The greatest threat to our national survival does not come from chaos at the border, anarchy in the streets, a nuclear-armed Iran or China on the march.
It does not lie in the growing number of young Americans who take no pride in our nation’s history and believe we have nothing worth fighting for.
No, the greatest long-term danger to America lies in the decline of our families, the glue that holds society together.
With Valentine’s Day on the horizon — a day for celebrating love that lasts — consider that a majority of Americans now say they see no value in marriage. Love and marriage? The old horse-and-carriage analogy is so mid-20th century.
In the latest American Family Survey, 54% did not agree that society is better off when more people are married.
In the same survey, 48% rejected the idea that marriage is needed for strong families. The poll was taken not on the streets of San Francisco or among CNN viewers.
The benefits of marriage — to men, women, children and society — are so obvious that it takes willful blindness not to see them.
Married men and women are less likely to die prematurely or be victims of violent crime. Being single has been called the greatest health risk people can voluntarily assume. Married people do better financially. They have more to work for than themselves — more than a Mercedes in the driveway.
Children who live with their married parents are less likely to drop out of school, abuse drugs or alcohol, commit crimes or engage in early sexual activity. They get better grades and are less likely to do something really destructive, like becoming Democrats.
The benefits to society include less spending on police protection, homelessness, mental health treatment and welfare for single mothers. Families have been called the ultimate social safety net.
But marriage is undeniably on the decline. As an institution, it may soon be something studied by paleontologists, along with the woolly mammoth and other extinct species.
In 1970, 70% of adults were married, compared with 50% today. Of those in their prime childbearing years, those who are doing the vital work of procreation, 45% were married in 1960 versus 9% today.
More adults 18 to 44 years old have cohabited at some point (59%) than married at some time (50%).
Why does it matter?
Society needs people. Along with the decline of marriage and the family has come the precipitous fall of fertility.
It’s been over half a century since we’ve had what’s called replacement-level fertility in this country — 2.1 children for the average woman. Since 1960, fertility has fallen by more than half. In 2021, our fertility rate was 1.78, well below replacement. Possibly as soon as 2050, population decline will begin. Soon, depopulation will become rapid.
You can see it today in a growing population of older adults and a shrinking pool of young workers, in crowded hospitals, soaring Medicare costs, and schools turned into adult day care centers. My city once had two high schools that each had a graduating class of 600. Now, there’s only one, with under 500 graduates.
It will get worse.
Based on current trends, researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago predict that by the end of the century, half of our nation’s 30,000 cities will lose from 12% to 23% of their population. Many will become virtual ghost towns. A story on Fox News predicts, “These cities could face loss in basic services like transit, clean water, electricity and internet access.”
The end of American civilization is at hand. And we did it to ourselves.
The culture is saturated with anti-marriage and anti-procreation messages. We’ve gone from “Father Knows Best” and “Make Room for Daddy” to movies about women who cut off their husbands’ penises. We’ve made a headlong dash from diapers and baby formula to condoms and child-free housing complexes.
In magazines like Cosmopolitan, there’s always an aggrieved feminist who is upset when someone asks her when she’s going to have a baby — lecturing us on the joys of a childless existence. Children are messy and expensive, and they interfere with opportunities for personal enrichment, they insist. Besides, overpopulation is supposedly destroying the planet. Thus, one myth reinforces another.
Blessed are the single and sterile, for they shall inherit — absolutely nothing.
Love, marriage and children are the natural order. Government and the culture interfere with that at our peril.
Marriage is a valentine to the future. But increasingly, it’s ending up in the dead letter office.
• Don Feder is a columnist with The Washington Times.
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