June 30, 2008

One probably shouldn”€™t look to the New York Times for analysis of the ongoing Death of the West; however, Russell Shorto’s latest article in the Magazine, “€œNo Babies?”€ is worth considering, if only because it’s one of the more interesting”€”and interestingly wrong“€”Left-liberal responses to the European birth dearth.

Quoting Hans-Peter Kohler of University of Pennsylvania, Shorto opines,

“€˜high fertility was associated with high female labor-force participation . . . and the lowest fertility levels in Europe since the mid-1990s are often found in countries with the lowest female labor-force participation.”€™ In other words, working mothers are having more babies than stay-at-home moms.

Yes, if we just get enough women into the work force, we”€™ll solve this baby shortage thing in a jiffy! Shorto even echoes British “€œconservative”€ MP David Willetts in chanting “€œFeminism is the new natalism,”€ and that we need to install lots of new state initiatives to help manage women’s corporate lives. Christendom is dying, and it’s only the post-feminist career gals who can save it!

None of this really matters, of course. For even if Shorto’s thesis were true, every single European country is well below replacement level reproduction, even those bastions of women’s liberation.  Beyond this, Shorto’s conceit is a classic example of the collective fallacy, that is, logic in which parts are confused for the whole.

Shorto makes statements like, “€œ[T]he societies most wedded to maintaining that traditional family structure seem to be those with the lowest birthrates.”€ And “€œSocieties that support working couples have higher birthrates than those in which mothers are housewives.”€

“€œSocieties”€ don”€™t have children, women do. And the women pursuing careers and the women having babies ain”€™t necessarily the same people.
In this regard, the numbers are readily available online and easy to crunch. Take for instance, the demographics of the Netherlands, a country Shorto praises for its bounteous, natalist welfare-state, which offers women direct tax credits for each child and guarantees generous maternal (and soon paternal) leave from work.

Shorto boasts that this system results in a Total Fertility Rate of 1.78 children per woman, well below replacement level (2.1) but then fairly high for the continent. But the national TFR is a rather bird’s-eye view of things. What’s more striking is that non-European immigrants to the Netherlands comprise 12.4% of the population but 16.4% of the births, Moroccans being largest immigrant group and the most fecund with a fertility rate of 2.87. The Dutch population is shrinking as a whole, but new groups within are growing larger and larger.  

Without question, many of the fertile Dutch immigrants are taking advantage of the kinderbijslag supplement for each new child. But these are also the people doing the odd jobs, running the kebob stands, or idling on welfare checks”€”definitely not the beneficiaries of all the new “€œfeminist”€ measures in the corporate workplace.

Shorto’s talk of “€œsociety”€ masks a division of labor emerging across the continent in which the white people pursue careers and maximize self-fulfillment and the immigrants have the babies. This arrangement appears to Shorto as a “€œwin-win”€”€”feminism and children, too”€”only because he refrains from looking at the phenomenon too closely.  

The Baron Münchhausen was allegedly able to pull himself up out of a swamp by his own hair. I”€™m afraid Shorto will be less successful in arguing that sponsoring feminism in the work place is the only way to save the European family. 


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