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Demography is Destiny

The Human Tide

The Human Tide

by Marcus Roberts | February 12, 2019

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In the Spectator (UK ed), the novelist Lionel Shriver has recently reviewed the new book on human demography throughout history: The Human Tide. This book, written by Dr Paul of Birkbeck College, University of London, paints a broad sweep of history and demonstrates how the growth, decline and movement of populations have shaped the modern world. Although Shriver described Morland as “moderate”, some of his claims in the start of the book would be described by some in the Guardian Towers in London as anything but. For example, he states that “ethnicity matters politically” and that “nations and ethnic groups are real” and that they “matter in history”. Those beholden to a view that we are inexorably moving to a post-national future run by benign committees in Brussels, Geneva and New York might have a different view….

According to Morland, surplus population allowed western Europe to conquer the globe in the nineteenth century: countries such as Great Britain could project power and exert influence and claim territory due to their “mushrooming domestic populations” whose countries could afford to send them over the world. If Great Britain “made the world”, it did so “by exporting people”. But, as Shriver notes, the book shies from making the obvious parallel: isn’t mass migration from developing nations to the West doing the same thing (exerting influence, claiming territory and projecting power) in reverse? Especially when Western European nations are democratic (leaving aside the dead hand of EU bureaucratic power), the number of inhabitants in western country have real political power.

And this reversal of the nineteenth century is coming when Western Europe, having been the first to experience a ballooning population due to industrialisation, better sanitation and medical advances, is now the first to suffer its downstream effects: a demographic decline due to falling birthrates. The figures show this reversal graphically: the population that does not consider itself white British rose tenfold from two to 20 per cent in the fifty years up to 2011. This is “historically unprecendented” in Britain, for, despite what some bien pensants may say, it is “simply untrue” that England has “always been a land of immigration”.

Although English-speaking countries remain, still, the “richest and most economically powerful people on earth” they are “now in retreat in many fields on the world stage”. And they have now “significantly retreated as an ethnic group within their own states”. So white Britons are expected to become a minority in Britain around 2060. Elsewhere, white Europeans in California have fallen from 70 per cent to 40 per cent of the population in only 30 years.

On the other hand, Africa’s demographic increase and (potential?) power increases. Although its fertility rates have declined, they haven’t fallen as quickly as many expected. So there are now projections from the UN that the African continent will be home to 2.5 billion people in 2050 and 4.5 billion by 2100. (Although see Shannon’s recent post about different predictions.)

Even if demography isn’t destiny, according to Morland, it does explain an awful lot of human history. If he is correct, then we are probably witnessing a decisive shift from the west-dominating paradigm of the last two centuries.

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