This is an opinion editorial by Jimmy Song, a Bitcoin developer, educator and entrepreneur and programmer with over 20 years of experience.
Everywhere around the world birth rates are plummeting. Many European and East Asian countries are projected to decrease in population and some, like Japan, are undergoing depopulation. Many people are not choosing to have children, and the ones that do have fewer and have them later.
The result is that the world is aging which, in turn, is causing economic havoc. Pensions of various types, including Social Security in the United States, are horrendously underfunded. There just aren’t enough people paying into these systems compared to the people withdrawing from them. We’re fast reaching the stage where the inverted demographic pyramid will cause default, inflation or an economic crash.
This is all the more ironic since just 50 years ago, we were in the throes of Malthusian fear-mongering where population explosion was the big worry. What’s going on? How is it that we got to where we are with so few children that elementary schools are closing in many places?
Furthermore, how did we get here? Civilization obviously cannot progress unless we have humans and all humans have to pass through childhood. Why don’t we value having more humans on earth?
As the title of this article states, much of the current attitude towards children is due to fiat money. This isn’t some grand conspiracy by the WEF elites, per se, though I’m sure they’d like to take credit, but rather a horrible set of incentives.
The past 100 years of fiat money has been a story of a bigger and bigger dependency on the government. Social security, for example, was initially a way to stimulate the economy, though the justification was to take care of people in old age. Universal health care, welfare and the various Cantillon effects were all ways fiat money enabled people to rent seek from the bloated bureaucracy of government. What’s unmistakable is that during this time, families have been getting smaller.
A hundred years ago, family was not just the nuclear family, but a large number of aunts, uncles, cousins and even second and third cousins. To be a part of a family meant something and your last name had a reputation. To give your children a good name was something people aspired to do. Nowadays, only very rich families (Rockerfeller), or politically connected last names (Clinton, Bush) matter.
Starting in the ‘50s we started to get a bigger emphasis on the nuclear family. People identified themselves more with their immediate parents and siblings. The identification with the extended family grew less even as people started having fewer children. By the ‘80s, there were a lot more divorces and single parent homes were a lot more frequent, so families grew even smaller. Nowadays, many people choose not to get married and for them, the family has been reduced to the lowest possible number: one.
Dependence On Government
What’s striking over the past 100 years is how the family unit has not only grown smaller, but less and less necessary.
Large extended families naturally provide a form of insurance against any individual hardship. Families used to have lots of children because each additional person would be an asset to everybody else. A large family benefits not only by having more kids to ensure a legacy, but with better chances to make trusted connections and take advantage of profitable opportunities. Families were natural ways to expand businesses and to hire trusted people.
Children also provided for their family in old age. Instead of saving for retirement, you raised kids that had some level of filial piety and depended on them to take care of you. An extended family insures against bad luck like sickness or fires or market shocks. Marriage doubled the size of the extended family and thus, all the benefits that go with it.
All of these economic reasons for larger families have been supplanted by the government. Government provides health insurance, social security, unemployment insurance, not to mention compulsory education, student loans and much more. All these, at least economically, supplant what extended families used to provide. Unsurprisingly, given the incentives, people have opted to depend on the government and all its programs instead of depending on family.
Of course, all these goodies come at the cost of compliance to government mandates. All of these government programs would not exist without fiat money. The various ways in which the government has induced dependence is all based on stealth theft through inflation. The productive are stolen from so that the unproductive can continue their dependency on the government. In an extended family, the lazy, no-good scoundrel would be disowned, but in a democracy, that person’s vote matters more, so their dependency is not just tolerated, but encouraged. From a civilization standpoint, the trade from family dependency to government dependency is a Faustian bargain.
We’ve traded intimate, productive family bonds for rent-seeking political ones which work until they don’t.
Leftist Anti-Family Bias
What might surprise you is that this replacement of family by government is no accident. This has been the explicit goal of a certain, fairly influential ideology for the past 100 years: the Frankfurt School.
A thorough examination of the Frankfurt School is outside the scope of this article, but their origins can be traced to both Marxism and Freud. If this sounds like a very odd combination, it is. Their theories were combined out of necessity and their marriage in the Frankfurt School was something of a shotgun wedding.
The Frankfurt School
Marxism in the 1920s and ‘30s had a big problem. Karl Marx had written that when there was an economic crisis in capitalism, there would be a class consciousness that would develop which would lead to a revolution which would then usher in socialism.
In the 1920s there were huge economic crises in Europe, especially in Central Europe with hyperinflation episodes in Austria, Germany and Hungary. Yet there was no revolution. In the 1930s there was the Great Depression in the U.S. and Canada, and yet there was no revolution. Clearly, there was a crisis in capitalism, yet the people wouldn’t rise up and usher in socialism. What was going on?
For many Marxists of the time, this was an existential dilemma. If Marx was right, the next stage of the inevitable economic progress that he predicted had to come to pass. So why wasn’t socialism here yet?
The answer came from Frankfurt by a group of Marxists who were thinking through this very thorny problem. Their answer depended on the idea of class consciousness. Specifically, for violent revolution to bring about the next stage toward worker’s paradise, the proletariat had to be class conscious first.
Marxists before the 1920s thought that class consciousness would develop from the economic crises themselves, but the Frankfurt school argued that this wasn’t a given. Instead, they blamed families for preventing class consciousness. They cited Freud and claimed that people were enslaved to a false consciousness due to their familial ties and needed to be woken.
The language should sound familiar because current vernacular continues this trend. The meaning of the word “woke” was to get people to be class conscious and in agreement with Marxist ideology so that they could bring about a socialist revolution predicted by Marx.
What Marx implied would be natural, the left figured out had to be instilled into everyone to get the elusive socialist revolution to come. This is what they called critical theory, whose descendants critical race theory, queer theory and intersectionality pervades leftist politics today.
The Frankfurt School blamed the family for why socialist revolution hadn’t come. As a result, followers of Marx started opposing family formation and with the help of fiat money, they successfully debased the family over the past 100 years.
Marxists were fantastically successful in getting their ideas entrenched. In particular, Hollywood, academia and media were targeted by Communist operatives in the ‘20s and ‘30s. These were people funded from the U.S.S.R. who operated all over the world and they were largely successful as can be seen in these institutions 100 years later. Hollywood, academia and the media are some of the proudest champions of the Frankfurt School.
These groups, in turn, have influenced the political conversation, especially on the left. As a result, many of these programs have been instituted to get people dependent on the government. With fiat money to fund them, they’ve been successful in reducing dependency on families, ultimately degrading family bonds. Their goal has been achieved by opportunistically making family less and less important. As a result, we’re in the situation we’re in now, where populations everywhere are shrinking.
Broken Economics Of Marxism
Like all forms of Marxism, the main strategy is to take capital away from the people that own it and give it to a central authority who can distribute it. The effect on families has been that the people who want to have children are being taxed for the benefit of those that don’t. The economic incentive is to depend on the state and families aren’t as necessary. The Marxists’ goal of getting the population class conscious/woke/ready to usher in socialism was the benefit and people producing economically was what was traded off.
That’s had a terrible effect resulting not just in increased rent-seeking, but also in much less interest in starting families. In a fiat world, each new person is someone that needs to be taken care of. New people dilute the amount everyone else receives. This profoundly zero-sum attitude pervades the left, where even having children is frowned upon as harmful, whether to the planet or to common resources. Though there is plenty of compassion for the people who already exist, there’s little love for more new people in the world.
The price of raising children, as a result, has gone up tremendously. Not only are the medical bills for pregnancies themselves pretty huge, but there’s postnatal care, pediatricians, all manner of government mandated and socially pressured things each child must have. Marxists have succeeded in effectively taxing the hell out of having children. Is it any surprise, then, that fewer children are being born?
Without these government dependence programs, especially in the form of entitlements, the reasons to have kids and start families increases tremendously. Each kid is a very close node on a network of relationships and any skill they acquire benefits the parents disproportionately. Larger families naturally lower the variance for economic disasters and act as a form of insurance. Kids are assets under sound money instead of liabilities as they are under fiat money. Fiat money has distorted the natural tendency for people to have kids and Marxists couldn’t be happier.
Fiat money makes people have a high time preference. Most people in their 20s and 30s don’t think much about what life will be like at 70 or 80. Yet if you speak to anyone at that age, they make it very clear that all those things you cared about in your 20s and 30s don’t matter much later in life. Making partner at a fund just isn’t what it was cracked up to be. Neither was getting tenure, or buying that luxury condo. In fact, the only things that matter to people in old age are their health and their kids. The fact that so few people think about the future shows how pervasive high-time-preference behavior has become.
Even worse, women are being shamed for not putting their career before their kids. The raising of kids has been so devalued in the fiat economy that the act of putting more people on earth has been debased to being lower than an email job.
In every other period of history, motherhood was seen as a crowning achievement and a noble pursuit because, without people, there is no civilization.
The Value Of Children
I’ve told my wife that whatever I do, whatever I accomplish, whatever I invent, nothing I do will compare to the kids she brought into the world. And it’s true. Nothing I can do will compare to the glory of making a person. This was the view of every culture and civilization before now. How did such a noble, meaningful and fulfilling pursuit get debased? Through Marxist fiat incentives.
Fiat money and all the dependency it created has been a cancer to having children and it’s no surprise that it’s leading to civilization’s collapse.
Bitcoin’s focus on real value has led to a renaissance in rearing children and building families. This is not a surprise since studying Bitcoin naturally leads to an examination of what value really is and how human beings ultimately create value through real work. The reversal of the fiat trend is finally at hand.
Bitcoiners, be fruitful and multiply.
Top Ten Reasons You Are Not Having Kids
- Having kids would mean less time looking in the mirror.
- You want to go to clubs and parties at 85, because it’ll totally still be fun.
- It would be irresponsible to bring a new life into the world without a 4-bedroom house in a safe neighborhood, a surrogate mom and silver spoons to feed the baby.
- How are you supposed to have time for “World of Warcraft,” manga and your freemium mobile game if you have kids?
- Deep inside, you’re just a wuss.
- Clearly, what your boss and coworkers think of you is more important than your legacy.
- You’re incapable of picking up new skills like changing a diaper or cutting up someone else’s food.
- You totally would if someone else would take care of, emotionally support and pay for the child.
- Because a whale species is going to go extinct or something.
- All your life, you’ve been imitating childless sociopaths, why stop now?
This is a guest post by Jimmy Song. Opinions expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.