How Civilizations Die


How Civilizations Die, by David P. Goldman (online columnist “Spengler”) is one of the most thought-provoking books I have ever read.  By collecting freely available statistics and comparing them in novel ways (or at least making comparisons I have never run across before) he makes the case that many European and other countries will fade away by the end of this century through depopulation, gone the way of the Greek and Roman empires before them.

One example of his evocative statistics is a graph entitled Iran’s Elderly Dependent Ratio vs. Oil Production, illustrating that Iran’s oil production has been declining steadily while the proportion of elderly dependents is rising.  He makes a convincing case that Iran is one of the many countries whose birth rate is too low to ensure survival.  As he points out, this doesn’t mean that those anxious about Iran’s potential to cause harm can relax.  What he refers to as Spenglers Universal Law #1 is that a man or nation at the brink of death does not have a “rational self-interest.”

The collected birth rate statistics lead Goldman to conclude that we are not heading toward a post-American world, for the simple reason that the United States is one of the few countries whose population is replacing itself.  He attributes this to the also documented higher proportion of religious believers as compared to European and many other countries, which he suggests may make people more willing to bring children into the world.  That may be the explanation, or there may be some other factors that lead some groups of people to have a more positive or optimistic attitude to life.  A study of those possible factors would make an interesting sequel to this book.




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