We have seen the future, and it sucks.

Elisabeth’s Barrenness and Ours

28th December 2011

The Gospel according to Mark Steyn.

Our lesson today comes from the Gospel according to Luke. No, no, not the manger, the shepherds, the wise men, any of that stuff, but the other birth: “But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.”

If the problem with socialism is, as Mrs. Thatcher says, that eventually you run out of other people’s money, much of the West has advanced to the next stage: It’s run out of other people, period. Greece is a land of ever fewer customers and fewer workers but ever more retirees and more government. How do you grow your economy in an ever-shrinking market? The developed world, like Elisabeth, is barren. Collectively barren, I hasten to add. Individually, it’s made up of millions of fertile women, who voluntarily opt for no children at all or one designer kid at 39. In Italy, the home of the Church, the birthrate’s somewhere around 1.2, 1.3 children per couple — or about half “replacement rate.” Japan, Germany, and Russia are already in net population decline. Fifty percent of Japanese women born in the Seventies are childless. Between 1990 and 2000, the percentage of Spanish women childless at the age of 30 almost doubled, from just over 30 percent to just shy of 60 percent. In Sweden, Finland, Austria, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, 20 percent of 40-year-old women are childless. In a recent poll, invited to state the “ideal” number of children, 16.6 percent of Germans answered “None.” We are living in Zacharias and Elisabeth’s world — by choice.

4 Responses to “Elisabeth’s Barrenness and Ours”

  1. Dennis Nagle Says:

    You can blame capitalism.

    Children in the developed world are a net cost center. Parents incurr enormous expense in raising them and gain nothing but emotional satisfaction in return. In the developing world children contribute labor to the family, but under the blessings of automation and industrialization they cannot usefully contribute; they are neither strong enough nor educated enough to be of any use until they are ready to leave the family.

    So people vote with their wallets and forgo or delay having children. It’s a sound economic decision.

    Such is the market, which works even when you don’t want it to.

  2. Tim of Angle Says:

    No, you can blame capitalism, and probably will. The fault really lies with the modern ‘progressive’ state and the degenerative effect it has had on traditional culture.

    Children are a cost center because the culture urges them to be. Don’t be a welder! Welders are dirty! Don’t be a plumber! Plumbers are Low Class! Don’t be an engineer! Engineers are boring! Be an indie rock musician! Be a performance artist! Be a street mime! Free your creativity, just so long as it doesn’t create anything useful! As a result, people are not only supporting themselves, they’re supporting their children and increasingly their grandchildren, and those children and grandchildren look at what their forbears have to put up with and say ‘Fuck that!’ And when the supporting generation dies off, they live off the government, because you know the government has this huge stash of money lying around so we might as well get our share.

    Not having children is only a sound economic decision until all the ants die off. Then gresshoppers wonder why the weather is turning so cold.

  3. Dennis Nagle Says:

    If couples are not having children, then the alleged problem you cite is self-correcting–the Invisible Hand at work.
    All of the ills you list are only true if you have children and then must support them (and possibly their children). If you have no children, then you needn’t support them or any subsequent generations. Hence, there is no one to say ‘Fuck that!’, and no one to suck off the public tit when Mommy and Daddy die.

    Additionally, how does living in your parents’ basement while feeding from the public trough induce young people to decide not to have children of their own? Where’s the disincentive in that formulation? It’s not as if they have to support them; they can just enroll them on the dole in turn.

    Don’t let your knee-jerk distaste for ‘progressives’ lead you into non sequitur.

  4. Dennis Nagle Says:

    “Children are a cost center because the culture urges them to be. Don’t be a welder! Welders are dirty! Don’t be a plumber! Plumbers are Low Class! Don’t be an engineer! Engineers are boring!” Irrelevant. Children do not become welders, plumbers, or engineers until after they’ve left the family; hence, even if they become these things they still do not contribute economically to the family. They remain net cost centers for the time they are in the home, and only begin to generate income when they are no longer under their parent’s roof.

    The economic disincentive to have children remains intact, irrespective of whatever life-path said children choose.