The Death of the West - why our sun is setting
Derek Turner talks to US journalist and politician Patrick Buchanan about his powerful new book "Death of the West"
Can you sum up your thesis in Death of the West?
According to my research, there is not a single Western nation that has a birthrate today that will enable it to stay alive in its present form after the middle of this century. Between now and 2050, Europe alone will lose about 128 million people. In 2050, the median age of Europeans will be about 50, and 60 million Europeans - a tenth of the population - will be over 80. As Europeans begin to die out - losing the equivalent of the entire populations of Norway, Finland, Denmark, Belgium, Holland and Germany - the Third World will explode, increasing by three or four billion people - the equivalent of 30-40 Mexicos. Great migrations to fill the West's empty spaces have already begun. Even now the Chinese are moving into Russia, which is dying faster than almost any other country. The Islamic peoples of North Africa and the Middle East are moving in the hundreds of thousands into Europe every year. One-fifth of Mexico's population is now within America's borders.
But is it as bad as you fear? In Peter Brimelow's Washington Times review of Death of the West, he says that your discussion of demographics could be qualified - that "while the West's share of the world's population is falling, this is only after a tremendous growth surge that dramatically expanded its share". Isn't it possible that the present retreat is only a retreat to more defensible cultural, ethnic and psychological borders?
No, I don't think so. In 1960, for example, Western people were 25% of the world's population, and in the middle of the greatest baby boom in history. They are now down to 16%, and by 2050, they will be just 10%. Every single Western nation is dying. The European base of the American nation, which used to be 90%, is now down to 70%. On present trends, European-descended peoples will be a minority in the United States by mid-century. I can't see how Western civilisation can be preserved if the people who carry it in their hearts, minds and souls are dying out.
But in absolute terms, the West's population when we were at our height was far smaller than it is today. A few thousand Englishmen ran India for over 200 years. Whites ran South Africa for more than three centuries, and so on. Population quality is clearly more important than quantity. You have said yourself that "the correlation between power and population is not absolute". Isn't this a possible source of comfort?
I quite agree that Europeans and Americans will be well-to-do, but if you take a look at what is happening inside these countries already, clearly European nations are not what they used to be. For example, some European countries used to have million-man armies when their populations were far smaller than they are today. Now, the European Union is having the devil's time of it fielding a Rapid Reaction Force of 60,000 men! The British used to be able to get that many across the Channel in the first couple of weeks. I don't believe that this can be turned around. I think the West is dying. The birth-rate peaked in the 1960s, and it has been declining ever since, right through the state of zero population growth, and it looks like it will continue declining to the stage of zero population.
An important point is that the correlation between the death of religious faith and the death of peoples and civilisation is absolute. I believe that the death of Christianity in the soul of Western man, and its replacement by a more materialistic, hedonistic, individualistic, la dolce vita belief, and the embrace of the sexual revolution combined, mean that Western man has consumed a carcinogenic that is killing him. Peoples that no longer believe in the cult out of which their culture and civilisation came will not sustain that civilisation. And as TS Eliot said: "If Christianity goes, the whole of our culture goes". The Christian faith and belief in which Western man was marinaded for 2,000 years was fundamentally the immune system of the West, which warded off all manner of psychic infections. But Christianity has died, and been replaced by a new faith of secular humanism, which is having an effect on the West comparable to that of the HIV virus on a person. Eventually, it will kill us.
In The Death of the West, you have bemoaned the present lack of civilizatory self-confidence in the West. But doesn't the decisive and ruthless American response to the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon demonstrate that there is still some degree of self-preservation and even self-assertiveness within the West?
There is no doubt that the United States is still a very tough country. Americans rallied behind the President after September 11, and the government managed to finish off the Taliban. But at the same time the government lacks the moral authority to stop illegal immigration into this country cold - even though that is the plain desire of the American people - in order that we can get our melting pot working again, and attempt to Americanise those who have come here since 1965.
On taking office, Dwight Eisenhower found that there were one million illegal immigrants in the country. He set up what he called Operation Wetback, and ordered them out of the country - and they went. If President Bush were to get up today, and say "We're going to conduct Operation Wetback II", and seek to expel eight to 11 million illegal aliens, the American establishment would literally go berserk. [Editor's note: the US House of Congress has just voted by 245 votes to 138 to grant amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.] I don't think he could do it; there would be a horrible reaction, even within his own party. Human Events [Editor's note: a leading conservative newspaper, based in Washington, DC] asked 17 US congressmen and senators a single question that required a Yes or No answer: "If someone has broken into the country illegally, should they be deported and sent home?" Only two congressmen or senators said Yes.
In the wake of September 11, have you detected a greater willingness to talk about immigration?
There is a tremendous willingness to talk about the issue. Led by Peter Brimelow and others (I came much later to the issue), we have convinced the American people, or they have persuaded them-selves, that they want legal immigration rolled back to more reasonable levels and illegal immigration halted cold. But we live in a virtual democracy, where the people's will is not translated into policy. Both party elites are very much beholden to the corporations and the unions, and they are politically intimidated. Both the corporations and the unions want an endless supply of new citizens and cheap labour. The corporations want to keep wages down, and the unions want an amnesty, so that they can organise all these illegals and get them paying union dues, so that they can maintain their existing lifestyles.
You have said that it is "a remarkable coincidence how global capitalism's view of women conforms so precisely to the view of the fathers of global communism". Can you explain what you mean by this?
Global capitalism and Marxism share a belief that it is far better to have women in the marketplace than at home. The old Marxists - Marx, Engels and the others - wanted to bring down the traditional family, and move women out of the home and into the marketplace, to make them independent of the family. The global capitalists want the same thing. Women who live at home are not consuming or producing enough, they think. Global capitalism seeks to make everyone an employee, everyone a worker. There is a tremendous premium on bringing into the marketplace talented and capable women workers - who are more reliable in many cases - so that they can boost productivity and consume more goods.
In an interview with - of all publications - Pravda, you said that Japan has lost her dynamism because of her high median age. How do you define dynamism?
In the 1980s, Japan was considered to be a kind of model nation. But now they are in serious trouble, with the economy getting weaker all the time. It has been said of the Japanese that they have "lost their animal spirits". People are talking about various investment problems, and so forth, but the fundamental problem that has been ignored is that Japan is today the oldest nation on earth, with a median age of 41. The higher the median age, the lower the dynamism. The median age of Europe by 2050 will be 50, with Italy and Spain even worse off at 54 and 55 respectively. People in their 50s are far less aggressive economic animals than when they are in their 30s.
Won't time solve the 1960s generation problem - albeit only in piecemeal fashion?
I don't think so. Many teachers of the Sixties generation said "We will steal your children", and they did. A significant part of America has converted to the ideas of the 1960s - hedonism, self-indulgence and consumerism. For half of all Americans today, the Woodstock culture of the Sixties is the culture they grew up with - their traditional culture. For them, Judeo-Christian culture is outside the mainstream now. The counter-culture has become the dominant culture, and the former culture a dissident culture - something that is far out, and 'extreme'.
One of the great Western virtues is freedom of enquiry and expression. Yet this very freedom of enquiry surely eventually calls into question religious faith. Does Western civilisation carry within itself the seeds of its own cultural destruction? Haven't Western scientific advances undermined the claims of Christianity?
As a traditionalist Catholic who believes in natural law, I find no real conflict between true science and true faith. I still believe exactly as I have been taught, and I find no conflict between what I was taught and what I think are the truths of science. A lot of what we call science is actually faith in disguise. I think some people were desperately searching for something other than traditional Christianity, and they have elevated to the level of hard truth some things - notably about Darwin - that have not yet been proven beyond dispute. To believe in the theory of evolution is to me as much of an act of faith as to believe in Adam and Eve. I don't think it's been proven at all. I remember Piltdown Man, and the bones of that 'prehistoric ancestor of mankind' in Africa that turned out to be the bones of a pig. There is a lot of hoax and fraud in the contentions of science. The theory of evolution contains as much hypothesis as any religion.
Isn't there a contradiction between your general desire for smaller government and your desire for such government functions as censorship of obscene materials, better teaching of history, passing pro-life laws and protectionism?
As the first three of those suggested actions should only be done at local level, there is no contradiction. The federal government is a monstrosity, and there should be as much devolution of power as possible to local communities.
For instance, should children be taught that evolution is absolutely true? The only way to decide these things satisfactorily is to have a majority vote at the most local level possible. Folk who disagree can then go to the school down the street, if they feel that strongly.
On the idea of protectionism, the second bill signed into law by Washington was the Tariff Act of 1789, and the United States pretty much lived on tariff revenues until about 1913. During that period - except for during the civil war - the federal government probably did not consume more than about 3% of the gross national product. So there is no conflict between tariffs and small government. The only alternative to tariffs is the monstrous, intrusive, anti-conservative income tax which requires 100,000 IRS agents to go over every dime and dollar you earned, and where you got it.
You have said that the Democratic Party is "beholden to feminism" and the GOP is "in thrall to libertarian ideology and controlled by corporate interests". Are there any particularly notable individuals within either party who might be prepared to advance at least some parts of your programme?
I don't see any national figures at the moment. But the consequences of free trade are coming home to more and more people, and a reaction is growing. I do believe that many of my ideas are five years ahead of their time, or ten years ahead of their time, and among these policies is that of non-intervention in wars that are none of our business, bringing US troops home and making American economically self-sufficient again, by creating new manufacturing jobs. I think we're going to win on these issues. Among the general public, we won on the NAFTA debate; they did not want the GATT or to join the WTO; a majority agree with me on both legal and illegal immigration; they are not persuaded that a global or interventionist foreign police is the way for America to go. I'm going to be right, but I may be dead - like Joe Chamberlain!
Your admiration for the writings of T S Eliot and James Burnham is well known. Is there a line or short verse from either of them that encapsulates everything you feel?
There is one that I use in my book. It comes from The Hollow Men -
"This is the way the world ends
"This is the way the world ends
"This is the way the world ends
"Not with a bang, but a whimper."
Patrick J Buchanan
Georgetown University (Honors, English and Philosophy);
Columbia School of Journalism, Master's Degree, 1962
Employment and political career
Commenced as editorial writer, St Louis Democrat, in 1962 (he was then the youngest editorial writer in the United States). Has contributed to many publications, including National Review, Human Events, The Nation and Rolling Stone, and is a syndicated newspaper columnist. He is also a television and radio co-host (NBC's The McLaughlin Group, CNN's The Capital Gang and Crossfire, and Mutual Radio's Buchanan & Co).
Full-time assistant and adviser to President Richard Nixon, 1966-1974. Adviser to President Gerald Ford, 1974. White House Communications Director under President Ronald Reagan, 1985-1987. Ran for the Republican nomination for president in 1992 and 1996, and was the Reform Party's presidential candidate in 2000.
In 1993, founded The American Cause, an educational foundation "dedicated to the principles of freedom, federalism, limited government, traditional values and foreign policy that puts America first".
For more information about The American Cause, e-mail: [email protected]
, write to 115 Rowell Court, Falls Church, VA 22046, USA, or telephone +1 703 237 2034.
The New Majority, 1973; Conservative Votes, Liberal Victories, 1975; Right from the Beginning, 1988; The Great Betrayal, 1998; A Republic, Not an Empire, 1999; The Death of the West, 2002.
Derek Turner, 37 year old journalist and editor of .....
- That is sadly no longer with us.
An independent, London-based magazine of politics, ideas and culture set up to articulate unfashionable and politically incorrect ideas of all kinds.