Is the West Doomed?

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Last night I caught a clip of Fareed Zakaria’s show on CNN.  I’d been watching much more important things–pro football–but I can’t stand the ads on AFN (American Forces Network) so I channel surf when I have to.  I’ve had mixed thoughts about Zakaria, primarily because i felt he pandered a bit to the Left when things were going badly in Iraq.   All in all though, I think I like him and appreciate his opinions.

Zakaria was talking about the current state of world economics.  He listed three factors that have complicated the problems America and Europe Face.

1)  An aging population.  As people in Western nations age and retire, they need ever increasing money from the retirement system.  The amount of young people in the work force whom pay taxes which support those retirement systems are dwindling.  The crisis in Greece resulted from primarily two factors:  The death spiral birth rates which cannot replenish the workforce and a lack of any economic growth.

2) Advancing technology.  Zakaria contends that technology improves efficiency to such a degree that employers no longer need to employ as many people.  I’m not convinced this is the issue that Zakaria believes.  First,  the unemployment rate in the US effectively doubled in about three years.  This had nothing to do with advancing technology.  Secondly,  while it may take fewer people to make a single pair shoes than it used to, manufacturers  make more pairs of shoes.  Then those shoes make their way to every corner of the world, something that could not happen before technology multiplied the power of the individual person.  Technology, in my opinion, has not lessened the need for workers, because more production and distribution is now required and expected of the individual–and that’s because of technology.   Corporations look not only for efficiency, but more production.  As I used to joke when I was a police officer:  The advanced technology available to police did not make their jobs easier, it only upped the expectation for productivity from the department and increased the amount of evidence required to get a conviction.

3) Globalization.  Globalization allows employers to outsource labor.

While all of these things have some impact, I think that Zakaria skips over the cultural shift occurring throughout America.  The cultural war inside the US is tearing it apart; the “have-nots” now expect success be handed to them.  Moreover, multiculturalism is instigating conflict.  The West is now like a man who walks around grinding his teeth all the time, but he can’t figure out why he does it.   He feels an internal stress that he finds inexplicable.  That stress is the breaking down of trust, the great binder of all societies.  Samuel Huntington said that culture is made up of two things:  Religion and language.  These two things breed trust.

The economists can see the technical reasons for the financial problems in the US and Europe.  But as our culture rips apart, the experts will find it more and more difficult to implement the changes necessary to prevent self-destruction.  Europe will disintegrate before America, but the weakening of America will accelerate Europe’s insolvency.  The Demographic numbers in Europe are undeniable–and they cannot be changed in our lifetimes, or in  the next.  Germany’s birthrate per woman is 1.42, [CIA World Fact Book, 2010] which is a world away from the 2.1 births per woman required merely to sustain a population.  But 1.42 doesn’t tell the whole story, because that number is significantly bolstered by immigrant birthrates, particularly Muslim birthrates on the order of 7 per female.  The Germans brought in many Turkish people in the 1970s because the workforce was significantly undermanned.  Such is the case throughout Europe, where Thatcher’s prediction of government running out of other people’s money have come true:  more old people on the retirement system and fewer young people to work and provide taxes.  Greece’s birthrate’s are even lower and the country imploded.  Italy is next:  Witness that country’s anemic 1.32 birthrate.  Bye bye bistro.

Democracy is a tool for change and in Democracy, anything can change.  Voters whom bring third or second world cultural views to Europe will change Europe.  They already have.

We are living the classic Chinese curse.  We are living in interesting times.  We can now see for ourselves how Rome fell, and recognize that it fell on its own sword.  The problems in America are evident in everything from America’s economic woes to it’s inability to defeat a band of toothless dirt farmers in Afghanistan.

The election of Barack Obama has hastened America’s demise, but it is not the cause.  His election was a symptom of the changes brought upon the country.  As Pat Buchanan will outline in his upcoming book:  The Suicide of a Superpower, America and Europe are fracturing upon racial lines.  Blacks in America voted for Barack Obama at a 24:1 ratio, primarily because of his African American heritage.  The more we have talked about race in America, the more racially divided we have become.  While laws do protect minorities more than they did in the past, the level of distrust along racial divides is as great as ever.

As the culture shift occurs,  the new demography continues to vote itself a bigger chunk of the welfare pie.  And it’s only just begun.  The birthrate issues in Europe are virtually irreversible.  There is simply no arguing the math.  The only argument is that people can change the way they think and vote.  But if we think that entire cultures suddenly change the way they think without a catastrophe as the motivator,  we should look over our history books again.  The decline of the West is inevitable at this point.  The question is, What does that mean for the rest of the world?  It is not the death of democracy we are witnessing, only it’s little talked about dark side.

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One thought on “Is the West Doomed?

    anonymous said:
    November 8, 2011 at 8:19 am

    “3) Globalization. Globalization allows employers to outsource labor.

    While all of these things have some impact, I think that Zakaria skips over the cultural shift occurring throughout America. The cultural war inside the US is tearing it apart; the “have-nots” now expect success be handed to them. Moreover, multiculturalism is instigating conflict. The West is now like a man who walks around grinding his teeth all the time, but he can’t figure out why he does it. He feels an internal stress that he finds inexplicable. That stress is the breaking down of trust, the great binder of all societies. Samuel Huntington said that culture is made up of two things: Religion and language. These two things breed trust.”

    Interesting that you should have these two paragraphs next to each other, only slightly connected. I think these two forces you speak of – globalization and the “cultural war” in America – are hand in glove.

    Globalization, the intermingling of global economies and societies, effects culture clashes at all levels of society. People meet foreigners, marry them, learn their ideas, and are forced to compare their values. Sometimes people feel that their foreign friends have better ideas than their countrymen; we see that when we read about all the revolutions that happened throughout Europe after the French Revolution (and the French took inspiration from our own struggle for independence!). If you’re looking to find the reason that we seem to be having a “culture war,” I think globalization may be a reasonable culprit.

    It makes sense when you think about it; the big political split you’ve got in the country (if you’ll allow me to simplify it this crudely) is between the Coasts and the Heartland. The Coasts have more diversity, more immigrants, more intermingling of cultures. Their populations mix together different values systems, so naturally they would be more prone to call for radical change that moved away from the common perception of what have traditionally been “American Values.” On the other hand you have the Heartland (since I’m from Washington state, you’ll have to bear with me for a minute and correct me if you think I’m wrong), which is more insular and slower to warm up to new ideas. There is a certain attachment to the idea of adhering to a set of “traditional values” that emulate those of generations past. And why not? Their values (or what we believe their values to be) brought America to global prominence; these are values forged in the fire of experience.

    Now, to give my opinion, I think that conceptualizing the “West” as “a man who walks around grinding his teeth all the time” without knowing why falls somewhat short of representing reality. What exactly is the “West” these days? Practically none of the ideas on either side of the “culture war” you speak of are non-Western. In fact, the debate actually takes place in a surprisingly narrow scope of options. On one side we have the Conservatives, who favor less regulation and less taxes for businesses, along with fewer government programs. On the other we have Liberals, who favor more regulation and more taxes for businesses, along with more government programs. We don’t have any socialists, communists, authoritarians, reactionaries, theocrats, or anarchists – at least none that anyone takes seriously in an election, which is all that matters in a practical sense.

    Though even if we did somehow manage to all follow the same religion and have the same beliefs about what kind of economic system was best, we’d still have a culture war. How pure should our capitalism be? How much can we allow moral concerns to cut into “staying competitive in global markets?” People would get into fistfights over it. “Culture wars” have been happening for as long as people have been living in societies that had more than one person. Christians may be onto something when they say that Jesus is the only thing that will put America in harmony again – indeed, he’s probably the only one that would have the ability to do that at this point. But in the end, you said it best yourself:

    “But if we think that entire cultures suddenly change the way they think without a catastrophe as the motivator, we should look over our history books again.”

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