Sunday, August 26, 2007

Book Review: The Last Days of Europe

Walter Laqueur, historian and former chairman of the International Research Council of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, has written yet another important book.

The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent is powerful because it is restrained. Employing a tone that might accompany a CPA's report, Laqueur dissects the impact of Europe's declining population as well as its alienated Islamic groups and rapacious welfare systems and concludes that a perfect storm may be on the horizon.

For those readers who have been following the demographic projections, Laqueur's statistics will not come as a surprise, but to cite just a few:

  • Russia's current population of 145 million is shrinking annually by 2 percent and within 50 years is expected to be one-third of its current size. Its population may be surpassed by those of Turkey and Yemen.

  • The United Kingdom's population is expected to decline from its current 60 million to 53 million in 2050 and 45 million in 2100.

  • Germany's population is expected to decline from its current 82 million to 61 million in 2050 and 32 million in 2100.

  • Italy's population is expected to decline from its current 57 million to 37 million in 2050 and 15 million in 2100.

  • Spain's population is expected to decline from its current 39 million to 28 million in 2050 and 12 million in 2100.

  • In 2050, the median age in the United States will be 36. In Europe it will be about 53.

In short, many of the European nations are in this box: Their populations are shrinking and aging. In order to maintain the generous benefits of their welfare states, they will require younger workers. A large portion of those younger workers, however, will be Muslims who may - or may not - desire to be assimilated into or maintain democratic societies. Consider the extent to which American minority groups with 10 to 14 percent of the population can affect American political stances and then imagine what the effect would be if such groups favored sharia law and opposed freedom of expression and equal rights and you may gain a sense of what Europe will be facing.

Laqueur follows writers such as Bruce Bawer and Mark Steyn in stating this concern and yet his international relations and scholarly credentials give added weight to his arguments. There is little doubt that his book will be widely read in the United States. One hopes that it receives an even larger readership in Europe.

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