New Australia Day Poll: We Love Australia

A new poll conducted exclusively for the free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs shows Australians hold overwhelmingly patriotic views. The poll was featured in the Herald Sun this morning.

“Australia is a great country – and Australians agree. They are proud to be Australian, proud of our past and love celebrating Australia Day,” says James Paterson, Deputy Executive Director of the IPA.

The key findings of the poll are:

  • 91 per cent of Australians are “proud to be Australian”
  • 85 per cent believe that “Australia Day is a day for celebration”
  • 78 per cent agree that “Australia has a history to be proud of”
  • 92 per cent believe Australia is a better country than most other countries
  • 81 per cent believe the “world would be a better place if other countries were more like Australia”

“It is no wonder that Australians love their country. We are all treated equally before the law. People who work hard get ahead. We enjoy the freedom to worship. We have largely maintained our freedom to speak. We live in a pluralistic, tolerant, liberal democracy.

“On Australia Day we are often told that Australia needs to change. This poll shows why those people are wrong. We don’t need to change our flag. We don’t need to abandon our national anthem. We don’t need to change our constitution. We don’t need to apologise for our past.

“Australia Day is a day for celebration. Australia is a truly unique country. Most people in the world for most of human history could only dream of the safety, security and prosperity that we enjoy as Australians today.

“That doesn’t mean Australia is perfect. We do face challenges. But Australia Day is a day to recognise what we’ve got right – and it is great to see that Australians overwhelmingly agree,” says Mr Paterson.

The poll of 1,003 respondents was conducted online by Research Now on 15-18 January 2016. A summary of the key findings is available here.

200 Years Since Waterloo

2015 will be a year of important historical anniversaries. First, Anzac Day next year will mark exactly 100 years since the landing at Gallipoli. The First World War featured in theNovember edition of Horizons last year, and here is a piece that IPA executive director John Roskam wrote about the significance of Anzac Day and Gallipoli from 2007.

Second, according to tradition, 15 June next year will mark exactly 800 years since King John of England set his seal to Magna Carta – a document that later became foundational to the rule of law and parliamentary democracy. This was the feature of the August edition of Horizons.

And third, 18 June next year will mark exactly 200 years since the Waterloo – the decisive and bloody battle which ended the Napoleonic Wars and opened up Europe to almost a century of relative peace.

In the November edition of Standpoint Magazine, historian Andrew Roberts speculated that Waterloo is probably ‘the world’s most famous battle’ and revises two of the best books that have been recently published to commemorate the anniversary.

Andrew Roberts was the keynote speaker at the IPA’s 2011 Foundations of Western Civilisation Symposium. You can view the keynote address here.

The first book in his review is Waterloo: Myth and Reality by historian of the Napoleonic Wars Gareth Glover, which is available on Amazon here. It reassesses various myths that have evolved about the battle over the last two centuries.

The second is The Longest Afternoon: The 400 Men Who Decided the Battle of Waterloo by Cambridge historian Brendan Simms, who specialises in international relations. This book, which is available here, is about La Haye Saint – a farmhouse that was at the centre of the battle.

For more on Waterloo, here is a timeline of the events that led up to Waterloo, and here is a page that lists some of the preparations that are being made to celebrate the bicentenary in Europe.


This article was originally published by The Foundations of Western Civilisation Program, an IPA initiative.

The Six Waves of European History

Complex life has existed on earth for about 550 million years.

Complex human life, defined as substantial city dwelling peoples has a history of only 10,000 years or about .0002 per cent of the larger number.

The period of history for which there are reliable records of human achievement is closer to 2,500 years.

Human achievement in this 2,500 period, insofar as the Middle East and Europe are concerned, has been like a game of snakes and ladders. So far, the ladders have been more impressive than the snakes and include great advances in the fields of communication, utilization of new energy resources and political development particularly in the difficult field of quis custodiet ipsos custodes.

The snakes have been pestilence, corruption, tyranny, and fanaticism.

This paper explores the great advances and the setbacks as they occur within a number of great waves. The great waves swell up reach a peak, crash and swirl up the beach before either receding or being replaced by another great wave. The waves may start with an important intellectual development or discovery, which may be followed by a combative period and then swell into a higher level of human achievement.

It is suggested that these great waves have been:

  • the coming of the Greek alphabet enabling translation of speech into phonetic writing;
  • second wave; the Age of Faith as Christianity absorbed the decaying Roman Empire;
  • third wave; Arab (or Indian) numerals enabling complex calculation;
  • fourth wave; the printing press enabling the dissemination of ideas to an ever widening audience (the Renaissance);
  • fifth wave; the coming of serious political thought at about the same time as steam power was achieved and economic theory hypothesized (the Enlightenment);
  • sixth wave; globalisation, the computer, the Internet, and social media. This wave has perhaps reached its crest but the nature of the crash and the combative period is yet to be experienced.

Babylonian tile art, sixth century B.C.

In 539BC the Babylonian Empire fell to the Medes and Persians, and a long period of competing city states and eventually empires growing up in Mesopotamia and its neighbours ended. 539 itself as a date had nothing to do with the Greek alphabet or the civilisation which followed. However 539 was the time that the Persian Empire established hegemony over the highlands of Persia, Anatolia (Turkey), and the valleys of Mesopotamia. It represented a major threat to the embryonic Greek city states where the alphabet and arts of writing and rhetoric were developing.

The origin of the Greek language may have been Phoenician or maybe related to Linear B from Mycenae, but at some stage it involved the development of the alphabet and the start of phonetic writing. This had such an important effect on the capacity of humans to communicate and maintain records, and led to the development of syntax and grammar enabling literature drama and law to be written and learned in a civilisation surely superior to its predecessors. It was the first wave.

The crest of the wave may have been Periclean or Socratic Athens, the combative period of the Persian Greek wars and the Spartan Athenian wars, and then great achievements as the wave spread Greek culture, with the help of Alexander, through the failing Persian Empire to Egypt and on to Rome, and the stability of Roman law.

The first wave lasted from some time before 539BC and finally spent its force in the period from Marcus Aurelius to Diocletian (180 to 308 AD). It would then be bedeviled by its “snakes”; that of corruption, tyranny and pestilence.

Gibbon said that “if a man were called to fix the period in the history of the world during which the condition of the human race was most happy and prosperous, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Domitian to the accession of Commodus.” It is quite likely that the death of Marcus Aurelius coincided with a serious plague and perhaps a cooling of the planet. In any case the accession of Commodus started the downtrend and the three snakes were enough to reduce the fighting capacity of Rome’s armies leading to the final death throes of the Empire in the 5th century.

The second wave, that of Christianity, was not a major force until after the conversion of Constantine, when it took over the Roman Empire as a dominant political phenomenon. Whether it played a significant role in the decline of Rome is questionable but probably the answer is affirmative. Christianity introduced the concept that faith is to be preferred over reason, and it is unsurprising that this coincided with a decline in productivity and living standards. Britain is thought not to have achieved Roman living standards until the early nineteenth century, 1500 years later.

The Age of Faith (so far as Europe is concerned) reached its peak about 1100 AD, just as the new third wave was swelling. The snakes which beset Christianity, and which were well evident at the peak of the age of faith, were pestilence, corruption, fanaticism, and tyranny (the regulars). They were all much in evidence during this period.

The third wave, the understanding of Arab numerals and the concept of zero, came to Europe from Spain (then Arabic) in the 11th century. It coincided with an Age of Faith as it enabled the mathematics for the architects and masons to build the great cathedrals that populated most of Europe from Kiev to Canterbury and whose wonders are still available for us to enjoy in the 21st century, 1000 years later. In 1095 the Age of Faith displayed its maximum influence on society by prompting the Crusades, a series of expeditions which cost lives and money over two centuries with no benefit to Europe but a lasting scar on its relationships with Arabic countries. A cooling change of climate around 1350 and the great plague put an end to most of the achievements by the simple process of halving the population.


Detail from an early printed book, 1471

The fourth wave, the invention of the printing press, first by Gutenberg in 1450, coincided with the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453 and the Renaissance in Florence, Venice and other Italian cities. It enabled books to be made available to the middle and upper classes and the spread of knowledge which in turn stimulated original thought, both political and religious. Copernicus and his theory of planetary orbits followed by Galileo reduced the credibility of biblical ‘truths’. This was followed by Martin Luther and other reformists who concentrated on the corruption of the clergy and (in turn) incited a counter-reformation with 100 years of destructive fanaticism. War stimulated by new ideas included the Thirty Years War, the Spanish Armada, and persistent civil war in France lasting to the accession of Henry IV in 1592. Meanwhile in 1492, the Spanish had evicted the remaining Arab state in Spain and a Spanish-financed expedition discovered the American continent with enormous consequences for its local population and for the future of Europe. The wave continued with literacy and numeracy bringing exciting discoveries in mathematics, astronomy and optics. Increased wealth enabled leisure to become an ‘activity’; allowing time for philosophy, literature drama and the admiration of the achievements of Greece and Rome.

The fifth wave was built on the shoulders of recent (17th century) achievements – first in the political and then in the economic and energy fields. In 1776 Gibbon published The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, a work of criticism in contrast to the admiration for the ancient world shown by prior generations. In the same year Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations, a work which was the economic chartroom for the next hundred years. Also in 1776, Jefferson was the main architect of the American Declaration of Independence, which stated that the pursuit of happiness was a recognised human goal, and that self-determination was a justifiable political right. 1776 becomes even more the crest of the fifth wave recording the partnership between Matthew Boulton and James Watt for the production of the steam engine.

Wind power and water power had been harnessed earlier but the fifth wave witnessed the employment of hydrocarbons to produce power; and hydrocarbons had two advantages, that the power was concentrated and that it was transportable. The use of hydrocarbons was one of the defining characteristics of the fifth wave, and it was only as the wave spent its force that humanity began to recognise the weakness of relying on hydrocarbons; that they were exhaustible.

Political development following work by Hobbes, Locke, Adam Smith, Voltaire, Montesquieu was embryonic at the start of the fifth wave but became a defining statement of the period as during the 19th and 20th centuries privileged parts of the world enjoyed the advantages of law legislated by democratically elected parliaments, and the rule of law with fairly independent judiciaries, respect for property, and well developed commercial and contract law.

Work in hygiene, medicine, improved diets, and clean water enabled populations to increase hugely from about 1 billion people in the world in 1800 to 7 billion by 2000. European and European-derived populations were at the fore of this population surge until 1945, when Asian, African, Middle Eastern, and South American communities exceeded the European growth rate in a major way.

Developments in the field of communications (telephones, radio, resulting from the discovery of electricity), in the field of transport (rail, motor cars, planes, enabled by the use of hydrocarbons), and in the field of home lighting and appliances, revolutionised life in a manner which no previous generation could have conceived.

In this way, the fifth wave enabled humanity to climb the ladders of improved political institutions, better energy capture, better health, and of course greater wealth. But the snakes were not to be forgotten with Napoleonic wars and two world wars, inspired by fanaticism, exhausting Europe to a point at which its leadership in world affairs was abdicated, almost completely; a feature which contributed to the start of the sixth wave.

Margaret Thatcher celebrates her victory at the 1983 British general election

Margaret Thatcher celebrates her victory at the 1983 British general election

The sixth wave in which we are now living (globalisation, the Internet, computers and social media) may be first detected after post-war socialist policies were failing. In 1979, when Deng Xiao Ping took over leadership of the Communist Party in China, he inaugurated a policy that was effectively capitalist, first by promoting special economic zones, and then seeing their success, opening up China as a whole (subject to some political restraint) to individual capitalism. China has not only stood up, but may shortly stand taller than the USA.

In the same year, 1979, Margaret Thatcher achieved leadership in Britain and encouraged there individual capitalism which had been frustrated since 1945 by high (80 per cent) personal tax rates, extraordinary trade union influence and substantial socialist ownership of many enterprises. Other European states copied Mrs Thatcher and the capital markets of the “free world” were kept busy with the public flotations of a great number of government owned businesses, resulting in significant efficiency gains and wealth creation.

The great economic advances of the free world put pressure on the USSR to the point that it self-immolated in 1989, and America enjoyed for 12 years at least unimpaired political and economic leadership. American business made good use of this holiday by developing computer software systems and computer hardware that have revolutionised communications well beyond fifth wave achievements. In the USA in 2013, the rate of non-residential capital expenditure is running at $1.5 trillion per annum, of which ‘information processing and software’ is $630 billion or 42 per cent. The ubiquity of computers, the Internet and social media characterise the sixth wave in the way that the printing press inspired the fourth wave and Arabic numerals the third.

Productivity improvements in the US (where figures are available) have not been shared equally between corporations and their staff. Corporate profits after tax have grown from a post-war average of 5.5 per cent of GNP to 11 per cent of GNP while ‘real compensation per hour’ for the American workforce is up over ten years by only three per cent. This and the ‘entitlement problem’ presage a political precipice for the US which is likely to surface within a few years. The snakes, tyranny, corruption, pestilence and fanaticism may not be the main threat to the US but inequality and un-financeable promises probably are.

Outside the US, Europe has stagnated economically and is politically in limbo. Despite this its political freedom and high standard of living are very attractive to people outside Europe where populations are still surging. A (perhaps the) challenge for Europe is to retain its personality when immigration pressure is so high. The Roman armies were seldom defeated in the field, but the gradual infiltration of “barbarians” changed the nature of the Empire quite quickly during the Christian period (325AD et seq).

The snakes in Europe are not very different to America, but corruption fanaticism and inequality may undermine the self confidence of the continent when threatened by 1.5 billion Muslim people who are living with all the snakes but seek to avoid them by immigration. Such people are more dangerous as single spies than they are in battalions.

The sixth wave may have peaked but the period of combat has yet to break. The tinder waiting for the spark is both the “Entitlement problem” (domestic) and the phenomenon of birth-rate disparity between Muslim and European worlds. These problems are solvable but not easy. No doubt there are others (terrorism?) which lie in more obvious mode.

At the beginning of the fifth wave we rode on horseback but now in BMWs; we wrote with quill pens, and now with voice recognition computers; then we fought with muskets and now with atomic warheads. The game and the consequences have changed.

If the sixth wave can spend itself without disaster the seventh wave may give us Fusion based power and batteries with energy per gram the equivalent of the same weight of petrol. Solutions to the political problems need more skill and more patience.

– June 6 2013


Addendum: The Sixth Wave
June 30 2013

You have read my recent paper called ‘The Six Waves of European History’.

It purported that we (the world, or at least the European world, comprising North America, Australia and Europe ex Russia) entered the sixth wave in about 1979.

The previous waves had followed conceptual or philosophical initiatives. The first was the Greek Alphabet; the second Christianity; the third Arabic numerals; the fourth the printing press; the fifth the Enlightenment encompassing new political and economic theories as well as the invention of power being available from sources other than muscle.

The fifth wave encompassed the move to democracy and the rule of law (in many countries), as well as the industrial revolutions of the 18th 19th and 20th centuries.

The sixth wave is thirty odd years old. 1979 is chosen as the date of ‘takeoff’ because it was the year that Deng Xiao Peng opened China to capitalist business methods, and Mrs Thatcher became PM in the UK, and her policies had flow-on effects in particular in the privatisation of previously public enterprises in many OECD countries and even Russia.

Globalisation was talked about in 1979, but 1982 is a more obvious date for recording its birth as it is from then that capital was (generally) given freedom to move between OECD countries, and many important currencies were permitted to float. Also the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade gained better political support and trade barriers came down (not absolutely of course).

World GNP growth has, since 1950, exceeded 4.0 per cent per annum for the 50 years to 2000 and from 1980 to 2012 the growth rate appears to be about 4.3 per cent. GNP in 2013 is reputed to be $US 72 trillion equivalent. In 1985 it was $22.5 trillion; 1950 $4.1 trillion.

World population in 1950 was about 2.5 billion and reached 7.0 billion in 2010. The average annual growth rate was 1.73 per cent. There were 23 consecutive years (1980-2013) in which population grew by an annual number greater than 77 million, but projections are for that number now to reduce slowly.

The Wikipedia article about world GNP does illustrate how ‘our times’ are very different. The article hypothesises that world GNP in the year 0 was $US18 billion equivalent, and that by 1000AD it was $35 billion (the gain presumably being China and not Europe which was in decline). 1500AD is given as $58 billion and 1900 as $1.1 trillion. Annual growth rates have been: 1000 to 2000, 0.7 per cent; 1700 to 2000, 2.0 per cent; 1950 to 2000, 4.7 percent.

If GNP growth from 2013 to 2050 remains at 4.0% pa; world GNP will be over $300 trillion and if the population is about 9 billion, the the GNP per person will be over $33,000.

Possible? Or will something go wrong?


This post was originally posted in the IPA’s Foundations of Western Civilisation Program.


CD Kemp Lecture: Does Western Civilization Have a Future?

Mark Steyn:

I’m honored to be asked to give the C D Kemp Lecture before members of the Institute he founded and which lives on after him. I’ve been in Australia for a couple of weeks on what I like to think of as my ‘Head for the hills! It’s the end of the world!’ tour. But don’t worry, it’s like Barbra Streisand’s farewell tour, I’ll be back to do another end-ofthe-world tour in a year or two.

Whether or not the western world is ending, it’s certainly changed. It’s a very strange feeling from the perspective of four decades on to return to a famous book C D Kemp wrote in 1964, Big Businessmen, a portrait of a now all but extinct generation of Australian industrialists. They were men whose sense of themselves in relation to the society they lived in was immensely secure. They had an instinctive belief in the culture that raised them and enriched them. To have pointed out such a fact at the time would have seemed superfluous: it was still shared by many forces in society—bank managers, kindergarten teachers, even Anglican clerics.

None of these pillars of what we used to regard as conventional society is quite as sturdy as it was, and most of them have collapsed. Many mainstream Protestant churches are, to one degree or another, post-Christian. If they no longer seem disposed to converting the unbelieving to Christ, they can at least convert them to the boggiest of soft-left political cliches. In this world, if Jesus were alive today he’d most likely be a gay Anglican vicar in a committed relationship driving around in an environmentallyfriendly car with an ‘Arms Are For Hugging’ sticker on the way to an interfaith dialogue with a Wiccan and a couple of Wahhabi imams.

Yet, if the purpose of the modern church is to be a cutting-edge political pacesetter, it’s Islam that’s doing the better job. It’s easy to look at gold-toothed Punjabi yobs in northern England or Algerian pseudo-rappers in French suburbs and think, oh well, their Muslim identity is clearly pretty residual. But that’s to apply westernized notions of piety. Today the mosque is a meetinghouse, and throughout the west what it meets to discuss is, even when not explicitly jihadist, always political. The mosque or madrassah is not the place to go for spiritual contemplation so much as political motivation. The Muslim identity of those French rioters or English jailbirds may seem spiritually vestigial but it’s politically potent. So, even as a political project, the mainstream Protestant churches are a bust. Pre-modern Islam beats post-modern Christianity.

As for many teachers, they regard the accumulated inheritance of western civilization as an unending parade of racism, sexism, imperialism and other malign -isms, leavened only by routine genocides. Even if this were true— which it’s not—it’s not a good sustaining narrative for any nation unless it’s planning on going out of business.

And, speaking of business, even the heirs of those Big Businessmen C D Kemp wrote about feel obliged to join the ranks of the civilizational self-loathers. I notice that in its commercials the oil company BP—that’s to say, British Petroleum—now says that BP stands for ‘Beyond Petroleum’: the ads are all about how it’s developing environmentally-friendly ways to conserve energy; in other words, it’s ashamed of the business it’s in.

The question posed here tonight is very direct: ‘Does Western Civilization Have A Future?’ One answer’s easy: if western civilization doesn’t have a past, it certainly won’t have a future. No society can survive when it consciously unmoors itself from its own inheritance. But let me answer it in a less philosophical way:

Much of western civilization does not have any future. That’s to say, we’re not just speaking philosophically, but literally. In a very short time, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and other countries we regard as part of the western tradition will cease to exist in any meaningful sense. They don’t have a future because they’ve given up breeding. Spain’s population is halving with every generation: Two grown-ups have a total of one baby. So there are half as many children as parents. And a quarter as many grandchildren as grandparents. And an eighth as many greatgrandchildren as great-grandparents. And, after that there’s no point extrapolating, because you’re over the falls and it’s too late to start paddling back. I received a flurry of letters from furious Spaniards when the government decided to replace the words ‘father’ and ‘mother’ on its birth certificates with the less orientationally offensive terms ‘Progenitor A’ and ‘Progenitor B’. This was part of the bureaucratic spring-cleaning of traditional language that always accompanies the arrival in law of ‘gay marriage’. But, with historically low numbers of progeny, the designations of the respective progenitors seem of marginal concern. They’d be better off trying to encourage the average young Spaniard to wander into a Barcelona singles bar and see if anyone wants to come back to his pad to play Progenitor A and Progenitor B. (‘Well, okay, but only if I can be Progenitor A…’)

Seventeen European nations are now at what demographers call ‘lowest-low’ fertility—1.3 births per woman, the point at which you’re so far down the death spiral you can’t pull out. In theory, those countries will find their population halving every 35 years or so. In practice, it will be quicker than that, as the savvier youngsters figure there’s no point sticking around a country that’s turned into an undertaker’s waiting room. So large parts of the western world are literally dying—and, in Europe, the successor population to those aging French and Dutch and Belgians is already in place. Perhaps the differences will be minimal. In France, the Catholic churches will become mosques; in England, the village pubs will cease serving alcohol; in the Netherlands, the gay nightclubs will close up shop and relocate to San Francisco. But otherwise life will go on much as before. The new Europeans will be observant Muslims instead of post-Christian secularists but they will still be recognizably European: It will be like Cats after a cast change: same long-running show, new actors, but the plot, the music, the sets are all the same. The animating principles of advanced societies are so strong that they will thrive whoever’s at the switch.

But what if they don’t? In the 2005 rankings of Freedom House’s survey of personal liberty and democracy around the world, five of the eight countries with the lowest ‘freedom’ score were Muslim. Of the 46 Muslim majority nations in the world, only three were free. Of the 16 nations in which Muslims form between 20 and 50 per cent of the population, only another three were ranked as free: Benin, Serbia and Montenegro, and Suriname. It will be interesting to follow France’s fortunes as a fourth member of that group.

If you think a nation is no more than a ‘great hotel’ (as the Canadian novelist Yann Martel described his own country, approvingly), you can always slash rates and fill the empty rooms—for as long as there are any would-be lodgers left out there to move in. But there aren’t going to be many would-be immigrants out there in the years ahead —not for aging western societies in which an ever smaller pool of young people pay ever higher taxes to support ever swelling geriatric native populations. And, if you believe a nation is the collective, accumulated wisdom of a shared past, then a dependence on immigration alone for population replenishment will leave you lost and diminished. That’s why Peter Costello’s stirring call—a boy for you, a girl for me, and one for Australia—is, ultimately, a national security issue—and a more basic one than how much you spend on defence.

Americans take for granted all the ‘it’s about the future of all our children’ hooey that would ring so hollow in a European election. In the 2005 German campaign, voters were offered what would be regarded in the US as a statistically improbable choice: a childless man (Herr Schroeder) vs a childless woman (Frau Merkel). Statist Europe signed on to Hillary Rodham Clinton’s alleged African proverb— ‘It takes a village to raise a child’—only to discover they got it backwards: on the Continent, the lack of children will raze the village. And most of the villagers still refuse to recognize the contradictions: You can’t breed at the lethargic rate of most Europeans and then bitch and whine about letting the Turks into the European Union. Demographically, they’re the kids you couldn’t be bothered having.

One would assume a demographic disaster is the sort of thing that sneaks up on you because you’re having a grand old time: You stayed in university till you were 38, you took early retirement at 45, you had two months a year on the Cote d’Azur, you drank wine, you ate foie gras and truffles, you marched in the street for a 28-hour work week… It was all such great fun there was no time to have children. You thought the couple in the next street would, or the next town, or in all those bucolic villages you pass through on the way to your weekend home.

But the strange thing is that Europeans aren’t happy. The Germans are so slumped in despond that in 2005 the government began running a Teutonic feelgood marketing campaign in which old people are posed against pastoral vistas, fetching young gays mooch around the Holocaust memorial, Katarina Witt stands in front of some photogenic moppets, etc., and then they all point their fingers at the camera and shout ‘Du bist Deutschland!’—‘You are Germany!’—which is meant somehow to pep up glum Hun couch potatoes. Can’t see it working myself. The European Union got rid of all the supposed obstacles to happiness—war, politics, the burden of work, insufficient leisure time, tiresome dependents—and yet their people are strikingly unhappy. Consider this poll taken in 2002 for the first anniversary of 9/11: 61 per cent of Americans said they were optimistic about the future, as opposed to 43 per cent of Canadians, 42 per cent of Britons, 29 per cent of the French, 23 per cent of Russians and 15 per cent of Germans. I wouldn’t reckon those numbers will get any cheerier over the years.

What’s the most laughable article published in a major American newspaper in the last decade? A good contender is a New York Times column by the august Princeton economist Paul Krugman. The headline was ‘French Family Values’, and the thesis is that, while parochial American conservatives drone on about ‘family values’, the Europeans live it, enacting policies that are more ‘family friendly’. On the Continent, claims Professor Krugman, ‘government regulations actually allow people to make a desirable tradeoff—to modestly lower income in return for more time with friends and family.’

How can an economist make that claim without noticing that the upshot of all these ‘family friendly’ policies is that nobody has any families? Isn’t the first test of a profamily regime its impact on families?

As for all that extra time, what happened? Europeans work fewer hours than Americans, they don’t have to pay for their own health care, they don’t go to church and they don’t contribute to other civic groups, they don’t marry and they don’t have kids to take to school and basketball and the county fair.

So what do they do with all the time?

Forget for the moment Europe’s lack of world-beating companies: They regard capitalism red in tooth and claw as an Anglo-American fetish, and they mostly despise it. And in fairness some of their quasi-state corporations are very pleasant: I’d much rather fly Air France than United or Continental. But what about the things Europeans supposedly value? With so much free time, where is the great European art? Assuredly Gershwin and Bernstein aren’t Bach and Mozart, but what have the Continentals got? Their pop culture is more American than it’s ever been. Fifty years ago, before European welfarism had them in its vise-like death grip, the French had better pop songs and the Italians made better movies. Where are Europe’s men of science? At American universities.

Meanwhile, Continental governments pour fortunes into prestigious white elephants of Euro-identity, like the Airbus 380, the QE2 of the skies, capable of carrying 500, 800, a thousand passengers at a time, if only somebody somewhere would order the damn thing, which they might consider doing once all the airports have built new runways to handle it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’s a swell idea. It’ll come in very useful for large-scale evacuation operations circa 2015.

‘When life becomes an extended picnic, with nothing of importance to do,’ writes Charles Murray in In Our Hands, ‘ideas of greatness become an irritant. Such is the nature of the Europe syndrome.’ The Continent has embraced a spiritual death long before the demographic one. In those 17 Europeans countries which have fallen into ‘lowest-low fertility’, where are the children? In a way, you’re looking at them: the guy sipping espresso at a sidewalk café listening to his iPod. Free citizens of advanced western democracies are increasingly the world’s wrinkliest teenagers: the state makes the grown-up decisions and we spend our pocket money on our record collection. Hilaire Belloc, incidentally, foresaw this very clearly in his book The Servile State in 1912—before teenagers or record collections had been invented. He understood that the long-term cost of a softened state is the infantilization of the population. The populations of wealthy democratic societies expect to be able to choose from dozens of breakfast cereals at the supermarket, thousands of movies at the video store, and millions of porn sites on the Internet, yet think it perfectly normal to demand that the state take care of their elderly parents and their young children while they’re working— to, in effect, surrender what most previous societies would have regarded as all the responsibilities of adulthood. It’s a curious inversion of citizenship to demand control over peripheral leisure activities but to contract out the big lifechanging stuff to the government. And it’s hard to come up with a wake-up call for a society as dedicated as latterday Europe to the belief that life is about sleeping in.

Australia has more economic freedom than the EU and fewer distorting demographic problems, so, along with America, it’s one of the two countries with a sporting chance of avoiding the perfect storm about to engulf the rest of the west. But at some point it too will have to confront these issues—not just the falling birth rate and aging population, but the underlying civilizational ennui of which the big lack of babies is merely the most obvious symptom. I feel bad running around like a headless chicken shrieking about this stuff. But let’s face it, scaremongering is the default mode of the age. We worry incessantly, because worrying is the way the responsible citizen of an advanced society demonstrates his virtue: He feels good about feeling bad. So he worries mostly about what offers the best opportunities for self-loathing—climate change, or the need to increase mostly harmful foreign aid to African dictatorships. This is a kind of decadence. September 11th 2001 was not ‘the day everything changed’, but the day that revealed how much had already changed. On September 10th, how many journalists had the Council of American-Islamic Relations or the Canadian Islamic Congress or the Muslim Council of Britain in their rolodexes? If you’d said that whether something does or does not cause offence to Muslims would be the early 21st century’s principal political dynamic in Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the United Kingdom, most folks would have thought you were crazy. Yet on that Tuesday morning the top of the iceberg bobbed up and toppled the Twin Towers.

But it’s important to remember: radical Islam is only the top-eighth of that iceberg—it’s an opportunist enemy taking advantage of a demographically declining and spiritually decayed west. The real issue is the seven-eighths below the surface—the larger forces at play in the developed world that have left Europe too enfeebled to resist its remorseless transformation into Eurabia and call into question the future of much of the rest of the world. The key factors are:

i) Demographic decline;

ii) The unsustainability of the social democratic state;

iii) Civilizational exhaustion.

None of these is Islam’s fault. They’re self-inflicted. If you doubt that, forget about fast Islamifying Europe and look at the most geriatric jurisdiction on the planet. In Japan, the rising sun has already passed into the next phase of its long sunset: net population loss. 2005 was the first year since records began in which the country had more deaths than births. Japan offers the chance to observe the demographic death spiral in its purest form. It’s a country with no immigration, no significant minorities and no desire for any: just the Japanese, aging and dwindling.

At first it doesn’t sound too bad: compared with the United States, most advanced societies are very crowded. If you’re in a cramped apartment in a noisy congested city, losing a couple of hundred thousand people seems a fine trade-off. The difficulty, in a modern social democratic state, is managing which people to lose: already, according to The Japan Times, depopulation is ‘presenting the government with pressing challenges on the social and economic front, including ensuring provision of social security services and securing the labor force.’ For one thing, the shortage of children has led to a shortage of obstetricians. Why would any talented ambitious med. school student want to go into a field in such precipitous decline? Birthing is a dying business.

At the beginning of the century, the country’s toymakers noticed they had a problem: toys are for children and Japan doesn’t have many. What to do? In 2005, Tomy began marketing a new doll called Yumel—a baby boy with a range of 1,200 phrases designed to serve as companions for the elderly. He says not just the usual things—’I wuv you’ —but also asks the questions your grandchildren would ask if you had any: ‘Why do elephants have long noses?’ Yumel joins his friend, the Snuggling Ifbot, a toy designed to have the conversation of a five-year old child which its makers, with the usual Japanese efficiency, have determined is just enough chit-chat to prevent the old folks going senile. It seems an appropriate final comment on the social democratic state: in a childish infantilized self-absorbed society where adults have been stripped of core responsibilities, you need never stop playing with toys. We are the children we never had.

And why leave it at that? Is it likely an ever smaller number of young people will want to spend their active years looking after an ever greater number of old people? Or will it be simpler to put all that cutting-edge Japanese technology to good use and take a flier on Mister Roboto and the post-human future? After all, what’s easier for the governing class? Weaning a pampered population off the good life and re-teaching them the lost biological impulse or giving the Sony Corporation a license to become the Cloney Corporation? If you need to justify it to yourself, you’d grab the graphs and say, well, demographic decline is universal. It’s like industrialization a couple of centuries back; everyone will get to it eventually, but the first to do so will have huge advantages: the relevant comparison is not with England’s early 19th century population surge but with England’s industrial revolution. In the industrial age, manpower was critical. In the new technological age, manpower will be optional—and indeed, if most of the available manpower’s alienated young Muslim men, it may well be a disadvantage. As the most advanced society with the most advanced demographic crisis, Japan seems likely to be the first jurisdiction to embrace robots and cloning and embark on the slippery slope to transhumanism.

The advantage Australians and Americans have is that most of the rest of the west is ahead of us: their canoes are already on the brink of the falls. But Australians who want their families to enjoy the blessings of life in a free society should understand that the life we’ve led since 1945 in the western world is very rare in human history. Our children are unlikely to enjoy anything so placid, and may well spend their adult years in an ugly and savage world in which ever more parts of the map fall prey to the reprimitivization that’s afflicted Liberia, Somalia and Bosnia.

If it’s difficult to focus on long-term trends because human life is itself short-term, think short-term: Huge changes are happening now. For states in demographic decline with ever more lavish social programs and ever less civilizational confidence, the question is a simple one: Can they get real? Can they grow up before they grow old? If not, then western civilization will go the way of all others that failed to meet a simple test: as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in 1870, ‘Nature has made up her mind that what cannot defend itself shall not be defended.’


You can access the original version of this speech here.