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Pat Buchanan’s Hasty Prognosis of the West’s Demise

Posted by Steve Turley ● Apr 21, 2016 11:19:00 AM

In a recent interview with the Daily Caller, conservative commentator and Trump supporter, Pat Buchanan, said that even if Donald Trump’s populist nationalism is victorious in November, it’s too late to save Western civilization. “The West is disintegrating,” Buchanan commented, “Its faith is dead. When the cult dies, the culture dies and when the culture dies the civilization dies, and when the civilization dies the people die, and that’s what’s happening to western civilization.” For nearly three decades, Buchanan has been sounding the clarion call to Americans regarding the threat of mass immigration to Western culture, transnational trade deals undermining American industry and manufacturing, and international wars for democracy fracturing global peace and security. “I’m not a great optimist about the western civilization,” he said.

Leaving aside those who believe that a Trump victory actually hastens the West’s demise, I think Mr. Buchanan is analyzing American culture monolithically and as such, overlooks an extremely significant demographic trend among conservative Christians in the West.

On the one hand, it is certainly the case that the ‘cult’ of the West is in demise. The survey conducted by the Pew Research Center last May indicates that Christianity is on the decline in America, evidenced in virtually every major demographic, from race to gender to educational level to geographic region. In the majority of European countries, regular church attendance has fallen to an average of about 2-3% of the population.

But on the other hand, there is an extremely significant demographic trend underlying all of this. According to University of London scholar Eric Kaufmann’s detailed study on global demographic trends, there is a significant demographic deficit between secularists and conservative religionists.[1] For example, in the U.S., while self-identified non-religionist women averaged only 1.5 children per couple in 2002, conservative evangelical women averaged 2.5 children, representing a 28 percent fertility edge. Kaufmann notes that this demographic deficit has dramatic effects over time. In a population evenly divided, these numbers indicate that conservative evangelicals would increase from 50 to 62.5 percent of the population in a single generation. In two generations, their number would increase to 73.5 percent, and over the course of 200 years, they would represent 99.4 percent. The Amish and Mormons provide contemporary illustrations of the compound effect of endogamous growth. The Amish double in population every twenty years, and projections have the Amish numbering over a million in the U.S. and Canada in just a few decades. Since 1830, Mormon growth has averaged 40 percent per decade, which means that by 2080, there may be as many as 267 million Mormons in the world, making them by 2100 anywhere from one to six percent of the world’s population.

In Europe, immigration is making the continent more religiously conservative, not less; in fact, London and Paris are some of the most religiously dense areas within their respective populations. In Britain, for example, Ultra-Orthodox or Haredi Jews constitute only 17 percent of the Jewish population but account for 75 percent of Jewish births. And in Israel, Haredi schoolchildren have gone from comprising a few percent to nearly a third of all Jewish pupils in a matter of five decades, and are poised to represent the majority of the Jewish population by 2050. Since 1970, charismatic Christians in Europe have expanded steadily at a rate of 4 percent per year, in step with Muslim growth. Currently, Laestadian Lutherans in Finland and Holland’s Orthodox Calvinists have a fertility advantage over their wider secular populations of 4:1 and 2:1 respectively.

In contrast, Kaufmann’s data projects that secularists, who consistently exemplify a low fertility rate of around 1.5 (significantly below the replacement level of 2.1), will begin a steady decline after 2030 to a mere 14 to 15 percent of the American population. Similar projections apply to Europe as well. Kaufmann thus appears to have identified what he calls “the soft underbelly of secularism,” namely, demography.[2] This is because secular liberalism entails its own “demographic contradiction,” the affirmation of the sovereign individual devoid of the restraints of classical moral structures necessitates the freedom not to reproduce. The link between sex and procreation having been broken, modernist reproduction translates into mere personal preference. It thus turns out that the radical individualism so celebrated and revered by contemporary secular propagandists is in fact the agent by which their ideology implodes.

And so, what is important here is that we analyze current America culture at two levels, not merely one. Yes, we are seeing the demise of the West from within globalized social and economic dynamics that have been working themselves out at least over the last century, and to that end we should expect the next few decades to be characterized by an unprecedented period of cultural degeneration in the West. But by the same token, an underlying demographic trend operating by far more traditionalist dynamics suggests that the dominance of secular liberalism in the West is in fact on the verge of collapse.

We ought therefore not be too hasty with any dire prognosis for the West. There are indeed good reasons to be optimistic about a very bright conservative future.

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[1] Eric Kaufmann, Shall the Religious Inherit the Earth? Demography and Politics in the Twenty-First Century (London: Profile Books, 2010), ix.

[2] Kaufmann, Shall the Religious, xv.

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