July 6, 2011
“Without exaggeration, the central problem of contemporary Russia is demography, strengthening the family, increasing the birth rate…”
~ Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation
The recently completed Moscow Demographic Summit brought to the forefront the consequences of falling birthrates and subsequent economic decline as well as the dilemma associated with an aging society. Russia is facing dramatic population decline, going from 148.5 million people in 1995 to 143 million today. With no change in the fertility rate, the population is projected to drop to 116 million by 2030. With a total fertility rate of 1.2 (2.1 is required for replacement), Russia is a nation in a fight for self-preservation.
Add to that the fact that Russia has the highest abortion rate in the world. Unofficial estimates indicate that there are nearly 4 million abortions per year in Russia yet only 1.7 million live births. Vladimir Putin is correct; demography is the “central problem of contemporary Russia.” It is also a central problem of much of the developed world, a problem that receives scant attention. In fact there are many misguided individuals who continue to insist that there are too many children being born.
With this in mind, you can imagine the attention that someone with a really large family receives. Tom Christensen, a former chairman of the board for UFI and father of 15, certainly has heard his share of comments. He also understands the role families, especially large families, play in a successful society. The following is a rebuttal article that Tom wrote for a local newspaper challenging the notion that large families are a problem. Tom and his wife Dixy have much to teach those of the world who have lost the understanding that children are a great blessing to the world.
President, United Families International
Large Families are Treasures
By Tom Christensen
As a father of a large family and a resident of a state which for decades has lead the nation in terms of youthfulness, fertility, two parent households, etc; I usually do not feel a need in Utah to defend large families. You can appreciate my surprise when the editorial board of Utah’s largest newspaper, the Salt Lake Tribune, blamed Utah’s large families for a myriad of social, environmental and economic problems.
I expected such nonsense at the UN but not at home. It reminded me of a UN population control conference I attended in behalf of UFI in the Netherlands. The “Hague Forum” was essentially a feminist pep rally, featuring then first lady Hillary Clinton. At the conference, Bill Gates pledged $2.2 billion for UN sponsored population activities. According to the speakers, the “final solution” to an expanding global population is not to add a few more plates to the family table, but to eliminate family members. Physically ill from listening to the speeches and dramatic presentations, a friend of mine, attending his first UN conference, had to leave the auditorium.
Below is my rebuttal to the Tribune article:
The Salt Lake Tribune in its editorial called upon “all potential parents to consider not only their own resources but those of their community and planet” and cut back on the “procreation of large broods.” According to the Tribune, Utah’s big families are the cause of “high taxes . . . more pollution, urban sprawl, increasing demands on limited water supplies . . . and (lower) quality education.” The only way, according to the Tribune, to save our “finite world with limited natural resources is to create a sustainable population rather than an expanding one.”
It appears that the Tribune editors have overdosed on the dark, unrealized predictions of Thomas Malthus (1798 “Essay on Population”) and Paul Ehrlich (1968 “The Population Bomb”) rather than current data. The truth is child-welcoming families are among a nation’s greatest assets. Capable parents who “multiply and replenish the earth” deserve praise and encouragement not penalties or scorn.
The greatest social and economic problems facing most nations and many states are that they have too few large, cohesive families. As populations age, live detached lives and live longer (while fewer children are born to work, care for their own and pay taxes), economies stagnate, crime and social problems increase, and governments cannot fund their old age entitlements, which in the US are the black holes of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Societies need unselfish people who welcome, sacrifice and care for children.
Supervised by a full-time mother, large families do a superior job of raising children. Children tend to be less spoiled, disrespectful and unproductive when socialized in a large, orderly two-parent family. They develop citizenship and strong values as they learn to obey parents and interact, worship, share, and work together. Children in large families realize that they are not the center of the universe. Mothers and fathers, in turn, find meaning, fulfillment and interdependence in raising a child-rich family. Their marriages are more likely to last.
Large families provide a sophisticated extended family network. Children in one-child societies do not have aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, brothers and sisters to call upon. Many children in such societies do not even know their fathers. The absence of male authority in a child’s life can be devastating. Conversely, children often excel in school when supported by both parents, older siblings, and extended family members who are experts in their respective fields and take personal interest in them. Extended families also provide work opportunities and crisis intervention. Many large families are so skilled and organized that they can effectively home-school their young, providing additional savings to the taxpayer. For example, in the US, over 2 million children are home schooled, one-third of which are families with four or more children.
Large families are more efficient in managing limited resources. Obviously, it is more efficient to raise ten children in one home than one child each in ten homes. Large families operate according to an economy of scale: growing and preparing nutritious food at home rather than always eating out or buying packaged food. They cannot afford to waste precious income on alcohol, cigarettes, the latest fashions and lavish trips and toys. They shop for bargains, recycle clothing and learn to find enjoyment in each other. Supported by one income, they live within a tight budget, which builds thrift, industry and character. All of this portends well for Utah’s children and its future.
Utah’s academic and educational funding problems, high bankruptcy rates, juvenile delinquency, and sprawling neighborhoods are not caused by large families, as the Tribune suggests, but are more often the result of moral and financial irresponsibility, family breakdown, poorly conceived curriculum, immigration and land use policy, etc. There are better ways to revitalize educational systems, tax structures, economy, natural resources, and neighborhoods than to cut back on the size and inherent strength of the world’s families.
Tom Christensen and his wife of 28 years, Dixy, reside in South Jordan, Utah where they are successfully raising their last ten of fifteen children. Christensen, who served for five years as CEO of United Families, lead delegations and spoke at UN conferences in New York, Nairobi, the Hague, Lisbon and Geneva, and published several articles on family policy. Christensen was featured in the front page Deseret News series, “Utahns Making a Difference Abroad,” and received in Budapest in behalf of United Families, the “Family and Peace Award” from the World Association of Non-Governmental Organizations.