Essays, Analyses and Meditations

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Children, Education, Family Values

  • The reason to make children used to be economic: children provided free labor for the family enterprise (whether in the fields or in the artisan's shop) and were assumed to take care of their aging parents when these became unable to work.
  • Children learned their craft from their parents; they received from their parents and siblings the free training that accounted for later success in life
  • Education changed all of that: children became more and more independent, as education allowed them to find employment outside the family enterprise, and often in different businesses for which the family could not provide any training (training came from school and from the employer).
  • Children's their financial obligations towards their parents became looser and eventually nil.
  • At the same time, the parents are morally obliged to finance their children's education; therefore, children become a long-term cost, instead of being a long-term investment.
  • Education became more and more important to give the offspring a good headstart in life; educational institutions reacted to their increased importance by competitively increasing the cost of education.
  • Making a child has become a sort of "original sin": since you decided to make a child, now you have to pay for her long-lasting and expensive education; the child, on the other hand, has no obligation to help you succeed in your business, and the long-term gratitude is entirely up to the child.
  • In fact, children feel less and less obligated to reciprocate once, thanks to their degree, their success in life (in a profession that is typically different from their parents' profession and for which therefore they can receive little advice/ training from their parents) rapidly decouples from their parents' success or failure.
  • As people have children later and later in life, the age gap between parents and children has been increasing. As children spend more and more time in school, the age at which they become productive has been increasing too. This means that, by the time a child enters the workforce full-time, her parents are likely to be approaching retirement age, and the government starts taking care of them.
  • The financial life of the child and the financial life of the parents is completely decoupled until the parents die and bequeath their property to the children, a purely bureaucratic act.