In Tulare, Calif., an 8-year-old girl’s lemonade stand was shut down for lack of a business license. In New York City, trans fat is illegal, cigarettes are $9 a pack and seatbelt laws are rigidly enforced. Americans are told not to play poker online, which light bulbs to buy and that they just can’t get high outside the hospital. Yet, advocates of government action to save the individual from themselves have overlooked an important issue. Unlike light bulbs, this freedom leads to hundreds of billions of dollars in costs as well as various social ills. The United States government needs to regulate the right to bear children.

People should be required to apply for a license before giving birth. All persons living in the United States should be forcibly implanted with birth control upon reaching puberty (see Norplant and “welfare mothers”). Mandatory childhood health exams can take care of this. From then on, any couple wishing to have a child would have to meet certain standards, such as proof of financial and mental stability as well as a background clean of felonies. They could then take a couple of classes on parenting and health before receiving their license. Non-traditional persons wishing for children, such as single women, would meet additional standards to ensure the babies’ well being. Experts have shown that single motherhood puts children at a higher risk for a variety of social ills, after all.

Some will argue that mandatory classes are an unnecessary burden on the parents. Yet, if someone wants to raise a kid and can’t sit through a few classes, should they really have a child?

Others may argue that this is a gross violation of the right to privacy. That is patiently untrue. The Supreme Court ruled in Buck v. Bell (1927) that sterilization of those unfit to bear children was legal “for the protection and health of the state.” That decision was never officially overturned. And this law wouldn’t even enforce permanent sterilization, just birth control.

I’m arguing for a humane middle ground that benefits everyone. A child who can’t be cared for burdens all taxpayers. An argument for abortion is that it is better than a mother having a child she can’t and won’t care for. Why not prevent abortions with this step?

Of course enforcing this may lead to some minor issues, but since when have unintended consequences ever derailed a government program? Exemptions for special communities (such as the Amish), corruption by the rich and the well-connected, abuse of power in the licensing process and failures of enforcement are all unlikely problems. After all, a dispassionate group of experts relying on scientific studies will be able to resist trends and pseudo-science while having power over millions. If we can’t trust people to buckle up without a law, we certainly can’t trust them to have children at the right times. After all, society cannot afford to have people making their own choices as free individuals.