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February 21, 2012

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The notion that having children is a "right" smells like post-hoc rationalisation. We have an evolutionary impulse to seek sexual pleasure, which may have the consequence of producing a child.

As societies gain effective birth control, and as the economic benefits of kids decline (e.g. as a form of pension), then birth rates tend to drop. This means that kids are then more likely to be a deliberate choice (rather than an accident or unavoidable fate), which is perhaps why we start to see this as the exercise of a right.

It's worth remembering that most eugenics programmes (both actual and theoretical) not only sought to weed out "lives not worthy of life", but also to encourage higher birth rates among the healthy majority. There remain fragments of this today in the form of baby bounties, e.g. the 3rd child benefits in France.

The belief that the state is (still) competent to enact such measures probably owes a lot to the general reluctance to debate the alternatives, chiefly the need for youth immigration in rapidly greying European countries. Of course, immigration is an area that falls within government's competence.

Chris Purnell

Councils have a duty to conduct business and that is all. Claiming to have a need for divine 'guidance' in order to fulfil that duty appears to be far-fetched. Of course, as individuals councillors may seek divine guidance but they can't introduce it as a council function. Prayers could not part of an agenda within the scope of council 'business'.

Laban Tall

"eugenicists were certain that the state had the power to affect the composition of the race"

To be fair, our rulers have the same certainty - they're just aiming for different outcomes.

Recusant

Well, since, at the basic biological/Darwinian level, our sole function is to reproduce and produce the next generation, if reproduction is not a right, what is?

Keith

I think the general point is that eugenics and forced sterilisation etc are based on making dire assumptions about the effect of exponential population growth, which turn out to be wrong or at least based on unverifiable one sided views of the effects of such growth on society. Assuming the worst possible combination of consequences produces support for extreme policies. A more sceptical approach to all public policy would reduce the danger of mistaken laws and policies.

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