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Author Topic: Parenting Tests
Raymond Arnold
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From time to time the subject of "parenting tests" has been brought up on this forum, sometimes as part of a hypothetical discussion of total government control over births, sometimes as an effort to "equalize" any hypothetical differences between gay and straight parents.

Total government birth control is just plain creepy (I assume most of us would agree). But what about this alternative: provide tax benefits only to parents that have taken a parenting course designed to make sure the parents are a) mentally stable and b) have at least a reasonable grasp on what the job parenting actually requirements. The degree of tax benefit might depend on how well the prospective parents passed the class.

To alleviate discriminating against poorer people who might be good parents but are unable to take time away from their jobs to take the class, the class might also provide a minimum wage reimbursement.

So far I haven't thought through any potential ramifications. Is a good idea at all? A really bad idea? What consequences might there be that I'm not thinking of?

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kmbboots
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Who would teach it and who would decide what would be taught?

ETA: FYI, when I was talking about parenting tests, I was referring to the fact that we do not require any indication that people will be good parents or, in fact parents at all, before we allow them to marry. This, to my mind, makes the "opposite couples will make better parents" argument rather stupid.

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Raymond Arnold
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I didn't remember exactly who said what about the tests in the recent thread, it was merely inspiration for this idea. I don't think there's any evidence gay couples make worse parents, but I do think a lot of people (who tend to be straight, given that gay couples are unlikely to have kids by accident) who have kids are not prepared for them.

I'm not familiar enough with how the current taxation and/or marriage laws work in the first place to say for sure how to execute this. I'd assume Federal Benefits would require passing a parenting test that was designed and voted on at the federal level. State Tax Benefits might have different requirements.

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kmbboots
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I thought it was just a springboard. I just wanted to clarify that early.
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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
Who would teach it and who would decide what would be taught?

The potential -- and inevitable -- politicization of this makes me shudder at the very notion.
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Christine
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Yikes!

First of all there isn't anyone I would trust to determine whether someone is mentally stable or in any other way suitable to being a parent.

Second, there are lots of schools of thought on parenting, many of them with the best intentions at heart, but which IMO make terrible mistakes. So whose opinion, exactly, counts?

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scifibum
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You could pretty easily give a course on what constitutes child abuse from a legal standpoint (or from the POV of the local child protection agency), the applicable local laws concerning divorce and subsequent child custody, survey data from married and divorced individuals on various subjects, basic child development science, and otherwise keep it pretty objective while still conveying a lot of the basis for good parenting decisions, I think.

A specific test for mental stability sounds like a bad idea, to me. We pretty much assume adult citizens are capable of assuming and exercising their rights, and I don't want to change that.

Comprehension test on the basic material of a course like I described above sounds fine to me.

Edit: "good parenting decisions" might be a little too optimistic. What I'd shoot for here is "less ignorant and abusive parenting."

It still gives me a headache thinking about the advocacy groups that would clamor to tailor the course contents. NOM might want to bar any mention of same sex parents, or something, for instance. *sigh*

[ April 22, 2009, 08:13 PM: Message edited by: scifibum ]

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Corwin
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
Total government birth control is just plain creepy (I assume most of us would agree).

Most, maybe, but not all.
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AvidReader
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If they don't, they haven't read enough old-school Larry Niven. I'm still waiting for organlegging to turn into big business. [Wink]

As for the question of a class for parents, if we had to have one, I'd want to see one that focuses on telling people that their child is a complete and seperate individual. He's not a status symbol to brag to your friends. He's not an extention of you. He's a unique person who will blend attributes of you, your spouse, and himself to create someone wholly different.

That's probably the biggest thing I'd like to see parents get.

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Sterling
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
But what about this alternative: provide tax benefits only to parents that have taken a parenting course designed to make sure the parents are a) mentally stable and b) have at least a reasonable grasp on what the job parenting actually requirements. The degree of tax benefit might depend on how well the prospective parents passed the class.

So... We assume that people who aren't, by our assessment, good parents, are going to be better parents for having less money?...
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The Pixiest
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Ooo! And we could have social workers come around now and then to make sure you should still receive your benefits! They can inspect your house and everything!

And thus ended the human race.

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advice for robots
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I would be opposed to any sort of mandatory class/screening for parenthood, regardless of who ran it and what it taught or tested for. Just having something like that in place would open up far too much power that could easily be abused.
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Raymond Arnold
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Well, the point here is that this version wouldn't be mandatory, just an option with incentives attached to it.

The main problem I'm beginning to see is not the politicalization of the issue (although I can see why people would fear that) but that denying the benefits to to the worst parents would put their children in even worse situations.

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scifibum
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So you don't attach any performance standard. I think you could ask that they attend three times through if they don't pass the comprehension check. I like the idea of an optional course with incentives attached. I think it'd be possible, though a constant struggle, to keep ideology pretty much out of it.

(Heck, or you could just certify independent agencies to teach their own version that includes some basics. Churches could offer the courses for all I care. The worst parents don't have any exposure to what it means to be a decent parent. It'd be worth some struggle to correct that [and I have to assume it'd be worth the trouble of attending a few hours of instruction to keep $1000 per child in annual tax credits even to the worst parents]).

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Starsnuffer
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I would potentially support qualifications for becoming a parent but I fear too many crazy religious groups, and other crazy ideas, would all want their conflicting (and crazy) ideas to be the standard for parents. In that light maybe something objective like ACT test scores or their family's propensity for longevity/healthyness (as measured by age of death, excluding crazy accidents, and maybe amount spent on health care). It seems like such measures would, if followed, lead to a more intelligent population, a longer-lived population. (Granted we'd also probably get a drop in population number.) Those who don't qualify to give birth to children could potentially raise children they adopted from genetically superior parents.

I'd like to note: I am not whole-heartedly supportive of any of the above plans, but some of them I can't see how they would be all bad. I would want careful consideration of these before any were implemented.

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advice for robots
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I'm fine with the idea of parenting classes, though I don't see much worth in them outside of serving as refresher courses for particular parenting skills or situations, for parents who genuinely want to improve. I have a hard time imagining a class or even a long-term course that could make bad parents into decent parents. I personally think the only real teachers of parenting skills are kids, and it's a lifelong course.

IMO, if people are unfit to be parents it's probably not because they don't know how to take care of a kid, but because they have other issues in their lives they need to resolve. There's no official list of things to check off, and there's no cut-and-dry program for solving all hangups and getting someone on track to be the ideal parent.

Starsnuffer:

quote:
I would potentially support qualifications for becoming a parent but I fear too many crazy religious groups, and other crazy ideas, would all want their conflicting (and crazy) ideas to be the standard for parents. In that light maybe something objective like ACT test scores or their family's propensity for longevity/healthyness (as measured by age of death, excluding crazy accidents, and maybe amount spent on health care). It seems like such measures would, if followed, lead to a more intelligent population, a longer-lived population. (Granted we'd also probably get a drop in population number.) Those who don't qualify to give birth to children could potentially raise children they adopted from genetically superior parents.

I'd like to note: I am not whole-heartedly supportive of any of the above plans, but some of them I can't see how they would be all bad. I would want careful consideration of these before any were implemented.

Whether it's religious crazies or level-headed secularists running the show, imposing any criteria for parenthood is a big step down the road to totalitarianism, or master race creation, or both. IMO.
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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by AvidReader:
If they don't, they haven't read enough old-school Larry Niven. I'm still waiting for organlegging to turn into big business. [Wink]

What are you talking about? Breeding for lucky people would be totally cool!
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Teshi
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I'm not in favour of parental controls, but I am in favour of making it easier for adults to learn how to interact with children.

Think how easy it is to avoid children in this world. Children aren't in the streets like they used to be, or under our feet. Many adults can grow up without ever having met many children in a casual, play situation.

This results in parents not knowing how children act or how to play with them, or what to even say to them (or even how children usually behave).

quote:
it's probably not because they don't know how to take care of a kid
I see lots of evidence of parents who know, for example, that babies need to be cleaned, but not that they need to be engaged with.

Mummy and Daddy go to the toy shop with toddler in tow. Toddler is going around picking stuff up and Mummy and Daddy are just telling them to put it down and "oh that's nice-ing" everything.

People can be taught to play and interact better with their children, just as people can learn to do anything. They can learn songs and games to play and what to say when their toddler shows them something in the toy shop. They can be told that spending time with your children doesn't mean "being in the same room" it means actually interacting with them.

These are all things that can be talked about in a class.

Young children are learning at a rate that is exceptionally advanced. If they are provided with little stimulation (for example, if they are always in the same place--whether it's a house or a daycare) they are only seeing a very small world. This is not stimulating for Mummy or for Baby. Mummy is mad and sad at being trapped indoors and Baby is not learning anything new (new sounds, strange smells, new people and the way people interact). Classes can inform new parents where they can take their child and should, not only for Baby's sake but also for Mummy's sanity.

You can be that parent in the store doing a running commentary on what you are buying.

Interaction can drop even further if the child is undemanding. Janey sits in her babyseat while Mummy or Daycare Adult chat for an hour or two, she's such a good child. Janey is bored. She is learning nothing. Janey's brain might not develop in a normal fashion.

I have lots of parents coming into one of my workplaces (the aforementioned toyshop) looking for toys for toddlers and babies. "What's educational for a newborn?" is a frequent question.

Lesson 1: You are.

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advice for robots
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Yeah. I could see some great classes about engaging with your kid and helping them learn and blossom. I can't see, however, an entire course on parenting being able to cover it all satisfactorily.

In my experience, parenting is a messy learning process. One of the first things you learn is that there are multiple ways to do things without irrevocably damaging your kid--not just one right way. In fact, I think it's more important for your kid to see you relaxed and content. Your kid is content when you are content, but picks up on stress in an instant. You have to keep your own sanity. You don't respond "correctly" to everything your toddler says when you're out shopping. Your mind is elsewhere. That's fine. At least you're not gritting your teeth and wondering if you're getting it exactly right all the time. You don't particularly worry what others think of your parenting style--great. Feeling like you're on display can be a huge stress factor that affects your kids more than any learning experiences you're providing for them. You learn that there are limits, of course, but you won't break your kid as easily as you first think you could. There are the basics that can't be neglected, but then there are the simple circumstances of life, and you do your best with your kids. What you do does help shape them, true, but that's the whole point. Your kid learns partly by learning to cope with your shortcomings, which you are going to have no matter how good you try to be. They learn to forgive you for not being good at something at first, but trying to get better at it. In essence, they're raising you while you raise them.

My point is that you can only get little slivers of that in a class. A class can generally teach one way to do things. And learning one way to do it through a class means you've learned one way to do it. Fine--that knowledge can be helpful and beneficial. But most of the time, experience is the only real teacher.

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Teshi
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Yes. Experience is the only way you can figure out what version of child raising works for you, but a class can give you ideas and show you demonstrations of games that you can't really learn with a book.

I think that in the past, people learnt "how to talk to children" because they got that experience around neighbours and extended family, watching older people interact with their younger cousins. If that's not happening, the only way is to have people experience this kind of thing in class.

I've seen people trying to choose a squeaking toy for their young daughter. Their method was to put the toy in her hand and wait a few moments for her to squeak it. Needless to say, they left empty-handed. They did not engage their child and show her how to do it. They did not kneel in front of her push-chair, smile, introduce the toy to her, show her how to squeak it, or laugh when it squeaked. A class where parents could observe others playing with children would show, simply out of demonstration, the rough outline method.

You're right, though. Kids are tough. It takes a lot to ruin them. But... we don't want to end up with kids who just about made it through. We want intelligent, happy, engaged kids.

I don't expect parents to worry about what they're doing, provided they're doing something. I like to see Dads on the floor of the toy shop, driving around cars, not on their cellphones. I like to see Mums letting their child touch the toys. It's a toy shop! We want you to play--carefully!-- with the toys that you can reach.

I don't see this as much as I would like to, and I think that an informal class could help parents who don't know what kids are like or what they need.

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romanylass
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The time to do parenting classes is in high school ( maybe sooner). Make a fundemantal understanding of the needs of children a requirement to graduate.
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Raymond Arnold
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I agree with that.
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Lalo
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I'd rather see a full-scale program of contraception for everyone, maybe via drinking water or mandatory vasectomies. It can be undone temporarily without cost by a pill, or free reversals of vasectomies, but only for a limited time.

It'd never happen, but it'd make the world such a better place.

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katharina
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I doubt it. Europe's economy is only barely healthy as it is because of immigration. The birth rate would bottom out - dropping way below replacement rate.

Ever read Childhood's End? It'd be like that.

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kmbboots
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Could we please just teach parents - and I am talking about well-off, suburban parents - to cross at the bleeping corner when they are with their children.

I hate when parents are teaching their kids, by example, to run out into traffic. Just this morning this woman ran in front of a car pushing a freakin' stroller!

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Lalo
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Yes, and that's a good thing. The world can't support such a large population as it is -- at some point, we'll have to shrink our population. I'd rather do it voluntarily than through inevitable wars over scarce resources.
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katharina
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There will be wars and disaster anyway.

Human beings just aren't configured that way. Biology won't go along with it. If human beings went into heat a few times a year voluntarily like cats, they'd need to produce octets every time to keep it up.

And that shrinking - it isn't like it'd go down to a couple billion and then stop. Even if the drugs/whatever were reversed then, the population would grow again.

Altogether, it is not a permanent or viable or desirable solutions, without even mentioning the enormous potential for abuse.

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Lalo
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The Western birth rate is already well below replacement levels, mostly because of how prosperous we are. It's a very good thing.

Have you ever been to India or China? Overpopulation is horrifying. It instantly impoverishes a nation, forcing women into prostitution and the country into crowded, polluted centers of slave labor. The planet is not capable of supporting the Indian or Chinese populations at the level the West currently enjoys -- at some point, there's going to be a brutal war over the world's remaining resources.

Yes, lowering the birth rate and the world's population is an extremely good thing. Arguing that bad things happen anyway is an absolute bizarre counterargument.

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The Pixiest
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Whether or not they are your own children, it is the next couple of generations that will take care of you when you're old.

As people live longer, they need more youngsters to take care of them once they've left the work force.

We need a growing younger population to take care of the older population.

Unless you want to be warehoused in giant barracks-style nursing homes in your old age, get f***ing.

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katharina
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You aren't arguing for that - you are talking about making the world infertile unless there is a song and dance and a selection process.

That won't drop the birthrate to a worldwide 2.3. It'll drop the birthrate to a worldwide .2. Instantly.

That's disasterous, completely.

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Lalo
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We don't even need a selection process, just a conscious desire to use contra-contraception. If the only parents were those who wanted children, the world would be a better place.

What exactly do you think makes a lower population worse than a higher population?

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The Pixiest
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6 billion old people with 200 million young people to take care of them?
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kmbboots
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It's like a population pyramid scheme!
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The Pixiest
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In a sense, it IS a pyramid scheme! But one we didn't sign up for and one we have to rely on when we're older.

Even if you're a millionaire when you're old, you'll still need to employ young people to do the things you can't do. That Luby's early bird buffet doesn't coagulate itself, you know.

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Lalo
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quote:
Originally posted by The Pixiest:
6 billion old people with 200 million young people to take care of them?

Wishful thinking. The population wouldn't reduce that quickly short of a major war.

If it did though, it would suck for us old people (assuming technology wasn't advanced enough to take care of us) -- but the coming generations would have enormously better lives. I think that's a sacrifice we should be willing to make.

To say nothing that it's a purely American thing to have decrepit old people. India and Italy both have thriving senior populations, getting around on Vespas and rickshaws and generally staying active. Old people in America have nothing really better to do than sit in their houses and rot.

If you can't tell, I'm bitter that I'm indoors on this beautiful day.

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The Pixiest
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Life expectancy in India is 63. I wouldn't use their senior population as a goal.

How long are you planning to work? Do you ever want to retire? Or do you want to 8am to 6pm it every day till you die?

Personally, I want to retire and enjoy the fruits of my labours someday. There will need to be a large younger population to take care of me (for pay, of course) as I enjoy the short time I have between when I stop working and when I die.

And one thing you fail to consider is how large a population it takes to maintain our level (much less *grow* our level) of technology. Look around your room and think about how much work and knowledge it takes to make and produce everything around you. Something as simple as a piece of paper takes thousands (or more!) of people to go from tree to your grocery list. And I bet most things within arms reach of you right now are significantly more complex than a sheet of paper.

Unless you think living without air conditioners and washing machines and the internet is a "better life" then you should reconsider your premise.

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Lalo
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quote:
Originally posted by The Pixiest:
Life expectancy in India is 63. I wouldn't use their senior population as a goal.

How long are you planning to work? Do you ever want to retire? Or do you want to 8am to 6pm it every day till you die?

Personally, I want to retire and enjoy the fruits of my labours someday. There will need to be a large younger population to take care of me (for pay, of course) as I enjoy the short time I have between when I stop working and when I die.

And one thing you fail to consider is how large a population it takes to maintain our level (much less *grow* our level) of technology. Look around your room and think about how much work and knowledge it takes to make and produce everything around you. Something as simple as a piece of paper takes thousands (or more!) of people to go from tree to your grocery list. And I bet most things within arms reach of you right now are significantly more complex than a sheet of paper.

Unless you think living without air conditioners and washing machines and the internet is a "better life" then you should reconsider your premise.

You're massively overestimating the use of a large population. Air conditioners and washing machines emerge from an educated population capable of designing them -- i.e. Japan. Overpopulated nations, like China or Indonesia, just provide the slave labor that manufactures them.

Yes, a smaller, educated population would be worlds better than an overpopulated world. It's not as though we're running out of people -- we'll just need to use them more efficiently than letting them starve and reproduce.

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The Pixiest
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I'm not up for "using" people. Trading with, yes... Using, No.

So what would you recommend we do with the large "useless" population of China and Indonesia that contributes nothing but more babies to the world?

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Raymond Arnold
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Lalo's point wasn't that we "do" anything with anybody. All he's saying is that people who didn't mean to have babies shouldn't have babies. There's some inherent creepiness in how you'd accomplish that, and I'm not quite sure I'd advocate for it, but how is the end result a remotely bad thing?
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