The perks of "breeders"

pregnantIt’s one thing for prolifers to believe this, but quite another to hear it from a writer whose heart is with the prochoice side: The future belongs to the fecund.

That’s the conclusion of pundit James Pinkerton, writing for Tech Central Station about a Planned Parenthood fundraiser featuring Lou Reed and several other celebrities. Pinkerton’s essay is a mix of on-site reporting and trend-spotting.

First he notices that some prolife protesters don’t fit the expected profile:

Politely penned up by watching cops, the peaceful and proper sign-holders weren’t a bunch of little old ladies from Dubuque or Pasadena; they were mostly young, mostly female, mostly non-white. Amidst the familiar messages — “Planned Parenthood Kills” and “It’s a crime that a child must die, so you can live as you wish” — were other signs that were in themselves a sign of the times: “Pro vida, sin excepciones.”

He soon gets down to numbers-crunching:

The basic freedoms guaranteed by Roe are still intact, to be sure, but as both sides in the debate argue, just one more anti-Roe justice on the Supreme Court could reverse that ruling.

So what happened? I think a lot of the answer can be found in birth-rate differentials — demography is destiny. To put it bluntly, in the name of “empowerment,” the Left has birth-controlled, aborted, and maybe also gay-libbed itself into a smaller role in American society. Yes, it was their personal-is-political choice, but others will benefit politically. We might consider, as just one example, what’s happened to New York City. In 1973, the Big Apple had a population of about eight million; the population of the United States overall was 211 million. In 2004, the Apple was still at around eight million, but the country’s population, in the meantime, had increased by nearly two-fifths. It’s not automatically a bad thing for a population to stay stagnant — unless, of course, the goal is to wield power through the ballot box.

The heart of his essay, at least for GetReligion, comes when Pinkerton considers the work of Charles Galton Darwin, grandson of Charles and the author of a Malthusian text called The Next Million Years (1952):

And so the more recent Darwin offered a grim prediction: the future of the world belongs to illiberal religions. Or, if you prefer, conservative religions, including not only Christianity, but also Islam and Hinduism. How come? Because those faiths that emphasize traditionalism, including traditional sex roles, are more likely to be procreative. In modern countries, feminists are free to be feminists, but if they don’t have feminist children — which is to say, boys and girls who sustain the “free to be . . . you and me” philosophy — then the politics of the future will be shaped by those hands that do, in fact, rock the cradle — after putting a baby inside.

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  • tmatt

    This remains an interesting thesis — especially in Europe at the moment.

    But there is another key factor: the evangelization of the children of the alleged conservatives by entertainment media and the mall. As Barna keeps noting, there is no evidence that cultural conservatives have media patterns that are all that different from anyone else.

    So the all-tolerant have a pulpit that helps the children assimilate. The breeders pay to be evangelized. They purchase Will & Grace.

    I’ve said it several times: Journalists need someone to do a major study of media consumption patters on the left and right.

    Hanging in there with power at the moment, down here as the storm begins.

  • molly

    I don’t think the power of numbers is quite the ace in the hole that is suggested here. As long as the “breeders” raise children with the ability to think, the message of personal freedom/responsibility will remain a factor in our public discourse. Don’t discount the fact that some of us “breeders” are raising children who lean left. Simply because one has reproduced does not mean “family values” trumps justice and righteousness.

  • Fred

    Pinkerton’s argument is contradicted by the facts.

    If social/religious conservatives have more children than social/religious liberals or moderates, and children tend to inherit the social/religious views of their parents, why are the liberals winning and the conservatives losing on pretty much every social issue–abortion, gay rights, divorce/marriage, sexuality, etc., etc.? Why is religion in such decline? And these trends are evident not just in the United States, but throughout the developed world.

  • Joseph Marshall

    One of the fastest growing demographic segments, I have heard, particularly among the young, is that of “no religious identification”.

    The case against abortion is either a religious case or nothing, as far as I can see, for it cannot be convincingly argued that civil order is in any way impeded by reproductive choice.

    The fewer religous, the weaker the pressure group, which is why Roe v. Wade made its way up the judicial ladder in the first place.

    Can it be reversed? Certainly. None of our court decisions are absolutely sacrosanct. But as age and precedent accumulate, and we become more and more one world, all pockets of reverse gear fundamentalism (whether Christian, Islamic, or Hindu) are swimming against a single, secular tide.

  • William Meisheid

    >then the politics of the future will be shaped by those hands that do, in fact, rock the cradle — after putting a baby inside.

    That statement calls to mind several Biblical “amens” such as “He who sows the wind, reaps the whirlwind” or “Vengence is mine, says the Lord.”

  • delagar

    Can I recommend Sarah Hrdy’s _Mother Nature_ for an interesting, though extremely long, look at this issue?

    She basically looks at the two breeding strategies being discussed here — having tons of kids, dividing your attention and resources among them, and hoping a few turn out well Vs having one or two and devoting a lot of energy and resources to those few kids in order to give them an excellent chance of doing well — as evolutionary choices made in different sorts of populations.

    Throw that into the mix, and what does it do to the whole “who’s going to triumph?” meme?

    Not that I necessarily endorse the whole zero sum game notion we seem to be operating under here.

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