Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Pan-European Civil War? Probably Not

Mark Steyn opines that nations with two cultures have civil wars, and that's where Europe is heading. I think he's wrong to write off the whole of Europe - the problem is the Franco-Germans.

Take Fiji - not a comparison France would be flattered by, though until 1987 the Fijians enjoyed a century of peaceful stable constitutional evolution the French were never able to muster. At any rate, Fiji comprises native Fijians and ethnic Indians brought in as indentured workers by the British. If memory serves, 46.2 per cent are Fijians and 48.6 per cent are Indo-Fijians; 50-50, give or take, with no intermarrying. In 1987, the first Indian-majority government came to power. A month later, Col Sitiveni Rabuka staged the first of his two coups, resulting in the Queen's removal as head of state and Fiji being expelled from the Commonwealth.

His key point is the lack of intermarriage. He argues that low levels integration combined with high immigrant and low native birth rates will create Fiji-type situations in most European countries in a few decades.

American immigrants have huge incentives to integrate - once they look and sound America, they are treated as 100% American. Brits do it differently, but, with the exception of some Muslim communities, equally effectively. So although both the US and UK have high immigrant rates, high immigrant birth rates and low native birth rates, it doesn't matter - the babies are American or British.

The US solved the problem of immigrant assimilation because it was central to their idea of nationhood. The Brits because, as a tiny nation living by trade, they had no choice but to co-opt from other nations. (Gibbon says that in 1776 there were just 5 million Anglo-Welsh compared with 20 million French and 20 million Germans).

The Dutch have a similar history to the Brits, and so I think they too will build a single identity out of their diversity - after a poor start they're getting real.

France and Germany are the problem. Their native cultures are racially homogeneous, and historically they haven't had to develop models for cultural assimilation - hence the French ghettos. Declaring immigrants to be French and then walling them off was never going to work.

Germany has a smaller problem numerically, but big cultural issues - try talking to a German about Turkey!

Italy has a fast declining birth rate, a very distinctive culture and a boatload (pun intended) of immigrants. But it's a highly civilized society that's been assimilating immigrants for 2,000 years, so I'm hoping they will make it.

So civil wars are possible in France and Germany but the rest of Europe should pull through.