A Deep Dive into the Model
What are the most important questions to ask about the ethics of having kids?
These are the questions that inspired the development of the Fair Start model. We want to empower people with the knowledge needed to think differently about the way we plan our families so we can create a better future for every child.
- What is the minimum level of well-being, in terms of food, love, attention, health care, etc., every child needs and deserves?
- Do all children deserve a fair start in life and opportunities equal to what other children in their generation will have?
- What control do you have over the power other persons exert over you? What role do you play in making the rules under which you are forced, under threat of violence, to live? What do all children need to one day be able to work together, in democratic communities, as self-determining people who make the rules under which they live?
- How does the act of having kids impact the natural world that sustains us and all other life forms? How would restoring the natural world to a state comparable to that which existed before the population explosion of the Twentieth Century maximize human and nonhuman well being and freedom? How did our failure to use a nonhuman standard for environmental protection, or the highest and most protective baseline, create the crises we face today?
- Are there objective reasons for having children, and how can parents use those reasons to work together to make a better future for all children?
Why does Having Kids focus on promoting the Fair Start Model?
Why advocate for a parenting model at all?
We cannot seriously claim to love kids without investing in them, and we do that best by starting that process as the earliest stage possible with better, and truly human rights-based, family planning. Human rights are really about speaking truth to power, and the model acts by speaking the truth of shared values to the otherwise unfettered power parents would have over their future children.
How does the Fair Start family planning model work?
Are the model and the values it arises from concrete and specific enough to actually apply?
A Minimum Level of Well-Being
What minimum of things like love, nutrition, attention, health, safety, etc., does every child deserve, from the moment they are born? What minimum would you have wanted at birth? If children deserve certain things, why not assure them before the children enter the world? How can we use birth and early childhood development conditions to offset genetic disparities and give every kid a fair start in life? These questions frame the idea of a minimum level of well-being to be assured before children are born, and the fact that it is impossible to care about children without caring and controlling the conditions into which they are born. Specific and concrete examples of conditions below the minimum level would be people who do not want to have children but lack the means to avoid having them, minor parents, households adjudged unfit by a court of law, as well as conditions that fall far below the minimum required by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. How can we achieve bringing children into the world above the minimum levels? We use other values, like Improved Continuity, Fairness and Democracy, to create family planning regimes based on redistribution of resources. Why not target reforms, where possible, before children actually arrive in the world? Why would we very continue to push kids through systems we know are failing?
How do families achieve minimum levels of well-being? Society and parents must work together to achieve them (they are mutually obligated) using the idea of improved continuity, and also work together to revise the levels of well-being relative to the conditions into which other children are born. Do children in the poorest families deserve the same opportunities in life as children born into the richest? Are all children really born free and equal? Should wealthy families have a third child who will have all the privileges in life, while the first child of a poor family has none? Why tolerate a system that produces unearned benefits at all? A child’s opportunities in life should not be luck of the draw, and every child deserves a fair start, with the same opportunities in life in as other children. Our current family planning systems treat society like a massive building with many floors, and with staircases going from the outside directly to each of the floors. Our policies are driving many kids down the stairs and into the lower levels because it supports the lifestyle of those of us living in the upper levels. That’s contrary to democracy and simply wrong. Elites, who live at the top of the tower, thrive on these policies, with more and more people who will work against their and their children’s own interests in the face of obvious threats like climate change. The longer we allow these policies to stand, the harder it is getting to solve the problems. The Fair Start model moves us toward that concrete and specific level of fairness, and relies on parents’ desire to do what it takes to protect their child’s rights to drive the changes necessary to achieve it.
How do the values of a Minimum Level of Well-Being and Fairness relate? The two act as the ends of a spectrum, between which parents will choose to have children, assuring the former and cooperating with other families and their community to assure the latter.
Most people want their personal lives to continue and improve. The Fair Start model takes this universal value (comparable to the universal value of free speech or of bodily integrity) of improved continuity and applies it as the specific and fundamental value underlying parenting, the goal of which is transformed into having just enough children to continue parents’ lives (usually one or two), biologically or otherwise, but at levels of well-being above that of the parents’ own lives. Improved continuity (which is a qualitative and quantitative concept) replaces autonomy, which does not apply to the act of creating another person, and can in no way support a right to have children as fundamental human right that limits override by competing rights or democratic choice. Improved continuity, also conceivable as thriving, accounts for the way our interest in having kids diminishes with each child we have, and is an objective and shared value (as opposed to flimsy subjective and dubious values like wanting an infant to cuddle, a future laborer, a child of a specific gender, etc.), which is emblematic of the sort of values that would support human rights. It provides a center of gravity around which parents can cooperate, and it synergizes with the next four values. Improved Continuity also frees up the resources needed to start making values like well-being and fairness work because it recognizes that parents’ interest in having children diminishes with each child a parent has, and that as such there is an inherent or intrinsic limit to the number of children parents have an objective interest in having.
Real democracy, as opposed to representative and other diluted forms, is the physical ideal of groups of people voluntarily coming together, and working together, to make and live by the best set of rules they can. Democracy includes everything that ideal implies about the quantities and qualities of the people in those groups, and their constant push for decentralization of power. It is self-rule, in the purest sense imaginable, and is a form of human political evolution. Democracies should satisfy our basic human need for meaningful group identity and belonging, while they are also empowering us as individuals, and should serve as the most fundamental organizing unit of societies. Given that people have the ultimate political authority in democracies, democracies begin with the question: whom would you choose or “elect” as your fellow citizens and how many would you choose, assuming you could? Would you choose people inclined to give their role to leaders, or so many people that each person was attenuated from the group rule-making process and had very little actual role in it at all? Would you invest more in each person in ways that gave everyone common ground? True democracies have lower quantities of people, who were in turn deliberately welcome in and included, and who in turn have higher levels of civic quality (in terms of things like the ability to communicate and empathize, the requisite level of trust those things engender, psychological development past the politics of identity/personification often inherent in representative democracies, etc.), and the sense of belonging that comes from these shared qualities. That moves in the opposite direction of preconstitutional systems, like the economy we live in today, where policies openly advocate for adding more and more people, irrespective of their civic qualities, to drive greed-based growth. The Fair Start model builds real and intergenerational democratic communities (based on a rejection of representative democracy, enabled by a combination of radical federalism and application of the Fair Start model to prevent its abuses in the past) from the ground up and inside out, by helping families work together to bring people into the world that can form and maintain them: people that can empathize, objectify values and norms, come to agreements, and trust one another. It reverses the pre-democratic trend, continuing today (and consistent with the persistence of teen pregnancy, of children raising generations of children), of maximizing quantity irrespective of civic quality to empower the state and its economy. Democracy also helps inform and define the previous three values, and through its deliberated and proactive inclusivity of future generations becomes a powerful reason to collectively invest heavily in family planning.
When we refer to climate change, what is the implicit baseline from which the change is occurring? What is the opposite of anthropogenic power and influence? Nature, in the Fair Start model, is conceived of as the nonhuman world or the political ideal of nonpolity: the absence of human power and that which makes freely consenting to others’ influence and true democracy, possible. Nature is physical freedom from others, serves as a truly individuating baseline environment for human well-being and consumption, and is also the minimum baseline for liberal political systems to remain legitimate. Nature and democracy work together. For example, limiting the size of democratic communities to protect the nonhuman world also ensures that each person maintains a role in their communities, places without human power incentivize democracies to produce citizens that can be trusted in places with no sanctioning authority, etc. In other words, the nonhuman world represents the proportional empowerment of people as citizens (though perhaps not as consumers, workers, taxpayers, etc). More specifically, nature refers to all other species and their habitat, more or less at the level of diversity that existed in the 18th century. This conception of nature sets an aspirational but specific benchmark for allowing biodiversity to re-establish on Earth, and creating a physical space against which true democracies can be defined and their growth borders set. This conception of nature creates the basis for a fundamental human right to, a fundamental need for, and a correlative duty to preserve, wilderness, and also embodies the next step of progressivism: the decolonization and liberation of the biotic and abiotic world we have historically subjugated. This conception also unifies the animal, environmental, and human rights movements around widely shared values and a means of achieving common goals. Nature so conceived represents the highest aspiration of decolonization, that of the nonhuman world, and the simultaneous liberation of nonhumans and humans alike. Environmentalism in this sense becomes a fundamental political struggle between humans, rather than some collective endeavor to protect shared resources.
One will often hear environmentalists speak of nature as an antiquated concept and as a roadblock to seeing the human and other than human world as an interrelated whole. Having Kids rejects these arguments as based on a naturalistic fallacy that ignores norms governing the exercise of human power, and because they promote the continued colonization and eradication of the nonhuman world, to the detriment of democracy and human freedom.
The balance point
The values, which are the most objective values that can be coherently articulated, can then contextualized and applied to create a balance point for every family planning decision, and serve as a basis for the Fair Start family planning model. Given the current the state of affairs in the world, that balance in generally achieved with this simple formulation:
Smaller families working together to plan a fair start in life for every child.
The model and these values can then be applied, for example, by restructuring state child tax credits, reducing or eliminating them for wealthy families after the first or second child in favor of family planning, early childhood development, affirmative action, and wilderness restoration programs. The model and these values can be similarly applied through trusts between families, changes in corporate benefit programs, and a variety of other ways.
It’s really not that complex. Truly valuing human life means planning for it in the best possible way.
Why do parents benefit from adopting the model?
What is the Isolation Model of parenting that the Fair Start model is replacing?
That right, and the isolation model it promoted, ignored the fact that having children is the most public thing most people will ever do and precluded collective action where it is needed most. It also disregarded the fact that children are born vulnerable to the people and conditions around them rather than being ensured a minimum level of well-being and a fair start in life. By treating having children as a private matter, it also eliminated the opportunity for parents to cooperate in their decision making to achieve the best outcomes for every child. This also ensured that often the most caring and thoughtful people would forgo having children in a largely vain (because of the lack of collective action) attempt to do things like protect the environment, other animals, and other people’s children.
What are the mistakes that led to the Isolation Model?
What does Having Kids produce?
Isn't the world underpopulated, and aren't fertility rates too low?
many growth economists and businesses that rely on an ever growing supply of cheap labor, taxpayers, and consumers began a propaganda campaign about the dangers of “underpopulation” and low fertility rates. Using their normative baselines of growth, or even replacement fertility, ignores human rights and the widely shared values the Fair Start model is based upon, and puts valuing profit over valuing child welfare, nature, democracy, and fairness. Growth economics calls for creating high quantities of relatively servile and imitative people in order to produce wealth for elites, rather than the connected communities of free and equal people that democracies require, and reduces human development to gross domestic product rather than maximizing the actual development of persons from birth into adulthood. Read more here. Regardless, human rights and democracy precede and override growth economics. The Fair Start model reverses our current family planning models’ subservience to economic concerns.
Falling fertility rates could be seen as a form of political evolution, in which humans alter their behavior to effectively protect their own ecosystems, and improve evolved forms of social organization like democracy. This beneficial trend – which the Fair Start model can accelerate – would in turn set the stage for an intergenerational secession from the patriarchal and economic nation-state model, into smaller, sustainable and truly democratic communities where each child is born free and equal, and each person has a meaningful role in forming and altering the rules under which they live.
Does the Fair Start model interfere with freedom and human rights?
Does the Fair Start model interfere with the personal or private decision making of would-be parents?
Is the Fair Start model conservative or liberal?
For example, we use family planning as a vehicle to redistribute resources rather than government, because we value the efficiency of early intervention as well as the equity of a fair start in life. Instead of the New Deal we call it the Real Deal.
Is Having Kids a one-size-fits-all way to plan your family?
Is the Fair Start model too slow-acting a solution to immediate problems we face today?
Is there an analogy for what Having Kids does?
Is there a useful heuristic to understand the Fair Start model?
Is there a narrative that helps us better understand the Fair Start model
Why does Having Kids talk about family planning models rather than overpopulation?
When we talk about population we are talking about who we are, collectively, and who we will be. It’s never just a simple matter of numbers, and is better thought of as a value-laden process, and the intentional reconstitution of our basic forms of social organization.
Why does Having Kids use specific values to talk about family models?
How does Having Kids rebuild democratic communities from within current political systems?
How does the Fair Start model get us to think differently about the way we care about children and nature?
The work Having Kids seems abstract. Is it all based on theory?
How does the Fair Start model relate to animal rights and environmentalism?
Why not simply focus on providing access to contraception, or reducing overconsumption, or educating young girls?
Levels of consumption are likewise always dependent on the number of people consuming and their disposition to consume at particular levels which, like their number, often derives from family planning models and what they teach us about our relation to the nonhuman world and how we should be reared.
Finally, Having Kids does promote education of young girls, and part of any curriculum must include ethical family planning models, like the Fair Start model.
You claim human rights-based family planning models override all conflicting norms. Why is that?
Does the Fair Start model interfere with religious rights?
Does the Fair Start model endanger a woman's right to choose to prevent or terminate her pregnancy?
Is the Fair Start model intersectional with other movements?
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