18 Comments
Jan 23, 2023Liked by Dave Karpf

It's a little more than just racist eugenics -- that's a huge part of it, true, but there's also a huge dollop of sexism and alt-right "traditional" influences. I think where you're going wrong is that you're actually assuming that they want to bother with raising kids. They don't want children, they want followers, which they make from their children. They want to pass on the "right" kind of genes.

You see this in a lot of Quiverfull families (and in a lot of ways, they do resemble Quiverfull families, especially when they start ranting about parental rights) -- the eldest daughters are the ones who raise the children, the mothers are constantly pregnant, and the fathers are only involved in their children's lives to be the authority figure whose lives he controls. The techies might hire nannies instead of using older kids, but either way they're not going to be involved in actually raising their children beyond indoctrination or the things they find fun, like teaching their kids chess. (Like Elon Musk has ever changed a diaper in his life.) The man gets to be the provider, which means they don't have to do any nurturing -- that's the woman's job. (There are many, many Serena Joys.)

You also see this with the anti-trans rhetoric, which often is coming from the same people. There's this nearly physical revulsion they have at the idea that someone raised female wouldn't want to bear children, especially children that would otherwise be carrying on their DNA. Again, you see it in a much less disguised form among the Christian right. And "parental rights", which they'll say is about school/government overreach, is really about controlling their kids as long as possible -- to them, kids have no rights, and to say otherwise is to take away from *them*.

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Oof that's grim.

That certainly scans -- one theme I was thinking about in the background was that the Collinses have decided to have five children AND launch their own homeschool academy AND some sort of pronatalist VC fund AND pen their own religious text. That seems like a lot to do if you're also putting a lot of energy into, like, bedtime and playdates.

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Yes, you're overthinking it. This is just a way-more-elaborated version of the 14 words.

This is exactly it: "It seems like they’re tying themselves in knots to say “the wrong kind of people are having babies! We need more babies from the right kind of people” while maintaining a dollop of plausible deniability that this is what they’re really saying."

*Mostly* they are concerned that global population growth is happening mostly in non-white countries; secondarily, they are definitely eugenicists who think that probably there are lots of other kinds of people who shouldn't be having kids. And of course, the focus on long-termism (and overlap with the effective altruism crowd) is a way to focus on providing benefits for future, hypothetical white children rather than existing non-white children with material needs.

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Jan 23, 2023Liked by Dave Karpf

Future hypothetical white cis (and usually straight) children -- it's not really on people's radar, but a lot of the anti-trans rhetoric is coming from these same people. Absolutely agree that it is eugenics by another name.

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yup totally.

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Jan 23, 2023Liked by Dave Karpf

Left unstated is their real concern: more Jesus-loving white babies.

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Jan 23, 2023Liked by Dave Karpf

Good stuff.

Related: "In 1989, marketing professor Steven P. Schnaars wrote a very valuable analysis of failed forecasts, called MEGAMISTAKES: Forecasting and the Myth of Rapid Technological Change. In his book, he illustrated that most `megatrend’ predictions say more about the time they are made, than about the time that is yet to come. As a nice example: in the 1950’s-1960’s, some pundits and scientists predicted that education would radically change thanks to jet engines and TV. The idea was that we could put TV transmitters in jet aeroplanes, and have the lectures of the best professors broadcasted to earth. That way, all the students could get the benefit of being taught by the best professors. Nonsense, of course, but the interesting thing is that Schnaars argued that these predictions were believable at the time because they were so well grounded in the present of that period, they represented the ‘zeitgeist‘. TV and jet engines were the obvious, impressive, new, and fast growing technologies of the day. Hence, they were automatically seen as the shapers of what would come after. Schnaars illustrated the way this had happened time and again. The same was true for most fantasy: e.g. 2020 IT in science fiction of the 60’s and 70’s that wanted to be realistic showed CRT screens and spinning tape reels of 60’s and 70’s IT, not the flat screens and invisible terabyte solid state memory of today. For flat screens in science fiction, you actually may go to a period before the massive roll-out of TV. Science fiction of that period shows flat screens, as until then, screens were flat white sheets and were projected upon."

Psychology (especially on how people's convictions work and why) is becoming more and more a very important scientific subject.

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Thanks, looking into that book as well. Sounds precision-microtargeted to my interests...

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Jan 23, 2023Liked by Dave Karpf

"I think it’s striking that the pronatalists don’t even bother voicing support for those easy, liberal answers. It seems like they’re adherents to the old California Ideology, believing that there is no problem that cannot be solved by techie entrepreneurs, and no solution ever to be found through policy or regulation."

Babies, there's an app for that!

More seriously, your point that most parents have revealed their child-having preferences clearly deserves emphasis. When you look at a plot of Chinese population growth versus time, you cannot see any structural breaks that would reveal when the "one child" policy was introduced or withdrawn; there is pretty much just a steady decline. Statistical analysis supports the eyeball test. Why would a GoogleDoc succeed where a powerful authoritarian government failed?

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Bold of you to assume these people don't already see aging as a disease:

https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/RcifQCKkRc9XTjxC2/anti-aging-state-of-the-art

One quibble...it seems like some countries at least have developed pro-natalism as part of a reactionary agenda, Orbanism most famously. So there's a version of the critique which is fundamentally illiberal: liberal decadence means people don't want to do the work of having kids.

Ironically, this is not incompatible with the "wages for housework"/understand-the-importance-of-social-reproduction argument central to second-wave feminism. So I'm curious to see how this plays out in terms of potential political re-alignment.

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Oh good point about Orbanism.

Also, I should point out that if folks are interested in a much more thorough analysis of how an aging populace and intergenerational conflict will likely play out in politics and society, there's a great book they ought to check out. The book is called Generation Gap. I forget the author's name, but here's an amazon link:

https://www.amazon.com/Generation-Gap-Dominate-American-Politics/dp/B08ZK7YV47

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Friends, my Dad read and admired "the Population Bomb"; his response to increased global population pressure was typically swift and to the point: "Kill all the doctors!" Dad had incredible mathematical talent and earned a Ph D in chemical engineering from Harvard. I believe it was even "cum laude" or higher.

I wish that I had 1/10 Dad's mathematical acuity! I am a dunce with numbers; that is why I failed my Marine Biology major at U of M in 1980. (why, in retrospect of almost 50 years, did he not get me at least a math/chemistry tutor? Dad! My brother got musical talent. He ended up with a BA in music from Vassar while I ended up studying English (good for "how would you like your coffee?") at Northeastern here. Never got an English degree, but watch out for my first book, "The Edge of the Sea", my autobiography. I plan to publish, perhaps online, on or around 11/5/24, which is Election Day.

Election month should be quite something this year: Indians on both sides of the aisle (a vote for Joe "Robinette" Biden given his condition is effectively a vote for Kamala Devi Harris) versus the "alt-Right", whatever that is exactly. Then there is this automobile inventor who has given new meaning to freedom of speech.

I have been off "X" for too long. PS, I have been practicing Vinyasa Yoga for over 40 years, from Boston to Miami Beach. I have a RYT-200, although currently I do not teach. One senior teacher in Jacksonville said I was "a life practitioner". I agree. Yoga just feels good!

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I just picked up a used copy of The Population Bomb. Ehrlich had the direction right, but the timing and intensity were way off. He also didn't realize how effective his and other's scare tactics would be. As usual in apocalyptic writing, he intensified the worries of his era, the 1960s hoping to have an impact on the policies of that era.

He was right about rising population being a problem which could lead to ecological problems and international conflicts. He didn't anticipate how successful agricultural scientists would be or how successful family planning initiatives would be. He didn't anticipate the successes of the then emerging environmental movement and didn't understand how climate change and agricultural collapse manifest. He definitely wanted maximal drama writing sort of an ecological On The Beach. To be fair though, he was writing in the 1960s when the policy and technology changes that prevented his disaster scenarios were incipient.

He also paved the way for the Club of Rome report which came out a few years later and was much more measured. I still remember all the controversy about its gloom and doom. It's 50th anniversary was last year, and it was surprisingly on target. Granted we are in one of the suboptimal scenarios, but such is life.

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Oct 7, 2023·edited Oct 7, 2023

"He didn't anticipate how successful agricultural scientists would be or how successful family planning initiatives would be."

You have to know modern agriculture is entirely dependent on fossil fuels, especially oil, on many levels. When oil production peaks globally, the ruse of the "Green Revolution" will collapse with it. We have the temporary luxury of fuels that can power the scale of mass food production. Imagine running heavy combines with batteries, and fertilizer for depleted soils is dependent on fossil fuels.

We also now have "clean energy" physically ruining more natural places than anything in history at such a visible scale. Overpopulation of wind turbines and solar panels (also dependent on oil) is supposedly saving the planet it's razing, along with all the new people demanding more space for housing and resources. Ehrlich was always fundamentally right.

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You may well be right. People are going to solve one problem after another, and each problem is going to introduce new problems. I suppose our descendants may just give up and recognize that they have no future, but the odds are they'll fix one thing or another thing and let future generations deal with the flaws in their fixes. Did this start with cooked food? opposable thumbs? flint knapping? My guess is something earlier.

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Also, the pro-natalist movement is all about racism and treating women as breeding stock rather than people.

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I mean... I was kind of aiming for a laugh there. But also, sure, contemporary parenting norms are exhausting and unsustainable. It would be nice if we had social norms and institutions that provided better support.

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