Jonathan Last, Race Suicide, and Demographic Collapse

Forget the debt ceiling. Forget the fiscal cliff, the sequestration cliff and the entitlement cliff. Those are all just symptoms. What America really faces is a demographic cliff: The root cause of most of our problems is our declining fertility rate.

Apparently my IUD is the cause of the fiscal cliff. Yay me.

Can I say how much I hate articles like this? This particular one, by author Jonathan Last (whose new book, What To Expect When No One’s Expecting, just came out), was published in the Wall Street Journal this past week. This is the paragraph that actually begins the article, immediately preceding the one above:

For more than three decades, Chinese women have been subjected to their country’s brutal one-child policy. Those who try to have more children have been subjected to fines and forced abortions. Their houses have been razed and their husbands fired from their jobs. As a result, Chinese women have a fertility rate of 1.54. Here in America, white, college-educated women—a good proxy for the middle class—have a fertility rate of 1.6. America has its very own one-child policy. And we have chosen it for ourselves.

This alone sets off alarm bells for me. First of all, Last honestly equates China’s forced one-child policy with American women choosing to have fewer children. Really? Really? I’m pretty sure we women would tell him differently. And second, it seems the birth rates of American women who aren’t white and college educated don’t matter in Last’s world. With this short introduction, let’s turn to race suicide, gender, and religion, because it’s all there.

Race Suicide?

Honestly? Last’s rhetoric sounds for all intents and purposes identical to concerns about declines in the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant birth rate over a century ago.

Oh hey. Here’s a quote from Last:

The bearing and raising of children has largely become the province of the lower classes.

Last’s fixation on the class of the people having children reminds me once again of century-old concerns about race suicide. Let me give you an example.

Here is the Library of Congress’s summary of the image:

Concerning Race Suicide: “The Idle Stork” on the left has little to do as the upper class chooses not to make babies, whereas “The Strenuous Stork” is being worked to death by a population explosion among the lower class.

Makes Last’s works sound suddenly familiar, doesn’t it?

Barefoot and pregnant

Weirdly, even as he urges (middle and upper class white) women to have more children, Last brushes aside the suggestion that we should implement things like paid maternity leave, more flexible working hours, or quality subsidized daycare.

Liberals like to think that if we would just be more like France—offer state-run day care and other programs so women wouldn’t have to choose between working and motherhood—it would solve the problem. But the evidence suggests that neither path offers more than marginal gains. France, for example, hasn’t been able to stay at the replacement rate, even with all its day-care spending.

Making it so that women don’t have to choose between working and motherhood? Nah! I mean, that can’t have anything to do with the fact that so many middle and upper income women are choosing not to have fewer, if any, children, right?


If we want to continue leading the world, we simply must figure out a way to have more babies.

It’s not that we don’t know how to have more babies. It’s that we’re choosing not to. What Last wants us to do is choose to have more of them, but without any of those silly programs that make it so women don’t have to “choose between working and motherhood.” Yay, right?

I suddenly have the distinct feeling that Last is staring at my uterus, and that is making me, well, distinctly uncomfortable.

But as Philip Cohen explains, Last isn’t anti-woman! Banish the thought!

Of course, fertility rates in the U.S. fell after the Baby Boom as women’s employment rates and educational  attainment increased. And those women with better opportunities have fewer children, on average. (However, this relationship is not universal or inevitable — see developments in Norway, for example.) But Last doesn’t want to create the impression that his wish for higher fertility implies opposition to women’s progress.

I’d also like to offer a preemptive defense against readers who may take this book to be a criticism of the modern American woman. Nothing could be further from my intent. … The more educated a woman is, on average, the fewer children she will have. To observe this is not to argue that women should be barefoot, pregnant, and waiting at home for their husbands every night with a cocktail and a smile.

But that he suggests we have more children — without taking steps to reconcile our endemic work-family conflicts and persistent gender imbalances (he’s not advocating universal childcare or healthcare, better welfare, paid family leave or a shorter workweek) – means that even if he’s not arguing for a return to barefoot-and-pregnant status, he’s at least willing to live with it.

Last may be willing to live with a return to barefoot-and-pregnant status, but I’m not. I’m really, really not.

Happiness is overrated!

So if he doesn’t think we should making raising children easier, less stressful, or less expensive, how does Last hope to convince (white middle and upper class) women to have more children? Let’s take a look, shall we?

The problem is that, while making babies is fun, raising them isn’t. A raft of research shows that if you take two people who are identical in every way except for childbearing status, the parent will be on average about six percentage points less likely to be “very happy” than the nonparent. (That’s just for one child. Knock off two more points for each additional bundle of joy.)

But then, parenting has probably never been a barrel of laughs. There have been lots of changes in American life over the last 40 years that have nudged our fertility rate downward. High on the list is the idea that “happiness” is the lodestar of a life well-lived. If we’re going to reverse this decline, we’ll need to reintroduce into American culture the notion that human flourishing ranges wider and deeper than calculations of mere happiness.

Yes, that’s it! We’ve placed too much importance on happiness! That must be it!

Hey, here’s a novel idea. How about asking why adults without children are happier than adults with children and working to correct this? I think there are a lot of ways our society makes child-rearing harder and less fun than it needs to be. But none of that interests Last. Last’s solution is not to ask why raising children decreases an adult’s happiness but rather to suggest that happiness is overrated. Yay. Right?

How does Last suggest we go about de-emphasizing happiness? One word: religion. No, really. Really really.

America is the most demographically healthy industrialized nation; it is also the most religiously devout. This is not a coincidence. … There is no reason for wishing the United States to be a theocracy. That said, it is important we preserve the role of religion in our public square, resisting those critics who see theocracy lurking behind every corner. Our government should be welcoming of, not hostile to, believers—if for no other reason than they’re the ones who create most of the future taxpayers. After all, there are many perfectly good reasons to have a baby. (Curiosity, vanity, and naïveté all come to mind.) But at the end of the day, there’s only one good reason to go through the trouble a second time: Because you believe, in some sense, that God wants you to.

Yes, Last actually wrote that. Really. Here’s how critic Philip Cohen responded:

I guess that means atheists don’t have a good reason to have more than one child. (Are there multiple-child atheists out there to respond to this?) Anyway, it’s usually not a good sign when an author follows “There is no reason for wishing the United States to be a theocracy,” with, “That said…”

Hi! Me! Multiple-child atheist here! We really do exist!

Last is really and truly suggesting that we encourage religion publicly because religion teaches people to de-emphasize the importance of happiness and urges them to have more children. Really.

Ugh. Just, ugh.

I looked and looked and could not find out whether or not Last has any children. Since I would think that is something he would want to emphasize if he did, I’m going to guess not. Still, I almost have to wonder if he is attempting a parody when he says on the one hand that people need to have more children and on the other hand that no one in their right mind would have more than one child unless they believe a supernatural being ordered them to. And the idea that people just have a first child out of curiosity, vanity, or naivete? And seriously, the solution he puts forward to his coming demographic collapse is is that we need to stop worrying about being happy?

I don’t even.

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When Marriage Looks Like the Only Escape
About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Eamon Knight

    Multiple-child atheist here!

    Yeah, but you guys are only just replacing yourselves (as have DW & I). You really ought to have at least three, to make up for the people who have none. You need to follow the example of Godly people like that PZ Myers fellow…, wait…..

    As for the rest: it’s seldom one see a more blatant case where, not only does religion thrive on human unhappiness, it actively promotes it as a policy. And admits it.

    • MrPopularSentiment

      I actually know quite a few atheist families with 4+ kids, and one with 9! Most of them became atheists before having kids, too. So I’m certainly not worried about having only the one.

  • Jason Dick

    Let me just point out how disgustingly selfish that point of view is, that we should have more babies:

    More babies mean that there will be fewer natural resources around for our children to make use of. That means that choosing to have more children now ensures that the children we do have will be poorer (on average). But hey, if we have more kids, then we’ll have more people paying into programs like Social Security and Medicare that serve old people!

    So basically this sounds like a plea to have more babies so that white farts like Jonathan Last don’t have to worry about retirement.

  • Nathaniel

    By current trends, in less than 10 years we’ll have 8 billion people on this planet.

    The only reason these schmucks are concerned is that the [i]wrong[/i] people are breeding.

  • Aimee

    Yeah there is absolutely no way to separate this from racism. And like, really rank and insidious racism.

    Even IF white Americans would eventually become bred out (however way you can measure that sort of thing) – so what? If the US was universally 2 shades darker, I don’t think the world will end. I don’t even think Christianity in the US would suffer much (any more than the steady decline that already exists I mean). This kind of hand wringing over “race suicide” (seriously?) is so gross I can’t even look further into any of the arguments he makes.

    Even with a demographic shift over time, rich white people will still be quite privileged. Don’t worry.

    • Ahab

      And classism too. Note the problem the author has with “lower classes” outbreeding the middle and upper classes. Yeek.

  • Sarah

    In my opinion, fewer white people isn’t a problem. Europeans have been running the planet for at least the last 500 years, and while there have been a few outstanding acheivements (space flight, birth control, funny cat pictures) mostly we’ve just stomped all over people and taken their stuff.

    However, I’d like to take this trend one step further – fewer humans breeding across the board. Let’s give another species the chance to overtake us. Maybe dolphins or bonobos.

  • The Rodent

    People who advocate having more kids — an ever-increasing population — are seriously out of touch with basic science. We live in a petri dish, folks. Do the math. If we don’t curtail breeding, we’re in for a big crash (which all mainstream media seems to ignore). China’s one-child policy? Yay! Great concept! It should be implemented everywhere.

    • Karen

      The problem with China’s policy is that is a coercive, top-down directive from the government. It is far better to allow parents to chose their family size themselves. The fact that the fertility rate in the first world fell without any government interference proves that this is possible. I should also note that the total fertility rate is falling everywhere but a couple of places in Africa, Afghanistan, and Israel/ Palestine.

      • The Rodent

        Yes, of course: education is the most important way to reduce population. I was being a little facetious about draconian policies. Hopefully, we won’t *really* need them. Humans should be smart enough not to breed ourselves into planet-wide disaster…

    • Lucreza Borgia

      Technically speaking, not all women in China are required to only have one child. Two children are common in the countryside and certain minorities don’t have any restrictions.

  • Rachel Marcy (Bix)

    People seriously need to stop treating the Boomers as the prototypical generation. They were really, really abnormal. They were far huger than any generation that preceded them because of a combination of economic prosperity and a drastic reduction in child mortality, due to vaccines and other medical advances. We’re in for a rough patch as they enter their old age, but we need a better solution than “More babies, now!” because that’s not sustainable. That would basically create dependent/non-economically productive groups at both ends of the life span. Economies thrive when the ratio of dependent children: economically productive adults is smaller, and humans absolutely adjust their fertility to match available resources. People have fewer children because they want higher quality of life for themselves and for their kids. It’s nothing to do with supposed selfishness.

    This is a really interesting report on 20th C generation size by the Population Reference Bureau:

    • Chervil

      I heard this guy interviewed on NPR. Came across as a real schmuck on the radio, too. I was hoping to read an analysis if his book. I agree with you, there is no crisis, his book is a coy attempt to scare women back into the home. We have an aging population now and will be reaching a pre war equilibrium without all this manufactured hysteria.

      Really, most people just want the best for their kids and know how to allocate their resources. If they don’t then maybe having children isn’t the best idea for them or society. This guy is just a con man just trying to reframe the women’s role debate, loudly protesting all the while that he is not coming at this from a conservative, ideological point if view. What a crock.

      • Basketcase

        Exactly why we are seriously talking about only having one child – allocation of both our own resources and the worlds.
        In fact, overpopulation was one of the key reasons I was interested in having no children at all, and I feel a bit guilty at being due to have one within 6 weeks…

  • Karen

    Last is arguing that we need to be more religious so we can have more children and be more miserable. Gee, thanks. And feminists are the ones that say unplanned pregnancies are punishment?

    • thalwen

      Religious people argue unplanned pregnancies are punishments, they just call them “consequences” because it sounds better. Very pro-child view of life – at first a baby is a consequence, and then a tool to keep the race alive and the elderly’s benefits stable.

      • Andrew Kohler

        Ah yes, children are, after all, solely around for the benefit of adults. They also come in handy as vessels for adults to fill with their own projected and idealized images of what they wish they were–nice vicarious living that can really boost the [parental] ego!

        [end sarcasm] Fortunately, I don’t think that most people who have children are like that at all. It is, however, an unfortunate phenomenon that I’ve heard described as “mini-me parenting.” I characterize it as narcissistic, that is, stemming from *vanity.* I also think it stems from *naïveté,* another awful reason to have children; *curiosity* is another (in general, don’t make massive life commitments just because you wonder what it might be like). I’m sure Mr. Last would agree these are three terrible reasons, wouldn’t he? Oh. Wait….

  • Sarah

    The reason why religion correlates with higher fertility rates is lack of education, lack of contraceptive options and lack of access/use of abortion services.

  • Emma

    Here’s a crazy idea: maybe the disparity between middle and lower class birth rates is partly caused, oh, I don’t know, by the fact that lower class women have less reliable access to contraception, and therefore have more unplanned pregnancies? And maybe instead of making middle class women have more kids, you balance things out by enabling lower class women to have less?

    That actually made me curious, so I did a bit of research. According to the Guttmacher institute, in 2006, the rate of unplanned births among women below the poverty line was 66 per 1000, six times higher than the rate for more well off women. I don’t have time to do the math (and I’m having trouble find good stats on birth rate by income), but clearly eliminating unplanned pregnancies would do a lot to balance things out.

    Regardless, though, I think a shrinking world population is a necessary thing. It may cause big problems in the relatively short term (since it goes hand in hand with an aging population), but in the much longer term, I think having a smaller global population is essential for environmental sustainability.

  • Christine

    Where did he get his number that the fertility rate is 1.6? The last numbers I saw (2010 World Bank) said that it had indeed fallen – to 2.1. OMG, it’s only at replacement! Now, I’m sure that most of the difference between the American rate and the rates of other developed countries correlates either to maternal education or to religiosity. (I know, this makes Last’s argument for him – keep women uneducated and in church). But, as has been mentioned, the global fertility rate is well above the rate of replacement (and yes, this takes into consideration the fact that replacement is higher than 2.1 globally, as well as gender imbalances in certain parts of Asia).

    And I don’t know a good source for this, but I was under the impression that France’s spending on parent-friendly policies post-dated the birthrate slump, as a reaction to it. Furthermore, I thought it had had an effect (although that may have been short-lived, and it wasn’t as much as hoped).

    • Sarah-Sophia

      He’s refering to the fertility rate for white, middle-class women, not the US as a whole.

      • Nathaniel

        Wow. Can’t get much more blatantly racist than that. “Sure, we have a replacement birth rate. But that’s only if you count those people.”

      • Christine

        Makes sense. I’ve actually wondered if one of the reasons that certain portions of the US are so anti-immigrant (and other portions are so anti-religion) is that the only reason the birth rate is at replacement is because of “those people”.

        Also, I’m assuming that 2.1 is replacement in the US, but I know that maternal and neonatal death rates are quite high, and that childhood death rates are higher than I’m used to (a lot more accidental deaths, not just the lack of health care), so it might actually be below that.

      • phantomreader42

        What does it say about the USA that we have such an insanely active and powerful “pro-life” lobby, but HIGHER infant mortality rates than just about any developed country?

        And what does it say about the fetus-fetishists?

      • Christine

        I was also remembering, after the discussion on the post about Libby providing escort service at the clinic, that it’s difficult to get treatment after a miscarriage. Now, not everyone in the pro-life movement is coming from a quiverfull background, or any “the more children the better” background (I’d say that’s not the Catholic position, as an example, but a lot of Catholics seem to have taken up with quiverfull ideals.) However, at the very least, a majority of these people are going to be citing “family values” as a reason for their support. How does making it difficult to recover from a miscarriage (which often hits fertility hardest) help with that?

        Heck, given that PP gives prenatal care in the US, these protestors could be causing women to forgo needed care (putting the pregnancy at risk) or adding unhealthy stress at prenatal checkups (raising the risk of miscarriage). And this isn’t even touching on the affects of untreated STIs on fertility. (I’d rather not make the obvious comparison between the Religious Right and blocking health care in general, because in theory they can support part of the party’s platform and not all of it).

  • Kit

    “After all, there are many perfectly good reasons to have a baby. (Curiosity, vanity, and naïveté all come to mind.)”

    Um, are those supposed to be good reasons to have children? Curiosity, I’ll buy that. Naivete, ummm…. and vanity … ? I’m just not sure how those are good reasons.

    • Ortin

      Well, I guess vanity could come from the idea of someone producing a child for the express purpose of molding them into a reflection of your own perfect ideology.

      Oh wait…

      • Kodie

        There’s the vanity of producing an heir, also considered the vanity of not wanting your family line to die out and be the last one. I think that is why people ordinarily are motivated to procreate in the first place – because you’re supposed to want to. The marketing aspect of having a cutie-patootie around to buy them all that adorable stuff and cram their heads full of stuff you want them to learn seems to be more effective now that we’re not prisoners of our biological urges.

        Reading the guy talk about how unhappy we’re supposed to be goes along with a lot of cultural messages that child-free people are being selfish. Parents want someone to share the misery with them. Anyone can be carefree without children in tow, but why should you get out of the bargain? Alternately, parents want all kinds of extra credit (and they get it) for sacrificing their carefree life to do this chore for America and the good of all humanity. Parenthood is celebrated and upheld as the standard order of things, and non-parenthood is not even a thing.

  • Carys Birch

    Wow this couldn’t be less true in my experience. I’m one of the very very few women of my age that I know without children. Possibly this is because my friends are mostly religious women who married young and had kids… or who had no sex ed and so wound up as teen parents, but still.

    I recently had a debate with my mother about this, and she actually came out and said that when white people have babies, it’s being responsible, but when minorities have babies it destroys society.

    Sometimes I want to move to another planet.

  • Anat

    I recommend Hans Rosling’s TED talk Religions and Babies (OK, I recommend all his TED talks).

    He shows that fertility has been falling worldwide, regardless of religion (and race), and to some degree even regardless of GDP per capita. We have reached ‘peak child’ worldwide. There are only a few countries which still have very high fertility rates, all of which are poor, torn by violence (internal or external) and small-ish. Many others are in the midst of a downward trend. Barring a sudden die-off from catastrophic climate change population is predicted to stabilize around 10 billion within a generation, with a higher average age.

    Of the 224 countries and territories in the CIA World factbook:

    35 have a Total Fertility Rate of under 1.5 children per woman
    93 are at 1.5-2.3
    47 are at 2.3-3.5
    38 are at 3.5-5.5
    9 are above 5.5, with Niger the highest at 7.16.

    The causes behind the stabilization of population are better child survival (nutrition, vaccinations, antibiotics, other medical factors and decrease in warfare), better education overall and for women in particular, increased participation of women in the workforce, better access to family planning.

    This is not the first time in history that populations stabilize or decline. The Japanese managed to live several centuries of stable population – which allowed them to avoid complete deforestation. Some Pacific island nations managed it too. Lack of continued population growth only becomes a problem if one’s enemies and competitors keep increasing. India is still at 2.58 children per woman, but is working on decreasing fertility. I doubt any of the countries that are not doing so is likely to become a military or economic threat to people not in their immediate neighborhood (mostly Africa, some in the Middle East).

    When resources become limiting populations limit themselves. Without effective means for family planning it is quite unpleasant. Birth control allows us to avoid overuse of resources without resorting to infanticide.

    (And who cares what skin color the future residents of North America and Europe will have?)

    • Lou Doench

      (And who cares what skin color the future residents of North America and Europe will have?)

      I’ll take “Things racists care about for 2000 Alex…”

  • Shari

    Three-child athiest here. I have actually always felt guilty for having 3 kids because I think the population of this world needs to get under control. So I guess if I want to stop feeling guilty I should just embrace religion and then I’ll realize that I really don’t have enough kids….

    • Lou Doench

      3 kid atheist here as well… but I plead accident on that third one…

      • Janice

        3 child atheist here too. I took my sisters replacement allotment for the third. No guilt.

  • Sarah-Sophia

    Actually recent estimates has France having a slightly higher birth-rate than the US but it’s likely he would point out that it’s probably from Muslim families living in France.

  • MrPopularSentiment

    Global population is skyrocketting and not showing any signs of slowing down. Last’s concerns are over race only. And oh mah ghawd, why is any publication giving this guy space???

    But apart from that, the whole economic model of interminable exponential growth is so idiotic when we live on a finite world. We only have so much space, with so much room on which to grew renewable resources such as food, and so much non-renewable resources. Any “economist” who proposes a long term solution of “MOAR GROWTH!!!” needs to hang up his hat and go home.

  • ako

    Treating well-off women choosing to make fewer babies as the same as China’s one-child policy really says a lot about how you view women (namely that you think their autonomy and control over their own bodies is way less important than the quantity of babies they make).

    It sounds like he’s considering two possible futures.

    1) More religious pressure on women to devalue their own happiness and make babies regardless of the difficulties, with little or no efforts to make life any easier for all of the new mothers, and possible efforts to reduce women’s freedom over their reproductive, educational, and professional futures (if trying to religiously guilt them into it doesn’t work).

    2) Fewer white people.

    Is there a reason I’m supposed to prefer the first one?

    • M

      You’re a person who sells aloe vera lotion, and you know white people get sunburned more often?

  • smrnda

    I’m not really sure why people go into hysterics about a declining birth rate. Even if the idea is that the existing workforce will have to support older people, I don’t see why, since it isn’t like per-person productivity is fixed. A smaller portion of the population of industrialized nations works in agriculture than in the past, yet we have a larger food supply because, thanks to technology, fewer people can produce more food from the same resources. Last is making a mistake to assume that somehow, a smaller group of people can never produce as much as a larger group of people. Anybody who simply realized that technology is a factor is going to realize that it’s nonsense.

    If anything, our biggest problem is that, in the US, we’re making public and economic policy built around the idea of scarcity – the reason we have so much economic stagnation is that it’s too easy for too many goods to be produced by too few workers, meaning that we end up with a lot of unemployed and underemployed and sporadically unemployed people.

    I also find it a bit bothersome that China’s one child policy and electing to have fewer children is equated, as if the moral issue was the birthrate, and not whether or not people were told how many kids to have.

  • Lisa

    First off I doubt Last has children. Otherwise I would expect some “My wife blah blah and we still managed to raise X kids!”-rants.
    Second, the main issue here is that they do not promote religion per se, they actually mean to promote christianity. Imagine every muslim family in the United States having 10+ kids. Would these authors cheer for those families as well, calling them “patriotic Americans” who “help the nation get out of financial problems”? I don’t think so.

  • Sunny

    If that kind of guys want to have more children, why didn’t they just experiment on themselves to enable them to get pregnant?

  • Katty

    Apart from all the racist and sexist BS that has been pointed out already and the downright horror he seems to have of children (they make you unhappy and the only reasons for having them are curiosity, vanity, naiveté or a fear of God – WTF??), there was also this line, which made me want to growl like an angry dog:

    “If we want to continue leading the world…”

    Excuse me? Supremacist much? My country might be small and unimportant but I object to the idea of it being led by the US and I bet I’m not the only one feeling this way. Yes, the USA undoubtedly plays an important role in the international arena, no doubt about it, but considering oneself as “leading the world” in such an offhand way is just pure hubris.

    • Sophie

      You’re forgetting that this is the country that calls their baseball league the WORLD series. Which other countries play baseball? They also call their president “the leader of the free world”. So yes supremacist much. But what do I know, I only come from the UK.

      Disclaimer: I do not believe that all Americans are this arrogant, I can see that a lot of you share my distaste at Last’s attitude. And I am sure that many of you are uncomfortable with the idea of your country being the shining beacon of civilisation as it is often portrayed.

      • Kodie


      • phantomreader42

        You’re forgetting that this is the country that calls their baseball league the WORLD series. Which other countries play baseball?

        It’s surprisingly big in Japan, and I think there’s at least one team in Canada. Beyond that nothing comes to mind.

        On the subject of American sports-related arrogance, remember that America uses the name “football” for a game that is played by manipulating an egg-shaped object primarily with one’s hands, unlike the rest of the world, which uses the same term for a game played by manipulating a BALL with one’s FEET. The version of football that uses a foot and a ball not only uses a sensible name for the sport (unlike “Handegg”, a term I use to annoy friends who are handegg fans) but has a World Cup that actually involves teams from much of the world!

        Off the subject of sports, whenever someone babbles about America being “the greatest country in the world”, I assume they’re not only arrogant, but stupid and lazy. Because they can’t be bothered to care if America is IMPROVING, or make it a BETTER country, they just want to brag and find a way to claim win without effort. I live in America. I like America. I don’t give a flying fuck if it’s better than other countries, I care if it’s actually a GOOD country. I want a country that’s actually good on its own merits, not just one that’s content to be less shitty than others, or worse still one that PRETENDS to be less shitty than others because no one can be bothered to make things actually GOOD.

      • smrnda

        I live in the US (was born here) and I actually don’t see very many metrics we can point to as evidence of being the greatest. For a first world country, we have a lot of poverty and crime. We have more people in prison that most totalitarian states. We don’t excel in education, don’t have a healthy populace both because of our system of health care and lifestyle.

        The only things we excel in are spending money on the military.

  • Amber

    Another reason to have fewer children is there just aren’t going to be enough jobs for them, assuming current technology trends continue.

  • Rae

    Although I suspect he just cherry-picked the demographic with the lowest birth rate, it still comes across as (and might actually be) horrifyingly close to the ideas behind some eugenicists: He hasn’t gone so far as to say that certain people shouldn’t reproduce, but it sounds like his concern is primarily that the “right” kind of people reproduce *more*.

    • phantomreader42

      And he clearly doesn’t have any actual problem with the government mandating how many children people should be forced to have, he just thinks China’s using the wrong number.

      If this lunatic had his way, he’d mandate a minimum number of (white) children, and a maximum for anyone whose skin color differs from his.

  • phantomreader42

    Last gets at least one thing right (probably by accident). Religion, particularly Last’s brand of it, encourages people to be miserable and stupid, and to grunt out litter after litter of crying infants without any consideration whatsoever for one’s own well-being or ability to feed or educate said infants, so that said infants can be trained to also be miserable, stupid, and grunt out litters of their own.

    The fact that he apparently sees this as a point in FAVOR of religion is confusing, and the fact that he seems incapable of imagining anyone having children because they actually WANT to, or genuinely CARING for their children, or wanting them to have a better life, or seeing children as something more than interchangable commodities mass-produced under threats from the invisible tyrant in the sky is deeply disturbing. I pity any children anywhere near this lunatic.

  • Philip Cohen

    Well put, multi-child atheist!
    Yes, Last does have children — he mentions it in interviews, and says it’s not fun and fun isn’t the reason to do it (paraphrasing).

    • Libby Anne

      Then I pitty his kids, growing up hearing how not fun they are! Personally, I cery much enjoy raising my kids. Hard? Yes, but oh so rewarding!

    • Noelle

      If he’s not having fun, he’s doing it wrong.

      Sure, it ain’t all snuggles and giggles and first smiles and first steps and hand-print art and I love you mom’s and baking cookies and teaching them how to scream on roller coasters to make scary be fun and deep questions into the night on the mysteries of the world and life. But a lot of it is. That’s the good stuff. If you don’t have kids of your own, I highly recommend borrowing someone else’s briefly for experiencing these joys. Mr. Last is missing out on the best parts if he sees his children as a strain and a chore and his duty to populate the Earth with more white Christian kids.

      The reason I stopped at 2 is there isn’t enough of me to devote time and resources to more than that. Work is already exhausting. There is only so much of me left. And I want to give them the secure life I didn’t have while living as 1 of 6 kids in poverty. I had the 2 I did not out of some sense of white woman’s duty. I did not have them out of curiosity or vanity or naïveté (I love how autocorrect is all over that word). I had children because I wanted them. Though, the husband and I are atheists and the kids are not being raised religious, so I’ve likely already upset Last’s sense of balance and order.

      • Christine

        I have a friend who comes for visits with me & my daughter instead of going to the puppy room. Toddlers are great for that.

      • Lauren F

        “If he’s not having fun, he’s doing it wrong.

        Sure, it ain’t all snuggles and giggles and first smiles and first steps and hand-print art and I love you mom’s and baking cookies and teaching them how to scream on roller coasters to make scary be fun and deep questions into the night on the mysteries of the world and life. But a lot of it is.”

        This is exactly what I thought when I read the parts about happiness. I’ve been seeing a lot more of this debate about “who’s happier, parents or non-parents??” lately (probably because I’m now a parent, ha ha) and I think anybody trying to quantify that is missing the point. The two groups are probably defining “happy” differently in the first place, and who knows how many different definitions of happy exist within those groups? Growing up and even through college I could never have imagined myself happy with a child. Now I think he’s amazing! So it’s all perspective.

        @#43: Handegg! HANDEGG! I love it!

  • Selvar

    It seems to me that people here are in a state of denial. The fact is: Religious fundamentalists are reproducing at a far greater rate then secularists. So in a democracy where all votes are equal, religious fundamentalists would rule after a few generations. You only have to look at Israel, where this is already occurring. To be concerned about this is not to be racist or sexist. There are many sides to this debate and no one can tell the future for certain, but it’s very irrational to just dismiss an argument by labeling it as racist or sexist. I would suggest “Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth?” by Eric Kaufmann, to see why rationalists and secularists may be facing decline. Keep in mind that this was written by a secularist.

    • Malitia

      We aren’t. We just respect their reproduction choices too.
      Also you commit the fallacy of equating the religious beliefs someone is born into with the one they will hold when they grow up. This is the blog of a deconverted Christian (actually as far as I can tell most Atheists in the US come from some sort of Christian background), I’m a neo-Pagan with Atheistic family etc.. People can’t change their race or sex, but are pretty well able to change their beliefs (it’s a memetic not genetic), so to spread secularist / humanist thinking making education, information more widely available is a better tactic than meddling in the reproduction choices of people.

      • Selvar

        Glad to see someone responded to my comment. Anyway, children tend to adopt the religion and ideology of their parents. There is a reason why most children in the Islamic world grow up to be Muslim, and not Christian or atheist. Of course, a few of those children will reject Islam once they grow up, but the vast majority will not. Furthermore, the more radical the religious upbringing, the less likely people are to reject it once they are older. Today, we see an overall decline in religiosity across the western world. However, most of that decline comes from “moderate” religious denominations. Meanwhile, the more fundamentalist religious denominations ( such as Mormonism) are actually growing in number. I am glad that the author was able to reject fundamentalist Christianity, but her experience is not typical of most raised in her circumstance. One again, it is certainly possible for one raised in a patriarchal fundamentalist religion to reject that upbringing. It’s just not very likely, and the amount of those who deconvert does not seem to be statistically significant enough to change the overall trend.

        Most religious fundamentalists prefer to isolate themselves from the secular world. I fail to see how you will spread “secular, humanist education” to such people. They refuse to even be exposed to such arguments, and they home-school their kids to ensure the same is true for them. Of course, we can outlaw homeschooling, but that would lead to a massive controversy, and is unlikely to ever occur. I don’t advocate meddling in people’s reproductive choices in any way, but we can’t just ignore the possibility of demographic collapse for secularists. This isn’t just a hypothesis, it is already a reality in Israel.