Interview – How Civilizations Die | FrontPage Magazine

Posted: November 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is David P. Goldman, the author of the new book, How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying, Too), which Regnery brought out this fall. After 9/11, Goldman began writing weekly essays at Asia Times Online under the byline “Spengler.” At the time he directed a research group at Credit Suisse, and afterward ran fixed income research for Bank of America. After joining the masthead of First Things magazine early in 2009, he revealed his identity and devoted himself to writing, mainly on politics and strategy, but also publishing essays on religion, classical music, literature and mathematics. He left First Things early in 2011 to write his book.

FP: David P. Goldman, welcome to Frontpage Interview.

Let’s begin with what inspired you to write this book.

Goldman: Thanks Jamie.

It was 9/11 and the aftermath. I’m an old Cold Warrior; I consulted for Norman A. Bailey, the head of planning at NSC in the first Reagan administration. We were playing a deadly global chess game with a fairly rational opponent; when the Russians knew they were beaten, they caved.

Radical Islam is a different animal. Never in history have so many people committed suicide in order to kill large numbers of innocent people. And not since classical antiquity have so many cultures willed themselves out of existence by failing to have children. Countries and individuals who habitually destroy themselves to inflict harm on others have no rational self-interest. You cannot negotiate with them. Our world has a different and terrible set of rules, and policy has to change appropriately.

FP: You refer to the failure to have children. For the first time in history, the birthrate in the West has fallen below replacement level. Explain this to us. Why is it happening? Expand on the consequences.

Goldman: That’s one of the few important developments in the world on which liberal and conservative scholars agree. People of faith have many children, and secular people have few or none. Liberal observers are terrified that “the religious will inherit the earth,” as the liberal sociologist Eric Kaufmann put it. America is the last big industrial country with a religious majority, and the only one with a birthrate above replacement. But that’s mainly due to evangelicals and Hispanic Catholics. Mainline Protestants, loosely-affiliated Catholics and secular Jews breed like Europeans. And people of faith in Europe behave like religious Americans. There just aren’t too many of them.

For the Europeans, this means eventual economic collapse. Take Italy, which dominates our financial headlines at the moment. By 2050, three-fifths of Italians will be elderly dependents. We are struggling to reduce future entitlement spending in the US, where the workforce is still growing. Add a zero to our problems to get an idea of the size of Italy’s. It also means that it’s nonsense to talk about American decline. By mid-century Japan’s workforce will fall by a third and Europe’s by a quarter. We’re the only industrial country that will turn up for the rest of history. 

FP: Muslim leaders have perpetually boasted that they would defeat the West by numbers, and we are definitely witnessing the alarming growth of Muslim populations in Europe. Many Muslim males come to the West with four wives and have like 30 kids with them. Yet you are writing about a Muslim demographic winter. What are we missing? Has something changed?

Goldman: It’s true that the Muslim birthrate far exceeds the Western birthrate, but large parts of the Islamic world are catching up to the West’s demographic winter at startling speed. The Muslim world is passing from infancy to senility without going through adulthood. Muslim countries with a high literacy rate — Iran, Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia — have already fallen below replacement fertility. Islam is a religion of traditional society, where subsistence farmers have always had as many children as they could. The moment Muslims leave the traditional world — especially when girls get a high school education — their behavior changes radically. Most Iranians have six siblings, but will have one or two children.

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