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Man Bemoans Selfish Women Not Having Enough Kids

Ross Douthat set off a firestorm with a column urging American women to stop being decadent and have more babies. In a follow-up blog post, he explains that raising children is easier than it used to be, so there’s really no excuse for women to be so selfish.

The initial column is cleverly titled, “More Babies, Please,” he correctly notes that our high birthrate and resultant low relative age gives America a competitive edge over our Western counterparts. But several recent trends indicate that edge may not last.

Among the native-born working class, meanwhile, there was a retreat from child rearing even before the Great Recession hit. For Americans without college degrees, economic instability and a shortage of marriageable men seem to be furthering two trends in tandem: more women are having children out of wedlock, and fewer are raising families at all.

Finally, there’s been a broader cultural shift away from a child-centric understanding of romance and marriage. In 1990, 65 percent of Americans told Pew that children were “very important” to a successful marriage; in 2007, just before the current baby bust, only 41 percent agreed. (That trend goes a long way toward explaining why gay marriage, which formally severs wedlock from sex differences and procreation, has gone from a nonstarter to a no-brainer for so many people.)

Government’s power over fertility rates is limited, but not nonexistent. America has no real family policy to speak of at the moment, and the evidence from countries like Sweden and France suggests that reducing the ever-rising cost of having kids can help fertility rates rebound. Whether this means a more family-friendly tax code, a push for more flexible work hours, or an effort to reduce the cost of college, there’s clearly room for creative policy to make some difference.

More broadly, a more secure economic foundation beneath working-class Americans would presumably help promote childbearing as well. Stable families are crucial to prosperity and mobility, but the reverse is also true, and policies that made it easier to climb the economic ladder would make it easier to raise a family as well.

That’s all rather sensible. Certainly, while Americans are producing more children than our European cousins, our social policy is less supportive of raising them and preparing them for the future. From there, though, he goes from public policy to social critique:

Beneath these policy debates, though, lie cultural forces that no legislator can really hope to change. The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe. It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.

Such decadence need not be permanent, but neither can it be undone by political willpower alone. It can only be reversed by the slow accumulation of individual choices, which is how all social and cultural recoveries are ultimately made.

That’s one way to look at it, of course. Another is that the combination of education and the availability of reliable birth control has given women more control over their reproductive choices while the move from an agrarian to an industrial to a post-industrial society vastly reduced the incentives to have children. Additionally, a variety of cultural and economic forces have postponed marriage and children for the more affluent communities until an age where having children is biologically challenging.

Megan McArdle takes Douthat’s side in the larger debate, detailing the degree to which the demographic challenges that come from an aging population have on a society, while neatly sidestepping the “decadence” debate. Matt Yglesias deems the latter “slightly nutty” while observing “It’d be a much better country if social conservatives would stop writing things like that [decadence] paragraph and focus instead on what’s in the [lack of family policy] paragraph.”

Douthat then followed up with “Don’t Mention The Decadence,” a blog post chiding his critics for not tackling the issue Yglesias offhandedly dismisses as “slightly nutty.”

[Y]ou can’t write honestly about the policy component of these issues without recognizing the existence of cultural forces larger than the cost of higher education or the incentive structures created by the tax code.

This means acknowledging, in this case, that while the burdens on modern parents are real and considerable and in certain ways increasing, people in developed societies enjoy a standard of living unprecedented in human history, and the sacrifices required of would-be parents in America or South Korea or Germany do not undo their immense material advantages over their parents and grandparents and great-great grandparents going back millennia upon millennia. Once you’ve acknowledged that (fairly obvious) point, then you’re acknowledging that people in rich countries who forgo or limit their childrearing aren’t all just responding in inevitable ways “to the situation that actually exists,” as Yglesias puts it later in his post. Some are, yes. But others — many millions of others, in Europe and North America and Asia — are actively creating their own situations, and deciding that children (or more than one child, or more than two) don’t fit with their ambitions or desires or preferred consumption patterns.

Or, as some of our fellow conservatives call it, “taking responsibility for their lives and not having more children than they can afford.” Indeed, Douthat seems to acknowledge that on the part of the individual while lamenting the collective outcome.

Now on a case by case basis, those kind of decisions can be defensible, admirable, necessary, wise. Children are not the only good in life, and it’s a sign of civilization’s progress, almost by definition, when adults have a wider range of potential identities than mother and father available to them, and a wider range of opportunities to put their gifts to use. Almost everyone in the modern world makes the decision to place some limits on their fertility: Even among traditionalist Catholics and conservative evangelicals and Mormons, families with five or six or seven children are much more common than Michelle Duggar/Maria Theresa-style maximum fertility. (The “planning” in Natural Family Planning is there for a reason.) Up to a point, the path from poverty to plenty — from Afghanistan to America, if you will — inevitably involves smaller families. Up to a point, declining birthrates correlate with trends in health and wealth and female equality that nobody wants to see reversed.

Up to a point. But the modern path has many possible endpoints, and it seems like an abdication of moral judgment to just practice determinism and assert that wherever a given developed country’s birthrate ends up — slightly above replacement level, slightly below, or in the depths plumbed by countries like Japan — must represent the best of all possible worlds.

After all, if children are not the only good in human life, they do seem like a fairly important one, no? Maybe even, dare one say, an essential one, at least in some quantity, if the pursuit of the wider array of human goods is to continue beyond our own life cycle? Or to put it another way, if we have moral obligations to future, as-yet-unborn generations, as almost everyone seems to agree, surely those duties have to include some obligation for somebody to bring those generations into existence in the first place — to imitate the sacrifices that our parents made, and give another generation the chances that we’ve had?

But this is an argument that we conservatives apply nowhere else that I can think of. Indeed, most American conservatives, myself included, rail against collectivism in much less significant arenas. Let government try to force us to change to a more energy efficient lightbulb or regulate the water capacity of our toilets and the calls for revolution ring out across the land. Encourage us to buy more energy efficient automobiles through tax incentives and corporate subsidies and you’re a tyrant. Suggest that we turn off electronic devices that aren’t in use and you’re at very least a dirty hippy and probably an out-and-out commie. But suggest that women give up the advances they’ve made over the last half century because somebody has to have more kids, why, what could be more reasonable?

The call is slightly more irritating coming from Douthat, a precociously successful author and journalist who had a New York Times column at 29 married to a successful reporter for another major newspaper. Both are children of privilege, graduates of Harvard, and were well ensconced in their careers before getting married five years ago and starting a family.

My point isn’t that Douthat is being a hypocrite. Their second child is on the way and, for all I know, they’re planning to make up for lost time by having a dozen more. Nor am I invoking a parental version of the chicken hawk argument that the number of kids one has or doesn’t have impacts one’s standing to comment on family issues; certainly, it didn’t stop me.

But the fact of the matter that raising children is an incredibly demanding endeavor that competes with other aspects of one’s life–certainly including one’s career–for time, energy, and attention. For those in the professional class, some of that can be mitigated by throwing money at it; but that goes only so far unless one wishes to become a parent in name only. For those without parental wealth and/or a handsome income, then, having multiple children–and, apparently, two isn’t enough!–comes at a huge cost.

Essentially, then, Douthat is arguing that a whole lot of somebodies should sacrifice any semblance of the life they’d like to have because, well, they owe it to future generations. It’s not at all clear where that obligation derives. And, if it exists, a whole lot of the conservative agenda should go overboard along with the right of family planning.

All, incidentally, to solve a problem with much simpler and less disruptive solutions. Before we try shaming women into having more children than they want, why not start the proverbial stapling of green cards to the diplomas of foreign graduates of our universities? Or, a saner immigration policy more generally? For that matter, while I’m inclined not to think it’s a sound use of resources, I’d certainly prefer a European-style set of supports for families if sacrificing “decadence” is the alternative.

Correction: The original post incorrectly stated that Douthat has no children. While his oneline bios don’t mention them, I’m reliably informed that he and his wife have a child with another on the way. My apologies for the error.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. john personna says:

    Good title.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  2. Michael Robinson says:

    Don’t overlook the incentives of Social Darwinist public policy.

    In a first-past-the-post, winner-take-all, I’ve-got-mine society, you don’t want your kids to end up as a 47% dead-ender. And that means an incredible investment of time and money in building up the hard and soft skills required to claw to the top. Every additional child means resources available for that investment are further subdivided.

    Republicans know this. It is central to their “$250k/year is not rich” narrative, which inevitably includes the costs of private school tuition.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 0

  3. aquanerd says:

    It isn’t like it was 30 years ago where one person could work and the other would stay home. Today, BOTH, people in the marriage HAVE to work to afford a mortgage, to afford food, to afford cars. Plain and simple… with this comes costs associated with limiting the amount of kids you can have due to financial issues not to mention logistical and monetary issues of where the children go as BOTH parents now have to work. Factor in the fact that people are marrying later on in their lives while holding off having kids as they get more financially secure in their lives and there you have it… less offspring.

    At least thats my scenerio… and most friends and family I know in my part of the woods.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 2

  4. Before we try shaming women into having more children than they want, why not start the proverbial stapling of green cards to the diplomas of foreign graduates of our universities? Or, a saner immigration policy more generally? For that matter, while I’m inclined not to think it’s a sound use of resources, I’d certainly prefer a European-style set of supports for families if sacrificing “decadence” is the alternative.

    Indeed, all around.

    (And my wife and I did our part: we have three)

    (As a side note, I can’t help but note that part of our fiscal problems at the moment and going into the next decade are the result of a baby boom…).

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 2

  5. @aquanerd:

    Today, BOTH, people in the marriage HAVE to work

    And, in fact, often but want to work.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  6. Rafer Janders says:

    Megan McArdle takes Douthat’s side in the larger debate,

    Well, that should tell you all you need to know.

    And I may be wrong, but McArdle is also, to the best of my knowledge, a childless careerist.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 1

  7. Fiona says:

    I wonder what Douthat’s wife thinks about his little screed? He’s hardly the first well-off white guy to bemoan the fact that women of his class are having fewer kids. This line of criticism has arisen time and again. At the turn of the 20th century, Douthat’s equivalents were hyperventilating over the lower birth rate among educated middle- and upper-class women, floating theories that too much education diverted blood from women’s reproductive organs to their brains. There was also an anti-immigrant element to these critiques. Immigrants from Ireland and Southern Europe (Catholics) were out reproducing their WASP sisters, posing a threat to the Republic. I don’t know if Douthat’s makes that argument, but other conservatives concerned with falling birth rates certainly have. And yet the Republic survives.

    I wish people would stop taking Douthat’s seriously.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 38 Thumb down 3

  8. Argon says:

    Not just childless but *Catholic*, not a priest, married for five years, and *still* childless. He should’ve had at least two rugrats by now, otherwise he’s desecrating the fricking intent and institution of marriage!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  9. Rafer Janders says:

    But this is an argument that we conservatives apply nowhere else that I can think of. Indeed, most American conservatives, myself included, rail against collectivism in much less significant arenas.

    Well said. In this case, the invisible hand of the market is giving us the finger — many millions of couples, each acting in their own selfish self-interest, are making indivdualized decisions that, while economically optimal for themselves, are producing a result that’s sub-optimal when spread across society.

    It’s telling, isn’t it, that conservatives such as Douthat can recognize and bemoan this phenomenon when it comes to an issue of women’s sex lives, but somehow can’t seem to when it comes to the economy, the labor market, taxes, unionization, pollution, global warming, etc. etc. It shows you, in the end, where their real priority lies.

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  10. Matt says:

    Douthat is not childless. The bio in his book Bad Religion says that he lives in DC with his wife and daughter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  11. JKB says:

    I am confused. Do they not know where children come from? The Obama himself has said babies are punishment. The last election hinged on the unsubstantiated fear that Romney would take away a woman’s right to kill her baby on a whim in the first 9 months of it’s existence. We live in a culture that applauds childlessness and attacks a young woman (Bristol Palin) who chooses to carry her baby to the point society bestows upon it the protection of the murder laws. Even to the point that a powerful NY talkshow host felt comfortable making jokes about the rape of her 15 yr old sister simply by proximity to and by a notorious, but popular NY philanderer.

    When was the last time raising children was given approving treatment in mainstream culture directed at youth.

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  12. Matt says:

    @john personna: The title would be good if it weren’t false: Douthat has a daughter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  13. Argon says:

    James writes: “Before we try shaming women into having more children than they want, why not…”

    I’d rewrite that preface as, ‘Before we try shaming women, AND CERTAINLY BEFORE GOING ON ABOUT THAT RAPE THING*, as a means of encouraging women to have more children than they want…’

    * Because, doncha know in today’s GOP, if a woman really didn’t want to have kids if she was raped, she’d have been taking contraceptives as precaution, unless of course she was Catholic, in which case that’s a sin. And besides it’s a woman’s job to be accepting of sperm whenever and however it gets deposited in her uterus as that’s a ‘special lady part’ that a woman shouldn’t be allowed to manage by herself ‘because Jesus!’

    Aside: I’m starting to sound like John Cole…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 2

  14. Tsar Nicholas says:

    I really don’t know who any of these various authors are, but that aside I think it’s pretty clear that this Douthat character is having arrested development problems. Either that or he’s one of those inherited-wealth country clubbers whose toughest decision on a day-to-day basis is whether to take the Mercedes or the Lexus. Raising kids in this day and age is brutal. The expenses alone are downright staggering. How is he not cognizant of that?

    In any case, like a stopped clock or a broken watch it appears however that Douthat has touched upon an important series of interconnected points: demographics, competition and economic prosperity.

    One of (many) reasons why Europe is circling the drain is because they don’t have indigenous population growth. Social mores and policies matter. And nations that don’t grow their populations can’t succeed. It’s so bad over in Europe they’ve literally had to import their working classes from third-world countries, thereby creating unassimilated underclasses who live in what basically amount to de facto caste systems. That won’t end well.

    Here we’ve already had our “baby bust.” And some are saying that that trend has been reversed. But that’s only because they’re treating Gen. Y as a 30-plus year generation. If you use the old standard of 16-20 years for a generation you’ll find that we too are not growing our population all too well. Much better than Europe and Japan, of course, but not all that great.

    Then there’s the final related elephant in the room: the collapse of the U.S. education system. Gen. Y largely is unemployable. That’s not a coincidence. Public K-12 and colleges and universities lurched far to the left. Social engineering and partisan political agendas have become de rigueur. And the business community has taken notice. Especially given the overall slack in the labor markets, and with so many mature adults seeking work, it makes little to no sense whatsoever for enterprises to hire uneducated collections of space cadets. And sure enough the unemployment rate for the 18-25 year-old demographic is catastrophic.

    With the Boomers already in waves filing for Social Security and Medicare the end result isn’t that hard to predict. Not only do you need a growing population and ergo a growing labor force to support those entitlements you need them actually to be working and to be drawing significant wages, not living at home with mom and dad and surfing the Internet.

    None of this will end well.

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  15. Ben Wolf says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    As a side note, I can’t help but note that part of our fiscal problems at the moment and going into the next decade are the result of a baby boom…

    Yeah. Any suggestion of dealing with future productivity bottlenecks by making more babies is the text-book definition of a ponzi scheme. It only works if each generation grows larger than the preceding: the moment growth falls the whole thing falls apart.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 1

  16. george says:

    But this is an argument that we conservatives apply nowhere else that I can think of. Indeed, most American conservatives, myself included, rail against collectivism in much less significant arenas

    Well said. I wonder how Douthat’s article is going across in general conservative circles – are other conservatives pointing out it goes against their principles?

    I think Douthat could have shortened his article to Queen Victoria’s “close your eyes and think of England.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  17. Brummagem Joe says:

    Typical Douhat nonsense although I will fess up to a certain amount of vicarious pleasure in watching this guy tie himself in knots as he attempts to rationalise away the latest Republican insanity. It’s hard to know who is the more intellectualy dishonest of our two Republican terrible twins at the NYT. Douhat hasn’t yet quite perfected Brooks’ ability create a huge smokescreen of blather to disguise opinions which when you get down to it aren’t very different from the nuttiest Republican congressman.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  18. george says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Public K-12 and colleges and universities lurched far to the left.

    The one thing I always find curious about this is, if conservatives feel this to be the case, why aren’t they going into teaching to change it? I kind of think its something many say without believing it …

    I always read their complaints as being equivalent to: Teachers, a job which I think is vital because it affects the whole society, are too left wing, but I can’t be bothered to go into it myself and show them how its done. In fact, I’ve never tried teaching myself, but the folks who are should listen to me, because I know so much more about than they do for vague reasons that I wouldn’t apply to anything else, such as for instance someone who’s never done business complaining that business people are too conservative.”

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  19. Argon says:

    @JKB:We live in a culture that applauds childlessness …

    Please don’t conflate ‘no longer disparages’ with ‘applauds’. I don’t see the culture in ‘applauding’ childlessness. Such couples are still meet with various degrees of sympathy, confusion or suspicion.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 1

  20. Stonetools says:

    In the first Great Depression, America’s birthrate went down, despite the lack of reliable contraceptives for women. Is it any surprise that during the current depression, with much better family planning options available, our birthrate went down again?
    Did Douthat get around to suggesting better policies to help couples who want to have children , other than scolding?
    Also too, does Douthat realize that Republicans fiercely oppose any kind of aid to families with children , as opposed to forcing women with unwanted pregnancies to take them to term?
    The classic case here is Mississippi , which has done everything possible to end legal abortion in its state, but which also has the lowest government support for single mothers with children.
    Of course, Republicans fought for decades to end Aid for Families with Dependent Children. Why, because the ” wrong” kind of people were having too many children.
    I guarantee you that any attempt at enacting policies to promote having more children will run smack into Republican racism and meanspiritedness. Mr. Douthat, please attend to your own party.

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  21. Rob in CT says:

    Our culture does not “applaud childlessness” so much as it applauds having kids a little less overtly than you’d prefer, JKB. The idea of chosing to be childless is no longer shocking. Unlike you, I think this is a good thing.

    The fact is that kids are work. The work can be quite rewarding. But: a) it’s not for everyone; and b) various economic pressures [including the continuing fallout from the Great Recession] have made it more difficult. Kids are expensive, particularly if you intend that they go to college. Also, with many families needing to have both parents work, there is additional work/home balance pressure. Those pressures are driven, in no small part, by global competition (which is to say that US culture can at best mitigate – liberals often argue for more generous family leave policy, but businesses want no part of that for obvious reasons).

    What amuses me about conservatives ranting about a lack of babies is that they’re also the ones who get all fired up about and “welfare queens” and 47 percenters and whatnot. Here’s the thing: if you actually want a meaningful uptick in births, yelling at well-to-do liberals to have kids is pointless, because there simply aren’t very many of us. If you are actually serious, you may have to consider things like EITC expansion, child tax credit, paid family leave, etc: things that cost money, which will need to be made up by… well, richer people. Because the lower/middle class can’t f*cking afford it.

    We’ve got 1, with a 2nd on the way. We’re agreed we’re done after #2. We could probably afford a 3rd (though, ouch), but we don’t want to be outnumbered :)

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  22. Chris says:

    James,
    You make some excellent points. I’d like to follow up on a couple of them.

    1.) Raising kids is hard work. It’s patient work, and many higher IQ people find the routine difficult when what they are working on (writing, jobs, entrepreneurs, etc.) is somewhat exciting. (It doesn’t mean you don’t love your kids!) Importing cheap Mexican labor for elites who don’t have the time to raise their kids is a plus for some in our top 5% of income/wealth.

    2.) Our regulatory state makes it more difficult, not easier, to raise kids. Glenn Reynolds has written a lot about this. From the right car seat to the the right bike helmet, the “man” is gonna step in and tell you how to do it. Who cares that when you were growing up you didn’t wear a bike helmet and drank at 18. “No, we are smarter now and we are going to tell you how it’s gonna be!” This is a trend that will get stronger before it gets weaker.

    3.) Who is having the kids is more important than “we just should all have kids”. You’re correct: we need people like the Douthats to have more kids. Watch the first 5 minutes of Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy” to see what happens when the “Jethro”s of the world pro-create wantonly v. the Douthats.

    4.) Why smart people aren’t having kids is not just because it’s hard work, still in school, working, etc. It’s because the nation has made it difficult for the smart to raise them. As Steve Sailer has put it, living in NYC, Bos, DC, SF, LA for young people where the jobs are, it’s not affordable. Kids need space. Hence, his treatise on “Affordable Family Formation”. There is no space in those areas, unless you want to move to the ‘burbs and have a 60 minute commute everyday (the title of this blog gives you a good clue). Aside: There’s an opportunity for the GOP in here (as those who have families and space are highly correlated to voting for the GOP) but the stupid party, alas, is who we thought they were. The Matt Yglesias future of ever talling buildings keeping ever more talented people in cities is NOT workable and amenable to raising kids. Your parents, with their picket fence, suburban house and yard had it right, not Yglesias.

    5.) Finally, with both spouses having to work to pay for the ever increasing housing costs in large metropolises, a woman who should have the choice of staying home and working in reality has little to no choice. The ones who it is “profitable” to have more kids is the single mom who is living off government assistance. (See who has more disposable income in today’s America: http://www.zerohedge.com/article/entitlement-america-head-household-making-minimum-wage-has-more-disposable-income-family-mak)

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  23. Chris says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Yes, driving down wages of our future members of our middle class by increasing competition from non-citizens is a great idea. We’ve already done it to our lower classes and now we want to do it to the middle classes. What, do you work for Goldman Sachs too? We have plenty of smart people in this country. Let’s utilize them first. I don’t believe shills for cheap labor and you shouldn’t either. Part of the problem w/ our brainiest not reproducing is an increasingly unsecure future provided for by folks who want MORE cheap labor and competition for STEM jobs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 12

  24. Argon says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:Gen. Y largely is unemployable. That’s not a coincidence. Public K-12 and colleges and universities lurched far to the left.

    BS. I see kids working harder and studying harder to get into to the top colleges now than in the past several decades. I saw an earlier generation of kids prioritize their studies to target largely unproductive fields like law and finance. These days I see more interested in actually building businesses rather than leaching off them. There is now the strongest push for driving science, engineering and technology education that I’ve seen in years.

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  25. Barry says:

    James: “Megan McArdle takes Douthat’s side in the larger debate, detailing the degree to which the demographic challenges that come from an aging population have on a society, while neatly sidestepping the “decadence” debate. ”

    James, you should update the title to say ‘…and clueless but highly decadent thirty-year old Chicago U grad,….’.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  26. Barry says:

    @Matt: “The title would be good if it weren’t false: Douthat has a daughter. ”

    First, that’s not even replacement; he needs to have at least two.
    Second, he’s been married several years, so he’s probably using Evul Burth Kuntroll.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 3

  27. Ben Wolf says:

    @Barry: McMegan managed to derail her post with an appeal to ageist stereotyping and pseudo-scientific drivel: young people are “learning and risk-taking” while older Americans only care about buying Centrum Silver.

    Such an ignorant person.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  28. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JKB:

    a woman’s right to kill her baby on a whim in the first 9 months of it’s existence.

    “It is better to keep one’s mouth closed and thought slow, or stupid because of it, than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”

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  29. john personna says:

    @Chris:

    Yes, driving down wages of our future members of our middle class by increasing competition from non-citizens is a great idea.

    For extra credit describe how, in a globalized world, great product designers hurt us less when they stay in Korea or Taiwan.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  30. john personna says:

    (Because, because, … they can never make cars or tvs … they’re not SPECIAL!)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  31. Andy says:

    I would make the opposite argument from Douthat – the last thing we want to do is pressure people who aren’t that interested in kids (for whatever reason) into having them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  32. Scott says:

    The underlying fundamental basis of this article is that people are not fulfilled as human beings unless there are children. That is a deeper concept than is discussed, involving genetics, theology, and philosophy. What we have going on is forshadowed in Europe. Prosperous, land and resource limited populations reacting to their environment by having less children. It happened in Europe. It is starting to happen in the US, Canada and other countries.

    We also have the demographic age spreading of our population. We live much longer than 100 years ago. Having children later is a reaction to this. It makes little sense to have your three kids in your early 20s, only to have them gone by your 40s. Otherwise, we would be reading articles on mid-40s couples experiencing ennui and the pointlessness of a childless middle age.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  33. @Chris:

    Raising kids is hard work

    Indeed.

    Our regulatory state makes it more difficult, not easier, to raise kids. Glenn Reynolds has written a lot about this. From the right car seat to the the right bike helmet, the “man” is gonna step in and tell you how to do it. Who cares that when you were growing up you didn’t wear a bike helmet and drank at 18. “No, we are smarter now and we are going to tell you how it’s gonna be!” This is a trend that will get stronger before it gets weaker.

    Speaking as a parent, as noted above, of three active boys, I have to say that having to get a safe car seat or having my kids wear bike helmets was not a major (or even significant) problem and hardly a disincentive to parenting.

    We, are, in fact, smarter today about a lot of things (like not using lead paint in cribs) so I find these bemoaning of regulations in these areas to be unpersuasive.

    (And, I probably would have avoided a very serious bike-crash related concussion in 4th grade had I been wearing a helmet).

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  34. @Chris:

    What, do you work for Goldman Sachs too?

    Oddly enough, no.

    However, since you are referencing Steve Sailer above, I know where this conversation is headed, and I will forestall by simply stating: we aren’t going to agree. I will avoid a long convo because I have other things to do which includes, oddly enough, taking a sick child to the doctor later this morning.

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  35. (I will say this: you are missing the overall demographic point, as well as the way in which the overall social system is funded, if you don’t understand the importance of raw numbers. This is not a conversation about “smart” people reproducing, nor is it about STEM jobs).

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  36. @Tsar Nicholas:

    I really don’t know who any of these various authors are

    *sigh*

    This shtick is so old. Either it is a joke that has become so unfunny as to have even surpassed the notion of self-parody or it is a true statement that makes me wonder why we should ever read your comments since you clearly don’t have much in the way of a varied experience (nor do you pay attention to what you read here).

    So please, enough already.

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  37. Moosebreath says:

    @Barry:

    “‘…and clueless but highly decadent thirty-year old Chicago U grad,….”

    Penn too, to my Alma Mater’s shame…

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  38. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Not to mention, we don’t know who Tsar Nicholas is.

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  39. Scott says:

    We all agree that raising kids is hard work but we don’t talk about why. Part of the reason is that we, as parents, put a lot of pressure on ourselves to do the right thing in this hyper-competitive world. Our kids are worked harder and we are worked harder. We take on the responsibility for the ultimate success of our kids which I don’t think earlier generations assumed.

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  40. @john personna: Blog comment section denizen with a very specific type of transient global amnesia who has strange taste in pseudonyms?

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  41. @Scott:

    We take on the responsibility for the ultimate success of our kids which I don’t think earlier generations assumed

    The first part is true, but I don’t think that the second part is, not at all.

    A lot of the stress that comes along with parenting children of school age, in particular, is clearly the concern about getting them on the appropriate path to a successful life, broadly defined. (Of course, a lot of it is simply physically taxing: making sure they are where they need to be, making sure they are fed, that their clothes are clean, that this little thing is done and that that little thing is done).

    In regards to the past: I think every generation of parents has been dedicated heavily to the future lives of their children, even if the exact context of this has changed over time (and varies by socio-economic status).

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  42. Herb says:

    @JKB:

    “The last election hinged on the unsubstantiated fear that Romney would take away a woman’s right to kill her baby on a whim in the first 9 months of it’s existence. We live in a culture that applauds childlessness and attacks a young woman (Bristol Palin) who chooses to carry her baby to the point society bestows upon it the protection of the murder laws.”

    Weak…..abortion rates have been declining for decades. I know this isn’t the preference of the folks who want to get Uncle Sam involved, but America seems to be dealing with the abortion problem just fine without the government’s help.

    We’d do an even better job of it, too, if certain people minded their own business about contraception too.

    That said, a lot of interesting ideas have flown around here about what kind of policies could encourage family growth. I say NO to all of it. Maybe it’s just lingering bitterness, but as the son of a lesbian mother, I want the government to butt out of almost all family-related business. Their record is clear: they’ve destroyed more families than they’ve created.

    But talk to my boss. I don’t know about your boss, but my boss…he doesn’t give a rip about your kids.

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  43. JKB says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    It’s not the odd safety device that is the difficulty of the regulatory state, although they are a means. It is, these days if you have kids, you surrender many of your rights. The State can enter your home on simple unfounded suspicion that you aren’t doing right by your children. You can be threatened with fines and imprisonment if your child misses to much school due to illness.

    It is true you are less likely to fall under the surveillance of the State being middle or upper middle class but once they notice you, your life is not your own.

    As we see in England, which is a more advanced socialist state, they can and will take your children if you do not hold the proper thoughts and ideas. I have a friend in England who breathed a sigh of relief when her youngest daughter reached 16. Finally, after 25 years she was free of the routine threats of being jailed for her daughters missing school due to frequent illness (all dutifully treated and documented by the NHS).

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  44. Hal 10000 says:

    I didn’t read sexism into this, BTW. It seemed he was bemoaning society in general for placing present happiness over the future, not women specifically. A lot of men don’t want to have kids either.

    That being said, it seems like everyone is focusing on a side issue and not the very real one which is that a demographic decline, as Europe is showing us, is not sustainable. Someone has to work to support all those retirees. Whether government can do anything about it or not is an interesting point (Yglesias engaged him on this). But when a population falls below replacement level, you have to worry. That’s no Nanny Statism or sexism or any other kind of ism. It’s common sense.

    I just think this is a little more complex than the “conservatives want women barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen” narrative everyone seems to want to squeeze this into.

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  45. @JKB:

    A. While I agree that there are legitimate concerns about the power of the state in situation of power application, the bottom line is that there is a legitimate societal interest in the taking care of abused or neglected children. Are you going to suggest that children who are being regularly beaten should be ignored by the broader society? Or that children of sever meth addicts ought to be left to their own devices?

    And from my wife’s experiences in education, both public and private, the ability to get the authorities involved even in egregious situations is a lot harder than you are making it out to be.

    B. “As we see in England, which is a more advanced socialist state, they can and will take your children if you do not hold the proper thoughts and ideas” Evidence, please?

    C. None of this is the point being made above by Chris.

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  46. john personna says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I obviously am in favor of long term aliases … but I understand that consistent with that I should read other random voices for content.

    Discounting new sources of information or opinion? Not so much.

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  47. @Hal 10000:

    I didn’t read sexism into this, BTW. It seemed he was bemoaning society in general for placing present happiness over the future, not women specifically. A lot of men don’t want to have kids either.

    Well, there is that niggling factor of the women having to, you know, get pregnant and bear the children. ;)

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  48. JKB says:

    @Herb:

    I made not comment on the level of abortions only that it was the issue that was in the forefront. As such, not having a baby is the policy that is transmitted, even if no overtly pushed. Not have babies is the reason women will reach the mythical pay parity. Not having babies is how women will reach the C-suite, etc. See the common theme?

    I agree this isn’t a matter for public policy. But we should also accept the disincentives.

    Really, I’m not sure what the problem is. We’ve to many people now, fewer babies is a good thing. Except for the socialist/welfare state which depends on taking from the young to keep up the old. On the other hand, fewer babies to poor women and single mothers means less welfare costs to the rest of the populace. But, we don’t have enough work for the young now, so fewer new workers is good as long as we make the fewer more productive through economically-useful education and training. If we reduce the burden of the State upon small businesses and limit the “prior approval” tendencies of the regulators, there is no reason to think that fewer youth will be any less innovative. Innovation has stalled because the potential rewards are constantly being reduced and the risks are increased. Add to that the innumerable privileged young who pursue economically-useless educations and are therefore unable to contribute to innovation other than finding innovative ways to demand more payments to support their pursuit of their economically-fruitless “dreams”.

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  49. john personna says:

    LOL, ask Douthat how free college would change the equation!

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  50. john personna says:

    (Doh, caught in a tl;dr)

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  51. JKB says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    You might want to offer some cogent argument since the sentence of mine you quote is simply a fact-based description of what is encompassed in “elective abortion”.

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  52. What Douthat calls decadance, I’d describe more as alienation–and it’s people like Douthat that are largely responsible for that alienation.

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  53. Rob in CT says:

    As we see in England, which is a more advanced socialist state, they can and will take your children if you do not hold the proper thoughts and ideas

    I too would like evidence of this. My English relatives haven’t mentioned it. Funny, that.

    Really, I’m not sure what the problem is. We’ve to many people now, fewer babies is a good thing. Except for the socialist/welfare state which depends on taking from the young to keep up the old.

    Largely agreed, except even w/o the “socialist/welfare state” the same stresses would exist. Instead of being routed through the government, they would instead fall directly on families. It’s not like dear old mom & dad wouldn’t need care in their old age. It’s just that instead of medicare/medicaid/ss helping, it would all be on you. The cost would be individual, rather than socialized. But it’s not gone.

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  54. Scott says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I think what I was getting at, perhaps inartfully, that over the last couple of generations, that parents are increasing deeply involved in all aspects of their kids’ lives to the point of absurdity. And that gets translated into being hard. My parents generation (WWII), of course, were invested in my future but they were a lot more hands-off than the typical suburban parent of today.

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  55. @Scott: Point taken-but on the other hand, I think it might have translated into different thing: like pressure for Dad to work extra hours to provide for the family, etc.

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  56. mantis says:

    Steven,

    Sorry for the off-topic comment, but I thought you might like to know that Smooth Jazz has taken his polling-criticism operation over to The Moderate Voice. Apparently continuing to sell stupid here was just too embarrassing. Just to quote a bit:

    Btw, PPP is a Daily KOS pollster so I would be careful trying read too much into any of their polls. They have an agenda to push you know.

    Heh.

    It’s too early for Douthat/McArdle baby talk for me. I don’t feel like puking.

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  57. Rob in CT says:

    Scott,

    There is no doubt something to that. I think it ties back in to so many two-worker households now, though. In the past, a stay-at-home parent might not have watched the kid 24/7, but they were around in case. So were many other parents in the neighborhood. Now, to the extent you live in a neighborhood (I really don’t – I’m out in the boonies and there are a few neighboring houses close by but that’s it), there are fewers adults around during the workday. It adds up (or rather subtracts?).

    The old conservative case I recall from years ago was that in striving to have more “stuff” a two-working-parent household was losing out in other areas… areas hard to put a $ figure on. I think there is truth in that argument. Amp up the economic pressure, though, and it’s less and less of a choice and more and more of a necessity. So you get both parents working, daycare, etc.

    And yes, lots of parents prefer working, even with the downside. I considered being a SAHD. I actually took 4 months off unpaid after our daughter was born to take care of her (after my wife’s maternity leave ended). It was good. And yet, I wasn’t sad to go back to work. Part of that was being able to afford a full-time nanny – Cadillac childcare, if you will. And my total comp is such that even with paying the nanny (and seriously attempting to pay her *well*), going back to work was a win. The hit to my retirement savings if I quit working in my 30s was enormous.

    However… I know another family in which the Dad was not making a ton of money. His wife out-earned him (as does mine). They crunched the numbers and decided he’d stay home. It’s working out so far. Of course, their eggs are now all in one basket when it comes to income. That’s another advantage for the 2-worker model…

    [/end ramble]

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  58. john personna says:

    Malicious Advice Mallard has a comment on the subject: link

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  59. george says:

    @Hal 10000:

    That being said, it seems like everyone is focusing on a side issue and not the very real one which is that a demographic decline, as Europe is showing us, is not sustainable.

    On the other hand, continued growth in population isn’t sustainable either – the earth has finite resources, and with continued growth we’ll eventually reach a population that is physically unsustainable.

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  60. Scott says:

    @Rob in CT: There is something to the having both parents working that contributes but I was alluding to the work put into the kids to compete. All the extra-curricular lessons. The kid is not just in band but also has private lessons. You don’t just play soccer in school but are also in club sport. You just don’t take the SAT but you take extra prep courses. Of course, our suburbs are designed so the kids can’t get anywhere on their own (not that we would let them out of our sight because then they would engage in drugs and sex). It can be just nuts. Also, bear in mind that I am talking about my own insular upper middle class suburban world.

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  61. Rafer Janders says:

    @Scott:

    My parents generation (WWII), of course, were invested in my future but they were a lot more hands-off than the typical suburban parent of today.

    And the kids of that WWII generation became the drug-addled hippies of the Sixties, so how well did that approach turn out…?

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  62. Rafer Janders says:

    @Scott:

    Of course, our suburbs are designed so the kids can’t get anywhere on their own (not that we would let them out of our sight because then they would engage in drugs and sex).

    That’s what always puzzles me about this mania for moving to the suburbs — they are often designed in such a way that parents basically have to spend 15-20 years as full time chaffeurs for their kids. Here in NYC, on the other hand, kids can move around on their own via foot, bus and subway.

    As a child, I lived in both big cities and surburbs, and never really felt like I had less space in the city. And as a teenager I was out in the surburbs, and that was kind of hellish, beause I either had to have one of my parents drive me everywhere (and then wait around to drive me back) or be stuck at home.

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  63. Matt says:

    @Scott: I think there is a lot of truth here.

    My siblings (both with two children each) spend an inordinate amount of time, thought, stress and worry seemingly making every minute of every day THE BEST EVER for their kids. Now, this could also be said of most Americans these days (at least, those of us who have the luxury of jobs that don’t require back-breaking work, which also let us read blogs like these). But it’s a big difference I think with previous generations.

    My father talked endlessly when we were young about his own childhood–and the overarching impression was that he and his brother and sister were largely left to their own devices. Yes, they went to school, did chores, etc., but by and large, his parents pretty much only appeared when they needed to intervene (I’m sure he was, and that I by recounting this am, vastly over-simplifying) as an authoritative presence. Otherwise–and this was true for me growing up, too–children were left alone and allowed to be children.

    In light of the fact that kids are now somehow supposed to be an end-all, be-all, completely consuming part and avocation, it’s no wonder so many of us are choosing otherwise (I don’t have children). Between the never-ending parade of preschool, sports, education, extracurricular activities, trophy Christmas cards presenting the picture-perfect offspring and the old (fictionalized, yes, but I think pointing to some truths) representations of child-rearing seen in Leave It To Beaver or even Dr. Henry Jones raising a young “Indiana”, I think I’ll stay with the weirdly 1950′s, Americanized version of the British “children should be seen but not heard”.

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  64. Scott says:

    @Rafer Janders: LOL. I resemble that!

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  65. stonetools says:

    The problem with Douthat/ McArdle is that they are not serious. They point to a problem, then think it can be solved by scolding women into having more children. The trouble with that is :

    A. Modern women aren’t stupid. They know having children is an enormous economic burden and that Messrs. Douthat and McArdle won’t be around to help them once baby is here.

    B. Modern women now control their fertility and they are quite rationally using it to limit the number of children.
    I think modern women would be open to having more children, but they quite sensibly won’t, unless they have more societal support.

    If Douthat/McArdle were serious, they would propose serious policy prescriptions, but they don’t-other than a one sentence hand wave by Douthat . Now McArdle is a glibertarian, so she’s against government intervention. Douthat argues for ” creative policy” but he doesn’t spell out such a policy.
    Now an intelligent person can sit down and design such a policy (or simply copy what other countries do).

    1. You could have substantial paid family leave.
    2. You could have a system of government -run child care centers.
    3.You could pay generous government allowances to mothers who have children.

    These have been tried in countries like France and Sweden (socialist hellholes, I know) and they do seem to work. The Democrats might go along with this. But the Republicans (Douthat’s team)? Fuhgedaboudit!

    Faster than you could say “Ronald Reagan”, you would hear about “welfare queens pumping out young bucks on our dime”, “job-killing gumint regulation of bidness” and nostalgia about “my pioneer grandma raising seven kids without any gumint help.”
    That’s probably why Ross didn’t go into policy prescriptions. He knows that his team would be the biggest obstacle to enacting any policy.

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  66. Al says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    With all that bad news you must have shorted the US Government by now, right?

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  67. grumpy realist says:

    It’s always amusing watching conservative men find justification as to why women should have more children.

    One of the reasons the birthrate in Japan is so low? Women are voting with their feet–raising a child is incredibly expensive; once you get pregnant you’re expected to quit your job, and the job of being a housewife/mother is incredibly isolating and not all that interesting. Daddy isn’t home, so you’re stuck taking care of the kids all by yourself with no support system.

    Also don’t forget that on average, for a woman having kids imposes quite a tax on her lifetime earnings and future possible earnings. Mothers aren’t considered “good hires”–the expectation is that they’ll always be running off to take care of sick kids. A woman who takes a few years off to be a SAHM will find it very difficult to get back into the workforce and will certainly not have the same career track had she chosen to stay in the work force and not had kids. Add this the fact that “fire at will” means that you and your spouse are both at risk of suddenly losing some or all of your income stream–is it surprising at all that women back away from becoming mothers?

    (This, by the way, is why an economy constructed on purely Libertarian lines would rapidly colloapse–very few people could take the risk of having children.)

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  68. Rafer Janders says:

    One of the reasons the birthrate in Japan is so low? Women are voting with their feet–

    Not knowing much about Japanese sexual customs, I still don’t think it’s the feet that’s the body part they’re voting with….

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  69. Rafer Janders says:

    @grumpy realist:

    (This, by the way, is why an economy constructed on purely Libertarian lines would rapidly colloapse–very few people could take the risk of having children.)

    Yes, but think about all the Freedom! (TM) they’d have.

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  70. stonetools says:

    (This, by the way, is why an economy constructed on purely Libertarian lines would rapidly collapse–very few people could take the risk of having children.)

    Did Ayn Rand have any children?

    Miss Rand and her husband, Frank O’Connor, chose not to have any children.

    LINK

    Its noteworthy that these cheerleaders of fertility, (Douthat/McArdle) have at most one child between them, after several years of marriage.

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  71. James Joyner says:

    @Rafer Janders: The “mania for moving into the suburbs” has at least three drivers, at least two of which are legitimate. First, there’s the sense that the cities simply aren’t “safe.” That’s probably not true, especially when one factors in the additional risk of dying in a car crash imposed by suburban living. Second, suburban schools tend to be radically better than their urban counterparts. Third, unless you’re fabulously wealthy, it’s simply difficult to afford a large enough living space to raise a family in our major cities.

    @stonetools: McArdle simply acknowledges that a declining birthrate is a problem; she doesn’t seem to propose making women have kids as a solution. Douthat acknowledges some of the issues you raise; he just dismisses them as “decadence.”

    @stonetools: Douthat’s second child is on the way. McArdle hasn’t been married very long; I have no idea what her intentions are vis-a-vis kids.

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  72. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. Every now and then in Japan we get some typical LDP politician harrumphing over how Japanese wimmenz ain’t having enough baybeez—screed ignored by Japanese women, who then promptly vote against said politician in the next election.

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  73. Andre Kenji says:

    Just two points:

    1-) That´s a global trend. Even many Muslims countries now have Birth Rates bellow the level of replacement. In part i´ts related to Urbanization, because in agricultural environments Children are an asset, not a potential liability.

    2-) I blame Social Conservatives. While they were occupied with Gay Marriage and “Intelligent Design” organizations like the Ford Foundation were pushing aggressive birth Control policies all over the world. If Social Conservatives were worried with Birth Rates and policies that could help couples with children instead of what two men do behind close doors that would not be happening.

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  74. Scott O says:

    @Chris:

    The ones who it is “profitable” to have more kids is the single mom who is living off government assistance. (See who has more disposable income in today’s America

    I have good news for you. Single dads also qualify. Adopt 3 kids and you too can start living the life of leisure.

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  75. BaritoneWoman says:

    Douchhat’s concerns are at least 20 years too late.

    Back then, conservatives tried to pressure career women out of the workforce so that they would stay home and raise children.

    Well, that has backfired big time. Not only have women not left their jobs, they have stopped having children.

    The situation was spelled out way back in June 2001 in The Washington Monthly:
    http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2001/0106.mencimer.html

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  76. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Third, unless you’re fabulously wealthy, it’s simply difficult to afford a large enough living space to raise a family in our major cities.

    This is somewhat disproven by the fact that tens of millions of parents do indeed manage to raise their families in our major cities. Median household income in NYC, for example, is about $55,000-$60,000/year, so most are not fabulously wealthy. And yet they all find apartments and houses that are large enough to raise families.

    The question is, large enough for what? Large enough to have a big lawn and media room and separate bedroom for everyone? Well, no. But you don’t need any of that.

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  77. stonetools says:

    @Scott O:

    Chris shows that conservatives really have no sensible policy to offer. They would be overwhelmingly concerned that “those people” would take advantage of any government program to have children at their expense.

    The conservative policy appears to be to deny women access to family planning . THAT’S their way of raising the birth rate.

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  78. rudderpedals says:

    Actually moving out to the country or the burbs is a terrible thing to do to your children. I will always relish growing up in Brooklyn and pretty much going wherever I wanted by bike bus and train. The kids who came to NYC from elsewhere always seemed slower and duller and despite the bitching about how awwwwful city schools are, the non-city kids couldn’t keep up with us dummies who tragically were confined to city parks, schoolyard, the street (the latter which was our playground and with safer/slower/less traffic than the gated hellhole in Florida where this post originates), and all the things that can be discovered in a major city.

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  79. C. Clavin says:

    Douche-hat is a so-called conservative…and conservative policies are just plain bad for kids. Limits on their rights and freedoms, polluted air and water, massive debt, perpetual war, no social safety net, stunted progress in medical and energy research, and on and on and on.
    I personally think it’s just plain selfish to bring a kid into this world.
    Not to mention that the most ecological decision you can make is the decision to not have a kid.

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  80. Rafer Janders says:

    @rudderpedals:

    Amen. Plus museums, theatres, movie houses, and every sort of cultural/scientific/artistic opportunity everywhere you look.

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  81. Rafer Janders says:

    @James Joyner:

    Third, unless you’re fabulously wealthy, it’s simply difficult to afford a large enough living space to raise a family in our major cities.

    Adding to my earlier point, and what rubberpedals said, you don’t need a large space to raise kids in the city — you have the large city itself. You have parks, schools, museums, and every other opportunity available to you as a parent. You can send the kids out on their own at a much earlier age because you have public transport. You don’t a large house because the kids won’t spend as much time at home and indoors as they do in the suburbs.

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  82. C. Clavin says:

    “…Innovation has stalled because the potential rewards are constantly being reduced and the risks are increased…”

    What a bunch of BULLSHIT.
    Isn’t their some kind of filter that can eliminate such total nonsense?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  83. stonetools says:

    @James Joyner:

    Once of the biggest reasons for the move to the suburbs is plain old white flight . Conservatives don’t like to admit it, but there it is.

    NYC is full of families raising children. But those families tend to be more and more English-speaking Caribbean, Haitian, Dominican, Chinese-well, you get the idea. Still, NYC is about 50 per cent white.

    Two of the best high schools in the country-Stuyvesant, and Bronx Academy of Science-are in NYC.

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  84. Rob in CT says:

    @rudderpedals:

    Heh, I was one of those kids you pity. I was 9 months old when my parents ditched their NYC apartment and moved out to northern Fairfield County. An acre of land, some nature, and zero crime in exchange for an insane commute (almost 2 hrs each way), and having to drive everywhere. They don’t seem to regret it. I’ve managed something similar but with a 1/2 hour commute. There are plusses and minuses.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  85. MM says:

    But the fact of the matter that raising children is an incredibly demanding endeavor that competes with other aspects of one’s life–certainly including one’s career–for time, energy, and attention. For those in the professional class, some of that can be mitigated by throwing money at it; but that goes only so far unless one wishes to become a parent in name only. For those without parental wealth and/or a handsome income, then, having multiple children–and, apparently, two isn’t enough!–comes at a huge cost.

    I think this is the key. For Douthat and McArdle, having and raising children is going to be a relatively easy task. They make well into 6 if not 7 figures, meaning they can always afford to hire help, and they have jobs conducive to working from home. They just cannot comprehend why it would be tougher for people who work on call jobs or shift work to be able to raise children

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  86. Hal 10000 says:

    @george:

    Really? We’ve been hearing that for a long a time and it has yet to happen. The current projections are that our population will peak at 9 billion, which is imminently sustainable.

    What we’re talking about is replacement level — 2.1 children.

    The irony here is that if conservatives like Douthat want more children, the obvious path is for incentives to be creates, as Yglesias pointed out. That may mean more family leave, lower taxes for families, etc. … not exactly conservative policies.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  87. Jeff says:

    Indeed, most American conservatives, myself included, rail against collectivism in much less significant arenas. Let government try to force us to change to a more energy efficient lightbulb or regulate the water capacity of our toilets and the calls for revolution ring out across the land. Encourage us to buy more energy efficient automobiles through tax incentives and corporate subsidies and you’re a tyrant. Suggest that we turn off electronic devices that aren’t in use and you’re at very least a dirty hippy and probably an out-and-out commie. But suggest that women give up the advances they’ve made over the last half century because somebody has to have more kids, why, what could be more reasonable?

    Okay, so I’m a bit late to this party, so perhaps its been covered already, but the obvious point to make here is that Douthat isn’t saying that the state should force anyone to have kids or punitively tax them if they don’t. All he’s saying is he wants people to have more kids. He even acknowledges in the column that government policies seem ineffective at stimulating fertility, and thus we get the personal appeal.

    Furthermore, it’s a complete mischaracterization to say that women necessarily must “give up the gains” they’ve made in the past half century or so by having more kids. Plenty of women have both kids and a career. It’s very doable. Douthat’s wife, for example, has apparently pulled off this not so difficult trick. One need not be a patriarchal reactionary to wish that more women would better balance their career ambitions with family formation and raising kids. Isn’t a healthy society and culture, whatever your politics, one that needs some quantity of both?

    I am firmly on Douthat’s side of the fence here, and your quibbles with his column seem to fall pretty flat from where I’m standing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 15

  88. rudderpedals says:

    @Rob in CT:

    There are plusses and minuses.

    Many families followed your folks up to Westchester county and beyond or out to the island or Doug’s old stomping grounds and things turned out well. I’m happy that it worked out for you and your family. One plus and minus is that kids grow up much faster in the city. When I was young I thought was a plus but it made mom’s life much more nerve wracking than it would have been for her if we’d moved.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  89. MBunge says:

    @MM: “For Douthat and McArdle, having and raising children is going to be a relatively easy task.”

    And if you want to talk about decadence, any society where folks like Douthat and McArdle can make comfortable livings as “public intellectuals” is well on its way to Caligula Town.

    Mike

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  90. grumpy realist says:

    @Jeff: I suggest you look at what happens to mothers in the workplace before saying how hunky-dory it all is. There’s a lot of discrimination, getting shuttled to lower career tracks, and similar. And if you get divorced? Women’s standard of living drops considerably next to that of the ex-husband, whose standard of living rises. And let’s not go into the high percentage of child-support payments that aren’t made.

    The fact is, becoming a mother in the present economy is getting more and more risky. No wonder more and more women are deciding to cut back on the number of kids they have, indeed, if they have them at all.

    Ross Douhat is accusing women of being “decadent” for taking a long look at all the risks and making prudent decisions. It’s pretty mindboggling that conservatives harangue us about planning and saving and making prudent decisions in all other areas of life except for childbearing. When having kids, we’re to jump off the cliff, trusting to fate, and hope we don’t go SPLAT at the bottom. (And when we do, conservatives call us sluts and moochers for using the miniscule support system that does exist.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  91. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JKB: You might want to search a law library other than the one at Regents University about the legalities of late term abortion. Once you do that, and make a cogent statement based on actual fact, then you will have risen above my automatic “Respond with Sarcasm” level.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  92. stonetools says:

    @Jeff:

    Furthermore, it’s a complete mischaracterization to say that women necessarily must “give up the gains” they’ve made in the past half century or so by having more kids. Plenty of women have both kids and a career. It’s very doable. Douthat’s wife, for example, has apparently pulled off this not so difficult trick. One need not be a patriarchal reactionary to wish that more women would better balance their career ambitions with family formation and raising kids. Isn’t a healthy society and culture, whatever your politics, one that needs some quantity of both?

    So, your position (and Douthat’s ) is that you wish women should just go ahead and have more children, because it makes for a nicer society? IOW, you understand that having children is an enormously expensive, life changing commitment and you want women to go ahead and do this, for the public good, although you wouldn’t lift a finger to help them, nor have the government lift a finger to help them? And this is not so difficult? Honest question: are you trolling?

    Tell you what, why don’t you quit your job and go to work for a charity in the Third World. That would be really nice , very doable, and society could really use that type of voluntary effort. Let me know how that turns out.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 1

  93. grumpy realist says:

    @Jeff: Also, why is it WOMEN who have to take the responsibility of “balancing” work-life but not men?

    When Ross Douhat et. al. are similarly quarrelsome about fathers holding down jobs with 80-hr work weeks and nagging them to “balance their lives’, then I might start listening. Otherwise it’s the Same Old Stuff: the father gets the high prestigious, high paying job while the mother is to do all the sacrifice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 1

  94. george says:

    @Hal 10000:

    Really? We’ve been hearing that for a long a time and it has yet to happen. The current projections are that our population will peak at 9 billion, which is imminently sustainable.

    9 billion is sustainable, but peaking at that point means you’re going to go through the same demographics that they’re worried about now, just a bit later.

    Is 20 billion going to be sustainable? or 200 billion? Or a trillion? Eventually the demographic shift is going to happen, its just a question of when. You can lessen the effect of the change in demographics through various measures, but unless we get off this planet onto new systems (ie not going to happen any time soon, Star Trek to the contrary), our population will not rise indefinitely, meaning there’s going to be a change in demographics.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  95. Rob in CT says:

    Right, exactly: this happens now, or it happens a little later, but it happens at some point. And frankly no matter how you’ve arranged your society – whether you’re in libertopia or socialism or something inbetween – there will be adjustments that have to be made. In some societies, taxes will go up/benefits will be cut. In others, there will simply be more strain on individuals (either the young doing more work caring for their old relatives, or the old relatives simply receiving less – or no – care). There’s no way of just avoiding it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  96. Mark R says:

    “Megan McArdle takes Douthat’s side in the larger debate…”

    How many children has Mrs. Suderman brought into the world?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  97. Mark R says:

    @James Joyner:

    Has Mrs. Suderman been betrothed longer than the Duchess of Cambridge?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  98. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Ozark-hillbilly: And let me add JKB, you find me a women who had an abortion at 8 and 1/2 months because she just “didn’t want a baby” AND she found an abortion clinic to carry out her wishes….

    No? Shut the fWck up.

    For ever.

    Deal?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  99. Barry says:

    @MM: “I think this is the key. For Douthat and McArdle, having and raising children is going to be a relatively easy task. They make well into 6 if not 7 figures, meaning they can always afford to hire help, and they have jobs conducive to working from home. They just cannot comprehend why it would be tougher for people who work on call jobs or shift work to be able to raise children ”

    And lavish benefits and job security (unless they suddenly go all liberal).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  100. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Side note to the city vs suburb thing: College towns are, in general, great places to raise well rounded kids who get the advantages of meeting people from different backgrounds, great cultural amenities, oftentimes good public transit and educational opportunities, while being in a fairly safe environment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  101. KansasMom says:

    When Douthat starts wetting his pants a little bit every time he coughs, sneezes or laughs too hard he can come and talk to me about reducing pregnancies as a decadence. Pregnancy (even an easy, healthy, happy one) causes actual permanent trauma to a woman’s body.

    And yes, I did my part. A bonus baby the 2nd time around ensured that we would more than replace ourselves.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  102. Janis Gore says:

    Just wait until his kids become teenagers — then he’ll whistle a different tune.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  103. An Interested Party says:

    It’s terribly amusing when moral scolds lecture others about what is “decadent”…these busybodies should step into a time machine and venture back to the Victorian era where their “advice” would have been much more well-received…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  104. al-Ameda says:

    I STILL do not understand the argument that it is selfish to have small families.

    How is it selfish to have as many children as you either (1) can afford, or (2) want to have, or (3) both (1) or (22)?

    Sometimes Douthat is kind of nutty. He’s a combination of David Brooks and John Tierney – every once in a while you think, “oh he’s coming around, he’s not as conservative as I thought” then he writes nutty stuff like this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  105. superdestroyer says:

    @Gromitt Gunn:

    somehow I doubt if Athens Georgia or Grambling La would be considered great college towns. Unless you give really good examples of college towns, it is hard to believe what you are proposing.

    One of the problems with college towns is there is usually only one real employer and that employer does not believe in high wages.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  106. george says:

    @al-Ameda:

    I STILL do not understand the argument that it is selfish to have small families.

    How is it selfish to have as many children as you either (1) can afford, or (2) want to have, or (3) both (1) or (22)?

    Sometimes Douthat is kind of nutty. He’s a combination of David Brooks and John Tierney – every once in a while you think, “oh he’s coming around, he’s not as conservative as I thought” then he writes nutty stuff like this.

    I’ve never seen even an attempt to explain this. In fact, not having more children than you can afford or want seems to be one of the best contributions you can make to either your children or society.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  107. MBunge says:

    @george: “I’ve never seen even an attempt to explain this.”

    The economic argument is that we need at least a slightly growing population to sustain the current status quo, both in terms of supporting entitlement programs and fueling a consumer-based economy. The moral argument? Hell if I know.

    Mike

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  108. Mara Delgato says:

    @Hal 10000:

    “I just think this is a little more complex than the “conservatives want women barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen” narrative everyone seems to want to squeeze this into ”

    I don’t. I think that’s exactly where Douthat’s mind is. Though he’s probably not that fanatical about the barefoot part, it doesn’t take a genius to understand what he means when he says that women aren’t breeding because we’re just too darn ‘selfish’ and ‘decadent’… especially considering the Republican distaste for social spending.

    A ‘selfish’ women is has a career. A ‘good’ woman is at home with her children. A ‘decadent’ woman spends her money as she pleases. A ‘good’ woman spends her husbands money on the kids. Same lyrics, different melody. (shrug)

    What struck me as astonishing, even more than the inherent and obvious sexism, is this idea that there’s some sort of ‘moral responsibility’ people have to ensure the continued existance of the human species.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1

  109. george says:

    @MBunge:

    The economic argument is that we need at least a slightly growing population to sustain the current status quo, both in terms of supporting entitlement programs and fueling a consumer-based economy. The moral argument? Hell if I know.

    Mike

    But insofar that “selfish” is a moral argument, that’s the one that al-Almeda (followed by myself) were wondering about.

    And even the economic one sounds odd coming from a conservative like Douthat – since when do conservatives say that individuals should take a personal hit to help the general economy. That’s suspiciously like saying taxes should be raised on individuals to help the whole.

    Which is why I wonder if Douthat is speaking for many conservatives on this issue – I’m guessing not, because I think most would argue that its nobody’s business how those women spend their money (ie on themselves or on raising children), As James J said, collectivism doesn’t tend to be something conservatives like.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  110. george says:

    @Jeff:

    All he’s saying is he wants people to have more kids

    But except in light of collectivism (ie what’s good for the nation, how could it possibly be any of his business if people have more kids? Unless he’s making a statement on the level of “I want people to eat more chocolate ice cream” – ie something he’d personally like to see but without further consequences. Which is fine, but why bother writing (or publishing) an article if its just about his personal preferences.

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  111. wr says:

    @superdestroyer: I can’t speak to Grambling, but I know lots of people who consider Athens to be a great college town. As for others, off the top of my head, Berkeley, Cambridge, Austin, Columbia, MO…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  112. Janis Gore says:

    About the second time you get a call from a bail bondsman in the middle of the night, you begin to think “What the hell did I ever do this for?”

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  113. Janis Gore says:

    It ain’t all sugar and spice and puppy dog tails.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  114. Janis Gore says:

    The boy’s in the voluptuous flush of new fatherhood.

    Kinda like kittens, the creatures grow up to be independent-minded.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  115. grumpy realist says:

    @Janis Gore: I wonder how much of the diaper-changing/cleaning up messes Ross is doing or is he leaving all of that to his wife?

    It’s very easy to burble on about the “magic” of having children if the only time you ever see them is 30 seconds, clean, neat, and well-behaved while your wife brings you your pipe and slippers. I wonder how many traditional fathers ever had to deal with a screaming toddler having a meltdown during grocery shopping.

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  116. Janis Gore says:

    I could be awful during grocery shopping. I remember throwing fits over a sucker or some such nonsense.

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  117. Janis Gore says:

    I was a good one to stray from my mother following my own visions and get lost.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  118. Janis Gore says:

    Having a child like me isn’t something any woman would or should look forward to. But I was never arrested by the police, ever.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  119. Barry says:

    @Mark R: “Has Mrs. Suderman been betrothed longer than the Duchess of Cambridge? ”

    According to http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/13/fashion/weddings/13mcardle.html?adxnnl=1&adxnnlx=1354820537-H34BBr+viLeOpEwCR5ATqw

    They were married in June, 2010. Plenty of time to do their duty to the human race.

    And if they were not married, or had married too recently, that’s still not an excuse, because she should have married earlier, again, to start doing her duty.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  120. Janis Gore says:

    One of the things that brought me under control for my mother at the A &P , was that the A&P put together a workbook of animals. There were blank spaces for the sticker of the animal, set against a block description of the animal.

    In 1960 something, I was learning about brontosauruses and such.

    Something like the varied quarters of the US project.

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  121. Janis Gore says:

    All kids love dinosaurs.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  122. superdestroyer says:

    @wr:

    Berkeley and Cambridge are suburbs of larger areas. In addition, the public schools in Berkeley are less than 37% white. My guess is that most whites in Berkeley send their children to private schools or the faculty at Berkeley either do not have children or live elsewhere.

    The Cambridge Mass public schools are also only 37% white. Once again, most of the faculty at Harvard and MIT have their children in private schools (considering that 1/3 of the children in Boston attend private schools) or live in whiter suburbs.

    The public schools near Athens is less than 20% white. I doubt if any of the professors at the University of Georgia send their own children to the public schools.

    I have always suspected that when most people talk about college towns what they are really talking about is very white cities like Boulder Colorado, Madison Wisconsin; or Burlington, VT.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  123. Bob2 says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Please, this is a woman who recently wrote:

    “Recessions are also a time when employers don’t necessarily have a lot of profits to give up. Walmart’s $446 billion of revenue last year was eye-popping, but its profit margins are far from fat–between 3% to 3.5%. If they cut that down by a percentage point–about what retailers like Costco and Macy’s have been bringing in–that would give each Walmart employee about $2850 a year, which is substantial but far from life-changing. Further wage improvements would have to come out of the pockets of Walmart’s extremely price conscious shoppers. Which might be difficult, given how many product categories Amazon is pushing into. ”

    I wonder if $2850 a year would let people afford a child.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  124. Yo mama says:

    I have four kids, ages 8 and under, and my career is dead. Deeeeead. It’s probably never coming back. Childcare is more expensive than my wages would be. My brain is dead too, and my marriage a driedout husk of its former lovely juicy self. Can I afford a divorce? noooo.

    Did I mention my career is dead?

    At least the little devils are cute.

    Don’t do it unless you heard the call. Then check yer meds.

    I kid! I think in 20 yrs I’ll be glad I did it, but I shall expect one of these ungrateful twerps to put me up in my old age. :D

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  125. niamh says:

    i think the same as da uver peeps

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