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Frequently Asked Questions
Last week the Center for Immigration Studies' Mark Krikorian answered my post-debate questions. Here is my delayed response. Mark's in blockquotes, I'm not. My original questions for Mark are in italics.
I didn't say that treating foreigners in any way differently from Americans is morally identical to mandatory discrimination against blacks, women, or Jews. I said that mandatory discrimination against foreigners is morally identical to mandatory discrimination against blacks, women, or Jews. I am appealing to the common moral intuition that the moral obligation to help others is subject to numerous caveats, but the moral obligation to leave others alone is subject to few caveats.
In the short-run, Mark's probably right. I'd be more persuasive to undecided Americans if I spent my time arguing for extra H-1Bs. In the long-run, though, principled rejection of the status quo often works. "Liberalize Jim Crow" failed; "End Jim Crow" triumphed. And even in the short-run, radicals like me make moderate reformers more palatable by moving the goalposts.
immigration is not an exotic position I've only heard about in books. I
have spent my life around normal Americans with conventional views
about immigration. When they feel free to speak their minds, they routinely voice
distaste for foreigners. They voice distaste for foreigners' failure to
speak English, for their accents, for their distinctive clothing, for
their religions, for their customs. They voice distaste for foreigners'
failures and successes.
I don't know what drives Mark. But I know that what drives normal Americans to oppose immigration is distaste for foreigners. Normal Americans have told me so many times.
Questions for Mark: Does he doubt that white Southerners' distaste for blacks drove their support for Jim Crow? If Jim Crow proponents denied that such distaste motivated them, would Mark believe them?
Turning now to Mark's responses to my questions.
Actually, hypotheticals are one of the most enlightening intellectual tools human beings have. The point of this particular hypothetical is to measure the intensity of Mark's opposition to immigration. Of course immigration isn't "purely an economic matter," but you'd still expect there to be some price where Mark would relent.
"Greater social and political harmony" seems awfully vague. And if Mark named specific countries that exemplify social and political harmony, many Americans would be unenthusiastic ("Wouldn't it be great if we were as harmonious as Canada?") or repulsed ("If only we could be as harmonious as Japan").
I mean things like: Moving to a low-immigration state or gated community, or joining a selective church or club. Instead of complaining about immigrants, why not abandon politics and build a Bubble?
Jobs are one factor in locational decisions, but hardly the only factor. As Collier explains in his work on diaspora dynamics, immigrants have a strong tendency to move to places - even intrinsically unappealing places - full of co-nationals. That's why so many Arabs live in Michigan. Contrary to Mark, then, my question is relevant, and his lack of a confident answer is telling.
Right, so why are you so eager to increase patriotic solidarity above its current level? You don't seem to have any empirics showing that the marginal benefit of additional solidarity exceeds the marginal cost. Yet in our debate, you named national solidarity as a primary reason for tighter immigration restrictions.
By the way, Mark, what specific countries do you think have excessive patriotic solidarity, and do you advise these countries to increase immigration to solve their troubles?
So suppose white Americans had long ago officially declared that blacks aren't members of our "national community." Would Jim Crow have been OK then?
No one's proposing that immigrants move into your house without your permission. But under the status quo, immigrants can't move into my house without the American government's permission. That's the heart of my case, and you still don't seem to appreciate it. At risk of failing my Ideological Turing Test, you seem to think that my house is actually the government's house.
Mark's answer, in short, seems to be: If white nationalism were our established national tradition, there would be nothing wrong with it. But we have a different established nation tradition, and it would be wrong to change it. Even the last clause, though, seems iffy for Mark. Suppose Americans amended the Constitution to strip non-whites of their citizenship. Would that be wrong?
Hardly. The hypothetical is designed to measure the intensity of Mark's preference for American strangers over foreign strangers. I fear he doesn't want to answer because (a) a big x makes him seem bigoted but (b) a small answer is inconsistent with his policy views.
For my child, x>all the strangers in the world. I would not however murder one stranger to save my child's life. See, hypotheticals are revealing.
The underlying premise is that people have a right to limit their charity to strangers, but don't have a right to stop strangers from trading with each other. Legalities aside, immigration laws look like the latter, not the former.
Interesting. I was expecting Mark to say something like, "Such a law would be morally wrong, but we would still be morally bound to obey it."