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I have noticed that several distinct positions tend to be collapsed into two positions, “pro-natalism” and “anti-natalism”. I think discussions about natalism would work better if people made more distinctions.

When I searched for information on it I found that people had previously made a distinction between global and local anti-natalism, where local anti-natalism holds that at least some people shouldn’t reproduce and global anti-natalism holds that everyone shouldn’t reproduce. I feel this is not a very satisfactory division; for one thing, I’m not sure if there is anyone who isn’t a local anti-natalist by this taxonomy.

So here are my proposed replacements:

Very strong anti-natalism. It is morally wrong to have children. The human race should slowly go extinct. For example: Human beings cause irreversible harm to the biosphere, which is intrinsically valuable. It is possible to harm a person by creating them but not to benefit them (nonexistent people are not harmed by being deprived of good things), so bringing people into existence is always a great harm to them.

Strong anti-natalism. In general, people should not have children; there are a very few exceptions. For example: Most human lives, even in the developed world, are not worth living and unless you have a strong reason to suspect your child’s life would be worth living, it is wrong to have a child.

Weak anti-natalism. People should err on the side of having children less than they currently do. For example: Raising children is a waste of resources that are better spent improving the lives of already existing people. Most people don’t enjoy interacting with children, and having children tends to worsen marriages and make people more stressed and unhappy (please note that while the first few chapters of this book are anti-natalist, overall the book comes to a pro-natalist conclusion). It would be easier to solve environmental problems if there were fewer humans.

Natalism neutrality. It is difficult to make general conclusions about whether people should have children. Some people should err on the side of having more children than they currently are, while other people should err on the side of having fewer children. For example: many traits are genetic and only people with desirable traits should have children. Many people who would be good parents have few or no children, while many people who are really crappy parents have children anyway.

Weak pro-natalism. People should err on the side of having children more than they currently do. For example: the effort of parenting is upfront while the good parts are later in life, and many people parent in a way that makes them stressed and unhappy and thus have an inaccurate idea of how pleasant parenting can be. We need more people to support our aging population; the more people there are, the fewer taxes people have to pay to provide public goods such as scientific research, weather forecasting, and military defense (which do not increase in cost when the population increases), and all else equal the lower the per capita national debt.

Strong pro-natalism. In general, people should have children; it is morally wrong not to do so. For example: most people’s lives are happy, and creating happy people is a great good, one of the greatest benefits you can provide a person. The purpose of human life from an evolutionary perspective is to reproduce, and people should obey their evolutionary imperatives.

Very strong pro-natalism. It is morally wrong not to have children (except perhaps in a handful of extreme cases). For example: Some Quiverfull belief systems. A philosophy in which prospective people with net-positive lives are harmed by not being created and therefore we should create as many of them as possible. Some variants of total utilitarianism.

I am personally natalism neutral, although weakly pro-natalism for people sufficiently similar to me, and strongly anti-natalist for farmed animals. (I do not think there is sufficient evidence to be anything but agnostic on wild animal natalism.)

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