This is a guest post by Huston, who is a high school and college English teacher, a convert, and the father of six.
Five years ago, my wife’s grandfather had a major stroke. A physically active man throughout his adulthood, he saw most of his strength evaporate overnight. In the immediate aftermath of the stroke, he needed constant care. Was his life ruined?
Not at all. He and his wife had had eight children. Each of those eight had had several children. By the time of his stroke, most of the grandchildren themselves were adults who were starting families. Between the descendants and their spouses, there was an army of dozens who were ready and able to serve.
The grandchildren utilized social media and coordinated around-the-clock care for him for weeks. Then we helped move him and his wife out of the home they could no longer care for themselves in. Today, they live with a son and daughter-in-law who are themselves empty nesters with decades of independence ahead of them.
Financial burden to society: zero.
On the other hand, I’ve known of several situations where sick and/or aging people had little to no family and spent their declining days in the care of public institutions. They resented the sterility of their environment, and much of the cost ended up falling to the taxpayers, after their own resources quickly disappeared. As our country grows older, having had fewer children, this miserable situation will become far more common.
Previous generations understood that having children was part of an implied social contract; an acknowledgement that we had each been the beneficiaries of a family that provided a great deal of infrastructure for us, and that raising children to take our place was part of our obligation to the future success of society. Among the simplest aspects of that provision for maintaining and improving things in the future is the responsibility to care for the aging members of a family when the time comes.
When people stop having children, they’re reneging on their part of the contract. They’re saying, “I’ve profited from living in this advanced civilization, but I don’t intend to help promote its growth and security in the future in the most fundamental way required by nature.” In the parlance of our liberal friends, this philosophy is unsustainable.
My wife’s grandfather was able to be cared for in optimal comfort, among loved ones, because he’d spent time and money in the raising of a large family. That expense of resources—energy and wealth—was an investment that reaped the creation not just of interest, but of new human capital: the most valuable asset of all, and one that’s becoming scarcer.
This last summer saw yet another scare story in the media about the cost of having children. Such anti-natal bigotry spawns things like a popular condom ad, where the product touts the virtue of saving you money by preventing you from having children.
Besides the many errors of the “children are too expensive to have these days” stories (the biggest expense they note is day care, which is clearly optional), none of them take into account a future which is so inevitable that it’s hardly invisible: if we’re not spending our money on children today, we’ll be spending it on other things later.
$240,000 to raise a child to 18? What about an average cost of $80,000 per year for nursing home care?
Actually, that nursing care is just a start. The overall health care costs of voluntary sterility will manifest in a variety of ways.
I work in education, and it’s no secret that when counselors meet with students, the advice children are given about the biggest field for job growth in the future is in health care. Between Obamacare and our aging, dependent population, it’s no wonder why.
In Japan–the Western nation furthest along the path of demographic extinction, and thus an eerie look into our own near future–people are turning to robots for care and companionship for the elderly.
In our own backyard, as people balk at the costs of having children, this money is still spent anyway, but on pets.
After all, does anybody think that this money we’re not spending on children in America is just going into the bank?