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Fertility Rates Are Dropping Dangerously Worldwide

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In 1996, five years before he received the Nobel Prize in economics, George Akerlof in “An Analysis of Out-of-Wedlock Childbearing in the United States” labeled contraception the “technology shock” that gave us the death of the ‘shot-gun marriage’ and the rise of single motherhood. A  second paper refined his argument still more. One of his coauthors was his wife, Janet Yellen, who later became Chairman of the Federal Reserve System, the central bank of the United States.  Central banks around the world now must deal with the slowing velocity of money as marriage and birth rates fall in developed countries, leading to less spending on children and new homes, phenomena closely linked to rates of contraception.  These unintended consequences are playing out in the most unforeseen ways, one of which is the growing shortage of native-born workers in the developed economies of the world, a vacuum drawing young legal and illegal immigrants from poorer homelands in search of a better life. 

Below we give the data on fertility and contraception rates.  2.1 children per woman is the “replacement” fertility rate, which would keep a nation’s population stable.

Fertility are dropping world-wide at an alarming rate inching towards the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman.  The present world fertility rate is 2.4 and is declining at a steady 5.25% per decade. At this rate the whole world will be below replacement rate within 30 years.  Once below it seems no county has been able to get it back up despite its best efforts. In other words we will face a world economy of constantly contracting markets. A company with contracting markets is in trouble. Economies with contracting markets are similarly in trouble.  There is time to correct this (one generation) but so far no nation has figured out how to do it.

What follows is fertility and contraception rates for 

  • The regions of the world, rank-ordered by rates of fertility
  • Individual countries, further divided into two: 
  • The six most populous countries, that together make up more than half the world’s population
  • 12 notable individual nations


All the Regions of the World, Rank-Ordered by Fertility Rates

Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest regional  fertility rate in the world at of 4.7, which despite an average drop of 0.5 children per decade. Its contraception rate is 33%, steadily rising from 15% in 1990.  At present rates it would take more than 40 years for this region to drop below replacement fertility rates.  In the meantime, its young people will migrate to the high-income economies of the world. 

Central/South America has a steadily falling fertility rate, now at 2.9, and a contraception rate of 75%.

Middle East/North Africa has a fertility rate of 2.84 which has plateaued for a decade but may be falling again. Its contraception rate is 58%. 

South Asia has a fertility rate of 2.4 but is in a steady downward trend likely to drop below fertility within a decade.  Its contraception rate is 52%.

East Asia/Pacific nations has a steady fertility rate of 1.8, and a contraception rate of 76%.

The Russian Federation has a steadily increasing fertility rate, now at 1.75 combined with an increasing rate of contraception, now at 68%.

North America has a fertility rate of 1.73 and an average contraception rate of 76%

Western Europe/EU  has a fertility rate of 1.6 (steady rate). The average contraception rate is 74%.


6 Most Populous Countries, Rank-Ordered by Fertility Rates

Together these six nations contain more than half the world’s population.

Pakistan (212 million) has a 3.65 fertility rate; a drop of 46% since 1977 when its decline began.  It dropped 15.4% in the last decade. It is likely to take 20 years before it will drop below replacement rate.

Indonesia (268 million) has a fertility rate of 2.34, a drop of 59% since 1960; between 1999 and 2009 it remained unchanged but dropped again — by 6.4% in the last decade. Though its rate of decline is lower, it will likely drop below replacement around the same time as Pakistan, in 15 to 20 years.

India (1.35 billion) has a 2.24 fertility rate which is a drop of 60.7%, very steady slope of decline: 20% drop in the last 10 years.  It will drop below replacement rate soon.

US (327 million) has a 1.8 fertility rate. This is the lower end of a bandwidth it has maintained for almost 50 years. Its contraception rate is at 76%.

Brazil  (209 million) has a 1.74 fertility rate; a drop of 71% since 1960 when rates started falling. Its rate of decline seems to be falling off. Its contraception rate is at 80%.

China (1.68 billion) now has a 1.68 fertility rate, a slow but steady increasing rate in the last 20 years.  However, it has a serious male-female imbalance. Given its draconian abortion policies, its contraception rate of 90% to 86% over the last decades renders comparisons with other countries problematic.

The US, China and Brazil have similar fertility rates and are significantly below replacement rates. India and Pakistan are falling steadily while Indonesia, though getting close to replacement rates is moving downward at a slowing rate. 


13 Other Notable Countries (Ranked A-Z)

Canada has a 1.5 fertility rate. It dropped to replacement rate in 1971, dropping further to 1.5 by 2000 and staying there since. Its contraception rate has risen steadily to 85%. It has a strong immigration culture.  

The Czech Republic’s fertility rate grew by 44% between 1999 and 2017, or by 12.4% in the last 10 years. Its contraception rates though highly variable have always been high— between 95 and 69%.  Its most recent rate is 86%.

Hungary now has a fertility rate of 1.53 rising from 1.23 in 2011 (a rise of 24.4 % in 6 years), combined with a decreasing rate of contraception, now 61 % — a significant decrease from 1993, when it was 89%. 

Ireland has a fertility rate of 1.8, fluctuating between this and 2.0 during the last 20 years. It’s rate of contraception is now 73%. 

Italy has a fertility rate of 1.34 and a contraception rate of 65%.

Japan has a fertility rate of 1.4 and a contraception rate that is dropping significantly, now at 40%.  

Mexico was at 2.157 in 2017 and likely has already dropped below 2.1. Its rate of contraception is now at 67%, having risen steadily from 39% in the mid 1970’s to around 70% by 2000. 

Poland has a 1.4 fertility rate. It is one of the few countries with contraception rates that seem to be dropping: 75% in 1977; 73% in 1991 and 62.3% in 2014.  

Russian Federation has a steadily increasing fertility rate of 1.75 combined with an increasing rate of contraception, now at 68%. This might be explained by a shift from abortion as the main means of family planning during the Communist era to contraception now. Russia has had a 52.3% growth in fertility since 1999, which includes a 24.4 % growth in fertility rate since 2007.  In 1999 the fertility rate was 1.157 (the lowest in the world at the time). Now the Russian rate is closing in on Ireland (1.81). However Russia’s hopes for a rise in Russian-speaking people’s fertility may not be happening.  

Singapore has a fertility rate of 1.16 and a contraception rate of 62%. It had a punitive 2-child policy decades ago but when fertility fell to  1.4 in the mid-1980s its government reversed course, almost reaching replacement in 1998 but since falling back even lower. 

Slovak Republic  has a fertility rate of 1.5%, 16.5% increase in the last decade and 24.3% growth in last 15 years.  Its rate of contraception is among the highest, at 80%.

Spain  has a fertility rate of 1.3 , up from a low of 1.16 in 1995 then to a high of 1.45 10 years later, but now down again to 1.3 Its  contraception rate was at 78% in 1978, and is now at 65%. 

Sweden has a fertility rate of 1.85 and a contraception rate of 75%, masked by what is likely the highest teenage abortion rate in the world – more than 2/3 of teen pregnancies end in abortion.


For the good of the disappearing child, 

Pat Fagan Ph.D.

An Embarrassing Truth

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A few years ago, in Budapest, I delivered a paper at a major conference convened to find the best programs to increase fertility rates. All Europe was grappling with below-replacement fertility levels, some dire. Low fertility rates lead to labor force shortage which leads to economic slowdown. It is a serious issue and is changing the make-up of nations and driving migration patterns across the developed world, despite governments best efforts.   Cabinet-level ministers and top civil servants of Western and Central Europe all spoke on “what each country had done to make it easy for mothers to exit the marketplace to give birth and reenter sometime later”, admirable, but the answer to a different problem. None of the countries had achieved replacement levels (nor has any nation since).

My paper focused on levels of religious worship and intact marriage, the two factors that deliver above-replacement fertility. Married couples have more children, and those who worship weekly even more. I finished speaking and their response? Not a single comment, challenge, or disagreement: only an embarrassed silence.

Their embarrassment stemmed from the form of family these countries have chosen, the secular family: married, remarried, divorced, out of wedlock parent, and cohabiting.  This family is source of the fertility crisis. The “embarrassing solution” is the always-intact-weekly-worshipping family. Not only does it outdo the modern secular family on fertility, it thrives on every other measure that concerns government: education, health, longevity, care of the elderly, good citizenship and tax revenues.  It is by far the least troublesome and least costly family, on crime, abuse (physical and sexual), addiction and long-term health care costs.

Since the always-intact-weekly-worshipping family is the solution, how should a democratically elected government treat it?  The answer is simple: protect it. Ensure it has the same resources as the secular family but with the freedom to use them their own way. It’s simple justice.  This minority (the always-intact-weekly worshipping family) delivers the most in human and social capital outcomes. So, investing in their freedom makes economic and social policy sense.  

But what differentiates them from the majority is their sexual morality, which they are intent on passing on to their children.  This is big when it comes to education, for sexual norms are implicit in the teaching of literature, history, art, economics and about religions and moral codes.  Thus, though the minority delivers the most, it is alien to the majority in its need to educate its children in its own ways.  

Decent governments and the ‘traditional family’ both need to persuade the majority that freedom in education for this minority benefits everybody. 

[1] Singapore is one of the most telling examples.  Though a market-based economy with free elections, Singapore had a draconian two-child policy decades ago, in which the whole family lost all social welfare benefits, including free education, if they had a third child. The policy worked — too well.  Fertility rates dropped but too much. The government then reversed course and worked to stimulate fertility. It has failed miserably. Singapore’s present fertility rate  is 1.16 or 42% below replacement, and its labor force shrinkage intensifies. This trend is well advanced in all the  economies of the world.

Chastity at Harvard, Catholic or Baltimore Community College©

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For college presidents and their students, decadence is the societal context in which the grand task of education now takes place:

  • a widespread disregard of traditional sexual moral teachings, 
  • a falloff in marriage, 
  • an exodus from the churches, 
  • a rise in cohabitation
  • 50% of first births out of wedlock, 
  • a million abortions a year, 
  • universal cohabitation before marriages, 
  • epidemics of STDs, 
  • pornography, 
  • sex trafficking, 
  • homosexual ‘marriages’ and LGBTQ.

As always on matters sexual the stakes are extraordinarily high: choices made today shape adult and children’s lives forever and change their communities.  The passions in play, lust and anger, are very powerful. Given these conditions what is a good college leader to do?  How to tackle the issues of chastity and marriage?

  • First, lay the groundwork (see below) on the relationship between freedom and the Commandments and the thriving of their students over a lifetime.  
  • Second, establish the relationship between mastery of one’s sexual capacities and the greatness of the institution of marriage (the sexual in its fullest expression) — all in the service of the children they will bring into existence.

A major purpose of an education is to cultivate the long view of life. The dean of a business school has a relatively easy time getting a business student to see himself as the head of a thriving business 20 years from now. The college president has a much more daunting task in helping students envision their personal lives 15 and  20 ahead: their future family and how their choices on sex and marriage will help or harm their children as nothing else will. These children will embody the choices they make. The greater the president the more compelling he will make his case.

Freedom and the Ten Commandments

When college presidents speak, they teach and the loftier the issue, the more inevitable the moment of confronting or dodging the issue of God.  Assuming they are rational they will, at minimum, permit that everything in creation comes from God and is good and positive. Soon enough this leads to the question of why God chooses to be so negative in most of His Commandments?  

Pope John Paul II’s answer  applies.  He describes the commandments as a behavioral floor below which we may not go, because below this floor we yield our freedom, and, as it were, put ourselves in prison.  We harm others when we break the commandments, but we harm ourselves even more by corrupting ourselves. Any analysis of history, ancient or recent, shows that going ‘below the floor’ leads to disaster: lying, cheating, stealing, rape, murder, affairs, backbiting, betrayals, overindulgence and addictions, the passions unbridled (lust, anger, envy, overindulgence, laziness, conformity).

Above the floor, by contrast, lies the wide-open space we are made for, freedom the way the Creator ordained it, with the right and capacity to do any good within our reach. Above the floor every individual, every couple, every family, community and nation thrive. Long term flourishing is found only there.  It does not take religious faith to see that, just honesty.

The simple image below applies to students at Harvard as much as to students at any community college. It summarizes the dynamics of the floor of the forbidden vs the open sky of the positive available to us.

Sex within the Commandments

Even non-Christians will agree that Christ began a sexual revolution.  He changed the “Old Law” and forbade divorce; He raised the bar on adultery by pointing out that a man commits adultery in his heart by looking at a woman lustfully.  Every man knows what He meant, and every wife or girlfriend, betrayed by the way her man looks at another woman, knows it too — all women know it, across all cultures, all religions and no religion. It became a universal once it was made authoritatively clear by Christ. 

As Christianity spread His family-sexual revolution spread — unnoticed because it was not Christianity’s goal but its fruit.  And Western civilization thrived on it, and now wilts in retreat.

To slip ‘below the floor’, though easy, if not quickly reversed, leads to immense and intense suffering for all involved, and spreading, wrecks the local community. Sex is extraordinarily powerful above or below ‘the floor’, for good or for ill.

The data of the social sciences continuously illustrate (and cannot but illustrate) the way God made man and how he thrives. Thriving demands a minimal greatness in the relationships between men and women on matters sexual.  

Confidence in God

For young believers at college, as they figure out how to thrive in a decadent society, the issue is likely one of not yet trusting God and His commandments on matters sexual: many suspect that everything related to sex is better and easier and more enjoyable outside God’s way.  Their conclusions will depend on whether they (and their teachers) take the long or the short view. Most older folks who have ‘seen it all’ and have their own long-term view, are more likely to agree that Christ’s sexual revolution enables human thriving. 

Back to Harvard and the social sciences.  The data continuously support the case for confidence in God’s way. For instance, college students should hear that the data repeatedly illustrate that those who were virginal at marriage and who worship God weekly enjoy the sexual intercourse the most.  Furthermore, those who have the self-mastery to practice natural family planning have superior outcomes in intercourse, communications in marriage and in success in raising their children. These data are little known (most social scientists are embarrassed by them) yet, if God’s way is best, they are most appropriate. But to accept them you need the long-term view.

For the good of the child, the future of society.

Patrick F Fagan, Ph.D.

President, Marriage and Religion Research Institute

February 14 (Valentine’s Day), 2020 ©

Live Below Your Means

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In the late 1970’s there was a dinner in Washington DC, attended exclusively by psychotherapists who came to honor a man they considered the greatest therapist among them.  

After many speeches extolling him, one therapist asked him “What is the one piece of advice you would give to us, as therapists?”   His answer surprised everyone: “Live below your means.” If you live at — or worse — above your means, ‘billable hours’ drives your practice. Rather than serving your client you sacrifice their best to your bank account.  [Of course, this applies to all professions.]

The same advice, “Live below your means”, also holds for parents. What children need most from their parents is their time.  Time given is attention given. In family life and in marriage, time is love. Deliberately “living below your means” affords time for family dinner, for hours with the children, for walks with your spouse, for family gatherings.  

“Live below your means” is a strategic choice of monumental import that will enrich generations.  Children need their parent’s time more than their money. Time together results in affection, confidence and a great outlook on life and will greatly influence whom they choose to be their spouse. Real wealth is time for what is most important.  

Seeming to give their children less, parents are really giving them a gift for which they will be eternally grateful.

Living below your means has another effect:  It grows the family bank account!

The families live below their means will rebuild the nation while those who live above their means will impoverish the nation!  

For the good of the child, the future of mankind,

Pat Fagan, Ph.D.



Building Patterns That Work: Festivals, Thanks and Taboos

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The breakdown in cultures worldwide stems from two phenomena: the technological fruits of science and the sexual revolution — deliberately fomented by some — but ever-ongoing because of contraception which really is a new biotechnology.  Combined, these have massively disrupted the patterns of human relationships at the sexual, mating, marrying, family, community and national levels. The old patterns — worked out over centuries and embodying the hard-won wisdom of many generations —- resulted in rhythms and rituals that made life predictable, peaceful and much more enjoyable. They survived because they worked.

These patterns are all but gone in many parts of society – most especially in the inner cities where their absence is their great poverty, for most of the poor there have the material comforts of the middle classes of a half-century ago, but do not have the patterns of peaceful life.  This dis-ease is spreading across income levels and across the world because new cultures have not evolved that can subject the technological to the needs of man.  Instead man is serving the “needs” of the technological.  The core functions of society have been upended and turned inside out. The tool has become the tyrant.

The needs of mankind scream out for new patterns of human relationship — new mores —- to make modern life easier to live, so that life is predictable, relationships are easier, and the pace of life is humane. One modern success, at the national level, is the emergence of August as an annual month of rest and relaxation in France and some contiguous countries.  That pattern is emerging because it works well and is a form of festival.  It is enjoyable and predictable; relationships are easier and the pace of life is humane.

As the world becomes more fruitful in agriculture and material goods those who live the good life of marriage and family centered around the worship of God will be the ones with the most surplus time and the gut instinct of how to envelop technology, subjecting it into a deliberate time-pattern so that man, woman and child are better served.

Effective cultural patterns involve both festival and taboo. For instance, time patterns are needed for when the use of personal mobile phones are acceptable and not. A few years ago I met a very wealthy family whose members, on arriving home for evening dinner at the same time each night, all put their cell phones in a big beautiful bowl in the entrance hall. For this hard-working family, home was for relationships, rest, relaxation, quite reflection or study. Phone use was taboo except for a small window of time later in the evening and even that had a strict ending time. Friends and colleagues all knew of this family’s pattern and quickly adapted. Their evening started with a daily “festival”, family dinner — learning what had happened to each that day, supporting and enjoying each other.  Thanksgiving framed the meal, before and after, with a mindful prayer to God for all they had received that day and thanks for each other’s existence.  What family does not its own way of containing digital technology in patterns that works daily for them to bring peace, rest and relaxation in a welcome, honored rhythm.

When such a pattern is well established taboos come into effect: it is a matter of disgust that a family member would violate the pattern.   Festival and taboo work hand in hand in a vibrant culture.

Families can reach out to local, like-minded families and cooperate in rekindling festivals that work well for them. Every vibrant culture has major festivals celebrating its iconic events and symbols.

Families, just like nations, need festivals that serve and honor virginity, marriage and motherhood.  Romance can be well served by St Valentine’s Day done well by those youth who know how to give their hearts ‘whole and not in parts’. Done well it would honor virginity, which honoring would have to be subtle, else sexual delicacy — of the essence of virginity — would be missing and the ‘honoring’ would be absent.

Motherhood is honored somewhat but Mother’s Day needs to become a much greater national festival; and Father’s Day needs augmenting, maybe with a masculine competitive twist with an emphasis on those fathers who qualify for the honor of ‘patriarch’.

Man needs the revival of the worship of God  — the weekly day-long celebration of key relationships — with God in worship, then with family over a nicer meal, then with friends, topped-off in favorite forms of relaxation together.  The Sabbath really is the weekly festival of thanks and enjoyment. Modern man needs this regular quiet time. One major obstacle is the large retail corporation. They are “big pigs to swallow” — technological behemoths to envelop in a rhythms of time.  Some smaller corporations pull it off:  interestingly, Chick Filet is the most profitable fast food chain but only operates six days a week.

Festivals will gradually emerge as those that work at a local level become apparent.  When they fill a big human need well the word will spread — one of the benefits of the new technologies!

Virginity, Motherhood and Culture

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Culture is like the fisherman’s net you have seen on sunny beaches.  When you lift one knot the other knots follow. This is how we rebuild culture: one person at a time, pulling a few others next to him: parents pulling children; friends pulling friends, teachers pulling students, — and when we are blessed, pastors pulling all.  

What causes this ‘pull’ between us?  Admiration, respect and joy in knowing the magnanimous one who attracts us.  

Mapping America, illustrating the strengths and weakness of the people of the US, shows that the most compellingly attractive people among us are those who have experienced the most love – the love of the intact married family, and love of God in weekly worship.   This the data show.

All living cultures have a religious core and hold women to be sacred, most especially in their virginity and motherhood.  Guarding that sacredness gives strength to families and gives to women a confidence in themselves as creators of life. This confidence is that strength only they can transmit in turn to each one of their children.   A child with such a confidence-giving mother is a gift to all.  

That is why we need those sacred cultural spaces devoted to virginity and motherhood. Men, who need to be adept at building this devotion, can bask in the confidence that this project is so powerful that a whisper sounds louder than an explosion.

 This admiration by men is joyful and gentle. It is fullness of desire in masculine form.  Such men must also be dangerous, with the danger that equips protectors of women and children. There is another space that cultivates that dangerous side of men.

Building such a culture is a task that will make men noble. It will bend the industrial, the technological and the digital to honor our women and give us the space where they can aspire to be their most attractive and men aspire to be their noblest. 

It is time to start weaving nets and pulling knots.  

For the good of the child, 

Pat Fagan, PhD

Magnanimous Humility: Rescuing Greatness from Pride

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Can a father teach his son to pursue greatness humbly? Alexandre Havard, an expert on magnanimity and formerly a professor of law at the Sorbonne, insists magnanimity is humble.  Otherwise magnanimity (the pursuit of great things) festers into pride and self-centeredness. 

I once had a professor of psychology who was commissioned by a major international health organization to lead a research team on a major child issue. This was his highest professional honor, but he mentioned it every few lectures in a self-aggrandizing way that weakened his capacity to inspire us. 

True greatness places itself at the service of others. Had he been humble, he would have used his great accomplishment to show us how to aspire to similar heights in our chosen specialties.  Who knows who among us would have become even greater. We did learn much from him and he was generous in other ways. But what opportunities our professor missed; with a humble core, how great he would have been. A savvy father wants his son to understand this difference.

In the absence of personal contact with great humble men and women, stories can instruct and inspire our children, as happened with a family friend.  Her parents divorced when she was six and she grew up as an only child in an irreligious, radical-feminist household.  Today she is a wonderful wife and mother of a large family that is extraordinarily close and competent, causing all who know them to marvel at her accomplishment, even more so considering her upbringing.

One day, discussing books with us, she mentioned she had recently handed her teenage son the novel ‘Meet the Austins’ without telling him what the book meant to her. It’s a pleasant story about a family with an understanding, nurturing mother. It had captured the imagination of our friend when she was sixteen and it became her goal in life to raise a family like the Austins. 

When her son finished the book, she asked him,

   “How’d you like it?”

    He said, “That’s us!”

Without knowing it, he had just given his mother a memory she has treasured ever since. And for us, he taught the power of stories to change lives.

The author of Meet the Austins cultivated her greatness to create a story that made it possible for a 16-year-old to aspire to her own singular greatness.  

Savvy parents make sure to have many inspiring stories in their home library collection.

For the good of the child, and the future magnanimous society,

Pat Fagan, 

P.S. I would welcome the titles of books and stories you recommend (

Magnanimity: The Father Who Honors His Son

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Just as Spartan mothers told their sons to “Return with your shield or on it!” so too, great parents tutor their children in greatness, each child in his own way.

Public honors were the motivator for the great men of Greece, and to this day, we are used to drawing the best out of each other in sports: to win an Olympic gold is an honor that spurs athletes to ever-greater achievements. The great modern father teaches his son to strive in all areas of his life, not only in sports but also in his favorite subjects, his chosen field of work, in the arts, and in his areas of special gifts.  These battles extend the boundaries of his son’s soul — ultimately in the service of others. 

He teaches his son that in life you never coast. You’re either going uphill or sliding down.  You cannot coast on an inclined plane. Some try by moving sideways, but gravity distorts that journey.

Great fathers, families, schools and societies are aware of this “inclined plane” and make it clear that happiness comes from leaning into the hill. By adolescence, the well-tutored boy knows deep in his bones, the nature of this internal battle … small but, at times, intense and, like the Spartans, ever-ongoing.  

The father begins with his very young child by the way he plays with him. Taking delight in him the father draws out excellence — in a way the son loves! It might be to throw the ball a bit further, or straighter or faster.  The son who delights in his father, will push himself to that “little excellence” in order to see his father’s joy. A small honors for a small thing, but that is how the masculine “bond of doing” grows between father and son.

Though the time will come when being honored by his father alone is not sufficient, the father is prepared for this transition and teaches his son how to seek other men the son admires, men who will also draw the best out of him, and to whom he says: “I want to learn from you. What do I need to be permitted to do that?”  On being told the boy responds: “As soon as I am ready, I will be back for that honor!” Thus, the father has taught his son a strategic lesson: how to seek the one who can help expand his heart in his pursuit of excellence, and the father gets him to repeat this again and again during adolescence. 

In our times we need a civilization dedicated to excellence and can build it by seeking to be honored by those within our reach whom we hold in highest regard.  Imagine such a culture of such “honor seeking”: all seeking to be honored by those they admire and all bestowing honors on those who come to them. Such a civilization starts with fathers loving their toddlers enough to play ball when they are tired after a hard day’s work.  Such are the magnanimous men who raise magnanimous sons.

For the good of the child, the future of society,

Pat Fagan, PhD

What a Son Needs to Win a Great Woman

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To win a great woman a boy must become a great man. The question then becomes: does his father know how to help him become a great man? How can an ordinary father grow a great son?

Many a man has known a great woman, yet did not win her because, out of fear, he failed to pursue her.  Every man understands this, both the brave man who has risked it all (and won or lost) and the timid man who did not dare.  The battle to take the great action required at these “make it or break it” moments is won or lost privately, deep in the heart.

The great man is “a big-hearted man” in the way the Greeks meant it: magnanimous.  “Magnus animus,” a great soul, a soul capable of daring great things.

The Greeks thought that magnanimity, “great soul-ness,” was a virtue meant only for extraordinary men capable of taking on great things.  For Aristotle and the Greeks, the ordinary man was not capable of being magnanimous.

But Aquinas expanded Aristotle’s understanding of magnanimity, explaining that the “ordinary man” can be magnanimous by doing ordinary things extraordinarily well for noble reasons.  Thus, an ‘ordinary working man’ can become a great father by doing fatherly tasks very well. Playing ball with his three-year-old, he can lead his little boy to pitch or kick the ball with all the flair his three years are capable of.[1]  By enjoying his son’s efforts (the boy will sense any indifference) the father becomes magnanimous. He develops a bigger heart and soul in himself and in his son by humbly placing himself at the service of the heart of his young son. As he looks at his three-year-old he sees within a powerful twenty-year-old in the making.

Dr. Tim Gray, co-founder of The St. Augustine Institute, in his lecture “The Virtue of Masculinity[2] tells a  story that brings to life this ‘magnanimity in small things’.  His 8-year-old son is on bat in the last moments of a Little League baseball cliffhanger: opponents ahead by one; he is the last hope of his team and now with two strikes, carries the honor of his team in his last swing. Will he be daring or fold in fear? He gives it his all and smacks it squarely. He is the hero of the hour.  In the crucial moment he pushed aside his fear of failing and went for the full-bodied swing.  Magnus animus. If he keeps this up, 20 years from now he will have won a great woman.

In the Father Son Project, the whole purpose of the sexual formation of the son is to help him become a great husband (a great lover of his woman) and a great father (a man capable of making his children great).  Therefore, the Father Son Project is also about growing a great heart in each father, urging him and teaching him how to lean into these small “make it or break it” moments with the hearts of his children.


[1] Giving great importance to magnanimity in small things, even making it a way of life, The Catholic Church made a Doctor of the Church of a twenty-four-year-old nun, Therese Martin, for her life’s work on this topic.  Her “doctoral dissertation” has become an international bestselling small paperback, The Story of a Soul.

[2] This lecture is an insight-laden response  to the subversive  “Toxic Masculinities” project of the American Psychological Association.

Acedia‘s Effect on the Use of Social Science

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I have often wondered why 25 years of strong data has made no difference to the Congressional debate on marriage, family and religious practice.  This week I was introduced to the phenomenon that explains a lot, acedia, the opposite of magnanimity or big heartedness. Acedia has no truck with data that disturbs. It seeks only pleasure.

Throughout history acedia has often accompanied prosperity.  The widespread presence of acedia among Roman higher classes scared Caesar Augustus into enacting marriage laws with draconian penalties for adultery. All this to reform the family life of the elite of Rome.

Acedia was a grave concern for the ancient Greeks and Romans, and later the Christians (Gregory the Great and Aquinas). It is a listless softness that pursues a life full of pleasures, leading in turn to passivity.  It has four major characteristics:

  • An inordinate amount of time spent on entertainment
  • Love of comfort in all things
  • Constant seeking of pleasure in food, drink and sex
  • Emotion overriding reason

Acedia robs people of the disposition to make the effort to achieve a desired good, a good they would like were it not for the price.

This passivity towards the good-not-pursued leads to:

  • Sadness / depression
  • A growing dislike of the particular good
  • Anger with those who pursue that good
  • Hatred of the good or of those who pursue it

Apply the above to modern America. With the richest economy in world history, we, like the Romans who scared Augustus, are giving up on marriage and have few children, judging them too costly. This fear of the effort involved is seen in a passivity regarding marriage and children, accompanied by the very same stages described by the ancients:

  • An epidemic of depression. One psychiatrist said (only half mockingly) that we should add Zoloft to the water supply.
  • A growing dislike of the child not pursued: child abuse and abortion are rampant.
  • Anger at the good. Witness the Women’s March on Washington and Judge Kavanagh’s confirmation farce.
  • Finally, hatred, as in the case of abortion. Neither love nor hate at their core are emotions but actions.  To kill an unborn child is to hate it.

What has this to do with data and social sciences?

Those who have reached the acedian stages of dislike, anger or hatred have no interest in good research (the truth) and can even hate it.

Given all this, what is the role of the social sciences? For those who want to pursue the good, the social sciences can show the quickest route there.  For the young and for those with an inquiring mind about human nature, the social sciences illustrate natural law.

But the clarity of the social sciences disturbs those in the throes of acedia. Hence, many professors do not teach students how to learn from the data.

This also applies to Congress and the media.

But for those looking to understand social realities, the data of the social sciences are a source of wonder and insight.

For the good of the child, the future of the world.

Pat Fagan Ph.D.