What in the name of the Little Baby Jesus and pardon the pun, but good God, what on earth is David Brooks talking about?!!!?
If you wanted a one-sentence explanation for the explosive growth of far-flung suburbs, it would be that when people get money, one of the first things they do is use it to try to protect their children from bad influences.
So there are significant fertility inequalities across regions. People on the Great Plains and in the Southwest are much more fertile than people in New England or on the Pacific coast.
You can see surprising political correlations. As Steve Sailer pointed out in The American Conservative, George Bush carried the 19 states with the highest white fertility rates, and 25 of the top 26. John Kerry won the 16 states with the lowest rates.
In The New Republic Online, Joel Kotkin and William Frey observe, “Democrats swept the largely childless cities – true blue locales like San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Boston and Manhattan have the lowest percentages of children in the nation – but generally had poor showings in those places where families are settling down, notably the Sun Belt cities, exurbs and outer suburbs of older metropolitan areas.”
Politicians will try to pander to this group. They should know this is a spiritual movement, not a political one. The people who are having big families are explicitly rejecting materialistic incentives and hyperindividualism. It costs a middle-class family upward of $200,000 to raise a child. These people are saying money and ambition will not be their gods.
Oh my holy God. People with large families are just … better. Implicitly. Because money and ambition are not their gods. Children are. Or something. It kind of got blurry at the end there, what with the screaming.
Red America = families with kids = people who aren’t ambitious or don’t like money? This whole thing is so muddled it’s almost hard for it to be offensive.
First of all, the Sun Belt and the suburbs aren’t cheap. In the city where Mr. Athenae and I make our home, city neighborhoods are very much less expensive than the outer burbs where, as Brooks reminds us, people are free of bad influences (except in the case of Columbine, but whatever, I’m sure one of those kids thought he was a from a money-worshipping city or something). My family members who live in Arizona and Nevada pay more in property taxes than they ever did when they were living in the “big city” of Milwaukee. You’re hardly giving up money to move out of the land of sin; in fact, you’re often putting yourself in the spot of needing more.
Second of all, having a lot of children and choosing to spend your life caring for them is not inherently un-ambitious, and the people Brooks is supposedly trying to write admiringly about should be offended by that condescending characterization. Has Brooks never been to a YMCA mothers’ group? I’d stand a better chance of holding down my end of an argument at the National Chess Championship than I would in a room full of modern moms, who have an admirable and unbelievably detailed command of their field of choice and take what they do very, very seriously. My day is a piece of cake compared to these people’s, but I’m the godless ambitious one, and they’re the … what? Brooks doesn’t say.
All of this assumes Brooks is anything more than, as Attaturk so aptly notes, a disposable douche. Always a risky proposition, especially when he’s churning out columns about things that are “sweeping the nation.” When a newspaper notices that something is sweeping the nation, there’s a pretty good chance that it’s a) bullshit and b) swept the nation at least three years ago.
And can I also point out he does not give a single example of these large families he knows so well? Not one.
Kill me now.