The headline for Charles Moore’s latest column in The Telegraph read: We need more babies if we’re to bounce back. He has written on this subject before – as have I. It is hard to avoid it as a rather stark economic fact of our society (and throughout Europe), though our politicians maintain a studious silence on the topic. Why is this? Probably because they have bought in to the “over-population” agenda for too long, as well as being cowed by the militant feminists who would shout out, “Who are you to tell us to stay at home and have babies when we could be out in the workplace, enhancing our careers?”
Moore was reviewing a book by Stephen D King titled, When the Money Runs Out. At first I thought this was the horror writer Stephen King, producing a new kind of horror story; actually Stephen D King is group chief economist and global head of economics and asset allocation at HSBC. Nonetheless, he is describing a kind of demographic horror story, not as dramatic and page-turning as his namesake’s, but probably worse in the long run. “In the long run we are all dead”, observed another economist, Keynes. Christians, naturally enough, reject this pessimism and believe that in the long run (the short run for some of us) we will all fall into the hands of the living God. This can be a terrible thing; we human beings on this planet need a wake-up call.
King’s gloom, Moore writes, is justified by factors that are longer-term than current policy errors; “Perhaps the most important of these is the refusal of the West to breed. The baby boomers…convinced themselves that over-population threatened the health and wealth of the world.”
Moore goes on: “For 50 years now, European culture has developed the idea that the problem is too many people…In cultural terms, the celebration of contraception, homosexuality and euthanasia all represent this trend…So do the Greens, who see the productions of mankind as the enemy of the earth, and attack economic growth without seeming to realise that they are thus advocating impoverishment.”
Moore comments that King’s analysis of our economic situation is “as bleak as anyone dare be who wants to hold down a job in a bank.” He suggests mordantly that if King lost his job, “he would walk round the streets with a sandwich board, saying ‘The end of the world is nigh; flee from the wrath to come.’” It’s a joke – but a black one. Moore doesn’t include abortion in his trio of deadly cultural attitudes, but it should be there as part of the culture of death in which we now live. Also, in a lapse of good taste, he uses the word “breed” – which plays into the hands of the anti-natalists who used to speak of Catholics dismissively as “breeding like rabbits.” Humans are not like animals, which do indeed “breed”. Men and women are endowed with dignity; they “procreate” – that is, they participate in the creativity of God himself, who gave them the wise and loving directive to “Go forth and multiply.”
What is to be done in this dire situation? Catholics should already know the answer from the magisterial teachings of Humanae Vitae and other encyclicals such as Evangelium Vitae. Our bishops and priests need to preach, and preach often, on marriage and openness to new life, and to oppose the contraceptive mentality which is as pervasive among Catholics, sadly, as among the general population. If we are to have the popular staple of justice and peace homilies, let them be on the justice owed to the next generation, already struggling to support a growing aged population, and on the peace that will follow a renewed recognition that we are meant to be a vigorous sign of contradiction to the culture surrounding us – not a pale and weedy imitation of it.