A Double-Dose of Spengler

How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam is Dying, Too)

David P. Goldman

Regnery Publishing, $27.95


It's Not the End of the World (It's Just the End of You)

David P. Goldman

RVP Publishers, $22.95

Back in the 1990s, a publication no one had ever heard of, Asia Times, began to run a column written by someone calling himself "Spengler" -- as in Oswald Spengler, the German author of the classic Decline of the West.  These columns were so insightful, and so well-written, that the urge to forward them to other readers was irresistible.  (I seemed to get about 10 copies of each Spengler column from various friends and ex-colleagues in the intelligence business, and I probably forwarded each column to a dozen of the ex-spooks I'd worked with during the Reagan administration.)  Before long, more than a million people each week were reading these columns, and a lot of them were asking one another: who's Spengler?

Given the extraordinary depth and breadth of his columns, several of us assumed that "Spengler" was merely the nom de guerre for a top-secret cadre of geopolitical geniuses operating clandestinely from somewhere in Hong Kong or perhaps Singapore.  Not quite.  It turns out that "Spengler" is actually David P. Goldman, who's based in New York and who once headed global bond research for Bank of America.  He's also a highly regarded literary and music critic with a Ph.D in music theory. 

Goldman is a man on a mission.  His recurring themes are the mortality of nations, Western secularism, Asian anomie, and inadaptable Islam.  Why -- before "outing" himself last year -- did he choose to write for so long under a pseudonym?  In  his own words:

To inform a culture that it is going to die does not necessarily win friends, and what I needed to say would be hurtful to many readers.  I needed to tell the Europeans that their post-national, secular dystopia was a death trap whence no one would get out alive.  I needed to tell the Muslims that nothing would alleviate the unbearable sense of humiliation and loss that globalization inflicted on a civilization that once had pretensions to world dominance.  I needed to tell Asians that materialism leads only to despair.  And I needed to tell the Americans that their smugness would be their undoing.

Now, writing under his real name, Goldman has published two books simultaneously.  The first, entitled Why Civilizations Die, focuses on the powerful but too-often-ignored correlation between faith and fertility.  Simply put, people of faith tend to have more children than secular people, who believe that life itself is some sort of cosmic joke.  It's well-known that in Europe, whose population is increasingly secular, the birthrate is below the replacement level.  In this book, Goldman provides the global birthrate numbers, which show that fertility in the Muslim world is also starting to collapse.  His conclusion is obvious, but nonetheless startling: just like Europe, the Islamic world is beginning to die.  This isn't a political assertion;  this is math:

By the end of the century, under the assumption of constant fertility, the economically active population (aged 15 to 59 years) of Western Europe will fall by two-fifths, and of Eastern Europe and East Asia by about two-thirds.....The least fertile European countries will see their total populations drop by 40 to 60 percent in the course of the present century....

But even more remarkable than the demographic decline of the industrial nations in Europe and the Far East is the speed at which Muslim nations are catching up and in some cases overtaking the rest of the world in fertility collapse.  World fertility has fallen by about two children per woman in the past half century -- from about 4.5 children per woman to about 2.5.  Fertility in the Muslim world has fallen two or three times faster than the world average.  The drastic drop-off in fertility has hit Arab, Persian, Turkish, Maylay and South Asian Muslims.  Iran's fertility has fallen by almost six children per woman, Turkey's has fallen by five children per woman, Pakistan's by more than three children per woman, and Egypt's and Indonesia's by four.....

Europe is already struggling to cope with an aging population and increased demands for pensions and health care.  During the next forty years, the average age of the European population will increase only from forty to forty-six years.  In most Muslim countries, the average age today ranges from late teens to late twenties -- but by 2050, it may rise to forty years or more.  Many of the largest Muslim countries may well catch up with Europe's geriatric crisis in a generation and a half.  By 2070, Iran will be grayer than Europe.

Most of How Civilizations Die is devoted to explaining what all this means -- in particular, how Islam's looming demographic collapse makes the world a dangerous place in the coming decades.  In short, the leaders of Iran, Turkey, and other Muslim countries know that their civilizations are dying -- and dying civilizations sometimes go for broke.

Oh, and do you know which Western country has the highest birth rate?  It's Israel.  If today's global birthrates continue, by 2085 there will be more Israelis than Poles.  By the end of this century, the Jewish state will have more young people -- and thus be able to put a larger army on the battlefield -- than Germany.

Goldman's other book, It's Not the End of the World, is mostly a collection of his Spengler columns that he's updated since their original publication.  Some of these columns cover the same subject of How Civilizations Die.  Others range more widely, and stretch across philosophy, religion, literature, American popular culture, and music.  His essay on Richard Wagner's operas is a knockout; it's a joy to read even if you're tone-deaf.

Read How Civilizations Die for its overview of global demographics and its projections of Islam's looming demographic collapse.  It's packed with information and geo-strategic insight that will sharpen your understanding of the daily headlines.  And when you've got some time to settle down with something decent to drink, read It's Not the End of the World for the sheer pleasure of spending some time in the company of a first-class mind.

Herbert E. Meyer served during the Reagan administration as special assistant to the director of Central Intelligence and vice chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council.  He is author of How to Analyze Information and The Cure for Poverty.

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