Dead End: The Culture of Barrenness and the Death of Marriage
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." — Genesis 1:27-28
"He fulfilled their desire but sent leanness withal into their souls." — Psalm 106:15
"When faith goes, fertility vanishes, too." — David P. Goldman, Why Civilizations Die (And Why Islam is Dying, Too)
I am a capacitor. I fill up with what I see going on around me, charge by charge, and finally the charge gets so great, I have to discharge. That’s a roundabout way of saying, “Out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
In the last few months I’ve seen news items and read reports that bring up again a theme I have studied for years: depopulation and what I call “the people haters.”
For decades the people haters have fomented the population control movement on the theory that population is growing so fast that before too long there will only be enough room left for mankind to stand elbow to elbow waiting to starve to death. Their theory has not gone unchallenged or disproved by any means, but all undeterred they continue selling this same old shabby myth. It is used daily to justify spending vast sums to impose infertility on black and brown populations especially. The Non Governmental and governmental organizations spreading the gospel of no children is vast and deeply funded.
And it’s all based on a false and anti-human proposition. Behind the factual façade, the people haters are motivated by a profound spiritual hatred for mankind as well as personal and racial elitism. (I laid this all out in The Greening, written in 1993 with Larry Abraham. You can order a copy from us here.)
DEMOGRAPHIC SHIFT, DEMOGRAPHIC TRANSITION
One of demography’s best known trends is the demographic transition. As a country’s economy shifts from agricultural and traditional to industrial, birth rates and death rates drop sharply.
This demographic transition results in the demographic shift: the population’s median age rises as life expectancy rises and fertility rates drop. Economically this promises catastrophe, since old people produce nothing and consume less, not good in a society driven by consumer spending. Worse yet, like an inverted pyramid standing on its point, the growing older population must be supported by a shrinking younger population.
DEMOGRAPHIC TRAIN WRECK
If the state runs a Ponzi old age and retirement scheme like Social Security, and every industrialized western and Eastern nation does, then the demographic shift and demographic transition guarantee a demographic train wreck fairly soon. Eventually the number of old people receiving benefits exceeds, then far surpasses, the young people paying in. That year came for Japan in 2009. It hits for the US about 2017, although the US is clandestinely solving its Social Security insolvency by legal and illegal immigration. The replacement fertility rate, that average number of children born per woman necessary to keep the population stable, is 2.2.
Here’s how badly that has dropped. In 2010 in Ireland, the fertility rate was 2.0 (down from 4.0 in 1965), in Spain, 1.4 (down from 2.9), in Poland, 1.3 (down from 2.7), and in Germany 1.4, and in Europe, 1.5 (down from 2.6).
Between 2010 and 2050, Japanese population will shrink 25% while European population dwindles 10% in the same 40 years. The demographic implication says that by 2100 speakers of German, Italian, or Spanish will be become as rare as speakers of Latin or Old Church Slavonic. If you include how much their more fertile immigrant populations raise these low birth rates, the picture becomes gloomier still.
And the demographic transition puts exactly the same pressure on private retirement plans, never mind what havoc the Zero Interest Rate Policy is working on them. “Already [in 2011] 23% of Japanese are 65 or older, with the expectation that over-65s will grow to 41% by 2055. Caught by the dual impact of an aging society and a plummeting birthrate, Japan’s total population is expected to decrease by 25% from 127.8 million in 2005 to 95.2 million by 2050.”
Startling and grim as these numbers, are, here’s a bigger surprise: the demographic transition is taking place in Moslem countries at faster rates, with a speed never before seen in a single generation. Women from families of seven to ten children will average less than two. Iran’s fertility rate has dropped to 1.3, and fertility rates in Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey and other more industrialized Muslim countries are dropping below replacement. Along with this, the young generation of educated men and women can find no jobs in these small and undeveloped economies, so their economic hopelessness and frustration discourages childbearing, too. But fertility falls anyway as education increases, especially for women.
It is not clear that immigrants to industrial countries will maintain high fertility rates. Most countries don’t keep separate statistics on immigrant births. Turks’ fertility rates decline in Europe, but not Pakistanis’. In the case of America, it seems (I have no hard data but am generalizing from snippets seen here and there) the demographic transition takes place rapidly. First generation Hispanics have large families, but the next generation becomes as self-centered as the rest of the Baby Boomer Me-generation and their progeny, native Millennials: they stop having children.
IMMIGRANTS: AMERICA’S SECRET DEMOGRAPHIC WEAPON?
But that points to immigration as the cure for American infertility. One American economist has made a career and clogged global email channels selling his theory that the demographic transition will wreck the U.S. economy. According to his theory, as the Baby Boomers ages, demand shrinks: they stop buying houses and cars and the consumer goods that power the economy. Instead of a motor, they become a drag on the economy.
He overlooks immigrants entirely. Oddly enough, they don’t stop eating and buying clothes and shelter when they move to the US. As they move up the income scale, they also spend more to buy all the stuff that comprises the American dream, including cars and houses. As lagniappe, they also pay into the Social Security system to keep the Ponzi going.
This need and function of immigrants is, I believe, part of the cynical secret behind Democrats’ and Republicans’ failure to address illegal immigration, or always to address it by amnesty and inclusion only. Fueling the birth dearth and population decline, the United States has lost by abortion some 57 million souls since 1973. Think of a war that cost the life of one out of ever six people in the country, and you’ll get a snapshot of the first generation loss. Now add to that the second generation loss, the children those aborted children will never have, and you lose another 100 million and more. Purely as a practical matter, abortion has created a colossal and catastrophic population loss.
Fifty million immigrants is not an accident, it’s an absolute necessity. Otherwise, where will the workers come from? Without immigration abortion loss alone would create a labor shortage and upward pressure on wage rates as severe as the Black Death for 100 years after 1350.
POPULATION BUMP: THE MISTAKE OF THE 1960s & 1970s
After World War II came a burst of fertility in America known as the Baby Boom. Soldiers returning from war and their wives still wanted big families while new medical knowledge was quickly dragging down death rates. The result was an aberration, a population bulge. That fooled the Chicken Littles and most of the rest of the world.
“In retrospect, the west will look at the overpopulation scare of the late twentieth century as passing whimsy. Not overpopulation but rather depopulation has been the danger through almost all of recorded history . . .
“The great population surge of the second half of the twentieth century briefly erased the enduring fear of depopulation. But it is important to understand that the bulge in world population was a one-off event in human history, not the harbinger of environmental doom. As traditional society dissolved into the modern globalized world, death rates plunged immediately, while birth rates fell only gradually. Antibiotics encountered traditional habits of family formation, and the outcome was the – necessarily temporary – fastest rate of population increase the world had ever seen.
“During the thousand years between Charlemagne and Frederick the Great, the world’s population rose on average by 2.5% every half-century. With the agricultural revolution of the late eighteenth century, the world’s population rose by 20% in fifty years, for the first time in history. During the second half of the twentieth century, the world’s population grew by 140%. But that growth rate was always unsustainable – a blip in the statistics, the short lag between the point at which modern prosperity and medicine began to prolong lives and the point at which that improvement in life expectancy inevitably affected the birthrate. And it is about to fade in the rearview mirror. Population growth peaked in 2000 and will turn sharply negative during the last quarter of the twenty-first century.
“In 1994 the scientific academies of 58 nations including the United States called for ‘zero population growth within the lifetime of our children,’ warning, ‘The world is undergoing an unprecedented population expansion. Within the span of a single lifetime, world population has more than doubled to 5.5 billion and even the most optimistic scenarios of lower birth rates lead to a peak of 7.8 billion people in the middle of the next century.’
“That may have been the dumbest idea that ever occurred to a group of smart people. [Emphasis added – FS] It’s true that the world’s population will probably peak somewhere above 8 billion around the middle of this century. But it is likely to fall by nearly 2 billion between 2050 and 2100 under the United Nations’ ‘low variant’ projection’. World population starts to decline in the second half of this century even in the UN’s ‘medium variant’ projection. And the actual population data have surprised the demographers on the downside during the last 20 years; there is good reason to believe that the low variant is more realistic. The world is facing a demographic collapse unlike anything in human experience.”
IS MARRIAGE DYING, TOO?
Not only are children rapidly becoming obsolete in American society, so is marriage. On 24 September 2014 the Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends group published a study about American attitudes toward marriage using 2012 data. Here’s my paraphrase of these points.
- The share of American adults who have never married is at an historic high, about 20% of those 25 and older (42 million folks). In 1960, that was 9%.
- About 20% of the never-married ages 25 to 34 are living with a partner.
- Men are more likely than women to have never been married, 23% vs. 17%.
- Adults are marrying later. Median age at first marriage is now 27 for women and 29 for men, up from 20 and 23 in 1960.
- The shares of adults cohabiting and raising children outside marriage have increased significantly. Bastardy is losing its social stigma.
- The marriage decline cuts across race and ethnicity, but is more pronounced among blacks – 36% of those 25 and older have never been married.
Americans’ view of marriage is rapidly jaundicing. The study asked, “Is society better off if people make marriage and having children a priority, or society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children?”
Forty-six percent of adults chose the first, while 50% chose the second. Read that again. Less than half believe that society is better off if people make marriage and having children a priority. As you might suspect, opinions differ widely by age. Two-thirds of those 18 to 29 agree that marriage and children are not a priority, but only 53% of those 30 – 49. Those 50 and older disagreed. In what appears significant confusion, 68% of Americans still believe it is important for couples to marry if they plan to spend the rest of their lives together. (Self-contradictory, but a tiny relief.)
Why do the unmarried not marry? Thirty per cent said they have not found someone who has what they are looking for in a spouse, 27% say they are not financially prepared for marriage, and 22% say they are too young or not ready to settle down. In other words, materialistic self-interest.
Most likely economic factors are driving these outlooks. Of never-married women, 78% say they want a husband with a steady job (no surprise there). For men, a steady job is not so easy. In 1960, 93% of men 25 – 34 were in the labor force; in 2012 that participation rate had fallen to only 82%. Men’s wages have also fallen. For 25 – 34 men, median hourly wages (inflation adjusted) have dropped 20%, while women now earn about 93% of what men earn. So that pool of men with a steady job is shrinking.
Education also strongly influences marriage opinions. Men with a high school education or less are much more likely than men with advanced degrees never to have married.
For women, it’s the opposite. In 1960 women with advanced degrees (31%) were about four times as likely never to have married as women with a high school education or less (7%). Today it’s about the same.
THE NEW MARRIAGE: COHABITATION
In 2013, a year later than the survey above, about 24% of unmarried Americans 25-34 were living with a partner. That doesn’t last long. Among women who first cohabited at 25 – 29, their relationships typically endured about 17 months, although many later marry. According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, nearly half of women 15 – 44 (48%) have cohabited with a partner before marriage. The social stigma against what was once called “shacking up” has nearly vanished. Criticize it and you’ll be denounced as a heartless, self-righteous, oppressive patriarchial caveman.
It goes without saying these opinions about marrying affect child bearing. In America in 2012 the birth rate was 13 per 1000 and the fertility rate was 1.9 births per woman (or 2.06 in 2012), below the replacement level of 2.2. That has fallen from about 3.4 births per woman in 1911 to about 2.2 at the depth of the Great Depression to about 3.6 in the 1960s population bulge to 1.9 today. This same birth dearth or demographic transition has been observed all over the world as nations industrialize, incomes and education rise, and birth and death rates fall.
On the surface it may be true that in the transition from rural and traditional societies to urban and modern, children lose some economic value. In traditional society children are a welcome and productive addition to the family labor force as well as the old age security for parents: every new mouth comes with a pair of hands. (In the Amish community around us, every child works. I’ve seen little girls four or five years old bringing up half a dozen milch cows from the field. The girls are so tiny they have to clamber up the gate to open it, but they’re happy as larks.) In urban societies, children are viewed as an economic liability and the state takes care of oldsters.
But children have more than an economic value. They also have a spiritual value.
In his book, How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam Is Dying, Too), David P. Goldman notes that something far deeper than mere economic motives are at work here. “When faith goes, fertility vanishes, too.” (p. xv). It appears that a modernist, materialistic worldview that pursues only pleasure, wealth, and self-interest is self-limiting: it makes itself extinct. Atomized modern man does not reproduce. Europe is dying, and the Moslem world isn’t far behind. Goldman says, “The affluent peoples of the world have all the bread they need, but have lost the appetite for life.” (p. xxii) As Psalm 106:7 says, “He gave them their desire, but sent leanness withal in their souls.”
As a fascinating sidenote, the threatened population bomb that environmentalists have been hysterically touting since the 1970s has turned into a population bust. In the Moslem world fertility rates are falling faster than history has ever witnessed. The population bulge of the 20th century was a one time event as death rates plunged rapidly but birth rates only gradually. (p. 17) “Population growth peaked in 2000 and will turn sharply negative during the last quarter of the 21st century.” (p. 19)
THE REAL QUESTION
Here we stumble on the startling point: Man does not live by bread alone. Ultimately, the decision to marry and to have children cannot be an economic decision. It is a spiritual decision, accepting and returning love with all its risks, and ultimately, affirming life.
If you are old enough to have your own children, you already know this.
Face the truth: when you have children, you renounce yourself in their favor. You give up yourself and your desire for stuff in exchange for love. When people become so self-centered that they no longer marry, or marry only for calculating self-aggrandizement and then refuse to have children, they are already dead, along with their nation.
I suspect many Americans have already lost the will to live. I look around rural areas and see that children whose parents came from families of eight or more have only one, two, or often no children at all. Have they so lost so faith in the future and in life itself that they are don’t trust having children? This is death settling in like a dark cloud.
It’s not a question about individuals only, but about nations. When a nation’s fertility rate drops below replacement, it’s going backward. Economically, population is prosperity, because every new mouth comes with a new pair of hands.
But I am leaving the most important point, the spiritual. “When faith goes, fertility vanishes, too.” People who don’t trust God to provide for them won’t trust him to provide for their children, either. And they won’t have children for other reasons. In the last 100 years nation after nation has tried to stem the birth dearth by political movements, by laws favoring child-bearing, even paying subsidies for children, and nothing has worked, because the problem is not money, but spirit – they must have a reason for child-bearing that transcends time and money.
Specifically, the Scripture defines children and grandchildren as a blessing (Ps. 128:6; Prov. 17:6), and what blesses the individual and family must also bless the nation. Children are the quintessential blessing of God’s gracious covenant with Abraham that extends to us. (Genesis 22:17; 32:12)
Not surprisingly, birth rates among Americans who describe themselves as religious rank well above average fertility rates. None of this is new. When ancient Greek and Roman civilization began practicing homosexuality, abortion, and killing unwanted newborns, their civilizations rapidly declined. No children, no civilization. Unwanted children were “exposed,” that is, left out on a hillside to die.
Meantime the Christian population not only had children, they also rescued and adopted the pagans’ unwanted children. That set up a powerful demographic shift that caused the pagans to vanish in a few generations while the Christians flourished.
ALL ABOUT SEX
Sex, of course, has two functions: it unites a man and woman into one flesh and it procreates the human rate. Pleasure and procreation.
The sexual revolution of the 1960s focused on pleasure and cut off procreation from sex. Ironically, in the end that cuts pleasure seekers off from love, too, because (to risk stating the more than obvious), sex and love aren’t the same.
Love, even sexual love, finds its origin in the Trinity, in the eternal love of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost for each other. That love, giving and receiving, is woven into creation and into the attraction between man and woman. Only by love do we escape the prison of self. It is why we marry, and why we have children. It sounds like a superficial cliché, but is the most profound truth: with love comes the amazing discovery that the more we give ourselves away to spouse or children, the richer we become. It works the other way as well: the more we hoard ourselves, the poorer we become. Psalm 106:15 describes what happened to the Israelites when they demanded meat in the wilderness: “He gave them their desire, and sent leanness withal into their soul.”
Leanness of soul. That describes the modern world, grasping for empty prosperity and walking away from true riches. Atomized. Isolated at the dead end of infertility.
I have no grand cure for these terrible social problems. Besides, I don’t believe government action imposed from above and outwardly could solve what is an inward spiritual problem. It must be solved by changing one heart at a time.
However, if you know a young couple, you can do them a favor with this advice: have children. Forget the wisdom on the age, and have lots of children. You may not believe it now, but when you are fifty, you’ll discover that children were the best investment you ever made, now and forever.
DISCLAIMER & DISCLOSURE: The author of this article has a significant interest in recommending children as an investment, and in fact is long two daughters, five sons, thirteen grandsons, and one granddaughter.
Originally published December 2014