March 6, 2006

My new column:

"The Return of Patriarchy:"

Philip Longman, a nice liberal affiliated with the nice liberal New America Foundation, has written a politically incorrect article that's getting a lot of deserved attention: The Return of Patriarchy in the March-April edition of Foreign Policy magazine. It endorses, without mentioning it by name, much of Pat Buchanan's 2001 book on falling birthrates, The Death of the West.

Longman's thesis is:

"Across the globe, people are choosing to have fewer children or none at all. Governments are desperate to halt the trend, but their influence seems to stop at the bedroom door. Are some societies destined to become extinct? Hardly. It’s more likely that conservatives will inherit the Earth. Like it or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into families who believe that father knows best." ...

Longman rightly points out that religious and ideological differences affect fertility. But the arrow of causality also runs in the opposite direction—people who get married and have several children tend to become more socially and politically conservative for the sake of their children. ...

So Longman shouldn't ignore the impact of economics on marriage and fertility—what I call "Affordable Family Formation." There's more the government can (and should) do about the cost of housing and the cost of good schools than about religious beliefs.

My theory that affordable family formation drives marriage and fertility was anticipated in 1751 by Benjamin Franklin in his landmark Observations concerning The Increase of Mankind:

"For People increase in Proportion to the Number of Marriages, and that is greater in Proportion to the Ease and Convenience of supporting a Family. When Families can be easily supported, more Persons marry, and earlier in Life."

A quarter of a millennium ago, Franklin explained the virtuous cycle connecting low land prices, high wages, marriage, and children:

"Europe is generally full settled with Husbandmen, Manufacturers, &c. and therefore cannot now much increase in People… Land being thus plenty in America, and so cheap as that a labouring Man, that understands Husbandry, can in a short Time save Money enough to purchase a Piece of new Land sufficient for a Plantation, whereon he may subsist a Family; such are not afraid to marry;… Hence Marriages in America are more general, and more generally early, than in Europe."

As Ben might have expected, I found that:

"Bush carried the 20 states with the cheapest housing costs, while Kerry won the 9 states with the most expensive… The Mortgage Gap has been growing. Bush was victorious in the 26 states with the least home price inflation since 1980. Kerry triumphed in the 14 states with the most (according to the invaluable Laboratory of the States website)."

So, what can Republican government do to help preserve the traditional American patrimony of high wages and affordable land prices (and, in turn, help itself by creating new family values voters?) Franklin offered a sensible answer, which is even more logical now. Restrict immigration. As old Ben asked:

"[W]hy should the Palatine Boors [Germans] be suffered to swarm into our Settlements, and by herding together establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion of ours?"

Good question. [MORE]

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

No comments: