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Spain: Setting a Trap for Families


Spain is following Greece into the demographic twilight as birth
rates fall. The leftist government of Jose Zapatero has burdened the
country with excessive government spending even while tax revenues
shrink and unemployment explodes.

Vol. 12/No. 14

NAVARRE, SPAIN—Here in Spain, the government has tried to compensate for the
lack of demographic growth by huge government subsidies borrowed from
largely foreign lenders. Now the loans are coming due and the
prospects for repaying them are dim. There is no real wealth being
created in Spain today. There are fewer business start-ups and new
hires. And there are far fewer families willing and able to invest in
any country’s real long-term, wealth: its children.

The short-term problem of debt repayment pales before the long-term
problem of too few people.

Socialism in Spain seeks to establish a state of what it calls
”solidarity.” Underlying this nebulous concept—which
looks good at first glance—are policies that promote
contraception and abortion and, in practice, punish large families. If
left in place for a generation, these policies will destroy the
unborn, the family and, ultimately, the entire society.

We expect our leaders to behave rationally, whether they are
creatures of the left or the right. But if their model state is one
which attempts to eliminate all differences between individuals in
terms of wealth and power, as Spain’s currently does, watch
out.

A social-welfare system, where the government is involved in
distributing benefits and burdens among the citizens, must never
undermine the twin supports of all societies: fertility and freedom.
It must promote an adequate rate of population replacement so the
population does not age and die, and it must promote sufficient
economic freedom that the economy continues to expand and jobs
continue to be created.

For the first, marriage and parenthood must be encouraged and, if
necessary, immigration as well. For the second, an entrepreneurially
minded private sector must be protected and promoted so that human
beings can exercise their natural God-given creativity. This enables,
in turn, the creation of new wealth, which make it possible to provide
jobs for these new members of society.

Fertility and freedom. If either of these two fundamentals is
missing, a country will have serious problems. If both are
missing, a country is poised to collapse. Such is the case with Spain
today.

Last week a report was published by the Institute for Family
Policies which documents the current crisis. The main points of
“Evolution of the Family in Spain 2010” are:

  • Spain is the fastest-aging country in Europe and the one that
    loses the most young people to out-migration. This means that the
    social security system currently in place is in grave danger of
    collapsing with a very few years. The birth rate in Spain is a dismal
    1.46, and it is only this “high” because of the many
    immigrants from Latin American and North Africa who have
    children.

  • The marriage rate has fallen by 28% over the last 20 years, while
    marital breakdown rates have increased by 28%. For every 3 marriages
    that are formed, 2 break down. The Zapatero government has
    exacerbated the problem by legalizing what is called, “express
    divorce,” that is, a speedy divorce granted for any reason. The
    marital breakup rate has increased 115% during the four years since
    this law came into effect. Broken families now account for 4.54% of
    the total population. The economic impact of this disintegration of
    the basic unit of society—the family—is enormous.

  • In Spain today there are more households (16 million) but fewer
    children. Forty percent of households do not have any children at all.
    One in six households consist of only one person. In 1980, 29.1% of
    households had five or more members. Today only 7.3% of households
    have that number of members.

If one wants to maintain a thriving democratic society, these
figures are a debacle. A society that cannot rely on its families
because it has systematically destroyed them is a society that is
moribund, and may not survive the difficult times ahead of it.

Zapatero is not to blame for the international economic crisis. At
the same time, his policies have crippled Spain in ways that make it
hard for her to overcome it. One of the first things that he took away
was the “baby bonus,” a government payment to a couple
upon the birth of a child. Spain now has the unhappy distinction of
being the least family-friendly country in Europe. Immigration is her
last hope to offset a declining population, but with unemployment
running at 5 million and a stagnant economy only the low-skilled and
less-productive are willing to augment her ranks.

Zapatero’s government must cut unnecessary spending, encourage
private enterprise, and shelter young couples from taxes. If the
government encourages family formation and private enterprise, the new
family-run businesses that will spring up will help to move the
economy forward.

But this is like asking a tiger to change his stripes. The
Zapateroistas are, after all, committed socialists who have no love
for either family or free enterprise.

Next stop: Greece.

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