Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Old Man and the Ice Floe

Via Knoxville's #2 (after David Keith) resident Instapundit comes a NYT story about single people who have no children and are now frightened of what will happen when they get old.

I've gotten into this debate before: People without children are free riders. Let me spell out that I'm not saying the childless are bad people. Just that the largest investment any of us makes in the forwarding of society is the birthing (for women) and rearing of children.

The cost to said parents? Estimates range from $300,000 to $1,000,000 per child. And that's strictly the financial toll. Those children, for the most part, go on to pay into the government's coffers, powering it for the next generation of stupid decisions.

And even then, there's no guarantee that your child or children will take care of you. You see, you can't just have kids. You have to have a family. Family (like religion) is a pain in the ass. It entails all this stuff you have to do. Sometimes it forces you to make difficult decisions. Very often it requires you do put your own needs and wants aside. What you get from this is a group that, if grown correctly, is stronger than the many travails of life.

Some of the comments try to frame the discussion in terms of "having children to be a life insurance policy". No, we have children because that's how the species perpetuates itself. We create the family bond, because that improves survival for everyone. Elder care is part of a much larger picture virtually buried today.

Part of that picture includes caring for the unfortunate: The spinsters aunts and the handicapped children, etc. You think big families are just for show? There's a reason "nepotism" comes from the Italian word for "cousin". The traditional extended family provides day care, elder care, employment development, and a variety of other services we pay through the nose for today to get weak imitations of.

I would take care of my parents, happily, if needed. And if they'll have it. They, too, were raised in a "nuclear family" world, and might look at it like some of the commenters who see this as a burden. (We've already taken care of a grandmother and know just how hard it is.)

Then there are the mandatory references to the "more civilized" nations of Europe. Like France, where thousands of old people died during the summer of 2003 during the heatwave, while their children were off on vacation. Both the state and the family dropped the ball there.

The solution, of course, is more government. But:

I’m haunted by the knowledge that there is no one who will care about me in the deepest and most loving sense of the word at the end of my life.

I don't think the government can fix that.

But if you had a family, you'd have more than one.

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