Will Conservatives Inherit the Earth?
"Across the globe, people are choosing to have fewer children or none at all. Governments are desperate to halt the trend, but their influence seems to stop at the bedroom door. Are some societies destined to become extinct? Hardly. It’s more likely that conservatives will inherit the Earth. Like it or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into families who believe that father knows best."
Longman quotes Oswald Spengler's observation, "When the ordinary thought of a highly cultivated people begins to regard ‘having children’ as a question of pro’s and con, the great turning point has come."
I wrote recently about the raft of statistics that indicate the tipping point has indeed arrived. Yet, as Longman writes, "that turning point does not necessarily mean the death of a civilization, only its transformation."
Longman uses Rome as an example. As secular families began dying off, they were replaced by "highly patriarchal family units, hostile to the secular world and enjoined by faith either to go forth and multiply or join a monastery."
Longman sees a similar trend occurring today. For example, the most liberal state in the union, Vermont, has a birthrate of only 1.57 babies per woman. In contrast, the socially conservative, Mormon-dominated state of Utah, had the highest fertility at 2.71. Longman writes:
In Europe today, for example, how many children different people have, and under what circumstances, correlates strongly with their beliefs on a wide range of political and cultural attitudes. For instance, do you distrust the army? Then, according to polling data assembled by demographers Ronny Lesthaeghe and Johan Surkyn, you are less likely to be married and have kids—or ever to get married and have kids—than those who say they have no objection to the military. Or again, do you find soft drugs, homosexuality, and euthanasia acceptable? Do you seldom, if ever, attend church? For whatever reason, people answering affirmatively to such questions are far more likely to live alone, or in childless, cohabitating unions, than those who answer negatively.
The great difference in fertility rates between secular individualists and religious or cultural conservatives augurs a vast, demographically driven change in modern societies. Consider the demographics of France, for example. Among French women born in the early 1960s, less than a third have three or more children. But this distinct minority of French women (most of them presumably practicing Catholics and Muslims) produced more than 50 percent of all children born to their generation, in large measure because so many of their contemporaries had one child or none at all...
Advanced societies are growing more patriarchal, whether they like it or not. In addition to the greater fertility of conservative segments of society, the rollback of the welfare state forced by population aging and decline will give these elements an additional survival advantage, and therefore spur even higher fertility. As governments hand back functions they once appropriated from the family, notably support in old age, people will find that they need more children to insure their golden years, and they will seek to bind their children to them through inculcating traditional religious values akin to the Bible’s injunction to honor thy mother and father.
Societies that are today the most secular and the most generous with their underfunded welfare states will be the most prone to religious revivals and a rebirth of the patriarchal family. The absolute population of Europe and Japan may fall dramatically, but the remaining population will, by a process similar to survival of the fittest, be adapted to a new environment in which no one can rely on government to replace the family, and in which a patriarchal God commands family members to suppress their individualism and submit to father.
In his review of Longman's essay, Steve Sailer writes that while Longman should be praised for writing about the religious and cultural presuppositions that drive birth rates, he neglects the arrow of causality that "also runs in the opposite direction—people who get married and have several children tend to become more socially and politically conservative for the sake of their children."
Sailer argues that government could do much more to create a climate of affordable family formation that keeps housing prices relatively low, encourages high wages and provides good schools.
In any case, the fact that such discussion has invaded the pages of an establishment organ like Foreign Policy magazine is an encouraging cultural development.