Sir, Could I See Your Breeding License?

By Kyle Munkittrick | October 14, 2010 8:14 am

Weeeeee!The whole discussion about what we’ll find immoral in the future got me thinking about that little group often described as our collective “future”: children. We often hear about children as our future when someone says, “Think of the children!” or “We shouldn’t leave this problem for our children to solve!” Children of Men, Ender’s Game, and A Wrinkle In Time, to name a few sci-fi classics, all place the symbolic future in the hands of either children or a specific child. If children are our “future” then who gets to have and raise children in the future will probably be pretty important.

Why then are we so cavalier about who we let have and raise them? As technology enables more people to reproduce, environmental pressures make each new life a bigger burden, and our understanding of child psychology improves, it’ll become more and more evident that just because a person can have kids doesn’t mean they should have kids. My guess is that, decades down the road, future generations will require a license to reproduce and start a family. That sounds like a pretty good idea to me.

The thing is, we already have sort of a “family license” system. It’s called adoption. If you are adopting, or trying to use an assisted reproductive technique (ART), then you have to meet some requirements. Adoptive parents must meet not just minimal standards like “no history of violence” but also quite high standards of stability, concern for the child’s welfare, wealth, and other characteristics reviewed through applications and interviews. Those who would use ARTs are often given more than an eyebrow raise by their physicians if they’re over a certain age or have a given lifestyle choice. Regardless of what criteria must be met, the point is they are always stricter than the criteria a couple must meet to be able to reproduce in the, uh, standard fashion, because there are no criteria (besides the reproductive biology) for being able to have kids unassisted.

So, what gives? If you can have children naturally, you’re free to have as many as you want and basically do what you want with them. The only exceptions are parents so horrible that the state steps in and takes them away. If you can’t or don’t want to have children naturally, then not only do you have to go through the difficult and complex processes of adoption and/or ARTs, you have to be approved to do so. It’s double-damage on the equality front. Our society, it would seem, unconsciously believes “If you’re naturally able to have kids, then it’s OK for you to have kids. But if you aren’t able to naturally have kids, there might be something else wrong with you, and you should be investigated.” That kind of mindset is wrong – your ability to have kids is not an indicator your ability to take care of them.

To make things equal for everybody, we have two options: either we allow anyone to adopt or use ARTs without scrutiny, or we make sure that all parents meet a minimum set of standards. The latter argument was set forth by Hugh Lafollette in Philosophy and Public Affairs way back in 1980 (before I was born!) in his paper cleverly named “Licensing Parents.” His case is more compelling than you might think. Here are the logical steps:

  1. We currently license activities that could involve harm to others: driving, medicine, and law.
  2. Licenses are not designed to select the “best” but to prohibit those who demonstrate significant failings in the basic demands of the field.
  3. Children are valuable and should be protected, because they cannot protect themselves.
  4. What makes a parent “good” is difficult to define, but what makes a parent unacceptably bad is easy to define and detect.
  5. Therefore, licensing parenthood in order to prevent the very worst from becoming parents is a good way to protect children.

Lafollette is not arguing for any kind of elite standard defining the “best parents” but something like a driver’s license. Just as freedom of movement is an essential liberty, so, too, is the freedom to procreate. However, these rights are not absolute. Just as it is reasonable to have a person in charge of a car take a class and a few tests to make sure they’re capable, it is reasonable to have a person who will be in charge of a new life take a few tests to make sure they’re capable. You didn’t have to be Dale Earnhart, Jr. to get your drivers license; you won’t have to be Ward Cleaver to get your parenting license. You had to be able to merge into traffic, parallel park, and negotiate a four way stop; by the same logic, every child deserves a minimally competent parent.

Whether it’s our blissful acceptance of a random genetic inheritance or our indifference to who is allowed to raise children, it seems to me the very way we treat the creation of new life will be looked at with vastly different eyes in the next century.

Image by mricon via Flickr

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Philosophy, Top Posts

Comments (42)

  1. Meg

    The problem with this is that it’s a slippery slope. Who gets to decide who is eligible to have children? And how do you prevent the undesirables from having kids? There have been times in history where people were forced to be sterilized – we look back in horror at those times, because there were fairly arbitrary definitions on who should be sterilized.

  2. Mat

    Ya, sounds like a great idea. Follows great ideas like eugenics, ethnic cleansing, and the master race.

  3. He’s not saying anything close to ethnic cleansing OR forced sterilization. If you fail your driver’s license test do they remove your eyes so you can never drive again? no. You wait a little while, study some more, & try again. I’m pretty sure the same applies here. I think it’s a good idea, the only problem i see is determining what passes & what fails. Like i’m assuming “raging alcoholics” wouldn’t make the cut… but do you rule out alcohol use altogether? How would a simple test determine if someone were an alcoholic or just a social drinker? things like that.

    OH & i forgot to add- what do you do when people “breed” without a license? A time when people just withstain from sex bc they’re not licensed to breed pretty unlikely. What would the penalty be? BC people WILL have sex. What about accidents? Do you rip the screaming newborn from his mother & force her to put him up for adoption? While i agree some people just shouldn’t be parents, i’m kind of uncomfortable with that. Maybe there would be a grace period for allowing them to get their license if they’d never applied. Or in the case of someone trying to obtain the license & failing, taking the children away would be no different than social services stepping in & removing children from homes in child endangerment cases now, in that the situation had already been deemed unsafe? how would that work?

  4. vel

    basically it comes down to “is it fair to tell people they can’t adopt if the same type of person can have as many children as they want”? is it? If not, then the adoption system should be abolished or there should be some safeguards on who can be a parent. I am all for what would be a license for basic competence e.g. do you know how to feed your child and feed it what, do you know how to deal with anger/frustration, etc.

  5. Trying hard to be provocative, hum? I don’t think it’s going to happen. What’s more likely is that we’ll get to a situation where a child is raised by a – potentially global – village. Eg, lots of checking and monitoring and advice giving.

  6. Kyle Munkittrick

    @ Meg: Lafollette takes pains to avoid the slippery slope condition. He appeals to “prevention of the worst” with licensing. He outlines a lot of research, but the basic summary is that people who meet conditions X, Y, and Z will abuse or neglect their children in 4 out of 5 cases. His argument is that because X, Y, and Z are desecrate and testable, not issuing licenses to those who meet all three conditions would prevent the “worst of the worst” from parenting. His structure would, in part, require additional studies into what leads to abuse and neglect, as to refine the testing system.

    As to “who” decides, I imagine it would be akin to the way our society decides “who” gets to be doctors. A combination of legal, institutional, and societal restrictions combine to help make sure we have good doctors. Do bad ones get through? Of course. Do some potentially good doctors get denied? Yes. But those are in the margins. In general, doctor licensing ensures most doctors are trained, capable, and good enough at what they do to do more good than harm.

    @ Lauren: I’m working on an answer to your question in a research paper currently. My best answer is two fold. The first is that parent licensing would require a sea-change in our cultural and legal attitude towards procreation. Birth control, sex ed, abortion, family planning, would be seen in a new and, in all honesty, difficult to imagine light. There was recently a study ( saying that birth control is, in part, currently not used because of costs – both for medical exams and the BC itself. I imagine accidental birth would become a genuine social concern instead of a “it’s your fault you deal with it” situation in a world where parent licensing is a real thing. The second is that adoption standards would actually be lowered to be equal with the coitus-based reproduction standards. Everyone would get the same license for being a parent, regardless of how they “have” a child, be it by adoption, ARTs, or coitus. More adoptive parents means more homes for children in need of adoption. So, presumably, in a world of parental licensing, there would be fewer accidental pregnancies and more homes for children in need of adoption.

  7. I’m pretty sure we have a screen for minimal competent parenting, it’s called child protective services.

  8. Kyle Munkittrick

    @Southern Fried Scientist: Then why don’t we just let anyone adopt and have child protective services weed out the bad ones? Also, are you really ok with waiting for the kids to be harmed and abused badly and regularly enough for child protective services to have reason to intervene? I’d rather nip the potential worst cases in the bud.

    @Bee: All good philosophy is provocative. If someone’s not angry, you aren’t doing it right! And I think your idea is also provocative: in a community situation, wouldn’t we be equally obligated to make sure the general caretakers are competent? What happens if a parent is unhappy with the way the general collective does things?

  9. kirk

    This concern is secondary to my gravest concern – taking too many squares of toilet paper for wiping. The correct protocol – 5 squares on the first wipe with a finishing wipe with 4 squares needs the same licensing procedure described in the article.

  10. Ramsey

    All “Slippery Slope” arguments should be ignored since they are fallacious. Is eating one donut a slippery slope to obesity? As an individual must exercise a degree of self control to maintain a personal quality of life, we as a society must do the same. Great Article and something I have agreed with for a number of years.

  11. CerpinTaxt

    Funny, I’ve been saying this since I was a kid complaining about his parents haha.
    The most difficult part in implementing a parental licensing system is preventing the unlicensed from procreating in a fair and effective manner. Once more simple, safer and reversable birth control methods become available to BOTH men and women in the future, this will be actually feasible.

    However, such a thing would require drastic changes in the way many people view sex, sex education and government. I don’t see such a thing happening in the near future, but in my opinion such a thing IS necessary. We can see already the major problems brought about by overpopulation. If humans are going to survive much longer we need to start having less babies; procreation licenses seems to be a partial solution to a big problem.

  12. Steve

    As an adoptee myself, I’ve always kind of held this position. My parents waited years and jumped through countless hoops to get me. I can go into their closet today and pull out the boxes of material from the whole process; the finanacial records, the forms, the journals they had to keep with their hopes and thoughts for their baby both before and after they got me.

    I’m very grateful to have been placed with people who not only had an incredible desire to take in a child, but the means and mindset to do so.

    While many, many people conceive naturally and in a similar position to my own parents, there are plenty of people who don’t have the means or much more importantly, the desire to care for and raise a child. And yet they do because they don’t care enough not to.

    It’s anecdotal, but there’s too many stories of neglected kids and the effects of that parental environment are poisonous.

  13. Nick

    Jumble of thoughts:

    You’re advocating not allowing some people to have children and, therefore, preventing some people from living that would have otherwise. Most of those who had crappy parents would not say that the experience was so awful that they wish they had never existed. Given a choice, would you choose non-existence to existence with a bad/abusive childhood? I personally wouldn’t.

    The ecological argument implies we should restrict everyone’s ability to have children (although not necessarily to equal degrees).

    Saying that biological parents, for reasons of fairness, should have to pass tests since adoptive parents must is one-sided. It could equally well be a reason to allow people to adopt children with no background screening what-so-ever.

  14. TomInAK

    I think the obvious qualifications for receiving a parenting license would be:

    1) Likely to vote for the party in power.

    2) Has a proven track record of donating money to the party in power.

    3) Well-connected to the party in power.

    Simple, isn’t it?

  15. RJK

    While I actually kind of like the idea, I can’t see anything like breeding licenses coming to be for a long time. It contemplates substantial government interference with a basic biological function and compulsion. While the comparisons to adoption and ART are apt in that they both also result in a family with a child, the analogy breaks down when you recognize that there is already a substantial third-party presence (either private or governmental) from the beginning. The same is true for driving; even though both breeding and driving carry with them substantial risks, only one relies on structural factors that by their very existence almost necessitate government involvement. At the end of the day, breeding is a function much closer to eating, drinking and breathing, than it is to any of the examples given. Furthermore, even if we accept that there are some ways that governments “intrude” upon those areas by way of regulation, nothing goes as far as licensing the individual. It would take a substantial shift in the underlying principles of Western political and legal systems (individuality, autonomy, rationality) to make licensing those parts of existence tenable, and the same goes for breeding.

  16. psulli

    I would be fine with this if it was retro-active. Anyone that has children now has to take this test … and if they fail they have to give up their children to the state and be forced into a sterilization program. I suppose grandparents could be grandfathered in.

  17. It doesn’t matter what language you use to obfuscate what you are advocating, I have always had a very strong antipathy toward negative eugenics. While this article may be an attempt at a “Modest Proposal”, it certainly reads as if this truly horrific idea is being put forward with all seriousness.

    A simple cost benefit analysis of the harm done to society at large shows that the greatest positive effect would be achieved if a reproductive license were to be denied to anyone who was devoutly religious or socialist… but I would fight tooth and nail to protect that most basic right of these deluded individuals.

    And if there is such a thing as rights, then the most fundamental of those rights, superseding all others, is the right to reproduce. Denying them the right to speech, mobility, association. sexual orientation or commerce would be but minor affronts as compared to this.

  18. Katharine

    And if there is such a thing as rights, then the most fundamental of those rights, superseding all others, is the right to reproduce. Denying them the right to speech, mobility, association. sexual orientation or commerce would be but minor affronts as compared to this.

    I fail to see how this is true considering that reproductive rate is negatively correlated with quality of life.

    Cut the natalism, it’s stupid.

    Honestly, I think free birth control and abortions and free medical exams pertaining to it would be an appropriate step, strong social pressure to put off childbirth until, say, 24 years of age (the age of mothers whose children from as far as I can tell on average have the best outcomes, though the general idea is that the older the mother the better off the kid up to a certain point – however, to contribute one data point, I’m doing pretty well, am profoundly gifted IQ-wise, come from a well-off family, and am headed for graduate school in neuroscience/genetics, and my mother was 36 when I was born; a good deal of people born to older mothers are not the genetically-abnormal offspring that come from many of them), and also some sort of mandatory reversible birth control, preferably mechanical but possibly hormonal, beginning from onset of puberty for all individuals until adulthood. IUDs or alternatively Norplant for the lasses and perhaps an implant for the lads that prevents sperm from separating from the seminal vesicle walls but does not interfere with hormones, with appropriate alternatives for those who cannot take even those.

  19. Louise

    As much as I love the idea in theory, there are obviously too many obstacles for this to happen during our lifetimes. I wish adoption restrictions would be lowered – it is really incredible how hard it is to adopt, and the communication between mothers with “unwanted” babies and adoptive parents needs to be opened and widened a LOT. So why not try for the next best thing? How about mandatory parenting classes for all parents-to-be? This would not be difficult to enforce, as I believe the majority of pregnant mothers in this country visit a doctor during their pregnancy ( is this true?). All mothers and fathers can benefit from childbirth and parenting classes – and it wouldn’t be hard to give extra attention and support to the parents who need it most – I would think that in a classroom setting it would become obvious the parents who were excited and “ready” for children and those who needed the help.

  20. amphiox

    Enforcement is the problem that would need to be settled. I certainly don’t see any way that society could reliably prevent individuals from having sex. So what sanctions are you going to implement against the offenders? Will you compel unlicensed pregnant women to all have abortions? Or will the state take custody of the children when they are born? Infrastructure will have to be in place to manage those children. Who pays the expenses of the unlicensed pregnancies? Who pays for treatment of complications? What do you do if a black market develops for unlicensed pregnancies and unlicensed births? And how will you prevent the enforcement system from devolving into unbalanced repression against women, seeing as no matter how advanced or sophisticated your paternity testing regimen might be, it will always, always be easier to identify and prosecute female violators?

  21. Sam

    One problem I haven’t seen brought up is that this would interfere with religious rights, as well. The Catholic church prohibits use of artificial birth control, and strongly discourages abstinence among married couples when for the purpose of birth control. How would a “breeding license” cope with that conflict without removing even more rights than just reproductive?

    Regarding the hoops adoptive parents go through, I expect a large part of it is particularly because of the difference between adoption and breeding. With breeders, you can’t directly choose the parents, but with adoption you have that ability – you have a chance of putting the child into a provably good home environment.

  22. Katharine

    That’s hilarious, actually, Sam. They want women to pop out babies like cannons, I see.

    Freaks they are.

  23. megan

    As a person who has been a proponent of this concept mainly to restrict our DNA imperative to mindlessly over-populate with increase of resource access(like bacteria) or counter intuitively when there is scarcity and species survival threat = pop out as many spawn as possible to survive the coming extinction/Armageddon(like insects during the fall).

    The way to avoid the eugenics is forced lottery(like an honest military draft) of whom/couple gets to raise or naturally produce a child in proportion with the regional death rates considering resource consumption and production needs. Very Orwellian, and who gets to control that type of buracracy stills leaves room for corruption though. I think my favorite movie now that I hold this philosophy, but is terrifying because of the forced death rate at a certain age in conjunction with regulated breeding is Logan’s Run.

  24. “I fail to see how this is true considering that reproductive rate is negatively correlated with quality of life.

    Cut the natalism, it’s stupid.” – Katharine

    The high reproductive rate that leads to a low quality of life is caused by lack of education, disenfranchised women and difficulty in accessing contraceptives. It most certainly isn’t cause by too many reproductive rights.

    The basic imperative and purpose of a life form is to reproduce. That isn’t a value judgment on reproduction itself, it is an observation of evolution and the process of life. I would hold that the right to reproduce is inseparable from the right not to reproduce.

    I’m certainly not saying that negative eugenics wouldn’t work. If the state were to annually cull the leftmost ten percentile on the IQ bell curve, mathematics and genetics ensure that the average IQ would go up and that would almost inevitably lead to a higher standard of living… for those left living. But I give primacy to the rights of the individual and find that sort of socialist utilitarianism to be abhorrent in the extreme.

    Cut the Malthusian delusion based negative eugenics, it’s repugnant.

  25. Dunc

    There’s not much point proposing ideas you have no conceivable means of enforcing. How are the unlicensed to be prevented from procreating? Do we “reversibly” sterilise everyone as soon as they hit puberty? What about when that goes wrong (as it inevitably will in a percentage of cases if you’re doing it at the population level)? And what happens to the products of unlicensed couplings?

  26. spz

    @21: given that there are Catholic saints whose sainthood was ‘proven’ by them being married and never consummating their marriage, your claim that the Catholic church discourages abstinence in marriage for the sake of birth control is rather surprising.
    To the best of my knowledge, abstinence in marriage is the only -allowed- relevant birth control for a Catholic. Since non-married people are not allowed to have sex, full stop, the question of birth control for unmarried couples does not raise itself.

  27. Colugo

    Between this and your transhumanism article, I’m not sure whether you’re just trying to be provocative or if you really are trying to push a neo-eugenicist agenda.

  28. Eight

    When I read the comparison to getting a drivers license I tried to imagine what it would be like if the current state of reproductive/adoptive rights were applied to driving: If you buy your car or motorcycle from someone else you must have a license, but if you build it yourself with a do-it-yourself kit you don’t need a license. It really does seem screwed up when you look at it like that (though it is probably a bad analogy anyway).

    The best justification I can give for the screenings for adoption is because children are put into someone’s care through help of a regulated institution – nobody is going to knowingly place a child into a risky or dangerous home that could be detected with simple (or not so simple) tests and screenings. It’s kind of the same thing when you get a nanny or sitter, would you put your own child in the care of a stranger without getting to know them first?

    On the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be very much justification for the ART screenings (aside from checking for health risks to the mother) when you look at it compared to natural/unassisted procreation. The current system does seems to be modeled after the adoption system simply by virtue of being an assistant or middleman between potential parents and their children.

  29. Maddy

    Will the “best” parents be forced to have children (even if they don’t want to)? Will pairs be assessed or individuals?

  30. Vincent Archer

    “And what happens to the products of unlicensed couplings?”

    The same that happens to the “products” of bad parenting: we step in, remove the children from the harmful environment, and place them up for adoption. And slam the parents with charges.

    The difference would be the proactive instead of reactive: we don’t wait until the parents neglect or harm their children, we do it before it’s happening.

    In other words, licensed parenting wouldn’t lead to environments like the “Fortress” movie or something in which people are forcefully sterilized, imprisoned, and the unlawful offspring euthanazied: if you’re having an unlicensed child, the social services remove him/her, and slam you with a fine (which pays for the social work of putting your child thru adoption in a better environment than the one you would have).

    Most people find it abhorrent because they subconsciously think it would apply to them. As expressed in the original article, the overwhelming majority of parents would have a parenting license. And you could still have children, if the biological imperative is too strong: it’s just that you would not be allowed to raise them.

    I also find most arguments about “potential people should be allowed to be born” are intrinsically stupid. Each ovum is a potential baby – women produces hundreds over their lifetime. Should each woman have two hundred babies? By what right do we deny an ovum the right to be fertilized and birthed?

  31. Just me


  32. Child-free at 35

    The author fails to mention a couple of necessary prerequisites to Licensed Parenting, like in a good ol’ game of Civilization — namely, a Global Government (lest you get all the people not willing to put up with this licensing crap flee your country and breed to their hearts’ content elsewhere, to the point where your country gets invaded by Barbaric Hordes a generation later) and a Totalitarian Police State (lest you get people to just ignore you and breed anyway). If that’s the future you’re dreaming about, I hope you die in the first wave of nuclear bombings imminently preceding Active Globalization.

    Jokes aside, though, the same “skillful reproduction” problem could be attacked from the opposite side, by educating people on means and merits of preventative birth control (especially those in risk groups targeted by silly ideologies like Catholicism), making the means accessible (free pills, anyone?) and encouraging voluntary self-education for would-be parents (economically stimulating risk groups to take classes, maybe even requiring them as a prerequisite to financial aid programs). There goes the Welfare system, btw — because, if anything, it encourages irresponsible breeding. A problem with this approach, though, is that the least “skillful” groups tend to be the least responsible, so the skill gap will not close by itself and will most likely require a whole range of sponsored assistance programs like (free and accessible) parent counseling, family counseling, even individual psychological help for would-be problem parents. In other words, to make better kids, you need happier parents, not a government agent with a measuring tape.

  33. Sandy

    Adoptive parents have to jump through hoops for a really valid reason. The children they adopt are not just dropped from the sky – they are the children of other people who don’t want just anyone to raise their child.

    And seriously while adoptive parents generally are good – what about the ones who abuse or kill their children? It happens far more often than you would expect given the hoops they go through, but there are unethical agencies etc out there who can ‘miss’ the obvious signs providing the money is there.

    There are also serious issues for adoptees like lack of current, indepth family health history that does not end when the adoption occurs but continues to evolve and expand over time. When a parent places they are young and haven’t faced the health issues of the future and quite likely their parents are still alive and healthy as well – see the dilemna on having a health history that is 50+ years out of date?

    Really bad idea. Why not simply spend all the money spent on licensing on education and access to birth control?

  34. LaFollette published an update of his 1980 paper just last summer (in the Journal of Applied Philosophy — the paper has appeared in the on-line version of that journal but not yet in a hard-copy issue). He says we should 1st move to a system modeled on driver’s ed. You’re not required to take a driver’s ed course, but there’s an incentive for doing so, namely, lower insurance rates. Similarly, at first people wouldn’t be required to take parenting courses before haviing children, but if they successfully complete a parenting course (as attested by a certificate), they’d get a significant tax break.

    I don’t see why people think the full system (in which a parental license is required) would be too hard to implement. You could say, e.g., that someone who has kids without a parenting license will be subject to regular scrutiny by social workers, health-care professionals, etc., and that the kids will be moved to protective custody if these parents don’t meet certain standards.

    One problem I have with LaFollette’s reasoning is that in his analogies (e.g., with getting a license to drive or fly a plane, or with getting the certification needed to practice law or medicine), it’s possible to observe the person doing the thing for which they seek a license. For instance, one can get enough observation of someone driving or flying or interning before deciding whether they’re good enough at that activity to warrant having a license to do it. But it’s hard to see how one could get enough observations of someone’s parenting abilities before they become a parent. We can’t give them some test kids and observe them raising those kids for 3 years (say) before saying, “You passed the test, here’s your license.” Instead, it’s better to keep our current system, where the default is that you’re allowed to have kids but they’ll be taken away if you show that you’re incapable of being a responsible parent.

    Re. the adoption analogy: As someone pointed out (above), if you prohibit someone from reproducing, you’re saying that their parenting skills are so poor that the possible child is better off never existing. But if you prohibit someone from adopting, you’re saying, instead, that the person’s parenting skills are so poor that the actual child is better off existing elsewhere (in foster care or with different adoptive parents). Clearly, the screening standards for making the latter decision should be much more demanding than the standards for the former decision.

  35. Megan

    But what about the damage done to children before birth? Children born to mothers who drink, smoke, take drugs… Slippery slope indeed.

  36. Jennie

    Definitely agree with praymont – it’s too hard to judge what kind of parent a person would be without watching them do it first. Who’s to say that a person who was previously not living their life so well wouldn’t shape up once first presented with their child’s smiling face? I’ve heard that becoming a parent is a life changing experience, and that plenty of unexpected parents did not feel ready until they actually had the child, and felt that swell-up of parental love when looking at their newborn. For some, the physical presence of a child is just the motivation they need to work harder at being better people. Obviously, this is not true for everyone, and child protective services are necessary. But I don’t think our predictive powers will ever be good enough to determine how good a parent someone might be before the fact, considering that it is such a life changing experience.

  37. theV

    Consider this: first-world countries generally have low birth rates, right? Some, particularly countries in Eastern Europe, actually have negative natural growth.

    So, it seems to me that developed countries in fact don’t need breeding licenses (or a limit to the number of children allowed) to prevent overpopulation! The places where it’s necessary tend to be poor, undereducated third-world countries, which are unlikely to be capable of maintaining a good breeding control program (without resorting to heavy repression and unacceptable methods).

    The solution seems to be to encourage development of the ‘third world’, as well as to better integrate immigrant populations originating from these countries, and the problem will solve itself without the need for increased restrictions – with higher standards of living and better education, growth rates will drop close to today’s first-world levels.

    Regulation for the sake of ensuring quality parenting is another matter, of course. It’s something I never considered, but the idea does seem to have merit. Managed properly, the results could be impressive, but a great deal of thought needs to be put in how to ensure that regulation isn’t too rigid and restrictive, leading to more than a few good parents not having parenthood rights due to the failings of the system.
    Very thorough checks need to be done in order to deny reproductive rights; the denial needs to be *temporary* in case the prospective parents mature / get better; and care needs to be taken where unlicensed parenthood is concerned – said parents need to be allowed to keep their child should they be found to satisfy the necessary minimum requirements.

  38. acant

    Hi there,
    I was so amazed to find this article. I thought I was sounding crazy and alone in my dream of requesting parenting licenses from future parents. I am even thinking of designing a course for parents in order to receive the yet virtual license.

    I am a PhD student at SFU, Canada and I worked in Romania for a long time, trying to help children who were victims of abandonment of parents who just kept on having children one after the other and then, leaving them in front of the door of the orphanage. I have also worked with abused children from different institutions. Unfortunately I have encountered a huge number of parents who make the biggest mistakes… some of them, our friends… I am not talking about abuse, but just rookie mistakes which are not seen as dangerous. Parents have no idea about the effects of their deeds have on their children…
    I could go on and on, but I stop. Kyle, if you are interested in collaborating on this one, please contact me by email. By the way I am a mother of two 🙂


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


See More

Collapse bottom bar