Speaking of Misreading
July 12th, 2013

The following passage appears in a post by Clare Halpine over at NRO:

Much of our culture today is predicated upon our belief that overpopulation is the root cause of the world’s ills. Consider these statements, which have recently graced the pages of learned tomes, the first from a New York Times commentary:

“Our failure to regulate the human population ensures a future of environmental toxicity including genotoxicity, disease, famine, warfare, and massive social upheaval . . .”

And from Jonathan Last’s book, What to Expect When No One’s Expecting:

“Children are actually an impediment to economic and social success . . .”

The theory of overpopulation informs our view of life so fundamentally that although no one really knows what genotoxicity is, and children are not typically birthed for reasons of social climbing, we live schizophrenically: rejoicing in birth notifications and baby shower e-vites from our friends, while  feeling guilty for being accessory to what we have been told is the selfish act of reproduction.

Really? I’m not sure if this is a misreading or a mischaracterization of WTE. Or inelegant writing.

Btw, I’m not sure where that quote she ascribes to me is from. It’s not in the book and it’s not in the interview she links to. Entirely possible I’ve said it somewhere, but what the book says (and the formulation I try to use, not always successful) is that we have “a system where economic and social success are largely dependent on not having children.” Which is a very different connotation.

(I used a similar formulation in a 2006 piece: “We have reached a point where children are actually an impediment to economic and social success.”

Or maybe she’s just the first person to come away from What to Expect thinking that I’m selling the dangers of overpopulation.

  1. Galley Friend L.B. July 12, 2013 at 1:25 pm

    Boy, they really let just about anybody post on The Corner these days, no? (And you’d think one of the editors over there — some of them no doubt familiar with What To Expect — would’ve caught this before publishing it.)

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  3. Jeffrey S. July 12, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    I think it is fair to say she actually got the quote right (at least if she was quoting your 2006 piece) but totally misunderstood your meaning. Which is the point of this post!

    I suppose it can be a confusing idea, the idea that individually someone might think that their own economic and social success depends on not having kids (or just having one or two) but that from the standpoint of society or the overall health of an economy, it would be better for families to be big and for women to have more kids.

    One of my regrets is that we stopped at two…

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  5. Galley Friend J.E. July 12, 2013 at 4:28 pm

    Anyone who’s married understands miscommunication. You ask, “How was your day?” She responds: “I don’t know where you got that idea.”

    Now consider that Clare is “director of North American programs” at an organization that describes itself thusly: “The World Youth Alliance is a global coalition of young people promoting the dignity of the person and building solidarity among developed and developing nations.”

    Give her a break. She’s too busy promoting dignity to read accurately.

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  7. Nedward July 13, 2013 at 1:34 am

    She called it “a learned tome” and implicitly compared you to the NYT editor gods, and this is how you react? Ingrate

    Anyways… The fact-check/mythbusters over at National Donorist Review have seemingly been under some pecuniary obligation to run incoherent Sponsored Posts, the way Twitter or Perez Hilton do

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  9. Nedward July 13, 2013 at 1:45 am

    Oh snap she “reworded” it

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  11. Jason O. July 15, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    It’s just like JVL to torpedo the goodwill between TWS and NRO on the heels of the Lowry/Kristol immigration bill lovefest.

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  13. MC July 16, 2013 at 2:28 am

    If you want another good Yglesias-themed laugh, check this out;