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Kinder, Gentler America

Since moving to The Atlantic, Clive Crook has written some outstanding articles.  One is this wonderful essay (summarized by Alex at Marginal Revolution) on why something as lovable as capitalism is largely unloved.

Another of Crook’s outstanding essays appears in the current — the May 2006 — Atlantic.  It’s on immigration.  It’s theme is that the allegedly humane European system of "social democracy" creates cruelty and callousness toward immigrants — much more cruelty and callousness than exists here in America.  Here’s Crook:

On the face of it, America’s welfare system is harsher and less hospitable than Europe’s, something that many liberals lament.  But in this respect, at least, that appearance is misleading.  The unintended consequences of Europe’s milder regime are not just a looming fiscal collapse but also, in the meantime, intensifying and plainly self-destructive anti-immigration sentiment.  America’s harsher insistence on work is not just economically advantageous (which is self-evident) but socially beneficial as well (which some may find surprising).  Jobs alone are not enough to ensure successful assimilation of immigrants, but jobs are a necessary condition.  By insisting that immigrants work, the host country attacks the incumbents’ intellectual and emotional resistance to immigration.  The work requirement increases the dispersed economic benefits; it reduces or eliminates the net fiscal burdens; and it lowers cultural barriers.  As a result, tempers cool.  In these key respects, America’s more brutal model is kinder — in addition to bring more sustainable.

Everything is relative, of course.  Uncle Sam is not as ready as Crook suggests to let foreigners work in America.  But Uncle Sam is much more tolerant — and, hence, less brutal — on this front than are European welfare-state governments.