Rumours of Our Pending Extinction Are Greatly Exaggerated

On declining fertility, the Great Replacement and the demographic pressures of industrial society

The Great Replacement is no longer a theory – it’s reality,” Eva Vlaardingerbroek tweeted last Saturday. Our voluble Dutch activist went on to observe that “White Europeans are being replaced in their own countries at an ever accelerating rate,” concluding that this “will mean the end of our civilization if we don’t turn things around.” She attached a video of a speech she gave in Hungary rehearsing familiar arguments against mass migration.

Elon Musk responded by deploring the “record low birth rates” that “are leading to population collapse in Europe and … most of Asia”:

The left would respond to Musk by explaining that mass migration is the only solution. We need more people, they’d say, and if we won’t produce them ourselves, they must be imported. The alternative is bankrupt pension plans, labour shortages and in the longer term national extinction. The right most often counter with exhortations to marry and have kids, and with proposals to ease the economic burdens of parenthood – blaming secularism, contraception and feminism for the fertility decline. The left, meanwhile, responds that it is the rightists’ racism and xenophobia which pose the real existential threats. This is a mutually-reinforcing, self-perpetuating discursive machine, which always makes me suspicious. The apocalyptic overtones should also put you on guard. Last Rights: The Death... Bovard, James Buy New $19.99 (as of 07:00 UTC - Details)

In what follows, I want to propose a different way of thinking about birth rates in the developed world. They are low and that is the cause of some very serious problems, but it’s a bad idea to make a political issue out of low fertility specifically. First, we’re not in charge of anything, and we must avoid as much as possible giving the technocrats yet another problem to solve. Their cure for this one – infinity asylees – is much worse than the disease.

Second, I very much doubt that there is any near-term solution, but I also doubt that present fertility rates in themselves are an existential crisis. The historical view suggests that our populations are still adjusting, demographically, to the effects of industrialisation. We must complete this transition on our own, however painful that may be, and then we must figure out what society will look like on the other side of it. None of that will be easy, and by opening our borders to the developing world we have made it much, much, much harder for ourselves. But I am getting ahead of myself.

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