Afghanistan, Hungary and Demographics: A Reflection

Steven Mosher
written by Katarina Carranco
October 26, 2021
Reproduced with Permission
Population Research Institute

Afghanistan and Hungary are two very different countries, but they have one fundamental similarity - thriving birth rates.

Granted, both countries have taken decidedly different approaches to accomplish this, but in both cases, we see that demography matters and high fertility rates have had a significant impact.

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to interview Professor Angelo Bertolo , a renowned Italian historian. A specialist in long-term historical trends, Bertolo makes the case that high birth rates lead not only to material progress, but to benefits in other sectors as well - including military capacity, economic prosperity, political stability, and a flourishing culture.

Most recently, Professor Bertolo has been focusing on current demographic trends. Relying on his broad familiarity with various eras, he has used historical evidence as the basis for projecting potential outcomes in a wide array of countries.

In his book, The Burqa And The Miniskirt: The Suicide Terrorists Fertility Power And Progress , he limns his reflections on demographics in a number of nations in the Middle East.

For example, the population of Afghanistan has quintupled since the end of the Second World War. In fact, as AFPC's Ilan Berman points out, 40 percent of the county's population of 47.5 million is less than fifteen years old.

Professor Bertolo attributes this phenomenon to the strict laws and "religious fundamentalism" that prevail in numerous Middle Eastern countries. He observes that these laws are symbolized culturally and encouraged publicly by the rigid enforcement of the burqa, the feminine attire that is supposedly more popular today than it was only two generations ago. Editor's Note: Since the Taliban does not take criticism well, however, it is impossible to know for sure. Certainly, the women in Afghanistan's urban areas view it as a sign of subjugation, although they dare not say so.

Professor Bertolo finds that the "high sentiments" he has observed in such growing populations are often expressed in unconventional and even irrational ways. It is these "high sentiments" that inspire the rigid laws and religious fundamentalism which provide countries like Afghanistan with a unifying common objective.

With this foundation, these sentiments reign in every facet of the population's lives, motivated by religious authority, and reinforced by political power when necessary. Professor Bertolo identifies this hegemony as the engine of those nations' current material progress and increased political and military prevalence.

In the case of in Afghanistan, the recent assumption of power there by the Taliban is unlikely to diminish that country's growing military role in the region, although the dust is unlikely to settle for quite some time. But one thing is certain: whoever rules, the country's high birth rate is likely to continue.

Hungary Wants More Hungarians!

Turning to Hungary, where children are still welcomed, the country's significant efforts to spur demographic increase can also be attributed to a strong underlying religious influence. The Catholic Church teaches that children are a blessing, not a burden, and that a flourishing culture relies on a burgeoning family life.

Unlike Afghanistan, however, the religious influence in Hungary inspires a strong Catholic culture that is fostered and encouraged by government incentives rather than through coercion. Although only a little more than half the population identifies as Catholic, the Catholic faith inspires a family-friendly spirit among the broader population, sustained and enhanced by strong support from government policies.

The Hungarian government has in a very real way reinstated the family as the basis of society by creating an incentive-based national strategy that encourages married couples to have more children. Additionally, the Fundamental Law of Hungary has defined marriage clearly, thus confirming the rights of the family, according to the family's considerable government benefits.

"Hungary shall protect the institution of marriage as the union of one man and one woman established by voluntary decision, and the family as the basis of the survival of the nation. Family ties shall be based on marriage or the relationship between parents and children. The mother is female, the father is male."

The small country not only defines marriage clearly, but it has also significantly altered its financial policies regarding families. This was done by recognizing the family and children as an investment and not as an expenditure. In doing so, marriage numbers have risen, while divorce rates have declined. Live births have increased, and abortions have massively decreased.

In the case of Afghanistan, faith and culture have been the motivators of demographic increase. Although the country's traditionally Catholic Faith may have heavily influenced Hungarian law, the faith itself has not proved to be the sole drive of the demographic increase but has, indeed, strongly aided in the encouragement of pro-family laws and incentives.

Unfortunately, but predictably, Hungary's pro-family policies have aroused the ire of the secular governments that dominate the European Union. Those governments face demographic disaster, pretend to be blind to it, and scorn Hungary's enthusiastic embrace of children as insensitive and its policies as offensive to what Pope Francis condemns as "gender ideology."

And the EU is not alone. On America's political fringes, the secular Left sneers at the primacy of the Catholic Faith in the profoundly religious country, but they ignore Hungary's history: 160 years of occupation by the Ottoman Turks and a half-century more under Communist rule by the Soviet Union have made Hungarians valiant and devoted defenders of their Faith in the face of historic adversities. And they don't pander to secular opinions so popular among western elites.

Culture Has Consequences

Returning to Professor Bertolo's analysis, strong religious identities based on historical traditions and cultural conservatism provide firm foundations for demographic growth like that achieved in Afghanistan and sought by Hungary. In both countries we see an affirmation of each respective civilization's identity, a factor which has fostered a more viable unity in each.

Professor Bertolo emphasizes the importance of a unifying objective in a country's culture that is far deeper than merely political. However, the role of government can enhance or weaken that bond. If the powers that be do not support and publicly encourage that common goal, Professor Bertolo observes that birth rates will likely trend lower. The result? Not material progress, but decadence and death, both in spirit and on the ground, in the long term for such civilizations.

For these reasons, the birth rate of Moslem countries has now risen not only within the region itself, but also in Europe. Turkey's strongman Recep Erdogan has urged Turkish families to have at least three children - and, if those families reside in Europe, at least five. The demographic winter in the EU - the absolute collapse of birth rates throughout the region - seemingly leaves the Union with no other option other than to open its doors to endless waves of immigrants.

Hungary is the rare European country attempting to repopulate its civilization by supporting families with significant government incentives and benefits. Unless Europe and the rest of the West seeks to perish by its own hand, it is best that they change course and work to restore the virtues inherited from Christendom, based on recognizing the family as the fundamental building block of society and preserving its primacy as the foundation of civic virtue.

The remedy lies within their grasp if they only recognize it in time. Otherwise, they will join other dead peoples like the Hittites in the dustbin of human history.