2004 January 15 Thursday
Jonah Goldberg Prefers Immigrants Over Young Whites As American Voters

The National Review Online blog The Corner has a raging debate about immgration in response to Bush's terrible immigration proposal ("Oh come on", I hear you all saying, "stop holding back on what you think of that lazy irresponsible guy currently occupying the Oval Office") with most NR writers opposing it. However, Jonah Goldberg is firmly in the ranks of those who like large scale immigration and for all sorts of interesting reasons. Among the reasons is that Jonah has a higher opinion of the political preferences of recently naturalized citizens than of white 18-22 year olds.

Indeed, I would be more comfortable having newly naturlized immigrants decide the future of this country at the ballot box than leaving it up to, say, typical white 18-22 year-olds. I know that the immigrants can pass a civics test. I have no such confidence in the kids at my local malls.

His statement comes very close to being character assassination against the whole block of people who are American white 18 to 22 year olds. This is curious because people who want a large reduction in immigration are often accused of racism in some quarters and this sort of character assassination is a lot easier than debating the facts. But being a very empirical guy I'm interested in facts. What I find interesting about the accusations of racism is that at their base there appears to be a desire to delegitimize the view that existing citizens should be able to put their own interests ahead of those who are not citizens. If we look at the effects of at least some kinds of immigration (especially of the lesser skilled and lesser educated) it is clear that these kinds of immigration are harmful to the interests of the majority. This is hardly a fringe viewpoint (except perhaps in Washington DC). In poll after poll clear majorities of Americans state opinions about immigration that makes it clear they see their interests are harmed by the current level and types of immigrants the US is receiving.

Jonah writes for a supposedly conservative publication. Therefore one expects him to be in favor of conservative ideas like a smaller government that provides less in the way of services and opposition to affirmative action. But our Hispanic immigrants favor very unconservative policies.

They were twice as likely to call themselves Democrats as Republicans, viewed the Democratic Party more favorably than the Republican Party and, by a margin of 49 percent to 21 percent, said the Democratic Party was more likely to care about the needs of Hispanics.

A majority said they supported a bigger government providing more services, backed affirmative action and questioned whether the war in Iraq was worth the cost.

I have doubts about the efficacy of any sort civic test that the US government would require newly naturalized citizens to pass. It seems to me that the US is sustained by beliefs in common values and that these beliefs are hard to test for in people who have an incentive to give you the answer you want to hear. One can know the rules or facts and still not embrace those values. But out of curiosity I went looking for information on the citizenship test and found a long list of typical questions that prospective citizens get asked. Here are some sample US citizenship test questions.

1. What are the colors of the flag?

2. How many stars are there in our flag?

3. What color are the stars on our flag?

4. What do the stars on the flag mean?

5. How many stripes are there in the flag?

6. What color are the stripes?

7. What do the stripes on the flag mean?

8. How many states are there in the union (United States)?

9. What is the 4th of July?

10. What is the date of Independence Day?

These questions are suitable for a low level trivial pursuit game for an 8th grade American civics class. But they are hardly a good measure of a prospective citizen's sentiments, beliefs, and values. Some of the later questions on the list are a little more difficult but not by much and are not much better as a measure of support for American values and institutions.

Then there is the not-so-small problem about our immigrants that Jonah ignores when he states such a dim view of white 18 to 22 year olds: the young white kids are a whole lot better educated than the average immigrant. Mexico is the biggest source of immigrants to this country. While the average level of education in Mexico is only the fifth grade we are getting moderately better educated Mexican immigrants because those Mexican who come to the US have an average 8th grade education! Does Jonah want these people as voters?

See more here:

Overall, recent immigrants from Mexico and Central America face greater socioeconomic challenges than their counterparts from other major sending regions, such as Southeast and East Asia. Nearly one-third live below the poverty line, compared to only 16 percent of Southeast Asians and 21 percent of East Asians. More than 70 percent have less than a high school diploma (Southeast Asians: 26%, East Asians: 14%). And nearly 80 percent live in crowded housing conditions (Southeast Asians: 57%, East Asians: 36%).

Total Open Borders would amount to an abolition of America as a nation. High levels of sustained immigration will accomplish the same outcome, albeit more slowly.

Update: An article entitled The Recipient Class summarizes one demographic problem of mass unskilled immigration: its cost will rise very dramatically in the future. Scary article.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2004 January 15 03:18 PM  Immigration Elites Versus Masses

Wes Ulm said at January 15, 2004 5:37 PM:

I have mixed feelings on the immigration issue myself, but as for Jonah Goldberg, he suffers from classic neo-con syndrome-- a false and wholly unjustified sense of intellectual superiority over the "rabble" and a contempt for their well-being and ideas. The neocons are the types who are perfectly willing to sacrifice the blood of individuals in pursuit of murky, questionable strategic gains-- they're the ones who've provided the main impetus for the Iraq invasion-- just so long as it's somebody else's blood being shed. (The classic neo-con stance is support for commencing wars in every other volatile country on the map while promoting massive immigration at home.) I don't disagree with the neocons on every issue; IMHO they'll often have subtle insights that you won't hear in other corners. But I can't bear their disdainful attitude to those who refuse to countenance their views, and I frankly detest their continuing infatuation with a sort of neo-imperialism exercised by the US. They're long overdue for a major intellectual revamp in their journals and late-night latte sessions-- they'll send the country over a cliff with some of the things they advocate.

Mastering the Chinese and Japanese script-- a guide for the perplexed

Punctured myths and surprising facts about the Spanish Armada-- immediate results, long-term effects, and lesser-known aftermath

Farm animals and the Certified Humane label-- subsidizing Humane Treatment in the grocery store aisle

Randall Parker said at January 15, 2004 5:56 PM:

Wes, I quite agree with you on all points.

Curiously, the Bush proposal is causing a split between regular conservatives and neoconservatives at the National Review. I didn't think there were many regular conservatives still left at the National Review. But apparently there are.

Bob Badour said at January 15, 2004 7:54 PM:

If Jonah has a bone to pick with the average 18 year old American's civic mindedness, I hope he refrains from suggesting we put them in uniform and send them overseas to spread civic mindedness.

M. said at January 16, 2004 6:00 AM:

Since neo-cons approach issues from a basically leftist perspective,it's no surprise they also share the lefts intellectual arrogance and contempt for the views of others.
I'm seriously considering not punching the ticket for Pres or even,depending on the nominee,voting Dem for Pres.
Better gridlock than this idiocy.
Bush has lost me,it's up to the Republican party if they lose me as well.

BTW,those despicble white 18-22yr olds have,by a rather large majority,been the ones the fighting and dieing for the neo-con vision of "National Greatness".

A Berman said at January 16, 2004 10:05 AM:

Gee Whillikers, can I ask some thought questions?

Since when did George Bush and Karl Rove become neo-conservatives?

Since when did Jonah Goldberg become the Neo-Conservative Rebbe?

Has anyone heard any neo-conservatives with an intellectual standing higher than Jonah Goldberg say anything about it? I went and checked the Weekly Standard and Fred Barnes thinks it's a bad idea. What does William Kristol, Joshua Muravichek, John or Norman Podhoretz, think of this? Has anyone heard Richard Perle or Doug Feith say anything?

Randall, you reacted to the National Review's position by saying that perhaps the National Review is not as neo-conservative as you thought. Maybe it *is* as neo-conservative as you thought, but rather, neo-conservatives aren't as bad as you think.

Randall Parker said at January 16, 2004 10:52 AM:

Andy, It depends on how you define neoconservatives and neoconservatism. The actual term "neoconservative" is rejected as a category by some seeming neoconservatives. Though it is important to note that Irving Kristol embraces the term neoconservative. Also in that post I argue that Kristol is an ideologue. I would argue that ideological thinking characterizes the neoconservative movement. The ideologues have their ideal models of the world and are resistant to empirical evidence that contradicts them.

Perle and Feith: I think they restrict their writings to foreign policy for the most part. I don't know.

Neoconservative John Podhoretz is predictably a supporter of Bush's immigration amnesty and work permit plan. Writing in the Weekly Standard Cesar Conda and Stuart Anderson defend Bush's immigration plan. Conda and Anderson have too many errors in their article to take it seriously. Though maybe I'll write a post that explains a few of the things they got wrong. My impression of William Kristol is that, yes, he's a big fan of large scale immigration.

Is neoconservatism as bad as I think? I was in an email argument recently with a neoconservative lobbyist who works in Washington DC (absolutely huge supporter of Reagan and Bush II btw). He tried to argue that Jefferson's "all men are created equal" phrasing meant that we ought to believe that all are equal in ability. That is an ideological belief. No, Jefferson did not believe that. No, the Enlightenment thinkers in general did not believe that. No, the empirical evidence does not support that. This irrational defense of equality of ability (a very leftist New Soviet Man notion) leads to the defense of the myth that all immigrants are wonderful and capable of being net contributors to making a great immigrant nation.

The leftist myth of a socialist utopia has been replaced in the neocon mind by a myth of a capitalistic utopia where all have equal prospects of success and where all that is needed is a teachable belief that one should want to work hard and that this, in turn, will guarantee success. Reagan's shining city on the hill has become their fantasy goal while they ignore the accumulating contradictory evidence around them. Their mythical belief reminds me very much of Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegone where all children are above average.

Wes Ulm said at January 19, 2004 8:55 AM:

I agree, what bothers me so much about the neocons is not their ideology itself, but their nowadays propensity to ignore or dismiss empirical evidence that contradicts their assertions. 5 years ago, I used to respect the neocons because I felt that, at the very least, they were open to evidence, nuance, and subtlety when formulating their opinions-- which are important since they constitute so much of the intellectual core for the Republican Party. All that material in the Weekly Standard and National Review is required reading for the policy wonks in the Beltway-- it's the discussion fodder that they cite in their weekly powwows-- and in the past, my sense was that the neocons thought things through even if I dissented from their particular conclusions. Now that they have the ear of the Washington leadership, though, they seem to have become more strident, stentorian, and inflexible in their views-- in part because they now have *vested interests* in policy decisions from which they can't easily extricate themselves. I'm suspicious of any political movement that becomes too wedded to ideology, simply b/c it becomes detached from the real world over time. The real world is far too complex for any single system of thought, especially one basic enough to become a political theme, yet humans have far too ready a penchant to attempt to shoehorn unpleasant or inconvenient facts into a belief system even when it's proven false. I'm equally suspicious about Communism, fascism, or utopian ideologies in general; I'm skeptical about any religious sect that claims an exclusive truth and rejects all other faiths (and rationalism) as false roads to knowledge. I worry that the neocons have fallen into this trap.

The kicker for me was Iraq. From the outset back in March, there were ominous signs that there weren't gonna be flowers for us in the street, there weren't gonna be gleeful little kids swarming to high-five our soldiers or young Middle Eastern maidens kissing our troops after being liberated from their yoke. (If anything, the situation for women in Iraq is now far worse after Saddam than before-- as a secularist, Saddam refused to impose a restrictive Shari'a law, and now such a system appears in the works for Iraq based on current proposals for laws.) There was every sign that an attack on Iraq would engender a messy, ugly guerrilla war and divert scarce and precious resources from the ongoing and crucial fight against al-Qaeda. Yet this evidence was largely dismissed out of hand or relegated to the true-but-trivial bin. This was the case even after the guerrilla war began to intensify in July of 2003. Ironically, Jeffrey Record from the Army War College has himself recapitulated and reinforced many of the concerns raised against the neocons' Iraq doctrine with his recent article in January, one very critical of the Bush Administration policy in Iraq.

It's frustrating because such warnings have been out there for so long, yet the neocons appear to be slipping into the trap of an alluring-but-false ideology, and they're misdirecting policy as a consequence. The whole situation with Bush's amnesty of illegal immigrants has a similar air. I'm not quite decided on the issue because it's full of complexities; I'm appalled at the abuses of poor Mexican workers by companies that leave them undocumented and agree this needs a remedy, yet concerned about the effects of a large influx (enabled by chain migration policies) which this amnesty would allow. In particular, I'm worried that this policy might screw California, Arizona, and New Mexico, which are already reeling economically from the costs of supporting such large inflows *especially since they're not receiving adequate financial support from the feds*. As a person in the medical field I've worked hard to learn Spanish and I encourage fellow clinicians to do the same (these days, for that matter, it's probably a good idea to raise kids bilingually-- it's almost impossible to get a job in a large cohort of fields in the US without a solid working knowledge of Spanish). There are things which can be done on a general basis to help attend to the needs of large cohorts of immigrants especially in the Southwestern region (and adjust to a cultural shift that, for better or worse, has become a fait accompli in the United States). Still, I'm attentive to the pleas from border states in the Southwest that their economies, especially in the current state of economic underperformance, just can't sustain the social services for such a large influx without greater assistance from the government making that policy. Instead of tackling such multilayered, many-hued issues, the neocons seem to prefer to almost contemptuously dismiss whatever square pegs don't fit into their neatly tailored ideological round holes. It's mystifying. One of the worst among the neocon lot on this front is Morton Kondracke. He was reflexively Francophobic and in favor of the Iraq war to such an extent that he’d trash opposing arguments in a puerile manner. He’s also reflexively in favor of the illegal immigrant amnesty without considering the many other legal and policy tweakings that probably ought to ensue to make the amnesty’s effects tolerable for the border states that would shoulder much of the burden. It’s this fluid proclivity to don ideological blinders that most irritates me about the neocon movement these days, far more than their views themselves.

Mastering the Chinese and Japanese script-- a guide for the perplexed

Punctured myths and surprising facts about the Spanish Armada-- immediate results, long-term effects, and lesser-known aftermath

Farm animals and the Certified Humane label-- subsidizing Humane Treatment in the grocery store aisle

Randall Parker said at January 19, 2004 10:35 AM:

Wes, as another argument against low skilled immigration see this article The Recipient Class. It is frightening. Demography is destiny.

Keep in mind that the demographic trend described in that article comes on top of the other huge demographic trend of an aging population. We can not afford to pay for both a population that does poorly in our economy and a growing population of oldsters.

Iraq: I fault the Bushies less for overestimating the WMD threat than I do for underestimating the problems with governing and transforming Iraq. Intelligence collection on a fairly closed society is very hard to do. Dick Cheney's own analysis on Iraq in 2003 was no doubt influenced by the discoveries of a more advanced WMD program in Iraq in the aftermath of Gulf War I. Cheney was Defense Secretary during Gulf War I and therefore knew what the US knew about Iraq before the war and what was discovered afterward.

But where I do fault the Bushies is in their handling of the aftermath and the insurgency. They were clearly unprepared to govern once they won and underestimated the difficulty in doing so. I think they have underestimated both the problems due to tribalism and the problems due to Islam. Their blindness is due to ideology. They do not understand how intractable Iraq and Arab societies are to the kinds of transformations they want to engineer. Though the neocons are not the only ones with ideological blinders about religions and tribalism. I think the problems in Iraq are so intractable that I question whether Iraq should even be maintained as a single country.

Michael said at January 20, 2004 8:39 AM:


"I'm equally suspicious about Communism, fascism, or utopian ideologies in general"

Sorry,but the Neo-cons ARE utopian ideologues and always have been,whether the issue is multi-culturalism or immigration or the war.Some bloggers have been insisting that we are following a cunnimg strategey of taking our enemies one by one,so they don't combine against us.The sad truth is our occupations of Afgahnistan and Iraq have stretched our resourses to,and perhaps beyond,the breaking point.If the Shia's turn on us I doubt we can hold it without taking extreme measures.As this reality does not conform to the neo-con theory,reality is dismissed as invalid.

"a person in the medical field I've worked hard to learn Spanish and I encourage fellow clinicians to do the same (these days, for that matter, it's probably a good idea to raise kids bilingually"

How many languages can you learn?
There are cities in the US where at least that many languages are spoken and people are discouraged from learning english.

"In particular, I'm worried that this policy might screw California, Arizona, and New Mexico, which are already reeling economically from the costs of supporting such large inflows *especially since they're not receiving adequate financial support from the feds*."

It's not simply a matter of federal funding to border states,the problems and costs are going to be national.If things don't change,if Bush get's his way,our future is California,a balkinized population of minimum wage workers fighting over the corpse of a bankrupt welfare state.

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