Religion, Not Government Subsidies, Leads People to Have More Children

Falling birthrates in developed countries have led to numerous proposals, some of which have been implemented, about how to reverse the trend. Catherine Ruth Pakaluk argues that most people seeking to solve the problem are going about it wrong:

South Korea suffers the world’s lowest birthrates—0.71 expected births per woman. In the city of Seoul, that number is just 0.59. The South Korean government estimates that it has spent $210 billion trying to revive its gasping birthrate. The cash hasn’t worked. It hasn’t worked anywhere it’s been tried.

Pronatalist policy proposals in the U.S. make two faulty assumptions about falling birthrates. First, that religious outliers [who have several children] have zero relevance for reviving American families. Second, that we can incentivize anything we want with tax and subsidy schemes.

Pakaluk has spent the past four years traveling around America speaking with women who have chosen to have large families. Many are deeply religious. Among them is Leah, who, along with her husband, embraced Orthodox Judaism while in college:

Leah’s story made it excruciatingly obvious why child subsidies won’t raise the birthrate. Cash incentives can’t answer what needs to be answered: a reason to give up dreams and aspirations that can’t hang on past one or two kids. We know we can incentivize moving away from oil, cigarettes, and Big Gulps. But can we incentivize moving away from careers and interests we’ve prepared women to fulfill from their earliest school days? My research suggested that such a choice comes from deep within. It must be wanted for its own sake, counted as worth the costs, which are personal and subjective.

Read more at Fusion

More about: Family, Family policy, Fertility, Religion


Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy