A Vigorous Defense of The Right to Have Kids, Whether You Can “Afford” To Or Not

Child-bearing should not be the sole province of the rich

8 Mile

On some level, the idea of that people who can’t afford kids shouldn’t have them is a straw man. No one actually believes that, right? What’s the point of blasting apart a manufactured argument? And yet, two (2) of you brought up that very notion in the comments to the public school piece on Friday.

I also had the misfortune, recently, of falling into a cesspool of a Wall Street Journal comments section in which Don’t Have Kids If You Can’t Afford Them was the majority position. So since there is a non-zero number of computer-literate people out there who think this way, I figured it might be worth having the conversation. We’re going to do it logically and rationally, okay? I’m not going to start blubbering about how it feels to hold an infant’s hot, tiny head against the crook of your arm and watch their little chest rise and fall while they snore briefly and then smile in their sleep, secure in the knowledge that, while the world is brash and strange, you will keep them safe, and how that experience shouldn’t be subject to a means test.

Instead I’m going to pose questions. Like this:

  • What does “afford them” even mean?

How much money would we require of prospective parents? After all, according to Huff Po, the cost of raising just one child is in the six figures.

The average cost of raising a child born in 2013 up until age 18 for a middle-income family in the U.S. is approximately $245,340 (or $304,480, adjusted for projected inflation), according to the latest annual “Cost of Raising A Child” report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Right now, 77% of American workers have less than $100,000 in savings. Would we restrict child-rearing to the other 23%?

No, no, you might say, we can rely on earning potential! But wouldn’t that be off-set by catastrophe potential? Every day, people get divorced, lose their jobs, become disabled, develop an addiction, or try to do business with Donald Trump and end up roiled by economic instability.

There’s simply no way to guarantee that someone who’s well-off will remain that way.

  • Do you realize that a world in which only comfortable people have kids means a world with tons of Malfoys and no Weasleys?
Do you like what you see?
  • Indeed, do you realize that a world in which only well-off people have kids probably means a world with no Harry Potter at all?

JK Rowling was a single mother on the dole when she wrote Sorcerer’s Stone. She worked during the days and hustled the rest of the time, working on a kid’s book inspired by her young child.

  • Would you be comfortable with a world that didn’t include the work of Charles Dickens, Jewel, Jim Carrey, Stephen King, or Jay-Z?

What about Oprah, for Christ’s sake? Or Jesus himself, for that matter? He was born in a barn; Mary, a young mom, couldn’t have been loaded.

Ella Fitzgerald? Michael Oher? Houdini? Charlie Chaplin? Viola Davis? David Geffen? All of those people grew up in poor, if not desperate, circumstances. And yet they’ve contributed greatly to the world and to our understanding of it.

  • Who will grow up and be your gardeners, your housekeepers, your fruit-pickers and janitors and bus drivers, if you keep the current generation of working-class people from having kids?

Be practical. We don’t have robot ditch-diggers yet.

  • Who will take care of this current generation of working-class people when they grow old if they don’t have kids?

Will you step in and help when they’re incapacitated? Will the state? At what cost?

  • Are you prepared for the revolution?

If you deprive people who don’t have much of one of their basic human rights — if you take from them their future, their optimism, their incentive to try to leave the world better than they found it — you better get yourself one of those oligarch compounds with high walls and guards, because the people will be coming for you. They will feel like they have nothing to lose. And they won’t be wrong.