What do German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni and European Union President Jean-Claude Juncker (the list could go on) all have in common? Anyone?
Well, they’re all childless. About half are from left-of-centre political parties and about half from right-of-centre ones. But none of these leaders has produced kids. Isn’t that astounding?
Now I know that the politically correct thing to say about this goes something as follows: ‘Nothing to see here folks. Just equally valid lifestyle choices. And anyway the childless can care about the future every bit as much as those who have children.’
That’s the sort of line you’ll hear by those who think there’s nothing remarkable about the childlessness of so much of the EU political class. But do you believe it’s unremarkable? And do you honestly believe that people who do not have kids have just as big a stake in the future – in their country’s future well-being and indeed in the ongoing viability of western civilisation – as those who do have them?
If you try to answer that from the perspective of an atheist (full disclosure: I’m an atheist) then it’s near on impossible to give plausible reasons for thinking the childless atheist will have the same concerns about the future as the atheist with kids – or at least would be as prepared to sacrifice his or her short-term comforts and wealth to defend western civilisation’s freedoms and benefits against threats that won’t materialise until after he or she is dead.
Now the question is certainly more complicated for those with a belief in a benevolent theistic God. Let’s not beat around the bush, the question is more complicated for those with a strong Christian faith. For the religious, be they with or without children, the belief in a transcendent afterlife and in an omnipotent, omniscient God seems to provide the childless with the same incentives as the fecund.
But of course, countries in Europe are also ever less Christian. So they have a political class that is ever less religious and ever more barren.
If you were a betting person I’m guessing you’d think that wasn’t the best combination, not for your grandkids, your country, your slowly evolved freedoms, or for the sort of western civilisation you are lucky enough to be enjoying right now.
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