Join 3,425 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Return of Patriarchy by Phillip Longman
April 26, 2007 9:10 AM   Subscribe

“With the number of human beings having increased more than six-fold in the past 200 years, the modern mind simply assumes that men and women . . . will always breed enough children to grow the population . . . Yet, for more than a generation now, well-fed, healthy, peaceful populations around the world have been producing too few children to avoid population decline. . . . Throughout the broad sweep of human history, there are many examples of people, or classes of people, who chose to avoid the costs of parenthood. Indeed, falling fertility is a recurring tendency of human civilization. Why then did humans not become extinct long ago? The short answer is patriarchy.”
posted by jason's_planet (79 comments total)

 
An abbreviated version of this essay also appeared in USA Today.

It was originally published in Foreign Policy (subscriber-only link).
posted by jason's_planet at 9:13 AM on April 26, 2007


It is a serious problem.
posted by bhouston at 9:35 AM on April 26, 2007


I wonder if he thinks word count is a sign of quality? The managed to gather about 2 sentences worth of information in the first four paragraphs, and then called it quits.
posted by Alex404 at 9:42 AM on April 26, 2007


Falling population is only a serious problem from an ethnic/nationalistic standpoint. The human population is continuing to grow - just not among Western Europeans in general. As populations in these countries drop, there will be more room and opportunities for more robust populations to move in. I think that this is a natural process from the beginning of human existence - and it's only with the rise of "nations" that it's become an issue. Of course Rome cared about its declining birthrate amongst its citizens - they didn't allow immigration.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:43 AM on April 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


YAY Patriarchy!

The only club I belong to that my penis doesn't get me kicked OUT of!

The guys are going to be so happy to hear that the project is getting positive press at last.
posted by tkchrist at 9:43 AM on April 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


The upshot is that, at least in the US and Europe, religious conservatives tend to have more children than secular liberals. The concern is that, in time, intolerant and narrow minded individuals (who vote for people like GWB) will outnumber more enlightened people (like MeFi members).

I follow his logic, but it's a bit far fetched.
posted by aladfar at 9:44 AM on April 26, 2007


I don't understand why population decline is considered a problem, aside from short-term issues like too few adults of working age supporting an aging population, the resulting Social Security crisis, etc. Not to minimize the potential impact of this imbalance (I'm going to have to live through it, after all), but it seems to pale in consideration against the horrendous impact an ever-expanding population would have on the globe. Other arguments against population reduction seem to skirt dangerously close to racist or otherwise predjudiced thought ("The Muslims/red-staters are outbreeding us!").

Is there a "perfect" population level that we should strive to attain, or return to? IMHO the problems created by population decline would be outweighed by the benefits, in the long term.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:44 AM on April 26, 2007


The essay argues implicitly that the best way to undermine a fast reproducing patriarchal society is to get their women to struggle for more "freedom" and rights. You can undermine a society by spreading liberalism??
posted by bhouston at 9:45 AM on April 26, 2007


The Card Cheat: if all populations are declining, then it is theoretically okay, but if only your population is decling then you are going to be replaced by those populations that are growing. There is a difference between sustainable populations and declining populations.
posted by bhouston at 9:47 AM on April 26, 2007


The only club I belong to that my penis doesn't get me kicked OUT of!

...must be "For Members Only"
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 9:47 AM on April 26, 2007


It's all about the S-curves.
posted by Artw at 9:50 AM on April 26, 2007


In the end, the Reverend Malthus will be proven correct!
posted by dios at 9:51 AM on April 26, 2007


I love how people who turn out this claptrap ("OMG! We're getting bred out of existence!") always ignore some of the most obvious factors in this phenomenon in America:

1) Stagnating real wages, usurious lending, increased health care costs, and ever-increasing hurdles to bankruptcy protection are what's really wrecking families these days. See The Two-Income Trap for more. Yet somehow neither Longman nor any of his cronies ever urges us to adopt national healthcare, child care tax credits, or any kind of progressive shift from corporate profit (ever increasing, in real terms) to wage growth (stagnant, in real terms).

2) Underpopulation and lack of fertility are manifestly not a problem in many parts of the world, and if there are cultures where running out of people is a genuine concern, the really, REALLY obvious solution is to move in some of the people from areas of problematic population growth. But those people are brown people, not fine upstanding white patriot patriarchs.

No no, let's not talk about these factors. Much easier to rag on Hollyweird and those latte-sippin' left coast secularists. Praise the lord and pass the ammunition!
posted by rkent at 9:53 AM on April 26, 2007 [4 favorites]


It's become a false dichotomy of either religion+popgrowth or atheism+popdecline. The problem is that once you lose the value system of organized religions, you don't replace it with something that is equally robust, but rather you float around in population culture that is often designed by advertisers who do not have your reproductive interests at stake. That might sound glib, but I think it is incredibly true.

General popular culture, as we current allow it, is destructive to the values required for maintaining populations.
posted by bhouston at 9:53 AM on April 26, 2007


Personally, I'm perfectly happy to be "replaced" by "populations" that are growing....again, this sort of thinking seems quite problematic to me; i.e. "the world will be a worse place in the future if there are fewer ______ians and more _______ians."
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:54 AM on April 26, 2007


rkent: with regards to your #1 point, Canada has most of that and it doesn't change things at all.
posted by bhouston at 9:54 AM on April 26, 2007


more enlightened people (like MeFi members).

liberal != enlightened
liberal != MeFi members
MeFi members != enlightened
posted by tadellin at 9:55 AM on April 26, 2007


What bhouston and aladfar said. The author isn't saying that population decline in itself is a problem.
posted by iguanapolitico at 9:57 AM on April 26, 2007


Madonna simply needs to adopt all of the children of Africa. Angelina Jolie can adopt the children of Asia. Once we find someone acceptably liberal and progressive to adopt the children of Latin America, the world will right itself again.
posted by billysumday at 9:59 AM on April 26, 2007


rkent - Re: Ther brown people, said alarmists are always very quick to point at Europe and how the brown people are "taking over" there.
posted by Artw at 10:00 AM on April 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


I wonder if he thinks word count is a sign of quality? The managed to gather about 2 sentences worth of information in the first four paragraphs, and then called it quits.

I can see you've never read "Foreign Policy" before...
posted by deanc at 10:04 AM on April 26, 2007


artw: Making it about liberal-verses-conservative demographics or white-verses-brown demographics or jew-verses-arab demographics (which is a major study topic in Israel/Palestine) is unnecessary and shuts down intelligent discussion. The issue is that the non-religious but well-off segments of the population in North America and Europe are in significant declining.
posted by bhouston at 10:07 AM on April 26, 2007


The managed to gather about 2 sentences worth of information in the first four paragraphs, and then called it quits.

Did you notice the abbreviated version? You know, the one I linked to in the first comment?

I don't understand why population decline is considered a problem

Population decline isn't distributed evenly. Certain groups of people, with certain values and political beliefs, are producing fewer children than people with other values and political beliefs.
posted by jason's_planet at 10:12 AM on April 26, 2007


Did anyone read this article all the way through?

And I mean that literally because it seems to end halfway through a quotation.
posted by justkevin at 10:13 AM on April 26, 2007


>Certain groups of people, with certain values and political beliefs, are producing fewer children than people with other values and political beliefs.

Yes, I understand that. So the only course of action is to out-reproduce "certain" people we'd prefer to outnumber?
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:16 AM on April 26, 2007


I think what the article is really saying is that as far as evolution is concerned, the larger a population, the greater the chance that the population’s genes will be passed on to future generations. The problem with this, in the eyes of the writer is, that currently more educated and developed populations, populations that would normally be considered to have cultivated the strongest survival skills, will lose the battle of the genes simply through lack of numbers. Evolution could fail because of a loss of interest in maintaining a family lineage.
posted by CaptMcalister at 10:16 AM on April 26, 2007


Did anyone read this article all the way through?

I read it on the newsstand a while back. I didn't see the abrupt ending.

Sorry about that.
posted by jason's_planet at 10:16 AM on April 26, 2007


You know, the last thing the United States has is a lack of people. Traveling in Europe and Turkey last year, I visited areas with various ethnic minorities whose entire population is less than the size of a large town in the USA.

Japan's density is high enough that everyone realizes that a higher birthrate would just make the country less livable.

Then there's this line:
the United States lacks the amount of people necessary to sustain an imperial role in the world, just as Britain lost its ability to do so
The author writes as though this is some huge tragedy. So the danger isn't "extinction," it's just the inability to rule the better part of the world? Cry me a river.

One thing I will note, however, and this ties into the EU... large birthrates do not necessarily correspond to the ability to engage in military conquest. They do, however, correspond to the ability to spread throughout the world via migration. It's the reason that the Irish and Germans moved to the US in large numbers and why their communities are perhaps the groups that the largest number of Americans trace their origins to. In "greater Europe," it is Turkey which has high birthrates and a large number of young people, compared to the rest of Europe. The inevitable result of this is going to be that in the future, a large number of Europeans will talk about having Turkish origins. They're going to be the ones migrating to different parts of western europe where the jobs are.

In that sense, the demographics do reflect a certain destiny, but this isn't the end of civilization as we know it. The author keeps using loaded words like "extinction." Genghis Kahn was the most prolific fathers in the world. Yet somehow we're not all speaking Mongolian now, are we?
posted by deanc at 10:18 AM on April 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Did anyone read this article all the way through? And I mean that literally because it seems to end halfway through a quotation.

Aha. That explains why the article never got to describing what a "patriarchal society" is, exactly. At the same time, the USA Today column doesn't explain it either. The author just keeps referring to "patriarchy" as though we all understand what this means and how it automatically leads to more children.
posted by deanc at 10:24 AM on April 26, 2007


We might not be speaking Mongolian but a very large chunk of humanity has Monogolian genes.
posted by CaptMcalister at 10:25 AM on April 26, 2007


Six billion little miracles are enough way too many.

Population control and reduction is essential for a sustainable planet.

Shorter article: Stupid people breed more kids. Idiocracy isn't just a movie.
posted by nofundy at 10:27 AM on April 26, 2007


Here's the full article, courtesy of Google Groups.

From the article: Yet, though such explicitly pronatal policies may encourage people to have children at a younger age, there is little evidence they cause people to have more children than they otherwise would.

In Quebec, such policies appear to have indeed had an effect. See this paper by Kevin Milligan.
posted by russilwvong at 10:45 AM on April 26, 2007


The problem with this, in the eyes of the writer is, that currently more educated and developed populations, populations that would normally be considered to have cultivated the strongest survival skills, will lose the battle of the genes simply through lack of numbers. Evolution could fail because of a loss of interest in maintaining a family lineage.

Evolution hasn't "failed" in that instance; it's just that the end result is different from what you expected, in that human populations that breed more intensely can outperform industrialized, "educated" populations.

I'm still not seeing how this article isn't basically a form of eugenics. So, ethnic Western Europeans, and possibly white American populations are being overrun by other cultures because they can't keep up reproduction-wise. So what?
posted by LionIndex at 10:45 AM on April 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Aha. That explains why the article never got to describing what a "patriarchal society" is, exactly. At the same time, the USA Today column doesn't explain it either. The author just keeps referring to "patriarchy" as though we all understand what this means and how it automatically leads to more children.

I kind of imagined the author waking up at his keyboard thinking, "I forgot where I was going with this... I've got 2500 words, I'm turning it in."

After that point no one in the editorial chain managed to get past the half-way point.
posted by justkevin at 10:49 AM on April 26, 2007


"Boink for Domination", the board game.
posted by The Power Nap at 10:49 AM on April 26, 2007


Boink if you're pro-choice.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 10:59 AM on April 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


The problem with the whole "the white peoples gonna be wiped out by the brown peoples" argument is that it isn't true.

In this talk, from TED talks, Hans Rosling gives an amazing presentation visualising current statistics showing that as countries become more prosperous, they have smaller families.

As developing countries become more developed they *naturally* and fairly inevitably start having smaller families. It's just that Western Europe and North America got there first. As globalization spreads the wealth around, other countries join the trend.

We're just in a period of flux. The statistics are pretty compelling.

I think that finding sustainable population levels sounds fantastic. Part of the problem with housing costs right now is that there are just too damn many people. Fewer people, more land per person.
posted by MythMaker at 11:02 AM on April 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


The USA today article starts up with a rather sneary comparison of Salt lake City (population 178,605), and Seattle (population 571,480). Now, I don't so much know about Salt Lake City, but I live in Seattle and it's growing like crazy right now - mostly because people who gre up in places like Salt Lake City realise they'd be better off here instead. Seattles supposed childlessness is somewhat over-rated as well - there isn;t a daycare in the city that isn't overflowing right now.
posted by Artw at 11:06 AM on April 26, 2007


Population decline isn't distributed evenly. Certain groups of people, with certain values and political beliefs, are producing fewer children than people with other values and political beliefs.

So political values are biologically inherited then? Children never decide to abandon the values they were raised with?

Provided said children aren't trapped in a rigidly-defined society and have the opportunity to escape to places of greater liberalism, then this has just not been true, historically. And anecdotally, almost all the liberals I know were raised rabidly conservative.

Weren't these canards trotted out when the "filthy Catholic Irish" were supposed to be outbreeding good Protestant WASP types? And weren't they just as stupid then?

Or do we think that despite all evidence to the contrary, children of Muslim parents are just "too different" to ever flee the harsh restrictions of that life as soon as they get the chance, and are instead going to perpetuate it by mindlessly and robotically outbreeding the rest of the world? Because I don't buy it.

Oh and yes, education for women-something more likely in liberal than in repressive countries--is directly correlated to a drop in birth rates. Given power and options, women will limit their fertility to the level they feel is sustainable for them and their families. If patriarchy means "men determining what a woman does with her uterus" (which is not a bad definition) then you could posit that it is responsible for keeping up birth rates; after all, women take all the risks when they have to breed till they drop. If children are regarded as a man's property, then one way of gaining status will be to sire as many as possible, no matter how destructive that may be in the long term.
posted by emjaybee at 11:07 AM on April 26, 2007 [4 favorites]


Bah - as soon as I saw the "why conservatives will inherit the Earth" bit, I knew I should have stopped reading.

Oil scarcity is going to make it clear in pretty short order what a freaking disaster the Green Revolution was - the 3rd World overpopulation that's worrying Longman probably won't be much of an issue in 30-40 years.

It's also likely to cause chaos at home of course, and make the fundamentalist fantasy underlying this article (or any other orderly, top-down, fascistic society) impossible. Another example of how consistently myopic FP's predictions about the future are ...
posted by ryanshepard at 11:15 AM on April 26, 2007


The Light Fantastic : Falling population is only a serious problem from an ethnic/nationalistic standpoint.

Bingo. People who worry about this don't like the fact that people who look different from them have higher birth-rates.

CaptMcalister : We might not be speaking Mongolian but a very large chunk of humanity has Monogolian genes.

Well, that would help to explain my irrational urges to ride around on horseback and shoot people with a bow. It might also explain why I periodically feel the need to sack and burn; something that is sort of embarrassing when it happens at work. I mean, I looted Finance and Human Resources just last week.
posted by quin at 11:17 AM on April 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


Another element contributing to the drop in birthrate among educated women could also be a switch from "survival" thinking to a "quality of life" mindset. Societies on the brink of extinction generally don't place a lot of emphasis on education. Once a society has managed to move back from that brink, then issues such as quality of life become more important - not only for the mothers, but for the children that result.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 11:18 AM on April 26, 2007


Yet, though such explicitly pronatal policies may encourage people to have children at a younger age, there is little evidence they cause people to have more children than they otherwise would.

Clearly this guy doesn't think the mathematics through. If people have children at 20 rather than 40 (just by way of illustration), then obviously population will increase faster, because the space between generations will be shorter. So the policies are succeeding.
posted by deanc at 11:19 AM on April 26, 2007


So political values are biologically inherited then? Children never decide to abandon the values they were raised with?

No, but then no child is ever born a racist either. And they move to Seattle from SLC when they abandon the magical underwear.

Given power and options, women will limit their fertility to the level they feel is sustainable for them and their families.

Great argument for matriarchy! Woohoo, women rule! Let women decide who and when and how they'll fuck, not daddy.

Time for dios to come explain how women and children, according to prevalent law, are property of males in 3... 2... 1...
posted by nofundy at 11:22 AM on April 26, 2007


What emjaybee said.

The implication that biology is destiny -- that people from conservative, patriarchal backgrounds will only have children who embrace the same values -- is fundamentally wrong.

If you go back far enough, people in "modern" liberal societies all came from people with conservative, patriarchal backgrounds.

Values and beliefs are changeable. They can change very rapidly, in fact -- over the course of a single human lifetime. My wife was raised by strict conservative Christian parents (her father is basically Calvinist, her mother is Pentecostal), and she is a flaming liberal, as is her sister.

There's also the issue (raised already by others) of not-very-subtle race paranoia here. Why should I care if, in 100 years, after I'm long dead, there are more people living in the U.S. with darker skin, or who speak other languages? I hope they treat each other well, and I'd like to think they will still believe that our Constitution contains a lot of good ideas. And I hope that the finer examples of works in the English language will still be preserved and valued. But their ethnicity matters not a whit to me.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 11:30 AM on April 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Compare and contrast w/ David Brook's book about "Natalism" , the belief that one's purpose on earth in to procreate (I am vastly oversimplifying here). His premise is that red-state cultural conservatives in exurban areas are outbreeding urban blue-staters

It makes me wonder if all these kids will grow up to be just like their folks, or will there be a major "countercultural" movement as these kids rebel, move to the cities, stop going to church, and possibly even vote democratic?
posted by bobbarnesmn at 11:31 AM on April 26, 2007


Didn't Rush Limbaugh make this same argument, that liberals would abort themselves out of existence or some such?
posted by nofundy at 11:37 AM on April 26, 2007


bobarnesmn: Of course. It's happened plenty of times before.

Look at how many American colleges and universities, which are almost all bastions of liberalism, started out as explicitly religious institutions.

Even school which are still explicitly religious foster liberalism, because they are devoted to free inquiry
(look at the recent case of the Mormon students at Brigham Young University who protested having Dick Cheney as their graduation speaker, and raised the money to bring in Ralph Nader as an alternative).

There is a new wave of ultra-conservative schools in this country (Bob Jones U., Regent U., etc.), but I predict that the same effect will happen there within a generation or three.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 11:38 AM on April 26, 2007


"Throughout the broad sweep of human history, there are many examples of people, or classes of people, who chose to avoid the costs of parenthood. Indeed, falling fertility is a recurring tendency of human civilization."

What? I think this fellow should get together with Naomi Wolf and write a book called How To Misunderstand the Past. This post is missing the "Iknownothingabouthistory" tag.
posted by MarshallPoe at 11:39 AM on April 26, 2007


There's also the issue (raised already by others) of not-very-subtle race paranoia here.

Yes. They raised it without providing any support from the text itself. Because even if the examples you cite are the whitest big city in America and one of the whitest states in the Union, it's all A Big Racial Issue.

The issue that concerned the author was differing values. People with conservative beliefs values tend to have more children than people with liberal beliefs.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:40 AM on April 26, 2007


What emjaybee is typical but also wrong.

In Canada, even second and third generation immigrants have low birth rates such that we need to keep increasing the rate of immigration. Thus it is not just whites against browns or whatever, it is more western non-religious who can't even keep their numbers steady.

And you can't compare Canada with its massive space and relatively cheap housing outside major urban centers with Japan's consistent high density.
posted by bhouston at 11:40 AM on April 26, 2007


We can all see the self-evidence truth of Mr. Longman's claims by just looking at how the liberal cities of San Francisco, Berkeley, and New York are completely underpopulated due to low birthrates to the point where they're practically giving real estate away. They're veritably ready to be flooded by hoards of conservative patriarchal types.
posted by deanc at 11:46 AM on April 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


We can all see the self-evidence truth of Mr. Longman's claims by just looking at how the liberal cities of San Francisco, Berkeley, and New York are completely underpopulated due to low birthrates to the point where they're practically giving real estate away.

I don't know anything about San Francisco. New York, however, manages to maintain its population by way of 23-year-olds moving here after college. And by attracting huge numbers of immigrants.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:53 AM on April 26, 2007


jason, which just happens to be my point when it comes to Longman's political claims. These are some of the most heavily liberal (dare I say anti-patriarchal?) cities in the world and have just become more so over the decades, despite the fact that they should be facing "extinction," according to Longman.
posted by deanc at 12:04 PM on April 26, 2007


This is why the richest man in the world isn't called Walton.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 12:09 PM on April 26, 2007


These are some of the most heavily liberal (dare I say anti-patriarchal?) cities in the world and have just become more so over the decades, despite the fact that they should be facing "extinction," according to Longman.

Yeah, but again, they aren't sustaining themselves the way that more conservative areas are -- by people getting married, marrying early and having children. They are sustaining themselves by drawing adult immigrants and the post-collegiate crowd.
posted by jason's_planet at 12:14 PM on April 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


People with conservative beliefs values tend to have more children than people with liberal beliefs.

Film at 11?
posted by LionIndex at 12:15 PM on April 26, 2007


deanc: I think we can all agree that cities are not the strongholds of the patriarchy and are not in danger of shrinking (unless it's Detroit, or St. Louis, or any other rust belt city). The problem from my point of view, is that the pro-"patriarchy" segment of the population as a whole is growing faster. It is not that secular humanists are becoming extinct, it is that the religious fundamentalists are becoming much more numerous. And voting. For things like abstinence-only sex-ed and weakening the separation of church and state. And the PATRIOT Act.
posted by bastionofsanity at 12:22 PM on April 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yes, bastion, fair enough. But the author dangles the threat of "instinction" and such. I mean, really, the truth is that at the end of the day, people want to leave those conservative areas in order to come to more liberal, unpatriarchal environments. It makes his threatening fear-mongering (or triumphalism, depending on your perspective) sound rather silly. Even worse, of course, is that even in the full article, he doesn't really define what a "patriarchy" is or how the lack of childbearing is in and of itself evidence of a non-patriarchal culture. He just assumes that everyone knows. Or, more likely, he wants to weasel out of discussing specifics in terms of how he thinks society is changing to ensure that he's never held to account for any claims of actual changes that may or may not occur.
posted by deanc at 12:27 PM on April 26, 2007


"extinction," not "instinction." That was a brain misfire.
posted by deanc at 12:27 PM on April 26, 2007


Yeah, I don't really think the argument that children inherit their parents values is correct. At the most it's happening to a minor degree.
Maybe people come to that conclusion by watching contries populations and thinking something like:"This country has a certain consistency to its values throughout its recent history. The people living there must be handing down their values from generation to generation."
Truth is I think, that not so much individual people and families, but rather institutions and social frameworks retain the values somewhat. If my hypothesis is correct, migrants to countries with different values should show a marked change in values after maybe a generations stay. I think this is true. (Of course correlation and causation yaddayadda).
And further, people from countries where the family is the social framework, and where the family can retain its cohesion after migration, may take longer to change than individuals.

Also some far flung thoughts on the decline in birthrate; There's some studies of mice and their reactions to overpopulation (which means in this context alot of mice and not very much room). Among those reactions are (if i recall correctly): Schizofrenia, loss of appetite in the presence of plenty food, as well as aggressivenes to the degree of self mutilation and fighting other mice to death, and lowered birthrate.
Nowadays The human population is about 50% urbanized. Primarily in the developed and quickly developing world. Is it so crazy to imagine that there's some of the same instinctual processes going on in humans as there is in mice?
posted by Catfry at 12:30 PM on April 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Catfry: great far flung thought with regards to the mice.

The lowered birthrates may also be evidence of a significant genetic change in the population, even within the "threatened" middle class liberal city dwellers. It is an environment where the selective pressures are fairly large, even if those selective pressures are things self-created such as the decline of procreation pressure from religions.
posted by bhouston at 12:42 PM on April 26, 2007


The lowered birthrates may also be evidence of a significant genetic change in the population, even within the "threatened" middle class liberal city dwellers.

I disagree. The population trends discussed here have occurred over the course of about two generations. Genetic change takes much longer than that.
posted by jason's_planet at 12:48 PM on April 26, 2007


Or, more likely, he wants to weasel out of discussing specifics in terms of how he thinks society is changing to ensure that he's never held to account for any claims of actual changes that may or may not occur.

He provides more specifics in the abbreviated USA Today article.

Which is the link I had originally planned to use as the basis for this post. And probably should have used.
posted by jason's_planet at 12:50 PM on April 26, 2007


jason's_planet: I was meaning a genetic shift that is significant given the time frame. It is hard to quantify the magnitude of a genetic shift, and I guess I just mean change. I think there are new selection pressures and there is very clearly differential reproduction, and the dynamics of this differential reproduction have changed in the last 50 years in the developed world, as the developed world didn't really exist in this form 50 years ago. It's one of those things that are hard to prove at the time they are occuring but become more obvious when looking back. There is a lot of evidence for significant genetic changes in the last 500 years if you look at the scientific literature. I would be surprised if it has stopped, and I expect it has only increased especially in the current environment of very significant differential reproduction.
posted by bhouston at 12:52 PM on April 26, 2007


The author writes as though this is some huge tragedy. So the danger isn't "extinction," it's just the inability to rule the better part of the world? Cry me a river.

Snort. I love it!

I'm a 27 year old female, and my husband and I have decided not to have kids. We can't come up with any compelling reason why we would want them, or should want them. I don't see people not having kids as any great tragedy - the world is far too overpopulated anyway.
posted by agregoli at 12:56 PM on April 26, 2007


Just because your latte drinking ex-hipster doesn't have kids now doesn't mean they won't in the future, and these days having 1 or 2 kids at that age is entirely feasible, even if vast evangelical style broods aren't.
posted by Artw at 12:58 PM on April 26, 2007


That should be:
Sorry to keep on harping ion about Seattle, but one thing I find interesting is hiow many of the new parents we meet are in their late 30s and early 40s. Just because your latte drinking ex-hipster doesn't have kids now doesn't mean they won't in the future, and these days having 1 or 2 kids at that age is entirely feasible, even if vast evangelical style broods aren't.
posted by Artw at 1:00 PM on April 26, 2007


There's another issue here. Longman takes a very militaristic view of the advantage of patriarchy-- that patriarchal cultures survived because they outnumbered the non-patriarchal cultures (and I'm really not sure how much I buy into the claim that hunter/gatherer cultures were "non-patriarchal"). However, one can also easily claim that liberal, non-patriarchal cities (as Longman terms them) have their own advantage-- they exist as places people want to move to and thus have an inherent advantage over, say, the Dakotas. The term "meme" is way too overused, but one could claim that sustainable non-patriarchal societies have a memetic advantage over the alternative. In a sense, this means that both sides of the equation are self-sustaining. People want to create non-patriarchal societies if they can get away with it. Longman appears to acknowledge this but doesn't work through the logical result.
posted by deanc at 1:05 PM on April 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


Artw: If one population reproduces at age 25 and the other reproduces at age 40, even if they have the same number of kids per generation, the first population will have near twice the procreation rate of the second.
posted by bhouston at 1:05 PM on April 26, 2007


The only argument I've heard for why declining birthrates in the West are a bad thing that didn't have an underlying nationalistic/racist subtext is this - the Capitalist system, specifically the version at play here in the U.S., requires constant growth to be viable. If birthrates fall, production and consumption fall in accordance, especially production and consumption of big-ticket items.

I'm not an economist, but that made a certain maount of sense to me.
posted by lekvar at 1:08 PM on April 26, 2007


more enlightened people (like MeFi members).

Enlightened? Us? Trust me we're just creatures running blindly through the dark like everybody else.

As to the problem at hand, there's only one solution: Let's All Breed! I brought cognac...
posted by jonmc at 1:12 PM on April 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


Is there a difference in reproduction rates between long-time urban city dwellers and recent arrivals from the rural areas or foreign immigrants from less developed countries? I think one has to get past simple averages and look at the details of what exactly is happening.
posted by bhouston at 1:18 PM on April 26, 2007


No, see, this is simply a cunning ploy by Longman. He's not getting laid by those wild and crazy liberal chicks he keeps trying to hook up with, so he's trying to convinve them through scare mongering that they need to breed, and he's offering his services as a stud.

You think I'm kidding...
posted by daq at 1:33 PM on April 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


I would never accept membership in a group that would have my penis as a member.

Yeah....Ghengis Khan is my g’g’g’grandfather. You GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT!!?!? KILL! KILL! KILL!!
Sorry...it’s the genes.

I think it’s a nifty balance, the more stuff and easy livin’ people get the more hedonistic they become the less kids they want the more their stuff gets dispersed.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:51 PM on April 26, 2007


So the solution then is for liberal Western democracies to wreck, invade, pillage and depopulate more traditional patriarchical tyrannies with high birth rates. We might even consider putting something in their water, or even using nukes.

Of course, I know, somebody will bring up the female shortage in China, and how that likely stems from selective abortion and infanticide. If so I have an obvious and far more peaceful solution to the problems of both China and "underpopulated" countries like Norway: tell the Chinese that if they don't want girl babies to ship 'em where they're needed, since the problem as defined isn't racial but cultural and infants don't come equipped with cultural burdens. (One of the most "American" chicks I ever knew was born in Korea and shipped over to Long Island as an infant to be raised by an nice Sicilian family; her second language, naturally, was French.) This won't do much to change China's population but in about 20 years there'll be a surplus of hawt Oriental-looking babes who speak perfect Viking.
posted by davy at 4:07 PM on April 26, 2007



Btw, that business about mice developing problems like schizophrenia (which, btw, cannot be diagnosed in animals though there are a few, not-necessarily-very-good animal *models*) due to overcrowding and the population then going into decline to "protect the species"-- now discredited.

Animals don't do anything to promote the survival of their species-- natural selection occurs at the level of the gene or the individual. So if you are seeing crazy behavior in caged animals, it's more likely to be due to the artificial circumstances of their captivity causing pathology or inbreeding causing pathology or something like that.
posted by Maias at 6:00 PM on April 26, 2007


davy- I think this is already happening here. I know alot of people with adopted chinese girls.

Smedleyman- I don't want to talk about your member.
posted by pointilist at 7:47 PM on April 26, 2007


Actually I had a slight hope that someone could pipe in with some factual knowledge or at the least a link about those studies. My memory is very probably faulty and I can't be sure that those were the actual symptoms.
But my point was not so much the specifics, but rather, that it to me seems possible that there are some mechanisms inherent in many if not all species that limits reproductivity in the face of overpopulation besides from lack of ressources. It might not be a mechanism specifically evolved for 'survival of the species', but rather some incidental interplay that comes to the fore, and creates havoc, because the particular species has not encountered the situation of overpopulation before in its evolution!
For humans it could be something as simple as the fact that we like to breed in privacy! (unlikely to be the cause, just an example).
I'm rambling and I'm not sure I have managed to make completely clear my thoughts but I did say they were far flung!

Also, what the hell is up with metafilter? In the last 24 hours I have seen several comments mangled like the one above mine.
posted by Catfry at 1:30 AM on April 27, 2007


« Older Looking for a mermaid or chimera for your trophy r...  |  I stumbled across this incred... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments