Friday, February 17, 2006

Born (or happy) in the USA

Try this on for size:

Why is this newspaper published in the language of a tiny island on the other side of the earth? Why does Australia have an English Queen, English common law, English institutions? Because England was the first nation to conquer infant mortality.

By 1820 medical progress had so transformed British life that half the population was under the age of 15. Britain had the manpower to take, hold, settle and administer huge chunks of real estate around the planet. Had, say, China or Russia been first to overcome childhood mortality, the modern world would be very different.

What country today has half of its population under the age of 15? Italy has 14 per cent, the UK 18 per cent, Australia 20 per cent - and Saudi Arabia has 39 per cent, Pakistan 40 per cent and Yemen 47 per cent. Little Yemen, like little Britain 200 years ago, will send its surplus youth around the world - one way or another.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Mark Steyn, Columnist to the WorldTM, is writing for an Australian audience, but let's consider the American numbers:

According to the Census Bureau, there were 60,253,375 kids under 15 in the United States in 2000, with a total population of 281,421,906. That's just under 21.5%. Better... but still too low.

This organization, ironically an arm of the Sierra Club with a "vision for environmentalism [that][...] includes educating women worldwide to achieve lower birth rates, lowering consumption levels in industrialized and developing nations, and protecting national parks and the world's remaining wild spaces from exploitation and development [as well as][...] support[ing] the fight to unseat President George Bush from office along with all other politicians hostile to preserving the environment[,]" cites this information:

[In 2000,] the average number of children born to women over a lifetime is at 2.03 - slightly below replacement level.

There's the datum - 2.1 is replacement level, FYI. It took me four or five "click-throughs" to determine that the above was being presented as a (relatively - apparently the number represents an uptick from prior years, which is negative in their paradigm) positive datum. Finally, I found, on another page of their site:

[The Sierra Club's policy of an "integrated and international approach to the global need for slowing population growth"] implicitly assumes that if global population can be stabilized, the influx of people into the U.S. will decline and U.S. population can be stabilized. Unfortunately, this grossly oversimplifies complex social and demographic forces.

Today's current world population harbors millions - if not billions - of people who are eager to enter the U.S. This degree of immigration would devastate our remaining open spaces and ecosystems and place an unacceptable burden on our infrastructure.
Thus, while we support the Sierra Club's current global policies designed to stabilize world population, we urge the Sierra Club to return to the roots of the environmental movement that encompass U.S. population - to preserve and protect our own environment for the benefit of future generations.
Unfortunately, the Sierra Club has abandoned its previous position for sustainable levels of immigration in favor of a less politically controversial policy that still threatens the environment. Therefore, SUSPS calls for the Sierra Club to readopt its policy in favor of sustainable levels of immigration. SUSPS does not call for an end to immigration to the U.S. That would deny Americans the benefit of many talented immigrants who wish to contribute to our society. Instead, SUSPS calls for a return to sustainable levels of immigration.

The underlying and unspoken principle is that if everywhere on Earth becomes as sought-after a place to live as the United States, we won't have to worry about so many people coming here - and the point is well taken - but note the methodology: the SUSPS wants to level the playing field by emphasizing "open space and ecosystems" over human opportunity, as if it's our national park system that causes immigrants to flood our borders. It's a NIMBY argument that, if implemented, would only accomplish "keeping a brutha down" by not allowing entry to people who want to come here to try for their version of the vaunted American Dream, not creating an open-space utopia in which all humanity can frolic together in low-density harmony. Side note: all right, who are the racists? "Many talented immigrants" indeed. I encourage readers to visit the source document; I've selectively quoted here, and some of what I left out is even more inflammatory than what I've included.

Let's return to Mark Steyn for a moment. His piece in The Australian, cited above, is a salute to Danna Vale, a backbencher in the Australian Parliament who asked whether abortion is in Australia's interests when the demographics are what they are, or, "Can a society become more Muslim in its demographic character without also becoming more Muslim in its political and civil character?" (The quote is Mark Steyn's; I don't know to what extent he was paraphrasing Ms. Vale.)

I would posit that the goal, for us in the United States, is to ensure not so much "every child a wanted child" (which seems to me to be at least as much of a problem of parents as of their apparently unwanted children) but "every American an American who is happy to be here." I, unlike SUSPS, am not advocating a return to prior, "sustainable" levels of immigration. I do want immigration to take place in orderly and legal fashion, but as the descendant of fairly recent immigrants myself and as the mother of children half of whose ancestry consists of very early European immigrants to this land, I'm all for immigration. And I have no argument with immigration of Muslims, either, or Buddhists or Hindus or animists or any other -ist you'd care to name, except those -ists who are not happy to be here and want either to eliminate "here" altogether or so change the character of "here" that I can no longer be happy to be here.

Tortured construction... but what it comes down to is this: the Bush Doctrine is the SUSPS Doctrine turned on its head: both acknowledge that the United States is THE Premier Destination for many in the Third World. (The Bush Doctrine also acknowledges that some people respond to the disparity not by wanting to come here but by wanting to punish us for living at the tail of the curve, or by claiming that what we are and what we represent are anathema rather than the most tolerant, stable, prosperous culture the world has ever spawned.) But SUSPS wants to shut the doors now that "we" are all inside, while Bush wants to make "outside" more like "inside," so that people can choose from a less skewed set of options (or, alternatively, be considerably less envious of "inside" and dissatisfied with "outside").

I don't have a good wrap-up and I have to get my daughter to a playdate; blogging is heck, some days.

Update: I just read another Steyn piece here. As Inigo says, "Let me explain. No - it's too complicated. Let me sum up:"

Mark Steyn has been nattering on about demographics for a good few years now - he says since 9/11 caused him to take sudden note of a demographic group that hadn't seemed especially noteworthy before. It was not, he said, the people flying the planes who disturbed him; it was the people dancing in the streets afterward. He started digging into the numbers for the West versus the Muslim world and concluded, as he puts it, that:

"The West," as a concept, is dead, and the West, as a matter of demographic fact, is dying.

That's a mighty short quote to set apart that way, but it's a mighty important one. In this OpinionJournal piece, Steyn is wordier than I've ever seen him, making and remaking the point that Europe-as-we-know-it is on the brink of death - he says, "Europe by the end of this century will be a continent after the neutron bomb: The grand buildings will still be standing, but the people who built them will be gone."

Is this tragedy, or just life? Well. If the people poised to take over those grand buildings were like-minded to the Europeans they'll replace, it'd just be life, and Europe would live on as the great dream it's been since the Enlightenment. But what Steyn sees in the near future is A Handmaid's Tale wrought by Muslim, not Christian, hands. He notes:

We fret about McDonald's and Disney, but the big globalization success story is the way the Saudis have taken what was 80 years ago a severe but obscure and unimportant strain of Islam practiced by Bedouins of no fixed abode and successfully exported it to the heart of Copenhagen, Rotterdam, Manchester, Buffalo . . .
Can a society become increasingly Islamic in its demographic character without becoming increasingly Islamic in its political character?

This ought to be the left's issue. I'm a conservative--I'm not entirely on board with the Islamist program when it comes to beheading sodomites and so on, but I agree Britney Spears dresses like a slut: I'm with Mullah Omar on that one. Why then, if your big thing is feminism or abortion or gay marriage, are you so certain that the cult of tolerance will prevail once the biggest demographic in your society is cheerfully intolerant? Who, after all, are going to be the first victims of the West's collapsed birthrates? Even if one were to take the optimistic view that Europe will be able to resist the creeping imposition of Sharia currently engulfing Nigeria, it remains the case that the Muslim world is not notable for setting much store by "a woman's right to choose," in any sense.

What we are, what we stand for, is important. For the moment I'm going to put aside cultural relativism utterly and say, it's better than Wahhabism, Islamism, Islamic fundamentalism, or pick your term - the form of Islam that strives for cultural purity and rejects Western liberalism - in its classical sense - as decadent and even more basically wrong, and that embraces jihad as its means to these ends. We ought to - we must - demand that our liberal values prevail, as long as we consider them valuable. We ought to - we must - resist this post-modern urge to be the ones who set our own Alexandrian library alight in the name of multiculturalism: if bringers of a new Dark Age want to break through our ranks, let them try, but while we can defend what we are, let us do so.

I've quoted extensively, I know, and I've carried on at great lengths even for me, but I've also found my summing-up:

One-way assimilation or death.


Ardsgaine said...

You've taken what was, for me, a problematic column by Steyn and turned it into a more positive assertion. I read his Australian piece as endorsing the view that abortion is the reason why we're falling behind in demographics, and that we ought to ban it if we want to catch up. It's only a guess, but I think it's a very good guess--it would certainly be true in my household--that far more births in the US are prevented by the use of contraceptives than by abortion. Should we then ban contraceptives also?

Let's leave aside the idea of banning, and just focus on the notion that we ought to be having more children, that this is part and parcel of "Homeland Defense." This suggests that women--regardless of what personal feelings they have about it--ought to be having more children, because otherwise we're going to be living under Sharia in 20-40 years.

Well... I'm sorry, but I disagree with him. The fact is, we have the power to eliminate the Islamist threat tomorrow, if we would simply use it. We don't need a higher birth rate, we just need a drastically lower mortality rate. One might ask, well how would that help Europe? Easily. If the centers of Islamist ideology were destroyed, the Islamists in Europe and elsewhere would find it expedient to moderate their views. Not all of them would, of course, but they would have no overseas support and far less support in their host countries than before. Destroying Islamism at its source would guarantee one-way assimilation.

Gahrie said...

There is an alternate solution. We could increase the mortality rate among the Islamic cultures.

Jamie said...

Ardsgaine and Gary - not necessarily, in my view. I think the alternatives (since it's rather illiberal to "require" families to have more children) are the following:

1. Start encouraging larger families, using all the usual tools of benign propaganda - which has its problems; three kids is as many as we feel up to handling, for instance, and we're in a pretty good place as far as stability, job, housing, etc.


2. As I said, one-way assimilation. That is to say, allow legal immigration to whatever extent we as a society want, but return to a requirement (more of a social expectation - I don't see how you could write a law for this) that immigrants learn English and participate fully in American society. I'm not talking about abandoning one's culture; I'm talking about adopting American culture on top of one's own - and, yes, abandoning the pieces of one's culture that simply can't work under the American system, such as shari'a, dang it.

I hold out hope that the Islamist threat, as you say, may be more amenable to - well, for lack of a better word, rot than we tend to assume. Given a society such as the prevailing one in the United States, in which the immigrant story is still very much about hard work leading to success and success being the only real social measure, as well as a firm commitment to our classical liberal principles of individual freedoms tempered by individual responsibilities and equal justice under the law, I see the hearts-and-minds battle as winnable on the home front. I personally don't care whether the American average skin color or religious affiliation moves around; I'm more concerned that Americans act American by continuing to embrace and cherish these values.

Of course, if I'm wrong, the consequences are rather stark.