Pat Buchanan

Americans who deplore the tough laws against illegal immigration in Arizona and Alabama might look to Italy, where the Northern League managed to have illegal entry into the country declared a felony.

The League was also behind a new law calling for sending back tens of thousands of Arab Spring migrants who arrived on the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa, which is closer to Africa than Italy.

But while resentment against the south for alleged freeloading and causing the debt crisis is bringing the secession issue to a boil, demography may be the greater threat to the national future.

Italy, says Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, president of the Italian Bishops Conference, is heading for "demographical suicide," and the reason is a low birth rate caused by its "cultural and moral distress."

According to Italy's National Office of Statistics, in 2009 the fertility rate of Italian women was 1.41 children per woman. This is only two-thirds of what is needed simply to replace Italy's existing population.

Italy's fertility rate has been below replacement levels for 35 years. By mid-century, Italy will be a nation with a birth rate that will have been below, at times far below, zero population growth for 75 years.

Italy's birth rate in 1950 was almost twice its death rate. But the death rate equaled the birth rate in 1985, exceeds it today and will be approaching twice the birth rate by 2050.

Italy is not only aging, with the median age of its population going from 43 today to 50 at midcentury, Italy is dying. If this does not change, what the world knows as Italy will not exist at the end of this century.

Like other European nations, Italy faces an existential crisis.

Her national debt is twice what the EU says is tolerable. She must undergo years of painful austerity to pay back what she has borrowed and spent. Yet a shrinking population of working age young and an expanding pool of seniors and aged to care for will make that increasingly difficult, and default on her debts increasing attractive, as it is today to the Greeks.

The Northern League, seeing the south as the source of its troubles, will grow in appeal, as those troubles grow.

If your debts are larger than your economy, your death rate exceeds your birth rate and every new generation will be one-third smaller than the previous one, what kind of future does your country have?

The kind of future Italy faces.


Pat Buchanan

Pat Buchanan is a founding editor of The American Conservative magazine, and the author of many books including State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America .
 
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