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Immigration and Assimilation

Posted By Russ Roberts On May 23, 2006 @ 11:54 am In Immigration | Comments Disabled

Jeff Jacoby at the Boston Globe has a lot of interesting things to say about immigration [1]. And as always, he says them very well. The most interesting point and unfortunately he doesn’t have room to explore it fully, is that assimilation and the melting pot aren’t what they used to be. He’s right. Legislation of various kinds has made it easier to stay unassimilated and encourages people to identify either culturally or politically with their own ethnic groups.

I think there’s another point to be made as well about assimilation. Some argue that we need public schools so that all of us can have a common vision for America and to aid the process of assimilation. But the public schools common vision for America is that there is no common vision. Everything is sacrificed to the god of tolerance. The common education children receive in public schools is that there should be no common vision of America. Everyone is entitled to a unique vision and no one’s vision is better or worse than anyone else’s.

The other problem, and this is much more serious, is political. When government’s power is limited and when there is respect for the Constitution, the political impact of the growth of this ethnic group or that one, or this religious group or that one, is unimportant. But when government is powerful and the Constitution is just a piece of paper, the growth of groups that are hostile to freedom and liberty is no longer unimportant. That is one reason why Europe is threatened by religious fundamentalism in a way that America is not. As of now, the ability of religious fundamentalists of any stripe to impose their views on others is highly limited in America. But that is only true because we remain something of a republic. As the Constitution becomes weaker, the threat of ethnic or religious political power is serious.

Some of the scaremongers on the immigration debate talk about the percentage of America that will be Hispanic by 2050 if we don’t "do something." But why should I care if America is more Hispanic in the coming years? Or more Christian? Or more Islamic? The answer, tragically, is that I should care if our political system allows a group to channel money or power to its own group at the expense of others.

The answer to this challenge is not to close our borders. The answer is to strengthen the Constitution and reduce the power of government.

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[1] a lot of interesting things to say about immigration: http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2006/05/21/the_real_cause_of_the_immigration_crisis/

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