Looking Forward

2003-08-15

Thanks to Diana Hsieh, I just found the weblog of Stephen Den Beste (his last name means "the best" in Dutch). Lots of insights into North Korea, Europe's future (or shall we say European decline), and much else besides, all in prolific detail (how does he have time to type all those words?). His points are especially interesting from a civilizational pont of view; with regard to Europe, he seems to be arguing that Europe and America are diverging in significant ways, perhaps even to the point that their commonalities as bearers of Western civilization will sooner or later be overcome, with Europe turning to autocratic centralism (can you say Brussels?) and with American remaining more decentralized and vibrant.

Some of this sounds like Old Europe vs. Young America (which goes back at least to 1776), but on the other hand it's hard to argue with the evidence that Den Beste and Karl Zinsmeister cite: (1) economically, Europe is not nearly as dynamic as America with regard to productivity, job creation, and innovation; (2) militarily, Europe is positively supine; (3) demographically, Europe is facing an impending implosion, from which it will be extremely difficult to recover. The populations of countries like Sweden and Italy are actually declining, and that of Russia (admittedly not part of Western Europe) is falling precipitously, as is that of Japan. Falling populations mean more pensioners, fewer workers, and a lack of dynamism. Of course, current U.N. forecasts indicate that overall world population will begin to decline around 2040 or 2050, which will have interesting implications for the human race as a whole; but Europe, Russia, and Japan are at the leading edge of those trends. The only way that these three formerly dynamic parts of the world will regain their edge is through much higher fertility (unlikely) or massive immigration (nearly impossible in Japan, highly unlikely in Russia, and threatening to the very culture of Europe given that most of its immigrants come from Islamic civilization and that Europe does not have a strong track record of integrating immigrants into European culture). Any way you slice it, the future does not look bright for Europe, Russia, or Japan, and their role as world powers will increasingly be taken by China, East (and perhaps South) Asia, hopefully Latin America, and perhaps some more dynamic Islamic countries such as Indonesia or Turkey (if some Islamic countries can figure out how to transform their burgeoning populations into economic dynamism -- don't hold your breath).

Not that America is guaranteed to stave off demographic decline, autocratic centralism, and economic stagnation, either. But its immigrant heritage, federalist political structure, and fairly competitive economic system mean that its chances are better.


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal