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What do you do when the people are the problem?

In the case of Egypt, a country with two-thirds of its people on the land that imports half its caloric consumption, a 45% illiteracy rate, a university system that can't train an employable engineer, a 30% rate of consanguineous marriage, and a 90% rate of female genital mutilation will have difficulty voting for anything but short-term survival. The Muslim Brotherhood in good Leninist fashion has increased its power on the street, and large parts of the Egyptian people depend on Islamist organizations for basic necessities.

In the case of Greece, fertility fell to among the very lowest rates in the world in 2005, or just 1.28 children per female.

Period Total fertility

  • 1950-1955  2.29
  • 1955-1960  2.27
  • 1960-1965  2.20
  • 1965-1970  2.38
  • 1970-1975  2.32
  • 1975-1980  2.32
  • 1980-1985  1.96
  • 1985-1990  1.53
  • 1990-1995  1.37
  • 1995-2000 1.30
  • 2000-2005 1.28
  • 2005-2010  1.46

Source: United Nations World Population Prospects

The slight uptick in fertility after 2005 probably reflects the growing proportion of immigrants in the Greek population.

If the crisis zones seem caught between "pre-liberal" and "post-liberal" democracy, it is in large measure because their peoples are caught between pre-modern and post-modern social habits. The extreme turnaround in Muslim countries reflects a shift from pre-modern to post-modern fertility within a single generation. For more, see my 2011 book, How Civilizations Die (and Why Islam is Dying, Too).

Friedrich Schiller wrote of the French Revolution that history had brought forth a great moment, but the moment encountered a mediocre people. Today's Greeks and Egyptians are the wrong sort of people to solve the problems that beset them. Bret Stephens ended his June 18 column on an upbeat note: "The good news is that Egyptians may have a wider conception of freedom in 30 years or so, about the same amount of time it took Khomeinism to lose the masses in Iran." I am less sanguine; Egypt, I believe, will enter a prolonged and terrible chaos. We shall see. What matters now is that a new national debate begin on America's role in a world where some grand problems have no obvious solution, and perhaps no solution at all. Bret Stephens has made a big contribution to this debate.

(Thumbnail image on PJM homepage by Shutterstock.com.)