This Policy Review Online article by Stanley Kurtz offers an original took at the cultural consequences of a depopulated world. While the future is unknowable, Kurtz guesses that it will tend to one of two extremes: a return of strict traditionalist values, or the complete postmodern disintegration of the family. I doubt the second possibility, simply because it pulls against our genetic programing.
Kurtz, who appears to have a conservative bent, also inclines toward the idea that our future will look very much like our past. He describes in frightening detail the economic and human consequences of an imploding population, which may well trigger a revaluation of morals, from postmodern to premodern, at least in matters touching marriage and reproduction.
In such an atmosphere, a new set of social values could emerge along with a fundamentally new calculation of personal interest. Modernity itself may come in for criticism even as a new appreciation for the benefits of marriage and parenting might emerge. A successful pronatalist policy (if achieved by means of the conventional family rather than through surrogacy or artificial wombs) would only reinforce the conservative trend. In that case we will surely find that it is cultural radicals standing athwart history’s new trend yelling “Stop!”
Humankind faces three fundamental choices in the years ahead: at least a partial restoration of traditional social values, a radical new eugenics, or endless and compounding population decline. For a long time, this choice may not be an either/or. Divisions will likely emerge both within and between societies on how to proceed. Some regions may grow more traditional, others may experiment with radical new social forms, while still others may continue to shrink. And a great deal will depend upon an economic future that no one can predict with certainty. In any case, the social innovations of the modern world are still being tested, and the outcome is unresolved.
The good life as pertains to marriage and childraising, I suspect, will be the subject of the most intense moral debate for the next generation.