If 200 years from now America will be filled with people who know and love the ideas of Jefferson and Madison -- but these people are overwhelmingly dark skinned -- will this be good or bad?
That's the question I asked Pat Buchanan when I debated with him about the content of his book, The Death of the West. He said it would be 'a disaster and a tragedy'. What do you say?
Your answer is a pretty good indicator of whether you're a we-hold-these-truths-to-be-self-evident conservative or a blood-and-soil conservative. Let's use a technology analogy: the first kind believe that the software of liberty runs equally well on all hard technology platforms. The latter think that some platforms (whether for genetic or cultural reasons) are not easily adaptable to the liberty program.
A few years ago, I was studying the life of Charlemagne. His troops had been continually harassed by tribes who would attack, be defeated, surrender, make a treaty and violate the treaty as soon as Charlemagne's troops were out of sight. They did this over and over again. I was reminded of various Palestinian 'pledges' to abandon terrorism. I wondered whether groups like this could ever learn to honor their treaties and live according to the rule of law. Then I realized that the people who were harassing Charlemagne were my ancestors. If you are of Northern European stock, or British or Irish, and you are tempted to racial pride, I highly recommend that you study Romans like Tacitus or Caesar to get some idea how your ancestors looked to the civilized world 2000 years ago.
Clearly, there is a rage of anti-immigrant feeling in large swaths of my political party (Republican) at the moment. I don't think, however, that it's racism that drives it. It's nostalgia. Large numbers of conservatives seem to think that they have a constitutional right to have their country look the same in their old age as it did in their childhoods. The problem of course, is that the country of their childhoods, didn't look the same as the country of their parent's childhoods. America is a highly dynamic country. In fact, dynamism is the point of it, especially racial dynamism. When the first Congress commissioned that Adams, Franklin and Jefferson create a 'great seal' which would represent the ideals of our country, the (eventual) results included the Latin words "E Pluribus Unum", From many, One. From many what? From many races. How could Jefferson and Franklin (who worked together on the Declaration of Independence) see it any other way? When they 'declared' to the world that rights were self-evident, they staked everything on the notion that the software of liberty runs on all varieties of human hardware.
History proved them right. The group that they were most concerned about (more because of forced servitude than because of race), were Africans. But even that group eventually assimilated into American life. Despite waves of German immigrants, English remained our national language. Despite waves of Irish and Italian immigrants from the 1840's to the 1920's, which were proportionately far larger than our current immigration wave, America never really did become a vassal of the Pope.
Immigration doesn't represent the 'death of the West' it represents its renewal. People go from places that they don't like to places that they do like. This implies that they 'buy in' to what we're about to some degree. I would argue that immigrants tend to buy in to America more fervently than those of us who are born here. By definition someone who crosses oceans and valleys to get to something has proven already that he values it.
Such people are also, by nature, risk takers. We're the children of the people who left their homes (mostly in Europe) and started over. Present native Europeans are the children of those who thought it was better to stay put. Perhaps that partly explains the difference between America and Europe now; their risk aversion is hardwired, as is our risk tolerance.
Immigrants start businesses at significantly higher rates than the native born. Entrepreneurship is risky. It's difficult to imagine Silicon Valley occurring without immigrants from India. Immigrants have more children, which, of course, parents will recognize as the ultimate risk.
Do they change the culture? Of course, they do. Living cultures change, dead cultures don't. Cicero's Latin and Benedict XIV's Latin are pretty much identical. I can read both equally badly. Look at English from Beowulf (thoroughly unreadable to moderns) to Chaucer (mostly unreadable to moderns) to Shakepearre (pretty tough going) to Jefferson (not too bad) to Lincoln (kind of flowery) to Harry Potter. Honestly, I'm a huge English bull. It's the language of the Indian parliament. It's the language that every Chinese businessman is trying to learn, and it's the language of the internet. If you're looking for a language to be bearish about, I'd try French. Figure out a way to short-sell French futures and you'll make a fortune.
Jerry Bowyer is Economic Advisor for Independence Portfolio Partners.