This isn't as absurd as it sounds. Indeed, there's no need for an organization like this - it is already happening throughout the industrialized world, and has always happened to some extent whenever society reached a certain level of affluence. True, it will never reach the level of extinction, but we can expect populations to fall rather than continue rising, at least in the industrialized nations.
Why? Because at some point, children cease to be an economic advantage and become an economic burden. People didn't just have large families because they liked children - they had them because of high chldhood mortality rates, and because children were valuable labor on a farm or for a family business, and because they were the ones who would take care of you in your old age, and because large families carried status. Conversely, not having children was literally disrespectable.
Once you get to the point where people are afflent enough that they don't need to draft children into work at the age of ten, and don't need to have an extended family to care for seniors, the whole dynamic changes. People start to see children as costing money and effort, and they start having fewer and fewer children. Today in the US, it is a rare family that has more than two children. And a lot of people don't have children at all.
The Child Free movement is not driven by altruism, at least not in the sense that the VHE people mean it. Mostly, it's selfish - they literally don't want to take the hassle of raising children. Some (but hardly all) do not consider themselves competent to raise children adequately - something that wouldn't even occur to people in a traditional society, which by today's standards hardly 'raised' them at all. A small number are also concerned about perpetuating negative genetic traits, either real ones such as congenital diseases or perceived ones such as bad looks. Finally, many CF people are simply loners who don't want families because they don't want other people in their lives at all. As a CF myself, I would have to say all of those motives - unworthy though they may be - play at least as much a part in my decision as any desire to ease population burdens.
This has happened before. According to Suetonius (via Robert Graves), the Patrician classes were so diminished by the time of the early Roman Empire that Augustus Caesar decreed that all Patricians must marry within two years of their coming of age (which was held in the summer of their fifteenth year), and must have at least two children. He repeatedly called them into public assemblies where he would inviegle them to 'do their duty to their class' and denounce the 'foreign vices' of homosexuality and hiring prostititutes. Unfortunately for him, he was addressing the wrong crowd - it was the women who were refusing to have children. For a wealthy woman, there was no great incentive to have children - childbirth was painful and dangerous, and ruined one's health and good looks. Even with the help of nurses and nannies, raising children took time from one's social climbing, and everyone knew who much of a disappointment they always turn out to be. And it wasn't as if you got anything out of have children, you know... while it didn't affect the lower classes, who still needed to have children for economic reasons, the upper classes became a literal dying breed - though the vagaries of imperial succession soon took away the stability of the old families anyway.
For a more modern example, France has become an increasingly depopulated nation since the mid-19th century. This happened for a variety of reasons, not all of them economic, but much of it was simply that families didn't need as many children to sustain themselves.
According to the latest census statistics, population growth in the US since the 1970s has come primarily from immigration (which is a historical trend in the US anyway - from 1880 to 1920, more than half of the population were immigrants) and increased lifespans. While there was a small ripple of in birth rates during the late 1970s and early 1980s (the so-called 'baby boomerang'), it still was well below what would have been the normal birth rate of the past - despite having twice the population the country had prior to WWII. Even those who are having children are doing so later in life - whereas a century ago, it was common for someone to get married as young as 15, and being unmarried at 21 was considered disasterous for women, today it is scandalous to get married before 25. All this adds up to a sharp population drop off in the US over the next decade or so, possibly by as much as ten million or more.
The answer to population growth, like many other problems, is universal affluence - the time of the Malthusian, limited-resources mentality that has dominated the non-science of economics is over. When people start to realize that we live in a world that is vastly richer than they suppose, that we already have the technology to give every human being an affluent lifestyle without damaging the environment or wasting limited resources such as petroleum, then society will be transformed beyond anything we can now imagine.
Last edited by Schol-R-LEA on Sat Jun 11, 2005 2:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.