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The childfree movement is a grassroots social movement advocating voluntary childlessness or childfreedom. People who are childless by choice are given the adjective childfree. The movement was started in the 1970s. Two of the most notable childfree organizations that were established during the 1970s were the National Organization for Non-Parents and No Kidding!
The childfree movement is becoming increasingly popular. This phenomenon is likely linked to falling birth rates worldwide, thanks to rising standards of living, greater access to contraceptives, and improved educational and economical opportunities. Falling fertility rates can thus be considered a sign of success; the more advanced of economies such as most of Europe tends to have lower fertility rates. The global average fertility rate in 1950 was 4.7 but dropped to 2.4 in 2017.[note 1] Even though it may sound like a recent trend, the word 'childfree' first appeared in 1901, if not earlier. However, portrayals of parenthood with a health dose of reality in the mass media is a very recent phenomenon.
- 1 Reasons to be childfree
- 2 Reproductive laws in some countries
- 3 Organizations
- 4 Critics
- 5 See also
- 6 External links
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
Reasons to be childfree
The international childfree movement does not share any unified political view, but many political ideologies associated with childfree interests are increasingly becoming associated with the movement. The arguments for childfreedom are classified into the following categories:
Arguments from (potential) parents' point of view
- People have a responsibility toward the environment. Thus to prevent overpopulation and other anthropogenic environmental problems — such as global climate change, rising sea levels, and oceanic acidification to name but a few — they should choose not to have children. Having one fewer child reduces one's carbon dioxide emissions significantly, a lot more than, say, owning a car with improved fuel economy, replacing incandescent light bulbs with more energy efficient models, avoiding air travel, practicing comprehensive recycling, or adopting a meat-free diet.
- People have the right to choose whether or not to have children. That choice does not lie with the government or society.
- A child may violate a couple's right to privacy.
- Pregnancy and childbirth disrupt a person's career. Many feminists support birth control partially for this reason.
- Pregnancy and childbirth are physically dangerous, and have lasting effects on a women's health. In particular, research suggests a causal link between gravidity and accelerated cellular aging, because energy is diverted from somatic maintenance to reproductive efforts.
- Pregnancy and childbirth bring about substantial neurobiological changes that can be unsettling and confusing, leading to postpartum depression, and feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, among other things. Men can also suffer from postpartum depression. [note 2]
- Working parents' second shift begins when they get home to young children.
- Sleep deprivation opens a floodgate to all sorts of health issues.[note 3]
- When children grow up, they may become a disappointment to their parents.[note 4]
- Parenthood is the graveyard of friendships.
- Parents can become less empathetic towards non-family members.[note 5] This helps explain why non-parents are more likely to be involved in their communities.
- The "joy" of children notwithstanding, the cost of raising children in a developed economy such as Australia or the United States is higher than some may realize.
Arguments that a child may be harmed merely by its own birth
- If a parent is financially unstable or have low-income, or if they are mentally ill this may cause misery for the child. Since the child has nothing to do with the financial breakdown of the couple, it is unethical to give birth to a child only to cause it misery.
- A slightly more broad version of the above argument goes that to live is, by definition, to suffer, and so to have children is merely to perpetuate suffering.
- If a parent has a genetic disorder, the child may inherit it.
- Misery loves company.[note 6]
- People have a responsibility to help those already here. Having biological children deprives people from helping them fully due to the extra burden of child-rearing and further draining resources to aid them.
- Childbirth is an act of selfishness that only serves to boost people's ego and/or is done solely as a means to benefit those who birth them.
- It is immoral to birth children into broken and/or unfree societies that will coerce them to obey and shall be exploited unfairly as long as such societies are thus maintained.
- Antinatalism is a philosophy which holds that giving birth to a child is a negative value, thus it is immoral to have a child for a specific or multiple reasons which includes reasons given above and below. In fact, technically speaking, the refusal to birth children at all is antinatalist meaning the childfree movement itself is an offshoot of this philosophy.
- Anyone who believes in an eternal Hell should surely realize how inexcusably reckless and immoral it is to bring into existence a being who has even the slightest chance of ending up there. Curiously, this conclusion is lost on many religious people.
- A common argument in favour of procreation is that a potential child could go onto to do great deeds such as to save other people's lives or even to cure diseases or end world hunger. However, this argument could just as easily be turned on its head; the potential child could just as easily become a paedophile, a rapist, a mass murderer or even the next Hitler.
- There is much more to life than reproduction. There is simply no need to reproduce in order to enjoy life.[note 7]
Children are dirty lazy parasites.
For anyone who agrees with at least some the above, it is likely that children, adopted and biological, are unfit for them. Expecting or encouraging them to have children is about as logical as asking Tom for advice on mouse-catching. It is a waste of everybody's time.
Reproductive laws in some countries
Laws that explicitly or effectively require individuals to procreate (e.g., laws permitting marital rape) are generally frowned upon as violating civil rights. Certainly many adults would be found in violation of such laws, whether they be perpetual virgins, confirmed bachelors, homosexuals, developmentally-disabled (where an individual wouldn't be physically or mentally capable of taking care of a child) or infertile. Still, certain places have imposed taxes on childlessness, such as the former Soviet Union and awards for big families, such as modern Russia.
Many countries have taken very pro-natalist polices going further than soft penalization. This is done usually by enacting very strict abortion laws to compel women to give birth even if they've no desire to have children. Ireland is a prime example of such a country. Their anti-abortion stance comes mainly from immense pressure emanating from the Roman Catholic Church who still exercise a very strong influence on Ireland's government. As such, the government maintains very strict abortion laws with anyone caught getting being heavily penalized unless it is absolutely required to save women's lives. Such restrictions have resulted in ire from the childfree and those in the pro-choice movement. They argue such laws making childbirth compulsory is not only legalized coercion to drive people into having children but it encourages pregnant woman to "back alley" abortions. The latter often results in very unsafe venues that result in injury or even death. However, as of 2018, Irish voters overwhelmingly favored repealing the ban on abortions.
Meanwhile, some countries have introduced policies to curb population growth. China's one-child policy is one of the most prominent examples of legal limits on reproduction. Examples of total anti-natalist policies include forced sterilization mothers who have already had children in order to meet family planning targets. The one-child policy, recently rescinded, prevented the already high population of China becoming much worse, putting a severe burden on social programs and infrastructure.
There are several childfree organizations throughout the world. No Kidding! is a prominent international organization, active in New Zealand, Canada, and the United States. Its membership grew after it launched a website in the 1990s.
Given the growing popularity of the decision to not have children, a number of critics, especially pro-life advocates, have begun slinging stones in response. These individuals often include, unsurprisingly, mostly right leaning people who are often militant in believing humans have an obligation to have children. Often this is due to religious reasons, economic motivations, support of keeping political systems intact or just plain ignorance.
Examples of more eyebrow raising reasons opposed to not having children include that there's a plot to depopulate the planet of people of a certain ethnic ancestry, a diabolical government plan to depopulate the human race or that there is no inherent right to not have children and that, if need be, people should be strongarmed and/or forced to have children.
The following people are notable opponents of the childfree movement each representing the three main vocal critics of the childfree movement: economists, the religious and, of course, the conspiracy theorists.
Bryan Caplan (an economist)
The best representative of economists who oppose people opting out of children is Bryan Caplan: an anarcho-capitalist, adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute and economics professor at George Mason University (three huge warning signs). He has taken notable umbrage at the childfree, and wrote a big book with a lengthy title: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think. The book attempts to counter-argue points made by the childfree. It's become something of a Bible used by militant, capitalism-loving pro-natalists like himself to justify their selfish behavior in having children too. Though it's hard to understand why when Caplan capitulates right off the bat by saying that arguing against reasons against having children is "as productive as nagging a brick wall."
To save people some reading and brain cells, the following are the summarized main arguments he covers coupled with equally summed-up counter-rebuttals:
- Don't want kids? Have them anyway.
- Hate kids? Have them anyway.
- Don't have any urge to be a parent? Have them anyway.
- Too busy to have kids? Have them anyway.
- Don't have the money to take care of children? Have them anyway.
- Don't agree with any of my obviously faultless reasons to have kids? Go fuck yourself. (Metaphorically of course. If you must fuck, do it with somebody of the opposite sex, and without the use of birth control.)
As you can see, the book largely waves off arguments against having children which clearly have merit for some.
Caplan goes further in trying to put a little cherry on top of his mostly horrible arguments by trying to win over readers with a scheme he claims will allow people to have more children for less money and worry. The scheme is nothing more than your typical financial form of snake oil. The reality is that it will still cost lots of money to have kids and that will come with its share of unavoidable burden and worry.
Of course, being your standard right-libertarian economist, Caplan doesn't bother one sizable problem with having children: Earth's ecology. He spends a measly single chapter covering the negative repercussions that procreation has on Earth's stability, and largely waves it off.
One specific problem he doesn't devote much time to in the chapter is, of course, overpopulation: a major factor that's long been empirically why the planet is going to pot. Plus it's not rocket science that the bigger a population of animals, the more environmental problems.
This is explainable as Caplan already devoted much of his energy to discussing overpopulation before the book's publication. He did so in an online article for the Cato Institute. Needless to say it torpedoes Caplan's credibility for giving sound parental advice saying that the overpopulation can be fixed... by having more children to benefit the economy.[note 8] One word immediately springs to mind in describing the soundness of that plan.
There is a bonus elephant in the room that makes it hard to take Caplan seriously and that is his claim to be an anarchist. He has stated on numerous times he wants to shrink and inevitably eliminate the government. However, in the book, his arguments actually support and require the existence of government. One notable example is in the chapter where Caplan tries to offer solutions to negative environmental effects resulting from too many children. His solution: that a carbon tax should be instituted and enforced.
No, you didn't just imagine that: Caplan is an anarcho-capitalist who believes that it's okay for the government to tax people. The right-libertarian double standard strikes once more.
As if that's not enough, there's the question of why he wants people to have more children considering his position as an anarchist. After all, his idealistic anarcho-capitalist society hasn't been established yet. Birthing children at the moment will keep the government alive with more people to support it and will result in it growing even larger in size to accommodate its expanding population.
In fact, considering he's had children who will be made prop it up, it's obvious Caplan isn't quite hateful of the government as he appears to be if he's happy to birth more people into it.
So way to go and fight statism by providing more exploitable people to help keep it going, Caplan!
Mike Huckabee (religious fundamentalist)
Mike Huckabee, with his talent for making new friends, showed dislike with the childfree movement during a panel on Fox News on August 2013 regarding a recent featured article in Time Magazine about it. A shame too because the first sentence he reportedly made about it seemed like he was going to make a good point.
“”Well of course you can [have a good life without children], and I recognize it for some people that's maybe the best decision. Especially for people, ugh, maybe who write articles like this. It's a good thing they didn't have kids, seriously. But on the other side, I don't want it ever get to the point where we diminish the idea of not only creating the next generation, but training them to be our replacements, which is the highest particular calling that I think that we have as human beings, is to create an ongoing process of humanity and then to train it to be better than we are.
Huckabee, despite obviously trying hard not to let slip his true reasons why he feels people have an obligation to have children, let the cat out of the bag when fellow panelist Alisyn Camerota jokingly referred indirectly to Genesis 9:7 in saying Huckabee should go forth and multiply. Huckabee responded saying " I will do... yeah, I've already done it."
Here's the Bible verse in question as taken from the King James Version when God famously addressed Noah after the Great Flood:
“”And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein.
Huckabee's answer is tell-tale evidence he holds to the standard Christian fundamentalist view that it is an imperative people have children. Of course, had he and his fellow believers actually read the Bible from page to page they'd no doubt know Jesus Christ, in response to the subject of divorced, mentions, among other kinds of folk, that he was fine with people choosing not to have children specifically to better practice their faith.
As Matthew 19:12 of King James version puts it:
“”For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it [the word of God], let him receive it.
You read that right, Jesus, the most important figure in the creation of Christianity, said it was perfectly okay for people not to have children. In fact the Bible has no mention of Jesus ever having children during his life. This would make him childfree: an irony Christians like Huckabee are totally neglectful to realize.
Of course, as he himself said that it's okay not to have children, not only is he off the hook but others would be also. If there was a command ever given by God, which is very slim to none, Jesus nullified it.
Jesus didn't just stop there either. Take later on in Matthew 24:19 for instance regarding how bad the future will fare for people living in the city of Jerusalem and who choose to have children:
“”But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.
That verse isn't just a one-shot sentence from Jesus either but repeated word for word in Mark 13:17 and Luke 21:23. If Jesus is believed to have said these things then it's mind-boggling how theists like Huckabee don't bat an eye at how obviously problematic their figurehead established birth to be.
There's even quite a few non-Jesus verses that also exist too such as this great icebreaker from Job 3:3:
“”Let the day perish wherein I was born, and the night in which it was said, There is a man child conceived.
Or how about this one from Jeremiah 20:14-18:
“”Cursed be the day on which I was born: let not the day on which my mother bore me be blessed. Cursed be the man...because he slew me not from the womb; so that my mother might have been my grave and her womb always great. Why did I come out of the womb to see labour and sorrow?
There's a few others but you get the point. That point is that if you're going to claim to be a believer of the Christian Bible, actually do a better job of understanding it in regards to having children. Because, as shown, there's no obligation to have any according to it.
Plus if childbirth is so great, why would the Bible host all manner of lines showing tremendous skepticism of that behavior? Just something to think about there.
Alex Jones (a conspiracy theorist)
Alex Jones has said that people have an obligation to have children, citing its importance in
populating his ideal theocratic society the ongoing fight with the evil NWO[note 9]. He has taken very rude shots at the childfree movement, calling people who refuse to have children control freaks for criticizing people like him for having too many (because, of course, it is not at all controlling of him to say people have an obligation to have children.) He furthermore considers it a cult.
As to the widespread overpopulation that idea will obviously cause, Alex justifies it saying overpopulation is a myth to help to carry out a massive plot by governments to enact a depopulation plot.
The most memorable moment Jones took on the childfree movement came during an interview with libertarian comedian Doug Stanhope. Stanhope, being vehemently childfree himself, has advocated people not to have children at all though has reluctantly said he'll tolerate people giving birth to two at most. Besides justifying his refusal to have children due to his intense dislike of them, Stanhope states not having children will help to curb overpopulation and thus better curb global warming. Unlike many other libertarians, Stanhope admits that both are huge problems that must be dealt with..
During the aforementioned interview, Jones deflected or ignored the counter-arguments and facts Stanhope gave, and instead opted to rudely demean Stanhope's decision to not procreate, saying that if he felt that way, he ought to kill himself. Stanhope stood his ground and refuse to relent. As the interview came to a close, Alex, in a very rare confession, admitted that his negative attitude towards Stanhope's positions is driven by his Christianity, which Stanhope should give his life over to. Stanhope, an atheist, declined, although he was visibly amused at Alex's surprise attempt to convert him.
- 1 Corinthians 7:8
- Voluntary Human Extinction Movement
- Essay:Believers in Hell should not procreate, and should embrace antinatalism
Books and Information
- A collection of books on being childfree
- Benatar, David. Better Never to Have Been : The Harm of Coming into Existence. Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-199-54926-9.
- Top 10 Most Populous City Ranking (1950-2035)
- Adventures of an Antinatalist by Glynos
- I-didn't-reproduce Day. A segment by Bill Maher.
- I don't want children — stop telling me I'll change my mind. TED talk by Christen Reighter.
Fun and memes
- No Kidding! No, really!
- here if you want to hear or share experiences or seek support.
- Things childfree people keep getting told. And things on their minds when confronted about pregnancies and children.
- Note, however, that this average masks the huge variation between countries. Niger has the world's highest fertility rate at 7.1 while Taiwan has one of the lowest at 1.0.
- Society tends to be pro-natal and naturally fails to properly educate people on the potentially undesirable aspects of parenthood. It's all about the joys, not the emotional upheavals.
- Your mother is right. Go to bed early!
- Please use your knowledge of history and your imagination.
- And they told me childfree people are selfish. Ha!
- "See what the years have done. He looks boyish, unlined and rested. She is slim, well-groomed and youthful. It isn’t natural. If they had kids, they’d look like the rest of us — tired, gray, wrinkled and haggard. In other words, normal."
- Illustrative graphics.
- It's easy to know why, knowing that Cato supports child labor. One guesses too there'd be a free market to buy and sell children (just ask the fellows at Mises).
- Of course he does not address that the NWO would want that extra manpower too... never mind.
- 'Remarkable' decline in fertility rates. BBC News. November 9, 2018.
- Child-free. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.
- How Cinema Embraced the Silent Agony of Being A Parent. The Guardian. July 26, 2018.
- Should We Be Having Kids In The Age Of Climate Change?. NPR. August 18, 2016.
- Having children is one of the most destructive things you can to do the environment, say researchers. The Independent. July 12, 2017.
- Reproduction predicts shorter telomeres and epigenetic age acceleration among young adult women. Nature. July 23, 2018.
- Motherhood brings the most dramatic brain changes of a woman’s life. Boston Globe. July 17th, 2018.
- Postnatal Depression: Fathers Can Suffer Similar Issues to Women, Say Experts. The Guardian. August 9, 2018.
- Sleep Scientist Warns Against Walking Through Life In An Underslept State. NPR. July 20, 2018.
- The Hidden Cost of Motherhood. The Sydney Morning Herald. April 16th, 2018.
- Having Kids Can Make Parents Less Empathetic. The Atlantic. November 18, 2015.
- . AMP Limited. April 4, 2018.
- . CNN Money. January 9, 2017.
- Ireland Votes Resoundingly To Repeal Abortion Ban. CNN. May 26, 2018.
- Don't believe that last bit? This Reddit user shows that there are people who are fine with forcing people to be baby factories.
- Here's an excerpt of the introduction from the official page if you have the stamina to endure such tripe
- He said all of that in this edition of Infowars Nightly News
- Part 1 of Doug Stanhope interview
- Part 2 of Doug Stanhope interview
- Part 3 of Doug Stanhope interview
- Part 4 of Doug Stanhope interview
- Part 5 of Doug Stanhope interview and where Jones admits his religious bias