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October 25, 2011

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Thomas LaBelle

I just finished After America and it's a terrific read. As Steyn states early in his book, he didn't make these predictions of dire consequences because he wants them to come true. It makes it difficult to collect the royalties, for one thing. I believe Steyn is well aware of the vectors and is actually hoping that we avoid his scenario. In the end whatever the vectors, Rome fell as did the darkness after Rome. Is the world prepared for a post-American age?

notquiteunBuckley

I wrote this on NRO but I do not know if it will show. In any event, your problem with Steyn is well-founded, as he's unAmerican and antiBuckley. Here's why:


Steyn sees dead countries' symbols.

With that viewpoint first and foremost, how could us real Americans expect this foreigner to advance Buckley/Reagan conservatism?

Sure, Steyn had writing talent, but as his (beyond shameful liar) most frequently cited co-warrior at fivefeetofantiBuckley says, talent shows nothing, ABSOLUTELY!, about the wielder of that talent. Not even that they have talent to begin with. The un-eo ipso.

http://www.examiner.com/conservative-politics-in-national/memo-to-patrick-ruffini-we-don-t-need-william-f-buckley-back

WiseGuy

It is hard to argue with Steyn since he is almost prescient, but there is obviously a need to do so. We must always have hope.

The butterfly flap I can see is abortion. While conservatives like me are against abortion, the reality is that, combined with prenatal ultrasound gender identification, and the desire of some high-growth-rate culture's desire to only have sons, makes some of Steyn's demographic predictions volatile.

Males are good for making war, but ultimately they are a dead end, demographically.

C H Ingoldby

''This means that any forecast of human affairs 20 years out is likely almost totally worthless, except in very general terms. Mark Steyn seems unaware of any such limits on human reasoning.''

If a Roman in the 5th Century were to point out that Rome was heading toward collapse I do not think that pointing out the difficulty of making precise predictions and the chaotic nature of the universe would really have been an effective retort.

The West is facing serious internal problems and must face up to that or risk dangerous decline. That needs to be faced up to.

Cincinnatus

Dear Mr. Ingoldby:

How many 5th century Romans predicted the Dark Ages, and for the correct reasons (which are still being debated today)? The answer: none, because forecasting is hard to do.

And how often do societies suffer complete collapse? Answer: very seldom.

You compare 5th century Rome to us today, where there is no comparison. Just to mention two factors: Rome ceased to be militarily superior to their adversaries, not the case today as we can trounce the Arabs at will as they remain utterly incompetent in such matters; Rome ceased to be economically superior to the barbarians (there were Romans sneaking over to the other side to avoid paying taxes), in contrast Isreal outproduces the entire Arab world combined.

Thomas LaBelle

Cincinnatus, have you read After America? Steyn would likely agree, if it was a simple as that. Yes the US is militarily superior to the neo-barbarians but because because of multiculturalism and political correctness is unable to act like Romans.
Anyway, I for one, do hope that we come to our senses and your are right and Steyn is proven incorrect. I fear he has perceived a clear picture of our children's future, however.

C H Ingoldby

Dear Cincinnatus, Plenty of Romans predicted the collapse of Rome, it is a major theme of Latin literature, the prediction of collapse as the consequence of moral decay. Yes, forecasting is hard to do but it is not impossible.
And a great many societies have suffered complete collapse. History is replete with examples of collapsed societies.
As for 5th Century Rome, Rome was militarily and economically superior to the barbarians. Objectively, Rome was much stronger than when it was a Republic facing Carthage. The fact that Rome was richer, with superiorly equipped troops and massively out produced the barbarians was not enough because it had lost its civilisational self confidence.
The fact that Israel outproduces the Arab world is irrelevant to the threats of Arab population growth within and without Israel combined with unrelenting Arab aggression and declining Western preparedness to stand up for Western values in the face of Arab/Islamic barbarism.

Frankly, your argument seems to be, forecasting is hard, therefore Mark Steyn’s forecast must be wrong. That’s pretty poor reasoning.

Cincinnatus

Dear Mr. Ingoldby:

On the contrary, my argument is that because forecasting is hard work, you must not only measure all the facts carefully and dispassionately but you must remain cognizant of the limits of forecasting, and if you don't do this you haven't produced a forecast that is even possible of being valid. (To actually become valid requires something further still: it must come to pass.)

Mark Steyn does not measure the facts dispassionately. He lovingly highlights negative trends while ignoring, or pooh-poohing, positive trends - like the ones Ambrose Evans-Pritchard reports on. The result of such an analysis is not a serious forecast, but a lurid nightmare: if it were to come true, it would only be a coincidence.

To say things like "the fact that Israel outproduces the Arab world is irrelevant" is patently absurd, regardless of how negative the overarching demographic trends are (and, by the way, the demographic gap has pretty much closed thanks to the Orthodox Jews). Industrial production is a factor - almost by definition - and must be treated as such, especially if the superiority is so overwhelming.

To give an example of what I mean, consider a preacher who predicts the world will come to an end on a given date, x, and it actually does come to an end on x because a planet-killing asteroid happens to strikes the planet then. Is his prophesy worth anything, even though it came to pass? No, because it was true only by virtue of random chance. If on the other hand an astronomer identifies the asteroid ahead of time and correctly computes its trajectory, that would be worth something. Why? Because it was true and - at the same time - was a logically valid analysis that did not stray from the empirical facts.

It is interesting that you mention all the apocalyptic literature produced by the Roman Empire. In many ways they share the same virtues and faults as Steyn's books. They predicted doom for the Romans because of the Roman's lack of virtue and/or the virtue of the barbarians. But if this stuff is being issued all the time and always for the same reason, what information does each individual prophesy actually contain? If your answer is none, then you are right.

The Roman Empire's fall had nothing to do with virtue. It had to do with the pathologies brought on by welfare (free grain), the limitations of the direct democracy of a city-state in an extended empire, the limitations of an absolute dictatorship in an extended empire, the loss of unity brought about by multiculturalism and the loss of military superiority (that became apparent in the Battle of Adrianopol). Most Roman citizens were hard-working peasants who tilled the soil pretty much the same way before, during and after the Roman Empire. (As an interesting aside, the development of the yoke in the Dark Ages allowed fields to be plowed by horses instead of oxen, significantly increasing agricultural yield.)

Yes, you can say: see, see, the Romans had multiculturalism, unaccountable and decadent elites and a welfare state, just like we do. And you would be right. And this coincidence is something to legitimately worry over.

But it is not the whole story. There are many, many, ways that today's world is completely different from those times and if you are to issue a serious forecast about the future trajectory of humanity, you must take into account the differences as well - all of them that you can.

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