Friday, November 6, 2015

How Muslims will (not) marry our daughters and conquer us with births

I love reading Zero Hedge. Its constant theme of disaster-is-just-around-the-corner is the financial equivalent of skimming the supermarket tabloid at the checkout to see which celebrity was caught with the babysitter. The most amusing headline I saw recently was about the rise of xenophobia in Germany entitled Muslim Man Warns Germans: "We Will Marry Your Daughters And Conquer You With Births":
A week ago, we showed a video of what we hoped was not representative of the general sentiment among Germans towards the refugee crisis as two ladies suggested, "Every year 2-3 million’s generally about foreign infiltration." Now we have the other side as the following video shows a muslim man threatening a German that "his daughter will wear a headscarf and marry a Muslim and that Germans stand no chance with their low birth rate," adding that muslims will "conquer Europe not with weapons, but with birth rates."
OH PUH-LEEZ! I hope that readers took that as seriously as the tabloid story about the transsexual who obtained a sex change operation but ultimately became a lesbian.

A demographics lesson
In order to make good on that threat, Muslim newcomers would have to surpass European populations with higher birth rates and overwhelm the hosts culturally. I would suggest that the opposite is much more likely to occur.

Consider, for example, the 2008 UN report indicating that fertility rates have been plummeting in the Middle East.

While the UN report only documented the decline in birthrates, the reason is obvious from an economic perspective. Prosperity and development are the best forms of birth control. In an agrarian or hunter-gatherer society, children quickly become production units and therefore profit centers. In a modern industrialized society, children are cost centers.

Callum Thomas recently highlighted this well-known inverse relationship between income and fertility rates, though the topic of discussion at the time surrounded China`s decision to abolish its one-child policy.

Even though China has abolished its one-child policy and tacitly encouraging two children per family, getting people to have more babies is not as easy as it sounds, according to this NY Times article:
Demographers and economists say the cost and difficulty of child-rearing are likely to deter many eligible couples from having two children despite the relaxed rules, Mu Guangzong, a professor of demography at Peking University, said in a telephone interview.

“I don’t think a lot of parents would act on it, because the economic pressure of raising children is very high in China,” he said. “The birthrate in China is low and its population is aging quickly, so from the policy point of view, it’s a good thing, as it will help combat a shortage of labor force in the future. But many parents simply don’t have the economic conditions to raise more children.”
As I noted before, children become cost centers in industrialized societies and the economic incentives to procreate in the era of birth control are low.

Bottom line: Muslim Europeans are likely to see their birthrates decline and converge to the levels of their hosts.

Cultural assimilation or invasion?
The second question involves the issue of cultural assimilation, or cultural invasion. To answer that question, we can turn to two case studies: China and Iran.

During the 13th Century, the Mongols conquered China and established the Yuan Dynasty to rule China. Over the space of a generation, the Mongol conquerors adopted many of the habits of the locals and became, in many ways, Chinese:
Notwithstanding the aspects of their rule that were certainly negative for China, the Mongols did initiate many policies — especially under the rule of Khubilai Khan — that supported and helped the Chinese economy, as well as social and political life in China.

In order to ingratiate himself with Confucian China, for example, Khubilai restored the rituals at court — the music and dance rituals that were such an integral part of the Confucian ideology. He also founded ancestral temples for his predecessors — his father and Chinggis (Genghis) Khan (his grandfather) — in order to carry out the practices of ancestor worship that were so critical for the Chinese.

And in an even greater effort to ingratiate himself personally to the Chinese, Khubilai insisted on giving his second son, Jin Chin, a Chinese-style education. Confucian scholars tutored the young boy, and he was introduced to the tenets of both Confucianism and Buddhism.

Khubilai also set up institutions to rule China that were very familiar to the Chinese, adapting or borrowing wholesale many of the traditional governmental institutions of China. For example, the Six Ministries that had been responsible for carrying out policy were retained by Khubilai's government, as was the Secretariat, a decision-making body. And the provincial administrative structure that organized China into provinces, further divided into districts and counties and so on, was not changed. The Chinese, therefore, found much of the Yuan Dynasty's political structures to be familiar.
Cultural invasion is not as easy as it sounds - and that occurred in an instance when the invaders militarily conquered the region, which is not the case in Europe today.

For a more modern example, consider the demographics of Iran. As the chart below shows, about one-third of the population was alive when radical students stormed and took over the American embassy in 1980.

It also shows the long-term problem facing Iran`s religious clerics. Young Iranians are becoming secular, which creates problems of control by the ayatollahs, according to this NY Times Op-Ed that compared and contrasted the political landscape between Israel and Iran:
For more than three decades, Iran’s oil wealth has allowed its religious leaders to stay in power. But sanctions have taken a serious economic toll, with devastating effects on the Iranian people. The public, tired of Mr. Ahmadinejad’s bombastic and costly rhetoric, has replaced him with Hassan Rouhani, a pragmatist who has promised to fix the economy and restore relations with the West.

But Mr. Rouhani’s rise is in reality the consequence of a critical cultural and demographic shift in Iran — away from theocracy and confrontation, and toward moderation and pragmatism. Recent tensions between America and Russia have emboldened some of Iran’s radicals, but the government on the whole seems still intent on continuing the nuclear negotiations with the West.

Iran is a land of many paradoxes. The ruling elite is disproportionately made up of aged clerics — all men — while 64 percent of the country’s science and engineering degrees are held by women. In spite of the government’s concentrated efforts to create what some have called gender apartheid in Iran, more and more women are asserting themselves in fields from cinema to publishing to entrepreneurship.

Many prominent intellectuals and artists who three decades ago advocated some form of religious government in Iran are today arguing for popular sovereignty and openly challenging the antiquated arguments of regime stalwarts who claim that concepts of human rights and religious tolerance are Western concoctions and inimical to Islam. More than 60 percent of Iranians are under age 30, and they overwhelmingly believe in individual liberty. It’s no wonder that last month Ayatollah Khamenei told the clerical leadership that what worried him most was a non-Islamic “cultural invasion” of the country.
In other words, Iranian youth prefer to party rather than spend their days in religious devotion. If they are tilting towards western influences and culture, then the more likely outcome of a mass migration of Muslims into Europe is cultural assimilation.

For an example of how cultural assimilation can work, consider the new government of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. While this is not a Trudeau endorsement, I would point out that new cabinet ministers include a former refugee from Afghanistan and a turban wearing Sihk who was a soldier with tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan as Minister of Defense.

Now, that`s assimilation!

Bottom line: Europe may experience some temporary indigestion as it copes with the flood of refugees, but the more likely long-term outcome will be "how Muslims will become more secular, affluent and see their birthrates fall."


Unknown said...

But it will take a generation or 2. Who want 20 years of your life in chaos if they have a choice? Voters are easy to decide if they have another choice.

Cam Hui, CFA said...

You have to play the long game. If American foreign policy hadn't played the long game since the 1950's we would have seen nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

Instead, successive policy planners went with the containment strategy and the USSR collapsed.

Anonymous said...

What is their motivation? Become Germans, Swedish, French? Or are they attracted by the generous welfare state in those countries as, simply, food to feed their families and a roof over their heads and perhaps a job to tide them over? Then, when things cool down in Syria, Afghanistan or wherever, they would head back to from where they came.

Cam Hui, CFA said...

Anon -

When Yugoslavia fragmented, what did those refugees want? Or when the Boat People fled Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1970s, what did they want? To go back further in history, what did the refugees from Nazi Germany want?

I doubt if their motivation was simply "the generous welfare state in those countries as, simply, food to feed their families and a roof over their heads and perhaps a job to tide them over".

Don't forget Albert Einstein and Madeleine Albright were once refugees. Steve Jobs was part Syrian. I call what happened to those people assimilation and not just living off the welfare state.

Davidson said...

Bravo great post.

If you look at the history of any country you will see waves of new entrants who were despised at first and then became part of the mainstream and could in turn despise the next group!

Eg Irish , then italians, then Jews , then Middle Easterners , Vietnamese etc in the last century to the US.

What was the motivation of Europeans in going to Africa or Australia, New Zealand, South America or indeed Canada. It was for a better life and to escape poverty and want. I ams sure the locals were not very happy. they were either defeated or given worthless treaties to placate them.

humans are humans .

Unknown said...

"These are my observations and musings about the markets", Cam Hui. I don't think so, but I guess since its your blog your entitled to write about whatever you want. I just miss your bread and butter. Also, David Goldman has written authoritative volumes on this topic. You added little. Please get back to the topic at which you excel.

Best, Joe Conroy

Anonymous said...

As other commenters have already stated, this post reflects Cam Hui's political viewpoints. Even if one agrees with Mr Hui's opinions, they are only political opinions -- and HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH OBSERVATIONS OR MUSINGS ABOUT FINANCIAL MARKETS.

Mr Cui has aspirations of publishing a subscription financial news letter. I suspect many people would consider paying some amount for his market commentary.

But the fact is: political commentary is widely available, for free. To put it gently Mr Cui, opinions are like (ahem) rear ends of digestive canals -- everyone has one, no one wants to buy the output.

Anonymous said...

Well, I enjoyed reading it....

Robert Hammer said...


Great post! I thoroughly enjoy when you share your opinions on hotly debated political topics. Your commentary reflects a deep understanding of history and, in my opinion, political commentary means absolute nothing without an understanding of historical events. I would like to add that in addition to knowledge of historical events, I find very little value in political commentary that is written by pundits without at least a decent knowledge of finance and economics. There is nothing that drives global politics quite like money and history, thus putting you in a unique position to give a quality opinion on most all issues. Therefore, I disagree with anyone who says different.

As far as this topic, I very much agree with you. However, because of the reasons described above, if I did not agree I would still love to read your well-rounded and politically unbiased opinion on whatever the issue may be.

Keep up the great work!


Jim said...


I really enjoyed your post. Intelligent, well written, interesting perspective. A perspective I had not considered myself. In terms of this topic being appropriate for this forum, I say absolutely. Assimilation vs the alternative would result in two very different economic outcomes over the long haul.

Thanks for a great article.