Thursday, November 16, 2017

The next two to three years



Election posters for the radical nationalist SRS (Srpska radikalna stranka), (Wikicommons: Micki)



A nationalist bloc of nations has come into being in eastern and central Europe—Poland, Czechia, Slovakia, Austria, and Hungary. This is a new development, and most commentators in North America and Western Europe are still digesting what has happened. So they are easy prey for three misconceptions:

This is right-wing nationalism, even far right. Actually, in denouncing the erosion of the welfare state and in rejecting military intervention abroad, it has more in common with Bernie Sanders than with Margaret Thatcher. It is, in fact, a sharp break with the thinking that has dominated the right since the days of Reagan and Thatcher in the 1980s.

This is a return to the belligerent nationalism of the early 20th century. Europe no longer has enough young men to sacrifice in needless wars—ironically, that's what postnational Western elites have been pushing. In the early 21st century, nationalism is about rejecting military adventurism abroad and defending what we have at home.

This is an Eastern European thing, a legacy of communism. True, in its initial stages. National identity is stronger in Eastern Europe, partly because the Iron Curtain hindered the inflow of Western culture and partly because these societies are less differentiated and more homogeneous. Because citizens share similar interests, consensus can be reached more easily and then spread elsewhere. And the new nationalist consensus has already spread west of the former Iron Curtain. 

Over the next two to three years, this consensus will spread into other small countries or regions where the elites are close to the people, where English isn't widely used, and where the culture is similar and tends to be locally produced. The next dominoes to fall will thus probably be Slovenia and Croatia to the south and Switzerland, Bavaria, and Saxony to the west. This political change will happen as much through ideological conversion of old parties as through electoral upsets by new parties.

The nationalist consensus will spread to other countries with the help of another factor: the relative weakness of the local elite and, conversely, the relative strength of public feeling that change is necessary. If we look at Europe as a whole, we can identify two zones where the elites are weak and the desire for change is correspondingly strong. One is Serbia/Macedonia/Bulgaria. The other is Italy.

Serbia

Although Serbia is next to Hungary, it has less in common with that country than does Austria or Czechia. As a state within Yugoslavia, it was never part of the Warsaw Pact and only an associate member of Comecon. It was communist, yes, but it remained nonaligned during the Cold War. In addition, its religious heritage is Orthodox and not Catholic. Like much of the Orthodox world, it had once lived under Muslim rule and thus views the Islamic world differently—as a former colonizing power and not as a former victim of colonialism.

Currently, Serbia is ruled by the SNS (Srpska napredna stranka), which won 48% of the vote in the 2016 parliamentary elections. The party originated in a group that broke away from the much more radical SRS (Srpska radikalna stranka), a nationalist party that opposes European integration and globalism. Internationally, the SNS cooperates with the FPO of Austria (Freedom Party) and Yedinaya Rossiya (United Russia). 

Nonetheless, Serbia’s governing party is acting more and more like postnational Western elites. In 2015, it gave 600,000 migrants free passage through the country, partly under pressure from the EU—as the foreign minister hinted in an interview with Deutsche Welle:


DW: Serbia is one of the main countries that refugees transit on the Balkan route to the European Union. What measures has your country adopted in response?

Ivica Dacic: Up to now we had a fair and constructive approach to this issue, and for this we were praised by the entire world and commended for our behavior from the European Union, the United Nations and all world powers. I have to note that in 2015 we had 600,000 migrants pass through Serbia. (Deutsche Welle 2016)

The government is in fact seeking EU membership:

Serbia's prime minister said Wednesday [June 28, 2017] her future government's goal is membership in the European Union along with modernization of the troubled Balkan country.

Ana Brnabic told Serbian parliament that the government will lead a "balanced" foreign policy, seeking good relations with Russia, China and the U.S.

Lawmakers are expected to vote her government into office later this week. If confirmed, Brnabic will become Serbia's first ever female and openly gay prime minister.

"The time before us will show how brave we are to move boundaries," Brnabic said in her speech. "Now is the moment to make a step forward and take our society, country and economy into the 21st century."

She warned that "if we don't take that chance, we can hardly count on another one again."

When President Aleksandar Vucic nominated the U.S.- and U.K.-educated Brnabic to succeed him as prime minister earlier this month, it was seen as an attempt to calm Western concerns that Serbia was getting too chose to Russia despite its proclaimed goal of joining the EU. (Gec 2017) 

This pro-EU attitude has been adopted in the name of realism. Unemployment hovers at 20% and, despite widespread privatization, the painful transition to a market economy is showing no signs of ending. For advocates of EU membership, the solution is to be patient and to work at becoming like Western Europe. This discourse has a strong element of faith:

There is a Serbia of lies, deceptions, myths, hatred, and death. It is a rural, patriarchal, collectivistic, clerical, anti-Western and anti-modern Serbia. It is also a Serbia manipulated by cynical leaders who exploit its primitiveness and stupidity. Whenever this Serbia had its say, it brought death onto others, and misery onto itself. But, there is another Serbia, urban, modern, pacifist, cosmopolitan, liberal, democratic and European! This is our Serbia! This other Serbia is the only possible future for all of us! We will work hard together with our neighbors and foreign friends to reform Serbia and make it worthy of the European future that awaits it. (Vetta 2009)

Neighboring Bulgaria, however, has been an EU member since 2007 and a NATO member since 2004, yet there too the "transition" shows no signs of ending. The unemployment rate is lower, around 10%, but this figure excludes the large numbers of young Bulgarians who have left the country. From almost nine million in 1988, the population has fallen to a little over seven million today. Serbia is likewise losing its young people, as is most of Eastern Europe.

The transition to a Western market economy has been problematic wherever one goes beyond the Hajnal Line—this imaginary line that runs from Trieste to St. Petersburg. Individualism is weaker and kinship correspondingly stronger, with the result that nepotism and familialism prevent the market from working optimally. We in the West call this "corruption," yet most people in the world think it's normal to favor your kin, just as it's normal to favor yourself. Kith and kin are an extension of the self.

To be sure, consumerism is making Serbian culture more individualistic and hence more accommodating to the market economy, but this cultural change is still incomplete and not without adverse effects. In Eastern Europe, like elsewhere, people buy prestigious consumer goods that they don't really need and, often, don't have the means to pay for. They go heavily into debt and decide to postpone having children. With the exception of Russia and Albania, the one-child family has become the norm throughout Eastern Europe. Economic change is thus linked to a demographic change that is ultimately more serious:

Serbia has been enduring a demographic crisis since the beginning of the 1990s, with a death rate that has continuously exceeded its birth rate, and a total fertility rate of 1.43 children per mother, one of the lowest in the world. Serbia subsequently has one of the oldest populations in the world, with the average age of 42.9 years, and its population is shrinking at one of the fastest rates in the world. A fifth of all households consist of only one person, and just one-fourth of four and more persons. (Wikipedia 2017)

Many Serbs are still hoping that stronger ties with the West will solve their problems. Yet, increasingly, this seems to be a vain hope. The Western model of economic and social development may not be equally applicable to all cultural settings. Indeed, it might not be applicable anywhere in its current form, given its promotion of individualism and its rejection of enduring collective identities like the family, the ethny, and the nation. 

Faith in the Western model is giving way to disillusionment throughout Eastern Europe, and a feeling of having reached a dead end, as Viktor Orban wrote in 2011:

[...] Europe now stands at a fateful juncture. For over twenty years I have been taking part in various European counsels and conferences, and at these gatherings one thing has been consistently clear: the participants have always agreed that there is a well-worn, time-tested path down which it is both worthwhile and indeed necessary to continue plodding. But over the course of the past year and a half the mood at these gatherings has changed fundamentally. Today all of Europe is compelled to face the unpleasant fact that we have run out of well-worn paths. At most the familiar paths will lead us back to the familiar past and its mistakes, setbacks, and failures. (Orban, 2011)

In itself, disillusionment does not cause political change. One must articulate an alternative to the status quo and make it known through mainstream or alternative media. This is one thing that defenders of the status quo fear the most, such as those in Serbia:

Traditional media outlets in Serbia see themselves constantly confronted with direct or indirect pressure. That pressure ranges from direct threats against public media journalists to economic pressure applied to private media companies, especially through mechanisms such as the control of paid advertising. The situation has caused many citizens to turn to Facebook to get their news. For a large portion of society, Facebook and Twitter have become people's main source of information. "It is a reaction to government control of traditional media outlets," says Zeljko Bodrozic, from the Independent Journalists' Association of Serbia (NUNS). "Besides a few other online portals, social media outlets have become the only source for independent news information."

[...] Television outlets, as well as radio and popular daily newspapers, continue to set the tone and influence opinion. "At the same time," says Bodrozic, "social media has been 'hijacked' by the governing Serbian Progressive Party (SNS). The government cannot forbid or limit internet use, but it can poison independent news sources or make them appear senseless by actively deploying internet trolls." (Deutsche Welle 2017)

Interestingly, Facebook is cooperating with Serbian authorities in this crackdown on alternative media. News sources will now have less prominence on Facebook unless they're willing to pay for placement in the main feed (Deutsche Welle 2017).

The SNS leadership has come a long way from its nationalist origins. Could this be a double game? Are they trying to get the perks that come with EU candidacy (loans, investment, visa liberalization) while having no real intention of joining? There is probably a mix of motives. Many party members have misgivings about EU membership but feel it's necessary to get Serbia back on its feet. Others are tired of being vilified in the Western media and even in Hollywood movies. For them, EU membership will be a ticket to international acceptance. Finally, others have fully internalized the worldview that prevails in the West, certainly at the U.S. and U.K. universities that the prime minister attended.

In any case, it doesn't matter what the governing party really thinks. All that matters is what it does, and that, in itself, has already caused irreparable harm.


Next week: Italy


References

Deutsche Welle (2016). 'In 2015 we had 600,000 migrants pass through Serbia' Date: 13/02/2016
http://www.dw.com/en/in-2015-we-had-600000-migrants-pass-through-serbia/a-19046668

Deutsche Welle (2017). Facebook dual feed experiment: Giving users what they want or enabling state censorship? Date: 03/11/2017
http://www.dw.com/en/facebook-dual-feed-experiment-giving-users-what-they-want-or-enabling-state-censorship/a-41230356

Gec, J. (2017). Serbia's next premier: EU membership, modernization priority, World Politics Review, June 28
https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/22580/serbia-s-next-premier-eu-membership-modernization-priority

Orban, V. (2011). The Year of European Renewal - The Prime Minister's Thoughts on the
Hungarian EU Presidency, Hungarian Review 1, 5-11.
https://www.ceeol.com/search/article-detail?id=28361

Vetta, T. (2009). Revived nationalism versus European democracy:
Class and "identity dilemmas" in contemporary Serbia, Focaal-European Journal of Anthropology 55, 74-89
https://www.berghahnjournals.com/view/journals/focaal/2009/55/focaal550106.xml?

Wikipedia (2017). Serbia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serbia#Demographics

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Frost, I take issue with your condemnation of Mark Zuckerberg and other Siicon Valley elites. They may support immigration but only for people who high degrees. I don’t see how this is unreasonable. Highly educated people will have to take on jobs in countries that they weren’t born. Some of the top companies in Asia are led by Europeans and vice versa. Obviously, the Silicon Valley elites have to support low skilled immigration to placate the left, but their bias is towards highly skilled immigration.

Peter Frost said...

Mark Zuckerberg advocates comprehensive immigration reform, including amnesty and an overall hike in legal immigration. Even with things as they are, the endgame is obvious. No, Mark has never spoken about that, at least not in public, but his sister runs a journal that is strongly influenced by "whiteness studies." The following is an excerpt from one of its articles:

[...] Baldwin pointed out the sheer futility of the nostalgia residing at the heart of white supremacy, noting that “No road whatever will lead Americans back to the simplicity of this European village where white men still have the luxury of looking on me as a stranger.” He concluded even more powerfully: “This world is white no longer, and it will never be white again.” Our goal, as classicists, should surely be to finish the dissembling of this dangerously misguided dream of white Europe. To join hands with Baldwin and add: it was never white in the first place.

https://eidolon.pub/what-would-james-baldwin-do-a778947c04d5

Of course, that is his sister's journal. But if my brother called for the genocide of an identifiable people, I would publicly dissociate myself from him. Silence is acquiescence. Actually, it doesn't matter what Mark Zuckerberg really thinks. All that matters is what he does. He is collaborating with Angela Merkel to supress dissidence in Germany, and he is doing the same in other countries.

Anonymous said...

And Facebook was also the medium through which Donald Trump got elected.
Also you’re missing the point of the essay and thr Quote. Baldwin is not calling for genocide. The entire essay is about how despite white nationalists looking to classical civilization as an ideal world to aspire to, the ancient Greeks had no such notions of “whiteness”. I take the meaning of that quote to be that (according to Baldwin) different types of people have coexisted in the past and therefore the world will be “white” no longer means that it will be a world where people of different races can be equal and not a world imagined by white supremacists. Besides quoting an author is not a blanket endorsement.
Dissidence is not the same as hate speech. Some of the campaign ads spread by the Russians were egregious. In one instance a white nationalist group and a group of Muslims were maneuvered into a confrontation. Luckily no one died, but ads of this kind can be dangerous.

Peter Frost said...

Uh, James Baldwin didn't write that essay. He also died some time ago, in 1987 -- well before the events now transpiring in Europe.

We must remember the current political environment when the essay talks about the need "to finish the disassembling of this dangerously misguided dream of white Europe." The author (Denise McCoskey) comes to that conclusion by making a point that is true but irrelevant, i.e., ancient Europeans had no consciousness of being "white." In most cases, the ethnic "Other" was a neighboring people who differed little in physical appearance. The ancient Greeks knew about more distant peoples, such as the "Ethiopians" (sub-Saharan Africans), but most of what they knew was second-hand and semi-legendary.

We can argue back and forth about what McCoskey really means. In the end, all that matters is how her words are understood and used in the current political environment. Most people would understand them as meaning that "white Europe" must be transformed demographically. Is that an unfair interpretation? The author herself talks about the importance of "confronting white nationalists." What about the importance of confronting those who push for the ongoing transformation of Europe?

As for the last U.S. election, Hillary didn't lose because of Russian campaign ads. She lost because many Democratic voters supported Trump or stayed home on election night. Rightly or wrongly, they felt that Hillary didn't represent their interests.

Sid said...

I'm enjoying this series quite a bit.

There is a division within the West between the US and UK on the one hand, and Germany and France on the other. While not completely changing course, Brexit and Trump's election have meant that both countries have taken a decidedly more nationalist bent.

In response, a lot of the leading globalist intellectuals declared Germany was the new leader of the Western world and Merkel reflected Western values better than anyone. Merkel herself declared that Europeans would need to "stand on [their] own."

There are notable divisions within Germany, however. The AfD did well in East Germany, and Bavarian social attitudes are more conservative than what you find in a lot of Rhinelanders.

Macron ran as an arch globalist in contrast to the FN, and he is committed to the Euro project. Even so, there are signs he's ruling France more nationalistically than was expected.

In one sense, Germany and France have strong elements which are deeply committed to globalism, independent of the Anglophone world. Even so, they have countervailing elements which are more rooted in their own culture and traditions.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr. Frost,

First of all, thank you for your comments on Serbia, I really do not know much about that country at all, but perhaps then for many people in the West, Serbia and the Balkan as a whole is more like a different continent than simply a neighboring region. As I come from Switzerland, may I point out that I am not so convinced this kind of change will happen, as you envisage. Let me just briefly point out, why:

1) The Swiss party system and even the government is one of the most divided in the world (having effectively 4 ruling parties since the 50ies, which is a record in the western world), the political blocks are more or less stable since decades, so there is not much maneouvering possible.

2) The phenomenon of a "new right" with the characteristics you describe, which can be witnessed in Eastern Europe, is unlikely in Switzerland, as the traditional right is also economically neoliberal and there is no sign of change.

3) Switzerland still retains a strong social democracy, which, in contrast to the rest of western Europe, never made the turn towards neoliberalism; thus it is still committed to classic social democratic values; as the right is neoliberal, anyone not agreeing with this economic dogma will vote for social democracy - again, no "new right" on the horizon.

4) Switzerland does not have "ethnic nationalism" as most European countries, due to its multi-ethnic character - even the institutions of Switzerland are so ordered as to give each recognized minority its due. Rather, Switzerland has "constitutional patriotism", perhaps similar to the USA. Being Swiss does not mean to speak a certain language, for example, but rather to suscribe to certain values, especially of being an active citizen.

5) Last, but not least, due to its confederal character and its direct democracy (which also informs the party system and also every level of government, down to the smallest village), there is a multitude of opinions and voices continually in debate and citizens have a realistic option to make their voices heard - the dialogue between the representative political bodies and its constituive citizenry is much better than in other countries. For example, whereas most of social democracy was against the immigration clauses proposed by SVP, the Ticinesi Social Democrats endorsed them openly - which was their right, as each party is confederally organized. Each section of a party and also every citizen has the right to propose new laws or constitutional clauses on every level (national, cantonal, communal). Most communes are still ruled through a citizen's assembly. This makes the political elites (which are still mostly amateurs and not professionals, compared to other countries) a lot more responsive to its citizens needs and trust in the government is unusually high in Switzerland.

Marcelo Gilli said...

I was puzzled by your assertion that the phenomenon you describe denounces "the erosion of the welfare state" and has more in common with Bernie Sanders than with Margaret Thatcher.
Margaret Thatcher was the foremost denouncer of "the erosion of the welfare state", and Bernie Sanders is her doctrinary opposite, so I am not sure I understand what you are talking about.

Sean said...

The East European countries increasingly full of old people need the EU to pay for them. France needs Germany to prop up French banks who are exposed to toxic loans mad to Italy

The UK is leaving the EU, the freedom of movement keeping wages low (so low that social security for low paid workers subsidized many employers) was a main cause of the Brexit vote. Crucially. immigration into the UK pumps up the housing market so they will continue with it. The Canadian head of the bank of England, Mark Carey, is a proven specialist in pumping up the housing market, it's the only way now because Britain has lost a very significant amount of its productive capacity. Britain is going to be left not much different, just with more non European immigrants. Few of the Poles ect will leave I think the real problems will come in a couple of decades or so when automation makes a large part of the clerical and manual workers redundant.

The elite, and even upper middle class, are already separating from the masses.

Chantal Mouffe : "This framework presents two aspects: free market on one side, human
rights on the other. Jointly they provide the content of what is today generally
understood by «democracy». What is striking is that the reference to popular
sovereignty –which constitutes the backbone of the democratic ideal– has been
almost erased in the current definition of liberal democracy. Popular sovereignty is
now usually seen as an obsolete idea, often perceived as an obstacle to the
implementation of human rights. What we are witnessing, actually, is the triumph of a purely liberal interpretation of the nature of modern democracy. According to many liberals democracy is secondary with respect to liberal principles and its objective is limited to their protection" .

I am dubious that the immigration supporting (they see future immigrants outside the country as having equal rights with the voters) affluent sectors will continue to support democracy if the population starts moving to defend the nation state against replacement. No country has stopped immigration let alone tried to reverse it. Moreover, when the voters are economically redundant (as they already are militarily) the elite will have no reason to pay attention.

Anonymous said...

I feel you are confusing two issues:useful legal immigration (by that I mean people with PhDs, scientists, tech workers) and illegal or not too useful immigration immigration (so-called refugees and the like). Consider a spectrum of immigrants ranked from 0 to 10 where 0 would be an immigrant who is going to sponge off the govt and 10 is an expert in AI. Silicon Valley would set the threshold at close to 7.
I agree no one wants immigration below a certain threshold but there is a double standard here. An educated Asian immigrant to Europe would still be considered a burden. Meanwhile so many bottom of the barrel Europeans go to Philippines, etc for obvious reasons and they wouldn’t be considered immigrants, they’re ‘expats’. And it’s really creepy the way so many white nationalists have an Asian fetish(check the reddit/hapas thread).

Peter Frost said...

Sid,

I wouldn't trust Angela Merkel. In any case, this will probably be her last term in office. In the case of Switzerland, I believe that change will happen as much within "establishment" parties as through the electoral success of the SVP and its allies.

The word "nationalism" may be inappropriate because people associate it with the nationalism of the early 20th century, i.e., belief in a strong, unitary state, military belligerence, jingoism, etc. By "nationalism" I mean "anti-globalism" and "preservationism" i.e., the realization that the peoples of Europe are facing an existential crisis. Policy-wise, everything else flows from that one premise.

Switzerland's model of a loose confederation with bottom-up policy making is an example for other countries to follow.

Marcelo,

By "erosion" I mean "reduction" and not "expansion".

Sean,

"No country has stopped immigration let alone tried to reverse it". Australia did, with respect to plantation labour in Queensland. I can think of other peaceful precedents

In the 1980s many were convinced that change would never come to Eastern Europe. The existing elites were too well entrenched and the dissidents were demoralized and under close surveillance. Yet change did come.

Anon,

High-skill immigration is just as problematic as low-skill immigration. We see this with American computer programmers who are being replaced with H-1B workers from South Asia. Even without the issue of wage competition, it's still problematic. Do we want to be ruled by elites whose loyalties are elsewhere and who have ambivalent attitudes to their fellow citizens?

I don't see the double standard. There is nothing to stop the Philippines from reducing its population of foreign ex-pats. How many of them have Filipino citizenship?

Anonymous said...

"10 is an expert in AI."
Read Nick Bostrom.

Marcelo Gilli said...

Yes, thank you, Peter. Now I understand you. I didn't construe it as either "reduction" or "expansion", rather as "failure" or "exhaustion". English is not my native language, and sometimes I get confused by some words I am not used to in certain contexts. I thank you again for your kindness in replying.

Anonymous said...

"In the case of Switzerland, I believe that change will happen as much within "establishment" parties as through the electoral success of the SVP and its allies."

Sorry again to intervene, but I do not think that we will see much electoral success of SVP and its "allies" in the coming years - the SVP seems to have reached its electoral zenit, because it successfully captured its voter share and expansion is difficult, as these positions are already taken by other parties. The SVP is a rather heterogenous alliance between "old-style conservatives", mostly farmers and rural small business with a neoliberal, anti-state attitude similar to the "old" Republicans in the USA, with new-right identity politics clique, especially among its younger members. Already parts of SVP broke off by forming the BDP and it is an open question, whether the conflict between the neoliberal party elite and its more and more "new right"-base will be successfully resolved. Again and again in surveys it becomes clear that the SVP-base would rather more support classic social democratic interventionist policies than the party elite. How long this tension can be upheld by sprouting new-right propaganda (without much action in this direction in parliament, one should add - so its mostly just for show, if you look closely; their real policies remain neoliberal and globalist, despite whatever they might claim towards the media, so its basically just a huge sham) is an open question.

This could develop into several directions:

1. Other parties see the value of capturing voter share of people, who want stricter immigration policies as well as an economically interventionist state, they thus start "sucking off" these voters from SVP - I mostly think about the SP here, as all other big parties (the FDP and CVP) are openly globalist-neoliberal and there is no sign they will ever change their attitude. The SP could, however, remain staunchly social democratic in economic and social matters, but advocate for stricter immigration laws and become more skeptical towards the EU. Still, it might be difficult to do that, as a large part of its voter base is from the unions, which are traditionally against immigration controls (as most of their members are immigrants - in Switzerland, a big share of organized labor is based on immigrant industrial workers).

2. The SVP will split, especially its younger voters will then turn to form a new party along the lines of the "new right", combining controlled immigration with EU-skepticism and social democratic economic policy - this would be something totally new, as there was never such a party in Switzerland before on a big scale.

3. The issues taken up by "new right"-parties in other countries are diffusing into the party system of Switzerland through direct-democratic action and proposal from cantonal sections of the parties, so there is no overall change of the party structure, but just a slow adaptation by the parties themselves. I deem this the most likely outcome, as we have seen this before. The success of the SVP from 90ies onwards was exactly like this, as they "swallowed" smaller parties on their right, by taking up their policy issues (especially anti-immigration and anti-EU; unfortunately, they remained economic globalist-neoliberal, which makes for a strange "marriage", in my opinion); on a smaller scale, the SP and the Greens did the same during the 90ies on their left. Both SVP, SP and Greens have polarized themselves from the 90ies onwards. It is thus not unreasonable to assume that these policy issues will be taken up by the existing parties, thereby changing their policy stance over time, allowing to capture different voter shares.

Sean said...

Peter,

While communism is not too different to liberal-globalism and there does seem the beginnings of movement in Poland ect, I wonder about it toppling Western dominoes because Austria and Holland have already had governments of anti-immigrant parties that were failures. Western dominoes are very difficult to keep down, due to their dynamic trust-economies perhaps. While Putnam showed that the proportion of immigrants in a community is directly proportional to distrust not only between indigenous and immigrant populations, but also within these groups, there will be quite a wait for Holland to go wobbly.

Re demographic decline: the liberals will have a ready answer to it, and from what I have read it's very difficult to significantly reverse falling birthrates, unless you take the Ceaușescu route. The analysis whereby falling populations spell disaster, which I take you to be making above, is dangerous for anyone arguing an anti-immigration stance. The pro-immigration economists, which is almost of them, subscribe to the 'more people is better', and the 'global utility' theorems for immigration being an unalloyed boon. Yet the jobs are not going to be their for all the people crowding into the West when apps and robots take half of all occupations away and that is coming:- "Even beyond these, today we have smart software solutions capable of both learning the repetitive actions of humans and executing them robotically. This trend, called Robotic Process Automation (RPA) or softBOTs, demonstrates that in many applications, digital agents and assistants can not only do the work of humans, but do it faster, better and cheaper.

The vast majority of the 1,896 experts who responded to a study by the Pew Research Center[4] believe that robots and digital agents, which cost approximately one-third of the price of an offshore full-time employee, will displace significant numbers of human workers in the near future, potentially affecting more than 100 million skilled workers by 2025.
Contrary to the graphs that predict disaster because we will run out of people. I think a decline in population is no bad thing, we can cope in the future with fewer people to do the work, especially if the people we have are given an upgrade. The more serious question is what the excess redundant people do to a fragmented society.

(The ultimate depopulation worry for the future is related to excesses of people. Bostrom, the 42-year-old director of Oxford’s Future of Humanity Institute .. took a dimmer view of the trend, warning that AI could quickly turn dark and dispose of humans, generating “economic miracles and technological awesomeness” within places of work, study and leisure, but with nobody there to benefit at the end,” like “a Disneyland without children.)