Great read in yesterday’s Times about the economic and cultural headwinds to having a family in this day and age. The piece, “The End of Babies” by writer Anna Louie Sussman, starts with the mystery. Declining fertility isn’t just a consequence of policies:
If any country should be stocked with babies, it is Denmark. The country is one of the wealthiest in Europe. New parents enjoy 12 months’ paid family leave and highly subsidized day care. Women under 40 can get state-funded in vitro fertilization. But Denmark’s fertility rate, at 1.7 births per woman, is roughly on par with that of the United States. A reproductive malaise has settled over this otherwise happy land.
This sets up a compelling conclusion. The challenge isn’t just one of policy, but of philosophy and culture:
The first step is renouncing the individualism celebrated by capitalism and recognizing the interdependence that is essential for long-term survival. We depend on our water supply to be clean, and our rivers depend on us not to poison them. We ask our neighbors to watch our dogs or water our plants while we’re away, and offer our help in kind. We hire strangers to look after our children or aging parents, and trust in their compassion and competence. We pay taxes and hope those we elect spend that money to keep roads safe, schools open, and national parks protected. These relationships, between us and the natural world, and us and one another, testify to the interdependence that capitalist logic would have us disavow.
Really terrific read.