Following up my post earlier this week on abortion, I was thinking about some of the comments left by readers and I decided to follow a simple thought experiment. I was thinking about what happens when parents split up and one gets custody of the kids – usually the other is required to pay some sort of child support. (Let me right from the start make clear – none of this involves me in any way. I can say, with five nines reliability, that I am not anyone’s father.)
The theory (i.e., actually, a set of starting assumptions) here is two-fold:
1. The added support is in the best interest of the children
2. Whether that parent wanted children or not (and often that itself is the cause of dispute), there was some consensual action by that parent at one time that led to the creation of the child. Hence, that parent bears some responsibility for the very existence of the child, whether that was their intention or not.
But that leads me to wonder – what if the child was born partly as a result of the, er, intervention of outside forces. For example, my understanding is that a pregnancy resulting from the chance meeting of two random strangers is more likely if alcohol is involved. Of course, beer makers should not be held responsible – after all, there is no particular reason to expect that the use of alcohol will result in pregnancy. But what about the makers of, say Viagra? Or a company that sells fertility drugs? Or a clinic that provides in vitro fertilization? Surely, each of these should expect that use of their product or service makes pregnancy more likely. In fact, for companies in the fertility business and the associated pharmacies and clinics, that’s the whole point.
If the parents of a child should be responsible for supporting that child because a) the added support is in the best interest of the child and b) the parent took actions which resulted in the birth of the child, whether intentionally or not, shouldn’t these fine companies have the same responsibility, if not more?
Now, bear in mind that the above is not my opinion of the way things should work, in large part because outside of this thought experiment I have a slightly different set of initial assumptions. However, the set of assumptions are sufficiently widely held (they were stated by readers a few times in the comments to my earlier post) that its worth looking at where those assumptions lead.