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People tend to look for linear explanations for the problems they see in the world, as they are the easiest to solve. If X is causing Y then you just have to do something about X and Y solves itself. If on the other hand, a combination of things is responsible for the undesired result, then things get more complicated. It is no longer a matter of fixing one thing, but of untangling a set of things, which may have their own set of causes, thus making the problem feel intractable.
An example of a multivariate problem that is the collapsing fertility rates that threaten the existence of the West. For example, Italy has a total fertility rate of just over one, which is below half of replacement. A people cannot sustain themselves very long if they are not having children. In fact, it only takes a generation of not having babies to overturn the population. In time, Italians will have only a vague idea of what it means to have a brother or a sister.
The first-place people look to understand the collapse in fertility is the soft, intangible things like culture and morality. In the middle of the last century birth rates started to fall and Western societies embraced materialism. In truth, birth rates started falling in the 19th century as the West industrialized. Having lots of children no longer made economic sense like it did on the farm. Among the wealthy, lots of kids stopped being a status symbol, so they lowered their reproduction.
Even so, family formation was still the norm. It was just that people had three or four children rather than seven and eight. There was no push to remain childless or avoid even basic family formation. It is fair to say that the trend away from marriage and family formation got going after the Second World War. There was the post-war baby boom in America and later booms in Europe, but by the time the West had become fully post-modern and materialistic, fertility was collapsing.
That is where most people look for an answer. Starting in the middle of the last century, the role of women started to change. First, they were encouraged to work outside the home, in addition to being a wife and mother. Then they were encouraged to work in lieu of becoming a wife and mother. The final leg on the transformation of the female role in society was the career woman. The point of her life was to compete with men and go home to a home full of everything but children.
The changing role of women is one big contributor to the baby crisis. If you want to destroy a people, put their women to work. If the ovens are being used for things other than making bread, the bakers can be put to other uses as well. The revolution in the female role has also revolutionized the male role. The pattern of normal family formation has been disrupted by putting men and women into the workforce for the sole purpose of serving the economic needs of society.
This is the most popular answer to the problem because it points to a spiritual sickness that confirms our bias. The hedonistic lifestyle of the present age comes with a punishment as it is morally wrong to have a materialistic society. Western people worship the golden calf, and the price is childlessness. The trouble with this answer is it does not explain why societies made this shift. It does not explain why people have so easily overcome the biological imperative.
That leads to the environmental answer. One version of this is the proliferation of birth control and abortion. Women trained to be men were handed unlimited supplies of contraceptives so they could have as much sex as they like, in fact they have been encouraged to have lots of indiscriminate sex, while not getting pregnant. Easy access to birth control along with strong social pressure on women to avoid having children has short-circuited the normal biological process.
This is where things get tricky again. Males should still want to find wives and have children, so what happened there? Clearly, the collapse in family formation and fertility is more than just a female problem. While women have been trained to be boys while gobbling down birth control to keep from getting pregnant, men have lost interest in doing what men have always done, which is find a mate. Simple observation says that men have become vastly less masculine over the generations.
In other words, both buyers and sellers in the sexual marketplace have changed in ways that discourage fertility. The females seek to be anything but wives and mothers, while males look for females that have no interest in motherhood. Of course, females reward this disinterest with casual, noncommittal sex. Even if a male wants children he enters a sexual marketplace as baren as the wombs of the women. The same is true of females who want to live the traditional female role.
Unlike the female problem, this is not easily explained by pointing to social conditioning or the introduction of birth control. One answer is that as society has made women less interested in being women, this has reduced the supply of females that males imagine as a potential mate. Men look for certain qualities in females that indicate they will be sexually loyal and committed mothers. Raise up a generation of wine guzzling whores and males will simply stop looking mates in that group.
There may be an environmental issue here that works on both sides of the sexual revolution in similar ways. An underappreciated truth of modern materialistic societies is they are awash in chemicals. Industrial society poured smoke into the air and trash into the water. You could see it. Post-industrial society fills the environment with tiny little bits of feel-good intended to make life easier. It is in the food, the water, personal products, and our physical goods. We are awash in alien chemicals.
Take for example, those birth control pills. Monkeying around with the most fundamental of life’s processes has been done without much thought. There have been no serious longitudinal studies on the impact of these drugs. Yet it is possible that they cast a shadow long past their initial purpose. This study suggests that oral contraceptives damages the fear circuitry of women. The female assessment of risk is an essential part of the female role in traditional societies.
Of course, lots of females with unbalanced emotional responses to the normal social stimuli is not going to go unnoticed. The same people making contraceptives are going to be right there to make drugs to treat the downstream consequences, which is why young females are gobbling down antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. We have also seen a spike in female binge drinking. A society full of paranoid and neurotic females is not going to promote family formation.
This may also be working the male side of things. Boys are routinely pumped full of drugs to keep them mellow in school. The ADHD crisis started just as fertility rates began to decline in the West. Pumping boys full of powerful chemicals is a lot like handing out birth control to females. All of the long-term studies on these drugs have been funded by the makers of the drugs, so we have no way of knowing if there is a long-term impact, but it is factor to consider.
Then you have the massive chemical bath that is daily life. Modern people eat food full of things they cannot pronounce. They douse themselves with personal products that are also loaded with alien chemicals. Individually and in the short term, these chemicals are all deemed to be safe, but what about mixing them into a long-term cocktail that is life in the modern age? No one knows and no one cares to know. It could very well be one more bit of pressure against our biological circuitry.
That is what makes changing the direction of Western fertility a challenge. The old Greek expression about a happy society being one where old men plant trees in whose shade they will never rest applies here. Children are the trees men plant in their youth, because they expect to be that old man, planting trees for generations they will never see, but they know will exist. The West does not plant trees or have children because Western people have no purpose.
In the end, there are certainly other factors that may be contributing to the collapse of fertility rates in the West. The environmental and economic factors are rarely discussed, because the cultural and social factors preclude any serious discussion of the fertility problem in the West. That means the first mover is the prevailing bias against families, family formation and the production of children. What drives it all is a dominant, top-down bias against reproduction, especially among Western people.
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