Ross Douthat’s recent New York Times article is making the rounds on the internet. Writing about birth rates in the U.S., he says:
Beneath these policy debates, though, lie cultural forces that no legislator can really hope to change. The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe. It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.
Such decadence need not be permanent, but neither can it be undone by political willpower alone. It can only be reversed by the slow accumulation of individual choices, which is how all social and cultural recoveries are ultimately made.
For this population replenishment challenge, rather than calling for a second baby boom, Adam Ozimek sees opportunity for immigration. He writes:
But of course immigrants also can be tomorrow’s taxpayers, workers, and entrepreneurs; and they can keep the ratio of workers per retiree up as well. Even better, immigrants arrive here as workers and skip past the whole taking and not giving stage of childhood through adolescence. If you want to apply the conservative meme of makers vs takers most accurately then apply to adults and children. Having more babies may be economically positive, but surely if we could give birth to fully formed adults their net economic contribution would go up. And that is effectively what immigrants are: fully formed adults who enter our country ready to work without having required anything from us first, unlike those needy takers we call America’s children…
Yet if immigrants have similar effects as having babies but with more positive net economic contribution, then why fuss about “Government’s power over fertility”, which Douthat recognizes is “limited, but not nonexistent”? Our power to increase immigration in contrast is both massive and cheap: all we have to do is stop getting in the way.