Thursday, January 05, 2006

A Deficit of Babies

Most people reading this have strong stomachs, so let me lay it out as baldly as I can: Much of what we loosely call the Western world will not survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our lifetimes, including many if not most Western European countries.”

Thus the brilliant Mark Steyn began his remarkable piece in The New Criterion reprinted yesterday by the online Opinion Journal. His story of demographics, Islamic radicalism, and Western weakness is a must read for us all. I’ve excerpted several of Steyn’s paragraphs in an effort to summarize his powerful arguments.

The basic problem is that Western nations are largely concerned about the secondary impulses of society--government health care, government day care, government paternity leave instead of the primary ones: national defense, family, faith and, most basic of all, reproductive activity. "Go forth and multiply," is fundamentally important because if you don't you won't be able to afford all those secondary-impulses, like cradle-to-grave welfare.

The design flaw of the secular social-democratic state is that it requires a religious-society birthrate to sustain it, and secondary-impulse societies are truly feeble at dealing with a primal force like Islam. "Civilizations die from suicide, not murder"—as Arnold Toynbee put it. Thus, while Islamism is the enemy, this war is really about our lack of civilizational confidence.

The progressive agenda--lavish social welfare, abortion, secularism, multiculturalism--is collectively the real suicide bomb. The annexation by government of most of the key responsibilities of life--child-raising, taking care of your elderly parents--has profoundly changed the relationship between the citizen and the state. At some point--I would say socialized health care is a good marker--you cross a line, and it's very hard then to persuade a citizenry enjoying that much government largesse to cross back.

But how does a country pay for all those benefits? In Western societies the model has been that those who work fund the benefits for those who do not –- children, the sick, and the elderly. It’s obvious that the social welfare system only works if you have a goodly supply of workers. But workers start our as babies and the hard data on babies around the Western world is that they're running out a lot faster than the oil is.

"Replacement" fertility rate--i.e., the number you need for merely a stable population is 2.1 babies per woman. Some countries are well above that: the global fertility leader, Somalia, is 6.91, Niger 6.83, Afghanistan 6.78, Yemen 6.75. Notice what those nations have in common?

Now look at the Western world. The United States hovers just at replacement rate with 2.07 births per woman. Ireland is 1.87, New Zealand 1.79, Australia 1.76. But Canada's fertility rate is down to 1.5, well below replacement rate; Germany and Austria are at 1.3, the brink of the death spiral; Russia and Italy are at 1.2; Spain 1.1, about half replacement rate. That's to say, Spain's population is halving every generation.

By 2050, there will be 100 million fewer Europeans, 100 million more Americans--and mostly red-state Americans. (In the 2004 election, John Kerry won the 16 with the lowest birthrates; George W. Bush took 25 of the 26 states with the highest.)

Demographics is a game of last man standing. Between 1970 and 2000, the developed world declined from 30% of the world's population to 20%, while the Muslim nations increased from about 15% to 20%. Europe is significantly more Islamic, having taken in during that period some 20 million Muslims (officially). What will Europe be like at the end of this process?

The al Qaeda nutters can never find enough suicidal pilots to fly enough planes into enough skyscrapers to topple America. But the Islamists think long-term, and, given their demographic advantage in Europe and the tone of the emerging Muslim lobby groups there, they're likely to wind up with dominance just by waiting a few more years. The skyscrapers will be theirs; why knock 'em over? The CIA is predicting the EU will collapse by 2020. But by 2010 we'll be watching burning buildings, street riots and assassinations in Europe on the network news every night.

In his book "The Empty Cradle," Philip Longman asks: "So where will the children of the future come from? Increasingly they will come from people who are at odds with the modern world. Such a trend, if sustained, could drive human culture off its current market-driven, individualistic, modernist course, gradually creating an anti-market culture dominated by fundamentalism--a new Dark Age."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where do you find these nutty authors?


6:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog- had heard similar comments earlier today- think on Prager. I totally agree.
Thanks Bill.


8:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


As usual you've found some one-track-minded writers who conform nicely to your view of the world (Europeans are doomed, Islamists are the "enemy", Welfare sucks, Liberals are to blame etc. etc. etc.)

You've touched on a fascinating subject (geopolitical change over the next century) and, as usual, you ignore the most important aspects of it.

First, Europe has, on the whole, managed to thrive and prosper for thousands of years, and has managed to cope with far more challenging invasions than that posed by the current breed of Islamic militants. It will continue to do so.

Second, how can you even start to discuss this subject without mentioning China, a country where the demographic shift in the last decade brought about by rapid urbanization and industrialization, dwarfs all the other things you talk about? Could it be because the rapid growth being seen there is occurring in an environment which doesn't quite fit your model? The eastward shift of the world's center is in progress and your recipe for dealing with it (let's have more kids) ain't going to stop it.

We've been top dog with more money and guns than anyone else for some time now, but eventually it's going to end. The message is (1) figure it out (i.e. take your head out of the sand, (2) deal with it, and (3) recognize it's going to be OK.


8:29 PM  
Blogger Bill Lama said...

Welcome back, and I applaud your attempt to raise the level of your discourse. However....It would be nice if you could concentrate on what I actually write...As Medved says: Focus like a laser beam.

Here, I'll demonstrate by focussing on what you said.

First, it's usual to support one's point of view using material from others who agree with you. I would hardly use Jacques Chirac to support most of my opinions on France .... although in this case he just might. Mark Steyn is a very well respected journalist ... recent winner of a major award from the Claremont Institute.

Second, Europe's past has little to do with it's current problem. Europe can only hope to pay for it's social welfare system by importing workers, mostly from Moslem countries. You see how well that is going. Those who ignore that threat do so at their peril. Tony Blair understands, the Belgians and French are beginning to wake up,...

Third, if I had wanted to discuss worldwide demographics I surely would have mentioned China. Perhaps I'll take that up in another post.

Finally, I agree that we are top dog, but unlike you, I don't see it ending. Conservatives tend to be optimistic about America.

Perhaps you will explain your worries.

See how it works? You say someting. I respond directly to your points. Try it.

1:41 PM  
Blogger fetching jen said...

I'm so glad you posted this - Steyn is a brilliant thinker.

2:46 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home