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What is Behind the Population Decline?

by Babette Francis and John Ballantyne
The following article is Part 2 of a two-part paper on population decline in China and the West that Babette Francis delivered at the 48th Eagle Council held in St Louis, Missouri, on September 14, 2019. (Part 1 appeared in the Endeavour Forum Newsletter, No. 174, August 2019).
The Eagle Forum, which hosted the Missouri conference, was founded by the late Phyllis Schlafly (1924 - 2016), who has been described as the first lady of American conservatism.

For many decades, communist China has been hell-bent on reducing its population and strictly enforcing its one-child policy. I say "hell-bent" because of the cruel, coercive means that China has employed in pursuit of its population targets.

Four decades ago, Steven Mosher, a lecturer at the University of California, at Berkeley, visited China and found himself in the middle of what he described as the most "brutal and horrific population-control program the world has ever seen". He was referring to China's one-child policy under which a woman could be arrested for the crime of being pregnant without permission and coerced into aborting her unborn child.

Mosher recalls: "I saw women subjected to these things. I also saw women taken by force, and by the threat of force, to abortion clinics where they were given lethal injections into the womb, which resulted in the killing of their unborn children." (News Weekly, Melbourne, March 31, 2012).

He admitted that he had gone to China as someone who was "pro-choice". However, after personally witnessing "a woman being forcibly aborted at eight months' gestation, and seeing the result of that abortion — a dead baby and a wounded mother", he completely changed his views.

On his return from China, he innocently thought that feminist groups in the U.S. would welcome being enlightened about what was being done to their sisters in China.

He put it this way: "You see, I took their rhetoric of being in favour of a woman's right to choose, and being in favour of women's rights in general, at face value. I thought they would be horrified at the forced abortions of their sisters in China - the killing, by government-sanctioned infanticide, of their unborn sisters in China. And I thought they would join me in speaking out against these abuses."

But Mosher quickly discovered how mistaken he was on this score. American feminists, even after he had shown them pictures of third-trimester abortions, shrugged off his concerns and declined to speak out against China's abominable practices. Today, Dr Mosher is a prominent pro-life advocate and president of the Population Research Institute.

China's Looming Demographic Disaster
China's one-child policy has been only too successful, and now China has belatedly realised its demographic problem – an inverted age "pyramid" with more citizens over 60 (that is a retiring age for many people) than children under 15.

Nicholas Eberstadt, writing in the Wall Street Journal (November 26, 2013), described how China's "staggering demographic problems" are causing, among many other things, "a shrinking pool of working-age men and women and a rapidly ageing population that will slow economic growth, perhaps severely".

Dr Eberstadt revisited this question in January 2019 in a paper he wrote for the American Enterprise Institute. He asked: "The question inescapably arises: Who will provide for China's immense population of future seniors? A first response would be that current government policies will almost certainly not do so – or at least will not do so comprehensively and adequately."

He warned that "China's real existing pension and health system is severely underfinanced" and that "China's vulnerable aged of tomorrow cannot count on their own savings and assets for old-age security".

Belatedly, China has recognised its looming demographic disaster and is now encouraging couples to have two children. But guess what? Like their counterparts in the prosperous West who have below replacement-level birth rates, Chinese couples are not taking advantage of this new permission and are mostly not having two children.

It seems as if once religious faith and cultural tradition are lost, so is optimism about an earthly future, let alone the hereafter.

A Civilizational Death Wish?
Almost four decades ago, the world-famous Australian, Colin Clark (1905–1989), drew a similar conclusion.

He was attending a prestigious conference of the Australian Association for the Advancement of Science in Hobart. It hosted several sessions on population, and Dr Clark, who had written extensively and authoritatively on the subject, was invited to speak at one of them.

He told the Hobart conference, "If we are entering this period of population decline, our Western civilisation will come to an end".

To his astonishment, a number of the audience applauded! He remarked: "They really did want our present civilisation to come to an end." He remarked later that this could only be described as a form of psychological "death wish". He acknowledged how his friend, the famous English Christian convert Malcolm Muggeridge, had explored this theme in his famous polemical essay of 1970, "The Great Liberal Death Wish".

In a lecture he gave in 1983, Clark observed: "I am afraid there is a good deal of truth in it. A lot of those living in our present civilisation are utterly despondent about its future and want it to come to an end. What is to take its place, I do not know!

"Well, the indications are this way. We must remind ourselves of the second theological virtue, the virtue of hope, and to use Chesterton's phrase — 'You must hope, when the situation appears hopeless, otherwise hope is no virtue at all.'

"Those who want civilisation to come to an end, in effect they have relapsed into paganism, and with paganism goes this deep and profound pessimism. Bertrand Russell described this philosophy as resting on the firm foundation of unyeilding despair'." (News Weekly, Melbourne, January 11, 1984).

We see vividly how this despairing philosophy attaches no value to the unborn, the weak and the helpless. Instead it dismantles all of civilisation's traditional defences against the mistreatment of the vulnerable by permitting abortion, nonmarital cohabitation and euthanasia.

Architects of Today's Anti-life Culture
The misguided thinkers, authors and political activists who have brought into existence this hideous "brave new world" have been brilliantly dissected by Donald DeMarco and Benjamin Wiker in their classic study, Architects of the Culture of Death (Ignatius Press, 2004).

It is noteworthy that DeMarco and Wiker go after not only the usual suspects with whom we are all too familiar, such as Darwin, Marx, Margaret Sanger, Alfred Kinsey, Jack Kevorkian and Peter Singer.

They also highlight the no less pernicious influence of thinkers who are traditionally associated with the political right, such as the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, and the Russianborn American novelist and libertarian philosopher, Ayn Rand

. The writings of Rand, especially on the virtues of small government and low taxation, have won her a devoted following among many conservatives, such as former Republican House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan. At the same time, however, she was without question a leading intellectual contributor to today's anti-life culture.

A militant atheist, she despised President Ronald Reagan for his opposition to abortion. She declared: "An embryo has no rights." (Quoted in Jennifer Burns, Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right (OUP, 2009), pp. 175, 263. Emphasis is Rand's).

Today, we are confronted not only by the cultural Marxists, athiests libertarians and rogue bioethicists identified by DeMarco and Wiker, but also by a well-organised army of militant environmentalists, who use climate-change alarmism as a pretext to curb human population growth. Their supposed fear of the carbon footprint is in reality a dislike of the human footprint – all those seven billion human beings exhaling carbon dioxide and supposedly threatening the world's survival.

I'm afraid that even Britain's Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have bought into this sort of thinking. In July 2019 they pledged to have "two children – maximum", in the face of climate change.

Contemplating the West's Future
The looming demographic catastrophe facing China is matched by a similar one for the West.

In 2018, the incisive conservative Jewish-American commentator Don Feder warned his fellow-countrymen of what the future holds. He wrote: "Fewer and fewer children combined with more and more elderly equals a demographic train wreck. One more depressing fact, over the next 12 years, the number of Americans 65 and older who will require nursing home care will increase by an estimated 75%.

"Forget Social Security," he said. "If you're in your twenties today, your chances of collecting are comparable to winning Powerball. A rising elderly population will require more medical care, more specialists, and more hospital and nursing home beds. Where will the caregivers, the maintenance staff and the fundraisers of tomorrow come from?" (GrasstopsUSA, May 30, 2018.)

As we contemplate the future, it is more vital than even that we hold fast to our Christian faith and freedoms. In striking contrast to today's despairing pagan worldview is our vibrant Christian culture that celebrates life.

Cultural critic Neil Postman described this beautifully in his 1982 book, The Disappearance of Childhood, when he said, "Children are the living message we send to a time we will not see."

Babette Francis, BSc (Hons), is founder and coordinator of Australia's Endeavour Forum, Inc., a pro-life, pro-family NGO having special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations. John Ballantyne, BA (Hons), is a Melbourne-based historian and journalist.

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