Monday, February 2, 2015

Will STDs Doom Iran?

I’m not sure what to make of this, and no one seems to be covering David Goldman’s analysis of Iran’s declining fertility, so here it is:
Standout levels of infertility among Iranian couples, a major cause of the country's falling birth rate, coincide with epidemic levels of sexually transmitted disease. Both reflect deep-seated social pathologies. Iran has become a country radically different from the vision of its theocratic rulers, with prevailing social pathologies quite at odds with the self-image of radical Islam.

Iran's fertility decline from about seven children per female in 1979 to just 1.6 in 2012 remains a conundrum to demographers. Never before in recorded history has the birth rate of a big country fallen so fast and so far. Iran's population is aging faster than that of any other country in the world. In 2050, 30% of its people will be over 60, the same ratio as in the United States but with a tenth of America's per capita GDP. I see no way to avoid a social catastrophe unique in human experience. Since I first drew attention to Iran's demographic implosion a decade ago, I have heard not one suggestion as to how Iran might avert this disaster, despite some belated efforts to raise the birth rate.

If nothing else, Iran leads the world in infertility:

Iran has the highest incidence of lifetime infertility of any country in the world, estimated at between 22% and 25% in separate Iranian government surveys. Roughly a quarter of Iranian couples, that is, are unable to bear children.

Goldman identifies one probable cause:

A more probable cause of Iran's extremely high rate of infertility is sexually transmitted disease, particularly chlamydia, the most common bacterial STD and one likely to go undetected in countries with poor public health systems. This may seem incongruous, for the Islamic Republic of Iran represents itself as the guardian of social standards against Western decadence. Nonetheless, the government's own data strongly support this inference.

Premarital sex is illegal in Iran, but the peculiar Shi'ite institution of Sigha, or temporary marriage, allows Iranians to engage casual sex with official as well as clerical sanction.

This means that a couple can walk into a mosque, exchange marital vows, spend an afternoon between the sheets and walk back to the mosque to dissolve their “marriage.”

Needless to say, the Iranian claim to be a bulwark against Western decadence is slightly exaggerated.

Goldman believes that the problem is being caused by anomie, the anomie that derive from forcing people to live in tyranny after they had developed the habit of exercising freedom:

Directly or indirectly, Iran's childlessness stems from a deep and intractable national anomie, a loss of personal sense of purpose in a country whose theocratic elite has no more support at the grass roots than did the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in the 1980s.

The moral of the story: Iran is doomed. Since doomed nations have very little left to lose, Goldman believes that this makes them especially dangerous:

Iran's position is without precedent among the nations of the world. It knows as a matter of arithmetic that it has no future. Its leadership feels that it has nothing to lose in strategic adventures, which means that the rest of the world should take no chances with Iran.

Does Iran’s destiny lie in its demography?


JP said...

Iran is effectively pro-Western and they are ultimately going to become allies of the U.S.

This entire problem is partially a product of Kermit's stupidity.

Sam L. said...

The mullahs have been doing themselves in. Why have children if you see no future for them, because you see no future for yourself?

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...


Iran is such a strange, troubled country. Iran is the U.S.'s most mortal enemy in the world today. Makes Kim Jong-Un look like a piker, though I suspect what we'll see after North Korea is opened up will be a humanitarian horror show. Yeah, Putin is a thug, but I think he likes to play Stratego on the world stage, but is limited by what Russia really is... a backward country with vast natural resources and nuclear weapons.

What we'll see when Iran is opened up is a country full of extraordinary possibility, with muted expectations. After a couple days, the cricket doesn't jump when you take the Saran Wrap off the top if the jar. That's just the way he's learned life is. Yet so many if the Iranians are educated, industrious, and have a Western perspective on things.

I've read a great deal on Iran the last 30+ years, and what I've concluded is that one has to be very, very wary about revolutions. The majority of Iranians wanted to get rid of the Shah. Amidst all this, you have a vocal minority promoting "reform," knowing all along it wanted a Shia Islamic theocracy, and this faction that coalesced around the Ayatollah Khomeini. Unspeakable horrors in the ensuing power struggle and concentration of power. that gave birth to a messianic state sponsor of terrorism shouting "Death to America!"

Yet in the end, it's where almost all revolutions end up. One almost never sees what is expected, what is just, what will make for a better future. In collapsing the power structure, a winner-takes-all reality takes hold, and is intoxicating. Mix religion in and it becomes transcendent. "The people" have won, you hear. There is great rejoicing. Then you wake up the next day and realize that what once was is no more, and all that was promised will never be. That's the reality of revolution.

Anomie, indeed.

I'm sure that's what we'd all experience in a society where the Basij militia activates to crackdown on movements like the Green Revolution. So now you have an educated people living in a backward, repressive regime. Temporary marriage may be as exciting as life gets. But you can never get past the consequences of widespread serial monogamy, STDs are real, and their consequences are devastating, despite all the puritanical posturing from on high. Another solemn consequence of the Islamic Revolution, as if the Hezbollah and Hamas headlines weren't enough.

Mariam said...
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