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‘Babies are, in fact, good’: Columnist tells Notre Dame students why society needs cultural change



“Babies are, in fact, good,” Washington Examiner columnist Tim Carney told a crowd of over 100 attendees yesterday at the University of Notre Dame.

At an event hosted by the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture and at Notre Dame, this might not be particularly controversial. But as fertility rates remain low, it is a message the broader society needs to hear.

Carney, who is also an advisory board member for The College Fix, spoke yesterday at Notre Dame about his book, “Family Unfriendly” out now by Harper Collins. The publisher provided a copy to The Fix.

Carney wants to combat an anti-human culture that looks down on people as strains on the environment or their own personal interests.

“In a cruel irony, our civilization’s sadness makes us afraid to bring babies into this world,” he writes in a book.

“It’s precisely when we doubt our value that we need the unconditionally, all-needing love of a little child to remind us, with a smile or even simply a gaze, that we are good,” the Catholic dad of six wrote.

Not only are babies good, but “women actually want babies,” Carney said yesterday, showing data on how women want more babies than they have.

He debunked claims that the cost of children is a factor. But he also said “selfishness” cannot be the only reason. We’ve always been selfish, Carney said, referencing Adam and Eve. “Millennials are not poorer,” Carney said. “Kids are getting more affordable.”

The American Enterprise Institute senior fellow’s talk, and book, discusses some of the wonkish ways government entities do and do not encourage family life.

Things as mundane as the width and availability of sidewalks enters the picture. As expected, the book also discusses topics like child tax credits, subsidized daycare, and paid family leave.

But Carney’s book, and talk, is not a dizzying array of tables and graphs. Rather, he also tells good stories that help the reader, and audience, understand the problem and what people, even non-parents, can do to support large families (and not just because that is convenient for his family of eight).

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In a chapter titled “Have Lower Ambitions for Your Kids,” Carney says parents should avoid the “travel team trap” and focus not on trying to raise the next generation of superstars, but morally good kids.

“What matters far more is that you give your kids a happy childhood and build an environment for them that cultivates the virtues that will make them happy and good adults with meaningful lives,” Carney writes. “And there are often trade-offs between the pursuit of achievement and the pursuit of happiness.”

That environment is the one to be most concerned with, but critics of having more kids often cite climate change or other related fears as a reason to have fewer kids.

For a conservative guy, Carney finds some truth in a “wise woman,” Hillary Clinton.

“It does indeed take a village to raise a child,” Carney said during his talk.

But parents are still the “primary educators” of their children, Carney, says, paraphrasing the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

However, a village supports people having more kids.

There is something, Carney said, about making it easier to have more kids when other people are having kids. Older kids can watch younger kids, for example.

Society can encourage childbearing to some extent, according to Carney’s research. But culture in general also needs to change to support having kids.

The best way to get more kids is to be around other people having kids.

As Carney said, “pregnancy is contagious.”

Editor’s note: A sentence has been fixed by adding another word. It now correctly reads, ‘At an event hosted by the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture and at Notre Dame, this might not be particularly controversial.’

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IMAGE: Matt Lamb for The College Fix

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Matt has previously worked at Students for Life of America, Students for Life Action and Turning Point USA. While in college, he wrote for The College Fix as well as his college newspaper, The Loyola Phoenix. He holds a B.A. from Loyola University-Chicago and an M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He lives in northwest Indiana with his family.