Introducing civic natalism

“The early 20th century was the summit of civilization and human accomplishment.”

I think there is a good argument to be made for that statement. However, that is not quite what this post is about.

It’s about the worldview I’ve adopted as I’ve come to appreciate and learn more about that era of human history, a mere century or so ago. I discussed the idea that this blog was a way to work out an alternative to Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option, and now I think I’ve got a grasp on what that alternative is.

Civic natalism.

This post is just an introduction to the phrase as concept.  Civic natalism was what a surprising number of Americans had a century ago, but it was an effect.  We can look at what they had access to that we don’t have now and the goal is to find out how we can have those things in a modern society.  Theirs was atomized and global, too, they were the vanguard of globalism.  Natalism also is about more than just maxing your pregnancy numbers, it’s about making it possible for motherhood to be something fully human, so women don’t want to reject the natural outcome of marital intimacy.

They had the following:

  • Large casual labor pool, particularly of women.  This means that there were maids and nannies and cooks, but it means so much more than that.  It means that you could pay people to do a lot of normal things and lend occasional assistance.
  • No commuting. The commuting was, mostly, the long-distance travel type, which human societies have developed a lot of tools to deal with.  It typically wasn’t the hurry up and wait tension that daily commuting tends to put onto people.  It is very possible to reduce commuting, but a deeper analysis of commuting patterns with an eye towards family improvement and cohesion is needed.
  • Rational autonomy for children. This means society is structured so that children take as much responsibility for themselves as possible, appropriate to their age.
  • Advocacy for feminine leisure.  

Starts are always rocky, so I’ll just conclude with this.  I’ve finally secured enough readable copies of Gene Stratton-Porter’s non-fiction nature books and essays that I will resume a publishing order review of her work in the coming weeks. She was a fascinating example of civic natalism, even though she herself had only one child.  Her entire career as a housewife who wrote bestsellers and spent hours in nature studies that are a direct line to the Joel Salatin and Michael Pollan strain of environmentalism and farming is an Ur-example of what civic natalism can provide when “just” a side effect of wider social norms.  She was also an influential advocate for other women to have better homemaking conditions and society-wide support.

And yes, there will be some commentary about the politics of civic natalism.  They intersect with how the right wing in America used to have a pretty good deal for bright women to be housewives and how they threw it away.  But those same politics also intersect with radical feminist policy ideas about how to support motherhood.  To summarize those future posts, let’s just say Phyllis Schlafly was a radical feminist when it came to motherhood.

Blew my mind, too.


So the Benedict Option was tried 20 years ago and failed, now what?

That’s the question for the next year, for me at least.  I find it interesting that I’ve spent years reading a lot of right-wing and conservative this n’ that and yet despite the totemic symbolism of homeschooling in conservativeland (it’s a totem because even most conservatives don’t, but it’s considered something “more conservative people should do”), there’s been no self-awareness from those HIPPIES about how their HIPPIE PROJECTS led to children who are complete intersectionalist progressive SJWs.  And no signs that conservative men are interested in the recent history of being a HIPPIE but with more clothes on and how all that seems to be a place you get to when you try to Benedict Option without, you know, being monks.

I guess I would have discovered all this sooner if I’d been getting enough sleep, but such is life.  Sometime next year there’s a rumor I might get more sleep.

Dear conservatives, women are not having large families except on the internet per their (fictional?) husbands.


Because I am a data fan, I looked into the census data on fertility, especially for white non-Hispanic women, who make up most of your typical pool of conservatives in America.  And what I found is that the data supports my contention that women are simply not having more than four children and most are not having more than three, and this includes women in their 40s, who can be classified as biologically “done” whether they sped the process along with medical interventions or not.  This would include the overwhelming majority of conservative women too.

Either conservative men need to admit how utterly tiny the group is that they are classifying as “conservative” or “traditional” and that this group is simply too small to outbreed anyone via natural increase (the daughters are not replicating their mothers’ fecundity, according to the data as the cohorts move through time) or they need to shut up about how it’s not hard to have seven or ten kids, they know lots of women who do.  It’s called clustering.  It isn’t surprising if all the people with nine kids hang out together at Latin mass or Particular Baptist churches, but statistically speaking, they can’t be doing so at very many such places because there just aren’t enough of them to represent like that.

As of 2014, about 1%, or one women in a hundred is having five or more children, among the white non-Hispanic women aged 15-44.  Among the women who could still pop out a surprise baby or two (women in their 30s and early 40s), the percentage is three women per hundred.  There is nothing wrong with having three or four instead of the mass media-advocated “perfect two”, but out in conservative media, a distinct effort is being made to promote families of 7 kids or more as both normal and common and only marginally more difficult/expensive to raise than smaller families.  There is an assist from conservative men online with mysteriously high amounts of free time and mysteriously high levels of unemployment and underemployment chatting at great length about how easy it is for their wives.

The percentages I’m talking about have remained under five percent for over twenty years now.  In 1970, about one woman (all races) in five had five or more kids.  By 1985 it was less than one woman in ten, and by 1990 it was around one woman in twenty.  And those numbers are for all races of women, the white non-Hispanic numbers were slightly lower at every stage, with the current numbers for all races being about 2% having five or more children.

Babies are great, kids are great, but the function of female humanity is not solely to reproduce until menopause and even if it was, they sure aren’t supposed to do it alone in a tract house in a faceless suburban housing development with no way to get to anything except by car.

One of the biggest pieces of a practical Benedict Option would be some honesty from conservatives, male and female alike, about where exactly people are with the kid-having and why they have given up on large families despite most of the people having kids being people who greatly desire and want children.

ETA 8/10/15: I found an example of the conservative online deceptiveness with the note at the end of this sadly funny post about how silly women are for not having zillions of children with some unemployed Latin Mass LARPer.  I’ll paste the note below if you don’t want to slog through the linked post:

US Census shows 42% of women of childbearing age currently have no children. 22% have two, 17% one, 12% three, and 7% four or more. That means only 1/5 of women today have yet to dodge the ignominy of the Darwin Award. Interestingly, nearly all of the traditional women I know (who eschew divorce, natch) are in that final 7%. Having won the genetic lottery, why go feral? Domesticated animals rarely leave the warm farm if the farmer is feeding and breeding them well.

Setting aside the wonderful way this conservative man refers to Christian wives and mothers, what this guy is doing is combining data that is separated out by the Census.  I combined the data for women having more than five children because the category “7+” is measured in fractions of a percent for nearly all age groups and ethnic groups among women.  And having five or six are combined by the Census people to get that data consistently over 1% for most ages and ethnic groups of women.  The guy, by flinging around “seven percent of women have more than four kids in their lifetimes”, is combining categories in a way designed to over report how frequently women have larger numbers of children.  Four is only being included because without that group, the real math is the following:

All women, 5 or 6 children: 1.6%

All women, 7 or more children: 3/10% (three tenths of a percent).  This of course rounds up to the 2% of all women I am using.

Five percent of all women having exactly four children is very different than what this guy is trying to imply.  It also means that plenty of “traditional” wives and mothers are faithful and behave normally without having large numbers of children.  Not quite what this guy was going for, but the reality on the ground.  Women who are committed to Christ first honor their duties and obligations regardless of whether they have any children, three, five or fifteen.