“We’re the ones who will change you,” the Norwegian imam Mullah Krekar told the Oslo newspaper Dagbladet in 2006. “Just look at the development within Europe, where the number of Muslims is expanding like mosquitoes. Every Western woman in the EU is producing an average of 1.4 children. Every Muslim woman in the same countries is producing 3.5 children.” As he summed it up: “Our way of thinking will prove more powerful than yours.”
– Mark Steyn, Macleans.ca (from the piece that’s seen him dragged before the loopily totalitarian Canadian Human Rights Commission).
While population growth accounts for only a modest part of the growing demand for food, it can contribute to global warming, and long-term climate change can threaten agriculture. Happily, population growth is already slowing and there is overwhelming evidence that women’s empowerment (including expansion of schooling for girls) can rapidly reduce it even further.
– Amartya Sen, New York Times (where, among other things, he gets stuck into loopy greenies and their obsession with biofuels).
Both quotes are relevant to what I’ve to say. I’m getting there, bear with me.
Legal Eagle’s and Ken Parish’s posts on Mark Steyn’s appearance before the House Committee on anti-Multiculturalist Activities (I’m sorry, that’s all this travesty of justice can legitimately be called) got me thinking about this, despite the fact I should be revising for my Finals. That such a body even exists offends my libertarian soul, and I commend both Ken and LE for their dispassionate analyses. I’m going to pick on a point both made and run from there. What follows ain’t at all dispassionate, either. You have been warned.
Unlike Nalliah and Scot’s rather bizarre diatribe, Steyn’s words were undeniably part of mainstream political discourse. That such discussion could be prohibited in a supposedly liberal democratic country is quite extraordinary and even frightening. Personally I agree with most of what Steyn had to say, albeit that I might have expressed it a bit less trenchantly and with a few more qualifiers. But that really is beside the point. The whole point of freedom of speech is that one is free to speak, within very broad limits, irrespective of whether others may disagree or be offended.
Legal Eagle, by contrast, made this point:
Steyn’s article was typically acerbic, to be sure, but it was not actually as offensive as I thought it was going to be. Indeed, I thought its central premise was rather ridiculous: what is the West to do, ban contraception so that women have more babies? Put a limit on the number of children that Muslims can have? Really, in some ways, the article was not worth gratifying with a complaint. If Steyn had suggested Muslims should be forcibly sterilised or Muslims should be sent to gas-chambers, I’d have no problem with a complaint against him: but he didn’t say that.
Let’s leave the free speech issue to one side (because we all know what a libertarian lawyer is going to say about free speech, natch). Let’s focus on Steyn’s demographic point, and LE’s extremely pertinent rebuttal. We might also want to remember Amartya Sen’s comment at the top of this post (noting all the while that there is a mountain of evidence for Sen’s assertion): to wit, economically independent and educated women have fewer children. There is almost a straight line correlation between rates of female education and economic independence, which in turn is strongly linked to the rapid decline in Western birthrates.
Face it, fellahs (especially conservatives like Steyn), the Human Animal is not a particularly altruistic beast (and raising children, as opposed to simply reproducing, is a supremely altruistic act). Give women the same choices and economic advantages and choices as you blokes have enjoyed for a fair ol’ while, and economics will win over altruism (especially religiously inspired altruism) nearly every time.
So, then, why the fuck are Muslim women in Europe outpopulating the locals in such a dramatic way? Is there a similar difference between Muslim women and local women in the United States? The answers are pretty simple: (a) multiculturalism and (b) no.
As John Finnis argues (contra Joseph Raz) if you provide state funding to a given conception of the good, then that conception begins to propagate, breeding its own special interests and rent-seekers. Couple it with a welfare state and high minimum wage – the very things keeping all those Muslim ‘yoofs’ Steyn rails against out of the workforce and engaging in nightly car-b-ques on the Paris streets – and you have a pretty toxic recipe. Memo to conservatives and their fellow demographic doomsayers: the feminist genie is out of the bottle. Caging it up ain’t gonna work. What we have to do is infect all the imports with it, too. Libertarians know how to do that bit, though, because we understand the power of the free market.
I’ve no time for Finnis’ anti-immigration rhetoric, in part because the genie’s out of the bottle there, as well. Instead, we can beat Islam (and any other religion you care to name) with simple, straight-up capitalism. I must admit I thought it was touch-and-go on that front for a while, and I watched Bush and his ‘faith-based-initiatives’ with interest. In the end, partly thanks to characteristics internal to US governance and partly thanks to the refusal of markets to play the game, Bush couldn’t even put a dent in Roe v Wade. Or anything else much for that matter.
Abolish multiculturalism. Abolish Human Rights Commissions and their expensive, taxpayer-funded ilk. Abolish the minimum wage. Remember that the best path out of poverty is a job. If the state pays for anything, let it be first-class education. Make sure the rule of law is rock-solid so women from immigrant groups with less than ideal attitudes to female autonomy can exercise what Raz calls their ‘rights of exit’.
In an Islam v Economics cage match on those terms, I’d give Islam in the West less than a generation. It’ll become as private and anodyne as Christianity in the West. Far better than treating women as slot machines into which you insert money and hey, presto, out pops a baby. Some people may respond to that sort of incentive (as Andrew Leigh has argued in various places), but most don’t.
And another thing (although this is the skeptic speaking as much as the law & economics aficionado): stop treating Islam with such bloody deference. Or I really will start demanding equal time for the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
UPDATE: A bunch of very smart economists who should know better have managed to confuse Legal Eagle with me. Mark Steyn didn’t make the same mistake, linking to both posts and noting the difference. Which if nothing else suggests he’s a very careful writer. [The fluff has been noted, and defluffed].
[Legal Eagle’s take is here].
UPDATE II: It’s not often that you find an utterly textbook example of the classic ‘group rights trump individual rights’ anti-free speecher, but I’ve found one. Her initial post is just silly (and now amended in various interesting ways), but the attempts at rationalisation further down the thread just get funnier and funnier. Money quote?
Oh and I don’t need to read his book to know his arguments are bunk. But I have a question for you. If you really think the scary scary muslims are overrunning us then what would be your solution? Hmmm? I’m waiting.
Even worse, she professes allegiance to His Pastaness, the Flying Spaghetti Monster.