According to the subtitle this book is about America’s coming demographic disaster. According to Last, the fact that people are now having fewer babies than they used to will be terrible for America, and, indeed, the rest of the world.
As I went through this book I got a growing feeling that Last and I would not be friends if we met. He seems rather more right-wing than I am, I suspect he is not a dog person, he is rather obsessed with racial differences, he flat-out disagrees with abortion and towards the end of the book he uses the phrase “typical European silliness.” On the other hand, he does point out that immigrants have been upholding the birth rate for the past couple of generations, so at least someone in the US likes us.
The book begins with some facts and figures about America’s falling birth rate. He convinces me completely of a trend towards falling birth rates in America and lots of other countries. The book has lots of interesting facts, some related to this subject, some not so much. He suggests the laws requiring children to be in a safe car seat are anti-family. He says anti-family, I say progress, tomay-do, tomato.
Actually, that is where I disagree with him on so much. The lower fertility rate is either part of, or a consequence of, progress. Women are having fewer babies later in life because we finally have the chance to get an education and use it to do jobs that better the world in various ways, other than just producing more people (which is obviously also an important job). He is not happy that we are marrying later in life and therefore having children later in life (which leads to there being less eggs available therefore less babies) what with all this university and career and having a life of our own and so on maybe some of us do not meet the love of our life until later on, so that can’t be helped.
I think Last might be a Christian. He quotes the statistic that couples who go to church more often a) get married earlier b) stay married and c) have more babies. I get the impression that he sees causation here, rather than correlation. Personally I see no value in staying in a relationship that makes me unhappy, and no amount of church-going could have helped me to stay with some of my exes. I also disagree with his suggestion that outlawing abortion would help avert this “demographic disaster,” when has forcing a woman to have a child that she did not want ever helped anyone?
He discusses the difference in fertility rate by the mother’s race and level of education level. As a general rule, the fairer your skin and the more highly educated you are, the less offspring you will produce. This is partly the fault of the Pill (three cheers for the Pill). Though he tells us several times that he is not pushing his politics on us, it certainly feels that way sometimes.
Here is my main issue with this book; I think it’s short-sighted. I see that in the short-term both Last and I will suffer due to this lower birth rate. There will be less able-bodied young folk out there in the work force to pay for my pension when I am old and retired. But he fails to convince me that in the long-term we need an ever-growing number of people on the planet. He dismisses the environmental issues of overcrowding, and I consider that a very real issue. He also does not mention quite what we need all these people for. Along with this trend of more women in the work force we have seen huge technological developments that have put many humans out of a job, this can only increase as we go forward. More women in the workforce, many social and technological improvements – correlation or causation? Well, maybe we deserve more than a couple of generations of giving it a try to find out.