Christine Overall, a philosopher at Queen’s University in Ontario, writing in the New York Times, says we should think long and hard before we have children. Accoring to her website, her expertise is ” feminist philosophy (especially questions about gender, sex, sexuality, trans identities, disability, age, or socioeconomic class),” so it’s not hard to guess her politics. An exemplar of the contemporary academic culture of the left, rewarded with prestigious titles and an op-ed in the Times promoting her book. Just the thing for liberals to be seen reading at the beach this summer.
The title of her essay is “Think before you breed.” The word ‘breed’ in the title, perhaps bestowed by a New York Times op-ed editor, is a clever way to link human reproduction with our animal natures in a negative way. Breeding is what animals do. Unthinking and brutish. Humans must strive to get above all that and do the right thing. One is reminded of the common label of “breeders” bestowed on heterosexuals by homosexual activists.
The question whether to have children is of course prudential in part; it’s concerned about what is or is not in one’s own interests. But it is also an ethical question, for it is about whether to bring a person (in some cases more than one person) into existence — and that person cannot, by the very nature of the situation, give consent to being brought into existence. Such a question also profoundly affects the well-being of existing people (the potential parents, siblings if any, and grandparents). And it has effects beyond the family on the broader society, which is inevitably changed by the cumulative impact — on things like education, health care, employment, agriculture, community growth and design, and the availability and distribution of resources — of individual decisions about whether to procreate.
So we get the image of educated White people earnestly and anxiously weighing the pros and cons of procreation. Will it stress the health care system? Will the community be too crowded? Is it good for Africa?
I say “educated White people” because I don’t seriously think that any other people will engage in such ruminations. This sort of angst brings to mind Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 Population Bomb—a much discussed bestseller which was quite explicit in appealing to Whites to curtail reproduction for the good of the world:
[Erlich] believed that the United States should take a leading role in population control, both because it was already consuming much more than the rest of the world, and therefore had a moral duty to reduce its impact, and because the US would have to lead international efforts due to its prominence in the world. In order to avoid charges of hypocrisy or racism it would have to take the lead in population reduction efforts. (Wikipedia)
I recall as a young adult being inundated by Ehrlich’s message that we should restrict having children or not have them at all in order to prevent a population catastrophe. He had no problem using the power of the state to bring this about:
He suggests a tax scheme in which additional children would add to a family’s tax burden at increasing rates for more children, as well as luxury taxes on childcare goods. He suggests incentives for men who agree to permanent sterilization before they have two children, as well as a variety of other monetary incentives. He proposes a powerful Department of Population and Environment which “should be set up with the power to take whatever steps are necessary to establish a reasonable population size in the United States and to put an end to the steady deterioration of our environment.” The department should support research into population control, such as better contraceptives, mass sterilizing agents, and prenatal sex discernment(because families often continue to have children until a male is born. Ehrlich suggested that if they could choose a male child this would reduce the birthrate). Legislation should be enacted guaranteeing the right to an abortion, and sex education should be expanded.
Although there were certainly other reasons as well, White people, especially educated White people, definitely got the message and adopted a below replacement level fertility. Of course, no one else did, and the population of the Third World continued to explode. (The world does indeed have a huge population problem, but population growth is centered in Africa and Asia.) In the US, Black fertility remained higher than that of Whites. And now the US is inundated with high-fertility, low IQ Third World immigrants who won’t be paying attention to suggestions that they should think about the planet before having children. I wonder how many White babies were not conceived because of Ehrlich’s message.
Ehrlich, like many other Jewish biologists (prototypically Stephen Jay Gould) has used his position in an elite academic institution (Stanford) to spread the ideology of the political left. Ehrlich’s 2001 book Human Natures: Genes, Cultures, and the Human Prospect maintains that races don’t exist, and he completely ignores the massive evidence for genetic influences on behavior. J. Philippe Rushton’s review in Population and Environment (July, 2001) noted that the “take home message is that culture is dominant,” and he excoriates Ehrlich for “dismiss[ing] the argument over race and sex differences as ‘racist’ and ‘sexist.'” Like Gould, Ehrlich simply ignores all the data he doesn’t like.
Perhaps we should see his writing (like Gould’s) as ethnic warfare via the construction of culture; Ehrlich’s is particularly deadly since it urges Whites to refrain from reproduction.
Unlike Ehrlich the biologist, I suppose that Overall the philosopher can be excused for supposing that universalist, “good for the world” arguments should be relevant in people’s decision on whether to reproduce. Notice that in the above quote she contrasts self-interest and ethical idealism, and clearly places the latter on a pedestal. She is quite aware that this is contrary to our natural tendencies, but as a feminist philosopher she idealizes going against nature:
If we fail to acknowledge that the decision of whether to parent or not is a real choice that has ethical import, then we are treating childbearing as a mere expression of biological destiny. Instead of seeing having children as something that women do, we will continue to see it as something that simply happens to women, or as something that is merely “natural” and animal-like.
Notice that the word ‘natural’ is in quotes. Nature, you see, is nothing more than a social construction.
Prizing moral idealism over natural tendencies and perceived self-interest is a peculiarly White deformity, ultimately traceable to Western individualism and apparent in the German idealist philosophers and in the descendants of the Puritans who dominated American culture until the rise of our Jewish-dominated intellectual elite in the aftermath of WWII. Moral idealism is utterly foreign to other cultures, including Jewish culture: “Is it good for the Jews?” is a far better guide to the behavior of the organized Jewish community and to the motivation of writers like Ehrlich and Gould (and Freud, and Horkheimer, and Boas …). Nonetheless Jewish intellectuals like Ehrlich are not shy about trotting out idealistic arguments which they know will appeal to their White audience.
It is certainly true that we can go against our biological natures and interests, but, to use Overall’s phrase, we should engage in careful reflection before we do. Extinction is forever. And a lot of the people who won’t be paying attention to Overall will be having lots of non-White children who will grow up to quite hostile toward people like Overall. But we can’t expect feminist philosophers to be very realistic about the darker side of ethnic conflict.
While educated Whites are likely to follow Overall’s advice to reproduce only after “careful reflection” on how their behavior will affect the price of oil and the welfare of the Third World, the rest of the population will continue to let it happen, either out of self-interest or because they don’t plan much of anything. This is a great prescription for dysgenics, added to the already enormous pressures in that direction.
Finally, it’s worth noting one White population that is reproducing above replacement level: the Mormons. Although he doesn’t mention race, Ross Douthat first describes our malaise:
Marriage rates have collapsed among the poor and the lower middle class , half of all children born to woman under 30 are born outside of marriage , and the American birth rate has dropped below replacement level …. Overall, the post-sexual revolution landscape is divided between a “blue” culture that depends on high abortion rates to maintain its social equilibrium , and a “red” culture where abortion rates are lower but out-of-wedlock birth rates are correspondingly higher, and divorce rates are higher as well.
The sexualization of American culture and decline of traditional supports for the family have certainly played major roles in creating this malaise, especially in the “red culture.” But Douthat notes that Mormons are doing remarkably well:
There is, however, a notable exception to these patterns. The state of Utah has one of the lowest abortion rates in the country and one of the lowest rates of out-of-wedlock births . It has a high marriage rate, a relatively low divorce rate , and the highest birth rate (despite a low teen pregnancy rate) of any state. An America that looked more like Utah would have more intact families, less child poverty, fewer abortions — and, for that matter, a better fiscal outlook as the Baby Boomers retire.
Overall and Ehrlich would, of course, be horrified at what is going on in Utah. Overall would be furious about the fate of women “subjected” to such a regime. Ehrlich would have nightmares about all those White children. It’s the same horror that Lee Siegel has about all those good-looking, rich, healthy White people in Mitt Romney’s (Mormon) family.
For educated White people at least, opting out of the dominant culture of the left (whether secular or religious) is pretty much the only way to reproduce at replacement level. Which reminds me that Bill Johnson, the Chairman of American Third Position, is a Mormon and a successful attorney, has five children and a strong family life. And he is an activist on behalf of White identity and interests. A great combination.
Too bad Romney doesn’t seem to think the same way.