RWN’s Mark Steyn Interview #3

by John Hawkins | November 13, 2006 2:36 pm

John Hawkins: Give people who haven’t read your book yet a quick description of what you think Europe is going to look like in, let’s say, 20 years because of declining birth rates, the enormous social benefits they pay out, and the enormous number of unassimilated Muslims they’re bringing in to try to fill the gap.

Mark Steyn: Well, my view of Europe in 20 years’ time is that you’ll be switching on the TV, you’ll be looking at scenes of burning and conflagration and riots in the street. You will have a couple of countries that are maybe in civil war, at least on the brink of it.

You will have neofascists’ resurgence in some countries and you’ll have other countries that have just been painlessly euthanized in which a Muslim political class has effectively got its way without a shot being fired — and large numbers of people, particularly young people, have left those countries and have moved on to whoever will take them.

You know, the Dutch are going to Australia, Canada, and New Zealand and some of them, no doubt, would have liked to have gone to the U.S., but the U.S. doesn’t really have a legal immigration program. So, if you need to get out in a hurry, it’s no good going to the U.S. embassy.

John Hawkins: Mark, here’s the $24,000 question: can you give us a quick rundown on the reasons why Europe’s birth rates have plummeted?

Mark Steyn: Well, I think it’s true as countries get wealthy, birth rates decline and that’s true around the world even in Muslim cultures. For example, more advanced Muslim societies such as those little wealthy Gulf Emirates, they breed less than they do, say in Somalia or in Pakistan or Yemen. So declining birth rates are merely one sign, you know, an indication of increasing prosperity; however, they have gone way below that in Europe.

In other words, they’ve gone past the symbol — you know, wealthy middle class moms deciding they’d like fewer children — to an effect of huge numbers of people in those societies deciding that they don’t want any children whatsoever — huge numbers, and they basically pass the point of no return. Essentially I think a lot of it is to do really with the kind of re-organization of society in which the state has a primacy that was once reserved for individuals of the family.

That’s to say if the state basically becomes your patriarch — if the state becomes the one who looks after your elderly parents in old age, takes them off your hands, and so frees you up not to have to look after boring old granddad once he’s getting into his 90’s and he’s incontinent and he doesn’t remember anybody’s name. If they just say, ” Well, we’ll house him, look after him, you can get on with your life,” it’s not such a big step then to decide that if you do without grandparents, you can also do without grandchildren — so essentially the all powerful state has severed man from the primal impulses including the survival impulse and that’s a very bizarre situation and if as people say, “How can that be,” I look at it the other way. I say, “Well, why should it not be?”

I mean this idea that it’s normal for the state to be as big as it is in advanced social democratic societies is something that would have seemed incredible to anyone a hundred years ago. I mean, I remember being struck by – on September 11th – and I was writing a column a couple of days afterwards and, you know, we’re all done with our initial reaction, so you’re trying to think a couple of days ahead and find a new angle on it, and I happen to just notice that it was more or less (a hundred years after the) assassination of President McKinley. I was thinking, well, maybe I could tie these two things together, these two big traumatizing events and, you know, bookending the century, whatever – you know, just peck, peck, peck – we journalists always are going to peck.

So I sort of rummaged around the clippings of President McKinley’s assassination and realized that while people were upset about it, they essentially regarded it as the removal of a remote figure who played a peripheral part in their lives. To that point for most people in most parts of the U.S. the federal government did not impinge on their life in any way.

So when people talk about the modern social democratic state, you know, cradle to grave entitlements, we should understand that it is, in effect, a huge experimental departure from the normal course of human history – and the experiment as we can see in almost every other country apart from the U.S. has failed.

John Hawkins: Now, here’s an even more relevant question: is there any plausible way you can see to get them breeding again?

Mark Steyn: Yes, I think you can. I think you have to do dramatic – effectively dramatic severely pro-“natalist” policies – which would mean, I think, you know, essentially slashing tax burdens on people with any kind of family, initiating policies that would make it easier to have a family home in those societies because it’s also true that the U.S. is about the cheapest place in the world if you want to have a 3 bedroom house and a couple of kids on a big lot.

Any way, other than the U.S., that’s a very difficult thing to do. These are societies in which, you know, people live in very uncomfortable, pokey accommodations for the most part. So if you don’t do something about that – you have to do something about education which would be to dramatically telescope education, say in effect the opposite of what all the bores say to us, you know, when they say the sort of Clinton line about how you want every American to go to college or the Howard Dean thing about how we need to restore the Pell Grants.

No, you need to do the opposite. You need to start figuring out how to teach people up to about 15, 16, 17, 18 – rather than encouraging them to stay in school and wasting their time until advanced middle age.

I think that would make a huge difference and what we’re talking about there essentially is confirming what were the assumptions of the last two generations — basically everybody since the 2nd World War, that it is in everybody’s interest for people to have small families, put off having kids, stay in college forever. Those things in particular circumstances — maybe in an individual’s, it’s sort of hard to argue that, given the sort of vast human wreckage one sees around, that it’s not necessarily the case that even that’s true, but it’s certainly not in society’s interest.

John Hawkins: Now Mark, that of course would run absolutely counter to pretty much everything Europe is doing. Because in addition to that, you’d probably want to see cutting down on some of those pension benefits. That would at least cut down on the number of Muslims coming over to try to pay them. So let me ask, what’s the reaction to your book been in Europe?

Mark Steyn: …I quote in the book Timothy Garton Ash because I think he single-handedly represents the kind of contradictions of the European reaction to my pieces. Timothy Garton Ash is one of those impeccably respectable people who’s a very charming man and actually writes some good stuff at the tail end of the cold war and is quite a shrewd observer of that situation.

He’s a classic respectable opinion guy, he’s the kind of guy NPR gets in if they want someone to talk about Europe because he represents the main kind of conventional wisdom, he teaches at Oxford, he has all the right credentials, he’s not like the Ayaan Hirsi Ali types who, you know, end up living in hiding and eventually leaving the country.

He’s Mr. Respectable on here and what he said initially when I started making this argument was that I was talking nonsense. It was anti-European nonsense — this idea, the Islamification — a country that was appeasing itself because it understood that its future was Muslim and it could do nothing about it.

He said it was rubbish, rubbish, rubbish – in no time, I was mad, I was out of my tree, I’d been drinking the Neocon Kool-aid, I’d flown the coop. Now recently in his latest comments, he said, yes, the future of Europe is part of a Euro-Arabian partnership stretching from Morocco and Algeria and all the way up through the Middle East…

So, it seems he’s conceded the case and I think that is the problem that there are really three groups of people in Europe among the native Europeans and they’re split three ways. Some of them will decide to fight and turn to Neo-Fascism and some of them will just convert to Islam because it’s going to win and they’ll talk themselves into figuring they can be Muslim light and it won’t make much difference and others will just head to sea. They will just go to Australia, Canada or anywhere that will take them and so I think that’s the reaction now – that you’ve got a lot of people who still say, you know, well, I’m exaggerating the threat – but then whenever you pick up a British or a European newspaper and you read the way the debate is framed, you understand that the threat is not being exaggerated. It only appears that way because in effect the state is still conceding on almost everything that matters in this debate.

John Hawkins: Let me ask you a related question, something you’ve touched on before. Europeans, from what I’ve seen, have a generally more dim view of the Middle East than Americans – like they think it’s futile to try to build democracy in Iraq. You know, everywhere that you talk about — well, democracy in the Muslim world just won’t work. Yet, they’re bringing in all the Muslims you could possibly imagine into their own home countries, and they’re building them up to such a percentage that….if you get up to where 20%, 30%, 40% of your population is Muslim and you don’t think Islam is compatible with democracy, that’s kind of a weird combination. How’s that happening?

Mark Steyn: I think that is the contradiction. If Islam is incompatible with democracy, that’s not a problem for Iraq, it’s a problem for Belgium, you know, because Iraq until, you know, a few months back had no democracy to lose. They can easily adjust to the way it’s always been.

For Belgium or for Denmark or for the Netherlands, they’ve got real democracies and they are likely to lose and as you see, I think that is really the issue here, that when these contradictions are pointed out, Europeans essentially refuse to acknowledge them. Yet at the same time they’re making capitulations to the most naked form of political bullying –and that’s when Islam is officially a minority of, you know, 10% or so. In those cities it’s a lot higher already. What happens when it’s 30%? I mean, this is a question they never, ever ask themselves and you’re right, they do take a dim view. I think at some level there’s something else going on there, too, that a lot of these countries, you know, — we talk about the Middle East, democratize the Middle East – we forget Spain was a dictatorship 30 years ago, Portugal, a little over 30 years ago, Greece, same 30 years ago.

Italy and Germany and France, you’ve got to go back half a century, but in essence the idea of living under non-democratic regimes is not foreign to these people and I think they think of themselves, their identities less as Europeans are less bound up with ideas of liberty than it is for the U.S. You know, the U.S. is an ideological project in a way that Italy isn’t and so I do think that also accounts for part of the way they look at it.


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