Rich and Dead

This Peter Frost column on the Parsis is getting some attention on the fringe. Fertility rates are a bit of a hobby-horse issue on the fringe, but for good reason. In every branch of natural science, reproduction rates are a key measure of health. A species with a declining fertility rate is assumed to be under stress or its environment is under stress. In fact, it is usually the key metric waved around by the greens when demanding some new rule on humans.

The exception is humanity. No one ever applies the same metric to the human species. The great irony of the environmental movement is that they insist humans are not part of the environment. For them, we are everywhere an invasive species.

Mangan has a take on it:

It seems more and more clear that the demands of the market economy come at a price. The enthusiasts for capitalism like to point out how much wealthier it has made us. Before capitalism, or before the Industrial Revolution, incomes were barely above subsistence level, whereas now everyone can afford iPads. But they elide over, or don’t even recognize, the trade-offs that are made to become wealthier. Until relatively recently, even under capitalism and as recently as the 50s and 60s in this country, families still had more than enough children to further their patrimony. But as we become ever wealthier, and opportunities for doing do become more widespread, capitalism steadily erodes what’s left of the old ways, including family ways, of doing things. That would be my interpretation anyway.

It is a testament to the power of the Progressive faith that this assertion is still with us. The Left insists that prosperity eliminates the need for lots of kids. The logical end point is a replacement rate or even a click lower for extended periods. Children become a luxury item once they no longer contribute to the prosperity of the family.

That reduces all human relations to their material content.

It’s also mostly nonsense.

Children have always been a cost in Eurasia. Even in sub-Saharan Africa where low parental investment is the norm, children are a net drain on their families in most cases. Humans, like all living things, have an impulse to reproduce. Without it, we would not be here. The one thing every extinct species has in common is the failure to reproduce. Even those wiped out by predators simply failed to reproduce before it was too late. It’s why it is hard to eradicate rabbits.

Plummeting fertility rates remain a puzzle to the people who care about the topic. Fertility does track closely with religiosity in the West. When church attendance declines, marriage rates decline and then fertility rates decline. This is true within the US as well as across Europe. Poland is one of the better examples because of the accident of history. They were a Catholic society trapped in time during the Soviet era.

Then they were exposed to Western culture in a massive wave following the fall of the Iron Curtain. Church attendance rates collapsed and fertility rates collapsed. A similar phenomenon happened in Quebec, but without the communism. There is was most likely the language barrier that insulated the culture for so longer. Regardless, when church attendance collapsed, fertility followed.

Now, that does not mean one causes the other. But, the correlation is unmistakable.

There’s a line in the movie The Matrix where Agent Smith explains how the first Matrix was a disaster because it was perfect. Humans could not accept it. The machines figured out that their human batteries needed an imperfect world. The implication being that we evolved for a specific environment. While all species adapt over time, there are limits and the time line must be imperceptible. Put humans in a radically different environment and they quickly die off, just like any other critter.

That very well may be what we are experiencing in the West and what the Arabs are desperately fighting. Modern Western culture is almost entirely transactional. There’s no continuity with the past and therefore no understanding of the future. Ours is a material, sterile world, one for which we are poorly designed. Why would humans bring children into a world with an unknowable future? What’s the point?

There’s an old Greek proverb. In good times, old men plant olive trees whose fruit they will never taste.

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