Wednesday, January 25, 2023


The Aspen Institute Economic Strategy Group, which includes establishment characters such as John Podesta, Paul Ryan and communist China cheerleader Ray Dalio, recently released a book about the economic challenges facing the United States. Interestingly, one challenge on which they focused was the specter of U.S. population decline.

In their words: “U.S. population growth has been shrinking for over a decade, and underlying trends suggest that no reversal is in sight. Population growth has trended downward for nearly two decades. … The U.S. resident population grew by less than 0.5 percent in 2019, possibly the slowest peacetime rate the country has ever experienced.”

They go on: “Though some observers cheer this decline, contending that a smaller population is good for the planet … the overwhelming weight of economic reasoning and data suggest that slowdown in U.S. population growth poses a range of economic challenges.”

Leave it to the rich to focus on the least important problem — economic challenges — associated with depopulation.

The report continues: “The decline in the U.S. fertility rate reflects widespread declines in childbearing across women of different races, ethnicities and education levels, as well as across geographic regions. Women are not merely delaying childbearing to older ages, but are having fewer children over their childbearing years.”

Do they have any possible explanation for this decrease in fertility among women in the last generation or so? Not really.

“There is no evidence that any particular policy, cost or economic factor has changed in recent years in a way that could explain the steady, widespread decline in U.S. birth rates. Rather … broader social factors are at play and have led to ‘shifting priorities’ among young American adults such that they are choosing in greater numbers to remain childless or to have smaller families.”

Yes, indeed, pesky “broader social factors” and “shifting priorities” are definitely the problem. Unfortunately, that is as far as the thought leaders over at Aspen are able to think.

Since they don’t know why people stopped having children, they have no idea how to get them to start having children again. They can, however, tell you what won’t work — more of the same social engineering driven by the government that got us here.

“The types of pro-natalist policies … including modest child allowances, tax credits, paid family leave and subsidized childcare — are unlikely to lead to substantial or sustained increases in the birth rate such that the U.S. total fertility rate would rebound to replacement level.”

There’s a shocker: Government policies can’t solve existential societal problems. You know what can solve the problem (although the plutocrats at Aspen are disinclined to mention this): a return to and recrudescence of religion. Nations that go to church — whatever church — are doing fine with respect to fertility. It is the unchurched nations on this planet that have suddenly discovered that they are in a demographic death spiral.

The Aspen report wanders into this around page 85: “Greater religiosity is linked to higher fertility, and religiosity is declining in the United States. The percentage of the population who report that religion is at least somewhat important to them fell from 83 percent in 2007 to 78 percent in 2014.” 

That makes perfect sense. The unfortunate truth is that those who don’t believe in God don’t typically create much, including children. Why would they? If this is all there is, why waste any time creating the next generation or anything that will be of value to the next generation?

For a society to thrive, citizens must routinely do things that are contrary to their own economic advancement — including going to war, having children or delaying economic rewards. Once a society gives up on God, people stop making those sacrifices, and the ability to do the essential things — transmit life, preserve essential values, defend the nation — degrades pretty quickly.

Team Aspen deserves credit. They took a hard look at a difficult topic and concluded, correctly, that their way has led us to a dead end. They recognized that they have finally arrived at the natural and inevitable end of utilitarianism. Now, along with all of us, they need to search for meaningful answers to the truly existential question of population decline: What are we going to do about it?

• Michael McKenna, a columnist for The Washington Times, co-hosts “The Unregulated Podcast.” He was most recently a deputy assistant to the president and deputy director of the Office of Legislative Affairs at the White House.

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