May 21, 2006
Russia Offers Cash For Babies

With a UN report predicting a one third decline in Russia's population by 2050 the Russian government has finally awakened to the scale of the problem they face.

MOSCOW – Cash for babies is the Kremlin's offer to women in its latest bid to reverse a population decline that threatens to leave large swaths of Russia virtually uninhabited within 50 years.

President Vladimir Putin last week defined the crisis as Russia's most acute problem, and promised to spend some of the country's oil profits on efforts to relieve it. He ordered parliament to more than double monthly child support payments to 1,500 rubles (about $55) and added that women who choose to have a second baby will receive 250,000 rubles ($9,200), a staggering sum in a country where average monthly incomes hover close to $330.

The article quotes Russian mothers saying that the sums offered are not large enough to cause them to have another kid. The Russian birth rate has fallen almost in half since communism collapsed. Does the insecurity in Russia make women reluctant to reproduce?

Russia's birthrate, falling for decades, has plunged in post-Soviet times, to just 1.17 in 2004 from 2.08 babies per woman in 1990 - far below the 2.4 children required to maintain the population - according to the Federal State Statistics Service.

I'd like to know what most changed the thinking of Russian women. High unemployment of prospective mates? Higher criminality around them? Their own lower job security? Lower living standards? What?

If I was the Tsar of Russia (which Mr. Putin more or less is at this point) I'd make the money available only to smarter women (say a 115 or 120 IQ threshold) and I'd up the amount offered per woman per baby. Smarter kids will make far larger contributions to Russia's economy and will be less likely to become criminals or unemployed.

Another thought: Offer greater job security to men and women who have large families. Make some kinds of prestigious, highly secure, and well-paying jobs available only to those who have 3 or more kids.

If someone wants to get morally indignant at me for advocating eugenic policies I have an answer for them: Ho hum. Excuse me while I yawn.

Update: Thinking about Russian women who are reticent to have children given current conditions in Russia a thought came to me: When it becomes possible to boost offspring IQ and other desirable traits (about about very good looks?) using genetic engineering that will serve as an incentive to have children. Think about it. Worried how your children might turn out? Worried they will be poor and attracted to a criminal life? Worried whether you will be able to provide them sufficient education to land high paying jobs? If you can be guaranteed your kids will have 130+ IQs then those worries go way down. Again see this chart of how white males in America do as a function of IQ which I linked to above with a comment about criminals and the unemployed. Moms who know their kids will find school and intellectually demanding jobs to be easy are Moms who can look forward to happy times as their children grow up and become adults. Also, genetic engineering applied to embryos will decrease the odds of birth defects and development problems. I figure women will become more eager to reproduce when they can look forward to having successful kids.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2006 May 21 12:11 PM  Trends Demographic

Garson Poole said at May 21, 2006 1:33 PM:

Thinkers who are concerned about population decline are sometimes motivated by antiquated visions of national strength. They believe that large armies of human factory workers are needed to create products that make a country strong. But this concept is acutely flawed because it ignores the ongoing advances in computer power and artificial intelligence. If AI succeeds in even a modest way in fifty years then the current conventional factory jobs will be automated out of existence. The power and wealth of a nation will not depend on a large pool of low-skill workers. To use the classic Marxian Russian terms the proletariat and lumpenproletariat will probably not be employed in future factories.

Note that the article about the Russian population is concerned with fifty year projections. Yet, massive changes are due before this date. Raymond Kurzweil says “If we project these computational performance trends through this next century, we can see in the figure below that supercomputers will match human brain capability by the end of this decade and personal computing will achieve it by around 2020 – or possibly sooner, depending on how conservative an estimate of human brain capacity we use.” [ref page 70 “The Singularity is Near.]

When assessing the future prospects of a group of people or a country I claim that the size of the population is of secondary importance (above a threshold), and that other properties are of primary importance. Are the people thoughtful, caring, intelligent, ethical and creative? Are they willing to perform scientific research and develop innovative technology? Are they willing to use the technology to advance positive goals? Are they willing to create ethical AI/robots and to modify themselves?

James Bowery said at May 21, 2006 10:12 PM:

I actually departed for Russia on the day of Putin's address and have discussed the problems of family formation with some of the folks in the heartland of Russia after the speech. The main thing working for family formation is the low cost of living in the presence of an economy that is enjoying a natural-resource-based rebound. The demand for Russia's third world economy (natural resources) is driving the recreation of a middle class. However, the fact is that women still need to work in order for a family to afford the necessities and this is killing the nation.

This simple fact has escaped the attention of all of the so-called experts:

Since the "bad old days" of the 1950s, the cost of reproduction has skyrocketed throughout the "developed" world and it is causing the demographic collapse of those societies. This conflation of "women's liberation" with women's enslavement to sterile corporate concubinage is the smokescreen behind which hides a genocide of unprecedented proportions.

No one, not even Putin with his "Czar"-like powers, can deal with this and stay inside the current paragdigm.

A paradigm that would work is something I came up with when attempting to identify the root of the US's decline in the early 1990s, and proposed a radical reform of tax and intellectual property, with a "citizen's dividend" -- something that if extended to children (and denied immigrants) would provide the proper incentives and level of support:

The government should tax net assets, in excess of levels
typically protected under personal bankruptcy, at a rate equal to
the rate of interest on the national debt, thereby eliminating
other forms of taxation. Creator-owned intellectual property
should be exempt.

The levels typically protected by personal bankruptcy can be
approximated by the median price of housing an individual added
to the median capitalization of a job in the economy. Together,
these exemptions add up to between $50,000 and $100,000.
Additional but smaller exemptions may be added to represent the
lower levels of bankruptcy protection typically extended to
children within families.

The NAT is a self-adjusting system that seeks an equilibrium
between government debt levels, current tax rates and private
wealth distribution, without attempting to achieve an outright
balanced budget or direct intervention in the economy.

Under current (1992) asset distribution and government debt the
NAT would generate between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion in
revenue, thus totally displacing other forms of taxation.
only assets whose existence is legally recorded in titles, insurance
documents, etc., or that are currently reported for capital gains
and losses would be individually assessed. Since most households
own few major assets changing little from year to year, the NAT
would greatly simplify tax computation.


With the exception of basic functions of government and the pay
down of debt, the government budget should be dispersed to
citizens as cash, rather than being spent in government programs
or even limited in the form of vouchers. This is "market
democracy" in which the citizens and their markets, rather than
central planning and politics, influence the selection of goods
and services to be capitalized and provided.

PS: I should say that it would behove people to actually read Putin's speech at:

In it he does talk about providing working women with compensation for children that scales with their prior income. This would tend to benefit intelligent women disproporationately, and, given the smokescreen of corporate concubinages, it may even tend to benefit women with high levels of beauty.

Doug said at May 22, 2006 10:51 AM:

I don't know the conditions in Russia, but in the United States and in similarly situated European countries, it seems that one of the causes of low birth rates is the taxation used to support transfers to the elderly. People's increasing years of idleness due to their longer lifespan after retiring in their mid-60's has made Social Security and Medicare more and more expensive. It seems that reliable contraception and abortion were preconditions for making money available via taxation to support the expansion of those programs.

It also seems that feminine careerism has produced its own necessity; the expanded supply of most sorts of labor must have lowered, or at least suppressed, the equilibrium prices for those sorts of labor. Once large numbers of women started working, it seems labor became devalued to the point that two-worker families become a matter of felt urgency. Inflation in the 1970s and early 1980s probably obscured this effect; however, if women had somehow not entered the workforce, it seems such large price increases could not have been sustained.

It was pointed out to me once, by Thomas G. West of the University of Dallas, that because men are acquisitive, many will tend to urge their wives to work once it has come to be considered acceptable for women to work. I wonder to what extent women's liberation is the appearance of the thing, while male domination of their wives is the effective truth thereof.

Tom said at May 22, 2006 12:58 PM:

"The government should tax net assets, in excess of levels
typically protected under personal bankruptcy, at a rate equal to
the rate of interest on the national debt, thereby eliminating
other forms of taxation. Creator-owned intellectual property
should be exempt."

Well, you could make a lot of appraisers happy.

The amount we spend in trying to figure out our income taxes is bad enough, without having to figure out how much everything we own is worth. I bought this computer about two years ago. Would I get depreciation? What's my wife's jewlery worth? What's my house worth today? I dinged the dining room table - how much do I adjust it's value?

Tom said at May 22, 2006 1:01 PM:

Doug: "I wonder to what extent women's liberation is the appearance of the thing, while male domination of their wives is the effective truth thereof."

Liberation means being able, at your sole discretion, to stay home and watch soap operas and have your spouse bring home all the bacon? How do I become liberated? What you describe isn't "domination", it's "sharing the burden".

James Bowery said at May 26, 2006 3:14 AM:

Tom, the idea is that your important assets are already legally recorded so you don't have to file anything additional for taxes. You don't have to have assessors -- you can have self-assessment and can simply impose eminent domain to force sale of assets if the owner undervalues them. Typically you can take declarations used in property insurance as the asset base for household items. Undeclared items are simply not protected by law, just as they would not be protected by insurance, and if they are stolen the recourse is to pursue the property rights violated incidental to their theft -- say violation of your house's security during the theft of a pencil. If you have a family hierloom that you place great personal value on you shouldn't rely on remedial action by the government anyway -- you should have them in safe deposit boxes or other similarly secured facilities that you own or control.

Tom said at May 26, 2006 4:28 PM:

James - That's quite a strange system. I'll pass.

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