NYT misses the obvious


The New York Times is zealous in framing all issues as contests between religious forces (associated with backwardness) and "secular" forces associated with sophistication and intelligence. Here they impose the same framework reporting the Italian vote to ease fertility laws — which failed, as turnout reached only 26%, causing an automatic rejection. 

The tone and thrust of the article was to portray this as a victory for the Catholic Church or an indictment of the apathy of Italian voters. The Times ignores the obvious: collapsing birthrates in Italy (the lowest fertility rate on the Continent) and throughout Europe reflect the apotheosis of the creed of self—centeredness that dominates European culture. La Dolce Vita has become the foundation of modern Euro—culture.

The voters just don't care enough about having children or care about helping those who do desire children to rouse themselves to vote. This interpretation is buttressed by comparing the overwhelming voter approval for divorce and abortion in previous years. There you have a stark analysis of Europe: we want the right to break up families or terminate children but don't care enough to grant others the ability to create children and form families.

It's hard to be a great power if your population is shriveling. Europe's birthrates have dropped well below the replacement rate of 2.1 children for each woman of childbearing age. For Western Europe as a whole, the rate is 1.5. It's 1.4 in Germany and 1.3 in Italy. In a century —— if these rates continue —— there won't be many Germans in Germany or Italians in Italy.

Even assuming some increase in birthrates and continued immigration, Western Europe's population grows dramatically grayer, projects the U.S. Census Bureau. Now about one—sixth of the population is 65 and older. By 2030 that would be one—fourth, and by 2050 almost one—third.
Ed Lasky   6 15 05