[Welcome Instapundit readers and thanks for the link.]
Yesterday Glenn Reynolds noted a Sunday New York Times magazine article examining the demographic decline in Europe. He took the key meme from the article and summarized it as follows:
Flexibility is the key to success. But read the whole thing.
Having read the whole thing, I must say that Glenn Reynolds is correct that that is the major take-away from the article, but I also have to point out that the article was somewhat disingenuous in its most glaring omissions. In the Times article, the writer explains that adequate birth rates in Northern Europe and the United States are achieved in different ways, leading to the conclusion that flexibility is the key:
(pp. 4) This is a crucial difference between the north — including France and the United Kingdom and the Scandinavian countries — and the south. The Scandinavian countries have both the most vigorous social-welfare systems in Europe and — at 1.8 — among the highest fertility rates.
(pp. 5) If this reading of southern European countries is correct — that their superficial commitment to modernity, to a 21st-century lifestyle, is fatally at odds with a view of the family structure that is rooted in the 19th century — it should apply in other parts of the world, should it not? Apparently it does. This spring, the Japanese government released figures showing that the country’s under-14 population was the lowest since 1908. The head of Thailand’s department of health announced in May that his country’s birthrate now stands at 1.5, far below the replacement level. “The world record for lowest-low fertility right now is South Korea, at 1.1,” Francesco Billari told me. “Japan is just about as low. What we are seeing in Asia is a phenomenon of the 2000s, rather than the 1990s. And it seems the reasons are the same as for southern Europe. All of these are societies still rooted in the tradition where the husband earned all the money. Things have changed, not only in Italy and Spain but also in Japan and Korea, but those societies have not yet adjusted. The relationships within households have not adjusted yet.” Western Europe, then, is not the isolated case that some make it out to be. It is simply the first region of the world to record extremely low birthrates.
(pp. 6) So there would seem to be two models for achieving higher fertility: the neosocialist Scandinavian system and the laissez-faire American one. Aassve put it to me this way: “You might say that in order to promote fertility, your society needs to be generous or flexible. The U.S. isn’t very generous, but it is flexible. Italy is not generous in terms of social services and it’s not flexible. There is also a social stigma in countries like Italy, where it is seen as less socially accepted for women with children to work. In the U.S., that is very accepted.”
The disingenuousness comes from omitting the not so small point that much of America's demographic success comes from immigrants who become Americans while much of Northern Europe's demographic success comes from immigrants who remain unassimilated. This may yet change but until the prevailing multi-cultural mindset changes, all Northern Europe is doing is exchanging Scandinavians for pre-modern anti-Westerners.
Glee Reynolds also linked to his article from two years in which he dealt with deeper and more important reasons for the demographic collapse of Europe: