Writing in Playboy, my colleague Alex Tabarrok exposes the hypocrisy, historical and economic ignorance, and immorality of those Americans – disproportionately Republican, take note – who today fear immigrants from Syria. A slice:
We also have much to gain from refugees. Andras Grof was one of the Hungarians who fled Soviet tanks in 1956. He later changed his name to Andrew Grove, and as co-founder of Intel he became one of the legendary innovators of Silicon Valley. You can’t get more American than that. Immigrants have helped to make the U.S. economy the most dynamic and admired in the world. The United States can easily take in more refugees than we are now admitting without suffering economic problems. Indeed, far from being hurt by the influx of millions of refugees, the Turkish, Lebanese and Jordanian economies are growing.
Welcoming more refugees is not only an act of compassion, it’s also good foreign policy. The fear that ISIS is trying to instill in the West is not simply a fear of ISIS but a fear of all Muslims. The tiny terror cult believes that by driving a wedge between Muslims and the West it will convince the world that it represents all Muslims. When politicians like Gov. Christie brand an orphan Muslim child as an object to be feared, they are helping to spread the message that ISIS wants to be heard. Welcoming Syrian refugees strikes a blow against the barbaric caliphate in Raqqa by uniting us all in common cause against our true enemy.
Mr. Ridley’s opus will not be well received by those who believe they are smarter than the masses, who think that most people are not capable of self-governance, who fancy themselves as intelligent social designers, or who simply have a hard time imagining non-command-and-control solutions to problems. Yet there is something profoundly democratic and egalitarian—even anti-elitist—in this bottom-up approach: Everyone can have a role in bringing about change regardless of intelligence, education, family background, socioeconomic class, race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or any other category by which we are wont to divide ourselves. In self-organizing emergent systems anyone can participate and make a difference.
You are right to demand that we be sympathetic to the sufferings of other people and hold up altruism as a virtue. But what is more altruistic than capitalism, which cares not for the color of your skin or your hair but for you as a person? How can you, with such concern for the world’s poor, rally against the international trade that will make their lives better? Isn’t there something incredibly regressive about wanting to slow down capitalist progress? Every agricultural subsidy and tariff we erect makes it harder for farmers in the poorest countries to sell their crops to us.
The great Harvard historian Richard Pipes is the winner of the 2015 Bruno Leoni Prize. Here’s a video of the talk he gave upon receiving this award. (I take this opportunity to again remind readers of Pipes’s remarkable 1999 volume, Property and Freedom.)