The BBC reports the Japanese government is taking the nanny state to a creepy new level. In order to reverse the dwindling birthrate in Japan, “local authorities will get government support if they organise speed-dating or other forms of matchmaking.”
It is certainly true that Japan’s birthrate has been in steep decline for quite a while. As Cato’s Stephen Moore pointed out back in 1999, “If Japan’s catastrophically low birthrate is not raised at some point, in 500 years there will be only about 15 Japanese left on the planet.” One can only assume that the Japanese government is concerned that 15 taxpayers will not be nearly enough to sustain the lifestyle to which their bureaucrats have become accustomed, so they’re taking matters into their own hands before it’s too late. Forget roses and chocolates – to a government official, nothing says romance like red tape.
But what would public-sector dating even look like? I don’t know what the Japanese have in mind, but as an American I envision a candle-lit DMV office with CNN playing softly in the background. Speed daters would be summoned to appear sometime between the hours of 9:00am and 4:00pm, Monday through Thursday and alternating Fridays (excluding New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Lincoln’s Birthday, Washington’s Birthday, Cesar Chavez Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans Day, Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, and Christmas day). Upon entering the officially designated “free-dating zone” (denoted by OSHA-compliant signs) applicants would take a number and wait to be called to a window or desk, where they would fill out the appropriate documentation (in triplicate). Once any errors or omissions were corrected and the paperwork was resubmitted they would be provided an appointment sometime in the next three to six weeks, at which point they could begin the dating process with a government-approved pool of suitors. It should go without saying that the entire process would be governed by Executive Order 10925 and all other relevant equal opportunity regulations. Discrimination by applicants against any “duly qualified potential romantic partners” (as defined by statute) on the basis of age, race, religion, creed, national origin, or sexual orientation would be strictly prohibited.
If combining the sex appeal of the IRS with the convenience of the DMV isn’t enough to spark the next Baby Boom, I don’t know what will.
Let’s put aside for a moment the moral issues of taking money from taxpayers to subsidize the social lives of singles (if you’re reading this blog, that should be a given by now). Could anyone even attempt to make a public-goods defense of the plan? Is having children suddenly beyond the scope of what the private sector can provide? Have the Japanese people become so hopelessly dependent on government that they can’t even date each other without some form of state assistance? I’d like to say I’d be shocked if that were the case, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to feign surprise by anything statists propose these days.
Just one more reason I’m glad I’m married (seventeen years tomorrow, by the way). I’d sure hate to be single in a world where bureaucrats were no longer content just to be nannies, but felt compelled to play matchmaker as well.