Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Review: America Alone

1.38 - keep that figure in mind while you bear with me a bit.

I tend to be skeptical about disaster scenarios based on statistical reasoning. Firstly, I'm old enough to remember when the fashionable disasters were the Next Ice Age, one-square-meter-per-person overpopulation, and famine deaths in the billions - the latter set to arrive without fail in 1980. Fashion disaster accessories included exhaustion of natural resources and the extinction of blondes by the year 2000.

Secondly, I've actually studied statistics and believe me there is nothing like it to give you a healthy appreciation of the old saw "Figures don't lie - but liars can figure."

So it takes a fairly simple and straightforward set of figures to impress me. Now try these on for size:

*The most popular boy's name in the cities of Amsterdam and Malmo (Sweden), Belgium, and the fifth most popular in the United Kingdom, is Mohammed.

*The Muslim population of Rotterdam is 40%.

* No European country is breeding at "replacement rate" - the rate at which a population stays stable (2.1 births per couple). The country with the highest fertility rate in Europe is Albania at 2.03.

(Check the CIA World Factbook https://cia.gov/cia//publications/factbook/rankorder/2127rank.html)

That figure I cited, 1.38, is the average fertility rate for Europe as a whole. Mediterranean Europe is worse off: Greece 1.34, Spain and Italy 1.28, below what demographers call the "lowest low" 1.3, below which no society has ever recovered.

However, the Muslim fertility rate in Europe is three times higher.

Mark Steyn has written a book around these figures, which are established facts you can ignore if you choose, but cannot deny. He has also given his interpretation of what they mean for the future, which you can argue with if you like, but you really ought to give him a hearing.

Fortunately for those of us whose eyes glaze over at statistical tables, he does this with immense wit and style. The guy's a punster! And for those who admire well-done sarcasm, he's your man.

What Steyn says the most important factors that affect the future of Western Civilization are:
1) Demographic decline
2) The unsustainability of the advanced Western social-democratic state
3) Civilizational exhaustion

1) is impossible to argue with, 2) is difficult to argue with, and 3) everybody argues about.

The demographics and economics are what they are. Reduced to the simplest model: Two couples each have one child. These two children marry and have one child. As the doting grandparents age and expect to be taken care of, you have two adults supporting one child - and four seniors. Writ large, this is the social welfare state in a condition of negative population growth.

Obviously, you need more taxpayers and caregivers and the only source is immigration. Europe has relied on immigration from Islamic countries for some time now, and they are out-breeding the native Europeans. A lot.

European countries have historically been not very good at assimilating foreign populations, and that's assuming that they want to be assimilated. As a great many incidents Steyn cites make clear, this assumption is problematic at best. The Muslim population of Europe is resisting assimilation, and the European countries don't have the will to insist on it. And why should they assimilate? In the fullness of time, Europe is going to be theirs. Then who is going to be doing the assimilating?

Civilizational exhaustion is a value judgement that a lot of people are going to argue about. "Responsible family planning" is how a friend described European birth rates. True - but irrelevant if you're the only ones being responsible.

What come through in Steyn's side-splittingly funny prose, is the conclusion that Europe is lost. Perhaps not entirely, the collapse of the first few countries may serve as a wake-up call to the rest to rally and preserve a somewhat diminished Europe. And Steyn, like myself, does not think that the Eastern Europeans have struggled to regain their independence and sovereignty just to lose it again.

Now if this doesn't alarm the Europhiles among you (it doesn't alarm Timothy Garton Ashe, he thinks it's a fine idea) and you're about to write me off as a xenophobic, racist American imperialist, then consider this. The US birth rate is quite healthy at just around replacement rate - but the Red States are far outbreeding the Blue States. There's going to be a Republican majority that'll be impossible to beat by and by. Now are you scared?

Steyn avoids facile explanations for the difference in birth rates. Conservatives would like to believe it has something to do with religion, but the religious Italians are being outbred by the secular Swedes.

He does think is has to do with the easy living in European welfare states causing self-absorbtion, immaturity and a crisis of confidence. Though I find this an attractive explanation, it doesn't explain why a country like Saudi Arabia, where virtually the entire native population is on some kind of welfare, has such a robust birth rate (4.0).

He also avoids the simplistic, bloodthirsty suggestions of the "rubble doesn't trouble" crowd. The choices he outlines are:
1) Submit to Islam
2) Destroy Islam
3) Reform Islam

The first two are our choice, the third is theirs - if they have the incentive.

If you think the first two look crappy and the third nearly impossible, I agree. Do you see a fourth? Many European and American intellectuals do. It amounts to "Blame the Jews" and "Blame America".

He makes some suggestions on how to go about encouraging Islam to reform which are worth a look at, but at bottom they amount to:

1) Recognize that our civilization is under attack - and that we could lose
2) Stop committing civilizational suicide by subsidizing our enemies and stand up for ourselves

And if you don't buy any of this, read the book anyway - it's funny.

Nota: I have used figures from the CIA Factbook which differ slightly in some cases from the ones Steyn cites, but not enough to affect the points made.


  • At 10:20 PM, Blogger Eduardo said…

    I've read this issue of demographics being destiny before. It is bothersome to me.

    What amazes me is the sheer volume that the radical left has to strain from their mouths in order to make bedfellows of the Islamist radicals. The former will be the first eliminated by the latter in any established Caliphate.

  • At 6:05 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    There are so many examples in history of short-sighted people making disastrous alliances for short-term advantage: Western industrialists who supported the Bolsheviks, the Irish who invited the English in to help win a local squabble no one remembers anymore, the Polish magnates who went over in a body to the Swedish invaders, etc. We could make a party game of listing them.

    In fact, that's not a bad idea...

  • At 3:10 PM, Blogger tcobb said…

    The radical left was dealt a huge blow by history, and they've never quite recovered from it. Marxism predicted that capitalism would lead to extreme poverty, and this would finally result in the masses rising up and seizing the means of production, thus beginning a golden age of equality and prosperity for all. And most importantly, this was inevitable because of simple economic forces which humans were powerless to change.

    But this never happened. They are pretty much in the position of cultists who believed that on day X the world would end, and then day X passed and the world was still here, or like many Germans after the first world war who believed that that they lost the war because they were stabbed in the back by sinister elements in their own country.
    Nihilism is a common response to having one's faith broken.

    And so it is with the left. There is a hatred that comes of shattered expectations. They hate capitalism, inequality of income, but most of all they hate the peoples and cultures that didn't evolve as Marxism said they should; the ones who rejected the Utopia that could have been.

    Its really not surprising that they feel an affinity for any group who despises Western cultures and wants to destroy them. Not at all.

  • At 9:32 PM, Blogger Vanishing American said…

    There are some of us that don't accept Steyn's fatalism on the Islamic question. His three alternatives (destroy, reform, or assimilate Islam) omit the alternative that worked for the West for hundreds of years: containment and separation from Islam, as proposed here:
    Containing and separating worked fine until our liberal elites got the idea to throw the gates wide open back in 1965. Now all of us in the West are paying the price for their foolish openness.
    I know there are always some who say 'we can't turn the clock back' but given the choices we face...

  • At 9:14 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    I had a look at the site and, with respect, I just don't see that happening.

    Isolating populations approaching one-third of the world's? What about ship traffic through the Suez canal and the Straits of Malacca? Not to mention the oil they have to sell that makes life cheaper for us - and the Europeans can't do without period.

    Whether mass deportations from America is a good idea or not, it presents massive logistical problems and politically it ain't going to fly anytime soon.

    And, this is not just the Islamic-majority countries we're dealing with, but Europe with a growing and increasingly influential Muslim population as well.

    And most importantly - they've made it plain that they won't be ignored. That oil money buys weapons from Russia and China and countries like Iran have leaders just crazy enough to use them.

    Was "containment and separation" a policy for centuries, or simply the result of trans-oceanic travel being expensive and difficult? In any case, unless technological civilization falls, we're all neighbors now whether we like it or not.

  • At 1:04 PM, Blogger John said…

    "Containment and separation" would be, especially for Europeans, a revolutionary change in policy. And what do revolutions always require? YOUNG PEOPLE!

    They always need young people with energy, a bit of craziness, and nothing to lose.

    Europeans are not even seriously contemplating the relatively easy steps that would ease their plight. Particularly things that would revitalize their stagnant economies and thus provide jobs for restless Muslim young men, and some hope of paying for promised retirement benefits for their aging populations.

    There's another requirement before there is a possibility of, say, deporting troublemakers or interning them. You have to believe in what you are trying to protect. Believe in it to the point of being willing to fight and kill for it. This leaves out Europe. They no longer believe Western Christian civilization is worth fighting for.

    America could conceivably do such things, but only by over-riding the will of our "Blue State" types, who have also lost the will to fight.

  • At 6:20 AM, Blogger Francis W. Porretto said…

    Islam can be quarantined. The trick is locating the conceptual means: economic boycott.

    The Islamic world has nothing of value to anyone except cheap labor and crude oil. If the Western world could persuade itself to forgo these things, we could reduce the Islamic countries to Paleolithic levels within a single year.

    We can let them enter a contestant or two in the Miss Universe pageants. It's always good for comic relief. But we must deprive them of the revenues that permit them to export their ideology, using technologies and products they could never have originated or produced.

  • At 11:34 PM, Blogger Alaric said…

    This whole "muslims taking over euro's" reminds me faintly of when the Irish were taking over America during the turn of the 20th century. Do you remember? Well of course not...we weren't there. But we all can see the effect of this on our culture.

    For one we celebrate St. Patricks day! Now how is that related to our original English/German descent? And how many people have you met in you life with an Irish last name, or first and thoughs pretty green/hazel/or blue eyes that seem to be thier trademark as a race.

    I mylself have Irish decent of some sort (along with Swiss, German, French, native american and god knows what else.)and have a blue eyed father, and a red haired brother.

    Maybe in europe, if thoughs damn liberal euro's don't start making thier local Islamic community start working in the sweat shop to survive. Which I suggest they should to kill of some of thier desire to breed above that of the Europeans. The European population may find some of the culrural and physical affects similar to that within our country from Irish immigration.

    Personally I don't think that it is an unuasual thing for history to witness the outwipe of a culture due to immigration. It has happened numerous times, and will happen again. The human species is one for a nomadic life. We tend to take over one another like weeds in a flower bed. As always it is sad to see one type of flower change or give way to another, but the new bud's always give way to another, new extravagance.


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