Wednesday, January 04, 2006
Mark Steyn has a talent for writing about societally fundamental subjects in a very readable, almost breezy, style. In this essay, he discusses the hard fact that, with the exception of the United States, the fertility rates in the nations that we call "The West" are far below the replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman, while the fertility rates among Muslims and in Muslim nations are far above that figure. Specifically:
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.
The inexorable result in all of this: not only is the world is becoming more Muslim, but the West is in a demographic death spiral. Couple these facts with Western society's unwillingness to think about their ramifications, and the odds of the whole world looking like Afghanistan under the Taliban or present-day Iran, Saudi Arabia or Egypt by the end of the 21st century become uncomfortably high. Uncomfortable, that is, if you favor classical liberal democratic society, as I do.
One of the many things I took away from Steyn's piece is that a majority of the Muslim world is absolutely convinced to the marrow that the Sharia model of the future is the correct one--yea, it is even divinely ordained, while a vocal minority of Western society (viz. Howard the Hapless Haranguer) are equally convinced that the classical liberal democratic model is the wrong one, and maybe 30% to 40% of the rest of Western society isn't sure, but in any case we should be tolerant of the Muslims viewpoint.
If you care about the kind of world your grandchildren will be living in, you'd be well advised to read Steyn's essay, and think very long and hard about the implications of what he says.