Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Ben Stein on Children

According to Ben Stein, our falling birth rate indicates that the net value of having a child in modern, upper-middle class America is negative.

"...the birth rate is collapsing. But if we stop having enough children, because their value is so low relative to their cost, the society grinds down. It's happening right now. The native-born upper middle class barely replace themselves in America, if they do at all. In a way we are committing suicide as a class, possibly in part because of the burdens of child rearing in modern life."

Stein's conclusion doesn't say outright that this is a bad thing, but he certainly implies it. I'm not sure I feel that distraught about the collapse of the system that has produced such winners as General Motors, Enron and Bear Stearns. In addition, although it's clear he didn't have enough space to discuss everything, he fails to mention our inability to build lasting relationships, which I would argue contributes substantially to the declining birthrate. For the most part I like Ben Stein, but I can't say I buy any of what he is selling today.

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Compared with the totality of knowledge which is continually utilized in the evolution of a dynamic civilization, the difference between the knowledge that the wisest and that which the most ignorant individual can deliberately employ is comparatively insignificant. ~Fredrich Hayek in The Constitution of Liberty