Monday, June 16, 2008

The world is panicking over birthrates. Again.

Baby Bust!
“Europe is facing a demographic disaster,” said quondam Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in his February concession speech. “That is the inevitable product of weakened faith in the Creator, failed families, disrespect for the sanctity of human life, and eroded morality.”
. . .
The developed world is experiencing a wave of pro-natalist sentiment that threatens to bully the childless, tax the single, and reorient states toward the production rather than the protection of citizens. In most developed nations with below-replacement fertility, governments are attempting to align incentives so that women will use their bodies for the purpose of childbirth. In the U.S., right-wing religious groups are calling for a rollback of contraceptive freedom and a return to patriarchal arrangements, all in the name of something called “demographic balance.”

It may sound like a movement of sorts, but it is far from cohesive. Although pro-natalists share an obsession with procreation, they are driven to this anxiety by a host of different fears. As a group, they worry that their countries are admitting too many immigrants, and too few; that we have liberated women too much, and not enough; that welfare states are too strong, and too weak. Pick any divisive social issue—a lack of religiosity, say, or an excess of the same—and you can find someone to draw the connection to demographic decline.
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