Catholic convert Charles Moore write in today’s Daily Telegraph about the coming demographic winter.
This is the term for the plummeting birth rate in developed world and the catastrophic economic and social effects.
He highlights P.D.James’ novel The Children of Men–a dystopian novel that, I predict, will become increasingly famous as her predictions prove true.
James was a friend of Moore’s and a serious Anglican Christian. He reminisces:
Phyllis James, whom I knew quite well for 25 years or more, was, in her own words “superbly taught in the old grammar school tradition, scholarly, Christian, liberal”. She clung to all these qualities in adversity – a hard, poor father who thought girls should not go to university and made her leave school at 16; a broken, schizophrenic husband; children to be brought up on nothing much – and in her later, well-deserved prosperity. In her own life and thought, she had a strong Christian recognition of the existence of evil, but a stronger one of good. She had a great love of civilisation, sharpened by the knowledge that it was precarious. In the light of her faith, she understood that a society which lives for the present alone will despise the past and ignore the future. More and more of its citizens will not have children and therefore it will decline.
Many point to the prophetic nature of Pope Paul VI’s comments in Humanae Vitae. The predictions of disaster from birth control and abortion are even more devastating than he suggested. We will get older, live longer and there will be no one to look after us because we aborted and contracted them.
In Japan things are the worst with 21% of the population over 65. Not only are the younger generation of Japanese not making babies, they’re not making love. This article from last year in the UK’s Guardian discusses the problem. (the discussion is pretty frank, so if you’re sensitive you might want to take my word for it) The lesson is clear: when sex is separated from babies its not long until sex becomes irrelevant. After all, there’s only so much one can do with those organs and only so many experiences one might have…
Moore goes on to analyze the problem in practical terms:
In the world in 1980, there were 10.2 old people for every 100 working ones. Today, there are 12.1. In 2050, the UN projects, there will be 24.7. The situation is more extreme in most of Europe and in some far-eastern countries, like Japan, today. Germany has a fertility rate of only 1.43 children; more than 21 per cent of Japanese are over 65. In Britain, this newspaper reported yesterday, there has been a 42-per-cent jump in the number of one-child families in a generation. The old are living longer – a good thing in itself but also, in a society with fewer workers, a problem.
Countries shaped this way tend to produce less and consume more. The demographic effect is deflationary. They also require more public services – transport, health, care, pensions. So if the state lacks the tax base to pay for them, it will have to go on borrowing more.
We have been obsessed for so long with the fear of population explosion that we don’t think much about what a low birth rate means. Because we tend to think of wealth as a static lump, we assume that people will get poorer if there are more of them to share it. The truth is almost the opposite: wealth is the product of activity and exchange. More people working, more activity, more wealth: fewer people working, less activity; eventually, more poverty.
So countries like Russia and Germany are offering incentives for people to have babies. Faced with emigration, AIDS and abortion, Putin wants cash incentives to be offered. This article from NYT reports. Germany is also offering incentives as the WaPo reports here.
The financial aspects are real and have to be faced. In substance economies children are an asset, not a liability. They will help on the farm, they will support the parents in old age. Many children are needed to work the land and with luck some will survive to carry on the family name and look after the elderly and raise the next generation. In developed countries a child is a financial liability. Right from the start it costs thousands for the hospital bill to have the baby, then the insurance premiums and all the other costs mean that a growing American family either has to be radically non conformist or they go the typical route of limiting the size of their family, sending Mom out to work in order to maintain the expected lifestyle.
What’s to be done?
Quite simply, we need a revolution in our attitude. A few incentives from the government are not enough. To really spark growth we need a whole range of new policies that will encourage not just the birth of more babies, but the strengthening of the family. Health insurance should be slanted toward families. If the couple are married they should get a break. Their health insurance should go down according to the number of children they have. The hospital bill for having a baby should be picked up by the government. If the husband works and has a young family he should get extra tax breaks. Moms should get incentives to stay at home and educate their children from home rather than being a burden on the school and child care systems.
Do you know how much it costs to adopt? If you want a newborn it can cost $50K in legal fees and the rest. Why does it cost so much? Why can’t the government streamline and economize this part of our community instead of pumping more millions into the abortion mills? Why don’t they make Planned Parenthood offer adoption services?
But does anyone have the courage to suggest, much less implement any of these basic, common sense ideas?
Not a chance.
This is because we must have completely responsibility free recreational sex available 24-7 for anyone who wants it all the time. Are sexually transmitted diseases at epidemic levels? Sure. So what. Are we killing off the next generation? Sure. So what. Are we destroying marriage and family life? Sure. So what. Are we reducing human relationships and therefore humanity to boring sex toys? Sure. So what.
Is this apocalypse just about to happen? Sure.
Block it out. Re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Hear no evil. Speak no evil. See no evil..
God help us.