Summary: this is the first in a new series, considering one of the most powerful geopolitical forces of our time: demographic change. This first chapter looks at one of the more interesting — even exotic — writers about these things: Spengler.
Many forces shape our world. Some work quickly, like the four horsemen — war, famine, disease, and death. Some work slowly, so that only over a lifetime does one see their effects, such as technology, evolution in political and moral standards. Some so slowly that only statistics change mark their changes, and forecast the results. Like climate change and demographic trends.
Of all the large forces changing the world, only demographic changes are often ignored. The movements of people, changes in fertility and lifespans — these are almost irresistible forces, yet often ignored by both major media and public policy. Yet these are the things that most often bring peoples into existence, or sweep them off the globe into the dustbin of history.
Among all the forces at work in the modern world, I consider the greatest to be the demographic changes. The coupled phenomena of dying cultures — fertility rates far below that necessary for replacement — plus migration of peoples from high fertility to low fertilty cultures. Few analysts study these things, compared to relatively trivial forces such as terrorism, and even fewer contemplate their causes.
One of the few is the person writing under the pseudonym Spengler for the Asia Times. One of the few original thinkers of our times, his works travel far outside the boundaries of “proper” thought and ignore the rules of linear reasoning. He was one of the first to consider the full significance of these things. Consider this excerpt from “Why Europe chooses extinction” (8 April 2003):
Demographics is destiny. Never in recorded history have prosperous and peaceful nations chosen to disappear from the face of the earth. Yet that is what the Europeans have chosen to do. Back in 1348 Europe suffered the Black Death, a combination of bubonic plague and likely a form of mad cow disease, observes American Enterprise Institute scholar Ben Wattenberg. “The plague reduced the estimated European population by about a third. In the next 50 years, Europe’s population will relive – in slow motion – that plague demography, losing about a fifth of its population by 2050 and more as the decades roll on.”
In 200 years, French and German will be spoken exclusively in hell. What has brought about this collective suicide, which mocks all we thought we knew about the instinct for self-preservation? The chattering classes have nothing to say about the most unique and significant change in our times. Yet the great political and economic shifts of modern times are demographic in origin.
Spengler speculates about the future to be carved out by these trends, and looks for their causes in the souls of nations. Their literature, their Gods.
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For more information see the new archive of major reports about demographic change.
Other articles by Spengler about demography
“Live and let die” (13 April 2002) — “Political suicide is commonplace, indeed endemic, among populations who fail to adapt to changing circumstances. The popularity of suicide bombing among young Palestinians has much in common with other instances of large-scale suicide in recent years.”
“Why Europe chooses extinction” (8 April 2003) — “Demographics is destiny. Never in recorded history have prosperous and peaceful nations chosen to disappear from the face of the earth. Yet that is what the Europeans have chosen to do. Back in 1348 Europe suffered the Black Death, a combination of bubonic plague and likely a form of mad cow disease, observes American Enterprise Institute scholar Ben Wattenberg.”
“Why radical Islam might defeat the West” (8 July 2003) — “The day is coming when great nations will find their numbers dwindling from census to census; when the six-roomed villa will rise in price above the family mansion; when the viciously reckless poor and the stupidly pious rich will delay the extinction of the race only by degrading it; whilst the boldly prudent, the thriftily selfish and ambitious, the imaginative and poetic, the lovers of money and solid comfort, the worshippers of success, of art, and of love, will all oppose to the Force of Life the device of sterility.”
“Catholicism – isn’t that a gay thing?” (22 August 2003) –“In 1506, the Venetian prostitutes’ guild lodged a complaint with the Signoria that homosexuality had become so prevalent as to threaten its livelihood. Civilizations in decline typically take on the characteristics of Bonobo monkeys, Nero’s Rome being the most lurid example. No precedent exists to my knowledge, though, for the priesthood to become the homosexual vanguard.”
“It’s not the end of the world – it’s the end of you” (3 February 2004) — “Americans, unlike breast-beating Greens, tend not to confound their own sense of mortality with the vulnerability of the natural world because they have chosen other means to address the matter of their inevitable death. So don’t worry, and tuck into your spotted owl.”
“Faith, fertility and American dominance” (8 September 2004) — Book review of The Empty Cradle by Phillip Longman. “This American journalist is not the first person to be horrified by declining birthrates among “modern” civilizations, and to extrapolate that anti-modernists such as evangelical Christians will eventually breed themselves into a position of global dominance. In this book, he hatches schemes such as tax incentives to encourage bigger families and save modernity from itself.”
“Death by secularism: Some statistical evidence” (2 August 2005) — “Infertility is killing off the secular world, whose ideologies – socialism, positivism, and so forth – promised an unending vista of peace and prosperity. Statistical evidence strips secularism of its progressive mask and reveals the death’s-head underneath.”
“Why nations die” (16 August 2005) –“The topic of mass extinction, particularly through environmental neglect, commands the attention of the reading public, but books that compare the present to bygone civilizations do not tell the whole story. We might be gone today, but somehow the world will survive tomorrow.”
“Do you call that an empire?” (4 October 2005) — Review of Imperial Grunts by Robert Kaplan. “The tattooed, tobacco-chewing, iron-pumping soldiers who make up much of the US Army simply cannot be compared to the soldier-scholars who made the British Empire. Therein lies the great difference between America’s global police exercise and a true empire. And as Americans have no empire, there is nowhere to extract wealth.”
“Crisis of Faith in the Muslim World; Part 1: Statistical evidence” (1 November 2005) — “Negotiating the demographic decline of the 21st century will be treacherous for countries that have proven their capacity to innovate and grow. For the Islamic world, it will be impossible. That is the root cause of Islamic radicalism, and there is nothing that the West can do to change it.”
“The peacekeepers of Penzance” (21 August 2006) — “Dwindling birth rates have turned Europeans into the walking dead, which goes a long way toward explaining why they are so reluctant to send troops to Lebanon: a people without progeny will not accept a single military casualty. Europe’s role, then, is irrelevant: all that matters is the coming confrontation between the United States and Iran.”