April 4, 2006

Sullivan, desperate arguments...

Andrew Sullivan has a strange bit of madness I just had to address. He writes:

One of the emerging memes on the social right is that you judge a society by its fertility rate.
Misleading. But that is indeed one of the factors we use in "judging" societies, because it seems to be very meaningful
...It's argued that Western Europe is a failure because its population is aging and will soon begin falling; ditto Russia and Japan. The implication is that modern secularism, with its encouragement of individual freedom, ignores the injunction to go forth and multiply, and is thereby doomed to the dustbin of history.
This is the OBVIOUS implication of what we are seeing. Let's see if Sullivan comes up with some actual arguments against this, rather than just waving it away with his hand...
...But check out this interesting graphic of reproduction rates. Look where the highest birth-rates are: Niger, Yemen, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia, Afghanistan, to name a few. A quick hands up: who wants to move there?
The argument is NOT about where one might want to live. And nobody denies that the highest birth-rates are found in poor and backward countries. But think for a moment about living somewhere where you don't see many children, and where most of those you do see have no idea what it's like to have siblings, cousins, uncles or aunts. That's what Italy and Spain are becoming like. Think of lonely old people, think of no youth movements of renewal and new beginnings and crazy optimism...I'm not sure that war-torn Afghanistan, full of poor but bright-eyed children, doesn't look better to me...I think I might rather chose to live there.

...At one end, high birth rates are an indication of social collapse and desperation:
High birth rates are associated with backwards societies, but that's not "social collapse."
...people are having kids in order to maximize their survival chances. Maybe there is some spiritual benefit to living in such dire need, but I fail to see a simple connection between high birth rates and social health.
The claim is NOT that living in dire need is spiritually beneficial, but that there may be spiritual pathologies associated with societies with birth rates below replacement. Pathologies associated with prosperity.
...In fact, declining birth-rates are almost always a sign of economic and social success, not failure, as we're seeing in China and India.
It's true that "declining birth-rates are almost always a sign of economic and social success," but that doesn't address the question of whether too much such success can ultimately destroy some societies. Or maybe all societies. And China has HORRIBLE demographic problems looming on its horizon.
... As long as the infrastructure exists for maintaining economic growth, the number of people in a given society is not that important an issue. Fewer may well be better.
Infrastructure? Huh? What? Infrastructure does not create economic growth, people do. Sullivan is writing economic nonsense. Germany, France and their neighbors currently have almost no economic growth. And this at a time when the world's economy as a whole is growing strongly. Their percentage of the world's GDP is shrinking. And no NEW products or industries are being created in Western Europe. (Can Sullivan POSSIBLY be this ignorant of economics? Not only does nfrastructure not bring growth, it doesn't bring stability--your state-of-the-art floppy disc factory turns into an economic negative in no time at all.
...I'd rather live in Germany than Kazakhstan, wouldn't you?
The comparison of Germany and Kazakhstan means nothing; Germany is coasting on the momentum of a past in which people worked hard, invested, had lots of children, and went to church. But arguably it is also now entering a death spiral, and has no future at all. I myself would rather live in India than Germany. India has a future, and is becoming more and more alive and exciting!
...Yes, there comes a point at which demographic imbalance with too many old people can strain a system.
Strain? You fool, all Western European countries are BANKRUPT! There is no possibility they can meet their un-funded pension and old-age liabilities, and even minor reform is now politically impossible.
...But this is a transitional problem, not a permanent predicament.
Transitional!! What madness. Transition to WHAT? What, PRECISELY, Mr Sullivan, is going to slow the downward trend?
....Wealthier societies with fewer people and continued growth are - or should be - a goal for most of us, not a threat.
Growth? What growth? Where is it going to come from? Your magical "infrastructure?"
...They help spread wealth more widely, will eventually ease environmental strain, and make for more comfortable living in a less crowded Western Europe or Japan.
No, they are already a drag on the world's economy, and there's nothing comfortable about a world of lonely old people growing ever poorer. And words cannot convey my contempt for that environmental argument. Maybe Sullivan should join with Pianka in hoping for airborn Ebola to kill billions!
...Numbers don't equal wealth or military power, given technology and the new brain-driven engines of economic growth.
No numbers don't equal it. But youth and growth and entrepreneurial energy and a focus on the future DO. And that's what Sullivan's "comfortable" societies don't have.
...Instead of bemoaning population decline, why not celebrate it?

Sullivan's predicament is patent. His only issue is Gay Marriage. However sincere and well-meaning he may be, in pursuit of it he has allied himself with people who seek to destroy traditional institutions, such as families, churches and community groups, because they wish to ATOMIZE people, in order to make them dependent on government, to further the advance of socialism. (Ironically, they have mostly forgotten what goal it is they pursue. They are no longer socialist revolutionaries, but the destructive meme lives on and on,)

Sullivan can neither ignore this issue (which condemns his crew starkly) nor does he dare try to make a rational case against it. He is waving it away with a flip of his hand. But the problem is not going to go away.

Posted by John Weidner at April 4, 2006 11:30 AM
Weblog by John Weidner