Demographic Contradictions

How Civilizations Die: And Why Islam Is Dying Too David P. GoldmanRegnery, 2011; 331 pages, $27.95 As one who appreciates the link between the family and the economy, David P. Goldman is one of our better economists. Yet because he is the sort of writer who likes to formulate Universal Laws of History, his efforts as an historian are another matter. He names these laws after himself, or more precisely after his pseudonym, “Spengler.” Thus, for example, we read of Spengler’s Universal Law No. 9: “A country isn’t beaten until it sells it women, but it’s damned when its women sell themselves.” And of Spengler’s Universal Law No. 12: “Nothing is more dangerous than a civilization that has only just discovered that it is dying.” From these and other Universal Laws, Spengler deduces the main conclusion of his book, which is that it’s high time we bombed Iran. If this sounds unpromising, it is. But the book does have one virtue: It starts with a world-historical trend that many people are still not aware of, even if Goldman mangles its description. Birthrates throughout much of the Islamic world have fallen rapidly over the last generation. The most extreme case is Iran, where according to the United Nations projections, the average woman of child-bearing age will wind up having only about 1.7 children over her lifetime. This falls below the projected rate in Sweden and France and is comparable to that of non-Hispanic whites in the United States. The decline in Muslim fertility is dramatic in many ways. For one, it contradicts the old Malthusian notion that mankind will everywhere breed beyond limits of available resources, and that the planet faces the inevitable prospect of overpopulation. It also contradicts the still common belief that fertility decline is a phenomenon unique to advanced industrial nations. Yet it also important to get the numbers right and keep them in context before building up some grand theory of history, let alone
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