I remember my anthropology, sociology, and urban geography texts from a few decades ago in unison proclaiming:
With the decline of family farming it was no longer necessary to have large families to work on the farm, and thus entered the era of fewer children and smaller families.
Now at a safe distance from agenda-driven textbooks, I can proclaim that the reasons they gave for the decline in family size was a bunch of bull crap. It was an agenda driven by the society-planning lust of the Zero Population Growth (ZPG) movement. Remember Paul Ehrlich and The Population Bomb? We will be living belly to belly, the earth will run out of resources, and we will run out of food and die of slow, agonizing starvation. That was the scare-demographics of the 60’s. That was gospel. When it was written, it was all the rage. Look at that book on Amazon today – most reviewers giving it one star with one reviewer correctly proclaiming “it can’t survive hindsight.”
Today we find ourselves in the US near zero population growth - on the edge of an unsustainably low birth rate. At the same time native Europe has gone over the precipice into negative growth while the immigrant populations from impoverished North Africa and the Middle East, primarily Muslims, are burgeoning with 8 and 10 child families.
So, what caused the ZPG fad? And is farming’s decline and industrialization’s growth the primary cause of the decline in the birth rate in the US?
I contend that the sociologist’s claim that families were large so there could be more cheap farm labor and families became smaller because family farms were displaced by industry is less relevant than they claimed. It is true that many went to the cities for factory work. And now those jobs are in the cities because of finance, banking, information technology, retailing, and a myriad of other employment opportunities. But do any of these represent legitimate reasons for moms and dads producing fewer children?
Certainly there are other forms of family enterprises besides farming. Farming isn’t the only enterprise that requires unskilled, semi-skilled, and skilled labor. Restaurants, retail shops, numerous forms of small scale manufacturing, insurance, finance, real estate, construction; in fact dozens of forms of businesses are appropriate to be run by large families. These businesses would benefit by a large tight-knit family every bit as much as a family farm would benefit. What’s wrong with a few kids sweeping the floors? A few teenagers waiting on customers and stocking the shelves, loading and unloading trucks?
So, getting the decline of farming out of the way as an excuse for falling birth rates, what else may be the cause? The ZPG movement was one. And what was behind that movement? Could it be the same progressive, socialist, government planning and control-driven agenda that we have a renewed awareness of today – part of the top-down government-directed social planning liberals thrive on? The “big government knows best” mentality?
Is it the decline of religion in our country that taught “be fruitful and multiply?” After all, most of the largest mainline denominations are declining in membership, and worse, their remaining membership has a declining belief in the inerrancy of the Bible. So all the Biblical admonitions regarding procreation and the high value of the family are somewhat out of favor.
Nature abhors a vacuum. To distort a phrase: What religion has joined together, our lack of faith has cast asunder. The decline of personal responsibility, reliance and initiative, the decreasing importance of the family, the increasing reliance on government, and the decline of faith and the church have all contributed to our declining birth rate.
Every change has consequences. Not all consequences are good, and not all are intended. We see the results, and the unintended consequences. Jobs that have to be filled by illegal immigrants. Other cultures and languages overrunning our own. Such a dependence on illegal immigrants that we are politically paralyzed from taking action to stem the tide, even in an era of high unemployment, when millions of legitimate citizens are without work. The demographics of many European countries are such that there are not enough young productive workers to support the huge and growing retirement populations in their socialist, entitlement societies. That is a significant reason for Europe’s financial difficulties, along with their refusal to acknowledge and address this problem. And this is the reason why there will be a shock-shift in European culture and religious influence from their comfort zone of centuries, to the shock of Islam and barbaric cultures of North Africa and the Middle East.
The US is not far behind. It has the benefit of looking at Europe and seeing itself in that mirror 10 or 15 years from now. We gave our kids over to government to educate. We gave our health care over to government to heal, we gave our retirement obligations over to government to provide, we gave our moral standards over to government to bless. Even the ability to procreate has been relinquished to government in the form of sanctioning gay marriage and abortion rights – both destroyers of families and sustainable population growth.
Don’t blame our failure to reproduce on our shift from agrarian to industrial, to an information economy. Blame it on our selfish desire to reduce our responsibilities, to avoid God, to avoid work, to marry late, to avoid morality, to abort, to be entertained, to be uninformed, to have “someone else do it”, and our automatic expectation that "it is the job of government.”
I have received a few comments on this post. One commenter got the impression from the post that I inferred a “conspiracy.” This is my reply:
No, not a conspiracy. That relieves too much responsibility from our culture - it shifts the blame. It is an easy "out."
What has happened is the normal course of a successful society as it becomes more and more self-satisfied, comfortable, and complacent. We get bored. We become more "progressive". In our comfort zone we are confident enough to experiment more - to stray away from the historically tried and true.
The part that appears to be planned or a conspiracy because it occurs so universally at the same time is the "progressive" component of our culture on the order of the social planning in China - except we use more subtle means without the teeth. This comes primarily from the public schools, universities and liberal social media which accomplish nearly as much as the Chinese government but instead via peer pressure. It's "cool to do X"; it's "not cool to do Y". You can easily figure what X and Y are. They are usually opposites of what our culture has traditionally considered to be immoral and moral. The old tradition: Begin raising a family when you're in your early 20's; the new: Don't raise a family until after you establish a career - maybe by 35. The old: Don't have sex until you're married; The new: Have sex before you're married. After that the "new morality" became "don't have sex until you're 17"; now the "new cool" has become "have sex when you're 14." Old morality: Homosexuality was nearly universally considered as taboo a perversion as bestiality; New morality: Anyone who publicly opines that homosexuality is a perversion is ostracised if not charge with a hate crime. You get the drift.
No, not a conspiracy, but just as effective as if it were.
Another suggested it was a conspiracy via the secret consequences of fluoridated water. This was my reply:
There are a number of reasons for a declining birthrate that are much more obvious than the effects of flouride in the water.
Isn't it obvious that the following would have a substantial, direct negative effect on birth rates?
- Millions of preborn infants being aborted each year.
- Millions of couples choosing not to have children until they are financially established well into their thirties.
- Millions of couples choosing to have only one child or no children at all so they can spend more on themselves.
- The very idea of marriage being discredited as an obsolete religious ritual
- The very unreproductive gay lifestyle and gay marriage being glamorized and promoted by the media and protected by the law.
- Sexual release being primarily a recreational activity than a procreation activity; and promoted more by pornography than by love and a desire to procreate.
Don't you think these more obvious things are the real reasons?
If flouride in the water were known to cause selfishness and immorality, THEN you may be on to something.