It’s the Demography, Stupid
The real reason the West is in danger of extinction.
BY MARK STEYN
The New Criterion
Wednesday, January 4, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST
Most people reading this have strong stomachs, so let me lay it out as
baldly as I can: Much of what we loosely call the Western world will not
survive this century, and much of it will effectively disappear within our
lifetimes, including many if not most Western European countries. There’ll
probably still be a geographical area on the map marked as Italy or the
Netherlands–probably–just as in Istanbul there’s still a building called
St. Sophia’s Cathedral. But it’s not a cathedral; it’s merely a designation
for a piece of real estate. Likewise, Italy and the Netherlands will merely
be designations for real estate. The challenge for those who reckon Western
civilization is on balance better than the alternatives is to figure out a
way to save at least some parts of the West.
One obstacle to doing that is that, in the typical election campaign in your
advanced industrial democracy, the political platforms of at least one party
in the United States and pretty much all parties in the rest of the West are
largely about what one would call the secondary impulses of
society–government health care, government day care (which Canada’s
thinking of introducing), government paternity leave (which Britain’s just
introduced). We’ve prioritized the secondary impulse over the primary ones:
national defense, family, faith and, most basic of all, reproductive
activity–“Go forth and multiply,” because if you don’t you won’t be able to
afford all those secondary-impulse issues, like cradle-to-grave welfare.
Americans sometimes don’t understand how far gone most of the rest of the
developed world is down this path: In the Canadian and most Continental
cabinets, the defense ministry is somewhere an ambitious politician passes
through on his way up to important jobs like the health department. I don’t
think Don Rumsfeld would regard it as a promotion if he were moved to Health
and Human Services.
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.
Speaking of which, if we are at war–and half the American people and
significantly higher percentages in Britain, Canada and Europe don’t accept
that proposition–then what exactly is the war about?
We know it’s not really a “war on terror.” Nor is it, at heart, a war
against Islam, or even “radical Islam.” The Muslim faith, whatever its
merits for the believers, is a problematic business for the rest of us.
There are many trouble spots around the world, but as a general rule, it’s
easy to make an educated guess at one of the participants: Muslims vs. Jews
in “Palestine,” Muslims vs. Hindus in Kashmir, Muslims vs. Christians in
Africa, Muslims vs. Buddhists in Thailand, Muslims vs. Russians in the
Caucasus, Muslims vs. backpacking tourists in Bali. Like the
environmentalists, these guys think globally but act locally.
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. Multiculturalism means your kid has to learn some wretched native
dirge for the school holiday concert instead of getting to sing “Rudolph the
Red-Nosed Reindeer” or that your holistic masseuse uses techniques developed
from Native American spirituality, but not that you or anyone you care about
should have to live in an African or Native American society. It’s a
quintessential piece of progressive humbug.
Then September 11 happened. And bizarrely the reaction of just about every
prominent Western leader was to visit a mosque: President Bush did, the
prince of Wales did, the prime minister of the United Kingdom did, the prime
minister of Canada did . . . The premier of Ontario didn’t, and so 20 Muslim
community leaders had a big summit to denounce him for failing to visit a
mosque. I don’t know why he didn’t. Maybe there was a big backlog, it was
mosque drive time, prime ministers in gridlock up and down the freeway
trying to get to the Sword of the Infidel-Slayer Mosque on Elm Street. But
for whatever reason he couldn’t fit it into his hectic schedule. Ontario’s
citizenship minister did show up at a mosque, but the imams took that as a
great insult, like the Queen sending Fergie to open the Commonwealth Games.
So the premier of Ontario had to hold a big meeting with the aggrieved imams
to apologize for not going to a mosque and, as the Toronto Star’s reported
it, “to provide them with reassurance that the provincial government does
not see them as the enemy.”
Anyway, the get-me-to-the-mosque-on-time fever died down, but it set the
tone for our general approach to these atrocities. The old definition of a
nanosecond was the gap between the traffic light changing in New York and
the first honk from a car behind. The new definition is the gap between a
terrorist bombing and the press release from an Islamic lobby group warning
of a backlash against Muslims. In most circumstances, it would be considered
appallingly bad taste to deflect attention from an actual “hate crime” by
scaremongering about a purely hypothetical one. Needless to say, there is no
campaign of Islamophobic hate crimes. If anything, the West is awash in an
epidemic of self-hate crimes. A commenter on Tim Blair’s Web site in
Australia summed it up in a note-perfect parody of a Guardian headline:
“Muslim Community Leaders Warn of Backlash from Tomorrow Morning’s Terrorist
Attack.” Those community leaders have the measure of us.
Radical Islam is what multiculturalism has been waiting for all along. In
“The Survival of Culture,” I quoted the eminent British barrister Helena
Kennedy, Queen’s Counsel. Shortly after September 11, Baroness Kennedy
argued on a BBC show that it was too easy to disparage “Islamic
fundamentalists.” “We as Western liberals too often are fundamentalist
ourselves,” she complained. “We don’t look at our own fundamentalisms.”
Well, said the interviewer, what exactly would those Western liberal
fundamentalisms be? “One of the things that we are too ready to insist upon
is that we are the tolerant people and that the intolerance is something
that belongs to other countries like Islam. And I’m not sure that’s true.”
Hmm. Lady Kennedy was arguing that our tolerance of our own tolerance is
making us intolerant of other people’s intolerance, which is intolerable.
And, unlikely as it sounds, this has now become the highest, most rarefied
form of multiculturalism. So you’re nice to gays and the Inuit? Big deal.
Anyone can be tolerant of fellows like that, but tolerance of intolerance
gives an even more intense frisson of pleasure to the multiculti masochists.
In other words, just as the AIDS pandemic greatly facilitated societal
surrender to the gay agenda, so 9/11 is greatly facilitating our surrender
to the most extreme aspects of the multicultural agenda.
For example, one day in 2004, a couple of Canadians returned home, to Lester
B. Pearson International Airport in Toronto. They were the son and widow of
a fellow called Ahmed Said Khadr, who back on the Pakistani-Afghan frontier
was known as “al-Kanadi.” Why? Because he was the highest-ranking Canadian
in al Qaeda–plenty of other Canucks in al Qaeda, but he was the Numero Uno.
In fact, one could argue that the Khadr family is Canada’s principal
contribution to the war on terror. Granted they’re on the wrong side (if
you’ll forgive my being judgmental) but no one can argue that they aren’t in
the thick of things. One of Mr. Khadr’s sons was captured in Afghanistan
after killing a U.S. Special Forces medic. Another was captured and held at
Guantanamo. A third blew himself up while killing a Canadian soldier in
Kabul. Pa Khadr himself died in an al Qaeda shootout with Pakistani forces
in early 2004. And they say we Canadians aren’t doing our bit in this war!
In the course of the fatal shootout of al-Kanadi, his youngest son was
paralyzed. And, not unreasonably, Junior didn’t fancy a prison hospital in
Peshawar. So Mrs. Khadr and her boy returned to Toronto so he could enjoy
the benefits of Ontario government health care. “I’m Canadian, and I’m not
begging for my rights,” declared the widow Khadr. “I’m demanding my rights.”
As they always say, treason’s hard to prove in court, but given the
circumstances of Mr. Khadr’s death it seems clear that not only was he
providing “aid and comfort to the Queen’s enemies” but that he was, in fact,
the Queen’s enemy. The Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, the
Royal 22nd Regiment and other Canucks have been participating in
Afghanistan, on one side of the conflict, and the Khadr family had been over
there participating on the other side. Nonetheless, the prime minister of
Canada thought Boy Khadr’s claims on the public health system was an
excellent opportunity to demonstrate his own deep personal commitment to
“diversity.” Asked about the Khadrs’ return to Toronto, he said, “I believe
that once you are a Canadian citizen, you have the right to your own views
and to disagree.”
That’s the wonderful thing about multiculturalism: You can choose which side
of the war you want to fight on. When the draft card arrives, just tick
“home team” or “enemy,” according to taste. The Canadian prime minister is a
typical late-stage Western politician: He could have said, well, these are
contemptible people and I know many of us are disgusted at the idea of our
tax dollars being used to provide health care for a man whose Canadian
citizenship is no more than a flag of convenience, but unfortunately that’s
the law and, while we can try to tighten it, it looks like this lowlife’s
got away with it. Instead, his reflex instinct was to proclaim this as a
wholehearted demonstration of the virtues of the multicultural state. Like
many enlightened Western leaders, the Canadian prime minister will be
congratulating himself on his boundless tolerance even as the forces of
intolerance consume him.
That, by the way, is the one point of similarity between the jihad and
conventional terrorist movements like the IRA or ETA. Terror groups persist
because of a lack of confidence on the part of their targets: The IRA, for
example, calculated correctly that the British had the capability to smash
them totally but not the will. So they knew that while they could never win
militarily, they also could never be defeated. The Islamists have figured
similarly. The only difference is that most terrorist wars are highly
localized. We now have the first truly global terrorist insurgency because
the Islamists view the whole world the way the IRA view the bogs of
Fermanagh: They want it, and they’ve calculated that our entire civilization
lacks the will to see them off.
We spend a lot of time at The New Criterion attacking the elites, and we’re
right to do so. The commanding heights of the culture have behaved
disgracefully for the last several decades. But if it were just a problem
with the elites, it wouldn’t be that serious: The mob could rise up and hang
’em from lampposts–a scenario that’s not unlikely in certain Continental
countries. But the problem now goes way beyond the ruling establishment. The
annexation by government of most of the key responsibilities of
life–child-raising, taking care of your elderly parents–has profoundly
changed the relationship between the citizen and the state. At some point–I
would say socialized health care is a good marker–you cross a line, and
it’s very hard then to persuade a citizenry enjoying that much government
largesse to cross back. In National Review recently, I took issue with that
line Gerald Ford always uses to ingratiate himself with conservative
audiences: “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big
enough to take away everything you have.” Actually, you run into trouble
long before that point: A government big enough to give you everything you
want still isn’t big enough to get you to give anything back. That’s what
the French and German political classes are discovering.
Go back to that list of local conflicts I mentioned. The jihad has held out
a long time against very tough enemies. If you’re not shy about taking on
the Israelis, the Russians, the Indians and the Nigerians, why wouldn’t you
fancy your chances against the Belgians and Danes and New Zealanders?
So the jihadists are for the most part doing no more than giving us a prod
in the rear as we sleepwalk to the cliff. When I say “sleepwalk,” it’s not
because we’re a blasé culture. On the contrary, one of the clearest signs of
our decline is the way we expend so much energy worrying about the wrong
things. If you’ve read Jared Diamond’s bestselling book “Collapse: How
Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,” you’ll know it goes into a lot of
detail about Easter Island going belly up because they chopped down all
their trees. Apparently that’s why they’re not a G-8 member or on the U.N.
Security Council. Same with the Greenlanders and the Mayans and Diamond’s
other curious choices of “societies.” Indeed, as the author sees it, pretty
much every society collapses because it chops down its trees.
Poor old Diamond can’t see the forest because of his obsession with the
trees. (Russia’s collapsing even as it’s undergoing reforestation.) One way
“societies choose to fail or succeed” is by choosing what to worry about.
The Western world has delivered more wealth and more comfort to more of its
citizens than any other civilization in history, and in return we’ve
developed a great cult of worrying. You know the classics of the genre: In
1968, in his bestselling book “The Population Bomb,” the eminent scientist
Paul Ehrlich declared: “In the 1970s the world will undergo
famines–hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.” In
1972, in their landmark study “The Limits to Growth,” the Club of Rome
announced that the world would run out of gold by 1981, of mercury by 1985,
tin by 1987, zinc by 1990, petroleum by 1992, and copper, lead and gas by
None of these things happened. In fact, quite the opposite is happening.
We’re pretty much awash in resources, but we’re running out of people–the
one truly indispensable resource, without which none of the others matter.
Russia’s the most obvious example: it’s the largest country on earth, it’s
full of natural resources, and yet it’s dying–its population is falling
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.”
And even though none of the prognostications of the eco-doom blockbusters of
the 1970s came to pass, all that means is that 30 years on, the end of the
world has to be rescheduled. The amended estimated time of arrival is now
2032. That’s to say, in 2002, the United Nations Global Environmental
Outlook predicted “the destruction of 70 percent of the natural world in
thirty years, mass extinction of species. . . . More than half the world
will be afflicted by water shortages, with 95 percent of people in the
Middle East with severe problems . . . 25 percent of all species of mammals
and 10 percent of birds will be extinct . . .”
Etc., etc., for 450 pages. Or to cut to the chase, as the Guardian headlined
it, “Unless We Change Our Ways, The World Faces Disaster.”
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
There will be no environmental doomsday. Oil, carbon dioxide emissions,
deforestation: none of these things is worth worrying about. What’s worrying
is that we spend so much time worrying about things that aren’t worth
worrying about that we don’t worry about the things we should be worrying
about. For 30 years, we’ve had endless wake-up calls for things that aren’t
worth waking up for. But for the very real, remorseless shifts in our
society–the ones truly jeopardizing our future–we’re sound asleep. The
world is changing dramatically right now, and hysterical experts twitter
about a hypothetical decrease in the Antarctic krill that might conceivably
possibly happen so far down the road there are unlikely to be any Italian or
Japanese enviro-worriers left alive to be devastated by it.
In a globalized economy, the environmentalists want us to worry about First
World capitalism imposing its ways on bucolic, pastoral, primitive Third
World backwaters. Yet, insofar as “globalization” is a threat, the real
danger is precisely the opposite–that the peculiarities of the backwaters
can leap instantly to the First World. Pigs are valued assets and sleep in
the living room in rural China–and next thing you know an unknown
respiratory disease is killing people in Toronto, just because someone got
on a plane. That’s the way to look at Islamism: We fret about McDonald’s and
Disney, but the big globalization success story is the way the Saudis have
taken what was 80 years ago a severe but obscure and unimportant strain of
Islam practiced by Bedouins of no fixed abode and successfully exported it
to the heart of Copenhagen, Rotterdam, Manchester, Buffalo . . .
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 birthrate 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%, 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.
As fertility shrivels, societies get older–and Japan and much of Europe are
set to get older than any functioning societies have ever been. And we know
what comes after old age. These countries are going out of business–unless
they can find the will to change their ways. Is that likely? I don’t think
so. If you look at European election results–most recently in Germany–it’s
hard not to conclude that, while voters are unhappy with their political
establishments, they’re unhappy mainly because they resent being asked to
reconsider their government benefits and, no matter how unaffordable they
may be a generation down the road, they have no intention of seriously
reconsidering them. The Scottish executive recently backed down from a
proposal to raise the retirement age of Scottish public workers. It’s
presently 60, which is nice but unaffordable. But the reaction of the
average Scots worker is that that’s somebody else’s problem. The average
German worker now puts in 22% fewer hours per year than his American
counterpart, and no politician who wishes to remain electorally viable will
propose closing the gap in any meaningful way.
This isn’t a deep-rooted cultural difference between the Old World and the
New. It dates back all the way to, oh, the 1970s. If one wanted to allocate
blame, one could argue that it’s a product of the U.S. military presence,
the American security guarantee that liberated European budgets: instead of
having to spend money on guns, they could concentrate on butter, and
buttering up the voters. If Washington’s problem with Europe is that these
are not serious allies, well, whose fault is that? Who, in the years after
the Second World War, created NATO as a postmodern military alliance? The
“free world,” as the Americans called it, was a free ride for everyone else.
And having been absolved from the primal responsibilities of nationhood,
it’s hardly surprising that European nations have little wish to reshoulder
them. In essence, the lavish levels of public health care on the Continent
are subsidized by the American taxpayer. And this long-term softening of
large sections of the West makes them ill-suited to resisting a primal force
There is no “population bomb.” There never was. Birthrates are declining all
over the world–eventually every couple on the planet may decide to opt for
the Western yuppie model of one designer baby at the age of 39. But
demographics is a game of last man standing. The groups that succumb to
demographic apathy last will have a huge advantage. Even in 1968 Paul
Ehrlich and his ilk should have understood that their so-called population
explosion was really a massive population adjustment. Of the increase in
global population between 1970 and 2000, the developed world accounted for
under 9% of it, while the Muslim world accounted for 26%. Between 1970 and
2000, the developed world declined from just under 30% of the world’s
population to just over 20%, the Muslim nations increased from about 15% to
Nineteen seventy doesn’t seem that long ago. If you’re the age many of the
chaps running the Western world today are wont to be, your pants are
narrower than they were back then and your hair’s less groovy, but the
landscape of your life–the look of your house, the layout of your car, the
shape of your kitchen appliances, the brand names of the stuff in the
fridge–isn’t significantly different. Aside from the Internet and the cell
phone and the CD, everything in your world seems pretty much the same but
And yet the world is utterly altered. Just to recap those bald statistics:
In 1970, the developed world had twice as big a share of the global
population as the Muslim world: 30% to 15%. By 2000, they were the same:
each had about 20%.
And by 2020?
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.
What will Europe be like at the end of this process? Who knows? On the one
hand, there’s something to be said for the notion that America will find an
Islamified Europe more straightforward to deal with than M. Chirac, Herr
Schroeder & Co. On the other hand, given Europe’s track record, getting
there could be very bloody. But either way this is the real battlefield. The
al Qaeda nutters can never find enough suicidal pilots to fly enough planes
into enough skyscrapers to topple America. But unlike us, the Islamists
think long-term, and, given their demographic advantage in Europe and the
tone of the emerging Muslim lobby groups there, much of what they’re flying
planes into buildings for they’re likely to wind up with just by waiting a
few more years. The skyscrapers will be theirs; why knock ’em over?
The latter half of the decline and fall of great civilizations follows a
familiar pattern: affluence, softness, decadence, extinction. You don’t
notice yourself slipping through those stages because usually there’s a
seductive pol on hand to provide the age with a sly, self-deluding
slogan–like Bill Clinton’s “It’s about the future of all our children.” We
on the right spent the 1990s gleefully mocking Mr. Clinton’s tedious
invocation, drizzled like syrup over everything from the Kosovo war to
highway appropriations. But most of the rest of the West can’t even steal
his lame bromides: A society that has no children has no future.
Permanence is the illusion of every age. In 1913, no one thought the
Russian, Austrian, German and Turkish empires would be gone within half a
decade. Seventy years on, all those fellows who dismissed Reagan as an
“amiable dunce” (in Clark Clifford’s phrase) assured us the Soviet Union was
likewise here to stay. The CIA analysts’ position was that East Germany was
the ninth biggest economic power in the world. In 1987 there was no rash of
experts predicting the imminent fall of the Berlin Wall, the Warsaw Pact and
the USSR itself.
Yet, even by the minimal standards of these wretched precedents, so-called
post-Christian civilizations–as a prominent EU official described his
continent to me–are more prone than traditional societies to mistake the
present tense for a permanent feature. Religious cultures have a much
greater sense of both past and future, as we did a century ago, when we
spoke of death as joining “the great majority” in “the unseen world.” But if
secularism’s starting point is that this is all there is, it’s no surprise
that, consciously or not, they invest the here and now with far greater
powers of endurance than it’s ever had. The idea that progressive
Euro-welfarism is the permanent resting place of human development was
always foolish; we now know that it’s suicidally so.
To avoid collapse, European nations will need to take in immigrants at a
rate no stable society has ever attempted. The CIA is predicting the EU will
collapse by 2020. Given that the CIA’s got pretty much everything wrong for
half a century, that would suggest the EU is a shoo-in to be the colossus of
the new millennium. But even a flop spook is right twice a generation. If
anything, the date of EU collapse is rather a cautious estimate. It seems
more likely that within the next couple of European election cycles, the
internal contradictions of the EU will manifest themselves in the usual way,
and that by 2010 we’ll be watching burning buildings, street riots and
assassinations on American network news every night. Even if they avoid
that, the idea of a childless Europe ever rivaling America militarily or
economically is laughable. Sometime this century there will be 500 million
Americans, and what’s left in Europe will either be very old or very Muslim.
Japan faces the same problem: Its population is already in absolute decline,
the first gentle slope of a death spiral it will be unlikely ever to climb
out of. Will Japan be an economic powerhouse if it’s populated by Koreans
and Filipinos? Very possibly. Will Germany if it’s populated by Algerians?
That’s a trickier proposition.
Best-case scenario? The Continent winds up as Vienna with Swedish tax rates.
Worst-case scenario: Sharia, circa 2040; semi-Sharia, a lot sooner–and
we’re already seeing a drift in that direction.
In July 2003, speaking to the U.S. Congress, Tony Blair remarked: “As
Britain knows, all predominant power seems for a time invincible but, in
fact, it is transient. The question is: What do you leave behind?”
Excellent question. Britannia will never again wield the unrivalled power
she enjoyed at her imperial apogee, but the Britannic inheritance endures,
to one degree or another, in many of the key regional players in the world
today–Australia, India, South Africa–and in dozens of island statelets
from the Caribbean to the Pacific. If China ever takes its place as an
advanced nation, it will be because the People’s Republic learns more from
British Hong Kong than Hong Kong learns from the Little Red Book. And of
course the dominant power of our time derives its political character from
18th-century British subjects who took English ideas a little further than
the mother country was willing to go.
A decade and a half after victory in the Cold War and end-of-history
triumphalism, the “what do you leave behind?” question is more urgent than
most of us expected. “The West,” as a concept, is dead, and the West, as a
matter of demographic fact, is dying.
What will London–or Paris, or Amsterdam–be like in the mid-’30s? If
European politicians make no serious attempt this decade to wean the
populace off their unsustainable 35-hour weeks, retirement at 60, etc., then
to keep the present level of pensions and health benefits the EU will need
to import so many workers from North Africa and the Middle East that it will
be well on its way to majority Muslim by 2035. As things stand, Muslims are
already the primary source of population growth in English cities. Can a
society become increasingly Islamic in its demographic character without
becoming increasingly Islamic in its political character?
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 birthrates?
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.
I watched that big abortion rally in Washington in 2004, where Ashley Judd
and Gloria Steinem were cheered by women waving “Keep your Bush off my bush”
placards, and I thought it was the equivalent of a White Russian tea party
in 1917. By prioritizing a “woman’s right to choose,” Western women are
delivering their societies into the hands of fellows far more patriarchal
than a 1950s sitcom dad. If any of those women marching for their
“reproductive rights” still have babies, they might like to ponder
demographic realities: A little girl born today will be unlikely, at the age
of 40, to be free to prance around demonstrations in Eurabian Paris or
Amsterdam chanting “Hands off my bush!”
Just before the 2004 election, that eminent political analyst Cameron Diaz
appeared on the Oprah Winfrey show to explain what was at stake:
“Women have so much to lose. I mean, we could lose the right to our bodies.
. . . If you think that rape should be legal, then don’t vote. But if you
think that you have a right to your body,” she advised Oprah’s viewers,
“then you should vote.”
Poor Cameron. A couple of weeks later, the scary people won. She lost all
rights to her body. Unlike Alec Baldwin, she couldn’t even move to France.
Her body was grounded in Terminal D.
But, after framing the 2004 presidential election as a referendum on the
right to rape, Miss Diaz might be interested to know that men enjoy that
right under many Islamic legal codes around the world. In his book “The
Empty Cradle,” Philip Longman asks: “So where will the children of the
future come from? Increasingly they will come from people who are at odds
with the modern world. Such a trend, if sustained, could drive human culture
off its current market-driven, individualistic, modernist course, gradually
creating an anti-market culture dominated by fundamentalism–a new Dark
Bottom line for Cameron Diaz: There are worse things than John Ashcroft out
Mr. Longman’s point is well taken. The refined antennae of Western liberals
mean that whenever one raises the question of whether there will be any
Italians living in the geographical zone marked as Italy a generation or
three hence, they cry, “Racism!” To fret about what proportion of the
population is “white” is grotesque and inappropriate. 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%,
Since the president unveiled the so-called Bush Doctrine–the plan to
promote liberty throughout the Arab world–innumerable “progressives” have
routinely asserted that there’s no evidence Muslims want liberty and,
indeed, that Islam is incompatible with democracy. If that’s true, it’s a
problem not for the Middle East today but for Europe the day after tomorrow.
According to a poll taken in 2004, over 60% of British Muslims want to live
under Shariah–in the United Kingdom. If a population “at odds with the
modern world” is the fastest-breeding group on the planet–if there are more
Muslim nations, more fundamentalist Muslims within those nations, more and
more Muslims within non-Muslim nations, and more and more Muslims
represented in more and more transnational institutions–how safe a bet is
the survival of the “modern world”?
“What do you leave behind?” asked Tony Blair. There will only be very few
and very old ethnic Germans and French and Italians by the midpoint of this
century. What will they leave behind? Territories that happen to bear their
names and keep up some of the old buildings? Or will the dying European
races understand that the only legacy that matters is whether the peoples
who will live in those lands after them are reconciled to pluralist, liberal
democracy? It’s the demography, stupid. And, if they can’t muster the will
to change course, then “What do you leave behind?” is the only question that