Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Uncompensated Cultural Externalities of Immigration (part 2)

Last time, I encouraged you to compare immigrants' cultural differences with the already-scattered variety that exists among native-born citizens. This time, I'd like to consider issues of geography.

The smallest level of organization in society is the nuclear family. Increased immigration rates imply that unwed family members will have pairing opportunities with people from alien, possibly uncomfortable cultures. The Archie Bunker reaction would be something like "I ain't having my daughter go to the movies with no Catholic." Substitute in "cholo" or "Chinese" or "Mick" or whatever the target of scorn of the day might happen to be. At this level of organization, at the family or clan level, this is where it is hard to gainsay atavistic revulsion based on race or nationality. I don't like that there are racists in America, but I have no more right to dictate their private tastes than they do to get me to enjoy an intramural hockey match or savor aspic.

Parents can attempt to tell their kids who they can and cannot spend time with, but generally speaking, they are not at liberty to extend their prejudices to others. If Carl finds the intimate relationship of Art and Betty—two consenting adults—offensive, he can go stick his head in the sand (or elsewhere the sun don't shine). He has no moral or legal standing to obstruct their association. And even in practice, the worst a parent can do to a child who shames them with an undesirable association is to disown the surly brat. Parents cannot exile their children, neither can they deny them employment or residential opportunities. And they certainly have no authority over the actions of the target of their scorn. If my daughter started dating, say, an attorney, the worst I could do to him is a bit of public denunciation and refusing to do business with him.

The same is generally true in my neighborhood, in my local school district, in my town, in my county. I am not generally at liberty to use force to exclude people with whose culture I find exception. I can't, again either morally or legally, bar peaceful people from moving into my neighborhood, even if they enjoy watching cheaply -produced cable television programs and shop at Dress Barn. I certainly have no legal or moral authority to bar peaceful people from moving into a non-contiguous neighborhood, regardless of their fondness for mullets, loud Australian buttrock, outdoor table tennis, and wearing white after Labor Day. In other words, I have no legitimate expectation for reducing cultural externalities by force among my fellow Americans, even when the offending culture is so grievous as to be utterly intolerable to my delicate sensibilities. Nation of origin does not appear to constitute a special class worthy of extra scrutiny.

Replace "what if a bunch of immigrants moved into your neighborhood?" with "what if a bunch of Bronies moved into your neighborhood?" and see if you employ similar moral intuitions. If one group threatens the local social fabric in a way the other does not, it's uncivilized to withhold a fair and unbiased hearing to the victims of exclusion. If "I don't like that guy's turban" is a valid reason for shutting the gates, why isn't "I don't like that guy's NASCAR bumper sticker?"

Tomorrow's post will address the language problem, and it will relate to what I've written here. I thank you for your patience.

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Do you have suggestions on where we could find more examples of this phenomenon?