Monday, January 02, 2006

The death spiral of the West

This blog is about Western Civilization. That said, let me deviate from Canadian politics at the moment to confront a larger problem of the West: birth rates.

Mark Steyn has some fascinating thoughts on the subject. Read the entire speech.

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.
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What’s the better bet? A globalization that exports cheeseburgers and pop songs or a globalization that exports the fiercest aspects of its culture? When it comes to forecasting the future, the birth rate is the nearest thing to hard numbers. If only a million babies are born in 2006, it’s hard to have two million adults enter the workforce in 2026 (or 2033, or 2037, or whenever they get around to finishing their Anger Management and Queer Studies degrees). 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 percent, Bulgaria’s by 36 percent, Estonia’s by 52 percent. 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 sixteen with the lowest birth rates; George W. Bush took twenty-five of the twenty-six states with the highest. By 2050, there will be 100 million fewer Europeans, 100 million more Americans—and mostly red-state Americans.

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This ought to be the left’s issue. I’m a conservative—I’m not entirely on board with the Islamist program when it comes to beheading sodomites and so on, but I agree Britney Spears dresses like a slut: I’m with Mullah Omar on that one. Why then, if your big thing is feminism or abortion or gay marriage, are you so certain that the cult of tolerance will prevail once the biggest demographic in your society is cheerfully intolerant? Who, after all, are going to be the first victims of the west’s collapsed birth rates? Even if one were to take the optimistic view that Europe will be able to resist the creeping imposition of Sharia currently engulfing Nigeria, it remains the case that the Muslim world is not notable for setting much store by “a woman’s right to choose,” in any sense.

Contraception, abortion, selfishness, and the decline of religious values, are arguably killing the West. Our civilization is, undoubtedly, in crisis. If we cannot replace ourselves, who will?

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