General Question

Poser's avatar

What is the most important resource?

Asked by Poser (7808points) August 20th, 2008

In speaking with my GF about how many kids we’d like to eventually have, I was reminded of a story I heard a while back (a podcast that referenced the story, actually), about The Duggars. The host of the podcast was talking about how many negative comments he’d seen in reference to the story in his newspaper.

Most people’s objections to the Duggars having an inordinate amount of children seem to be that they are selfishly using more resources than the average family.

My view is that a person is a greater asset, by and large, than the sum of all natural resources that they might consume in their lifetime. After all, it isn’t oil sitting underground, or food growing in the fields that will solve the problems facing the world today—it’s people. Of course, there will always be those who sponge off of society and contribute very little, if anything, but these are the minority. Even if one person doesn’t solve a worldwide problem, even helping make one life better is an accomplishment, is it not?

What do you think? Large families—selfish or not?

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22 Answers

willbrawn's avatar


phred78's avatar

I think we basically need to be conscious of what resources we use. There’s room and resources for everyone, we just need to use them wisely.

Gold rules in my home:
– Turn off lights when you’re not in a room for more than 15 minutes (and replace normal bulbs with low consumption ones);
– Turn off the shower when you’re scrubbing;
– Don’t leave the tap opened when you’re brushing your teeth or shaving;
– Don’t pre-heat the oven;
– Full washing machine before washing;
– Recycle, reuse, reduce;
– Get an energy contract where you pay less in a given period of time (mine is from 10m to 10am);

And other reasonable things. My goal is to replace my appliances with A+ or A++ energy/water consumption. Unfortunately, they’re still quite expensive, although the gain in the long term compensates.
So, I think large families are actually capable of using only the resources they only need.

scamp's avatar

I agree with you poser. I think people are more important. it’s possible that one of these children will grow up to be the one who has a solution. phred78 above me, has some pretty good suggestions. What if his parents had chosen not to have him because he would use up too much? We would not have his wonderful input today.

If you have the love, money and time, I say the more the merrier! On the other hand, I think if people don’t have enough financial stability to have more children, they should stop. It is not society’s responsibility to raise children of the unwise.

Harp's avatar

This question of large families is not an easy one. I don’t feel comfortable with the idea that the more kids we make, the more wonderful things will be accomplished in the world. Human beings have astonishing potential, it’s true; but that potential requires opportunity in order to be realized, and opportunity is not in infinite supply.

The issue of natural resources aside, our societal resources will always be rationed to some extent. Not everyone who wants a degree from a top-notch university will get one. Not everyone who wants a fulfilling career will land one. The high school graduating class of 2009 will be the biggest in US history, but admissions slots in colleges and universities have not grown in proportion. A smaller percentage of applicants than ever will be admitted to college next year, at the same time that tuitions go through the roof.

Wouldn’t it be better for everyone if we concentrated not on greater numbers, but on increasing the amount of opportunity afforded to each one? What if families of ordinary means used whatever time and money they had to give fewer kids more attention and educational options? What if families of greater means gave adopted children opportunities they otherwise wouldn’t have? I think we’d see each child growing up to do more wonderful things in the world, and fewer getting trapped in limbo.

Poser's avatar

@harp—I disagree with your premise. I believe that every individual has infinite opportunity to reach their potential, no matter their circumstances. And while one’s potential may be defined, to some degree, by their life circumstances, it is not limited by them.

What you’re talking about is equal opportunity, and while I don’t believe in institutionalized/legislated disadvantages, there is also no such thing as truly equal opportunity. I, for example, wasn’t given the same opportunities as someone born into an extremely wealthy family. They could send their children to whatever schools they wished, as money is truly not a factor. I had to work my way through whatever college I could get.

But just because our opportunities were not equal, doesn’t mean that I had fewer opportunities than the rich kid. Opportunities aren’t dependent upon money. Where you speak of more and more high school grads with fewer college spots at higher tuition rates—I see opportunity, if the right person/people take advantage of it. Especially since college is no longer a guarantee of decent employment. Of course not everyone who wants an Ivy-league degree will get one. If they were easy to get, they wouldn’t be worth as much. But not everyone needs/wants one to succeed.

Of course it is desirable to create more opportunities for all, but I don’t believe that doing that and having large families are mutually exclusive. I truly believe that the more problems a person solves, the more opportunities they are able to create for themselves and others (watch The Pursuit of Happyness to see this principle in action). I, for one, am a better person for having solved, for myself, the question of my higher education than I would have been had it been handed to me by my parents. There is only so much you can do for someone to provide them with opportunities. At some point, people have to learn to create their own, or at least take advantage of the ones that present themselves. That is my goal in raising my children.

Harp's avatar

That’s very inspirational, but I think you’re being too idealistic, poser. The extraordinarily intelligent and motivated will find a way to rise above circumstances, true, but not most. The percentage of kids in public high schools on the South Side of Chicago who actually manage to reach their potential is, I guarantee you, lower than those up in the suburb where I live. Why would that be, according to what you’ve described? I wonder what the folks down on the South Side would say if you told them that they have just as many opportunities.

Poser's avatar

I never said it wasn’t harder for the poor. Those who would be upset at hearing that they have (or have the ability to create) as many opportunities as “the rich” are exactly the type of people who don’t/won’t take advantage of opportunities they encounter. It isn’t that the middle class suburbanites are innately more motivated or talented. Of course they do better when they start out with more. But opportunities abound, regardless of one’s station in life. The same kid who became a Fortune 500 CEO because his parents could afford a Yale education might, if given different circumstances, become a drug addict.

Perhaps the reason “those less fortunate” aren’t bootstrapping themselves out of poverty in droves is because they’ve never been told that opportunities aren’t strictly the domain of the upper and middle classes. It’s easier to believe that where you start out is the determining factor in where you end up than it is to try to change the world and risk failing.

Perhaps I’m being idealistic, but maybe that’s what is needed. History is changed by the idealistic. Tell me, would you like to tell those folks down on the South Side that there aren’t as many opportunities for them just because of the situation in which they were born; that it’s almost impossible for them to change their station in life; that they’ll never have it as good as the kids from the other side of the tracks because there simply isn’t enough to go around? Or would you rather tell them that no obstacle placed in front of them can stop them; that they can create their own definition of success; that there are endless opportunities once they’re taught to see them? I, for one, will be telling my children the latter.

Harp's avatar

I really don’t feel that I’m in a position to tell the guys on the South Side anything at all about the opportunities that are available to them, and I wouldn’t presume to know more about that than they do; It would be pretty patronizing of me to assume that they just aren’t seizing all the opportunities that I presume they have.

Poser's avatar

Yet you’d presume to tell families of “greater means” that they should adopt children? One of the points I was trying to make is that very few people take advantage of all of the opportunities presented to them—regardless of their position in life. Isn’t America, after all, the “Land of Opportunity”? Seems we’ve replaced “opportunity” with “handout.” There’s no guarantee of fairness.

Besides, isn’t much of what we’re talking about simply a matter of comparison? Why don’t you ask the children of Darfur if they’d like to have the opportunities afforded the children of the South Side? Why don’t you ask my son if he’d like the opportunities afforded Donald Trump’s children? Just because one is less fortunate doesn’t mean that they aren’t fortunate.

nina's avatar

Your head.

Harp's avatar

Of course, it’s all a matter of comparison. But the general rule that we can extract from all these comparisons is that there is a correlation between resources and opportunity. It may be a loose correlation, but it’s a persistant one.

So how would we resolve this question of whether it’s better to have fewer children who are more fortunate , or more children who are less fortunate (to use your terms)?

marinelife's avatar

Knowing what we do about increasing contamination of the globe, decreasing resources (including water), and overpopulation, it strikes me as irresponsible and selfish to have a bunch of children in educated, civilized first-world nations.

People in third world countries have so many children, because so many of them die.

Poser's avatar

@harp—You’re making a false comparison—one which I never tried to make. Is it not possible that the Duggar family is as capable of providing for, and ensuring the well-being of 18 children as well as some families are of doing so for one? And again, I reject your implied premise: there may be a correlation between resources and opportunity, but correlation does not necessarily mean causation. Perhaps your definition of opportunity is different than mine. Each problem that confronts us is an opportunity.

Marina—Those are exactly the types of problems that I was addressing in my question. Aren’t human beings—the species that will ultimately solve those problems—a more valuable resource?

gooch's avatar

Children are a blessings treat them right and teach them right! Have as many as you can afford

Harp's avatar

The Duggar family may be capable of providing for 13 as well as another can provide for 1, but (and this is the comparison I was actually making) I seriously doubt that they can provide for 13 as well as they could provide for 2. That hardly appears “false” to me.

But I don’t bear any special grudge against them or any large familly. This is not some crusade I’m on here, I’m just thinking about your question.

Poser's avatar

Fair enough, though I guess it would depend on one’s definition of “providing for.” None of the kids seem hungry or neglected, and I’d think that while a large family does provide challenges not faced by smaller families, they also have a strength not experienced by smaller families.

alossforwords's avatar

If having more children leads to more answers then China should have cured cancer by now. The truth is (ignoring the individual) that over-population is a problem. I believe that nature tries to balance out the number of people that refuse to create homeostasis with their environment by producing more and more powerful diseases. In theory, the more of us there are, the more nature fights to reduce our numbers to lower the consumption rate, yet the more people there are to solve the problem.

With that in mind: Knowledge is the most important resource. It is why we are here, why we argue, our method of defining truth, and the torch that we pass to our children.

As an individual, however, my son is the most important thing in the world.

mally03's avatar

Understanding each other.

DrMC's avatar

It depends of the level of overpopulation.

Reproductive responsibility is very smart IMHO.

Humans are more precious than any resource, until they are your enemy. In overpopulation you are competing for finite resources, unless you can colonize brave new worlds. Otherwise it fails under population engineering.

I think the use of contraceptives and abortion has given us freedom from this problem.

I think anyone who makes fun of china’s human right’s issues is just drinking the cool aid.

Don’t ask me what I think about abortion right now.

sferik's avatar

I thought the most important resource was Unobtainium?

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