With the refugee crisis in Syria and adjoining territories and a prediction of a similar crisis to face Gaza in a few years, it seems an appropriate time to look at the topic of spiritual forces that affect birth rates.
It is a topic that is not often discussed, so the connection between births and a refugee crisis might not be obvious to most readers. If you have not heard these topics connected before, it will seem obvious as soon as you connect the dots. To try to state it simply, the willingness of any potential parent to have new children is influenced by what the parent hears about the value of people in general. Whenever we hear that more people in general would solve a problem, it makes the birth of a new baby seem more beneficial. Whenever we hear that people in general are causing a problem, it makes the birth of a new baby seem more like a problem. This is only a subtle shift in attitude, but the effect is easily measured in the aggregate. For example, during a severe recession such as the one the United States experienced a few years ago, birth rates fall sharply.
Start looking for stories that suggest a problem based on either too few or too many people, and you find them everywhere. Every time a lack of customers leads a mall to close or a college to cancel a course, you get the feeling that there is a place for a few more people. With every traffic jam, mass layoff, famine, or sold-out show, you get the feeling that there might not be a place for a few more people.
There is some reason to think this distinction might be instinctive. Birth rates of prey species in general fall as population increases. This is not merely a reaction to a food crisis as previously supposed, but occurs well before food shortages reach crisis levels. It is something of a stretch to apply that finding to humans, but still, it is a possibility that some comparable reaction exists in humans too.
In the news, reports that imply too many people outnumber those that imply too few. This is especially evident in official reaction to refugees and foreign workers. When a country like Hungary deploys tons of barbed wire on its border or a popular presidential candidate says five million people will have to leave the United States, it sends an unmistakable message. It says we believe we have too many people already.
It is a message reinforced by stories of 30,000 more layoffs at Hewlett-Packard on top of 55,000 that already took place, and this on the same day that we heard of 33,000 layoffs at two giant banks. U.S. unemployment has been above 5 percent for 8 years straight, college debt has become the largest financial burden in the U.S. economy during this period, and the most prominent political debate has been over whether people should be allowed access to health care. Stories like these create a picture of a world already straining to accommodate such a large number of workers.
In truth, there are enormous costs to support the world’s population, which has increased by a factor of 10 in less than two centuries and continues to increase. At the same time, financial policymakers often complain about the effect of falling birthrates on retirement funding, especially in Europe, and there are incentives in a few countries to try to encourage more births. The incentives are having little effect, though, and those who are wondering why need only look at the many headlines that say, in many different ways, how there are too many people already.