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Reckless or right?
July 22, 2001 9:20 AM   Subscribe

Reckless or right? The family that gave birth to septuplets lives in a two bedroom apartment, and the father works as a high school teacher. Was this an irresponsible act on their part? I don't believe only the rich should have children, but shouldn't society expect you (and only you) to have the means to support children you give birth to (within reason)?
posted by owillis (45 comments total)

 
"Within reason" meaning not accounting for sudden change in the employment of the parents - layoffs, sickness, etc.
posted by owillis at 9:21 AM on July 22, 2001


While I think it is foolish to *try* to have many babies at once (as this couple must have known before being allowed to undergo fertility treatments), if they are able & willing to pay for probable expenses, no problem. But to embark on such a course when the LIKELY result will be multiple-births without a realistic chance of supporting the entire brood...well, that's just irresponsible. Not "wrong" necessarily, but reckless is a good choice of words. And re: claims that the Saudi royals will pick up the tab...? I don't get it.
posted by davidmsc at 9:29 AM on July 22, 2001


The Saudi Ambassador has said that the Government of Saudi Arabia will provide whatever is needed.

Also, the kind of fertility treatment which was used can't easily be fine tuned, and multiple births are common when using it. Occasionally someone hits the jackpot, but it's luck and not intent.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:38 AM on July 22, 2001


If the whole "Saudi royal" thing hadn't happened, I'd be terribly interested in finding out just how color blind our nation is. Would the U.S. as a whole, trot out a 15 passenger van, a new house and sponsorship from a diaper company for septuplets that didn't originate from the media-safe heartland like the McCaughey's from Iowa?
posted by machaus at 9:40 AM on July 22, 2001


Do you honestly think they PLANNED for 7? All in one go?

In total reproductive freedom, just like you would stand up for the right of a woman to terminate her pregnancy, any other woman who wishes to be pregnant should have any and all medical help available to her.

On that democtratic note, In an ideal world all men and women would be medicated to a modifiable sterile state. All those who wish to have a child of their own should enter the Child Birth Licensing Institute, where they will have to display proper parenting skills in various VR Simulations. Their actions will be judged by extremely advanced computers, a la HAL. They will be required to write a 5,000 word (or more) essay in coherent language explaining why they deserve to be parents. At the end of the process, all successful couples would be given an Anti-sterilization Medication that would temporarily suspend the sterilization and allow them to conceive. The medication would be coded as such that only the couple who were given the medication can conceive with that particular medication. This will prevent the black market sale of the Anti-sterilization Medication.

[This concept of future Copyright (C) 2001, Tamim. Patents, Trade Marks etc. pending.]
posted by tamim at 9:42 AM on July 22, 2001


With this many kids at one shot they now have a product to merchandize! TV commercials etc will give them a very nice income.....I worry about the people with not much income who have 3 children or 4, with separate births. No ad deals for those losers.
posted by Postroad at 9:58 AM on July 22, 2001


Years ago, after the first set of surviving septuplets was born, someone I know proposed the idea of fertility insurance, which if redeemed could cover the huge expenses incurred by multiple births.

That aside, I take issue with the argument of "of course, if Bill Gates wanted to do this..." Surely by now we've seen that septuplets are well over seven times more expensive than single births - because they're always born prematurely, they're always in intensive care during the first weeks (months...) of their lives, and they've always shown developmental delays. As far as I can tell, money isn't the only issue - or even the main one.
posted by isomorphisms at 9:58 AM on July 22, 2001


It's tough enough to give one new child the attention they demand. Those poor parents are going to be run ragged. Think of the amount of diapers they'll go through! And can you imagine how much of a hassle it will be to take the kids anywhere? Not only will they need a vehicle big enough to carry them all, they'll also need to start at least an hour ahead of time to get them all belted in and ready to go. There will be no putting the babies into the car for a quick jaunt over to Grandma's. They'll need a babysitter just to go grocery shopping.

Yes, having seven kids is its own punishment. No further action on our part is required.
posted by kindall at 10:04 AM on July 22, 2001


It's only a matter of time before fertility experts will be able to ensure that your babies are unnaturally docile, anyway. In the meantime, there's Calpol and whisky.
posted by holgate at 10:13 AM on July 22, 2001


Wow. A high school teacher is too poor to support seven children? I mean, are we concerned they won't all have cars on their 18th birthdays or that they're going to starve?

Maybe it's just me, but even asking whether we should judge these people is extreme. I mean, like, is the idea that maybe they'll be poor? I'm kind of lost for words here. Am I missing something? Is it considered irresponsible to introduce children into the world unless they're middle-class? Are you thinking of nuking most of the rest of the world? Do you have state programs to castrate the unemployed and drug users? Hello?
posted by andrew cooke at 10:18 AM on July 22, 2001


"but shouldn't society expect you (and only you) to have the means to support children you give birth to (within reason)?"

No, I don't think so. I don't think that society has the right to tell Mr. and Mrs. Qahtani how many children they can have. That's an issue for parents to decide. Haven't we been through the old "keep the government out of my bedroom" discussion on the topic of homosexuality?

We don't tell families how many Mercedes cars they can buy, or how big their house can be. Why would we tell them how many kids they can have?

My somewhat-out-of-proportion reaction to your comment stems from the deeper cultural bias underlying the argument; namely, that some people try to impose economic theory on the continuance of human life. We are not inputs in some Keynesian production function. We are men and women, who make free choices about how to live our lives. Money is not more important than human life. When economics restricts life, economics must be discarded.

If economics fails in this case, what takes its place? A compassionate and caring society that supports those in need. I know it doesn't always work (as Postroad notes), but--thank goodness--it did in this case. As Steven pointed out:

"Because their father, Fahad Qahtani, is a student, the family's medical bills will be paid by the Saudi government.

The Saudi government is well known for its generosity to its nationals abroad. Gifts and support have poured out from around the world. So, in fact, Mr. and Mrs. Qahtani are quite able to support their children. Despite the better advice of Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, and the other economic planners.
posted by nicolotesla at 10:20 AM on July 22, 2001


No, I don't think so. I don't think that society has the right to tell Mr. and Mrs. Qahtani how many children they can have.

When I say society, I don't mean the government. Rather, I mean whether there should be less adulation of these events and more of a stigma attached. Social pressure, not legal, is what I'm hinting at.

When people rely on the rest of society to take care of them, shouldn't we expect some sort of accountability on their part? I think so.

Is it considered irresponsible to introduce children into the world unless they're middle-class?

No, but isn't it irresponsible to have children you cannot support?
posted by owillis at 10:29 AM on July 22, 2001


but shouldn't society expect you (and only you) to have the means to support children you give birth to (within reason)?

That belief is a relatively new one, usually associated with people who come up with things such as "there's no such thing as society". Throughout history (and biology, in the case of humans), the raising of children has never been simply a job for just the parents. In fact, the historical question has always been the other way around: shouldn't parents expect those around them to make at least some investment in children?

Should society turn up its nose when grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends and neighbours play their part in supporting children? Is my sister "reckless" or "feckless" when my parents buy toys for her daughter that she can't afford? After all, isn't it just that kind of shared responsibility that leads to children growing up with a sense of social inclusion and responsibility? It's certainly better than the disturbing trend among the middle-classes, where grown-up children regard the death of their parents as an opportunity to claim their rightful inheritances.
posted by holgate at 10:29 AM on July 22, 2001


BTW, in the past, people's reactions to multiple births have differed based on race.
posted by owillis at 10:33 AM on July 22, 2001


Would Middle America be as generous with non-white families? Well, we had the Thompson Sextuplets (only five survived birth), born to a black family, and who received a tiny fraction of the media coverage and "sponsorship". They ultimately received a minivan and free diapers, as well as a home mortgage through Freddie Mac, but nothing like the McCaugheys.

I think the idea of fertility insurance is a great one, in principle, but in practice I suspect it would be like flood insurance. Too few of the people who would need it would buy it, it would be extremely expensive for those who do, and underwriters would treat it like a hot potato.

Is having septuplets in and of itself immoral? Maybe not. I do think a recent Wisconsin judge's ruling against a man who had fathered nine children by four mothers, almost all of whom were receiving state aid, that he procreate no more, is a good one.
posted by dhartung at 10:34 AM on July 22, 2001


Is my sister "reckless" or "feckless" when my parents buy toys for her daughter that she can't afford?

No, but if your sister continued to have children or had a child she knew she wouldn't be able to reasonably support, I would consider her reckless and possibly inconsiderate (if she expected an unreasonable amount of help from your parents, who have probably earned their rest at this point in their lives).
posted by owillis at 10:37 AM on July 22, 2001


funny, people used to (and still do in some places) have as many children as they possibly can in order to help with the work, ensure that a few survived to adulthood, and to care for the parents in old age.

of course, lack of birth control probably played a part as well.
posted by rebeccablood at 10:42 AM on July 22, 2001


Rather, I mean whether there should be less adulation of these events and more of a stigma attached.

Please don't suggest that society start stigmatizing people who do things that the majority doesn't approve of but are entirely their own choice. We've been fighting for civil rights for Blacks since the 60s, and women since the 20s. Last time I checked, that was one of the big lessons from WWII. In fact, I can't think of too many example when society has stigmatized people to positive ends.

No, but isn't it irresponsible to have children you cannot support?

Rich people might be able to support their kids financially, but I bet many of them don't support the emotional needs of their kids as well as poorer families do. Again, money is not the measure of human happiness. Want to start calling foster care on the 57-year-old workaholic CEO whose daughter is a heroin addict because she never sees her dad?
posted by nicolotesla at 10:52 AM on July 22, 2001


owillis: I don't think parents ever really know the costs -- financial and emotional -- of having children until they actually have them. (I certainly don't, and for now I'm happy to stay the uncle who buys birthday presents and plays Tweenies songs on the "com-pooter".) There's no users' manual for raising children, but there have always been social networks to provide advice and support. After all, if our paleolithic ancestors managed to bring up children, I can't see why we can't.

So what's "reasonable" support? It's one of those questions that be theorised endlessly, but which doesn't port across to real life. You can only decide what's reasonable in practice, and have the structures in place to rescue children when they're in danger. There are plenty of bad parents with the "means" to support their kids: once again, the bank balance isn't an index of value. (What nicolatesla said: some of the unhappiest of my friends at Oxford were those with lavish creature comforts and utterly dysfunctional families.)
posted by holgate at 10:58 AM on July 22, 2001


"Do you honestly think they PLANNED for 7? All in one go? "

Yes. Because many, many IVF specialists won't even implant more than 4 embryos, since technology has caught up enough that it is reasonable to assume that 4 embryos will yield at least triplets more than 80% of the time.

If you want to have a baby, you have 3 implanted. If you think this is your only shot at having children, and you want 2, they implant 4. But very, very few IVF specialists will even consider implanting more than that. So they did choose to have a reckless number of implantations, knowing that they would be very likely to have more than quadruplets. And in doing so, they took serious health risks to all of those fetuses, who were forced to mature in a womb not designed to hold 7 of them at once - to compete for resources.

I have no sympathy for people who's egos tell them that they over other people have the right to breed endlessly, 4, 5, 6 children, whether all at once, or one at a time.
posted by kristin at 11:07 AM on July 22, 2001


Every time I see a story about multiple births, due to fertility drugs, it leaves me with a very nagging question.

What is so important about having your own baby? If you want a child, would it not be simpler to adopt one who is already here in the world rather than bring another one or three or seven.

I know some say how difficult it is to adopt and the chance of receiving "damaged goods" is pretty high. But is that any worse than spending $50,000(?) on fertility treatment and much more than that simply getting the children to survive past their first few years.

As for myself I'm only 22 and am seriously debating whether or not to get a vasectomy. At this point I have no interest in having a child and if I ever do I would look into adoption.

Any further thoughts out there in the ether?
posted by the biscuit man at 11:10 AM on July 22, 2001


Please don't suggest that society start stigmatizing people who do things that the majority doesn't approve of but are entirely their own choice.

We stigmatize teen pregnancy, usage of hard drugs, using racially insensitive language...

Again, money is not the measure of human happiness. Want to start calling foster care on the 57-year-old workaholic CEO whose daughter is a heroin addict because she never sees her dad?

I never said money was the measure of happiness, but it would also be incorrect to believe money has no place in today's society. Raising a child does have a significant financial component to it. If you don't personally have the finances to manage a child but your family is willing, go for it. Personally I have no problem with my tax dollars assisting those in need, until they can get on their feet. But should my tax dollars be used to subsidize you having children again and again? That doesn't seem fair to me.

I don't think parents ever really know the costs -- financial and emotional -- of having children until they actually have them.

True, but you do have some idea (ballpark) of the costs involved. For instance, right now I know I make enough to support myself and my puppy. Even if I was emotionally ready to have a child, I wouldn't - because I know that I don't have the resources to support it. For me to say "damn the torpedoes" and go ahead anyway would be unfair to taxpayers that would end up supporting my selfish notion.

What is so important about having your own baby?

For some of us, it's the summit of what we're put on earth to do - but like everything else it's not for everyone. Adoption is fine, but there's some mystical voodoo (the only way I can describe it) about having someone that's your own flesh and blood.
posted by owillis at 11:16 AM on July 22, 2001


I believe individuals are responsible for the outcome of their actions, but at the head of the list are those who seek profit from the cravings of others.So I have to ask why do people blame parents instead of the medical industry for the artificial production of multiple births?

People who are childless and yet crave parenthood might not fully consider all of the ramifications of fertility treatment, but shouldn't the researchers and drug companies be held accountable for the impact of the products they dangle before the public?
posted by Sqwerty at 11:21 AM on July 22, 2001


Well, I've had a few friends who grew up in large Roman Catholic families- working class, of course- of 6 or more children, and they seemed to do okay. While a large family may not be ideal, it's not the end of the world.

And the 7-child birth, much as we moan about it, is still so rare that it's newsworthy. In a country of 284 million people, I'm not going to get too worked up about the economic impact of 3 families that have 7 children each. If you want to fall down the slippery slope of "but it matters becuz everyone's gunna do it" be my guest but I won't join you. Besides, the national birthrate is such that we are on pace to have negative population growth, offset only partly by continued immigration and increasing longevity; further reason to not get especially worked up about a few sextuplets and septuplets here and there....

And there is something creepily eugenic about thinking money is the principle qualification in someone's worthiness as a parent. I think tamim captured that perfectly (I'm hoping sarcastically) with his dystopian vision of "proper" social management of childbirth. Pregnancy is the result of sex, and sex is an unstoppable force, even among "the poor". Maybe you don't approve of welfare queen ("welfare queen" is of course code for "lazy nigger") Laquisha Jones sitting in her filthy rent-controlled apartment, wearing her pink spandex pants while eating bon bons and KFC and watching Jerry Springer and Jenny Jones all day long, but there seems to me to be something just a little bit racist in discussing who has the "right" to reproduce.
posted by hincandenza at 11:55 AM on July 22, 2001



Kristin writes: "I have no sympathy for people who's egos tell them that they over other people have the right to breed endlessly, 4, 5, 6 children, whether all at once, or one at a time."

Wow. Care to elaborate? Specifically...

1. These people are placing no restriction on the number of children other people can have. So why do you say "they over other people"?

2. Your word choice of "ego" and "breed endlessly" seem to imply some contempt for children and/or human life. Why do you feel that way?

Owillis writes: "We stigmatize teen pregnancy, usage of hard drugs, using racially insensitive language..."

And we also stigmatize being homosexual, being Black, being poor, and many other things because a bunch of people think it's better for society. For some reason those stigmas probably seem bad to you, but stigmatizing people based on family size doesn't? Why?

Owillis writes: "But should my tax dollars be used to subsidize you having children again and again?"

You have a right to argue how your tax dollars are spent, but that's really not the issue here. These people are not being supported by your tax dollars. The Saudi royal family typically pays for the medical costs, pays tuition, and provides a living stipend to Saudi nationals studying in the US. So the article's statement that "He claims that the Saudi royal family will pay for everything, but if true, that's luck, not a plan." is false.

In general, some people will need assistance from others in order to raise their children. Holgate is right on: it takes a network of caring people to raise a child.

Your statement indicates that you are simply choosing not to participate in that network. I suppose you might suggest, as we read in A Christmas Carol, that they could just "die, and decrease the surplus population." As for me, I choose to be part of the social network that supports poor people who are building their families. Because it makes me money or improves my financial position? Hardly. I do it because it's the right thing to do.
posted by nicolotesla at 12:03 PM on July 22, 2001


I would like to nominate Holgate and Hincandenza for the Demosthenes Memorial Award for Speaking the Truth. Well said!
posted by nicolotesla at 12:09 PM on July 22, 2001


Say each of those seven kids grows up and has two children, and each of those children has two, and each of *those* children have two: those seven have turned into 105. Whereas, if these septuplets were just twins, they plus the next three generations (assuming two offspring each) equals only 30. Of course the numbers get scarier the further out you extrapolate. (no, the assumption of two children per person isn't scientific, it's only for the sake of illustration.)

The idea of "zero population growth" was something that got a lot more buzz a few decades ago than it does now, and I think it's a shame.

Whenever I read a story like this one where some hapless boob is quoted as saying he'd like "ideally twelve children", I shudder to think what the world would look like if we all felt that way. Where would we *put* them all?

It's selfish, on several levels. It *is* a person's right to have as many children as she wants, and I'd never advocate governmentally enforced limits on childbirth as they do in China, but I wish people would be more responsible about it.
posted by Sapphireblue at 12:12 PM on July 22, 2001


Pregnancy is the result of sex, and sex is an unstoppable force, even among "the poor".

All well and good, but you need to be able to accept the responsibility that comes along with it.

Maybe you don't approve of welfare queen...

Does anyone approve of welfare queens? Anyone? Having babies for the purpose of government assistance is child abuse in my book. I never said anything about having the right to reproduce, you're free to have as many children as you want. But I asked "is it right?"

For some reason those stigmas probably seem bad to you, but stigmatizing people based on family size doesn't? Why?

1. Those stigmas don't affect others. Your sexual orientation, race, etc. doesn't have any societal impact financially. Whereas drug use, teen pregnancy do or are accepted as "wrong", as in "it is not socially acceptable to bludgeon people to death".

2. I am saying instead of coos and adulation, perhaps we should take a closer look at how this impacts us all.

These people are not being supported by your tax dollars.

In this case, no. But I am using it as a springboard talking about others who are.

I suppose you might suggest, as we read in A Christmas Carol, that they could just "die, and decrease the surplus population."

You would suppose incorrectly. Read what I am writing. I'm basically saying "think before you have children".
posted by owillis at 12:13 PM on July 22, 2001


money is not the measure of human happiness.

But it sure as hell helps with little things like survival.
posted by kindall at 12:31 PM on July 22, 2001


I should've put the Post before MeFi on today's routine surf... there's an interesting story there today with the headline "Second-Guessing the Seven Births", about the reaction of the infertility specialist who treated the parents of the septuplets and the reactions of others in the field.
posted by Sapphireblue at 12:39 PM on July 22, 2001


whoa there, hincandenza. Let's get this beyond stereotypes on all sides.

The important point here is that you can't correlate "appears well-off enough to be having kids" and "being a good parent". It's like extrapolating "rich enough to go to a good college" into "being a good student". For sure, there are lots of related factors that affect raising children when you're not well-off, but isn't it a good thing that familes with not much to go around can look at Colin Powell and think, our kids can be like that?

Their families knew each other in Jamaica and settled in the same neighborhoods in New York, first Harlem and then the South Bronx. They cared for each other's children, celebrated each other's birthdays, buried each other's parents. They worked days, studied nights and became ambassadors and business owners, doctors and judges, teachers and politicians. The kid they called Sweet Pea became a general.

Both my parents were the youngest in families of six. My dad shared a bedroom with his two brothers and uncle. But the sense of social cohesion meant that children weren't so much a burden, as a responsibility that the extended family and the community accepted willingly. The real problem is that over the past 50 years, the emphasis on "personal responsibility" has been accompanied by a sense of "responsibility for no-one but myself". The pooling of resources has given way to a kind of "personal life account", as if your entire existence from cradle to grave ought to be plotted on a copy of Quicken, and balanced month by month. No-one spoke of "having babies for government assistance" in the 1950s and 60s, because it was assumed, in a time when families were much larger, that beyond a basic set of welfare responsibilities, the state could generally rely upon communities to care for each other.

kindall: money may help with survival, but it's no index of a life lived well.
posted by holgate at 12:41 PM on July 22, 2001


Actually, holgate, that stereotype was meant to be like tamim (assuming, again, that he was being a satirist). I don't of course buy into the spandex/KFC/welfare queen thing- quite the opposite, in fact, more like the Colin Powell sketch you present. I'm a big believer in the concept of community, from co-housing to everyone in a neighborhood knowing and looking after each other.

My point was to draw an absurd sketch of what is I believe still something of a mental image people have when they think of 'welfare recipients' or 'irresponsible pregancies'. The larger point I was shooting for, you've just made: that even among people who "can't afford" children- much less seven children- a strong community can find ways to ensure that everyone stays afloat and is taken care of...
posted by hincandenza at 12:53 PM on July 22, 2001



So they did choose to have a reckless number of implantations, knowing that they would be very likely to have more than quadruplets.

There were no implantations, because this birth was not the result of IVF, but hyper-ovulation spurred by a particular fertility drug. (The same one taken by Bobbi McCaughey and thousands of other women in this country.) Because there's no way to know how many eggs have been matured or how many of those will be fertilised, it's all a big crapshoot. This drug can cause megatwin pregnancies, but the vast, overwhelming majority of the time there is but one baby -- if successful conception occurs at all.
posted by Dreama at 1:17 PM on July 22, 2001


Gotcha: though I have to admit that I think tanim handled the tone of absurdity better.

But to get back to owillis's original question: society expects -- or, rather, we all expect -- that parents be good parents.

As for these septuplets: hard cases make bad law.
posted by holgate at 1:18 PM on July 22, 2001


Sapphireblue writes: "The idea of "zero population growth" was something that got a lot more buzz a few decades ago than it does now, and I think it's a shame."

The idea of ZPG, for industrialized nations, isn't getting buzz because it has already (right or wrong) been achieved. Based on the following statistics, the US fertility rate is 2.06 children per woman (not counting immigration). If you follow the year 2000 numbers through with some simple calculations:

Total population: 275,562,673
Male to female ratio: 0.98
Number of females in current generation: 136,389,606
Approx number of births in the next generation: 280,962,588
Mortality rate: 6.82 deaths out of 1000 live births
Expected deaths (at birth) in next generation: 1,903,185
Total population expected in next generation: 279,059,403

TOTAL CHANGE IN POPULATION: 3,496,730

If we assume that a generation is 25 years, that's an increase of about 2.5% over the 25 years. Considering that that doesn't account for crime or other causes of death, most experts assume that the natural US population is actually declining.

Also compare the following:

-- Italy: 1.18 children born/woman
-- UK: 1.74 children born/woman
-- Canada: 1.64 children born/woman
-- Japan: 1.41 children born/woman

Sounds like the ZPG people don't have much to complain about in the industrialized world. What they do complain about is that developing nations haven't slowed their population growth down. Take a look at:

-- Sudan: 5.47 children born/woman
-- Saudi Arabia: 6.3 children born/woman
-- Chad: 6.63 children born/woman
-- India: 3.11 children born/woman

So, some might argue, the ZPG agenda is really more about protecting the current dominance of the industrialized powers than it is about helping the third world. I wonder if anyone in Genoa is protesting that?
posted by nicolotesla at 1:29 PM on July 22, 2001


We don't tell families how many Mercedes cars they can buy, or how big their house can be. Why would we tell them how many kids they can have?


I think owillis is too focused on the double standard of the relatively poor being "bad people who brought it upon themselves" the same way greed and wealth brings upon bankruptcy. Its one thing to sign another loan for another BMW/summer home/yacht and its another to find the biological tide turn on you and watching stork after stork drop off another bundle of joy.

I'm more than a little bit certain that bankruptcy costs society a lot more than couples with too many kids.
posted by skallas at 2:25 PM on July 22, 2001


The real tragedy of the whole thing is that they didn't have two more, because there's nothing quite so cool as your own family baseball team...
posted by fooljay at 3:56 PM on July 22, 2001


... so if I'm concerned that the people of Chad will suffer increasing poverty and desperation because of their continued high birthrate, that makes me a white imperialist racist bent on preventing that nation from rising up and overthrowing the first world?

I hope, nicolotesla, you will not take it personally if my troll-o-meter is reading a low positive right now. Anyone who thinks that ZPG is about keeping the brown man in his place is wilfully overlooking the fact that the brown man who is slowly starving to death is no threat to anyone.

Some might argue that the first part of your post (the *ZPG is dead* part, immediately preceding the *ZPG is a tool of oppression* part) translates to "no one cares about ZPG because, hell, it's only Chad." "For industrialized nations" indeed. Way to take the moral high road to a separatist, xenophobic stance.
posted by Sapphireblue at 4:50 PM on July 22, 2001


I think owillis is too focused... (yada, yada, yada... read it all here)

You know, now I see how people find bias in the media - because you're reading a lot into what I say and finding odd things. I'm not pro-rich or pro-poor, I'm pro-people. I am well aware shitty parenting happens with the uber-wealthy, and awesome parenting happens with the poor - and vice versa. What I'm saying is, if people would look at the possible consequences of their actions (in this case, having sex) before they act - society as a whole would be better off. Rich people too, because neglected kids of any societal standing cost society in several ways. The most quantifiable of any of this being money, but numerous other ways that can't exactly be counted so I discard them for the purpose of this argument.

How you could infer that I believe the poor are "bad people who brought it upon themselves" from any of my statements in the history of Metafilter bewilders me. I'm the product of a woman who worked herself to the friggin' bone (a million times more than a lot of people in this country) to make a decent life for me, with no "millions" or "thousands" to show for it. She originally wanted more children, but had the presence of mind to realize the quality of life she desired for her offspring would not be attainable at her income level if she had more kids. Hence, I am an only child (and probably selfish because of it - but that's another story :). While my mother is smart, she's no Nobel prize winner - so excuse me if I can't understand why other people can't make this seemingly logical decision and instead choose to bring children into this world into a crappy situation and eventually makes the child and the rest of us pay for it.
posted by owillis at 7:04 PM on July 22, 2001


i saw on boston public where um, teachers will be getting paid right up there with doctors and lawyers and such real soon now. you know, uh, because marla got all pissed off and told everybody so, even that one high-toned bitch. and marla's taking her damn medicine so she should know. ayup. so, uh, what were we talking about again?
posted by quonsar at 8:17 PM on July 22, 2001


Sapphireblue - exactly, well said.

>>The idea of ZPG, for industrialized nations, isn't getting buzz because it has already (right or wrong) been achieved....

The issue isn't population growth alone. The issue is the growth of population times ecological-footprint. You've got to look how that product -- total impact -- varies through time under different scenarios. By this standard, the average morbidly obese, SUV-driving, SlimJim-munching American is far worse than the average Congolese, despite the difference in birthrates.

>>I don't believe only the rich should have children, but shouldn't society expect you (and only you) to have the means to support children you give birth to (within reason)?

Screw economic status. Having septuplets is fucked up, period.
posted by johnb at 9:47 PM on July 22, 2001


... so if I'm concerned that the people of Chad will suffer increasing poverty and desperation because of their continued high birthrate, that makes me a white imperialist racist bent on preventing that nation from rising up and overthrowing the first world?

I didn't say that you were an imperialist or racist of any sort. I merely pointed out one of the hidden reasons that industrialized nations have for promoting ZPG. If you think that the answer to helping people in Chad is to have fewer people in Chad, I suppose that's your opinion. Doesn't sound like a good plan to me.

I hope, nicolotesla, you will not take it personally if my troll-o-meter is reading a low positive right now. Anyone who thinks that ZPG is about keeping the brown man in his place is willfully overlooking the fact that the brown man who is slowly starving to death is no threat to anyone.

It's quite a shame that my viewpoint isn't welcome here. I certainly won't burden you with any successive posts to this thread. That said, you might want to take a look at the argument again. Technology transfer, infrastructure, governmental reform, etc. are the tools that will help end starvation in the third world. The problem is not people. The problem is starvation.

At the time that Dickens penned A Christmas Carol and discussed the "surplus population," Malthus and his ilk were quite concerned with reducing the population in England to a "sustainable level." At the time, all of England had fewer people than the current population of the city of London. Technology, not population control, is the answer.

Some might argue that the first part of your post (the *ZPG is dead* part, immediately preceding the *ZPG is a tool of oppression* part) translates to "no one cares about ZPG because, hell, it's only Chad." "For industrialized nations" indeed. Way to take the moral high road to a separatist, xenophobic stance.

It would only be a separatist, xenophobic stance if I presented that data and *supported* ZPG. I think that the ZPG folks are more motivated by fear of third world development than they are interested in improving the human condition. That, my friend, is a separatist, xenophobic position.

And hey, I didn't make my position up. It came out of a conference I attended in Rome a few years back, and was the position of the Ugandan and Nigerian delegations. Both felt that they had been taken hostage by the UN Population Programme, and that their countries were being "held down" in the process. I suppose they must be trolls as well...
posted by nicolotesla at 9:54 PM on July 22, 2001


nicolotesla>>And hey, I didn't make my position up. It came out of a conference I attended in Rome a few years back, and was the position of the Ugandan and Nigerian delegations. Both felt that they had been taken hostage by the UN Population Programme, and that their countries were being "held down" in the process. I suppose they must be trolls as well...

Of course the corrupt Ugandan and Nigerian governments want increased population growth - it translates into cheaper labor costs, hence higher profits for the Western captalists who back them.

Your thesis that "the ZPG agenda is really more about protecting the current dominance of the industrialized powers" has it exactly backwards. Western investors love population growth because it reduces the cost of production (human capital) while increasing total consumption (and larger markets mean more profits, ceteris paribus)

Your earlier remarks to Kristin were pretty cheap. The suggestion that anyone who questions the "unlimited growth" story must be some kind of a child-hating misanthrope -- although rhetorically convenient -- has no basis in reality. Quite the opposite. To prevent a painful extinction of the species is the ultimate humanism.

Have you actually read Malthus? You should. Adam Smith too.
posted by johnb at 10:48 PM on July 22, 2001


So, we have seven new US citizens that Saudi royalty is picking up the tab for.

Would it be in the best interest of the babies to keep them here as opposed to letting their irresponsible non-US parents take them over seas.
posted by DBAPaul at 3:43 AM on July 23, 2001


Of course the corrupt Ugandan and Nigerian governments want increased population growth - it translates into cheaper labor costs, hence higher profits for the Western captalists [sic] who back them.

I suppose that your Ugandans are better than my Ugandans. For the record, neither delegation was made up of government officials, just normal concerned citizens. I'll try not to take it personally that (with very little data) you have accused good friends of mine of being corrupt and intent on destroying their own nations for profit...

Your thesis that "the ZPG agenda is really more about protecting the current dominance of the industrialized powers" has it exactly backwards. Western investors love population growth because it reduces the cost of production (human capital) while increasing total consumption (and larger markets mean more profits, ceteris paribus)

You have a point, but we're talking about different parts of the West. The difference is really short vs. long term and tactical vs. strategic. The short term/tactical viewpoint (perhaps held by marketers of consumer products) may be to increase the population in the third world. But then those folks would be interested in increasing population in general, and would be against ZPG in all of its forms.

I'm talking about a longer-term/strategic viewpoint held by the diplomats involved with the UN and other international policy-making bodies, and especially the UN Population Programme. These people are concerned about a burgeoning third world, but their main objective is to protect their own national interests. I'm sure that many are very good people with good intentions. But in the end, I think that ZPG is an anti-growth strategy that is more motivated by fear than a desire to help.

Your earlier remarks to Kristin were pretty cheap. The suggestion that anyone who questions the "unlimited growth" story must be some kind of a child-hating misanthrope -- although rhetorically convenient -- has no basis in reality. Quite the opposite. To prevent a painful extinction of the species is the ultimate humanism.

I don't mean to hurt anyone's feelings with my remarks to kristin. My comment that her word choices "seem to imply some contempt for children and/or human life", was out of line, and I apologize for that. That said, I simply don't think using the term "breed endlessly" for human beings is very flattering.

Have you actually read Malthus? You should. Adam Smith too.

I have read a decent amount of both, actually. Malthus's core argument, that population grows geometrically and food supply linearly, is patently incorrect. While it made sense in his day (200 years ago) before significant advances in agricultural technology, it simply doesn't make sense any more. Malthus dramatically underestimated the ability for technology and distribution methods (like refrigeration, pesticides, fertilizers, etc.) to increase the productivity of the relatively limited space of arable land.


"Salient trends in world agricultural production, demand, trade and food security",
a report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations states:

"While production grew on average at 2.28 percent per annum during the 1970s and consumption by 2.3 percent, their rates of expansion slowed during the 1980s to stand, in the last eight years, at 1.97 percent and 1.91 percent, respectively."


That sounds to me not only like geometric growth in food supply, but geometric growth that is faster than the geometric growth of the food supply.
posted by nicolotesla at 8:27 AM on July 23, 2001


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