Jonah Goldberg, in his wonderful Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, reminds me of something I had long known, but forgotten: Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood and birth control Goddess, did not embark on her birth control crusade because she wanted to relieve the burden of childbirth on the average woman. She embarked upon it because she was a eugenicist who wanted to reduce the numbers of “defectives” and non-Christian whites. She couldn’t stand to see all these little Italian, and Greek, and Jewish, and Russian, and Asian babies being born. She framed her crusade in terms of women, but her explicitly stated goals were to cause a decline in immigrant births. Fast-forward a hundred years:
The nearly 4.3 million births in 2006 were mostly due to a bigger population, especially a growing number of Latinos. That group accounted for nearly one-quarter of all U.S. births. But non-Latino white women and other racial and ethnic groups were having more babies too.
An Associated Press review of births dating to 1909 found the total in the U.S. was the highest since 1961, near the end of the baby boom. An examination of global data also shows that the United States has a higher fertility rate than every country in continental Europe, as well as Australia, Canada and Japan. Fertility levels in those countries have been lower than the U.S. rate for several years, although some are on the rise, most notably in France.
Experts believe there is a mix of reasons: a decline in contraceptive use, a drop in access to abortion, poor education and poverty.
The Captain points to the story as an example of the zero population growth movement mourning its inability to convince people not to have babies. Nevertheless, you can see in it clear echoes of the belief that the wrong people ought not to breed — or, at least, that the ill-informed (read: Latinos) are screwing everything up for the rest of us. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.