LONDON, United Kingdom, June 8, 2016 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, the former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom, has warned of the collapse of the West unless it can rediscover the keys to its former greatness, reversing both its moral decline and its collapsing birthrate.
“Civilisations begin to die when they lose the moral passion that brought them into being in the first place,” Lord Sachs said in a speech at a ceremony where he received the 2016 Templeton Prize for his contributions to religious understanding.
“It happened to Greece and Rome, and it can happen to the West. The sure signs are these: a falling birthrate, moral decay, self-indulgence on the part of the rich, hopelessness on the part of the poor, unintegrated minorities, a failure to make sacrifices in the present for the sake of the future.
“It is not too much to say that the future of the West and the unique form of freedom it has pioneered for the past four centuries is altogether at risk,” Sacks warned.
While news coverage of his speech focused on his comments about declining birthrates in Europe and other Western nations, Sacks’ actual theme was the “outsourcing” of economic production to developing countries, and later of bringing morality to the marketplace and government.
“This seemed like a good idea at the time, as if the West was saying to the world: you do the producing and we’ll do the consuming. But is that sustainable in the long run?” Sacks asked.
“We find it increasingly hard to understand why there might be things we want to do, can afford to do, and have a legal right to do [but] that nonetheless we should not do because they are unjust or dishonourable or disloyal or demeaning: in a word, unethical.”
“As for the consequences of our choices,” Sacks continued, “these were outsourced to the state. Bad choices lead to bad outcomes: failed relationships, neglected children, depressive illness, wasted lives.” People in the West have come to believe that it is the government’s job to deal with the consquences of their bad choices, he said.
But the government and capitalism cannot deal with everything, Sacks added: “The collapse of marriage, leading to intractable problems of child poverty and depression. The collapse of birthrates throughout Europe, leading to unprecedented levels of immigration that are now the only way the West can sustain its population, and the systemic failure to integrate some of these groups. The loss of family, community and identity, that once gave us the strength to survive unstable times.”
Sacks’ remarks drew harsh criticism from advocates of population control. Tracy Canada, the deputy director of Virginia-based Negative Population Growth, called them “misguided” and faulted British newspapers for publishing them. Canada told LifeSiteNews that given the world’s average birthrate of 243,000 births per day, “a million more mouths will be at the world’s dinner table” every five days…Global population is already unsustainably high.”
The results of overpopulation, she argued, are “mass poverty, natural resource depletion, high unemployment, shortages of clean water and energy, and the dire consequences of climate change. Can we name a way that any of those issues are improved—even slightly—by continuing to add to our population?”
But Steven Mosher, head of the Population Research Institute, also based in Virginia, said that history supported Sacks. Even at the time their civilizations were collapsing, he told LifeSite, “both the Greeks and the Romans attributed it to falling birth rates because nobody wanted the responsibilities of bringing up children.
“Lord Sacks is absolutely correct. Contemporary Europe is reliving the decline and fall of the Roman Empire because its populations have stopped replacing themselves,” Mosher said.
Mosher cited the ancient Greek historian Polybius who warned that Greece was declining not because of wars or famines, but because “by avarice or cowardice the people, if they marry, will not bring up the children they ought to have…The remedy is in ourselves; we have but to change our morals.”
Sacks said the same in his conclusion. Preserving Western civilization “means recovering the spiritual dimension that helps us tell the difference between the value of things and their price,” he said. “It means restraining ourselves in the present so that our children may have a viable future.”