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A great read, with a few minor problems
on October 21, 2006
America Alone is a wonderful book. One that should be widely read. There are a number of points made in the book that are quite important and unique.
Mark Steyn doesn't believe demographics can explain everything. But he thinks it can explain a good 90%, and he makes a pretty strong case for it.
The facts are that the birthrates in most of the western world are well below replacement rates, while the birthrates in most of the Middle East are well above. This fact, coupled with increasing rates if immigration to the west from parts of the world where the general population is quite antithetical to western values (freedom, democracy etc.) will inevitably lead to confrontation.
2. Cultural confidence
In the west, multiculturalism is law. Literally. It is the sacred cow of the elite that no one dares question. Well, except perhaps Mark Steyn and a few others.
The basic point made in America Alone is that in a clash of cultures where one is self confident and aggressive while the other is self-abasing and passive, odds are on the former. Regardless of what technological and economic advantages the latter may have.
These are very strong points. One may certainly disagree with them (as I do, in many ways) but one can't argue that they are not worth discussing, and this book is a great addition to the debate.
That being said, there are also a few things about the book I found quite irritating.
It seems as though the majority of the book was taken verbatim from Steyn's old columns. If you have been a close reader of his work in the last few years, you will find almost no new content here, and certainly no new ideas. Everything that Steyn says in this book, he has already said (many times) in his columns.
It's the demographics. Russia has a 1.1 fertility rate. America has 2.1. It's the demographics. Russia is dying. America has a chance. Russia has a 1.1 fertility rate. It's the demographics. America has a 2.1 fertility rate.
We get it!!!
Some statistics are quite literally repeated a dozen times throughout the book. It becomes almost unbearable at times, when you're reading the same point being made ad nauseum.
If you're going to play statistician, at least make a serious go at it. Many of the statistics cited in this book are plucked out at random and never explored beyond the superficial level. I'm not saying it's necessary to spend 50 pages on analysis, but if you're making a serious claim like the notion that no culture has ever recovered from a fertility rate below 1.3 children per woman, you might want to spend more than two sentences talking about it. How about addressing some of the more common objections, and exploring why this is the case?
In any case, the above are fairly minor objections, in comparison to all that is good about this book. Overall this book was a great read and is highly recommended.