Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Civilizational Suicide Part II

It is not only the Russians and the Chinese who have a demographic problem (follow the link to "The Withering Away of Russia," "President of a Disappearing Russia," and "Cradle Robbing in China"). It is very much a European and, yes, even a North American problem. Seven million people have viewed this "Muslim Demographics" video. See what you think.

The problem with video arguments is that they generally do not support what they say with footnotes. How true are these claims? The 8.1 fertility rate among Dutch Muslims seems overstated. No country in the world has a rate anywhere near that high. Also it does not account for immigrant rates dropping once their community settles into prosperity. This video questions some of the figures.

Nonetheless, we most certainly have a problem. When I was in high school, we were warned of an overpopulation problem. The planet, we were told, could not support the world population growing as it was. They gave us the figures, made their scientific projections, and assured us that having babies was a form of planetary suicide. Here we are just one generation later, and we're vanishing from the face of the earth.

The CIA World Factbook estimates that for 2009, 104 of the 225 countries (including the EU) have a fertility rate of less than the 2.11 needed for replacing a previous generation. For example:

USA 2.05 (not the 1.6 that the video claims)
France 1.98
Sweden 1.67
Netherlands 1.66
Britain 1.66
Canada 1.58 (notice they lag far behind their liberty-oriented American neighbor)
European Union 1.51
Germany 1.41
Italy and Spain 1.31

That's Europe.

But many other countries have extremely low fertility rates. Our major geo-political competitors are also doing poorly. China has a fertility rate of 1.79 and Russia a devastating 1.41. The industrialized East is rapidly depopulating. Japan and South Korea are at 1.21. Taiwan is 1.14 and Singapore has a rate of only 1.09. Poor Eastern Europe is doing even more poorly than their cousins to the west. The entire region is reproducing itself at a rate between only 1.2 and 1.5 per couple, except for Albania, a country close to my heart, which is close to thriving at 2.01. It is not just the rich materialist nations that are declining. Poor materialist countries are also languishing. Cuba's rate stands at 1.83, and Vietnam at 1.61.

Iran is not atheist and materialist, but their fertility rate is 1.71. Perhaps oil funded social security programs are the cause.

I would not presume to speak with confidence on the situation in places like Vietnam or Chile (1.92), but what is bringing the West to this civilizational suicide is fairly obvious. It is first of all self-indulgent secular materialism. If this world is all there is and if the fundamental good is my own comfortable self-preservation, then the only reason for having children at all is to provide for one's old age when one is no longer able to work. The wealthy of course don't have that concern, and so have no need of children beyond carrying on the family name, if that is even an issue.

The welfare state removes this concern for everyone. The state provides for your old age, as does a growing economy together in conjunction with wise investments. Medicare and Social Security give you all the benefits of children without the expense and the headaches.

Lastly, there is feminism, the all purpose poison. When we break down all sorts of barriers--cultural, legal, logistical, etc.-- so that women may enter the workforce and pursue any career they choose, it is soon culturally expected that they will take this course. It also becomes economically necessary. Salaries adjust so that one income is no longer sufficient for a middle class way of life. Children become both too expensive and too inconvenient to have more than one or two of them.

The United States has by far the highest fertility rate (2.05) of all western industrialized nations (though followed closely by France at 1.98, oddly enough). My suspicion is that this has something to do with the unusually great strength of religious faith among Americans.

Catholics used to be known for their large families, but they have conformed to the culture and are pursuing their enlightened self-interest like everyone else. You still see large families with four to eight children in some Evangelical churches, but they are exceptional. If people who know the Lord and trust him to provide for their families and bless both them and the world through their families do not have but one or two children*, what hope is there that anyone else will populate our future, and thus that America and the West will have a future?

What I find most interesting about this video is the call to action for Christians at the end of it. The call to action is to evangelize Muslims (a good thing, in my view), not to have large families. Having a large family and taking the necessary steps to raise your children in godliness is a profoundly important way of loving your neighbor. With that in mind, examine yourself for what your attitudes are with regard to (1) self-indulgent secular materialism, (2) the welfare state, and (3) feminism, or the interchangeability of men and women in society. Are you part of our civilizational suicide or part of the remedy?

With a view to that, here is the first of several parts of Mark Steyn's Heritage Foundation speech, "America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It" (Jan. 10, 2007). You can navigate your way to the rest of it on YouTube. He describes how Europe is depopulating itself irreversibly and allowing itself to be replaced demographically by Muslims through immigration and much larger families.

On the demographic problem and the general civilizational collapse, you may explore this bibliography.

Bat Ye'or, Eurabia: The Euro Arab Axis.

Melanie Phillips, Londonistan.

Bruce Bawer, While Europe Slept: How Radical Islam Is Destroying The West From Within.

Mark Steyn, America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It.

Walter Laqueur, The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent.

George Weigel, The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God.

Bernard Lewis, The Crisis of Islam: Holy War and Unholy Terror.

Joseph Ratzinger, The Dialectics of Secularization.

Claire Berlinski, Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis is America's Too.

*Keep in mind that some people are biologically unable to have children or have not been able to have more than one or two. Furthermore, some people have had to limit the size of their family for medical reasons. So we can make these broad observations and judgments, but no one should jump to conclusions regarding particular couples.

1 comment:

Roundhead said...

hi David,

I've been worrying about this issue for some time now.

It is something that hits close to home, too: my parents had three children, and between us three children now grown, we have two children.

My uncle and his wife had six children: these six (one died in early adulthood, without having children) have... six children, just replacing themselves.

I personally discount the `threat' of Muslims or other religious or racial minorities getting a demographic edge through higher fertility.

From what I understand, the birth rate is going down throughout the world, even in Muslim countries.

Iran, for example, had something like average of nine children at the islamic rev. in 1979 - and now have less than four (if memory serves me correct).

Years ago, I saw Dr. William Shockley the inventor of the microchip and later a notorious eugenicist, on the `Geraldo' programme.

He was holding up a small chalk board on which he had written the fertility rates of white, middle class women (not replacement rate) and black, welfare-dependent women (much higher than replacement rate).

However, in recent years, as I understand, the birth rate of black `welfare queens' has fallen below replacement rate as well.

It is, in other words, a concern for humanity, not just Occidentals, this matter of underfertility.

btw - when I hear about the `consensus' about global warming today, I have to think back to my school days - high school and university both, in the 1980s and early 90s - and remind myself of the `peril of overpopulation.'