Immigration and the American Future
by Chilton Williamson, Jr.
307 pp., 2007
Chilton Williamson, Jr., former book review editor at National Review and the current senior editor for books at Chronicles, has compiled an invaluable set of essays in Immigration and the American Future. The volume deserves a place among recent immigration classics: Peter Brimelow’s Alien Nation and Patrick J. Buchanan’s State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America. As questions of immigration increasingly dominate the national conversation, these essays will prove a valuable resource.
Immigration and the American Future includes essays by Wayne Allensworth, James Bissett, David A. Hartman, Peter Brimelow, Edwin S. Rubenstein, James S. Bernsen, Roger D. McGrath, Steven Greenhut, Thomas Fleming, Gregory McNamee, Alberto Carosa, Guido Vignelli, Chilton Williamson, Jr. and an interview with Harvard economist George Borjas. The inclusion of a wide array of authors allows this book to address the immigration problem from a variety of perspectives, ranging from national security and economics to national identity and religion.
In “The Economics of Illegal Immigration to the United States,” Hartman, chairman of the Rockford Institute and retired chairman of the Hartland Bank group, delivers an avalanche of statistics showing the devastating costs of illegal immigration and demonstrating a deep concern for the future of the American middle class. He laments that starting around 1972, “The average real compensation per unit of output of all U.S. private-sector employees, both salaried and hourly, began to plummet.” And while wages fall, middle-class families are paying more in taxes for benefits for illegal aliens. For example, “Texas is spending a net $3.5 billion per year on immigrants ($4.5 billion per year minus $1 billion in estimated taxes collected).” With American wages being driven down by immigration and public costs far exceeding any benefits, one truly wonders: Cui bono?
Big business would be part of the answer, but Brimelow, former editor of Forbes and founder of Vdare.com, says not to worry; these business leaders are fickle. In “Big Business and Immigration: Inside the Mind of the Corporate Elite,” Brimelow argues the business elite largely supports immigration out of habit, but could be compelled to think otherwise, especially if pressured. The business elite “is surprisingly flexible over time,” he maintains, and if this wave of immigration is broken, “the business community will go bobbing along with the flow.” Given his intimate knowledge of and contact with CEOs, one can only hope he is correct, especially considering the commitment of the new business elite to globalization.
And just as business and governmental leaders peddle the cliché of “jobs Americans won’t do,” so too they promote the myth that immigration is required to pay for growing baby-boomer retirement costs, which Borjas dispels in Brimelow’s “Interview with George Borjas.” First, Borjas argues, the types of immigrants entering the country end up costing more than providing for retirement costs. After all, immigrants receive public benefits, use hospitals, attend public schools, etc. Second, Borjas asks who will pay for the retirement costs of the immigrants? More immigrants? Borjas says the economic impact of immigration depends on the kind of people who enter, not the number. Illegal immigrants, in short, drive down American wages and provide no long-term benefits for the U.S.
The second part of the answer to the question of who is benefiting from illegal immigration is ethnic interests, which is addressed in a few essays addressing culture. In “Up Mexico Way: The Cultural Transformation of America,” Thomas Fleming, president of the Rockford Institute and editor of Chronicles, argues that assimilation is a two-way street. A country cannot absorb other groups without being affected and changed, and incorporatingother groups requires strong institutions and traditions, which the U.S. currently lacks. In place of any authentic tradition, most elites in the U.S. currently peddle propositionalism, which Fleming deflates by saying:
This abstract approach to assimilation derives, ultimately, from the conviction—as naive as it is chauvinistic—that America is an exceptional country, one not rooted in blood, soil, and kinship, but a nation “dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” Proponents of this are quick to label the more old-fashioned view, that the nation is a metaphorical extended family, as bigotry, but no amount of repetition or rhetorical extravagance can disguise the dangerous logic that is at work. If I love my country because it is mine, I must be loyal to it, even when I disagree with its policies, but I do not necessarily regard it as superior to everyone else’s country, and I may have no inclination to say that all other countries, to the extent that they are legitimate and worthy of respect, must approximate my own.
He then illustrates propositionalism’s relationship with globalism:
But that this is exactly what the advocates of the “propositional nation” do insist upon. The United States is not only the best nation in the history of the world, but also it is the beacon to all mankind, the natural home of all the good and decent people in the world and the enemy to all regimes that deny their subjects equal rights. Thus, by the same argument, a propositional nation is obliged to open its borders to strangers “yearning to breathe free,” but it is also justified in engaging in endless crusades to impose its propositions on the rest of the world.
And many of those “yearning to breathe free” will surely witness the fall of Old America and her traditions and people. In “Dystopia Unlimited,” Chilton Williamson Jr. discusses the corrosive effects of mass immigration. He laments:
Proponents of mass immigration and multiculturalism wax ecstatic on the subject how previous generations of immigrants have enlightened, sophisticated, and further civilized what amounted historically to a narrow provincial offshoot of the British Isles and Northern Europe. But this is hardly the point. What matters is the imposition of numerous alien supplicant cultures upon the indigenous one, which, whatever its shortcomings, represented the cultural and intellectual flowering of a unique, interesting, and spectacularly successful people. Naturally, the displacement of Old America and the Old Americans who made it means nothing to the immigrants, who are more likely to be reassured—even gratified—by their downward trajectory.
What does the future hold, according to Williamson? “The American standard of living,” he comments, “must erode, in time, along with its public standards, to the point where an Asian-style bureaucracy will have less and less plunder to deliver to the mass of its importunate citizens.”
This begs the question of what this kind of bureaucratic government holds for Christianity. Sadly, many of the establishments of organized religion have supported the pro-immigration forces. Guido Vignelli, vice president of the Lepanto Cultural Center, criticizes the secular notion of “rights” in “False Rights, Real Duties, Prudent Rules: A Christian View of Immigration.” He argues there is no absolute right to immigrate nor an absolute right to charity. The Christian doctrine of prima sibi caritas emphasizes “duty to oneself, one’s family, one’s fatherland,” and to Christianity, but is not unqualified. Vignelli maintains that St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope Pius XII both recognized the limits of immigration and charity. In short, there is no Christian imperative to support unlimited immigration.
An Aquinas quote, not cited by Vignelli but recently mentioned by many pundits, best sums up these limits:
[A]fter his duties towards God, man owes most to his parents and his country. One’s duties towards one’s parents include one’s obligations towards one’s relatives, because these latter have sprung from [or are connected by ties of blood with] one’s parents . . . and the services due to one’s country have for their object all one’s fellow-countrymen and all the friends of one’s fatherland.
The Latin usually used for ‘fatherland’ (i.e. country) is patria, which assumes at least some link of blood. So much for propositionalism.
Matthew A. Roberts writes from Kansas City, Missouri.