This is an expansion on a section I had in Part 2, but deleted because the article was getting too long, and I wanted to avoid a bit of controversy. As the discussion is moving in that direction, here it is.
It is difficult to discuss the right to life without touching upon the abortion question. Like any other aspect of culture, we can analyze this based upon human wants and needs, as constrained by environment and technology.
In a purely agrarian society, the average child has paid for his upkeep by the time he is twelve or younger if male, or around fourteen if female. From that point until emancipation, it's pure profit. In other words, all things being equal, a child is a blessing in such a situation.
Once again, it is a matter of satisfying wants and needs. To know how many kids an individual family is going to have, we really only need to know these things: 1. How valuable is each child at each stage of life; and 2. What is the death rate among children in the culture. A third variable which only affects highly affluent societies is the cost of a child vs disposable income. I don't spell this out later, but I think it is pretty clear how it works.
Lets take a village family in rural India as our example. Lets say they are in the north of the country, where wheat is the principal crop, and even today much of the labor is performed by men and beasts. A boy child is a great prize in this culture. As previously mentioned, a boy will pay for himself in terms of work by the time he hits puberty, and the family may get a dozen years of labor beyond that before he marries and moves away. Where land is plentiful, there is every incentive to have as many boys as possible.
Girls, on the other hand, are not so valuable in this environment and level of technology. Just as there are vastly more oxen than cows in north India, there are many more men than we would predict. Girl babies simply haven't been surviving, in the same way that female calfs have a habit of dying. On the other hand, families have many more sons than are needed, because the family has to overshoot in case a male child dies young. Overpopulation results, of a peculiar shape, with too many people and too little land, and too many men, and not enough women. The predictable result is endemic warfare, and, indeed, the region has been awash in blood since the time of Gautama.
Technology has had two thoroughly surprising results in the region. First, the reduction in infant mortality has made the necessity to "overshoot" disappear. Second, the option of raising a second son (or daughter) and getting them education allowing for a profitable career has changed all the math. Every family still wants a son to carry on the family farm. But they also now want an extra son or two to go to college and enter into civil service, or move to America and open a Subway, or Seven-Eleven.
Back in the USA, abortion has been legal nationwide since Roe v Wade in 1972. In the peak years of the late 1980s, about 1.6 million abortions were being performed annually, or about 40 percent of total pregnancies. [Figures are from memory; I might be off a little. This really doesn't affect my argument.] Abortion and infanticide are no different, from a philosophical perspective; it is just a matter of choosing when to end the life. Given this what can we conclude of a culture which is killing almost half of its babies? One of two things must be true: Either the society is too poor to feed further mouths, or else the costs of child-rearing have risen to astronomical levels.
As the richest society in history, we obviously are not straining to feed the extra odd baby. But if you follow readers' Digest, at least once a year they run an article under the banner, "Cost of raising a child through college now over $250,000 (or some other large figure; the number isn't the point). The cost of raising a child today are not just economic, although there is that as well. There are also soccer games (and practices) to attend, giggling overnight parties without sleep, and a wedding with a crushing amount of responsibility and bills. Who would possibly want to subject themselves to that? Not Americans, is the answer.
Simultaneous with our loss of millions of potential productive citizens, we are outsourcing jobs to that Indian viallage and importing millions of undocumented immigrants. Both of these trends point in the same direction: In a very real sense, we are arbitraging expensive US babies for cheap foreign babies. Keep in mind my central theory of culture: This is a choice we have made on a cultural level, based upon the expectation that millions of mothers have made at the individual level.
Here in Asheville, we have had an explosion in the last decade of both the Hispanic population and Ukranians from the former Soviet Union. Like immigrants of the past (my grandfather Ehrsam swam ashore in New York harbor in 1905) they are thrifty, hard-working, and ask for nothing more than a chance at happiness. But there is a very real question, how would our present nation look if more than 40 million babies had been born, rather than aborted? What different policies might have been followed; what different results might have occurred?
I am certainly not a dogmatist on this issue. In general, I think abortion is a mistake. But I cannot divine the thoughts of the women who chose the procedure, nor can I refute the basic economic logic of the situation. When you look at our culture through the lens of my analysis, the question is not why so many abortions, but why so few? After all, most babies will not grow up to be Hedge Fund managers, or physicians, or NBA stars. Yet if that is not the case, there is no way that the average child can pay her own way. Until we see a dimpled cheek and a smile.
Peace to you all.