Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Patriarchy, Birth Control and Fear of Falling Birth Rates
"President Theodore Roosevelt warned in 1905 that immigrants and minorities were too fertile, and that Anglo-Saxons risked committing "race suicide” by using birth control and failing to keep up baby-for-baby. He feared that within two generations, the White Anglo Saxon race would die out. Immediately, the professionalization and education of women were blamed. The perpetrator was supposedly college curricula which was teaching women how to be liberated and to revolt against marriage and the ideas of the “Cult of True Womanhood” which demanded that women be pious, domestic, subservient, and pure."
When the 20th Century arrived, politicos could speak openly about their fears of population decline among educated whites, or as they liked to call it: "race suicide." Nowadays, our leaders have the very same fears but they know better than to speak so openly. But we've all heard the projections telling us that in only a few short decades whites will be a minority in the U.S.
There is a long history of the "moral" concerns of U.S. leaders changing according to their fears and desires about the needs of the nation. When there is an abundance of low wage jobs, U.S. welfare policy defines the work ethic as the most important value and welfare rules force low-income mothers into the workforce. When there is a shortage of jobs, the very same politicos speak glowingly of the value of a mother in the home, and welfare policy supports stay-at-home moms.
The U.S. fertility rate has hovered at or just below replacement level for some time now, and only because we've had a large influx of immigrants who tend to have higher birth rates than native born Americans. The fear of declining fertility among the white educated population, or the fear of "race suicide," coincides nicely with our government's embrace of so-called "pro life" policies.
The fear of falling birth rates is expressed nicely in a piece by Phillip Longman. No surprise that Longman (was he born with that name?) defines the problem as the need for more male control and more female submission, or patriarchy. Longman doesn't speak of race, rather he predicts that soon the nation/globe will be heavily populated with conservatives. I've pasted a rather longish excerpt below.
The Return of Patriarchy
By Phillip Longman
Across the globe, people are choosing to have fewer children or none at all. Governments are desperate to halt the trend, but their influence seems to stop at the bedroom door. Are some societies destined to become extinct? Hardly. It’s more likely that conservatives will inherit the Earth. Like it or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into families who believe that father knows best.
“If we could survive without a wife, citizens of Rome, all of us would do without that nuisance.” So proclaimed the Roman general, statesman, and censor Quintus Caecilius Metellus Macedonicus, in 131 B.C. Still, he went on to plead, falling birthrates required that Roman men fulfill their duty to reproduce, no matter how irritating Roman women might have become. “Since nature has so decreed that we cannot manage comfortably with them, nor live in any way without them, we must plan for our lasting preservation rather than for our temporary pleasure.”
With the number of human beings having increased more than six-fold in the past 200 years, the modern mind simply assumes that men and women, no matter how estranged, will always breed enough children to grow the population—at least until plague or starvation sets in. It is an assumption that not only conforms to our long experience of a world growing ever more crowded, but which also enjoys the endorsement of such influential thinkers as Thomas Malthus and his many modern acolytes.
Yet, for more than a generation now, well-fed, healthy, peaceful populations around the world have been producing too few children to avoid population decline. That is true even though dramatic improvements in infant and child mortality mean that far fewer children are needed today (only about 2.1 per woman in modern societies) to avoid population loss. Birthrates are falling far below replacement levels in one country after the next—from China, Japan, Singapore, and South Korea, to Canada, the Caribbean, all of Europe, Russia, and even parts of the Middle East.
Fearful of a future in which the elderly outnumber the young, many governments are doing whatever they can to encourage people to have children. Singapore has sponsored “speed dating” events, in hopes of bringing busy professionals together to marry and procreate. France offers generous tax incentives for those willing to start a family. In Sweden, the state finances day care to ease the tension between work and family life. Yet, though such explicitly pronatal policies may encourage people to have children at a younger age, there is little evidence they cause people to have more children than they otherwise would. As governments going as far back as imperial Rome have discovered, when cultural and economic conditions discourage parenthood, not even a dictator can force people to go forth and multiply. . .
Patriarchy does not simply mean that men rule. Indeed, it is a particular value system that not only requires men to marry but to marry a woman of proper station. It competes with many other male visions of the good life, and for that reason alone is prone to come in cycles. Yet before it degenerates, it is a cultural regime that serves to keep birthrates high among the affluent, while also maximizing parents’ investments in their children. No advanced civilization has yet learned how to endure without it.
Through a process of cultural evolution, societies that adopted this particular social system—which involves far more than simple male domination—maximized their population and therefore their power, whereas those that didn’t were either overrun or absorbed. This cycle in human history may be obnoxious to the enlightened, but it is set to make a comeback.
The Conservative Baby Boom
The historical relation between patriarchy, population, and power has deep implications for our own time. As the United States is discovering today in Iraq, population is still power. Smart bombs, laser-guided missiles, and unmanned drones may vastly extend the violent reach of a hegemonic power. But ultimately, it is often the number of boots on the ground that changes history. Even with a fertility rate near replacement level, the United States lacks the amount of people necessary to sustain an imperial role in the world, just as Britain lost its ability to do so after its birthrates collapsed in the early 20th century. For countries such as China, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Spain, in which one-child families are now the norm, the quality of human capital may be high, but it has literally become too rare to put at risk.
Declining birthrates also change national temperament. In the United States, for example, the percentage of women born in the late 1930s who remained childless was near 10 percent. By comparison, nearly 20 percent of women born in the late 1950s are reaching the end of their reproductive lives without having had children. The greatly expanded childless segment of contemporary society, whose members are drawn disproportionately from the feminist and countercultural movements of the 1960s and 70s, will leave no genetic legacy. Nor will their emotional or psychological influence on the next generation compare with that of their parents.
Meanwhile, single-child families are prone to extinction. A single child replaces one of his or her parents, but not both. Nor do single-child families contribute much to future population. The 17.4 percent of baby boomer women who had only one child account for a mere 7.8 percent of children born in the next generation. By contrast, nearly a quarter of the children of baby boomers descend from the mere 11 percent of baby boomer women who had four or more children. These circumstances are leading to the emergence of a new society whose members will disproportionately be descended from parents who rejected the social tendencies that once made childlessness and small families the norm. These values include an adherence to traditional, patriarchal religion, and a strong identification with one’s own folk or nation.
This dynamic helps explain, for example, the gradual drift of American culture away from secular individualism and toward religious fundamentalism. Among states that voted for President George W. Bush in 2004, fertility rates are 12 percent higher than in states that voted for Sen. John Kerry. . . . .
Read the whole thing
Birth Control Abortion Reproductive Rights Feminism Declining Fertility Race Suicide Patriarchy Abortion
Posted by egalia at 9:15 AM