If you do a term search on Google for recent media regarding issues around human population growth, you will find that the vast majority of messaging tells us women are not having enough kids and that we are in a “baby bust.” In other words, we are not having enough children to satisfy the ever-present push to ensure the economic growth – and greater returns on investments – that comes with more people.
A counterargument goes something like this: Policies that allowed that growth to happen drove the climate crisis, enslaved women to expectations of motherhood, and ensured no minimum levels of welfare or equity for children. These are all bad things, and it’s not clear that returns on investments – which generally favor the rich – are worth the trade. Everyone loves free money, but the climate crisis is kind of a big deal, right?
But there is a bigger problem with pushing women to have kids for economic reasons. Assuming that how we see future children is how we see our societies, the universal media push (driven often by journalists’ advertisers) to grow our population means that we are essentially economic inputs and comprise economies, measurable in things like gross domestic product. That is who we are.
This ideology is very different from seeing ourselves as members of a democracy in which, rather than trying to maximize the number of bodies (as consumers, workers, and taxpayers) irrespective of political equity, we try to maximize the civic capacity and effective political voice of each citizen, requiring true equality of opportunity rather than a massive gap between rich and poor. We would be focused on a metric like our empowerment, rather than product.
And if being in a democracy is what obligates us to follow the rules, because in democracy we make those rules, then being in an economy – essentially, because of who we are – would mean we do not have to follow the rules, rules that protect the property of the rich for example. Robbed of our actual role in the process, and left to gape at politicians over which we each have little or no control, why should we? If governments have simply become adept at hiding violence, for the most part, and now mostly partner with private concentrations of wealth to more subtly use economic incentives to control the populace as some think is the case, as opposed to fulfilling their obligation to ensure the self-determination of people directly applying their will in functional town halls, why follow the rules? None of this would matter if getting to those town halls was impossible. It’s not, thanks to Fair Start and other reforms.
The “baby bust” messaging is scary for many reasons, but it may also be the key to solving many of our political crises today. If we are worried about democracy we should stop seeing kids as economic inputs and use family reforms like Fair Start to make sure children will be comprising – in terms of maximizing our investment in them, and their development via collective family planning – town halls rather than shopping malls. Then we are freed by the rules under which we live because they are our rules.