Just about every couple wants to raise children. It is an innate, inescapable need that is hardwired and natural. All organisms have this requirement to make more.
So when couples face biological challenges to natural conception they seek help that in most western countries now includes the benefits of medical technology. In vitro fertilization (IVF) and related fertility treatments have helped hundreds of thousands of couples create a family with more than 3 million babies born since the techniques were introduced in 1978.
Not surprisingly there was much chuntering at the Australian government for removing subsidies for IVF treatment under the national medicare system. Australian couples now have to find up to $2,000 per treatment in upfront cash.
In the short time since this funding change that has saved the government around $50 million, IVF proponents claim that some 1,500 babies have not been born because many people cannot afford the treatment.
Perhaps I am callous because my first thought was that this good news; 1,500 fewer mouths to feed. But then I am obsessed with 8,000 an hour and sometimes find it hard to empathize with childless couples as I have two sons and a step-daughter.
So I mellowed and clipped my own ear for being so heartless.
Then came the kicker. Advocates were arguing that, in fact, $50 million was a sound investment spurned. Eventually the ROI on the $50 million from taxes paid by those 1,500 kids more than justifies the government spending on the subsidy.
This is where I really despair. There can be no rational argument for taxes being a return on government investment because this is not an investment model. Taxes are a way if distributing wealth for services that are financial beyond most individuals, not an investment scheme. Nor are the accounts complete. The environmental cost of 1,500 omnivores living western lifestyles for 80 years would make $50 million look trivial.
The thinking that makes intelligent people (the proponent in this case was a University professor) misquote economic rationalism is scary. It suggests that we are just more-making machines unable to pull in the logic to understand what we do. The bigger picture eludes us in our quest for advocacy, especially when that finds us on the moral high ground.
In an earlier post I pointed to the size of the task to support 7 billion humans in practical terms of energy, food and water is gargantuan.
Now I am concerned that the size of the task in the human dimension is even bigger if our logic is stuck with the eventual benefit of babies to the tax system.