Those dying generations 21

In a Townhall article today, David Stokes comments on a Time magazine cover story titled  “The Child Free Life: When Having It All Means Not Having Children.”  The theme is interesting to us – the scarcity of children in most of the First World, particularly in Europe.

The author recalls a speech President Theodore Roosevelt gave in France:

Finally, even more important than ability to work, even more important than ability to fight at need, is it to remember that chief of blessings for any nations is that it shall leave its seed to inherit the land. It was the crown of blessings in Biblical times and it is the crown of blessings now. The greatest of all curses is the curse of sterility, and the severest of all condemnations should be that visited upon willful sterility. The first essential in any civilization is that the man and women shall be father and mother of healthy children so that the [human] race shall increase and not decrease. If that is not so, if through no fault of the society there is failure to increase, it is a great misfortune. If the failure is due to the deliberate and willful fault, then it is not merely a misfortune, it is one of those crimes of ease and self-indulgence, of shrinking from pain and effort and risk, which in the long run Nature punishes more heavily than any other. If we of the great republics, if we, the free people who claim to have emancipated ourselves from the thralldom of wrong and error, bring down on our heads the curse that comes upon the willfully barren, then it will be an idle waste of breath to prattle of our achievements, to boast of all that we have done.

That’s right. Theodore Roosevelt told the French that they needed to keep having babies.

At the time of Roosevelt’s speech, France was a major world power. Today—not so much.

And he ascribes a reason for the numerical decline of the French nation:

There is enough blame for such decline in global influence to go around, but the increased secularism of Europe, with its penchant for socialized everything, has certainly played a role.

By “secularism” David Stokes clearly means the increasing absence of religious belief in states that have long – if not always – been secular. It  is the absence or fading of religious belief that he blames (at least in part) for the dying out of Western nations.

Now more than 100 years later, there is an even greater threat to their cherished way of life. If only the French today would rediscover Teddy’s advice and reverse the birthrate trend—they might have a fighting chance. But such is the mindset of secularism, it is all about self and “fulfillment.” Issues of family, not to mention progeny are secondary, if thought about at all. Marriage is deferred—even eschewed. Children are planned—or better, planned around. And over time the birth rate in Europe has fallen far short of what is needed to keep up with the various demands of the future. In other words, the nations are aging. There are fewer children, yet more grandparents—a trend that will continue and accelerate.

All he says about the trend is true, but is he right about the cause?

He goes on, factually correct:

It takes a fertility rate of 2.1 births per woman to keep a nation’s population stable. The United States is drifting away from that. Canada has a rate of 1.48 and Europe as a whole weighs in at 1.38. What this means is that the money will run out, with not enough wage-earners at the bottom to support an older generation’s “entitlements.”

But even beyond that, the situation in France also reminds us of the opportunistic threat of Islamism. It is just a matter of time before critical mass is reached and formerly great bastions of democratic republicanism morph into caliphates. In the United Kingdom the Muslim population is growing 10 times faster than the rest of society. In fact, all across Western Europe it’s the same. The cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam are on track to have Muslim majority populations in a decade or two. A T-shirt that can be seen on occasion in Stockholm reads: “2030—Then We Take Over.”

And he concludes:

A few years ago, Britain’s chief Rabbi, Lord Sacks, decried Europe’s falling birthrate, blaming it on “a culture of consumerism and instant gratification”. 

“Europe is dying,” he said, “we are undergoing the moral equivalent of climate change and no one is talking about it.”

The Rabbi was right, and so was Teddy.

Was the Rabbi right?

Why are the indigenous peoples of Europe and other parts of the First World dying out?

Why are the Europeans willing to let the Muslims take over their countries?

Is it because of socialism? 

On the one hand it can be argued that socialism discourages you from having children because the state – you believe  – will look after you in your old age. It will care for you if you fall ill. It will make it easy for you to house and feed yourself because, if you don’t want to work, it will give you money. No need for more wage-earners in the family.

And there is a strong streak of anti-human life in the ideology of the far left. Among environmentalists in particular. They say that there are too many people on the planet  – and angrily deny that the numbers are declining. Some even want there to be no people on the earth at all. They maintain that the absence of human beings would be better for shrimps and reptiles.

On the other hand, the socialist welfare state pays people to have children. In America, for instance, millions of women can have children without having a husband or wage-earner to help keep them because with every baby they get more money from the state. And the state also pays for the children’s education.

But then again, socialist economics don’t work. Sooner or later socialism brings an economy to disaster. Is it anticipation of dire poverty that keeps people from breeding? About half the voters in most western countries regularly vote for socialism, so that can’t be a compelling reason.

All this considered, the argument that socialism is to blame for the suicide of the West is not convincing. It may account for an eventual death by inanition, but not for the slow suicide.

Is it because of “consumerism”?

Perhaps. But what proof is there? Do anecdotes about individuals and couples saying they prefer to use their money for a high standard of living – cars, travel and so on – rather than on raising children, prove the case? Not unless they reflect the decisions of a majority, and who has collected and counted them?

By “consumerism” (the preferred term now for what they used to call “materialism” or “conspicuous consumption”) its critics mean comfortable living, good cars, travel and so on. In other words, they ascribe the fall in the birth-rate to prosperity.

Did prosperous people in past times not have children, or choose to have only a few? Not as far as we know. In Victorian times most families, rich as well as poor, were large. And since those who owned much had much to pass on and keep in the family, wealth may have positively stimulated reproduction.

But of course in the days when wealthy families were large, parents had servants to look after their children. Most people now, even if they can afford live-in servants, do not have them. So perhaps it’s not so much the desire for more luxurious living but the desire not to be “tied down” by children. Having to stay in with them at night. Not being able to go on holiday when you choose because of their school schedule. Not being able easily to part from their other parent when you’re sick of him or her.

Implied by the word “consumerism”  is another word: “capitalism”. Though not all who condemn consumerism may be aware that the one word is haunted by the other. As David Stokes’s column appears at Townhall, we may reasonably assume that he’s a conservative. American conservatives are not consciously against capitalism; they are against socialism, as we are. But too many of them are religious. Too many of them are Christians. It is Christian puritanism that inspires the strange prejudice  – if  not against prosperity as such, against the signs of it: high living standards, costly cars, expensive travel and so on. Only in theory, we observe. We confidently expect that most religious critics of “consumerism” have – or aspire to have – a high standard of living for themselves, own costly cars, and jet to their summer vacation on a cruise-ship or a multi-starred hotel. They are seldom in fact less materialistic or less self-indulgent than the “secularists” they scorn. And they are not against having children. The American fertility-rate – which is the measure of population stability, or increase, or decrease – has until very recently been stable while Europe’s declined.

But what of religion? Is its absence the cause we are looking for?

Is it because of “secularism”?

By “secularism” David Stokes clearly means the fading of religious belief in states that have long – if not always – been secular. And it is the absence or fading of religious belief that he blames for the dying out of Western nations.

Such is the mindset of secularism, it is all about self and “fulfillment.” 

Is there no self-fulfillment in having children? Don’t many feel that having a child is more self-fulfilling than anything else?

It does seem to be the case that fewer people are religious, or most people are less religious in Europe now. How did religion formerly keep the birth-rate up?

The mainly Catholic countries used to have  bigger families because birth control was forbidden by their Church. So perhaps now that the Roman Church has lost much of its power, more Catholics use contraception. But that explanation doesn’t affect the traditionally Protestant countries of northern Europe, and there too the indigenous  populations are shrinking. (And one thing Christians who bemoan the dearth of children seem to forget is that St Paul recommended celibacy. Marry if you must, he taught, but it is better to remain unmarried and chaste like him and Jesus Christ. Not a formula for re-populating Europe.)

The bible states that Jehovah enjoins the Jews to be fruitful, to multiply. And  Israel is one of the few Western countries where the population is increasing – although Israel is a secular state. Perhaps the old religious injunction continues to have a subliminal effect.

So if socialism is not the reason why the people of the West are ever more unwilling to have children, nor “consumerism”, nor “secularism” – what is?

We don’t know. Nobody does.

But if the suicide of the West means the loss of our civilization – which it very well may – it will be a great tragedy. One of the greatest tragedies of history.


Jillian Becker   August 11, 2013

  • I believe this is the problem of our times. I have written 3 articles at my blog on the subject of dysgenics. I believe we have falling average intelligence in the “West” because the middle classes stopped having enough children. This is a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions, we must confront it. If we fail, all our criticisms of barbaric cultures (or one, particularly) will be in vain, because we will be overwhelmed by demographic pressure. This is happening in Europe right now. I welcome your feedback to my take on all this at my blog:

    • You make some excellent points about the strain on the welfare state etc.

      What I cannot accept is the notion that there is a correlation between IQ and moral behavior.

      People of extraordinarily high IQ have committed appalling atrocities. People of low IQ – millions of them – behave decently towards other people.

      I think you are confusing the issues. Many of them.

      Yes, it is a good thing if people of high IQ pass their genes on. It is good to have intelligent people in a population. Good in the sense that we need people who can think well, can innovate, can judge wisely. To encourage people in a Western country where the population is dwindling to breed (eg. by making tax allowances for large families – but that encourages both the smart and the dumb) is not a bad suggestion. But people do not take kindly to being told to do such things as “have more children”. You are, I’m sorry to say, thinking sociologically. That is the governing vice of the Left. They have “solutions” for “society”. They think of people in terms of groups. As I keep saying, each person is a world. An autonomous individual does not and should not take kindly to being ordered (or “nudged” as the Obama people like to say) to do what other people think is good for them, or for “society”.

      There is no way to make a population more moral. Any attempt is in itself immoral.

      • Ah, it does seem that you misunderstood me on some points at least, but this is just the sort of feedback I need because I am new to trying to express my ideas, so thanks a lot for taking the time. This is also a very emotive subject for the reasons I mentioned about 20th century eugenics experiments and ideas. I am not in any way suggesting a return to anything remotely like those ideas. My thinking is not at all about control, it is about studying reality and being honest about it.

        First of all I was at pains to preface these articles with an article about IQ and Intelligence. Your reply seems to suggest that I equate IQ directly with intelligence, and I very much do not. I believe in fact that there can be quite wild differences between IQ and actual intelligence. I also believe that IQ is in fact variable even in an individual over time and in different situations. I have set out these ideas here:

        (note: This article is missing a reference because I cannot yet locate one of the studies.)

        I am very well aware that people with high IQ scores have done terrible things. But people with high IQ scores are not necessarily of particularly high intelligence in my view. I believe that genuinely intelligent people are very much less likely to do terrible things. That does not mean that they will never do terrible things, merely that they are less likely to. They are more likely to see beyond their immediate situation for example, and have concerns about the future rather than just the present. I do not believe that Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, or in fact any terrible dictator you can mention, were particularly intelligent. They were more a product of their times than truly great people in any sense. Above average intelligence perhaps, but not really outstanding people. I will bet you any money you like that if you had sat down for a cup of tea with Lenin for example you would have been both terrified and very, very bored.

        “But people do not take kindly to being told to do such things as “have more children”. You are, I’m sorry to say, thinking sociologically.”

        I was not at all aiming to tell anybody what to do. What I was trying to say was that if people could be made to see the future consequences of these trends that we are facing, then they might simply want to have a few more children, for the sake of their other children. No compulsion of any kind involved in this whatsoever. Not even peer pressure really. I respect the fact that some women may just simply not want to have children, they might prefer a career, no problem with that in my mind at all. The problem is that right now, thanks to feminism, the peer pressure is in the exact opposite direction, against family life. I think you may have touched on this type of peer pressure in some of your other articles that I have not read fully yet.

        I also get the impression that you may have thought I was suggesting a sort of production line for geniuses. Not at all, I was thinking most of all about the middle classes, the kinds of people that become doctors, lawyers and so on. These are the people we are in desperate shortage of in the UK, as I explained in the section about the NHS. We can’t breed these people in an Aldous Huxley style production line, but we need to talk about it if they are not having enough children to sustain our society. That is the problem we have, right now.

        Absolutely paramount in all of this is that trends in society are studied academically, not necessarily by the state either, probably better NOT by the state, as they have an agenda in all things. At the moment, as I see it, any attempt to even discuss these trends in our societies are being met with acute levels of hostility and it is impossible to really have any debate about it at all.

        Likewise I was not in any way suggesting that we “make” a population more moral. What I was suggesting was that by talking about the longer term consequences of people’s behaviour, they would see the sense in behaving in a moral way. Those are two entirely different things. I don’t want to live in a society where people have their lives bound by all kinds of laws especially. Different strokes for different folks and all that.

        I did also in the article about welfare make it plain that I believe the state is doing great harm. It could be that simply dismantling the welfare state altogether is ALL that we need to do. However, I am not convinced that the state is the only piece of the puzzle. I think that attitudes will have to change as well before we can really get to stability and sustainability. Why do you talk about problems with feminism? Its the same reason I think as I am doing, attitudes matter.

        I was assuming you were based in the US, some of the problems I am talking about here are particular to Europe because we have had a much more socialist society for a long time. It is not going well. However I don’t think its possible to just shut the whole thing down overnight, a transition is needed.

        • I lived in Britain most of my life. I now live in the US. I am aware of the demographic disaster that Europe faces. (Though European governments do not seem to be aware of it!)

          By all means argue against bad ideas and for good ones. It’s essential that you do.

          But prescribing remedies for the population of a country or a continent or the world is a temptation best resisted. There is no panacea.

  • psittacus

    Meme sets which can cause a person to not reproduce are rather damaging. There’s two or three sets I can think of in social liberalism: overpopulation hysteria; resource use hysteria; and homosexuality.

    It’s rare but refreshing to find an atheist who’s not in the back pocket of PLAG and similar groups. PFOX is looking better. Here’s for secular advocacy for social conservatism AKA pro-family atheism.

  • Dale Jensen

    Face it: give women choices about how to spend their lives, and few
    will choose to raise multiple children. America’s baby boom ended at
    oral contraception and the beginnings of feminism.

    This is right. I’ll add to it.

    There are a number of reasons for the declining birth rates:

    1) female birth control

    2) women’s careerism

    3) advanced industrial capitalist society (related to #2)

    4) absence of slut shaming and the cultural shaming of promiscuity (disappeared with the 60s)

    5) feminism’s advocacy of promiscuity as female empowerment (i.e. ‘Sex and the City’)

    6) feminism’s / cultural Marxism’s war against men

    7) feminism’s / cultural Marxism’s war against the family

    8) weak economy caused by welfare statism and inflationary central banking (inherent in a central bank) – this creates disincentives for men to marry and start families

    9) rise of cultural nihilism which is the outgrowth of the Left’s subjectivism

    10) easy sex for men, not all men but the cad’s and players, as the result of female sexual liberation. Women, especially young women will spend their youth having sex with sexier men (men with “game”) and then push off marriage to a provider type when they are older. This leaves less time to have children. Average age of marriage is 27 in America. Its 29 in South Korea.

    Basically, the decline in childbirth is the consequence of both capitalism and feminism. But I think this would have happened even without the Left. Which raises a question, is a free society self-liquidating? I don’t think so, but that is a question I haven’t answered for myself yet.

    • Jillian Becker

      You make many fascinating points, Dale Jensen. If you do find an answer to that question of yours, please let us know what it is.

    • I don’t believe a free society is self-liquidating at all. I think instead that a number of negative factors after WWII came together to cause a dramatic fall in birth rates in the “West”, especially among the middle classes. Attitudes are not inconsequential at all, and I believe played a large part in this. I think people are waking up to, and beginning to talk about, these questions now, as I am at my blog:

      Once attitudes change, I think the situation will be resolved.

  • rogerinflorida

    It may be any of those things; but probably isn’t, this is a case where Occam’s razor applies: Women are not having children now as much as they did in the past because, to put it charitably; children are a pain in the ass. The ungrateful little sods consume all the attention, require constant care and supervision, use up all available cash and sod off when you need them.
    David Goldman has pointed out Iran’s demographic crisis, if Iran is to have a war they need to do it in the next few years while they have enough young fools to believe the BS and go and die for it. Iran is a religious state but Iranian women are voting with their wombs.
    Don’t get me wrong; I love my children and my grandchildren but I do believe I would be just as happy if I had never had any.

    • Jillian Becker

      I cannot bear to imagine what life would be like for me now if I had not had children and grandchildren. The greatest happiness, the greatest amusement, the most laughter and fun, came to me, and continue to come to me, from them. True, if someone doesn’t have them, he or she will not know what he or she is missing. But they are missing the best of human relationships – especially with grandchildren who are very seldom a pain in the ass to their grandparents. For most people the only real contribution they can make to the world, the only way they can matter much, is through having descendants. And even though children are sometimes a trial and a bother, the reward you get for your efforts is a hundred-fold. That is both my experience and my observation. I truly pity the barren.
      I would dearly like to be told what it is a woman can do with her life that is more rewarding than investing it in those best and most lasting of human relationships. Sit in the Senate? Run a company? Be a Hollywood star? Be president of her country? Write a romantic novel? Cruise endlessly round the world? Be an inventor? Date strangers of all 23 listed genders? Pfui! What tawdry boring wearying silly stuff in comparison!
      Besides, many women have done those sorts of things as well as having children. They’re none of them all that hard.

      • rogerinflorida

        I love it! You are right of course, I was just being a bit facetious about what seemed to be an overly analytical post.
        I love my children and grandchildren more than life itself. I pity women who choose career over family, what is a career? At best it is just a job, you may love it, but it will never love you.
        This is my granddaughter running (in terror) from me.

        • tikno

          At least, the photograph of little girl can stimulate your heart to have children 😉

      • liz

        I would say exactly that, myself!
        There is nothing as profoundly fulfilling as motherhood.
        It’s sad that so many, including women themselves, are out to destroy it.

      • Don L

        “…they are missing the best of human relationships…”

        “For most people the only real contribution they can make to the world, the only way they can matter much, is through having descendants.”

        ” I truly pity the barren.”

        How arrogant and myopic! It has the same tone and character as: “I feel sorry for those who don’t know god; you can only know goodness through christ; you can never be free and rewarded until you give yourself to god; there are no other ways except through christ…

        Success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal. Want to be a great wife and mother…great. Denying that others have different opinions and attitudes that can bring as much if not more reward & joy to their lives is quite lordly.

        Bottom line, If it doesn’t damage your property or injure you, all of this family stuff comes under the heading, as respective of government intervention/societal imposition, NONE OF YOUR BUSINESS and/or KEEP IT TO YOURSELF.

        Some guys gunna tell how great his kids are, but it really seems the ladies here (motherhood) are speaking of the actual childbirth. So, accordingly, it seems…men can never be fully rewarded…can only be sideline participants. Men have no purpose other than seeding? The purpose of life is to have kids?

        Leftside-rightside lobe connections…geez women.

        • Jillian Becker

          What a load of tosh! You don’t understand what you read.

          Try harder.

        • liz

          Don, if you want to see arrogance you only have to look in the mirror. It is quite different to talk about something you’ve actually experienced ( the relationship with your children) and something that is merely a fantasy ( the Christian’s supposed “relationship” with god).
          And I can assure you, we “ladies” are not speaking of the actual childbirth – I would have preferred to skip that, myself. It is, as Jillian said, the relationships that matter.
          Men can participate in those. Men also obviously evolved to find fulfillment differently than women.
          As for purpose, no-one here is saying that re-production is anyone’s only purpose (or fulfillment) in life, whether man or woman.

  • KBM

    Just a note to say that you have correctly assessed D Stokes background on conservatism. He is also a Pastor in Northern Virginia…in fact was my Pastor years ago when I was still in the fold.

    • Jillian Becker

      Thank you for this information, KBM. I suspected he might be a pastor. He would certainly not like today’s post, “Those dying generations (2)”.

  • WmarkW

    Face it: give women choices about how to spend their lives, and few will choose to raise multiple children. America’s baby boom ended at oral contraception and the beginnings of feminism. The only places on earth today with replacement-plus birth rates are those where the status of women is low, like Africa and Islam.

    As I’ve said before in a different way, I’m a paleo-moderate; I think both liberalism and conservatism until about generation ago played a useful role in creating today’s America. When I was a kid, a major liberal social concern was limiting population growth, because we couldn’t maintain our lifestyle with too many to provide for. Now, for some reason, we need to import people to keep growing. Whatever happened to the idea that we’d be happiest stabilizing?

    • Don L

      We don’t import to keep going…we import to get Democrat/socialist votes; what limits the ability of a society to provide for itself is government intervention…in a free-market society, there is full employment…just so’s ya know.

      • Aerfen

        I am not convinced that people having fewer children is the ‘choice’ of women. The poor (subsidised by the state) and the rich are still having three, four sometimes even more children, Cherie Blair, Sam Cam, Jamie and Jules Oliver, a few examples. It is economic pressures that are causing middle class women to eschew having more than one or two, plus getting married later, which is mainly due to a reluctance among men rather than women to ‘settle down’ until thirty plus and reducing the window of opportunity for breeding.