The Fair Start Model
Rising inequality and accelerating climate change are affecting more children than ever before. It’s time to think differently about having kids and every child’s right to a fair start in life.
Derived from dozens of published articles, and consistent with the leading thinking on human rights-based family planning, Having Kids has developed the child-centered Fair Start family planning model. The Fair Start Model promotes smaller, sustainable, and more equitable families so that we can all invest more in each child, right from the start. It moves family planning systems away from an exclusive focus on what parents want, towards a focus on what all children need. It is designed to take advantage of trends like falling fertility rates and delayed parenthood, and to balance five fundamental and widely shared values that together comprise the best conception of freedom and the foundation of human rights and democracy.
The Fair Start model is the best interpretation of the rights and responsibilities inherent in having kids. It replaces the dysfunctional parent-focused model created by governments to ensure population growth and evade collective responsibility to invest in kids. That growth, and dereliction of duty, is fundamentally driving the climate crisis, child poverty, economic inequity, and bloated democracies where the average voice does not matter. That growth happened in violation of basic standards of child welfare, like the Children’s Rights Convention, children’s right to a fair start in life, the protection of the ecologies we need to survive, and the obligation political systems have to preserve each person’s meaningful role in governance. The values and demand that define our world today reflect a populace created in violation of those standards.
There is no true from of inclusivity that does involve child-centered family planning, and prioritizing the people who will actually comprise legitimate democracies.
Communities ensure that parents have the resources to plan families and guarantee that all kids have the resources they need for a fair start in life. This transfer of resources acts as a constant and just gap-closer on inequality.
Each of us delays having kids until we are ready to be good parents, and have small and sustainable families that put less demand on our shared resources and our world.
It’s about people, not population. It’s about shared values and thinking qualitatively about the future, not using poor and unsustainable family planning to grow economies. Read the Allegory of the River, and why Having Kids talks about constituting democratic communities instead of framing our work around the concept of population, to understand more. Let’s make family planning truly inclusive, and geared around creating democratic communities where everyone has a voice.
It’s simple: Fair Start family planning means smaller families sharing resources to invest more in every child. For some, the closest analog for this new model would be responsible family planning incentives. But Fair Start resources are actually entitlements held by future children, and funded through non-traditional means. Those opposed to remodeling favor our current system of unsustainable families, unearned privileges, and undemocratic influence, over giving kids a fair start in life.
What the Fair Start Model Does
The Fair Start model addresses the biggest problems affecting kids such as poverty, inequality, and neglect. The model breaks down the barrier between family planning and child welfare, aligning need with resource. The model links 1) where and when children enter the world, with 2) the provision of what those kids need for a fair start in life. In making that link the model has the greatest impact on child welfare, equality, animals and the environment – exponentially more impact than downstream approaches. In so doing the model corrects for cognitive dissonances – like the human tendency to focus on the immediate over the important – that prevent us from seeing that how we plan families, more than any other one thing, determines the quality of life on Earth.
By focusing our attention on future children the model temporalizes our thinking, allows us to plan ahead, requires us to cooperate, and thereby helps ensure the best outcomes. What’s a good analogy? In many ways our remodeling of family planning looks like the revision of the norms, in the late 20th Century, around using seat belts. Small improvements can lead to massive benefits. But does a new family planning model require top-down enforcement? No. Humans can internalize norms that maximize their autonomy, like norms around free speech that give everyone a voice, and that we voluntarily use in our lives every day. Over time we can also internalize ecologically and socially sustainable family planning.
Fair Start family planning is
the most effective way to simultaneously:
Protect children, promote equality and democracy,
and preserve a healthy planet.
The proven impacts are 10 to 20 times higher than traditional downstream attempts to protect kids, animals, and the environment. The mode converts poor and unsustainable family planning into equality, opportunity, democracy, and nature.
Building Freedom Through Human Rights-Based Family Planning
The model shifts the focus of family planning from a narrow focus on just the parents to a broader one that includes the interests of the future child, the parents, and the community. This embodies the inclusivity of human rights and democracy. The model moves us away from a sense of parenting as an isolated activity to a proactive and cooperative system that expands our capacity for care-giving beyond our own bloodline. The model is all about making family planning a community effort that is deliberately inclusive – deliberately including future children into the community, oriented around the shared ideal of equality. Families having kids in isolation from the community ensures that inequality, as well as social and ecological degradation, continues. That way of planning our families has undone much of the progress the child welfare, environmental/animal, and human rights and democracy movements tried to make in the past few decades – just look at the numbers.
But by working together as parents and communities, we can build resilient, cooperative, and conscientious populations, that are approaching the United Nations low variant projections, and that can thrive in challenging future environments. That’s the Fair Start model – using family planning reform to constantly merge the margins of both the weak and the powerful to instead create fair societies where human power is limited and decentralized. Fundamental change means changing who we are, and will be, through better family planning. Nothing else comes close.
Because of its fundamental nature the Fair Start model creates true freedom: The freedom that comes with being given real opportunities in life, the freedom of living in functional communities where you can have confidence in the people around you, the freedom of smaller and autonomous democracies where you have a role in creating the rules under which you live, the freedom of nature, and the safe and healthy environment that comes with it. This all begins with children’s right to a fair start in life, socially and ecologically, or the nexus of things like power, freedom, nature, and legitimacy. It is the lexically primary human right, and as such it overrides all conflicting interests. In other words, the most basic and overriding norm – from which all authority and obligation derive – can’t be found in traditional constitutions. The norm has to be that which best accounts for the creation of the people who actually constitute society, and that norm is supreme.
In some ways we understand this from everyday interaction we have with contracts. Who is a party to that contract come first, matters most of all, and determines our freed to do things we want, and to be free from things we don’t want.
Fair Start family planning moves the world from demographic and economic transition towards a human rights-based, qualitative, equitable and democratic transition. The relatively few people in the world who have power, both in business and government, push against this freedom because their power lies in exploiting the large and vulnerable populations poor family planning creates. Our current family planning modeling replicates power structures. They use crowding to disempower individuals, and drown out their voices. If you value child welfare, equality, nature, or democracy – and the freedom they represent – you will push back on poor family planning. If you value human life, you will help change family planning systems so that they use more caution in creating it, and peg the empowerment of the most vulnerable entities – future generations and nonhumans – to the obligations of those in whom power is concentrated today.
View the slideshow for a deeper look at the Fair Start model.