Tag Archives: xenophobia

by

Jews As the Enemies of the Enemies of Liberty – Article by Steven Horwitz

No comments yet

Categories: Culture, Economics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatSteven Horwitz
******************************

Anti-Semitism, it’s often said, is the oldest prejudice. The hatred of Jews has waxed and waned over the centuries, but appears to be back with something of a vengeance over the last few years, and especially the last few months.

For example, on Monday, February 27, over two dozen Jewish institutions across the country received bomb threats by anonymous phone calls. These included Jewish Community Centers, synagogues, retirement homes, day care centers, and Jewish educational institutions. These threats are part of a pattern of such threats, including multiple cemetery desecrations, that has been ongoing over the last few months. There have been 100 such threats to Jewish institutions just since the beginning of 2017.

Every time such a threat is called in, these institutions have to clear the building to determine if it is just a hoax. This means rounding up children, infants, the elderly, the infirm, and the developmentally disabled, getting them out of the building and, often, out in the cold, for the hour or two it takes to confirm all is clear. Although, thankfully, these have all turned out to be hoaxes, they still are taking a real toll on the Jewish community and the non-Jews who make use of these institutions. They are, I would argue, a form of terrorism.

The Why of Anti-Semitism

There has been much debate over why these threats have increased in recent months, and it seems plausible that the increased brazenness of the “politically incorrect,” including the rise of the alt-right, in the wake of the Trump campaign is probably one key factor. But anti-Semitism is not solely a problem on the Right. The political Left has had its own history of hatred for Jews, manifested in the present by the increased anti-Semitism of the radical Left in the context of criticism of Israel, especially through the Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The sources of anti-Semitism on both Right and Left are complicated, but one element on both sides is that Jews have historically been associated with important liberal ideas such as capitalism, entrepreneurship, cosmopolitanism, and free migration. These institutions have enabled massive social, cultural, and economic change, empowering the previously powerless all over the world, and threatening the old order.

The enemies of liberalism have problems with all of these, though the Right and Left differ on which bothers them the most. But for both, Jews can be easily seen as the enemies of those who find deep flaws with the classical liberal social order. When Jews are being threatened, it is usually a good sign that the foundations of liberalism are as well.

Jewish Anti-Capitalism

One point to note up front is that Jews themselves have a history of opposition to classical liberalism. Jewish intellectuals have had a long-standing attraction to socialism, starting of course with Marx himself. In particular, a number of the architects of the Russian Revolution were Jews or of Jewish heritage.

I raise this because I am not arguing that Jews were somehow reliably classically liberal over the last few centuries. And the fact that a good number of Jews were socialist, or that a good number of socialists were Jews, certainly doesn’t justify anti-Semitism by critics of socialism.

I do think that part of the attraction of socialism to Jews was its universalist aspiration in the form of the trans-national cosmopolitan vision of classical socialism along with its desire to “heal the world” and its strong ethic of concern for the least well-off. Those aspirations were shared by 19th-century classical liberals and were also part of Jewish practice. This universalism made Jews the target of the critics of classical liberalism from the Right, as well as the right-wing critics of socialism.

Jewish Pro-Capitalism

The association of Jews with capitalism, trade, and entrepreneurship is well known. The negative stereotypes of acquisitiveness, materialism, and selfishness that have long been part of anti-Semitism grew out of the truth that Jews were more likely to be traders and financiers than were other groups. Part of this was that as a nomadic people, Jews invested in their human capital rather than the physical capital they would have had to schlep around while getting kicked out of country after country.

(This might also explain why Jews have also been disproportionately entertainers and intellectuals. The skills for telling jokes, writing stories, making music, or working in the realm of ideas are ones that don’t require much in the way of physical capital in order to be successful.)

Jews were also often middlemen as a result of their nomadic existence and familiarity with so many parts of the world. Middlemen have always been suspect to the economically ignorant as far back as Aristotle, as they appear to profit by creating nothing tangible. This is particularly true when the middlemen are in financial markets, where they are not even trading something physical.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that hatred of capitalism has been accompanied by hatred of the Jews

Right-wing anti-Semitism, however, often draws upon these capitalist tropes as part of its hatred. But in this context, Jews are not so much seen as representative of capitalist exploitation that can be ended by socialism, but rather as an example of people who place love of money and their universalist aspirations above the love of their country and its citizens.

German anti-Semitism in the 20th century had roots in the argument that Jews had been “war profiteers” in World War I and had benefitted from the economic destruction that characterized the Weimar Republic period leading up to Hitler’s ascension to power. The Nazis, and other fascist movements, saw the Jews as the sort of rootless cosmopolitans who were unable to grasp the importance of blood and soil.

The modern version of this point, and one that is also found on the Left, is the “dual loyalty” charge laid upon pro-Israel Jews: they are beholden to Israel in ways that cause them to work against the interests of the United States.

The Why of Nationalism

One way to see the “national socialism” of various fascist movements is that they objected not to socialism per se, but to socialism’s attempt to put class ahead of race or ethnicity or nationality. To the fascists, German or Italian workers shared much more with German or Italian capitalists than they did with Russian or American workers. Marxian socialism drew the wrong battle lines.

And so it is today, as “economic nationalism” is on the rise globally and Jews have again become the most obvious target for an invigorated Right. Jews have always been the symbol of the cosmopolitan, the migrant, and the “rootless” trader. If you reject market-driven globalization, whether because you dislike markets or because you are a nationalist, you are going to have reasons to see Jews as symbols of what you reject. That opposition to immigration and global trade, and the market system that is at the root of both, would go hand-in-hand with anti-Semitism is hardly surprising.

The economic nationalism of Trump and a variety of European leaders is not inherently anti-Semitic, nor does it require that the leaders of such movements be anti-Semites, but the arguments of economic nationalism can easily empower the anti-Semitism of both the Right and Left. The leaders build in plausible deniability, knowing full well the nature of the forces they are unleashing but in ways that avoid direct responsibility.

How could they not know? We have centuries of experience to draw on, back to the ancient world through the Middle Ages all the way to the ghastly slaughter of the 20th century during which anti-Semitism nearly destroyed the whole of Europe itself. The costs have been unspeakable, and hence the vow to never forget. And yet, despite this history, the tendency to forget remains. To remember would require that we think more clearly about ideology and philosophy, human rights and dignity. Many people do not want to do that. It remains easier to scapegoat than to remember.

Admittedly, we liberals have a special grudge against anti-Semitism. It broke up the greatest intellectual society of the 20th century, shattering Viennese intellectual life, flinging even Ludwig von Mises out of his home and into the abyss. His books were banned, and those of many others too. He and so many fled for their lives but bravely rebuilt them in the new world that offered protection.

A Warning Sign

It has been said that Jews are the canaries in the coal mine of a liberal society: when they are under threat, it is a warning sign. The ongoing and increasing threats to Jewish communities here in the US, as well as similar trends across Europe, should have all of us worried. A world where Jews sing out in joy together and are unafraid to fly free is one far more safe from tyranny than one in which we Jews worry about dying in our own cages, as many of us are doing as the threats to our institutions have become more frequent and more brazen in recent months.

Watch how a society treats Jews and you’ll have an indicator of its degree of openness and respect for liberty. When Jews are being threatened, so are the deepest of our liberal values. The poisonous air from coal mining that killed canaries was invisible. The threats to Jews and to liberalism are not. Citizens of liberal societies dismiss or downplay those threats at our own peril.

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions. He is spending the 2016-17 academic year as a Visiting Scholar at the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise at Ball State University.

He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

by

Donald Trump and Obi-Wan’s Gambit – Article by Daniel Bier

No comments yet

Categories: Culture, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance HatDaniel Bier

You Cannot Win By Losing

In Star Wars: A New Hope, the last Jedi Knight, Obi-Wan Kenobi, is confronted by his former pupil, Darth Vader, as he races to escape the Death Star. The two draw their lightsabers and pace warily around each other. After deflecting some heavy blows from Vader, Obi-Wan’s lightsaber flickers, and he appears tired and strained.

Vader gloats, “Your powers are weak, old man.”

The hard-put Obi-Wan replies, “You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

Obi-Wan backs away from Vader but finds his escape cut off by storm troopers. He is trapped. He gives a mysterious smile, raises his lightsaber, and allows Vader to cut him in half.

This is Obi-Wan’s gambit, or the “win by losing” strategy. Lately, it has emerged as a distinct genre of commentary about Donald Trump.

Take, for example, “The Article About Trump That Nobody Will Publish,” which promotes itself as having been rejected by 45 publications. That’s a credit to America’s editors, because the article is an industrial strength brew of wishful thinking, a flavor that is already becoming standard fare as a Trump presidency looms.

The authors give a boilerplate denunciation of Trump (he’s monstrous, authoritarian, unqualified, etc.), but then propose:

What would happen should Trump get elected? On the Right, President Trump would force the GOP to completely reorganize — and fast. It would compel them to abandon their devastating pitch to the extreme right. …

On the Left, the existence of the greatest impossible dread imaginable, of President Trump, would rouse sleepy mainline liberals from their dogmatic slumber. It would force them to turn sharply away from the excesses of its screeching, reality-denying, uncompromising and authoritarian fringe that provided much of Trump’s thrust in the first place.

Our daring contrarians predict, Trump “may actually represent an unpalatable but real chance at destroying these two political cancers of our time and thus remedying our insanity-inflicted democracy.”

You can’t win, Donald! Strike me down and I shall be… forced to completely reorganize and/or roused from dogmatic slumber!

The authors assert these claims as though they were self-evident, but they’re totally baffling. Why would a Trump win force the GOP to abandon the voters and rhetoric that drove it to victory? Why would it reorganize against its successful new leader? Why would a Hillary Clinton loss empower moderate liberals over the “reality-defying fringe”? Why would the left turn away from the progressives who warned against nominating her all along?

This is pure, unadulterated wishful thinking. There is no reason to believe these rosy forecasts would materialize under President Trump. That is not how partisan politics tends to work. Parties rally to their nominee, and electoral success translates into influence, influence into power, power into friends and support.

We’ve already seen one iteration of this “win by losing” fantasy come and go among the Never Trump crowd: the idea that Trump’s mere nomination would be a good thing, because (depending on your politics) it would (1) compel Democrats to nominate Bernie Sanders, (2) propel Clinton to a landslide general election victory, or (3) destroy the GOP and (a) force it to rebuild as a small-government party, (b) split it in two, or (c) bring down the two-party system.

But, of course, none of those things happened. Clinton has clinched the nomination over Sanders (his frantic protests notwithstanding). Meanwhile, Clinton’s double digit lead over Trump has evaporated, and the race has narrowed to a virtual tie. Far from “destroying the GOP,” Trump has consolidated the support of the base and racked up the endorsements of dozens of prominent Republicans who had previously blasted him, including Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan.

The GOP is not being destroyed — it is being gradually remade in Trump’s image, perhaps into his dream of a populist “workers’ party,” heavy on the protectionism, nativism, and authoritarianism. Meanwhile, knee-jerk partisanship and fear of Clinton are reconciling the center-right to Trump.

Moderates win by defeating the fringe, not by losing to it. Yet, for some reason, conservatives, liberals, and libertarians all like to fantasize that the worst case scenario would actually fulfill their fondest wishes, driving the nation into their losing arms — as though their failure would force the party or the public do what they wanted all along. This is the bad-breakup theory of politics: Once they get a taste of Trump, they’ll realize how great we were and love us again.

But the public doesn’t love losers. (Trump gets this and has based his whole campaign around his relentless self-promotion as a winner.) Trump’s inauguration would indeed be a victory for him and for his “alt-right” personality cult, and a sign of defeat for limited-government conservatives and classical liberals — not because our ideology was on the ballot, but because all our efforts did not prevent such a ballot.

Trump embodies an ideology that is anathema to classical liberalism, and if he is successful at propelling it into power, we cannot and should not see it as anything less than a failure to persuade the public on the value of liberty, tolerance, and limited government. Nobody who is worried about extreme nationalism and strong man politics should be taken in by the idea that their rapid advance somehow secretly proves their weakness and liberalism’s strength.

This does not mean that we’re all screwed, or that a Trump administration will be the end of the world — apocalyptic thinking is just another kind of dark fantasy. As horrible as Trumpism may be, it cannot succeed without help. And here’s the good news: Most Americans aren’t really enamored with Trump’s policies. The bad news is that they could still become policy.

Classical liberals who oppose Trump should realize that things aren’t going to magically get better on their own. We cannot try to Obi-Wan our way out of this. We will have to actually make progress — in education, academia, journalism, policy, activism, and, yes, even electoral politics.

If this seems like an impossible task at the moment, just remember that the long-sweep of history and many trends in recent decades show the public moving in a more libertarian direction. It can be done, and there’s fertile ground for it. We have to make the argument for tolerance and freedom against xenophobia and authoritarianism — and we have to win it. The triumph of illiberalism will not win it for us.

Daniel Bier is the site editor of FEE.org He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

by

#IStandWithAhmed Tells Us Something about Public School – Article by B.K. Marcus

No comments yet

Categories: Culture, Education, Justice, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
B.K. Marcus
September 17, 2015
******************************
There’s zero tolerance for drawing outside the lines.

“None of the teachers know what I can do,” said Ahmed Mohamed of Irving, Texas.

Does that sound ominous — or does it sound like any gifted 14-year-old reflecting on his public school environment?

Mohamed is a tinkerer. He makes his own radios and repairs his own go-kart. He has a box of circuit boards at the foot of his bed. In middle school, he belonged to the robotics club, but it’s a new school year, and Ahmed hasn’t yet found a similar niche in high school.

So shortly before bedtime last Sunday, September 13, Ahmed wired a circuit board to a power supply and a digital display, and strapped the result inside a pencil case, hoping to show his engineering teacher what he could do.

Monday morning, his teacher admired Ahmed’s homemade clock. It was hardly his most sophisticated project, but more complex no doubt than anything Ahmed’s peers were doing on their own.

Ahmed’s engineering teacher admired the boy’s handiwork but added, “I would advise you not to show any other teachers.”

So Ahmed followed the advice and kept the clock in his bag — until another teacher complained that it was beeping during a later lesson, and Ahmed made the mistake of showing her his project after class. She told him it looked like a bomb and refused to return it.

A police officer pulled Ahmed out of his sixth-period class and, after questioning him in a schoolroom full of other cops, took him away in handcuffs.

“We have no information that he claimed it was a bomb,” said police spokesman James McLellan. “He kept maintaining it was a clock, but there was no broader explanation.”

Why should this kid have to explain a clock?

“It could reasonably be mistaken as a device if left in a bathroom or under a car,” according to McLellan. “The concern was, what was this thing built for?”

Because Ahmed is Muslim, and because Irving mayor Beth Van Duyne made national news over the summer making what have been generally interpreted as anti-Islamic statements, the Council on American-Islamic Relations has taken note. “This all raises a red flag for us: how Irving’s government entities are operating in the current climate,” said Alia Salem of the council’s North Texas chapter.

McLellan insists that “the reaction would have been the same regardless” of the student’s skin color, but the council is skeptical. Had a blonde Baptist boy brought a homemade clock to school, we would never have heard anything about it.

But is Ahmed’s treatment only a story about anti-Islamic hysteria?

“The concern was,” according to the police, “what was this thing built for?”

It was built to tell the time. It was built to impress an engineering teacher. It was built to help a talented boy find a place at his new school where he could fit in.

But it wasn’t assigned. It wasn’t sanctioned. Like Ahmed himself, the jerry-rigged timepiece doesn’t fit the expectations of the local powers that be.

The engineering teacher understood — and he warned Ahmed that no one else would. That tells us everything we need to know about the people responsible for Ahmed’s education.

B.K. Marcus is managing editor of the Freeman. His website is bkmarcus.com.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

by

Immigration to the United States from 1870 to 1920 (2004) – Essay by G. Stolyarov II

1 comment

Categories: Culture, History, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
July 21, 2014
******************************
Note from the Author: This essay was originally written in 2004 and published in six parts on Associated Content (subsequently, Yahoo! Voices) in 2007.  The essay earned over 109,000 page views on Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices, and I seek to preserve it as a valuable resource for readers, subsequent to the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices. Therefore, this essay is being published directly on The Rational Argumentator for the first time.  ***
***
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 21, 2014
***

An Overview of Immigration to the United States from 1870 to 1920

***

From 1870 to 1920, immigrants came to America from all over the world and made irreplaceable contributions. Though frequently discriminated against, most immigrants fought through the difficult times and moved forward to build a better life for themselves. It was not an easy task, but immigrants had a drive to start anew and were determined to live the American Dream and complete the work that dream required.
***

Emma Lazarus’s poem, “The New Colossus,” describes with remarkable accuracy some of the actual motives that immigrants had during the time that this poem was written to inaugurate the Statue of Liberty. Such a diverse influx of people had never occurred in US history prior to this time period. Immigrants arrived not only from northern and western European nations, such as Germany, France, and Ireland, but also from Italy, Eastern Europe, Canada, and the Far East. Their motives for seeking a new home were as varied as the places from which they had come.

Numerous immigrants were indeed “struggling to breathe free” as they faced religious and political persecution in their homelands. Jews in Russia were, for example, met with severe government-sanctioned anti-Semitism. The czar’s henchmen would often stage pogroms which destroyed what little property and security Russian Jews were allowed to have. In addition, the draft in Russia was merciless and would often take 25 years of a man’s life away to fight in fruitless wars with outdated weapons and brutal discipline. To many Jews and people in similar situations, America symbolized a place where their freedom of religion and occupation could be exercised to a greater extent than anywhere else in the world.

A large portion of immigrants originated from the rural areas of their home countries, and were especially hard-hit by agricultural troubles. Events all over the world much like potato blight in Ireland that triggered an earlier Irish mass migration led people to move away from densely populated and famine-wrecked countries to a more spacious and plentiful America. Many small farmers and craftsmen were unable to find jobs in their homelands, since their original occupations had been rendered obsolete by large-scale mechanized production while the skilled labor market was already too full for them in Europe.

In general, either the difficulties at home or the prospects in the U.S. were so immense as to compel immigrants to leave many belongings behind and expose themselves to an entirely different language and culture in the U.S. A large number did not intend for the change to be permanent; about three-tenths merely came to earn a large enough amount of money to return home in greater financial security. Yet, whatever their intent, the immigrants profoundly shaped America’s history, economy, and culture.

The Journey to America and Immigrant Processing Upon Arrival

***

Many immigrants experienced journeys to the United States that were similar in numerous aspects. Conditions during the voyage and upon arrival had improved from prior eras, but were still uncomfortable and lacking in many respects.

The development of passenger vessels made the journey easier, cheaper, and faster for many immigrants. By the 1870s, steam powered ships replaced sailing ships. They were bigger, faster and safer. Immigrants in the early 1800s had to endure voyages averaging 40 days, depending on weather; by the 1900’s, the average voyage was only one week long.

In order to account for and regulate immigration, the US government established immigrant processing centers on both the East and West Coasts. 70% of the European immigrants beginning in 1855 would be dropped off at Castle Garden on Manhattan Island and pass a series of examinations. In 1892, a new immigrant center at Ellis Island was built to replace Castle Garden. On the West Coast, immigrants, mostly Chinese or Japanese, arrived through Seattle or Angel Island in San Francisco.

The increased convenience of immigration did not, however, imply a level of comfort for the immigrants anywhere near modern standards. Poor sanitation and food, as well as diseases such as cholera and typhus, were still common on the trans-Atlantic liners.

Immigrants who could only afford the minimal third-class fees of about $30 were referred to as “steerage passengers.” The name came from the part of the ship, the steerage, where they were kept and which provided the cheapest possible accommodations. It was crowded below deck, and steerage passengers were seldom allowed to go up for fresh air. The trans-Atlantic shipping companies had not yet learned to provide efficient basic services, such as food, and often fed passengers nothing but soup or stew, and sometimes bread, biscuits, or potatoes.

Many immigrants had to wash themselves with salt water while drinking stagnant water that was stored in dirty casks. At the root of these problems was a mindset on the part of many of the companies that considered the immigrants “human cargo.” These same companies would often ship American-made goods to Europe on the return trip, and could not yet see the essential distinction between transporting products and people. They would learn with time.

Even after the tough voyage, immigrants were not guaranteed entry to America. About 250,000 people (2% of all immigrants) were sent back home. 1st and 2nd class passengers were inspected on the ship, but 3rd class passengers had to go to Ellis or Angel Island for screening, waiting about three to five hours in line and undergoing inspections of both a medical and legal nature.

Officials at Ellis Island also did something that is not commonly done today. When they could not pronounce an immigrant’s name, the immigration inspectors thought that this gave them the prerogative to change the name to something less difficult. Names like “Andrjuljawierjus” might be simplified to “Andrews” or something similar.

How Immigrants Lived Upon Arriving in the United States

***

From 1870 to 1920, most immigrants arriving in the United States found themselves facing current material poverty, but immense prospects for opportunity and enrichment. But how did they live in the meantime, as they endeavored to achieve the American Dream?

After arrival, immigrants spread themselves throughout the country. Most of them settled in cities, as it was easiest to find jobs there as well as locate persons of similar background or ideology to oneself and cooperate with them economically. Cities that served as the gateways to immigration also came to house many immigrants. In New York City in 1910, for example, three-fourths of the population consisted either of immigrants or children of immigrants.

For lack of abundant funds, many immigrants in large cities settled in mass tenement and apartment complexes that were affordable but often exhibited uncomfortable living conditions. Many rooms did not have windows, and were ten feet wide at most. Filth, dampness, and foul odors were common inconveniences. Yet for many immigrants, this was only a transitional stage in their lives, but still something unpleasant that left a mark on their experiences.

Many immigrants were able to persevere through initial hard times because of support and guidance from relatives. Immigrant families often served as the basic economic unit; they provided assistance to their members and pooled resources together.

The location of immigrants’ relatives would also often affect their destination. If an immigrant had an uncle or cousin in a particular neighborhood, he would be more likely to settle there himself and maintain close ties. Cooperative arrangements, such as boarding with relatives or native middle and working-class families were common transitional stages for many young immigrants.

But these useful ties did not in any way bog immigrants down in one place or one mode of life for a long time. Mobility was high: the families who inhabited a certain neighborhood were unlikely to still be there in 5 or 10 years. Though ethnic districts existed, most white immigrants lived in ethnically mixed neighborhoods, testifying to the fact that families served to spur on economic opportunity and change, rather than counteract it.

Due to productivity and prudence in saving a large portion of the money they earned, many of the new immigrants were able to quickly rise to middle-class status, and some even made vast fortunes during their lifetimes. While they endured initially unpleasant conditions, these immigrants ultimately saw such circumstances as stepping stones toward a better life than they could get anywhere else in the world.

Immigrant Contributions to American Life and Culture

***

Immigration from 1870 to 1920 brought to the United States a vast quantity of both ordinary and extraordinary people: individuals who, through their search for greater opportunity and prosperity, dramatically altered and improved American life and culture.

Samuel Gompers, an immigrant from England, was head of the American Federation of Labor beginning in 1886. He advocated moderate labor reforms but was a staunch opponent of socialism and coercive action on the part of unions. His memoirs give an account of his own life and experiences as an immigrant.

Ironically, however, Gompers himself came to oppose the mass wave of immigration, which he perceived to threaten the workers of his union. Many of the nativist arguments that advocated restricting foreign immigration had come from him and his associates, despite the obvious double standard that this implied.

On the opposite side of the immigration debate was an immigrant from Germany, political cartoonist Thomas Nast. His cartoons in the magazine Harper’s Weekly ridiculed nativist sentiments and advocated fair treatment and equal rights for new arrivals to the country.

Some of the most famous and lasting contributions to American culture have been made by brilliant immigrants like the composer Irving Berlin from Russia. Two of his most famous hits were “God Bless America” and “White Christmas.”

During the first decade of the twentieth century, Frank Capra came to America from Italy as a little boy. He would grow up to be a six-time Oscar-winning director who would produce some of the best-known films of the 1930s, including “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

It is important to keep in mind that, were it not for these individual immigrant innovators, American culture would not have attained some of its distinct elements. Rather than “invading” the American way of life, immigrants, in all spheres of activity, brought about great progress.

Though some immigrants were great creators and innovators, over half identified themselves as unskilled laborers or domestic workers upon arrival. They still had a role to play in the US economy.

Jobs were plentiful, and, especially in a society where living standards rose across the board, there were many jobs for which most natives were overqualified. Those jobs could be taken by immigrant workers, saving businesses money on wages while still giving those workers five or ten times what they would have received in their home countries.

Work in dry-cleaning stores, newsstands, grocery stores, and machine shops, attracted many new arrivals and served as a first step on their upward economic journey. So great was the need for people to operate these jobs, that many of the sparsely populated states actively worked to promote immigration by offering newcomers guaranteed jobs and land grants.

Immigrant Contributions to American Prosperity and Unjust Persecution of Immigrants by Nativists

***

Immigrants from 1870 to 1920 made possible America’s economic growth and rise to prominence as a global power. Yet these newcomers also faced unjust persecution from nativists who sought the aid of government to stifle further immigration.

During the past two centuries, small businesses comprised over three-fourths of America’s economy. Small businesses were a sector most crucial and unique to America, as, with scant initial capital, any intelligent man with a profitable idea could quickly rise to financial security.

The small-business field was, without exaggeration, dominated by immigrants. In every U.S. census from 1880 onward, immigrants accounted for a greater percentage of small business owners than natives. These businesses greatly expanded the country’s productivity and job openings, creating jobs for immigrants and natives alike.

Moreover, immigration fueled industrialization. In 1910, foreign-born persons comprised about 53% of the national industrial labor force. So not only did immigrants carry the small business field; they played an indispensable role in large industries as well. One can say with certainty that America would not have reached the status of a global economic power in those days were it not for the contributions of immigrants.

Despite these overt contributions to American prosperity, immigrants encountered a great deal of political regulation and outright opposition from nativist groups allied with the legislature.

Not all legislation discouraged immigration; earlier bills, such as the Homestead Act of 1862 helped attract newcomers by promising anyone who would develop a plot of land in the West for five years ownership of that land. Many Europeans took advantage of this opportunity.

But on the Pacific coast, Chinese immigrants did not fare so well. Bigoted sentiments and laws that began during the Gold Rush era culminated in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, wherein Chinese immigration was forbidden for ten years. This law would be renewed and rendered permanent in the twentieth century and would last until 1943. In 1890, the Federal Government assumed control of immigration, implying that it would be easier to establish nationwide controls for immigration and enforce any initiative that would restrict the inward flow of people.

A slight gain for immigrants, especially those of Asian descent, was the Supreme Court decision of United States v. Wong Kim Ark, in 1898. The Supreme Court ruled that children born in America of Asian parents must be granted citizenship. Denying this citizenship would violate the 14th Amendment clause that classified all persons born on American soil as citizens and would jeopardize the rights of native-born whites with immigrant parents.

The court realized that discriminating against some immigrants could easily be extrapolated to discrimination against large portions of the American population, and that immigrants and America were inseparably linked.

Yet the nativists who controlled the other two branches of the US government continued to push their exclusionist schemes. The Literacy Act of 1917 required arrivals to be literate in some language, therefore cutting off the flow of many of the unskilled and uneducated workers that would have otherwise taken the jobs that no one else wanted.

The death blow to immigration came in 1924, when the National Origins Act set a quota of 150,000 total immigrants per year, disproportionately distributed to England and Northern Europe, with few slots allotted to southern and Eastern Europe and none for Asians. The act ended mass immigration into the U.S. until its repeal in 1965.

Nativist Xenophobia and Persecution of Immigrants

***

Immigrants to the United States from 1870 to 1920 were not always welcomed. Many faced unjust and even violent persecution from well-connected nativist groups, who often acted out of nothing more than ignorance and prejudice.

No one expressed and condemned the irrationality of the xenophobia exhibited by the nativist groups against immigrants more vividly than Thomas Nast. His cartoon, ironically titled, “Pacific Chivalry: Encouragement to Chinese Immigration,” portrays Nast’s response to some of the most extreme forms of racism and nativism in the country at the time.

Nast_Pacific_Chivalry

You see a California native whipping and pulling the hair of a defenseless Chinese immigrant. In the inscription in the background, you can barely see written some of the things that aid the abuser in his cruelty. The inscription reads: “Courts of justice closed to Chinese; extra taxes to Yellowjack.”

What does this cartoon suggest about the means that Chinese and many other immigrants had to resist invasions of their rights and dignity? They had just about no means whatsoever. Nast recognized that many of these productive and peace-loving individuals were barred from resisting their inferior condition by small, well-organized activist groups connected with the legislature and prepared to use all means necessary, from the law to vigilante violence, to damage the immigrants. The American people were not opposed to immigration, but many powerful and well-connected elites of the time were.

Indeed, the xenophobia against immigrants sometimes reached horrific extremes. There was substantial discrimination against the Chinese in terms of wages and employment conditions in the West, but this passage by historian John Higham refers to some of the more brutal attacks on their freedoms.

“No variety of anti-European sentiment has ever approached the violent extremes to which anti-Chinese agitation went in the 1870s and 1880s. Lynching, boycotts, and mass expulsions…harassed the Chinese.” (Higham 1963)

Of course, in order to make these actions seem more tolerable in their eyes, nativists tried to justify them by conceiving of Asian immigrants as inferior beings. They could back down somewhat and grant some degree of equality to foreign whites, but this would enable them to play a powerful race card which contained some vicious stereotypes. Anti-immigrant stereotypes were spread by many labor unionists, especially Samuel Gompers, who wrote that “both the intelligence and the prosperity of our working people are endangered by the present immigration. Cheap labor… ignorant labor…takes our jobs and cuts our wages.”

There are numerous fallacies in Gompers’s claims. Immigration creates jobs rather than destroying them. Immigrants did not steal jobs, but rather took work that few natives wanted. Half of immigrants were indeed unskilled, but the other half consisted of people just as, if not more than, educated and innovative than the native population. Indeed, without immigrants, American economic prosperity would have been cut by more than half.

It seems, however, that some debates in American history linger on for centuries. The immigration debate is one of them. Currently, as immigration restrictions in the past thirty years have been laxer than previously, we are experiencing a new massive influx of foreigners into this country. The benefits that these immigrants bring are even more obvious today than ever, but the nativists are still around to attempt to impose stricter quotas and border-control measures. They are often still guided by the same fallacious arguments about immigrants stealing jobs or polluting the country’s culture.

Novelist Stephen Vincent Benet offered a powerful response to nativism, relevant both during his time and today: “Remember that when you say, ‘I will have none of this exile and this stranger for his face is not like my face and his speech is strange,’ you have denied America with that word.”

Sources:

http://web.uccs.edu/~history/fall2000websites/hist153/immigrants.htm
http://www.bedfordstmartins.com/historymodules/modules/mod20/main.htm
http://immigrants.harpweek.com/
http://nimbus.mysticseaport.org/voyages/immigration-0.html
http://www.h-net.org/~shgape/bibs/immig.html
http://memory.loc.gov/learn/educators/workshop/european/wimmlink.html
http://dewey.chs.chico.k12.ca.us/bridging.html
http://www.edc.org/CCT/NDL/1998/institute/stan/immlinks.html
http://www.kn.pacbell.com/wired/fil/pages/listimmigratli.html
http://www.bcps.org/offices/lis/models/immigration/resources.html
http://www.pbs.org/newamericans/6.0/html/amimm_pp403.html
http://www.ailf.org/pubed/pe_celeb_historical.asp
http://www.bergen.org/AAST/Projects/Immigration/
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpedu/features/timeline/riseind/immgnts/immgrnts.html
http://www.internationalchannel.com/education/ellis/process.html
http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/ndlpedu/features/immig/native_american3.html
http://mi.essortment.com/postcivilwarr_rrid.htm
http://dig.lib.niu.edu/civilwar/settlement.html
http://www.civilwarhome.com/irish.htm
http://www.marist.edu/summerscholars/97/modimm.htm
http://memory.loc.gov/learn/features/timeline/progress/immigrnt/immigrnt.html
http://memory.loc.gov/learn/features/timeline/riseind/immgnts/immgrnts.html
http://internet.ggu.edu/university_library/histimmi.html
http://www.historychannel.com/ellisisland/index2.html
http://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/fall_2000_us_canada_immigration_records_1.html

by

Election Analysis: “Show Me Your Papers!” – Article by Charles N. Steele

No comments yet

Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Charles N. Steele
November 11, 2012
Recommend this page.
******************************
In my haste to let the religious right have it, I missed something important that suggests the GOP problem is deeper than just religious nuttery: the GOP has systematically refused to address immigration issues seriously.  Worse, they’ve adopted nativist hostility to immigrants and treat immigration as purely a law enforcement issue, one in which “suspicious-looking people” need to be ready to show their papers at any point.
*
Hispanics voted almost 3 to 1 for Obama over Romney.  Anyone surprised by this wasn’t paying attention.  In a number of Republican forums this past year Hispanic politicians and party activists — all GOP members — voiced frustration that the primary campaigns were making it difficult for them to feel they had a place in the party.  Recall that the one and only intelligent thing Rick Perry said in his entire campaign was that children of illegal immigrants ought to be able to attend college at in-state tuition rates, since it was better that they be educated and productive rather than welfare cases.  It’s also the only thing for which conservatives raked him over the coals.
*

Hispanics are about one sixth of the U.S. population and account for more than 50% of population growth.  Good luck selling them on the idea that Spanish accents and not-quite-white skin are cause for further police inquiries.

In fact, illegal immigration ought to be something conservatives support.  The primary reason people enter the country illegally is to work. Serious academic work dating at least to Julian Simon’s excellent book (available here for free!) have found that immigration, including illegal immigration, is on net beneficial for an economy.  Immigrants work harder and take less in government benefits.  Their work raises wages for non-immigrants.  They have higher rates of entrepreneurial activity.  In the recent financial crisis, illegal immigrants who were subprime borrowers had far lower rates of mortgage default than citizen subprime borrowers.  One would suppose that these would be the sort of people one would want to welcome, not drive away.  One would think these people would be prime constituents for a free-market message.

Certainly there are problems of crime, of crowding of public services, etc., associated with immigration, but many of these are at heart problems of the welfare state, rather than immigration.  Fixing these makes sense; fixating on immigration doesn’t.

If the nativists got everything they wanted on immigration — iron control over impervious borders, strict limits on who can enter, and deportation of 100% of all illegals — no important economic or social problem would be solved and the economic situation would be worse, not better.  But this wish list is impossible; economic forces cannot be legislated away, and neither can the human spirit.

The current Republican position on this issue is best described as stupidity, and one more reason they drove away potential voters.

Dr. Charles N. Steele is the Herman and Suzanne Dettwiler Chair in Economics and Associate Professor at Hillsdale College in Hillsdale, Michigan. His research interests include economics of transition and institutional change, economics of uncertainty, and health economics.  He received his Ph.D. from New York University in 1997, and has subsequently taught economics at the graduate and undergraduate levels in China, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, and the United States.  He has also worked as a private consultant in insurance design and review.

Dr. Steele also maintains a blog, Unforeseen Contingencies.

by

Review of Mark Krikorian’s “The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal” – Article by Daniel Griswold

No comments yet

Categories: Culture, Economics, Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Daniel Griswold
August 3, 2012
Recommend this page.
******************************
Published by: Sentinel • Year: 2008 • Price: $25.95 hardcover and e-book • Pages: 304
***

In his new book Mark Krikorian of the Center for Immigration Studies argues that immigration may have been good for America a century ago but not today—not because the immigrants have changed but because our nation has changed.

That’s an interesting thesis, but as the book unfolds, the arguments sound more and more familiar. Krikorian argues that immigrants at current numbers can’t be assimilated and that “mass immigration” jeopardizes national sovereignty and security, our quality of life, our jobs, wages, and wallets.

Despite his avowed goodwill toward immigrants, Krikorian’s book is a polemic written to paint immigration in the worst possible light. The word immigration hardly ever appears without the modifier “mass” before it, even though the immigration rate today is far lower than a century ago. He dismisses efforts in Congress to legalize low-skilled immigration as “amnesty” legislation, even though the proposals would have imposed fines, probation, and security checks. He also ignores important findings in the immigration literature for the sake of advancing his argument.

Krikorian’s worries about assimilation are nothing new and carry no more weight today than similar worries about the Italians, Poles, Irish, and Germans in past eras. Government promotion of multiculturalism and bilingual education don’t help assimilation, but they are not the insurmountable hurdles that Krikorian paints: Studies show second- and third-generation immigrants are almost all fluent in English.

The book is at its xenophobic worst in the chapters on sovereignty and security. Krikorian warns that “Mexico City is moving to being, in effect, a second federal government that American mayors and governors must answer to . . . becoming a permanent participant in the day-to-day business of governance, [exercising] joint dominion” over American territory. As evidence for “this assault on American sovereignty” he mostly just musters quotes from Mexican officials urging the U.S. government to reform its immigration system.

That’s only the beginning. While just about everybody recognizes that radical Islam is the most likely source of future terrorist activity against the United States, Krikorian is eager to bring every immigrant group under equal suspicion. In a section titled “Future Wars,” the author manages to slander millions of normal, peaceful, hardworking immigrants from China, Korea, and Colombia. “Though the nearly 700,000 Korean immigrants here came from South Korea, there can be little doubt that the Communist regime in the north has a network of agents already in place among them,” he writes, casting unwarranted suspicion on the corner grocer in Brooklyn and the worshippers at the Korean Central Presbyterian Church down the road from where I live in northern Virginia. In the same vein, Krikorian writes, “War with China is by no means a certainty, but it is clearly possible, and the nearly 1.9 million Chinese immigrants throughout the United States, including a major presence in high-tech industries, represent a deep sea for Beijing’s fish to swim in.” Is this really a valid argument for turning away immigrants such as Taiwan-born Jerry Wang, cofounder of Yahoo!, or Beijing-born Liang Qiao, the Iowa-based coach of the American Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson?

Turning to jobs and wages, Krikorian sounds like a class-warfare “liberal.” “Mass immigration affects society as a whole by swelling the ranks of the poor, thinning out the middle class, and transferring wealth to the already wealthy,” he asserts. The facts say otherwise. Studies show that immigration benefits the large majority of Americans, not just the wealthy. The middle class has not been thinning out but moving up: The shares of households earning below $35,000 a year and between $35,000 and $100,000 have both declined in the past 20 years as the share earning above $100,000 has grown. Fewer Americans were living under the poverty line in 2006 than in 1994, and the poverty rate has actually been trending down in the past 15 years—a time of robust immigration.

It is true that low-skilled immigrants consume more in government services than they pay in taxes, as Krikorian argues at length. But he dismisses the practicality of limiting access to welfare while glossing over the fact that the average immigrant and his or her descendents generate a sizeable net fiscal surplus for the government.

In the final chapter Krikorian advocates deep cuts in legal immigration and a sweeping crackdown on illegal immigration. Among his preferred coercive tools would be a national database of all U.S. workers, native and immigrant alike; uniform national ID documents; enlisting local law enforcement officers in pursuit of illegal immigrants; and even barring private property owners from renting to people without the right documents.

There are plenty of thoughtful questions to be considered when it comes to the role of immigration in a free, modern, and globally connected society. Unfortunately, this book brings nothing new to the discussion.

Daniel Griswold is director of the Center for Trade Policy Studies at the Cato Institute.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.