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Empty Cradles, Demographic Destiny and the Death of the West
American Thinker ^ | August 12, 2009 | Selwyn Duke

Posted on 08/12/2009 12:50:46 AM PDT by neverdem

While the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding was good cinema, it was also a big fat Hollywood fiction.  With Greece's fertility rate of 1.36 children per woman  -- well below the replacement level of 2.1 -- "big" is not a modifier demographers would associate with today's Greek families.  In fact, a more accurate film might be called My Big Fat Muslim Wedding


Worse still, Greece is no anomaly.  Long ago the cradle of Western civilization and more recently one of its backwaters, it's now part of a phalanx of Western demographic failures.  In fact, while it may seem counterintuitive to those weaned on the stuff of Malthusian nightmares, the West is facing a population implosion of historic proportions.  And the statistics are staggering.  As I wrote when reviewing the documentary Demographic Winter last year:

. . . the number of children in the world is already declining . . . .  Birthrates are now below replacement level . . . in approximately 70 countries; in Western Europe, the figure is 1.38, and in northern Italy and parts of Spain it is below 1.  As a result, Europe's 65-year-olds now outnumber her 14-year-olds, and one German province had to close 220 schools in 2006.  Children were present in 80 percent of U.S. households a century ago; that number is now 32 percent.

Although pondering demographic malaise conjures up the image of sterile Western swingers, note that this phenomenon is, in a measure, manifesting itself worldwide.  Take Eastern Europe, for example. Russia, with its birthrate of 1.4 children per woman, is experiencing a population decrease of 700,000 a year.  With an even lower birthrate of 1.22, some Lithuanian officials are concerned about the eventual disappearance of their population.  And this is mirrored in other Eastern European nations; Poland, Belarus, Ukraine, the Czech Republic and the rest are all turning in similar numbers.

The picture is no better in developed Asian nations.  Although they're still stuffing people into Tokyo subway cars like sardines, Japan's rapidly graying population contracts with a birthrate of 1.22.  South Koreans may have far more reason to bring children into the world than Kim Jong-il's captives, but their 1.2 still can't match the latter's 2.0.  And Hong Kong, not to be outdone -- but perhaps soon undone -- comes in second to last in the world with a birthrate of 1 even (only Macau ranks lower).

Even more surprisingly, the developing world is now following our lead.  For example, Uruguay, Kazakhstan and Algeria have birthrates of, respectively, 1.94, 1.88 and 1.82.  And while millions of illegal aliens still stream across our sieve-like southern border, believe it or not, even Mexico's birthrate is plummeting muy rapido.  As professional demographers have been telling us since the 1970s, the whole world is poised to experience a demographic winter. 

Yet, isn't this good news?  Aren't we dodging a real-life Soylent Green scenario of cramped, elbow-to-elbow living, strained resources and wilderness existing only in memory?  This certainly has been the prevailing view for quite some time now, but there is another, more ominous side to this story.  To quote demographer Phillip Longman, "The ongoing global decline in human birthrates is the single most powerful force affecting the fate of nations and the future of society in the 21st century."

Let's first discuss economic implications.  Normally, a civilization can be represented with a population pyramid standing right-side-up, with the youngest people at the bottom and the age increasing as you move up (okay, we'll forget pharaoh buried underneath).  So the aged would be at the very top, with lots of youngsters down below to do civilization's heavy lifting.

When birthrates collapse, however, this pyramid is turned on its head, with the elderly outnumbering the very young.  This usually means hardship, as the young often have to care for their elders.  Specifically, though, in our nation it means that the burden of paying an ever-increasing social security bill will fall on ever-dwindling young shoulders.  Worse still, it can create a vicious circle: as the young pay progressively higher taxes, the financial strain makes it even less likely that they will have children.  It's a recipe for the winding down of a civilization toward the nadir of non-existence. 

Yet there are problems even when social programs are removed from the equation.  The young and vibrant are the worker bees; they are the inventors, innovators and creators of wealth.  They drive the economy.  Of course, the elderly may take jobs out of necessity or boredom, but they can match the economic engine of a peak-working-years population little more than they could match it on the athletic field.  This is part of the reason why famed economist Adam Smith taught that decreasing population correlates with economic depression.

Now we come to the death of the West.  Many of you know that Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, the face of 1980's terrorism, has been relatively well-behaved for nigh on 25 years now.  Of course, this may be because Ronald Reagan effected a bomb-induced attitude adjustment in 1986.  Yet, such punitive action, while sometimes necessary, seldom yields a permanent change in behavior without a permanent change in vital signs.  It didn't scare Saddam Hussein or the Taliban sufficiently, that's for sure.  (Of course, they don't wear dresses, either.)  But is faint-heartedness on the part of Gaddafi the reason?  Or is there another factor?  Well, a clue can possibly be found in something he once said:

"There are signs that Allah will grant victory to Islam in Europe without swords, without guns, without conquest. We don't need terrorists, we don't need homicide bombers. The 50 million Muslims will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades."

Is this Gaddafi wearing pragmatist's clothes?  Perhaps he realizes that the West is voluntarily committing civilizational suicide, and all he need do is stay out of its way.

If so, he simply notes what civilizations from the good to the bad to the ugly always have understood, that their success largely hinges upon their ability to replenish that invaluable resource: people.  For example, the ancient Romans at one point became obsessed with the idea that they weren't creating enough babies; Joseph Stalin, hardly a pro-lifer, outlawed abortion; and the Nazis had their Lebensborn program.  And even today governments are taking note of the problem.  To name a handful, Russia, Poland, France and an Italian town are offering citizens substantial monetary incentives (i.e., cash and sometimes tax breaks) to be fruitful and multiply.  Yet it isn't working -- and for good reason: a cultural problem cannot be solved with a political solution.  Why, even demographically correct Augustus Caesar, who wielded absolute power, could not remedy the birth dearth among Roman nobility.      

This almost universal concern is warranted because a people is like a species: a failure to reproduce leads to extinction.  Now, this doesn't mean that neutron bomb-like cityscapes lie in the West's future.  More likely is that its peoples will be dominated -- and supplanted -- by other cultures.  Oh, its new master may not be Islam; it may be China, India or, even more likely, different groups in different parts of the West.  The point is that while the Third World and Asia are following in our footsteps, they are far healthier demographically and may be able to recover.  But we may soon be at the point of no return.

Now the question is, does this matter?  If you listen to the left, our demographic demise is something to be ignored when possible and applauded when not.  As Kathryn Joyce did in an incredibly snide and stupid article titled "Missing: The ‘Right' Babies," the concern about the West's baby bust is often chalked up to just "old-fashioned race panic."  The left's implication is that cultural suicide is our civilization's comeuppance. 

The irony of this is that the people extinguishing themselves are leftists, people who aren't enlightened enough to understand that their "enlightened" values will die with them.  Whether tomorrow brings us a Chinese hegemon, a worldwide caliphate or, more likely, a bipolar or multi-polar world, it may be a place ruled neither by the virtues of Christendom nor the values of those crucifying her.  When the people who birthed political correctness disappear, they won't be able to reproduce it any more than little baby libertines.  Of course, also true is that the West's glorious triumphs, such as its unprecedented respect for human rights, would also fade into history.

And this is something mature people consider.  Would the world be a better place with China as the dominant force?  If you have trouble with that one, ponder how the Chinese are currently raping Africa as they zealously exploit the continent's resources.  They are making European colonialism look beneficent.

Mature people also do something else -- they acknowledge facts.  And what bothers me about the current debate over population is the steadfast refusal to do so.  If you believe that man is a pox upon the planet, be forthcoming.  If you think he needs to cut his numbers by 90 percent, make your case.  If you want a "Planetary Regime" to control world population -- which Obama's science czar John Holdren wrote about -- stand and be counted.  But, as liberal icon Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, "You're entitled to your own opinions, but you're not entitled to your own facts."  Before debating where we should go, there must be an acknowledgement of where we are.

And where is this?  It's a phase civilizations have seen before, eerily illuminated by setting suns of their own design.  For example, even 2000 years ago, Greek weddings weren't all that big and fat.  As Greek historian Polybius wrote circa 140 B.C. when lamenting civilization's decline,

"In our time, all Greece was visited by a dearth of children and general decay of population . . . .  This evil grew upon us rapidly, and without attracting attention, by our men becoming perverted to the passion for show and money and the pleasures of an idle life."

When I ponder our materialism, promiscuity, frivolity and selfishness, our abortion-mill archipelago that churns with Nazi-like efficiency, it occurs to me that perhaps the leftists are right -- just not for the reasons they think.  It's not sins of our past that haunt us but those of our present, and maybe the euthanizing of Western civilization is, after all, our comeuppance.

Contact Selwyn Duke


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections
KEYWORDS: birthrate; deathofthewest; demographicdestiny; demography; immigration; westerncivilization

1 posted on 08/12/2009 12:50:49 AM PDT by neverdem
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To: neverdem

This is the crux of the illegal immigration and healthcare issues: our goobermint masters KNOW that our population is ageing, and in order to continue to fund their vote-buying schemes, we MUST have an influx of “new” citizens to tax.

The healthcare scheme will insure that the take the medically-expensive senior citizens out early, thereby saving tax dollars.

Sure, the leftists want control of us all, but what they really want most is their own personal power as provided by the ability to tax and then spend other peoples money.


2 posted on 08/12/2009 12:59:55 AM PDT by clee1 (We use 43 muscles to frown, 17 to smile, and 2 to pull a trigger. I'm lazy and I'm tired of smiling.)
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To: wardaddy; Joe Brower; Cannoneer No. 4; Criminal Number 18F; Dan from Michigan; Eaker; Jeff Head; ...
Obama as the Wizard of Oz

The Untouchables - We have met the Public Enemy, and he is us.

TIME FOR SECESSION

Cash for Climate - How to get your money's worth on climate change geoengineering

Some noteworthy articles about politics, foreign or military affairs, IMHO, FReepmail me if you want on or off my list.

3 posted on 08/12/2009 1:18:34 AM PDT by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: wardaddy; Joe Brower; Cannoneer No. 4; Criminal Number 18F; Dan from Michigan; Eaker; Jeff Head; ...
Obama as the Wizard of Oz

The Untouchables - We have met the Public Enemy, and he is us.

TIME FOR SECESSION

Cash for Climate - How to get your money's worth on climate change geoengineering

Some noteworthy articles about politics, foreign or military affairs, IMHO, FReepmail me if you want on or off my list.

4 posted on 08/12/2009 1:19:12 AM PDT by neverdem (Xin loi minh oi)
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To: neverdem

With the truncation of the process of sex into convenient packaged pleasures, its God-intended product becomes more rare. The Slammies being such fanatical prudes may be the main thing keeping them going. Christianity with its emphasis on bodily purity is surely the main reason why Western society burgeoned so much from the early centuries A.D. up to the early 20th century, and the modern devaluation of Christianity in the West why it has gone down.


5 posted on 08/12/2009 2:30:07 AM PDT by HiTech RedNeck (The Democrat Party: a criminal organization masquerading as a political party)
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To: clee1

Also probably why Bush went so easy on them; he was hoping, unrealistically, they would buy into a center-right bourgeois mindset and be GOP-friendly. But why would they, when the Rat lefties serve them as much instant candy as they want?


6 posted on 08/12/2009 2:32:44 AM PDT by HiTech RedNeck (The Democrat Party: a criminal organization masquerading as a political party)
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To: neverdem

45,000,000 are gone from our shores by CHOICE.


7 posted on 08/12/2009 3:27:25 AM PDT by Elsie (Heck is where people, who don't believe in Gosh, think they are not going...)
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To: neverdem

It has been pointed out in recent years that the more secular a nation becomes, the lower the birthrate. Children are no longer viewed as a precious gift from God, but as an obligation or inconvenience. The birth control pill has become Western Europe’s suicide pill. Materialistic concerns take precedence over raising children. The implications for this for the future is that atheists/secularists will continue to decrease and religious populations will continue to increase. The growth of Islam is a prime example of this demographical trend. Unless the demographics suddenly change, Europe will become a Muslim nation.


8 posted on 08/12/2009 3:45:22 AM PDT by Nosterrex
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To: Elsie
45,000,000 are gone from our shores by CHOICE.

Those are the ones we can count. Their progeny would have been perhaps three times as numerous.

9 posted on 08/12/2009 4:12:13 AM PDT by Hardastarboard (I long for the days when advertisers didn't constantly ask about the health of my genital organs.)
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To: neverdem; Albion Wilde
While the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding was good cinema, it was also a big fat Hollywood fiction.

Mark Steyn suggested that it should be "My Big Uptight Protestant Wedding," since conservative Protestants are among the groups still having large families.

Now if P.J. O'Rourke wrote the screenplay ...

10 posted on 08/12/2009 5:13:07 AM PDT by Tax-chick (Good intentions mean nothing. Incentives and constraints mean everything.)
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To: HiTech RedNeck

Also, why would they when the country they come from is already an oligarchy, and systemic corruption is the norm?

I had a 3rd-generation American-of-Mexican-descent teacher tell me that the reason she didn’t support illegal aliens or larger numbers of legal Latino immigration was the view of government that they bring with them: it is EXPECTED that the government is corrupt, and that the people are born are to serve the state.


11 posted on 08/12/2009 5:16:45 AM PDT by clee1 (We use 43 muscles to frown, 17 to smile, and 2 to pull a trigger. I'm lazy and I'm tired of smiling.)
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To: HiTech RedNeck

Also, why would they when the country they come from is already an oligarchy, and systemic corruption is the norm?

I had a 3rd-generation American-of-Mexican-descent teacher tell me that the reason she didn’t support illegal aliens or larger numbers of legal Latino immigration was the view of government that they bring with them: it is EXPECTED that the government is corrupt, and that the people are born are to serve the state.


12 posted on 08/12/2009 5:16:50 AM PDT by clee1 (We use 43 muscles to frown, 17 to smile, and 2 to pull a trigger. I'm lazy and I'm tired of smiling.)
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To: HiTech RedNeck
"When I ponder our materialism, promiscuity, frivolity and selfishness, our abortion-mill archipelago that churns with Nazi-like efficiency, it occurs to me that perhaps the leftists are right -- just not for the reasons they think. It's not sins of our past that haunt us but those of our present, and maybe the euthanizing of Western civilization is, after all, our comeuppance."

Perhaps the man has a point.

13 posted on 08/12/2009 5:22:10 AM PDT by ImpBill ("America ... where are you now?" signed, a little "r" republican!)
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To: Nosterrex

Materialistic concerns take precedence over raising children


Yup, that is it in a nutshell. We have made ourselves too comfortable. Things won’t change until that starts to change. I will say this: when Westerners fells threatened enough, watch out.


14 posted on 08/12/2009 5:26:16 AM PDT by rbg81 (DRAIN THE SWAMP!!)
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To: rbg81

The cheapening of sex is the main thing. Saudi Arabia is almost as decadent, but keeps the historic Islamic sexual taboos. It’s not going down the tubes population-wise.


15 posted on 08/12/2009 5:30:02 AM PDT by HiTech RedNeck (The Democrat Party: a criminal organization masquerading as a political party)
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To: HiTech RedNeck; neverdem

I went to check your statement about Saudi Arabia and found this cool world-birthrate map:

http://www.indexmundi.com/map/?v=25


16 posted on 08/12/2009 6:08:13 AM PDT by Tax-chick (Good intentions mean nothing. Incentives and constraints mean everything.)
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To: neverdem

Global Warming, Overpopulation, Depopulation... it’s all Chicken Little chicken$#!^ designed to panic people into supporting some agenda or other.


17 posted on 08/12/2009 7:26:10 AM PDT by steve-b (Intelligent Design -- "A Wizard Did It")
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To: ImpBill

Indeed. Marxism, Naziism, nihilism - all products of Western civ. Thanks esp. to Germany, for coming up with all the worst ideas that grew to adulthood in the 20th century. Hopefully the West will survive, but if not, can’t say its end was authored from without.


18 posted on 08/12/2009 7:27:39 AM PDT by TimSkalaBim
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To: neverdem

Thanks for the ping!


19 posted on 08/12/2009 8:19:47 AM PDT by Alamo-Girl
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To: Nosterrex
The birth control pill has become Western Europe’s suicide pill.

Ouch! Dead on.

20 posted on 08/12/2009 10:23:50 AM PDT by Albion Wilde ("Media: quit making things up." --Sarah Palin)
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To: neverdem

New tagline bump.


21 posted on 08/12/2009 10:26:30 AM PDT by Albion Wilde ("A cultural problem cannot be solved with a political solution." --Mark Steyn)
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To: neverdem

I have graduated from abortion being “just” a moral issue to it being a National Security issue.

We need to stop killing our future.


22 posted on 08/12/2009 10:30:31 AM PDT by Little Ray (Do we have a Plan B?)
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To: Albion Wilde
Oops! New tagline correction. Selwyn Duke is writing on a topic also well-explored by Mark Steyn in America Alone.
23 posted on 08/12/2009 10:32:30 AM PDT by Albion Wilde ("A cultural problem cannot be solved with a political solution." -- Selwyn Duke)
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To: Tax-chick
Mark Steyn suggested that it should be "My Big Uptight Protestant Wedding," since conservative Protestants are among the groups still having large families.

I'm wondering if that shouldn't be "Evangelical Wedding" instead of Protestant, since the mainstream Protties are onboard the "divorce/IVF/abortion/gay rights" train... that would be Epissypalians, Methodists, Lutherans, Presbys...

24 posted on 08/12/2009 10:37:29 AM PDT by Albion Wilde ("A cultural problem cannot be solved with a political solution." -- Selwyn Duke)
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To: Nosterrex
Europe will become a Muslim nation.

Make that "continent."

25 posted on 08/12/2009 10:38:38 AM PDT by Albion Wilde ("A cultural problem cannot be solved with a political solution." -- Selwyn Duke)
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To: Albion Wilde

Maybe Western Europe, but our Slavic brothers in Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, etc., will have none of it.


26 posted on 08/12/2009 10:40:01 AM PDT by dfwgator
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To: dfwgator
Maybe Western Europe, but our Slavic brothers in Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, etc., will have none of it.

Aren't they mostly Catholic?

27 posted on 08/12/2009 11:03:45 AM PDT by Albion Wilde ("A cultural problem cannot be solved with a political solution." -- Selwyn Duke)
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To: Albion Wilde
I'm wondering if that shouldn't be "Evangelical Wedding" instead of Protestant

Sure, but that would be too persnickety for a throwaway quip. Anyhow, evangelicals are a subset of Protestants.

28 posted on 08/12/2009 12:01:48 PM PDT by Tax-chick (Good intentions mean nothing. Incentives and constraints mean everything.)
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To: dfwgator; Albion Wilde

Sorry, but the statistics suggest that Poland, Czech Republic, and Slovakia are toast without massive immigration. I was surprised to find Poland had the lowest level of births, of the three, and with a falling trend.

2005-2010 (projected) fertility rate:

Poland: 1.23 (down from 1.25 in 2000-2005)
Czech Republic: 1.24 (up from 1.18)
Slovakia: 1.25 (up from 1.22)

source:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_and_territories_by_fertility_rate


29 posted on 08/12/2009 12:11:01 PM PDT by Tax-chick (Good intentions mean nothing. Incentives and constraints mean everything.)
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To: Albion Wilde

Oops. You’re right. Thanks for catching my error.


30 posted on 08/12/2009 12:34:13 PM PDT by Nosterrex
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To: Nosterrex
Thanks for catching my error.

I certainly make my share of hasty inaccuracies. Thank you for not flaming about the "grammar police!" LOL!! :-)

31 posted on 08/12/2009 2:58:32 PM PDT by Albion Wilde ("A cultural problem cannot be solved with a political solution." -- Selwyn Duke)
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To: Tax-chick
I was surprised to find Poland had the lowest level of births, of the three, and with a falling trend.

I've read many mentions in the UK press of Polish immigrants for jobs in those countries. Presumably they are the reproductive age, as well. Maybe that's a factor. Sad for the host country, so valiant in its struggle of the last century to throw off communism.

32 posted on 08/12/2009 3:02:05 PM PDT by Albion Wilde ("A cultural problem cannot be solved with a political solution." -- Selwyn Duke)
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To: Albion Wilde

Good point. It’s possible that Polish children are being born in England and Ireland instead of Poland.


33 posted on 08/12/2009 3:03:10 PM PDT by Tax-chick (Good intentions mean nothing. Incentives and constraints mean everything.)
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