden on the taxpayer considerably (probably within a single fiscal quarter) and create a “multiplier effect” of making sure that those who survive the market correction that would encompass what we now think of as childhood would be most fit to survive the adult free market. It would breed, in essence, more of our kind of people and let the rest naturally die off.

One more benefit that we envision for this plan is that the need for any government involvement at all would, by the time the first generation of HJLs reached adulthood, disappear. Few, if any, would see the need for an inherently inefficient government agency to meddle in the affairs of the natural marketplace. And, indeed, we suggest it here only because there would doubtless be resistance from those who are used to thinking in terms of childrearing being an understood if unfortunate cost of the household economy. This step would allow these sentimentalists to believe “their” HJLs were “being taken care of,” while the overall economy transitions to a much more rational way of doing things, where the market takes “care” of things and the HJL is rare but, when present, justifiably removed from the domestic bottom line.