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Friday, January 06, 2006

The West, Demographics and Islamism

I believe many people have some awareness of the conflict between the modern liberal West and many Muslims living in Europe. This problem goes beyond the most radical Islamists and includes unassimilated elements of the population. Witness the riots in France, the beheading of Theo van Gogh or the rape sprees depicted here and here. It might be wise to wakeup.

Writer Mark Steyn talks smack here or see excerpts below:

The design flaw of the secular social-democratic state is that it requires a religious-society birthrate to sustain it. Post-Christian hyperrationalism is, in the objective sense, a lot less rational than Catholicism or Mormonism. Indeed, in its reliance on immigration to ensure its future, the European Union has adopted a 21st-century variation on the strategy of the Shakers, who were forbidden from reproducing and thus could increase their numbers only by conversion. The problem is that secondary-impulse societies mistake their weaknesses for strengths--or, at any rate, virtues--and that's why they're proving so feeble at dealing with a primal force like Islam.

Yet while Islamism is the enemy, it's not what this thing's about. Radical Islam is an opportunistic infection, like AIDS: It's not the HIV that kills you, it's the pneumonia you get when your body's too weak to fight it off. When the jihadists engage with the U.S. military, they lose--as they did in Afghanistan and Iraq. If this were like World War I with those fellows in one trench and us in ours facing them over some boggy piece of terrain, it would be over very quickly. Which the smarter Islamists have figured out. They know they can never win on the battlefield, but they figure there's an excellent chance they can drag things out until Western civilization collapses in on itself and Islam inherits by default.

That's what the war's about: our lack of civilizational confidence. As a famous Arnold Toynbee quote puts it: "Civilizations die from suicide, not murder"--as can be seen throughout much of "the Western world" right now. The progressive agenda--lavish social welfare, abortion, secularism, multiculturalism--is collectively the real suicide bomb. Take multiculturalism. The great thing about multiculturalism is that it doesn't involve knowing anything about other cultures--the capital of Bhutan, the principal exports of Malawi, who cares? All it requires is feeling good about other cultures. It's fundamentally a fraud, and I would argue was subliminally accepted on that basis. Most adherents to the idea that all cultures are equal don't want to live in anything but an advanced Western society.

The default mode of our elites is that anything that happens--from terrorism to tsunamis--can be understood only as deriving from the perniciousness of Western civilization. As Jean-Francois Revel wrote, "Clearly, a civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself."

Well, here's my prediction for 2032: unless we change our ways the world faces a future . . . where the environment will look pretty darn good. If you're a tree or a rock, you'll be living in clover. It's the Italians and the Swedes who'll be facing extinction and the loss of their natural habitat.

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, not getting any bigger, not getting any smaller--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?

Scroll way down to the bottom of the Hot One Hundred top breeders and you'll eventually find the United States, hovering 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, Italy's population will have fallen by 22%, Bulgaria's by 36%, Estonia's by 52%. In America, demographic trends suggest that the blue states ought to apply for honorary membership of the EU: 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. By 2050, there will be 100 million fewer Europeans, 100 million more Americans--and mostly red-state Americans.

So the world's people are a lot more Islamic than they were back then and a lot less "Western." Europe is significantly more Islamic, having taken in during that period some 20 million Muslims (officially)--or the equivalents of the populations of four European Union countries (Ireland, Belgium, Denmark and Estonia). Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the West: In the U.K., more Muslims than Christians attend religious services each week.

Can these trends continue for another 30 years without having consequences? Europe by the end of this century will be a continent after the neutron bomb: The grand buildings will still be standing, but the people who built them will be gone. We are living through a remarkable period: the self-extinction of the races who, for good or ill, shaped the modern world.

…But it's not about race, it's about culture. If 100% of your population believes in liberal pluralist democracy, it doesn't matter whether 70% of them are "white" or only 5% are. But if one part of your population believes in liberal pluralist democracy and the other doesn't, then it becomes a matter of great importance whether the part that does is 90% of the population or only 60%, 50%, 45%.


Oroborous said...

I'm much more optimistic than is Steyn.

The problem that he outlines really comes in two flavors: Muslim nations vs. the West, and European immigrant Muslims vs. European native non-Muslims.

With the former, there's no guarantee that Muslim nations will keep a high fertility rate, and in fact there's a lot of evidence that fertility rates are ALREADY falling in the Middle East and Northern Africa - see Spengler at the Asia Times.

Further, NO, I repeat, NO Muslim nation has a robust science/R & D community, and few have any kind of significant industrial base.
Pakistan is the most technically advanced Muslim nation, but they got their nuclear tech from China, who wanted India to be bracketed by potentially unfriendly nuclear powers, in case China and India went to war again.
Iran is apparently capable of designing nuclear weapons, but their industrial and pure science research communities are advancing global knowledge in no way whatsoever.
Even further, the large earthquakes in Bam, Iran, and recently in Pakistan, show that neither Iran's nor Pakistan's societies are wealthy enough to meet even minimal Western building codes, nor are they capable of providing emergency relief for hundreds of thousands of their own citizens.
The current Presidential administration was widely and harshly criticized for what was seen as an inadequate response to Hurrican Katrina, but within two weeks, everyone had emergency housing and funds with which to buy necessities, and tens of thousands had been provided with free transportation to host cities.
Neither Iran nor Pakistan, two of the most scientifically-advanced Muslim nations, are even REMOTELY capable of doing anything like that.
They have a veneer of narrow technical ability over societies which are technologically deficient.

Therefore, it's extremely likely that the West will continue to hold a very large military advantage over the potentially teeming hordes of Muslims, for generations to come.
Also, the West has an enormous ability to increase productivity through technological advances, whilst the Muslim nations cannot, which over time will greatly increase the already vast gulf between Western standards of living, and those of Muslim peoples.

This latter point is ESPECIALLY important, because the nations at the heart of Islam, those of the Middle East, are able to support their ever-larger populations only because of oil revenues.
However, the oil revenues CANNOT LAST, both because they'll eventually run out, and because it's likely that for environmental reasons, the West will move towards alternative ways to power private transportation.
If worldwide demand for oil were to decrease by 30%, due to alternatively-fueled vehicles in the U.S., Europe, and So. America, the price of oil might plummet to $ 10/bbl - a price at which the petro-nations CANNOT MAINTAIN their welfare states. Since many of the petro-nations have large populations and the same kind of cradle-to-grave security that Steyn knocks in Europe, albeit at a lower level of support, the Muslim nations might well descend into infighting and political turmoil.

While that outcome also has some negative implications for the West, it's certainly preferable to the "global Muslim takeover" scenario.

As for Muslims vs. "everyone else" in the European theatre, it wouldn't surprise me to see a few nations become Muslim-majority, but it would surprise me if many did.
I rather expect to see massive bloodshed, similar to that which occurred in Kosovo, but ten times worse, as many European societies reach a breaking point of native tolerance for those who persist in staying "the Other".

Bret said...

Oroborous wrote: "The problem that he [Steyn] outlines really comes in two flavors: Muslim nations vs. the West, and European immigrant Muslims vs. European native non-Muslims."

I think Steyn is talking about something far different. For example, he says, "that's what the war's about: our lack of civilizational confidence" and "yet while Islamism is the enemy, it's not what this thing's about. Radical Islam is an opportunistic infection, like AIDS: It's not the HIV that kills you, it's the pneumonia you get when your body's too weak to fight it off."

In other words, if it wasn't Muslims it would be some other version of fascism or intolerant belief system. We have (or at least Europeans have) become so tolerant of intolerance that we've sown the seeds of our own destruction.

It may not take a fearsome arsenal to bring down civilization. A few well placed nukes, smuggled in through shipping ports, could set us back centuries and perhaps even end civilization.

Pakistan, NK, and Iran either already have or are about to have those nukes. So does France. France has quite a powerful arsenal and a large commercial nuclear capacity which could be converted to produce a large number of bombs. So what happens when France is majority muslim? Especially if the muslims are of a similarly ideological strain as the car burning, rioting ones?

The other aspect to Steyn's argument is (I think) that the choice is not between us having a (a) progressive society and a (b) conservative christian one. The choice may well be between a (c) conservative christian one with some progressive trappings or a (d) conservative totalitarian one (islamic or otherwise) with nothing progressive whatsoever. And unless we're willing to accept that we are (c) and that it's a good thing and fight for it, the world will end up in a new dark ages as (d).

That's obviously a worst case scenario and will take a while to happen and probably has a somewhat low probability of actually happening, but it's such an ugly and horrific outcome that perhaps it's worth putting some energy into avoiding it.

Oroborous said...

Steyn does appear to believe that it's "bad culture" which has led to the "birth dearth" in the West, but it seems to me that the heart of his argument about the threat to Western Civilization is demographic, not moral.

If there were enough native ethnically-Europeans, of the right age distribution, there wouldn't be any "version of fascism or intolerant belief system[s]" - there's no inherent domestic need or attraction for such, and if the demographics for Continental European nations were right, there'd be no need to import people who hold those beliefs.

Fortunately, a "few well placed nukes" would not and could not "set us back centuries [or] perhaps even end civilization" - although such would end Muslim societies and cultures.

None of the world's big powers - the U.S., Russia, China, the UK, France, Israel - can allow nuke-smuggling terrorism.
We'd all be on the same page, the one calling for a glassy Mecca, either literally or figuratively.

If NYC, DC, LA, Chicago, Philly, SeaTac, SanFran, Boston, Baltimore, Dallas/Ft. Worth, and Houston were all completely destroyed by terrorists, it would be a crushing and staggering blow, but there would still be ZERO chance that such would end American society, or Western Civilization, and it certainly wouldn't put us back thousands of years - maybe fifteen.

Further, there's only a one-in-a-million chance that terrorists could nuke even half of those cities, much less destroy them completely.

And, let us suppose that North America were to be completely annihilated.
Europe, So. America, Australia/NZ, and Asia would still be there to carry on for human civilization, at the same high level.

Bret said...

Oroborous wrote: 'Fortunately, a "few well placed nukes" would not and could not "set us back centuries [or] perhaps even end civilization" ... and it certainly wouldn't put us back thousands of years - maybe fifteen'

Only fifteen years? That's pretty optimistic!

Let's take a specific scenario: out of the blue, a single primitive atom bomb (like "little boy") detonates in Manhattan. With it, an anonymous and untraceable message is delivered that there is a similar weapon planted in every substantial western city. The Intelligence community believes that to be impossible but can't identify where the Manhattan bomb came from. Three months later, a second bomb goes off in London.

What would happen next? I'd predict mass migration out of urban areas, unemployment above 50%, a severe economic depression, collapse of western currencies, international trade coming to a standstill, collapse of government revenues, perhaps turning Mecca to glass for good measure, martial law, and perhaps collapse of some western governments.

Let's define recovery as equivalent real GDP per capita. You think we could recover from that in only 15 years? Or do you think everybody living in urban areas would just grin and bear it, not minding that they might be incinerated without warning at any moment?

Oroborous said...

Most people wouldn't permanently move out of urban areas, especially if only two bombs went off in a three-month span.

Look at what happened in London, during the Blitz. Children left, adults stayed.

However, they wouldn't be just "grinning and bearing it", either.

Perhaps I misjudge the American mood and character, but I don't think that it would much matter if we could trace exactly who set off the Manhatten bomb - we know who doesn't like us.

Saddam was innocent of major involvement in 9/11, but that didn't save him from being caught up in the backlash.

There might be martial law, there would be a recession, unemployment might hit 10% - 15% - but that just means more bodies for the military.

If Manhattan got nuked on Tuesday, by Friday 100,000 people will have tried to sign up. 9/11 was a war-like act, but it was also somewhat ambiguous, with many people pressing for a diplomatic/policing response.
Getting nuked is unambiguous. Few adult Americans, upon hearing the news, would not know that we had just entered a militaristic, Empire-building era.

Which is why it's so funny when today's screamers shrill on about "the American Empire" and "American Imperialism" - to paraphrase John Paul Jones, "baby, we have not yet begun to Empire !!"

What we've done so far, in response to 9/11, has pretty much been "off the shelf", and without breaking a sweat. If America ramped up to WW II levels of spending and militaristic deployment of society...

And, again, under the scenario that you've outlined, EVERY advanced nation and major power would be on the same side, so the U.S. wouldn't have to replicate a Civil War/WW II level of engagement; maybe like Korea or Vietnam.

Let's define recovery as equivalent real GDP per capita.

By that standard the Great Depression only lasted nine years - by 1939 the real per capita GDP had hit 1929's levels again.
Manhattan is a great city, and provides great services to the rest of America, but nothing that couldn't be duplicated, in time.

If only Manhattan got nuked, in America, then we'd be back to where we were within three years.
If multiple cities in America got nuked, say three, then it'd take longer, but still less than a decade.

International trade only accounts for about 10% of American economic activity.

Bret said...

Well, hopefully we won't get to see who's right, but I remain unconvinced.

Hey Skipper said...

Apologies if this is a repeat ...

Mr. Steyn is a very compelling writer, always a pleasure to read.

But there is no excuse for this:

the number you need for merely a stable population, not getting any bigger, not getting any smaller--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.

When writers use numbers to bolster their argument, while so comically misapprehending them, it pretty much gut-shoots their credibility for the rest of the piece.

The comic misapprehension is this: a stable population requires 2.1 babies per woman surviving until adulthood.

In the West, women need to have about 2.2 to yield 2.1.

Any guess how many births women in Somalia, Niger, Afghanistan, et al need to yield 2.1?

But it isn't about race, or culture, but modernism.

It may well be that in post industrial nations, where children represent an unnecessary (in the material sense) expense, and women may freely choose how many children they have, no culture will sustain even replacement birth rates.

If so, what is the answer?

It isn't some caliphascistic society; as Oroborous notes, even if they should gain some Cargo Cult nuclear capability, the first time they use it will be the last time they have to worry about hadjis getting trampled, as Mecca will cease to exist.

Does it matter if humans find an answer?

Oroborous said...

I remain unconvinced that many cultures will cease to exist because their women decided not to have any babies.

We're not even sure if the dramatic decline in fertility that we've witnessed in modern societies is a permanent feature.

It may well be that the type of people who choose not to reproduce will die out, and the "breeders" will go on to have a fertility rate of between 2 - 3, starting from a smaller population base.

We won't have a definitive answer to that hypothesis until around 2030 or so, but the 2010 American census should provide some valuable clues, and the 2020 ought to be pretty conclusive.

Current American fertility statistics depend mostly on the number of children that the Boomer women had, and that generation was a transitory one, rooted in flux and turmoil.

It may well be that many Boomer women felt that the struggle for Grrrl Power was more important than having babies, (and they may well have been mostly right, if that's so), but perhaps their children and grandchildren, being comfortable with the privileges that the Boomer chicks won for them, will be more inclined to choose family over power and/or influence in the wider world.