Book Review – What to Expect When No One’s Expecting by Jonathan Last

What to Expect When No One's Expecting

Rather than rehash this book, which Amazon’s synopsis can do for you, or Jonathan Last has already done in the Wall Street Journal, instead I’ll discuss some of the misconceptions that it corrected in my thinking. Before reading this, I had thought that the American demographic situation was not quite as a dire as the European or Japanese crises yet. Like most, I had assumed that immigrant fertility was making up for weak birth rates among more established populations.

He writes:

From a combined Total Fertility Rates (TFR) of 3.7 in 1960 (the end of the Baby Boom), the fertility rate in the United States dropped to 1.8 in 1980, a 50 percent decline in a single generation. Since that low point, we’ve rebounded slightly. Our TFR went as high as 2.12 in 2007 before slumping back to 2.01 in 2009. 13 But again, that rebound was largely driven by the high fertility of immigrants, whose numbers surged from the 1980s through the early part of the 2000s.

[Over] the last decade, 30 percent of America’s total population growth was the result of the labors of a group that makes up only 16 percent of the country.

What Last doesn’t touch in this entertaining, quick, statistics-laden book is the issue of human biological diversity in relation to intelligence and culture. Last’s tone throughout is “I’m-not-judging-I’m-just-reporting-the-facts-ma’am,” which lessens the persuasive impact while making it more accessible to a broader audience.

He does touch on the eugenics movement and the unintended consequences of the state promotion of birth control, but he doesn’t do much to explore the specific impacts of seeing the worst elements in society procreate without limit while the upper classes sterilize themselves into non-existence and send their young women into demanding careers in order to render more dollars unto the super-state:

Like the G.I. Bill, the Pill is an example of unintended consequences. Margaret Sanger willed the Pill into existence so that the educated classes would not be “shouldering the burden of the unthinking fecundity of others.” Instead , it has been the educated middle class— Sanger’s people— who have used the Pill to tamp down their fertility.

The author also surveys the various pro-fertility policies that governments in Europe and Asia have attempted to use to curb infertility, and finds that all (including the particularly bombastic Russian policy) have failed in the typical Hayekian-unintended-consequences way.

He proposes rolling back the specific aspects of Civil Rights legislation that grant universities such market power (their legal monopoly on intelligence testing) to make it easier for young women to have children in their most fertile years, and rolling back Social Security, Medicare, and other Great Society programs. These recommendations are only noteworthy in that a writer for the Weekly Standard made them, but none of the policy proposals quoted could be implemented.

I recommend the book for a quick read on the airplane. If you’re secular (to reveal my viewpoint, I’m a former extremist-atheist  in the midst of converting to Catholicism), you may find some of his conclusions to be challenging about the clear links between fertility and religiosity, although he does so in an exquisitely inoffensive manner calculated to keep left-wing rankles below simmer temperature. The statistics included will update you on some surprising trend changes, and it also taught me that many demographic projections are also based on horseshit UN prognostications by useless people. Unfortunately, those useless guesses get re-used in other models, which are in turn used to make important decisions in both public and private sectors.

The largest issue in the US is less fertility decline, but the total disinterest in fertility by the American intellectual, cultural, and economic elite. Part of this disinterest is cloaked in a combination of continued overpopulation hysteria and a Bill Gates-style belief that the world’s population of indigents can be uplifted through charity and education, because all brains are the same, and it’s evil to notice that some populations are significantly more capable than others.

While the author alludes to this in his description of insular, affluent, white urban neighborhoods — what the disgusting fascistic right-reactionary internet calls SWPL neighborhoods — he never goes out and makes the connection, although he does make the cursory, ideologically correct denunciation of eugenics expected of him.

The problems being discussed are too sophisticated to be crammed into a book on a single issue. The problems are vast, interconnected, too complicated for even people of genius-level intelligence to explain to other geniuses, and beyond the capabilities of a democratic state to resolve.

The democratic states do what they seem to be doing — blaring propaganda on every channel available, while real living standards decline in drops and slides.

The upper half of the class pyramid would rather import new people than have children in the quantity that would be needed to keep civilization advancing. Merely cutting off the importation of new people wouldn’t resolve the fertility issue — the example of Japan stands against that notion. A new eugenics movement in the mold of the old would also be unlikely to succeed — it’s easy to make the argument from this book and others that the current dysgenic path is an unintended consequence of eugenic policy, particularly as the promotion of birth control was (and is) most enthusiastically taken up by the highest quality genetic stock.

There are problems to which there are no complete solutions. In a burning building, not everyone can be rescued. As men are not above nature, but a part of it, we must adapt to a social structure that does encourage human flourishing, or die out. In this, we are not so different from the animals and plants, yet secular society seems more insistent on the denial of physical mortality than religion ever was.

In the arena of democracy, any policy proposal that involves socking it to the old, as with Stanley Druckenmiller’s noble but doomed campaign, will be in-feasible, no matter how many dollars are spent on campaigning, or how eloquent the speeches are, or how many public-minded oligarchs join the campaign.

What should we expect when no one’s expecting, anyway?



One thought on “Book Review – What to Expect When No One’s Expecting by Jonathan Last

  1. Pingback: This Week in Reaction | The Reactivity Place

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