There seems to be a view that teenage births are somehow a bad thing. But it seems to us that it's not the births that are the problem. It's the environment that marginalizes teen motherhood, encourages our youth to delay marriage, provides too few incentives for family-building, and too few jobs for the fathers and mothers. What is needed is not scolding from the government but lower taxes, fewer regulations, and overall pro-growth policies. ... We're happy to have women and men decide for themselves when to have children. But when a trend develops like the drop in the birth rate in New York, it's a sign that we need public policies designed to encourage more people and make New York a hospitable place for all people who want to have children.
-- Editorial of The New York Sun, "Population Portent," December 22, 2006
That editorial, a response to the catastrophe of a drop in the rate of births to young women in New York, was issued long before Governor Palin had been selected as Senator McCain's running mate and before Mrs. Palin announced that her 17-year-old unmarried daughter Bristol is pregnant. So our editorial wasn't devised to defend the Republican Party's vice presidential candidate. But it will give our readers a sense of our view of the news of Miss Palin's pregnancy and her decision to marry the father, carry the baby to term, and start a family. In a word, the whole Palin family has set an example to admire.
No doubt the blue noses of the left are going to try to convince the voters otherwise, but we predict they will do so at their peril. For if they mock Miss Palin, or her parents, in this situation they will end up trapped on the wrong side of the values issue, which is the flip side of the "experience" issue. That is, the experience issue would hold that Mrs. Palin needs more time-in-grade to run for vice president, even though she has more experience in the executive branch of government than Messrs. Obama and Biden combined. The values voters reckon it's not the experience that counts, but the values.
The latest news will send the McCain-Palin stock soaring among the values voters. In our editorial on New York's population predicament, we made a point of saying that there's nothing wrong with having a mother who was over 20. It's perfectly respectable. Mayor Bloomberg's mother was 33 when he was born, Thomas Jefferson's was 23, and Teddy Roosevelt's 24, to name but a few magnificent mothers. But lots of other magnificent mothers were under 20. Billie Holiday's was 13, Eric Clapton's 16, Lance Armstrong's 17, LeBron James's 16. Barack Obama's own mother was 18 at the time he was born, as the senator noted yesterday.
Who can tell what triumph will come from Miss Palin's pregnancy? Her story will highlight the more general and related issues of immigration and population. America needs more people, just like Alaska does. The rising powers of Communist China and India both far exceed America in terms of population; China has 1.3 billion and India has 1.1 billion. To catch up and compete with them, America will have to grow its own population by having larger families and by opening our doors to more immigration.
The fact is that America is, despite a few crowded pockets, an under-populated country. More people are an answer to all sorts of problems facing America, from sagging home prices, as Alan Greenspan noted recently, to the costs of paying Social Security benefits and health care costs for the Baby Boom generation as it retires. A child, in other words, is a gift to celebrate, not a scandal to bemoan. This is true not only for policy reasons but for human and personal reasons. Miss Palin and her parents couldn't have reminded us of all this at a more dramatic moment.