In most of the developed world, the government has gradually taken over many of the responsibilities of adulthood from health care, childcare, care of the elderly and other responsibilities formerly seen as individual or family. Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman suggests that American conservatives preaching "family values" is hypocrisy while Europeans live it. On the continent, Krugman says, "Government regulations actually allow people to make a desirable tradeoff -- to modestly lower income in return for more time with friends and family." Steyn insightfully observes, "As befits a distinguished economist, Professor Krugman failed to notice that for a continent of 'family friendly' policies, Europe is remarkably short of families. While America's fertility rate is more or less at replacement level -- 2.1 -- seventeen European nations are at what demographers call 'lowest-low' fertility -- 1.3 or less -- a rate from which no society in human history has ever recovered. Germans, Spaniards, Italians and Greeks have upside-down family trees: four grandparents have two children and one grandchild." Steyn asks, "How can an economist analyze 'family friendly' policies without noticing that the upshot of these policies is that nobody has any families?" My answer to Steyn's questions is: the kind of economist that looks at the seen and ignores the unseen.
Mark Steyn provides us with a historical tidbit. "Live Free or Die," which graces New Hampshire's license plate, are the words of John Stark, New Hampshire's Revolutionary War hero. He uttered those words decades after the War when he was 81 years old, the complete sentence being: "Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils." Steyn says these words should not be interpreted "as a battle cry: We'll win this thing or die trying, die an honorable death. But in fact it's something far less dramatic: It's a bald statement of the reality of our lives in the prosperous West. You can live as free men, but, if you choose not to, your society will die."