Mark Steyn makes a chilling and compelling argument that we need to be more concerned about international demographics than global warming and compact fluorescent light bulbs. He enumerates the birth rates for countries around the world, starting with North America and moving on to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, China, India and Russia. Steyn claims -- and I have no reason to disbelieve him -- that Europe and Canada are failing to repopulate themselves. Some countries are really bad like Germany, Japan, Spain and Italy, which Steyn also criticizes for their left-leaning, socialist tendencies since he believes they contribute to unemployment and far too great a reliance on government.
What will happen down the road is that we will have nations, or perhaps entire continents, with such aging populations that they don't have enough young people to support them in retirement. And their tax bases will be so high that fresh blood won't want to immigrate there.
The countries that are doing very well in terms of fertility are mainly Muslim countries and that scares Steyn because of their anti-Semitism, opposition to Western ways and lack of "forward thinking." He quotes a UN statistics from 2002 that said that in one year more books were translated into Spanish than into Arabic over the last one thousand years -- pretty frightening and evidence to Steyn that the Arab world is quite xenophobic.
As an independent, I'm not prone to taking a conservative position on most issues but I do like to read all sides. And in this case, much of what Steyn argues is irrefutable in terms of sheer stats about populations. For that reason alone, I give this book 5 stars because it was a serious eye-opener for me and it was very well-written, researched and funny as hell.
However, there are some things that I don't think that Mark Steyn fully addressed. The first is that he pats the United States on the back for managing to at least have a fertility rate above 2.0. He mentions that this is NOT coming from the average 30 year old couple who live in his hometown in New Hampshire; we can thank the large number of Hispanics and Mormons for keeping the US population high. Latinos are largely Catholic so it seems that both groups in the US may be keeping the population afloat for religious reasons. Thus, it's not so much that *America* is enlightened or any different from Europe or Canada when it comes to having children or being concerned about keeping the population growing; it's the Red states (Republican women) and certain religious groups that are doing so.
Another area that I think he could have focused on more was women's rights. I've been a long-time feminist since the early 70s but I concede that ready access to abortion, more reliable birth control, women entering the workforce in large numbers and thus being able to support themselves financially, along with increased cultural and social acceptance of divorce have all contributed to these declining birth rights. Therefore it's hard to recommend that giving Islamic women more rights and equality will do anything but reduce their rate of breeding.
There's no going backward and who would want to? But we need some form of education in the schools and campaigns on television and print that will raise awareness about our declining population. So many women my age were raised with the idea that they should delay having children until they were established in their careers; and by the time they reached 38 or 40 they realized that their eggs weren't that good. All of this info needs to get out to the public when they're much younger. I don't think it's that people aren't interested in having children or in keeping the population going -- much of this is simply ignorance about the fact that we even *have* a population shortage. I grew up thinking that we were having a global population explosion. The word needs to get out and reading this book is a great place to start.