The Answer: Having kids – From Chaos to Freedom and Love 

Old and new families

An Introduction to Uncrowded’s Model and Product: Responsible Parenting

We believe that parents are willing to do what it takes to make the world their children will inherit better than the one we live in today.
Is there anything we can do to make sure the future is safe for us and for our children? At Uncrowded we believe people want to do something. The problem is they just don’t know how. There is an answer, and it’s called the Responsible Parenting model.

What is the Responsible Parenting model?

It’s simple. Parents take the resources they would have invested in having a third or fourth child and instead use part of those resources to help other families plan for and invest in their first or second child, and in ways that give all of the children things in common.

What does the Responsible Parenting model do?

The Responsible Parenting model is designed to begin the process of changing the way we think about having and raising children, from seeing it as something we do apart or isolated from the community around us to instead something that collectively and over time creates the community around us. Truly responsible parenting, in a democracy, means thinking of every child who will be born as someone with whom you will one day have to agree on a best set of rules to live by, and then helping to bring that child into the world with what he or she needs to do that.

How does the Responsible Parenting model expand freedom?

Responsible Parenting frees children by giving them more opportunities in life, frees parents by getting them help in planning for and investing in their children, and frees everyone by creating  smaller and more connected communities where each person has a greater voice in their governments, cultures and lives.

Let’s start by understanding how we got here, to a place where most people are worried about the quality of life for future generations.

World Governments Made a Mistake

TrafficIn the 1960’s and 70’s the world began to realize the dangers of large families and a small planet that was growing more and more crowded every day. Faced with this problem the world’s governments were at a crossroads: take action to promote smaller families, or simply hope people would make that choice themselves. Most governments chose the latter.

Educated about the dangers of population growth and the economic benefits of smaller families, and provided with contraceptives and other reproductive health services, many people chose to have smaller families – a lot smaller. But it wasn’t enough.

World population has more than doubled in the past sixty years and continues to skyrocket. Where did things go wrong?

Three GenerationsIn order to make it easier for people to actually choose to have smaller families by using contraception, abortion, and other reproductive health services that had previously been taboo and in many cases illegal, world leaders tapped into a strong intuition we all feel: government should stay out of our bedrooms, out of our sex lives. World leaders used this powerful point to develop and promote the idea of a right to private social isolation from others that would surround any decision regarding having children – both the decision to have children and the decision to not have children. That way people would be free to choose to have smaller families.

There was, and is, just one problem: Having children is different from not having children. Every child we have will go on to impact the lives of everyone with whom they will interact, and the world around them. People having children today will determine what all of our futures will look like. Having children is the most influential thing most people will ever do, and the most public thing because it creates the public itself.

Fields and Town in BhutanHiding the decision to have a child behind a curtain of isolation prevents people from coming together and agreeing upon what it is we all value about having children, and from balancing other values that are inevitably involved when we have a child. The idea that the decision to have a child is a matter of private social isolation prevents people from cooperating, and coming up with plans to make sure we are all having kids in ways that best reflect shared values. Isolation keeps others out and lets everyone feel free to have as many children as they want, for any reasons they want, in any circumstances they want.

Here is an analogy. The idea of centripetal force refers to a pulling inward (O), while centrifugal force refers to a pushing outward (X). We think of parents having children and building a family as centripetal (O) because it feels that way in the short term: the parents, in the isolation of their home, caring for and protecting their child or children from the outside world.

But in the long term, in the big picture, it’s really the opposite. Families create the social world around us. Children leave their homes, join society and become the citizens of the world that surround us every day of our lives. They will determine what our lives, and our children’s lives, will be like. At Uncrowded we believe that because parenting affects all of us, and all of our futures, it should come from values that we all share.

Grass-Widows-Rick_RayBy choosing isolation (O), and simply hoping people would choose to have small enough families, world governments failed us and have literally put our children risk. By embracing isolation they also created a vacuum of shared values and morality, an empty space that has left people without any real guidance for how to choose to have children. But this is the most important decision most people will ever make and where they need guidance the most. This empty space that has allowed totally outdated and dangerous cultural, religious, corporate, and governmental models, designed decades ago to promote constant population growth, to now subtly nudge parents in a direction that is detrimental for them and for the future. These models have used parents to produce more consumers, more taxpayers, and more workers, etc., for the a system of endless growth, and for the short term benefit of the people running it. These models directly conflict with things we value like democracy, fairness, and nature, and they exercise power over people by limiting their options from the day they are born.

What world governments did half a century ago created the chaotic world we are living in today. And as our population grows towards over ten billion people by 2100, the governments and organizations that pushed the idea that having kids is a personal and privately isolated matter do not seem to know what to do.

Replacing an Outdated Model

file7731339851377Having children carries with it massive responsibilities – to the child born and to others. But what is the alternative to isolation? One answer may lie in the idea of democracy itself.

When the ideas of democracy and a social contract were first being developed in the 17th century people assumed certain things and ignored others: They assumed the social contract was an agreement between adults, they assumed certain things about all adults, they ignored how our families, and the things that happen to us in our past, make us who we are as adults, and they ignored the way population growth erodes democracy.

If we change the ideas of democracy and the social contract to account for what we know about human development today, and the compelling need people feel to meaningfully belong to a group, the idea of a democratic social contract becomes much more intergenerational, and heavily focused on the way families’ add new members to the contract. With that change the first thing that contract will do is invest, in very specific ways, in the conditions in which we develop, and the influences that make us who we are.

At Uncrowded we welcome that change, and we think it means replacing the idea of isolated families with a new model called Responsible Parenting. Responsible Parenting means coming together to explore and articulate values that we all share, and finding ways to cooperate and agree on the best ways to have children in order to promote those values and ensure a better future for everyone. By breaking the isolation paradigm we can each become more invested in future generations and their well-being, and less walled off from each other.

file0001311532080At Uncrowded we symbolize the idea of Responsible Parenting with the symbol X, and we start with five widely shared and celebrated values that are always and inevitably part of having children: continuity, nature, well-being, fairness, and democracy.Responsible Parenting attempts to balance these five values so that we achieve all of them.

Having children begins with the shared value of continuity, by parents having their first or second child, or by adopting and raising children. That act, of passing to others the human life that we value but are in the process of losing as we grow older, seems to be at the heart of what we value about having children. That value protects our right to have children, which is important, but also reflects the fact that parents’ interest in having children diminishes sharply with each child they have – which is symbolized as a downward sloping line \.

This is important because the diminishing interest in turn promotes another value, nature or the nonhuman world, the environment around us that we need to protect for our and future generations’ well-being. True sustainability requires that we limit the number of children we have, and organizations that do not recognize this are not protecting the environment. Also, unlike most environmental organizations, Uncrowded uses a political, rather than aesthetic, conception of nature that is more synonymous with wilderness and the biodiverse nonhuman world than emaciated versions of nature like parks and simple open spaces. We view nature as an ideal people value because it represents the absence of human power and influence, or the evolving nonhuman world that plants and animals would make for themselves. That ideal is political because it represents an alternative to human political association, and is required for truly consensual government and democracy to make sense. We take the idea of a right to be left alone by others to whole new level, beyond things like privacy in your home towards a world where we are all surrounded by the real and physical freedom from others that only nature can give us.

saguaro-arizona-Rick_RayWhile people have a strong and protected interest in having children, they are also responsible for not having children where the children they have would not enjoy a minimum of another thing we all value: well-being. In other words, it would be wrong to have children if we knew they would have no health care, no food and shelter, no love, and would miss out on all of the other things every child deserves. Using continuity and well-being to guide when and how we have children will help get them what they deserve, but it is fairness that really gets us there.

Fairness, or equality, means that every child born deserves an equal opportunity to enjoy a good life as that of other children born in their generation. Coordinating how we have kids is a rare opportunity to actually create fairness and equality, because while assuring equality among adults is complex and controversial, almost everyone agrees that children all deserve at least a fair start in life. Rethinking how we have kids lets us create equality and fairness in ways we’ve never done before, as more fortunate families help less fortunate families constantly raise the level of well-being of the children they have. We symbolize this move from basic necessities to equal opportunity with an upward sloping line /.

file2421264480998By families cooperating together to have fewer children, and invest more in each child, this whole process becomes possible. Resources that would have gone to a third or fourth child can instead be invested in a first or second child, and in the first or second child of other families that need help. And in the long run everyone benefits, because smaller families sharing more with each other is exactly what promotes the final and perhaps most important value: democracy or the idea of sharing equal power with others. Smaller families do so because while every democracy needs enough people to offer its citizens opportunities for a good life, at some point there can be so many people sharing equal power that the average citizen has no real power, no real say over political decisions, at all. Their voice is simply too small, and drowned out, to matter.

IMG_2071Democracy also gives us a new and special reason to share in order to build other families’ children up right from the start. “Government by the people,” means each of us has to care deeply about who our fellow citizens are, and will be in the future, because in real democracies we are all sharing power over one another. And that means we have to develop every child so that as adults they are first leaders and lawmakers, before they become a consumers, workers, taxpayers, soldiers, etc. Real democracies require we develop children into people who are self-governing and resilient enough to escape their social and economic limits, as well as their cultures, so that they write their own futures and can’t be exploited by others.

But democracy also means children have to become empathetic and agreeable enough, as adults, to work with others to run society and adhere to the rules they help make. In a real democracy children have to become people who are able and inclined to influence each other indirectly, through open and honest agreement, rather than directly through things like force, manipulation, exploitation, deprivation, etc. The historic move towards democracy and human rights is really the move towards us indirectly influencing each other through agreements and norms, rather than us directly influencing each other through power. And democratic and human rights based systems don’t work if they are not developing citizens who reflect with this move, helping them become resilient, free, and equal people who agree with and empathize with each other instead of dominate one another. Democracy is the opposite of an endless crowd of strangers constantly clamoring over one another, and systems that produce these crowds are antithetical to it.

Fish MarketThe outdated cultural, corporate, and governmental models that promote constant growth, consumerism, and larger economies often push us in the opposite direction when it comes to the decision to have children – to have more of them, to develop them as consumers and in other ways that are incompatible with democracy, and to invest less of what really matters in each of them. While our species is accustomed to assessing and confronting immediate and concrete threats, like foreign nations, Uncrowded is focused on pushing back against these quiet and amorphous models, which slowly and subtly establish social control and erode democracy, value power and things over people, and are perhaps the greatest threat to our collective freedom and future. If we believe in democracy we must also believe that every child deserves to be raised in conditions that develop that child into an adult with necessary tools, like resilience and empathy, to cooperate in collective self-government with others. And it is tools like empathy for one another, and even for the animals with whom we share this world, that make us value the other things Uncrowded promotes: fairness, nature, well-being, and continuity.

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The \ and / lines of the Responsible Parenting model, making an X.

The X symbolizes the constant give and take dynamism behind the idea of Responsible Parenting. The value of having children and continuing the generations begins when parents are ready to give the children born the well-being that every child deserves. But the rest of us have to help people who want to be parents first reach that level, in part because we benefit as the people who will share the world, and our democracies, with those children. We are able to help parents meet that level exactly because every parent’s interest in having children, given the value of continuity, diminishes sharply with each child they have. That diminishment means fewer children in need, and also allows the resources more fortunate parents would use to create a larger family to instead be shared, in fairness, to move less fortunate children at least in the direction of having equal opportunities in life to those enjoyed by more fortunate children. This process, of increasing well-being and equality while assuring continuity, also ensures our numbers won’t grow in a way that destroys the environment we and future generations rely upon, and the nature required for us to be physically free from one another. It also ensures our numbers won’t grow in a way that turns our political systems from true democracies where everyone has a meaningful say into bloated bureaucracies where each person’s voice, and role in governance, is effectively worthless. This process also reflects our collective interest in giving children the start they need, in terms of nurturing and education, to become capable not only of governing themselves but of also democratically governing other people through open and honest agreement.

At Uncrowded we symbolize the move from isolation (O), to Responsible Parenting (X), as the move from O to X. O to X means changing the world’s vision from a short-term view of parenting as a bubble O insulated against the outside world of other people, to a long-term view where we see that parenting creates the outside world of other people, and where less ↘ becomes more ↗.

Real Freedom and Love

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  • Responsible Parenting means freedom: the freedom to parent combined with the freedom for every child born to have real opportunities in life, the freedom of parents to do things other than parent, the freedom of being part of and protected by a political system comprised of free-thinkers engaged in meaningful self-governance, and the freedom of having a protected natural environment around us to which we can escape the influence of others.
  • Responsible Parenting also means love: loving children by only bringing them into circumstances that ensure their well-being and give them a fair start in life, loving the natural world by not destroying it, and loving each other enough to make our children a benefit to one another.

At Uncrowded we want to replace the idea of isolated parenting with the idea of Responsible Parenting from shared values by

  1. reforming outdated domestic and international legal systems,
  2. changing both non-profit and for-profit corporate cultures that subtly influence how we think about parenting,
  3. reaching out to families and people who want to have children to help them cooperate in their decisions.
  • Isolation means that some children will be born very rich and others very poor, through no fault of their own, and that it’s up to the children themselves to make up the gap; fairness instead at least starts us down the road toward creating equality of opportunity for every child born. Moving in this direction might mean grassroots campaigns that match up families or intending parents, especially higher-profile individuals who can model their decision, in order to create primary, secondary and collegiate scholarship trusts specifically designed around the values of Responsible Parenting.
  • IMG_2971Isolation means no child is guaranteed well-being, and that parents who have previously abused and neglected their children can put future children at risk; promoting well-being instead ensures that every child is guaranteed at least the bare necessities, and that no child is born without them. Moving in this direction might mean that courts faced with parents convicted of abusing or neglecting children would be authorized by law to condition probation on the parents’ forgoing having more children until certain conditions, designed to protect those children, are met. It might also mean urging some corporations, like fertility clinics, to incorporate into their advertising messaging regarding the need for intending parents to be ready before parenting..
  • Isolation means that parents can have and raise children in conditions that do nothing to ensure those children will be capable of governing themselves or others in our democratic system; truly democratic systems instead insist that children be raised only in conditions that enable them to participate in the actual governance of their society. Moving in this direction might mean thinking of the well-being described above by using traits real democracies need in their people, like empathy, rather than defaulting to simplistic measures like income. Doing so would create positive feedback loops, where levels of well-being would coincide with the proactive inclusion of children into society by others, and with ensuring things that are necessary for human well-being, like being actively welcomed into and truly belonging to a group. But the fact is that all of the changes described above move us toward true democracy – towards trusting one another – by building more inclusive and participatory communities where each person has more of a voice over the public affairs that affect their lives. These changes help us to all work together towards a safer, sustainable, and better future.

There are dozens of other things each of us can do – but we have to do something.

_DSC2330Having kids is the most important thing most of us do, and it determines what the future will be like. At Uncrowded we are relying on our belief that parents are willing to do what it takes to make the world their children will share with other parents’ children better than the one we live in today.

When it comes to the decision to have children we can do better than isolation, and the chaotic world it has created. We can instead balance all of the values that are at stake. A person’s decision to have children is crucial to all of us because it simultaneously either promotes or detracts from things we value like nature, well-being, fairness, and democracy. But those are the things that can also help guide us to a safer and better future.

How Do We Get To An Uncrowded World?

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Sometimes less is more.