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The Baby Boon by Elinor Burkett

The spirit I, that endlessly denies

all that comes to birth

is fit as nothing worth

the world is better sterilized



Public policy is a tough place to find well-reasoned arguments. Pundits start with conclusions, search for supporting evidence, then ignore counterarguments that would demolish the conclusions.


Baby Boon delivers many non-fallacies—the publisher, the copyright date, the author’s name. Elinor Burkett argues the United States of America engages in an unmitigated rip-off of the childfree. Attempting to prove her argument, Burkett assembled an impressive variety of small samples (anecdotes), bad statistics, ad hominem attacks, straw person attacks, emotive blather, false cause claims and false denial of cause claims.


Burkett writes that “a nonparent earning as little as $10,000 a year receives a maximum Earned Income Tax Credit of $341—while an adult with a single child in that same income bracket can claim up to $2,210.”


First, Burkett thinks this is discrimination. Children do not count as human to her (unless their parents are on welfare). Children are, according to her, consumer toys. The moral benefit of $2,210 to a two individual working poor family is much greater $341 than to a single adult. Even with the credit, a two-person family earning$12,210 will be in far worse economic shape than a single individual earning $10,341. The number of individuals in a family makes a huge, relevant moral and economic difference. (Burkett does not mention any of the numerous economic advantages enjoyed by the childfree such as the fact that the childfree easily spit apartment rent with other singles.)


Second, I have no idea where these brackets came from. I looked at the Earned Income Tax Credit tables for the past four years and could not find the brackets Burkett reports. Must be special Burkett brackets.


In reality, for the past few decades, the United States quietly and often inadvertently operated on the theory that justice is a matter of balancing the claims of the wealthy, the childfree and the government connected. Duties to children belong to parents. The benefits from children, allegedly, belong to the republic, the rich, and the childfree.


Baby Boon implies that justice balances the claims of the childfree with the rights of the adult wards of the state—”equality with need” is her glittering phrase—but the wards of the state are a rhetorical tool for Burkett. Her policies would not benefit the needy. Adults do not need dependency and bad norms.


Three main elements comprise Burkett’s version of “justice”: The first is a biased, selective application of equal pay for equal work, more accurately, equal pay for labor force work and big pay for the childfree for less work outside the labor force. The second element: Emotivism. Burkett repeatedly mentions the intuitive feelings of resentment held by the childfree, as if those feelings were a great truth teller. Humans, however, have a long, ugly history of directing resentment at the wrong targets. Third, a deontological rule, or rather buzzword—”need”—plays a role.


Parents lack rights, and the rights of the childfree can not be outweighed--or so it appears. Burkett replaces explicit moral absolutism with rights absolutism--a clever form of moral absolutism.


Any theory of justice that denies the fact that the existence of children creates legitimate distinctions among families denies the full humanity of children. Like multitudes of savages in high places, Burkett hides the truth about her vision behind vague pro-freedom, pro-democracy, anti-racism, equality rhetoric.


Most of the statistics in Baby Boon are false, misleading, irrelevant, small samples, or unrepresentative samples. Burkett writes that “one in ten of the nation’s children [is] being fed on thirty-five cents per day,” the most obviously false statistic I have seen in weeks. Thirty-five cents does not buy one 400 calorie can of beans. At least ten percent of the nation's children are starving?


Judging from the credits, a large number of individuals helped Burkett with Baby Boon. Did any of the advisers question Burkett’s premises? Did they make suggestions but were overruled on the grounds that trickery is good because it helps the cause?


Another Burkett gem: “They have watched President William Jefferson Clinton and his Republican Congress forge the most massive redistribution of wealth since the war on poverty[.]” What, pray tell, is that: “a massive middle-class tax break totaling more than $5 billion a year.”


First, somebody should tell Ms. Burkett the size of the economy. Five billion dollars is not “massive.” Five billion dollars is about 0.05 percent of GDP. The five billion dollar “monster” works out to a mean of about 70 dollars per child. (Most children will not get that much.) I am beginning wonder whether no more than one in 10,000,000 individuals have an accurate macro view of what happens in the world.


Second, hundreds of policies redistributed far more wealth, many of them destructive “social engineering” that favored the rich and childfree. Tax shifts over the past fifty years redistributed trillions to the childfree. Plutoment support for various cartels and oligopolies redistributed tens of trillions. The Clintonian tokenism does not add up to a few percent of the dozens of childfree friendly policies of the past two generations.


Third, a quick calculation in my head--I don't have a napkin--tells me that Clinton's redistribution must be at least two to three times five billion dollars. I have no idea where Burkett got the five billion number.


Small samples? Let’s see: Cheryl, Anna, Susan, Steve, Sandy, Erin, John, Alicia, a suburban couple from Boston and on and on ad pukenum. Burkett writes, “Leaving no room for the young women to dismiss her as anomalous, Purnick punctuated her remarks with the stories of friends and colleagues[.]” Wow, friends and colleagues! No room there at all. Let's defend all research and ask friends and colleagues.


Burkett’s version of American parents and children owes much to confirmation and availability biases.


In a world where trillions of dollars and billions of lives end up in wrong places, Burkett acts as if a few anecdotes about shirking parents were the most important argument in the world.


Here is what the Burkett universe looks like for hypothetical persons A through G:


A: Childfree adult at Corporation X, works 2000 hours a year, earns $55,000, will collect $500,000 in retirement benefits courtesy of other peoples’ children. Conclusion: Victim of inequality and persons B and D.


B: Parent at Corporation X, works 1975 hours a year, misses 25 unpaid hours of work to care for children, works over a thousand more hours at home, earns $41,000 (income less than A because she in on a “mommy track” or lacks seniority due to years spent in child care). Conclusion: Racist, fascist, sexist, greedy, inegalitarian shirker.


C: Clerk at store Y who does not pay child support for his many noncustodial children. Total income: $16,000 a year, lives with parents, drives bitchin’ new Camaro, will collect $250,000 in future retirement benefits courtesy of other peoples’ children. Conclusion: Victim of inequality and persons B and D.


D: Parent with two children, clerk at store Y, Total income: $18,000 a year, misses two unpaid days to care for children, works over a thousand more hours at home, earns more than person C because of earned income tax credit, lives in terrible neighborhood that adopted norms of cynicism, D’s kids go to terrible schools. Conclusion: Racism, sexism, fascism, inegalitarianism.


E: Childfree 57-year-old retired CEO, owns island in Caribbean, collects $248 million in tax sheltered retirement benefits provided by other people’s children. Conclusion: Victim of B and D and of colicky baby who crossed his path on his way to Bloomindales.


F: Childfree Yogi on mountain top chanting the word equality the way other Yogis chant nonsense syllables. Conclusion: Source of wisdom.


G: Childfree instructor at Slug Brain University, teaches other childfree adults false ideas about reason, morality and justice. Conclusion: Ready for canonization.


Burkett has it backward. It is time we stopped paying the childfree for not having children.


Burkett makes much of how parents chose their circumstances, but the childfree are never faulted for choices, especially cockamamie resentment and inter-generational class warfare. You can almost picture tears of rage dripping from Burkett's chins.


These childfree folks have no problem with being paid twice as much based on seniority or collecting trillions in retirement benefits. If you get paid twice as much and get twice as much vacation for the same work, that is called seniority. If a parent misses an hour of work, that is an “injustice.” If Burkett is right about the the childfree being so bitter and resentful over so little, maybe childfree management might discriminate against parents when it comes time for promotions?


Burkett's melodrama of “insidious dangers,” “childhood apartheid,” and “the dangers of a society that promotes any one lifestyle, of exalting and rewarding one set of personal inclinations and decisions above all others” fails. She, of course, fails to notice that much of the rewarding of lifestyles goes toward the childfree. What a terrible thing it would be for the government to reward contribution and good actions and not reward destructive actions.


According to Burkett, the straw person claims of parents and children align with "Marxists," "socialists," "sexists," "racists," "heterocentrists," "Orwellians," "tyrants," and "neoconservatives." Never mind that Burkett's vision of equality mixes Marxism, neoconservatism and libertarianism. It is no surprise that Boon received praise from liberals, Republicans (Florence King), and libertarians (Virginia Postrel) alike. It tells you something about neoconservatism and libertarianism that they prefer Marxism, antimeritarianism, and anticonsequentialism over the market feminism of Shirley Burgraff.


It will fascinate to see how this childfree movement plays out. The childfree have most American political parties on their side, and they have for over a generation. Most anti-child ideologies do not write explicit anti-family diatribes. Instead, they quietly pursue adult self-interest.


Burkett claims Frank Wolf wanted “to increase the dependent deduction to $3,500, although only for children. For some reason he chose not to articulate, adults would have remained at just $2,050.” Let me try one charitable guess: Perhaps because adults in addition get the standard deduction, $4,300 for singles, $6,350 for heads of households and $7,200 for married filing jointly in 1999. The standard deduction for children is zip, zero, zilch. The standard deduction should be called the Childfree Cohabitating Adult Tax Relief Act. So much for "equality." (Standard deductions, personal exemptions and dependant deductions are bad policy, but that is another story.)


Boon’s straw person attacks would includes, “solve all our problems.” I have never heard anyone claim something would solve all our problems, yet the phrase persists. Often Burkett serves up a puff-ball position, then rails against the contradictions within the straw person, including the “have it all” distortion.


Token pro-child measures politicians trumpet merely to gain votes are “proposals and policies that violate every democratic principle fought for over the past two centuries[.]” If a country passes hundreds of policies that take from working parents, and one policy that rewards parents, few notice the policies that take from parents, but the Burketts notice the policy that gives to parents, calling it pandering.


While this work has anecdotes-a-plenty of parents who cheat others, where are the questions that matter? Merit? Consequences? Median incomes? Disposable incomes? Consumption patterns? How much do the childfree gain from parental investments? How much do parents gain from the investments of the childfree? How much should the creation of a new human and benefit to that human count? How are low income individuals doing? Burkett employs a common pattern: Support trivial claims with statistics (albeit bad statistics), then deliver broad, major conclusions with no statistical support.


The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that between 1973 and 1990 (the last year I could find figures) the median annual earnings of heads of young families with children declined 44 percent, a drop from $22,981 to $12,832 in 1990 dollars. Teen parenting is not the only cause. Seventy percent of under 30 families with children have a head of household age 25-29. Only three percent are headed by teens, with 27 percent headed by 20 to 24-year-olds. Amazingly, the Census Bureau reports that the median income of single householder men with minor children declined from $33,000 in 1976 to $23,000 in 1993 (the last year I found figures) in 1994 dollars. The Children’s Defense Fund notes: "Among the youngest households with children--those headed by someone younger than 25--fully 30 percent paid more than half their income for housing in 1993--three times the comparable proportion in 1973."


The median family income of families with minor children is $4,000 less than families without minor children despite the facts that families with minor children have twice as many individuals (a mean of four verses two) and work far more hours in the paid and unpaid work forces. Couples without minor children are by far the wealthiest family group in America, possessing a mean disposable income six times the mean disposable income of families with children.


I wonder why Burkett did not mention any of this? Why do the childfree need to organize? Too speed up the ripoff?


Burkett spends considerable space excoriating the middle classes, not unexpected from a mixture of neo-Marxism and libertarianism. Left and right agree that the middle classes are for milking and tricking.


Burkett contrasts the plight of poor children with children who have excess junk, as if children should be blamed for adult spending--funny how the media contrast poor children with rich children. The media rarely contrast poor children with adults enjoying luxuries.


According to Burkett, policies that benefit children are “social engineering” while engineering that benefits the childfree are what rights and democracy are about. Pundits did not call it social engineering, however, when they decided that parents and children were responsible for the public and private retirements of the childfree. They did not call it social engineering when the plutoment jacked up taxes on working class families with children. They did not call it social engineering when competent adults married and they both received health insurance from one of the adult’s employers. But children, who cannot fend for them selves, do not get health insurance if their parents lack health insurance. They did not call it social engineering when individuals with more seniority earned extra pay for doing the same exact job. Not coincidently, those with the least seniority are disproportionately workers with young children.


 They do not call leaving future generations with trillions in debts social engineering. They do not call it social engineering when civilization is designed around the subsidization of adult hedonism.


Most policies are “social engineering.” A big question is whether policies are beneficial or harmful and why.


Burkett attempts a history lesson and a fallacious appeal to tradition by arguing that pro-child practices are a recent invention that, apparently, violate the "natural" order. Burkett informs us that parents in the past were primarily worried about family name and tradition. I have a hard time believing individuals whose entire livelihood could be washed away in a storm or wiped out by a fungus thought most about tradition and family name.


The only era I can think of that had few family policies were the early years of The Great Depression. Prior to the 1930s, children contributed work to families and provided for elderly parents. As Herbert Hoover receded from view, Social Security and poorly targeted family policies appeared.


For decades, politicians adopted policies that made families with minor children pay more while saying we were doing something else, then the childfree react with shock and anger when anyone has the temerity to suggest that parents and children should get a better deal, as if it were a violation of the law of universal gravitation.


Like conservatives constantly telling us how much better off the nonrich are now than the nonrich were in the past, she tells us how much better off children are now than children in the past. And like conservatives who forget to tell us how much better off the rich are now than in the past, she somehow forgets to tell us how much better off the childfree are now than in past. The general improvement of children’s health over the past century is no good argument the childfree are cheated. The health of almost all demographic groups improved.


Do not look for good definitions in Burkett's work. Burkett asserts that since disagreements exist, definitions serve no point. And since child related policies create controversies, no point exists for them either, except, of course, policies that harm children and benefit the childfree. Goodness, apparently, exists in a place without "controversy." Reduce malnutrition? Sorry. Too controversial.


It remains nearly impossible to eliminate child policies. Seemingly neutral policies have effects on families.


Burkett sees parents as both a tyrannous majority and an anti-democratic minority menace--contradiction radar be damned.


For the record, families with minor children form a minority of households. According to the 1998 General Social Survey, 38 percent of households have minor children. Married couples with minor children make up 26 percent of households.


Parents' rights equal greed, leading to a dystopian hell, or so says Burkett. The rights of the childfree equal absolute rules that can not be outweighed. Burkett derides parents, who for some strange reason suggest that they might possess rights, for taking “refuge in the final rhetorical device left to them.” That's some serious comedy right there, Burkett talking about rhetorical devices. Burkett claims to favor merit, but denigrates “desert” when her straw person parents use it to mean the same thing.


Burkett claims the pro-child experts stifled dissent. Her stifling dissent claim is about as believable as someone claiming the American Medical Association will be overthrown by tree surgeons, a most remarkable stifling, since I almost never see the pro-child experts in mass media. I saw an article on Shirley Burgraff once in U.S. News and World Report, and that is about it. One copy of The War Against Parents (not a good book) sits at my local bookstore, albeit relegated to the parenting technique section. The political affairs section is loaded with stealth, anti-parent, anti-child “experts” from neoclassical economists to postmodern sociologists.


Family policy is simply too boring for the stoned free. I am pretty sure you will not find the thoughtful True Security at your local bookstore. One pleasant thing about visiting college libraries and browsing the child policy section: I can be fairly certain the library’s entire collection is on the shelves. The books are almost never checked out.


Apparently, “stifling” is the condition that exists when neoconservatives, liberals, and libertarians have not been able to control almost all the limelight and alternatives break through.


Why should a working family with minor children, with an income below the median pay huge chunks of their income to wealthy, childfree retirees? Burkett has no answer.


In another humorous turn, Burkett puts the ad hominem “breeders” in quotations. I do not know why. She felt perfectly free to engage in numerous ad hominem attacks. But Burkett assures us that “[n]o sane person would risk being branded a kid-hater in modern America,” a claim that is either false or unflattering to Burkett's mental health--or both. The ad hominem spewing Burkett also decides the neutral term childless is a slur, and suggests it be replaced with childfree, which is fine with me.


Bogged down in one fallacy after another, it took me over 20 hours to read this travesty. Worse, unlike many books loaded with fallacies, few good points give these arguments strength.


Burkett attempts a consumer choice argument: You had a child. You are completely responsible for it. Parents are completely responsible for children until 18, then after 18 the childfree, the state and the rich become magically entitled to wealth produced by children.


Burkett has it backwards. As Wolf George and others note, without the labor and wealth someday produced by children and the unborn, all the paper and electronic wealth held by older Americans in public and private investments and retirement programs would be worth less than what is in a recycle bin. They are gentle peoples’ agreements to deliver benefits to themselves, provided by those who lack seniority and political power. The ultimate source of retirement labor and income is other peoples’ children. Some adult children may wonder why they are coerced into sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to childfree retirees who chose to invest in IRAs, cruises, and BMWs while their own parents invested in them and may struggle to make ends meet.


Balancing “equality with need” is not a just philosophy of justice. Here is one problem: An infinite number of types of equality exist. Again, the questions to ask when claims of need and equality are thrown around: Who benefits, who is harmed and why?


Equality is arbitrary, with many to choose from. On tax policy alone you can choose:

·        equal percentage tax rate

·        equal dollar tax rate

·        equal tax on things you do not buy

·        equal dollar reduction

·        equal percentage reduction

·        equal after tax income

·        equal percentage reduction on the type of tax that I pay, no reduction on other taxes

·        equal percentage up to a specific dollar amount, no tax above that amount

·        equal dollar tax increase

·        equal percentage tax increase

·        equal future return on tax “investment”

·        equal tax subsidies for those within specific situations

·        equal taxes within a generation, unequal taxes among generations

·        equality within a bracket

·        equal tax on work income, no tax on nonwork income.

·        equal consumption taxes

·        equal tax on one group, no tax on another group

·        equal tax on individuals

·        equal tax on households


Which equality is correct? They all can not be correct. Most visions of equality usually mean equality of harm for everyone except the chosen establishments. Much of what some call equality is merely a ruse for harmful and unmerited privileges.


Not surprisingly, Burkett chooses the equalities that benefit the childfree. Strong arguments generally have an abundance of words and phrases such as harm, benefit, right, wrong, duty, rights, opportunity losses, declining marginal utility, negative marginal utility, not preoccupied with arbitrary equalities and promoting the dole. Equality lovers ignore horrible consequences and well-reasoned rules. They ignore legitimate distinctions among individuals and situations. Equality obsessives have a historical record nothing short of horrific.


Burkett is correct about a few things: The work place is not the territory for family policy. (Keeping good parents from getting ripped off is the job of a government.) Expectant mother parking is wrong. Mothers-with-infants to the front of the line is another minor wrong.


But it is all pretty petty. I have never seen expectant mother parking and I never see mothers with infants go to the front of the line. I never see anyone even offer the front of the line to a mother. Burkett thinks American public spaces have become the Goo-goo Archipelago despite the fact that fertility levels declined below replacement levels.


Parents should not shirk work duties to care for children, but Burkett writes as if it were an overwhelming injustice. She offers no numbers to indicate how widespread the practice is. I would be willing to bet that parental shirking to take care of children accounts for less than 0.1 percent of GDP. Taking a contractually entitled sick day to care for a child is not shirking.


While she rails against trivial wrongs committed by parents, she says nothing about the practice of seniority pay, which is widespread and massive, violates equal pay for equal work and has nothing to do with merit.


What rationale exists for seniority pay? To compensate individuals for the great sufferings of middle age? If parents miss an hour of work, that’s a grave injustice to Burkett. But if someone gets paid twice as much solely for seniority, that’s life?


Take her claim “that women with children under the age of twelve were absent almost 25 percent more than women without children at home.” What does that add up to? One or two days per year? Are the absences unpaid? Are they using personal days and other time the childfree could use also? Perhaps the childfree do not use them because they want extra hours?


Given the record Burkett quickly establishes with truth and justice, the explanations she offers as to why companies pursue family policies leave me suspicious. Corporate chiefs are not stupid. I doubt whether paid corporate child care and paid child leave add up to more than a fraction of one percent of the economy. One reason it may exist: Maybe parents are better employees than the childfree, an alternative explanation Burkett does not pursue.


Contrast that with the over 1.3 trillion dollars in benefits delivered to retirees this year courtesy of some parents' children. The flood goes in one direction and wet birds carry water in the other.


Like most pundits, Burkett favors Head Start, and like most pundits she offers no arguments for or against its effectiveness. Head Start has merely become a token test for writers to prove how compassionate and wonderful they are.


While the well-being of low-income children is a major issue, Burkett's argument does not help, merely a means to serve Burkett’s other goals. What does Burkett propose as a remedy for the needy? Nothing beyond more welfare and Head Start. Big surprise.


Let’s think through the consequences of Boon’s vision: To put a big dent in need the Burkett way, you assemble a welfare package, including Medicaid, that spends at least $34,000 per welfare household per year. Since Burkett thinks differences based on behavior and number of individuals per household constitute “discrimination,” $34,000 would be available to every household and homeless adult. The result: Due to the aggravation effect, within a few years, you would have adults by the tens of million sign up for welfare, millions of additional divorces and uncreated marriages, not to mention millions of additional foster children--since you could greatly increase your wealth by having nothing legal to do with your children.


Including indirect costs, costs would reach into the trillions in taxes and lost revenue per year. Total taxes on the remainder of the working classes would jump to at least 60 percent and the rich would do everything in their power to keep their taxes from rising. At this point, millions more working adults would say to hell with being a sucker.


At one point Burkett complains about the number of children on prime time television, in anecdote form, of course. Do children, who represent about a quarter of the population, represent more than a quarter of major prime time characters? What’s so good about being represented on TV anyway? Sounds like equal opportunity destructive escapism to me. Isn't television part of consumer choice that Burkett loves so much?


Burkett also tries to tie the abuse of women in past generations to the issue of treatment of today’s childfree, another irrelevancy that’s great for a laugh.


Burkett excoriates parents, who have an economic interest in the well-being of children, as cruel Orwellians. Burkett does not excoriate the childfree for using children and parents to serve the ends of the childfree. She does not hesitate to describe children as consumption items. The child as toy argument fails for two reasons:

·        Children are human.

·        You have a right to some of the wealth generated by your contributions. If you buy a van and use it to generate money, you have a right to some of that money. As it stands now, working parents pay the costs of children and have few rights to the wealth produced by children.


Though it is irrelevant to issues of free riding, it is worth mentioning that having children is not akin to having a pet or merely filling some unmet want. Children are wondrous beings in themselves. Here are some additional reasons why raising children is fantastic:

·        Benefit to the new human that is created

·        Richer, fuller, more well-rounded human life

·        Enjoyment of giving love

·        Creating a more humane atmosphere.

·        Joy of teaching new people superb ideas.

·        Support economy now and in future.

·        Support retirees.

·        Give individuals goals adding up to more than packing the attic so full of consumer junk that the ceiling breaks.

·        Benefit to family and friends who enjoy children.

·        Pass on the great human ideals so that they may be spread to less fortunate places of the world. If Westerners stop having children, you can kiss the best parts of Western culture, which are unsurpassed anywhere in the world, good-bye.

·        Keeps some adults from seeing themselves as the center of the universe.

·        Keeps some Faustian characters from pursuing worse. goals.

·        Help escape the mind numbingness of mass culture.

·        Give adults a more rounded view of what it means to be human.

·        Develop depth to consciousness that cannot be simulated with pets and electronics.

·        The more good lives, the better.


One poll suggests that seventy-nine percent of Americans get great satisfaction from their children, a higher percentage than from anything else in their lives, though current child-rearing norms severely stress marriages.


What is important about kids and the unborn? What we do affects their futures. Some may consider the future too distant to be worth the bother, but moral facts do not give a crap about the unimaginativeness of the present obsessed. The foreign policies we engage in now affect what sorts of wars today's children will face. The environmental policies we practice affect the world they will inherit.


The minor virtue of Burkett's first chapter is it generally stays close to the childfree issue. The remainder is a rambling jeremiad of irrelevancies. What does child abduction hysteria have to do with the childfree? Child abductions get coverage because they create ratings for news organizations, not because TV viewers care about the future. Does the author want a National Organization of Abducted Childfree Adults to create a media frenzy of equal size? Abduction hysterias may even hurt children because they give citizens the comfortable illusion they are saving the children.


Even higher education cheats the childfree, asserts Burkett. Apparently, the spectacularly obvious fact that almost all college students are adults, most of them childfree, somehow eluded Burkett, who insists they are children and that she contributed greatly to their welfare by serving as a college instructor. I can only shudder when I think of what courses she instructed. (I wonder if someday someone will start an age discrimination suit on behalf of a four-year-old because the government subsidizes the educations of adults up to tens of thousands a year, but offers nothing for the four-year-old.)


Higher education is not a benefit for parents or minor children. It is a benefit for adults, especially university employees. It would be splendid if instead of printing how much money colleges spend per student, colleges printed how much money they spend per tenured employee or cubic meter of construction, which is where the money goes.


Burkett thinks public schools constitute some great benefit lavished to parents by society. It is hard to see how. Public schools benefit interest groups. Public schools are no longer the fertilizer of democracy. The influence of Horace Mann waned. Judging by home schoolers, many parents peg the value of a public education at less than zero. Burkett will have a hard time proving public education benefits parents unless some large contingent of parents out there benefit from miseducated, apathetic or nihilistic children.


She does not mention that almost every citizen, at one time, received free primary and secondary educations. Many educational expenses of the childfree were paid by other peoples’ parents.


Burkett’s strategy bores from within. Whatever the truth, Burkett constantly claims the opposite is the truth. Thus, free choices made by employers are a “Marxist wage system,” yet welfare equals justice found.


Burkett says we should “stop playing the ‘who makes a more valuable contribution to society’ game.” But that asks us to turn off our moral abilities, the best possessions human beings have. The consequences of such an action would only be chaos or totalitarianism. Burkett does not notice that much of her argument implies or explicitly claims that the childfree make a more valuable contribution to society. As someone I cannot remember once quipped, “Demagogues love to ignite tensions in the name of easing them.”


Burkett writes that if you have the temerity to ask a person whether they plan on marrying their friend or whether they plan on having children, it equals “relentless social pressure.” If you upbraid someone for having more than two children, apparently, that is called having a conscience. More people get excoriated for having too many children than criticized for not having children.


The hoopla over Baby Boon has a surreal quality. It is as if demagogues appeared demanding reparations for the descendents of plantation owners for the damage done by the Civil War, then were invited to tea by the punditocracy. Burkett is mistaken when she alleges that “issues are not resolved by reason[.]” But reason has little to do with media success. Media success depends on being a battering ram equipped with buzzwords and absolute rules.


The strongest case that should be made here is that the childfree suffered minor, anecdotal harms, not surprising in a nation with 280 million individuals. Everybody suffers lots of minor, anecdotal harms.

Book review article by J.T. Fournier, last updated July 12, 2009.


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