What is the alternative?
To miss all this and live a barren life and a loveless old age. Perhaps to bear a child, that, for the need of the educative, elevating companionship of family mates is consumed by self, inheriting that vicious selfishness, which he by his birth defeated, and finding all the forces of nature focussed on his defect, like a pack of hounds that turn and rend an injured mate.
Or a family of one, after years of parental care and love, education and expense, dies or turns a rake, and the canker of remorse takes his place in the broken hearts.
Nature’s laws are not broken with impunity—as a great Physician has said, “She never forgives and never forgets.”
Self-preservation and race-preservation together constitute the law of life, just as Conservation of Matter and Conservation of Energy constitute the Law of Substance in Haeckels Monistic Philosophy, and the severest altruism will permit man to follow his highest self-interest in obedience to these laws. It is only a perverted and vicious self-interest that would tempt him to infraction.
That the vice of oliganthropy is growing amongst normal and healthy people is a painful and startling fact. In New Zealand the prevailing belief is that a number of children adds to the cares and responsibilities of life more than they add to its joys and pleasures, and many have come to think with John Stuart Mill, that a large family should be looked on with the same contempt as drunkenness.
Desire for family limitation result of our social system.—Desire and practice not uniform through all classes.—The best limit, the worst do not.—Early marriages and large families.—N.Z. marriage rates. Those who delay, and those who abstain from marriage.—Good motives mostly actuate.—All limitation implies restraint.—Birth-rates vary inversely with prudence and self-control.—The limited family usually born in early married life when progeny is less likely to be well developed.—Our worst citizens most prolific.—Effect of poverty on fecundity.—Effect of alcoholic intemperance.—Effect of mental and physical defects.—Defectives propagate their kind.—The intermittent inhabitants of Asylums and Gaols constitute the greatest danger to society.—Character the resultant of two forces—motor impulse and inhibition.—Chief criminal characteristic is defective inhibition.—This defect is strongly hereditary.—It expresses itself in unrestrained fertility.
It has been sufficiently demonstrated in preceding chapters, that the birth-rate has been, and is still rapidly declining. It has been sought to prove that this decline is chiefly due to voluntary means taken by married people to limit their families, and that the desire for this limitation is the result of our social system.