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David, you were talking about ‘demographic extinction’. I’m not quite sure what ‘cultural suicide’ may mean, but I do know that it is a different question. As to what I meant in my original post, I think Europe (and in particular the island from which I come) is a touch overcrowded. A little more elbow room would, over time, be a good thing.

Turning to the stats, here’s a useful report from the BBC from 2005. As you can see, there has been a dramatic fall in the birth rates all over the world, including in regions, such as Latin America, that are not normally associated with any spiritual ‘decline’. You will also see that the European birth rate was already significantly lower than that of the rest of world by 1970, a time when abortion was still illegal in many western European countries.

It’s also worth looking at some of the history before then. In Sweden and Denmark, for example, birth rates fell dramatically between 1900 and the mid-1930s, not a time usually associated with emptying pews, before picking up in the 1940s. This isn’t just Scandinavian exceptionalism. You can see similar patterns in pre and post-war France. As for the Brits, their birth rate began turning down in the 1870s, a time when they were too busy running a global empire to contemplate ‘cultural suicide’ (I should say that the subsequent decline was not, of course, in a straight line).



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