The Coming Demographic Winter

Tourism, as anyone with a passport can tell you, has become a very big business, particularly in places that no longer thrive in the customary practices of industry and commerce.  Take Genoa, for instance, one of Europe’s largest cities along the Mediterranean coast and still the grandest seaport in all Italy, whose bright and shiny brochures advertise an array of attractions from castles to cuisine, beaches to basilicas.  There is even a museum or two containing works by such great Flemish masters as Rubens and van Dijk.  Then, having slaked one’s appetite for art, one can always wander through the alleyways of the ancient city in search of the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, who long ago left Genoa to go in search of a New World.

I did a quick Google search and, instantly, no fewer than 278 fun things to do in Genoa popped up.  And while I do not propose to walk the reader through the list in order to verify its accuracy, I will tell you that there is at least one fun thing that hasn’t been done for a very long time in Genoa.   And that is to hear the laughter of little children, whose disappearance from the streets and courtyards of this once flourishing city is the real untold story behind all the tourism hype.

So where have they all gone?   That shouldn’t be too hard to puzzle out.  The fact is, as a direct result of too many couples deciding not to have children—or at most only one—they have never been conceived.   The Genovese, by the way, appear to be not the least bit sheepish about the matter, their refusal to welcome new life the obvious outcome of a mindset that emphasizes pleasure at the expense of progeny.  “In Italy,” as one observer wryly put it, “they don’t have children.  They have dogs and cats.”

The government, meanwhile, has worked itself up into a great lather over falling birthrates, even going so far as to propose that couples amendable to having kids be financially compensated for their efforts to enlarge the population pool.  So far, however, the campaign to stoke the furnace of fertility has proven to be something of a bust.  “They say, ‘Make babies; it’s our future,’ but how can you really?” asked Marco Ranucci, who owns and operates a small café, where he puts in ten hours a day, complaining that the current “baby bonus” per child is less than the cost of a year’s supply of baby formula.

Do the women of Genoa not have breasts?  Or are they too busy baring them on the beaches to remember exactly what they are for?  How on earth did our ancestors ever survive without government subsidies for baby formula?

Of course we Americans are hardly in a position to boast since our own fertility rates are far from bullish.  Indeed, the birthrate over here has plummeted to the lowest levels in U.S. history, rivaling even the most dismal days of the Great Depression.  From 2007 to 2011, which is the period where the latest hard data exists, the fertility rate fell by 9 percent.  Another way of putting it is to compare the rates of maternity-free American women from the 1970s, which was 1 in 10, with those of today, which are twice that number, which is to say, 1 in 5.   And while the change is perhaps not yet as catastrophic as in Italy, where nearly one-fourth of childbearing women will never give birth, it is nevertheless a pretty dramatic and disturbing trend.  Across the Western world, in other words, a looming demographic winter is taking shape.

Not that there aren’t babies being born in the West, only that more and more they tend to be the offspring of immigrant women, whose openness to new life stands in striking contrast to the ennui that characterizes the resolutely childless.  And who are these immigrant women whose children more and more provide the numbers that keep the life force going?  Would it surprise you to know that many of them are Muslim?  And that the fertility missiles leaving the launching pad are fueled largely by faith?  The English philosopher Roger Scruton, in a moving piece from his book Gentle Regrets, puts it in chilling terms:  “The Muslims in our midst,” he writes,  “do not share our impious attitude to absent generations.  They come to us from the demographic infernos of North Africa and Pakistan, like Aeneas from the burning ruins of Troy, each with an old man on his shoulders, a child at his feet, and his hands full of strange gods.  They are manifestly in the business of social, as well as biological, reproduction.  They show us what we really stand to lose, if we hold nothing sacred: namely, the future.”

And to whom, finally, does the future belong?  It belongs to those who show up, which is to say, to the fertile.  Provided, that is, they remain tethered to life, to fruitfulness.  What happens to a society prescinded from that procreative urge, a society in which the full meaning of eros has been either thwarted or trivialized, is a kind of suicide.  That men and women will no longer do what the animals do without having to think about doing it?  What else can that be but an invitation to extinction.  A state of entropy entirely self-inflicted, too.  In an op-ed piece that appeared December 2012 in the New York Times, columnist Ross Douthat makes the point that society’s “retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion,” a condition of “decadence,” he calls it, evoking “ a spirit that privileges the present over the future.”

Call it what you like, it certainly portends doom for the civilization in which, for those of us lucky enough to be born and bred in it, would rather prefer not to see destroyed.  It took Gibbon six volumes to set down the rise and fall of the Roman Empire.  A civilization incapable of even reproducing itself hardly needs that many, and probably doesn’t deserve any.

Regis Martin

By

Regis Martin is Professor of Theology and Faculty Associate with the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He earned a licentiate and a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Martin is the author of a number of books, including Still Point: Loss, Longing, and Our Search for God (2012) and The Beggar's Banquet (Emmaus Road). His most recent book, also published by Emmaus Road, is called Witness to Wonder: The World of Catholic Sacrament. He resides in Steubenville, Ohio, with his wife and ten children.

  • ForChristAlone

    #1 Italy need not fear since, as their native population falls to less than replacement numbers, the gap will be filled there (as elsewhere throughout Europe) by Muslim immigrants who are not afraid of reproducing. If you don’t think that’s true, visit Paris while it’s still there and you will see Muslim women with multiple kids in tow.

    #2 Can anyone cite anything that the Catholic church is doing – from Rome to individual dioceses to the local parish church – that gives support and recognition to any Catholic families that have more than four children? The USCCB purports to support “the family” but what exactly is their campaign to support those couple who have 6, 7 or 8 kids? Oh, and by the way, it is from those large families that our priests and future bishops are likely to come.

    • A prophet in other lands

      It is fallacious to think Rome can do something against the monolithic social welfare state growing in spending as in debt which demands ever more taxes be paid. When money is extracted, couples who might rear children count their pennies and make decisions. Europe has VAT alone approaching 20-25% on purchases, as well as income taxes of all sorts — all to feed the entitlement of those who have little, many of them immigrants willing to subsist on little. The working stiff and his family make do that others, not their own family, might reproduce. I have worked in Italy, and I testify that many with whom I worked think they are bled by the social state which cares little for them. Their decision? Have less and perhaps no children. If the church were clear minded, it would see that the creeping secular social welfare state is replacing them, step by step. Less of one set of faithful, and more entitlement children for the state to succor. The equation is simple, alarming and politically incorrect. And true.

    • CharlesOConnell

      Writing a century and a half before the birth of Christ, the Greek historian Polybius observed “nowadays all over Greece such a diminution in natality and in general manner such depopulation that the towns are deserted and the fields lie fallow. Although this country has not been ravaged by wars or epidemics, the cause of the harm is evident: by avarice or cowardice the people, if they marry, will not bring up the children they ought to have. At most they bring up one or two. It is in this way that the scourge before it is noticed is rapidly developed.”

      He concluded by urging his fellow Greeks to return to their historic love of family and children. “The remedy is in ourselves,” he wrote. “We have but to change our morals.” His advice, unfortunately, went largely unheeded.

      The demographic winter of the Greek city-states led to economic stagnation and military weakness, which in turn invited invasion and conquest. After a century of increasing dominance in the Eastern Mediterranean, Rome finally annexed the Greek city-states in 146 B.C.

      http://www.sacra-pizza-man.org/150-bc-greek-historian-polybius-depopulation-caused-by-selfish-childless-marriages/

      • Duane Alexander Miller

        And who will annex Italy?

        • fredx2

          Muslims, of course.

          • Duane Alexander Miller

            Yes, Fred, but Muslims are not a nation state, they represent a religion/politic. They come from many different places and cultures and languages. Is it not more likely that the ‘nation states’ will simply become de facto city states and rather lawless?

            • JoFro

              So Italy will go back to what it has been since the Fall of Rome – a bunch of warring city-states! Only thing is this time it will be like Islamic Spain and there will not be a Reconquista because the Church is too much of a coward to praise its Crusaders!

            • Paul Adams

              not a nation state, but an ummah.

              • smokes

                At least Muslims, like Catholics, believe in the natural law. Members of the Democratic Party and the EU Parliament despise the natural law!

                • Adam__Baum

                  “At least Muslims, like Catholics, believe in the natural law. ”

                  No.

                • Duane Alexander Miller

                  That is incorrect, Smoke. Muslims do not believe in ‘natural law’ at all, they believe in divine command theory.

              • Duane Alexander Miller

                Yes, but the Ummah is theoretical construct. Muslims have never had that visible panethnic unity, even since the very beginning when at the death of Muhammad many of the bedu tribes left Islam causing Abu Bakr to war against them and subjugate them. And let us recall that three of the four ‘rightly-guided’ caliphs were assassinated. Golden age indeed.

    • Isaac S.

      I think you make a very good point with #2. Our grandparents sent their large families to Catholic schools that were orthodox and largely free (or very cheap) due to being staffed almost entirely by religious brothers and sisters. Nowadays Catholic schools are often no better than public schools (either academically or morally) and run at least $3K/year/child and often much more. Sometimes there are discounts for multiple children but they usually don’t start until the third or fourth child; the total yearly outlay for four or more children will almost invariably be $10K/year or more. Those making under the poverty line can expect some financial aid but the majority of middle-class Catholic families are expected to pay the full cost themselves (while still tithing 10% of their income to the Church, thank you very much). The only other options a faithful Catholic has are braving the local public school (which may have immoral material in its curriculum) or homeschooling (which is a monumental undertaking that not every parent has the time, skillset, or temperament for). While the majority of “non-fertility” comes from those choosing to contracept, those of us who are attempting to follow the Church’s teachings on fertility and finance aren’t finding a whole lot of help from the Church in doing so.

      • smokes

        Catholic couples should have 5 – 10 – or more children. The state will take care of them with lots of goodies it now gives to “single moms” and polygamous Muslims. No one will starve and Life, itself, will return to the former “:West”.

        All you need is Faith.

        • lifeknight

          And according to you: “weed.”

          • smokes

            Never used “weed” but abhor the whole failure of our drug war.
            MADD keeps a glass of beer with the professor away from college students until they’re 21. That’s dumb.

            America has open borders where Mexicans carry 100 lb. bags of “weed” across and we let them

            American troops guard the poppy in Afghanistan to keep the price low and the quality high in Detroit. The Brits doid the same to China for a couple centuries, you know.

            If we had ANY will to control street drugs, I’d be in favor of it…but we’ve never had. Shoot dealers and/or POISON the smack, after using the MSM to tell addicts you’ve done so to 10% of the junk, randomly.. Moral scrupulists like you object to this only satisfactory form of societal self defense, though. Aquinas would support this final “fix”, if he looked at our failed War on Drugs and our failed society.

            • http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh284/213-221.htm

              On alcohol at least, there is some scientific basis for restricting it to after the brain has developed, which is anywhere from 18-28 years old in a human being.

              • ForChristAlone

                And if you’re a liberal, much much later – like in one’s 60’s when you realize you’ve been hoodwinked by the government. Then you become really smart.

            • hombre111

              I assume you also beat your children.

        • Isaac S.

          I don’t believe that having children you can’t afford and dumping the cost onto the taxpayers is a moral act. We’ve all gotten so conditioned to “free” government benefits that no one gives such things much thought anymore, but someone earned the money that you got for “free.” Giving charity (and receiving it if you need it) is one thing; stealing from the rich to give to the poor is quite another.

          • smokes

            Aha! but the state has already taxed the family to death to prevent them from prospering or multiplying. The Welfare State can only be brought to its knees if more folks use it. Without children, there is no future for America.

          • Duane Alexander Miller

            Isaac, it is not ‘dumping’. If the hcildren are raised ot be virtuous citizens who will work and pay taxes, then it is a good investment by the state and a just and wise use of tax moneys. What is not just and wise is using tax moneys to subsidize the production of bad citizens.

            • DG

              Children need to know that they are supported by their parents, rather than be wards of the government.

          • Adam__Baum

            And the designers of the dependency state already thought about this. That’s why they induce single women (girls) to become pregnant and have encouraged divorce. The welfare state needs to breed dependency and loyalty to the state. No Dad’s allowed.

          • Michael Paterson-Seymour

            In his encyclical, Cati Connubii, Pope Pius XI said “ If, however, for this purpose, private resources do not suffice, it is the duty of the public authority to supply for the insufficient forces of individual effort, particularly in a matter which is of such importance to the common weal, touching as it does the maintenance of the family and married people. If families, particularly those in which there are many children, have not suitable dwellings; if the husband cannot find employment and means of livelihood; if the necessities of life cannot be purchased except at exorbitant prices; if even the mother of the family to the great harm of the home, is compelled to go forth and seek a living by her own labor; if she, too, in the ordinary or even extraordinary labors of childbirth, is deprived of proper food, medicine, and the assistance of a skilled physician, it is patent to all to what an extent married people may lose heart, and how home life and the observance of God’s commands are rendered difficult for them; indeed it is obvious how great a peril can arise to the public security and to the welfare and very life of civil society itself when such men are reduced to that condition of desperation that, having nothing which they fear to lose, they are emboldened to hope for chance advantage from the upheaval of the state and of established order.

            121. Wherefore, those who have the care of the State and of the public good cannot neglect the needs of married people and their families, without bringing great harm upon the State and on the common welfare. Hence, in making the laws and in disposing of public funds they must do their utmost to relieve the needs of the poor, considering such a task as one of the most important of their administrative duties.

            • Isaac S.

              Pope Pius is exhorting governments to provide for large families if they are not able to provide for themselves; surely this is just and no one quibbles with it. Also, Pope Pius was writing over 80 years ago; NFP methods were not as precise then so any moral means of family planning would not have been available to most Catholics. This would have led to a lot of large families that their parents could not necessarily support; of course it would be the correct, moral thing for governments to step in and help. That is a separate question than whether it is moral for a family to choose to have an additional child if they know they cannot support it. Once the baby is conceived, then there is no choice but to support it whether with private money or public. To the best of my knowledge the Church has always taught that extended continence is a moral way for married couples to space children, and NFP is merely extended continence with the addition of a calculated risk during certain times of the month of engaging in the marital act to manage concupiscence. If one has moral means to delay having children, then I do not believe it is a good moral choice to have a child anyway and expect someone else to pay for it.

      • David WS

        There are at a minimum four scandals in relation to Catholic
        high schools these days.

        1. They have become private prep schools for the upper middle class, not catholic in the universal sense and Catholicity is not the focus –it’s getting into not just any college, but a top expensive college. Where I live the cost of attendance ranges between 11k and 16k.

        2. About half of those in attendance are not Catholic, and the rest are mostly cafeteria Catholics. All the families I know of who practice NFP either goes to public school or home school.

        3. There is a STRONG Contraceptive Mindset in Catholic HS. It’s true there’s usually no sex education like public schools, but you will not find families with more than 1 or 2 children in Catholic HS. You will find an aversion to children, they’re just too expensive (60K for HS, and 200K for college), and life is just not worth living if you have a boy who chooses to be a carpenter or a girl choosing to be a stay at home mom. In public schools you will still find families with 4 or 5 children, and openness to life.

        The Bishops need to realize this and take steps to insure that all Catholic children of a HS age get an education in the Faith beyond 9th grade confirmation, and create a Catholic culture needed for a new evangelization. Then there will be an embracement of the Church’s Teachings and children.

        It seems that now the Bishops focus on the Catholic HS, but the contraceptive mentality there is really the problem -not the solution, and holding the local Catholic HS up on a pedestal gives the faithful the impression that to contracept and have 1-2 children is best. Does it not? (Scandal #4)

        • Isaac S.

          I would say your critique is dead-on. Of the 12+ Catholic high schools in our Archdiocese, no more than three are solidly orthodox in their teachings. In elementary schools the situation is a tad better due to the sheer number of schools but things still aren’t promising. I agree that due to the cost it isn’t practical for all but solidly upper-middle-class families to send more than one or two children to Catholic schools. I am fortunate enough to have an engineering degree and a good career in IT so I may just be able to pull it off, but even so my wife and I are wondering about the wisdom of having additional children (we already have four) due to the projected cost of orthodox Catholic schooling. So far our tentative plan is to send our kids to a local, independent Catholic Montessori school for pre-K through 8th grade and public school for high school. Unless I end up being a Director/VP in IT by then I don’t see how Catholic high school for 4+ kids at 10K per child is going to be remotely reasonable.

          • David WS

            Thanks
            Isaac. I wish it were not so (that I’m dead on.) My wife and I have four
            children also. There’s more to this than cost. I really don’t want my children
            to grow up thinking that upper middle class, contraceptives and 1-2 children
            are all things catholic. And I believe it could be spiritually harmful to send
            them to what the prep-schools have become. I’ve seen the alumni magazines for the
            schools. I don’t like what I see. By their fruits you’ll know them. I also think
            that, because they are four, we are six and our family life; our children are
            insulated from much of the bad culture in public schools. There is also a need
            for everyone, even children, to act as Leaven in this society –and they have!

    • GaudeteMan

      Maybe the doodoo has to be at eyeball level for so-called Catholics to wake up, course, it’ll be too little too late by then.

    • fredx2

      The church does the most important thing it can – it opposes abortion and contraception. The problem is that they do so in language that is either very round about or too deeply philosophical to strike the ear of modern man. It sounds like a very weak case when they make it. Or it sounds too complicated. “The Unitive aspect of marriage” the “failure to give completely to each other”. It may be completely true, but it sounds like they are speaking a foreign language.

      It’s almost inconceivable to most people today. And yet, there are very strong benefits. They have to make the case in concrete benefits for the average person.
      And, they try to make the case in terms of personal behavior rather than “If you don’t stop this, the whole society will fail” But that is exactly what will happen.

      • lifeknight

        Now now—the Pope says we are focused way too much on these issues.
        🙂

        • smokes

          I think he’s trying to get us back to the basics of Faith, Hope and Charity(Love). We’ve lost much of that in the Church’s day to day activities.

          • DG

            Faith, hope and love must bear fruit, or they aren’t really faith, hope and love. Remember the parable of the seed that is sown on fruitful ground, as opposed to the seed sown on barren ground.
            Marriage is a sacrament whereby the virtues are manifested in part by the generous choice to have many children.

      • Lee

        Fredx2, you write:”The church does the most important thing it can – it opposes abortion and contraception.”

        In fact, the Church has done virtually nothing to oppose either contraception or abortion. When the Church, meaning clergy and laity together, take on the causes of contraception and abortion, chief among which is the hyper-sexualization of the entire society, then we will have made a beginning. To illustrate my point, when was the last time you heard a sermon about or read a pastoral letter about the effect of television on the Catholic family, or about pre-marital sex, or about modesty? In fact, we are implicitly FOR both contraception and abortion, and in a very big way, say what we will.

      • David WS

        The church may speak at high levels on contraceptive mentality, but lower level parish sermons are generally not found. All we hear is really lip service. Add to that a rewarding of those who contracept and send their to children to what are now expensive prep schools with a catholic veneer.

    • Liz

      It would be setting up a wrong to make a right to set an “ideal” or “goal” for family size. God’s ideals of sexuality are the goal: acceptance of the natural and healthy state of the spouse within marriage, openness to life, and self-control. Marriage is, by its nature, private and sacred. Awards or recognition of families of a certain size, that would, by default, imply something was wrong with those whose families are small. Families struggling with health issues or infertility don’t need any negative comparisons. Public recognition for living out a relationship between spouses and God actually belittles, and probably embarrasses, the sacrifice of couples who, like my Mom, Dad, and many others, generously accept and raise large families. There are many communities, too, where this would risk professional or public ridicule and cost for the family at work, such as the Scottish minister recently fired for expressing, on Facebook, the traditional Christian view of marriage.

  • Mary Kirst

    We lived in Rome in the early 70’s. The boom had just busted but there were plenty of babies.
    The streets were full of Children who were adored. Canevale they proudly paraded them up and down the streets. I went back again in the 90′ s and what a change the streets were bereft of children , especially in the exclusive areas Parioli and Vigna Clara. Think of all the artists and innovators who are not being born. Che tragedia.

    • smokes

      At least everyone has a cell, and a flat screen TV. Choices.

  • Don

    The demographics and consequent economics for the US isn’t much better. Our national population continues to grow but fueled almost entirely on immigration – about 1.2 million new residents every year since the early 70’s (including about 300,000 illegals per year). From a national economic perspective, this is not a healthy way to grow at this point in our history because almost all of these new residents are unskilled. With the debt per American at about $58,000 and growing rapidly, only a small percentage of these immigrants will contribute to debt reduction through income tax. In the end, our fate may be just as dismal as that of Italy’s – just for different reasons.

    • Duane Alexander Miller

      Yet the press is always talking about how these new immigrants contribute so much to society. Why is that? I don’t get it.

      • Adam__Baum

        Because they are stenographers for the left that wants the votes, and the corporatists that want the cheap labor.

    • Adam__Baum

      Oh they’ll be taking the California bar exam.

  • GaudeteMan

    My wife and daughter just returned from Italy. My daughter was called the ‘bambina’ by the Italians – SHE IS NINE YEARS OLD! At times she felt like she was on exhibit at the zoo. When my wife explained she had 4 more younger children at home there would have been more shock had Vesuvius erupted anew. What are the chances the Bishop of Rome might revisit Humane Vitae during his pontificate?

    • I think if I was to travel to Italy to meet the Pope, my question for him would be “But Holy Father, where are the children?”

    • Isaac S.

      I’m not sure what Humanae Vitae has to do with the lack of children in Italy. Most Italian couples don’t have children due to their use of contraception; Humanae Vitae forbids contraception. Am I missing something here?

      • Johann Popper

        Yes, but only the entire point. Let me help: If people listened to Humanae Vitae (I hate Latin), they would not use contraception. If people never used contraception, they would probably have more children. Ergo, etc, etc. & the Italian race might yet continue in Italy.

      • hombre111

        The pope can’t make Humanae Vitae stick in his own back yard.

    • hombre111

      Pope John Paul and Pope Benedict hammered Humanae Vitae for umpteen years, and only appointed bishops who favored the encyclical. Don’t expect Francis to accomplish what they could not.

      • Adam__Baum

        That’s an interesting last sentence.

      • Art Deco

        You know, if you do not care to teach what the Church teaches, you can always defect to chess or slave-trading. Wouldn’t be any ethical notches lower than what you are doing.

        • Adam__Baum

          If he had the courage of his convictions, he would become laicized, and obtain a secular job. Of course other employers aren’t as forgiving of public insubordination.

      • GaudeteMan

        ‘only appointed bishops who favored the encyclical’ Not a chance. JPII was duped by hombre111-like minded moles.

    • Adam__Baum

      Just be glad they weren’t calling your wife “bambina”.

    • Ib

      Not a chance. As he himself has said “It is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time. The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are not all equivalent. The church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”

      Translation into direct English: fugetaboutit …

  • Nestorian

    As a tenured full professor at Steubenville, which is also in an area of the country with an exceptionally low cost of living, Regis Martin is in an unusually privileged position when it comes to being able to raise and support a large family.
    In line with Christ’s injunctions against judging others (see, for example, Mt 7), he therefore ought to refrain from rendering moral judgments about the motivations of those who choose to have few or no children. It is very likely that many of them couldn’t enjoy nearly the job security and material affluence that he has for many years if they had a family of similar size, or even perhaps one child.
    Who exactly does he think he is to claim to be able to read their souls and determine that they are one-and-all emphasizing “pleasure at the expense of progeny”?

    • Guest

      Are you not judging him right here?

      • Nestorian

        If Regis Martin wishes to advocate a view other than the one I read him as propounding, namely, that anyone who chooses to have few or no children is ipso facto behaving immorally and selfishly, then I invite him to clarify and nuance his position.
        As long as he does not, I again ask, based on what I understand him to be saying: How can he possibly be in a position to know this is true? Only God can thus read the souls of human beings.

        • Those who choose to go childless, are not just cheating themselves. They’re cheating everybody else as well.

        • Duane Alexander Miller

          Anyone who chooses to have sex and remain childless is sinning. That is his position and seems pretty solid to me.

          • Nestorian

            Not to me. How can you possibly be in a position to make this judgment about every single conceivable situation in which people make this choice? It is a presumptuous thing to do.

        • fredx2

          If Western Society dies out because people contracepted too much, would you say those people behaved immorally and selfishly? Did they have any duties to society, or are their duties only to themselves and maximizing their personal comfort?

          • Adam__Baum

            Every drop says it is not part of the flood.

    • Sounds like he hit a bit too close to home … ?

      • Nestorian

        Regis Martin’s sentiments hit close to home in that I am familiar with instances where professors at Steubenville, and/or their family members, have postured as morally superior to other families on the grounds of their having more children.

    • JERD

      It would be of interest to determine the fertility rates of the affluent and compare them with less affluent demographics.

      I live in a neighborhood in transition. My home of twenty years is now surrounded by new, large imposing homes that have replaced the modest workingmen’s homes that have been bulldozed to make room for the newly affluent. In many cases these new homes house a young man and woman, and one or two dogs. No kids. Are these couples, who obviously have the means to support the children they might beget, choosing “pleasure at the expense of progeny?” Likely so.

      • Nestorian

        Sure, SOME couples might be refraining from having many children on account of selfishness. However, the fact is that you cannot really know even this to be true of any of the couples to whom your comment refers, based on the information you provided. Additionallly, the tenor of Regis Martin’s post, however, carries the implication that this is true of ALL such couples.

        • JERD

          We agree that as to some couples a choice is made for “pleasure at the expense of progeny.” Considering the undisputed fact that the fertility rate in Western countries like Italy are below replacement levels, we must logically conclude that the couples who choose “pleasure at the expense of progeny” are contributing to the fertility decline, though the degree to which they contribute is unknown to me. Hence, a comparison of the fertility rates between the economically well off and those who are less so would resolve the issue.

          That could be a subject of Mr. Martin’s next post. Mr. Martin???

          • Nestorian

            I granted only the general point that it is almost certainly true that some couples choose not to have children on selfish grounds. I would not be willing to grant, however, that a single fact presented by Regis Martin warrants the conclusion concerning any particular Italian couple that they are motivated by selfishness.
            Maybe most of them are rather motivated by a personal state of economic insecurity, such as Regis Martin, for example, is privileged not to have to experience in his life. Did that possibility ever even cross his mind? Did it ever even cross your mind??
            I also do not agree that population reduction is necessarily a bad thing. I happen to think it’s a good thing for global population to be going down. We are presently living through the era of history where the population explosion of the past century is outstripping the resource base of the planet, and a gradual reduction in population, especially in affluent Western countries with resource-intensive lifestyles, would reduce the pressure on the earth’s carrying capacity, which is currently immense and slowly pushing more and more people into grinding poverty.

            • JERD

              OOPS! You let the cat out of the bag. It’s not Martin’s alleged judgmental-ism that you abhor so much. No, you detest his view that today’s population controllers are wrong.

              Our Western population is aging and dying out; demography doesn’t lie. A decrease in fertility rates will eventually leave we, the living, poor, elderly and alone.

            • fredx2

              No, I think you are just wrong. A Brookings Institution report:

              “We are living through a period of rapid global poverty reduction. According to recent estimates, high, sustained growth across most of the developing world has helped nearly half a billion people escape $1.25-a-day poverty between 2005 and 2010. Never before have so many people been lifted out of poverty over such a brief period.”

              http://www.brookings.edu/research/opinions/2011/05/17-global-poverty-trends-chandy

              “Over the past decade, the number of countries classified as low-income has fallen by two fifths, from 66 to 40, while the number of middle-income countries has ballooned to over 100. This means 26 poor countries have grown sufficiently rich to surpass the middle-income threshold.”

            • Adam__Baum

              “I happen to think it’s a good thing for global population to be going down.”

              I note that such sentiments are never accompanied by the courage of conviction, Prince Charles once offered such a statement, but only after he had an heir and a spare.

              .

              • Nestorian

                I know people for whom it is a matter of conviction. Richard Heinberg and Guy MacPherson, both of whom have been broadly associated with the Peak Oil movement for a long time, chose not to have children due to their convictions about overpopulation and resource limits. I find theirs to be a morally and intellectually respectable choice, and to be an expression of the courage of their convictions.

                • Adam__Baum

                  If they were really committed to the idea, they’d be buying hemlock.

      • fredx2

        It is bizarre going through some of these new neighborhoods. When I grew up, the neighborhood was a constant beehive of activity, with kids running around, playing in the streets, getting ballgames together, etc. Now walk down the street on a hot day in August and you will sometimes see no one. No one is stirring. Only the sound of air conditioners running.

    • Paul Adams

      Now what about his argument?

      • Nestorian

        His argument, as I read it, is that anyone who chooses to have few or no children is ipso facto behaving immorally and selfishly. Again, I ask, how can he possibly be in a position to know this is true? Only God can thus read the souls of human beings.

        • Paul Adams

          His argument, as I read it, is that Italy is depopulating itself, committing demographic suicide, and turning itself into a theme park. All true, and true regardless of the state of the souls of individuals.

          • Nestorian

            The two arguments do not exclude one another. As I read him, he is making both points.
            As to the point you raised, I happen to think demographic decline is a good thing, not a bad thing, especially in countries with resource-intensive lifestyles such as Italy and the US. The world economy is currently in a slow state of collapse due to the fact that the existing resource base (especially energy, as the phenomenon of Peak Oil demonstrates) can no longer sustain the global population we have.

            • Art Deco

              Thanks for your input, Dr. Ehrlich, but every component of it is a fantasy.

            • Paul Adams

              Take a look at what happened to Sparta, which stopped reproducing and turned itself into a theme park for tourists. Take a look at Jonathan Last’s “What to Expect When No-One’s Expecting.” Everything Ehrlich (neither demographer nor economist) predicted turned out to be false. It is demographic collapse, not energy shortages, that leads to economic and military collapse. No country or civilization thrives for long once it abandons the duty of each generation to sacrifice for the next (aka marriage and family). (Consider too, the state of Ancient Greece two centuries before Christ and of Rome two centuries after.)

              • Nestorian

                Everything Ehrlich predicted is turning out to be true in the era we are living through now. Ehrlich was early in his predictions, it is true, but the Club of Rome was not. The predictions they advanced in 1972 of a resource scarcity-driven decline beginning in the early 21st century are not only accurate in terms of magnitude, but also in terms of timing.

                • Paul Adams

                  Both Ehrlich and Club of Rome were preposterously wrong. Have you looked at US oil production lately – soon to surpass both Saudi Arabia and Russia? Neither predicted the worldwide precipitous fall in fertility or its economic consequences. Quite the contrary, they thought the problem was high fertility at just the point it was starting to collapse.

                • Paul Adams

                  and see this from the NYT on the “peak oil” nonsense of a few years ago: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/25/opinion/25lynch.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

                • Adam__Baum

                  Everything Ehrlich predicted is turning out to be true in the era we are living through now.

                  He had his posterior handed to him on a regular basis by Julian Simon, who by all accounts, was a decent man who had an innate love for humanity, as opposed to the intellectual fraud selling “the sky is falling” books to the Chicken Littles of the World.

                  http://capitalismmagazine.com/1998/04/reason-vs-faith-julian-simon-vs-paul-ehrlich/

                • Art Deco

                  You realize The Limits to Growth is used in resource economics class as an example of comically bad forecasting (due to their method of simple extrapolation of consumption trends – i.e. ‘naive assumptions’).

                  I was actually assigned to read Ehrlich’s popular book in 1979, when the ludicrous nature of its predictions (e.g. cockroaches inheriting the Earth) was already evident. I had occasion to read him 19 years later when he was offering bogus estimates of the quantum of the Earth’s net primary productivity being consumed. He’s a huckster with tenure.

                • DG

                  Resources are not scarce. What’s scarce is a stable currency that could accurately reflect price rises and falls in energy and other commodities.
                  Predicting resource scarcity far in the future is an easy thing to do. Demonstrating a supporting ongoing trend is a much different matter.

            • fredx2

              Again, I think you are just factually wrong. Peak Oil is a myth. Daniel Yergin:

              “This is actually the fifth time in modern history that we’ve seen widespread fear that the world was running out of oil. The first was in the 1880s, when production was concentrated in Pennsylvania and it was said that no oil would be found west of the Mississippi. Then oil was found in Texas and Oklahoma. Similar fears emerged after the two world wars. And in the 1970s, it was said that the world was going to fall off the “oil mountain.” But since 1978, world oil output has increased by 30%.

              Just in the years 2007 to 2009, for every barrel of oil produced in the world, 1.6 barrels of new reserves were added. And other developments—from more efficient cars and advances in batteries, to shale gas and wind power—have provided reasons for greater confidence in our energy resiliency. Yet the fear of peak oil maintains its powerful grip.”

              Plus huge new reserves of natural gas have been found off Brazil and other places.

              http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424053111904060604576572552998674340

              • Nestorian

                If you think Peak Oil is a myth, then how do you explain that oil prices have stabilized in the vicinity of $100 per barrel for five years now, a figure that would have been considered unthinkable (by everyone outside the Peak Oil movement) as few as 10 years ago?
                I might add that the much-vaunted “fracking” stampede has hardly caused these prices to budge (though it has perhaps kept them from being even higher than they are now). Very marginal and temporary increases in oil exctraction rates are irresponsibly touted as heralding imminent “energy independence.” It’s all part of a marketing scam being perpetrated against unwary investors in heavily indebted fracking companies in an unsustainable debt-bubble that is destined to collapse within a few years time.

                • Paul Adams

                  At least some Saudi princes see it differently – see this for the view of one that fracking and declining demand for their oil are a serious threat to economies like the Saudi one that depend very heavily on selling oil. We’ll have to see what happens in a few years’ time. The scale of US production and the price of oil will be better indicators than our current opinions. I only claim that doomsayers like Ehrlich and the Club of Rome have been consistently wrong, both on demographics and economics.

                  And this opening to an article from ABC News on falling oil prices Jan 6, 2014 caught my eye: “The price of oil slipped again Monday following a weeklong plunge.” http://abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory/crude-oil-price-dips-slightly-21435821

                  Of course, one should not read too much into short-term price changes, which respond to many things like the state of the Middle East at the time, but the general trend, powered by a recovering US economy (and gradual withdrawal of oil-price-boosting Federal stimulus) and ample supplies to meet US demand, seems to be down. Let’s see.

                  • Adam__Baum

                    We’re not even sustaining the 4.00/gallon gas favored by the POTUS.

                • Art Deco

                  If you think Peak Oil is a myth, then how do you explain that oil prices
                  have stabilized in the vicinity of $100 per barrel for five years now, a
                  figure that would have been considered unthinkable (by everyone outside
                  the Peak Oil movement) as few as 10 years ago?

                  These prices are not unprecedented in real terms and the terms of trade change over time between various sorts of commodities.

                • DG

                  Inflation is greater than the government reports. Consequently, oil at $100 per barrel now is quite a bit cheaper than oil at that price 5 ears ago. In other words, the real price of oil has been dropping in the last 5 years.

              • Cheap oil is peaking. Or do you think that reaching those new reserves hundreds of miles off the coast of Brazil under miles of water and miles of rock is cheap? To put it in perspective, while it takes 1 barrel of oil in energy to extract 8 barrels in the US; extracting oil from oil sands yields only 3 barrels extracted from each barrel of energy. The cheap wells that gushed after drilling are not found anymore, it requires ever greater input of energy to reach the remaining oil reserves, and this ain’t cheap.

                • Adam__Baum

                  “Cheap” is relative.

                  What Simon understood, but Ehrlich did not is that should a depletable,extractive resource become more expensive, the increasing costs encourage reduction in usage both from income and substitution effects, and it encourages more, and more efficient production.

                  Ehrlich was even stupid enough to bets on metals as though it could not be recovered post-use.

                  • I think that it’s pretty clear that a resource that’s approaching to requiring 1 unit of it to extract 1 unit is not a viable enterprise, no matter the cost.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Long before that happens, the price will go up, discouraging use and encouraging substitution, as well as encouraging less energy intense extraction.

                    • Not quite. Substitution would cost the same, otherwise the alternative would have been adopted sooner.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Things don’t become a substitute until the price of what’s replaceable EXCEEDS, and will EXCEED the price of the replacement in a way that justifies switching costs.

                    • You are just making my point: cheap oil has peaked and the new reserves are not cheap.

                      Regardless, if an alternative becomes viable when oil costs $200 a barrel, even if oil skyrockets afterwards, the alternative will still be priced at $200 per equivalent energy in an oil barrel. $200 is still quite an expensive alternative, compared to the current $100 that the world economy is used to.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      If you think I’m making your point, you’re wrong.

                      The worse thing about this is that is merely recycles “The Coal Question; An Inquiry Concerning the Progress of the Nation, and the Probable Exhaustion of Our Coal Mines” (1865) by William Stanley Jevons.

                      It’s available online. You should read it, if for no other reason the amusing errors of “ceteris paribus”,

            • DG

              There is plenty of energy and other resources.

        • The key word is “Chooses”. I myself have one child only- NOT BY CHOICE. I am utterly convinced that at age 10 we are running into parenting problems we would not run into if my son had a sibling.

          • chester1818

            No, you previously posted that you were wrong; indeed that you had waited too long to get married. And that is the problem for most and the main reason why there are so few children. The apostle wrote,”Let the YOUNG people marry and FORBID them NOT”. Well a lot of marriages that I attend are for middle aged people. Parents, friends, siblings, church members and leaders wrongly advise young people to wait. And then they wait and wait but not for everything. The young commit the sin of fornication and we end up marrying sexperts and the streets are empty and quiet(no children or very few). God intended innocent love, not numerous partners and as one person noted, banal pursuits. The problem is sin and few will say so. The Bible says, “Marriage is honorable in all and the bed undefiled.” I’m waiting for the preachers to just plainly ask the young people to stand up and then tell them to look around. And then quote the Scriptures that I just mentioned and many, many more. To the married man God says, “and with her breasts be thou satisfied at all times.” He was not advising satisfaction with a whore’s breast. God Forbid. Youthful marriage is the answer for Christians not called to celibacy. And its the only honorable choice; the children will come and again the Bible, “blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them”.

        • Kate

          I think the basic problem with low fertility rate IS selfishness. As a society, Ego and comfort are valued above all else. Anything difficult, uncomfortable or unpleasant is avoided. In the past, the Church saw this as the primary stumbling block to personal and societal holiness and structured her preaching, customs and practices to help overcome those tendencies. With the de-emphasis on penance, fasting, almsgiving, and the good of voluntary suffering, the nasty Ego has taken the upper-hand. It doesn’t matter how many Humanae Vitae or CCL pamphlets are passed out or how much govt. pays per child, as long as people are not willing to undergo suffering for a greater good, nothing will change. It is not and has never been easy to have a large family. There is always stress for the majority of families. In the past, couples accepted this without whining because it was part of God’s plan. The Muslims and Amish aren’t wealthier or have some secret for making child raising easier, they procreate because they believe it is God’s will and they honor that above personal comfort. They also see the common good (or in the case of the Muslims, the tribal good) as more important than any personal suffering it may involve. It’s all about choosing the greater good over the lesser good and having the faith and guts to do it. I’m not going to say it’s easy, but it’s almost impossible for a soft, indulgent, bourgeois peoples.

        • fredx2

          His argument as I see it, is that it is stupid for a society to stop having children. It means that future generations will have very low growth economically. This has catastrophic effects on peoples lives. I don’t think he is saying that low breeders are immoral. It’s just a stupid strategy for a whole society to follow.

          • Nestorian

            That is his main argument, but he clearly imputed selfish motives to those with few or no children as well. It is therefore a fair objection to raise. I do not think that doing so is either epistemologically or morally justified.

    • GaudeteMan

      You need to rethink your personal interpretation on what judging others means in the context of Matthew 7. Most everyone agrees that God alone is Judge but as Christians we are required to judge ourselves and others all day long if we want to make it to Heaven and avoid Hell. If my daughter comes home with a young man who has whiskey on his breath I will judge him a danger to her and forbid her to be kept in his company. If my best friend is using contraception because he is worried about his ‘job security’ I will admonish him and advise him to consider his ‘eternal security’ is in jeopardy as long as he engages in this gravely sinful practice. If someone is walking toward an abyss you need to make a judgment about where he/she is going and step out to help them.

      • Nestorian

        But you are assuming that choosing to have no or few children amounts to walking toward a moral abyss. How can you possibly know this? How can you possibly know that there may not be a wealth of perfectly honorable reasons why people make this choice?
        The reason I made the point about Regis Martin’s position of material privilege is because I have found over the course of my life that those who are materially secure tend to have little appreciation of what it is like to be materially insecure, and how material insecurity can therefore be the basis in MANY instances for an entirely honorable choice to have no or few children.

        • Duane Alexander Miller

          A person not called to having children is not called to the sacrament of matrimony. Such a person has a valuable calling then, to religious life as a priest, monk or nun.

          • Nestorian

            Who exactly do you think you are to make these kinds of judgments concerning individual calling?

        • fredx2

          And these “materially insecure” people go on cruises, insist that a trip to Disneyland is an absolute requirement for little Johnny, have a house that is ten sizes bigger than the one my parents raised eight kids in, have a boat worth $30,000 and eat out every night.

          • Nestorian

            Some of them, maybe, but a lot of them are simply too poor to support themselves at the level of material comfort that the author of this blog enjoys, let alone children.

          • Nestorian

            Do you know even one childless couple personally to whom everything you said applies? And even if you do, this does not change the fact that there are many other couples who remain childless or have only one child on the grounds of legitimate prudence, because they lack the necessary resources.

            • DG

              No one has to have in hand the resources to raise children. That’s what work is for– to acquire the resources as you need them.
              Do you think our ancestors had the resources before they had children?

        • I think that you’re committing injustice assuming too much about the finances of someone you don’t know at all. Isn’t this the same perceived attitude that you’re criticizing on Martin?

    • I am living the fruit of that attitude. My first child was born when I was 33. Try as we might, my wife and I have been unable to supply him with a sibling.

      Waiting for job and life stability was a horrid mistake in our case- and we have never used contraception, I was married at 29, she at 28, the damage was already done. We had waited too long.

      • Mary Fran

        I got married when I was almost 30 and my husband a couple years younger. We had 4 kids, the first when I was 31, the last when I was 40.

        • The last when you were 40.

          My wife is 41. God has seen fit to only bless us with one. My son is now 10 years old and an only child.

      • And, of course, it is extremely unlikely that anyone will achieve perennial job security and financial stability in his whole career, much less in merely ten years in the workforce.

        • Yep. Still waiting for that job security 18 years in. But I’ve learned to give up on it.

        • Yeah- after 18 years I’ve yet to find job security or financial stability. Got tired of waiting.

          My recommendation is to have kids while you’re still young, in your teens and 20s. And that we need to reorder our economy for age 10-40 to be the high earning years.

          • Very much so. I’d only add to keep on having children through the 40s. I resent not having had more children and finding myself in the 40s, still energetic, and not doing something as worthy as raising bairns.

            Not to mention the other pathetic lie that’s a corollary of waiting for financial stability and career success to postpone or not having children: to work like a dog for others in order to amass a fortune to be enjoyed when one lacks any energy in old years. I say that it’s very unlikely that a coworker would take care of such person in illness or hold his hand in his deathbed.

    • Tony

      Madam, can you not tell the difference between making a general statement and making a universal one? But I can tell you, as somebody affiliated with the homeschooling movement for 20 years, that the notion that most Americans cannot afford to have more than 2 children is complete nonsense. Homeschoolers prove it to be nonsense all the time. They have many children, and there’s usually only one income for the household, and often it is not a very great income at that. Where your heart lies …

      • Adam__Baum

        I have three female cousins. All are in their late twenties or early thirties, and are college graduates married to college graduates. All were married since 2006. One is the mother of three, the others have no children.They all live in the same metropolitan area.

        I’ve noticed something from their facebook posts. One posts infrequently, and when she does, the pictures are family pictures, her, her former military husband and their three little ones.

        Now for the other two-posts include trips and vacations, complaints about work, pictures of a rather unattractive mutt, girl’s night out, an occasional culinary undertaking, basically a lot of the banal stuff broadcast on FB. There is much that is banal and vacant, there’s very little difference between them and people in college, except they have more coin and the blessing of clergy on their relationship. It’s possible that they just haven’t been lucky enough to have a child, but it seems that they are too busy to notice the inexorable tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.

    • fredx2

      What else would you call it?

      • Nestorian

        For those who are young, poor, in debt, and facing very limited career prospects (as is true of tens of millions in the US and Europe today, to say nothing of poor countries), I would call it prudence. Probably, many in Italy have found themselves in that position in the past, and thus do not have children now. Regis Martin ought to have acknowledged this.

    • Art Deco

      http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/

      Nestorian, if you investigate living costs in settlements of middling dimension (and about half the country lives in settlements larger than 700,000 persons and half smaller), you discover that a nominal income of $50,000 in Youngstown, Ohio can buy you a basket of goods in services in other cities which would retail between $50,000 (in Omaha) and $63,000 (in Albany, NY) in other settlements of middling populatoin. (One outlier is Providence, RI, where maintaining the same standard of living would require $71,000). Living costs around Franciscan University are not going to allow you to live that high on the hog.

      • Nestorian

        Yes, but you are implicitly equating Youngstown with Steubenville, and thus also with all the other places you mention. What is your justification for that?
        I think you are wrong, and that Steubenville is indeed exceptionally cheap, even in comparison with the modestly more expensive collection of small cities you mention.

        • Adam__Baum

          “Steubenville is indeed exceptionally cheap”.

          Based on what?

        • Art Deco

          The CoL calculator has a limited number of options. I made use of Youngstown because it is the nearest option in state. Pittsburgh is nearer, but staple costs in Pittsburgh are higher than they are in Youngstown. In point of fact, they are higher in every proximate city.

    • You do have a point to some extent. The Church does acknowledge that it is up to the parents to make a prudential judgment on the number of children. Yet, I think that Martin makes an arguable generic statement that implies that parents have not been prudent in general, just selfish. Without knowing particular situations, I agree that we must not judge why this or that couple had few or no children. Yet, this is not what Martin is doing.

      • Adam__Baum

        One can infer a societal trend, based on certain evidence without attributing it to an individual person or persons.

  • Michael Paterson-Seymour

    As similar decline is taking place in the Islamic world.

    David Goldman has pointed out that the average Iranian comes from a family of seven children. For the average Iranian today, if you exclude some of the minorities, fertility is 1.6 to 1.7. On current trends, Iran will go from an elderly dependant ratio of 8% to 30% in 2040. Turkey has seen its TFR half in 30 years.

    In the countries of the Islamic world, there is a strong correlation (I do not say causal relationship) between the rise in female literacy and the decline in fertility.

    • Katef

      The correlation between the rise in female literacy (or higher education) and decline in fertility is easily explained, but not it the shallow way that it usually is. You don’t have to be educated to figure out how to use contraception or need a textbook to tell you that you’d be better off financially without many children. What happens with higher education is that more work opportunities open up for women (and men) which often raises them to a higher income and social level. Educated women tend to marry educated men. With an increase in buying power comes the danger of an increased attachment to material goods and the good life that this brings. Hence, Christ’s warning against riches. The uneducated tend to be poor because they tend to be stuck on the job ladder. With the poverty, there is less of a chance of the attachment to mammon. That’s just a fact; a fact which Christ praises in the Gospels. However, the key isn’t to keep women (and men) uneducated and in poverty; they key is for the Church to continually preach and hammer in the poverty of spirit, generosity and self-sacrifice to the point where it hurts. Prosperity’s drawbacks are only kept in check with a strong, healthy spiritual life and preferential option for the poor. So the formula should be female education = higher income = risk of materialism = decline in fertility; but it does not have to be this way.

    • Duane Alexander Miller

      I read that book and it is good, but incomplete. The decline in TFR to below replacement is only in Iran. Other countries have declined, but they are still well above replacement (2.1) And look at populous countries like Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Palestine, Afghanistan–all of them are >90% Muslim and still have TFR way above replacement. Those excess humans, in countries without natural resources or jobs for a growing population, will most certainly make their ways to Europe where their own cultural practices and values will replace those of the childless indigenous populations, until the welfare institutions crumble and the schools and hospitals decline to match the levels of the homelands of those countries’ new populations.

      • hombre111

        MMM, maybe not. You point to the reason for large families in the 90% Muslim countries: few natural resources and not enough jobs. Parents instinctively have large families as a kind of life insurance. When the parents become incapable of real work in their forties, their children will take care of them. Some research on this shows that it takes at least six kids, because so many children do not reach adulthood. But when economic opportunities, along with consumption, go up, the size of families goes down. That might explain Turkey and Iran.

        • Adam__Baum

          “Muslim countries: few natural resources”

          Now that’s funny.

          But not as funny as this:

          “Parents instinctively have large families as a kind of life insurance. When the parents become incapable of real work in their forties”

        • Duane Alexander Miller

          Hombre, these are not reasons for large families, they are related to large families. Not the same thing.

  • R. K. Ich

    Dorothy Sayers, in her “Letters to a Diminished Church,” observed that of all the peoples of the earth, the Anglo-Saxons had this peculiar penchant for abandoning their faith tradition. Sociologist Mary Eberstadt’s recent work on the decline of faith in the West points to the breakdown of the family as the key to understanding this loss of faith. Whatever the cause-effect relationship, there is an undeniable link between faith and family, whether we are speaking of true or false religions.

    It seems to me, given the superiority, veracity, beauty, and sublimity of the catholick religion over against all others, we ought to be out-populating every other faith tradition. Muslims and Mormons do more honor to God in their reproductive philosophy than the supposed stalwarts of orthodoxy whose orthopraxy more closely mirrors that of the two-dimensional Utopian social engineers. The Lord of Darkness has one goal in mind: keep the children of light from reproducing more children of light.

    Here’s what I imagine Uncle Screwtape would have to say about this:

    “Remember, Wormwood, not to let your patient lose sight of how precious sex is. Let him think all must be orchestrated around that appetite: his looks, his mannerisms, his thoughts, his self-assessment — these must be in the service of the most fleeting of appetites. And don’t let him for a moment entertain its true intent. Our Father Below cares relatively little for the miserable creatures’ gastronomical gluttonies since mileage is limited among those obsessed for fit bodies. The real pay off is isolation through sex. And can you think of a more fitting irony, dear Nephew, than to turn the very appetite of their unity and propagation into one of the most self-absorbed, unfruitful delights?”

  • Vinnie

    “Douthat makes the point that society’s “retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion,” a condition of “decadence,” Muslim terrorists would agree with that statement.

  • John Uebersax

    That people are stupid is nothing new; the failure is in moral and religious leadership.

    My question is: where were the Catholic intellectuals and the USCCB in 2001 and 2003 when out country decided to repeat Vietnam in Afghanistan and Iraq, respectively? Had those pointless, multi-trillion dollar wars not been prosecuted, how much better would our economy be today, how many more financially stable and optimistic young people, how many more married couples, how many more babies? Why were American Catholics not mobilized to prevent these wars?

    • Art Deco

      The country did not repeat VietNam in either Iraq or Afghanistan. There is no analogue to the North VietNam government in either locus and it would be quite a trick for the Sunni Arab minority in Iraq to dispossess the Kurdish and Shi’ite populations which outnumber them four to one. Both wars were far less bloody than VietNam (the toll in American soldiers is around 1/8th what it was in 1965-72 spread over a much more populous set of age cohorts) and the devotion of factors of production to the war effort is lower.

      • hombre111

        Iraq and Vietnam have this in common: We entered into both wars on the basis of lies.

        • Adam__Baum

          Some of us think you lie.

        • Art Deco

          I am always amazed that your head seems incapable of functioning on any level more sophisticated than the reproduction of cartoons.

        • ForChristAlone

          “And if you like your doctor, you can keep him.”

    • A prophet not in his own land

      And where are these same now that five years into the Obama administration, the Afghanistan conflict rages on, Iraq is again being torn with Sunni-Shia civil war which might parallel the Syrian civil war, and the US debt has grown from about 11 trillion in 2008 to 17 trillion today, all the while the current administration continues to conduct drone campaigns in many nations in cross-border attacks. Where are those to mobilize against this? Perhaps John Uebersax will lead the rebellion?

      • cestusdei

        Iraq is falling apart because Obama retreated.

        • smokes

          Americans are too fat and lazy to do anything other than write objections in blogs few read.

          If you won’t go to the streets…like Jesus did…you lose.

          (Now, where is that last donut?)

    • fredx2

      The USCCB opposed the war in Iraq.

      http://old.usccb.org/comm/archives/2003/03-029.shtml

    • Adam__Baum

      The economy would have collapsed in 2008 because the collapse was related a manipulated mortgage market, and the “Maestro’s” suppression of normal interest rates.

      • Art Deco

        the “Maestro’s” suppression of normal interest rates.

        The Federal Funds rate did not take on unusual values until the fall of 2002. The decoupling of home prices and nominal incomes in the Case-Schiller 10 city index began in 1997.

        The economist John Taylor has praised the monetary policy followed over the period running from 1985 to 2003, saying it was more-or-less the rules based policy he had been advocating.

        • Adam__Baum

          Art, what are you disputing?

          Last I checked, Greenspan was the Fed Chair in 2003-2006.

          In this paper, Taylor, who I read regularly, specifically notes the difference in interest rate policy on page 2.

          http://www.stanford.edu/~johntayl/FCPR.pdf

          There crisis was the result of the interplay between the loosening of credit standards beginning with the passage of the CRA, and Cisneros use of it, in the mid 90’s.

          In other words, it was the NINJA mortgages and the unintended result of the low rates that gave the crisis.

  • Art Deco

    The total fertility rate in the United States has fluctuated around replacement levels for 35 years. Age cohorts in the United States show no secular decline in numbers. Fertility has recovered almost to replacement levels in Britain and France, sits at replacement levels in Ireland, and is above replacement in Israel. Europe as a whole has had a mild recovery in fertiltiy in the last dozen years. You see a problem in the Germanophone states, the Mediterranean, and the Balkans. The industrial Orient is in wretched shape, with abiding subreplacement fertility.

    • Adam__Baum

      Japan is a goner, even Fukashima becomes a surmountable problem.

      • smokes

        Not unlike Jack Benny, Catholic couples are saying, “A baby or a flat screen TV? Hmm, let me think about that.”

  • John O’Neill

    I live among the Amish in central Pennsylvania and they are having a population boom; there is a dearth of farmland for the new families so many are migrating to wherever they can find cheaper farmland. Of course, the Amish do manage to keep themselves intact while living among “the Englsih ” because they work hard and keeping the evil influence of the modern American world at a distance. Their children are raised without television or compute games, they also can avoid public schools, the cauldron of the modern American Secular and anti Christian State, they dress in plain garb and they managed to keep their own language alive thus preserving their heritage. We as Catholics used to have our so called Catholic ghettoes; we even had our own language, Latin, unfortunately we threw all these cultural constructs out with the bath water. The fact that the childless society is the hallmark of the modern democratic State and that this culture is celebrated in its media and schools would convince one to live apart from the pagani. O tempora O mores

    • Prophet no in his own land

      One of my adult students whom I mentor is an O’Neill, Catholic and now blessed with four beautiful children. He is ridiculed by some for his foolish behavior, all the while other colleagues in our circle are facing caring for an elderly parent while having no children of their own who will care for them. Some politicians have called children “burdens” in advocating abortions numbering now in the millions. A rabbi of my acquaintance terms this the silent holocaust of today, but the social welfare state advocates cheer on a million deaths a year. National Socialism managed 11 million in total, the Holomodor of the Soviet Socialists manages 30-40 million and the Sino-Socialists as history now looks into China’s last decades estimated between 60-70 million deaths, not tallying abortion to meet the one-child policy. One might well say that criticism directed at Rome is foolish, looking at such a small voice in a world of loud-proclaiming political types cheering on the state and its bloody gathering in of victims. One indeed need live away from such a society, even if only in the privacy of one’s thoughts and loving circle of one’s family.

  • cestusdei

    This is where the culture of death leads.

  • XC

    “Tourism has become a big business,” in places like Genoa, ITALY. Hmm. Man has this mag gone downhill.

  • Duane Alexander Miller

    I was recently in Rome. I saw more children in Bethlehem (a Muslim city) market place in five minutes than I did in Rome in an entire day. That is not exaggeration, by the way.

    • JoFro

      And those are also Muslim children in Bethlehem, where Christians now make up less than 20% of the population! Maybe it’s just a Christian/Catholic thing at the moment, having few or no children – Is there any Christian denomination out there where its women are having lots of children, while married to one man? Any?

      • ForChristAlone

        The Amish. Quick, summon one of their bishops to consult with the USCCB!

        • smokes

          Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage.

  • hombre111

    Yes, immigrant Moslems have tons of children. So do immigrant Mexicans in the U.S.. But as they enter our consumer society, second and third generation Mexican families become smaller. Maybe we better track down some second and third generation Muslims awash in the materialism of Europe, and see how they are doing.

  • smokes

    The hand that rocks the cradle….
    Western woman is…well…er….a fool.

  • The fertility rate of American-born women is 1.6 child, well below the replacement rate and well below the historic point of no return, 1.9. The aggregate fertility rate in America of 2.1 child per woman is made up by immigrant women, particularly of Hispanic culture, with 3.0 children per woman. The difference between America and Europe is that immigration has successfully masked off the identical problem between both continents: the despair that leads a people to not reproduce, to preserve and pass on its culture and way of life.

    • Art Deco

      Your statistics are in error, as is your interpretation. Total fertility rates in this country fluctuate from year to year, but if you used even the lowest reading in recent decades, immigrant women would have to have fertility rates on the order of 3.3 children per lifetime if native women did in fact have a fertility rate of 1.6. The weighted average in the Middle East and North Africa is lower than 3.3 children per lifetime.

      Given that contemporary fertility rates in Mexico run to 2.24, I would be very skeptical that Mexicans living here have fertility rates of 3.0.

      Neither is a rate of 1.9 “a point of no return”, as the fertility recovery in France and Britain in recent decades demonstrates.

        • Art Deco

          The World Bank publishes handy statistical complilations.

          One metric is a weighted average of the total fertility rates of a set of 22 states in the Near East and North Africa. The mean total fertility rate of this set of countries is 2.66 and falling. (By the way, the rate for Israeli Jews per the CIA World Factbook is 2.7 and stable).

          There are a number of Turkic, Central Asian, and South Asian Muslim states left out of this calculation, of which four have tfrs higher than the Near East and North African mean. Two are small countries. All four have falling rates. Three (Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, and Tajikistan) have rates between. 3.0 and 3.4 and only Pakistan carries much demographic weight. Afghanistan retains the sort of fertility rate (6.16) that was normal in the 3d world fifty years ago, but about 95% of the world’s muslims live elsewhere.

          Two of the three muslim countries in the Far East have fertility rates at replacement levels. The third (Malaysia) has a fertility rate rather like the Near East average: 2.61 and falling.

          Tropical and Southern African countries with large muslim contingents have high fertility rates. The thing is, countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have high fertility rates across the board (4.87 tfr being the regional mean, and, yes, it is declining). Half the fourteen countries with the largest proportionate muslim contingents have rates above the regional mean and half have rates below.

          We have some serious problems with demography in occidental countries. There is no reason at this time to believe we are due to be overwhelmed by muslims popping babies like peas.

          • JP

            I do not know exactly where you get your stats. But, they are bogus. Try the UN, which is really where the TFR numbers for all other organizations originate at. For instance, Indonesia (not Malaysia) has had fertility rates below replacement levels for well over a decade. Currently, Indonesia has a TFR of 1.8 children per female. And all of North Africa has seen their TFR’s drop to at or below replacement levels since 1980. Almost all of Asia (inducing China) have TFRs below replacement levels. Japan and Russia are actually losing population. Iran’s TFR is below 1.7 – has been for 18 years). And while sub-sahra Africa has TFR’s above replacement levels, infant mortality is close to 50%.

            And the US has had only 4 years out of the last 40 where it had TFRs above replacement levels. Currently, the US is at 1.8 and dropping. Not even Hispanics are having children, anymore.

            The only thing keeping global populations steady is longevity. But, all this means is that the world is aging. Global population will peak by 2055 before it begins falling. We will never hit 10 billion – more than likely we will not even get to 9 billion.

      • JP

        The TFR of the US has only hit replacement levels 4 times since 1975 -even with immigrant populations. The US population is growing at its slowest rate in our 230 year history. And Mexico’s TFR is dropping even faster. In 1975 it was at 6.1 children per female. It is at 2.3 now, and will go below replacement levels within the decade.

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  • DG

    Of course, selfishness is a part of what’s behind the demographics free fall, but selfishness has always been a part of fallen humanity. A new factor is the availability of contraceptives. But the most operative force here is cultural conformity. The desire to conform in itself can be a positive inclination, but only when directed to a social normalcy that is inherently healthy. Of course skipping children isn’t healthy, but that is what is operative culturally now. And so we conform. Even our spiritual leaders often seem to demonstrate an inclination to conform.
    The sentiment “Why can’t we all just get along?” has a universal appeal.The answer of course is that to love truth– to love Our Lord, who is the truth– is more important than getting along. When evil takes over an aspect of society, to follow Jesus means to create division against that evil, even if it makes us social outcasts to do so.

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  • Oldman357

    i dislike the us vs them approach in this article and comments.

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