At the end of the film “The Decline of the American Empire” (1986), the Canadian director Denys Arcand inserted this monologue of a university professor: “The symptoms of the fall can be seen everywhere: the civilian population that despises its own institutions, the fall of the birth rates, the reluctance of males to do military service, an uncontrollable national debt, the steady decrease in working hours, the proliferation of bureaucrats, the degeneration of the élite. What we live is a generalized process of disintegration of existence.”
Mr. Arcand understood that the plummeting birth rate was linked to hedonism. Then it was that of the baby boomers, now it is that of the millennials. It is now confirmed by the dramatic report by the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention: in 2015 births in America hit an historical low starting from 1909, when these were first analyzed. Today it is even worse than during the Great Depression of 1929, when there was the greatest economic calamity and the biggest social upheaval of modern American history.
America has passed from the “baby boom” after World War II to the current “baby bust.” Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry of the Ethics and Public Policy Center called it “a national emergency”.
In history only three things count: “Numbers, numbers and numbers.”
America has not yet fallen into the “low fertility trap” in which many industrialized countries such as Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Greece now find themselves, but it certainly looks as though we are finished with the “American exception” which made the US the only major Western country with high birth rates.
Jonathan V. Last, author of “What to Expect When No One’s Expecting: America’s Coming Demographic Disaster,” compares it to Japan: “In the 1980s, everyone assumed the Japanese were on a path to owning the world. But the country’s robust economic facade concealed a crumbling demographic structure.”
The origin of this American population decline is in the Millennials’ refusal to procreate. As announced by a report published by the Urban Institute, Millennial women “are reproducing at a slower rate than any generation in US history.” Driving the American demographics upward are still Evangelical Protestants and Catholics, with a rate of 2.5 children, while non-believers have fallen to 1.6.
It is the advent of a “Childfree Life,” as in a Time Magazine cover. The cover shows a young couple lying on the sand, with the blessed clean air, intent on enjoying the holidays. A nihilism drunk with postmodernism and a self-centered lifestyle.
Generations without children. By choice. Or to quote the comic Margaret Cho, “children scare me more than anything else.” A “selfish, shallow, and self-absorbed” generation. And sterile.
Arcand’s “The Declin” opens with the scene of a university professor, Rémy, explaining to his students that in history only three things count: “Numbers, numbers and numbers.”
Following in the steps of an aging Europe, America is now shrinking.