That Doritos Ultrasound Commercial

I admit it:  I laughed out loud at the Doritos ultrasound commercial during the Super Bowl yesterday.  Any guy who’s been to a sonogram appointment would like the set-up, because even the most disheveled slacker would never dream of taking a bag of Doritos to munch on while the doctor is showing you live pictures of the soon-to-be newest member of the family.  The idea that the baby was aware of the Doritos and wanted some is just a funny concept.  And the ending caught me totally by surprise.

I didn’t think about the commercial again until I read some articles this morning showing that the commercial has become the latest focus of the abortion debate.  NARAL Pro-Choice America sent out a tweet saying that the ad was “using #antichoice tactic of humanizing fetuses & sexist tropes of dads as clueless & moms as uptight.”  And the pro-lifers then came out to depict the commercial as a strong pro-life statement.

Really, people?  Pregnancy and childbirth and new babies used to be the source of a lot of great humor.  There was a classic episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show where Rob Petrie is convinced that Baby Petrie wasn’t their child and was switched at birth with Baby Peters — setting up one of the funniest moments in TV sitcom history, shown below.  I’d hate to think that political sensibilities are now going to make that area out of bounds.

Sigmund Freud purportedly said “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”  C’mon, people — sometimes a funny, silly commercial is just a funny, silly commercial, not some momentous political statement.  Can we please lighten up a bit?

One Child, Two Child

Imagine living in a society where the government strictly dictated how many children you could have, and imposed crippling fines if your family exceeded its limit.  It is an Orwellian concept, the kind of repressive, intrusive, Big Brother/Big Government run amok plot line that has given rise to countless movies and books about soulless future societies.

Except that such a government and policy actually exists, and has for decades — in China.  Since the ’70s, China has limited families to one child, in an effort to curb its population growth.  China’s leader at the time, Deng Xiaoping, instituted the policy so that “the fruits of economic growth are not devoured by population growth.”  That decision was applauded by some advocates who were urging governments to take aggressive steps to control overpopulation; indeed, the United Nations Fund For Population Activities actually gave China an award for its decision.

As the New York Times reports, China’s one-child policy has had brutal consequences that include forced abortions, infanticide by rural farming families that prefer boys over girls, and a resulting lopsided imbalance in males and females in the Chinese population.  And now China is changing its policy — not because it was inhuman and indefensible in the first instance, but because China realizes it has miscalculated.  As a result of the one-child policy, China’s birth rate isn’t sufficient to support its rapidly aging population, so now China is declaring that couples can have two children.

There’s skepticism, however, about whether China’s abrupt policy change will work.  Even if couples of child-bearing age decide to have a second child, those offspring won’t be part of the Chinese workforce for years.  What’s more, China’s population has now been conditioned to accept one-child families, and couples are very sensitive to the economic and emotional costs of having a second child.  And even if the birth rate increases as a result of the policy change, China’s population will begin to decline and the imbalance of young workers versus old pensioners will continue to grow.

Those who advocate aggressive government decisions to address perceived social problems would do well to consider China’s one-child policy, which shows that governments not only can be brutal, but they can also be dead wrong.  And if you were an older member of Chinese society, how comfortable would you be with your position in the face of bad demographic statistics and the economic burdens of supporting a growing number of retirees?  Would a government that enforces a one-child policy in an effort to control its economy hesitate to take steps directed at the other end of the age spectrum to restore what it considers to be a proper balance to its population?