The Power Of Dreams

Yesterday I ran across another mention of our birthrate plummeting.  This seems to be a predictable side effect of more government control, one that neither side has ever adequately explained.

Oh, sure, when you look at terminal-stage communism, like the late unlamented USSR (well, unlamented by us, of course) or the mess that is North Korea, you can wrinkle your brow and go “Well, really, honestly, who wants to bring a child into that?”  (Which is why late-stage communism tends to have restrictions on contraception and abortion – because at some point the people who prefer to reign in hell than to serve in heaven realize they’re going to be left with nothing to reign over.)

But any country that installs enough of “socialism” – a controlled economy from above – past a certain point experiences significant birth rate loss.

When I was a kid in the seventies people used to puzzle about the problems Scandinavian countries had having children, even though they are the “showcase of socialism” – the place where it supposedly all works.  Of course no one associated birthrate and socialism, then, and all sorts of stuff like “the close genetic relation of Scandinavians” was mooted to explain it.

Now we know better.  Country after country, after it crosses an invisible line, enters a place where people just won’t have enough babies.  Look, socialism has managed to give Italy and Portugal a birthrate that’s falling so dramatically that if continued the countries will be extinct in 50 years.  (Which might not be reflected statistically, since both countries are magnets of immigration from countries with even less functional economies.  Portugal has received a large number of … Russians?)

The question is why?  We’re not talking late-stage hell-holes.  We’re talking countries that, by historic standards, (i.e. no one starving to death) are still pretty good (in Portugal the big argument was whether those on government support should get 13th month – ie Holiday bonus – paychecks) and in Scandinavia arguably cleaner, safer and more prosperous than mankind has been for most of its existence.  (Though the worm is there – and we’ll go into it.)

So why this sudden collapse of faith in the future and – usually, possibly tellingly – of all creative endeavor?  The USSR had military might.  It could field athletes that dwarfed those of the free world in achievement.  But creative endeavor, scientific (or even artistic) was always short.  I understand Scandinavia before socialism had a vibrant scientific industry (for the time.  And I’ll admit this is based on a book on the history of science read years ago.)

What is it about socialism that curbs endeavors that amount to betting on the future: having kids or creating anything that requires a lot of work up front on the chance of a big pay off.

Conservatives are fond of saying the birth rate collapses because “The government substitutes for the family, so you don’t need children to take care of you in your old age.”  Respectfully, I’d like to say that’s bunk.  No sane person, even in medieval times when children would be your only insurance, would choose to have kids because of economic considerations.  (Note I said no sane person.  I’m not saying some people didn’t do just that, but no one sane.)  It’s too risky an activity.  You’re raising someone who might or might not turn out to be someone who can support you/someone who’ll live to adulthood/someone who might or might not be a burden on you your whole life.

Having kids, like writing books, like creating something new in science, is a process that can’t be explained by purely rational considerations.  NO one sits down to write a book and expects to make millions, unless they’re young, naïve and deluded.  No one has kids to ensure that they’re looked after.  No one spends years in scientific discovery because “it will pay off big.”

Most of us who do any of those things do them because we’re driven to them.  We feel we have to.  But also, because, at some level, all three of those are acts of faith: faith in ourselves; faith in humanity and ultimately faith in the future.

Regardless of religious considerations – which I’d like to leave out of this, because they’re another order of mental process – anyone having a kid is saying “I believe the future is worth it my investing time raising this person and sending my genes forward to live in what I think will be better.”  Anyone writing a book – particularly book after book to no marked (or no) success – is saying “I believe in the future my art will be appreciated.”  Anyone creating a new scientific process/a new machine/a new medical treatment is saying “I believe in the future there will be a use for this and it’s worth it.”

And that’s when we get to socialism’s flaw.  Marja (who is in Finnland) has said many times something along the lines of “Life is pretty good under socialism, but—“  The but is that (Marx’s misguided and even in his time blinkered obsession with early-industrial-revolution conditions caused this) socialism’s division of humanity into owners of means of production and proletariat and decision to punish one and elevate the other as means to paradise never fit anything very well.  (Factory owners were NOT all crooked and heartless and in fact Marx had to lie and use 50 year old reports to give the impression all capitalists were naturally exploitative and the system itself was bad.  They were even less aliens, dropped down from the stars.)  But it fits our age worst of all.

In our age, when literally knowledge (or an innovative mind) is power and all someone needs in the ways of “means of production” to create something that can be sold to millions is a few laptop computers and one or more willing minds, the engine of creation is – still – the business founder.  This can be just a guy with a computer in his garage.  But at some point he’ll need to hire manpower.

Under most socialist regimes, at that point he becomes an evil villain who must be forced by his government to NOT work his employees to death in smoke and link filled rooms from sun up to sun down.  (Most of you in computers will identify with sun up to sun down, but hey, that’s big companies already established who give big to political campaigns and can get away with everything.)

At that point, the government does everything possible to prevent the formation of a company.  (Either that or it subsidizes it which can be JUST as bad.  Look up perverse incentives, sometime.)

Every socialist society seems to generate a mass of disengaged young people.  They either can’t find work, or they don’t know why they should.

In essence what socialism promises people is “A future just like this, only smaller and more controlled.”

Socialism, even when it works, as arguably (very arguably) Scandinavian countries do to an extent, is sacrificing the future on the altar of the present.  Because the whole idea is to eliminate uncertainty and create society in the image of a 19th century machine, where every piece is where it should be, forever.

Look, when you buy a lottery ticket for a dollar, you know you’re almost certainly throwing that dollar away.  But if the jackpot is big enough, you do it, anyway.  Why?  Because for two or three days you can dream of all you’d do with 200 million dollars.  Would you do it if the prize were a 30k salary for life?  Don’t be ridiculous.  While that would ease our crunch, it’s not enough to dream on, and if I can’t dream, I don’t throw away money.

Same thing.  We have kids, we create, we try in the face of often overwhelming odds, because we can dream of the big jackpot.  “My kid will be the first man on Mars.”  “My book will show people a whole other way of looking at things.”  “My invention will push back old age and death fifty years.”

We know chances are we’ll fail and we’ll throw our lives away on it, but it gives us something to reach for: the dream.  It makes everyday struggles and mountains of diapers worth it.

Change that.  “My kid will have a secure existence as a mid-range functionary.”  “My book will be one of many echoing received wisdom.”  “My invention is too expensive to push back old age and death for everyone, and besides old people are a drain on the state.  But people will have fewer colds in their seventy some years of life.”

Exciting?  Worth giving up your present comfort to obtain?  Don’t be ridiculous.  Most people choose instead to sleep later, have more fun, live a stress free existence, even if devoid of future.

Not me, of course.  I’m in the business of believing in the future.  I’m in the business of selling dreams.

And I think betting on the future despite all odds is the way we defeat the futureless blight of socialism.  The way we win the future for humans.  The way we bet on us and our children, and everyone world without end.  Because if you bet enough, eventually some thing will win.  Someone will get to Mars, someone will come up with cheap anti aging treatments, someone will bust society wide open and too big for the petty souls of bureaucrats who would control us all.

So, have another kid.  Write another book.  Go mind those test tubes.

And dream the impossible dream.

222 responses to “The Power Of Dreams

  1. Hear Here! Let me hear a Halleluja! I am about to retire from my first career (the Army) and axiously await what lies ahead in my second career, which I hope will be in computers and networking. There is so much promise out there if you just have the guts and motivation to reach out for it.

    • Congratulations, James. I retired from the Air Force 22 years ago, spent ten years working with computers (second career – cut short), and I’m now writing books (third career). Go for it! If you’re retiring in Colorado Springs, or planning to move here, let me know and I’ll give you a couple of heads’ up on places to apply.

    • Glad you are here– Glad you are retiring from the Army. My hubby retired from the Navy. I spent six years in the Navy, but didn’t retire. They really need techs out there in the real world. You’ll do just fine.

  2. I never had any children. 65 now so that window is closed. I saw very few people in life who were happy because of their children. But I saw a LOT who were made unhappy by them. A great deal of that unhappiness was from not being able to raise children without outside interference. Some was because of the expense being a burden.
    The last 30 years have seen no significant gain in income against inflation.
    Not to go into it – but inflation is not even across the board. There was tremendous inflation in housing. Now there is huge inflation in the cost of education. Anything subsidized by government (health care) has a huge run up in price. Such things are always offered to those who shouldn’t be buying them and will be paid for by the responsible folks who pick up the loss. Nobody wants to live in poverty to raise a child who will be indoctrinated in a different culture and set of beliefs than yours.
    One of the biggest forces to move people to reproduce is the pressure of their parents. When things get bad enough the grandparents stop pushing for grandchildren the meme is lost as hopeless.

    • Much of the housing inflation was education-related: people wanted good school districts. And women entered the workplace in force, and their salaries were eaten up by the bidding wars to get into the good school districts.

    • I’m 66, and currently raising my fourth child. The last three are all adopted. I don’t find it negative in any way. Watching a child develop and grow is one of the most exciting things any human being can experience. If that doesn’t excite you, then you’ve probably resigned from the human race. Yes, raising children costs – a LOT! But think of the cost of NOT raising children. The USSR had a NEGATIVE birth rate. There are fewer children being born than older people dying. Pretty soon, the remnants, mostly Russia, will cease to exist. There just won’t be enough children growing to adulthood to replace those that currently exist. The same thing is gradually happening to Europe. Who is going to maintain the infrastructure, keep the factories going, and providing food for everyone when the number of people decreases beyond a certain point? This is the MAJOR reason Europe is being flooded with immigrants – they MUST have them just to pick up the garbage. Many European politicians are now beginning to worry about the time in the not-too-distant future when there are more immigrants (immigrants that DON’T, and even can’t assimilate) than natives. Will Europe continue to be Europe, or will it be an extension of Turkey and Egypt? Some European countries are fighting back by offering huge bonuses to couples who have children. It’s not going to work if there isn’t a relaxation of socialist control to ALLOW it to work. That will require the relaxation of rules on capitalism, and the ability of people to dream once more, as our hostess has written.

      • I recall calculating that the dependent exemption on our tax returns, held constant for inflation, would have been worth ten times as much. That was before the Reagan 1986 tax reform, which indexed the deduction, so there’s no easy way to calculate that now. But the block deduction should have been substantial, should have recognized the significant cash drains and social benefits entailed by child-rearing.

        Instead they make day-care a deductible expense, as if it is socially more useful to let strangers raise your child, even though the mother’s income earned is pretty much entirely consumed by taxes and higher living costs as Mum lacks time to invest in such useful things as gardening and making food from scratch (reducing waste as those chicken scraps go into soup, reducing salt and fat consumption, etcetera etcetera etcetera.) Of course, Mommy also lacks the time to involve herself with community politics, attending school board and city council hearings and asking awkward questions of politicians and bureaucrats.

        • Getting Mom working is a little step towards the aim of making her and the children and Dad dependent on the Leviathan. How else can you get such power over people that they can be pushed around like so many chess pieces on the board?

          • It also constitutes an increase in the work force, depressing wages and making it harder for a family to live on a single salary.

            OTOH, it maintains work skills/resume and provides an insurance against job loss by the primary wage-earner.

            It is, in many ways, an “If by whiskey …” argument.

          • Stay at home mom, here– the most common argument I get, if I can get folks to understand that it doesn’t make economic sense for me to work with the cost of everything else, is basically that we should work harder for less money so that I can “provide the same for the children” if “something happens” to my husband.

            Um… no, there’s simply no way that it’s possible to have a one-parent household functionally identical to a two-parent. If my husband dies, I’m going to have to depend on family a lot. That’s true even if I hired someone else to raise the kids and tried to have a career– even before taxes, assuming that I could FIND a job, childcare would eat all but a fraction of my pay…then you figure in the stuff that I do now as an additional cost, and we’d be living on far less.
            Unless we took gov’t money for day care, of course. Which would also make sure the kids were raised “correctly.”

            I suspect that a lot of the folks limiting to one or two kids buy into this idea, though.

  3. blink, blink, blink

    Lessening the number of colds in a lifetime strikes me as a high and worthy cause. Lessening pain and misery throughout the world. . . .

    Perhaps it’s just an unfortunate example. I don’t think any socialist nation has produced anything as useful as something to ward off colds.

    • No, of course not. And it might be a worthy goal, but not as “grand sounding” if that makes sense.

      • Advocates for therapies generally overlook one important fact: develop a cure for cancer and people will die from some other cause. EVERY time I hear somebody grouse about “premature deaths” my reflexive response is “What? You thought they would live forever?”

        Reduce the number of colds and people will still suffer from other ailments. A cold is merely a minor inconvenience, and I’ve yet to have reason to believe there is any shortage of those. Reduce or eliminate one, others will flood in to fill the gap.

        • That is one problem caused by my disease. Although I am immuno-suppressed right now, before my illness, I rarely got colds. I healed pretty fast unless I was dealing with chemicals–photo chemicals and others. It turned out my immune system was pretty strong until it all went sideways.

  4. Yes, children are an investment in the future. Watching a child learn is one of the greatest things in life. But not if what your child is learning is that the world is horrible and she might as well just curl up in a corner with her drug of choice.

    We need our dreams to survive.

    • More to the point, and addressing a point Mackey Chandler raised: these days the children aren’t yours, they are increasingly property of the state. The state determines what your child may be taught, and usually through state school boards far removed, setting statewide scope and sequence standards regardless of what individual communities might consider significant.

      I won’t even tackle the nonsense they insist be taught as US History.

      When you find yourself unwelcome in your own culture it becomes difficult to invest in it. A majority of this nation has been told “bad dog” and ordered to accept less, so why would they contribute more?

      Maleness — testosterone — has been declared a disease, thus boys don’t become men and women have to settle for boys or do without. Anecdotal evidence and reading tea leaves does not indicate women find this an acceptable substitute, and thus many wombs are going Galt.

      • On a topic slightly similar I was talking to a woman online who told her readers that she wouldn’t have anything to do with a man who had hair on their chest. I immediately told her that hairy men were very very sexy. And it looked like from my perspective that she was into boys, not men. It kind of shut down the conversation.

        Here comes the rant–rant-rant-rant-rant–
        Ending– and those women who make their men wax their chests or use products that make men look like boys should be — rant–rant–rant

        (insert berserker here)

        • “It kind of shut down the conversation.”

          LOL! I’ll bet it did. :) I’m with you though… men are supposed to be hairy. I’ve heard women say they won’t kiss a man with facial hair. I get that some men don’t have the option, but there is nothing nicer than the tickle of whiskers. Being all hairy is what makes men not-women.

          • I am sure that such women as Cyn shot down are … equally understanding … of men who insist their women be tall, willowy with DD boobs and would never condemn such men as shallow, infantile, body-obsessed pricks.

            I have long noticed that the Fashion industry tends to favor women whose builds are … boyish. The presence of a higher than normal population distribution would suggest percentage of gay men in the fashion industry probably has nothing, nothing to do with it. (OTOH, having some idea of how fashion models behave I can understand the absence of straight men; if environment could turn somebody gay …)

      • The state has some power over what my kids learn at school, which is 35 hours a week. The rest of the time, they are home. We make sure they have valuable role models, books, etc. We explain how, while the US has done bad things, it has also done wonderful things. We use “build stuff.“ computer games to teach how environmentalism is not always a good idea.

        And most important, we are training our kids to argue and negotiate. They should be respectful, but respectfully correct authority figures when they think they are mistaken.

      • A while ago I stumbled upon a travel story by an American man, about the few days he spend in Finland. They had journeyed around southern Finland for a couple of days, and their tour guide was a local woman.

        One thing he remarked upon was how often she had told disparaging jokes about Finnish men.

        That’s common enough here. And when you talk with other women and the talk turns to their men, you rarely get talk about how wonderful their guy is – well, not after the first flush of romance is over. More often it’s incessant complaining, often about how the men leave all the hard work to the women. And I don’t mean something like cleaning or making food, I mean decisions like what house or apartment to buy, what bank to get the loan from, what to use for collateral. That type of decisions. While at the same time many of those same women do their best to run everything – they may let their husbands/boyfriends make some of the decisions, but if that decision is not the same they would have made they can gripe about it endlessly, both to their men and to their female friends and to even virtual strangers, and sometimes they may scold the poor guy in front of those others.

        I keep hoping that I have just had bad luck with my acquaintances, and have managed to run into more of that type than is actually common.

        And the poor males – many of them now come from households where the mother made all the important decisions even if there was a father present, learn in schools where most of the teachers are women, and then start dating girls who seem to feel most happy when they decide everything. No miracle we seem to have quite a lot of guys now who seem to be stuck somewhere in eternal adolescence. So some just leave everything important to mommy, even if that means their wife. A few others try to assert their masculinity by acting overly macho in one way or another. And the actual men, those who have somehow managed to get the idea that being a man means things like being responsible and acting mature, and perhaps even trying to be a gentleman, well, they seem to end up with the short end of the stick more often than not because those women who have gotten used to running everything don’t like them, and those who get exited by the macho guys find them boring.

        Feminism was a good idea in the beginning, when it was things like the right to vote or the right to do work which paid better and women could do as well as men but were excluded from just for being women, or getting the same pay for the same work. But now it seems to have developed into something of an one-upmanship for quite a lot of women. Not good for building healthy relationships between the sexes. Or having any kind of families, much less large ones.

        And, by the way, I don’t think I have so far known a single self-proclaimed feminist here (well, maybe that should be ‘FEMINIST’, at least that is what is usually tends to sound like :)) who wasn’t also a hard core socialist. Those two seem to go together.

        • Oh, I was a feminist, thirty-five or forty years ago. What’s the saying “I didn’t leave the party, the party left me?” Yeah. The only safe way to touch one of these modern feminists is with a ten foot pole. Of course, if you’re male, you’ll be accused of assault and attempted rape, so don’t take my advice.

    • Naleta, one reply has been the surge in home-schooling. It has grown from something a few parents on the religious fringe do, into a huge national movement. There are chains of bookstores that cater to home-schoolers, with religious (Christian for the most part) and secular curricula, materials for classes (chemistry, biology), and reading materials. Home school conferences attract good-sized groups. Most of the parents who home-school that I’ve worked with do it because 1) dislike local school district, 2) want to teach kids real stuff instead of “self-esteem” and other such pop fluff, and 3) religious reasons (do not like how early certain things are being pushed at their kids). Not all states support, encourage, or even permit home-schooling for non-medical reasons, but that doesn’t seem to stop people from trying.

      • When we home-schooled the Daughtorial Unit and attended the state convention (GREAT opportunity for book shopping; lots of stuff that doesn’t clear the filters of the usual publishers/book chains) we observed that the attendees seemed largely a mix of the very religious (mostly Christian, some Amish and some Islamic) and nearly as many were unregenerate 60s era “Hippies” who were still not reconciled to State Supremacy.

        It is a serious question how long alternative schooling is to be allowed. The Luisiana Teachers’ Unions have successfully gotten an injunction against that state’s highly effective school voucher program (among other things, they are eager to destroy Gov. Jindal before 2016.) And the Washington Post today reports on … well, read Obama analyst Stanley Kurtz at National Review Online:

        Obama’s School Takeover
        By Stanley Kurtz
        December 3, 2012 1:34 P.M.

        My post below on Obamacore, the president’s takeover of the K-12 curriculum just in time to miss the 2012 election, seems to have some bad links. I’ll supply new links and titles here, along with an added comment.

        The article from today’s Washington Post describing the national battle over the new English requirements is “Common core sparks war over words.” The September 20, 2012 article that more frankly details Obama’s role in imposing the Common Core on the states is “Rethinking the Classroom: Obama’s overhaul of public education.”

        The troubles with the new English curriculum discussed in my earlier post are only a part of what’s wrong with Obamacore. If you’ve noticed your elementary school child bringing home incomprehensible math problems that you can’t help with, your school district is probably converting to the Common Core’s math standards. Believe it or not, the fact that you can no longer help your child with math assignments is part of the idea. The math standards are a post for another day.

        http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/334664/obamas-school-takeover-stanley-kurtz

      • Yes, home-schooling is growing in my area, too. If I were raising children now, I would probably be home-schooling them.

  5. I have two daughters, ages 13 and 16, and raising children has been by far, by far, far, far, the most wonderful, fulfilling thing in my life.

    I didn’t really think about the future when my wife and I decided to have children, though the future seemed pretty decent at that point.

    When I was a child, we had “air-raid” drills at school because we thought there was a real possibility that the Russians were going to nuke us. We thought the world was going to run out of oil in a couple of decades and that civilization would collapse. Paul Ehrlich wrote “The Population Bomb” and made the Malthusian argument that we would run out of food and that billions would starve within decades. Obviously, none of that came to pass.

    In my lifetime, the future has usually sucked so I’ve learned to live for today and make the most of it. If tomorrow comes and isn’t too bad, it’s just icing on the cake. That way I get to eat a lot of icing!

    • Wayne Blackburn

      Yes, raising children is very fulfilling, and I agree that thinking of the future is generally not a large consideration for most people in the way it sounds from Sarah’s post today. However, many people today are thinking of the future in one of two different forms:

      1) If I have a child, that is going to be a drain on me for many years, and I really don’t want to give up my freedom. Or, the less selfish:
      2) The world is going to hell, and I really don’t want to bring a child into that.

      Oh, there’s also the third, related to the second: “I would be a bad parent.”

      Both views are short-sighted, the first one is selfish, the second shows no grasp of history (As in, the world sucked a lot more in the past. It’s just since the mid-20th Century that things seem to have been hunky-dory) , and the third is foolish. Most people who think they would be bad parents would actually be better than what a whole lot of children wind up with.

      • You forgot the fourth Wayne– The I already raised my children (or actually my mother’s children) so it was time for me to get an education, go into the Navy, do something important for me. ;-) Is it selfish? I don’t think so. I have some good brothers doing good things and having good children.

        You don’t see the fourth type very often– the I already raised my children type are from huge families. I had nine in mine. (oldest)

        • Wayne Blackburn

          No, I didn’t count that one, because you truly did help raise the next generation. If that screwed up your plans for having your own children, then it’s not your fault. Sure, you could have forfeited all that you did in order to have a family, and some would have, but it’s possible that the knowledge of what you were giving up would have been bad for all.

          • Actually yes, Wayne– I was the stabilizing influence during a rapid melt-down of the parentals. I keep my hand in with my sister who lives with my parents (Down Syndrome) although she keeps them in line very well. Who knew? They are lovely children by the way.

        • Dolly Parton is a pretty famous example– both of the Type Four, and of making a very positive movement to raising kids without birthing them. At least from memory, she was notorious for being quiet about helping folks, right up until she was such a big name that being a Face was a bigger help.

          • Two things I have long admired about Parton are her program to see that every kid in Tennessee can possess a book of their very own and Dollywood. Yes, Dollywood is totally kitschy but it provides honest work and promotes business in a place where options are limited.

            Two quick character portraits I’ve read about her:

            Asked if she’s bothered by “dumb blonde” jokes Dolly laughingly replied “No, because I know I’m not dumb and I’m not blonde.”

            When on tour Dolly likes to stay in mid-level hotels, like Best Westerns, because she can go down the hall to fetch ice and anybody she meets will say “That gal looks like Dolly Parton, but it couldn’t be her in a hotel like this.”

            She may not be educated but she could give lessons to many who think they are.

      • And there’s “I’ll find a spouse and settle down when my career is steady and I have a regular paycheck,” which has become “aw dang, I’m too old to safely have children and unlikely to find a spouse. Blast it!” But I suspect this is the vast minority case, with reasons 1-4 being far, far more common.

        There are also some, an even smaller minority, who feel called to celibacy for religious reasons (note: traditional religion, NOT zero-population environmental doom religion).

        • I got married in 1966 — quite a long time ago. Life was considered far more optimistic then than it is now. The thing is, very little has actually changed: if you want to succeed, learn what you want to do to where you’re as good as, or better than, most of those in the field, keep yourself as debt-free as possible, and always have a back-up. Jean has always provided balance to my life, and allowed me to be what I am today.

      • How about — I have not located a person to procreate with?

        • Wayne Blackburn

          That one’s kind of iffy. if it’s because you’ve been sold the notion that you have to have someone who’s your perfect match, and that you don’t have to accept any flaws in their character, then yeah, that would count. On the other hand, if you’re a more realistic person, well, there are always outliers in any distribution. Someone has to have the bad luck, and it is not enjoyable to be that person.

          • It also relies upon an adolescent’s experience of “Love” — in reality, infatuation — rather than the Love that is the outgrowth of that adolescent emotion, a bonding to another person so deeply that their happiness and safety is as much as or more important than your own, secure in the knowledge they hold your happiness and security similarly.

            When you stunt Love as the juvenile version thereof you will never attain the full version, you will not struggle through the difficult adjustments required to build a life together and you will more readily swap your “partner” for a more congenial/attractive playmate … because they were never truly your partner anyway.

            The infatuation is the “falling” phase, not the being in love. By romanticizing the experience we do to love the same thing candy-makers have done to the flavor “strawberry”: substituted a shallow imitation and proclaimed it the dinkum thing.

          • In my case, it’s ‘I have not located any person anywhere who was willing to entertain even the idea of procreating with me.’ Some of this has to do with the perfect-match fallacy you mentioned, but not on my part: I have had a couple of romantic entanglements, but in each case I turned out to be not Mr. Right but only Mr. Right Now, to be dumped when she got tired of me. Of course I was never told that until afterwards.

            As for ‘someone has to have the bad luck’ — screw that. I’ve had all the bad luck; I haven’t had any appreciable success in any area of my life. Telling me that it sucks to be a statistical outlier, but someone ‘has to’ be that person, is not only massively unhelpful, it’s downright cruel — a cheap way of washing your own hands.

            I know you weren’t addressing me personally. But your description fit me so exactly that I would be a fool not to see that I am one of those people you meant. You’re saying that people like me don’t deserve the suffering we get, but hey, someone’s got to suffer, so we’re elected. It’s the attitude of a Brahmin to an Untouchable, and it stinks.

            • Tom – it’s a matter of NOT giving up. I didn’t meet my hubby until I was about 27 years old. It took us four years before we were married. Life is not fair– it will never be fair– and wanting it to be fair is like tilting at windmills (not useful).

              When I realized that I wasn’t meeting my hubby when I was younger, I started to do things I wanted to do. I traveled, went into the Navy, and lived my life. In the middle of it all while I was exploring and adventuring I met a man with the same interests and lucky for me he was interested in me.

              The lot of us suffer in many and varied ways. It is humanity. It is when you enjoy those small moments (for me not it holding this little chihuahua who thinks I am the greatest) that we lighten and find that person for us. Not the perfect match– not one of us is perfect– but a great match. Someone that will grow with us.

              if it never happens to you, then it means that your path was to learn how to live a joyful life even without a someone. It is a hard road. You have my sympathies.

              • I second Cyn. Sure, Heinlein was married young, but he didn’t meet the love of his life till his late forties. He also wasn’t all that successful at anything till then.

                “Surely the game is rigged. Don’t let that stop you. If you don’t play, you can’t win.” RAH

                • Robert Heinlein actually married Ginny when he was 41. By that time he had broken the genre bar by selling short stories to The Saturday Evening Post and other slicks for fancy prices, and begun selling his annual juvenile novels to Scribner’s — books that, as his editor freely confessed, kept her department in the black for many years. He had also graduated Annapolis, had a promising career as a young Navy officer (cut short by disease, through no fault of his own), and turned the entire field of science fiction upside-down by the work he did as the chief star writer for the golden-age Astounding.

                  I am not entirely flattered by the comparison. At present I am holding out for a chance to be the next Narses.

                  • The graduating from Annapolis was cut down by tb,but then he also had a series of failures in other things, which he freely admitted. I thought 45 for marriage, but okay. Still. And while he might have broken the genre barrier, etc — he wasn’t making a decent living. That didn’t come for many years.

                    Look — you can take what your teachers wanted you to do/be. Or you can tell them where to put it and chart your own course. I’m not saying you weren’t handed a raw deal. I’m saying lying down and dying is a bad thing.

                    Of course, I tend to think doing exactly the opposite of what figures of authority want is a good thing — so never mind me.

                    • Look — you can take what your teachers wanted you to do/be. Or you can tell them where to put it and chart your own course.

                      This is true — although there do seem to be a lot of people who specialize in building brick walls right smack in my way. *sigh*

                      I’m just saying that the comparison to Heinlein is not, for me, an encouraging one. Hell, just by getting into Annapolis in the first place, he accomplished something beyond my capacity.

                    • Then contemplate the life histories of Harlan Sanders or Ray Kroc. Until you concede defeat life merely hands you setbacks.

                    • Probably mine too, between the lack of coordination and my issues with er… authority. (who, me? er…)

                    • Stop putting yourself down TOM–

                    • Stop putting yourself down TOM–

                      I’m not putting myself down. Getting into the U.S. Naval Academy is extremely difficult, and Heinlein did it by a combination of factors: having absolutely spotless grades in high school, and having family connections who could get him the necessary recommendations. (In those days, U.S. Senators had the power to recommend candidates for West Point and Annapolis, and often did.)

                      I was chucked out of high school — forcibly — at age 14 and had to finish by old-fashioned correspondence courses; and I never had any kind of friends in high places. Good grief, it took me until age 40 to get around the defects of my formal educational record and get admitted to an ordinary, garden-variety university. One doesn’t join the Navy at 40. I am, moreover, and was even in my teens, so much of a cranky individualist that I would have been psychologically unfit for a military career.

                    • Finally Tom you have admitted that have accomplished something that others have not been able to do. You finished your education through extreme prejudice and you finally went to college at 40. It is a great accomplishment–

                      I was taken out of school when I was thirteen by my parents where my education was completely stopped. I taught my brothers how to read (the ones I could). I didn’t get my college degree until I was 39. –so we do have some things in common.

                      So what does this tell me? You have the potential. You are hardened by life– you have ambition. You don’t let circumstances stop you from accomplishing your goals (or age). So be proud of being a cranky individualist– We need them too.

                    • Finally Tom you have admitted that have accomplished something that others have not been able to do. You finished your education through extreme prejudice and you finally went to college at 40. It is a great accomplishment–

                      It’s kind of you to say so, and so I won’t be such a fool as to dispute it. However, it does mean that my career up to age 40 necessarily looked a lot less promising than Heinlein’s. I never had his opportunities. Some of them didn’t exist in my country; others didn’t exist in my lifetime; still others I missed out on because of the general derailment of my life. So my original point, which still stands, is that if I am going to take courage from the example of others, I’d prefer not to rely on that particular example.

                    • RES:

                      Then contemplate the life histories of Harlan Sanders or Ray Kroc.

                      Oh, Colonel Sanders is a good one. I shall bear that in mind. He had a happier ending than Narses, too.

                    • If my life were a roller-coaster ride, few people would dare take it. Yet I consider myself fairly successful.

                      – I flunked out of the Air Force Academy my doolie (freshman) year due to a boxing accident that has left me with pretty bad headaches ever since. During that same time, I met quite a few interesting people, including Robert Heinlein himself, and his wife, Ginny (spent two hours aboard a plane sitting next to him – VERY enjoyable person to talk to).

                      I joined the Air Force as a lowly E-2 (next to the bottom). I met Jean, my wife, while I was going through Tech training in my first choice in the Air Force, a career field that I enjoyed and excelled in during my 26 years. I was making a whopping $98.40 GROSS when we got married. By the time I’d finished my first four years, I was an E-5, and my paycheck had quintupled. It still wasn’t enough to live on.

                      I spent 26 years in the Air Force, and sixteen of those overseas (Panama, Vietnam, Germany, and England, with a couple of short trips to other “exotic” locales). I spent three of those years alone, with Jean in the States and me overseas. Those were very stressful years, but I put them to good use — I completed more than 70 semester-hours in two years when I was in Panama, for instance.

                      I’ve met quite a few interesting people in my Air Force career, including more than a dozen general officers. Most were people I enjoyed working for. Some of them were not. Almost a hundred of my Facebook friends are people I met in the Air Force.

                      I started my own business when I left the Air Force, and went bankrupt in two years. I was forced by circumstances to take a TEMPORARY job working for NCR Microelectronics in 1993, making $8/hour. I was forced to quit that job in 2001 because of my medical problems. At the time I quit, I was a permanent employee making $17/hour, and was being groomed to take over the administrative functioning of the test lab I was working in.

                      Today, I’m considered “unemployable” because of my physical problems, and they pretty much keep me close to home. I wrote my first novel for publication in 2003, and got more rejections than encouragements, so I self-published online. Today I have eight novels online, and thanks to people like Sarah, I’m beginning to acquire a following (Thank you, all of you!). There are still days when I can’t function, but thanks to aggressive medical treatment and my own stubbornness, fewer than there were even five years ago, though my problems are degenerative in nature.

                      I was very fortunate to find Jean, and in getting several jobs I dearly loved (I enjoy working with people, teaching, supervising and developing new talent in whatever career field I find myself in). I feel very strongly that much of that was because I always sought help from my God, and He granted me what I needed to succeed. I still feel that way. A lot of what’s happened to me in my life has been “providential”, but most of it came from finding something I wanted to do, and working hard to succeed in it. Or, as my dad used to say, “You’ll go far! You’re too stubborn to ever give up, and too stupid to quit. That’s what the world’s looking for.” My dad was a real comedian!

                    • I’m too stupid to quit too! High five.

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      I’m too forgetful to quit – I keep forgetting how much failing hurt the last time.

                • My folks met roughly a decade after both of their families wrote them of as “will never be married”– got married… either six months or a year later, I can’t remember… and are the most successful-as-a-couple in either family, in my totally not biased in the least view.

                  She studied to be an ag teacher, he got a degree from the Army and went back to being a ranch hand. It’s my goal to work as well with my dear husband as they work with each other.

                  That said, being lonely is the toothache of pains; it gets discounted constantly, nearly nothing touches on it, and those who have suffered enough to compare will tell you it’s worse than any other pain. (My mom gave birth three times without pain meds, shattered her collar bone then walked several miles to get help, has had a long list of other things– but swears that a tooth ache is the worst.)

              • i gave up. I never had any long lasting relationships with any man. Part of the reason, I guess, was that I was unattractive both in looks and in character. I was overweight at a time when being a young fat person here was very uncommon. I was fairly pretty even so and at times more just plumb than actually fat, but yep, with all those slim competitors around I would have needed something like a more inviting personality in order to succeed, but I was painfully shy when young. Like can’t get a word out for hours, besides something like ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers to questions shy, especially those times when I actually found the man attractive. And somewhat weird besides that, normal guys didn’t usually respond all that well to geek talk the few times I managed to start talking, and I never really got the hang of anything like flirting or small talk. So no luck, I occasionally got asked out but those dates never led to anything even semi-permanent, unless you count the occasion an African guy proposed on our second date as a missed opportunity, but with him my general impression was that perhaps he may have been a bit more after a permanent residency permit than overcome by my graces (considering he pretty much knew absolutely nothing about me yet, and all I knew about him was that he wanted one) so I’m afraid that just made me run.

                So, after a rather disastrous and at times unpleasant time at it I just gave up.

                • pohjal– the flirting world was a mystery to me too. I used to watch my sisters and just thought they were silly. I think my hubby must be a different kind of guy. He was not interested in the thinner underfed models. I never liked to date either. I don’t think I could ever go through that again– it was like going through a hole backwards, while scrapping your skin on the edges of the hole.

                  • Like going through a hole backwards… :D Pretty much my sentiments too.

                    • I have, on one or another occasion, been accused of flirting but am prepared to produce character witnesses to testify on my behalf that it was accidental, inadvertent and no deliberate act. I understand that there is such a thing as flirting in somewhat the same sense I understand Quantum Mechanics (well, that’s an exaggeration; I understand enough about QM to participate in a superficial discussion of it.)

              • Tom – it’s a matter of NOT giving up. I didn’t meet my hubby until I was about 27 years old.

                I should perhaps point out that I am now 46. At 27 I was still a virgin, and not on account of moral conviction.

                if it never happens to you, then it means that your path was to learn how to live a joyful life even without a someone.

                Maybe my path was to live a miserable life and die unwanted, and be a scapegoat for society. That’s certainly the life my teachers marked me for when I was a child.

                • My older brother didn’t get married until he was over forty. He had finally gained some self-confidence and gravitas in his personal life (where women are concerned — he’d always been confident with men and those of us related to him) and stopped being quite so desperate. At that point, he met a pretty-but-geeky woman who was highly determined to catch him, but it took her quite a while to get him to get the point.

                  Everybody else but somebody who loves you and sticks with you is just valuable experience in human nature. Maybe stupid experience, but valuable. In the really olden days, before people started expecting “hookups”, and before people expected “going steady” after a few dates, it was normal for people to meet, dance, and dine with at least twenty to fifty candidates of the opposite sex before meeting the right one, and often with many more. Somehow we expect faster, better results with fewer candidates and a lot higher threshold for meeting them socially.

                  Personally, I recommend that single people looking for love be happy. If you keep looking and don’t let yourself get frustrated and bitter, you’ll remain attractive, and you’ll also have a good time in life. That way, even if you don’t find somebody, you’ll be happy. If you do, you’ll be able to be happy with that somebody.

                  As for me, I was never interested in the game, except for a brief educational and hormonal period in my late twenties and early thirties. Man, it is weird stuff to be interested in the opposite sex. Like a perception-altering drug.

                • Look TOM I have four brothers– I think right now you need a sharp shake. Why would you believe those teachers? Why would you follow the destiny they gave you? You need to re-think… RIGHT NOW– Choose for yourself. (At 27 I was also a virgin so I know the mindset)–

                  When you are sorry for yourself all the time, then you make yourself miserable. QUIT it.

                  • If you’ll recall, my participation upthread began with Wayne Blackburn saying ‘someone has to be that person’ and my saying ‘screw that’. I was, in fact, standing up for myself, not feeling sorry for myself. Unfortunately, some people have the idea that merely recognizing that you are in a bad situation equals feeling sorry for yourself. Apparently you are one of them.

                    • YEP – I have been in really bad situations– I am in a bad one now in that I have a chronic illness… I don’t mean you should have a stiff upper lip. Just that I have to be careful not to whine– You may not mean it– but you sound like whining– I found that if I LOOK to the good (I have a great hubby, I can write, this is a great place, etc) that I can look to the good stuff in my life. No situation is all bad even when it seems that way–

                      Smiling helps some– *especially when it makes someone run screaming ;-)

                    • Sorry TOM– someone did this for me when I was 24 and feeling sorry for myself. It does hurt– and bracing. It also sharpens the mind wonderfully. Afterwards I made some good goals and accomplish many of them. (It took me years to realize that I didn’t have the worst life–there is someone else who has a worse one.)

                    • I should tell you my motto that has taken me through my twenties and into my fifties “never give up, never give in.” I wish I could get that translated in Latin. ;-)

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      I just use the one I saw on my mom’s boss’s wall:

                      Illegitimi non Carborundum
                      Loosely translated – Don’t let the bastards wear you down.

                    • Dave Freer signs off his emails to me that way. :D

                    • Cynthia: if you want Greek rather than Latin, “Molon labe” would be at least a decent paraphrase.

                    • Ken–
                      How would you say it? Pronunciation key please ;-)

                    • Oops Ken– I just looked it up– since I come from real warrior stock, Molon Labe is an appropriate saying. TY

                    • Wayne– my hubby uses that one ;-) I am a little more aggressive–

            • Wayne Blackburn

              I tried to respond to you last night, but couldn’t think of what to say that wouldn’t make it worse.

              First of all, I would like to assure you that I did not mean what I said in the way that you took it, but obviously that doesn’t help much. I have an unfortunate habit of making observations of statistical facts in ways that rub people wrong, and I have not been able to train myself to see how that will play out beforehand.

              There’s no reason that you can’t find someone at your age. However, based on your description of your experiences, I wonder if you are not frequenting the wrong social circles. I may be wrong, of course, and I frequently am. I suck at the social thing. As you may have noticed.

              Either way, I’m sorry I upset you, and I hope you still find someone.

            • “I have had a couple of romantic entanglements, but in each case I turned out to be not Mr. Right but only Mr. Right Now, to be dumped when she got tired of me. Of course I was never told that until afterwards.”

              I gave up upon hearing “I never said how long forever would be”.

      • Wayne do you really think that every fertile woman should have kids? Do you think that that there is something wrong with a couple who married late (40+) and have chronic medical conditions, should have children despite their their reluctance, because everyone should have kids?

        I have have a brother and a sister both whom have children. My brother has two daughters, my sister has two sons and a daughter. My husband has 3 sisters. He has two nieces and two nephews.

        You do sound awfully absolute.

        • In your forties, your chances of getting pregnant, even if you try (we did and actually had some infertility treatment, though not as extensive as for #1 son, but they gave us the odds) are vanishingly small anyway.

          I assumed Wayne was talking “In general, this is the issue” and not prescriptively. Perhaps I’m wrong, but that’s what I assumed. I have friends who choose not to have children. It’s not my job to make decisions for them — I was simply noting the correlation of a large number of people making this decision with more command economy.

          • Sorry for taking it personally, but I’ve come across a lot of you should get pregnant, it’s every woman’s obligation.

            • Really? I grew up with “You shouldn’t have kids, it’s evil.” Bah. You should do what’s suited to you. It’s only a problem when it becomes so statistically prevalent it amounts to civilization suicide.

              Me I wanted kids.

              For the record though, not as it’s your obligation, but as “It enriches life” being involved in some way with the next generation — unless you’re COMPLETELY UNSUITED (some people are.) — is very interesting. Seeing where their minds are, and where things come from… I mean, it could be completely casual like helping chaperon a young relative to the zoo. (I highly recommend, though, NOT the monkey house with a group of Kindergartners. They howled. The Howler monkeys howled. The kids howled back… I ran from the Monkey house with my hands over my ears.)

            • Susan Shepherd

              Maybe it’s a generational thing. I don’t know that I’ve encountered the “woman’s obligation” thing more than a handful of times in my twenty-five-odd years, but I’ve definitely encountered the “it’s a bad idea” or “we’re ruining the planet; don’t make the situation worse by procreating” or “kids take up way too much time and energy to be worth it” hundreds of times over.

              • Yes, Susan, but how odd are the years? (runs.)

                Yeah, no one ever told me it was my obligation. I had DOCTORS trying to tell me infertility treatment was stupid and to count my blessings.

                Of course, maybe it was the idea of ME having kids….

                • They were afraid of little warriors dropped on an unsuspecting public. ;-)

                  • Dad was 35 and Mom was 23 when they got married, right after they were discharged from their respective services after WWII. I was born 9 months later. My parents wanted a large family (both came from them). Mom tried, but was only able to give Dad one other son. Dad wanted a girl…

                    I’ve been married to Jean for almost 47 years now, and can’t think of life without her. I’ve got a cousin that just got married for the first time at 52. His new wife is also in her early 50′s (can’t remember exactly), and this is her first marriage also. Life happens. Mostly, what happens is the consequence of our behavior, with interference from “society”. Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad, and most of it can be ignored. It still happens.

                • Susan Shepherd

                  Heh. To be fair, some of those years were very odd. But still, there has seemed to be a lot of “negative pressure” or whatever you want to call it when it comes to having kids.

                  • My kids classes in middle school were PRESSURED to sign the “I won’t reproduce” contract. No, seriously. Imagine the cry if it were the other way around.

                    • Susan Shepherd

                      Ye great flipping gods. And I thought MY school district had some weird ideas when it came to what “educating students” meant. Oy. That’s just … wow.

          • I have some friends who have been married since their teens, they wanted kids and tried for years, finally adopting and raising one and raising another foster child. At 47 the wife got pregnant for the first time, and had a miscarriage, a couple months later she got pregnant again and had a daughter, a few months later she was pregnant and had another daughter. They are now retired, with a child still in high school, as she told me, “sometimes the Lord works in mysterious ways.”

            This is just what came to mind when the subject came up, I am in no way advocating you should have a child with whatever medical issues you have Emily. Having children should be choice, no one should tell you either that you have to or that you shouldn’t have children.

            • Oh, yes. Somehow, the prevalence of this anecdotes is so large, I wonder if infertile women are more likely to have a “menopause baby.” I was going to say it didn’t work for me, but of course, I haven’t hit menopause yet. OTOH at my age, it would now be officially silly.

              • Just don’t marry a man named Abraham, and you should be all right.

              • I resemble that! Jean and I became Timmy’s permanent guardians when I was 62 and she was 66. Timmy was just barely THREE. Sometimes life hands you a surprise, and all you can do is grin and bear it!

                • Let me add to that. Older people rearing the sons/daughters of their children, or even of other people’s children, is more prevalent than most people think. There are at least 40 “grandparents rearing grandchildren” in Timmy’s current school, and there were an equal number in his previous school. I do hate the attitude of “Mom, Dad, I made a mistake. Here, take care of it for me,” but it’s prevalent in today’s society.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          Wow, I certainly didn’t mean that. I was specifically addressing Bret’s statement that he didn’t consider the future very much in his decision to have or not have children, noting that a number of people are deciding not to have children for the reasons I described.

          Pursuant to that, I was only referring to those who actually make decisions based on those criteria, and I would never imply that someone should force themselves to change their mind on something that personally important simply because I disagree with their reasoning. I also don’t think it’s unreasonable for those with the conditions you describe to decide not to have children. While my grandfather was 63 when his last child was born (my grandmother was 43), by then he had 6 to 8 older children in the household to raise them (there were 10 altogether, but I think a couple had moved out by then).

          But I personally know more than a couple of people who made the decision, as early as in their late teens, to not have children for the reasons I described, and their other statements on the subject are what shaped my comment above.

          • Wayne Blackburn

            Oh, and to clarify a little further – when i said the one was selfish, I meant if being able to keep your freedom and your money was the only reason not to have children, although I have heard some argue that if that IS the only reason, then any potential children are better off, but I don’t believe that in most cases.

    • And yet, in popular culture, is child-rearing ever presented as awarding? Does any sane man want to be like the “fathers” routinely presented in commercials and sitcoms? One reason for the success of the Cosby show was its deliberate effort to present an admirable yet realistic image of fatherhood.

      • Indeed. This was a large part of my decision to get rid of television, in large part. The portrayal of fatherhood is downright infuriating, especially when I have firsthand experience of how it looks done right. On the other hand, perhaps such programming does have a place: a catalogue of negative examples.

  6. Thing is that the birth rates are falling in the US in Blue states and rising or steady in red ones. Coincidence? ;-)

    • No coincidence at all. In the blue states, people are indoctrinated that children are an evil thing – they damage the earth, increase overpopulation, etc. and people look down on people who have children. Why that might not be the only reason, I think it’s an important factor.

      • I do agree with Bret on this one– because I have seen it. A very sad thing.

      • Wayne Blackburn

        There’s also that first reason I put in my reply to your comment above, not wanting to give up their freedom and money.

        • The majority of the people who “don’t want to give up their freedom and money” are short-sighted, spoiled rotten, and arrogant beyond redemption. Their reward will be that the Red states continue to grow while they decline. Those of us in Red states have one major battle ahead of us – keeping those that flee from blue states from trying to turn our states into copies of what they fled. It’s pretty much happened here in Colorado. We’ve been invaded by tons of Californians, most of whom have moved to Denver and its suburbs. That area is now deeply blue. Since it also makes up 4/5 of the state’s population, the rest of us are saddled with their stupidity.

          • Indeed, the better sort of “childfree” will give you a long screed about how they can’t have children it would interfere with having long baths by cedar-scented candles — and then parade for applause their unselfishness in not having a child under such circumstances, it would be much more selfish to have one.

            The worse sort, of course, have a pathological hatred of children and trade stories about how horribly children act in their presence as if they could not leave home without being affronted.

            • Umm… Umm… “as if they could not leave home w/o being affronted.”

              I am affronted every day with the attitudes of the teenagers and children in our area. I even had one pre-teen try to intimidate me. He is into bullying weaker people with disabilities. We have a lot of gang activity in our little area and it is better to be aggressively cantankerous than to become victims.

              I know you are talking about child-free selfish type people Mary– I am talking about parents who don’t even care or can’t control the behavior of their own children. If I acted like that, my parents would have thrown me over a chair and used a belt across my buttocks.

              • And if your parents did this today and anyone reported it, they’d be arrested. TRUST me we lived in fear of idiotic things, like when Marshall wrenched his wrist at three. We took him to the hospital and there was this pointed set of questions… Our salvation is his brother fessed up to trying to lift him by his arm. BUT seriously, “guilty until proven innocent” made us think twice about going to the hospital for not major stuff even if the kids should have had stitches/whatever. (Robert, cutting open his finger with a cat food can lid.)

                Yes, there are abused children — but to treat every parent as belonging to the worst extreme — with no record — puts a fear in all parents. (One of our friends had a social services visit because he yelled at his teenager in the backyard. YELLED, mind, not touched. Over unmowed lawn. That was it. A neighbor heard it and decided it was “indication of abuse” — even though he couldn’t hear words — our friends are mormon, they don’t even swear. And yes, I know your experience, but trust me, no comparison.)

                That and having kids grow up in daycare is giving us a lot of feral children.

                • Oh yea- I find the “every parent is an abuser” a terrible thing ergo (did I use that right?) feral children. A swat to the butt is NOT a beating. Plus butterfly bandages are really good for straight cuts and don’t leave scars like stitches–

                  I think my parents were too quick with the belt; however, now we are seeing the other end of no-disciplined kids. Even though my experiences were somewhat extreme– I think I would rather go through them than to become what I see today– It has been a painful conclusion to come to–

                  • I got the belt fairly regular growing up, some people might argue with me, but I think I turned out all right ;) I know two things the belt positively taught me 1) Value anylasis: “I know I’m going to get whipped for this, is it worth the cost to do it anyways?” and 2) I sure in the heck showed a lot more respect to my parents (and those others they required me to respect) than the kids raised in the new no-corporal punishment style.

                    Raising kids is like training animals, each one has a different temperment and different values, punishment and rewards need to be tailored to the individual.

                    • Until about three punishment was swat on the butt.

                      After about three, the kids’ punishments were x-time (hours, days, once — it’s called watering daddy’s piano. No, I’m not joking — a month) without computer cord. Oh, the moaning and gnashing of teeth. Worked, though.

                      Also, to this day, my kids will do about anything not to have me go sarcastic at them. I think they’d prefer physical punishment. But they’re larger than I and therefore out of luck :D

                • The Cranky Literature Professor tells the story of when her 8 year old daughter fell out of a tree and broke her arm. Every single person in the ER kept pushing the girl to say that she’d been abused, until after the umpteenth time the girl said in a very loud voice, “damn it, I fell out of a tree. Why don’t you listen to me?” That was the end of the stupid questions. :)

                  • What a world we live in– *shaking my head

                  • When I was pregnant with Robert and couldn’t drive (I didn’t know how to, but I wouldn’t have been able to, anyway since I had pre-eclampsia and was dizzy most of the time) my oby-gyn about killed me trying to get me to say I was abused. This included following me into the bathroom to tell me she knew of a safe-house.

                    The “tell” she thought she was spotting? Dan came in with me EVERY time, we held hands, and I wanted him with me in the examination room.

                    Oh, yeah, and despite pre-eclampsia, and their assuring me Robert would be brain damaged at the levels the issues were hitting (For all I know, he might be! Hate to see him non-brain-damaged though, if that’s the case) I refused to have an abortion.

                    Everyone here agrees that’s indeed cause to suspect abuse, right?

                    • Wayne Blackburn

                      I still say I don’t know where you all meet these people! I think you need to move to somewhere that real humans live.

                      (Throws hands in the air and stalks off, muttering)

                    • THIS was in NC. Charlotte.

                    • You must remember that Charlotte is the enlightened heart of North Carolina, where wise professionals daily confront the horrors of backwoods cousin-schtuppers who keep their wimmen barefoot and preggers. And with those neanderthals living up around Fayette-nam bringing in foreign women to be their subservient wives, the tumblers just all lined up in those doctors’ brains.

                      They were determined to abuse you until you admitted you were being abused — something all the better totalitarians do.

                    • Is that the first time you’ve been accused of being a war-bride, Sarah?

                    • Weirdly, no. This is what people tend to ASSUME. Very odd, since, you know… Portugal!

                    • Those would be the same people as the ones who think you need special postage to mail a letter to New Mexico?

                    • Some of them also think Portugal is a city in Spain…

                    • Everyone here agrees that’s indeed cause to suspect abuse, right?
                      Yes, by the doctor/hospital/state. It’s a sad world we live in today.

                • Yes, the neighbor surveillance is terrible. My sister had the cops called after a lady stopped and took pictures because the older children were on the roof of the covered porch. My niece told my sister, who had been nursing the baby, and they got it straightened out but still scary. My sister and brother-in-law are wonderful parents to their five but who needs Big Brother when you have Nosy Neighbor?

                • Look into what happened to Joel Rosenberg’s family because of an argument between his wife and their teenage daughter.

              • They aren’t claiming objections to attitudes. They are claiming things like colliding with baby seats, and a toddler getting grubby fingers all over their silk blouses.

                I have looked for such behavior, having been primed for it by reading such discussions. They are either deliberately misinterpreting every child’s acts as insulting, or wilfully expurgating their memories of all but egregious behavior.

            • I’ve got an in law who refers to some children as “Poster Children for Vasectomies.”

              Sometimes children happen to people who aren’t up to the task, or worse, don’t realize there’s a task to be performed.

              • My husband uses that phrase too. ;-) Pam

              • I had a teacher (great guy!) who referred to an especially obnoxious former student as “pl@nned p@renthood poster child.” No one who knew the kid disagreed with the assessment.

                • I’d like to point out though that sometimes… My grandmother referred to this as “Made of the devil’s skin” — you do everything right and the kid is… well… made of the devil’s skin.

                  And to be the devil’s advocate here, my cousin and her son who were “made of the devil’s skin” after adolescence became the kindest, most responsible, nicest people ever.

                  I’ve got no clue about the mechanism, but it does happen.

                  • The opposite of the “devil’s skin” thing happens too. Great kids sometimes come from marginal or even terrible parents (indeed – my kids are far better than I deserve). It’s that nature versus nurture thing – sometimes nurture just can’t overcome nature. Which is why collectivism can’t work – it goes against too many people’s nature.

                • I sometimes refer to people as “poster children for post-partum abortions”. Mostly they’re adults, usually over 30. I give kids that long to mature. After that, though, I can be pretty nasty. 8^)

    • It’s amazing how desire to have evolution taught in school is inversely related to ability to apply such knowledge practically to every day life.

      • HA! Well-said.

      • That’s because to the Left, the theory of evolution is nothing but a club against their enemies. Most Leftists actually claim that Darwin’s theory “proves” that Sarah Palin should have aborted her child, because he was not of the “fittest.”

        In reality, they really just want all pro-life people to be forced to abort their babies, so that they won’t be outvoted. If abortion were made illegal, they’d have to change their whole lifestyle of using their government checks to go to sleazy nightclubs, having sex in the bathroom stalls, and aborting the children who result.

        Part of the reason Southerners are such nice people is that Sherman killed off the worst of them. A good civil war might be useful in making Blue Staters better people by getting rid of the absolute filth who make up the leadership class in those states.

  7. Although I do not have children of my body, I do have my brothers who I raised from birth until 5-10 (there are four of them). My mother was depressed a lot when she was making babies and afterwards. We didn’t understand at the time. I was seven when my first brother arrived. Plus I am a grandmother to my husband’s two daughter’s children– so I am invested in children in a way.

    Part of the problem that I see in socialism (I have lived in Germany, lived close to France, traveled to Holland, and vacationed in Denmark) is that the young people become hopeless when there are no dreams. Suicide seems to be an accepted practice for these young ones. It made me cringe with the loss of such potential.

    I had wondered why these supposed paradisaical societies were becoming older and with no younger generation in the offing. In a metaphorical way they are eating their children and don’t see it.

    • European, especially Scandinavian type of socialism makes for cotton wool societies. They try to wrap everything and hide all the hard surfaces. Depending on the individual living here can feel comfortable, or very restricting and suffocating. Long term problem being that with all the spongy surfaces fewer and fewer people are able to move at all, much less jump, anymore, and everything starts to become static. And probably will start to decay in time. I suppose that’s happening already in most of the European countries. People, especially young people, are feeling trapped even if they mostly can’t see by what because we all have been conditioned to see all this padding up of everything as a good thing. Which, I suppose, can make it worse, you can’t fight what you can’t see. So you get the suicidal and the hedonists and perhaps at least some of the animal rights or whatever terrorists, some who make up an enemy for themselves if they can’t see the real one but have this persistent feeling there is one, hiding somewhere.

      And even a lot of the seemingly well adjusted productive ones aren’t really trying to build for the future anymore, just for themselves.

      • … you can’t fight what you can’t see.

        Jonathan Swift made this point with Gulliver’s venture to Lilliput. Bureaucratic regulatory states make everything verboten that isn’t mandatory — and many things are both.

        I remember being told by a bar owner about the conflicting regulations he confronted trying to open his venture. The Fire Code required Latex paint in the bathrooms, the Sanitation folk required oil-based paint. Only a cynic would suggest the purpose of this type of arrangement was to ensure a steady flow of unreported gratuities to inspectors [Insert "feature, not a bug" joke].

  8. I think that the birth rate might (in part) be a gullibility issue. I stopped at 2 kids because I was fool enough to believe Paul Ehrlich’s “Population Bomb.” If you’re gullible enough to believe that, you’re gullible enough to vote for Santa Claus.

    I believe the demographic phenomena we’re seeing is multi-causal. Gullibility, socialism, religious attitudes, and economics are all distinct vectors and I think you’re spot-on describing the socialism vector.

    • I expect that the reason we stopped with two is partially that, and partially because by the time my son was three, and we might start considering another, our daughter was diagnosed with Autism, and was taking a good bit of our energy.

      *Jasini

      Facts are stubborn things, but not nearly as stubborn as fallacies.*

      On Mon, Dec 3, 2012 at 12:48 PM, According To Hoyt wrote:

      > ** > stevepoling (@stevepoling) commented: “I think that the birth rate > might (in part) be a gullibility issue. I stopped at 2 kids because I was > fool enough to believe Paul Ehrlich’s “Population Bomb.” If you’re gullible > enough to believe that, you’re gullible enough to vote for Santa Claus. I ” >

      • My parents stopped with one, because the first one taught them that one was more than enough ;)

      • My folks stopped with two because of maternal age and because that way each parent could grab a kid without the third one running up the middle and finishing the mischief.

  9. Slightly on topic, I note that Buckingham Palace is confirming that Princess Katherine has “a bun in the oven.” Best wishes to them. :)

    • Oh heck, I have been seeing reports about that in the check-out line at the grocery for months. I think the reason for the Palace acknowledgement lies in the report in today’s London Telegraph that Kate has been hospitalized with “severe morning sickness.”

      I hope she recovers and that they produce many more; certes if the Royal Family cannot afford a passel of young’ns nobody in Britain can!

      • I think I saw that one:

        “Native English Woman Pregnant”
        Doctors baffled, immigrants puzzled: “we did not think this happened”

    • I thought that is why they got married in the first place?

  10. My gut feeling concerning declining birthrates around the world is that people seem to be far less optimisic about the future than they where when I was growing up. When I was kid back in the dark ages(1950′s), it seemed like the world was getting better all the time. Does not seem so much these days.

    There may be many specific reasons for this. But, it seems what they amount to we are losing control over our lives. This can take the form of the leftward drift of western societies, or the rise of radical Islam in other parts of the world. The leftward drift has taken many forms. The nanny state which tells us we are unable to run our own lives. The coarsening of our culture. There is the loss of religous faith in western countries. The war of men. Not letting young people grow up to be true adults. And Malthusian dire forecasts about a grim future. The left is behind all of those.

    I also wonder about technologies part in all this. It has brought us many benefits. But, it can also be rather soulless. People may be connected to each other by technology(perhaps too much so without time to decompress and be within our selves for a while), but we seem to be more isolated in many ways. Is staring blank-faced at a smartphone with nothing moving but your thumbs really all that fulfilling?

    I’ve read that Islamic countries are also having rapidly decling birthrates which goes back to Sarahs comments about repressive societies not giving hope for the future.

    I think I’ve rambled on incoherantly for long enough.

    • Well, part of it is that we are having the equivalent of a virgin field epidemic. Heretofore, sexual desire has been the major driver of procreation, with desire for children and responsiveness to social pressure to have them (or to not contracept, abort, or commit infanticide) being minor.

      They have just become major — and the second only in societies willing and able to exert such social pressure. (Mind you, the government can exert some but not much.) So it’s selecting for people who can hope.

  11. I agree with the conclusion that socialism leads to declining birthrates, although I think the cause is both indirect and not even intentional. Ideally, socialists would like a high birthrate as it would provide more and more good little worker bees to feed the bloated bureaucracy. However, the cult of the State tends to undermine religion and I think that’s where the direct attack on fertility occurs. The reason why I say this is because if you look at fertility rates across Europe, you will see some countries, like Germany and Italy, which have catastrophically low rates and others, notably France and the UK, which are doing remarkably well. What stands out is that France and the UK are declining imperial powers. They still have influence in many parts of the Third World and attract many immigrants from their former colonies. I suspect much of their population growth is concentrated in these immigrant communities, within which, the cult of the State has not yet replaced their traditional beliefs. I have heard that Mohammed is the most popular boys’ name in Great Britain. That could be a clue right there.

    • Nope. The only kids being born in France and the UK are FIRST generation immigrants. Second goes to “normal for the country.” So I’m not sure you’re right.

      • I don’t really see that as a rebuttal in my position, merely a sharpening of focus. It is still religiously-motivated immigrants that are driving fertility in those countries. They may continue to profess faith in later generations, but as someone who is married to a second generation immigrant, I can attest that the religion of the “old country” often bears little resemblance to how the faith is observed in the secular West.

        • Well, obviously not the ONLY kids — sorry, I was in the middle of something else — I meant the significant number.

          Might be religious? I think it’s mostly community expectations.

  12. I think the decision to have, or not have, children is much more subtle than a logical analysis of prospects or finances. I don’t know if the reason is genetic or cultural or culture’s individual intersection with each person, but people seem to grow up either wanting children or not. And all through life you make decisions that bias the “logical decision” one way or another.

    You marry someone who shares that desire, or seems to. You buy a house that takes both of your salaries to pay for, or you buy something smaller or further from the city “that gives us a comfortable cushion, in case one of us loses their job.”

    The current “green” culture gives an easily spoken excuse for not having children, or having only one or two. And certainly having had two, I see the financial wisdom of stopping there. But when it comes to children, if you want them, you will figure out a way to shoe horn them in. And if you don’t want them: it’s not environmentally sound, or your spouse doesn’t want children, you can’t afford them, or parenthood just doesn’t fit your “lifestyle.”

    Now, getting back to the blog . . . I can see a lot of this being the influence of a gloomy, hopeless, view of the future. But I think some of it goes back to a past theme: the essentially immature and spoiled nature of too many “adults” in our society.

    • I think some of it goes back to a past theme: the essentially immature and spoiled nature of too many “adults” in our society.

      Thanks – that is a point that had been niggling at the back of (what passes for) my mind throughout this discussion, and never quite making it out. Adolescents don’t want children, don’t like children, don’t enjoy the demands of rearing children.

      Being a parent means having to take the long view (Yes, dear, the vaccination will hurt but it will protect you from far greater pain.) Being a parent means having to take into account somebody else’s interests, more than your own. Being a parent entails burdens and obligations and duties and responsibilities and a whole lot more of the kind of thing adolexcents don’t fancy.

      Being a parent carries rewards and benefits and joys that an adolescent cannot comprehend. We read often of teenage girls having a baby so there will be “somebody who loves me unconditionally” but they have it exactly backwards. Having a child means you get to give unconditional love to somebody — even when you cannot stand their insubordination, rudeness, backtalk, laziness and what surely must be deliberate stupidity. Unconditionally loving does not require you to like a person.

      I often observe that the thing about Socialism is its benefits are overt, its costs covert, while Capitalism’s costs are overt and its benefits hidden. The same thing applies to parenting: to an adolescent, the costs are obvious, the benefits dubious.

      Socialist societies infantilize (well, too strong a charge, but I don’t think “adolescentize” is a word … yet) their citizens — no, subjects: they are not citizens in the sense the American Founders understood the term, although perhaps in the way the French Revolutionaries used it … Which ensures those subjects will not want to have children, if they have them they will not want to raise them (especially when to teach a child discipline you must first learn it yourself) and they will not to elect representatives who proffer them an opportunity to be adults.

      • “Somebody who loves me unconditionally” is the reason why abused children are more likely to be wanted and planned than control groups. When your child exists to fulfill your emotional needs, a punitive response to their failure to do so is only to be expected.

      • “Minor” is another mean of “infant” — usually in legal contexts.

      • “What surely must be deliberate stupidity.” There speaks a parent.
        It’s always when you’re most tired/ill/out of it, too, that they do something so massively disastrous…. And then you have to step back and THINK. “Oh, wait. He’s sick/tired/whatever too…

        Yeah, it requires adults.

  13. It’s easy to forget that Britain’s world power status was built on a population explosion.

    Over time, economics changes culture. Why don’t socialists have children? Because socialism does not ask them to. The State shall provide (it is your right to be fed/clothed/housed/medicated, after all!), and The State does not ask for grandchildren.

    I married a 1G immigrant Filipina, these girls are so fertile they can get pregnant if you sneeze on them. Seems like every month one of her friends is having a baby (ours is 10 months old).

    Consider this contrast: My wife has (literally) over a hundred cousins. I not only have no cousins, I have no non-immediate family at all, and I mean none — no nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles or grandparents.

    The good news is, socialism is probably doomed in the long run. As Mark Steyn observed, the people who show up will own the future.

  14. Oh, and just because I’m sleep deprived and therefore talking too much:

    There also the ease of preventing pregnancies, if a woman decides to not have children. When the only method is saying no to your husband, a whole lot of babies is going to be the norm. When the only route to status in a culture, for a woman, is the production of children (usually male children) you’re going to wind up with either large families, or the current trend of aborting female fetuses, so you have fewer children with a gender bias.

    In many parts of the world (mainly Islamic) we’re seeing a regression of women’s status. Are the women, seeing a bleak future and having (however blackmarket) reliable contraceptives, giving up on their society and their genetic future?

    Beats me.

    • Pam
      Contraceptives were just as easy five years ago — but the last four years the US birth rate is in free fall.

      Also, for the record, contraceptives were available in Portugal … ever since I’ve been alive. Women used to get them in the most interesting ways (they weren’t forbidden, but no one wanted the neighbors to know.) I’m sure the Arab women do the same.

  15. I generally avoid the political blogs, but I must point out that, in fact, education, particularly education of women, decreases fertility rates. http://www.earth-policy.org/data_highlights/2011/highlights13
    I hope we’re all in favour of well-educated women rather than enforced childbirth a la Ceausescu. http://countrystudies.us/romania/37.htm

    • Hello, false dichotomy.

    • Oh geez – you made me laugh Melissa– lets start with enforced childbirth (btw we are not in Romania)– Even in the days before abortion, women could decide not to be pregnant by not having sex. Nowadays there is no such thing as enforced childbirth– and Roe vs. Wade will not be overturned. (Unlike what we heard in those political ads of the presidential election). BUT– childless couples do not get that tax credit that couples with children get (is that a tax?).

      Plus we must have different views of well-educated women. I believe a well-educated woman is able to read, write, and cipher. Also she should be able to understand and apply her knowledge in her occupation whether it is lawyer, doctor, teacher, or mother. She must be able to tell the difference between information and propaganda. It doesn’t mean she has a doctorate or masters. It means that she can sort her way through the propaganda and not be swayed by teachers or peers. (Well-educated doesn’t necessarily mean having a college degree.)

      I had heard professors talk about the correlation between decreasing fertility rates and well-educated women in the late 1990s. This idea could easily be a false correlation.

      • No, Cyn it’s not but “well educated” means exactly reading/writing/cyphering. The most explosive “take control of your body” information women get — traced through third world countries — is… the rhythm method. It does work for most women (not infallibly, but what does.) And basic education, in a third world country, garantees she can run her business or whatever and not be totally dependent. She can say NO. So, you don’t see women having kid after kid after kid (and more often than not “accidentally” killing them by “rolling over in bed.”)

        However after that… bah.

        Also, if this were the case then women in America became MUCH better educated in the last four years. Oh, and women in East Germany? MUCH better educated than women in West Germany before they unified.

        Sorry. That dog won’t hunt.

        • I don’t think it’s so much the education, as opportunites to do things that society considers “High Status.” Which, raising children being considered something any highschool drop out can do (in the US) is not. And having children interferes with a job outside the home. The effect is well known.

          Right now, though, we’re looking at something new, a new downward pressure on the birthrate. I think the economy has a lot to do with it, as it has gotten to the point of impacting the lowest paid segment of society. Illegals are going home voluntarily, and the ones that stay are at least postponing more children, which, in aggregate means fewer children on average.

          Worldwide muslim birthrates dropping:

          http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/01/27/us-muslims-population-idUSTRE70Q12D20110127

          And in Mexico:

          http://www.economist.com/node/15959332

          Especially for the Muslim women, I doubt their educations and outside opportunities are soaring. Given the ability to avoid pregnancy, is it the lack of a bright future, a lack of dreams that is motivating them?

          Guess we’ll see . . . sometime down the road.

        • Well – I don’t see American women or Western women better educated than the last generation or the generation before. Just better brainwashed. So if they said that “better brainwashed” women were having less children, I would buy that one.

          Personal experience about education— My last experience with the public school was in seventh grade. I was doing beginning algebra then. My parents took me out of school after that. I took about two years of college classes 18-20 and then went through the advanced electronics with the Navy in 27. When I decided to finish my college education in Nevada, they wouldn’t let me enroll unless I got my GED. The GED was a joke. I had learned most of the subjects (math was to fractions–FRACTIONS) by the time I was in fourth grade. So the quality of education from the early 70s to the early 90s had dropped that much (in twenty years). But these children coming out of high school thought they were well-educated. They were going to junior colleges to get what I would have gotten in high school in a rural school with marginal teachers.

          It was the same when I went to college. I went through University of Maryland University College European division in Ramstein, Germany. The children coming out of the on base schools could barely write a sentence. They had to take pre-courses over and over before they finally could get to the main courses. You had to get a Master’s degree to get the same education as a college degree of same value of twenty years ago.

          So if a person can read, write, and cipher they may well have a better education that someone who has two years of college. Well-educated is a joke in my humble opinion. Sorry for the rant.

          Plus–I was thinking of the sorry state of American education and not the European or other education. Although I had a friend who taught in the German school system. It was a shock to come back to the States after twenty years more or less away and see the rapid degradation of education.

          So I give you brainwashing instead of education–

          • Educrat critic John Taylor Gatto distinguished between Education and Schooling, comparing the latter with the behaviour of fish. One might also consider the slang meaning of that term:

            Taught a lesson (the hard way), to lose humiliating

            Being taught the proper way to preform an action, via extreme ownage and embarrasment. This requires the schooler, who is always of such a high level of skill that the schoolee has no chance of saving his reputation, to utterly dominate and show no remorse.

            When an individual gets taught a lesson in a harsh, demeaning, manner.

            http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=schooled

            • Yea– RES much better terminology– Interesting analogy with schooling– schools of fish swim together and act together. In the greater sea it is for protection for the school and not the individual (although sometimes the individual makes it.) ;-)

          • The Portuguese system has degraded at least that much. It’s producing semi-literates.

            There is a way to get out of the pre-courses in college — take AP classes. Then they know you’re likely to be literate and numerate. (Though if the advanced course is IB it will be doubtful you can think — speaking from observing my older son’s classmates hitting my blog over THEIR confusion of race with culture. For the record, if one of my kids wrote such ill-reasoned sentences, I’d stand over them until they wrote better. — and my kids will do anything to avoid me standing over them with sarcastic commentary.)

            • My niece and nephew were better educated in a rural school. When they made it to LV and then SLC, they lost their drive for education and became semi-literate. I think that it has happened over and over– it is frustrating. I see it in other children as well.

              Also testing– I tested out of the pre-courses.

          • “then went through the advanced electronics with the Navy in 27.”

            You went through advanced electronics in ’27? Dang your old.

            /runs/

      • *dryly* When one defines “well educated” as “has spent more time in school,” and you figure that takes time and money…during the time when women are at highest fertility… and that being pregnant would likely interfere with finishing those degrees….

        DUH, average “higher education” means fewer kids. It’s just saying “if you add a decade of stress and debt at the end of high school, birth rates go down.”

        • True – Foxfier– except I don’t want to call them well-educated… Like RES implied they are well-schooled like fish. ;-)

          • Well, with the electronic innovation stick hitting Amazon — it will — we’ll be seeing education more at home… and that will change things again.

            • The national Teachers’ Union wants to develop and administer a nation-wide “bar exam” for teachers, ensuring all teachers are fully competent and certified.

              [SEARCHENGINE] ObamaCore — look particularly fr Stanley Kurtz or Powerline. They are establishing a national common core curriculum to ensure all children are “properly schooled.” Choose whichever definition of “schooled” you like.

              They DO NOT WANT to let Homeschooling grow further.

  16. valancycarter

    I’ve seen the demographic collapse argument in many places and it is always frustrating to me because I would like to have children. But I’m not married and I refuse to have children unless they will have a good father. I’ve seen and experienced the damage caused by poor or absent fathers. So I remain frustrated and assuage my maternal longings by adoring and assisting with my nieces and nephews.

    • You might want to look into Big Brother/Big Sister in your area. It’ll give you a taste of being a parent of children “at a difficult time” without the full, 100% dump. You might also end up like one of my cousins — not only running the organization, but also married to one of its primary supporters. Stranger things have happened.

  17. That three days of dreaming about winning the lottery reminds me of sending out short stories and having that time to dream and then the one publisher that got your rejection card back three days later. My brain said it was admirable of them…. good business. My soul wanted at least a couple of weeks to dream. ;-)

    • The delights of on-line submissions is that if you just hit the jackpot, so that your submission hits the queue while the editor’s polishing off the slush, you can get your rejection in minutes.

      Painful, that.

    • As I like to say– I have been rejected by the best ;-)

      • Hey, for TEN YEARS I hit 100 rejections in March. I called myself “The Writer of No Future.” I used to keep all the rejections in one of the largest plastic bins from Lowe’s, in case the IRS cared. At the end of the year, I transferred it to a large box, dated, and started filling the bin again in January.

        When I say I’m stubborn… believe it.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          My dad says that’s not stubborn, it’s “determined”. Well, at least when we call him stubborn, he does.

        • I quit for a few years to do electronics so I am not as stubborn Sarah. ;-) But I came back– lol Those first stories of mine needed to be rejected. I hadn’t learned story well enough then. It hurt then, but it was needful. I may NOT have mastered the story form, but it seems to have mastered me in some way.

  18. I have 4 kids, the youngest now a junior in high school. When I was growing up, my friends and I could dream about adventures, innovations, careers, etc. My kids can dream about enforced diversity, affirmative action, government control, socialism, and such. We have failed them miserably.

  19. I’ve spent some time thinking about this issue; both my husband and I really wanted children, had to work very hard to get the three we have, and ideally would have liked to have more.

    I think that “developed”, socialistic societies tend to make the same mistakes, many of which have already been discussed in the comments here.

    1) People don’t need children to support them when they’re old, because they expect that the government will do it.

    2) They set up bureaucracies like Child Protective Services which greatly increase the difficulty of raising children. You can no longer send them out to play or your neighbors will turn you in for neglect.

    3) The institutional schools break down the relationship between parents and children and make having children much less rewarding.

    4) The women are working at “jobs”, which makes having children a much greater burden.

    5) The population is “adolescent-ized” (thanks for the word :) ). They don’t really have to grow up because Our Father the State will take care of them.

    6) Life is, overall, pretty safe and people don’t plan for bad things happening or focus on life goals. They drift. With contraception, you’re quite likely to not have children if you don’t make the decision to have them. The wife of a nephew who recently got married just, accidentally, got pregnant. I thought it was great, because otherwise they would probably have put it off for years and years.

    As far as considering the future… It sounds reasonable, but I can think of a lot of counter-arguments. I think the majority of the birthrate drop has been in the Hispanic demographic, hasn’t it? Also young unmarried women. So that could quite likely be the economy… http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/health/2012/10/03/birth-rates-declined-among-latinos-economy-is-to-blame/

  20. I once mentioned demographic collapse on my LiveJournal. I found that the post was linked by someone, and when linking it, the person had contemptuously announced that it’s really a worry about the wrong color of baby being born — no such thing really existed.

    Yes, he really thought that the un-racist view was to assume that people of other races will reproduce blindly and be glad to fill all the jobs that you want to exploit them in. . . .

    • Demographic collapse is AFAICT across the board, pretty much. Africa is pretty cacked due to AIDs and I think most of the figures we get out of it are lies. At any rate, child mortality was always horrendous there.

      • I hear from a friend in SA every once in awhile. The place was booming when I was there in the early 1980s. Now there are so many AIDS babies, and there are not enough adults to raise the children. The impact is awful. I agree about the lies–

      • And all the SF writers that projected overpopulation and pointed to SF’s ability to predict — well, SF did not only not predict demographic collapse, they are in denial now that it’s happening. Lois McMaster Bujold’s Beta Colony, where you have to take classes to have even one child, and pay for a second, and pay still more for a third — and which is a leftist welfare state not populated by the child-obsessed. There is no way that it would survive.

        I suspect that the writers prefer draconian population control to keep it down measure than those to keep it up. Or else want to get a cheap moral charge out of living a life of selfish hedonism rather than having children.

  21. Sorry Sarah– I have been in a very strange mood since last night. Girding my loins feeling– readying for battle feeling. Hope I am not taking it out on your commenters. I apologize.

  22. Sarah, I think what you have said is true.

    And I think it is nothing but the truth.

    However, it probably falls somewhat short of the whole truth, in all its glorious aspects. (Apologies to Douglas Adams.)

    As you say, it’s obvious why people in late-stage socialism don’t have kids. But why not the folks in mid-stage socialism, when it still seems to be working? You give part of the answer: There is no plausible shining vision of the family’s future; anyone living under socialism, by the time it reaches mid-stage, can see clearly the dreary mediocrity of that system’s future even if they can’t yet see the late-stage catastrophes.

    But I think there is another reason, and it is deeper.

    Look at the early-stage socialists: They are excited, they are fervent, they are still having babies (the so-called red-diaper babies come from them.) They are fervently ideological, passionate. They are aglow. They believe they are building a paradise on earth, which is why they’re always willing to cheat at the ballot-box and cheat in the courts and cheat in the marketplace and despise integrity and despise the established rules and backstab friends in order to achieve it. Paradise on earth is worth all of that cost, and that beautiful vision explains their enthusiasm.

    But of course it’s all nonsense. Any damn fool knows socialism isn’t going to produce paradise on earth, so the fools who believe it will must be double-damned or thrice-damned at least. Seriously: What is their problem? What do they lack, that they keep falling for socialism like a bunch of low-self-esteem suckers who can’t hold back from clicking on web banner ads for “natural male enhancement?”

    You have to abandon something before you become a socialist ideologue. Something has to go, to make room for socialism. And if we observe the behavior of the ideologues, it’s pretty clear what has to be cleared out: Transcendent Religion.

    Socialism is, after all, a form of immanentizing the eschaton. It is a moral, ideological crusade. It has dogmas and creeds, and the disciplines of petty abstentions. It has penalties exacted on those who blaspheme, as every conservative knows from experience.

    Now anyone who is hoping to conform their will to the will of God by God’s grace isn’t going to buy a creed which says they can screw whomever they wish so long as they donate to Greenpeace and vote for Obama. Anyone who is storing up their treasures in Heaven will find they have no need for a paradise on earth…and when someone tries to sell them shares in an earthly paradise, they’re already predisposed to give it a gimlet eye. They’re going to take a cynical view. They’re going to say, “Paradise? Yeah, right, like Mao’s China, like Ceaucescu’s Romania.”

    But what about those who’ve already abandoned any Transcendent Religion? They need not have abandoned all religion, mind you: The Episcopalians in particular are famous for their leadership believing that Jesus Christ was a great moral teacher around whom various legends have accrued, and whose real significance, once the legendary stuff is stripped away, is to remind us to be nice to our neighbor and to recycle. But you see that they have abandoned Transcendent religion, and are hoping for Heaven through social programs and good intentioned realized through human-designed systems on this earth: Thus socialism becomes a good match.

    Do not misunderstand: I am not saying that everyone who abandons a Name-Brand Transcendent Religion will necessarily pick up socialism as his Off-Brand substitute.

    I do think that everyone has a functional religion of some kind; some buy it ready-made from a known manufacturer like Catholic, Inc. whereas others piece theirs together from off-the-shelf parts like a computer hobbyist assembling his ideal gaming PC: dual-port ethics card here, cosmology circuit there, anthropology bus here, cultural celebrations over there, attitude to suffering in the back, philosophy of self-improvement in that corner, quad-core epistemology in the center. One can hardly live a well-examined life without a functional religion, so-defined.

    Still, a person who is currently without a functional religion — perhaps having none at all, perhaps having a dysfunctional one assembled from disparate parts which turned out to have compatibility issues — is an easy mark for a socialism salesperson, who wraps up his product in shiny packaging and assures the buyer it’s new and improved.

    Okay: That gets us to part of why people buy in to socialism: It’s filling a psychological need they didn’t have otherwise filled by something more creditable.

    But what’s that got to do with having babies?

    Simple: Babies are a hardship, from a purely “practical” standpoint. You pour your love and effort into them and they still break your heart a third of the time or more. They force you to renounce your selfishness and focus on them. They reduce your enjoyment of stuff.

    Now if the stuff of earth is all there is, babies are simply not worth it. Sterilizing yourself and enjoying a Dual-Income-No-Kids lifestyle is easier, profoundly so. And if you’re already encountering some form of deprivation, then you’d better not produce another mouth to feed.

    But what if love is transcendent? What if life is transcendent? What if philosophy is not some mental game we play, but is about truth, and not just truth but truth that will remain true even when this physical universe is long gone? What if good wins and the soul is immortal?

    Then every baby you have will outlive the universe.

    Folks, that is electric in a way that I don’t think people adequately appreciate. Read C.S.Lewis’ “The Weight of Glory” to get a better articulation of it than I can give here, but to paraphrase him: “Next to the Blessed Sacrament, your neighbor is the holiest object that presents itself to your senses. It is a serious thing, to live in a society of potential gods and goddesses. Every person you meet, love, help, snub, or exploit may one day be such a being that, if you were to see it now, you would be strongly tempted to fall at its feet….”

    That, I think, and the sheer joy of the infused love of God — it is not for nothing that the Holy Spirit is called “the Lord, the giver of Life” — integrates itself into the soul of the Christian or the Jew (perhaps the Muslim? not sure; certainly some more than others!) in a fashion that embraces life as having transcendent value.

    The result is big families.

    So I think that socialism tends to come to power in countries where Transcendent Religion is already on the wane. (Or they’d have never voted for socialism.)

    And I think socialism tends to try to suppress or sideline Transcendent Religion, because its job is to enlist all of society in support of the one goal of state policy, and thus suffers no competing enthusiasms gladly.

    Thus a society which is already largely without Transcendent Religion will increasingly sideline it as time goes on. This will cause a drop in the birthrates even before socialism’s economic consequences produce hardships. And the hardships will simply exaggerate the anti-life impact of socialism.

    Socialism comes from the lack of a Life-Giving Ethos. Once active, it suppresses the Life-Giving Ethos in favor of the hive-mind of the state. And once full-grown, it kills its own subjects through poverty and the stifling of the human spirit. Small wonder that such a system would not only sprout from but nurture and reinforce an Ethos of Sterility, where man lives by bread alone, has nothing to look forward to, and then dies.

  23. No, Sarah. The birth rate is not declining because of government regulation. The birth rate is declining because women have a choice as regards whether they get pregnant, and whether they will keep a child once they find that they are pregnant.

    My understanding is that since Roe v. Wade, nearly forty years ago, there have been 54.6 million abortions in the United States, and counting. If one assumes that an aborted fetus counts as a child, and that the death of six millions of people constitutes a holocaust, then we will have seen a deca-holocaust in the U.S. by 2013.

    Of course, that does not count the numbers of potential children snuffed by contraceptives.

    We’ve seen this before, in Roman times, when with their primitive medical technology, they were able to use contraception and abortion to regulate births. I suggest that you read Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for the results.

    In the micro-planning aspect, and from the point of view of the women concerned, I express no judgment. As a man, I believe that I have known pain which perhaps approaches that of childbirth. I would have avoided such pain, if I could have done so. I applaud the efforts of women to do so.

    But on the other hand, if the trend you have spoken of continues, the immediate result will be that the educated will abort and contracept themselves out of existence, and the uneducated will continue to breed.

    Think of it as evolution in action. Have a nice day.

    • So, in the last four years, women got more choice on whether to get pregnant or not? West Germany had less choice on getting pregnant than East Germany? PLEASE!

      Yes, I get and see your point. BUT that’s not the point of my post.

  24. Yes, I suspect that you are right, and many women are choosing not to get pregnant or to terminate their pregnancies because they see that the world that they are in may not be worth bringing children into. And yes, if the race is to continue, we have to say, with Benedick of Much Ado About Nothing: “The world must be peopled!”

    My point, however is that there is a distinction between a material cause (the contraceptive and medical technology permitting abortion) and a final cause (a woman’s choice not to conceive or bring to term a child, for whatever reason).

    And I hope that you will forgive me for my candor in this regard, and my spleen. It is borne out of the fact that I have been unemployed for the last six years, due to a combination of age discrimination and the wretched situation for paralegals in Southern California. I am now at the end of my resources. Unless I can find other resources, I will be unable to pay my rent with the new year. And what with actions in unlawful detainer in Los Angeles, I will be homeless by mid-February of that new year.

    I have written a book, entitled ‘Bad Trip’, which is now on Amazon. I think it is a very good example of science fiction. I think that if people actually knew what it had to say, they might buy it, and I might be able to get those resources. But I can not even get my alleged friends to look at it, or to respond to me regarding it. I’ve even tried submitting it to some SF publishers, like Baen, but they estimate that I will receive a reading sometime around December of 2013. Too late.

    Again, have a nice day.

    • Well… Look, your situation is not different from a lot of people. And ours might not be so different in an all too short amount of time. I know, I know, misery doesn’t love company THAT much, but…

      The only thing I CAN do is offer you a chance to pimp your book — why didn’t you put a link to it? — I shall have a call for “What are my commenters up to” sometime next week, and link it at instapundit. That will give you some sales, but I’m afraid not in time.

      I’m sorry. I have friends in the same situation, and it’s part of the stress right now, that there is really nothing I can do. Even if I depleted all of my (meager) resources, I couldn’t dig them out.

      • Thank you for your kind response.

        The link to my book is here: http://www.amazon.com/Bad-Trip-ebook/dp/B00AA3PDB8

        As regards your assertion ‘there is nothing I can do’, however, I would beg to differ.

        Were I in your position, and someone like me asked for help, I would at least look at the blurb, and at the first four chapters (included in the web page) to see if the book were any good or not. If those chapters stunk, I would have the courtesy to tell the person so, and suggest that they try again.

        On the other hand, if those chapters turned out to be good, I would either ask the person to send me a pdf of the whole book, or I would spend the $2.99 to purchase it myself. If it were really good, I might consider posting a customer review on its web page. But that’s just me.

        I would agree with you that many are also in my position. Some have died from it, including the late Thomas M. Disch, whose works ranged from Camp Concentration and 334 to The Brave Little Toaster, and whom I happened to have met once. Here’s a review of how he died:

        http://www.strangehorizons.com/2008/20080922/miller-a.shtml

        Or you could read his weblog

        http://tomsdisch.livejournal.com

        Enjoy.

        • While I can see it would seem to you like a) I have an immense power I could use. b) there is no reason I shouldn’t use it at whim and on anyone who needs it — consider this:
          a) my power is …shaky. If it weren’t, I wouldn’t worry every time a new book comes out through traditional publishing. Yes, this blog has improved my reach. Yes, some of the people I regularly link here, have reported some small increase in sales.

          This process takes time and sometimes it doesn’t work at all. For instance, I regularly link my son’s book Cat’s Paw and I have reviewed it (And people who read here know I don’t give him automatic marks for being my son.) Has it resulted in sales? Some, but not enough for him to buy a meal out for himself a quarter, let alone for an income. Of course his book is ODD, but then again…

          I have given blurbs and done reviews for friends at various times. Have they helped? Again, a little. But it depends on the book. For some of them it hasn’t helped at all.

          Does this mean I won’t help people at all? It sounds like a cop out, doesn’t it?

          Well

          b) I have asked several people who are regulars in this blog for their books. I do read them — in the fullness of time. It took me about a year to read Rick Locke’s excellent Temporary Duty. You see, I am overdue on a book and promised for two or three others (not sure) and that’s with my traditional publisher. I’m also trying to go indie on the side, because there is a good/medium chance it will be our only income come March, and I have yet to make enough to supply even half of our needs on any given year, even before we had two sons in college. So, right now during “normal work hours” I work on my books for my publisher, and in the evenings at home I work on my indie publishing efforts, both older short stories I’m bringing out, and rewriting older work (easier right now than from scratch) or finishing stuff never finished for indie publication. I think in the last… year? I’ve taken off exactly two days when I wasn’t desperately ill and just slept.

          I’m also posting on this blog everyday and doing a blogtour for my book release this year.

          I am also main support person for the family, since I don’t — nor have ever — made enough to pay for a cleaning person, take the laundry out or get take out food. I’m also main repair person for those things that don’t need expertise.

          This is not said to elicit pity. I think if I work very hard for the next four months and avoid getting ill (which has eaten most of the year) IF my husband does get laid off AND we don’t have another Catastrophic House Event (which has been a theme for the last year) that eats a massive amount of money, we will just squeak by if my husband hasn’t found anything when unemployment runs out. If he doesn’t get laid of, we might actually find the money to move somewhere smaller (this house will need improvements/fix ups before we try to sell) and stop living on the brink. BUT that’s right now a pipe dream. I’m willing to work like hell to prevent the current economic difficulties blighting my family’s life. And, as I said, there are friends in worse circumstances.

          But it takes me a very long time to get around to reading anything, particularly anything that I’m required to take notes on/write something on. I spent the year before this reading regency romances because they were bubblegum. This year I’ve read fewer of those, and I haven’t even read the books of some authors I love, due to health and spending most of my off time either with my family or sleeping.

          Let’s say though I read it and thought it was great… [And you should reconsider the wording "if it's good." Your work might be brilliant, and I might not like it. Or it might be brilliant and I might love it. (Or it might be awful and I might love it. There is no such thing as a universal "good" and what critics consider great often makes me gag.)] And I wrote about it. It might sell you… five copies. Now, this is nothing to sneeze about, since those five people talk to five people… but it’s no more sure an entry point than the Baen slush pile.

          Speaking of the Baen slush: I have recommended three friends to my editor. One was rejected very quickly (six months) the other two took over two years to be… rejected. Which tells you about where my power is.

          When I say “there is nothing I can do” it should be taken as exactly that. It’s very easy to exaggerate someone else’s power (A friend who is a mega bestseller did a review of one of my books. Because I could track those sales, I judge it sold me… about 6 copies. Now, over time this is nothing to sneze at, but it’s not a panacea and it’s not a near-term solution.) If I had a magical wand, I would take time to wave it not just over you — who are a stranger — but over my close friends who are wondering how to keep the lights on over the rest of the year. (And yes, I’ve given them blurbs. And no, it is not a magic wand.) Or my friends who are trying to figure out how to pay for catastrophic health issues.

          But I don’t have a magic wand and taking time enough off my work to read everyone RIGHT NOW (as I said, I do try to read the regular commenters on this blog and review EVENTUALLY) and promote everyone right now, it only guarantees I end up in the exact same situation in less than six months. Which wouldn’t do anyone any good and would betray what my family has the right to expect from me.

          • Again, thank you for your kind, thoughtful, and prompt response.

            I am sorry to have troubled you. Please forgive me.

            • Wayne Blackburn

              Bernard, I have been reading Sarah’s blog for a while, though less than a year, and the primary thing I have learned, from her and others, is that it’s very unusual for a first-time author to sell very many copies of their book in a short period of time, so hanging your hopes on your book is rather unrealistic. While you’re not working, though, go ahead and write more, so that you build up a presence, because they have also said that the more works you have available, the more likely it is for a person to find ONE of them, which is likely to lead them to the rest.

              The description of your book sounds interesting, and later, I’ll likely buy a copy for myself, if I can (I”m totally strapped for book money right now), but unless it strikes a particular chord with people, and catches fire, it’s not likely to save you in the short run.

              A couple of points, though:

              1) Another thing I have learned here is that the cover art is very important, and I’m thinking that you may want to rethink your cover art. For a couple of reasons. One, there’s a lot of whitespace on it, and I gather that for most subjects, that’s not a good thing. Second, It took me a full minute (and only AFTER enlarging the image) to realize that that was supposed to be an open book on the cover. Without that realization, the word, “Necronomicon” on the book looks like it’s part of the cover of your book, not the one that is in the image. You might want to shrink the book image to show it’s part of the story, and add some other art, possibly showing some ritual objects, or making the contrast with some high-tech equipment to indicate the crossover nature of the subject. Not sure, but I would still look at it again. You DO appear to have the book’s name large enough (another point that has been made here), but you might want to make your name slightly larger, and space the letters just a tad more.

              2) This one, as has been pointed out here many times, is counterintuitive, but based on the size of the file (I don’t know why the book page doesn’t estimate the pages), you have it priced too LOW. According to empirical evidence, your sales (as well as your comissions) will go up if you raise the price to $4.99 or $5.99.

  25. So did slaves and serfs have less children than their free contemporaries?

    • It’s hard to tell. It’s hard to tell, particularly what was volitional. In those days means of contraception beyond abstention were rare, and abstention might not be a choice.

      But slavery is grossly inefficient in work production, just like communism “They pretend to work, we pretend to pay them.” And I’ve read some works that would indicate infanticide was higher. Hard to tell. Again, in ancient Rome a lot of exposed infants (of free people) were picked up by people who raised them as slaves. So… the whole thing is murky.

      • In the issue of serfs there are probably no free contemporaries against which to compare them. Such people constituted the lowest class of society. To be “free” almost certainly meant being amongst the nobility, with a very small percentage constituting the middle-class.

        A better analysis would probably require cross-cultural comparisons of yeoman and serf social organization.

        Studies found that in America, during the heyday of tenant-farming, children represented a pool of available cheap labor to such an extent that tenants applying for the better farmland were commonly granted preference according to the size of their families. This is possibly irrelevant to the topic at question, but suggests the complexity of any analysis of the issue.

      • Infanticide was high enough that the triumph of Christianity was in part demographic.

        Of course, part of that was that they would collect other people’s daughters, and so the women were disproportionate Christian and bent on raising their children as Christians.

        • ….Given how women are the normal-religious folks in Christianity– “little old church ladies,” making folks go to church, kids being religious because “my mom would kill me if I didn’t” and such– and how a major complaint about Jesus is how “weak” He acted, there’s a lovely bit justice in Christianity gaining success by taking the babies nobody else wanted.