[The European Conservative] On Natalist Narratives
The demographic corollaries of an individualist society won’t be solved with more individualism.
On a recent visit to my hometown of Madrid, I found it worthwhile to attend a panel on family policy hosted by a religious-cum-scholarly group deeply invested in the issue. Three speakers took turns to intone, with varying degrees of alarm, what is by now the three-pronged conservative consensus on the matter. That consensus runs as follows: 1) Europe’s record-low birth rates, everywhere below replacement, amount to demographic suicide, 2) the costs of childrearing should be alleviated through tax and fiscal policy, and 3) the joys of forming a family should be more assertively advertised to would-be parents. This latter point — and largely the case, borrowing from behavioral economics, that non-pecuniary policy tools such as government-run publicity campaigns can effectively nudge couples toward having more kids — is perhaps the least consensual of the three. A libertarian sensibility, for instance, would contend instead that only economic incentives — tax breaks, tax credits, or lump-sum assistance — can succeed in getting families to have more children at the margin.
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