Tuesday, 14 December 2004

Losing a good one

Sgt. Hook, as a gesture towards his men, is retiring from blogging. I’ve been reading him for the last 18 months or so—swapped a few emails as well—and he’ll be sorely missed. He’s a credit to his country.

Social democracy an inevitability?

John Quiggin has a post on an article by Milton Friedman that discusses the demise of socialism in recent decades, and a similar increase in "welfare" spending (the article is for subscribers, so I have to take his word for it).

Quiggin is a social democrat so, naturally, he sees the recent gains in capitalism (neoliberalism in his lingo) as just making the sectors where capitalism succeeds smaller and making the increase of government interference an inevitability due to capitalism’s own successes. For instance, he lists agriculture and manufacturing as areas that are appropriate to capitalism, but healthcare and education, not so much.

Europe will get increasingly economically weak for the next several decades and almost all of it can be accounted for in their demographics, not their philosophy. If their philosophy stays exactly the same, they will see much more government. That's not a philosophy that's ascendant; rather, one that is stuck in its own demographic constraints.

Like Quiggin, I’m influenced by my own views and disagree with his. He sees increased government interference, and he’s probably right about most of the rest of the world, but the U.S. is still an open question as I see it. Europe will be experiencing dramatically increasing median age, which will propel its welfare states even higher than they are now as a percentage of GDP (typically around 50%, as opposed to 32% for the U.S.). The only real hope they have for immigration is from the Middle East, from a culture largely untouched by the Enlightenment. In my opinion, it’s far more likely that we’ll be seeing a Europe in the future that’s far more illiberal (in the classical sense) if they accept new immigrants, and economically so even if they don’t.

The Economist has an excellent population survey from a couple of years ago that sheds a bit of light on the situation:

For 50 years, America and the nations of Western Europe have been lumped together as rich countries, sharing the same basic demographic features: stable populations, low and declining fertility, increasing numbers of old people. For much of that period, this was true. But in the 1980s, the two sides began to diverge. The effect was muted at first, because demographic change is slow. But it is also remorseless, and is now beginning to show up.

America’s census in 2000 contained a shock. The population turned out to be rising faster than anyone had expected when the 1990 census was taken. There are disputes about exactly why this was (more on that shortly). What is not in doubt is that a gap is beginning to open with Europe. America’s fertility rate is rising. Europe’s is falling. America’s immigration outstrips Europe’s and its immigrant population is reproducing faster than native-born Americans. America’s population will soon be getting younger. Europe’s is ageing.

Unless things change substantially, these trends will accelerate over coming decades, driving the two sides of the Atlantic farther apart. By 2040, and possibly earlier, America will overtake Europe in population and will come to look remarkably (and, in many ways, worryingly) different from the Old World.

In 1950, Western Europe was exactly twice as populous as the United States: 304m against 152m. (This article uses the US Census Bureau’s definition of “Europe”, which includes all countries that were not communist during the cold war. The 15 countries that make up the European Union are a slightly smaller sample: they had a population of 296m in 1950.) Both sides of the Atlantic saw their populations surge during the baby boom, then grow more slowly until the mid-1980s. Even now, Europe’s population remains more than 100m larger than America’s.

In the 1980s, however, something curious began to happen. American fertility rates—the average number of children a woman can expect to bear in her lifetime—suddenly began to reverse their decline. Between 1960 and 1985, the American fertility rate had fallen faster than Europe’s, to 1.8, slightly below European levels and far below the “replacement level” of 2.1 (the rate required to keep the population steady). By the 1990s American fertility had rebounded, rising back to just below the 2.1 mark.

They go on to list the details of the change in median age, which are simply astounding:
According to Bill Frey, a demographer at the University of Michigan, the median age in America in 2050 will be 36.2. In Europe it will be 52.7. That is a stunning difference, accounted for almost entirely by the dramatic ageing of the European population. At the moment, the median age is 35.5 in America and 37.7 in Europe. In other words, the difference in the median age is likely to rise from two to 17 years by 2050.
Read the last sentence again: “the difference in the median age is likely to rise from two to 17 years by 2050”. Europe will get increasingly economically weak for the next several decades and almost all of it can be accounted for in their demographics, not their philosophy. If their philosophy stays exactly the same, they will see much more government. That's not a philosophy that's ascendant; rather, one that is stuck in its own demographic constraints.

The U.S. is not settled by a long shot. First, we had a chance to follow Europe towards social democracy in the 1970s. Instead, we elected Reagan and enacted tax cuts—very steep ones which were partially repealed in the coming years. We’ve done something similar with President Bush who has been characteristically headstrong in his refusal to raise taxes as the boomers start to retire. He’s pushing for reform of social security and has already implemented MSAs on a limited basis. He’s right to do it, as well. I would far rather experience some short-term pain—even excruciating pain—rather than suffer slow decline, which will surely happen with the expansion of government that Quiggin envisions.

He’s an Australian and I’ll wish him well in his country’s little adventure. I just don’t want us to follow them.

I hate British Nazis

Perry is on a bit of a roll. It appears that the UK is need of an ACLU, and perhaps a First Amendment as well. The UK apparently has a semi-funtioning Nazi Party whose members are getting arrested for “thought crimes”.

As Perry notes in his title, Nazis are pretty easy pickings. Totalitarians routinely go after easy targets—other totalitarians they oppose, pornographers and the like—to establish a precedent for broader moves against freedom. The UK is looking increasingly hostile to free speech—the canary in the coalmine for freedom, you might say.

Update: In a later comment to the same post, Perry, correctly in my estimation, says that imams, as well as their opponents, should be allowed to say whatever hateful things they wish to say. Fellow Brits should likewise be able to call them morons for saying as much. It's the exchange of ideas, however repugnant.

Another Update: Surprisingly, I managed to forget to include this quote from Jefferson, which seems wholly appropriate:

"It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. Subject opinion to coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors?" - Thomas Jefferson

Misogyny day in the blogosphere

For the first time in two weeks I was able to both get a good night’s sleep and get up at a reasonable hour. And, after spending a little time around the blogosphere, a theme began to emerge: misogyny. Much of it was done in good humor, like this excerpt from Steve:

No woman has ever forgiven any man for anything, since the dawn of time. And the things we’re least likely to be forgiven for are the things THEY did or caused. Example: you dropped your girlfriend because she refused to stop stabbing you. This makes you a touchy bastard who can’t tell sincere violence from her special way of telling you she feels neglected. Example: you dropped your girlfriend because you kept finding her at Motel 6 under guys who liked telling her what to do. This makes you a resentful wuss who watches too many reruns of “Maude.”
That was laugh-out-loud funny. And this little nugget from Allah in a subsequent post from Steve:
Look on the bright side, though: It’s much better to be an unattractive man than an unattractive woman. Ugly guys like me are just one lottery ticket away from being sex symbols. But an ugly gal? Bottoms up on the Drano, honey.
Quite bitter. If only it were true. What’s even better is watching another woman, in this instance “kelly”, clawing at the corpse of Helen Thomas by suggesting she need’s a “back-waxing”!

Michele does an excellent summary of this as follows:

Men like sex. They like football and basketball but they like sex more. Women don’t like sex as much. Their version of porn is home improvement shows. They get off on Trading Spaces. Women like shiny metal kitchen appliances. Men like power tools. You can take away a man’s football as long as you replace it with some p*ssy, but don’t take away a woman’s decorating show, because not even a ten inch d*ck will be able to replace that.
Finally, Ann Althouse pings a couple of academics for their conclusions regarding men and subordinate women.

Not that this is related, but Rachel Lucas is back in the saddle as the Blue-Eyed Infidel. She doesn’t have her picture up this time, but if memory serves she’s quite the babe. Misogynistic of me? Maybe. BTW, Allah might want to reconsider that lottery win.

(þ: The Professor.)

From Gulf War 1

“While you are away, movie stars are taking your women, Robert Redford is dating your girlfriend, Tom Selleck is kissing your lady, Bart Simpson is making love to your wife.”
—Baghdad Betty, Iraqi radio announcer to Gulf War troops.