"How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam Is Dying Too)" by David P. Goldman
by RUTH KING
October 26, 2011
Demographic predictions often affect national security policy. President Jimmy Carter’s smarter brother Billy put it succinctly. When questioned about his shady deals with Libya, he replied “The only thing I can say is there is a hell of a lot more Arabians than there is Jews.” American policy with respect to the Middle East has been stated a tad more elegantly but it is based on the same immoral and obtuse calculations.
With respect to Israel, misleading predictions of Arab population growth were used, mostly by soft-core supporters to suggest that Jews were doomed to become a minority west of the Jordan River and should concede that geography in order to secure demography. A study : “The million Person Gap: The Arab Population in the West Bank and Gaza-the American-Israel Demographic Research Group” was published by the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in February 2006 with Ambassador (Ret.) Yoram Ettinger as head of the Israeli team. All the meticulous research, including birth and death records and emigration numbers, revealed a net loss of Arab births and a surge in Jewish births in the West Bank.
As Ambassador Ettinger stated: “the demographic time bomb became a demographic scare crow.”
Today’s demographic scare crow evokes resurgent Islam, growing by leaps and bounds- invincible and inevitable and never to be challenged or offended.
David P. Goldman is a columnist and editor who writes a weekly essay on Western culture, economics, and politics under the very apposite pseudonym “Spengler.” In his book “How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam is Dying Too)” he shreds this current “demographobia” with documentation, statistics, analysis and hard facts.
He gets right to the task in the first chapter:” The Closing of the Muslim Womb” with the disclosure that “The Muslim world is on the brink of the fastest population decline in recorded history.” The media, particularly during the period of Arab uprisings has shown hundreds of thousands of Muslims in their mid- twenties. However, this generation of people who grew up with six or seven siblings opts for smaller families and does not reproduce, while the graying population grows less productive and more dependent as food production dwindles – a prescription for economic collapse. The Moslem world is not alone in this scenario. Europe, both Western and Eastern face similar falling population rates and the same consequences. Goldman predicts that by the end of this century population collapse will affect the entire industrial world.
Islamic culture, Goldman states, has been singularly unsuccessful during the past seven centuries. The Muslim world, according to the author, suffers from a greater loss of traditional values and culture among the young generation where drug addiction and prostitution are more endemic than in Western nations. Furthermore, modern Islam does not promote success in science, art, philosophy or democracy, those institutions which sustain civilization and culture.
For Goldman, “nothing less than the transformation of Islam from a state religion to a personal religion is required for the Arabs to enter the modern world.” Goldman is skeptical and derisive of the efforts to export democracy to the Arab world. Events in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya, certainly bear out his theory.
For the United States, India and China, Goldman predicts a more cautiously optimistic scenario. American exceptionalism, resilient religion, higher birth rates, immigration and increased innovation and productivity will spare the United States. Furthermore, America is the only nation capable of maintaining its national character in spite of all the multi-cultural and hyphenated ethnic identities which challenge national pride and culture.
Herbert Spencer wrote in 1864 in “The Principles of Biology”: "The survival of the fittest, implies multiplication of the fittest." David Goldman demonstrates how and why the fittest civilizations survived and how population growth made them fit while others crumbled.
This book is a tour de force with enough original data and analysis of history, religion, economics, philosophy and demography to cross a reader’s eyes, to paraphrase Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye. It is an invaluable asset for all who are interested in history, national security and national destiny.
It is a great pleasure to interview David.P. Goldman.
RK: Tell us about your pseudonym “Spengler.”
DG: When I began these essays in 2000, I was a managing director at Credit Suisse, and the controversial approach didn't square with a Wall Street job—so I hid behind a pseudonym. The choice of name was a joke: an essayist for the Asia Times using the name of the author of "The Decline of the West." Oswald Spengler, to be sure, was a nasty piece of work.
RK: How do you explain the survival of Judaism? One of every three Jews in the world perished during the Holocaust, yet Jews and Israel remain vibrant, productive and even influential in politics.
DG: One can argue that modernity began at Mount Sinai. Success in the modern world is a bottom-up phenomenon. It depends on empowering individuals. And the idea of a covenant through which every Jew stands in direct relation to the creator of heaven and earth is the source of our modern idea of individual empowerment—what the Declaration of Independence calls "inalienable rights." And the Jewish idea that we approach God through Torah learning has fostered extraordinary thinkers in every generation. But at a deeper level, I can't explain it. Israel seems a miracle to me. Rabbi Haskel Lookstein once quoted his teacher, the great Joseph Soloveichik, saying that God helped us establish the State of Israel in this generation not because of our merit, but because after the Holocaust the Jewish people was so beaten down that without such a miracle, we might have disappeared. Sadly, large parts of Judaism continue to decline. I mention in my book that Reform and secular Jews have the lowest fertility rate of any identifiable part of the American population. They average one child per woman, and half of those children intermarry. On the other hand, Modern Orthodoxy is flourishing, in a way few would have predicted a generation ago. But the Israelis are an inspiration. It must be that Jews flourish in their own country. They have the best demographics of any OECD country—three children per woman—and are a pocket superpower in science and the arts.
RK: It may be somewhat soothing to know that there is no Islamic population “time bomb” but what can one make of Islam and Sharia law which are encroaching on all our academic, legal and cultural institutions?
DG: There are some places where the Islamic population time bomb is a real threat, for example, the United Kingdom. Pakistan is the main source of Muslim immigration, and as I note in the book, Pakistan still has extremely high birth rates. That stems from the country's backwardness—half of Pakistanis can't read. And the Pakistanis who move to Britain keep their high birth rates. That may be why we see the most outrageous concessions to Sharia in the UK. Muslims in America remain too small a minority to impose Sharia, but we have to be vigilant, or we will end up like what Melanie Phillips calls "Londonistan."
RK: What about Europe on the brink of becoming “Eurabia?”
DG: In some cases, Muslims are just a generation behind Europeans in the demographic spiral downwards. The Turk s who move to Germany tend to become Europeanized fairly quickly; in fact, Turkey, after Iran, faces the biggest demographic bust in the Muslim world. In other cases, especially the UK, Islamicization through higher birth rates is a real threat. It may be that both the European and Muslim populations decline, and parts of Europe end up populated by other people: Latin Americans in the case of Spain, or Africans in the case of Italy. The biggest risk to Europe in the immediate future is the prospect of hungry Arabs fleeing the economic collapse of Egypt.
RK: Explain the nexus between population collapse and Muslim terrorism and why you think the collapse may actually encourage an increase in terrorism.
DG: It hasn't gone unnoticed by the likes of Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan that at current fertility rates, Iran and Turkey respectively will collapse in a generation or so. Erdogan warned in public that Turkey will cease to exist as a nation by 2038—why he chose that year is unclear to me, but it corresponds to what we read in the UN demographic tables. That feeds into their apocalyptic sense of urgency. Iran sees itself as the center of a great recovery of Sh'ia Islam, and Turkey sees itself as the pillar of a new Ottoman Empire. But given their demographics, they have one generation in which to stake their claim. Ahmadinejad and Erdogan recall Adolf Hitler, who thought that the deterioration of the Aryan race was so far advanced that Germany had only one last chance to assert itself. With that sense of historical pessimism, Hitler was willing to stake everything on one roll of the dice. And a country that despairs of its future is capable of unspeakable acts. If Iran obtains nuclear weapons, we should not be surprised if they are detonated in American cities.
RK: You are more optimistic about the American future. You have a background in finance. Our economy is in free fall. How do you think it can be halted?
DG: The US is the only industrial country that will have more people of working age in 2050 than today. That by itself gives us a huge advantage. History belongs to people who turn up for it. We have some important strengths in the US economy. The biggest surprise to me during the past two years is how well some our big corporations have done. They've increased sales, employment and profits while most of the economy languishes. That, I believe, is because the big companies are better prepared to withstand the miserable policy environment created by our dreadful administration. If we get a Republican in the White House and 2013, cut taxes on capital and roll back regulation, we'll see a substantial improvement.
RK: What are your thoughts on Libya? What are your thoughts generally on the “Arab Spring.?”
DG: After Lockerbie, no-one should feel sorry for Qaddafi. But we have turned loose hard-core jihadists against Qaddafi, and they in turn will become a problem. If we adopt the premise that we will continue to sponsor opposition against regimes that are hostile to us, the outcome could be good. If we don't like the regime that replaces Qaddafi, we should bring it down as well, and the next one, and the one after that. The Arab Spring is not a harbinger of democracy in the Muslim world: it is the convulsion of a dying society. After sixty years of military rule, Egypt has three-fifths of its population on the land, but still imports half its caloric consumption. It has 45% illiteracy, and massive disguised unemployment in the form of universities whose graduates are unemployable except by the government bureaucracy. To expect this basket case to produce a democracy under conditions of extreme economic stress seems delusional to me. We are watching the breakdown of dysfunctional societies: hunger and social unrest in Egypt, civil war in Syria and Yemen.
RK: Is Tunisia an exception in the Arab/Moslem world?
DG: Tunisia has a very small population and a better educated population, and among all the "Arab Spring" countries, has the highest chance of success, although I consider the chance slim. It appears that Islamist parties will govern Tunisia after this week's elections, and we won't like the result. Longer term, Tunisia has catastrophic demographics. Its population of young people will fall by half by mid-century at current fertility rates. And 40% of the population will be elderly dependents. That is a formula for utter economic breakdown in a poor country.
RK: Some predict an American renaissance if we gain energy independence. Your thoughts?
DG: Energy independence is a worthy endeavor but it's not enough. The growth opportunities in the world economy are in emerging markets, where billions of people are moving out of rural poverty into urban prosperity. It's the greatest wave of economic advancement in world history, by an order of magnitude. American corporations that export things that support this wave—Caterpillar and Dupont, for example—will do well. But our base of skills and industrial capacity is too narrow. There's a serious labor shortage of programmers, engineers, and skilled workers even in in this weak economy. In my view we need fiscal incentives for capital investment, an immigration policy that favors qualified people, and a break in the education monopoly so that we can train the people we need.
RK: You speak of faith and fertility as tied to survival. Are you observant? Do you have children?
DG: Yes. I am observant although it was a long journey for me to observance. I came from a secular family and first joined a synagogue twenty years ago. I keep kosher and observe the Sabbath and pray every day and holiday accroding to Jewish practice. And, I have two beautiful daughters.
RK: Many thanks for your time and your wonderful book and best wishes for continuing success.
DG: And many thanks to you Ruth, for your insight and encouragement.