Maggie Gallagher is upset about plummeting birth rates "in virtually every free, democratic and affluent nation on this earth," which she says is "perhaps the biggest story of our time":
As European demographer Francesco Billari has explained, at the European average of 1.5 children per woman, the population will be cut in half every 65 years. At a birthrate of 1.3 children per woman, (think Austria, Italy, Spain, as well as Greece and Japan), the population will be cut in half every 32 years.That is to say, the replacement population will be cut in half (as long as you don't take immigration trends or fluctuations in fertility rates or any other variables into account). Mark Steyn uses similarly misleading verbiage, which I suspect is not an accident.
What's the cause? Well, Gallagher sees everything she dislikes as stemming from a rejection of traditional morality (without ever considering whether traditional morality is actually moral or, for that matter, traditional). And this issue is no exception. Gallagher's lachrymose brand of anti-feminism rejects any consideration of financial and political pressures, even though the Newsweek article she wishes to deconstruct plainly states that couples without children have "higher spending power," and that women are effectively punished for having children in many "free, democratic, and affluent" countries:
In Japan....Child care is expensive, men don't help out, and some companies strongly discourage mothers from returning to work.In other words, some Japanese women are declining to turn themselves into baby-factories for the good of their society, because their society treats them badly.
Isn't it terrible how selfish modern women can be?
Gallagher tries to pretend that Newsweek is exalting childlessness, which isn't the case at all. Actually, the article is fairly daft and regressive in its own right, as thus:
In Japan, the trend toward postponing or not having children has given rise to an array of products like bedding supplier Kameo's Boyfriend Arm Pillow....Makes sense to me. After all, if you don't wish or can't afford to have children, how could you possibly have a boyfriend or a husband? Newsweek also reports that these shrewish, willfully barren quasi-women present an unprecedented opportunity for businesses that cater to people with pets (because as everyone knows, people who have children don't keep pets, and vice versa).
So what makes declining fertility rates the biggest story of our time, you ask? To answer, Gallagher turns off the lights, holds a flashlight under her chin, and assumes a suitably sepulchral tone:
Death. Death of the individual, and of his or her family. Death of the nation, tribe or culture that adopts a set of beliefs, practices and institutional arrangements that fail to respect and support generativity.Or, as Heinrich Himmler once observed, “A people of good race which has too few children has a one-way ticket to the grave.”
To be fair, I think I know just the sort of institutional arrangements she means:
U.S. business groups, including the Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers, are pressing President Bush to scale back the Family and Medical Leave Act, the law guaranteeing workers time off to deal with illness or care for a newborn or sick family member.Stiil, despite the United States' reluctance to ensure that new mothers get adequate vacation time, childcare, or healthcare - let alone Das Mutterkreuz - Gallagher is optimistic about the American future:
Something is different about America. Consider this both a reassurance and a warning: The future belongs to the people and peoples who dare to give themselves to love.Or failing that, to nationalist, racist, or anti-feminist paranoia.