The Feb. 8 Natural Selections article, “City ecology explains Japan’s low birthrate,” provides all sorts of academic- sounding theories and buzzwords that make Japan’s low birthrate seem like just another inevitable result of an irresistible force. I would offer another reason.
The birthrate is tumbling in Japan and in the West because people simply expect more for themselves and view children as only part of that equation, at best, or as an obstacle to self-fulfillment. Add to this rather selfish tendency the high cost of raising children, the increasing reluctance (and inability) of women to stay home, and the ubiquitous availability of cheap birth control and abortion, and only a fool would be surprised at the outcome.
Yet, “official explainers” of this phenomenon see putting off children as a moral good since it facilitates individual self-fulfillment and protects Mother Earth from the scourges of overpopulation — a fear that has been repeatedly trumped up over the past several centuries.
Our forebears were unburdened by such reservations. If they wanted to have a good time between the sheets, children were the inevitable result. But they also had a lesser sense of self-entitlement. It was their duty as citizens, as children of God, to “go forth and multiply.” Children were considered a blessing. That’s why religious people today still tend to have many children, because they view each soul as a blessing from God, not as a personal burden or a drag on the planet’s resources. They are also fundamentally optimistic about human society, even if all the signs appear negative.
Does one sense much optimism in Japan? We are going to witness the chaos and disruption caused by viewing children as a burden. First Japan, and then many other countries, will begin to implode as the dearth of children result in an unsustainable economic model that was based on the assumption of population growth. Governments will be overwhelmed by the costs of caring for the ever-growing proportion of elderly citizens combined with the ever-shrinking tax base. Loss of productivity, bankruptcies and social upheaval will be sure to follow, making today’s economic crisis look like a passing headache.
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