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American Depop?
January 10, 2002 9:52 PM   Subscribe

American Depop? From America to Europe to Russia, birthrates are declining -- and eventually, so will population. What are the implications? Guess who has some answers.
posted by dhartung (28 comments total)

 
I have an easy solution.
posted by geoff. at 9:56 PM on January 10, 2002


By the middle of next century, Europe's native-born population will be so skewed toward the elderly that to maintain the current ratio of worker support (just under 5:1), they'll have to allow 1.8 billion people to emigrate, or accept a lower standard of living for seniors. America's situation isn't so dire, but emigration does continue to the point where we'll soon reach a "majority minority" population.

Pat Buchanan has a new book out [Salon overview last month], The Death of the West, that addresses this among other issues. Russia has long known that depopulation may cause it to cede much of Siberia to a growing Chinese immigrant population, and what political effect that will have is unknown.

For America, Buchanan suggests the risk is to our values. The rate of population growth maintained by immigration may lead to assimilation problems, which could mean ethnic conflict or simply a decline in shared values -- such as, perhaps, the ones we hold most dear. The Islamic Republic of America? or Roman Catholic Hispanic? What will this mean?
posted by dhartung at 9:58 PM on January 10, 2002


The UN Population Trends Homepage offers links to pdf-formatted documents with stats and charts.
posted by liam at 10:06 PM on January 10, 2002


"Oh my god, where have all the white people gone?" That's basically Pat's problem. He sees "his people" as becoming less relevant so he wants to shut the borders. Never mind that that's the whole idea of America. At least he's not subtle about his racism.
posted by owillis at 10:12 PM on January 10, 2002


Oh no! A population drop! Maybe it can continue until we hit a population that this planet can actually support.
posted by phalkin at 10:13 PM on January 10, 2002


There are a lot of interesting issues he brings up, and I'm very eager to read this book, even though I'm reluctant to support him financially by buying the book.
posted by gyc at 10:25 PM on January 10, 2002


Uhh... phalkin, the only population drops are occuring in countries where the populations are already controlled. The billions of people in Asia show no signs of slowing down. The reason Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the world is because they reproduce like rabbits. And NO, I don't care if you think that's culturally insensitive. Fsck that. If one man is married to several women in a backward country that doesn't know the meaning of "birth control," many people are the result. (Remember Dr. Strangelove, with the plan to save the world, 10 women to every man?) What happens when these people find themselves starving and living in squalor? They try to come here. I'm fine with that as long as they learn to speak nominal English and don't sponsor terrorism.

If they want to move to the U.S. and become contributing citizens, I'm all for it. But I doubt that we will be able to "assimilate" anyone. People move into communities with like minded individuals. Their values, culture and faith do not change very much. In Canada immigration is so rampant that thousands of people live in their own communities, and never learn French or English, their entire lives. My cousin once (clinic in Toronto) treated a Portugese woman who was in her 60's, was born and raised in Toronto, and had never learned English. Canadian culture, at least in parts of Toronto, is simply being supplanted. That being said, I do not believe that in a generation or two, things will be at all like they are today. It is possible that the children of immigrants will (like immigrants before them) attend public schools, learn English, and become succesfull businessmen and women. Economic realities (at least in the U.S.) will drive many people to Americanize themselves.

It seems to me that Pat is using scare tactics, and the only thing I agree with Buchanan on is that illegal immigration should stop, and so should giving welfare to illegal immigrants.
posted by insomnyuk at 10:41 PM on January 10, 2002


this article (and some above comments) have some disturbing "preservation of white race" leanings. Alarms ring whenever I read "Control immigration or superior nation/culture/religion will be polluted" arguments.
posted by alex3005 at 10:55 PM on January 10, 2002


"I'm very eager to read this book, even though I'm reluctant to support him financially by buying the book"

gyc:
Try your local library first. If that doesn't work, then that's what second-hand bookstores are for---and you'd be *amazed* how fast this kind of book turns up in them!
posted by realjanetkagan at 12:08 AM on January 11, 2002


Mr. Buchanan reports that involuntary elderly euthanasia is already permitted in Holland

Mr. Buchanan is wrong.
posted by thijsk at 1:05 AM on January 11, 2002


Well, if you're looking for more, the inimitable Pitchfork Pat's book is being reviewed by the WaPo, as well as excerpted and drawn upon by NewsMax all this week. (NewsMax is, um, sorta the National Review for people who didn't go on to college.) They call it "arguably one of the most important books of our time", though it's hardly new -- though I suspect it may find its time at a point in the future, much as Fukuyama's End of History {"liberal democracy will win, further evolution is undesirable"} and Huntington's Clash of Civilizations {"Islamic and Confucian civilizations that do not share our underlying values may challenge us and each other"} essays and (later) books were not seen as widely relevant until 9/11. That is to say, there is a point at which people will be considering this an influential book, although I suspect it will likely be replaced by something more scholarly by a more acceptable establishment figure. There's an element of both prior theories in Buchanan's thesis, though much more of Huntington's, which is ironic: it's Fukuyama who's beloved of conservatives, while Huntington has tended to be allied with liberals, largely since the only significant challenging thesis from the left has been the Chomsky-Zinn critique {"the West won by enslaving and burglarizing the Third World, and must atone"}, which doesn't offer much of a model for the post Cold War world.

My own sympathies, post 9/11, are decidedly more with Fukuyama: The West Has Won, he declared, saying

There are plenty of non-western people who prefer the economic part of modernity and hope to have it without having to accept democracy as well. There are others who like both the economic and political versions of modernity, but just can't figure out how to make it happen. For them, transition to western-style modernity may be long and painful. But there are no insuperable cultural barriers to prevent them from getting there, and they constitute about four-fifths of the world's people. {emphasis mine}

Fukuyama himself, and others from Fareed Zakaria (an Indian Muslim) or Fouad Ajami (a Shi'a Iranian-Lebanese) to Hamid Karzai's Adam-Smith-worshipping brother seem to have no trouble crossing these cultural barriers as immigrants. So being non-white certainly isn't the problem.

Nevertheless even Fukuyama says that a protracted struggle may be necessary, and what Buchanan is saying suggests that struggle may, disconcertingly, be fought within our own societies as well as through military action, foreign policy, and economic spread of free trade. Already in Britain we see calls for state support of segregated Islamic schools, just one example of how a separate culture may grow within another. (And a recently-studied phenomenon shows that the global mobility of the airplane has changed the extent to which immigrants consider themselves permanent members of their new nation, and how much they assimilate. NPR story, I think.)

There's more to this than the source.
posted by dhartung at 1:37 AM on January 11, 2002


thijsk, to be fair: Involuntary Euthansia out of control in Holland. It's a screed, but it shows that Buchanan didn't pick that out of thin air.
posted by dhartung at 1:50 AM on January 11, 2002


Mr. Buchanan reports that involuntary elderly euthanasia is already permitted in Holland.

Involuntary Euthansia out of control in Holland.


dhartung: there've been recent reports in Holland about physicians becoming less willing to consider euthanasia, but it seems this is mostly due to a greater awareness of the possibilities of "palliative" care; which in turn is a result of the endless & quite exhausting general public discussion we've been having for decades about the option to openly tolerate a medical act which is going to happen anyway. To suggest, as Buchanan seems to do, that Dutch are killing elderly willy-nilly because care for them will become economically impossible is actually about par for this guy's standards, but doesn't have much to do with the Dutch situation. Alas, I can't find links in English.
[Hi everyone, glad to be here!]
posted by disso at 2:18 AM on January 11, 2002


The subject of this thread is too interesting to let the one lie that I found dominate it, but: involuntary euthanasia is not permitted in Holland, contrary to what Buchanan claims. The Pro-Life Infonet (thanks for that impartial source!) may like think it's out of control, but I don't think they bothered to check.
posted by thijsk at 2:47 AM on January 11, 2002


natural selection will out.
posted by johnnyboy at 3:14 AM on January 11, 2002


johnnyboy: It will out on bookstores near you, as well as birthrates. It's No. 6 on Amazon as I write this. *holds head; bleats piteously*
posted by allaboutgeorge at 3:28 AM on January 11, 2002


Imsomnyk: If one man is married to several women in a backward country that doesn't know the meaning of "birth control," many people are the result.

Apart from the offensiveness of your phrasing, there is a logical fallacy here. Polygamy means that for every extra wife a man takes, another man is unable to find a wife and thus does not reproduce. Polygamy or monogamy, it doesn't matter, as long it is economically worthwhile to have lots of children. (High infant mortality rates, low standards of care for the elderly and a need for the children to work in the fields, for instance.)

I'm not worried about a declining population. There are already too many humans as it is. And since we accept that birth rates will continue to be high in third world countries, immigration will fill the workers gap in the West and relieve overpopulation in the immigrant's original country.

Sure, countries like Britain and America will change culturally as the proportion of ethnic minorities grow. This is not something to be feared, but embraced.
posted by salmacis at 5:24 AM on January 11, 2002


Pat Buchanan
Full name: Patrick Joseph Buchanan
Party: Reform
Birthdate: Nov. 2, 1938
Age on Inauguration Day 2001: 62
Birthplace: Washington, D.C.
Hometown: Washington, D.C.
Family: Wife Shelley Ann, no children
Current job: Candidate for president
Career: Print and broadcast journalist, editorial writer, syndicated columnist

Oops! Pat B. never made his own contribution to saving Western Civilization!
posted by Carol Anne at 5:34 AM on January 11, 2002


Oops! Pat B. never made his own contribution to saving Western Civilization!

Not with Shelley Ann, anyway. He doesn't seem the type to acknowledge any from any other source....
posted by rushmc at 5:46 AM on January 11, 2002


> I'm not worried about a declining population. There are
> already too many humans as it is. And since we accept
> that birth rates will continue to be high in third world
> countries, immigration will fill the workers gap in the
> West and relieve overpopulation in the immigrant's
> original country.
>
> Sure, countries like Britain and America will change
> culturally as the proportion of ethnic minorities grow.
> This is not something to be feared, but embraced.

The cultural change some of you might be vaguely uneasy about is the change to a Europe/North America in which the majority feels that it's every woman's duty to stay home and have eight or ten children -- just as the majority now feels in most of Asia, most of Africa, and most of Latin America.

It will almost be worth it, just to see European/American-style liberal humanism go into catonic denial. Noooo, this isn't happening....
posted by jfuller at 6:21 AM on January 11, 2002


It's also going to mean that the future is a very, very lonely place for many people - no siblings, no extended family, no children who'll come and visit the retirement home...

and all the psychological issues that will be attached to such isolation.
posted by kv at 7:25 AM on January 11, 2002


borders are obsolete anyway :) immigration, hooray!

who needs an overarching thesis or model anyway? if they're any shibboleths the West, Islamic and Confucian civilizations should be included. if anything i think history has consigned the idea of "top-down" notions of identity bankrupt. i think people are smarter than that and (ideally :) relate to each other as humans beings first, and i guess maybe citizens of the world re: martha nussbaum's cosmopolitanism next. like i think book's like kevin kelly's out of control, robert wright's non-zero sum, howard bloom's global brain and steven johnson's emergence define the era better than the political theories of huntington and fukuyama. besides cultural syncretism is nothing new and in many ways technologically determined!
posted by kliuless at 7:46 AM on January 11, 2002


As I see it, the underlieing flaw in the argument is it assumes it's about race, but it's not, it's about culture..

You gotta get with western culture if you want western culture benefits, doesn't matter how your eyes are shaped.

This western system works really great, nobody elses comes close. It's got its problems but unquestionably has more happy people then anybody else. I wouldn't want to be a poor person in any culture but this one. Rich person? Forget about it..

America will still be here in 2100, if there are more brown people then white people, it doesn't mean anything to anyone but the cosmetics industry.

Eventually we're all gonna be brown asian whatevers, or at least I hope so, the only other option involves controlled breeding for phenotypes, rather like show dogs really..

I want a sexy foreign girlfriend, and Pat ain't gonna stop me..
posted by Leonard at 9:57 AM on January 11, 2002


pat just likes white babies better. More his demographic. Doesn't make him a racist pig. Well, ok, sure it does.
posted by th3ph17 at 11:03 AM on January 11, 2002


no siblings, no extended family, no children who'll come and visit the retirement home...

Oh, boo hoo. Many folks live just such lives now...and always have.
posted by rushmc at 11:28 AM on January 11, 2002


Has Buchanan ever explained why he and his wife are childless themselves? Failure to conceive I can understand, but adoption certainly wasn't out of the picture for someone like him, at the time he would have been doing it.
posted by nance at 12:59 PM on January 11, 2002


Some people, rushmc. Not 'many'.
posted by kv at 9:02 PM on January 11, 2002


I would say "many" is fair and accurate enough, since they number in the millions.
posted by rushmc at 11:54 PM on January 11, 2002


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