Demographic Decadence

November 27, 2009

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Because of my pro-life, pro-family stance—my wife and I have six kids—I am often solicited by Catholics who want me to travel the “Road to Rome.” (I discussed this in April as “Pro-Life Politics and the Several Catholicisms”) This you-ought-to-be-a-Catholic response is elicited even by the more mirthful evocations of my idiosyncratic doctrine:

Pro-family advocacy doesn’t end on the wedding day, of course. Once the young lovebirds get lawfully hitched, it’s time to start badgering them about making babies. Some suspect me of furthering a clandestine agenda, but my Victory Through Breeding Program is no secret. Between sodomy and abortion (the most important “rights” for liberals), the Democratic Party is charting a path to demographic oblivion, and conservatves can hasten that process simply by doing what comes natural.
The birds and bees. Tarzan and Jane. “Let’s do it like they do on the Discovery Channel.” IYKWIMAITYD.

In case you are unfamiliar with online acronyms, that last one translates: “If You Know What I Mean—And I Think You Do.” That tone of nudge-nudge wink-wink insinuation is ironic, of course, as we find ourselves immersed in a culture that is paradoxically obsessed with sex but hostile to reproduction. Exactly how our culture got this way, I endeavored to explain in response to a Catholic commenter:

Seriously, though, if you go back and study the history of Margaret Sanger, the Rockefellers and the Birth Control crusade, you will see that anti-Catholic prejudice was a major motivating factor.
From 1880-1924—with a lapse during WWI—there was a huge influx of Catholic immigration into the U.S. These new arrivals, added to the already large population of Irish Catholics, presented a major cultural and political challenge to WASP dominance in the Northeast. This was an era when Anarchism, Communism, labor unionism and other leftist ideologies had a great currency among the “huddled masses” (as they were called by the socialist poet Emma Lazarus). So it wasn’t as if the fears of the WASP elite were without a basis in fact.
The WASP elite focused on the higher birth rate of Catholics as the most important variable in the demographic equation. Rather than to ask themselves, “Why is the birth rate of Old Stock Americans declining?” the WASP elite instead resolved to reduce the birth rate of the immigrants. Thus began the Birth Control Gospel.
The ironic result, however, was that the propagation of the Sangerist doctrine actually accelerated the WASP decline. It was not until the 1960s that younger Catholics began to accomodate themselves to the Contraceptive Culture. In the meantime, however, the WASP elite had embraced the Birth Control Gospel to such an extent that not even the restrictive immigration laws passed in the 1920s did much to halt their decline.
Even the “Baby Boom” of the 1950s was predominantly a phenomenon of urban Catholics and rural Protestants. In 1957, the U.S. total fertility rate peaked at 3.7 (average lifetime births per woman, based on annual birth rates) which meant that the average U.S. woman was more likely to have 4 children than to have 3. Yet if you scratch below the surface on that number, you’ll see that the WASP elite of the Northeast were reproducing at a rate far below the national average.
The descendants of the Pilgrims and Puritans had become decadent, you see. Once that sort of decadence becomes widespread within any society—or within any particular segment of society—the decline is usually irreversible.
Well, my ancestors were not part of the WASP elite, but the restless independent Ulster Scots who settled the Appalachians and the Piedmont uplands. We’re doing our best to avoid WASPish decadence. There is a reason the No. 1 spectator sport in America is NASCAR, you know. ;-)

What must be resisted is the false belief that there are historic trends independent of human action. And speaking of human action . . .

Well, nudge-nudge wink-wink, IYKWIMAITYD.

(P.S.: The item linked above is another lamentable example of the crass commercialization of Christmas. But my wife just returned from the mall to tell me she spent so much we’ll be hard-pressed to pay the heating bill, so I’ve got a good excuse.)

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