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MALTHUS AT PAR AGAIN
Through the mid-part of the nineteenth century the lesson Malthus sought to drive home was obscured by the fact that, although the population was multiplying freely, life was getting easier. In the course of the century Europeans much more than doubled in number and yet were better fed than at the beginning. The explanation, however, is not that Malthus was all wrong, but that the art of agriculture was making giant strides and that, out on the expanding frontiers of the white race, great virgin tracts were brought under cultivation while steam transportation enabled their produce to be hurried to the bare larders of the Old World. Since no one perceives where the twentieth century is to find its Mississippi Valley, Argentina, Canada, or Australia to fill with herds or farms, it is necessary for the whites to slacken. their rate of increase or to give up most of their social gains and go back to their old hard lot.
THE FALL IN THE BIRTH RATE
While, owing to the great lowering of the death rate, most of the advanced peoples were, at the threshold of the World War, increasing perhaps faster than ever before, the behavior of their ized Peoberth rate is profoundly significant. A marked sag in fecundity Fallen made its appearance in France about sixty years ago. In 1878, when the famous Bradlaugh-Besant lawsuit gave wide publicity to the idea of birth control, births began to decline in England and in the next thirty-five years they fell off a third. In the next decade the child crop began to be curtailed in Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Australia, and New Zealand. Before the close of the century Finland, Italy and Hungary swung into line, while in the first decade of the twentieth century the militarists of Germany and Austria became agitated over "our diminishing fecundity." In the United States, despite an immense influx of early-marrying and fecund immigrants, the proportion of children under 5 years to women of child-bearing age shrank 35 per cent. between 1860 and 1910. In comparison with 1800, the proportion of children seems to be about one-half.
in Life "
The Advance of
able to Excessive
The root causes of the spreading aversion to large families are certain tendencies characteristic of modern society.
CAUSES OF THE FALL IN THE BIRTH RATE
One of these is democracy. Caste barriers are down so that more and more a man's standing depends upon himself. The lists of life are open to all and the passion to "succeed" grows with the value of the prizes in view. Never before have so many common people strained to reach a higher rung in the social ladder. But children impede such ascent, so the ambitious dread the handicap of an early marriage and a large family. As for the unselfish, who aim only to assure their children a good start, they will not desire more children than they can equip well for the battle of life.
Owing to the break-up of custom, our economic wants expand faster than ever before. People will not limit themselves to the traditional standard of comfort of their class. Wants and tastes once confined to the social elect spread resistlessly downward and infect the masses. Advertising, window-dressing, conspicuous consumption, waves of fashion and stories of the life of modish people carry the craving for luxuries hitherto looked upon as the prerogative of the well-to-do, down among the millions of limited means and these, in their eager haste to gratify these new wants, keep down their increase.
Malthus foresaw neither of these developments nor did he anWomen Is ticipate how women would come forward. The child generally costs the mother more than it costs the father. Nevertheless, so long as woman is reputed to be inferior, her maternity pangs do not count. The great movement of the last seventy years which has burst the fetters on woman's mind, gives the wife more weight in the marriage partnership and causes the heavy cost of maternity to be more considered by her husband as well as by herself. Probably these forces opposed to prolificacy would have left no very conspicuous mark on the birth rates of nations, had there not occurred at about the same time a diffusion of knowledge of the means of birth control. Percolating slowly down from stratum to stratum, this knowledge continually increases the proportion of limited families.
of Means of Birth Control
While so far the fall in the birth rate has rarely exceeded the fall in the death rate, the two movements obey different forces
The Bethe Birth
and they may not keep together. It is hard to see how the mor- CHAP. III tality in a normal population can be brought lower than 10 in a thousand, whereas there is no telling to what point its fecundity may sink. In New England, for example, the birth rate of the native stock appears to be less than its death rate, so that it is being swamped by the foreign-born element, which breeds three times as fast as it does.
SOCIAL CONTROL OF FECUNDITY
Society, however, is not without influence upon the desire for offspring. Whether a young couple shall avoid progeny, content themselves with a child or two, or undertake to rear a real family, depends much on the current opinion about children. If they are koked upon as blessings and if a normal-sized, well-reared family is a source of pride, few couples will remain child-shy. Thus by substituting sound ideals for selfish and frivolous ideals, society may do much to raise births to the point, at least, of race continuance.
If social appreciation of children does not suffice, society can induce the foresighted and prudent to rear more children by altering the economic incidence of child-rearing. At present the childproducing family handicaps itself in comparison with the childshy. If by free medical care of the child-bearing mother and her children, free schooling, free meals in school, and so on up to the point of state allowances for healthy children born to healthy couples, the economic burden of race continuance were largely transferred from the individual to the community, no doubt the chid crop of the superior strains would increase. It goes without saying that such aid would most stimulate the reproduction of the more shiftless elements unless it were reserved for couples which came up to a certain standard of inheritance, capacity, and chararter. Such a standard will not be accepted in a democracy until mental measurement is far more advanced and used than it now is. As soon as one element withholds its increase more than ancther element, it diminishes its share in the heredity of the generatons to come. Now, since those who limit their family to a lerate size, are, on the whole, the prudent, self-controlled, and capable people, or those who have a high standard of what they ae their children, whereas those who have families of ten to £fteen are, on the whole, the more thriftless and reckless, or those
CHAP. III who have a low standard of what they owe their children, is not birth control dysgenic? Does it not cause the race to be recruited from the less desirable strains? Formerly, owing to the poverty and ignorance of the parents of large families, fewer of their children survived than of the families half as large. But now that the child's prospect of surviving depends less on the intelligence and resources of its parents and more on the intelligence and resources of the community, the conscientious breeders have little advantage over the rash breeders.
Something may be done to correct this situation by social policies which restrain fathers from exploiting their young children. By means of compulsory school attendance laws and anti-childlabor laws responsible parents may impose upon greedy fathers the standards of child culture to which they already accommodate their own conduct. The conversion of children from assets into liabilities works a surprising change in the attitude of a certain type toward the large family..
It is possible, moreover, for public opinion to discourage imFamily Is moderate fecundity. When each trudges the road by himself, it
Not Altogether a Private Matter
is solely his own affair how many bundles he loads himself with.
of the Inferior?
In the same way, once it is realized that only by a certain selfcontrol in propagation is it possible for a people to enjoy health, tiplication comfort, and length of life, an idea forms as to what is a reasonable family size, and disapproval is shown those who without warrant exceed this. No doubt the exceptionally endowed who offer society a full quiver" of children will find favor; but the subcommon who are the most reckless in multiplication will be made to feel community resentment when they propagate as if the world could not have too much of their ilk. The man of poor stock who begets a family of ten or fifteen will be looked upon as a fool or an egoist.
tipliers from Exploiting Their Children
NATIONAL CONTROL OF IMMIGRATION INEVITABLE
But what of forethoughted parentage by the advanced peoples while there are peoples and races which multiply blindly and
of the In
threaten to flood their neighbors with their surplus population? CHAP. III Now that cheap travel stirs the social deeps and beckoning oppor- Unrestricted tunity fills the steerages, immigration becomes ever more serious Migration to the people which hopes to rid itself utterly of slums, "submerged tenth" and "poverty" classes. Wherefore should it the Efforts practise family prudence if hungry strangers may crowd in and telligent occupy at the table the places it had reserved for its children? Lift Their Shall it in order to relieve the teeming lands of their unemployed Living abide in the pit of wolfish competition and give up the prospect of a betterment of the lot of the masses?
There is no doubt that barriers to immigration will be reared wil be which will give notice to the backward peoples that enlightened Reared to humanity is not willing to cramp itself in order that these peoples the Freemay continue to indulge in thoughtless reproduction. Let a peo- plying ple make itself miserable by multiplying like an animal not endowed with foresight and reason, but why should this people expect other peoples to allow themselves to be made miserable in order to accommodate its overflow?
Unless family restriction becomes general over the world, it is vain, therefore, to expect acknowledgment of the right of any well-behaved and self-supporting human being to settle where he will. From the standpoint of the brotherhood of man such an acknowledgment would be most desirable. But there is no blinking the fact that it would handicap the advanced peoples and in time cause the world's population to consist more of unthinking races and less of thinking aspiring races.
The barriers which are sure to rise will not aim to hamper the interchange of culture elements among the peoples or to hinder the movement of such bearers of culture as students, scholars, missionaries, travellers, officials, and business men. But they will prevent the movement of great numbers from areas of high pulation pressure to areas in which a low population pressure is deliberately maintained. The imputation of such a barrier is not that the excluded people or race is inferior but that the excluding people does not propose to incommode itself and lose its own field. of future internal expansion in order that the excluded may be relieved of the natural penalty of their heedless propagation. Such a policy smacks not so much of hateful discrimination as of that wise conservation of resources for the benefit of posterity which is becoming general among the enlightened peoples.