Posted on April 30, 2024

The Far Right’s Campaign to Explode the Population

Gaby Del Valle, Politico, April 28, 2024

The threat, we are told here this weekend, is existential, biological, epoch-defining. Economies will fail, civilizations will fall, and it will all happen because people aren’t having enough babies.

“The entire global financial system, the value of your money, and every asset you might buy with money is defined by leverage, which means its value depends on growth,” Kevin Dolan, a 37-year-old father of six from Virginia, tells the crowd that has gathered to hear him speak. “Every country in the developed world and most countries in the developing world face long-term population decline at a level that makes growth impossible to maintain,” Dolan says, “which means we are sitting on the bubble of all bubbles.”

Despite this grim prognosis, the mood is optimistic. It’s early December, a few weeks before Christmas, and the hundred-odd people who have flocked to Austin for the first Natal Conference are here to come up with solutions. Though relatively small, as conferences go, NatalCon has attracted attendees who are almost intensely dedicated to the cause of raising the U.S. birth rate. The broader natalist movement has been gaining momentum lately in conservative circles — where anxieties over falling birth rates have converged with fears of rising immigration — and counts Elon Musk, who has nearly a dozen children, and Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán among its proponents. Natalism is often about more than raising birth rates, though that is certainly one of its aims; for many in the room, the ultimate goal is a total social overhaul, a culture in which child-rearing is paramount.

NatalCon’s emphasis on childbirth notwithstanding, there are very few women in the cavernous conference room of the LINE Hotel. The mostly male audience includes people of all ages, many of whom are childless themselves. Some of the women in attendance, however, have come to Austin with their children in tow — a visual representation of the desired outcome of this weekend. As if to emphasize the reason we’re all gathered here today, a baby babbles in the background while Dolan delivers his opening remarks.

Broadly speaking, the people who have paid as much as $1,000 to attend the conference are members of the New Right, a conglomeration of people in the populist wing of the conservative movement who believe we need seismic changes to the way we live now — and who often see the past as the best model for the future they’d like to build. Their ideology, such as it exists, is far from cohesive, and factions of the New Right are frequently in disagreement. But this weekend, these roughly aligned groups, from the libertarian-adjacent tech types to the Heritage Foundation staffers, along with some who likely have no connection with traditionally conservative or far-right causes at all, have found a unifying cause in natalism.


But over the course of the conference, the seemingly novel arguments for having children fade and give way to a different set of concerns. Throughout the day, speakers and participants hint at the other aspects of modern life that worried them about future generations in the U.S. and other parts of the West: divorce, gender integration, “wokeness,” declining genetic “quality.”

Many of the speakers and attendees see natalism as a way of reversing these changes. As the speakers chart their roadmaps for raising birth rates, it becomes evident that for the most dedicated of them, the mission is to build an army of like-minded people, starting with their own children, who will reject a whole host of changes wrought by liberal democracy and who, perhaps one day, will amount to a population large enough to effect more lasting change.

This conference suggests there’s a simple way around the problem of majority rule: breeding a new majority — one that looks and sounds just like them.


The solution, of course, is to have more babies. Peachy Keenan, a pseudonymous writer affiliated with the conservative Claremont Institute, urges attendees to “seize the means of reproduction” — as in, to out-breed liberals, who are already hobbling their movement by choosing to have just a couple children, or none at all. “We can use their visceral hatred of big families to our advantage,” Keenan says. “The other side is not reproducing; the anti-natalists are sterilizing themselves.”


But it’s only when the speakers get to who should have babies and how they should raise them that their deeper concerns, and the larger anxieties behind this conference, become clear.

The goal, as put by Indian Bronson, the pseudonymous co-founder of the elite matchmaking service Keeper, is “more, better people.”

But the speakers lack consensus on the meaning of the word “better,” as they do on the subject of using technology to encourage the best and brightest among us to breed.

Keenan, who has previously celebrated her sense that it is now acceptable to say “white genocide is real,” says better means conservative. Pat Fagan, the director of the Marriage and Religion Institute at the Catholic University of America, says good children are the product of stable, two-parent Christian households, away from the corrupting influences of public school and sex ed. (Christian couples, he adds, have “the best, most orgasmic sex,” citing no research or surveys to support this.) To protect these households, we must abolish no-fault divorce, declares Brit Benjamin, a lawyer with waist-length curly red hair. (Until relatively recently, Benjamin was married to Patri Friedman — grandson of economist Milton Friedman — the founder of the Seasteading Institute, a Peter Thiel-backed effort to build new libertarian enclaves at sea.) And to ensure that these children grow up to be adults who understand their proper place in both the family and the larger social order, we need to oust women from the workforce and reinstitute male-only spaces “where women are disadvantaged as a result,” shampoo magnate and aspiring warlord Charles Haywood says, prompting cheers from the men in the audience.

Haywood’s final words to the audience elicit raucous applause: “The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its progeny are probably the single most destructive set of laws in American history, and all should be wiped forever,” he says before getting off stage. (A few women told me afterward they and others disagreed with Haywood.)

Notably, most of the speakers do not make a case for more immigration to counter the trend of declining birth rates. Immigrants can’t solve our population problem, Dolan says, because they’ll eventually realize they were brought here to pay into Social Security for old white people. (On X, Dolan has used the word “replacement” to refer to immigration.)

Some at the conference are interested in the genetics of the children they believe everyone should be having. Evolutionary biologist Diana Fleischman and writer Jonathan Anomaly argue that genetics are destiny. (“I shouldn’t say Good quality children,” Fleischman says after speaking at length about how people with mental illness are statistically likely to marry other mentally ill people and pass those genes along to their children, suggesting some children are indeed biologically better than others.)


Over and over throughout the conference, anxieties over the drop in birth rates — the issue that brought the speakers and audience together — gave way to fears that certain populations were out-breeding their betters. Though few speakers explicitly mentioned race, the conference provided an opportunity for those with genuine concerns about population decline to join forces with, and perhaps be influenced by, those who espouse racist or regressive views. During the second day of the conference — a closed-door, phone-off event dedicated to brainstorming ways to reverse the population crisis — VIP ticket holders mingled with Jared Taylor, the publisher of the white supremacist magazine American Renaissance, according to multiple people in attendance who wanted to remain anonymous because having their name linked to the conference would jeopardize their work.