The Right To Trespass?
IMMIGRATION AND THE AMERICAN IDENTITY: SELECTIONS FROM CHRONICLES, 1985-1995
The Rockford Institute, 1995, 232 pp.
The twenty-three contributors to this anthology do not share a
uniform point of view. Nevertheless, a distinctive Chronicles
approach to immigration emerges from the volume.
Many opponents of immigration ardently champion a unified
national culture; but, with some exceptions, the contributors to
this book do not adopt this line. Rather, as the Editor of Chronicles,
Tom Fleming, explains: "Cultural nationalism is an
unmitigated evil, and I would not hesitate and call it fascism,
if it were not unfair to the Duce. . . . The best hope for
American culture today resides in the local, provincial, and
ethnic remnants that are struggling to survive; they would be the
first victims of cultural nationalism" (pp. 22-23).
It is hardly a surprise that for Chronicles the
culture of the South is at least primus inter pares; and
in "The Celtic Heritage of the Old South" Grady
McWhiney describes the people of this region with insight and
wit. "Neither Celts nor their Southern descendants regarded
their ways as unusual or reprehensible. The laziness and lack of
ambition that good Englishmen and Yankees considered deplorable
were viewed differently by traditional Celts and antebellum
Southerners. They delighted in their livestock culture and their
comfortable customs" (p. 42).
But our contributors by no means equate culture with the
South. Allan Carlson sensitively evokes the German-Swedish
culture found in Minnesota and Wisconsin around 1900. Whatever
the region described, though, a common theme stands out. Cultures
are fragile organisms, not to be tampered with haphazardly.
Without careful protection from invasion and infiltration, they
stand in imminent danger of destruction.
Here an objection arises. America has been host to millions of
immigrants, and yet the regional cultures that attract our
authors have in large part survived. Perhaps further diversity
would promote cultural growth, rather than stunt it.
The point has been very well handled by Clyde Wilson, in his
brilliant essay, "As a City Upon a Hill." He asks:
"Is the success of the melting pot something that is
infinitely repeatable and expansible?" Granting there are
many possible answers, he offers his: "We have been
extremely lucky, but there is no reason to gamble that the luck
will hold forever. The economic, political, military, and moral
problems we face are not like those of the past and will not be
any easier to solve in a society even less stable and coherent in
its values than that of today" (p. 29).
The contributors to this book vividly portray the dangers of
mass immigration. For them, the metaphor of an engulfing tide has
come to life. The distinguished biologist Garrett Hardin fears
that fast breeding immigrant populations will displace the
cultures of their host countries. "At first, spokesmen for
immigrants may demand nothing more than a tolerance of other ways
of doing things, but as their numbers increase the immigrants may
demand that anything that they forbid should be forbidden to all
of society. . . . The fertile immigrants will put pressure on the
diminishing proportion of the rich and less fertile to change their
culture" (p. 169).
Some may contend that Hardin exaggerates the danger here. As
immigrants prosper, their fertility will decrease. People
reproduce most rapidly when they are poor: as they grow wealthy,
the threat that Hardin conjures up will abate. As one might
expect, Hardin views this counter with skepticism. "Studies
of nonhuman animals consistently show that improvements in living
conditions increase the fertility rate. Curiously, the
opposite conclusion was asserted with respect to human beings
early in this century" (p. 132). If Hardin is right, the
suggested escape fades out and eludes us. Once more the prospect
of being outbred by another culture, which Hardin does not
hesitate to call genocide, demands a response.
One notable omission will not have escaped most readers. Many
discussions of immigration stress economics, but I have so far
said nothing about relative standards of living, jobs, economic
growth, etc. As Keir Hardie famously asked in another connection,
"What about the unemployed?"
Our authors by no means ignore the economy: their view
emphasizes culture, but they are hardheaded realists as well.
Donald Hubbles essay "The Cost of Immigration,"
discusses in detail the immense economic costs imposed by
immigrants. Hubble, an economist at Rice University, estimates
that "immigrants cost the American taxpayer more than $42.5
billion in 1992 alone" (p. 136). Hubbles calculations
have aroused controversy, and I suspect that Julian Simon would
provide a substantially lower estimate. I cannot even pretend to
adjudicate the controversy between Hubble and his critics. But
the vast sums spent on welfare for immigrants should give pause
even to the most died-in-the-wool supporter of unrestricted
Many readers of The Mises Review will, I
suspect, share with me a problem that most of the contributors to
Immigration and the American Identity can with a clear
conscience ignore. Libertarians, and other advocates of the free
market, have often supported free immigration. If one thinks
immigration a natural right but also finds persuasive the
cultural considerations urged in this volume, what is one to do?
Those who, like Tom Fleming, regard natural rights as "one
with the gorgons and the harpies" can greet this predicament
with a smile. But libertarians are not so fortunate.
In this connection, Hans Hoppes "Free Immigration or
Forced Integration" is vital reading. Hoppe points out that
in an anarcho-capitalist society, no public property at all
exists. And if all property is private, no problem of
immigration, as usually constituted, requires solution.
Individuals are free to invite others onto their property as they
wish, and no one may enter anothers property against his will.
But of course we do not live in an anarcho-capitalist society:
of what relevance, then, are judgments about "what never
was, on sea or land?" Contrary to first appearance, the
point Hoppe makes is no idle Utopian speculation but precisely
responds to the difficulty for libertarians previously raised.
If, in a pure libertarian society, there is no unrestricted right
of free immigration, why must libertarians support such a right
in our own society? Hoppes penetrating analysis points the way
toward a revolution in libertarian thought about immigration.
Those who wish to take part in such a revolution can do no better
than to begin by reading this essential book.