Here is a picture of Angela Merkel as a child. Sadly this is as close as she got to having her own. It isn’t just her. The majority of European political leaders have no kids. France’s Macron – no kids. UK PM Theresa May – no kids. The Netherlands PM Mark Rutte – no kids. Italian PM Paolo Gentiloni – no kids. Swedish PM Kjell Stefan Löfven- no biological kids. Luxembourg PM Xavier Bettel – no kids. Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon – no kids. EC President Jean-Claude Juncker – no kids. Incidentally Japan’s PM Abe also has no children.
As Europe’s population growth rate declines are these people best positioned to impart advice on how to stop it? Seems that surrender to mass migration is all too easy a policy to replace dwindling stocks of local inhabitants.
From the Washington Examiner
“The Boomers first grabbed the reins of political power in the West in the 1990s, as Communism collapsed and Francis Fukuyama declared “The End of History.” The Boomers live like they believe it. If history is over, if all that is left is consumer capitalism in a liberal democracy, if the stream has stopped flowing, why not climb out?
The late Benjamin Barber wrote a response to Fukuyama called Jihad vs McWorld. Barber argued that the death of the old conflicts—between nations—would go hand in hand with a new conflict: the clash between the McWorld of global consumer capitalism and the “jihad” of local, traditional, and “conservative” cultures.
It’s clear which side has political power now. But the demographics point to a different future. In 2009 Phillip Longman noted that in France (for example) a tiny minority of women are giving birth to over 50% of the children every year. These women are either practicing Catholics or immigrant Muslims.
One of the benefits of parenthood is the daily confrontation with free will—a human nature. Parents may have their child’s life, career, and happiness planned out, but a child has other ideas -constantly. Love, patience, teaching, negotiating, scolding—nurture—can help direct the child, but the overwhelming otherness of the child is undeniable. They are not blank slates upon whom the parent exercises his will.
Political leaders without this experience of parenthood may be susceptible to the idea that people are blank-slates, interchangeable units of human capital. As a parent and a teacher, I have seen many brilliant and well-meaning parents and colleagues crash their will and intellect against the rock of a child’s independent nature. Now, scale such a hubristic paternalism to a nation. Or a continent.
Contemporary childless leaders, however ascendant they feel today, may be the last gasp of secularism. The future is won by those who show up, and only the religiously orthodox are having children.
Those still swimming in the ancient streams of Faith and Culture in France will have the observant offspring of two rival religions living within the borders of one nation. The second Battle of Tours, (or Vienna, or Lepanto) might be extra bloody due to the policies of today, but the authors of those policies will not be around because they will be dead, and their offspring will not be around, because they do not exist.
The Founding Fathers of the United States established the Constitution to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity”, posterity being their offspring. Looking out for one’s posterity, having a long-term vision, is necessary for the good of society, according to Harvard Political Scientist James Wilson. Do childless political leaders have skin in the game long-term?
In Europe today, those without progeny are enacting policies that impact the posterity of others.
Surely Macron, Merkel, Juncker, and the rest would argue that they can do their crucial jobs better because they don’t have children to distract them. C.S. Lewis provides the rebuttal: “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.”
Whichever way you cut it, Europe’s childless leaders speak volumes of a continent in long term (terminal) decline.