In a conversation about government-run schools’ use of taxpayer dollars to out-compete private schools, Mike678 asks:
Are not children these days a choice and a lifestyle? Why do taxpayers w/o children have to pay for other peoples choices?
Those questions rely on a pretty progressive premise that people are burdens to manage, not ends in themselves. The implied point of view also skips over the fact that having children is pretty much the social and biological default for human beings (yes, still). That is, for most couples, not having children is the more deliberate choice.
And it’s a choice with severe ramifications for the rest of us. Very directly, for example, one might ask why somebody else’s children, as taxpayers, should have to carry a heavier burden to pay the Social Security of a childless senior’s choices. Even without entitlement programs, though, the fact is that a society needs children. Look to Japan:
… in the long run the fortunes of nations are determined by population trends. Japan is not only the world’s fastest-aging major economy (already every fourth person is older than 65, and by 2050 that share will be nearly 40 percent), its population is also declining. Today’s 127 million will shrink to 97 million by 2050, and forecasts show shortages of the young labor force needed in construction and health care. Who will maintain Japan’s extensive and admirably efficient transportation infrastructures? Who will take care of millions of old people? By 2050 people above the age of 80 will outnumber the children.
I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest new child tax credits or a directly paid government child allowance, as some do. Social engineering is, after all, social engineering, and the government tends to plod along in a march of unintended consequences. (It matters, for one thing, for whom in our society we create incentives to birth more children.) However, when children are born, it behooves us to ensure that education is a priority, and alleviating that burden becomes quite a different thing than subsidizing the procreation.