As a long-time admirer of Israel, I've come to envy especially the freedom of discussion that Israeli culture permits on fundamental questions of demographics.
Consider, for example, the new book 2030: Alternative Futures for the Jewish People [5 megabyte PDF], which makes for eye-opening reading for anyone lulled by the pabulum of the American press.
This report is written by the staff of the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute, a thinktank devoted to maximizing the long-term welfare of "the Jewish People" (which, by the way, it always capitalizes in its publications). An intellectually serious effort, 2030 can serve as a template for anybody thinking about improving the demographic prospects of their own peoples or parties.
Founded in 2002, the Jerusalem-based Jewish People Policy Planning Institute has always been chaired by prominent Jewish-American diplomats. Its 2030 report was begun under Dennis Ross, chief U.S. negotiator at Bill Clinton's failed Camp David 2 peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians in 2000. Ross left JPPPI in 2009 to run the Obama Administration's Iran policy. The new chairman is Stuart Eizenstat, who had been Chief Domestic Policy Advisor to Jimmy Carter and is now Special Adviser on Holocaust Issues to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Jewish-American heavyweights who participated in brainstorming sessions for this book included: Lawrence Summers (the Obama Administration's top economic advisor); Elliott Abrams (Bush's main man on the Middle East); Charles Krauthammer (Washington Post and FoxNews); Abe Foxman (Anti-Defamation League); and Alan Dershowitz (the O.J. Simpson Dream Team).
Despite this American participation, the JPPPI is an offshoot of the Israeli government's immigration arm, the Jewish Agency for Israel. (The JPPPI's #2 man is a former boss of Israeli military intelligence). It makes an annual presentation to the Israeli cabinet. And, because the JPPPI's publications are not intended for non-Jewish audiences—this book has not, so far as I know, previously been reviewed in America outside the Jewish press—it suffers less from the timidity that emasculates intellectual discourse in America.
For example, the JPPPI's 2030 observes:
"World Jewry today is at a historical zenith of absolute wealth creation. …
"There are no data comparing Jewish and non-Jewish levels of accumulated wealth. One can base the predictions only on non-scientific analysis such as the prominence of Jews among: Nobel laureates, lists of rich people and the 'Russian oligarchs,' leaders of financial institutions, entertainment, hi-tech industries, and political representatives." [Links added]
Sounds like they're reading my stuff! (See links.)
"Based on these observations, one can say that Jewish wealth is higher than almost any other ethnic group worldwide."
That's not the kind of thing you read in the U.S. press every day…
"Barring a financial catastrophe that would impoverish large numbers of Jews, given Jewish professional selection, levels of education and global mobility these trends are likely to continue in the next 20 years."
It's also informative to discover that the JPPPI views anti-Semitism at present "as a moral problem and an irritant, but not having any serious consequences".
To its great credit, the Jewish People Policy Planning Institute has formally laid out its thinking in a clear fashion. Some may not agree with it, but everyone can see how they got to their conclusion: "Therefore, upgrading and increasing the power of the Jewish People, including the net power of Israel, is an existential necessity".
For instance, 2030's "project mission" is to "provide insights into possible futures of the Jewish People and into the variables shaping them, with identification of policy instruments that can be used by Jewish People decision-makers to increase the probability of a thriving future for the Jewish People …"
It's widely believed that it's almost impossible to predict the future, but that's because the questions people find most interesting (e.g., Who will win the tournament?) are precisely those that are most uncertain (indeed, often the most contrived to be uncertain.)
But much about history is driven by long term factors, such as demographics. This makes much that is crucially important (will Switzerland be a nicer place to live than the Congo?) seem too tedious to think about.
The 2030 project strives to identify the middle ground between the ephemeral and the permanent.
The JPPPI methodology is to boil the future down to merely A) internal factors (what it calls "Jewish momentum" — "quantity, quality, power, structures and leadership") and B) external factors: "the well-worn notion of 'good for the Jews or bad for the Jews'."
This generates four alternative futures: "Thriving", "Drifting", "Defending", and "Nightmare". The thinktank doesn't try to predict which one will happen, but it outlines the various mechanisms pushing the global Jewish People in each direction.
If in 2030, Jews are self-confidently ethnocentric (have high Jewish Momentum) and the rest of the world loves them, then, according to the JPPPI, the Jewish People will be "Thriving".
The opposite quadrant is called "Nightmare"—where Jews are both unpopular with outsiders and highly assimilated. Currently, Iran is the best (or worst) present-day example of this.
The JPPPI classifies the American Jewish community as currently "Thriving" due to an extremely positive external climate for Jews in America and moderately high internal Jewish Momentum.
It worries, though, that Jews are so popular with other Americans that Jewish cohesiveness will be sapped over the next 20 years. A high rate of intermarriage could drive the American Jewish community into the Drifting quadrant, where "Demographic shifts including accelerated assimilation of the Jewish community in the US, and its decline relative to other groups in the US leads to decline in its political power".
(JPPPI's new chairman Stuart Eizenstat grumbled in 2009: "The growing Hispanic and Asian populations are not per se antagonistic to Israel, but they have little connection to the Jewish State".)
While intermarriage slowly dilutes Jewish identity in America, the JPPPI notes a counter-trend: that many American Jews are becoming more "identified and affiliated", as exemplified by the growth of Jewish day schools. This means that:
"… the patterns of decline are taking place concurrently with the increased number of strongly Jewish US senators and members of the House of Representatives, Jewish studies at colleges and universities around the US are numerous and highly visible, and in some places it has become quite 'in' to be Jewish in the US, even a status symbol."
The opposite of "Drifting" is "Defending"—where Jews are besieged by anti-Semites, yet internally strong as a community. The JPPPI cites France, where Muslim immigration has led to pogrom-like incidents, as currently the closest to this alternative future.
The Jewish People Policy Planning Institute seems to prefer "Defending" to "Drifting":
"While the Drifting future might be very pleasant and positive for Jews as individuals, it reflects an overall decline of the Jewish People as a whole. … a Defending alternative future demonstrates that even under strenuous external conditions, the Jewish People could become stronger".
President Barack Obama had dinner last Tuesday with Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and, among others, Dennis Ross, the former JPPPI chairman who is now Obama's own special assistant to the President and senior director for the central (i.e. Middle Eastern) region. This was part of Obama's attempt to mend fences with Israel in time for Democrats to collect big donations for the 2010 elections.
Perhaps the President should read 2030. He might learn something. As Henry Kissinger noted in the 1970s, Israeli foreign policy often has more to do with Israeli domestic politics than with Israel's national interest as the term is normally conceived. (By the way, Dr. K was one of the JPPPI's brainstormers for 2030.)
The JPPPI makes numerous policy recommendations in 2030. For instance, it's important to have a Plan B:
"The United States will likely continue to be the most powerful state for at least the first part of the 21st century but its relative power will diminish. …
"The rise of Asian states, particularly China and India, may be very significant from a Jewish perspective since Asian countries do not share the Biblical religions and traditions, and therefore, have a radically different view of Judaism and the Jewish People than Christian and Islamic countries. Also, they do not have significant Jewish communities. This provides unprecedented opportunities for a Jewish global grand-strategy, as proposed in a JPPPI paper on upgrading relations between the Jewish People and China."
In case you are wondering whom the JPPPI sees as coming out ahead in the second part of the 21st century, it has prioritized its position papers on "Enhancing the Standing of Jewish People in Emerging Superpowers without Biblical Traditions" as China first, then India, and Japan at a later date.
Other 2030 policy suggestions include increasing the number of Jews in the world, both by getting more people to strongly self-identify as Jewish, and by making it more financially feasible for Jews to have more children.
First recommendation: "Redefining who is in and who is out and how one joins so that more 'semi-Jews' are considered full members of the Jewish community". The JPPPI, which is largely secular, is impatient with the traditional rabbinical definition of who is a Jew used in Israel in determining who can legally marry.
Still, they don't want to make purely nominal changes either. They want people who have, say, a Jewish father and a gentile mother to actively identify with the Jewish People and Israel.
The self-defeating rabbinical situation in Israel is analogous to that in the U.S., where people of ambiguous backgrounds are prodded by government racial preferences to identify as minority. Thus a huge fraction of immigrants to America come from cultures, such as Latin America and South Asia, where being viewed as whiter is traditionally a strong family aspiration. The American system, however, bribes and browbeats them into claiming the legal and moral advantages of nonwhiteness.
Not surprisingly, most people who are eligible for affirmative action wind up favoring the party most enthusiastic about preserving it: the Democrats.
Another JPPPI recommendation:
"Increasing birth rates: policy instruments can perhaps affect the statistical equivalent of one-half child per family, which when multiplied by millions of households over tens of years equals several millions of people. This requires developing adequate and affordable infrastructures for early childhood, a flexible policy towards workingwomen, housing provisions and tax exemptions for two-income households."
In other words, policies of affordable family formation—which I've been recommending to the GOP for half a decade, to little effect.
This book's framework for thinking about demographic trends is of broader usefulness to Americans. Demography matters in politics.
In the U.S., Democratic analysts are free to discuss in detail their Party's progress toward "electing a new people". For example, Ruy Teixeira has out a new paper sponsored by the Center for American Progress Action Fund called Demographic Change and the Future of the Parties [PDF]. It's an update of the 2002 book by Teixeira and John Judis, The Emerging Democratic Majority, which I reviewed here. The future didn't arrive on time for the Democrats in the 2002 elections, but 2008 was back on Teixeira's track.
In contrast, however, Republicans analysts are never supposed to consider how to push the demographic tilt back in favor of the GOP. Any Republican think-tank that did so would be denounced in the harshest terms. So they don't.
Thus the major Republican strategic initiative of the last decade, the Bush-Rove Hispander project, was launched upon—as far as I can tell after a decade of looking into it—a few back-of-an-envelope calculations and some conventional-wisdom talking points.
But even before Bush, Republican Administrations had a long history of making poorly thought-through and thus self-destructive decisions about demographics. For instance, the Nixon Administration determined in 1973 to, in effect, extend racial and ethnic preferences, designed for African Americans with the intention of remedying the effects of slavery and Jim Crow, to immigrant groups that had never even been in the U.S. to be discriminated against in the first place.
How's that working out lately?
What could make more sense for the GOP's future than encouraging immigrant businessmen to become financially dependent upon liberal politicians?
Gilbert and Sullivan pointed out with only modest exaggeration in Iolanthe:
That every boy and every gal
That's born into the world alive
Is either a little Liberal
Or else a little Conservative!
The problem for Republicans is that public policies, which they either support or are too stupid/ cowardly to oppose, have the inexorable demographic consequence of producing relatively fewer Republicans—or, to put it another way, fewer self-identified members of what might be termed "the American people".