PAT BUCHANAN’S latest book has loosed into public debate a swarm of contentious and taboo issues that have been lurking at the edge of national consciousness for years now. For this, he deserves our thanks, as a nation cannot run its affairs if it is forbidden to discuss its most important problems. However, I suspect that the heat being generated by this book currently exceeds the light, so I would like to condense out the key questions and try and take a coldly rational view at them, minus the air of Wagnerian Götterdamerung that suffuses the whole thing. Ignoring the old (though not necessarily false) stories of irreligion and cultural decay, he is concerned with basically two crises: a crisis of fertility and a crisis of immigration. He is mistaken about the first, though largely correct about the second. The future link between the two that he predicts, would be a product not of natural facts but of political decisions, and is therefore a contingent matter.
The first crisis Buchanan addresses is the decline of fertility in the advanced societies of the West. It is very easy to chalk this up, as he does, to decadence, and conjure up an image of selfish yuppies refusing to have children because they don’t want to reduce their consumptionoriented lifestyles. In some individual cases, this may even be true. But as a rule and as a broad fact of human demographics, the transition from high to low fertility that accompanies industrialization is wellknown and wellunderstood, having been observed in many Western and nonWestern societies. It is driven by economics, giveortake some other factors, and has nothing to do with decadence or other moral variables. Still less is there evidence it constitutes a social pathology in its own right.
For example, the argument that declining fertility is caused by feminism, or by some spiritual pathology endemic to the white race, founders on the example of Japan. The Japanese have low fertility despite being Orientals and devoted to the most traditional sex roles of any advanced industrial society. They are also not notably lacking in social discipline or awash in excess individualism. There is much in Japanese society to commend itself to the conservative heart, but there they are, in the same situation as the West.
None of this is to say that the things which Buchanan falsely connects to declining fertility are not moral ills. However, the conservative cause is not served by arguments that are empirically false. One certainly feels the intuitive attractiveness of linking a decline in fertility to a rise in nihilistic, dissipated decadence, but this is biological mythology, not social science. Sooner or later, someone is going to point out that the Nazis believed in this kind of thing, and use it to hang this silly tag around Buchanan’s neck, so it should be pointed out here that this idea was a commonplace of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
High fertility is not the index of well being Buchanan seems to think it is. Some of the worst organized and most pathological societies have high levels of fertility. Communist Mao successfully exhorted the Chinese to increase their population, creating a mess that has had to be cleaned up by abhorrent methods. Historically, some of the most gifted societies, like the ancient Greeks and the Jews, have had small populations. Analogously the highest beasts tend to be the least fecund: cockroaches and rats breed at a far higher rate than lions and eagles. Fertilitarianism, as we can call it, is the philosophy of the human anthill, not of the civilized society, which is of necessity based upon selfrestraint. Human quantity will never be a more important index than human quality. There is a lot to be said for societies that have attained maturity, a balance between their needs and their capacities, and a sustainable state of excellence. Unfortunately this is not a concept likely to commend itself to Americans, who still believe they are living in a "young" country and seem never to want to grow up, collectively or individually. Endless growth is eschatology for stock pimps.
Once one puts out of one’s mind the moral superstitions of fertility, one can examine the real issues its decline raises. The foremost, of course, is the oftrepeated problem of who will support retirees. On closer examination, this is not the problem it is thought to be.
The first reason there will not be a crisis of retirees in mature societies is that retirees are only one half of the social burden on the working population. The other half is people too young to work, i.e. children. An enormous amount of money, from fourbedroom mortgages to school taxes to college tuition, is spent on caring for them, and this cost is going to decline as the birthrate continues to go down. In fact, figures too complex to explain here strongly suggest that the decline in this cost roughly balances the increase in cost for supporting the retired. This is an empirical question whose facts will continue to come in over the next few decades and I am willing to be proved wrong, but this is what the best evidence indicates at present.
The second reason there will not be a crisis of retirees is that we can raise the retirement age. The number 65 was not handed down by God on tablets at Mount Sinai. This number was set back in the days when the norm for the labor force was physically hard, industrial and agricultural work and before the many medical improvements that keep modern seniors vigorous. There is nothing inhumane about asking someone to be a computer programmer at 70. The nice thing about raising the retirement age is that small increases have a large effort on balancing the books because they not only reduce the number of retirees but also increase the number of workers. The Social Security system has made baby steps in this direction; it will soon be time to follow these through to their logical conclusion.
The third reason there will not be a crisis of retirees is that automation continues to raise American productivity in a fashion that reduces the relevance of the mere number of workers supporting each retiree. The problem is not in essence a problem of numbers of people; it is a problem of consuming wealth by one group of people and producing it by another. So long as the productive capacity is there to support retirees, it doesn’t really matter how many people are manning that capacity. In 1700, there were a huge number of workers for every retiree, because life expectancies were short. But society still could not have afforded a lot of retirees because the vast majority of these workers were lowproductivity subsistence farmers. Today, with a highly automated and productive economy, a small number of workers can support a lot of retirees. And this trend runs in our favor. So there is absolutely no good reason to import immigrants to replace younger workers, particularly since even if you accept the premise on which this is based, it can only postpone, rather than solve, the demographic "problem."
The other thing that needs to be remembered about the decline in fertility is that it is global and is occurring in the Third World as well, wherever economies have been developing. Tunisia, of all places, has subreplacement fertility. The decline has attracted notice in the advanced nations because we are, logically enough, experiencing a more extreme form of it because we are more developed. But nations like Brazil and India have also had drastic, and continuing, declines in fertility, and there is no reason to suppose that they will eventually do anything other than level out as we have done. So eventually, the Third World will take care of itself, so long as we don’t make it a problem for us by importing its people.
It is on this issue, immigration, that Mr. Buchanan scores his most impressive points. I have addressed the reasons why immigration is bad for America in several other articles (1,2,3,4,5,6,7) already, so I will not rehearse them in detail here. Suffice to say that most of them have nothing to do with the heated issues Buchanan addresses. The particular aspect of the immigration problem that Buchanan takes up, as few other nonextremists have had the courage to do, is the issue of America’s white majority and its future. This is an extremely important issue, touching on absolute fundamentals of our social fabric, and it deserves to be within the scope of respectable discussion. It is commonly assumed that only raving white supremacists with blood dripping from their fangs have any reason to be interested in this issue, when in fact it is of interest to everyone in this country for the simple reason that it will affect everyone.
Stripping away all the subsidiary issues, the fundamental question raised by Mr. Buchanan is this: to what extent does white America have a right to the selfconscious defense of its interests qua race? It is his thesis that these interests are under attack now, and will be more so in the future, by demagogues of other races, by a corrupt globalist establishment, and by demographic forces. To what extent is it morally acceptable for white Americans to act with selfconscious racial unity to try to blunt these forces? The conventional answer of the far Left has been to cheer these attacks, of the ClintonBush center to deny them, and of the Right to fight back, sometimes, but on strictly nonracial grounds. Buchanan argues that this is not enough. He sketches out horrible scenarios of what is likely to happen unless his views prevail. He raises the uncomfortable question of why all the racial groups in our country but one are permitted racial selfconsciousness. At the very least, these questions will have to be seriously answered by someone; the rugsweepers have run out of rug.
Buchanan’s key scenario, which he views as a nightmare though it would seem that a reader could disagree, is of a whiteminority America sometime around 2050. This is the date that is implied by current immigration policies, whites now constituting 70 percent of the population of this country. It is Buchanan’s thesis that a whiteminority America would be an unstable and violent place, and that the transition in particular would be fraught with political peril. Some, like "proud to be a traitor to Canada" FrontPage writer Jamie Glazov, believe that multiculturalism the ideology is solely responsible for this potential of conflict. But multiculturalism is merely the proactive encouragement of racial identity politics and its attendant conflicts. It does not bring the phenomenon itself into existence and cannot make it go away by disappearing. Mr. Glazov and his like stand for a nonracial utopia that is as suspect as all the other utopias. It would seem that, whether or not one wishes to follow Mr. Buchanan all the way, it is indeed true that racial diversity is innately a source of conflict and that wise societies do not stoke their own conflicts.
The idea that mass racial violence is a plausible future for this country is only made plausible if one views our current racial situation as being somewhat like the balance of power that prevailed in Lebanon, Yugoslavia, and Rwanda before they shredded themselves in ethnic violence. The essential idea is that the superficially calm racial surface of American society is the product of a tacit balance of power which, if disturbed by too much racial change, will fall apart, turning latent racial animosities into active violence. One remembers how peaceful Yugoslavia was only a few years before it exploded, but whether this analysis can fruitfully be extended to America is an open question.
Let me close with a Pascal’s wager on this issue: if current immigration policies do risk, as Buchanan says, civil catastrophe, then ending them averts disaster. If they do not risk catastrophe but we end them anyway, then nothing bad happens. On the other hand, if they risk disaster and we do nothing, disaster happens. As long as we don’t know whether Buchanan is a prophet or a meanspirited alarmist windbag, prudence would seem to dictate immigration reform. This is not a book that can be swallowed whole, but neither can it be ignored.
The Turner Diaries is the bestknown depiction of Buchanan’s nightmare. I don’t recommend reading it because it’s neither well written nor intellectually sophisticated and the author is a Nazi or something like it. But you get the idea. If anyone knows of an intelligent treatment of the same theme, I’d be very curious to see it.