Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Death Spiral of the Secular Culture

It may be that demography is destiny, but it often seems like a boring subject. But it shouldn’t be, since vastly important things turn on demography. And especially on fertility.

The following are from a long article in the Washington Post.
For the first time in 35 years, the U.S. fertility rate has climbed high enough to sustain a stable population, solidifying the nation’s unique status among industrialized countries.

The overall fertility rate increased 2 percent between 2005 and 2006, nudging the average number of babies being born to each woman to 2.1, according to the latest federal statistics. That marks the first time since 1971 that the rate has reached a crucial benchmark of population growth: the ability of each generation to replace itself.

“It’s been quite a long time since we’ve had a rate this high,” said Stephanie J. Ventura of the National Center for Health Statistics. “It’s a milestone.”

While the rising fertility rate was unwelcome news to some environmentalists, the “replacement rate” is generally considered desirable by demographers and sociologists because it means a country is producing enough young people to replace and support aging workers without population growth being so high it taxes national resources.

“This is a noteworthy event,” said John Bongaarts of the Population Council, a New York-based think tank. “This is a sign of demographic health. Many countries would like to be at this level.”

Europe, Japan and other industrialized countries have long had fertility rates far below the replacement level, creating the prospect of labor shortages and loss of cultural identity as the proportion of native-born residents shrinks in relation to immigrant populations.

The reasons for the unusual U.S. fertility rate are the focus of intense interest. Experts can only speculate, but they cite a complex mix of factors, including lower levels of birth control use than in other developed countries, widely held religious values that encourage childbearing, social conditions that make it easier for women to work and have families, and a growing Hispanic population.

“It’s not clear which of these factors is most important,” Bongaarts said.

While being a mother who works outside the home is far from easy for many American women, many experts said the United States is in many ways more amenable to the practice than many other developed countries. The high-octane consumer economy, for example, helps women run households more efficiently in a number of ways, including making prepared foods more widely available, and weekend and late-night shopping possible. American men are also helping more with their children than in the past, experts say.

“We also have a relatively high percentage of part-time jobs available,” said Ronald Rindfuss, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina.
These, of course, are jobs that don’t offer the benefits that full-time jobs do. These are the jobs that are claimed to be exploitative by people who love the rigid social democratic union-dominated model of Europe. But in this, as in a lot of other things, the flexible free market economy of the U.S. serves us well.
“There’s also more shift work outside the normal nine-to-five, Monday-through-Friday schedule that enables parents to share child care.”

The nation’s religiosity also contributes to the higher fertility rate, which varies geographically, experts said. Red states tend to have both more religious people and higher fertility rates.

“Americans are much more religious than Europeans: They believe in God more. They go to church more,” said Charles Westoff, a Princeton University demographer. “That sort of religious attitude or set of values is strongly correlated with fertility.”
There is, in fact, a huge irony here.

The secular folks in Europe and in blue-state America are the ones who sneer at Intelligent Design and view Darwin as making belief in God unnecessary -- or even dangerous.

(We have no beef with Darwinism as a scientific theory. But when people try to make it the entire explanation for why we are here in this world, we smell dogmatism.)

The culture of the secular people fails the most basic Darwinian test: survival.

The culture with superior Darwinian “fitness” is the culture of religious people.

Without an infusion of religious immigrants, secular societies wither away.

And they are particularly likely to get into fiscal trouble because of another project of the secular leftist elites: the overly-extensive welfare state. Those societies that have made the most extensive promises of government benefits are the ones lacking the demography to deliver on the promises.

Heaven knows Americans are too secular, and our welfare state has promised too much. But we can look to Europe to see how bad things can really get.

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