We have noted on this blog in the past that birth rates among native-born Europeans are extremely low, and that the United States has been heading in the same direction. In an interesting review of Tim Burton's new film, The Corpse Bride, on Tech Central Station, Pinkerton considers the biological necessity of childbearing, and some of its social consequences, using insights from sociobiology and making reference to the original story on which the film was based:
. . . the ideas that animated the original "Corpse Bride" tale-tellers might animate us, too. Death at a young age doesn't loom over us today, as it did in centuries past. What we must live with instead is in a way even more mysterious and ominous -- the lack of young life.
If Edmund Burke was right -- that society is a compact between the generations; the dead, the living, and the yet to be born -- then something has gone wrong with our society. For two generations now, the world has lived in the erroneous thrall of Paul Ehrlich, author of The Population Bomb. Only now, as argued in a spate of important books, do we see that the real problem is not an explosion of people, but rather a dearth of birth. Pat Buchanan, Ben Wattenberg, and Phil Longman -- authors who respectively represent the paleoconservative, neoconservative, and center-left camps -- have all made the case for a return to pro-natalist attitudes in the West. Each author uses the language of politics and social science to express the same primal cry: "Have children! Have them for the sake of the living, and also for the sake of the dead, especially those who could never have their own, even though they wanted to."
No wonder the Right to Life movement continues to flourish. At the most basic level -- at the level of primal needs, and primordial tales -- there's a basic baby homeostasis at work. All those Baptists, Catholics, and others have a feeling, a feeling deep inside, that there aren't enough children, that there aren't enough little feet pattering around. On this issue, at least, God and Darwin are united.
The French government seems to agree. In repsonse to falling birthrates among the native population, the national government is offering additional incentives for the formation of larger families:
The French government has pledged more money for families with three children, in an effort to encourage working women to have more babies.
France already has a generous childcare system, which has resulted in a birth rate of 1.9 children per family, well above the EU average of 1.5.
That term "has resulted" is incorrect, given that France's higher birthrate is a result of its much larger population of Muslim immigrants than is present in other European countries. Nonetheless, the government's policy is significant, as is its stated reasoning, which echoes Pinkerton's TCS article:
"The family has changed," Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, himself a father of three, told a conference on the family.
"But it remains at the very heart of French society. It is a source of joy, of comfort, and a haven for its members. That is why we are announcing measures to help families in their everyday lives."
Of course, the real reason behind the French government's concern for family size is the fact that the nation's declining birth rate (it is below the replacement rate of 2.1 live births per female) makes the country's lavish social security systen entirely unsupportable, a problem that we in the United States, despite our higher rate of population growth (due to immigration) have only recently begun to consider doing anything serious about. The French government realizes that unless upcoming generations of French are much bigger than they have been lately, the Ponzi scheme that nearly every government-run social security system constitutes will lose all public support. Hence their newfound family-friendliness.