Ross Is Right on Demography
7:15 AM, Dec 6, 2012 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
(4) It’s a little strange that some parts of the American left are so hostile when Douthat brings up our fertility problems. Over in Europe—the source of all things enlightened and sophisticated—everyone left, right, and center is worried about population and fertility, too. The Nordic countries were the first segment of Europe to see radical fertility decline and they made radical policy adjustments to try to stem it. France has been working hard on pro-natalist policies since 1938, when the country first began worrying about its fertility rate. From Italy to Germany to Hungary, the liberal and conservative parties have been trying to out-bid one another in their attempts to stimulate baby-making. (In the policy, not the literal, sense.)
That’s because Europe is further down the demographic slope than we are and they see the inherent danger of their situation. The real mystery about the reaction to Douthat’s column is why the American left doesn’t also think that their European counterparts are patriarchical, troglodytic monsters, too.
(5) Liberals concerned about the future of Liberalism (by which I mean the capital “L” Western civilization stuff that both Democrats and Republicans love) seem to not understand that like it or not, the future is going to be inherited by someone. And if people with good Liberal values—again, I’m speaking of everyone on the non-autocratic/theocratic side of the equation—don’t make enough babies to populate the world, people with decidedly less Liberal values will.
The New America Foundation’s Phil Longman—who’s a liberal in good standing and one of my heroes—made precisely this point a few years back in a widely admired essay titled “The Return of Patriarchy.” Longman’s point was that if the sorts of people who read the New York Times and Slate choose not to replace themselves, then the world will eventually be run by the sorts of people who do not read the New York Times and Slate. And he wasn’t talking about NASCAR fans.
All of which is why the criticism of Douthat from the left seems to be motivated less by a serious study of the available data and literature than it is by a kind of knee-jerk oppositionism. Which is too bad. If America is going to work its way out of the demographic trap it’s in, we’ll need our liberal, Democratic friends to have some babies, too.
Jonathan V. Last is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard. His book What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster (Encounter) is forthcoming in February.
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