What does Uncrowded do, exactly?
At Uncrowded we replace outdated models of parenting with the Responsible Parenting model through three different programs focused on legal, corporate, and grassroots reform.
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.
Is Uncrowded a liberal or conservative organization?
Uncrowded is neither because we derive our work from values that are traditionally considered conservative as well as from values that are considered liberal. For example, we believe in consensual and smaller government, decentralized power, and parents’ obligation to ensure that their children will become active and contributing members in their societies. We also believe that fairness requires resources be distributed to give every child born equal opportunities to succeed, that we all have a moral obligation to protect nature, and that we should consider our impact on nature and the environment when choosing how many children to have.
Despite common differences between liberals and conservatives we believe that family planning is one area where a lot of common ground is overlooked, and that truly thoughtful liberals and conservatives can agree to work together to promote smaller families where people have fewer children and invest more in each child they have. We believe that liberals and conservatives who have integrity, and who operate from shared democratic values, will work together to oppose and overcome the misguided governments and special interests who have eroded our democracies and endangered our futures in favor of economic growth.
How is Uncrowded different from other nonprofits?
We empower people at the earliest and most effective stage possible: by focusing on the conditions in which they are born and fist raised.
Why advocate for a parenting model at all?
Parents want to bring children into this world and raise them so that they live great lives. But the quality of anybody’s life is determined by the people around that person, and how the people around that person were brought into the world and raised. That means all parents, to get what they want, have to work together on how to best have and raise their children because those children will share this world together. A model or suggested best practice, like Responsible Parenting (moving resources from 3+ to 1+ families), is one way for people to work together.
How does Uncrowded work?
We replace outdated models of parenting with the Responsible Parenting model (moving resources from 3+ to 1+ families) in three ways: through our Legal, Corporate, and Grassroots programs. Here are some examples:
Our Legal Program institutes the model in domestic and international legal systems through legislation and litigation, changing the way courts respond to abusive parents, and developing legislation that converts some child tax credits into funding for family planning and early childhood development programs, with explicit legislative findings about the need to change parenting models. Our Corporate Program works with for-profit companies and not-for-profit organizations to adopt the model by restructuring parental benefits. And our Grassroots Program helps people agree to use the model and publicize their decision, by setting up educational trusts between families.
Why can’t we have freedom and democracy without parenting models?
Democracy means that people have the final say over the rules they will have to live by, not government. That means that if we care about who has power over us we have to care about the other people in our democracies, especially as they come into the world and develop, and maybe even more than we care about the leaders we elect to office. Democracies start with and depend primarily on the people in them, and people start becoming who they are the day they are born. Parenting models, like Responsible Parenting, are one way to get involved in that process, show that we care, and start to make freedom and democracy work.
Why doesn’t Uncrowded just focus on ensuring access to contraceptives and other health services for people that want them?
Most of the efforts and money that go into family planning are already focused on doing just that. Uncrowded adds something new and uniquely valuable to these efforts by giving people more of a reason to actually demand and use such services. We do so by going beyond individual’s personal or private reasons to instead focus on public reasons, or reasons we can all agree about. We then make those reasons prominent in public discourse by using our product – the Responsible Parenting model – to reform our outdated legal systems and corporate cultures, and through grassroots campaigns that connect people directly.
Is there any authority for Uncrowded’s model?
The Responsible Parenting model is based on the most fundamental rule underlying the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Every person has the right to be born free and equal.
We use the Declaration because we believe that the biggest hurdle to parents working together on how to best have and raise children is the way countries around the world use various parenting models to compete with each other economically. Starting with a single model based on universal values and international human rights takes parenting out of this competitive process, and lets us all instead focus on the best way to help children and expand freedom for everyone.
Is Responsible Parenting a one-size-fits-all way to have children?
Yes and no. The Responsible Parenting model (moving resources from 3+ to 1+ families) derives from careful analysis of the universal human right to have children, which means the model is based on universal values all people share and that are inherent in the act of having children. For that reason the model looks like a one-size-fits-all, like any model derived from universal human rights. However, the Responsible Parenting model has to be applied in a flexible way, and must be tailored to fit cultural, economic, and other contexts.
What values is Responsible Parenting based upon?
The outdated parenting models we use today are almost all based on the value of personal autonomy, which doesn’t take into account the impact parents’ decision to have a child has on the lives of other people. The decision to have a child is intricate, and to make children free and equal in the ways that matter for democracy it must be based on five values rather than one.
These five values are uniquely impacted every time a child is born:
- Continuity of parents’ lives in the form of their children
- The well-being of the children born
- Fairness in how children start their lives relative to each other
- Nature, or the relative absence of human power or influence, and
- The democratic process of empowering the people themselves as leaders
The Responsible Parenting model replaces personal autonomy with these five values, and balances all five values to try to get the best outcome possible. Responsible Parenting is about long term planning and values based thinking.
What is crowding and why is it such a bad thing?
Crowding refers not only to there being too many people in a given situation (sitting in traffic, waiting in lines, constantly exposed to and creating pollution, experiencing housing and job shortages, etc.) but it also refers to the fact that crowds make us feel estranged and disconnected from the people in them. Crowds are the opposite of community; they disassociate us from one another and make our shared environments harder to live in.
Crowding has traditionally been promoted, through subtle cultural cues and less subtle means, by modern nations that see large and growing populations as a way to gain military and economic advantages over competing nations. However, even the U.S. Department of Defense has now recognized that some of the effects of crowding, like anthropogenic climate change, actually harm national security.
Why doesn’t Uncrowded focus on overpopulation per se?
At Uncrowded we don’t think about the people we share this world with as numbers. Moreover, unsustainable population growth and crowding is only one symptom of outdated parenting models. These models also harm children, create inequality, destroy our environment, and prevent democracy from working. Uncrowded proactively focuses on the solution to all of these problems, rather than reacting to the problems themselves, by advocating for the Responsible Parenting model.
What problem is Uncrowded fixing, and why is the organization necessary?
How can people come together to improve all of their lives? So far there is no good answer that takes into account that people alive today are constantly coming together with future generations. Uncrowded advocates for the Responsible Parenting model as a way of filling this gap, improving the way societies organize, improving the way future generations enter and integrate into society, and making the world a better place now and in the future.
Is the Responsible Parenting model inconsistent with the right to freely have children?
Just the opposite. The Responsible Parenting model protects the right to have children, for us and for future generations, by giving the right substance and structure in a way that explains and justifies it like never before, while balancing against other values in a way that gives all of us a choice about how we come together with future generations. We see and protect the objective value, or the continuation and improvement of parents’ lives through the child or children they will have, inherent in the decision to have children.
What about the economy?
We often hear that having fewer children might harm the economy. But the truth is that adding more and more people to an economy that already is not producing enough good jobs, affordable housing, and reasonably priced goods and services for the people already in it only makes things worse for the average person. Arguments for adding more people usually come from corporations that profit at our expense from adding more people to create a growing pool of cheap labor, and growing demand for whatever they are selling. Growth also allows businesses to control public policy by making the need to create more jobs for a constantly increasing population a constant and overriding matter of public concern. These businesses care about short term profit, not people, and they are engaged in what Joseph Chamie, former director of the population division of the United Nations, called a Ponzi scheme that artificially inflates economies in ways that conceal costs by simply adding more and more people.
What’s the solution?
When people feel valued they tend to create value. History has proven that we build the best economies by investing directly in people and the best returns by investing in them as early as possible. The Responsible Parenting model – having fewer children and investing more in each – is designed to do both, and in ways we’ve never done before by focusing on children as part of democracies before they are part of economies.
What does crowding have to do with democracy?
Democracy is an ideal characterized by people coming together, trusting one another enough to agree on a plan for their common futures, and working together to manage that plan going forward. Democracy begins with people, and it is the opposite of an endless crowd of strangers where each person has little if any role in shaping public affairs.In many ways crowding is the antithesis of democracy because it implies disassociation from the people around you, from the people with whom you are sharing equal power.
But at the time democracy was first being developed, politics and states could not really be organized around the ideal of consensual political association, or a social contract where people voluntarily come together and cooperate to make up rules for how they will live their lives. This was in part because of the threat other nations and the outside world posed, for religious reasons, and because the social contract was seen as a horizontal thing between living persons more than a vertical thing that could be created intergenerationally. Instead power was given from people to politicians, who built nations around things that go against the idea of consensual political association, like strength in numbers and limitless economic growth. Uncrowded is pushing back against those things, and working to make the idea of a social contract real by focusing on the people that are actually parties to it, and by extending the contact intergenerationally in ways that have never been done before.
This is how we approach it: Democracy and the idea of a voluntary social contract were supposed to be the solution to centuries of people oppressing one another. But by choosing thoughtless growth our ancestors ensured democracy could never really develop. Democracy requires that the people entering the social contract to be a certain way, to be truly free and equal self-governing lawmakers who could empathize with, trust, and agree with one another enough to come up with their own rules to run their own society. In other words, these revolutionary ideas relied upon people being psychologically disposed to value one another before valuing things, and power, at least enough to come together, trust one another, agree upon a plan, and see it through. How did democracy get these people, the people it needed to work?
The fact is, because of the choices our ancestors made, it never did.
Fledgling democracies would have had to develop such people – they would not have magically appeared. And that development, realistically, would have had to start with children. It would have meant specific plans to give each child born what they would have needed to develop into free, equal, and democratic people, who could trust, agree, and plan with each other. Democracy is really about people; it’s about who those people are and how they relate. And people start becoming who they are the day they are born. Making real democracies has to start with children, and with specific plans for each of their futures. Uncrowded is making democracy and the social contract intergenerational by promoting smaller families that invest more in each child, and invest in very particular ways geared to make those children free, equal, and democratic people.
Why does Uncrowded use specific values to talk about parenting?
Because parenting affects all of us, and all of our futures, we believe it should come from values that we all share. We also believe that anyone claiming to care about the future, from corporations to politicians to civic leaders, ought to also be able to articulate their own specific values, how they plan to further those values in the future, and what a future world derived from those values actually looks like. Their inability to do so should raise red flags, and implies that they are operating from suspect values, or do not know how to plan using values (and are often just doing what others are doing or what they have done in the past). We believe that many people who claim to care about the future value things most of us do not, or don’t operate from values at all, and are actually leading people in the wrong direction.
Some have argued that Uncrowded’s vision of a future (a world filled with smaller and truly consensual democracies surrounded by nature and comprised of people who have equal opportunity and real well-being) is idealistic, unrealistic, and out of step with modern economies. People making these arguments aren’t more realistic; they just value things like wealth and power more than they value things like nature and fairness, and as such they are a threat to democracy and our future.
Are people who choose not to have children because they don’t want to bring them into a world with an increasingly bleak future making the wrong decision?
Given things like climate change, dwindling resources, and political and economic instability it’s hard to say they are. But no one should have to make that decision. Many of these concerns about the future are based on population growth and they are concerns that apply to everyone. It’s time to break the taboo and have a public discussion about the decision to have kids. At Uncrowded we think we can get to the best results, when it comes to the one behavior that matters most for the future, by all working together.
Why does Uncrowded mean when we talk about nature, and why is it so important?
The word nature is often misunderstood, in part because so many things, like foods and health products, are falsely advertised as “natural.” But the best way to think about nature is as the nonhuman world, or that part of the world where all of the species of plants, and animals other than humans, would be living and evolving in their own habitat. In our legal system nature is often referred to as wilderness, or places where humans sometimes go but leave no trace when they do.
Nature is at the center of ideas like democracy, human rights, environmentalism, and animal rights. Democracy and human rights were founded on the idea of consenting to other people’s influence, which is impossible without the nonhuman world, or places without human influence, to serve as some alternative. Wilderness and the nonhuman world are also vital because real democracies are made up of people who are psychologically disposed to value one another before valuing things and power, at least enough to come together, trust one another, agree upon a plan, and see it through. The physical manifestation of people not valuing things and power is the wilderness, or the nonhuman world, which represents the absence of human power and consumption, that part of the word humans have managed to leave alone for others and future generations to experience. It is irresistible to and incompatible with undemocratic people who are more disposed to crave things and power and will see the vulnerable nonhuman world as a resource to take, and its presence and proximity is a litmus test for the democratic nature of people in society and a baseline from which to asses consumption.
Nature is at the center of environmentalism and animal rights as well. Environmentalism in many ways simply refers to humans evolving to understand that our species is actually part of a larger and interdependent system of many species other than humans, or the nonhuman world. The idea of animal rights begins with the idea of the nonhuman world, or nonhumans living in their own autonomy or freedom. Nature links all three of these things, and the social movements that promote them. They are also linked in another way: people that are inclined to subjugate animals and the nonhuman are often inclined to subjugate other people.
Is Uncrowded suggesting a comprehensive plan for organizing society?
No, but we believe that any plan for social organization begins with the people making it, that who those people are matters as much or more than the plan itself, and that the conditions in which those people are born, more than anything else, determines who they will become. Uncrowded is unique because we work from these truths, which have been almost totally ignored by social organizers to date, and focus our efforts on what matters most: people’s decision to have children. We do so by proposing a specific model, built on five democratic values, called Responsible Parenting. We believe it takes such a model, and deliberate effort, to have and raise children that are truly free and equal, and that we won’t have real democracy until we do so. We believe that Uncrowded’s unique work will flush out and identify special interests that are threatened by people becoming truly free and equal, and help us all to hold them accountable.
Why focus on crowding, instead of consumption, to protect the environment?
First, with a population of billions and billions of people it would not matter if the average person chose to consume less – there would simply be too many people for it to make a difference. Second, most people are choosing to have fewer children, often just one or two, but very few people are choosing to consume less. We think it’s wise to keep developing the trend toward smaller families. Third, experts have trouble determining what the right level of consumption is, but there is something special about having just one or two children, or what we call continuity, and that something gives us a concrete point from which to work. Lastly, Uncrowded is working on consumption, by helping parents have and raise children that will become democratic people who value other people, more than they do things or power.
What does Uncrowded mean when it says that systems start with the people in them?
In the past many of the efforts to help organize societies have consistently made two mistakes: they have focused on the systems themselves and ignored the people that comprise them, and they have tended to jumble together the three main organizing systems we are accustomed to: the political, economic, and legal. These mistakes are related.
Political and economic systems are less evolved and tend to add more and more people to build overall military and economic strength, they focus less on valuing individuals, and they tend to develop people with less empathy – people who are psychologically disposed to valuing things and power before valuing each other. True legal systems are different and much more advanced – they tend to work better with fewer people, and they develop people that are able to trust and agree with one another, and build plans together. Political and economic systems tend to promote crowding; true legal systems will avoid crowding. In legal systems you will care deeply about who the people in the system are, the people with whom you have to plan the future; in political and economic systems – where leaders do the planning and other people are simply part of an endless marketplace – you will barely notice the people around you.
Advances in international law and other changes over the past several decades allow us to develop legal systems in ways we’ve never done before. These changes make it less important for countries to constantly grow in competition with and out of fear of one another, to the detriment of individuals. Uncrowded is addressing these mistakes and taking advantage of recent advances with a simple solution. We disentangle the three systems by treating democracy as a type of legal system based upon the idea of an agreed to social contract, one that is a foundation that must come before any political and economic systems that might be built upon it. We then use democracy as a value to help replace an outdated parenting model that isolates families with a new model called Responsible Parenting. The Responsible Parenting model (moving resources from 3+ to 1+ families) focuses on developing each child as someone who will one day share equal power in a democracy, before they are a consumer, worker, soldier, etc. We will never even begin to approach ideals like democracy and real social contracts until we put legal systems ahead of political and economic systems, realize that any system starts with the people in it, and realize that people start becoming who they are the day they are born.
Does reducing population growth mean less diversity?
It’s actually the opposite. The explosion in population over the past several decades has destroyed the biodiversity of our planet, with mass extinctions and almost half of the wildlife on Earth disappearing. That growth has also corresponded with a massive loss human diversity, as what experts have identified as a monoculture of consumerism spreads over the world and quickly replaces ancient cultures, languages, and traditions. The world we live in is much less diverse than that of our ancestors, whose population was a fraction of ours.
Money is only as good as the things we spend it on. Uncrowded uses donations to produce the five universal values the Responsible Parenting model is based upon (continuity, well-being, fairness, nature, and democracy) by focusing on the one behavior that matters most for all: people having children.