Graphic Designer and Cardboard Engineer,

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Having children should be like applying for a credit card...

If it were possible to add contraceptives to the water supply, we could prevent births across the globe. If we wanted to have children, we could apply for them, and be means tested for our suitability – our ability to support them. If successful, an anti contraceptive could be made available.

This would surely prevent unwanted births, financial burden and over population. Noone is saying that you can't have children, just that you be able to support them if you do, rather than burdening the state and therefore the tax payer.

I know it's dark territory, but I think we need to explore every avenue for answers to some of these problems before it's too late. Some will inevitably be wrong...

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    Aug 31 2011: Dear Stephen,Definately dark territory. Your idea you say would prevent a few problems:1- Overpopulation: However, overpopulation is also due to the increase in life expectancy as well. So are you also advocating euthanasia when you get to a certain age? This conversation discussed some of your ideas. http://www.ted.com/conversations/39/why_do_so_many_think_that_popu.html2-You seem to have a heavy bent towards financial considerations, applying for a credit card, burden on the state and the tax payer. However looking at some of the mess that economies are in because of bank and state policies I don't think that this system would work or would produce the best parents. Also, particularly in the UK, the system encourages multiple births. Perhaps it is the state that needs to remove such incentives, not just the birth situation of teenage mothers but there are many areas where the state needs to reconsider it's policies. As others have also stated money is not the best criteria to decide on an ideal parent. I have worked with many very rich children, who parents did not pose a burden on the state and easily can support their children but fail to give one thing; time to their children. This can cause huge problems later on. My other thought when reading this, is how do you know if someone would be a good parent or not. Some people come into their own when the child is in their arms. I had a friend who was in an abusive relationship and got pregnant. She put up with so much before the baby was born but then it was no longer about her but the baby as well. She left the relationship, got her life on track and is now a very successful business woman. As well, how do you know that the person who you grant the right to have children too remains your ideal candidate? Life has many twists and turns, and judging people about whether they should or shouldn't have children seems extreme. Life is not that clear cut.
    • Sep 1 2011: Hello Sharon, thats very much for your comments...

      Actually, I do think there is a case for euthanasia, but it should be by choice. Both of my grandmothers died this year, one had a battle with cancer and the other had various health issues and in the end her mind was failing. She was also bedbound for 3 years, which was a struggle for her as she was fiercely independent. She said to me on a number of occasions that she would rather be dead that in the state she was in, and she really meant it. When she finally did die, my other grandmother said that she wished it had been her. Luckily(?) she died shortly afterwards. But both of them suffered terribly at a time in their lives when they simply weren't strong enough mentally and physically to remain positive about it, and my opinion is that they should have been allowed to choose to go when they wanted to.

      I only chose the financial burden as a case, as it felt like the least contentious at the time... people can always get a job and earn money, but it is more difficult to raise your levels of intelligence. I was merely looking for a fast solution to a problem of too many births and too much burden on other people, not the problems associated with bad parenting as such, although the vast majority of crime, at certain levels anyway, such as muggins and robberies etc, is caused by people from these more disadvantaged backgrounds. It seems that it would have an effect, whether it's acceptable or not.

      It's easy to find problems in ideas put forwards Sharon, but how do you think we can solve some of the problems I have put forward? Do you think they are even problems? Is it ethical to produce children, when you lack the means to support them? Is it okay to have children just because you want them? What about the millions of children born into poverty every year? Isn't unchecked population growth making it increasingly harder to solve our other problems? Strained healthcare systems? Hunger? Poverty?
  • Aug 31 2011: for anyone who hasn't seen it yet "Idiocracy" deals with this threat
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    Aug 28 2011: I absolutely LOVE this idea!!! I would love to think we could find a way to hold people responsible for parenting. It is the single most influential factor in a society's health and well-being.

    It won't happen until we evolve more as a society. It has everything to do with a person's individual rights, but maybe not in a way most people think - I think it has to do with the rights of the child. As a matter of fact, the responsibilities of parenting require that individuals actually give up somecof their rights at times for the sake of something/someone much bigger than themselves.
    • Aug 28 2011: couldn't have put it better myself Jim. The rights of the child are the most important factor. I liked what you said before about adoption being so difficult and parenting so easy. Utterly perverse.
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    Aug 27 2011: First of all, I hope you are not talking about one agent (CIA, PETA, GreenPeace, Mosad, PRChina, etc) sneaking contraceptives into the fresh water of the whole world. Second of all, no eugenics, no pseudo-eugenics, no pseudo-pseudo-eugenic, PLEASE.

    It would be simpler and more ethically defensible to begin seriously educating all young girls and women, all over the world. Wherever women have been educated, the birth rate has dropped as they begin to make better decisions for their own lives and futures. Education empowers individuals, strengthens society and improves the world (even if infinitesimally per individual).

    I have not procreated and I definitely will not. However I too feel strongly, given the social and environmental (even survival) implications of bringing children into the world, that some criteria should be used to allow the best prepared (not just bank accounts either) to raise children. It is the nurturance and education of children which is most important to the future of humanity, not the genetic endowments (within reason of course) of their parents. Genetics is in flow right now anyway.
    A related example is instructive and encouraging. The recent findings that a simple single pill per day can reduce the productive reception (passive infection) of HIV from partners (in Africa) means that it is possible to put prevention in the hands of women.

    Where is the plan, the decision, the resolve and the money?
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    Aug 25 2011: It is a problematic having unwanted children, youngs mothers giving birth when they are still children themselves, just not easy, and yes, it is a burden for society....

    On the other hand, any of US, could have been unwanted, but our fathers and mothers managed and gave us an opportunity to enjoy this life, and we owe them at least that.

    In any case, doesn't matter if you like children or not, they can be annoying at times and so freakin cute at times...it's all about balance, and making sure that he people that can not afford to have a child, do not have one, the idea is not that bad, we have to make sure to not take away people liberty !!

    Peace
    • Aug 25 2011: thank you Mireille. Like I said, I do not support the idea, just he idea of it.

      I do like children, and in some senses I see procreation as the 'purpoose', or certainly as a necessary part of evolution to the next stage of civilisation. I am not suggesting that the stupid not be allowed to have them (as has been suggested by others) or the uneducated. Just that if you have them, you are able to give them what they need. It seems that for some people, multiple births is a career option, at the expense of the other people in society, and given that an overwhelming amount of crime and disorder comes from these areas, it would seem to me that there is a direct link between one and the other. We all have a right to have them, but we don't have a right to burden society because we want them.
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        Aug 26 2011: Certainly, if you can not afford a child, you should not have one, that is for sure ! Actually, I find that terrible, for someone that did not ask to be born, find himself or herself in a situation, that compromise a full generation.

        I know that I want children, but not a days it's at least 200 000 $ to raise, only one. So yes, I better thing about this rights, also, we have to have a child for the right reason and with a great man or woman, that is on the same mindset as you.

        Lots to be taking in consideration here....but in the same time, don't bring someone on this planet, if it is only to hurt that person or to satisfy your emptyness !! Find yourself first, love yourself first, be contant with yourself first and after that....have consideration for another human being, we are talking about a life, a soul and a spirit, it should not be taken for granted ! RESPECT IT !

        Cheers !!!
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    Aug 24 2011: They once said smoking was good for you and your doctor would prescribe them I think the biggest problem is not knowing what long time exposures over generations to a contraceptive in the worlds water supplys would do. In time it could sterilize the human race( extinction!).
    Yes there may be a lot of unwanted births in the world but with this system how would those who cannot have children ever adopt. Have a chance of having a family?.
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    Aug 23 2011: i think we should spend more time talking to people explaining to them how much the world doesnt need there children.
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    Aug 23 2011: we could also make all forums around the globe requiring a license. people would have to apply, and do a test. IQ, humanity, sincerity, education and such things would be tested, and in case of pass, a permit would be granted. of course, it should be per area. so for example an IT expert would not be able to discuss economics or philosophy.
    • Aug 23 2011: I don't understand your point? Do you need me to ask a clearer question?

      What it sounds like is that you are suggesting that this is an area that I know nothing about, and I should be prevented from asking the question. Is this correct?
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        Aug 23 2011: depends. would you pass a policy making, ethics and philosophy exam?
        • Aug 23 2011: Krisztián, I am not saying it's a good idea, or a right thing to do. It is merely a question for debate, as I am interested in the answers. You seem to have an issue with it though. Is this forum not to be open minded and intelligent about questions that we face? If you believe that it isn't a good idea, why don't you actually reply with something of value? Tell me why you think what you think. Whatever it is.

          Is it ethical to produce more and more children, when you lack the means to support them personally? Is it okay to have children just because you want them? What about the millions of children born into poverty every year? Isn't unchecked population growth making it increasingly harder to solve our other problems? Strained healthcare systems? Hunger? Poverty? High taxes? It would, after all, relieve the burden. But then would mass genocide... but i'm not hurting anyone, nor am I removing anyones rights.

          You are making some assumptions about my level of intelligence and suitability to raise a question, which is a shame – perhaps your little TED TRANSLATOR badge and you 50+ medal have gone to your head. I preferred TED when people thought about stuff rather than making sneering comments.
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        Aug 23 2011: i don't understand that hostility. all i did is to propose a rather similar idea. do you think that it isn't a good idea? it is ethical to discuss something one doesn't understand? it can be misleading to the reader. it causes stupid opinions to pollute the debate, and hinder the final conclusion. i think my proposal has at least as much merit as yours.
        • Aug 23 2011: in what way is it a similar idea? I don't really see any similarities, and actually it was directed at me personally.

          And to ask is it ethical to discuss something one doesn't understand? What am I not understanding? All I understand is that you're not really answering any questions.

          Either discuss my question openly and intelligently, or go and troll somewhere else Krisztian. Your other posts carry a similar sneering quality, because they touch on areas you are either a) not interested in or b) don't agree with. I have seen you offering nothing much to these discussions. I was not being hostile, but you seem to think you are better than other people, because you know something they don't. Share that knowledge, rather than smugly holding it to your chest. Show us all where we're going wrong.
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        Aug 24 2011: birdia, where can i apply for that license??
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      Aug 27 2011: Kristzian! What bunk! Every specialty needs to have fresh insights from outside. Anyone who is educated in other fields has the skills to transfer thinking to the next. This suggestion sounds impossibly elitist to me!

      On another point though, I do think it is time that people took responsibility for the creation of new life. If you are not willing to support any child conceived you should insure that you are firing blanks. In for the pleasure? Then you are in for the financial pain! Either discuss it and ensure the outcome or get married or get snipped! You are always advocating taking responsibility.
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        Aug 27 2011: but debra! does it look like a suggestion??
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          Aug 27 2011: I'm sorry I am not sure what you are referring to here.
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        Aug 27 2011: do you really think i would genuinely suggest to require exams to write on forums?
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          Aug 27 2011: No, Krisztian, I am not that literal. I was talking about the idea that one should not comment on another field unless they have a degree in it. Sorry for the confusion.
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        Aug 27 2011: Debra iif you all think about children as an economic issue????.... its very dissapointing to se that kind of nonsense being as a topic in this forum. Really I dont believe that from you. All you are very worried about money, whay dont stop to see money as an universal measure?
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          Aug 29 2011: Hi Luigi! I agree with you and I have repasted my original comment on this thread here. You can also find it below.

          "It is dark territory. I would challenge your 'qualification' model for having children. You speak only of money as the qualifying factor (which of course favours the western world). What about things like character, physical and genetic health, altruism, genuine love of children?
          If I were to agree to such a scheme- it would not be the people who could 'buy' the right that would be given the priveledge!- And it is a great privelege. "
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        Aug 27 2011: but debra!! i don't suggest anything like that! or what do i miss here?
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          Aug 29 2011: "in case of pass, a permit would be granted. of course, it should be per area. so for example an IT expert would not be able to discuss economics or philosophy. "

          Did I misinterpret what you were suggesting?
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        Aug 29 2011: debra, absolutely. it was irony. my plan was to show the o.p. another example, which is similar, but he would certainly oppose it. so he might think about why my idea is wrong, and thus discover why his idea is wrong. unfortunately, didn't happen.
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          Aug 29 2011: My sincere apologies for the misinterpretation, Krisztian.
  • Aug 31 2011: "I'm simply saying that life - - finds a way."

    Life is chaotic, many people who deserve to procreate do not, many who do not deserve to do. who is to say that it's not some mentally handicapped offspring from two cousins in middle america (oh wait Bush JR was from south :D ) who introduces a genetic mutation which allows us to evolve for the better? While I agree that the most damaging thing to a child is it's own parents, we cannot control who has what baby, and we cannot therefore licence birthing.

    Besides, labour is painful, wouldn't you just rather raise a child? I say there should be a license to raise children... but that's a little 1984
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    Aug 30 2011: Hahahaa! I guess I put more faith into people than you do.
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    Aug 29 2011: One of my co-workers came to work one day with a black eye. Her boyfriend had hit her. She lives with him & he doesn't have a job. Sometimes she doesn't get to eat because she has to put gas in the tank. She doesn't approve of eating vegetables & doesn't always bathe. I almost fired her last week for slander, despite her desperate circumstances. She has no higher education or skills & neither does her boyfriend. Her & her family are estranged.

    Not long ago she came to work excited! She's having a baby! She's only 19 but she knows she can do it! She says that she, her boyfriend, and the baby will be a happy family someday!

    I'm not making this up.

    She is going to have a child this year & there's not a thing anyone can do about it. She plans to lean on government entitlement programs, but she also doesn't like to watch the news. How long will entitlement programs last? I suspect the answer might be... "not forever."
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      Aug 29 2011: those programs are very likely the reason for her decision. she knows exactly how useless she is. some fixed income is luring.

      you should come to hungary and look around. there are entire populations, hundreds of thousands, who make a living out of having babies. the whole thing is a ticking bomb. the central budget is bankrupt, but cutting back on those programs is virtually impossible, because hundreds of thousands of people could not eat the next month. combined with the total impotence of our police, this can only lead to disaster.
      • Aug 29 2011: thats a similar thing to what I was saying before. It's not an easy life, to be fair. And the children will have to do without in a lot of cases, but I can't help thinking that if each child is 'worth' a certain amount each month, there is little motivation to be objective about the decision to have them in certain cases. But like you say, where do you draw the line, and how do you start to sort out a problem like that? I'm not seriously suggesting we put contraception in the water - you know that - but the ticking timebomb in your country is ticking everywhere.
      • Aug 30 2011: yes ,i agree with u !nowadays , many people have to worry about the next dinner especially in the poor place ,however there are more and more rich people .The gap between them becomes more serious .Who would help the poor ,nobody but themselves !what a pity !
    • Aug 29 2011: Borrah, it is so sad, but the truth is some people are so stupid they cannot see the situation they are in. I suppose it is possible that when that child is born, they will manage to turn their lives around and be responsible, happy people, but I suspect what will happen is that three people will live in misery instead of two. Or maybe more. I suspect at 19, she has many years of reproduction ahead of her, so when the initial joy of having a baby wears off, and her boyfriend starts hitting her again, they'll be more on the way as an attempt to create stability in their lives. How can you not feel sorry for those kids?

      Birdia, thats a really interesting idea. If they allowed that, just to gauge opinion even, I think the governments of the world would be shocked to discover the differences between our priorities and theirs...
    • Aug 30 2011: Her education is low. doesn't she protect herself ?it's obvious that she has no enough ability to culture a child ,but that is her right ! If she insists on having a baby and being with her boyfriend ,go ahead !Nobody would object it .
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        Aug 30 2011: Incorrect! I object to it. I cannot stop her, but I object.

        The day will come where we'll see overpopulation as a genuine threat to public health. It is inevitable. The government will eventually have to restrict child birth. What better way is there than to give kids to financially, mentally & bodily healthy parents?
        • Aug 31 2011: as i know ,there is no restricting child birth policy in many countries,they could have as more as they want ,only if they have the ability to cultrure. there are more than 3 kids as usual in many countries ,even 5 or more .how to judge it ?
    • Aug 31 2011: It is a person's life experiences that make them who they are.

      This sounds to me like she is excited, happy and perhaps relieved because in her eyes this will save her from the abuse she receives. Chances are she was abused or her mother was abused while she grew up, this is what she knows.

      I am no expert on abuse, nor am I saying that you have a responsibility to this young woman- I just believe that all you can do is offer a light for her to see, when she is ready to leave. She needs to know that there are options because once that baby gets here, it is likely to escalate. She needs to know that having a plan in case there comes a time is important. There are programs that put important phone numbers for domestic violence victims in a lipstick container so the abuser doesn't find it.

      All that being said, sometimes hitting rock bottom is what people need to make a change because then there is only one direction to look. I wouldn't allow her situation to impede your decision, I would however have printed out information for help in the area in case the need arrises.

      As for public assistance, it's a complicated topic!
    • Aug 31 2011: if this is really happening than you have a social responsibility to stop the abuse, this is the type of circumstance where the Children Aid Society belongs, and that is completely separate from employment, if she can't do the job, fire her, is there no other jobless parent in your city who could? - I applaud your empathy, but seriously, she needs help, keeping her working is little more than ignoring the problem.
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    Aug 29 2011: Regardless of the potential benefits, I think it would be unethical to construct a program that would lead to a scenario where two people are put in the very unfortunate position of being denied what very well may be the one thing they want most. To take the privilege of creating a family away from specific people would be awful. Especially because the ability to create life is something you're born with. In the same sense, you shouldn't have to apply to use your hands regardless of the fact some people choose to strangle each other with them. "Unwanted births, financial burden and over population" are unfortunate but people should be allowed to do what they please and make they're own decisions whether or not some else is put into some sort of inconvenience, at least to some ethical extent.
    • Aug 29 2011: Say the people next door to you are people like Borrah has mentioned above. When they have children, what would you say if a local official came round and said, "the people next door wanted to have some children, but as they cannot possibly look after them, we are arranging a collection to give them money each month" as he rattles his tin at you. How much would you like to donate? How much would it take before you decided that actually, I have my own problems without subsidising someone elses desires?

      What box would you check on Birdias tax form? Are you happy to support someone elses kids, or would you like another policeman on the streets, or a new bus, or better research into curing disease...
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        Aug 29 2011: Frankly, every body needs a little change. i would donate what i could and what i was capable of affording in this case. I assume people have some sort of degree of intelligence that would provide the ability to make the decision of having a baby without relying on any one else. I've literally never heard of officials asking for the support of neighbors in their choice of birth. If that is true, that, and only that issue should be resolved. I'm content with the luxuries provided to me, though those extra things would be nice, a little optimism and gratitude should be put into people whether or not they need a little support.---Police Men shouldn't beg for other peoples finance issues and be paid for it. People should always be given chances.
        • Aug 29 2011: no, the officials don't actually come around, but in effect thats what happens, except you don't get to say no.

          I do agree, everyone needs a chance, and at times everyone needs a hand. But I assure you, not everyone has the degree of intelligence you would like.
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    Aug 27 2011: I think this is an intriguing idea. Thanks for presenting it Stephen.

    A few things immediately come to mind:

    -It will never happen

    -Its ashame that something that requires a lifetime commitment to responsibilitydoes not require a liscence or at least some assurance of ability.

    -Why are adoptive parents put through the ringer and great expense before being approved to adopt - but not expectant parents?

    -Could there be more legal requirements to parenting that 1) would discourage irresponsible decision-making and 2) would give the appropriate agency the ability to advocate for and protect the child when the requirements were broken.

    -What would those requirements be?

    -If we truly held education in the highest regard and spent more time, resources and $$$ on education in all its forms (parenting, academic, social, emotional) and at all it's stages (early childhood, adolescence, teenage, young adulthood, adulthood, mid-life, etrc.) it would wipe out the majority of the world's most pressing problems within a generation or two.
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    Aug 27 2011: It is dark territory. I would challenge your 'qualification' model for having children. You speak only of money as the qualifying factor (which of course favours the western world). What about things like character, physical and genetic health, altruism, genuine love of children?
    If I were to agree to such a scheme- it would not be the people who could 'buy' the right that would be given the priveledge!- And it is a great privelege.
    • Aug 27 2011: I agree that it should not be about buying the right to children. It just seemed the least contentious criteria, although I might be wrong...
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    Aug 27 2011: It's too easy to get a credit card! Maybe more like getting your drivers license...make all birthcontroll mandatory and free before the age of 20! CONDOMIZE THE WORLD!
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    Aug 24 2011: I think we should big brother corruption first then it will be easier to big brother birth control.
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    • Aug 23 2011: you misunderstand I think - I don't mean to deny parents children, and I don't mean that some people would make more suitable parents than others. I am only thinking about their ability to support a child, or multiple children, I guess financially primarily.
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    Aug 23 2011: Three cheers for eugenics...oh...uhm...
    • Aug 23 2011: it's just ideas. Uncomfortable, maybe, so lets discuss and discard them if thats what needs to happen.
      • Aug 25 2011: I think people get a bit touche about things they perceive as rights being taken away versus privileges being revoked.

        ....................................

        EDIT: @ Matthieu: I never said I agreed with this idea, I was trying to point out how people could become so agitated by it.

        By the way, in the world where I got to be a ruthless dictator, there would be forced sterilization of the population except for my inner circle of cohorts and the slave breeders. Otherwise, I'm libertarian. ;)
        • Aug 25 2011: thank you bob. Thats kind of what I was thinking, but couldn't find the right words.
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          Aug 25 2011: Given that people were giving birth well before we could call ourselves a society there is no doubt that giving birth is not a privilege but a fundamental right. Now I am all for campaigns to educate people on subject matters such as contraception and family planning, but contraceptives in the water supplies? That's just too much government control over our own private bodies. Bob, I was under the impression you were a libertarian, must have you confused with someone else.
        • Aug 25 2011: yes, obviously you're correct Matthieu, and the water supply idea is not really a serious proposition in my defence. As I said to another commenter, it's not really the idea, but the idea of the idea.

          However, we allow lots of government interference in our lives, is it such a great leap to allow control like this also? It works in China to some extent, as I understand? Only far more restrictive than I propose, as you can (or could, if this has changed) have only 1 child.

          As a comparison, we may be faced with a situation like the environmental problems, that are more urgent than we could have imagined, and in fact it might require serious intervention to solve it before it's too late. What then? Hope that education gets through? Hope that the Catholic church sees sense? Thats a lot of hope on a long shot. What can you do to GET things done, not just TRY to get things done?
        • Aug 25 2011: although Matthieu, I will say that yes, giving birth is a right. Having your children paid for by everyone else is not. It is a privilege, and one that maybe the extent of which we can cap.
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          Aug 25 2011: @stephen:

          "giving birth is a right. Having your children paid for by everyone else is not"

          wow! you nailed it! you are perfectly and absolutely right in this. any woman can decide to have a child. but no woman has any claim on any wealth other than her own. she can ask for it, but that's all. want a child? your responsibility. and if you are stupid enough to give birth to a child and have no resources to raise, be relaxed, there are a lot of organizations eager to take care of your child, but you might be out. prepare for this. think twice.
        • Aug 25 2011: beats being perfectly and absolutely wrong ;)
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          Aug 27 2011: Giving birth is a right? It seems that, lately, the free world wants to attach the word "right" to anything they feel "unfree" societies lack. Are you really serious? Giving birth is a right???

          As Matthieu said, it's a function.

          Birdie, I am with you 1,000,000% on vasectomies. It takes 5 minutes and you walk funny for a couple of days. And it is reversible in most cases.
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          Aug 27 2011: jim, what kind of arguing is the following.

          you repeat the argument of the opponent with a question mark attached. then point out a trend about similar statements. then repeat the argument again this time with three question marks, and question the seriousness of the opponent.

          what do you think, it is a good way of making a point, or we need higher level of discussion?
        • Aug 27 2011: Hey Jim,
          Matthieu actually said it is a right. In fact he said it is a fundamental right. Giving birth I suppose is a function, I think we are talking about having children more than the mechanics of actually producing them.

          And free or unfree, we all have the right to actually reproduce, no? I just question reproduction when it adversely affects the quality of life of either the parents AND/OR the children, unless someone else steps in and provides.
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          Aug 28 2011: Thanks Stephen. Sometimes I skim...

          As for the right to reproduce, I am not sure. It may be that there is a "conditional right", the condition being that you carry out your responsibilities that are required of parents as a result of exercising their right to reproduce.