Author and columnist Mark Steyn—the wittiest man we know—visited the HUMAN EVENTS offices this week to talk about his new book, “America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It” (published by Regnery, our sister company).
The book reveals the growing threat of anti-Americanism in Old Europe and the growth of radical Islam. Steyn’s conclusion is that America will have to stand alone—and in doing so, better win this great struggle.
Today is the first of three Podcasts we’ll be running this week of our interview. Below is a transcript of our conversation, which covers Steyn’s views on the 300 millionth America, Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s call for his citizens to reproduce and what’s in store for Europe.
To get things started, tell us what inspired you to write “America Alone”?
Well, basically I became concerned that we’re not looking at the War on Terror, so called, in the right way. I think we’re seeing the intersection of several different elements that are actually making this a very fast-moving, fast-changing world. On the one hand you have basically the entire collapse of the birth rates of most of the Western world and alongside that you have this, effectively, this successive population that’s moving into a lot of those countries. That’s a huge, unprecedented, demographic transformation that is taking place in our lifetime.
In other words, it’s not something that’s going to happen around—you know, when I listen to Al Gore and he’s worried about some bug you’ve never heard of that might go extinct or the rising sea levels, I think I say in the book that, on present rates the Maldives Islands, which everyone worries about, are going to be underwater by the year 2500—2500!—well, I’ll take my chances that by 2475 they’ll have invented something that will be able to prevent the Maldives from being submerged.
But this is happening now: Basically the European nations are dying and the populations in them are turning into relatively hostile Muslim populations, not all of them terrorists, but all of them, almost all of those people not sympathetic to America and American interests. And I feel that the great assumption that we all have, that the present tense is somehow permanent, or that it’s like technological progress. You know, it’s like, cars don’t go backwards. You don’t suddenly have a Cadillac Escalade and you go out into the yard one morning and it’s turned into a Ford Model T and it’s got a rumble seat and all kinds of other stuff in it. You take the view that—we think that social progress is like technological progress, that it can never be reversed, but I think it can be reversed and I think a lot of the world is going to be re-primitivized in the decades ahead and America has to change.
And why do you think the birth rate or the birth of the 300 millionth American is something to celebrate while the mainstream media continue to say that it’s something that we need to be upset about?
Well, to start, America has one of lowest population densities in the world. I think there’s 200 nations in the world and I think America is 172nd on that list. This is a big empty country. I’m astonished at the fetishization of open, so-called open space—no matter how hideously ugly it is. I mean that’s like [the] Alaska wildlife refuge is as bleak and unattractive as any real estate on earth. It’s a breeding ground for the world’s biggest mosquito herd, it’s a place of—the idea that it’s a kind of bucolic area that has to be preserved at all costs against your economic interests or against your population’s interests is ridiculous.
My state—my town is like 95% forested. People worry about deforestation—it’s the most absurd, ludicrous thing! I wouldn’t be able to see through to my laptop if there were any more trees in my town—they’re like everywhere. And so I think this idea that there’s a pressure on space in America is complete, absolute driveling nonsense. Three hundred million Americans is a great thing because human capital is the most important. And basically a lot of what we worry about is anti-human.
You know, people talk about sustain—when [Thomas] Malthus—it’s worse than Malthus. You know, 200 years ago when Malthus did his thing worrying about overpopulation, he worried that we would have so many people on the planet that there wouldn’t be enough food them, so they would starve to death. Now, if you’re going to worry about overpopulation that seems a reasonable way to frame it. We don’t even worry about that now. We don’t worry about people starving to death. We worry that we might slightly impinge on the breeding ground of some insect nobody’s ever even heard of in the middle of the desert. I mean, it’s like, it’s crazy there—everyone knows that this country can support 300 million, 400 million, 500 million, 600 million—and the idea that the way to go is to follow Europe and it’s demographic death spiral is ludicrous.
Can you talk a bit about what you call “the developed world’s most critically endangered species”?
Well that would, that would be man. You know I just don’t understand how—and in a way it’s a tribute to the way these environmentalists have succeeded in almost imprinting this thing upon us—we think it’s virtue, it’s virtuous. We get worried. You know they talk about—it’s like in my part of the world you’ve got peregrine falcons. They were on the endangered species list for a while and then they get all excited, you know, because we’ve got two peregrine falcons and their breeding and they’ve had a baby and they’ve had another baby. Whereas, we think that’s great for the peregrine falcons and then for us, we think: “Oh, it’s irresponsible, you know, to have too many children. It’s terrible. It’s the wrong thing to do. Man shouldn’t have those terrible precious…” And it’s not at all.
Man is the indispensable resource. And more than that, it’s what kind of man. (I use man in the sense—I’m not using it in the sexist sense, I’m using it to mean man and woman. I don’t want to make the interview twice as long by ostentatiously saying “man and woman,” “he and she” like you’re meant to do these days. So, forgive—just take the man and the woman, the he and the she, as read.) But basically, once you decide that man is a good thing, the question is: What kind of man? And, the fact of the matter is, that there are certain—we have not had a population explosion in the world. We have had a shriveling of population in the developed world. In other words, the world that has generated the systems of liberty, and economic prosperity, and healthy living and global infrastructure that we all take for granted.
Now, can all those people die off and can you leave it to Yemen and Pakistan to run the world? They have two of the fastest birthrates in the world. What is it going to be like when most of the Western world has died off and it’s this particular demographic that is dominant? I don’t pretend to have all the answers—especially when I’m being interviewed—but to pretend there are no questions here I think is very dangerous.
You’ve joked a bit about how your book was perfectly timed with the birth of this 300 millionth American. Today the Guardian reported that Iran’s president has called for a baby boom to almost double the country’s population to 120 million and enable it to threaten the West. How much did your publicity department pay for this newsbyte?
Well, the publicist is a genius because that is the kind of endorsement you can’t get. I don’t know how he got a copy to President Ahmadinejad but I’m glad that the president of Iran has digested the main lesson, which is, if you don’t have people, you can’t have any influence in the world.
My country Canada is the smuggest country on the planet—the smuggest country on the planet. We think that Canada is like the indispensable—you can’t do any UN peacekeeping, all the rest of it, it’s like impossible, Canadian ideas and this—“the world needs more Canada”—that was the catch phrase of whatever it’s called, the Canadian department of tourism. “The world needs more Canada.” Let’s leave aside whether that is actually true—but assuming it is—how can you have more Canada if you’ve got no Canadians? This is the great human question. If Canadians genuinely believe themselves to be indispensable to the good of the planet and all the touchy-feely stuff they believe in, you’ve got to have people around in sufficient numbers to have an influence.
When I was at the BBC, we used to do these features every so—they seemed to come around all the time—where you’d go and interview the last Cornish speaker—he lived in Cornwell and he spoke Cornish. I forget when he died and all of that. So you’d go down and speak to some gnarled, old yokel who’s the last person to speak this language. And, eventually, at such a point, you reach a point where the only people speaking Italian and German will be like that gnarled, old Cornish yokel and we will reach that point very, very quickly and then how big of an influence are Germany and Italy going to have in the world if there are no Germans or Italians?
Do you see parallels in anyway between President Ahmadinejad’s call for an increase in population and Hitler’s call for reproduction in Nazi Germany?
No, I think every society—regardless of whether it’s a totalitarian dictatorship, or it’s fascist, or it’s communist, or it’s Muslim theocratic, or it’s a liberal Western democracy—needs people. And people get—you make that point that you think there’s something creepy about the state urging you to have children for the state. I don’t think it is.
The treasurer of Australia has a slogan. He says, he’s recommending—he’s offering great tax incentives—but he’s recommending that people have three kids. He goes: “One for mum, one for dad, one for Australia.” And I think that’s actually a good way of looking at it. I don’t put him in the same category of either President Ahmadinejad or Adolf Hitler. And I would rather live in a world where there were more Australians and fewer subjects of the Third Reich. I think calls to reproduce are a good idea for any state. How good those citizens are depends on the state they’re raised in.
Which European country do you have the most faith in to exit this century culturally intact?
I would have to say I think it’s going to be one of the Eastern countries—one of the Warsaw Pact countries—former Warsaw Pact countries. It will be something like Hungary or Poland or the Czech Republic. They did not shrug off communism to expire 15 years later to an entirely different kind of threat. So I think they’ve got a much better chance coming out of it than the Western Europeans have.
Do you see Europe returning to Christianity after secularism causes its collapse?
I would doubt it. I would say the better bet at this stage is that more and more Europeans will convert to Islam. I think in a sense Christianity is going to be an underground religion in Europe, and I would think that for the immediate future Christianity’s main growth areas will be places like China. Essentially it’s going to require an entire political class and its philosophy to die off before Europe starts to recover from secularism.