The Atlantic

Climate Policy Can Help Avert Modern Liberalism’s “Doom Loop”

Liberalism’s “doom loop” is inextricable from the global-warming crisis.
Source: Mike Hutchings / Reuters

What new responsibilities should a rich and liberal democracy take on in the 21st century? If you ask almost any American progressive, they will talk about the need to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions and lessen the blow of climate change. Lately, a growing number of conservatives have glommed onto another policy. They suggest that such a democracy should also be pronatalist: It should take children as a virtue and a public good (even a blessing), and it should direct its welfare state toward encouraging human reproduction.

Given that some environmentalists seem to treat low population growth as just one more variable in the climate equation, the two policies may seem incompatible. In fact, they support each other; they may even need each other. Aggressive climate policy is pronatalist.

I’ve been thinking about this because two writers have gone back and forth lately on what they call modern liberalism’s “doom loop.” Derek Thompson describing a three-step processStep one: Liberal and richer democracies tend to have lower birth rates and aging populations, which strains their respective welfare states. Step two: Those same democracies admit more immigrants, in order to reinforce their welfare state and beef up their working-age population. But—step three—as an increasing amount of a state’s population becomes foreign-born, its aging population becomes more xenophobic and less supportive of the same welfare state.

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