Is Capitalism Pro-Kid?
By Bryan Caplan
I’m pro-capitalism and pro-kid, and I’d like the two to be complementary. So I have to smile when Corinne Maier, author of No Kid: 40 Good Reasons Not To Have Children, blames capitalism (plus the French government) for high birth rates:
Maier’s concern is that no one is doing anything to temper the idealised view
of motherhood perpetuated by two equally potent forces in France: the State,
which wants lots of babies to pay for future pensions, and greedy capitalist
enterprises, which make a fortune selling baby clobber to gullible parents.
“I blame the State, which encourages a certain idea of the French family,
because this is a way of defending our national system,” she says. “Second,
I blame capitalism, which encourages people with its seductive advertising
because having babies creates big consumers who buy a lot, who need bigger
apartments, bigger cars, new washing machines…”
I wish she were right, but she’s not. Empirically, relatively capitalist countries have much lower fertility than the Third World. And Maier neglects a basic fact: Advertising can be used to push anything. If people didn’t have kids, they’d have more disposable income, and advertisers would desperately struggle to attract their euros. Instead of big SUVs, they’d push two-seat sports cars; instead of new washing machines, new plasma TVs. And while it’s true that people with kids want more living space, how often do you see ads for real estate on television or major magazines?
Of course, capitalism is pro-kid in the sense that it makes kids richer and safer than they’ve ever been. But if “seductive advertising” caused high birth rates, Japan, not Niger, would have the highest fertility on earth.