Filed under: Culture and Catholicism, Uncategorized | Tags: Catholic, demographics, economics, Hymowizt, morality, negative population growth, Wall Street
It’s the near future, but the same old story. The market has been spiraling downward for several quarters. What began as a minor bump in the road, a little overextension in the sub-prime market, has lasted long enough to be called a recession, and lately even the big D word has begun to join the dismal chant. Nothing’s helped, the old slight-of-hand with interest rates, pitiful attempts to jack productivity, then increasingly ‘socialist’ efforts to spread some remaining wealth around. Nothing’s worked. Everything has gone to hell.
Then, out of nowhere: voila, hello, here comes the cavalry! Can you believe it? It’s the Catholics! In the face of severe economic adversity, they have launched a cultural war.
They’ve attacked all the family’s enemies: birth control, abortion, gay lifestyles, adultery, no-fault divorce, masturbation, and pornography. Billboards that used to advertise divorce lawyers now read, “Get a life! Make love to your wife!” TV is full of happy-big-family reality shows and spot public service ads that show the danger of birth control pills to women’s bodies and the environment. Catholic lawyers, and then others, refuse to handle divorces, and others seek legal indictments against abortion mills, revealing disgusting abuses both of unborn children and women. Pastors preach go-forth-and-multiply sermons, and Catholic politicians on both sides of the aisle orchestrate state-by-state roll-backs of gay marriage laws. Then, first a trickle, and then the US birth-rate is really, really UP and who is singing Happy Birthday?
Impossible scenario? Not if we follow liberal commentator Kay Hymowizt, whose credentials include her work as editor at City Journal, fellowship at the Manhattan Institute, and writing for the New York Times and the Washington Post. In a recent article, Hymowizt has noted a curious trinity: Carrie Bradshaw, traditional western marriage ideals of stability, fidelity, and fertility, and stock market strength. She suggests that because the US still believes in True Love, Carrie being the proof, we alone in the whole wide world will weather the coming economic storm.
According to the article, Carrie Bradshaw, or her reasonable facsimile thereof, has appeared incarnate in almost every culture on earth. This has given rise demographically to what Hymowizt calls the New Girl Order, or the unprecedented rise of the Single Young Female. The SYF. Hymowizt says it’s a girl tsunami, something heretofore unknown in the entire history of the world. The SYF is checking herself in the mirror in Shanghai, lunching with the girls in Berlin, swinging her pointy pumps in Roma, and boy-watching in Budapest.
Thanks to birth control, growing labor demand, deferred child-bearing, and increased professional opportunities (women now dominate the university populations in every single western country and very many emerging nations), women all over the world can now say yes to spa and spandex, and no to children and marriage. In the history of human behavior, says Hymowizt, this is new, and the very least of the implications is economic catastrophe. This news, friends, is not good for the nest egg, and we are already seeing the scary beginning. There simply is no one to buy new cars: we aborted them. The figures vary, it’s hard to get firm data, but at least 16% of the total US population, what would have been a market and would have saved Michegan. And we’re better off than Europe or Asia!
Hymowizt gives the ominous digits. In one generation, in eastern nations like bell-wethers Japan and China, and in all western nations-except in the US–we have abandoned the 60’s imagined future Malthusian crisis of overpopulation to the very real crisis of underpopulation, coyly called negative population growth. The only exceptions to precipitous world population decline lie in the sub-Sahara and Muslim nations. And it’s clear that Malthusians should never have fretted. Turns out it’s really, really easy to stop human reproduction: just give a girl a few pills and a Visa card. Oh, wait, forgot one thing: first you have to make her think God is dead and no one will ever love her.
Let one example suffice: Russia is disappearing. Russia has 17 075 200 square kilometers, or almost a seventh of the earth’s surface; by the year 2050, Russia’s population will have fallen to fewer than tiny Muslim Yemen’s (536,869 square kilometers). Russia is currently losing 800,000 people a year and by 2050 will have lost 30 million, 22% of its workforce. What war ever claimed so many? Putin has declared the country’s birthrate a national crisis. And twenty other European countries are running fast toward the same precipice.
Not only Europe. Japan will lose 21% of its population by 2050. China’s population decline, with their one child per family policy, is the most precipitous of all, but until recently they have been able to ignore the implications, due to Mongolia’s higher birth rate.
But they have found that they cannot so easily replace skilled workers with less skilled Mongolians, another hard lesson, one that India has learned as well, as its most educated workers are the first to contracept and abort; even though other sectors continue to have babies, they can’t replace the college-bound kids lost to the tech sector. Those jobs are now fleeing India.
Apparently the economy grows when the middle-class population grows, and shrinks when the population shrinks, unless there is a corresponding offset by either or both of two factors: increased productivity and immigration. Hymowizt notes that fertility decline often spurs a temporary economic boost as more women enter the workforce, termporarily increasing productivity, as was the case in 1980s Japan. Now those women-and their male counterparts-are getting old and need pensions and increased health care. The problem is, since those women contracepted, who will pay now? The productivity bubble caused by new Japanese women workers first thinned in 1990 and now drifts steadily downward. The same has occurred in Hong Kong, with fewer than one child per couple; the birthrate is named in financial journals as the sole reason that Hong Kong has not lived up to its fabulous early promise to become a world player. Hong Kong is dying, starved of its children.
Countries with negative population growth but at present relatively stable economies, as we see in Europe and the US, are using creative variations of the two fixes, increased productivity and immigration. But there comes a critical point where these parachutes fail.
Japan, for example, invested heavily after 1990 in increased productivity per human worker by longer work days and longer work years, combined with the heavy use of robotics, but these measures failed to stop the economic death spiral. Japanese men simply work too many hours, now, to become fathers, even if they wanted to. Unfortunately, since Japanese men masturbate more and have intercourse less than any nation on earth, according to a recent survey conducted by condom manufacturer Durex, fatherhood is not an option. What about increasing productivity, though? Robert Feldman, chief economist for Morgan Stanley in Tokyo, recently said that the increased productivity solution alone would never restore Japan’s previously robust economy – “The numbers are too big! Even the cats would have to work!” And Japan’s culture rejects immigration. Hitoshi Suzuki, a senior researcher at Daiwa Institute said, “It’s impossible to let in that many foreigners. We are not going to become a country like America.”
What about America? We’re just barely holding on to an economic bucking bronco. The US birthrate, currently 2.2, one tenth of a baby better than the 2.1 basic replacement rate is still one of the highest birth rates compared to other western countries, even if it is supported, say reporters like Joan Delaney (Victoria’s Epoch Times), by the higher birth rates of immigrants from Mexico. The immigrants also increase the population of workers and consumers. By 2026, a prominent real estate firm projects 40% of US first home buyers will be Mexican, and even the recent mild border crackdown is to blame for the 2007 summer market downturn which has now persisted into 2008 and fueled recession talk, according to Multi-Housing News, an industry publication. Mexico is saving the US, but it can’t last.
For one thing, Mexico is beginning to feel the pinch of the labor drain. Its own birthrate was plummeting even before the introduction of a hotly-debated abortion law. Many commentators say this will lead to tougher border regulation on the Mexico side, or Mexico’s economy, starved of workers and especially of its young, productive, male workers, will wither, even propped up by the dollars flowing south. David Gaddis Smith wrote (San Diego Union-Tribune, October 2007) that demographers studying the Mexican birthrate’s plunge from 6.8 in 1970 to its present 2.45 predict that Mexico will likely retain (by whatever means necessary) its future workers for its own economy.
And America is already tapping out the skilled technological workers from countries like India. John Larkin, writing in the Wall Street Journal, said that contrary to the idea that India was a bottomless well of talent ready to scoop up American jobs, India herself was facing a shallow pool of educated youngsters to fuel its own booming tech services sector, and feared a half million worker shortage in technology as early as 2010. Dell, in fact, has re-sourced its customer service out of India back home to the USA, as has Apple, Sony, Powergen, and a flood of others, due to the poor quality of the IT barrel scrapings in India and growing customer complaints.
But enough economics, back to Carrie Bradshaw. According to Hymowizt, the Sex and the City prototype has penetrated almost all world urban cultures, ala The Marrying Type in South Korea or The Balzac Age in Russia, but there are critical differences in the plot lines. Unlike Carrie Bradshaw, Japanese heroines are not looking for Mr. Right and consistently portray with distaste the traditional loveless Asian marriage and the culture’s relentlessly unromantic pornographic expressions of sexuality. In contrast, Hymowizt says, according to surveys, the real girl US version of the SYF, like the fictional Carrie Bradshaw, still believes in marriage and family, and our healthier birth rates reflect it. Hymowizt writes that the U.S., like northwestern Europe, has a long tradition of “companionate marriage”–that is, marriage based on common interests and mutual affection and the assumption of female equality–which enables American women to continue to choose marriage and children when the rest of the world will not. Countries like Japan are joining the new order with no history of romance in marriage, and their SYF just aren’t going back.
Thus it would appear that the US has a serious game advantage against Asian cultures and also against European nations who are Catholic in name only.
A number of analysts, including demographer Nicholas Eberstadt, have argued that it is America’s unique continuing sincere religiousness that explains its tentative fertility. When women can vote with their wombs, apparently romantic love wins.
And we got that. Well, we’ve almost lost it. But we can get it back!
While Hymowizt may not know that the idea of romantic marriage comes from Catholicism, anyone familiar with the catechism, or with the gospel’s teaching that the love between a man and a woman mirrors the love of God for His Church, or with the great, passionate, tender love stories typical of historical Catholic culture, could doubt that Catholicism (later continued to a greater or lesser degree by Protestantism) offers the world’s most idealized and romantic model of human sexuality. Think of Abelard and Heloise, Romeo and Juliet, St. Francis and St. Clare. Love such as theirs is expected among Catholics. Love such as theirs is the historical norm for Catholics. This egalitarian model had an enormous affect on European culture, setting it apart from Muslim and pagan models.
True to its teaching, the Church has educated women from grade school through the university. It is the rule rather than the exception, even when the girls were not destined to enter the job market. Consider for a moment the familiar story of Madame Curie, Carrie Bradshaw’s virtuous version, the brilliant young Polish student who went through a rigorous scientific education in Paris, on scholarship, earning the highest rating in her class; when she then chose to return home to care for her elderly father, and never use her talent or expensive education again, there was not a murmur of recrimination. There was regret, but not for educating her, only of losing her. Fortunately for the world, Dr. Curie proposed, and they became lovers and partners in one of the most fascinating scientific achievements of our age, the discovery of radium.
Yet Marie Curie would have been free to receive such an education–and never use it. This is the Catholic western heritage, open to the religious and the non-religious, codified in law. It strongly contrasts to many religions’ position on the education of women, which sees them not as partners but as horrors, such powerful sexual objects that they must be hidden away behind walls and veils, or as geishas. And now, thanks to Carrie Bradshaw–such an unlikely little heroine–women all over the world in cultures without the tradition of loving, life-long marriage have the opportunity to reject their fate.
We, on the other hand, have a cultural treasure that now may well save our nest eggs. But we must change the debate. We must consciously focus on a righteous return to our traditions. The harshest blow against terrorism would be a society where educated and faithful women could enjoy both family and work, safe from rape and pornography, where both men and women have a mission in the world, a society living the tradition of western virtue, which was born when Jesus told the Pharisees, regarding women, ‘put the veil in your own hearts’ and set us free. Returning to our roots, we could also solve the seemingly endless and bitter debate about immigration, because it is really a debate about reproduction.
Currently, the immigration debate has two wrong sides: those who realize that immigration is absolutely essential, given our birthrate without Mexican additions, and go out of their way to give immigrants, legal or otherwise, the welcome mat; and the other side, those who fight immigration, but otherwise seem to ignore the very real fact of negative population growth, and fail to address even the most obvious solutions to the real problem, reproduction. Malthusian-influenced social innovations like abortion on-demand and aggressive birth control are against Catholic teaching, but Hymowizt, a liberal, is suggesting they are also suicidal economics.
Not that Catholics live up to their faith–yet. Catholics contracept and abort at the same rate as their pagan compatriots, with the fragile exceptions still of Hispanic countries and Ireland. Hymowizt points out that the most “Catholic” European countries-Italy, Spain, and Poland-have the lowest fertility rates. But Catholics can remember, distantly, like jumbled bells tolling, the old teachings:
Do not use birth control. Do not commit sodomy. Do not masturbate. Pornography is an ugly sin. Marry for life. Infidelity is a sin. Married love is like God’s love for us, eternal, so don’t abandon your spouse unless you want God to abandon us. Have many children. Don’t abort; you’re killing the child of your love. Be chaste rather than be promiscuous. There is a place in the world for chastity and celibacy, which are beautiful and liberating, not sad and constricting. It is possible, with grace, to control sexual desire to protect the family. We will be judged. Hell is real.
So is stock market failure.
We have to change our own behavior, and our words. We have to tell our children the truth. We have to tell them that our divorces were not due to “incompatibility” and “immaturity” and “inability to make decisions,” all those favorite excuses in infamous Catholic annulments. We must tell them now that sin ruined our marriages, most often infidelity and impurity, and that if they use the tools the Church gives us in the sacraments, they do not have to repeat our sins. They can have courage to make large families again, for it takes courage.
And we must tell our grown children to have children–no more excuses. We must stop teaching the young, as young as middle school, to contracept at all cost, as if pregnancy were absolutely the worst thing in the world.
Or we, like many Europeans throwing away our wise heritage, can make some other choice. One blogger suggested that the government just make birth control unavailable, through subterfuge if necessary. As if the quality motherhood that produces quality children can be obtained except by free choice and love! That blogger has completely forgotten infanticide and the thousand year war against it the Church waged on all the world’s continents.
Or here’s another solution recently offered, an interesting and chilling variation of the already bankrupt immigration solution to our economic woes: the UN can simply engineer the importation of whole populations to the US. This is Barbara Crossette’s idea, writing in the LA Times. Since there are some countries that are still enjoying birthrates from four to six children, as in the sub-Sahara and parts of southern Asia, Crossette suggests that we should relocate those populations here, and thus embrace “bold international formulas (not just conferences) for tackling and balancing migration to serve both the North and South. . . . Wouldn’t the world’s natural environment be better protected by offering more people a managed way to move to less-populated regions, perhaps through a new U.N. agency modeled on the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees?”
Naturally, at the same time, Barbara warns, we must aggressively teach these immigrants birth control, because (she includes several sententious interviews to make the point) babies just wear women out.
She needn’t worry. Statistics show it takes only one generation for immigrants to reach the same low birthrate levels as their host. And the immigrant generation, poor and uneducated, unexposed to technology or democracy, with an average IQ of 67, according to world data on the sub-Sahara, would be limited in the types of work they could do.
But we have an alternative. This is our hour, Catholic America. Our Church teaches, and has always taught the beautiful truth about love (over-accommodation on this issue from some clergy, some Catholic universities, and some Catholic theologians notwithstanding). Now is our chance to practice it, promote it, and downright push it, and save both our souls– and our stocks.
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