As we live through the decline of western civilization, it’s easy to get so lost in the chaos of imminent collapse that you can’t take stock of the overall situation. We need a high vantage point and a moment to consider broader trends, and such a position has increasingly become an unaffordable luxury. Fortunately I do have some spare time to briefly summarize on a very general level what is happening in particular with diminishing birth-rates and the factors driving the baby-drought.
What Is The Birth Rate Decline?
In short, it’s a downward trajectory in the total fertility rate of women. Over the course of a lifetime, on average, each individual woman needs to have 2.1 children to maintain a stable population size. Should the fertility rate drop below that benchmark the overall population size will begin shrinking. The United States is currently sitting at around 1.78 children per woman, although preliminary estimates show this may’ve fallen much further. South Korea clocks in with an abysmal 0.84 kids per woman. Overall, most industrialized nations all over the planet are below replacement fertility and this includes Europe, Latin America as a whole, Asia, and India. Even sub-Saharan Africa has experienced birth rate declines that put it on par with the United States in the late 1800s, meaning that contrary to what many believe, it is not a source of infinity refugees by a long shot.
When did the decline begin?
This is probably the most interesting question that no one seems to be asking except myself. When you look at the trending over time, the current position at rock bottom seems almost inevitable. Birth rates in the United States began declining seemingly as soon as recording began and similar stories exist for a number of countries. The key takeaway I want you to remember is that these trends started far, far earlier than people realize, and usually before the year 1900.
What’s driving the decline?
This is the million dollar question. I think we can start by mostly dispensing with facile responses about feminism, birth-control, and a host of other explanations kept close at hand but far removed from any historical correlation with the data. There’s a lot of transient causes that people absolutely love to quote that didn’t come into play until decades or even over a century after significant downturns in fertility were already well under way. I don’t think that 1st wave feminism explains plummeting birthrates in 1930s America, nor does bisphenol A seem to have much to do with German fertility going over a cliff in the year 1900.
The birthrate decline is itself a large, nigh-universal trend that extends back in time multiple generations and for that reason is probably better explicated as having large structural causes tied to the impact of complex civilizations on human biology itself.
In rural, agrarian societies with relatively high infant mortality, birth rates tend to be more much more robust than in densely populated advanced urban areas. Generally speaking, birth rates are always higher in rural areas versus urban centers. Broadly speaking, rural farming communities produce lots of offspring and the cities are a black hole for procreation. Having access to a frontier or “room to expand” seems associated with having more offspring, and thinkers going back to Benjamin Franklin have noted the urban/rural divide.
While there are multiple variables potentially all contributing to the decline individually such as urbanicity, education level and GDP, the general thrust appears to follow a distinct, trackable trajectory tied to something else. There is a theory I’m partial to, which may have established a biological basis for how “improving” society is effectively destroying it.
The Mouse Utopia and Social Epistasis
John B. Calhoun’s “Mouse Utopia” experiments from 1968 to 1972 is commonly cited as an experimental model demonstrating the impact of population density on reproduction. However, I think the researchers at the time had stumbled on a different process entirely that has little to do with over-population except as a side-effect of a larger process. Namely, super-abundance of resources and lack of negative selection pressure seems to create both a temporary boost in population and a long-term collapse in reproduction rates. During the time these experiments were conducted human overpopulation was the apocalyptic fear de jour. This was back when “Malthusian traps” and “global cooling” preoccupied the popular consciousness, long before anyone realized that global depopulation was even a distant possibility.
Calhoun spoke of a “behavioral sink” and seemed to conclude that population density was the salient factor. Newer research has a very different outlook on the actual causation. Rather than simple “overcrowding” what appears to happen is that infant mortality rates fall too low for negative selection to effectively weed out inferior genes. When these young rodents reach adulthood they manifest anti-social and autistic behaviors that corrupt the over-all social network until healthy hierarchical structures fail altogether and mothers completely abandon the care of their young. Eventually a population of atomized, narcissistic loners develops and all reproduction completely ceases. If that seems familiar, it’s because very similar trends are apparent in every modestly advanced society on earth.
The implication is that without some kind of strong negative selection pressure such as high infant and childhood mortality, too many “spiteful mutants” reach adulthood where they display various mental disturbances and aberrant behaviors that ultimately destroy all social coherence on a large scale. This disruption of so-called “social epistasis” can theoretically produce negative effects on the endocrine systems of otherwise healthy individuals. The term “spiteful mutation” actually refers to how the maladaptive genotype of one individual can damage the phenotype of other individuals in the same group, rendering the mutation itself “spiteful” or “contagious” on some level. On a granular level, the effects of all these structural changes are not distributed evenly. The tendency for high IQ women to have the least number of children will drive down overall IQs within individual nation-states over time. As Edward Dutton has noted, if low IQ, genetically unfit individuals are the only ones having kids, eventually there could even be a future unsustainable population boom followed by a vicious crash as entire civilizations of dumb, sick humans find themselves incapable of maintaining adequate food production and infrastructure.
All attempts by nation-states to prop up fertility rates have failed to drive them upwards to replacement level. Some marginal increases are possible, but ultimately these never really accomplish much because techno-economic forces obviously drove the decline itself and cannot be relied upon to solve it. Worse, if the most intelligent people have the least children, the cognitive ability to solve this problem is vanishing every second. Israel is often touted as an exception to the rule but there are two things to remember about their birth-rate: It’s also been subject to a gradual decline, and the driver of their fertility seems largely unrelated to conscious government policies from the top-down.
It seems obvious that the requirements of Western capitalism are at total odds with family formation itself. Pushing women into the workplace while simultaneously demanding they have more babies simply isn’t feasible. Immigration to shore up domestic declines in fertility is a temporary BandAid at best and a recipe for internecine violence and political conflict at worst. Once a fresh population of migrants arrives and begins acclimating to the current conditions of western civilization the birth rates of their children also start dropping and they follow the same low fertility pattern of their native peers.
If declining fertility is to be understood as a consequence of damaged social fabric then obviously solutions must target the problem at the root. It’s unreasonable to think you can increase birth rates substantially with raw incentives when the general population is too deracinated, atomized and dysfunctional to even form long term relationships, let alone desire children. You don’t fix short-circuits by just turning up the voltage.
While Israel does indeed have above replacement fertility, what goes unnoticed is that Palestine has an even higher birth rate, particularly in the occupied regions. It seems that a combination of intense racial awareness and being a partisan in an existential struggle very likely enmeshes individuals in a deep social network where childbearing becomes something of a personal duty. (Anecdotally I’ve observed similar trends among white dissidents in the United States) Obviously enhanced ethnic solidarity and “the womb as a weapon” in a battle for racial survival is completely incompatible with the multi-cultural norms of Western democracies. Ironically enough one of the most potent strategies to stabilizing a dangerously crashing birthrate is politically untenable. Given the choice between “ethno-nationalism” and an apocalyptic slide into a new Bronze Age collapse, the West will choose the latter.
Humans are an intensely social mammal. The destruction of social networks and proliferation of dysfunctional individuals has over time ruined reproductive rates themselves. This process has been the aggregate of centuries of technological progress and the gradual removal of Darwinian selection pressure finally culminating in a crisis that is both imminently dangerous and resistant to simple course corrections. Left unchecked a shortage of skilled workers will set in accompanied by declining rates of innovation and intelligence in general. Those factors will conspire to make solutions even more difficult over time, resulting in nature just taking its course. Likely some kind of large destabilization and collapse is unavoidable, but whether it plays out on a global scale or if certain countries avoid this trap is another matter entirely. Groups that cultivate a sense of existential purpose and shared identity will likely have a stronger reproductive advantage going forward, which will obviously begin shifting the culture in general.
As always, the future belongs to those that show up for it.