Anti-natal public policy...

Here's another helpful piece by Bob Patterson. This one ran in The Daily Beast and here's a teaser: 

...the United States has been anything but neutral on fertility, as public policy has chipped away at our formerly high birthrates for four decades. Indeed, today’s upside-down demography is the fruit of three heavy-handed policies that triggered immediate and permanent declines not only of birthrates but also of a key correlate of fecundity, marriage rates. The triple-witching spell was cast by Richard Nixon’s massive birth-control crusade through Title X of the Public Health Services Act and Title XIX (Medicaid); the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which sanctioned abortion-on-demand and trashed the hallowed custom of shotgun weddings; and the states’ imposition of no-fault divorce, which downgraded the marital bond to a precarious “at-will” relationship.

Note the comments by a bunch of bloodthirsty narcissists who think hissing and spitting are modes of argument.

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.


Patterson may have set the stage for sniping by leading his column with a personal attack in Dr. Hsieh.  Not that people would stop that anyways, but I'm guessing many people stopped understanding right then and there.

And the argument?  Since the trend goes back to 1800, and there's a ton of things going on in the 1950s (cultural religiousity as a response to the Godless commies, economic boom where Mom could afford to stay home and have babies, etc..), I can't give Social Security credit.

For that matter, we ought to consider Social Security in light of the reality that the young always bankroll old age.  If it's bearable for the young--meaning enough young people to do the work and pay the bills--it's bearable for the old.  If it's not--meaning too many people have believed that the government and not their children would care for them--then the young will find other ways to "take care of" the old.  Think euthanasia in the Netherlands and Belgium, or the old story about old Eskimos being given their burial iceberg.

But Bert,

There's an inverse correlation between a country's birth-rate and how much the government promises to support its people when they are old. In other words, if you increase social security benefits, you decrease the number of children people will have. This makes sense. They don't feel the need to provide for themselves in the future when they are old by having children now who will care for them later. After all, the government will take care of me.

This of course guts the future workforce of workers, leading to the problem you mention of not enough young to pay for the old. 

Laws do actually make a difference in people's behavior--even fiscal laws.


Joseph--we're in agreement.  If you promise Uncle Sam will pick up the tab for retirement, then people will not use other means--like having children.  Patterson interestingly makes the opposite argument--that it helps improve the birthrate.  He also backs the argument with statements from Chile, where privatization and a birthrate plunge are correlated.

My take here is that he's looking too much at government programs and not the surrounding culture and economy. 

The correlation between Chile privatizing Social Security and a lower birth rate does not at all imply causality as the article assumes.

Joel; agreed.  I'd suggest it has more to do with rising Protestantism and a rising economy--you'd need a graph going back a few decades to really sort things out.

And let's be fair here, too; Patterson is 100% correct that a sub-replacement birthrate is a problem.  I simply disagree about why it's happening.

Yes, birthrate is a problem, no doubt about it but the thing is that I'm not sure if this is going to solve the problem. 

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