Thursday, April 9, 2015

Voting Yourself Off the Planet

My mother always used to worry about "overpopulation." Still, she had two children that each had two children. And I'm afraid that towards the end of her life I used to tease her a little about the birth dearth in Europe.

But why torment her? She picked up the zeitgeist of her youth, which was heavily into eugenics and the problem of the "unfit." Darwin, Spencer, Margaret Sanger and all. My mother was human; she believed what others believed.

But I have come to wonder about the population-control folks. What are they thinking? Don't they realize that, when they decide not to breed, they are voting themselves off the planet? Poster boy #1 is China, with their mad Mao-inspired One Child policy that only now is getting quietly shelved too late to prevent a massive collapse in China's population.

Now, according to James Lileks, there's a fashionable Manhattan trend celebrating childlessness. OK, there's a fashionable New York Times boomlet with a ton of articles and books celebrating childlessness. Here's a quote from Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids.
According to the NYT review, it “concludes with Tim Kreider’s rousing defense of the child-free as ‘an experiment unprecedented in human history . . . A kind of existential vanguard, forced by our own choices to face the naked question of existence with fewer illusions, or at least fewer consolations, than the rest of humanity, forced to prove ourselves anew every day that extinction does not negate meaning.’”
Here's an idea, Tim old boy. Extinction does negate meaning.

The guy I like on this is "Spengler," David Goldman. Here he is defending his book How Civilizations Die from the liberals at Ha'aretz.
Iran has an apocalyptic regime with a great deal to be apocalyptic about. As I have argued in these pages since 2005, no poor country in the entire troubled history of the world has seen its fertility rate plunge from 7 children per female just one generation ago to only 1.6 children per female today. There is no explanation for mass rejection of a nation’s demographic future except for deep cultural pessimism... Its unsuccessful engagement with modernity has left a childless country plagued by social pathologies, including some of the world’s highest rates of opium addiction, venereal disease, and prostitution.
 OK. Let's do a jump from here to gay marriage. As everyone knows, the traditional Axial Age religions all take a rather firm line on homosexuality. You could say that they are homophobic in the strict sense of being afraid of homosexuality. It's interesting to wonder why.

My take is that religion is the social lubricant that keeps the human project from seizing up. It is not just about scaring people straight with the threat of divine punishment. I think that the Axial Age religions are anti-gay because any religion that supports (or even celebrates gayness, as modern secular religious liberals do) is not long for this world. Because pretty soon there won't be any people in this world.

Every society must celebrate work, marriage, children, raising the next generation, and it needs to channel not just the economic incentives but the zeitgeist towards the pro-work, pro-natal culture. Otherwise people are going to decide that work is just too hard; they would rather follow their bliss. They will decide that marriage is too much of a risk and just tag along with the odd "relationship." They will agree with some of James Lileks' commenters:
Given the direction the world, especially America, is clearly takng, why would you have any children? Who is more selfish, vain or entirely oblivious: those who consign their offspring to less prosperous, less free futures, or those who eschew the blessings of replicating themselves?
 Of course that is why religions are also into hope, big time. They need to stop that sort of attitude right now.

Childlessness is a bit like fat. A century ago the rich were fat and the poor were thin. Now the opposite is true.

Two centuries ago, childlessness was the fate of the poor. If you were a poor woman without a dowry nobody would marry you and if you were a man without land, ditto. The rich had all the children, because they could afford it, and their abundant children crowded out the middling and the poor. But ever since the Industrial Revolution the poor have mostly been able to afford children, and those children have mostly survived. And so the rich, darling, have decided to be different.

Think about it: if you've inherited enough to support yourself as a writer or an artist, why wouldn't you stay single and develop your creativity rather than get down and dirty by creating children and putting your inheritance at risk?

Rodney Stark calls this "upper class asceticism," and he says it started with Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, who dumped his wife and kids for the spiritual life.

None of this is rocket science. If you like your civilization, you can keep your civilization. But first you must have children.

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