What Kind of Diversity?

Let me respond to a few articles and papers. They cover different aspects of diversity. I have long been bothered by some of the issues involved and how they are handled. It is disappointing and frustrating to see the endless flow of low quality discussion and analysis, not to mention the inadequate research.

I’ll begin with The Costs of Ethnic Diversity With Garett Jones from The Economics Detective. It’s an old argument, that diversity is bad, bigotry gussied up in scientific language. I’m not racist because I’m a good liberal, says the author; it’s just the damning facts speaking for themselves. Yet other facts say otherwise, as it always depends on which facts one uses and interprets, behind which can be hidden beliefs and biases. To emphasize this point, one could note that fairly high diversity is found among some of the wealthiest, not to mention among the most stable and influential, countries in the world: UK, US, Canada, Australia, Spain, etc. And most of the struggling and dysfunctional countries are extremely homogeneous (or at least perceived as ‘homogeneous’ from the perspective of the Western racial order). That isn’t to blame homogeneity instead, as there are other factors involved such as post-colonial legacies and neo-imperial meddling. But obviously there is no consistent global pattern in lack of diversity, however defined, and societal problems. Even outside of the West, there are diverse societies that manage to get positive results — Amanda Ripley writes (The Smartest Kids in the World, pp. 160-161):

“In Singapore, the opposite happened. There, the population was also diverse, about 77 percent Chinese, 14 percent Malay, 8 percent Indian, and 1.5 percent other. People spoke Chinese, English, Malay, and Tamil and followed five different faiths (Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Taoism, and Hinduism). Yet Singaporeans scored at the top of the world on PISA, right beside Finland and Korea. There was virtually no gap in scores between immigrant and native-born students.
“Of course , Singapore was essentially another planet compared to most countries. It was ruled by an authoritarian regime with an unusually high-performing bureaucracy. The government controlled most of the rigor variables, from the caliber of teacher recruits to the mix of ethnicities in housing developments. Singapore did not have the kind of extreme segregation that existed in the United States, because policy makers had forbidden it.”

Other research shows that segregation is a key factor. Diversity only correlates to social problems when populations are segregated. As Eric Uslaner explained (Segregation and Mistrust, Kindle Locations 65-73): “[C]orrelations across countries and American states between trust and all sorts of measures of diversity were about as close to zero as one can imagine… [L]iving among people who are different from yourself didn’t make you less trusting in people who are different from yourself. But that left me with a quandary: Does the composition of where you live not matter at all for trust in people unlike yourself? I had no ready answer, but going through the cross-national data set I had constructed, I found a variable that seemed remotely relevant: a crude ordinal measure (from the Minorities at Risk Project at my own university, indeed just one floor below my office) of whether minorities lived apart from the majority population. I found a moderately strong correlation with trust across nations – a relationship that held even controlling for other factors in the trust models I had estimated in my 2002 book. It wasn’t diversity but segregation that led to less trust.” Then again, high inequality studies show that economic segregation causes the exact same problems as racial/ethnic segregation. Maybe it isn’t diversity itself that is problematic but how some societies have failed to deal with it well.

It’s interesting that these people who criticize diversity of race, ethnicity, religion, language, etc rarely if ever talk about other forms of diversity such as socioeconomic class, involving issues of vast differences in funding and resources, education and healthcare, environmental racism and toxicity rates, police brutality and ghettoization, biases and prejudices, opportunities and privileges, power and influence. Capitalism (specifically in the form of corporatism, plutocracy, inverted totalitarianism, and social darwinism) causes high levels of income and wealth diversity, i.e., inequality. If diversity was bad, then so is capitalism that causes class diversity. But maybe the main problem of class diversity or any other form of diversity is social division that leads to political divisiveness. Diversity wouldn’t necessarily be problematic, if there were movement between populations. Without racial/ethnic segregation, there is more racial/ethnic integration and assimilation. And without economic segregation, there is more economic mobility and cross-generational wealth accrual. That means the solution is to not isolate populations out of xenophobia and bigotry, especially to not create permanent underclasses of any variety.

Here is the complaint I have with this kind of people, besides some of them expressing anti-diversity fear-mongering or else complicitly going along with it. Between them and I, we are focusing on different evidence which is fine to an extent. But the difficulty is that, generally speaking, I know their evidence while most of them don’t know mine. And I can explain their evidence while they can’t explain mine. It isn’t usually a meeting of minds through fair debate based on mutual respect and mutual concern for truth-seeking. Their arguments almost always come down to cherrypicked data. That isn’t to say their data shouldn’t be accounted for. It’s just it’s hard to take them seriously when they refuse to even acknowledge the data that disproves, undermines, and complicates their dogmatic beliefs or half-thought opinions. I admit that diversity is problematic under particular circumstances. What most of them can’t acknowledge is that diversity is beneficial under other circumstances. That would force them to admit that it isn’t diversity itself that is the crux of the matter. That said, the above piece from The Economics Detective does admit the profit motive for businesses being diversity-friendly and so I’ll give the author some credit for genuinely being a good liberal, but I must take off a few points for his all too typical carelessness in not being fully informed.

Now to the next example. Someone stated that: “The article below said that people are less willing to give when different groups are different status/class/privilege, not necessarily when different in and of itself” This person was referring to the following: Economic versus Cultural Differences: Forms of Ethnic Diversity and Public Goods Provision by Kate Baldwin and John D. Huber. I’d point out there was further research that showed it is more complicated than the original paper’s conclusion: Ethnic divisions and public goods provision, revisited by Rachel M. Gisselquist. Even taking the original paper as is, it still doesn’t answer my criticisms. They aren’t dealing with social identity (race, class, etc) as social construction and social perception created through social control and maintained through social order. That is where such things as segregation come in.

I’m not seeing much good research to explore these more fundamental issues, which leaves them as confounding factors that remain uncontrolled and unaccounted for. There are so many problems and limitations in this area of research. The world we live in was created by centuries of colonial imperialism that has been continuously racist and classist up into the present. What is being measured in any of these countries is not necessarily about diversity but about the legacies of systemic and institutional racism and classism on a global scale. And I’d argue there is no way to separate the racism from the classism, which should be obvious to anyone who has given it much thought. We are talking about complex systems with inseparable factors, such as segregation/ghettoization and integration/assimilation. With diversity, this issue is who gets to define and enforce social identities. Colonial imperialism gave birth to both a particular social/racial/class order and what became the WEIRD culture. The researchers are the inheritors of this all and then enforce their biased views onto their research.

I don’t trust that many of these political and economic researchers understand what is involved. An anthropologist would better understand what I’m talking about, not just the diversity of subjects but more importantly the diversity between scientist and subjects. Researchers from entirely different cultures might approach this far differently. Anthropologists have done much interesting work that probes much deeper than most research (David Graeber could be a useful anthropologist to look into about these overlapping issues). For example, how would an anthropologist who is a Native American study the diversity of Native Americans in states or regions where multiple tribes live, specifically across a history of white supremacy in creating the reservation system? Also, how does the perceived diversity of European-Americans in earlier US history compare to perceived homogeneity of Europeans at present? Might it be important who was in power when diversity was enforced on a population in contrast to when homogeneity was enforced? What about the power dynamic of mostly WEIRD researchers have in a WEIRD society in imposing their views and biases? Is Asia, the majority of the world’s population, diverse as Asians experience it or homogeneous as Westerns perceive it?

Here are the last two I’ll respond to: Why Does Ethnic Diversity Undermine Public Goods Provision? by Habyarimana, Humphreys, Posner, & Weinstein; and Ethnic diversity, social sanctions, and public goods in Kenya by Edward Miguel & Mary Kay Gugerty. These miss a major point. Diversity and homogeneity are built on social constructs. They are dependent on public perception and social control. A society can choose to maintain diversity or not. If we don’t economically and racially/ethnically segregate people while instead treating people fairly and equally, promoting integration and assimilation, and ensuring the social democratic resources and opportunites for all, including geographic and economic mobility… if we do that, then diversity will over the generations turn into homogeneity, as has been historically proven across the world many times over. It has happened repeatedly since the beginning of the species. The Germanic tribes were once diverse, but now they just think of themselves as Germans. The British were once diverse, but have slowly developed a common identity. The Piraha originated from separate ethnic tribes that came together, but now they are just the Piraha. The opposite can happen as well. Take people from the same society and treat them differently. In a short period of time, the two invented groups will immediately take on the new social identities. To go along with this, it won’t take them long to create new cultures, traditions, attire, and ways of talking. You can see this when people join an organization, convert to a religion, get a new group of friends — they will change their appearance and behavior.

Whether enforced from above or taken on by individuals, social influences are powerful. One great example of this was Jane Elliott’s eye color experiment. Along these lines, a ton of interesting studies have been done about the observer-expectancy effect, subject-expectancy effect, Pygmallion/Rosenthal effect. Hawthorne/observer effect, golem effect, etc. I’d add stereotype effect to this list, which deals with group identities more directly. How people are identified doesn’t just shape how they identify but also determines how they are treated and how they behave. Basically, these are self-fulfilling prophecies. Such experiments were only done over short periods. Imagine the results attained by continuing the same experiment across multiple generations or even centuries. Social constructs should be taken seriously, especially when made socially real through disenfranchisement, impoverishment, high inequality, segregation/ghettoization, systemic prejudice and biases, concentrated power, an authoritarian state, police enforcement, and much else. When we are talking about ethnic diversity in terms of immigration and refugee crises, this includes centuries of colonialism, resource exploitation, military actions, covert operations, political intervention, economic sanctions, and on and on. There are long, ugly legacies behind these racial, ethnic, and national divides. In many cases, ethnic immigrants come from countries that were former colonies and have borders that were artificially created by empires. First and foremost, there is the immeasurable diversity of justice and injustice, power and oppression. Diversity as racial order didn’t naturally develop but was violently enacted, a racial ideology shaping racial realities.

So what do these people think they are studying when they research diversity? And what are they actually studying? The confounding factors are so immense that it’s hard to wrap one’s mind around it. About people who study and discuss these kinds of topics, one gets the sense that many of them aren’t deep and careful thinkers. Things that seem obvious to me never occur to them. Or else these things do occur to them but for ideological reasons they can’t acknowledge them. I wonder what some people even think diversity means. As I’ve said before, I have more in common with a non-white Midwesterner than I have with a white Southerner. And I have more in common with a non-white American than a white European. Diversity of skin color doesn’t necessarily correlate to diversity of ethnicity, language, religion, etc. The average African-American shares the same basic culture as other Americans. A large part of African-Americans should technically be called European-Americans, both in terms of genetics and culture. As Thomas Sowell argues, African-Americans don’t have an African culture, rather a Southern culture. What makes African-Americans stand out in the North is that because of segregation they have more fully maintained their Southern culture. But that depends on where one lives. Here in Iowa City, most of the African-Americans are either immigrants of African ethnicties or individuals whose families have been in the region so long that they are assimilated to Midwestern culture, but African-Americans with Southern culture are rare around here.

If cultural diversity is what is deemed problematic, then that has nothing directly to do with skin color. But if we are talking about conflict based on skin color, that is simply an issue of racism. So, what exactly are we concerned about? Let’s get clear on that first. And then only after considering all the evidence, let’s begin the process of honest debate and informed analysis.

17 thoughts on “What Kind of Diversity?

  1. This is one area where I think we may disagree.

    I think the problem is cultural outlook. It’s not skin color, as there are plenty of people that integrate well no matter their color. Immigrants (and I was one) do have issues integrating into any society. The other big elephant is that the rich are using immigration for their own advantage – to make money by driving up housing costs (they get to pocket the capital gains and higher rents), while using it to drive down employment security and wages.

    I think though that it is fair to expect immigrants to assimilate into the mainstream culture.

    In the EU, a failure to integrate immigrants has led to the rise of the far right, in no small part due to a failure to integrate. Immigration, for it to work, requires that the immigrants be integrated. Otherwise, it will simply divide society. Then the far right will move in and take advantage of the divide:


    The DPP offered a bigger increase in public spending than Helle-Thorning Schmidt’s Social Democrats. Dahl also pledged to divert resources from refugees and asylum seekers to improving the care of the elderly. One of the most popular policies, amid widespread concern over the quality of social care, was the promise of at least one bath a week for the old and infirm who were living at home. According to one recent survey, 55% of Danes believe that EU migrants come to the country to gain access to benefits. So calls for a Brussels welfare opt-out, in order to fund pension entitlements for poorer Danes, went down well.

    And as part of its public spending programme, the party proposed to extend eligibility for unemployment benefits from two years to four, a reversal of a cut by Thorning-Schmidt in the previous parliament, when the prime minister known to critics as “Gucci Helle” was seeking to trim costs. Unsurprisingly, the DPP now boasts a bigger proportion of working-class voters than the Social Democrats.

    Trump may very well be another example of backlash. The situation in the US is different from Sweden and Denmark, but there are alarming similarities. Rising inequality, mass immigration, declining job security/wages for the existing people, cuts to benefits from the government, and above all, an elite that has betrayed their population for their own greed.

    The Canadian immigration model does seem to work relatively well.

    While he acknowledges that number isn’t zero, studies by Statistics Canada and researchers like University of Toronto professor Ron Levi looking at youth crime rates in cities have shown that rates are lower among recent immigrants, and immigration in general has been credited as one of the reasons for the continuous decline in crime in Canada.

    So in that regard, the right wing narrative of immigrants and crime need not be true. Keep in mind though that Canada’s immigration system is quite different from that of the US.

    Even it has its flaws though. It needs to do a better to job of only immigrating skilled workers only when there are real shortages (ex: not when employers want to drive wages low, which is usually the case). It has its flaws, but it is one of the few systems that has left people with a positive impression, because in Canada, the average immigrant is better educated. Even in Canada, there are divides:


    Inequality I think is a very big problem. We’ve taken some of the worst aspects of American style capitalism and brought them north of the border.

    The other issue is that studies have shown people to be less charitable in the face of diversity.

    Even on the left, there are calls to reduce immigration because of the problems (high traffic and housing):

    Immigration and diversity can have good effects, as can immigration, but it’s dangerous to deny their are difficulties too. Otherwise, like in Sweden, the far right will gain popularity. I think the best option is a low to moderate immigration number of high skilled immigrants, which must be very carefully integrated and their kids assimilated like I was.

    The big common root of all of these problems is that the rich are using it against people. Globally there needs to be a transfer of wealth from the ultra rich to the rest.

    • You wrote, “I think the problem is cultural outlook. It’s not skin color, as there are plenty of people that integrate well no matter their color.” That much we agree on. It’s nothing inherent to people. And you added, “Immigrants (and I was one) do have issues integrating into any society.” That is always true, at least for the first generation or few generations. The Germans, Scandinavians, and French Normans didn’t initially assimilate well when the moved into Celtic territory. But today they are all just English. Various European ethnics didn’t assimilate well in the first centuries of the United States. German-Americans, in particular, maintained separate communities, culture, languages, and churches well into the 20th century. But now you hardly can tell who is of German ancestry, as they simply identify as American.

      The US has some of the greatest diversity in the world and yet, because of less segregation for immigrants, they eventually assimilated. That is part of my point about the problems of segregation, which is separate from diversity taken on its own terms. As long as segregation isn’t enforced, people tend to mix over time. African-Americans and Native Americans, on the other hand, had segregation violently enforced upon them and surprise surprise they have assimilated to a lesser degree. However, consider they have been here longer than most whites, I’m not sure why they are supposed to assimilate to white culture. Native Americans have been here for millennia. And most African-Americans, unlike most European-Americans, have many lines of ancestry that go back to the colonial era. They are as American as they come. What gives European latecomers the right to enforce their foreign culture on those who came long before them?

      “The other big elephant,” you continue, “is that the rich are using immigration for their own advantage – to make money by driving up housing costs (they get to pocket the capital gains and higher rents), while using it to drive down employment security and wages.” That is a point that Sanders makes. You don’t have to fear-monger about immigration and scapegoat immigrants in order to point out the moral and economic failure of neoliberalism. So, most people like me wouldn’t either disagree with your statement that, “I think though that it is fair to expect immigrants to assimilate into the mainstream culture.” That is the point of not segregating them, in order to give them the opportunity and incentive to assimilate. As I point out, segregation is the heart of the issue. That has been a failure for Europe, since they have segregated immigrant populations more than has the US. Even Latinos in the US, despite their large numbers, have increasingly assimilated to American Protestantism and American WASP/WEIRD culture.

      Because of bigotry and xenophobia, there is a populist attraction segregate immigrant populations as if that will protect a society. It’s a choice that can be made, no matter how bad that choice is. I’m suggesting that maybe we shouldn’t make bad choices about public policy and then blame the immigrants for our own collective failure and our own lack of political will to make a rational decision based on what we know. That seems like a stupid and irrational thing to do, not to suggest that the citizenry and politicians don’t have a right to be stupid and irrational and there is no one to stop them. It’s not just “a failure to integrate immigrants” but a failure of Europeans to allow them to assimilate by creating segregationist laws and housing policies, for fear of diluting European culture and so isolating immigrants according to a model of disease control. There are those who do know better but cynically manipulate public opinion to gain and maintain power, damn the consequences! That is a sad way to run a country. As for Canada, lacking knowledge, I can’t speak intelligently about the immigrant history further to the north of me.

      Even the US has been far from perfect about not segregating immigrants, including Europeans earlier on. Redlining and sundown towns also were directed toward undesirable ethnics such as Italians, Irish, Polish, etc. Now we are repeating that history by making new immigrants feel unwanted and isolated, forcing them to seek safety in numbers by way of ethnic enclaves as early immigrants did. Any perceived non-white immigrant in the US (or Europe) might fear attempting to integrate and assimilate for being too close to white populations can lead to becoming victims of hate crimes. And indeed, hate crimes directed at minorities have been increasing. So, yeah: “Trump may very well be another example of backlash. The situation in the US is different from Sweden and Denmark, but there are alarming similarities. Rising inequality, mass immigration, declining job security/wages for the existing people, cuts to benefits from the government, and above all, an elite that has betrayed their population for their own greed.” My point is that was a self-created situation that wouldn’t have happened if these governments listened to common sense, such as I’m suggesting. You’re agreeing with me when you state that, “So in that regard, the right wing narrative of immigrants and crime need not be true.” Exactly!

      There are some complicating factors, though. Let me put it in context with your statement about, “Keep in mind though that Canada’s immigration system is quite different from that of the US.” Well, Canada doesn’t have South and Central America at its southern border. And the Canadian government hasn’t been meddling in Latin American politics for more than a century, funding violent right-wing groups, overthrowing governments, and propping up puppet dictatorships. Many of the immigrants coming across the US southern border are refugees fleeing US policies and actions in Latin America. So, it’s chickens coming home to roost. Europe has been dealing with similar problems in having long played imperial and neo-imperial games of manipulating and destabilizing the Middle East and Africa. Syrian refugees, for example, are dealing with the consequences of Western policies fucking with their society since at least the early Cold War. The Western world has no moral high ground. There is a basic moral principle: You break it, you buy it. The Western world has spent centuries breaking much of the rest of the world while refusing to pay the costs that, instead, get externalized onto the innocent victims. I have no compassion or tolerance for Westerners crying about the consequences of their own actions in supporting and being complicit in the behavior of their sociopathic leaders.

      That said, much of the immigrant problem has little to do with the immigrants themselves or where they came from. As you point out, “Inequality I think is a very big problem. We’ve taken some of the worst aspects of American style capitalism and brought them north of the border.” There are inequality problems at a global scale. But the most immediate inequality problems that can’t be ignored are internal to specific countries. That goes back to the segregation issue. Growing inequality is yet another sign of growing segregation. Classism and racism have a long history together, especially in the Western world. Economic ghettoization, for example, preceded the Nazi concentration camps. Segregation practices are dangerous for all involved. Just ask the oppressed in Apartheid countries, such as South Africans in the past and Palestinians in the present. Or just ask the native populations in countries like the US and Canada.

      You make a common argument that, “The other issue is that studies have shown people to be less charitable in the face of diversity.” That might be true, but it has yet to be tested as far as I know. It’s not clear that people are less charitable because of diversity or because of segregation. There are plenty of highly diverse countries with low social problems and high rankings in public investments such as education systems. So, obviously most of the research is overlooking and mixing up a bunch of confounding factors, but then interpreting according to preconceived conclusions. The most relevant hypotheses aren’t even being articulated by most people, much less taken seriously in scientific research. We are acting blindly and so reacting in unacknowledged ignorance, since too many assume we already have it all figured out. Scapegoating is too easy and almost always makes everything worse, even for the victimizers when they turn to authoritarianism. I wouldn’t doubt it’s true that, “Immigration and diversity can have good effects, as can immigration, but it’s dangerous to deny their are difficulties too.” The challenge is that we aren’t clear about what exactly are the difficulties involved, in terms of specific causal and contributing factors. If diversity is non-problematic without segregation, then diversity in the most direct sense isn’t the problem. That would create further problems by misdiagnosing the disease and so just dealing with symptoms.

      As you make clear in your conclusion, “The big common root of all of these problems is that the rich are using it against people. Globally there needs to be a transfer of wealth from the ultra rich to the rest.” Looking at all the known evidence, it is clear that immigration alone is not the common root of all these problems. The US had a booming economy and thriving culture during the biggest and most diverse eras of mass immigration, from the mid 19th century to early 20th century. It was a time of both conflict and dynamic change that led to immense innovation and change, making America into the country we know today. There was much segregation, but the influx was so great that mixing was unavoidable. Mix people enough and they naturally start to integrate and intermarry, especially when they live together in the same communities and their children go to the same schools. It can take a few generations. Even mild segregation isn’t too problematic, as long as it doesn’t reach the level of ghettoization or apartheid. The bigger issues, in the end, are more practical on the level of wealth, resources, and opportunities. When the rich aren’t fucking us all over, the average people in populations get along fairly well even with differences.

      As such, I don’t see any clear and fundamental disagreement between you and I. It’s more that I put it all into another context. But we are both acknowledging the same problems.

  2. Where we disagree is on immigration.

    I think that immigration should be very restrictive – like the Canadian system, and preferably a bit more restrictive.

    As for my views:

    High skilled immigrants (I define high skill as highly educated, very good language skills, and with experience in the fields in demand) can create jobs due to the aggregate demand they can create, but there is also the danger of more competition for jobs (higher immigration in Canada is associated with lower wages http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-001-x/89-001-x2007001-eng.pdf)
    Low skilled immigrants become competition for working class citizens (which is why there is some much resentment in the US) – I generally oppose allowing low skill (it’s not a very positive term, but the concept of low skill refers to lacking education, and skills in demand by the job market)
    High costs of living due to increasing rents (more people = more rent and more traffic on roads – immigration usually exceeds the amount of traffic). Housing prices also tend to go up as well, which can be bad for a nation’s middle class who wants to buy new homes.
    IN large numbers, there can be ethnic tensions if integration is not done well – and in order to integrate well, immigration can only be done in small to moderate numbers to allow for assimilation. Otherwise, there will be very serious political polarization. The Nordic nations have done a very poor job of integrating refugees. The end result is the far right is gaining power there.
    THe biggest though is that employers and the rich tend to use immigration to play them against citizens, leading to high inequality.
    IN the short to medium term, the costs to society can exceed benefits. High skilled immigrants can pay off, but only if their skills are in demand in the nation’s market .

    My thoughts on policy:
    – Filter strictly based on education, language, skills, criminality, and willingness to assimilate (one reason why is because by filtering, it means only the emigrating nation’s best gets in, which prevents the negative stereotype of lazy or criminal immigrants)
    – Immigration should not exceed 1-1.5% of population per year to allow for integration, possibly less (still on the fence on the optimal percentage)
    – Only immigrate in job areas where there are genuine shortages of workers (real shortages, not ones employers make up to lower wages, which happens too often)
    – Illegal immigration should be tightly enforced.
    – Only if there are no alternatives should a guest worker program be implemented and the pay should for employers willing to pay at or higher than market rates (to prevent employers from lowering wages)
    – Dramatically lower immigration rates during recessions and allow for emigration (which should reduce competition for jobs)
    – Restrictions on how families are unified (Canada does a fairly good job on this one)
    – Build affordable housing in cities with high immigrant populations and dramatically increase mass transit spending. You could allow for higher taxes as well to help pay for this. This is not something Canada has done, but it should IMO.

    Actually that kind of looks like the Canadian policy, although I would call for something more restrictive.

    We do have disagreements. I don’t think immigration is a confounding factor. I think it is a very big reason why wages are lower than they should be. I think that it’s a supply-demand issue. More people competing for fewer jobs means lower wages. High skill immigrants often become entrepreneurs, so that can offset in the long run, but only high skill immigration. Low skilled immigration should be restricted, if permitted at all.

    I don’t agree with the NYT much, but they have a point here:

    • No, we still aren’t disagreeing, not so far. I don’t have a strong or clear position on immigration, as it is debated in the mainstream. I’m first trying to change the debate.

      I want to push the debate back toward issues of framing, rhetoric, and evidence. Unless we can have the right debate, we can’t come to useful conclusions and solutions. Talking about strict vs open immigration is like talking about big vs small gov or pro-choice vs pro-life. It’s a distraction from what I consider the deeper issues of confusion and conflict.

      There might be points of disagreement between us, but I’m not convinced we have ascertained what they might be. I’m tired right now. I’ll come back to this over the weekend and give it more thought.

    • Fair enough.

      Take your time. I’m a fan of strict Canadian style immigration – and more strict that Canada’s current system.

      • I’m neither an ideologue nor an extremist. I tend to think about things in specific contexts. That is why, as an American, I’m reluctant to speak of other countries. The situation of Canada is entirely different from that of the US. A main difference is Canada is a nation-state while the US is a military interventionist global superpower and colonial empire — besides US military bases located in many countries on every continent, present US colonies include Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam. So, the immigration policies for these two governments inevitably will be different.

        Related to this, we also must distinguish between issues of immigration and issues of refugee crises, the former being a problem to be dealt on a national level and the latter being a problem to be dealt on the international level. Mixing the two up leads to confused thinking and will result in failure. If ignored, the refugee crisis could lead to global disaster, especially as it worsens with climate change. The results would include increasing famines, civil wars, revolutions, global terrorism, and world wars. The refugee crises remains a growing and worsening problem, no matter one’s view on strict or open immigration.

        I’m for well regulated immigration with a clear pathway to citizenship. But if we don’t deal with global issues of inequality and injustice built on historical legacies of exploitation and crimes against humanity, we are going to face far worse problems than debating the details of immigration policy. When refugee crises become bad enough, immigration policy is meaningless as desperate refugees in the millions or maybe billions will be crossing borders without asking for permission. And if you try to stop them, it will be either a war or slaughter. It would be better to deal with these problems before they become international conflicts. For certain, pretending the larger problems don’t exist won’t make them go away.

        This is similar to the unemployment and homeless problems within countries like the US. Similar to what happened during the Great Depression, people will move to where they hope to find work, opportunities, and resources for help. But this shifts problems from poor areas to wealthier areas. Enforcing strict controls on internal immigration by creating militarized borders around cities and states in the US wouldn’t solve the fundamental problem. It would simply isolate and concentrate the victims, until it reached a breaking point. That is why the ruling elite feared revolutions and coups during the Great Depression. The solution was to help those people through New Deal programs. If the US government had failed to do that, our society likely would have fallen to revolution and/or authoritarianism as happened to many other countries in that era.

        Problems not solved can become bigger and more dangerous problems. Conflating immigration policy and refugee crises is the complete opposite of helpful. That is why we need to be clear about the issues. It’s not just present policies that have failed but, more importantly, present debate that makes it impossible to reach effective and successful policies. Wise and realistic decisions are rarely made in a state of fear, especially when there are demagogues and authoritarians (e.g., Trump) seeking power through fearmongering. Strict immigration policies in North Korea, China, Israel, etc ends up reinforcing rather than preventing authoritarian tendencies. That is because immigration policies are simply a tool that can be used for any purpose, beneficial or destructive, democratic or authoritarian.

        Debate needs to be about what kind of society the respective citizenries wish to create. And such debates will be unique to each country with their unique situations, problems, and legacies. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Nor is there any perfect solution. We are facing the consequences of global problems created by centuries of policies and actions. It’s easier for a society to prevent unnecessary conflicts than trying to solve long term problems created for short term gain as Western powers have so far done in relation to non-Western countries. But Western ruling elites so far have seemed unconcerned about anything other than their personal gain and private benefit, no matter what that means for future generations.

        One way or another, each country will do what it will and that shall determine the fate of the global order and maybe modern civilization in its entirety. And in the end, it likely will have little to do with anything other than raw power and violent force. Political decisions made from here on out won’t be about morality and ethics, justice and fairness. Those who cause problems rarely are forced to pay the costs they externalize onto others, but that might change in the near future. I wouldn’t assume that the Western world will continue to hold its position of ruling over and fucking over the rest of the world.

        At some point, immigration policies might become a moot issue. It will simply be populations fighting other populations. And continued Western hegemony is far from guaranteed. Eventually, the US and the rest of the West will experience severe defeat and setback. We Westerners might one day find ourselves experiencing the same treatment from other governments that our own governments have done to others. The greatest thing we Westerners can fear is that we will be forced to accept the consequences of our own complicity. Considering this, we would be wise to be very careful about what we do going forward.

        As for the details of immigration policy, let me be as straightforward as possible. I’m a US citizen and the US is not a functioning democracy. My opinion is utterly meaningless and irrelevant to whatever the ruling elite decides to do. They will probably continue to do as they’ve done for longer than my lifetime, which involves what is useful toward their own power and wealth. Whatever immigration policies serve their aim of social control and profits will be what gets enacted by the US government. That will continue to be the case until there is a revolution, the society collapses, or the military loses to a foreign power. Besides radical direct action, there is little most citizens can do. And even radical direct action is unlikely to have much effect on the disconnected ruling elite.

        I realize Canada is a different kind of country and government. I wouldn’t have the audacity to tell Canadians what to do. It is their country. If they think they have a functioning democracy and if they are able to successfully demand their government serve their interests, then more power to the Canadian citizenry. I’d be particularly happy if Canadians could demonstrate how a functioning democracy can deal with difficult problems, immigration policy and otherwise

        • I suppose that the US is different. Politically though, if immigration comes at the expense of Americans, it will be a very hard sell indeed.

          I suspect though that immigration is likely to remain a very contentious issue in all nations for the foreseeable future.

          It may very well be that the situation in Canada is indeed different. However, I think that there are policies that will protect a modern welfare state and policies that will lead to its demise.

          Making the rich richer for example is a policy that will lead to the demise of the welfare state, the middle class, and pretty much everything that we hold dear. Eventually even the rich themselves may be destroyed.

          I think that a strict immigration policy is a good way to keep welfare systems well protected. Let me give an example – Immigrants that pay their way (ex: international students paying high tuition fees at universities) are likely to be a net gain for society for example. They would be allowed and even encouraged under a strict system.

          I’m not 100% sold that immigration would prevent an authoritarian system. This is what is happening in Europe, as discussed. Resentment over illegal immigration also played a prominent role in Trump.

          The best defense against authoritarianism is a prosperous populace and a vigilant population. Americans have not been either. Only the rich have and at our expense.

          • As far as I’m concerned, I’m not trying to sell immigration. Immigration is a secondary issue in my mind, even if for some strange reason I wanted to sell it. I’ll leave it up to the plutocrats and oligarchs, as I’m sure they want to sell immigration for their own self-interest. They have immense means of propaganda operations for this purpose.

            The conflict we are experiencing is the same basic problem that has always existed in post-colonial immigrant countries. None of this is even close to being new. The pattern repeats endlessly. My interest is to note what otherwise should be obvious, if not for mass ignorance and historical amnesia. Yes, “immigration is likely to remain a very contentious issue in all nations for the foreseeable future.” Just as it was highly contentious in the past, at various points. That is simply how immigration always plays out. Anyway, immigration is more of a result than a cause of anything. And so I don’t get too excited about it taken in isolation. I focus on the larger context because that is where we can find the source of the problems.

            “It may very well be that the situation in Canada is indeed different,” as you concede. Though you add a note of caution in clarifying that, “However, I think that there are policies that will protect a modern welfare state and policies that will lead to its demise.” Sure, I wouldn’t argue against that. Then again, I’d add that we are long past the point of avoiding change. We are still living within the imperial order that we inherited from Britain. It’s just the capitol city of the empire shifted from England to Washington, DC. The welfare state and policies is part of the bread and circus used for maintaining control of the imperial subjects. But we might be coming to the final ending point of the Western imperial order that has dominated the world for centuries.

            Clarifying your point, you write that, “Making the rich richer for example is a policy that will lead to the demise of the welfare state, the middle class, and pretty much everything that we hold dear. Eventually even the rich themselves may be destroyed.” That is just one of the many contradictions that has always existed in the imperial order. It has made for a creative tension of power, an always delicate balance. Sometimes the balance is lost, such as during the American Revolution. But so far the ruling elite have continued to manage their quickly re-establishing a new balance. Surely, the present (Anglo-)American Empire will lose its dominant position. Then likely a slightly shifted imperial order will take its place, unless major events entirely disrupt and destroy the imperial order.

            “I think that a strict immigration policy is a good way to keep welfare systems well protected,” you assert in making a reasonable argument. I understand your viewpoint and can’t say that you’re wrong. And the example you give does make your point: “Immigrants that pay their way (ex: international students paying high tuition fees at universities) are likely to be a net gain for society for example. They would be allowed and even encouraged under a strict system.” I would point out that, in the US, the average immigrant is wealthier and more well educated, more likely to start a new business and create new jobs than US born citizens. Also, immigrants have tended to be the greatest defenders of the American Dream and the most willing to work hard, along with having lower crime rates than the rest of the population. So, it isn’t as if the US is getting low quality immigrants.

            Ignoring all the larger issues of colonial imperialism and refugee crises, neoliberal globalization and climate change, I could basically agree with the gist of your argument — that is we should have well regulated immigration policy that is designed to increase benefits for all while decreasing costs and consequences. In an ideal world where historical legacies didn’t exist and countries were truly independent, I could imagine all kinds of optimal methods for creating and maintaining a well-functioning social democracy and culture of trust. But that is so far from the situation here, from my perspective as an imperial subject of the American Empire, living in the belly of the beast. But as I said, I can’t speak for Canadians or others from anywhere else.

            From your concluding remarks, you write that, “I’m not 100% sold that immigration would prevent an authoritarian system. This is what is happening in Europe, as discussed. Resentment over illegal immigration also played a prominent role in Trump.” Well, I wasn’t arguing for immigration as a preventative measure against authoritarianism. My point is that immigration restriction isn’t preventative either, as it just as easily could be used by authoritarians to take power as Trump has tried to do. Anyway, authoritarian leaders (i.e., SDOs) don’t have a consistent ideology about immigration, as they are just as likely to push for more immigration as to demagogue against it — consistency being irrelevant for the purposes of propaganda, social control, and ensuring profit and power. Reagan helped solidify the post-war authoritarian order of the military-industrial complex and did so while giving out the largest immigrant amnesty in US history. This is because neoconservatism and neoliberalism, while in many ways beiing contradictory in terms of ideology, are perfectly in line with the singular worldview of the ruling elite.

            Related to this, many point out the problems of diversity, which relates to the problems of democracy, such as internal conflict and lack of public agreement. But such diversity is partly what has made it impossible for the likes of Nazis to take over the United States. For the entirety of American history, mass immigration has never allowed a single ethnicity or race to fully dominate (e.g., Germans being the majority in colonial Pennsylvania). Even during slavery, the ruling elite had to live in genuine fear of slaves revolting, in a way that the Germans never had to worry about Jews revolting. That is because blacks in the South were a large population (a majority in certain states) whereas Jews in German were relatively smaller in number.

            Large populations of minorities keep the ruling elite on their toes. Diverse countries are more prone to revolutions and civil wars than traditional forms of authoritarianism, although new forms of authoritarianism have been developing in recent history. Diversity, like democracy, is an inefficient social order prone to endless debate and conflict. But in keeping the population divided, it’s hard to ever form a unified authoritarian movement. So, it has some benefits, despite the high costs.

            The last point you argue is that, “The best defense against authoritarianism is a prosperous populace and a vigilant population. Americans have not been either. Only the rich have and at our expense.” There is some truth to that. Prosperity is always a good thing. But it tends to make people more complacent than vigilant. It was the prosperity of the United States that has made the public complacent this past century. And for a significant period it was a prosperity that benefited many Americans, such as the generations of my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. It was the economic comfort and security during the post-war era of American dominance that allowed Cold War propaganda to be used in promoting this new form of authoritarianism.

            That period of growing prosperity has been changing for a while now, of course. That is why the authoritarian demagoguery has become more blatant, at the very time that the authoritarian tactics have become less effective. The US population is the most divided it has been in a long while with growing distrust of government and business (90% of Americans distrust major institutions, public and private). Polling shows that the symbol of authoritarianism at the moment, Trump, is the most despised person in the US. So, I don’t know where that leaves us, at least us Americans. We are as likely to have another revolution as an attempt at authoritarian coup. Immigration policy in the US might have little influence over societal outcomes at this point. The main sources of destabilization are to be found elsewhere.

  3. Some recent thoughts from the open thread:


    Here is how it is, at least in the US.

    My problem is the entire political issue and public debate is defined by ignorance and historical amnesia, framed by demagoguery and fear-mongering. There is no way to have a moral, rational, and pragmatic discussion under these conditions. Most people, including most politicians and most media personalities, have no idea what they are talking about. It simply becomes a game of power, manipulation, and rhetoric. What is right or good becomes meaningless and irrelevant. That is particularly true in a country like the US that historically lacks a single dominant ethno-cultural group.

    Which US citizens are to protect their own turf? The minority of WASPs? The past majority of German-Americans? The emerging minority majority of Hispanic Americans, African Americans, and Native Americans (many of whom have been here longer than European Americans)? What about some of the populations of Arab Christians, Islamic Americans, and Jewish Americans who have been here sometimes for centuries?

    I can’t speak for other countries. But we Americans are part of a multicultural global empire that arose from the detritus of multiple former global empires (British, Germans, Dutch, French,. Spanish, etc). As an American mutt, I can only speak for the majority of Americans who are also American mutts. It’s not clear to me what is to be protected in an imperialistic multicultural nation (originally a federalist confederation of post-colonial nation-states) that has been shaped by mass immigration for its entire history, actually longer than that considering colonialism. The only authentic nativism in North America is that of Native Americans. All the rest of us, in the big picture, are newcomers to this land. Even most European Americans immigrated long after the founding of the country.

    Why would xenophobia now among Americans be any more morally and rationally justified than xenophobia in the past? There is no way for it not to be racist, as this country more than most was directly founded upon racism. Maybe the majority of the public will choose racism and/or the government enforce it. But let’s not fool ourselves that it isn’t racism. The question is rather simple: Do we or do we not want to be a country of racists? That is what our country has been up to this point. Are we to continue the tradition of racism or seek a new path?

    We have to keep in mind that many of the refugees seeking asylum and/or citizenship in the US are the victims of more than a century of US policies abroad, specifically in Latin America and the Middle East. They are escaping the evil of our own government that we the citizens are complicit in. They represent the externalized costs returning home. We have no moral ground in refusing to take responsibility for the consequences of our own actions. But of course the US has never been primarily defined and motivated by a national sense of moral responsibility and ethical duty. I doubt we are going to change at this point, despite the idealistic rhetoric our country was founded upon.

    Any decision made will be about realpolitik and demagoguery. That is just the way it is. Why not be honest about it? As for other countries, they’ll have to figure out their own problems of moral failure, societal dysfunction, and historical legacies. It’s not my place to judge them or tell them what to do. We Americans have our hands full with our own issues and struggles. As the self-proclaimed leading global superpower that regularly enforces its will and problems on others, the US is in a different position in relation to the global issues of refugee crises. Besides our war-mongering, CIA covert operations and neoliberal exploitation, the US has disproportionately contributed to global warming that is presently destroying communities and destabilizing regions around the world which has forced large populations into dislocation and desperation.

    These are worldwide problems, not mere isolated problems that neatly fit within national borders. Like it or not, humanity as a global society will have to resolve these issues. Or failing that, we will face world war, global terrorism, and transnational revolution. Immigration considered as an isolated issue is the least of our worries at this point. There is a coming storm and few see it on the horizon. We aren’t prepared for the global catastrophe that is on its way. Up to this point, the US has pretended to be the global leader. Either we need to give up this pretense or we need to act accordingly. Imperialism and nativism are opposing realities.

    None of that is to say I’m a radical internationalist left-winger demanding unregulated open borders. It’s not clear to me where I stand on the issue because of all the complications and confusion. But what I do know is that, in the depths of my soul, I despise lies and ignorance. We can’t move forward until we reckon with the past for, as William Faulkner put it, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”


    That is why I see the United States as more or less distinct. We are closer to post-colonial countries like Canada and Australia that also formed formed out of the British Empire. But the US is the only major country that has fully inherited the centuries old tradition of global imperialism, specifically the Western form that was influenced by Greco-Egyptian Hellenism and Greco-Roman multiculturalism, by way of the Romanized French Normans who established monarchy and aristocracy in England.

    What this means is that the US is presently the most multicultural and least ethno-nationalist of any country in the world. What is relevant and applicable to the US may have little to do with any other society. Even in terms of social science research, the US population of the WEIRD is an extreme outlier compared to elsewhere. This country has a unique population with a unique history that finds itself in a unique position on the world stage. Arguing for American isolationism and nativism is like arguing for oligarchic democracy and plutocratic free markets.

    In America with its imperialistic aspirations and authoritarian global rule, there always has been immense overlap between our immigrant origins and anti-immigrant xenophobia, between racism and classism, between ethnic identity and religious conflict. Because of longstanding bigotry built on genocide and slavery, fear-mongering and scapegoating has deep roots that grow in dark bloody soil. That may be true for a number of other post-colonial societies, but it is a thousand times more true in the continent-wide swath of land between Mexico and Canada.

    As a country born out of revolution of diverse colonies from different empires (some majority English, others majority German and majority African), the US is built on a foundation of social fracture and not ethnic unity. In fact, one of the justifications for declaring independence from the British Empire (as Thomas Paine articulated) was the fact that so much of the colonial population wasn’t English — not in terms of ethnicity nor in terms of language and religion. The revolutionary war itself was fought as much by foreign soldiers and led as much by foreign officers, Dutch and French, as it was by American colonists. US independence was guaranteed by the conflict of empires, one that opposed us and the others that joined in alliance.

    Even to this day, the US continues with its imperialistic inheritance. We are one of the few global superpowers left that still maintains colonies: Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and Guam. When a government acts as an empire, it must accept the consequences and responsibilities that go with such enforced claims of power and authority. Of course, we Americans always have the choice of no longer being an empire. But that would require giving up all the benefits and privileges of being imperial subjects that comes from stolen land, stolen resources, and stolen wealth.



    How to make diversity work without conflict and social problems? According to what we already know, that seems to be fairly simple to accomplish. But that assumes that there is public support and political will. All that is required is to have a functioning social democracy, which first and foremost means wanting to have a functioning social democracy. The most basic rule is that you can’t have what you don’t want. A population either wants social democracy or it doesn’t. If it doesn’t want social democracy, any form of governance that follows will be dysfunctional, with or without higher rates of immigration.

    Functioning social democracy means ensuring a culture of trust and sense of belonging through: universal suffrage, civic participation, civil rights, well funded public goods, strong social safety net, protection of the commons, elimination of concentrated wealth and power, low inequality, high socioeconomic mobility, etc. And it means fighting against (as if your life and liberty depended on it) all anti-democratic policies and sociopolitical actions, all anti-democratic systems and forms of authority: rigid hierarchies, enforced segregation, systemic and institutional racism, social Darwinism, hyper-individualism, faux meritocracy, destruction of social fabric and social capital, capitalist realism, neoliberalism, neoconservatism, corporatism, plutocracy, cronyism, oligarchy, authoritarianism, inverted totalitarianism, police brutality, military-prison-industrial complex, etc.

    If immigrants and refugees are treated fairly and justly, if they are given equal opportunities and resources, if they are made to feel welcome and included, then most of them will be good citizens and assimilate over time. So, basically, don’t be evil sociopaths and hateful bigots. Instead, treat others as you would want to be treated. It turns out that we tend to get what we put out, that what goes around comes around. Imagine that.

  4. https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/open-thread/comment-page-41/#comment-35564

    Женщина says:
    November 6, 2017 at 7:30 am

    Speaking of immigration, most non-European immigration into Western European nations like France and the UK hails from former colonies of those countries :/

    That’s not even getting into the current migrant crisis that is at least partially the result of western meddling.


    Benjamin David Steele says:
    November 6, 2017 at 1:18 pm

    That is a really good point. That is true for past empires. But it is also true for the former colonial territories of those past empires. The immigration within empires also involved population movements between colonies. The Deep South, for example, was settled by many from Barbados. And the Welsh and Irish came to America because of their homeland was treated as colonies. Many immigrants from outside the West are from former Western colonies.

    The American Empire still has numerous colonies. But the US also possesses many territories that were originally colonies. Places like Texas were colonized, in that the land was stolen from Mexico and the Mexican residents there treated like colonial subjects and second class citizens. Most of the present US was a part of the Spanish Empire, which is to say a part of Latin America. Mexicans and Mexican-Americans are simply continuing to move around their centuries-old homeland, even if later governments redrew the boundaries. It was only in the late 20th century that it even became a legal issue in challenging the traditional right of Mexican ethnics to migrate for reasons of work and visiting family.

    Empires encouraged this kind of movement for it solidified their power and control through creating an imperial identity. Western neoconservatism and neoliberalism is the continuation of colonial imperialism redesigned for a modern era. Critics of immigration are afraid to acknowledge this because the social order is and always has been precarious. It requires immense propaganda to keep the political narrative from straying. The rhetoric has to shift somewhat over time for reasons of more effective social control. But we are dealing with the same old imperial challenges of how global power is imposed and vast territorial control enacted.

    The alliances of Western powers are still trying to manage and manipulate all of the old colonial territories while expanding into new neo-colonial territories. Then Westerners act shocked about refugee crises that result from this meddling. The reality, though, is most of the immigration going on is internal to the neo-imperial social order. Immigration entirely from outside of the neo-imperial social order is far less common. But to understand this would require that Westerners admit that imperialism never really ended.

  5. Here is a key part of my perspective. The only meaningful and moral way to speak of immigration restriction and control is to put it in context of global society, its historical legacies and consequences. To change immigration policy would require renegotiating the social contract between the peoples of the world. To say that others don’t have a right to be in our countries would force us to concede that we (i.e. our governments, militaries, and corporations) don’t have a right to be in their countries.

    This would require us to first and foremost to fight for the ending the Western hegemonic globalization of neocon imperialism and neoliberal exploitation. But that would mean that Westerners would have to sacrifice immense wealth and power, benefits and privileges. And would mean re-internalizing enormous externalized costs while paying reparations for harm done and resources stolen.

    I don’t think Westerners are prepared to take this step toward a fair and just world. There is no such thing as democracy within a government that acts in an authoritarian manner. That contradiction is at the heart of the Western social order. To challenge this is a revolutionary act. And the defenders of the system will respond to it as a threat. This change won’t come from governments for it must be fought for from below, whether that means revolution by imperial subjects or revolution by victimized populations.

    Immigration is one of the ways empires morally justified themselves in the past. And it is how the (Ango-)American Empire and its imperial allies have morally justified their dominance in recent history. Liberal rhetoric makes claims about free flow of wealth, goods, ideas, and people. This is what gives imperial and neo-imperial political orders the perceived legitimacy in imposing their rule. It is the social contract that can’t be betrayed without eroding the foundations of modern Western civilization as we know it. We should be careful in making drastic changes to a precarious social order.


    November 9
    1910 — Birth of Carroll Quigley, historian and theorist of the Evolution of Civilizations
    “The powers of financial capitalism had another far reaching aim, nothing less than to create a world system of financial control in private hands able to dominate the political system of each country and the economy of the world as a whole. This system was to be controlled in a feudalist fashion by the central banks of the world acting in concert, by secret agreements, arrived at in frequent private meetings and conferences. The apex of the system was the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland; a private bank owned and controlled by the worlds’ central banks, which were private corporations. The growth of financial capitalism made possible a centralization of world economic control and use of this power for the direct benefit of financiers and the indirect injury of all other economic groups.”
    From “Tragedy and Hope: A History of The World in Our Time”

    November 10
    2009 – Published article this month of “Free Trade’s Footprint; A Decade After Seattle” by Jane Anne Morris
    “A ‘free trade’ zone is a democracy-free zone. Democracy and ‘free trade’ cannot co-exist, because ‘free trade’ denies the most basic democratic principles…

    “Today, as in 1999, we live under a ‘free trade’ regime presided over by a president who campaigned passionately against the ravages of international “free trade” agreements like NAFTA and the WTO’s GATT. A decade ago, the masters of the universe were squabbling even before the Teamsters and Turtles took to the streets. They’re still squabbling today. More importantly, they’re still masters of the universe. They learned that they could conduct ‘business as usual’ with impunity.

    “Efforts to address climate change, protect our bioregions from the depredations of foreign corporations, respond to peak oil (peak “resource,” really), bend our economies toward local food and local energy, and craft the sustainable and locally self-reliant communities the future requires will not be successful unless we learn to focus on and remove the “free trade” tarp that sits undisturbed over local and state governments. Perhaps at the twentieth anniversary of the Battle for Seattle, we will see some signs of that happening.”


  6. I must admit that I’m simply curious about much of this. It really isn’t debating the details of issues that excites me. Society and history are simply fascinating topics. And as an American, diversity is always front and center of one’s mind. To be against diversity would mean being against myself, my neighbors, my fellow citizens, and my ancestors. Diversity is the entire world I know. That is what America is about, going on for about four centuries.

    I realize this makes the US unusual as a country. It’s not just a post-colonial society. More than any other country, it inherited the legacy of colonial imperialism. It’s the only major colonial empire left in the world, at least in terms of having global power. The sun doesn’t set on the (Anglo-)American Empire. I’ve spent many years reckoning with my fate as an imperial subject. It’s a strange predicament. My ancestors didn’t choose to be imperial subjects nor in some cases the refugees from imperialism, any more than Native Americans chose to be put on reservations and Africans to be enslaved. Now those Native Americans and African-Americans also get the privilege to be imperial subjects.

    Economic reasons are why demographics changed in the past and continue to change. The early colonies were built on cheap imported labor. And the entire history of American economics was a continuation of that cheap imported labor. It is an American tradition. Most of the whites complaining about this descend from cheap imported labor. My family also descends from cheap labor and, in at least one family line, a slaveholding exploiter of cheap labor.

    For those of us who have benefited and been shaped by this historical legacy, being against this economic legacy could be seen as hypocritical. That would be particularly true for someone like me, since some of my family goes back to the privileged elite of the colonial era. Even ignoring the moral angle, the practical issues of challenging this historical legacy are problematic. To end this kind of economic system would be to end the entire social and political order as we know it. The American neoliberal neo-imperialism couldn’t continue without the economic order inherited from the British Empire. Neoliberal globalization is built on colonial imperialism that was further developed with the triangle trade fueled by slavery.

    What are the nativists hoping to replace it with? A fully isolationist country would most likely fall into poverty and authoritarianism, like North Korea. Even ignoring the extremes of white ethno-nationalism, trying to restrict immigration is a difficult proposal in how it would threaten the present global order. There doesn’t seem to be any easy solution. Diversity is a Western project that goes back to the Celtic and Viking trade networks, various ancient Greek leagues, Alexandrian Empire, and Roman Empire. The Axial Age was when human society first began to struggle with issues of large-scale diversity from immigration and urbanization. It was incipient neoliberalism and, for the most part, the imprecise borders back then were wide open.

    The world we live in and the problems we face didn’t come out of nowhere. All of it has been developing for millennia. There is no way to separate diversity from imperialism. And so far, no one has been able to end imperialism, for even when empires fall they get replaced. Modern imperialism is mixed up with pseudo-free trade agreements, hegemonic alliances, client states, puppet regimes, etc.

    The idea of an independent nation-state and social democratic republic is an experiment that no one yet has fully attempted, at least not yet in the Western world. I’d support someone attempting such an experiment, but that likely would mean entirely separating a nation-state from the Western imperial project and that would leave it isolated. For Canada, that would mean ending its alliance with the British-American neo-imperial order. I don’t see that happening any time soon and, if it eventually does happen, not likely to be a happy and peaceful transition.

    Short of that, what would restricted immigration mean within present neo-imperialism? And what if the immigrants fleeing refugee crises don’t agree to this arrangement? Most countries aren’t as isolated from the rest of the world as is Canada. Nor do most countries have an empire next door as a friendly ally to protect them. No one is going to mess with Canada at present because that would mean messing with the (Anglo-)American Empire. So, for the time being, the ruling elite within this neo-imperial order can do about anything they want to do, restricting and opening immigration as it pleases them. But I doubt the opinions of imperial subjects matter, unless someone is planning a revolution.

    I could understand how the world looks differently to the north of the US border. I’m sure it rankles many Canadians to have been under the influence of the British Empire only to now find themselves under the influence of the American Empire. This brings benefits from the global economy of neoliberal neo-imperialism, but with this comes many problems and costs as well. Canadians will have to figure that one out on their own, if it matters enough to the majority of citizens there to find a new direction for their country.

    As for me, I can’t pretend to not be inside the empire and I don’t see Iowa or the Midwest seceding in order to form a social democratic republic with its own separate economy independent of the cheap resources, cheap labor, and cheap goods of the oppressive exploitation of neoliberal neo-imperialism. From what I can tell, this historical trajectory has been a near continuous increase of globalization and it isn’t likely to end anytime soon. I assume it will end when it collapses. Until then, immigration and multiculturalism will likely remain in its present form, maybe some slight changes in policy but I doubt it will be significant. There is too much at stake for the ruling elite to change the status quo, no matter the problems involved.

    Diversity just is what it is. At this point, it is the existential condition of neo-imperialism. Large-scale immigration may be a threat to social democracy, but immigration is what neo-imperialism is all about. For neo-imperialists, the only use of social democracy is part of bread and circus for social control, in keeping the imperial subjects from getting too desperate and restless. This social democracy is superficial, though. It isn’t fundamental to the neo-imperial project and, when necessary, it will be curtailed long before immigration is restricted. That immigration of cheap labor is a threat to social democracy is of no great concern to the neo-imperial plutocrats and oligarchs.

  7. Here were some thoughts relating homelessness to refugee crises:


    As an example, consider the worsening unemployment, poverty, and homelessness. The government hasn’t kept full unemployment data since the 1980s. No one knows for sure how bad unemployment is at present. And the mainstream media rarely talks about this in any depth.

    It’s as if data not being kept means the problem doesn’t exist. Just ignore the growing number of poor people barely making ends meet or living in homeless camps or ending up in prison. This problem doesn’t exist because it doesn’t impact people who aren’t poor. But even if the problem did exist, I’m sure it would solve itself. We just need to get all the low income people to shut up and quit supporting candidates like Sanders who is a spoiler. Let’s threaten that Trump will win and that’ll shut them up, right?

    Homeless camps are popping up in cities all over the country. That is what happened during the Great Depression. And then those temporary homeless camps become permanent shanty towns. There eventually will be a breaking point that easily could turn violent as it did during the Great Depression. People turned on each other. The government was finally forced to intervene, but only after they let the problem get horribly bad for so many.

    It’s not even limited to the United States. Worsening poverty and increasing homelessness is found in the UK (“one in ten parents would not be able to pay housing costs during January – and 2.5 million parents were forgoing household essentials, including food, clothes and energy, in order to pay the rent.”), Greece (“number of new homeless as high as 20,000. Moreover, nearly 20% of Greeks no longer have enough money to cover daily food expenses, according to a recent study by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The nation’s unemployment rate is 26%, the highest among 28 European Union members.”), France and all across Europe.

    That is just talking about the Western world. On a related note, there is the global refugee crisis. The number of refugees in recent years returned to the levels last seen during WWII and in the past year has hit the highest level ever recorded. This is related to wars, instability, overthrown governments, etc (often caused or contributed to by Western governments), but another major factor is climate change with major droughts. This has been a major problem in the Middle East and Africa, along with parts of Latin America, Asia, and Europe. Scientists, politicians, and even the Pentagon have pointed to the link between climate change and terrorism. This problem is only going to get worse.

    Consider also one of the main reasons there are so many homeless and refugees. It’s related. A large number of homeless are veterans who are dealing with neurological and psychological trauma from war. And many refugees are escaping war. Meanwhile, the comfortable back at home in Western countries rarely if ever personally experience war, on either side of the equation. If they did experience it, it would be hard for them ever be fully comfortable again and they would feel cut off from the cud-chewing herd. Many war journalists end up traumatized simply by seeing the ravage caused, an experience that like that of the soldier they’ll never be able to explain to family and friends back home.

    It’s not only about such dramatic events as war. For the poor, all of life can be traumatizing. And the traumatized tend to end up poor. The homeless have high rates of mental illness, in general. Obviously, much of that is simply because mental illness doesn’t lead to a well functioning life and we live in a society that is heartless toward those who can’t help themselves. But being homeless probably increases mental illness as well, because of stress and trauma, lack of healthcare, malnutrition, etc. A similar set of problems likely exists for refugees. And it is also likely that refugees that find their ways to other countries often end up homeless or else in severe poverty. It simply sucks being homeless or a refugee, to be made a pariah and cast out from acceptable society.

    It makes me wonder if these two problems are more closely related than we normally think. We tend to keep the homeless and refugees in separate categories, but maybe it’s more meaningful to think of them as variants of the same problem. These are people who have no place or purpose in society. They are unwanted and often despised. They are part of a large and ever growing proportion of the global population that is feeling urgent and sometimes causing others to feel urgent.

    The response from so many is to ignore the problem and hopes it goes away. Blame the victims of the refugee crisis, turn the refugees away, or force the refugees into camps. Tear down homeless camps, hide the homeless, use hostile architecture, design cities to drive the homeless away, and other similar sociopathic behaviors and authoritarian measures. Interestingly, some of the kindest acts toward the homeless have come from recent refugees, as it often takes someone who personally understands suffering to have compassion.

    To put refugees in camps isn’t so different to the reason so many homeless end up in jails and prisons. These are the places where the unwanted and unneeded are stored away. Similar solutions are ghettoes and housing projects. Homeless camps are just a more short term variety of this kind of response. It should be unsurprising that the number of refugees is increasing simultaneously as is the number of homeless and prisoners. There are now more blacks in prison than there were blacks in slavery before the Civil War. There are also more mentally ill people in prison than has been the case since before the Civil War. People tend to be less bothered by refugees, the homelessness, and other undesirables when they aren’t seen.

    We always could deal with the fundamental problems that are causing these other problems. But it’s easier to hide them. It’s like the strip mining that looks like a warzone and yet is never seen from the road, the truth obscured behind a a stand of trees and the people who used to live there simply made to go away. Our world is full of invisible problems of invisible people. Invisible that is until they disrupt the social order.

  8. I was just now reminded of another post where I covered similar territory:


    Also, as always, context matters. There is a vast difference between freely chosen immigration of those seeking opportunities of betterment and enforced immigration because of refugee crises caused by civil conflict, international war, terrorism, genocide, climate change-caused droughts, etc. We are living at a time of vast global instability. That doesn’t lead to good results for anyone. But let’s keep in mind that this vast global instability was largely caused and supported by the Western elites now discussing whether diversity and immigration are beneficial (e.g., Why are there refugees at the US southern border?).

    Those in power like to complain about dangerous brown-skinned others, even as their power is dependent on the neoliberal exploitation of cheap labor that impoverishes and makes desperate those people, turning them into immigrants and refugees. That neoliberalism backed by the neocon war machine has harmed and destroyed so many societies, bleeding them dry of their natural resources and externalizing the costs of Western industry. These foreigners are on the frontlines of climate change with the harsh reality of environmental destruction, ecosystem collapse, drought, food shortages, social instability, political weakening, economic problems, and the ensuing refugee crises.

    Many of the Middle Eastern refugees right now are escaping droughts in particular that have made farming impossible in what was once the bread basket of the world. What are all these poor, unemployed farmers to do when they can’t even grow food to feed themselves, much less to make a living? And if these countries can no longer feed their own people and their economies are in free fall, what exactly are they supposed to do? These people are struggling for survival, in dealing with problems largely caused by others. Meanwhile, the Western elites are debating whether climate change is real and debating whether diversity is good. These elites are either entirely disconnected from reality or they are sociopaths, authoritarians, and social dominance orientation types — surely, a combination of all of these, going by what they say and do.

    Here is an idea. Maybe stop destroying people’s lives in other countries and then we can discuss the problems caused by past and ongoing failures of political vision and moral accountability. Just a suggestion.

    I made a rule about this a while back:

    “We can only deny immigration to citizens of countries where the US government and military has never meddled in their society. We will demand any immigrants to go away and leave us alone, if and only if we have done the same to them.”

  9. Here is another example to help you feel more depressed:
    Wealth has increased in the world at the very time it has become more concentrated. A powerful argument can be made that the poor are worse off than they were in the past. Certainly, in the US, economic inequality has increased and economic mobility has decreased, while the middle class has shrunk and the underclass grown.

    Future generations might look at our time similar to how we see the Roman Empire. Wealth creation probably slowed down with the fall of the Roman Empire and there were many negative consequences. Yet examination of skeletons in the post-Roman era shows that the average person was healthier than before. One might note a particular detail of how the Roman Empire fell. The final sacking of Rome didn’t come from invading barbarians. Instead, it was Rome’s own mercenaries living in the empire that turned against the ruling elite. And when the Roman Empire fell, the entire imperial social order and trade networks was destroyed or fell into ruin, across vast territories.

    As I argue, our present global economy is the result of centuries of Western colonial imperialism and a century or so of Western neoliberal neo-imperialism. It’s true that most Westerners haven’t benefited from this as much as have the plutocrats. Yet is also true that most Westerners have benefited from this far more than the rest of the world that has had to bear most of the costs. If someone beat you up and stole your money, would you demand that they pay you back or otherwise compensate you? Of course. Well, that is how many non-Westerners feel toward the West. The vast wealth that funds Western society (infrastructure, schools, etc) didn’t just come from public taxes and because we are a superior society. Much of that wealth, whether as resources or cheap labor, were unfairly and unjustly taken from others.

    There is no way to avoid this harsh reality. We Westerners can’t simply isolate ourselves and pretend it never happened. As an American, I have disproportionate moral responsibility. But it’s clear that this moral responsibility isn’t limited to Americans. I don’t know how we deal with the vast harm and wrongdoing that is on the level of crimes against humanity and have been continuous for centuries. Certainly, doing nothing is not an option. If we don’t willingly take responsibility, others might force it on us in a much worse way. It’s not too late for us Westerners to do the right thing. But I fear the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

    Let me be clear. It’s not that I think immigration will solve these problems. Still, what we must first do is acknowledge these problems and understand how they relate to immigration issues and refugee crises. The most dangerous ‘diversity’ that we face is that of vast and growing vaster inequality, both nationally and globally. If we hope to survive, we can’t continue to tolerate the poverty and ghettoization, exploitation and militarization that has fully taken hold under neoliberal neo-imperialism.

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