From the October 2016 issue of Chronicles.
Business Insider recently reported “a mind-blowing demographic shift” that is about to occur. Considering the globe’s whole human population, the number of adults age 65 and older will in a few years be greater than the number of children under the age of 5. This unprecedented change should then accelerate: By 2050, old people are expected to make up 16 percent of humanity (25 percent in Europe); small children, only 7 percent and falling (with the European number approaching 4 percent). Our “globalized” civilization can now see its resting point. The probable human future, it appears, resembles the dystopia found in P.D. James’s prophetic novel The Children of Men: a vast geriatric ward, filled with the detritus of a material civilization, absent the voices of children, everyone waiting for the end.
How did humanity—our planet’s seemingly most successful biological species—turn on itself and create conditions pointing toward its extinction? The answer is actually quite simple: It is the result of the Stork Theory of human reproduction found at the core of liberalism.
Now, by liberalism I do not mean the cartoon definition centered on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” still employed and denounced by most conservatives. (Indeed, it actually appears that the social policies of the New Deal helped to bring on the famous Baby Boom of the mid-20th century— subject for another essay.) Nor do I use the more sunny, libertarian alternative: free markets and free minds. Rather, I mean the ideology now dominant in “the West” (and being aggressively exported to other lands as well), which holds each human being to be a wholly independent, self-defining actor. From that simple premise (offered in basic form by Thomas Hobbes and developed more fully by Friedrich Nietzsche), the liberal project grew finally into a system that eats its own young. The process occurred primarily in three phases and in three parallel arenas of human life: in economics, in the relation of man to woman, and in sex.
Industrial capitalism is the economic fruit of the liberal idea. It has famously produced a vast trove of material goods. And, to be fair, in the early decades of its operation, it appears to have spurred some population growth—not by raising the birthrate but by indirectly contributing to a reduction in the infant mortality rate. Yet, in the long run, these gains came at a great, albeit infrequently acknowledged, social price. To begin with, the liberal economy severed the place of work from the place of residence. Until that economy emerged, it had been normal—even natural—for home and work to coexist in unity. This had the effect of underscoring the economic foundation of marital and family relations. Each home was a productive, as well as a consuming, place, filled with an array of tasks involving and necessitating husband and wife, parents and children. Indeed, on the small farm or in the craftsman’s shop, offspring become economic assets at an early age and are welcomed as such. The favored factory system severed these bonds.
Viewed from a somewhat different angle, the liberal economy grew as it consumed the home economy. The industrial process grows and increases profits as it takes tasks once done by families or small communities and reorganizes them according to a mechanical model. In the beginning, these transferred functions were spinning and cloth-making. And, in truth, while some resisted the change, the majority found it congenial: It seemed to make life a little easier. However, the nervous energy of capitalism can leave nothing untouched. In our day, industrialized tasks include infant care, “fast food,” and—with the advent of virtual reality—existence itself. Along the way, governments have joined in, mimicking the factory model to industrialize education and child welfare. Almost the whole of the home economy has now disappeared.
Some religiously motivated couples still produce larger families, but they are proving to be a wasting asset in the liberal order. Suppressing whatever natural instincts remain, the liberal economy has turned children into liabilities. Accordingly, it has become rare for more than one or two to appear in today’s households.
The liberal idea also undermines the unique ties of man to woman. With the home economy destroyed, the many tasks that had filled women’s lives with meaning and value have simply vanished. (While the same development happened among men, their movement for a time into the “breadwinner” role provided some psychic compensation.) It should cause no surprise that deskilled women left in largely functionless households felt bored and unappreciated and found hope in the feminist cry “Flee to the factories!”
Such a result was inevitable, for the liberal “person”—the independent, self-defining actor—has by definition no immutable biological nature. Certainly, the musculature and the plumbing vary somewhat, but the industrial process provides devices and procedures (including those found in the modern abortuary) that compensate for these differences. Categories such as male and female imply a natural order to human affairs, a recognition of differences and responsibilities that are expressed in terms of teleology—the unique purposes of man and woman. Chief among them is the procreation and nurture of children. The liberal mindset cannot tolerate this. Thus, it demands the most extreme version of feminism. Gender theory becomes the apex of liberal thought: As we have recently learned, even the U.S. military must submit to it. Experience shows that, as feminism is embraced, still fewer children emerge.
Liberalism also directly engages sex, with especially sterile results. For the last hundred years, the cry for sexual liberty has been a central part of the liberal project: free access to state-subsidized birth control, “free love” (an end to laws and cultural restraints against fornication and adultery), free access to abortion, no-fault divorce, legally recognized cohabitation, free access to pornography, “gay marriage,” and LGBTQ rights.
What ties this agenda together? Back in 1896, Adolf Brand founded Der Eigene, the world’s first openly homosexual journal, in Germany. The title was key: In English it means “The Self-Owners.” Brand and his colleagues were actually pederasts (along with being openly racist and antisemitic), yearning “for a revival of Greek times and Hellenic standards of beauty after centuries of Christian barbarism.” Yet such matters are secondary. “Self-ownership” is the gnostic belief that undergirds the liberal view of sex. This belief allows no room for “they two shall be one flesh” or “be fruitful and multiply”—archaic incantations that imply limits to eroticism and arbitrary responsibilities toward others that crimp and distort. To be a sexual Self-Owner means the freedom to achieve orgasm whenever and however you want, presumably without compulsion (although Brand apparently held to some exceptions on that), and most preferably without the possibility of conception.
On one level, economic liberalism and sexual liberalism seem to complement each other. Consider the divorce industry, which drives up the GNP by creating two households and all the appliances and other bric-a-brac that go with them. Or the drug industry, where great profits come from selling sexual aids (Viagra, Cialis) and chemical band-aids for gonorrhea, AIDS, and other “love” diseases. Or consider the enthusiastic embrace of the LGBTQ agenda by Target, Facebook, Google—indeed, by virtually the whole of Wall Street.
There is, however, a flaw in all of this, a contradiction in the mindset of the globalized liberal order. In order to have future generations of taxpaying, government-funding consumers, the globalized liberal order needs children. From where will these children come?
For some decades now in the United States, the answer has been unwed teenage mothers. About 40 percent of American children are currently born out of wedlock (a wonderful, antediluvian term), the vast majority drawing their financial support from the patriarchal state. (This is the sole form of patriarchy favored by the liberal feminist.) While it is arguable that some children have successfully adapted to this new order (a young Barack Obama comes to mind), most of them have made or will make for poor participants in the liberal capitalist side of the system. Still, they are human flesh and blood.
Regardless, the supply is running out. The incessant liberal antagonism toward all forms of fertility, manifest in the development of Norplant and other advanced forms of contraception, has driven down the teenage birthrate quite sharply: It is down 42 percent since 2007.
It does no good to point out these contradictions to liberal capitalists, who are seemingly oblivious to the notion that their very liberalism is consuming future consumers. The contradiction itself is their core belief, like the Marxist’s historical dialectic. Indeed, the only answer to the question “From where will children come?” that liberalism ultimately provides is the stork. That is, despite every effort made by liberals to create a system that suppresses procreative marriage and human fertility, their ideology assumes that children will somehow still appear: The stork will bring them!
The Stork Theory can be seen, between the lines, in Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?, Eric Kaufmann’s fascinating 2012 book. A self-declared secular liberal, Kaufmann nonetheless sees religion as a still-powerful force, arguing that “religious fundamentalists are on course to take over the world through demography.” He adapts here the term fundamentalist to include Christians, Jews, and Muslims worldwide who still adhere to the divine admonition “Be fruitful and multiply.” Kaufmann specifically includes American Mormons, the Old Order Amish and the Hutterites, Ultra-Orthodox Haredi Jews, Salafi Islamists, “Quiverfull” Evangelicals, and Laestadian Lutherans from the north woods of Finland. (He might have added Traditionalist or Latin Mass Catholics to the mix.) As human fertility otherwise falls around the earth, these religious bodies—whose women still bear an average of four to nine children—are already expanding their relative share of national populations. Compounded over several future generations, the transition becomes staggering.
Kaufmann concludes with a warning to his fellow liberals:
It will be a century or more before the world completes its demographic transition. There is still too much smoke in the air for us to pick out the peaks and valleys of the emerging social order. This much seems certain: without a new [secular liberal] ideology to inspire social cohesion, fundamentalism cannot be stopped. The religious shall inherit the earth.
On the surface, this would appear to be good news for the philoprogenitive religious conservatives. However, Kaufmann fails to see that the “new” liberal ideology he seeks may already be in place—a strategy that is as much about coercion as it is inspiration. Simply put, the children of the traditionalists can be taken away, with their minds and their morals reprogrammed to be in harmony with the liberal idea. This process can already be seen in the sex-education programs and bathroom policies of the state schools, which now mostly embody the gender theory and the consequent antifertility biases of liberalism. The next phase will predictably involve shutting down “homophobic” religious and private schools; the first step is to take away their tax-exempt status.
The final phase (which is already being discussed, I am told) follows from the same understanding of children’s rights. It would use the state’s child-welfare apparatus to remove children from “homophobic” and “heteronormative” parents, for transfer by adoption to reliably liberal households. Here, the children can learn the path to and practices of Self-Ownership. In these favored places, each child can exercise its right to explore and discover which of the multitude of possible sexual orientations it prefers. Homeschooling families would probably be the first targets. Yet others, such as the Old Order Amish, should quickly follow. These folks will find few friends in the existing American legal system, where the dominant practitioners now worship at the shrines of Self-Ownership and gender theory.
This is the Stork Theory at work, now backed by the police power of your government.
Were the liberals able to achieve this full-scale suppression of fecundity, their contradiction would be fully realized. The only option that would remain for them would be to create some variation of Brave New World, hatcheries that surrender the human future to mechanical storks. What would happen to Self-Ownership under such a system is unclear, but the prospects are not promising. However, as noted before, contradictions may not be acknowledged.
Back in 1916, over 4,000 American cities and towns and millions of young mothers took part in National Baby Week. Orators celebrated motherhood as a vocation and a vital element of national welfare. There were babycare seminars and “Best Mother” contests that tested mothers’ knowledge and devotion. And there were grand parades. As one historian writes, “Like military heroes, mothers with infants in arms paraded down Main Street to the applause of flag waving townspeople.”
Today, exactly one hundred years later, the only equivalent events are the “pride” parades held in every major American city—orgies in motion. The objects of attention and praise are no longer mothers and babies. In their place rises alone the sterile phallus, a fitting symbol and the final product of the liberal idea.