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Thursday, October 6, 2011
How Civilizations Die (And Why Islam Is Dying Too) by David P. Goldman
An interesting, disorganized read
Published 2011 by Regnery Publishing
David P. Goldman's Why Civilizations Die is an ambitious study in demographics, history and cultural legacy that attempts to predict the future of Western Europe, the Middle East and the United States. In a way it is a less humorous version of Mark Steyn's After America, except that Goldman takes in the same data and comes up with radically different conclusions.
Goldman is writes a monthly column under the pseudonym of Spengler at Asia Times Online, a fact that Goldman assumes his readers know before they open the book and a fact I did not know (it's on the dust cover, but I had set aside the dust cover). I kept wondering who Spengler was and why Goldman was quoting him so liberally and did not get the joke until the second-to-last page of the book. Throw in a chaotically arranged beginning to the book with lots of wonderful points arranged in an apparently random fashion and this reader was frustrated for the first 50 pages or so.
But, somewhere in the middle some wonderful observations and themes start to come together and Goldman really hits his stride. There are powerful observations about why religious faith has all but died in Europe, why fertility rates will fall farther and faster in many Muslim countries (this is the crux of his disagreement with Steyn who gets only the briefest of mentions, but whose arguments are referred to throughout) and why this fall in fertility is a crisis in countries like Iran is a serious crisis that must be managed with a deft hand. He includes more than enough statistics, charts and analysis to drive his point home. I would love to listen to a debate between Steyn and Goldman on this topic.
Almost as an aside, Goldman makes a brilliant set of arguments as to why the United States was truly created in the Judeo-Christian cultural mold and how that worldview is causing America to avoid the fertility crisis that will de-stabilize many other countries. I truly hope that Goldman's next book is an in-depth look at that heritage, why it matters and how it affects us.
I rate this book 4 stars out of 5. I have to take off a point for the chaotic start. Once I got through the rough start it was a tour de force.
Reviewed on October 6, 2011.