Well, according to the French President, it’s no use pouring money into Africa because Africans have too many babies. Yes, he really said that.
Since his election in May, French President Emmanuel Macron has enjoyed the political equivalent of rock-star status. In June, the cover of the Economist depicted Macron walking on water with the caption “Europe’s Savior?”
But as the saying goes, “what goes up, must come down,” and recently Macron’s reputation has taken quite a hit. The reason? He publicly recycled one of the worst and most destructive ideas of recent history.
At the latest G-20 summit in Germany, a journalist from the Ivory Coast asked the French president why there was no African equivalent of the Marshall Plan, the U.S. aid program that helped to rebuild western Europe after World War II.
Macron’s reply was what Vox.com called a “three-and-a-half-minute soliloquy,” in which he spoke about the differences between post-war Europe and modern Africa. He also referred to what he dubbed “civilizational problems” in Africa.
Having already jumped into the hot water, Macron then decided to turn up the temperature himself. Among those “civilizational problems,” he said, was that there were countries where women had 7 or 8 children, adding that you can pour billions of Euros into these places, and they would remain unstable.
Not surprisingly, the internet exploded in indignation. Chris Hayes of MSNBC called Macron’s speech “repugnant.” Laura Seay of Colby College wrote that it was “rich of a French President to criticize Africa this way.”
Now Seay’s reference, of course, was in light of France’s colonial past, and what the French called its “civilizing mission.” If she had stopped her critique there, she would have been fine. But she didn’t stop there.
Seay went on to blame, of all things, “the continuing influence of the Catholic Church.” She opined that “If contraception were widely available and the Catholic Church didn’t preach against it . . . we would likely see birth rates fall dramatically in Christianized parts of Francophone Africa.”
The problem with this is two-fold: First, the only African country with birth rates as high as Macron cited is Niger, an Islamic, not Catholic, country. The second highest is Somalia, another Islamic country.
The second problem is that Seay’s comments revealed that, at the end of the day, she and other liberal critics of Macron share his core conviction that high birthrates are a “civilizational problem.”
This conviction was at the heart of the 1968 book, “The Population Bomb,” by Paul Ehrlich, which began with the statement that “the battle to feed all of humanity is over” and predicted “an utter breakdown of the capacity of the planet to support humanity.”
Ehrlich’s predictions were proven wrong in every way imaginable, but it didn’t matter. In much of the world outside of Africa, the response was an aggressive attempt to reduce birthrates around the world that wound up working too well, especially in Europe.
The problem, as liberals like Phillip Longman and conservatives like Nicholas Eberstadt tell us, is not too many people but too few. Especially working-age, people. As the liberal Guardian newspaper put it, “Europe needs many more babies to avert a population disaster.” That’s why the Danish government ran that ad campaign that we told you about last year on BreakPoint, urging its citizens to “do it for Denmark.”
Obviously, Macron didn’t get the memo, or if he did, he chose instead to recycle a fifty-year-old bad idea that, in its most notorious implementation, China’s “one child policy,” “affected more people in a more intimate and brutal way” than any other government policy in history.
It’s an idea that threatens to leave countless people in the West “childless and alone” in their old age. An idea to which all of Africa, not just the French-speaking part, should reply, “non, merci.”
French President Macron and African Babies: The Population Myth
As John has often said, bad ideas have consequences–the population myth is is just one example. Our response as Christians is to lovingly affirm God’s mandate for procreation, for the nurture and care of future generations.