Tuesday, October 24, 2006

America, Alone, Again

I have now finished America, Alone, which I plugged last week without having read it. I now have, and not having read it turns out not to have been much of a handicap, in that the arguments in the book itself are already familiar to fans of Mr. Steyn, of whom I am certainly one. Stylistically, it was a bit of a disappointment in that many of the best lines and anecdotes have already been used in his various columns, but if you’re not familiar with that work it is certainly a compelling read. I also thought it unfortunate but, given his writing style, history and audience, not surprising that nothing in the book was referenced. In particular the catastrophic demographics he posits for many European countries are unsourced – on page 53, for example, he argues that in France, “all of the evidence suggests a third of the all births there are already Muslim.” What that evidence is left to the reader to go find out. Given the inflammatory nature of the topic, the reluctance of governments to release official data, and the contradictory nature of the data contained in the scholarship, this has always been frustrating for me. The true demographic situation in Western Europe is, I think, still largely mysterious.

But the writing is compelling, often hilarious, and the book moves incredibly quickly. Its prime assertion – that the combination of immigration and low indigenous fertility means that large portions of Europe will be Islamic through and through by mid-century – is obviously a critical one. Is it true? The interpretation of the demographic data generated some interesting debate in the comments section of the previous post. The data problems being as bad as they are I don't know for sure, and I'm certainly reluctant to accept the catastrophic Steyn thesis as is, given what a complete transformation in population profiles in Europe it will require, and given that it depends on current demographic trends continuing without alteration – indigenous fertility staying low or continuing to deteriorate, non-indigenous fertility staying much higher than the indigenous levels.

And yet some back-of-the-envelope calculations give one pause. Suppose that there are n indigenous French and a non-indigenous ones. Suppose that each generation t of the non-indigenous ones assimilate into the mainstream culture. Some of the more sanguine commentary emphasizes relatively high rates of assimilation and rapid fertility convergence. But the rate of assimilation is an open question, and this analysis leaves out the immigration issue.

In this framework, at a moment in time the assimilated and unassimilated populations are (n + ta) and (1-t)a respectively. The growth rate of the assimilated population is dn/dt + tda/dt, and the growth rate of the unassimilated population is (1-t)da/dt + i, where dn/dt and da/dt are the fertility rates for the indigenous and non-indigenous but native-born populations, and i is the immigration of new non-indigenous, who are all assumed to be initially unassimilated. In plain English, the relative growth of the non-assimilated population depends on what fraction of the non-indigenous population is assimilated as well as the number of non-indigenous who are coming into the country.

Like any model it is a simple one, but still revealing. Even if non-indigenous fertility converges toward indigenous fertility, high levels of immigration can still promote the growing dominance of the non-assimilated population as long as immigration is high enough and the rate of assimilation is low enough. I suspect rates of immigration will grow over time because things are so grim in the societies surrounding Europe, especially the Arab and Muslim ones. The lack of economic opportunity (worse in France than in Holland and Denmark), the ability of modern technology to propagate a sense of ethnic cohesion (which need not require extensive religious devotion -- a thoroughly secularized youth in a banlieue can get just as much inspiration from a video of beheaded Westerners as someone who spends every day at the mosque), and the ability of global transportation technology to enable the migration of the ambitious and the fearful among the indigenous may make differential fertility the least of the contributing factors.

But it is obviously all an empirical question. Demography has driven history before. Sometime the decline of the Western Roman Empire is attributed to these considerations – desperately needed barbarians overwhelming the locals. In Guns, Germs, and Steel Jared Diamond cites the Bantus of West Africa and the northern Chinese who ultimately came to dominate modern China and Southeast Asia as examples of peoples who demographically overwhelmed the aboriginals. Some of this was due to superior technology, but globalization means that nowadays anyone can use much militarily useful technology or methods, even if not everyone can invent it.

This website keeps track of data from the CIA publication The World Factbook going back over a decade. If you plow through it long enough you find that the CIA estimated that the Muslim percentage of the population in France was 1% in 1995, 3% in 2001, and five to 10% in 2005. A big part of this is undoubtedly an attempt to make the count more accurate, but a big part of it is also surely quite rapid transformation of French demographics. I judge the extremely pessimistic Steyn predictions to be less likely than not at this point. But if they are correct, it would not be the first time.


Blogger Randy said...

The CIA World Factbook statistics are useful only as indicative figures, if that. The 1989 figures give a total French population of just under 56 million people and claims that 1% of the French population is Muslim, or some 600 thousand people. This doesn't make sense--that figure doesn't even comapre well to the numbers of Muslim immigrants who came into France, before they had children.

Your equation of population dynamics does make sense. I'd only suggest that it should also take into account of assimilation before immigration, as in the case of Maghrebin immigrants who grew up in strongly Francophone surroundings, or in the case of ethnic German immigrants in Germany from Romania or Hispanophone immigrants from Ecuador or the Dominican Republic in Spain.

I agree that the deterioration of many of the EU-25's neighbours will create a lot of "push" pressure for emigration in many European countries, but it remains to be seen whether European institutions will allow this influx. That the large majority of immigrants entering Spain and Italy have come not from the southern shore of the Mediterranean, but from other and often more distant lands, suggests that European barriers are working for now. They worked in the Cold War--arguably, the only reason that the inhabitants of the banlieues aren't mostly of Polish and Romanian origin (or, perhaps, aren't equally) is the Iron Curtain. Germany, which has been more open to immigration from central and eastern Europe throughout its history, gives us an idea of what things might have been like in France otherwise.


Will these restrictive European migration policies remain indefinitely? I'm obviously unqualified to make statements about the future status of highly political institutions. The future of these policies depends partly on the pressures confronting them, but significantly more on what European electorattes and governments want. I think you're quite right to have noted in your earlier posts that fears of "Eurabia" have resulted in that theory's antithesis.

1:11 PM  

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