Though the article is several months’ old, and there may not be that much more to say that hasn’t already been said, here is my belated post on “The Return of Patriarchy.”
As governments going back as far as imperial Rome have discovered, when cultural and economic conditions discourage parenthood, not even a dictator can force people to go forth and multiply.
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.
Patriarchy does not simply mean that men rule. Indeed, it is a particular value system that not only requires men to marry but to marry a woman of proper station. It 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.
Through a process of cultural evolution, societies have adopted this particular social system–which involves far more than simple male domination–maximized their population and therefore their power, whereas those that didn’t were either overrun or absorbed. This cycle in human history may be obnoxious to the enlightened, but it is set to make a comeback. ~Philip Longman, Foreign Policy (March/April 2006)
The article came out shortly after the Crunchy Cons blog had started up, and the participants there made a few remarks on it. Ross Douthat also commented on it at the Scene just before bringing it into the crunchy conversation. Steve Sailer discussed the article as well. This theme of more traditionally patriarchal families having more children than their countercultural, liberal or non-traditional rivals (if we think of this in evolutionary terms, the two groups are rivals for resources, territory and status) has cropped up several times this year in other ways, mostly related to the connections between demographics and political preferences in America. Steve Sailer analysed the “baby gap” and the “marriage gap” between the red-staters and blue-staters and the conservatives and liberals within each state (the last part is an important qualification that Sailer has seen too many others miss). More recently Arthur Brooks has made an attempt at doing something similar, which Sailer then criticises here. In his criticism, he mentions the negative effect that a high cost of living has on young people starting families, and refers to his article on “Affordable Family Formation.” The problem of affordable family formation in turn calls to mind Ross Douthat’s recent criticisms of Jeremy Beer (whose article I approvingly cited here) and the crunchy cons and Rod’s response to them. Thus we have come full circle. Isn’t blogging fun? I have already written a post and managed to say nothing of my own–sort of like compiling a florilegium!
Now if Brooks’ claim is true that children tend to overwhelmingly (80% of the time) identify with the party (and presumably many of the political values they think are associated with that party) of their parents, that would suggest that the political values of the people who have more kids are more likely to reproduce themselves, so to speak, and outpace the reproduction of competing values. It intuitively seems even more likely, on the whole, that the transmission and reproduction of religious and cultural values would be even more successful if part and parcel of these religious and cultural values is a commitment to be fruitful and multiply. Might it not be the case that the specifically religious origin and nature of the drive to have larger families and the different valuation of children as gifts of God rather than the fruits of lifestyle choices actually serve to further dissuade the secular liberal from having children or at least dissuade them from having more than one or two children? (Might the new Battlestar Galactica be an elaborate commentary on liberal anxiety about their own birth dearth and their own fears of perceived religious zealots–inhuman zealots at that–outbreeding them?) In that case, all other things being equal (i.e., no large infusion of immigrants with radically different values), it seems very likely that people with these values will be more successful in passing on their genes and, in turn, their progeny will be more successful than those of their rivals in reproducing their parents’ cultural and religious memes. This would suggest, as many commentators have already averred, that the race of the culture wars goes not to the swift or the politically well-connected, but to the prodigiously fertile.