The Corner

Babies 2006 (Round 2)

Andrew, one might also argue that immigration, in the context of low fertility, is a far more serious problem precisely because the children of immigrants are “too large” a portion of the next generation — they have not enough peers with whom to assimilate.

I think the mistake of Euroelites was to imagine (along with, as far as I can tell, a bunch of American libertarians) that immigration can be a substitute for babies. 

I am not arguing that higher fertility is everywhere better than lower fertility. I’m arguing that as a society you have to make a next generation or else you die out. Cultures which cannot channel “enough” erotic energy of the young into marriage and childbearing are probably not going to make it in the long run. As fertility rates move to 1 baby per woman, the population is cut in half in each generation: 100 in the first, 50 in the second, 25 in the third, 12.5 in the fourth — and that’s just living memory.

Since I have to admit (although I personally am immensely fond of them) babies have no practical use at all and cost a lot of money in modern economies, almost every developed economy is moving towards a one-child per family norm. One baby makes you a mother and gives you 100 percent of those psychic benefits. Each additional baby costs a fortune in direct and opportunity costs. The U.S. is truly exceptional.

Now if only these babies were being born to married couples — say, at the rate they were in 2000 even.

By the way, I am aware that this once obvious idea is now highly contested: Are babies really necessary? Intelligent people now wonder. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how that can be and what it says about our forms of culture. 

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