Immigration doesn’t have to be a problem, but we live in an unhealthy society that makes assimilation impossible, Scott Alexander says — with his Reactionary hat still on:
Let’s imagine an idyllic socialist utopia with a population of 100,000. In Utopia, everyone eats healthy organic food, respects the environment and one another, lives in harmony with people of other races, and is completely non-violent. One day, the Prime Minister decides to open up immigration to Americans and discourage them from assimilating.
50,000 Americans come in and move into a part of Utopia that quickly becomes known as Americatown. They bring their guns, their McDonalds, their megachurches, and their racism.
Soon, some Utopians find their family members dying in the crossfire between American street gangs. The megachurches convert a large portion of the Utopians to evangelical Christianity, and it becomes very difficult to get abortions without being harassed and belittled. Black and homosexual Utopians find themselves the target of American hatred, and worse, some young Utopians begin to get affected by American ideas and treat them the same way. American litter fills the previously pristine streets, and Americans find some loopholes in the water quality laws and start dumping industrial waste into the rivers.
By the time society has settled down, we have a society which is maybe partway between Utopia and America. The Americans are probably influenced by Utopian ideas and not quite as bad as their cousins who reminded behind in the States, but the Utopians are no longer as idyllic as their Utopian forefathers, and have inherited some of America’s problems.
Would it be racist for a Utopian to say “Man, I wish we had never let the Americans in?” Would it be hateful to suggest that the borders be closed before even more Americans can enter?
If you are a culturalist, no. Utopian culture is better, at least by Utopian standards, than American culture. Although other cultures can often contribute to enrich your own, there is no law of nature saying that only the good parts of other cultures will transfer over and that no other culture can be worse than yours in any way. The Americans were clearly worse than the Utopians, and it was dumb of the Utopians to let so many Americans in without any safeguards.
Likewise, there are countries that are worse than America. Tribal Afghanistan seems like a pretty good example. Pretty much everything about tribal Afghanistan is horrible. Their culture treats women as property, enforces sharia law, and contains honor killings as a fact of life. They tend to kill apostate Muslims and non-Muslims a lot. Not all members of Afghan tribes endorse these things, but the average Afghan tribesperson is much more likely to endorse them than the average American. If we import a bunch of Afghan tribesmen, their culture is likely to make America a worse place in the same way that American culture makes Utopia a worse place.
But it’s actually much worse than this. We are a democracy. Anyone who moves here and gains citizenship eventually gets the right to vote. People with values different from ours vote for people and laws different from those we would vote for. Progressives have traditionally viewed any opposition to this as anti-immigrant and racist — and, by total coincidence, most other countries, and therefore most immigrants, are progressive.
Imagine a country called Conservia, a sprawling empire of a billion people that has a fifth-dimensional hyperborder with America. The Conservians are all evangelical Christians who hate abortion, hate gays, hate evolution, and believe all government programs should be cut.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Conservians hop the hyperborder fence and enter America, and sympathetic presidents then pass amnesty laws granting them citizenship. As a result, the area you live – or let’s use Berkeley, the area I live — gradually becomes more conservative. First the abortion clinics disappear, as Conservian protesters start harassing them out of business and a government that must increasingly pander to Conservians doesn’t stop them. Then gay people stop coming out of the closet, as Conservian restaurants and businesses refuse to serve them and angry Conservian writers and journalists create an anti-gay climate. Conservians vote 90% Republican in elections, so between them and the area’s native-born conservatives the Republicans easily get a majority and begin defunding public parks, libraries, and schools. Also, Conservians have one pet issue which they promote even more intently than the destruction of secular science — that all Conservians illegally in the United States must be granted voting rights, and that no one should ever block more Conservians from coming to the US.
Is this fair to the native Berkeleyans? It doesn’t seem that way to me. And what if 10 million Conservians move into America? That’s not an outrageous number — there are more Mexican immigrants than that. But it would be enough to have thrown every single Presidential election of the past fifty years to the Republicans — there has never been a Democratic candidate since LBJ who has won the native population by enough of a margin to outweigh the votes of ten million Conservians.
But isn’t this incredibly racist and unrealistic? An entire nation of people whose votes skew 90% Republican? No. African-Americans’ votes have historically been around 90% Democratic (93% in the last election). Latinos went over 70% Democratic in the last election. For comparison, white people were about 60% Republicans. If there had been no Mexican immigration to the United States over the past few decades, Romney would probably have won the last election.
Is it wrong for a liberal citizen of Berkeley in 2013 to want to close the hyperborder with Conservia so that California doesn’t become part of the Bible Belt and Republicans don’t get guaranteed presidencies forever? Would that citizen be racist for even considering this? If not, then pity the poor conservative, who is actually in this exact situation right now.