Iran – a key state to watch as the new world order evolves

Summary:  This post looks at four views of modern Iran.  Spengler paints a picture of despair and hopelessness.  The second indicates a profound rot in Iranian society.  The next two give evidence for optimism.


  1. Sex, drugs and Islam“, Spengler, Asia Times, 24 February 2009
  2. World Drug Report 2008“, UN office of Drugs and Crime
  3. Education and the World’s Most Rapid Fertility Decline in Iran“, Mohammad Jalal Abbasi-Shavazi, Wolfgang Lutz, Meimanat Hosseini-Chavoshi, and Samir K.C., International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA, 18 May 2008 (20 pages)
  4. Religiosity and Islamic Rule in Iran“, Gunes Murat Tezcur, Taghi Azadarmaki, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, June 2008
  5. Afterword
  6. For more information

Also of note (no excerpt provided):  “Iran and the Future of Afghanistan“, Greg Bruno and Lionel Beehner, Council on Foreign Relations, 6 February 2009.

(1)  Spengler sees only reasons for pessimism about Iran

Sex, drugs and Islam“, Spengler, Asia Times, 24 February 2009 — Excerpt:

… Until very recently, an oil-price windfall gave the Iranian state ample resources to pursue its agenda at home and abroad. How, then, should we explain an eruption of social pathologies in Iran such as drug addiction and prostitution, on a scale much worse than anything observed in the West? Contrary to conventional wisdom, it appears that Islamic theocracy promotes rather than represses social decay.

Iran is dying. The collapse of Iran’s birth rate during the past 20 years is the fastest recorded in any country, ever. Demographers have sought in vain to explain Iran’s population implosion through family planning policies, or through social factors such as the rise of female literacy.

But quantifiable factors do not explain the sudden collapse of fertility. It seems that a spiritual decay has overcome Iran, despite best efforts of a totalitarian theocracy. Popular morale has deteriorated much faster than in the “decadent” West against which the Khomeini revolution was directed.

“Iran is dying for a fight,” I wrote in 2007 (see Why Iran is dying for a fight, 13 November 2007.) in the literal sense that its decline is so visible that some of its leaders think that they have nothing to lose.  Their efforts to isolate Iran from the cultural degradation of the American “great Satan” have produced social pathologies worse than those in any Western country. With oil at barely one-fifth of its 2008 peak price, they will run out of money some time in late 2009 or early 2010. Game theory would predict that Iran’s leaders will gamble on a strategic long shot. That is not a comforting thought for Iran’s neighbors.

Two indicators of Iranian morale are worth citing.

First, prostitution has become a career of choice among educated Iranian women. On February 3, the Austrian daily Der Standard published the results of two investigations conducted by the Tehran police, suppressed by the Iranian media. … There is an extensive trade in poor Iranian women who are trafficked to the Gulf states in huge numbers, as well as to Europe and Japan. “A nation is never really beaten until it sells its women,” I wrote in a 2006 study of Iranian prostitution, Jihads and whores.

A country is beaten when it sells its women, but it is damned when its women sell themselves. The popular image of the Iranian sex trade portrays tearful teenagers abused and cast out by impoverished parents. Such victims doubtless abound, but the majority of Tehran’s prostitutes are educated women seeking affluence.

Only in the former Soviet Union after the collapse of communism in 1990 did educated women choose prostitution on a comparable scale, but under very different circumstances. Russians went hungry during the early 1990s as the Soviet economy dissolved and the currency collapsed. Today’s Iranians suffer from shortages, but the data suggest that Tehran’s prostitutes are not so much pushed into the trade by poverty as pulled into it by wealth.

… Second … the UN Office of Drugs and Crime estimates that Iran has as many as 1.7 million opiate addicts.” That is, 5% of Iran’s adult, non-elderly population of 35 million is addicted to opiates. That is an astonishing number, unseen since the peak of Chinese addiction during the 19th century. The closest American equivalent (from the 2003 National Survey on Drug Use and Health) found that 119,000 Americans reported using heroin within the prior month, or less than one-tenth of 1% of the non-elderly adult population.

Nineteenth-century China had comparable rates of opium addiction, after the British won two wars for the right to push the drug down China’s throat. Post-communist Russia had comparable rates of prostitution, when people actually went hungry. Iran’s startling rates of opium addiction and prostitution reflect popular demoralization, the implosion of an ancient culture in its encounter with the modern world. These pathologies arose not from poverty but wealth, or rather a sudden concentration of wealth in the hands of the political class. No other country in modern history has evinced this kind of demoralization.

For the majority of young Iranians, there is no way up, only a way out; 36% of Iran’s youth aged 15 to 29 years want to emigrate, according to yet another unpublicized Iranian study, this time by the country’s Education Ministry, Der Standard adds. Only 32% find the existing social norms acceptable, while 63% complain about unemployment, the social order or lack of money.  As I reported in the cited essay, the potlatch for the political class is balanced by widespread shortages for ordinary Iranians. This winter, widespread natural gas shortages left tens of thousands of households without heat. 

The declining morale of the Iranian population helps make sense of its galloping demographic decline. Academic demographers have tried to explain collapsing fertility as a function of rising female literacy. The problem is that the Iranian regime lies about literacy data, and has admitted as much recently. … The Iranian government’s official data claim literacy percentage levels in the high 90s for urban women and in the high 80s for rural women. That cannot be true, for Iran’s Literacy Movement Organization admitted last year (according to an Agence-France Presse report of May 8, 2008) that 9,450,000 Iranians are illiterate of a population of 71 million (or an adult population of about 52 million). This suggests far higher rates of illiteracy than in the official data.

A better explanation of Iran’s population implosion is that the country has undergone an existential crisis comparable to encounters of Amazon or Inuit tribes with modernity. Traditional society demands submission to the collective. Once the external constraints are removed, its members can shift from the most extreme forms of modesty to the other extreme of sexual license. Khomeini’s revolution attempted to retard the disintegration of Persian society, but it appears to have accelerated the process.

Modernity implies choice, and the efforts of the Iranian mullahs to prolong the strictures of traditional society appear to have backfired. The cause of Iran’s collapsing fertility is not literacy as such, but extreme pessimism about the future and an endemic materialism that leads educated Iranian women to turn their own sexuality into a salable commodity.

Theocracy subjects religion to a political test; it is hard for Iranians to repudiate the regime and remain pious, for religious piety and support for political Islam are inseparable, as a recent academic study documented from survey data.

As in the decline of communism, what follows on the breakdown of a state ideology is likely to be nihilism. Iran is a dying country, and it is very difficult to have a rational dialogue with a nation all of whose available choices terminate in oblivion.

(2)  The UN has some bleak data about drug usage in Iran

World Drug Report 2008“, UN office of Drugs and Crime — Excerpt from Section 1.2.4 about consumption of opiates:

Above average rates are reported by Afghanistan (1.4%) and Iran (2.8% of the population age 15-64). A Rapid Assessment Study (RAS) conducted by Iran and UNODC in 1999 reported that there were1.2 million regular opiate users. This figure was confirmed, when the Iranian authorities conducted a RAS among arrested addicts in 2007. The range of the latter study was: 0.8-1.7 million people.

The 2006 National Assessment Report on Problem Drug Use in Pakistan reported that there were approximately 630,000 opiate users in Pakistan, equivalent to 0.7% of the population age 15-64. Of these, around 480,000 (77%) were heroin users.2 Thus, while Pakistan’s rate of opiate use (0.7%) is below the sub-regional average, it is almost twice the global average. The prevalence rate in the Pakistan province of Baluchistan, located along the main trafficking route from southern Afghanistan via Pakistan to Iran, amounts to 1.1% and is above the sub-regional average.

(3)  Education, ferility, and education of women in Iran — reasons for optimism about Iran 

Education and the World’s Most Rapid Fertility Decline in Iran“, Mohammad Jalal Abbasi-Shavazi, Wolfgang Lutz, Meimanat Hosseini-Chavoshi, and Samir K.C., International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA, 18 May 2008 (20 pages).  Citations were removed from these excepts; color emphasis added.


A first analysis of the Iran 2006 census results shows a sensationally low fertility level of 1.9 for the whole country and only 1.5 for the Tehran area (which has about 8 million people). The lowest total fertility rate of 1.3 was recorded for Gilan and Mazandaran provinces.

In a recent study, Abbasi-Shavazi and McDonald (2006) emphasized the likely role of greatly improved female education in this trend. However, this hypothesis has not been thoroughly tested and they have not yet provided any formal analysis on this important factor. In the conclusions they express the expectation that fertility in Iran would continue to fall well below replacement level. This paper follows up on the {that} paper in two important ways:

  1. It presents fertility estimates based on the 2006 census which indicate a substantial further fertility decline; and
  2. it presents reconstructions (back to 1970) and projections (to 2030) of the population of Iran by age, sex and level of educational attainment. It decomposes quantitatively to what extent this precipitous fertility decline can be attributed to the rapidly increasing educational attainment of women, and draws more general conclusions for theories of fertility decline.

Excerpt from Section 3 — Iran’s Fertility Decline

Studies reveal that the changes in fertility in Iran during the late 1960s and early 1970s have been small. … However, Iran has experienced a phenomenal fall in fertility since the mid-1980s. The TFR declined from 7.0 in 1980 to around 5.6 in 1988. The decline of fertility was slow until the new family planning program was officially inaugurated in 1989. The TFR fell sharply as of that time, dropping from around 5.6 in 1988 to around 2.8 in 1996, and to 2.2 in 2000 (Abbasi-Shavazi and McDonald 2006). Recent estimates of fertility indicate that the TFR declined to around 1.9 in 2006.

The sharp fall of fertility in Iran since the mid-1980s deserves attention. That the decline occurred in an Islamic country is remarkable, particularly considering the sociopolitical context in Iran during and after the Islamic Revolution.

Excerpt from Section 6 — Discussion

A decline in the TFR of more than 5.0 in roughly two decades is a world record in fertility decline. This is even more surprising to many observers when one considers that it happened in one of the most Islamic societies. It forces the analyst to reconsider many of the usual stereotypes about religious fertility differentials.

While in many industrialized countries the fertility of Muslim minority populations is significantly higher than that of the women belonging to the (mostly Christian) majority populations, this may not be due to religion per se, but rather to specific social and economic characteristics of the populations compared. In Austria, for example, the Muslim fertility level is higher by a factor of two. But the Muslim women living in Austria are mostly recent immigrants or descendents of immigrants from rural Anatolia. Their educational attainment is far below that of the average Austrian woman. It would be interesting to see how the religious differentials would turn out, if controlled for at the level of education.

But the Islamic Republic of Iran not only experienced the world’s most rapid fertility transition, it was associated with a stunning increase in education and in particular female education. Young women in Iran today are almost as well educated as young men with an average of 8.4 years of schooling. This challenges another powerful stereotype, namely that Muslim societies discriminate against women for religious reasons. At least in Iran this does not seem to be the case with respect to education. And since education has been shown to be the most powerful long-term driver of emancipation, income and economic development there is reason for optimism concerning the future of Iran.

(4)  Is religion a reason for optimism about Iran?

Religiosity and Islamic Rule in Iran“, Gunes Murat Tezcur, Taghi Azadarmaki, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion, June 2008


We investigate the relationship between religiosity and support for Islamic rule in the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI). Are high levels of religiosity associated with an ideology characterized by clerical rule, supremacy of Islamic law, and state enforcement of Islam? The data come from a random sampling survey conducted in Tehran in August 2003. It covers a range of questions on religiosity, social, and political attitudes, and has a sample of 412 respondents. The analyses show that religiosity is closely affiliated with an ideological understanding of Islam in Tehran. Interestingly, political dissatisfaction does not negatively affect this association. Shi‘ism in Iran has evolved from a “world-shaking” force into a “world-legitimating” force.

Excerpt from the Discussion section

The revolution, and the regime it created, has transformed what Shi‘ism means to ordinary religious Iranians. Most remarkably, this ideological worldview appears to be highly resilient and survives among pious Iranians despite widespread political dissatisfaction. In this sense, Shi‘ism in Iran has evolved from a “world shaking” force into a “world legitimating” force (Billings and Scott 1994).

Meanwhile, these findings should not be taken as evidence for religious citizens being politically acquiescent and passive. As indicated above, they seem to make a critical distinction between the ideals of Islamic rule articulated by Khomeini and actual practices of the current governance. In this regard, pious Tehranis are not necessarily the ones who attend state-sponsored Friday prayers. Consequently, there are no a priori reasons to expect that religious Iranians are less likely to support reformers than less or nonreligious citizens.

In fact, the central strategy of the reform movement (jebhe-ye eslahat) led by the ex-president Mohammed Khatami, who is a cleric, was to generate a democratic and relatively liberal interpretation of the Islamic revolution and its ideals. For him and his followers, the principles of freedom of expression and political pluralism can be perfectly compatible with Islamic rule.

Khatamiwas fully aware that the majority of Iranian citizens is deeply pious and tailored his political discourse accordingly. He identified the greatest achievement of the revolution as its democratic spirit. His call for greater political freedom and openness was cast in a religious language and had strong appeal among religious Iranians. In this sense, religious Tehranis’ espousal of Islamic rule does not necessarily preclude their acceptance of democratic and even liberal values.

5.  Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

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6.  For more information

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp relevance to this topic:

(a)  Background Information about Iran

  1. Iran’s oil and gas wealth“, US Congress Joint Economic Committee, March 2006 (4 pages)
  2. Iran, Country Analysis Brief“, US Energy Information Agency (EIA), October 2007 (17 pages)
  3. Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities, National Intelligence Estimate, November 2007

(b)  Posts about Iran on the FM site

  1. Is Pakistan’s Musharraf like the Shah of Iran? (if so, bad news for us) , 8 November 2007
  2. War with Iran , 9 November 2007 — Why Iran is not necessarily our enemy.
  3. Is Iran dangerous, or a paper tiger? , 13 November 2007
  4. The new NIE, another small step in the Decline of the State , 10 December 2007
  5. Iran’s getting the bomb, or so we’re told. Can they fool us twice?, 16 January 2009

18 thoughts on “Iran – a key state to watch as the new world order evolves”

  1. “a profound rot in Iranian society.”

    Iran is massively overpopulated. Overpopulation and highly congested living environments does very, very bad things to humans – and modern Iranians suffer horribly from these overly cramped conditions.

    Perhaps a good way to relieve the population of Iran would be for many millions of them to immigrate abroad – if any country would have them. Iranians are on the whole intelligent and enterprising people, and thus would be an asset to many nations.

    Relatively unpopulated but very large countries like Argentina or Canada might be good choices for large-scale Iranian immigration.

    Just a thought.

  2. Robert Petersen

    I am not a fan of Spengler. He makes a lot of awful predictions the (almost) always turns out to be wrong. Like who is going to be next president of the United States (McCain, not Obama) or (back in 2004) that Russia would deploy troops to Iraq to help the Americans. He also seems to believe that demography and fertility are the only things that matters in the world.

    Nevertheless he is right about Iran. Iran is on one hand almost certainly destined to be a new regional superpower and recently displayed its technological prowess by sending a satellite into space. On the other hand Iran is also a country with a lot of terrible problems and prostitution is widespread. So much that the clergy had to sanction the establishment of “islamic” brothels in Teheran. In other words: You can go to a hooker in Teheran and remain a religious man. Talk about decadence.

    I don’t think – however – this has much to do with religion for the simple fact that I remember seeing the same signs of decay in the Eastern Europe in the eighties. Decay and corruption was widespread, people were drinking a lot and especially in Russia the population was already in steep decline. One Russian historian claims Russia lost 137 million humans between 1917 and 1991. Popular morale was a facade and nothing more, because nobody believed in anything anymore (except – in Poland – the church, which remained above the decay). I rather think this is a sign that a totalitarian state – whether fascist, communist or Islamic – is destined to fail. Its only a question of when.

    Like Lord Acton once said: “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely”.

  3. RP: Population Density per Square Mile of Countries

    According to this table from a quick Google your characterisation of Iran as over-populated seems questionable. Also, I am not sure if describing Iran as ‘totalitarian’ is all that accurate/meaningful.

    An earlier Spengler article – who clearly does have a (Christian Zionist?) bee in his bonnet about Iran – pointed out how Ahmenidijad had organised one of the largest internal population transfers in history by eliminating something like 30,000 (?) small municipalities. Clearly all is not well with the Iranian economy.

    To me it seems more like they are a country whose sense of the unfolding future is far less vivid and colourful than that of its past, making the present sandwich a sort of ‘where’s the beef?’ experience. Another way of putting it is that they are out of time, i.e. not fully in the present era.

    These things can change quickly. If there is another world war soon, I expect some of Spengler’s observations will prove prescient, in that Iran might well use it to establish a new beachhead in the current world order.

  4. I distrust Spengler, too. In this instance he is using statistical categories (birth rates, drug use, and oil prices) as metaphors of the failure of Iran’s theocracy. And I sense his reporting is biased and tendentious, aiming to bolster Israeli’s view of Iran as a dangerous enemy.

    Similar reporting about Russia in the 90’s seduced US policy-makers into short-sighted and arrogant attitudes toward Russia, and left us unprepared for Russia’s resurgence. Obama’s hints about opening dialogue with Iran indicate that current foreign policy thinkers have a more creative view, or are trying to arrive at one, of what’s going on in Iran and in south Asia in general than Spengler.

  5. What a relief to read anything attempting to understand Iran, even on a very basic level, rather than the Chicken Little Mossad Likud line. Who knew that any Islamic country had a family planning program at all?

    And of course there is no record under any regime of foreign adventurism or military aggression, none, for centuries. Hard to easily say how overpopulated the place is — density per se is a weak indicator as it seems there is a lot of desert, which is expanding, and visibly a lot of mountains. Hard to get a fix on the habitable area, but it could end up being as densely populated as California but not as fertile. And while there are 70 million people, there are 80 million sheep and goats. If the choice for Iranian males is either bestiality or paying smart women for sex, no wonder the opium pipe is winning;-) (poor taste, but irresistible).

    And of course, there is not and never was any reason for Iranians to be in favor of Al-Quaeda and the like, since as Shiites they are not even considered Muslims by fundamentalist Sunnis. More of an opportunity for the US, if we choose to seize it.

  6. Spengler’s case seems a little overstated, and some of his analogies are a bit misleading. Considering Iran is right next to the world’s biggest opium producer and a transit point on the way to Europe, one should expect a relatively high use of opiates. Further, comparing that to the US consumption of heroine seems to be reaching to put Iran in a negative light versus the US. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in 2003 14.9% of Americans abused narcotics in the past year, 8.7% using drugs other than marijuana (“hard drugs”). Couple that with the rising use of painkillers and high use of other drugs relative to the stagnation of heroine use, and it seems that the US has some worrying trends concerning drug use among adults. I won’t throw any more numbers out, but I think just focusing on heroine use (which, by the by, is one of a variety of opiates, including prescription pain killers and raw opium), Spengler is massively understating US drug use to make his point that democracy is healthier than theocracy. It’s bad statistics, and I suspect he willfully chose not to explore the analogy as honestly as possible (especially since he focused on drug use over the last 30 days). Also, the fact that he is using the 2003 survey when the 2007 one is readily available ( is similarly suspicious. Perhaps the fact that there is a great table here ( that details US drug trends over the five years from 2002 to 2007 was too likely to cast dispersions over one of the key indicators his social decay theory (I highly doubt Iranians have access to the same array of drugs that we have in the US). I don’t want to pretend that Iran doesn’t have any problems with drugs, but there needs to be some scholarly honesty here about our problems too.

    On top of that, he doesn’t seem to explore the idea that rather than theocracy, living as a pariah in world affairs has had a direct impact on how Iranians view their national prospects. I suspect the idea that the Israelis or the Americans might attack any day now has pushed the populace towards a here and now mentality rather than the direct failure of Islamic theocracy. But then again, that’s just speculation. There could be any number of reasons why Iran is changing like it is, best to be wary of anyone trying to plug their political viewpoint into the explanation slot.

    Similarly, the articles trying to put Iran in a good light (any one notice the NYT’s, Cohen especially, effort to put on a good PR face for Iran last week?) should also be mistrusted. There is no reason to suspect that just because a population is educated or achieves a degree of gender parity that they are going to be our friends. We should not dehumanize our political adversaries, but we shouldn’t be lionizing their virtues either.

  7. Well said, underscore! Education, or democratic government, or infant mortality, or human rights ranking, or drug use, have nothing to do with whether a country is “our friend” or not. Spengler’s statistical observations on Iran might well be duplicated in Egypt.

    Americans have this quaint belief that our way of life, our form of government, is the only way, and that any country that chooses a different way is to be pitied or distrusted.

  8. Fertility rates have been falling worldwide in the face of the onslaught of “family planning” funded by major western elitists and governments.

    Its a simple truism that to populate is to govern, because the future belongs to those who provide its people.

    Fertility control is very simply a method of warfare carried on by other means, with the aim of decimating the population of the people to be controlled. It does take time, but once the artificial two child limit has taken hold, it is amazingly effective and works to destroy a population in precisely the opposite manner that uncontrolled fertility expands it, because each generation contains people who never marry and others who are sterile. Adding in the ability of married people to avoid reproduction and propagandizing against any family with more than two children ensures successively smaller generations.

    The collapse of the Iranian birthrate is a sign that external forces struggling against the Iranian people have already won. The end result will be the same as if Iran suffered a wave of mass deportation, a genocide, or an agressive attack on its civilian population like the Anglo-American bombing of Axis cities in World War II. Just much less bloody and messy because the victims have “chosen” ethno-suicide for themselves instead of having external forces impose it upon them through conventional war.

  9. Have birthrates really been falling world wide? Do you have a link for that information? I was under the impression that in general the Middle East, Africa, and parts Latin America were experiencing population booms while Europe, Russia, the US, and China were experiencing drops.

    On the warfare side, to an extent, I agree–to populate is to govern, as Israel may soon find out. That being said, a lot of the countries experiencing negative population growth are also in the midst of demographic changes between socio-economic classes–with a diminished threat of infant mortality, parents concentrate their resources on fewer children rather than having more to improve chances of survival. I don’t know enough about Iran to guess what the population shift means, but they are still relatively young populace, many or most under 30, so predictions of death by educated womenfolk may be premature. I wonder if anyone has the average marriage age, child bearing age, and family size for college educated women in the US?

    That’s not to say that a government (Western influenced or not) can’t ruin its own fertility rate and population demographics. India and China are old, unfortunate, pros at this and are going to have big problems when their productive workers become elderly. That’s going to be bad news for Iran, the UAE, Qatar, and others who rely on cheap South Asian labor.

    As for FM’s note about the other articles… why do we keep calling Khatami a moderate? To be sure, I don’t think the worst of him, but I think the press is overanxious to forget that he’s wanted by Argentina for the Buenos Aires bombing. He might not have had any involvement, but that little piece of transnational terror happened under his watch. I think some people are a bit over optimistic about what a change in the presidency can yield.
    Fabius Maximus replies: Fertility is a rate per thousand in women of childbearing age. Numbers of births have been rising due to changing in the age distribution. Many emerging (and un-emerging) nations have had falling average ages — now in their low 20’s or even teens.

    To see the falling fertility data, see the studies on the FM reference page Demography – studies & reports — or any of the thousands of studies about this phenomenon written in the past 2 decades.

  10. I’m highly suspicious of any single factor explanation for a drop of FIVE in the fertility rate, either Spengler’s or the sunshiney female education rate theory. As it points out, that’s a record setting decline, of the sort that would seem to be a confluence of multiple contributing factors. It’s a massive cultural sea change in a single generation, going from 7 kids per woman to 2. Blaming that solely on a bump in female education rates or on political frustration doesn’t pass the smell test to me.

  11. Self-government is all about reining in passions — for money, power, destructive sex (home-wrecking). Liberty is impossible without it.

    “…religious Tehranis’ espousal of Islamic rule does not necessarily preclude their acceptance of democratic and even liberal values.”

    Of course. This is obvious to all except those who don’t understand the connection between freedom of religion (the founders referred often to “freedom of conscience”), a functioning Republic, and a (largely) moral people capable of governing themselves.

  12. How many of these commentators and pundits have actually been to Iran? Have any of them actually seen the problems personally? It is easy to wave one’s arms in the air. I have never been there so I cannot comment. I suspect none of the respondents and pundits have been there either.
    Fabius Maximus replies: What an odd thing to say. But typical of 21st Century America, Greg displays great self-confidence.
    * I suspect some of the experts of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime have been to Iran.
    * Mohammad Jalal Abbasi-Shavazi is Assoc Professor at U of Tehran
    * Wolfgang Lutz may have been there (Leader of the World Population Program, International
    Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), and Director, Vienna Institute of Demography)
    * Meimanat Hosseini-Chavoshi works for the Ministry of Health in Iran
    * Samir K.C. may hve been there (World Population Program at IIASA, Austria)
    * Gunes Murat Tezcur (Asst Prof of Political Science at Loyola U), probably has been there.
    * Taghi Azadarmaki is a Professor of Sociology at U of Tehran.

  13. Demographics is, barring war or plague, destiny.
    Missing is any ethnic group comparison between Persians and Kurds, for instance. One possible future is an attack (by Israel? only with US ok, so why not by US supported Iraq?) which leads to an anti-Tehran Kurdish uprising.

    It was on-track to become a regional military and technological leader under the Shah, but it seems unlikely to achieve nearly as much if the internals really are as bad as the drug & prostitution figures indicate. Scapegoating the education of women, rather than the shutting down of free(er) markets, won’t help. At least not quickly.

    Maybe letting illiteracy increase is a secret Mullah strategy to get more women back into the kitchen and pregnant.

    More true “Islamic democracy” of genuine voter choice for top executive power would probably not be the kind of democracy the US advocates, but I can imagine it actually working. With a Supreme Islamic Council replacing the US Supreme Court, and a stronger Prime Minister in the Euro mold of Parliaments choosing the top legislator as the top executive. I’d say that’s more than 2/3 democracy, but IU don’t think we’ve be seeing it yet.

    I’d guess a Secular Reform Party would win the votes, if they were allowed to run fairly, so they won’t be allowed to run. So it won’t be a democracy worth calling it such.

    Tho some call it a democracy even now.

  14. The seismic force in Iran is the young. They hate the ruling order with a passion. They will soon be running the social and industrial machinery. Keeping the lid on by repression will be ever more difficult. Spengler is at least right in predicting big trouble is coming to Iran.

  15. underscore #11: “I wonder if anyone has the average marriage age, child bearing age, and family size for college educated women in the US?”

    Its very low and trending lower.

    While anecdotes are terrible statistics, among my wife’s few dozen friends from her Wellesley College class, a large number (at least half of her friends) are not married despite now being in their mid-30’s. Only herself and three of her circle of friends have any children, and the four of them who have had children all have 3-6 (I believe the current total is 18 children among the 4), which makes the group as a whole look reasonably fertile, even though they are really nothing of the sort so far. I don’t think this is a markedly atypical group of Ivy League collegiate women.

    In another anecdotal example, among the people I went to elementary school with (all but a couple of whom became Ivy Leaguers and all of whom went to college), just three of six women is married and only two have children (one has one, the other has two). All five men are married and all have children (3 have one, one has 2, I have 5). So 11 collegiates, 13 children by age 35, but just 1/3 of the women have had children, and just half are married. The last part – the fewness of educated women marrying and having any children – is the fertility disaster going on in the US.

    US fertility goes markedly up as one goes from Ivy Leaguers (low) to Welfare Queens (high). There is US government survey data on this which is relatively easy to Google up.

    If you don’t think some dramatic demographic changes are coming to the US, go visit a few Kindergarten classes and take a look at the children and their parents. That’s the future.
    FM note: See today’s newspapers. “Hispanic enrollment rising in US schools, colleges“, AP, 5 March 2009 — Excerpt:

    Roughly 1/4th of the children in U.S. kindergartens, preschools generally for children 3 to 6 years old, are Hispanic, evidence of an accelerating trend that now will see minority children become the majority by 2023.

    Census data released Thursday also show that Hispanics make up about one-fifth of all K-12 pupils, those in kindergarten through 12th grade. Schools in most U.S. states have 12 grades. Hispanics’ growth and changes in the youth population are certain to influence political debate for years about jobs, immigration and education.

    The ethnic shifts in school enrollment are most evident in the American West. States such as Arizona, California and Nevada are seeing an influx of Hispanics due to both immigration and higher birth rates than other ethnic groups.

    Minority students in that region exceed non-Hispanic whites at the pre-college grade levels, with about 37 percent of the students Hispanic. Hispanics comprise 54 percent of students in New Mexico, 47 percent in California, 44 percent in Texas and 40 percent in Arizona.

    In 2007, more than 40 percent of all students in K-12 were minorities — Hispanics, blacks, Asian-Americans and others. That is double the percentage of three decades ago.

  16. “If you don’t think some dramatic demographic changes are coming to the US, go visit a few Kindergarten classes and take a look at the children and their parents. That’s the future.”

    Typical attitude of a northeast social climber. Here is my anecdotal examples of my social group:
    Ivy league post graduate mom + near ivy league post-post graduate dad= 3 children
    Near Ivy league mom + foreign born post-post-post graduate West-African dad= 1 child
    Very(I mean VERY) privilaged son of major corporate president= 3 fine children with wife from mid-level state college Me and my better half(top 25 university) 0 kids I could keep going and I had the luck of growing up around many future Ivy Leaguers and many future graduates of top 25 colleges, military academies, etc, etc,. I know many children of the very wealthy some in my own family. What the hell does that have to do with the real facts of fertility? And how does it relate to a nation like Iran? Which by the way has on average for it’s per capita GDP a well educated populace. It has perhaps, as per capita GDP relates to education a better record than the U.S.

    How does any of your statements relate to anything but privilaged American society vs. un-privilaged American society? Let’s just try for a few minutes to put our own American bubble aside and think about the context of another country’s citizens. Is that so difficult?

    After all Iran is a country operating on a 3000 year history. The age of their average work of art makes our old stuff look like pop culture. Getting back to what FM raised in this post. If true it is the equivilent of the U.S. going from the fecundity of the agrarian 19th century to the urban 21st century in 1.5 generations. How would our society have handled that? How about if we had 3 millenia of culture counter to this change? We would have been in for a shock.

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