Does immigration threaten local culture?
Amit Ghate addresses in Forbes magazine the oft-heard argument that foreign immigrants will threaten or even overwhelm our culture—or American culture—or European culture—that the combined forces of demographics mean open, or even increased, immigration should be abandoned everywhere.
This argument has a fundamental flaw however:
Consider, to begin, the definition of culture, viz.: “the ideas, customs, skills, arts, etc. of a people or group, that are transferred, communicated, or passed along, as in or to succeeding generations.” Observe that our culture rests on the ideas that we adopt, as these determine the other values, skills and customs we uphold.
Yet not a single one of us inherits our ideas…
That simple point explodes the whole case.
But what about the empirical evidence? Well, which country more than any other was built on immigration other than America herself:
It’s no accident that—while she retained her intellectual self-confidence—America was the land of the immigrant. And what dividends that policy paid! Economically America prospered due to the increase in producers and the inherent benefits of specialization and trade. Intellectually she blossomed thanks to the abundance of new ideas and views which could be carefully weighed and winnowed.
Yet culturally she was never threatened. America was understood to be, and lauded for being, the land of freedom and opportunity, both by those already here, and those arriving. As a result, 19th century America was perhaps the most intellectually active and economically dynamic culture the world has ever seen.
Yes, immigration in a culture of intellectual self-confidence works.
But guess what: “When a nation is no longer willing or capable of defending its culture as morally desirable,” “it works the other way too.”
[Hat tip Thrutch]