The retreat from child rearing is, at some level, a symptom of late-modern exhaustion — a decadence that first arose in the West but now haunts rich societies around the globe. It’s a spirit that privileges the present over the future, chooses stagnation over innovation, prefers what already exists over what might be. It embraces the comforts and pleasures of modernity, while shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization in the first place.Douthat is right that a cultural reinvigoration is necessary -- but that cultural effort must be supported by and fostered by the law and politics of our society. It is folly to pretend that the shifting of legal norms around family, divorce, abortion and other topics did not have a direct effect on the culture of family and the culture of child-rearing in American society. As Pope John Paul II noted in his 1995 encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), there is a powerful culture of death at work across the globe now. One manifestation of that culture of death is a decline in the creation of new life -- of children.
Such decadence need not be permanent, but neither can it be undone by political willpower alone. It can only be reversed by the slow accumulation of individual choices, which is how all social and cultural recoveries are ultimately made.
Demography is destiny. And the future belongs to those who are there to enjoy it. Civilizations that do not reproduce do not survive.