When conservatives tremble.

Douthat worries about America’s declining birth rate, offers policy proposals to boost it, but concludes with the following:

Beneath these policy debates, though, lie cultural forces that no legislator can really hope to change. 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.

This sort of conservative fear came up earlier in the year, when we saw Benjamin E. Schwartz worry about the social trends noted by Eric Klinenberg, in which twenty-somethings increasingly live alone rather than rushing to settle down with someone. I’d let rip, but Jamelle Bouie beat me to it, did it better and smelt the sexism instinctively:

It’s true that the modern world makes child-rearing a less attractive prospect for many women, and for good reason: The freedom of women to learn, work, and pursue their own ends has blossomed in the last 50 years. The most charitable read of Douthat is that he acknowledges this fact and is only describing how the two are inseparable from each other. A society where women are more concerned with their edification than with child-rearing is one that will necessarily have more selfishness. You can’t have one without the other, as they say.

But that doesn’t account for how Douthat characterizes the freedom modernity has given to women—he calls it “decadence,” something harmful and insidious.

Because he thinks it is somehow the duty of American women qua citizens to not consider their own happiness, and to instead procreate for the sake of boosting the nation’s GDP. Please. The guy should just go and live in Singapore:

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