Opinion: Excessive fecundity for profit

Published on March 24th, 2009

By Diana Hull
March 22, 2009

Miscreant parent(s) who deliberately produce more children than they are able to care for are rarely subjected to appropriate sanctions. Instead, these births will mobilize the vast American "rescue" apparatus in the form of government benefits, lower taxes and every variety of promiscuous philanthropy, public and private, that encourages others to follow that path.

You already know, as did Nadya Suleman and surely her doctor and the fertility clinic where she was a patient, that adding octuplets to a near-destitute, fatherless family of six was an immoral decision — far from "best practice" on the part of the clinic and compounded by a doctor with terrible judgment. But it was likely that he, as well as Ms. Suleman, could predict that their virtuoso performances in the obstetrical suite would make them celebrities.

Ms. Suleman knew that "rescuers" would rise to the bait, as they usually do, and that compassion for the children would prevail. But notice that the more this multiple for-profit pregnancy has been discussed in the media, the harder this scam has "gone down" — finally a healthy sign of self-respect and sensible limits from the charitable community and the bleeding-heart press.

And it’s long past due, too, likely enhanced by public rage over the rampant stealing by many types of con artists, and government give-aways of taxpayer money.

Absent a conscience and code of morality, thousands of regulations and pages of operating procedures for both medical clinics and financial institutions are never a match for deliberate non-feasance. Knowing you can benefit financially by deliberately having 14 children you can’t support requires the same kind of "nerviness" as faking your income and identity on mortgage applications.

Gargantuan families with a very large number of dependants, especially among the poor, now brings only carrots — tax deductions for dependants abroad, free health care, school lunches and a big package of every kind of attention from private philanthropy. It is more than short-sighted to subsidize socially and environmentally undesirable behaviors that drain resources as the nation looks forward to as many as a billion people by the end of the century.

To dramatize this danger, let’s ask the question: What would happen in one family with 14 children, like Nadya Suleman’s, if all her offspring followed her example, first for five and then for 10 generations? We did this acknowledging that their personal experiences in such huge families would lead these children as adults to sterilization and a compulsion to "run in the opposite direction." But this is strictly a math problem, not a psychological study.

The numbers that emerged from these calculations were so unbelievably high, I didn’t believe them. So I enlisted the help of CAPS vice president and physicist/astronomer Ben Zuckerman, a self-identified "numbers guy." Here’s what he came up with.

If each of Nadya Suleman’s children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and descendants up to the fifth generation followed her lead and each had 14 children of their own, the number of Ms. Suleman’s descendants in five generations would be 537,824 family members; after 10 generations, the number would be 289,254,000,000. To make these calculations yourself, raise 14 children to the 5th and then 10th power.

Ms. Suleman, of course, is not unique in her extraordinary fecundity. The Discovery Health Channel carried the story of Michelle Dugger and her husband Jim Bob, who have 18 children, mostly born one at a time and with no assistance from in-vitro clinics.

If five generations of Duggers followed Michelle and Jim Bob Dugger’s lead, they would have 1,889,568 descendants; in 10 generations, they would have 3,570,467,000,000 descendants. That’s approximately 3.6 trillion or 553 times the current world population. But not to worry, because, I am assured, before that point could be reached, the Dugger family would have run out of other members of the human species to marry.

At this point, Mr. Zuckerman suggested to me that it is futile to talk about this, because 3.6 trillion is really an incomprehensible number. I respectfully disagree, since it is so close to the cost of the federal stimulus package. And this package is supposedly needed because there were so many exceptions made to ethical lending practices. Child bearing also must be socially responsible, and never a lure for profit.

But the point illustrated by this hypothetical exercise is the exponential nature of population growth, and that the longer we wait to put serious disincentives in place, the faster the nation will grow. Soon too many people will require more massive changes in our lives and remove whatever freedom of choice we have left. The time for mass importation of people and for huge family size is over.

Remember that the force of demography is pressing hard on the traces of United States prosperity and liberty, and it is only here, in our home country, that we have any real power to stop it.

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