Apr 222013

agricultureAs long as I’m talking about things I’ve changed my mind about

I used to be of the opinion that there should be no tax breaks for having children. This seemed like an incentive for humans to have more children, which I was told was bad. Children are a drain on society, and they’ll grow up demanding more food, products, and energy – creating waste and pollution. If anything, people should be taxed for burdening us with more kids!

Naturally I eventually realized that this meant the best way to end waste, pollution, and all bad things was to eliminate the human race entirely. During my most depressive period I thought this was an ideal solution. I have since changed my mind, but there are others who still willingly bite that bullet.

Nowadays I’ve come to realize that all value come from beings that can value stuff, and that on net, every human produces more than they consume. This should have been obvious without anyone pointing it out to me, and yet somehow I missed it. Every group must produce at least as much as it consumes, or it will starve. For millennia we’ve been producing more than we need for survival, allowing some people to work at non-food-production tasks. World GDP (or just GP, I guess?) continues to go up at a rate faster than population growth, we keep getting more productive per-person. Each additional human makes all of us richer on net.

(yes, this is in aggregate; and yes, this assumes we have not reached the carrying capacity of the planet)

This turns the problem on its head. Raising a human is very expensive, $235k per child just up to the age of 17. Parents are shouldering these costs primarily on their own, in addition to the vast restriction on freedom and loss of free time they experience. They generally do not recoup these costs later. And the childless, like myself, reap the benefits of a growing society of people who produce far more than they consume without paying into it by raising children of my own. This is becoming enough of a problem that we may reach a peak population of ~10B this century, and start losing population after that!   Many developed countries are already experiencing below-replacement-level reproduction rates.

As someone who wants to make the world more like me, I have to ask if I can live with myself – literally. It appears that in this regard, I cannot. So I’ve come to the conclusion that not only should people receive benefits for having children, but that currently we are giving them far too few. I am obviously going to have to start voting for higher taxes on myself in order to subsidize the altruistic among us who are willing to make the sacrifices to raise the next generation.

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