Bryan Caplan  

Bad Predictions, Durant Edition

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As Niels Bohr remarked, "Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future."  Here's a 1968 howler from the Durants' The Lessons of History:
In the United States the lower birth rate of the Anglo-Saxons has lessened their economic and political power; and the higher birth rate of Roman Catholic families suggest that by the year 2000 the Roman Catholic Church will be the dominant force in national as well as in municipal or state governments.  A similar process is helping restore Catholicism in France, Switzerland, and Germany; the lands of Voltaire, Calvin, and Luther may soon return to the papal fold.
Gene Expression's Razib would not be surprised...

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COMMENTS (10 to date)
vacslav writes:

And yet, some do return to the papal fold:

Joe Marier writes:

Catholicism kinda hit its crisis around 1968, for a variety of reasons. That was, after all, the year Humanae Vitae came out. All the changes in the Missale Romanum were consolidated a few years later.

david writes:

Hm. There probably are more children of families who were Catholic in 1968; they've just stopped being so Catholic. Presumably secularization and relative resilience of evangelical Protestantism was hard to predict in 1968.

But the people who freak out about such things are often just bluntly racist; the "they'll subordinate our country to Rome!" yelling was to give it a respectable sheen, but it wasn't really why they were worried.

This trap is easy to fall into. The Catholic population in the United States is now increasingly Hispanic. And their community has high birth rates, of course. Quick, make some speculation about the future of the Democratic Party/American culture/American English! Because people who are "the other" now surely remain "the other" forever!

Jeff writes:

I thought it was Yogi Berra who said that (the remark about predictions, not about Catholic birth rates).

Mercer writes:

The Supreme Court is dominated by Catholics and one branch of Congress is headed by a Catholic so they were not totally wrong.

Jeremy, Alabama writes:

The Roman Catholic church is not a nation. Their numbers are practically irrelevant as a force in international relations. Recall that Charlemagne was happy to war with catholic nations for reasons of national interest. Anyway, many catholic countries including Italy, France (if you exclude muslims), Greece (Orthodox), Spain have horrible birthrates.

razib writes:

Anyway, many catholic countries including Italy, France (if you exclude muslims), Greece (Orthodox), Spain have horrible birthrates.

france has a good birthrate for non-muslims, just like the scandinavian nations (this is in a european context, where sub-replacement of 1.7 TFR is much better than crazy sub-replacement of 1.2). they're in a separate class from spain, italy and greece (or germany and much of eastern europe). you should describe the empirical reality instead of just blithely generalizing.

re: hispanics, they show high erosion toward irreligiosity or protestantism now. realistically a good majority of catholics will remain non-hispanic for at least a generation when i played around with the scenarios (fiddle with TFR, conversion to protestantism, defection, etc.). though hispanic immigration is basically what is keeping the catholic proportion stable in the united states; there's been massive 'white flight' from catholicism since 1990.">bryan promoted me to look at switzerland, germany, etc.

Steve Sailer writes:

The decline in the power of the WASP Establishment since the 1960s is obvious if you know much about the 1960s.

Steve Sailer writes:

To exercise influence, however, an ethnic group need wealth, media assertiveness, a sense of being oppressed (especially if it's largely fictitious), and, most importantly, a shield against criticism or even outside analysis. Not surprisingly, the most influential single ethnic group in America in 2010 is neither WASPs nor Catholics.

George X writes:

Mercer wrote: one branch of Congress is headed by a Catholic

You take that back!

More seriously:
The road to electoral success for Catholic politicians seems to be to mislead their electorate into thinking Catholicism is a caucus within the Democratic Party, rather than something that has anything to do with the Church or actual concrete moral teachings.

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