Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies
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Ban Baby-Making Unless Parents Are Licensed

Hank Pellissier

Ethical Technology

April 20, 2011

For the sake of the children, let’s control human breeding. No one should be permitted to reproduce until they pass a battery of tests.


Complete entry


Posted by iPan  on  04/20  at  01:46 PM

Hank, I’ve thought long and hard about this same thing, and I understand it’s attraction.

But, as with most of your proposals, this authoritarian route simply won’t work.

I’ll even put aside the obvious moral contradictions inherent in the argument, and instead just focus on the practical aspects.

You could never enforce it.

Posted by Sophia Collins  on  04/20  at  01:54 PM

OK, I have a certain amount of sympathy with your position. When you read about the terrible things some parents do to their children - or you meet the children those things have been done to - you can’t help thinking it’s ridiculous that people can have kids without wanting them or having the ability to care for them.

But my question is, who sets the criteria by which we allow some people to breed and some people not to? You say ‘no dangerous religious fanatics’, but what if the dangerous religious fanatics are in charge? What if they only let believers in their particular god have children?

Or we only let people with particular political opinions have children? Or a particular ethnic group?

What, exactly, counts as weird? I’m quite a messy person, and would much rather raise children in a messy, slightly chaotic, warm, loving home. Another person might see my house as a pigsty and think that kids should have higher standards of hygiene. I might think their home emotionally sterile. Is one of us right? Should we have the right to unilaterally impose that viewpoint?

I think what you’re proposing is a very slippery slope and unless *I’m* going to be the person picking the criteria (which, you know, may not work so well for everyone else), I’d be absolutely opposed to giving that power to anyone else.

Posted by iPan  on  04/20  at  01:57 PM

{ note: I’d really like an edit function, I’d prefer to add this to my previous comment…I often think of things to add after I’ve already hit submit…time to get updated IEET, this isn’t 1990 😉  }

{ edit2: it would be handy to have a ‘get new captcha’ button too, as occasionally, it malfunctions even when you input the correct word }

I’d like a demonstration how this proposal would be more effective than the War on Some Drugs.

Or abstinence based sexual education.

Or helmet and seatbelt and speeding laws.

Or loitering laws.

Or jaywalking laws.

See the pattern?

You can’t legislate away stupid, it’s never worked in the past, and it will never work in the future.

The only path forward is to empower people to make better choices.

What you are trying to do is find a shortcut past the actual struggle of empowering people.

Which is understandable, this tendency to look for shortcuts and final solutions seems to be part of our neural wiring.

But it doesn’t work, and more often than not leads to unintended consequences and failure.

“I want to live, I want to love, but it’s a long hard road out of hell”
-Marilyn Manson

Posted by iPan  on  04/20  at  02:03 PM

In fact, I predict that legislation of this type (assuming it could ever get passed in the first place) would have precisely the opposite result that Hank desires:

It would create a black market for unlicensed children.

Posted by Pendula  on  04/20  at  02:13 PM

After bypassing my initial knee-jerk reaction of “WTH?” I thought about this a little differently.  So if we go this route than why bother looking at rights of the non-human person, they obviously do not meet your criterion, so they aren’t suitable to breed….......

Also to decide you are going to ferret out based on certain psychological flaws, and religious views.  This you want to base on your statistics and logic.  But I assure you if it were someone from a religious fundamentalist camp, with statistics that back why they are the better parents, the whole group here would be screaming.  Myself included.

Yes, you are advocating for eugenics of your own design.  That’s not name calling.  It is properly labelling out your specified plan for criteria or selection and prevention.  While I understand your drive is a combination of best interest and wanting to minimize costs (A point you drive home multiple times) I want to point out that the traits you are seeking to remove are not always bad ones.  From most accounts many geniuses (Einstein included) had traits that likely would have weeded them out before birth on a genetic analysis scale or at very least would have made them undesirable on your spectrum.  Lets look at the rights of the neurologically diverse before we decide who gets to decide about parenting (I frankly Think Anne Corwin would make a great mom). 
Would you weed out the deaf too?  They have barriers that place them outside of your social preference and many seek the ability to look into selection for deaf children. 
I am not saying you have no points here, you raise some good ones, but lets look a little more at personhood and individual rights and choices before we start designing only what we personally want to see for the greatest “good”.

Posted by iPan  on  04/20  at  02:39 PM

From wikipedia:

“Eugenics is the “applied science or the biosocial movement which advocates the use of practices aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population,” usually referring to human populations.”

Technically speaking, mate selection is itself a form of eugenics, albeit a subconscious one.

In principle, I would embrace Gattaca style technology to enhance positive genetic traits and eliminate negative ones (although I also feel we will soon transcend biology anyway, making genetic enhancement a short lived fad).

What I am actually opposed to is the Authoritarian legislation of stuff like this.

By all means, make the technology available, but don’t force it down people’s throats (and if you can’t accept that this is a better form of morality - then at least accept that it’s less practical to be Authoritarian).

Posted by dor  on  04/20  at  02:41 PM

@ Sophia, Pendula and iPan:
very well expressed

Posted by post-postfuturist  on  04/20  at  02:44 PM

‘It’s blatantly clear that 15-year-old intoxicated half-wits can easily spawn, but should they? Hell no”

You’re one of those, Hank, who gets right to it, no games. The problem is not women so much, it’s men who come from bad families and recapitulate the behavior- in other words a**holes, b*dasses, it’s probably worse than Hank realizes, the Midwest is second only to the South as far as wild a**holes go. The Northwest, too; however there are compensating circumstances (if you live in the ‘Frisco area you know how it is). To keep it short, so not to write a diatribe every few hours, Hank’s suggestion is worth a try.

Posted by dor  on  04/20  at  02:52 PM

“In principle, I would embrace Gattaca style technology to enhance positive genetic traits and eliminate negative ones”

This runs the very real risk of social inequality becoming biological determinism. It needs to be off-set with measures that ramp up empathy and that seek to make resources available for those unable to alter genetics at birth. Changes on this scale ought not be driven by a profit-motive.

Posted by iPan  on  04/20  at  03:09 PM

iPan said:
“In principle, I would embrace Gattaca style technology to enhance positive genetic traits and eliminate negative ones”

dor said:
“This runs the very real risk of social inequality becoming biological determinism. It needs to be off-set with measures that ramp up empathy and that seek to make resources available for those unable to alter genetics at birth. Changes on this scale ought not be driven by a profit-motive. “


I say “in principle”.

My thought runs along these lines: Natural mate selection is inherently no different than using genetic therapy/modification.
People choose their mates based on perceived genetic traits, though they do so subconsciously.

Genetic therapy merely introduces the ability to do so consciously. That’s really the only difference it makes.

Is there room for abuse? Of course, just like everything else we do.

Ultimately, I don’t think it matters to us as a species (though of course it will affect the lives of individuals), because we are going to quickly move past genetic manipulation and jump straight into cybernetic enhancement, which has far more potential than biology.

Thus, genetic/biologic technology is at best a short term venture, as biology itself will be transcended shortly.

Posted by John W.  on  04/20  at  03:25 PM

Just wondering if this was actually written in the same spirit as Jonathan Swift’s suggestion of what to do with surplus Irishmen???
(A Modest Proposal)

I do agree with the concept that it’s interesting that the bar is set so very high for adoption (especially international), but any clod can breed.

  Some of the suggestions to educate prospective parents would be very productive - they should be routine components of a school education!, and limiting the persistence of known genetic defects wouldn’t be a bad goal…

But eugenics is a slippery slope, enforcement would require imposition of a truly totalitarian state (i.e. render everyone sterile via implant, reversible only by the State), and even if some of the goals sound praiseworthy (no more abused children, etc., ) it seems to me that the means sounds uglier than the “benefits” of the desired end. Almost the sort of thing the people sometimes went to war to put an end to, sometimes….

Posted by post-postfuturist  on  04/20  at  03:40 PM

“It needs to be off-set with measures that ramp up empathy”

Children who are raised by parents who are not competent parents- who are practically children themselves- also deserve empathy as to their being trapped. There’s Today as well as tomorrow, until we have radically evolved, stop-gap measures have to be taken. We can’t be everything to everybody, decisions must be executed.
The world can’t be a libertarian versus democratic-socialist debating chamber!

Posted by Pendula  on  04/20  at  03:44 PM

@ iPan
“Natural mate selection is inherently no different than using genetic therapy/modification.
People choose their mates based on perceived genetic traits, though they do so subconsciously.”

I would largely agree with this except the pure scale and the outside ‘regulatory’ factors that are invariably introduced along the way here. In mate selection it is a grouping of factors being used and all of them are individual choice (as much as one chooses independently in any social structure).  In genetic modification it is based upon social constraints that one actively has to process and I fear would lead to a mindblowingly dull homogeneity.  Plus it pretty much pre-empts any positive evolution we as a species may be poised for spontaneously that we would have no way to identify in advance. 
I do not trust the powers that be to guide us in positive directions about genetic engineering with a record of social engineering failures that are so profound at this point.  And what of natural bonding, perhaps nature has some systems that design certain children that would be “undesirable” to some as the perfect children for others and grants those children to them rather than a parent to be picking the “perfect” traits and having the child be a poor fit for the parents.

@Hank————as an aside: Why, if you are so determined to minimize breeding except at preselected times, not temporarily sterilize the males.  This is as logical if not more so.  Removing the sperm link in the fertilization chain is an easier procedure than removing any of the aspects of the female fertility cycle and would likely be far more effective across the board.  Or at least an equally sexist approach.

Posted by post-postfuturist  on  04/20  at  04:19 PM

“quickly move past genetic manipulation and jump straight into cybernetic enhancement, which has far more potential than biology.”

Above is where it gets somewhat utopian; ‘quickly’ means decades until it’s done on en masse. To keep it brief: in the interim choices have to be made, the state has to intercede, as dysfunctional families are a burden everywhere—especially to children. And BTW, if it is determined parents can’t take care of their children, those parents must lose custody, the children QUICKLY given decent foster homes.

Posted by Hank Pellissier  on  04/20  at  06:23 PM

Thanks everyone for all your comments.  Pendula—I agree—temporarily sterilizing the males is a great idea and I apologize for not mentioning it.

Right now, the way the system is set up, anyone can have babies, as many as they want, and they can mistreat them to quite a significant degree, until the state rescues the children.

Parenting is very hard.  I could have used a class or 10 myself.  There is no required education that takes place before people become parents - for many people it is just something that happens after unsafe sex.

I agree with iPan that it is unfortunate to have to rely on authoritarian measures to safeguard children.  But I disagree with him that it can’t be done, or that it isn’t worth it.

regarding Religious Fanatics, I only wanted to exclude those who are willing to kill or cause serious harm to their children, based on their beliefs.  I would be surprized if anyone disagrees with me on that position.  You read my stats—nearly 5 kids per day in the USA are killed by parents - I am interesting in decreasing that number and I’m open to other suggestions.

I also think the passivity of future parents and the state in regards to genetic testing is appalling.  We have the technology now to immensely reduce the number of babies born with genetic disorders - do we not all agree that that should be done?

As always, I appreciate all your thoughtful comments and I look forward to further discussion.  Many good points have been brought up and I’m curious to see what we finally agree on or disagree on.

Posted by ipan  on  04/20  at  07:03 PM

So, Hank, can you come up with one solid example where these types of policy’s actually work?

China’s one child policy?

The War on Some Drugs?

Whether you think Authoritarianism is morally acceptable or not, I still challenge you to come up with a real example of it working (and one without severe negative side effects would be a bonus).

Posted by iPan  on  04/20  at  07:06 PM

And, I’d also like to know how you plan to campaign to get this passed in America.

How many people have signed your petition so far?

How many members of Congress are taking this up as part of their re-election platform?

Posted by post-postfuturist  on  04/20  at  07:39 PM

“China’s one child policy?”

Though China is ruled by a dictatorship, China isn’t Pol Pot’s Cambodia, the state does not hold absolute power over Chinese families. China’s one child policy officially restricts the number of children married urban couples can have to one, although it allows exemptions for several cases, including rural couples, ethnic minorities, and parents without any siblings themselves. A spokesperson of the Committee on the One-Child Policy has said that approximately 35.9% of China’s population is currently subject to the one-child restriction.The Special Administrative Regions of Hong Kong and Macau are completely exempted from the policy. Also exempt from this law are foreigners living in China.

Posted by rascheR duB  on  04/20  at  08:01 PM

I’m curious as to why this is such a quixotic, hot-button issue for Hank.  As a result, I’m not sure where his core values lie. Hank mentions the “heartbreaking statistics” around FAS that result in “[f]orty thousand babies a year . . . born in the USA with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, at a projected cost to the nation of over $6 billion annually. Pitiful waste.”  The trouble with Hank’s analysis is that I can’t distinguish what he considers to be the waste— the babies or the money.

Money has a high profile in Hank’s essay, and any discussion of social problems must perforce include the budgetary costs.  But it is telling that Hank’s Conclusion winds up by invoking the “billions saved” and “hefty stipends” and ignoring issues such as , oh let’s say autonomy, privacy and quality of life, to name a few.  In the scrimmage around human values, Hank is clearly hell-bent for the money.

Add to that the tortuous, tax-code-like scope of Hank’s proposal and it is hard to see how one could proceed without convening a Taliban-style morality police to monitor and enforce the vicissitudes of behavior covered by a licensing regimen that includes such imperious, Establishment-ready headings as “No Parents with Life-Diminishing Illnesses, Phobias, Weirdness, or Inability to Love.” 

Hank kicks his essay into high gear right from the first paragraph, where he makes the petulant assertion: “I don’t care. I am right.”  So Hank’s got it all figured out, while the rest of us are groping in the fog— thank goodness he showed up in time!  However, insisting on being right just isn’t helpful.  One runs into the odd white-knuckle pacificist who furiously avows he/she is right but can offer no added perspective on how to prevent conflicts; how meager is such a one compared to a different pacifist who has crafted an alternative proposal for making peace and is out in the world walking the walk.  Have you been out in the world giving parenting classes to the less fortunate, Hank?  Have you exhausted every resource at your disposal to assist those preparing to make the big decision?  Have you created a series of video tutorials or online tools to which a first-time parent might refer?  Do you sponsor community centers that perplexed couples contemplating pregnancy might use on a drop-in or appointment basis to get help or counseling on how to manage a pregnancy or handle of the exigencies of a raising a newborn?  Are you interested in trying solutions other than force?

Hank’s notion regarding licensing (taken substantially from LaFollette) would have deep and ramified implications for the individuals’ relation to their own bodies as well as to their interactions with others.  And the end-result of parent licensing would be nothing less than a caste system where one imagines the discrimination would not end with the denial of the right to reproduce.  Yet by bringing the choice to parent under the rubric of Law, Hank not so innocently brings the State into matters of personal intimacy; the same bureaucratic state that according to Max Weber:

“When fully developed, bureaucracy stands . . . under the principle of sine ira ac studio (without scorn and bias). Its specific nature which is welcomed by capitalism develops the more perfectly the more bureaucracy is ‘dehumanized,’ the more completely it succeeds in eliminating from official business love, hatred, and all purely personal, irrational and emotional elements which escape calculation. This is the specific nature of bureaucracy and it is appraised as its special virtue.”

Speaking of bureaucracy, one of Hank’s sources, LaFollette,  attempted to allay fears over practical objection to parental licensing by noting that “there is no reason to believe that the licensing of parents is more likely to be abused than driver’s license tests.”  Glad that’s settled, then.  I guess if you like the DMV, you’re gonna love the Department of Parenting.

Presumably those who attempt to violate, or who successfully violate, the Pellissier Parenting Laws would be subject to restraint and punishment, respectively.  Artificial insemination at an approved clinic, along with proof of zero defects, may be the only method to fully put worried minds like Hank’s to rest. (And think of the savings!)  We might take a page from the book “Goat Husbandry” by David Mackenzie and Ruth Goodwin who recommend choosing the best sires for breeding; at which point:

“Sires whose daughters are better than their herd contemporaries are given a plus figure; those who are worse get a minus figure . . . cooperation between breeders appears to be the only way in which genetic gain in the national herd can be achieved.” (London: Faber & Faber Ltd., Fifth Edition 1993)

Gotta love that top-down management efficiency.  Not a spitting distance from what you had in mind, eh Hank?

Of course, parents under such a regimen of Pellissier licensing would have no excuse for raising children with a disorder or who were not all above average.  How would such parents answer for their failures after so much effort had been chiseled into ensuring a flawless litter?  After being successfully licensed, their very failure would be a stench unto the nostrils of the perfected. 

Hank’s visceral proposal only addresses the punitive, post facto aspect of the problem that so distresses him.  Nowhere does he show awareness of causal factors nor does he suggest that social leverage, such as increased income, stable jobs, community support, clean and safe environments, good schools for the young, and access to adult education and therapeutic resources to help reverse the damages sustained during childhood for those over 18—in short, prosperity—might work wonders in lowering the birth rate as well as instill a more responsible parenting ethic, as studies have shown that they do.

In one of the fictions by novelist Charles Portis, a speaker at a law conference exhorts his colleagues to find new lands to conquer:  “As we all know, there are still far too many human activities that can be carried out without the intercession of lawyers.”  Thoughts, anyone?  Raise your hand, Hank! 

Human beings must always endeavor to reduce risk; however, the purportedly benevolent attempt to micromanage society and eliminate risk altogether will lead to a large-scale paternalism that ironically carries within it the germs of violence,  unwarranted force and loss of liberty.

Posted by Brendan McShane  on  04/20  at  08:32 PM

My goodness you can see Pellisier is a psychopath just from the look in his eyes.  His rabid diatribe is indeed eugenist, nazi-istic and despicably misanthropic, but in truth it is far more ridiculous for being ignorant than for being arrogant.

The presence of a few impaired phenotypes in a population has no effect whatsoever on its fitness.  Tay Sachs is present a a low overall prevalence both becasue it is a fairly recent spontaneous appearance in the genepool - and largely within the population where it originated - and because it will slowly dwindle in prevalence as the homozygous recessives cannot contribute to Hardy-Weinberg equilibirum.  So it will always be with most acute phenotypes.  Debilitating illness is a shame for its victims and a hardship on their families but the compassion and humanity invested in helping and caring for people who need help is exactly what distinguishes us from larvae like Pellisier.

Now the idea that “we” should selectively eliminate traits which one man (or a committee or whoever) deems to be defective is exactly what would doom Homo sapiens and sooner not later.  Fitness in a population and the likelihood that there will be substantial proportions of that population that would continue to succed as circumstances evolve is improved by the diversity of genotypes within it - even genotypes that may (or not) be associated with phenotypes that filth like Pellesier and Himmler considers to be undesirable. The fitness would be reduced and profoundly so by attemting to filter artificially the traits within it by constraining “breeding” even if some simpleton like Pellesier was absolutely and morally certain he is “right” in what is desirable and what is not.

Different genes have different distributions and frequencies in different subpopulations - even populations with cultural characteristics that might discomfit.  Contriving to restrict or eliminate them - even if you believe there to be an inherent proclivity there of drunken promiscuity - would not only be genocide against that population but ultimately your own. 

Posted by post-postfuturist  on  04/20  at  09:07 PM

Slow down Brendan, when you start invoking Himmler you are from paranoia—time to cool it.
IEET is not Auschwitz.
Do you like it when pro- “life” zealots call someone who defends abortion a ‘baby-killer’?

Posted by iPan  on  04/20  at  09:45 PM

Good points post-post, but Brendan and rascheR duB’s responses kind of illustrate my point:

How would one go about getting something like this passed without causing an armed revolt?

It would never happen in any western industrialized nation, of that much I am 100% certain.

So the entire discussion is a moot point. Just a thought experiment.

I’ve entertained the same thought exercises myself, for many years.

How could I fix the world, by simply eliminating the undesirables? Whether it be through peaceful, violent, or subversive methods.

I ultimately hit a realization that set my ethical stances practically in stone: the ideal and the practical are not in opposition.

These kinds of ‘final solution’ fantasies never work out the way their proponents want. Generally speaking, though this isn’t always the case, their adherents simply fail to take into consideration chaos. The illusion is that they think they can control the world to such an extent, and they are always mistaken.

But, in any case, since I know that the arguments over ethics are probably never ending, I invite people like Hank to explain how they plan to implement such things.

How is he going to convince voters, such as Brendan, to vote for this policy, or for the representatives that will draft the bill?

How does he plan on dealing with the millions of people who would riot and burn this country to the ground the second the government tried to do such a thing? (seriously, if you think people are crazy about their guns in America, just wait until you try to tell them they need a license to have kids).

It’s never going to happen.

Posted by Nicer  on  04/20  at  10:14 PM

Well said, iPan

This plan fails for the same reason that Pellissier & Pierce’s “mandatory all-female leadership” idea fails. I find the naivete displayed in both proposals to be childlike. Authoritarianism inevitably leads to revolt.

postfuturist, I can see the parallel between Nazism and Hank’s proposal that Brendan draws. You can bet your ass that the Nazis would have achieved utopia, once they got rid of everyone else.

‘Utopia’ demands the elimination of undesirables and dissenters.

Posted by Hank Pellissier  on  04/20  at  10:21 PM

Thanks everyone for participating in this lively discussion. 
I would like to have it discussed per category.  Let’s start with 3.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome—
really, is there anyone who doesn’t want that to end?
I can’t see how anyone can be opposed to some control over
binge-drinking mothers. 
Please, go ahead, if you see a reason why fetal alcohol syndrome should be left unattended, to ravage 40,000 births per year, let me know.

Teen Mothers—this category, as I’ve noted, is by far the worst at parenting.  Do we not all agree that a few more years of maturity would improve their abilities?  I have daughters—I would definitely urge them to wait until AT LEAST 20.  Wouldn’t you?

Enough Is Enough—okay, who out there supports the Octo-Mom’s
decision?  No one.  She should not have had another 8.  It is idiotic that there are no controls on people like her.  There’s a dispute on this?

@ rascher.  Are you expecting me to apologize for being concerned about “money” ?  Sorry to disappoint you.  Money is a valuable resource and lack of it causes pain and suffering.  Yes, of course I would like society to have the $103.8 billion that is spent annually attending to child abuse—who wouldn’t?  Of course I want child abuse to end so that the kids don’t suffer, AND I would also be happy if that money was available for other purposes.  I can’t see why there is even a discussion on this matter.

@ Brendan.  You are quite amusing with your comment about the psychopathic look in my eyes.  What if I told you that was genetic?  Would you want eugenics to eliminate my eye-type? 
But seriously, I want to briefly explain here that I am quite an ordinary person, I have children, and, in fact, I worked for five years as a preschool director, and I am also the director of a non-profit that sends funds to impoverished children internationally.  I think children with miserable lives is horribly sad. I have spent quite a bit of my time and money trying to help children - I would like all children who are brought into the world to have a chance at a good life, and this is my motivation for writing the essay. 

Regarding genetics - I think it is unfortunate that the USA has the ability to do genetic testing on the parents before conception, and during gestation of the fetus, but many are choosing not to do so.  My wife had fetal exams and they were healthy.  If they were not healthy, we were in agreement that we would terminate the pregnancy.  If you’re opposed to abortion, just let us know, rather than tell me I’m a monster. 

I am not an original thinker on this issue.  My article merely compiles the thoughts of parent-licensing advocates who have spoken out in the last 30 years.  Many of them worked for child abuse centers, like Peg Tittle (mentioned in paragraph 3).  Nonetheless, they got called horrible names - like I am.  I am all right with that because I am in good company.


Posted by iPan  on  04/20  at  10:40 PM

Frustrated because compassion is so slow?

I feel that too.

The world is an ugly place, but we will never get anywhere when we cave into the dark side. It only makes things worse.

Something just struck me Hank. You’ve written articles in the past about the positive aspects of of some Njordic countries.

Have you considered looking at their solutions to these problems?

To many of the problems you bring up, harm reduction polices and empowerment (particularly female empowerment) are demonstrably more effective than authoritarian means.

On a financial note: How are we to pay for the extra prison beds we’d need for those who broke the law and had children without a license?

What about orphanages (foster care, adoptions, etc.) for the children of those parents who are sent to prison?

And the extra law enforcement, court proceedings, etc?

The list goes on and on, and this is why I brought up the War on Some Drugs.

You create an underground black market for children, which is dangerous, costly, and ugly if you implement something like this, and it costs everyone more in the long run.

So, once again, I invite you to set aside the ethical implications (in which you are clearly beaten), and merely think about the practical implications a little more thoroughly.

Posted by Hank Pellissier  on  04/20  at  10:43 PM

Hi iPan—you used the word “never” but that really implies a long time.
You probably know that there was no “compulsory education” in the Western world 120 years ago.  When compulsory education was mandated, with fines for parents who ignored the rule, there were riots.  But now we’re all okay with “compulsory education.”

Likewise, there were no driver’s licenses when cars arrived 120 years ago.  But then, it was deemed sensible that not everyone should be driving, because allowing bad drivers to do so was dangerous.  So driver’s licenses arrived. 

What I propose in my article would indeed never happen all at once.  But it might happen a bit at a time.  By the way, do you remember when you first realized that China had a “one child only” policy?  It seemed incredible didn’t it?  But it was indeed enacted.

I urge you to think about all the situations where you might actually agree with me that a person should not be a parent.  I bet you can name 5.  That would be a place to start that you’d be comfortable with, right?  If you want help - here it is:  should the Texan woman who drowned 5 kids in her bathtub have some more?  What about every person who killed a child?  or molested a child?  or beat up a child?  What about women who give birth to fetal alcohol syndrome children and keep drinking and having unsafe sex…?  But, I’m helping you too much.

How about this—if you knew via genetic testing that you and your partner had a 25% chance of having a child with Huntington’s Disease, how many children would you have?  Let me know the answer.  My answer for myself is none.

Posted by Nicer  on  04/20  at  10:46 PM

Hank, all the things that you mentioned are grave issues. But your proposal is broken. Justifying it doesn’t make it any less so. Authoritarianism is a simple “solution” to a complex problem.

Laws don’t prevent people from doing anything. People who disagree with (or don’t give a shit about) the law would break it, and they may be punished, but the ones who would really suffer would be the children who are born to unlicensed parents. The unlicensed children almost certainly outnumber the licensed children.

I don’t think you are a “Neo-Nazi-Elitist-Baby-Killing-Totalitarian-Sicko.” I do, however, think that you are a very naive person with some legitimate concerns. You make yourself appear to be a bona-fide authoritarian. The “I don’t care what you say, I’m right” attitude doesn’t really help anyone, and causes me question why you are pretending that you wish to hear genuine discussion of the matter. It’s blatantly self-contradictory; borderline schizophrenic.

Posted by rascheR duB  on  04/20  at  11:42 PM

@ Hank . . . I don’t expect anyone to apologize for anything.  Yes, money is is a valuable resource—true, albeit tautological.  Money is also an object of worship as the fond hope for a soft landing to every conceivable mess the human imagination can conjure.  Money is a crutch.  There are other values / variables to be considered.

Actually, a case could be made that your touted concern about suffering is merely a stalking horse for oligarchic aspirations and economic control.

Your proposal would be gold rush for lawyers and marketers.  They would be the sole beneficiaries.  During the post-certification period, the certified would still get intoxicated and develop addictions, illnesses, suffer personal dislocations and they would still copulate.  Maybe you would devise a MEMS sensor that would be embedded in everyone’s genitals; in case of arousal, the sensors would alert designated population-keepers who would act to prevent the unauthorized entry.  I shudder to think about the characters who would sign up to perform this civic function.

Plus, you didn’t answer my questions.  Have you pondered whether scenarios using existing social capital backed by policy measures could lower the incidence of FAS?  Expanding methods for identifying and treating genetically predisposed disorders is where the arc of medical research is headed; improved neurophysiological diagnosis and updated treatments for conditions ranging from alcoholism to explosive rage disorder are being discussed and need to be given a full chance to show their efficacy.  The winnowing of the unfit is merely an atavistic fantasy of Social Darwinists and eugenicists dating back to the 19th century.  You seem to be fixated on the licensing solution, a veritable fable of the man who falls in love with an dream and can’t be persuaded otherwise.

I don’t know why you think that age will inevitably refine and elevate people’s moral sensibilities.  True, people change over time, but not always for the better.  In addition, a cursory glance at divorce statistics would help you realize that what starts out auspiciously, almost 50% of the time in the U.S., ends in ruins. 

Another gaping flaw in your licensing proposal is that it assumes that one can extrapolate from a battery of test findings given at “point x” in time to assess the states of mind of desirous pre-coital 20-year-olds, and that these same findings will remain constant over the 18 year period it takes to raise a child.  If the couple separates, or one partner, or both, becomes abusive or shows sign of incapacitating illness, that would invalidate the license, causing a Child and Family Services caseworker to step in and move the child into foster care.  But that is the very remedy we have now!  Your proposal just adds a huge layer of bureaucratic marshmallow fluff to an existing problem; it solves nothing.  Your solution is not nimble, it is not elegant, it is not compassionate. What gives you the astonishing confidence that a certification at point x will reflect an unfolding situation, fraught with life-changing events, for x + 18 years? 

To mention yet another twist, let us take the example of motorists who have to renew their drivers licenses every five or seven years; many professionals must go through some sort of re-certification as well.  So must it be with sex partners, if your system is to work.  But if you want to bring all that administrative apparatus to bear upon conception, then you are talking about creating an enormous and unthinkably complicated and intrusive bureaucracy.

You say you know you are right.  In no way do I believe you have thought this through.  If you believe you have covered all the angles, then you are incredibly naive.

I know that iPan has written that the idea is simply impractical and a political non-starter.  But to say that it won’t happen is not the same as taking a position.  One can be in favor of an idea while retreating from it as unrealizable. But since Hank has taken the trouble to draft a proposal, I urge people to weigh in on its CONTENT and not take succor in its implausible and speculative nature.

Posted by iPan  on  04/20  at  11:49 PM

I draw a line between “ought naught to have children” and “we should pass laws preventing it”.

Autonomy is the first Universal Value.

But, I keep suggesting that we put aside the ethical debates, as fun as they are, and consider the practical side.

Who’s going to vote for this?

Which politician is going to commit political suicide by campaigning for this?

You bring up a semi-valid point about how things slowly change over time, driver’s licenses, compulsory education, etc.

But do you really think that the majority of people are going to treat this issue the same? Ha.

I say it would take a minimum of 50 years to push this through. A decade of trying to find a single congressman to support it. Another decade to even get it on a ballot. Another decade of Supreme Court battles. See what I’m getting at?

Without life extension, you’ll be dead before it’s passed.

And speaking of that, let’s take a bet: all of this will be moot, because biology will be transcended before this law has a chance of being passed. We’ll all be uploads (or whatever equivalent) before then.

But you still haven’t outlined your plan of action. When are you going to start campaigning for this? Are you going to run ads? Appear on talkshows?

It’s one thing to make post on a futurist blog, where intellectuals will at least ponder the idea.

It’s another thing to face the American public.

All I’m asking is how you plan to implement this, aside from these riveting talks?

Posted by alexa  on  04/21  at  12:45 AM

you cannot compare natural reproduction with adoption. in the first place, you speak about “projects” of children, in the second, about actual children. Actual children do have rights, because they are citizen of a particular state. unborn children, at least to a certain stage, don’t have this. otherwise, you practically rule out abortion.

concerning your other points: the first commentators pointed out correctly the main issue: who establishes the rules?

Posted by Michael  on  04/21  at  02:08 AM

I disagree simply because my accidental son I had as a result of a one night stand changed my life for the better.  His existence has made me be a much better person.

Posted by CygnusX1  on  04/21  at  08:36 AM

I have always argued, (in light of abuse or even the killing of an infant by guardians - see any relevant media article), that some parents should in fact take some sort of preliminary test or education to see if they should or can handle parenting?

Yet this should not be imposed, (as license), but rather should be treated as a part of social education, beginning either in high school or other. Larger families with maybe three generations still living may be more experienced and not have so many problems with tuition for young parents, or the availability of sharing responsibilities, knowledge, and self-help. Yet today many western families are either “nuclear” or even single parents trying to raise one or more children, and some of those without any form of viable income or quality of life.

There is some trend in western societies where parents rely heavily on state benefits, especially to help single or poorer parents, and the downside of this independence and freedom may have lead to a loss of community or social awareness and family education concerning the raising of children?

For example the children raised by a single parent may go on to have children of their own outside of support or relationship with a partner, and not think there will be any great difficulties, as this is the way they were themselves raised? By simply assuming that they can handle parenting as did their mother or father, is not a viable reason to ignore family planning or accept teen pregnancy. Child support services may not be enough to help guide single parents through stressful situations, and usually are no match compared with support from your own family.

It may even be argued that so-called third world societies and communities are more adept at supporting single parents with multiple children than we here are in the west, as their communal philosophy is stronger?

In any case I don’t think a formal license should impose on any social freedom, and we should be building towards less state governance and the philosophy of more “personal responsibility”, guided by social education.

Posted by Hank Pellissier  on  04/21  at  09:32 AM

hi everyone—there are lots of questions and I will do my best to answer them all, but I am short on time today so I might have to wait until tomorrow.

For starters, here’s some more information on Tay-Sachs - which is very interesting, I didn’t know all the info and I doubt if the general public does.  According to the Tay-Sachs Foundation - 1-17 Ashkenasi Jews carry the mutation (that is the part that I did know), but also 1-17 French Canadians, 1-17 Louisiana Cajuns, and 1-50 Irish.  Plus 1-250 in the general population.  Tay-Sachs is a much larger risk than I thought.  Here are some links:

and this is what the Tay-Sachs Foundation recommends:

“Since there is currently no treatment or cure for Tay-Sachs disease, it is important that couples in high risk groups undergo genetic testing to determine if they are carriers.”


Regarding Tay-Sachs, I am simply recommending in my essay the same precautions - preferably paid for by state health care—that the Tay-Sachs Foundation does. 

I am sure that if I looked up each severe genetic disorder this would be repeated—there would be a foundation looking for a cure, and that foundation would recommend to the public that if they are from a high-risk group, that “they get genetically-tested to determine if they are carriers”

My article only repeats what the most concerned specialists in each category of severe genetic disorder is already saying.  I only add that the costs of the testing should be paid for by state health care.  I believe if you think this over you will see that we are all in agreement.

For “Nicer” and other concerned readers, I want to assure them that I am - like them - in favor of a Responsible Democracy.  If a baby-making license was ever required, I would want it to be voted in by a wide majority of the public, and endorsed enthusiastically by a wide majority of the public.  You might say this is coercive to the minority, but… what isn’t?  There are laws requiring gun licenses that not everyone agrees to, but the majority of us regard the gun laws as a protection against danger.  There are required licenses to hunt, drive cars and big trucks, build buildings, perform surgeries, teach children, and operate a restaurant.  We have all agreed that mandating these licenses are essential for public safety.  Reproducing and raising children is similar - there are innumerable issues involved that impact the health of individuals and of the greater society. 

for iPan and others who ask “what’s my next step?” Let me give you some background on the parent-licensing “movement.”  It seems the first mention in the USA of the idea was back in 1973.  Hugh LaFollette wrote his essay in 1980.  Peg Tittle’s book lists about 20 essays.  LaFollette just wrote a follow-up to his original essay.  There has not been extensive publication on this idea. or a lot of “advertising”, or, indeed, much acceptance.  But I am adding my essay to the accumulating body of thought on the topic. 

For now, I just see myself as a “pamphleteer” or perhaps you’d call me a “gadfly.”  There have been innumerable valuable pamphleteers in history - Tom Paine is an example.  Pamphleteers just write what they believe - then they absorb the abuse that follows, hoping that some people, somewhere, will agree with them and that a movement can subsequently arise.  I don’t know if there’s a petition circulating anywhere to mandate parent-licensing.  It is not my intention to circulate one myself at this time.  Perhaps Mike Treder will take another poll of IEET readers to see if anyone agrees with me.  Perhaps he won’t. 

I am happy in any case, because it is a great joy for me to investigate social reform ideas, to formulate my opinion, to express myself in print, to watch the public react, and to communicate and dispute with readers about my ideas.  I am quite happy just being a pamphleteer.

Posted by Hank Pellissier  on  04/21  at  10:14 AM

for rascher—I feel like I haven’t addressed all your questions yet but I promise to get to them as soon as I can.  I do have time to mention a few things.

You point out that some people at, say, 18 are going to be more mature than others at, say 45.  You are right about that of course.  If you can come up with a parental-maturity evaluation questionnaire that is effective, that would be great.  I picked 20 years of age based on statistics that indicate that many of the “problem parents” are teenagers. 

I have indeed been involved in life-and-death situations regarding childrens’ health and it is distressful to me.  About five years ago I formed a non-profit, The Kids’ Co-op Inc. - the NPO ran two preschools in San Francisco and my goal was to donate 2% of tuition costs to fund impoverished international children.  I ended up purchasing a 7-hectare plot of land on the island of Mindoro in The Philippines and gave it to a local group of Mangyan tribals.  (The money was wired to their “supervisor” - a Catholic woman who set up a large live-in school for children, plus their families). 

Basically, the funds created a place where a village could live.  The village started with 65 kids but within 3 years there were over 100.  The Catholic supervisor sent me many photos of the kids, all had the protruding stomachs and phlegmy eyes of the malnourished.  She also sent me news that many had tuberculosis, and that they needed more funding to survive.  I got angry and told her that I didn’t want to fund anything anymore except birth control, but she said she wouldn’t dispense anything like that because she is Catholic.  For about a year I just stopped funding them entirely, but now I am back donating, and raising funds, sending cans of sardines and used clothing. 

Sorry about the long story, but I see my Mangyan situation as a microcosm of the world.  Would it not be better to have 70 healthy, progressing Mangyans, than 120+ incredibly unhealthy ones?  These people are dependent on funds, as we all are. I don’t have enough funds to care for an infinite amount of people.  But the non-profit could, with good fundraising, guarantee the health, education, and basic needs for a small group—let’s say 70.  But, I need some co-operation in this matter.  Every Mangyan having ten kids that are malnourished with TB and they’re too sick to go to school and learn and they need funding for their accelerating health problems… it is too much.

Like I said, I see it as a microcosm of larger groups.  In the USA you have 1,500 kids killed by their parents, 1 million abused, 40,000 with fetal alcohol syndrome, and I don’t know how many with severe genetic disorders.  To fund all this damage is expensive and the expenses come out of somebody’s pocket.  I have funded bad family planning for five years now and it is wearying.

If you wish to donate to The Kids Co-op, please let me know.  I can give you their direct email if you wish and you can wire them money yourself.  I believe if you do so, you will end up with opinions like me.

Posted by Peg Tittle  on  04/21  at  11:41 AM

It’s too bad that posters haven’t organized their comments by category as Hank suggests.  The ‘discussion’ is simply too unwieldy to join with any beneficial results.  Few people are replying to anyone else, except Hank, and most are just flinging comments at him.

It’s a HUGE issue.  It took me months to sort it out and write my meagre 50 page introduction.  I suggest that anyone who wants to join the discussion do that work first.  Read the introduction; think about it for several months; then come back to us with carefully articulated rebuttals to identified points.

For now though, I’d like to raise a point that often gets missed: why are people so terribly upset by the proposal?  Why do people who have shown no interest whatsoever in babies or children, or the developmental process that makes one into the other, people who have shown not interest in spending time with kids, paying attention to kids - why do they suddenly so STRONLY want to ‘have kids’????

I suspect it’s because ‘having kids’ is seen as a marker of stability, responsibility, maturity.  Being a mom or a family man has a halo.  Nonsense, of course, since, as Hank has pointed out, any unstable, irresponsible, immature person can have kids.  And many of those who haven’t had kids are stable, responsible, mature…

Another, related, point, to those who clamour about this, that, and the other ‘right’ (having kids is a human right, autonomy is a universal right, etc.) - oh yeah?  ON WHAT BASIS??  I don’t think it’s a defensible position to say that merely being human entitles you to ANYTHING (except possibly freedom from unjustified pain - something all animals with a nervous system are entitled to). 

Posted by Hank Pellissier  on  04/21  at  12:28 PM

Greetings to Peg Tittle!  I am so very glad she has joined us here. 
She is the author of Should Parents Be Licensed? (2004)
that I mentioned in my article—
I read her book and it formed the basis of what I wrote.
I will try to get Hugh LaFollette to join in the discussion as well.
Both have long experience and expertise in this topic and better equipped to answer questions than I am.

Posted by Katelyn  on  04/21  at  12:50 PM

I love this concept but agree it can’t be enforced. Even people who like kids should be behind this, it means better educated children growing up in the right circumstances. Seems like a test they give you at the DMV? 😊

Katelyn, founder
The first and only site for the dual income no kids lifestyle

Posted by iPan  on  04/21  at  02:42 PM

My opposition to this idea centers around unintended consequences, and the fact that their are demonstrable methods that are more effective (harm reduction, education, empowerment, etc.)

I compare it to the War on Some Drugs, because I believe it would create a similar scenario, and do as much harm to Some Children (the children of those parents who choose to have them illegally) as it would prevent in other children.

It would create an underground culture where people were having children illegally, and this would be extremely harmful to all the children born into those circumstances.

The reservations in “Brave New World”.

Hank’s recognition of these problems is sincere, and I’m grateful he’s bringing more attention to them.

It’s the solution that’s utterly preposterous, because it would not have the effect he thinks it will.

Posted by iPan  on  04/21  at  02:54 PM

Two reasons why the elite would not support this idea:

1) The criteria for obtaining a license would have to extend beyond income, and obviously some of the elite would not meet the criteria and would be denied a license (based on psychological evaluations).

2) They depend on hordes of under educated, desperate people to fill the rank and file, and keep the present economic oligarchy intact. Even if this would be good for the world, it would be bad for their power base.

Posted by rascheR duB  on  04/21  at  05:21 PM

Hank:  I admire your outreach in the Philippines.  I also want to acknowledge that your reply maintained your position in a way that was gracious, restrained and on point.  I believe that responsible and mature adults do have an obligation to protect children from needless suffering and violence.  However, I feel the measures you have outlined apply a sledgehammer to a precision set of interlinked, highly complex problems.

The autobiographical character of your note was revealing.  I wondered if your proposal was a symptom of your own despair, anguish, rage and disillusionment over the difficulties in trying to raise people out of disease, squalor and ignorance. 

Everyone processes the disillusionment they receive in life differently.  But I think most of people, looking at the negligence and malfeasance reported in the news or observable on a daily basis, that we have have at least once experienced the craving for a system that would act as a purgative rinsing the misery from the human condition while sealing the deal with convocation of the wise and the just who would oversee a brighter future. In that craving it can be easy to conflate fact and fantasy.  Before undertaking a large-scale overhaul such as you propose, let’s take a close look t the technical, economic and ethical viability.  So far, I have grave concerns.

I agree with certain sub-components of your proposal.  But where you favor central planning, I would prefer a distributed approach. Let’s retrench the incidence of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, for example, as part of a combined effort to combat poverty, improve life skills, and encourage health; this could include a peer-mentoring effort to prevent binge-drinking among young women.  Would questionnaires and tests be useful in identifying elements where a potential parent is struggling?  Absolutely. 

The word choice and tone in your original article seemed bitter and punitive.  Your essay virtually exuded a desire to punish and deprive the “buffoons” and “knuckleheads” of their human legacy. You are angry with them, and rightly so.  Still, I would hope you concede that the nobler thing to do would be to try to rescue the buffoons out of their buffoonish state.  On the other hand, if one believes that the buffoons’ worthlessness is utterly fundamental, then I don’t see why that would not rule out a program of mass extermination Out of human solidarity, let’s work with people.  Social incentives that I mentioned previously can turn lives around.

The problem with grand social engineering solutions is that the creators of the solutions tend to get intoxicated by the grandiosity while neglecting prudential details.  Another problem is that many of the potential parents who will be snared by all of these tests and restrictions will be those whom society has least served: the poor and disadvantaged and a great many of these will belong to historically maltreated and marginalized minorities.  The fact that you haven’t even touched upon this issue is reason enough to say:  the proposal has not been thought through responsibly.

Peg Tittle:  You ask: “I’d like to raise a point that often gets missed: why are people so terribly upset by the proposal?”  I assume that is a rhetorical question.  If you claim you really don’t understand that the proposal is controversial then you are either writing in bad faith or you are morbidly out of touch with basic human realities.  Let’s apply some elementary anthropology to clear away the nonsense about “a halo” and “oh yeah? ON WHAT BASIS? . . . ”  The simplest explanation is that there has not been (other than age and miscellaneous “in-group” factors) any consistent, widespread social folkway or tradition in the United States that governs or restricts coitus/conception.  So, news flash: you are introducing something new and unfamiliar, which means the onus is upon YOU to clearly show the benefits. 

Although the proposal is worthy of discussion, its points, taken collectively, would encompass a huge shift in how we treat reproduction – to suggest otherwise would be an embarrassing overdraft to one’s credibility.

Posted by Hank Pellissier  on  04/21  at  05:59 PM

Hi Rascher - Yes, you are partly right, my proposal could deeply impact certain poorer communities. Correct you are in that regard, but you’re incorrect in assuming that I did not think about it. 

In doing my statistical research, I of course discovered that Fetal Alcohol Syndrome occurs among Native Americans at a rate probably 10 times higher than other populations.  I also discovered that Teen Pregnancy occurs far more often with African-Americans.

I did not mention this in my article because I do not know exactly how those communities would react to parent licensing.  And I don’t think you, or anyone else, absolutely knows either.  There might be opposition from some who think that the measure is intent on preventing Native Americans or African Americans from reproducing, but that, in my opinion, would not be the majority opinion nor would it be the opinion of community leaders with foresight.

It seems obvious that the high rate of FAS among Native Americans is not advantageous to their community, nor is the high rate of Teen Pregnancy among African Americans.  Anyone who insists that those communities have a “cultural” right to keep producing FAS infants and unprepared Teen Moms is iust being defensive and silly.  I believe parent licensing would be welcomed (by many) in those communities, and I say that because those communities are already involved in reducing FAS and teen pregnancy, so why wouldn’t they want some assistance?. 

Additionally, the article I wrote was just introductory - even so, it was longer than most essays published on the ieet website.  I did not mention the impact on race, and class, etc., because that topic, and other topics, would have lengthened the article into an unreadable size.

I am interested in your opinion regarding the impact of Parental Licensing on Native Americans and African Americans.  If you have some links to studies or surveys that add to the discussion. please include those as well.

Posted by iPan  on  04/21  at  06:19 PM


      One day Mal-2 asked the messenger spirit Saint Gulik to approach the Goddess and request Her presence for some desperate advice. Shortly afterwards the radio came on by itself, and an ethereal female Voice said YES?

      “O! Eris! Blessed Mother of Man! Queen of Chaos! Daughter of Discord! Concubine of Confusion! O! Exquisite Lady, I beseech You to lift a heavy burden from my heart!”


      “I am filled with fear and tormented with terrible visions of pain. Everywhere people are hurting one another, the planet is rampant with injustices, whole societies plunder groups of their own people, mothers imprison sons, children perish while brothers war. O, woe.”


      “But nobody wants it! Everybody hates it.”


      At which moment She turned herself into an aspirin commercial and left The Polyfather stranded alone with his species.

Posted by rascheR duB  on  04/21  at  07:59 PM

CORRIGENDUM:  I see that I left out a full-stop in my most recent comment.  The error could cause one to take away from the passage the exact opposite of what I intended.  I wrote:

On the other hand, if one believes that the buffoons’ worthlessness is utterly fundamental, then I don’t see why that would not rule out a program of mass extermination Out of human solidarity, let’s work with people.

There should be a period after the word “extermination.” Thus:

On the other hand, if one believes that the buffoons’ worthlessness is utterly fundamental, then I don’t see why that would not rule out a program of mass extermination.  Out of human solidarity, let’s work with people.

Perhaps the error is not of great ultimate consequence, but I wouldn’t that point to be misunderstood.  My apologies.

Posted by dor  on  04/21  at  08:30 PM

I have a dear friend who is an elementary school teacher who, while spiritually progressive on all other issues, does favor parental licensing. From this sample of one, my conclusion is that the closer one is to dealing with the somewhat neglected to the semi-abused kids, the more likely a person of conscience is to want to see some form of regulation to address the problem. (It must be like watching a combination personal and societal train wreck about to happen and feeling helpless to stop it.)
The comments from iPan and rascheR duB point out the sheer difficulty of general acceptance, regulating and enforcement.
“I am interested in your opinion regarding the impact of Parental Licensing on Native Americans and African Americans.”
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the US Government forcibly removed Native American children and sent them to boarding schools in an effort to force the Native populations to assimilate. To me, targeting this population with parental licensing, especially if it is enforced by removing kids from the home, runs the risk of feeling like a 21st century version.
So many of the issues around procreation and child-rearing are squarely in the realm of the cultural. Education or regulation alone will not have the intended consequences because they do not address the myriad of meanings, codes, traditions and habits that lead to the abuses you’ve outlined. The emphasis in this approach is on punitive reaction and not prevention.
For me, what makes this an important essay is that it gets to the core of the ethical challenges around the emerging technologies: our science and technology evolution is moving faster than our cultural and ethical evolution. It leads us to look for the quick fixes.
Hank’s story about the project in the Phillipines is so common. It has been “discovered” by aid agencies, missionaries, Engineers Without Borders, people trying to help refugees adjust to our culture, etc. Solutions need to be undertaken with the involvement and leadership of the culture in which they’re implemented. We need ethnography in addition to engineering, human emotional and cultural literacy in addition to information.
Perhaps a secular form of church: something that builds community, restores peer-to-peer safety nets, shapes a communal mindset towards personal responsibility and allows people to discover for themselves how to improve their quality of life. Perhaps community salons that encourage sharing of stories and ideas and provides mentoring. Plus education. Maybe PSAs on TV and the web. But it needs to come from within the communities of which potential parents are a part.

Posted by Peg Tittle  on  04/21  at  09:04 PM

(A) On the policy question, the principle of the matter:

1. FAS and all the other things enumerated by Hank and others causes pain and suffering.  I think we can all agree on that, yes?

2. There are human rights.  (I don’t agree, but am willing to concede for the sake of this discussion.)

3. One of these human rights is the right to reproduce. (See point 2 parenthetical.)

4. Another of these human rights is the right to be free of pain and suffering. 

You see the problem?  In this case of competing rights (or you can see it a different way: no right is absolute; rights are limited by the harm principle - that is, my right to do X stops when X harms you), how many cases of pain and suffering caused by incompetent parenting must occur before we say the right to be free of pain and suffering TRUMPS the right to reproduce?  Not a rhetorical question - I want to hear specifics.

(B) On the procedural question, the practicality of the matter:

1. It doesn’t have to be difficult, people.  It can be as simple as making a course on parenting mandatory in grade nine; you pass the course, you get your license.  Objections to that?  (Again, not a rhetorical.)

Yes, some people will troubled by this.  (I have a few hypotheses as to which of these will be the most vocal…)
Yes, it will be an adjustment.
Yes, some people’s rights will be violated.
Yes, the system will be abused.

But consider this: you have to have a license to drive a motor vehicle, because incompetence puts others at risk.  You even have to have a license before you become a plumber - are our toilets more important than our children? 

Do you really want to say we should do away with drivers’ licenses because it violates our right to freedom of movement and because the system gets abused?

C. What do we do with those who have kids without a license?  That is an even trickier problem.  But let’s get A and B out of the way first.  Unless you think this problem needs to be solved first.  (But it doesn’t - because if you don’t get past A and B, C is moot.)


Posted by iPan  on  04/21  at  10:36 PM

It’s chilling to me whenever I’m reminded that there are people in the world who continue to support these types of concepts.

It’s even more chilling when I think about whether any of them have any actual influence in the world.

Even after such eloquent and thought out arguments such as those made by rascher, the advocates of these stark ideas just shoulder their way past without really thinking about these responses.

But, I kind of understand the fundamentalist mindset, which is why I repeatedly suggested forgetting the ethical arguments (in which they are not interested in the slightest), and instead tried to focus just on probability, something that I thought they would actually listen to.

The means do not justify the ends. Period. That is known as a slippery slope, and their is not one example in history you can point to where doing evil now has led to greater good in the future. Not one.

So, before I sign off on this sad entry to IEET’s collection of articles, I’ll leave ya’ll with this:

Ben Goertzel on Obsoleting the Dilemma

It’s all very well to enunciate lovely-sounding values like Joy, Growth and Choice ... but in real life we’re faced with difficult decisions. We’re faced with choosing one being’s joy over another’s, or choosing joy versus growth in a given situation, and so forth.

There’s no perfect, one-size-fits-all solution to such dilemmas.

But Cosmism does provide one valuable principle, that is very frequently appropriate for beings in the phase of evolution that humans currently occupy.

This is the principle of obsoleting the dilemma.

Rather than trying to resolve the dilemma, use a change in technology or perspective to redefine the reality within which the dilemma exists.

This may of course lead to new and different dilemmas—which is a natural aspect of the universe’s growth process.

This approach has tremendous power and we’ll revisit it frequently in upcoming articles.

To make the idea clear, first of all I’ll explore it in the context of a couple simple, everyday issues that—in the human world right now—seem to have a tremendous power to divide thoughtful, compassionate people.

Cosmism doesn’t solve these issues—but it does advocate a systematic route to resolving them ... not by solving them but rather by obsoleting them.

Posted by rascheR duB  on  04/21  at  10:38 PM


I don’t know of websites regarding Native Americans’ or African-Americans’ views on parenting licensing.  I recommend reading the University of Chicago sociologist William Julius Wilson, particularly two of his books on the urban poor, “Black Fathers In Contemporary American Society” and “The Truly Disadvantaged.” 

Unlike you, I am not sanguine that even “leaders with foresight” would embrace your proposal.  I am not a sociologist, but these communities (to use an inadequate word that glosses over many subgroups that do not share a common POV) tend to be culturally conservative and to emphasize tradition.

Other obstacles to implementing your plan in some African-American communities include: documentation and memorializing of the Tuskegee experiments; conspiracy theories that claim the U.S government created the AIDS virus for the purpose of targeting African-Americans;  a San Jose Mercury news story from 1996 charging that the CIA introduced crack cocaine into the black ghettos of LA as a way of generating profits for the Nicaraguan Contras.  A new government mandate will be off-putting.  I can’t imagine John and Jenny Techno-Progressive striding with their eco-friendly Merrells into an inner city community meeting to evangelize parenting licenses and not getting some serious pushback. 

Native Americans have suffered so many losses from the duplicity and machinations of the great and powerful that the message, however carefully crafted around something like, “from now on, we’re going to have a say in which of you can procreate”  . . .  well, I think you may underestimate the affront.

Furthermore, historically persecuted ethnic groups’ land grievances will likely fuel distrust of social engineering policies. Native Americans grievances are familiar enough to the moderately educated that they don’t need to be itemized here. African Americans recall historic betrayals ranging from General Sherman’s vain “40 acres and a mule” emancipation promise (rescinded by President Andrew Johnson in 1866) to recent litigation by African-American farmers who were denied subsidies and loans, and in some cases forfeited land. (Atlanta Tribune—

In short, a lot of work is needed to build trust.  Persuading people that the Law is going to become involved with their most intimate decisions combined with a history of broken promises combined with a set of rules and restrictions such as you outline – well, call me crazy, but it looks like tough sledding, old bean.  Maybe I’m wrong. I am neither Amerindian nor black, I don’t speak for any organization that represents them, nor do I declare myself an expert on these matters.  I’m not saying that people from these communities would not be receptive to many aspects of techno-progressivism (I think they would). But the parent licensing issue would surely not be the trial balloon techno-progressives would want to initially float to win support in these communities.

To my point about social leverage, one of the great sociologists of our day, William Julius Wilson, has noted that employed black men form stable marriages and remain with their families eight times more than the unemployed. However, many of the unemployed from the inner city “no longer consider marriage an option because their limited economic prospects do not enable them to provide for a family.”  An enormous prison population of African-American men needs remedial training that would allow them to function in the mainstream.  Lots of problems to fix to realize the ideal of social equity.  Yes, it will take money, and just as important, commitment.  The possibility of prima facie exclusions based on race or background would be a deep blemish on the techno-progressive movement, whatever other glories it conjures into being.

Peg Tittle:  Your idea of a parenting license would hinge on something “as simple as making a course on parenting mandatory in grade nine.”  That suggestion seems quite do-able and has the benefits of being a more nimble approach and one that is minimally intrusive.  However, that is something altogether different from Hank’s panopticon-style proposal.

Posted by Karla  on  04/21  at  10:49 PM

Have any of you heard of the Zeitgeist Movement and/or The Venus Project?

Posted by post-postfuturist  on  04/21  at  10:50 PM

“postfuturist, I can see the parallel between Nazism and Hank’s proposal that Brendan draws. You can bet your ass that the Nazis would have achieved utopia, once they got rid of everyone else. ‘Utopia’ demands the elimination of undesirables and dissenters.”

You are confusing totalitarianism with utopia, totalists demand the elimination of undesirables and dissenters, not utopians. As far as I know the first well-known utopian was Thomas Moore, who wrote a book ‘Utopia’ roughly 500 years ago, and Moore did not demand the elimination of undesirables and dissenters. The parallel between Nazism and Hank’s proposal that Brendan draws is an hysterical one; the acronym of this site is IEET, not GESTAPO. No one at IEET, including Hank, is a totalist, no one at IEET advocates genocide. BTW if you feel so strongly, you might get more out of it by picketing an abortion clinic with a ‘Baby Killer’ sign.



Posted by Hank Pellissier  on  04/21  at  11:53 PM

rascher—yes, you’re right - getting those communities to agree would be quite a bit of work.  Plus there would be plenty of what I would call “misguided liberals” who would want to “protect” them. I regard myself as a radical progressive so I am not the least bit of a cultural relativist. But I think the measure could be done.  I am not inclined to say “impossible” regarding this.

yes, what Peg Tittle suggested could be done far far easier.  But what she suggested is so easy to “pass”, the requirements are so simple, that it would not, of course, be very effective at improving the quality of parenthood.

Ethnicity is the USA is a very broad topic and interesting to discuss.  I will see if I can dig up any information about how various racial and religious groups would react to parental licensing.  I live in San Francisco, near Chinatown, and I don’t think Asians would be immensely adverse, but that is just a guess.  Chinese were subjected to the “one child only” sanction, so this probably looks lenient in comparison.  Plus Asians have an excellent track record of scoring well on academic tests so they wouldn’t be threatened by that. 

I think any group outside the “white” category might regard parenting licenses as a threat to their survival.  But, like I said in an earlier post, this entire movement would be enacted, if ever, in many many small tiny steps. 

It would be an immense social change.  But… there are plenty of precedents for that.  I don’t know how old you are, but did you imagine 40 years ago that there would be gay marriage in the USA? 

I believe the most important group to poll regarding this is young people.  21 and under.  The next voting generation.  Whatever they believe is an indication of where the trend is heading.  The young voters are moving the USA toward gay rights.  They are not frozen by tradition as deeply as the rest of us.  I think I can get a poll taken at a high school, regarding their opinion on parenting licenses.  If I can, I will let you know the result.

Posted by Summerspeaker  on  04/22  at  12:13 AM

While I oppose procreation of any kind as an act of dubious morality, the notion of the state forcibly preventing breeding sends a chill down my spine. Instead, I suggest undermining the power of the family through material changes and a cultural campaign. It’s pressures from relatives and society within the ideological context of compulsory reproduction that causes so many people to have kids.

Posted by Rhonda  on  04/22  at  12:15 AM

In your world I would never have been born, or if I had been my children would never have been born. You see my family fits in that unpleasant category of the Neurological Disorder called Huntington’s Disease. Now back when my mom was tested for the first time the tests were not as good as they are now and we believed her to be free of HD, but years later it became obvious the tests/doctors were wrong. At the time she had her second test they had located the gene.

The thing is if they knew about the gene years ealier and we lived your authoritatian state I would not have had the joy of watching my son turn into a man, and still watching my daughter grow. My children are beautiful and smart and have good lives. Granted we are not rich and we do have the threat of HD looming in our lives, but we are happy and love each other. What’s wrong with that?

Disease is part of life, and for the record those predictor tests are not always (100%) right. We’ve all heard the stories of a child inutero being tested positive for some disease and the parents give birth anyway to find out that the child was perfectly healthy and normal. We’ve heard other stories of being tested positive for this or that only to find out later those tests were wrong as well.

You are asking we that not allow people the RIGHT to bare children.

NO ONE should be allowed to make that decision for us.

Proper education and parenting classes for those who do become pregnant are great ideas, but not taking someone’s right away.

NO ONE should be forced to have an abortion either. I myself did not even have those inutero tests because I knew no matter what the tests said I would never abort my child so what’s the point. Having those tests alone can actually cause harm to the unborn child and not worth it in my opinion.

NO ONE has the right to take away life. Period!!!

It saddens me that you are of the mind that we should dictate the rights of others in these matters.

Then there is of course the practical matter of it all. It would never effectively work. There would be just as many problems and issues arise from this type of policing as there is without it.

The bottom line is we ALL should have our rights. No one should be allowed to take those aways.

Posted by Karla  on  04/22  at  12:30 AM

rascheR duB, check out if you haven’t already 😊

Posted by post-postfuturist  on  04/22  at  01:21 AM

“I don’t know how old you are, but did you imagine 40 years ago that there would be gay marriage in the USA?”

I remember 50 years ago, if a network had even produced a gay-oriented special (let alone a serial) they would have been arrested—today they would get an Emmy Award.
Fifty years ago the joke at school was: “are you a homo?”
Answer: “No!”
“You mean you’re not a homo-sapien??”
Then they would rip your “fag-tag” (label inside back of collar) off—
today if you did that you’d be charged with a hate crime.

Posted by Giulio Prisco  on  04/22  at  04:19 AM

I guess the issue here is who does the licensing and what oversight we citizens have. I would probably support “no child beaters”. But what if a future religious-right fundamentalist government adds “no liberals”, or “no blacks”?

On the one hand I understand Hank’s position. You need a license to drive a car, so why not a license to raise a child, which is much more important. But on the other hand, I don’t want to see an authoritarian fascist state regulating each and every aspect of citizens’ lives.

Posted by CygnusX1  on  04/22  at  08:12 AM

@ Rhonda.. Excellent!

@ Hank and all.. I think Rhonda’s comment has pretty much trumped us all, and all of the political rhetoric. Hank - consider the example as your visit from the “ghost of Christmas yet to come”!

Through the fog of all of this detailed analysis and argumentation I can only see feeble excuses for poorly idealised and punitive laws and legislation, and complete apathy, neglect and blindness towards the real value of social education and communal care and responsibilities.

“Let’s make them take a test to get their license, sorted, easy, quick, efficient?” NO.. Just too darned lazy to deal with the underlying real social issues and causality!

Posted by Hank Pellissier  on  04/22  at  08:38 AM

@ Rhonda—thanks for joining the discussion, and for bringing up something important that was not yet discussed.  Abortion.

Abortion is a huge issue within this topic.  Obviously, if fetuses are discovered to have severe disabilities, they could be aborted.  But many people are unwilling to consider this as an option.  Generally for religious reasons.  I also understand your decision to not get in-utero tests because my wife and I had to make those decisions, twice, as well.  But I was determined to do everything I could to guarantee that I parented a healthy child, and the percentages looked acceptable to us, so we got those tests.

I did have a scare once, I am a sperm donor and the couple I donated to decided to Not get those tests, they told me they were willing to parent any child in any condition, even if it had severe disabilities.  That made me quite nervous even though I was to have, via contractual agreement, no parenting rights.  There is something about me that is insistent on only bringing the healthiest possible children into the world.  Raising children who are happy and productive in the world is difficult enough, without them being saddled with massive disabilities.  By the way, the “sperm donor” child was born completely healthy.

I am only marginally familiar with disabled people, except for this one anecdote, that has influenced my opinions. One of my best friends had a brother with Downs Syndrome.  The brother, the youngest of six children, immediately needed so much care that the rest of the children were deprived of their parents’ attention.  The father, my friend’s father, drove his truck off a cliff, possibly accidental, possibly suicidal, no one is sure. The Downs Syndrome child lived at home all his life, he grew to be 300 pounds, and he thought he was Paul McCartney.  His mother loved him and took care of him as best she could, and his five brothers and sisters all did their best as well, they are an enormously kind family.  The Downs Syndrome son lived to be about 35.  My point is that there was a lot of suffering and neglect and what I would call “unrewarded work” within the family because of the disabled child, and I, personally, felt sorry for them and I wouldn’t wish that situation on anyone, certainly not on myself.

@ Guilio, Rhonda, and others.  If you read previous posts, you’ll see that there is nothing “authoritarian” about my proposal.  I would want it to be democratically introduced and voted in and accepted by the majority of the people.  If it still sounds authoritarian to you, I suggest that it is no more so than taxes are to libertarians, or the inclusion of “under God” in the pledge of allegiance is to atheists, etc etc.

Posted by Peg Tittle  on  04/22  at  09:28 AM

Rhonda, please reread my post about rights. 

You say “The bottom line is we ALL should have our rights” but that clearly can’t be true because your right to X sometimes conflicts with my right to Y.  Surely you can imagine an instance of this.

So you say you have the right to reproduce; (let’s say) I say I have the right to stop you.  Which claim should be accepted?  The one that is said often enough?  Loudly enough? By more people?

You also say disease is a part of life.  It need not be.  It’s as simple as that, often.

Posted by Peg Tittle  on  04/22  at  09:38 AM

Hank, why DO you limit your contraceptive solution to women?

Posted by greycat  on  04/22  at  11:06 AM

This proposal is not enforceable.  What are you going to do with babies that are born to unlicensed parents?

Posted by greycat  on  04/22  at  11:15 AM

One thing about Down syndrome, is that some people are only moderately or mildly impaired.  I’ve met a DS man who did live at home but had a job at a coffee place and was responsible enough to left alone by his mother to sell off extra costumes (she was a ballet teacher)

Posted by Hank Pellissier  on  04/22  at  11:17 AM

Hi Peg—I apologized in an earlier post for my article’s fixation on contraceptives for women.  I agree with you and other posters that there should also be contraceptives for men.  I totally agree with you in that regard, I just neglected to say it in my article.  In some situations, like FAS obviously, it is more important for women to have the contraceptive because the infant should not be in a toxic womb, but other than that - yes, male contraceptive would be great.  I am sorry to have not stated my position on that in the article.

also, thanks for saying what you said above.  The “disease doesn’t have to part of life” part.  Well said.

Posted by dor  on  04/22  at  12:01 PM

“My point is that there was a lot of suffering and neglect and what I would call “unrewarded work” within the family because of the disabled child, and I, personally, felt sorry for them and I wouldn’t wish that situation on anyone, certainly not on myself.”
Our own experiences and opinions color our world view. That is perhaps an essential aspect of subjective. What is true for you may or may not be true for another. There are many who do not see raising a disabled child as “unrewarded” and who, in fact, find a multitude of emotional and empathic rewards. Not me personally, but that’s my point.
The emerging technologies offer the promise of genetic-based treatments and cures. I suggest that the effort from a truly techno-progressive standpoint would be to seek ways other than preventing wanted pregnancies of addressing disease.

Posted by iPan  on  04/22  at  02:13 PM

“All that appears to be outside authority is an illusion of the mind which was formed in childhood and has not been destroyed by the light of common sense.  There is no such thing as outside authority.  We are born alone, we live alone and we die alone.  We all are peers, but no one is superior.  Each is autonomous in his own life.  The illusion of outside authority appears as a mirage before our senses only when we wish to escape personal responsibility and are seeking someone to blame.  We invent such illusory figures when we want to abdicate our own initiative and be able to point to these synthetic gods as the source of our misfortune if we do not succeed in our own larcenous ambitions for aggrandizement and exploitation.

      Man creates outside authority figures for the same reason that he creates idols.  The primitive man and the childish man are alike; they are deeply fearful of uncertainty in life and their ability to achieve their aims.  The primitive digs up mud to fashion into an image and calls it “God.”  He puts it on a pedestal so that its head is higher than his own.  Then he abdicates and prays to this image of his own creation – to this god to do favors for him – to send rain, crops and fruit.  But these prayers are not really supplications at all.  They are commands and demands hidden in a begging voice.  The child is whining for his supper, and he calls his whining reverence “prayer,” or “worship”, whereas it is only abdication of his own personal responsibility.  He sets up his outside authority figures so that he can make infantile demands for them to take care of him —as his parents did when he was little.  And he becomes rebellious, angry or resentful if the god he has made does not answer his demands.  His apparent submission to, and fear of, such imaginary outside authority figures stops immediately as soon as he faces the realization that they exist only inside his head, as his own invention, and do not exist in the outside world or have the power to grant him gifts.  No power exists outside an individual that can damage him.  All that helps or hurts him is of his own invention.  Each of us must be a lamp unto his own feet – else he remains in darkness.  Each must finally be his own and only final authority.  He can never delegate nor abdicate this fundamental position.  His strength is internal, never external.”

- Beyond success and failure:
  Willard and Marguerite Beecher


{a few excerpts to try to keep it short}:

The ‘moral illusion’ of governmental authority

This hypothetical scenario illustrates a question that Huemer argues is difficult to answer: namely, what gives a government the legitimate authority to act as it does?

“There is no satisfactory answer to this,” Huemer says. “In fact, I conclude it’s a moral illusion we’re suffering from.”

Huemer will complete a book project titled “Freedom and Authority.” The book argues that there is no philosophically satisfactory account of the basis for political authority.

Huemer contends that our governmental system has two flaws: It is non-voluntary, and it is monopolistic.

Posted by Gwenny  on  04/22  at  07:01 PM

Thank you for a very well thought out article.  This is an issue I think about a lot.  It disgusts me that a woman needs more education to cut my hair than she needs to raise another human being.  It’s horrifying the 80% of children are unplanned . . . a higher percent when you are talking about teenagers.  I want to scream when I hear parents saying that birth control leads to sex . . . what, like anti-biotics lead to disease?  And that rather than supporting educated, capable parents in raising new citizens, we reward the broken, uneducated and unfit in producing the largest percent of our next generation.

We are poised to reach a world population of 7 billion people, a huge percentage of which are hungry and lack even basic amenities.  I think universal birth control needs to become a priority.

Posted by Seymour Kleirly  on  04/22  at  10:39 PM

Where to start.  How about improving education and placing some consequences with some actions.  What ever happened to shame. 

I love gazing at lovely women and admire well built men, could unattractiveness be something we might throw in the mix?  It would be depressing to have nothing to look at except a bunch of narrow eyed academics that have nothing to do but force their power on the ones they can dominate.

I am glad you broached such a repulsive subject,it is a blessing to be able to recognize a totalitarian idea in its infancy. 

Look in the mirror and ask yourself,“I wonder if there is someone out there that thinks I should have been prevented” me dude,there is.

Posted by post-postfuturist  on  04/23  at  12:39 AM

Seymour, not making a choice on universal birth control is making a choice by default.

“I love gazing at lovely women and admire well built men, could unattractiveness be something we might throw in the mix? It would be depressing to have nothing to look at except a bunch of narrow eyed academics that have nothing to do but force their power on the ones they can dominate.”

What if academics aren’t well-built, but are lovely—say, like, Boy George with a doctorate? your mix is as arbitrary as ours.

Posted by Giulio Prisco  on  04/23  at  03:21 AM

@Seymour - bluntly put, but you have some good points.

Posted by Giulio Prisco  on  04/23  at  03:30 AM

@Hank re “If you read previous posts, you’ll see that there is nothing “authoritarian” about my proposal. I would want it to be democratically introduced and voted in and accepted by the majority of the people. If it still sounds authoritarian to you, I suggest that it is no more so than taxes are to libertarians, or the inclusion of “under God” in the pledge of allegiance is to atheists, etc etc. “

Off-topic, but an authoritarian dictatorship of the majority is still an authoritarian dictatorship. They say democracy is “two wolves and a lamb deciding democratically, by majority vote, what to have for dinner.”

Posted by Giulio Prisco  on  04/23  at  03:40 AM

@Hank, continued. I know you mean well, and you always raise important points which should be addressed, but you always address them by proposing extremely authoritarian “solutions”. History shows that such “solutions” are often much worse than the problem.

Posted by Hank Pellissier  on  04/23  at  08:54 AM

Guilio - thanks for your comments.  We still have a disagreement about the definition of “authoritarian” though. 

This link:
indicates that “authoritarian” is an antonym of “democratic” -
not a synonym.  Which is how I use the word. 

Yes, of course, in a democracy the minority is subject to the will of the majority.  We all know that and grumble when our candidates lose.

Complaining about that forgets however, that without democracy, the majority can be subjected to the will of the minority, which is even worse. 

If the majority of a population decides that Parent Licensing is what they want for the good of society, it is democratically just and fair that the law be enacted.

Protecting the rights of the “minority” can’t over-ride the rights of the “majority.”

There seems to be a different viewpoint of who the “victims” are in this parenting-license question.  My POV is that the victims are:
1. the 1500 children killed by parents (USA alone)
2. the one million abused children (often permanently damaged)
3. the 40,000 fetal alcohol syndrome children
4. the unknown number of genetically diseased children
5. the taxpayers who have to pay $110+ billion annually to assuage the damage created above

opponents of my POV seem to regard the victims as:
1. Would-be parents who are temporarily or permanently denied a license.

I also have a counter to your final comment that - “History shows that such “solutions” are often much worse than the problem.”

My counter is simply that, “History shows that reforms have been used very often and very successfully to solve problems.”

I find your stance, along with the other resistors, to be essentially very conservative.  I propose a reform that could work, and some people say “Yes!  That sounds plausible!” and others say, “No! No! It would be worse than the present!”

It reminds me of the conservative resistance to health care reform in the USA - always a fear that the change could be worse.

Being afraid to change mires us in the present situation which I find extreme deficient.  Many resistors are saying, “let’s just try education and social awareness of the problem”—as if that hasn’t been tried already?  and is getting nowhere?

This site is set up to investigate technological solutions to current problems.  I think enacting birth control measures on everyone except those who have demonstrated a desire and an ability to be good parents would provide immense benefits to society. 

Think of the upside!  No more unwanted pregnancies! Sex would be so much “safer”!  Don’t we all want that?

The present situation, with drunken “accidents” and broken condoms and marriages that never should have happened with resulting infants that are resented and abused and killed or grow up and repeat the cycle—and tens of thousands of children born with absolutely avoidable disabilities—hmm… this is a problem that needs a solution.  Does anyone have a better idea than mine?  I am ready to hear it.  But don’t just say “education” because that is just dithering.

I really don’t see the “victims” on the other side.  Are you saying that everyone has the “human right” to get accidentally and irresponsibly pregnant. with the resulting freedom to be an accidental and irresponsible parent? 

I understand the dystopian forecasts that some people have made if this proposal were enacted, but mostly, I regard those complainers as lacking all optimism.




Posted by Seymour Kleirly  on  04/23  at  09:17 AM

Democracy is nothing but mob rule.  That is why USA is a Represenative republic, before the sheep gets eaten there is debate,and presumably he will have another as his representative with his best interests in mind.  Unfortunately the wolves have duped all of the other animals and now have control.

Eugenics is already applied in society today. Francis Galton argued that as a society protected the weak, it allowed a reversal in natural selection.  I posture that the weak are being killed off in quite good fashion today.  The less developed countries ignorant masses are dying of aids, cholera and a host of other maladies,not to mention the fact that the stronger and more developed have better armies and advanced weapons that can kill tens of thousands.  I say why start in the womb?  Let the little buggers grow up and see what their minds are capable of, heck they might be able to pop your head with the wink of an eye, wouldn’t that make them a better person than you?

I suppose there are some that will postulate the tired old argument that no one has the right to decide whether someone else should live or die, I see people in traffic everyday that need to be removed from the gene pool, lets take a vote,should you stay or should you go.

Posted by Giulio Prisco  on  04/23  at  09:47 AM

@Hank Re “Yes, of course, in a democracy the minority is subject to the will of the majority. We all know that and grumble when our candidates lose.”

Our candidate losing is one thing. Forced sterilization and removal of civil rights is another thing. If we get to that point, concentration camps and mass murder will follow soon. History shows that, and we have seen it before, for example in Germany in the 30s. I don’t want to see it again.

The minority must be subject to the will of the majority? Yes, but within limits and with protection of the rights of the minority? Otherwise, democracy becomes just mob rule as Seymour says.

Posted by hank Pellissier  on  04/23  at  10:22 AM

hi Guilio - I notice that your “protection” of the rights of the “minority” does not apply to protecting children, in fact, it guarantees that children will continue to be abused, quite horrendously in many cases, by the inadequate parents you are so concerned about “protecting.”

I am quite interested in protecting human beings too. 
But - children are the innocent victims in this scenario,
not the adults who are unprepared or unfit to be parents.

You are fearful of repeating a holocaust. 
But perhaps one has already happened?  Extrapolate the annual victims in the USA over a decade and this is what you get:

15,000 children killed
10 million children abused
400,000 fetal alcohol syndrome infants
an untold number of children born with avoidable genetic disorders

that is an actual holocaust, not a theoretical one like the one you are imagining.

Posted by Summerspeaker  on  04/23  at  11:22 AM

Hank, coercion implemented by a representative democracy remains coercion.

Posted by CygnusX1  on  04/23  at  12:17 PM

Society becomes, and is, it’s own burden, and the bigger the society, the bigger it’s burden of socioeconomic divisions, hardships, poverty, stresses, indifference and sufferings.

The problems inherent in a society must be overcome and resolved by that society.

Yet human nature and it’s condition resolves to apathy, indifference and neglect. Society turns it’s back, makes exceptions, and resolves to non-corrective action where possible, because human’s are inherently short-sighted, Self-centred and lazy?

Long term solutions to overcome the shortfalls and negatives of the human condition DO lie in education and the pursuit of wisdom. The wise society therefore supports, nutures and encourages social education?

The rights of the individual must overrule those of the majority, except where the individual has broken the social contract within that society. Knowledge and education of this is again, the duty of society.

Licensing as a means to corrective action is shortsighted.

Posted by Giulio Prisco  on  04/23  at  12:21 PM

Hank, I see your point, and I agree, but your first impulse to solve problems always seems to be resorting to authoritarian methods, sometimes very authoritarian methods verging on the F word. I hope we are smart enough to do better than that.

How to protect children? Let’s just kill every person on the planet (last one standing please shoot yourself in the head), and nobody will harm children anymore.

Posted by Peg Tittle  on  04/23  at  12:30 PM

I’m with Hank.  I suggested the very mild solution of a mandatory course as an example of what a licensing program COULD be - to respond to all the people who seem to jump right from the suggestion to Hitler.

I agree education doesn’t, hasn’t, worked.

I agree something stronger is necessary.

I agree it might violate some rights.  But the current situation is also violating some rights.  No one’s responding to my point about competing rights. 

Giulio, we are NOT smart enough to do better than that.  Rent the DVD “Idiocracy” - that’s where we’re headed.  Step into a classroom some day and you’ll see.  Your paper tiger rebuttal is shameful.

People who want to adopt/foster kids have to prove competence; why don’t we set the same bar for those who want to look after kids who happen to be genetically related??  Answer me that, everyone who’s so terribly upset by the idea I, Westman, LaFollette, Pellissier, and so many others have suggested.

Posted by iPan  on  04/23  at  12:53 PM

You ask for alternatives.

Going back through the comments, I remembered something I kind of glossed over.

You say you bought land in Mindoro for the natives. But you didn’t mention travelling there and living with them. You sent money. You expected results.
But you didn’t get your hands dirty. You weren’t there with them helping to educate them and find sustainable ways of living.
You sent money.
(unless I’m wrong, but that’s what I got from your anecdote).

This is a typical American response. Don’t get involved, just throw money at it.

There are lots of examples of people who integrate themselves with the people they are trying to help.
There is a new movement to help people, not be merely throwing more money at them (which, as you point out, can often do more harm), but by really going the whole mile, teaching sustainable farming and other practices that will lead to more well being, not merely more food.

These methods are always more successful, but they require more work. More compassion.

You HAVE to get your hands dirty. Throwing money at problems like this won’t work. Throwing laws at it won’t work (btw, I am also opposed to driver’s licensing and compulsory education - driving licenses haven’t made the roads safer, they’re more dangerous today, and compulsory education hasn’t really lead to a more educated people).

The problem I have with this approach, is that I see it’s inherent flaw is in the very nature of trying to manipulate things from afar.
You want to remain detached from the problem, but you want the problem to go away.

Again, there is no substitute for direct involvement. Think about the way you raise your own children.
Do you just throw money at them, and expect them to go away?
Or do you spend insane amounts of time with them, being personally involved and active in everything they do?

To help anyone else in society, if have to take the same outlook towards them that you do with your own children (even if you don’t feel for them to the same degree - you still have to take the same approach).

Posted by dor  on  04/23  at  01:06 PM

“opponents of my POV seem to regard the victims as:
1. Would-be parents who are temporarily or permanently denied a license.”

Really? That’s what you’ve heard after all this discourse?

Posted by iPan  on  04/23  at  02:58 PM

For example, microcredit is far more effective:

Microcredit is the extension of very small loans (microloans) to those in poverty designed to spur entrepreneurship. These individuals lack collateral, steady employment and a verifiable credit history and therefore cannot meet even the most minimal qualifications to gain access to traditional credit. Microcredit is a part of microfinance, which is the provision of a wider range of financial services to the very poor.

Microcredit is a financial innovation that is generally considered to have originated with the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. In that country, it has successfully enabled extremely impoverished people to engage in self-employment projects that allow them to generate an income and, in many cases, begin to build wealth and exit poverty.

Due to the success of microcredit, many in the traditional banking industry have begun to realize that these microcredit borrowers should more correctly be categorized as pre-bankable; thus, microcredit is increasingly gaining credibility in the mainstream finance industry, and many traditional large finance organizations are contemplating microcredit projects as a source of future growth, even though almost everyone in larger development organizations discounted the likelihood of success of microcredit when it was begun.

The United Nations declared 2005 the International Year of Microcredit.

Posted by iPan  on  04/23  at  04:15 PM

And harm reduction.

It’s not about the specific methods and implementation, so much as the very process and approach behind it.

If we take harm reduction and decentralization as an underlying philosophy, we quickly see how much more effective they are at preventing the same problems we are trying to correct through authoritarian means.

Authoritarianism is an over correction.

Think about abstinence based sex education compared to birth control.

Same underlying process going on here.

Posted by Karla  on  04/23  at  04:15 PM

This is an interesting conversation and everybody has smart and valid points.  Anybody have a Facebook or Twitter account so I can follow you? You don’t have to follow me if you don’t want, I just like to “friend” unique people. It’s too bad none of you have heard of The Zeitgeist Movement or The Venus Project though, I would love to hear your point of view on these.

Posted by iPan  on  04/23  at  04:28 PM

I avoid Twitter and Facebook atm, but you (or anyone else) can reach me at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

I am familiar with The Zeitgeist and The Venus Project.

I think they are both somewhat educational, so there is value in being exposed to both, but I feel there is somewhat shady motivations behind them, particularly The Zeitgeist.

In the same way I don’t really trust Alex Jones, who seems to be something of an opportunist, even though some of the things he says is true, I don’t trust the underlying motivations.

But then, I’m extremely distrustful of anyone with an agenda.

Posted by Karla  on  04/23  at  05:10 PM

Thanks for your response iPan (and your contact info). I’m a cynic by nature and question everything, but TZM/TVP has made sense to me out of all the ideas I’ve heard in all my life. It’s not perfect, but I consider it a start. And I’ve never been into what Alex Jones says either. There’s line between awareness and fear mongering. I’m sure he means well, but sometimes ego gets in the way.

Anyway, I’m glad I got here (from FB)...very insightful (article and reader comments).

Posted by Hank Pellissier  on  04/23  at  06:58 PM

Hi Giulio and others -

here’s a website related to the topic “child abuse and Nazis”:

I’ve been told repeatedly by now that implementing “parent licenses”
would lead to Fascism, authoritarianism, Nazism, etc.—but the website above implies the opposite

the author contends that Hitler as a child was severely physically and psychologically abused by his father, and that child abuse was quite common with Germans in that era.

So, extrapolating somewhat, we could say allowing child abuse to occur leads to the creation of monstrous personalities, like Hitler, who are supported by other victims of child abuse.

There is present evidence of this as well, due to the high percentage of serial killers who were abused as children, and the high numbers of incarcerated individuals who were abused as children.

The information above changes the equation - 
I’ve been told that Parent Licenses = Nazis, Fascism, authoritarians

but in reality, recent history reveals:

(No Parent Licenses) = Child Abuse = Psychotic Nazis

Posted by Hank Pellissier  on  04/23  at  07:14 PM

for iPan—yes it is true, I threw cash at the Mangyans in Mindoro hoping that would be enough.  But it wasn’t.  I was hoping that “being in charge” would be better than just handing the money to a big non-profit. 

But I’m not entirely to blame.  The Catholic who takes care of them won’t give them condoms.  This common throughout The Philippines and there is a struggle going on now, people are pissed at the bishops.

So, sure, perhaps I expected too much out of my checks and the land that I bought them, but really, let’s blame the Catholic Church, too, right? 

It is confusing though, the woman (Sally Melendres) who takes care of them is inspired by “Jesus’s love for the poor” to administer to the destitute Mangyans.  She is good-hearted to do that.  But she’s got a blind spot when it comes to birth control.

Microlending is great.  I lend money to KIVA. Usually to Vietnamese women who raise pigs, I find that irresistibly attractive.

Posted by iPan  on  04/23  at  09:03 PM

Well, a lesson learned.

It’s not about blame, I think the Catholic approach is terrible. Another example of authoritarianism not working.

What I’m getting at though is the hands on approach. There are examples at TEDTalks of people actually living with other communities and helping them to establish a viable and sustainable framework for bringing themselves out of poverty and oppression.

So, my point really is about involvement and presence.

Yeah, microlending looks like it has a lot of potential, glad to hear your supporting KIVA. It’s an awesome way to change the world.

There’s an open source/DIY movement that makes the blueprints for farming equipment available.

It’s these types of approaches I advocate for. The getting your hands in the soil approach.
Live with the natives. Become part of their lives.
Walk a mile in their shoes (and then teach them to make better, higher tech shoes 😉

Lately, I’ve become interested in pay-what-you-want economic models, as an experiment/model for future reputation based open source economies. It’s as important to change people’s perspective in developed countries as it is to change circumstances in underdeveloped countries.

Posted by post-postfuturist  on  04/23  at  09:13 PM

‘I see people in traffic everyday that need to be removed from the gene pool, lets take a vote,should you stay or should you go.”

Seymour, whether or not you are philosophically correct is… academic. Fact is, by not making a decision in preference to universal birth control, all you do is make a different decision—perhaps worse—by default.
So what will happen?: many will die, that is for sure—not everyone will make it. The future will be good, but only for those who survive. And you, as everyone else, would rather someone else die than yourself. When I read something like this:
“I love gazing at lovely women and admire well built men, could unattractiveness be something we might throw in the mix?
It would be depressing to have nothing to look at except a bunch of narrow eyed academics that have nothing to do but force their power on the ones they can dominate”,
I wonder why it is you can’t control your hysteria on this topic enough to blog at IEET without writing something such as the above, why post it at IEET of all sites? what makes you think (let alone write) the proportion of academics who are unattractive is higher than non-academics? And even if academics were less attractive, they are not Britney Spears or Justin Biebers; Einstein’s role wasn’t similar to that of the singer who used to call himself “Prince”. Stephen Hawking doesn’t have to look like Lady GaGa, or wear the sort of outfits she wears (now there’s an image for you). BTW, what about men who are lovely and women who are well-built?
A fair criticism would be how academics and other intellectuals can be disingenuous—they slant facts in preference to their own interests and or their more impersonal agendas. Naturally, the entire world is devious, especially men, yet intellectuals being smarter, have a greater ability to be devious.
At any rate, all you write above is an hysterical comment having something (it’s not clear exactly what) to do with “narrow-eyed” academics allegedly being physically unattractive; my bringing this up isn’t picking on you, it is curiosity as to why you would want to vent such banality at IEET.

Posted by iPan  on  04/23  at  09:15 PM

If you’re really deadset on this whole fast track reform thing, then buy all these people cell phones and set them up with Twitter/Facebook accounts.

Posted by post-postfuturist  on  04/23  at  10:12 PM

The hysteria on this topic reminds me of “pro life” (anti-abortionist) activists who are so violently anti-abortion they make you want to open a Planned Parenthood office in retaliation.
Some of you make it appear as if Hank is a cross between Pol Pot and Margaret Sanger—we’ll just have to check to see if Hank is wearing a Mao suit.
None of you hysterics has to worry, requiring babymaking licenses would be unacceptable to most Americans, though abortions will continue—which demonstrates how there is little rhyme or reason to it.

It’s mostly sound and fury.

Posted by sherakee  on  04/23  at  11:03 PM

FINALLY. This should have been imposed 100 years ago. Imagine peace on earth and no child left to suffer. Sterilize at birth, with the option to “undo” at a time when the person feels that they are ready to take on the responsibility of a precious human life. Only after they’ve passed a battery of tests THEN ‘begin’ the process of creating life. You have to get a license to drive a car, have a dog, and on and on…. but yet our children suffer beyond imagination. A world full of responsible and loving humans with nothing but good in thier life and ours. Imagine, the abused child down the street is waiting on your answer to the call. Don’t let one more child suffer, end the madness and make an euphoric existance where ‘history’ will be ‘fright night’ reading. Make it happen for our human future and it’s generations to come.
Hank, you have made history if the braincells available can act with the responsibility and character needed to do so. You have my vote, 0, and have had for more than 20 years…glad to meet you.

Posted by sherakee  on  04/23  at  11:56 PM

that “0” was one hundred percent, before the ‘analyzation’ of the powers that be…  and it remains so.

Posted by hank Pellissier  on  04/24  at  01:46 AM

sherakee—the pleasure is mine - I am extremely glad to meet you!  Thanks for expressing yourself and my position so well here, and I want you to know that I owe my article to Peg Tittle - who’s book I referenced—and to Hugh LaFollette - who’s essay from 1980 also inspired me.  Thanks again for articulating what an improved world we could have if everyone on earth had, in your words, “responsible and loving” parents.

Posted by Valkyrie Ice  on  04/24  at  02:09 AM

The technology needed to make this actually work is the ability to reversibly “Turn off the reproductive cycle” for women and reversibly sterilize men by conscious personal choice. This would enable a “double fail” system so that it would take two consenting individuals to produce a child. No one would then be able to produce a child “accidentally”

Note I say this is by “conscious personal choice”, not by government mandate, because I fear I must agree with those who claim the “licensing” system is authoritarian. People should be allowed to reproduce as they wish, PROVIDED IT IS A CONSENSUAL ACT BY BOTH PARTIES INVOLVED.

I also am quite strongly in favor of extremely strict parental laws that hold the parent accountable TO THE CHILD, with severe penalties for many of the abuses Hank lists, including indoctrination.

However, I fear we must wait for technology to progress enough to grant people the ability to control their personal reproductive systems before any of this becomes practical. I do believe that this ability alone will massively reduce most of the problems Hank lists as it will eliminate any possibility of accidental reproduction.

Posted by CygnusX1  on  04/24  at  06:11 AM

Well.. I’ve read it all now? Sanctioning procreation licensing to prevent future potential Hitlers? So it’s not just the interest of the children you have in the back of your mind then?

Of course, what you really mean is that the “abused and bullied victims” tend to go on to abuse others? - So again, what’s the real solution? - Education perchance?

Seems with this feeble idea, we are replacing one potential Hitler with another, complete with images of the “Baby swat police” kicking your door in to take your un-sanctioned baby away - Oh the tears, the screaming, the despair!

“Education has failed” - is that a “period” at the end there?

Now if this article was suggesting the reduction of child suffering and even population decrease through education and awareness, then I’d be all for it - But it’s not is it!

Posted by CygnusX1  on  04/24  at  06:36 AM

Concerning the human failings of bureaucracy..

“Tragic decision” fostering judgment - License revoked!

Concerning the “ugly” side of human nature..

“Libyan children suffering rape”

Posted by rossmark22  on  04/24  at  09:05 AM

I think doing this is against the Word of God. Why control this aspect? What are we? robots?

Posted by Hank Pellissier  on  04/24  at  10:35 AM

Valkyrie Ice - thanks for joining in!  I appreciate that you always know what technology has - or will soon have - available. 

Cygnus—of course, I agree with your goal!—“the reduction of child suffering and even population decrease through education and awareness”—I wholeheartedly agree with that!  But your methods won’t be enough.  “Education and awareness” is what we’ve been doing, and with solely that approach, numerous accidents happen, easily and often.  I was involved in “accidental pregnancy” ’ twice, in my younger years, and it was extremely traumatic. And I’m a light drinker, and the pregnancies were terminated. What I am saying is, we can keep up the “education and awareness” forever, but there will still be accidental pregnancies, unless we have access to the improved contraceptives that Valkyrie Ice has mentioned.

Cygnus, I am interested in solving the problems that I mentioned, that’s all.  I am not interested in issuing licenses because I think licenses are fun.  Nor am I interested in overly-controlling people.  I just want the problems alleviated.  I am open to other suggestions that would alleviate the problems, but it seems obvious to me that “education and awareness” is not going to be sufficient. 

Obviously, when improved contraceptives arrive, accidental pregnancy will be vastly curtailed.  Like other posters, I believe it would be beneficial to have us “sterile” except when we actually want to have a child.  Like all men, I have produced trillions of sperm, but I have only utilized three— the rest of it was just gallons of inconvenience that instigated occasional terror. 

rossmark22 - ah, I have been waiting for remarks like yours.  The “Word of God” eh?  Seems like your God has created a very flawed system with numerous accidents and tragedies, and He can’t seem to fix it.  Truth is, believing in your God is one of the biggest problems because often your “God” seems opposed to birth control - rendering “family planning” impossible, so that infants arrived unchecked, unwanted, and unprepared for.  Read my earlier post about The Philippines.

for all, I think the USA won’t be the first place to utilize parent licensing.  There would be strong resistance here, from religious groups and others.  It might happen in Asia first - perhaps even China and India (China’s one-child policy is certainly a step in that direction) Parent Licenses might happen earlier in parts of Europe as well, I have heard that Denmark and Austria have toyed with mild forms of it.

I also read in a recent World Future Society issue that many Asian nations seem to be more open to biotech solutions, in general.  Oh, and since many of us think that “education” is the answer—Asians, particularly China, Japan, Korea, and Singapore, are leading the world in K-12 education.  So perhaps improved “education” leads to acceptance of biotech solutions, and also licensing?  We shall see.

Posted by Seymour Kleirly  on  04/24  at  11:07 AM

I am beginning to be swayed by your arguments.  However to just be sure you are all in, let the home inspections begin, especially where there are adult men and young daughters. 

If you are planning on saving the children,why not insure that the ones not aborted are secure.  I propose that all of you set the example and subject your families to be the models, psychological testing, home checks, school visits, background checks, etc. 

After you are screened and some of your children are removed, we can set up an indoctrination , er , I mean education center where you can go to conform to the rules.

I suppose if none of this is acceptable,then we have exposed the haughty arrogance that some have suspected. 

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