Mark Skousen: Surveillance Technology Is Advancing Faster Than We Can Responsibly Use It

In the wake of the recent news revealing the extent of the NSA’s level of citizen surveillance through supernetworks like PRISM, Chris speaks this week with Mark Skousen, former-CIA-agent turned founder-of-FreedomFest, one of the countries largest “gatherings of free minds.”

Mark argues that in this case, technology has advanced at a far faster pace than our culture’s ability to understand how to use it effectively, responsibly, and how to regulate it:

I think its like the Pentagon papers back in the early 1970s, where we definitely need to tell government You’ve overstepped your bounds. I mean, look, I worked for the CIA, I understand the need for secrecy, I understand the need for intelligence, especially against foreign threats. But there are plenty of ways to do this without this wholesale invasion of everybody’s emails and telephone records. You don’t have to use those methods, and in many cases we haven’t used those methods, and yet we’ve kept so many terrorists plots from being carried out. I’ve talked to a number of my CIA people, and they have all kinds of means and methods of finding these things out that are pinpointed without violating the 4th Amendment, the right to privacy, for the ordinary U.S. citizen.
And while the PRISM leak is raising an important debate about where to draw to draw the line between security and civil liberty, Mark doesn't feel the world has changed enough to depart from where the divide has been over past generations. And without hard constraints agitated for by the populace, our security apparatus will continue to expand and invade:
I don’t think it’s so much that the world is more dangerous; it’s just that the technology has advanced so rapidly that we’re now facing a situation where with these unmanned drones that can be the size of a mosquito and are taking pictures. We have GPS; they’re considering a rule to mandate that it be in every car, every cell phone, so we know where you are at all times. The capability of the NSA to collect all of this data, this is all new technology -- it’s kind of like new military weapons; you always want to try them out.

The invasion of privacy is growing faster in technology than the privacy protectors. So I think that’s really what’s going on: They’re just using this as a ruse and excuse to use this new technology.

As mentioned, Mark is also the founder of FreedomFest. Within the podcast, Chris commits to posting a link to a brief video about the event.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thanks for having Mark Skousen on to acquaint the PP listeners to the FF LV event.  I have been there several times and it truly is a fun and educational opportunity to exchange ideas about economics, freedom, and healthy living.  I would LOVE to see a separate track dedicated to the Crash Course and believe it would be another venue for the PP family to get together once a year physically to complement the excellent Rowe and Kripalu seminars Chris is already doing.  While FF is much more about Economics (primarily Austrian focused), Investments and Freedom and less so about Environment or Energy, the 3E message would be a wonderful complement to the other concepts presented there and would resonate with that audience who would appreciate more exposure to the personal resilience message of PP.  I had to make a choice this year whether to go to Kripalu or FF since both are within a week of each other; I decided to go to Kripalu but hope that next year I don’t have to make that choice.  I would hope that next year we could combine the best of both and meet up with some of the PP family at FF (and perhaps move the Kripalu event to a slightly different month)?  Both PP and FF have a lot to offer their respective audiences and Kudos to you for having Mark on!

A little Levity.

In the final analysis, what the Austrians offer past anti-war, anti-government hollow sloganeering is nothing more than the free market religion, couched in platitudes like “sound money” and “liberty”. When we have companies like Google with more cash reserves than sovereign nations such as Venezuela for example, when the annual profits of companies like Apple are sufficient to pay the entire debt of Cyprus in one fell swoop, when the total revenues of US corporations could zero our entire national debt in about 7 months of income, apparently none of this gives rise to any concern as to something being wrong with the free market calculus.


For the first time in our nation’s history, transnational companies are now de facto nation states, at least in terms of economic power- and now actively expanding into military power. We see congruence between the growing surveillance state, military operations, loss of personal liberties, and the profit motives and the interests of transnational corporation. The Austrians do not see a connection? Further they propose that what is needed is MORE free market deregulation and abolishment of any vestiges of dysfunctional government remaining that might bring into check such unmitigated economic and social power?


Sure, it’s fair to say the Keynesians are wrong- so what. More appropriately, what you can also say is the Austrians are wrong too, but they are substantially more wrong than the Keynesians. The Rothbard/Austrian predicted hyperinflation did not happen. And is not going to happen. Simply put, the dollar is the least wrinkled shirt in the hamper, a result that should have been very easy to predict.


Schumpeter and Hayek made some admirable advances to the theory of business cycles in the ‘30’s, notably with the concept of “creative destruction” advanced by Schumpeter. Not much has happened since then in Austrian thinking of any consequence. In fact, modern Austrian think tanks such as the Cato Institute are co-opted, owned lock, stock and barrel by the Koch Brothers-nullifying any semblance of non-partisan claims. “Creative destruction” however, has been embedded into free market thought as the answer to all questions, no matter the circumstance, you simply let the market self correct dangerous anomalies (which of course were created by government intervention in the first place<sarc>) and prohibit outside intervention of any kind, and voila, any conceivable market based problem is instantly solved by the invisible hand of Adam Smith.


In a major intellectual blunder (one of many it turns out), Austrians fail to acknowledge that not all capitalist destruction is “creative”. In fact, in contemporary times, not much of it is. There is a profound difference between companies going out for business because of their inability to remain competitive (which I support), through technology or otherwise (think of Kodak as an example) and the type of dangerous and damaging capitalist destruction of the kind that Minsky introduced with his theory of financial instability. Financial instruments can and are regularly created that have destructive repercussions that affect market non-participants. Further, these capitalist instruments are created solely by free market actors without government influence. Think $600 trillion derivatives as an example.  The destruction that these instruments can create, impacts even people with no involvement in financial markets.


Individuals and corporations pursuing their own profits, en masse , regardless of societal impact in an environment of wholesale declining profit margins sets up a violation of normative social justice that cannot be reconciled by Austrian thinking. In short, these unregulated free market solutions in fact result in fewer freedoms, less liberty, and ultimately totalitarian, repressive nation/states governed by corporations.


As an example, in the current NSA security state scandal “free market” contractor Booze Allen pulls down a hefty $5.8 billion in annual revenue, much of it selling security and surveillance services. And not just to the US government. As reported in today’s NY Times, Booze Allen has sold to United Arab Emigrates in effect a replication of the entire NSA security apparatus, replete with spy software and everything one might want to create a surveillance state. There are hundreds of firms like Booze Allen, all creating free market “products” and services that satiate the demand from not just governments, but from corporations or anyone that wishes to “maintain security”, now a euphemism for exportable totalitarian police states.


As to an argument that the government instigates these software based arms wars, consider the intrinsic signature element of the coercive laws of competition, e.g. if a free market actor creates a surveillance state product of it’s own accord, on speculation, (quite common it turns out) if it is effective, and the US government declines to buy it, some other government (or corporation) may then step in, placing the US at a disadvantage. So they are then coerced into buying it to maintain parity, and the downward spiral continues. We saw this phenomenon with the nuclear arms race, and in fact international regulation was necessary -exactly the opposite tact than the free market advocates prescribe.


Both Keynesian and Austrian economics are based on bogus neoclassical economic theories tracing back to such elementary errors as belief in theory of marginal utility, theory of the rational consumer, and price/preference curves scaling from micro to macro- which they don’t. This is like studying astrophysics and discovering the associative theorem you learned in 5th grade algebra was wrong. The whole house of cards collapses. Any conclusions the Austrians draw from their supposed understanding of economics as applied to capitalism is flawed at first principles.


If you don’t understand the intrinsic instabilities in a capitalist free market economy of course you don’t need (or want) government regulation. If you do not understand the role debt plays in supplying the growth imperative in capitalism of course you don’t need a Federal Reserve Bank. If you do not recognize that the fiat dollar was created explicitly to support and advance free market capitalism, in fact specifically designed, tested, and optimized for this express purpose, than of course you advocate “sound money”. And debt, why, who needs that either? This is like walking into a room full of aerospace engineers and upbraiding them for designing wings that allow heaver than air flight- what knuckleheads, who ever heard of gravity?


In the end, the Austrians will be (and currently are being) sent back to back the conspiracy theory peanut galleries, of mumbling, dust bowl era edentulous farmers, talking to themselves, cussing and swearing at the gubymint. Just like in the ’30’s when Hayek and company were sent packing into the bush leagues by the likes of Sraffa and Keynes, banished from economics and forced into political philosophy where there is less need for the “maths”.  In the meantime the Koch bothers just keep smiling.

3 things.

First, Oliveoilguy, the levity is hilarious. laugh

Second, I liked the clarification regarding people who have nothing to hide.  I've been perhaps less concerned than I should be about spying.

Finally I adopt the role of devils advocate.  I have been a Malthusian far longer than a member of this website and have agreed with the ideas brought forth by ZPG (Zero Population Growth) since the mid 70s. I had two children largely because of ZPG teachings.  There are quite a few people living these days that believe we may very well be in population overshoot already, given pollution, extinction and resource depletion issues that we are already facing.

When I hear someone who drives a large SUV or luxury car talk about climate change or peak oil, I cannot take them entirely seriously.

By the same argument, when someone who has 5 children talks about perpetual economic growth as an issue, I take a step back.  Having 5 children implies that you expect the economy you live in to more than double in 20 years just to provide the extra jobs your children will need to get by, or you are counting on someone else to forgoe having children so that you can have more.

The concept of exponential growth is critical here as well.  If you plot the actual exponential population growth Earth is experiencing into the future, assuming no resource constraints, how many years would it be before you have overpopulated every theoretical inhabitable planet in the Milky Way Galaxy?  I'm not even going to do the math today and I'll still bet you it would be under 2,000 years.

A question that has popped into my mind a time or two in the past is, how does a libertarian government, or any other "free" government effectively discourage excess children within a family when that government finally realizes that the resources are no longer available to support them?  Conversely, is it reasonable to expect people to ever voluntarily cut back?

Inquiring minds wonder.

My purpose here is not to specifically put Mark on the spot.  I have done things I would rather take back.  Given a do-over, I would use less energy over my life time.  My energy consumption was normal for a US Citizen, but imprudent in light of peak oil.  My purpose here is to, once again, bring up the topic people don't talk about; population control.  We talk about trying to control resource depletion, pollution, etc. ad nauseum, but rarely do we link it back to population.  Even when we do, more often than not the solution suggested is cutting back life style rather than addressing exponential population growth.



"As the computer-security specialist Schneier aptly notes, the nothing-to-hide argument stems from a faulty "premise that privacy is about hiding a wrong." Surveillance, for example, can inhibit such lawful activities as free speech, free association, and other First Amendment rights essential for democracy.
The deeper problem with the nothing-to-hide argument is that it myopically views privacy as a form of secrecy. In contrast, understanding privacy as a plurality of related issues demonstrates that the disclosure of bad things is just one among many difficulties caused by government security measures.”
“"My life's an open book," people might say. "I've got nothing to hide." But now the government has large dossiers of everyone's activities, interests, reading habits, finances, and health. What if the government leaks the information to the public? What if the government mistakenly determines that based on your pattern of activities, you're likely to engage in a criminal act? What if it denies you the right to fly? What if the government thinks your financial transactions look odd—even if you've done nothing wrong—and freezes your accounts? What if the government doesn't protect your information with adequate security, and an identity thief obtains it and uses it to defraud you? Even if you have nothing to hide, the government can cause you a lot of harm.
"But the government doesn't want to hurt me," some might argue. In many cases, that's true, but the government can also harm people inadvertently, due to errors or carelessness.”

I would wager that "they" know exactly how to use the technology…
to make money!


Everything in this world is set up to distract you while they rob you. Now they can find and silence anyone who gets any crazy ideas about a fair and honest world…at lightening speed! 

Hold on a sec…theres a knock at the door…


Wow, some very good comments. First, Darbikrash you point out the shortcomings and contradictions that I also see in the Austrian and Keynesian theories. That's not to discount some of the contributions though, as you also acknowledge. Your well-written post must have taken awhile to write, so thank you for taking the time. It's easy to be attracted to the free market fantasy that stresses the liberty of the individual, but Les's point on population overshoot brings the fantasy to a crash landing. 
I ask again, how do we establish what is enough? What level of free market economic gain by an individual is acceptable? Is it a dollar amount? A perceived level of "power?" A combination of both? With our hitting the limits of resources, an individual who is allowed to pursue economic gain without limit eventually becomes someone that gains at the expense of someone else's liberty, or even worse someone else's ability to live. This to me is the paradox we face.  What justifies a person being allowed to be a multi-billionaire, controlling the resources that is the lifeline for hundreds of thousands or even millions of people? How do we reconcile this structural part of free market with liberty? Make government smaller? To me that seems to be a nastalgic yearning for times when life was smaller, simpler, and the population was smaller, so was only tapping the interest of the planet's resources. The reality is as Les describes… a huge planet population that only continues to grow.

Les, we absolutely should be talking about population control and setting a limit on how many children, but that flies in the face of liberty,…and the pursuit of happiness if you know what I mean :wink: So it's always a non-starter. Can we have it both ways, unlimited individual liberty/free market for an ever increasing population AND limited resources?

Bigelow, nice comments on what all this spying could lead to.

FreeNL, don't answer the door! Lol Sneak out the back door and go stay with the neighbors for a few days. Even those at the NSA get bored after awhile and need to get back to their computers for visual stimulation.

I take it you don't have children?  I probably would never have been born had there been some sort of "population control" law written on the books in the 1970's.  
I'm not trying to start an argument here and you're entitled to your opinion, but I find what you said about controlling the population down right scary.  I believe that is the same rhetoric that came out of Germany in the late 20's & 30's?

Thanks, Mr. Skousen. That's my new favorite phrase of the day: benefit-corrupted.
I think the corruption goes deeper than government promising things and then spending more than they have. It's personal. I've seen protestors in various countries who rail against butget cuts because, it seems, they've lost the will or ability to take care of themseslves. They've become dependents. They leave all the descision making to the state. I've been a poor single parent and I can tell you the state in the USA is a terrible provider (not for me, I never took anything more than three years of subsidized child care). Ask those living on social securility if it's enough. I can see why they'd protest cuts since they are already suffering. Of course they protest cuts.

But whenever an able-bodied person shows the attitude of "someone else has to save me," I cringe. Dude - what if no one saves you? What if our government, like that of Rome, dies? I mean, we have the elderly, children and disabled (and if you, on a personal and community level, are not involved in helping them as indviduals - why not?) but spend your energy on trying to find solutions rather than hoping the old model will somehow ressurect and you can live off the financial Ponzi scheme of exponential growth. So the government is shedding jobs, so your industry is dying, so your company is laying people off. If you'd been paying attention instead of living on false hopes, you'd have seen this coming a decade or more ago and taken steps to become more self-sufficient.

How do you get a generation of people who think such "benefits" are normal to accept any cuts? It's like they've lost the will to live. I like what Cuba did when Soviet monies were no longer propping up their economy–they grew food on any piece of land they had rather than starve. I love how NZ basically gutted their bloated government spending in a stunning reset. I love how the people of Iceland refused to pay rapacious bankers and let their world credit be destroyed rather than be the next Greece and play by the old system: they stood on their own feet and are better off for it. I love how Estonia went to a flat tax. Do we have the guts to even contemplate such changes? I hope so.

Oh, by the way, I also think the biggest benefit-corrupted groups are the recipients of corporate welfare and the bankers who feed at the QE window. But I wonder if such things have so much inertia in the USA that change is no longer possible here.

Bigelow is exactly right!  Privacy isn't about the freedom to conceal one's wrongdoing. Amongst other things, the Fourth Amendment is to keep the government out of our personal business so that there is no potential of abuse of the citizen by the government (including "rogue" individuals and groups within it). Clearly, the Founders had experienced and were knowledgeable about various forms of government abuse of citizens and they set up the Constitution and Bill of Rights to prevent those sorts of things in their time and in the future. It is the government's future decision to engage in oppression that much of the Constitution is designed to prevent, even if you start with the assumption that TODAY'S government would never oppress the citizen.  Assuming I am a perfectly law-abiding citizen, what prevents a future government or rogue element (like the IRS) from attacking me on the basis of something that USED TO BE legal based on information they gained from unlawful searches and seizures of my "personal papers and effects?" The Nazi's made being Jewish or a Gypsy "illegal". Imagine how much easier it would've been for them to round targeted people up if they had electronic surveillance like ours.  What if a future US government made criticizing the government illegal next month or next year? All that surveillance will make punishing opponents that much easier and put a chill on any more criticism.  What if a government wanted to round up its political opponents and put them in detention camps?  A national or state registry of gun owners would tip them off as to which addresses they could send just 2-3 goons to and which would require a show of force like a SWAT team.  

jcat3022,My wife and I chose to have one child because we thought it was the responsible thing to do. I respect and understand your concern, but I did say we should be "talking about" it. I am the youngest of four and probably wouldn't be here if population control was implemented in the 60's. But, ignoring it only delays the inevitable conversation. When do we have a discussion regarding population? When the planet is at 9, 10, 11 billion people, and one third of that population is dying of starvation? Is that ethical? I respectfully disagree that a conversation about population in regard to the planet and human survival has no connection to the rhetoric that came out of Germany. I'm merely bringing it up because we can't seem to put limits on anything in the system we've created (and continue to create), but yet the planet has finite resources and living space. Something has to give, and we all have to be thinking outside the box as to what is responsible and ethical in regard to all. Unfortunately, it's not about individual liberty anymore. If we can't figure out how to live within limits (population included), it will be decided for us as Nature steps up to bat.

It's ludicrous to resist a change because, were it retroactive X years, it would have resulted in me not being born.  What we are facing is now and it's real.  The Crash Course talks about resource consumption growth supporting either growth or increased prosperity or both.  It talks about the exponential growth in both population and growth in a wide variety of forms of consumption and growth in problems such as pollution and extinction.
The exponential graphs have the same curve in the same time frame.  We have a problem.

It may not be necessary to pass laws telling families how many children they can have.  Perhaps we just eliminate the subsidies that society provides free for having children.

  1. Property tax is based on property value regardless of the number of inhabitants in a property.  If you have six children, many of the real costs associated with those children (schools, roads, etc.) are directly related the the number, not the value of your property.  People with no kids or on child are subsidising people with four children.

  2. Health insurance premiums go up if you include spouse and if you include children.  However, the premium increase for children is the same for one child or ten children.  A family with one child is subsidising a family with ten children.

  3. Federal tax exemptions reduce the tax burden basd on the number of children.  Yet, again, the services provided by the government increase based on the number of children rather than going down.

When a person decides to commute in a Hummer or own and use a private Gulf Stream, they are making a consumption decision that impacts the prosperity and well being of everyone on the planet.  When a family make a decision to increase the global population by having a large family, they are making a consumption decision that impacts the prosperity and well being of everyone on the planet.  One key difference exists.  If someone wants to own a Hummer, they pay a premium for their decision.  However, a couple who wants to have a large family, only pays a portion of the cost.

Not placing enough emphasis on this issue is a severe, perhaps fatal, flaw in our approach to the crisis we face.

Books, articles and other information on the topic of peak energy have changed the way I live.  Before becomming aware in detail of the energy issue, I commuted in a 15 mpg F150.  I now have a 37 mpg car that I only use when my 80 mpg scooter or bicycle will not suffice.  Thanks to people like Chris, I now make life decisions that are constrained by prudent consumption decisions.  I no longer make vechicle purchase decisions to accommodate my lifestyle preferences.

Th same types of decision changes might occur with young couples, provided we just talk about the primary cause of the problems we face.

Again, what's done is done.  Let's talk about what needs to be done to make sure we survive and hopefully thrive.


"It may not be necessary to pass laws telling families how many children they can have. Perhaps we just eliminate the subsidies that society provides free for having children."This doesn't work since the poorest (any country) have the most children. The most educated and wealthest have the fewest children. The countries will no subsidies for the poor, still have more children than people living in wealth nations with subsidies (Developing World). In the US, the population is growing because of immigrants, either from relocation to the US or because they have more kids than the rest of the population. As long as the boarders remain unsecure, the population will continue to expand. As long as the US offers a better standard of living there will be a supply of immigrants. Removing subsidies, will not stop the flow of  immigrants
" I now have a 37 mpg car that I only use when my 80 mpg scooter or bicycle will not suffice. "
Unfortunately it does not help the planet, since other people and nations consume energy that you don't. US Oil consumption is down about 10% to 20% from the peak, yet oil global production has risen since then (On a plateu now) because of increasing demand in Asia (China and India mostly). The world will consume as much energy made available and this will continue until depletion causes a collapse in the global economy. Nothing you can do will impact or delay a collapse as long as global consumption does not decline, and thats simply not going to happen. At best, your efforts can be used to save money that you can put to use to make yourself self reliant. FWIW: Using a bike or scooter is probably not the wisest choice in a enviroment with drivers texting while driving SUVs, or driving drunk or driving recklessly. If you are maimed for life, or killed your not going to be able to provide for your family. Best option is to remain safe, at the expense of some energy. Penny wise, Pound foolish.
I don't have any children and never will. There is going to be a collapse and there is no place to go to avoid it. I simply don't want to bring children into a world that is doomed. There are already too many people on the planet, and most are now dependent on the availability of cheap energy to eat. Once Oil and Gas production reaches a tipping point, we are going to see a return of the dark ages. Wars will be fought (most likely Nuclear), as nations use force to take resources from others, and panademics will spread through out the world. As the availablity of food declines, so will the consumption of nuetrious foods. Lack of nutrition will weaken the immune systems leading to the spread of disease. The plagues of the Dark Ages were started because of a lack of nutrition, as the climate of era (little ice age) culled crops. We can already see the drums of war as the West continues to invade resource rich nations in order to secure strategy resources. Eventually they are going to run out of easy prey and when that happens the big wars will begin.

Am I the only one here to see the supreme irony in Freedon Fest, with it's ridiculous video condemning bread, circuses and debauchery of Rome, being held in Caeser's Palace in Las Vegas?  Isn't that ground zero for every form of debauchery?  Including, not incidentally, gambling?
That strange contradiction does, however, perfectly symbolize the moral and ethical bankruptcy of Ayn Randian libertarianism.  The winners in such a system have a playground such as Las Vegas to display their own massive accumulation of wealth and elitism to their peers.  How is that different than the baths and colliseum of Rome?  They are Goldman Sachs and the other big banksters that are still hell-bent on destroying the global economy.

Chris, can you reconcile the massive contradictions in Mr. Skousen's professed views?  Is there any doubt that his goal is to destroy government to the benefit of the very wealthy?


[quote=LesPhelps]When I hear someone who drives a large SUV or luxury car talk about climate change or peak oil, I cannot take them entirely seriously.
By the same argument, when someone who has 5 children talks about perpetual economic growth as an issue, I take a step back.  Having 5 children implies that you expect the economy you live in to more than double in 20 years just to provide the extra jobs your children will need to get by, or you are counting on someone else to forgoe having children so that you can have more.
As a very Peak-Oil and economics-conscious mother of 4 children, the first of whom was conceived when I was just 24, I can say two things for sure:

  1. At that age, I hadn't run into the concept of Peak Oil and I didn't have a clue that there was anything to worry about in our economy.  I had been fed the idea that things were fine and would truck along similarly forever, and I don't think you can blame someone at that age – merely two years out of a lifelong mainstream educational mill – for not having developed that awareness yet.  Want to blame the adults, teachers, mentors in my life for that lack or omission in my education?  Go ahead. 
  2. People who drive big vehicles generally have the choice to trade theirs in for something smaller (I did as soon as I reasonably could).  People who have large families do not generally have the option of "trading down" to a smaller family size (a horrifying thought at best, as I hope you'll agree). 
    Please note that by the time a child is conceived, there is no going back.  For me, those milestone moments occurred in 1997, 1999, 2001, and 2003.  (Perhaps it is relevant to note here that I met the Martensons in 2004.)  My thoughts on many topics have evolved tremendously in the past decade.
    Having 5 children, or 4, or any other number, implies nothing about the current beliefs and values of the parent(s) – only their beliefs and values at the time of conception.  What it does imply, or at least beg, is that those parents need to be extra-careful to raise those children to be thoroughly conscious and careful in their use of resources of all kinds.  They need to raise them with flexible expectations about how the future will play out, and they need to equip them with resilience-friendly skills early in life. 
    It also begs that all of us do our part in making sure that young people who are not yet parents have enough of the right kind of information (and support, and reliable access to birth control) to make prudent choices about reproduction.  Without this support, information, and access, would-be parents (including the accidental sort) will continue making decisions based on old myths and beliefs about the 3Es, rather than solid information.
    I think families who already have several children might not be the prime target for this effort.

I have been a Malthusian far longer than a member of this website and have agreed with the ideas brought forth by ZPG (Zero Population Growth) since the mid 70s. I had two children largely because of ZPG teachings. [/quote]
Having 2 children is not zero population growth. Not when every 20 - 25 years a generation produces 2 more offspring but the typical lifespan is nearly 4 generations. How many people in your or yout parents or grandparents lineage currently walk the Earth? 
To have zero population growth you and your wife would need to have 2 children and then decease. Think about it. Since that is not realistic, you can see that exponential population growth is in our DNA - just like it is for every other animal on this planet trying to survive and forward the species.
It's just math. You are still contributing to exponential population growth. I am not making a judgment, just pointing out a logical error.

Ready…you may want to rethink that…you seem to be overlooking the fact that older generations die off.

I think you just fell into the same trap of logic.Man and Woman each 20 years old have 2 kids
Those 2 kids pair up and have 2 of their own at 20. Mom and Dad are still alive at 40
Those 4 kids now pair up at 20 and have 2 kids per set. (Now) G'ma and G'pa are 60. They are still alive and are responsible for 2 + 4 + 8 offsping when their grandkids have children.
Are you seeing the point yet? The exponential growth? So what if the older generation dies off at 60. The damage is done. They take 2 lives out but leave 14 behind.
Not trying to be calous about life or death, just trying to make a mathematical point. 

[quote=Amanda Witman]Having 5 children, or 4, or any other number, implies nothing about the current beliefs and values of the parent(s) – only their beliefs and values at the time of conception. 
I was as clear as I know how to be that the past is not the issue and what's done is done.  But this conversation is overdue.
I also included examples of personal behavior I'm not proud of, to indicate that I'm not pointing a finger, or placing myself above blame.
But we need to have this conversation and spread this message or basically we are wasting our time.  Continued exponential populaton growth will make virtually every other issue impossible to address.
Unlike an algae bloom, we can as a species control our population.  So far, we've behaved exactly like an algae bloom when it comes to population and that is frightening.  What's even more frightening is that we are largely ignoring this issue.
I will admit that the loudest thing I heard in the podcast was that Mark raised five children.  That's one of my hot buttons.  Perhaps Mark would do it differently if he were starting again today.  I do not know, nor to your point, should I entirely discount his message today because of decisions he made years ago.