Patrick Buchanan argues that the drought of births in the West is a deep cultural change, persistent enough to foretell an implosion of white populations. He argues that the West will have to let in ho~des of African, Asian, and Latin American immigrants to do its work and fund its .pensions. And that will be The Death of the West.
He is not making up the numbers behind his argument. But he will be tagged as a racist – and a sexist and a homophobe – for this book because of the way he has written it. He has done it to irritate his enemies and to have his fans gleefully underlining the good parts.
The numbers behind The Death of the West apply equally well to Japan as to Germany, Italy, and Russia. Japan is not of the West. A book about depopulation might therefore have more accurately been called “The Death of the North” or even, “Death of the Rich.” But that would not have been this book.
This book is an attack on cultural leftism among whites, which he largely blames for their selfish unwillingness to breed. Buchanan’s most obvious target is feminism. And indeed, it would be interesting to ask the feminists, who have spent decades campaigning for abortion, birth control, careers, and small families, for their advice now that they have succeeded, and the birth rate in Europe has fallen to 1.4 per woman. That rate is one-third below 2.1, the rate needed, absent immigration, to hold population growth at zero.
“Only the mass reconversion of Western women to an idea that they seem to have given up – that the good life lies in bearing and raising children and sending them out into the world to continue the family and nation. – can prevent the death of the West,” Buchanan proclaims.
He may be right about that. But what will reconvert them? What will reconvert their men, who are co-conspirators in the decision to embrace sterility?
Buchanan suggests a $3,000-per- child tax credit and a repeal of the discrimination laws so that employers can pay “parents” (read: fathers) a family wage and mothers can stay home. Even as he offers this answer, he senses how lame it is. American business is not going to pay bonuses based on how many kids its employees have. And welfare states of Europe already have cash subsidies for children, and their birth rates are lower than ours.
All the alarm in this book is more applicable to Europe, with its l.4-per- woman fertility rate, than to the United States. Buchanan doesn’t care about Europe; he is famous for his argument (with which I agree) that America should have no obligation to defend the Europeans. He is an American making a political argument to Americans. In this very American book, he slaps his customers with the scary statistics about Europe without mentioning that the fertility rate in the United States is a far less scary 2.06.
Indeed, after a century of population explosion, and entering the new century with population still swelling, the U.S. rate is not bad. For now, it might be just right.
For decades, fertility rates have been falling everywhere,. including in Brazil, Mexico, India, and Iran. They are falling faster in those places than here. But medium-income and poor- country rates are well above- 2.1, which does mean, as Buchanan says, that at the moment they are on the path of growth while Europe faces imminent decline.
Buchanan allows that these trends might change, but says he. can’t see how they will. Fair enough. But 30 years ago, when people were obsessing about the “population bomb,” they couldn’t see how that trend would ever change. But it did. In the 20th century, fertility trends reversed several times.
Assume today’s low fertility rates will tend to stick. How would
Buchanan chooses his numbers selectively, more for dramatic effect than for understanding.
Buchanan get them up? He would make abortion illegal. That would help. But he would not do this to save the West. He would make abortion illegal even if the birth rate were at the baby-boom level of 3.5. And his opponents would keep it legal even if the birth rate were at the European level of 1.4.
Buchanan also wants to revive the stigma against homosexuals, and to justify that with population arguments. But declines in birth rates cannot be the fault of homosexuals. The gay birth rate was nearly zero to begin with. And homosexuality is not catching. It seems to be hard-wired, like left-handedness. The decline in birth rates is the fault of the straights.
Buchanan also wants to support traditional religion. He notes that of all U.S. states, Utah, the Mormon state, has the highest birth rate. Lowest is Bernie Sanders’ Vermont. America is more religious than Europe, and has more babies. He could also have added, when noting that rich countries have fewer babies, that the big exceptions are Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States, which are rich, fecund, and religious.
He may be right, but will this argument convert the infidels? I doubt it. People do not embrace God in order to have kids.
One policy idea a libertarian might suggest is to wean people from their reliance upon the state, so that they would have to rely more on their families. That might affect their willingness to have families, and might not. We have pensions now, and 401(k) plans, and if government stepped out of old-age provision, the private sector might just take it over and do just as well. Or better.
That is not his answer. There are many ideas this book could have
Buchanan wants to revive the stigma against homosexuals, and to justify that with population arguments.
explored but didn’t. There are no charts and tables; Buchanan chooses his numbers selectively, more for dramatic effect than for understanding. Thus we learn that the Russian fertility rate is 1.35, but not that the American one is 2.06. Buchanan also quotes the most outrageous commentators, such as Spike Lee opining on American his- tory, or a Mexican-American professor the reader will have never heard of, who proclaims, “We have an aging white America. They are not making babies. They are dying. The explosion is in our population. They are shitting in their pants in fear.”
Pat’s advice to his alarmed cust~m ers is to give up on electoral politics – here he speaks from experience – and decouple from mainstream culture. “If raw sewage is being dumped into the reservoir, buy bottled water,” he says. Maybe by homeschooling, attending church, and unplugging the idiot box, traditionalists will defend the cultural homeland of woman as mother, keep up their birth rates, and survive, while the pointy-headed progressives die out.
What about libertarians? How are they doing at providing a new generation to reproduce themselves? The Bureau of the Census keeps no statistics on us, but a picture does come to
mind. Libertarians have even fewer children than Italians, fewer than Russians, fewer even than Marxist professors of women’s studies, who may have an occasional red-diaper baby. Most libertarians are men, and have no babies at all.