The Federalist recently put out a piece talking about the future of a society where childlessness becomes the normal way of life and the serious social implications it would have:
This year, the birthrate in the United States has fallen yet again, to 1.7 children per woman—well below the 2.1 replacement rate. With the exception of Hungarian President Viktor Orban, most leaders in the developed world seem to shrug at this news and focus on other matters.
Part of the collective indifference to this otherwise-alarming statistic is the way it’s treated. Most often, a low birthrate is framed as a long-term economic problem that might affect the labor market, pensions, productivity, and the like. Occasionally, it’s seen as an environmental issue and not really a problem since each new human being produces whole landfills of garbage and leaves a Godzilla-sized carbon footprint over a lifetime. Because people often resist the suggestion that they have any responsibility to give back to society by having children, and many will be dead or close to dead by the time these kind of effects have become disastrous, many people take little interest in the demographic crisis.
What is more pressing and relevant, however, is how this trend will affect the cultures and general attitudes of the developed world. Not only does low fertility lead to a society dominated by the elderly, with young people shouldering a heavier economic and cultural burden, but it also means a society increasingly dominated by childless adults. This latter development warrants far more attention than it normally receives, because it will determine the character of American life.
Not Having Kids Makes You a Different Kind of Person
Having children makes an enormous difference for the average adult in both positive and negative ways. Unfortunately, the more advanced a society is, the more people seem to emphasize the negatives. If individuals hope to be decent parents, they must forego many material freedoms and benefits they used to enjoy. For example, parents must provide and work for their family as a breadwinner or caretaker. They can’t just spend all their income on themselves, or be unemployed long-term.
This reality affects every other aspect of a person’s lifestyle. For most parents, certain forms of recreation are curbed or impossible. To travel, the must make extensive arrangements for their children and feel pressure not to be gone too long. The same occurs if they want to go out for a night on the town with friends.
No longer can they safely binge-watch episodes of “Breaking Bad” or “Game of Thrones”—unless, of course, the mother has a newborn and is nursing all hours of the night. No longer can a father play “Skyrim” for so many hours straight. No longer can a mother enjoy brunch with friends after a wild night of partying. These activities are not technically impossible but, practically speaking, they require much more energy than parents normally have, and if indulged usually would lead to defaulting on a parent’s main priority: caring for their children.
Parenthood can halt or significantly delay certain aspirations. The detached contemplative life of the mystic or philosopher becomes difficult with children needing your attention. Similarly, parents cannot devote their whole lives to helping the poor and downtrodden as missionaries or members of the Peace Corps. The risky and often life-consuming careers of an entrepreneur, artist, or inventor also become less feasible for parents whose business, masterpiece, and new product are their children.
There are, of course, exceptions to this, where people seem to have it all and try to maintain the childless life post-kids with the help of nannies and maids from developing countries. For most people, though, children require serious tradeoffs.
Considering all this, it’s no surprise that many people choose not to have families. But there are also great benefits to parenthood, both personally and to society. Children can bring deep joy and purpose to a parent in a way that no career, no lover, no trip abroad, no college degree can. Even the restrictions that come with parenting have the welcome effect of regulating one’s habits and teaching endless lessons in patience and humility.
Perhaps the most unappreciated benefit is how children frequently make their parents much more social and outward-oriented. Children connect parents to their community in a multitude of ways. They often force adults to break out of their small circle of friends to find other parents for playdates and affirmation.
Many adults never go their public library, or to parks, or to community events until they have kids. Many never think about the church they attend, the schools and daycares in their neighborhood, or the levels of safety in most public places before children. Nor do they really look up information on the local zoo, museums, or performance centers. And most childless adults probably don’t look at grocery shopping, walking through a mall, or driving around the neighborhood as parents do.
Political Implications of Being a Non-Parent
Naturally, the different experiences of parent and non-parents frequently create opposing outlooks on life. Mainly, it’s easier for non-parents to favor abstractions and change while parents tend to favor concreteness and stability. This is one reason why millennials (most of whom are non-parents) are much more comfortable embracing once-extreme positions in politics and morality, care more about climate change and perfect social equality than about the livelihoods of blue-collar workers and the fate of public schools, regularly switch careers, identities, and values (they are always “in transition”), and think of people on the screen as more real than the people they see and talk to every day.
By contrast, parents tend to seek what is solid and safe. They want to live in a place that’s predictable and wholesome and allow their children to satisfy their need for surprises. This is why they flock to the suburbs where the houses all look the same, streets line up along a perfect grid, and the main sources of entertainment can include shopping at chain stores and watching high school football.
In terms of politics, parents tend to prefer moderation and familiarity. They shun controversy and activism and embrace the status quo. Politicians who promise big changes and use angry rhetoric do poorly with parents who sense a threat, however smart or visionary they may be. In discussions, parents are more likely to avoid politics and stick to family photos, parent memes, and inspirational quotes. Whenever people recall the golden age of civility in past decades, they are recalling a time where the majority of voters were parents and preferred a much more subdued brand of politics. (source, source)
As the article points out, the total fertility rate has fallen to 1.7. This includes all ethnicities and immigration. While fertility has declined for all groups, it is lowest for Asians and non-hispanic Whites, with Hispanics almost at replacement rate. America, like many nations in the Western world, is entering into a period of serious decline because of this, for a nation that does not have children will eventually be overrun and overtaken by those who have children. This is something that I have consistently warned about with regard to Russia, whose population is 43% of the US but is losing massive numbers of people, in particular the Slavic Russians, while the only groups whose populations are either stable or increasing are the Muslim Caucasian and Siberian Turkic peoples. Meanwhile, the nations of sub-saharan Africa and parts of the Middle East are where families are exploding in size.
Truly, there is an “African invasion” taking place not because of any sort of planned African military operation, but because of natural reasons. The natural population increase means that people, if they cannot find work, will naturally diffuse to other areas seeking work and opportunity. This is not particular to the Africans, but to all cultures throughout history. Indeed, the Portuguese and Spanish did not populate the Americas, the Dutch for Southern African, or the French and Anglo-Saxons the globe, on a population deficit. Many times, the “undesirables” were exported, and they went out and created and changed societies.
I mention the issue of race here specifically to address the alt-right/neoconservative/new right mantra about refugees and “Africans” to note that any issues regarding population in the Western world are entirely self-inflicted. It is true that if people do not have children and a large group of a different kind of people moves in that an area will change, and change happens throughout history. However, if this were to take place on the level of a whole society, the whole society has the potential to change massively, and such changes do not often happen without serious internal issues.
The fact is that since the early part of the 20th century, a large number of people in the Western world stopped reproducing. There were periods of increase, but since the proliferation of birth control and other contraceptive means, many of which started in the Western World for eugenics, have had the greatest effects on the Western world. It is not the fault of the Africans, Arabs, or the government for the European refusal to have children. This is purely an act of self-indulgence, as many would rather travel the world in luxury and live a life of comfort. Meanwhile, the poor Africans and other peoples, by having many children, have unintentionally created the replacements for the generations of willingly childless or child-deficient.
This is not to say that what is happening is good or not, but it is the acknowledgment of a simple reality that few wish to grasp, for while change always happens, massive and systemic change does not happen without a serious abdication of responsibility.
The “answer” to the issues is very simple, and could be solved arguably in a generation, with simply having children. Put away the fancy houses, yearly vacations, and other indulgent things, and have children. Lots of them- as many as one can have. The population problem would be fixed without a fight.
But this is not going to happen because most people in the Western world would rather choose indulgence. They want to live fancy and luxurious lives, and while a little luxury is the spice of life, it is the continual choices for opulence- even basic opulence -that makes for social decline if done too long.
For many years, people excoriated the poor Scot-Irish peoples of Appalachia for having “too many children,” but were they wrong for having children? Were they genuinely caring for those people, or were they afraid they might “take over”, and yet while the same people who encouraged their destruction also did not want to have children themselves? The same can be said of the American blacks, who also had many children once upon a time. Indeed, if neither group had accepted the eugenics promoted to them by the so-called “coastal elites,” it is likely that between those two and the immigrant populations they would have overtaken the nation naturally.
God said in the Book of Genesis to “be fruitful and multiply”. If a man does not want to reproduce, what he has naturally will pass to another person, to those who have heirs to receive it. This is what is happening with the Western world, for having rejected God and refused to have children, her heritage is passing from her to other peoples, and not because of the fault of the other peoples, but because she made a choice and now is being forced to receive the consequences yet still refuses to change her behavior.