The Return Of Patriarchy?

Philip Longman, a nice liberal affiliated with the nice liberal New America Foundation, has written a politically incorrect article that's getting a lot of deserved attention: The Return of Patriarchy in the March-April edition of Foreign Policy magazine. It endorses, without mentioning it by name, much of Pat Buchanan's 2001 book on falling birthrates, The Death of the West.

Longman's thesis is:

"Across the globe, people are choosing to have fewer children or none at all. Governments are desperate to halt the trend, but their influence seems to stop at the bedroom door. Are some societies destined to become extinct? Hardly. It's more likely that conservatives will inherit the Earth. Like it or not, a growing proportion of the next generation will be born into families who believe that father knows best."

I wrote something very similar four years ago in my VDARE.com review of Buchanan's book. I said that low birthrates don't

"mean the human race will go extinct. As Jim Chapin of UPI has pointed out, post-modern cultures might well be eventually pushed aside by whichever groups of religious fundamentalists—Mormons, Orthodox Jews, Wahhabi Islamists—best succeed in motivating their followers to have lots of children. This suggests an especially amusing irony. In this fundamentalist future, Buchanan would be looked back upon not as a reactionary, but as a liberal relic who offered some suggestions for raising the birthrate in an attempt to defend the old non-fundamentalist world."

Personally, I'm a big fan of conservatives, but I want to see my kind of conservatives, not the Wahhabis, inherit the Earth.

Longman's article is perhaps longer on bravery than sophistication of analysis. But that's hardly surprising considering how frequently public discussion of these incredibly important issues is stifled. The forthrightness of his endorsement of patriarchy deserves approbation:

"[Patriarchy] competes with many other male visions of the good life, and for that reason alone is prone to come in cycles. Yet before it degenerates, it is a cultural regime that serves to keep birthrates high among the affluent, while also maximizing parents' investments in their children. No advanced civilization has yet learned how to endure without it."

The key that Longman doesn't quite make clear: a well-functioning patriarchal system, where the husband-father dutifully brings home the bacon in return for certainty of the paternity of his wife's children, can provide the best combination of quantity of children and quality of their upbringing.

Other family structures can provide higher fertility, but Longman's perspective is too naively Eurocentric to notice this. For example, in America's black ghettos, patriarchy collapsed during the 1960s when the newly generous welfare system came to replace husbands as the prime provider for poor black mothers. Illegitimacy rates skyrocketed. Until recently, African-American fertility rates remained much higher than among the more patriarchal white Americans.

Similarly, fertility rates have stayed quite high in black Africa, even though African patriarchalism generally lacks the features Longman identifies as crucial: stigmatization of illegitimacy and high paternal investment in children. Women do most of the work in Africa (80 percent by one estimate) and thus tend have less reason to be faithful to their husbands (as evidenced by the AIDS epidemic there).

While the stereotype of African societies as "matriarchal" is highly misleading—men possess almost all the political power—women often engage in the covert rebellion of saddling their nominal husbands with cuckoo's egg children. But, since the baby's mother will do most of the work to provide for the child, the cuckolded husband tends to be more complacent than in more patriarchal parts of the world.

Anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy of UC Davis wrote of African family structures in Mother Nature,

"Many fathers are only sporadically in residence with the mothers of their children; and fathers, when they are on the scene, may be unpredictable regarding which children they invest in, and how much. A substantial number of women conceive at a young age, often prior to marriage or formation of any stable relationship… relatively few fathers provide a great deal of care."

The increase in welfare payments during the 1960s allowed poor African-Americans, after a century of progress toward white patriarchal norms, to rapidly revert back to African family structures, with a consequent reversion toward African levels of social malaise.

In both the American inner city and in Africa, the quantity of children has been abundant, but the quality of upbringing has been low. Men, lacking assurance that they are the fathers, have less incentive to invest in educating and disciplining children. So young males are more likely to grow up to be violent and irresponsible. And the weary cycle spins on. 

While Latinos in America enjoy better paternal investment than African-Americans, their illegitimacy rate is still double that of non-Hispanic whites. Some are assimilating toward white norms, but others seem to be assimilating toward African-American family structures, creating a new Latino underclass.

Latinos, especially immigrants (and in particular, illegal ones) have by far the highest fertility in America, at 2.82 babies per woman, compared to 1.85 babies for non-Hispanic white women. A new report by the National Research Council pointed out some of the problems with Hispanics rapidly increasing their share of the population, as reported by Michelle Mittelstadt of The Dallas Morning News:

"The destiny of the country's 40 million Latinos remains 'highly uncertain,' complicated by language barriers and low participation in high-skilled jobs, education and health care coverage, according to a new study… "What is certain is that the current educational profile of Hispanics will undermine their long-term economic, social and physical well-being and diminish their prospects for social integration and civic engagement," the report concluded.[Study details challenges for Hispanics, implications for labor force, Mar. 01, 2006]

Science fiction novelist Jerry Pournelle commented on Longman's article:

"When the people who produce the goods that make civilization possible stop having kids, then we will all depend on the children of those who don't produce much. How long a First World civilization can be sustained under these circumstances is worth discussion."

In contrast, in crowded Europe, Northeastern Asia, and Blue State (Democratic-voting) America, the quality of upbringing per child has been high, but the quantity of children has fallen well below the replacement level of about 2.05 babies per woman. At 1.5 babies per woman (the current white birth rate in very liberal Rhode Island), the population falls by 50% every 65 years. At 1.3 babies, it halves in just 32 years.

As far back as my 2000 VDARE.com article "Will Liberals Become Extinct?" I noted the baby gap between conservative and liberal states. I wrote that our most liberal state, Vermont (which is represented in Congress by Socialist Bernie Sanders), had the lowest birthrate at only 1.57 babies per woman. In contrast, our most socially conservative state, Mormon-dominated Utah, had the highest fertility at 2.71.

 Now, Longman is getting a lot of publicity for writing:

"Among states that voted for President George W. Bush in 2004, fertility rates are 12 percent higher than in states that voted for Sen. John Kerry."

In fact, the actual fertility gap between Red and Blue states is even bigger if you have the courage to look at just non-Hispanic whites. As I noted immediately after the 2004 election:

"Bush carried 25 of the top 26 states in white total fertility (number of babies per white woman), while Kerry was victorious in the bottom 16."

(Mark Steyn recently cited my numbers in The New Criterion, but misleadingly and cravenly dropped the qualifier "white.")

I also noted:

Bush carried the top 25 states ranked on "years married" [among white women age 18-44]."

Pleasingly, in a brand new paper entitled "The 'Second Demographic Transition' in the US, [MS Word, HTML]" demographers Ron J. Lesthaeghe and Lisa Neidert of the U. of Michigan have confirmed the findings that I published in late 2004 and early 2005: measures of non-Hispanic white total fertility and marriage correlate extraordinarily well with whether a state voted for Bush or Kerry. They note that these provide "to our knowledge one of the highest spatial correlations between demographic and voting behavior on record."

I was intensely denounced for pointing out the stunning correlation between the number of babies per non-Hispanic white woman and Bush's share of the vote by state. But these demographic experts have now noticed the same relationship. The graph with a gray background is their "Figure 10: Relationship between the non-Hispanic white Total Fertility Rate, 2002 [vertical axis], and the Percentage Vote for Bush, 2004.

It looks almost identical to my scatter plot (except that the axes are swapped and I included the outlier of Washington D. C.).

Longman rightly points out that religious and ideological differences affect fertility.

But the arrow of causality also runs in the opposite direction—people who get married and have several children tend to become more socially and politically conservative for the sake of their children.

For example, consider how differently one well-known issue can seem depending on your family structure: Should the government let the Boy Scouts ban gay men from becoming scoutmasters?

To voters who are single, or married but childless, or have only daughters, this often appears as a purely abstract question of non-discrimination: of course, everybody should be guaranteed equal opportunity to be a scoutmaster. Yet, to citizens with sons, a ban may seem like a commonsense precaution: of course, homosexuals shouldn't be allowed to lead their boys into the woods overnight.

So Longman shouldn't ignore the impact of economics on marriage and fertility—what I call "Affordable Family Formation." There's more the government can (and should) do about the cost of housing and the cost of good schools than about religious beliefs.

My theory that affordable family formation drives marriage and fertility was anticipated in 1751 by Benjamin Franklin in his landmark Observations concerning The Increase of Mankind:

"For People increase in Proportion to the Number of Marriages, and that is greater in Proportion to the Ease and Convenience of supporting a Family. When Families can be easily supported, more Persons marry, and earlier in Life."

A quarter of a millennium ago, Franklin explained the virtuous cycle connecting low land prices, high wages, marriage, and children:

"Europe is generally full settled with Husbandmen, Manufacturers, &c. and therefore cannot now much increase in People… Land being thus plenty in America, and so cheap as that a labouring Man, that understands Husbandry, can in a short Time save Money enough to purchase a Piece of new Land sufficient for a Plantation, whereon he may subsist a Family; such are not afraid to marry;… Hence Marriages in America are more general, and more generally early, than in Europe."

As old Ben might have expected, I found that:

"Bush carried the 20 states with the cheapest housing costs, while Kerry won the 9 states with the most expensive… The Mortgage Gap has been growing. Bush was victorious in the 26 states with the least home price inflation since 1980. Kerry triumphed in the 14 states with the most (according to the invaluable Laboratory of the States website)."

So, what can Republican government do to help preserve the traditional American patrimony of high wages and affordable land prices (and, in turn, help itself by creating new family values voters?) Franklin offered a sensible answer, which is even more logical now. Restrict immigration. As old Ben asked:

"[W]hy should the Palatine Boors [Germans] be suffered to swarm into our Settlements, and by herding together establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion of ours?"

Good question.

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog.]