Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Are Liberals Going Extinct?

Phillip Longman of The New America Foundation has written an essay claiming that liberals are breeding themselves into extinction. Based on a study of birthrates, Longman has identified a correlation between progressive ideologies and low birthrates. While more conservative and religious people tend to have much higher birthrates.

Longman hypothesizes:

This dynamic helps explain the gradual drift of American culture toward religious fundamentalism and social conservatism. Among states that voted for President Bush in 2004, the average fertility rate is more than 11% higher than the rate of states for Sen. John Kerry.

It might also help to explain the popular resistance among rank-and-file Europeans to such crown jewels of secular liberalism as the European Union. It turns out that Europeans who are most likely to identify themselves as "world citizens" are also less likely to have children.

But for the analysis to work, one must believe that the children of conservatives will grow up to be conservatives. To that, Longman says:

Tomorrow's children…unlike members of the postwar baby boom generation, will be for the most part descendants of a comparatively narrow and culturally conservative segment of society. To be sure, some members of the rising generation may reject their parents' values, as often happens. But when they look for fellow secularists with whom to make common cause, they will find that most of their would-be fellow travelers were quite literally never born.

Maybe. But ideology is not genetically predetermined. And while many people’s opinions are informed by their parents and the community in which they grew up, most people deviate from their roots. And that’s the problem with analyses like Longman’s. It assumes that we’re dealing with two monolithic belief systems. A or B. But that’s just not the case.

The future beliefs of our nation and our world will be primarily driven by major events and the ideas of the great men and women who lead us. I seriously doubt that liberalism will rise or fall based on birthrates but instead I think its longevity will be determined by how relevant and useful liberal ideals are to our changing world.

2 Comments:

Blogger catinabox said...

I doubt that the ideology - birthrate correlation is any more than coincidece, although the fact that some religions (e.g. catholicism) look down on contraception obviously has an effect. Never the less it is an interesting topic, although it may yeild more results if looked at in a different light.

12:49 PM  
Blogger Tom Strong said...

I think it is a bit of a problem - though honestly, there are enough kids in need of adoption that liberals could easily "reproduce" without putting a whole lot more people into the world.

But yeah, what you said. People have free will, we choose our belief systems - just look at Wafa Sultan. Which is to say that genes reproduce themselves, but so do memes - and the evidence suggests that they do so quite independently.

1:59 PM  

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