Conservatives, Help Me With This

I can never remember.  Is the West a drunken, decadent slut who deserves the smiting she’s going to get for her evil, evil ways or the last bastion of purity and goodness that must be protected from the onslaught of whichever teaming mass it is this week who means to do us harm?

My god.  Can a whole civilization have a virgin/whore complex?

No, you know, shit, that makes a kind of sense.  If the West is a boozy Tara Reid, conservatives see their roll as the bouncer who finally takes her out of the nightclub, talks some sense into her and gets her to check into rehab.  If the West is more a delicate Dakota Fanning, or a very young Drew Barrymore with George C. Scott waiting for her to  finally mature into a woman who can appreciate him… or something.  My point being that both views of the West put conservatives in the roll of savior.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter.  I’m just reminded that the difference between most conservatives and the libertarians I know is that the libertarians I know seem to have some grasp of how the world works (even if we differ in our interpretations) and use such knowledge to formulate their opinions, whereas a loud strain of conservative thinkers just spout out opinions as if saying it loud enough makes it so.  Still, I’m compelled to keep trying to reach the conservatives who appear to have some smarts in order to get them to consider taking after their libertarian bretheren and sisteren more closely. 

Which brings us to Kleinheider‘s post about Terry Frank’s post about how we’re being outbred by third-world and Muslim countries.  As one might imagine, Kleinheider assumes that we’re not having quivers full of kids because we’re selfish.  Which, I guess, means the inevitable death of the West.  Or something.

I have some things I would like to ask my friend Carter to consider.

Right now the infant mortality rate in the United States is 6.5 deaths per 1,000 live births, which means, just to reiterate, that for every 1,000 babies born this year in the Unites States, about seven of them aren’t going to make it to their first birthday.  Almost seven out of a thousand.  There were 4.1 million babies born in the United States last year.  If my math is correct, that’s almost twenty-seven thousand babies that aren’t going to make it through this whole year.

Can you imagine that?  Twenty-seven thousand babies.

And yet, there are no third-world or Muslim countries with lower rates than that.  In Afghanistan, it’s 163 deaths per 1,000 births.  More than one in ten babies won’t make it to their first birthdays.

Do you think a woman would choose those odds for her child?  If she could choose, do you really think a woman would say, “Gosh, yes, I want to bring a child into this world who has a one in ten chance of dying before he’s one.”?

Or consider maternal mortality rates.  In Afghanistan in 2000, the maternal mortality rate was  1,900 dead women for every 100,000 births.  Nineteen dead women for every thousand births.  And that doesn’t account for multiple pregnancies.  In sub-Saharan Africa, the lifetime risk of maternal death is one in sixteen.

One women in sixteen in sub-Saharan Africa will die due to complications during childbirth, often leaving behind other children.  What woman would choose that?  To orphan her children?

In general, women don’t want to die and we don’t want our children to die.  If we can avail themselves of information and products that would make it possible for us to decide when and how often we have kids, we will.  Not because we’re selfish whores inadvertently bringing about the downfall of Western civilization, but because we want to have kids if and when we can provide for them.

Women in other countries are not “outbreeding” us as a tactic for world-wide domination, but because they often don’t have any other choice.   They often don’t have access to birth control or even information about birth control; they often have no legal right to tell men ‘no’, especially not their husbands; they, for all practical purposes, often have no control over whether they get pregnant.

Anyway, this is also what a woman’s right to choose is about, not just about whether or not to carry a baby to term, but the right to choose how many kids to have and when, a right that is fundamental not just for liberty’s sake, but for the sake of infant and maternal health.

A low birthrate isn’t a sign of a selfish culture; it’s the sign of a culture that respects the health and well-being of women and children (some of whom, I might point out, grow up to be men).

26 thoughts on “Conservatives, Help Me With This

  1. > If the West is a boozy Tara Reid, conservatives see their roll as the bouncer who finally takes her out of the nightclub, talks some sense into her and gets her to check into rehab.Or maybe the West is a boozy Tara Reid, with the intoxicants being power and waste. In this case, the conservatives are the bartender/dealerman, and the liberals are shouting, "You have a problem!" Unfortunately, no one can hear the liberals over the din of slurred, "I love you man"-s.

  2. Oh, where to begin. I think there is validity in what you say regarding mortality rates and a woman’s right to choose. And I can only really speak for myself so I’m not sure how much weight my argument can carry. I didn’t read what AC had to say about what TF said (and I probably won’t) BUT I do think there is some validity to the selfishness claim as well. Neither argument explains ALL the hows and whys of a declining birth rate here and an increasing one elsewhere.Personally, I have two children and only two children for very selfish reasons. Physically, I can birth (rather "hatch" i.e. c-sections) more. Financially, I can afford more. But two was just right for us. I won’t bore you with all the details regarding how we came to that decision, but I can tell you without a doubt it was a selfishly driven decision. BUT – had I not lived in America with the outstanding medical care that I received before, during and after my pregnancies and deliveries, I firmly believe that either I would not be here today and/or one or both of my children would not be here today either.

  3. Hmm, Malia, I think you’ve illuminated something for me. Frank and Kleinheider may be using ‘selfish’ in a way I don’t. Because, when I read what you write here, I just can’t understand that as selfish.I don’t think you’re lying. If you say you made your decision for selfish reasons, I trust you made your decision for selfish reasons.But when I think of selfish, I think of someone who invites you to her house and, even though you can see that she has plenty of food, she only gives you a tiny bit.Someone who only invites over enough people so that everyone can eat well and the host is not unduly burdened by their presence doesn’t seem to me to be selfish, but wise. Everyone eats. No one suffers.But the person who invites over as many people as will agree to come, even at risk of her own life or the lives of other guests, even past the point where everyone has enough to eat? That doesn’t seem like the opposite of selfish to me. To intentionally do that seems foolish and to be forced by circumstances to do that seems a tragedy.

  4. The West is a forty-something Brentwood Housewife who drives a ginormous SUV to haul around her son who is named either Jackson or Tyler, I forget. He’s ten years old, but still has to ride in a car seat. Because, y’know, it’s just safer.She spends more money than she really has on keeping up appearances and maintaining her position among her peers. Most of what she revolves around social clubs, Junior League and volunteering for gala fundraisers. She considers this to be work although no income is generated from any of her activities.Her husband makes good money and comes home to eat, sleep and watch a little television before going back to work. He is also fucking his 26 year old secretary who is late for her period this month. Our Mrs. West is currently standing in line at Target behind Mrs. Third World and her mob of unruly brats; Jacob, Noah, Dylan, Jaden, Guillermo and Kwame. Mrs. West is getting pissed that Mrs. Third World is paying with food stamps and gift certificates in order to buy soda pop,condoms,a bag of cheetos and a carton of smokes.Little does she know that when she goes to pay for her items, her credit card will be declined.

  5. Now, Sarcastro, I know condoms aren’t 100% effective, but I do think that any woman making sure to buy them wouldn’t have quite that big a bunch of kids.

  6. Unless… unless Sarcastro is secretly trying to prove my point (in which case, I will have to go over to my fainting couch), which is that, the second Mrs. Third World can take control of her reproductive tract, she does.

  7. The "selfish" conundrum about the limited number of children "we" have is one that I’ve been running up against for about 10 years now. It’s one of those perverse little prejudices that only comes out in the open after some yahoo forms a study to legitimise it. Said study came out sometime last year. And I blogged about it then.As a childless family people assumed we were Childfree–which is why I started saying INFERTILE at the top of my lungs. When people assume you’re Childfree they assume that you’ve elected to not procreate in order to have plasma TVs and fine dinners out. Which some people have. Most people (as Malia points out) who aren’t tied to religious or social constraints for their reproductive choice decide to limit their family to a number they can comfortably afford both financially and emotionally. These people see themselves as going for quality not quantity. It’s easier to help two or three children with their homework, etc. This latest screed about The West’s failure to keep up with the Muhammeds is partially racially based. I used to hear it mostly from White Power types. ("You all are good white people. You need to pop out some good white kids before the nignogs take over this country." actual quote from some guy who worked at my old company.) Now I hear it from hysterical jingoists who call themselves conservative for much the same reason–but said more politely. Like Malia I’ll probably read neither referred piece, but I do know that Frank has three children. She’s obviously fertile. Why’d she stop there? Where are the other 11 that her biological timeline should produce?

  8. Even for those who choose not to have children there are usually other reasons involved than the desire for luxuries or the idea that kids might cramp one’s style. I always wonder when someone with children accuses the childless of selfishness — are they saying that they are suffering on account of their own children, so others should suffer, too?

  9. Wheel out the Fainting Couch.In my allegory, the condoms one of the things the West gets hypocritically pissy about. We complain that the Third World is overpopulated, yet withhold money from foreign aid packages and UN dues because of birth control programs. It also represents the futile attempts at women in the Third World to control their own reproductivity despite their status as nothing more than baby factories according to their menfolk.

  10. Funny, the women I know who have six kids don’t stop there. Either it’s out of their control or they love having children. I’m not being snide or sarcastic; I have a good friend who was one of seven, and I remember his mother saying how much she wanted another child but that her husband just couldn’t face the idea. And another friend is married to a woman who keeps trying to persuade him that four is not enough, because she is a very happy member of an eight-sibling family.

  11. Ok, I went back and read AC and TF to get the background on what you are talking about. (insert sarcasm)They’re talking about Europe, why do we care??(end sarcasm)Aargh. Maybe I’m not being that sarcastic because seriously, they’re talking about Europe. They’re saying "The West" so it’s my understanding that they’re lumping the USA in there as well. But the USA doesn’t have the problem they’re theorizing about. Maybe they’re thinking that this trend will jump the pond and the US government will one day be paying it’s citizens to have babies? I really don’t think that will ever happen. But I still don’t understand why they care so much about what is happening in Europe. My only guess is that, to answer you’re orginial question in this post, is that they view the West as Tara Reid in need of reform.That still leaves questions unanswered but it’s about all my brain can handle right now.

  12. It’s not that they care about Europe per se. It’s that they are very much against the Brown People With Strange Ways who are Invading Europe and Corrupting Our Western Ideals.I read Terry’s reference to "breed them out". It’s very much an Us vs. Them thing. And yes, I realise that there are many Muslims who want me to die. I view this as their problem, not mine.

  13. I haven’t heard the environmental threat addressed here yet.We also made a deliberate decision to only have two children – but not for reasons which [directly] benefit us or our children (even though that may end up being a by-product). We made that choice because I’ve read enough National Geographics to know that we’ve already pushed this planet beyond it’s operational capacity, and we didn’t want to make the situation worse.What it seems no one is talking about is that, whether or not we do it for selfish reasons, the "West’s" habit of having fewer children is helping make life more livable for future generations. And the big problem in societies where people are breeding like rabbits – and I’m well aware that those women have no control over it – is that it’s happening nevertheless.So when someone makes the comment that "they’re breeding us out" – as much as we’d like to discuss the societal impetus behind either situation; the fact remains that, if we don’t do something about it (and pretty soon), they literally WILL breed us (and themselves) out – as in off the face of the planet.This seems to me one of those problems where we ought to put the argument over whether something is "good or bad", "right or wrong", "positively or negatively motivated" aside, and just do something to fix it.It’s kind of like we’re having a discussion about whether the shooter was racially motivated in pulling the trigger – as the bullet’s coming toward us! First – get out the way! Then we’ll discuss the merits of it.

  14. Your post seems to be entirely about sex and reproduction. I assure you, the difference between Left and Right is not about sex.You are correct about many "conservatives". Hanity comes to mind.Really though, to put it in a nut shell: The Left wants more coercion and will come up with any excuse necessary to justify it (a "liberal is someone who will give you the shirt off of someone else’s back"). A "real" conservative thinks more like Thomas Jefferson– Liberty is the highest goal for any system created by Man, and is to be seen as an end in itself, not only because it produces a society wherein creativity is unleashed and people peosper, but mainly because it is the only just system.If you want to make it about sex, it means you’re free to make your own decisions, and that you will live with the consequences of those decisions without demand that other people be forced, by law, to bear your burdens for you.Pretty scary, huh?

  15. Oh, and if you want to know why some people in 3rd-world countries hate the West: Its because we have something they’ve never had– something they cannot comprehend:Liberty.Much of the world runs on envy. Understand that and you’re ahead of the class.We’re rich because we still have some Liberty. Poor nations are poor because they don’t. How does that work? Say you have a little nest egg saved up. You going to invest it in a shoe store in Solalia, where you know its going to be either destroyed, looted or confiscated by a local mob? Exactly.Those around the world who do understand that Liberty = opportunity want to come here. We could have a zero or a negative birth rate and the U.S. would still be increasing in population.Just look at the direction the rafts are going.

  16. If you want to sexualize it:You’ve seen this scenario play out many times I’m sure. A new girl comes to class on the first day of school. She’s drop-dead beautiful. She drives up in a nice convertable. She’s had a boob job, not because shee needed it but because she could.She walks into the classroom and not one person there has heard her say one word– they no nothing about her at all.What is going to be the reaction from most of the women in the class?"Slut! Whore! Bitch! Who does SHE think SHE is? I suppose she thinks she’s better than everyone else!"You know you’ve seen it play out a hundred times. She could be the sewwtest, most talented nicest person you’d ever meet, but some people will automatical;ly be inclined to hate her– its in our human nature.THAT is how much of the rest of the world sees the United States.Envy. And you know what? Too damned bad. They can come here, or they can fight for Liberty in their own countries. We might even help. What else are we to do about it? Cut our own wrists to satisfy their hate?Should our school girl be forced to wear a burka?

  17. Lyle, my post is about sex because it’s about Frank’s and Kleinheider’s posts about the non-Western world outbreeding us.I, myself, don’t actually believe this to be a problem, first of all because I think this is just old racist fear-mongering that seems plausible enough that well-meaning people repeat it without really considering what they’re saying.There is no reason for white people (or anyone else for that matter, but as Kat points out, we’re obviously using "The West" to mean "White People") to have children for any other reason than because we want children.None.And to complain, even inadvertently, that it is selfish for white people to not have as many kids as possible because non-white people are out-breeding us, is a claim that makes sense only if you believe that white people somehow owe it to "The White Race" (however we’re going to define that this week) to perpetuate the race.In other words, the complaint only makes sense if you believe that a person’s considerations about whether or not to have children ought to include–high up on the list–whether or not there are enough white people. Which, to repeat, assumes that white people ought to be basing their personal decisions about what they do with their bodies on what’s best for the White Race.I’m going to assume that I don’t have to spell out for you how I might typify a position that is foundationally about insisting that white people consider the health and well-being of the White Race above their own wishes and desires.Second, I don’t believe it to be a problem because I think that as women achieve more rights and as our inherent right to determine what happens to our own bodies are recognized, we will see birthrates go down around the world.Again, I don’t believe that women are having many children under circumstances that routinely lead to child and mother deaths because we believe that to be the best option. At the moment, for many of us, that is our only option.If conditions improve, we’ll see the options women take expand.This assumption that the White Race is going to die out and Muslims and other third-worlders (which, let’s not even get into how awkward that is as a descriptor) will rule the planet is one that assumes that we have a realistic picture of things now, that how things are now is never going to change, and that supremacy equals life and some other arrangement equals death.AND lastly, if you read closely, you’ll see that I was making fun of the notion that you can view the West in these feminized terms, and yet, I found that doing so, just for a second, made it easier for me to understand why some conservatives view themselves as the "saviors" of the West in some way.They’re tapping into some of our really fundimental tropes.Did I have a point?Yes.This post is about sex because it is about sex.

  18. Heh. That last sentence was my first reaction. After all, writing about sex when the subject at hand is sex (or a consequence of sex, the relative likelihood of which is tied into a whole bunch of other issues) makes rather a lot of sense.But… that whole bit from Lyle made my head hurt. I considered aiming a wall of text at it, but I don’t think it’s worth the effort.

  19. There are folk who share my DNA who have been begging me to read Pat Buchanan’s "The Decline of the West" for years…Thank jeebers, for Aunt B and her sensible talk about birthrates and infant mortality. (no sarcasm, I’m actually thanking Aunt B.) Now, when I head back east and get invited to the Memorial Day picnic I am armed with logic and rationality, and not the overwhelming urge to jump up on a picnic table and say something ill mannered while a guest in someone elses home.

  20. OK – here’s the thing about Europe. Tax rates are actually more regressive here in the UK than in the US. If you are very poor – it makes financial sense to have kids (free housing, reduced taxes, income support – they will actually give you $1000 bonus when you birth). If you are below the median income, it’s a struggle. You are taxed heavily, childcare is extortionate, etc. etc. These aren’t wealthy people, but lower middle class people. I’m 36 now and only in the last couple of years would I not have to choose between making day care and mortgage payments. Seriously. Call it selfish if you wish, but I prefer not to be dependent on the state in order to breed.

  21. Aunt B,I’ve responded to one aspect of your post at my site (see link at top of comments), but re. the Conservative Soap Opera aspect of your post–I think you’re painting Conservatives with too broad of a brush, and I think that you’re misperceiving (or mischaracterizing) the Conservative position in a general sense. Now, I know that taking jabs at Conservatives is part of the fun, but surely you can appreciate that most Conservatives believe America is the greatest civilization of all time, even though she isn’t perfect. I sort of think you–unlike Conservatives, WinterMute on America from time to time,So, while there are things about America that are exceptional and worth preserving, there are things about America and American culture that Conservatives aren’t and shouldn’t be proud of. I hope that helps . . . that’s why I’m here . . .

  22. I don’t think that holding this position: "… America is the greatest civilization of all time, even though she isn’t perfect." and this one: "So, while there are things about America that are exceptional and worth preserving, there are things about America and American culture that Conservatives aren’t and shouldn’t be proud of." necessarily go together in the way you describe.I’m not saying that you don’t believe that, or that there aren’t large numbers of people who feel the same way. I’m saying that the latter, especially, is as much a liberal position as a conservative one. I love this country. That’s why I want her to be better. I don’t, however, think that we are the greatest civilization ever. That’s not because I think we’re awful, or because I’m romanticizing something else, but because I don’t think we can say that. I don’t think there is a "greatest civilization ever" without a qualifier in there saying what, exactly, we’re pointing at. Are we the best at religious freedom? Are we the best at overall gender equality? Are we the best at representational government? I think a productive argument can be made about our performance in a specific area, but "civilization" (or "culture" or "development" or whatever you want to use as proxy for "what we’re doing right now") is such a big, broad, complex thing, involving so many incommensurable, irreducible aspects, that I don’t think there’s anything useful to be gained by declaring us the best.What your reply gets at, to me, is what I’ve generally seen as the big difference between self-identified liberals and conservatives. Conservatives tend to want to, well, conserve. They want to take the things we’re doing well, and keep doing them; to not change what isn’t broken. Liberals tend to want to fix what they see as broken. Sometimes that means conflict over actual policy (usually because we have a damn hard time defining what is and isn’t broken, but also because it’s really hard to agree on how to fix things. Where does that money come from, again?), but more often, it’s a matter of emphasis. A fiscal policy that’s fine and dandy in one respect (it "works," it grows our country’s overall wealth, it … okay, so this isn’t my field, but I’m sure y’all can fill in just what would go here) may be ‘broken’ because it systematically keeps wealth away from certain groups of people. Where do you put the value? Where do you see the agency? What resources do you have to bring to the table?Yes, there’s some baiting in there, sure. We can talk about whether it’s humorous enough to get a pass, or whether passes should be given (solely) on the base of humor, and whether or not we can learn something from it anyway. (Yes, no, and yes, with the second yes as a qualifier which makes it okay, even though there’s that no in the middle) I think, however, that the post deserves a reading that, well, addresses what it says (choice and access to contraception are good, because they reduce the chance of people dying; one can read limiting one’s fertility as a much less selfish act with this in mind), rather than the way it is said.

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