The West’s Baby Bust

I’m a big fan of Alex Berenson’s work vis-à-vis Covid, marijuana, and tech-government suppression of free speech (see Berenson v. Biden), but when it comes to his search for answers to America’s “baby bust,” he, like many others, fails to focus on the problem’s root cause.  It’s as if he were dealing with vaccines for the Wuhan virus without considering its gain-of-function lab origin. 

One fact that Berenson overlooks is that U.S. birth rates are following the same negative trend that’s been apparent for decades in Europe.  When Mark Steyn wrote America Alone in 2006, the birth rate among Western women in that continent was a catastrophic 1.4 per woman of childbearing age.  Meanwhile, Muslim immigrants were reproducing at a robust 3.5 rate, a demographic fact that led the now Hillary-dispatched ruler of Libya to predict that Europe would become a Muslim continent in a few decades.  The U.S. birth rate among whites at that time was 1.85 and 2.1 overall.  Today, America’s overall birth rate has declined to 1.78.  Population replacement value is 2.1.  

In short, the “baby bust” is nothing new in the United States and Europe.  So the cause of that phenomenon shouldn’t be reduced to a new-fangled linguistic construct like the “snowplow” parents Berenson ponders — parents who clear obstacles “before their kids even have to face them.”  One could also plausibly blame the Pill, various socio-economic factors, or the climate-change hysteria that’s prompted some women to forswear childbearing altogether.  But beyond these symptoms of cultural distress lies a tectonic shift that’s been taking place for well over a century, a change that Friedrich Nietzsche noticed and happily facilitated in the late 19th century.

Folks without any philosophical knowledge are often aware of Nietzsche’s statement “God is dead.”  What they don’t know is that this observation refers to the West’s cultural belief in God and was linked to his assertion that the absence of this foundation would result in a era of nihilism that could be overcome only by extraordinary persons (Übermenschen) strong enough to accept the meaninglessness of life and to create their own values essentially ex nihilo.  The human debris produced by rulers who fancied themselves architects of such “transformational” projects littered the 20th century: Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Mussolini, Pol Pot, to say nothing of the now-forgotten Progressive eugenicists.   

In this century, various efforts to “save the planet” via climate activism or zero population growth have filled the Clintons’ “politics of meaning” vacuum, though for most folks without the means or desire to dominate mankind or reshape society, simple hedonism has been enough to occupy their time until old age and unsuccessful sport teams show that sex and emotional transference are no longer able to keep ennui at bay.  What isn’t a priority for these secular moderns is having children to carry on some transcendent purpose.  In 2018, The Guardian noted that a majority of 16- to 29-year-olds in twelve European countries did not follow any religion — 91% in the Czech Republic.  Put succinctly, modern secularism, especially a secularism that eschews any deeply felt patriotism, has little use for children — certainly more children than the one (legitimate) clone produced by the Clintons.  A large number of Americans are also doubtless reflected in Kat Timpf’s childless, self-absorbed, attention-seeking persona — a media “personality” whose contempt for her parents’ religion is obvious.

Given the belief that “All We Are Is Dust in the Wind,” it’s no wonder abortion has become a sacrament and political trump card for the Democrat party.  When children become items placed on a monetary or hedonistic cost-benefit scale within a largely materialistic framework, the “rational” argument for even a single time-consuming, diaper-soiling critter is hard to make.  Only the vestiges of maternal and paternal instincts remain, and these have been disparaged for decades by activists who see a fetus (not a baby) as an invasive mass akin to a tumor.  Moreover, if allowed to escape the womb, this foreign object will detract from a mother’s ability to achieve income equality with non-burdened competitors within her professional cohort.

It’s been said that when persons no longer believe in God, they don’t believe in nothing; they’ll believe in anything.  With respect to our “baby bust” question, the saying suggests that the many secondary causes of the West’s birth dearth are vacuum-filling offshoots of the one large thing that’s been overlooked.  Nietzsche’s solution to the “death of God” nihilism he predicted has proven more than disastrous, and surrogate faiths like environmentalism generally exhibit a negative view of the human species.  Consequently, a reversal of the West’s baby-draining nihilism seems inextricably linked to the reassertion of a transcendent purpose that rejects both a grab-the-gusto materialism as well as spiritually vacuous surrogates whose “gods” are generally reducible to a lust for power.

Put otherwise, the reproductive decline in the U.S. isn’t likely to change until most of its citizens take seriously the motto on our coins: “In God We Trust.”     

Richard Kirk is a freelance writer living in Southern California whose book Moral Illiteracy: “Who’s to Say?”  is also available on Kindle.

Image: Sharon Hahn Darlin via Flickr, CC BY 2.0.

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