The one certain thing about population control is that we do not yet know how to achieve it. That needs a bit of explaining. If human beings do absolutely nothing about controlling their populations, nature will do it for us, simply because the world—our world—is limited. Sure, a few human beings might eventually be shipped off to the stars in a spaceship, but this could never be a feasible way in which to deal with unhindered population growth. At the present time, world population is increasing by a quarter of a million people per day. At a cost of tens of millions of dollars per astral passenger, we will never be rich enough to “solve” the population problem that way.
Never mind: nature will solve the problem for us. The high death rate in countries like Ethiopia, the Sudan, and Bangladesh will (if we sit on our hands) ultimately be great enough to produce zero population growth (ZPG). At present, all that nature is producing is misery. Bangladesh, with an area the size of Iowa, has a population 38 times as great, and each year it adds another Iowa’s-worth of population. As miserable as conditions are in Bangladesh now, they are slated to become worse before ZPG sets in. That’s not the kind of population control we are looking for.
Some of the European models appeal to us more. From time to time one country or another has been in the ZPG-mode—for a few years. Hungary. East Germany. And recently, apparently, Italy. How did they manage to do this? Not by government fiat: the unsought answer was a housing shortage. A newly married couple moving into a tiny apartment with his or her parents was told in no uncertain terms, No babies! By the time they could get an apartment of their own the most fertile years of married life were past. A housing shortage is a great contraceptive—in Europe. But not, obviously, in most tropical countries (whatever the reason).
In times past, nature enforced ZPG in another way: through “crowd diseases,” the mortality rate of which rises with increased crowding. Tuberculosis, typhus, and the dysenteries are good examples. Until about three centuries ago overpopulation was corrected spasmodically by one disease or another sweeping through a region. In the Great Plague of the mid-14th century a quarter of Europe’s population is estimated to have died in two years. Then came agricultural improvements, the sanitation movement, and Pasteurian (modern) medicine. The corrective feedback of disease seemed to come to an end.
Will AIDS move us back to an earlier era when “Fate” was in charge? We don’t know. Certainly AIDS is a lousy disease: the amount of suffering caused per human death is horrible. Not like cholera, for instance, where most of the victims died in two days’ time. (Rather simple measures, treating cholera patients like heatstroke victims, can reduce the mortality from 95 percent to less than 5 percent.) If the disease AIDS is nature’s new control for population growth we have much to complain about.
We want something gentler than disease as a controller of population. But what? To date, we have been unable to agree on a substitute. We hope to find some sort of community control of the fertility of individual parents. That’s a tough problem for people brought up in the European tradition of individual freedom. We haven’t found the answer.
We can make progress if we will settle for less than a total answer. We should try the incremental approach, adopting partial measures that will slow the population growth, giving us more time to look for more general solutions. In dealing with population growth, it is a blessing that the world is divided into nearly two hundred nations. Different nations can try different experiments. By observing the success or failure of other nations we may be able to come up with a model that works for us. (If there were only one sovereignty. One World, then only one experiment could be tried at a time. Given our great ignorance, that would be a frightening gamble.)
In population experiments it is important that each nation experiment only with itself, so it can speedily observe whether an experiment is successful or not. For rich nations like ours the most feasible partial solution is an immediate restriction of immigration. At the present time, immigration accounts for roughly 50 percent of our population growth. So the potential for progress in population control is great if we do nothing more than see to it that the rate of immigration is no greater than the rate of emigration.
Actually, even though such a policy would be aimed only at improving our own situation, it would, indirectly, help other nations control their populations, too. No nation that can foist off its extra people onto other nations is likely to take its population problem seriously. Consider how Castro evaded Cuba’s population problem when Jimmy Carter was President. The “Marielitos,” the boat people he shoved off onto the United States, totaled some 130,000—which was just one year’s population increase for Cuba. Fortunately our administration soon showed a rare display of courage and indicated, “No more!” The Cubans have not, of course, found a solution to their population problem yet, but maybe they will some day—if we (and others) refuse to accept their surplus.
Controlling immigration means controlling borders. To judge from most stories in the newspapers and on television this would seem to be so repugnant a measure that most Americans would reject it. I challenge this assumption. For some ten years opinion surveys have shown that a large majority (typically 80 percent or more) of Americans favor reducing immigration. Why then do the media put a contrary “spin” on their stories of immigrants and immigration? The nation is schizoid about population. Explaining the discrepancy requires an approach that is almost psychoanalytical.
To begin with, there is the Statue of Liberty—”Give me your tired, your poor,” et cetera. “We are a nation of immigrants,” we say. But so is every nation. Our trouble is that we recently grew by immigration; we haven’t yet realized that childhood can’t last forever.
Then there is that glorious banner, “One World.” Most people assume this means, “One World, Without Borders.” But it should be noted that the United Nations charter, a quintessentially idealistic document, asserts the right of emigration but not the right of immigration. To claim the latter would, after all, be to assert a right to invade. One-Worlders are not willing to go that far.
Arguments for unrestricted immigration have ancient roots in religion and philosophy. “I am a citizen of the world,” said Zeno of Citium in”the third century B.G., and the Bible frequently praises universal brotherhood. Opposed to the seductive calls for cosmopolitanism and universal brotherhood have been the equally powerful tribalistic tendencies of mankind. To some extent, people have divided into two camps on the issues of borders and loyalty. Broadly speaking, practical men have favored the limited loyalties of family, tribe, and nation. Universal loyalty has been more enthusiastically promoted by those who are somewhat alienated from the rank and file—by religious prophets and secular scholars.
In generating persuasive rhetoric the One-Worlders have been clear winners over those who would restrict immigration. It is painful to be abused by the emotion-laden terms prejudice, bigotry, parochialism, xenophobia, racism, chauvinism, intolerance, and provincialism. Those who wish to eradicate restrictionist national loyalties have been greatly helped by two images. The first is that of “Spaceship Earth,” based on the great NASA photographs of Earth from space. The second is the heartwarming rhetorical image of Marshall McLuhan’s “global village.”
In the middle of the 20th century new strength was given to the universalist argument by the threat of atomic bombs. It seemed quite possible that all-out nuclear warfare might extinguish civilization, perhaps even the whole human species. It was argued that since it was the persistence of nation-states that made “the Bomb” so dangerous, we must get rid of nations and create a single world sovereignty.
The proposal is tempting, but Bertrand Russell pointed out its fatal weakness in 1948: “A world state, if it were firmly established, would have no enemies to fear, and would therefore be in danger of breaking down through lack of cohesive force.” Many of Russell’s readers felt that, for once, Bertie spoke with too much restraint. A single world state would be more than merely “in danger of breaking down”; it would be certain to shatter. Driven by the twin engines of self-interest and a craving for friends and allies, an atomized society would be certain to crystallize around new centers—new cliques and new tribes. New loyalties would generate new conflicts.
Toward the end of the 1980’s events in Eastern Europe and adjacent Asia poignantly illustrated the truth of Russell’s position. After 70 years of nearly unrelieved antagonism, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. smoked a pipe of peace. The Soviet Union, now that she had fewer external enemies to fear, showed signs of breaking apart “through lack of cohesive force,” to use Russell’s words. Latvia and Lithuania sought liberation. In the south, Georgians struggled for independence, as did the Armenians and Azerbaijanis. Early in 1991 a Soviet attempt to get 15 republics to sign a loyalty oath netted a bare majority of eight. The future was clouded.
This should have been no surprise. Since the United Nations was founded in 1945 many nations have undergone fission. The only substantial fusions of nations have been the undoing of previous fissions, e.g., North and South Yemen into a reborn Yemen; East Germany and West Germany into a reassembled Deutschland.
National fissions, on the other hand, have been legion. Pakistan violently budded off India, with a loss of lives estimated at over a million. Then Bangladesh budded off Pakistan. French Canada is trying to free itself from the rest of Canada. Yugoslavia, ever since its creation by outside forces, has been an unstable association of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (not to mention the Macedonians, Muslims, and Albanians). Farther east, what price peace for Iraq, with its Kurds and its two kinds of Muslims (Sunni and Shia)? Outside forces that are sometimes adequate for the creation of multi-ethnic nations prove to be impotent in making ethnics love—or even respect—one another. It’s hard to see how there will be any peace until passionate ethnic groups are segregated from one another by effective borders.
This is common knowledge, but so opposed is it to the ideas we in America were taught to honor that we are now in the process of destabilizing our own country through the unlimited acceptance of massive immigration. The magic words of the destabilizers are “diversity” and “multiculturalism.” Diversity is good, yes: but like all good things, it is possible to have too much of it in one place. The telling example of our time is Beirut. For a while the diversity of this city was beautiful and exciting: it was called the Paris of the Mediterranean by the Arab millionaires who flocked to it. But as it grew in population, and as the proportions of the disparate ethnic groups changed, peace vanished. Within the bounds of a single nation the mutual stresses of intolerant groups became too great.
During the first part of the 20th century, immigration to the United States was biased to favor those who were most like the people who created this legal entity—the northern Europeans. The bureau that governed immigration was, significantly, called the Immigration and Naturalization Service—”Naturalization” because we old-timers jolly well intended to make the newcomers like ourselves as rapidly as possible.
Then popular anthropology came along with its dogma that all cultures are equally good, equally valuable. To say otherwise was to be narrow-minded and prejudiced, to be guilty of the sin of ethnocentrism. In time, a sort of Marxist-Hegelian dialectic took charge of our thinking: ethnocentrism was replaced by what we can only call ethnofugalism—a romantic flight away from our own culture. That which was foreign and strange, particularly if persecuted, became the ideal. Black became beautiful, and prolonged bilingual education replaced naturalization. Immigration lawyers grew rich serving their clients by finding ways around the law of the land to which they (the lawyers) owe their allegiance. Idealistic religious groups, claiming loyalty to a higher power than the nation, openly shielded and transported illegal immigrants.
Illegal immigrants have always been welcomed by employers who want to keep wages low, but employers were usually pretty quiet about what they were doing. With the blessing of some religious groups it is now said that such employers serve a morality higher than the profit motive. With the backing of idealists, simple greed has become sanctimonious greed. Though opinion polls show that the majority of the electorate want more restrictions on immigration, powerful political elements continue to make the borders ever more permeable.
Who is responsible for this mockery of democracy? I am ashamed to admit that it is the group to which I belong, the wordmasters—the people who manipulate words to move the minds of men and women. Unfortunately, the masters of the media have made the field of argument anything but level. How have they done this? And why?
Think how often you see a tear-jerking story in the newspaper or on television about one Pedro Lopez who has just come to America (probably illegally) and is having trouble supporting his wife and four children on his low wages. But do you recall ever seeing a film clip of some Juan Jimenez who has lived in the United States all his life and has lost his job to a new immigrant who will work for less? It’s a strangely limited sort of compassion that moves a reporter to see the first sort of needy person, though he is blind to the second. A million immigrants, legal and illegal, enter each year; perhaps two million. And for every million who enter there are at least ten million more who would like to come in. What sort of patriotism is it that causes a reporter to espouse the cause of illegal immigrants while ignoring that of America’s own unemployed?
One factor that may contribute to such biased reporting has been suggested by the sociologist James S. Coleman. In the last year of the 19th century the economist Thorstein Veblen taught us that a desire for “conspicuous consumption” was a powerful motivator of much social activity. Once this desire was honestly labeled it was on its way to becoming unfashionable. In our time, says Coleman, conspicuous benevolence earns more brownie points than conspicuous consumption. Almost all news commentators practice conspicuous benevolence, and thereby gain a loyal audience. What’s wrong with that?
When a million new workers enter a country that already has five million unemployed, where do the million needed jobs come from? In large part they must be jobs that were formerly held by individuals already on the spot. And if, as we are told, “Americans don’t do dirty work,” could this reluctance be because the work doesn’t pay well enough? Could the job be re-engineered so that it would be more humanly attractive? (Pushing it off on people of another ethnic group shows scant respect for their culture.)
A few statistical studies have been published purporting to show that immigrants pay more in taxes than they take out in benefits. To such astonishing reports one can only say as Benjamin Disraeli said long ago: “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” Whatever we furnish our new immigrants has to come out of the hide of people who have long been there—the taxpayers. That includes the taxpayers of the same ethnic group as the new immigrants.
Why are we told so little about this by radio, television, or newspaper? One explanation looms over all others: the rice bowls of the wordmasters are not threatened by immigrants. If you are employed at hard labor weeding vegetables, or working long hours making beds, or serving tables in a restaurant, new immigrants threaten to take your job. But if you are one of those who talk into a microphone or write on a word processor, the immigrant from another culture is no threat to you at all. The level of skill required to be a wordmaster is almost beyond the reach of persons who change culture and language as adults. The Pole Joseph Conrad and the Russian Vladimir Nabokov were exceptions. Can you name another?
Adults who try hard can learn another language, but seldom well enough to make a living in the media. Since the media people are never threatened with unemployment by incoming migrants, they find it difficult to imagine what it would be like to be so threatened. It takes imagination to put yourself in the place of a lowly worker in a nonverbal profession. Media masters, with the best will in the world but poor imagination, present a one-sided picture of the consequences of immigration.
Uncontrolled immigration poses still greater dangers, as Daniel Pipes’ account of The Rushdie Affair reveals. Salman Rushdie, an expatriate from India, made little stir among the general public until the publication of his book The Satanic Verses in 1988. This was immediately attacked by Muslims in India, Pakistan, Iran, and elsewhere. In June of the following year an Iranian agency offered a reward of $170,000 to anyone who would assassinate the author. Rushdie, long a resident in England, went into hiding, protected by British security agents. The reward was immediately recognized and condemned as an unparalleled attack on freedom of speech.
Not all the inheritors of freedom of speech recognize how perishable this precious gift is. Many influential Westerners sided with the Muslims. Muslims in England demanded that Rushdie’s book be declared in violation of British laws against blasphemy, but British officials pointed out that these laws referred only to blasphemy against the state religion, Christianity.
At this point a Tory MP led a delegation of Muslims to the Home Office to lobby for an extension of the blasphemy laws to cover Islam. The archbishop of Canterbury agreed with the petitioners. In America Jimmy Carter, a born-again Christian, did not go that far, but he did urge that we should all be “sensitive to the concern and anger” of Muslims. At this point the American philosopher Michael Walzer pointed out that, if this trend in religious thinking continued, blasphemy would become an ecumenical crime. A fine idea, said Iran’s ambassador to Greece: “Reverence for people’s beliefs should be the cornerstone of international relations.”
One can grant that it is no more than prudent to word genuinely international communications so as to show no disrespect for other people’s beliefs, but is it wise to hog-tie intranational communications with the restrictions imposed by distant religious authorities? Among the minor religions practiced in Iran is Zoroastrianism (called Parsiism in India). There are about one hundred thousand Parsis in India and fifty thousand Zoroastrians in Iran. Suppose an Englishman or an American made blasphemous remarks about Ahura Mazda, the Zoroastrian god: should the non-Zoroastrian be jailed in his own country?
If blasphemy were to be made an ecumenical crime we would soon become painfully aware that there are thousands of religious sects in the world. Nothing shows more clearly the folly of conceiving the world as a “global village.” One of the major characteristics of a village is limited tolerance. In “One World” there would be no place for heterodoxy, no tolerance for freedom of speech. Perhaps we should erect a monument to Salman Rushdie as the First Outlaw of the Global Village.
More than tolerance and freedom of speech may some day be involved in conflicts of this sort. The specter of genocide must be exorcised. Not many people realize that there are two forms of this crime. Active genocide is the sort one first thinks of—Hitler killing six million Jews. But there is another form—more subtle, less obvious, but potentially equally effective—that we may call passive genocide. The way this works was recently revealed in three remarks by Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the speaker of the Iranian parliament: “One billion [Muslims] will become 2 billion tomorrow and 3 billion the day after tomorrow.” “You [in the West] are afraid of our cultural presence in your countries.” “[Islam] is the sole determinant of man’s future course.” Translated bluntly: “We Muslims are going to outbreed you.”
Since the principal international conflict in the Rushdie affair was between Britain and Iran, let’s compare the two. Their populations are almost identical: 54 million in Iran vs. 57 million in the United Kingdom. But the rates of increase of the two populations are strikingly different. The Iranian population is now doubling in size every 20 years; the United Kingdom will take 290 years to double if it holds to its present course. At the end of a single 290-year period, if present trends continue, Iranians would be more than ten thousand times as numerous as the British!
This is ridiculous, of course, this conclusion to which mere algebra has led us. Present trends will not continue, for many reasons. If present trends in the world as a whole were to continue for 290 years the total population would be some 900 billion people. Not even the most “optimistic” growth-promoters say the world population will ever be that large. (The space now occupied by one person would then have to accommodate 170 persons.) But even though growth trends cannot be that long maintained, comparative trends are important because they reveal the pressures created by reproductive differences between cultures.
If two cultures compete for the same bit of “turf” (environment), and if one of the populations increases faster than the other, then year by year the population that is reproducing faster will increasingly outnumber the slower one. If, “other things being equal,” there are advantages to being numerous, then in time the slowly reproducing population will be displaced by the fast one. This is passive genocide. It may be that no one is ever killed; but the genes of one group replace the genes of the other. That’s genocide.
If the competition between groups were governed by a completely laissez-faire philosophy, genocide might pose no danger, because great fertility can produce great poverty. Poverty greatly increases infant mortality. In laissez-faire demographic competition, a fluctuating balance between competing populations might be reached.
But one of the implications of a “spaceship” world with its ideal of universal brotherhood is that nice people don’t allow children to die of malnutrition and disease anywhere in the world. Practicing conspicuous benevolence, the rich send food to the poor, never having the nerve to ask the fertile poor to mitigate their reproductive extravagance. Alternatively, the rich may dismantle their national borders and invite the poor and fertile in to enjoy their greater riches.
At first, spokesmen for immigrants may demand nothing more than a tolerance of other ways of doing things, but as their numbers increase the immigrants may demand that anything that they forbid should be forbidden to all of society. (Thus did the Muslims behave in England in the Rushdie case.) The fertile immigrants will put pressure on the diminishing proportion of the rich and less fertile to change their culture. What is blasphemy to the immigrants must become blasphemy to all. As for that much touted virtue of “diversity,” it is clear that great diversity can lead to great repression.
The Rushdie affair has shown us that freedom of religion and freedom of speech are not necessarily compatible. Paradoxical as it may sound, the virtue of tolerance does not include tolerance of intolerance. Diversity within the borders of a single state can become too great for the survival of all the competing ethnic groups. But, if borders are kept intact, diversity among nations is tolerable. We can, with equanimity, observe the working out of different ideals, different images of the good life in other countries. From time to time we may conclude that their ways are superior to ours, and set about changing our ways. (Alternatively, they may learn from us.)
Still, any separation of nations rightly worries thoughtful people. They remember what strict separation cost the Japanese during the Tokugawa regime. From 1603 to 1868 Japan was virtually closed to the outside world. Whatever internal stability this may have fostered, it came at a high price: Japan fell behind the rest of the world in science and technology. When the doors were finally opened again it took nearly a century—until after the Second World War—for Japan to catch up.
But closing the doors to immigrants does not mean closing the doors to ideas. Visits can be encouraged both ways, and it is possible to see to it that most visits do not change into permanent residence. Study abroad encourages the exchange of ideas, particularly because so much of the visiting is done by young adults who are most open to new ideas. The ideal world is one that is differentiated into many separate cultures, spatially separated from each other by secure national boundaries so that each group is free to develop its own peculiar qualities, free of the stress that comes from forcing incompatible cultures to live cheek by jowl. Diversity is maximized between nations, minimized within nations. Borders can be permeable to ideas even when they are almost completely impermeable to would-be permanent immigrants.
There’s an old folk saying that covers all this: Good fences make good neighbors. Robert Frost mocked this aphorism in a well-known poem, but his own life was largely governed by this principle. A peaceful, borderless global village is an impossibility. But a globe of villages can, if we keep our fences in repair, endure and enrich our lives.