Do you think it would be good policy and politics to allow the worker to decide who their bonus would go to? For example step-parents, teachers, and other mentors might have had more impact than some parents. On the other hand, if you give choice, the worker might try to sell the bonus, unlinking it to the effort of raising and training them.

Expand full comment

Yes, that seems to be true.

Expand full comment

Washing the debt through government would probably make it more palatable. For example, parents getting a bonus in their Social Security benefits based on their children's contributions.

Expand full comment

What about general social wealth as an explanation? Some of the stylized facts seem equally or better explained as consequences of prosperity than in terms of dominance and forager norms.

Why, for example, are children no longer obliged to care for elderly parents? Well, it seem just not to be necessary -- old people acquire sufficient resources to care for themselves (and even leave bequests). In earlier times, elderly were drains on resources and society had to make someone responsible for the burden. Or, before that, we cajoled elderly to wonder into the wilderness and die of exposure... not exactly the height of obligation of care.

Expand full comment

And if there are no exit rights, there will be mutual contempt and defection.

Bad teachers being forced to teach badly to bad students. School can't fire a teacher or pick a better curriculum, teacher can't get new students or teach outside of a boring, unengaging curriculum either. Students can't get a better teacher. Usually can't simply move to a better school easily. As if our blind society could even have a clue, what a good school would even look like. Students can't get away from other students they don't like, and that dislike might very well be mutual.Add parents in the mix and still nobody here is dominating anybody much.

Fundamentally unsound institutional design everywhere you look. Crumbling already, hence we live in these glorious times of chaos :)


But anyway, I think focussing on the dominance-submission axis, isn't quite right in illuminating our dysfunctional relationships.

Expand full comment

60% actually ain't too bad. The support is emotional as well as financial, and the wealthy need that as well. Having a lot of kids is like diversifying your investments. In fact, it *is* diversifying your investments. You hope that at least one of the investments will be enough of a winner to make the crap-shoot worthwhile.

Expand full comment

I would bet that if you looked at support from children to their parents, it peaks around the 60th percentile. The wealthier don't need it, while the poorer tend to have children too under-functional to provide it.

Expand full comment

Of course having lots of kids doesn't help the poor in general – at least not directly. But having kids is a cost-effective way to get benefits to the parents, and those benefits go beyond retirement benefits. Kids help their parents, financially and in other ways, long before retirement as well.

It seems to the that the "standard" explanation is a plausible explanation for why wealthy nations have a lower birth rate than poor nations and why wealthy families even in wealthy countries tend to have fewer kids than poor families.

This is relevant to your posting because you are proposing strategies that you suggest would alter the birth rate. It seems to me that the standard explanation is the elephant in the room, and its implications for birth rate as a function of familial and national wealth needs to be accounted for in any proposed strategy to this end.

Though people at all economic levels tend to give to the poor in one way or another, most also feel a prior obligation is to keep themselves and their close families from suffering the burden of poverty.

Expand full comment

If people aren't free to renegotiate, there's no guarantee that they value the obligations others have toward them more than their cost.

Expand full comment

"Our bosses have more obligations to us, such as to pay for our healthcare, and we have fewer to them, such as to work overtime or treat them respectfully. (And UBI advocates seek to move that further.)"

Your boss "providing healthcare" is obligated into compensating you in a mixed way (cash+healthcare). An employee might not wish to be compensated in that way, but is obligated to accept that deal.There is no choice of "No, give me more money instead. I'll deal with my healthcare myself, thanks.".

This is more everybody's obligation to "obey the rules". We (politicians, parents, children, bosses, employees, kings and clients) are dominated by that system, more than ever before. There are no dominant crabs in a bucket.

We're still stuck on Earth in 2020, so I'm pretty sure this is a bucket, anyway.

Expand full comment

You are only considering retirement benefits; I'm talking many obligations. And in fact kids are not cost-effective way to get retirement benefits for the poor.

Expand full comment

The "standard" explanation by demographers for why people in the developed world have fewer kids is that the society is prosperous enough that the parents will be provided for in their old age by social security and the like, and that they will therefore not require as many kids to support them in their old age.

In poor countries, there is no such "safety net", and, given high infant mortality, families have to produce more kids in order to secure care in their old age. In at least some cultures, such as India, more male offspring, in particular, are required, since the girls, once married, become part of their husbands' families and become obligated to participate in care for their husbands' parents.

I don't see anything in your posting that would overthrow the standard explanation. Even in the developing world, I think (though I cannot cite statistics) that more prosperous individuals tend to have fewer children. If so, it would bear out the "standard" explanation, in that wealthy parents have already provided for their own future care.

In fact, even in America, the poor have more kids, which is consistent with the "standard" explanation. Someone (Dick Gregory?) said something like "The rich have trust funds, the po' have children," but I can't find the quote. I'm sure it was funnier than my paraphrase.

I agree that there is a connection between the existence of these safety nets and the price we all pay in greater taxes. When the society is prosperous from top to bottom, people tend to be willing to pay, since the vast majority benefit. Of course, that situation might not last forever.

Expand full comment