The Corner

Natalism Nostalgia

As a guy who spent his first couple years in Washington having to learn about Total Fertility Rates and memorizing UN population projections, I find the new politics of birth rates fascinating, if oddly otherworldly. A decade ago, it was still a major talking point of the sophisticated left to talk about overpopulation, not just in the Third World but here. And not just because of immigration, but because Americans were supposedly having too many children. Of course, this argument was — and still is — linked to the notion that Americans are a disproportionate “drag” of the global environment. But that’s a tangent will ignore for now.

As for Brooks’ point as well as Ramesh’s emailer, I’m not convinced that the political significance of red-state natalism isn’t overblown (though I haven’t read Steve Sailer’s piece which many smart folks liked). Red states are culturally conservative. Culturally conservative people have more kids. People with more kids tend to be culturally conservative. People with lots of kids in liberal places tend to move to places that are more conservative. At some point, isn’t this the repetition of basically the same point from different angles? The YaYa plant grows in blue soil. Plants in blue soil tend to be YaYa plants. And, besides, was it not ever thus?

I can see why the red-state natalism stuff might be an important longterm trend, but let’s not forget that many of the red states tend to be underpopulated and the centuries-long American story of young people moving to cities for fun and opportunity isn’t likely to end any time soon. Many red states consider the on-going brain-drain from their universities to out-of-state cities to be one of their most pressing problems.

Anyway, I’m not dismissing this as a non-story, I’m just not convinced this is the mammoth, important trend some people are claiming it to be.

Jonah Goldberg — Jonah Goldberg holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute and is a senior editor of National Review. His new book, The Suicide of The West, is on sale now.

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