Sunday, May 27, 2007

America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It

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.

Sigrid Macdonald, Author and Editor Ottawa, Ontario


Anonymous said...

I dunno...I'm uncomfortable with the implication of Steyn's argument: that the West must keep repopulating and that if non-white, non-western peoples repopulate more rapidly, it's a bad thing. It sounds like there is some underlying racism there on his part, including the assumption that all Muslim populations are anti-Semitic and anti-western. The world overall has an enormous population and it is growing rapidly, so the world won't end if North America doesn't repopulate but it might lose some of the power and economic dominance it currently has. That is what scares Steyn the most, and again, it sounds to me that there is racism and North American centrism behind the argument.

Sigrid Macdonald said...

Hi, thanks so much for your post.

Yes, I agree with you. In fact, I was going to come back and add something to that effect after I posted this.

I don't know what Steyn's politics are but I know he's fairly conservative and I usually don't lean in that direction. He did try to address the allegation of racism and imperialism or a centrist view in his book by saying that of course he wasn't anti-Muslim and that obviously, all Muslims aren't secretly planning to blow up airports.

We live in a multicultural era and that's good. On my own street, every second or third house is occupied by a nonwhite or non-WASP type person. I don't think there's anything INHERENTLY better about North America or Europe than any other part of the world, however, it is more industrialized. And it's very scary to think that UN statistic might be true about certain Muslim countries not wanting to even read about the West because they so disdain our way of life.

Maybe that is centrist of me. I don't value imperialism, arrogance, and the American war machine but I do highly value freedom of speech, the press, women in the workforce, representations in Congress and in business, people of all nationalities and colors trying to live together (how successful that has been is another story. Blacks in America have come a long way in the last 50 years but that's not saying much. They still have a long way to go before we can say that they are anywhere near equal. Ditto for Hispanics).

And, forgetting about politics and philosophies altogether, it's *incredibly* sad that whole continents would fail to reproduce themselves. What were we thinking? How could it possibly be a good thing if Americans or Canadians or Brits or any country is so lazy or stupid or misguided that it can't manage to replace itself?

ESPECIALLY first world countries because obviously, they will lose their power base, and as an American living in Canada, I think that's a bad thing. As I stated earlier, I am rarely in favor of US foreign policy, but I would prefer to live in North America than in Saudi Arabia or Ethiopia or India and I don't think it's racist to say that I don't want to live somewhere that is highly overpopulated, seriously devalues women, has very little middle class and not that much economic opportunity.

But I totally hear you and do agree with your point. Never meant to sound in the least bit racist myself and it certainly did come across that way in my first post.

Thanks :-) Sigrid