In a recent news analysis article, not an editorial, a Washington Post writer lamented the recent drop in U.S. fertility rate:
“Rather, the pandemic left a permanent mark on American families, with many having fewer children than they would have otherwise, leaving tens of thousands of future American citizens permanently unborn.” The author, Christopher Ingraham, went on:
Of course, at the individual level, the fertility cost is literally incalculable. How does a parent put a price tag on a child that was never had? What is the loss to an only child who will never have siblings to play with? The discussion is a reminder that even after the pandemic is behind us, it is likely to leave a deep scar on society for years to come.— Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post, June 17, 2020
Does this rhetoric — the assertion that birthing fewer children exacts a toll on society — sound familiar? It might, because this has been a talking point of nationalist leaders across the globe. Recently, Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro recently called on women in the country to have more kids to “let the homeland grow.” U.S. President Donald Trump chimed in as well, approving a barely noticed tax tweak that pays people even more money to have kids.
This policy promotes nationalism over democracy because it pushes society away from improving birth conditions for every child; giving kids a fair start in life; ensuring that children grow up in a natural, healthy, and safe environment; and allowing everyone to exercise meaningful voices in their democracies that won’t get lost in the chaotic crowd.
The problem with this reasoning is that the state and other institutions are artifice: Democracy and legitimate societies derive power from the individual, not the other way around. We should not have children for the state or the economy. Instead, we should cooperatively plan to have kids in ways that empower them to comprise a better future and build real democracies, not bloated nation-states and economies that demand more bodies — even in the middle of ecological and social crises.
More crowding and poor family planning exacerbates the spread and threat of pandemics, is the worst way to exacerbate the climate crisis, and expands the inequity tearing our communities apart.
TAKE ACTION: The Washingtion Post holds itself up as a champion of democracy, but it is promoting nationalistic policies. Because family planning is truly constitutional in nature and because the right to a fair start in life is the first and most fundamental human right, we can engage people (and especially wealthy people) pushing women to have kids to instead help pay for sustainable family planning, and for every kid to get a fair start in life. Write the Post editor Marty Baron @PostBaron, or engage him in person, and urge him to reconsider what democracy means and to pay his share to support better family planning.