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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Mano a mano!

Our Famous Author goes head to head with Mark Steyn on demographics, citing the CIA World Factbook. Here's the exchange in full:

Albania - total fertility rate 2.03 (2006, CIA world factbook).
Turkey - total fertility rate 1.92 (2006, CIA world factbook).
The replacement level is 2.1, so of course the number of Albanians and Turks will soon begin to fall, as the effects of demographic inertia play themselves out. How long that will take depends on how much further the birth-rates fall - there's no reason to believe they won't continue to decline - but it will inevitably happen.
Iran's rate is 1.8, Algeria's is 1.86, and Tunisia's is 1.75. These are also continuing to fall. Mr. Steyn, you have a tendency to ignore data which contradict your thesis. Why is this?
S M Stirling

MARK REPLIES: For a start, I don’t know where the CIA get their figures from, but Turkey’s fertility rate is more like 2.4 and Albania’s about 2.2. But you’re missing the point. My thesis fully takes on falling birth rates in the Third World. It’s not difficult. It’s on page 3 of America Alone:

"True, birth rates are falling all over the world, and it may be that eventually every couple on the planet decides to opt for the western yuppie model of one designer baby at the age of 39. But demographics is a game of last man standing. The groups that succumb to demographic apathy last will have a huge advantage - and those societies with expensive social programs dependent on mass immigration will be in the worst predicament. It’s no consolation for the European Union with its deathbed birth statistics if the Third World’s demographics are also falling: they’re your nursery, they’re the babies you couldn’t be bothered having; if their fertility rate goes the same way yours has, that will be a problem for you long before it’s a problem for them."

Look, the best way to understand global demography at a glance is to go here
Print out the graphic and stick it on the wall, and look at how far Niger has to go to be (demographically) in the same predicament as Latvia. By the time Niger gets to where Latvia, it will be no consolation to Latvia. And, if you think it will be, you’re the one who’s ignoring data that contradicts your thesis. As for the inevitability of falling fertility rates, you’re also ignoring the point noted above that Muslim immigrants in France, Belgium and elsewhere currently have a fertility rate higher than that pertaining back in their home countries. In other words, Tunisians in Tunisia may be on the gentle slope of demographic decline but Tunisians in Europe aren’t.

I love Steyn, but I'm going to give Steve this one on points. If the birthrates are already below replacement in those countries, then that makes a hash of the demographic thesis of AA (there's still a potent cultural argument worth considering, though). The only thing that keeps it from being a knockout is the argument about higher birthrates among the immigrant populations within Europe itself. I simply don't have the figures to verify that one.

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