Can you even picture this discussion in 1787. John Adams, with his puritanical upbringing, speaking with Thomas Jefferson, Southern Gentlemen and noted charmer. James Madison, ever the listener, taking it all in. Jefferson, “… But we have to make sure the Federal Government cannot try to control when and how often our women give birth.” Madison and Adams burst out laughing, “How could the government do that? House a soldier in every home?” quips Adams… awkward silence.
Seriously, an absurd and even impossible question for our Founding Fathers to even imagine and yet here we are now NEEDING to consider it. Why do we need to consider it? Well in a far off corner of the discussions about Artificial Intelligence and Automation, influential academics like Nick Bostrom are already suggesting that population control is a necessary step to best achieve Artificial General Intelligence (AGI — a machine that could successfully perform any intellectual task that a human being can.) There is a belief that we live in a world of limited resources (agree) and too many people (maybe) consuming too many resources. In 1979, China reacted to this generic concern and their own population explosion with the One-Child Policy (phased out in 2015). So there is significant precedent for worrying about a central authority taking away the right to procreate.
A natural response might be… “Not in this country”… and I appreciate the sentiment. It’s a nice hope. However, I’d be remiss if I failed to point out that no one has the constitutional right to have a child. It is not guaranteed.
Some may ask, is this even a consideration of any government? Others may say, of course we should limit child birth, we live in a world of limited resources, don’t we? We need to be careful to separate the arguments here into their basic components. Do human beings have the right to make their own reproductive decisions, separate from a central authority? Answer YES, absolutely and without debate and when that is the ONLY consideration, there are not many that would disagree.
However, the counter argument comes from a different perspective and doesn’t necessarily disagree with the premise asserted above. The argument wonders whether the government or society should provide resources to support the mother and family of 12 kids? My answer, is of course not from the government and we’d rather not at a societal level. We cannot afford too many people having too many children, there are limited resources.
So where does that leave us? I believe it actually leaves us in a good place to reach a compromise. No restrictions on reproductive choice, however government support can be limited and and should NOT be a function of the number of children. Local Community/Society MUST pick up the slack for the occasional family that is in trouble financially as a result of too many children. We cannot create a government system that REWARDS excessive children in a single family. Furthermore, society (not the government) must educate those parents that might consider having an excessive number of children that they are stretching their fixed resources more and more as their family grows.
What is an “excessive” number of children. I will let the politicians and local communities debate it. Congress and voters can then decide, but my opinion is more than three at a minimum. I would further suggest a graduated approach to any potential funding cap.
What funding are we talking about, just welfare? I am referring to any type of funding coming from a central authority, whether that be welfare, Universal Basic Income or some other derivative solution that we achieve as the Future of Work and the workforce changes. I will be happy to go into more detail on suggested policy but that is beyond the scope of this blog piece.
Remember the basis for the concern over the Right to Procreate, is that there are those who are considering placing limits on that Right. ForHumanity does NOT support placing explicit limits on the Right to Procreate, but can understand and support limits on funding from a central authority that does not reward incremental childbirth above a minimum number not to be below 3 and preferably phased in. ForHumanity also advocates for a certain amount of education to accompany any such program to ensure that the population understands that their resources are fixed and having too many children is a danger to those children.
The Right to Procreate should NOT be restricted or in any way sacrificed to accommodate the development of Artificial Intelligence. There is absolutely no justification for it. If you want to talk about resource allocation, fine. But don’t confuse that with an infringement on this basic human right.