Cap and Trade…for Chinese Babies?!? Also Chickens

China, bless its many souls, has a one-child policy, as you know, which is more accurately described as a one-child-but-sometimes-two-and-even-on-rare-occasions-when-China-is-feeling-magnanimus-three-count-them-three-children policy.

Though many in the West view it as a rights violation, China won’t stop because:

  1. It’s part of the culture now. It’s as Chinese as whatever the Chinese equivalent of apple pie is. Kinda.
  2. It appears to work – China claims it’s prevented about 400 million (!!!) babies.

So here’s my point: China could grant its citizens more freedom without easing its overall limit on children by running a cap-and-trade system. Couples could buy and sell permits to make babies. Let’s say I want 5 babies (so I can form a Motown singing group). If I can find 5 couples who plan not to have any babies for now, I can buy their permits. When I have a baby, a permit gets torn up. If those other couples later decide to have babies, they can buy permits from others. But the total number of allowable babies is the same as in the old system. When the demand for babies goes up, permit prices would rise and vice-versa.  The system might stop the selective abortion of female fetuses which the one-child policy has spawned (pun!).  Has China considered this?

You might rebut: the poor would end up less at liberty to have babies than the rich, which would introduce a new and unprecedented kind of inequality into Chinese society, which could breed problems (pun, again) – an Occupy Wealthy Genitals movement would be good for no one, for example. At the least, the system would have to include a rule that only couples can buy permits and a couple can only hold one permit at a time, to prevent a speculative baby market from forming (babies aren’t for shorting).

So the policy could have serious problems. Why then am I writing this? I have time to kill and I’m searching for useful ways to think about overpopulation and I hoped writing about it would shake up my thinking. It’s not working. One more thought before I close:

I, like many people, think that the one-child policy is problematic. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s inherently wrong – instead, I think it’s only wrong because so many people don’t like it and don’t want it. I’d be happy to live in a country with a one-child policy, but only if most of my fellow citizens were as comfortable with the idea as I am (and assuming it works).

In fact I might prefer it. As things now stand, I’m leaning away from having a child, not because I don’t want one , but in part because, in the absence of a societal agreement to reduce population, I regard it as my duty to you and especially to your already-living children to avoid adding to our numbers, and to provide a model to others who feel pressure to have babies. If  the US had a one-child policy, I’d feel more comfortable having a child. That would be nice.

I wonder: could reproduction limits ever become acceptable in the West, by an acceptable process (i.e. not unilaterally imposed by Big Brother)? What would it take for Americans to become more like me (besides getting shorter, balder, skinnier and more appreciative of Tom Jones’ singing voice)?

I haven’t a clue. Probably not cap and trade.

The best path would be that most of us just voluntarily decide we’re going to not have many babies for a while. It’s already happening to an extent (birthrates are falling worldwide), but not fast enough given the size of our carbon footprints. The trend can accelerate if more of us openly encourage each other to limit our broods. So please limit your brood. Here, have some Durex condoms. They’re my favorite. They almost never break.

Also this is a chicken:

I put this chicken here because Google Analytics says that a bunch chicken-seekers are somehow coming to this site. I’m cool with that and will hereafter lure even more chicken-seekers by posting pictures of chickens and writing “chicken” a lot. Then later if I get bored with Climate Change I can sell wings by mail.

If you came here looking for chickens: joke’s on you pal! But since you’re here, please contemplate your role in Climate Change and consider joining efforts to address the problem.

From the Sea



Posted December 12, 2011 in Random Thoughts | 4 Comments on Cap and Trade…for Chinese Babies?!? Also Chickens


Post a Comment

  1. mike says:

    A pertinent conversation just took place on Reddit here:

    People who don’t want children, ever… What’s your #1 reason to stay child-free?

    One of my favorite reasons not to have a kid came from a musician who I’ve idolized since I learned he wrote the soundtrack to the Adventure of Pete and Pete:

    “If I offered to sell you a widget for a price of $1 million…”

  2. Nick Bentley says:

    Huh. That thread can be seen as a preview to this one:

    Are there any parents here who regret having children?

    Someone left a quote in the thread that I love: “People who have kids and people who don’t have kids have one thing in common: at some point they’re going to think they made the wrong decision.” It speaks to my general belief that life is what you make of it. Each of us can choose to have a rich, meaningful life, or we can choose not, regardless of whether we have kids.

    The Pete & Pete dude has a good point, though I think he gives short shrift to the argument for children. Having children changes people in fundamental, emotional ways that most parents regard as a great good – that transformation is generally the goal of having children, even for people who can’t articulate it. As someone currently living with new parents, it’s hard for me to deny that something special has happened to them.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think there are good reasons to advocate for childlessness, foremost among them our obligation to the well-being of our fellows and future generations. But I also think we should acknowledge that the decision not to have kids comes with real costs. Otherwise those of us who wish to advocate for childlessness won’t be credible.

    For me, my sense of duty to others overrules the perceived costs, and that’s what drives my thinking. That and the possibility that the Earth will become a more difficult place to live in a short while, and I’m not sure I want to spawn a child only so that she can suffer. It feels surreal to write this. I’m not the kind who habitually thinks darkly of future, but our current understanding of climate change makes this kind of thinking hard to avoid.

    Another important point though is that ignorance is bliss. Because I don’t have a kid, I don’t know what I’m missing, and in that sense I haven’t lost anything. It’s similar to the reason that, having not tried cocaine, I’m not addicted to it.

  3. Sarah says:

    Only thing I have to say is that I do not trust anything that China publishes on themselves. In addition part of the thing is when you break the rule or if you have a girl and you really wanted a boy is that they get sent to orphanages. Then, get this its horrible, people who want to adopt a baby girl (most often) from China have to go through all this hustle and bustle to get one of those kids (more so then other countries) and they only let a certain number of children get adopted out, so that the number they report each year is lower then the number of children that actually need to be adopted, because adopting out of the country other countries will report correctly, once again proving why I don’t trust their self reporting. However the children they don’t allow to go they can report as not being there.

  4. Nick Bentley says:

    @Sarah: good point. I didn’t address it but this has long been a real concern about the program. It’s not clear how much of the reporting about it is propaganda.

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