Antinatalism: A brief summary. 

Antinatalism. As distinct from being mere “childfree”, is the view that humanity is best served by (perhaps even deserves) its own extinction. This view is rare, yet has a long pedigree, possibly going back to Sophocles. It has at least four rational basis: ecological, philanthropic, teleological, and pessimistic; the latter itself is dividable into “soft, genteel” and “hard, genteel” and “hard, non-genteel” subforms.

I concede that antinatalism’s ultimate core claim, “suffering prevention is of primary importance”, is based more in metaphysics than anything else; though pronatalism’s core claim “the human race and/or my line must continue regardless of what happens”, fares no better, even in its moderate forms.  The former claim stems from the, as far as I know, axiomatic belief that we should not force others to undergo pointless suffering under any circumstances.  The latter stems from human survival instincts arising from our brains, and ultimately our genes that program us to assume “we have to live, no matter what”; thereby creating an inherent bias in our thinking.

Does Antinatalism benefit economies?

China: The One Child Policy. 

The policy was introduced in 1979 to solve economic, social and environmental problems. In this policy women were forced to have only one child, otherwise, they would be punished by the law. These punishments could be fees or less governmental support and in some cases even forced sterilization. On the other hand, the government introduced incentives to persuade adults to adhere to the rules. The influence of this policy is remarkable – it is estimated, that without these family planning policies there would be 400 million more Chinese people today and clearly the crude birth rate decreased a lot.

Dependency Ratio ChinaBut of course, these policies have negative aspects as well. China is facing now demographic problems as well as a rising dependency ratio. In addition, the “One Child Policy” lead parents to abort their daughters as in these times boys were favored, mainly because of economic reasons and so the sex ratio between men and women is now 1.18 to 1.

These Population Pyramids illustrate the aging Chinese population from the years 1990 to 2050. As a result of these, there is a rapid increase in dependency ratio, which is followed by economic decline.

Overall the governmental birth control is not a very successful method to control population growth. The Chinese policies were helpful at first but scientists predict future problems because of these policies. A good method of reducing the crude birth rate is to invest into the nation’s education, health system, and social infrastructure. This is a natural way to declining growth rates and does not violate human rights.

Increasing birth rates: Nicolae Ceaușescu

For almost two decades, the Ceausescu regime applied a pronatalist policy, the character of which was greatly influenced by a limited vision of the problems of the population by the political leaders, who had a traditionalist vision of the family and its role, and a tendency to look for solutions in the Stalinist model. In Communist Romania, the enactment of restrictive abortion legislation emerges after 1966 as a special kind of intervention of the state in the private life of the individual, as a way to bolster its control over the population.

The ban on abortion, as an attempt to control fertility and influence the natural movement of the population, was a widely popular measure in (but not restricted to) totalitarian systems, being one of the lynchpins of population policy. In the majority of cases, this represented only one of the components of a demographic program.

In general, we can identify three pillars of a policy meant to increase the number of births:

  1. the restriction of abortion
  2. the use of propaganda
  3. economic and social measures designed to stimulate births.

The prevalence of one of the three, or rather, of the first two, defines a regime as restrictive and coercive, centered on the drastic limitation of abortion.

Does pro- natalism improve economies?

Romania and Ceaușescu

Every three months a woman would be checked to see if she was pregnant at her workplace in Romania. Taxes were higher if you didn’t have children and abortions were only permitted for those with four children and over. A brutal attempt by Ceausescu to increase the birth rate to create an increase in the workforce and a more productive economy. However, the benefits outweighed the costs and the opportunity cost was felt by generations to come.

Previous arguments show disagreement on whether the choice was motivated by moralistic or economic considerations. At the time of 1966, regardless of the suggestions of the technocrats, a decision had already been taken by Ceausescu himself. This decision was influenced directly by economic considerations, namely the wish to obtain the maximum pronatalist effect at a minimum budgetary cost.

It was shown that the policy did not work. Going against moral principles many doctors cut corners to ensure that women got pregnant and lied as they had targets to meet. If they did not meet their targets or their patient miscarried a large proportion of their salary would be deducted by Ceausescu  himself.

The policy resulted in Romanian orphanages. Millions of children abandoned and the psychological consequences cost a whole generation of children a life of darkness. Thousands of abandoned children warehoused in derelict orphanages were a byproduct of the policy.

The conventional wisdom is that pronatalist policies are ineffective: people decide to have children or not to have children for a host of economic and social reasons. If one really wants to boost the birth rate, affordable child care, not restrictions on access to birth control, seems to be the more likely recipe.


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