America Alone

The world is not at a loss for doomsday scenarios. During the 1970s, we were all concerned that the world would end in a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union. We were told that would exhaust the world’s oil and food resources before the current century. New worries have ascended to the top of the list of worries recently. There is always the possibility of a large asteroid smashing into the Earth and wiping out most of the life on the surface, much as a similar asteroid probably accounted for the rapid extinction of dinosaurs. Evidence is accumulating that the Earth is warming auguring significant climate change effects.

Of course, the danger of nuclear war with the USSR was real and we fortunately avoided it. This does mean that the dangers of nuclear weapons have entirely been eliminated. Predictions of natural resource shortages have proven unduly pessimistic, or at least premature. While it is certain that a large asteroid will, at some time in the future, be on a collision course with the Earth, the probability of an impact in the foreseeable future is tiny. The net effect of climate change is still speculative.

To these concerns, Mark Steyn adds one more in his American Alone. Steyn’s thesis begins with unassailable fact that much of the Western World, particularly in Europe is in demographic collapse. In order for any society to maintain it population it must have a fertility rate of about 2.1, i.e., women on average have 2.1 children. The European Union, as a whole, suffers under a weak fertility rate of 1.47 with some countries like Italy and Spain suffering with anemic fertility rates of 1.33 and 1.28, respectively. Literally, there are places in Europe which will become depopulated of ethnic European in one or two generations.

There are at least a couple of consequences of a declining and aging population. First, the generous social welfare states of Europe are dependent upon an influx of young people to support the pensions and increased medical expenses of retirees. Without such an influx these countries face economic stagnation and declining living standards. Second, culture is a reflection of the integrated perceptions and attitudes of its citizens. A demographically young culture is innovative and energetic culture, whereas a demographically older culture is likely to be risk adverse and focused on maintenance of pension checks.

Now, it is always possible that the fertility rates in Europe will undergo dramatic reversal. However, these rates have declined over decades and it difficult to foresee a circumstance that would change current trends. Moreover, Steyn argues that the European social welfare states are themselves nurture suicidal attitudes to reproduction. He writes:

“…a variety of government interventions — state pensions, subsidized higher education, higher taxes to pay for everything — has so ruptured the traditional patterns of inter-generational solidarity that Continentals now exist almost entirely in the present tense culture of complete self-absorption.”

The Muslim population is increasing the Europe due to both immigration and the high-fertility rates of immigrant populations. Steyn questions whether Europe can undergo dramatic demographic change and not undergo dramatic political change. Thanks to lavish funding of radical mosques by Saudi Arabia and others, the Muslim populations in Europe and elsewhere are becoming radicalized. Certainly, there are moderate Muslims and they probably constitute a majority, but radical Islam represents the Zeitgeist of the Islamic world.

Moreover, the self-absorption of modern secular welfare states saps culture confidence. What Steyn calls “culture exhaustion” will make it impossible for Europeans to resist the Islamic demands for deference. In Steyn’s assessment, Europe’s demographic and cultural death spiral is too far along to reverse. Before the end this century, there will parts of Europe where Sharia law is enforced. Great societies are not killed, but rather commit suicide.

Steyn writes American Alone with cleverness and humor that belies his deeply pessimistic message. America may soon represent the only remnant of Western ideals, of liberty and personal independence. The only hope Steyn offers is that the example of Europe’s demise will make obvious even to the American Left, the necessity to resist the clash of cultures. After all, a world dominated by Sharia law as practiced by radical Islamists is not that will be hospitable to gay or abortion rights, the key concerns of the modern American Left. It is not one where women will be treated with equal rights and dignity. It will represent a return to the Dark Ages, before the Renaissance and before the Enlightenment. As Steyn asserts, “…much of what we call the Western World will no survive the twenty-first century, and much of it will effectively disappear with our lifetimes.”

Abraham Lincoln described the American Civil War as a great test of democracy and liberty that would determine “if any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure.” The United States represents are far freer country with a far less protective welfare state. Nonetheless, the United States, over the decades, has moved steadily closer to the European model, though among modern industrial states it is still “exceptional.” If Steyn is correct in his assessment that European suicidal fertility rates are an inevitable outcome of the “Eutopian” welfare state, then the clash with radical Islam represents a test to determine whether a society so structured can long endure.

3 Responses to “America Alone”

  1. Frank Monaldo says:

    Overstatement is part of what makes Steyn’s style so appealing, at least to those who basically agree with him.

  2. Odette Lussier says:

    I don’t understand Mark Steyn’s problem. I mean, is he planning to be alive at the end of the century? Societies evolve in all kinds of different ways and obviously, as the Muslim immigrant populations become stakeholders in European countries, they will want to influence things their way, especially if they become the majority. So what? Doesn’t mean they will outlaw cars and bring back the camel.

    It means a hybrid society will arise, with both good and bad, not a colonial era model that the Europeans imposed everywhere coz they were just plain scared of everybody else.

    Besides, if Americans thought democracy was such a good idea, you’d think they’d be a lot more eager to vote. As it is, at least half of them can’t be bothered from one election to the next.

  3. Frank Monaldo says:

    Dear Odette,

    You ask “So what?” if Muslim populations want to influence “things in their way.” I guess that depends on what “their way” means. If it means Muslims enjoying their culture and practicing their religion among adherents that’s one thing. If it means ignoring religious freedom and using electoral power to impose Sharia Law that is another. The former represents the best in assimilation, the latter a serious problem. Steyn’s concern is that Muslims, particularly in Europe, have not embraced the tolerance inherent in current Western culture.


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