The world must be peopled
For a while back in the 1980s, when Leila and I were outnumbered by babies and toddlers in the household, we subscribed to a service that provided us with clean laundered cloth diapers. It was a competitive business at the time— similar services were anxious for customers— and the service was excellent. Among other things, the company sent us a weekly newsletter, full of helpful hints for new parents.
And advertisements— for contraceptives.
I realize that the newsletter was aimed at new parents: the primary market for contraceptives. (For that matter the newsletter might be read as the new parents are changing messy diapers: a time when they could be reconsidering the blessings of childbirth.) Still, why would a company whose ultimate customers are newborn babies want to carry ads for pharmaceuticals that promise to prevent the appearance of newborn babies? Sure, the drug companies offered short-term payments for the ads. But in the long run, the diaper company needed babies.
Perhaps not entirely by coincidence the company that provided us with those neatly laundered diapers no longer exists, nor do its main competitors. They couldn’t compete with the convenience of disposable diapers. Yet I still wonder whether they properly understood their long-term interests.
These thoughts came to mind as I saw the news that a diaper company, EveryLife, has taken out billboards in New York’s Times Square, quoting Elon Musk’s statement: “Having Children is Saving the World.” That marketing strategy makes sense: If you’re selling diapers, you have a keen interest in babies.
“There’s a profound need for more children in the world, and EveryLife is here to take a bold stance that we disagree with population-control ideologies,” announces Sarah Gabel Seifert, the chief executive of the firm. Sure, she has a vested interest in reversing the birth dearth, since she’s selling diapers. But the rest of us have the same interest, insofar as we want young people to finance our Social Security checks, to buy our homes when we downsize, to care for us when we can no longer care for ourselves— not to mention, to bring joy into our lives.
The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, while serving as a Harvard professor, remarked that the most important decision in the realm of social policy is not made by lawmakers in Washington but by married couples: the decision whether or not to have children. The way young couples answer that question speaks volumes about the health of a society. Do we think of life as a gift to be shared with future generations or as a burden to be born grudgingly? Do we want to share our happiness generously or hoard it for ourselves? Are we creating a larger market for Huggies or for Depends?
All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!