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The magic number is 2.7 June 10, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Abortion, General Catholic, Society.

There is much angst in the world these days.  We are in the midst of a very long and painful recession, with no end in sight.  Governments continue to pile up endless amounts of debt with few, if any, credible voices offering a path forward to reduce this debt and avoid economic catastrophe.  The major political parties keep saying the same old same old for the most part – the Republicans are absolutely giddy at the prospect of clobbering the democrats this November, and the democrats seem utterly disconnected.  Their decades long dream of being able to enact a socialist utopia happened, by some blessed coincidence or act of God, just when the true costs of soft socialism started to become fully apparent.  They were a few years too late. 

These costs are enormous.  The US, due to recent government policies, now faces the prospect of having the national debt exceed the gross national product in just a few years.  In Europe the situation is even worse.  Due to soft socialist policies including a short work week, long vacations, nationalized (and rationed) health care, and ludicrously generous welfare benefits, European countries are saddled with monstrous debt that chokes growth and leads to chronic unemployment.  The problem is so significant that even the New York Times and Time Magazine, usually huge proponents of the European welfare model, are warning that the European economies as presently constructed are doomed and that the West is in danger of collapse

Why am I, crazy rad-trad Catholic blogger, going off on this topic?  Because all of the above did not have to happen, especially in the United States.  For the main reason the United States is in so much debt is due to unfunded future obligations for services pledged by the government – Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and now Obamacare.   These social welfare benefits are essentially giant, government-enforced pyramid schemes.  Like all pyramid schemes, these benefit programs are great for those who get in early, but those who arrive later are left holding an enormous bill.  Only, it did not have to be that way.  When social security, medicare, and the rest were implemented, there was a fundamental assumption made in their design – that a constantly increasing population would pay for these benefits.  As each succeedingly larger generation moved to retirement, an even larger generation would come along and provide workers to pay for the benefits.  The reason for the collapse of these systems in the West is that no larger generation ever came along to fund the baby boomers.  A researcher at Hillsdale College has pointed out that, had the US birthrate between 1970 and 2010 averaged 2.7 instead of 2.0 children per woman, there would be no problem funding social security and the other welfare programs, because a sufficient number of workers would exist to support each person out of the workforce.  In addition, the US economy would be about 30% larger, since increased population is the greatest indicator of economic growth, especially in an advanced society.  So, in essence, we’ve done this to ourselves, with an increasingly hedonistic and unserious culture where people treat sex like a sport and use personal economic convenience as an argument against having a large family. 

I know I’m kind of out there on this right now.  But already in parts of Europe, the government is giving tax breaks and direct cash payments to encourage women to have more children.  This will eventually start happening in the US, where the vast majority of native born women have two children or less.  While the current US fertility rate is about 2.07, slightly below replacement rate, the fertility rate among native born women is about 1.5, little different from that of Europe.  It is immigrants with much higher fertility rates that make up the difference.  Even with a fertility rate around 2.0, the US cannot afford the welfare benefits promised.  In fact, with fewer and fewer children being born, we can look forward to steady economic decline – there is no way around this.  Individual productivity, absent a miracle of some sort, cannot make up the difference for a lack of population growth.  Within a few years, I expect you will start to hear credible voices in the United States calling on people to have more children in their marriages.

This is part of my argument for being such an ardent supporter for traditional Catholic doctrine on marriage and sex.  Increasing population is necessary for healthy economies and healthy societies.  Marriage is oriented towards procreation as its primary purpose.  As we have turned from God, we in the developed countries have largely forgotten this.  The results are plain to see. 

I know some folks don’t like my opinion on this subject, that I may be calling them to embrace traditional Catholic doctrine and not contracept.  This is a hard thing.  I just ask that you not reflexively dismiss the call to be open to new life.  Pray about it.

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