That’s the closing phrase in a compelling article from Bill Frezza at Real Clear Markets. While I don’t agree with all of it, there are some points that I would like to highlight from it.
The root cause of the economic disaster that lies ahead is the kamikaze drive of democratic governments to displace the functions of the family, including the care of relatives in their old age. Since time immemorial, in every human society that ever was, and buttressed by social mores central to every religion ever practiced, children, grandchildren, and kin did what governments the world over now promise to do.
While Frezza focuses on the elderly, this new dependency actually begins at the prenatal stage. Parents don’t need children, but children equally don’t need parents. The state steps in at every level of life, from providing an education to providing senior care.
And the same thing is happening to marriage as well. The state is displacing traditional and biological bonds leaving behind social rubble in its wake.
Now consider the fate of modern democracies as birth rates plummet. Educated, liberated 20- and 30-somethings are increasingly dodging the rigors of marriage and parenthood as they search for self-actualization, zipless hook ups, and ecological consciousness. Growing ranks of childless, single citizens are dealing themselves out of the cycle of life. This has never happened in all of human history.
It has happened, but usually to elites. In this case the problem is not so much with elites, as Charles Murray has shown, it’s that the misbehavior and agendas of the elites damage the family structures of the working class.
Tomorrow’s workers, including those yet unborn, have no particular kinship to the people who will be feasting on their paychecks…
It takes a live birth rate of 2.1 children per woman to maintain a stable population. Birth rates across Southern Europe have plunged below 1.5, and are expected to drop even further as Euro Zone economies continue to contract. Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan, and Japan are converging on birth rates closer to 1.0, literally halving their population each generation. Even the Black Plague didn’t do that.
The trend is slower in countries like the United States that attract large numbers of both legal and illegal immigrants, whose babies fill the gap. But don’t get too comfortable. The fertility rate associated with recent immigrants disappears with assimilation.
Frezza neglects a very important point here. Tomorrow’s workers are increasingly immigrants who are far more dependent on social services and no kinship at all with the elderly or the rest of the society that they have entered.
Other points that Frezza fails to make is that unlike other countries which actually encourage families and provide subsidies for childbirth, the United States finds way to economically penalize married couples and to make the cost of child-rearing into a truly horrific number.
Frezza spends far too much time attacking the elderly and far too little time discussing why, aside from the cultural factors that he mentions, the birth rate has dropped so badly. Nevertheless his closing line is quite important on a social scale. “The problem with entitlement democracy is that you eventually run out of other people’s babies.”