Montag, Juli 06, 2009

Immigration, Wealth, The American Dream, California and an Uncomfortable Question...

In a footnote to his work "The Road To Serfdom", Hayek points out that the failure to control immigration, when coupled with high levels of public support for the unemployed, is a recipe for trouble:

There are also serious problems of international relations which arise if mere citizenship of a country confers the right to a standard of living higher than elsewhere and which ought not be be dismissed too lightly. - F.A.Hayek, Road To Serfdom, footnote 3 on page 148 of the Definitive Edition, Collected Works of F.A. Hayek, Volume 2, University of Chicago Press,
Chicago 2007

Unfortunately, that comment remained a footnote. It is as relevant today as it was then.

I come from an immigrant background, as do most Americans. I live in another country as an immigrant: you can scarcely call me someone opposed to immigration.

The question that does arrive is what kind of immigration.

In an ideal world, with ideal policies, a country can control its immigration, keeping those out it does not want. If anything, immigration policies are at the core of a country's concept of sovereignty, since being able to determine who is allowed to live in any given country is a fundamental part of that. Vassal states, subject states through history have had to accept migrants when the powers-that-be ordain them to be necessary, and indeed moving populations about, uprooting them from their tribes and native lands, is a useful tool for any imperialist power, as you destroy the ability of subservient populations to claim their own identity, one separate from the imperialist power.

Further, large-scale migrations in the past (for instance, the "Volkswanderung" of the German and Visigoth Tribes during the late period of the Roman empire) are usually the sign of great calamity and catastrophes. Humans, once settled, generally tend not to wander much, as those who are forced to wander in an Agrarian society generally have lost their land and all the riches that they had gathered from working the land. Hence: migration - immigrants and emigrants are the manifestations of migration - is almost always driven by wealth considerations. My grandparents left the Ukraine and what is today the Czech Republic because there was no meaningful economic future for them there: in the case of my grandfather he had too many brothers ahead of him to inherit their father's land, and in the case of my grandmother there were too few options for an intelligent woman that were in any way attractive. So they both, voluntarily (but driven by economic need) left their countries and went to the US. There was no question for them of living off welfare or on the dole: it didn't exist. Either you worked as an unskilled worker, learned a trade to become a skilled workers, or worked as unskilled but spent all of your free time learning how to become skilled or even a white collar worker, one who could afford to so dress, or you became a thief, a pimp, a whore. But the state gave you nothing except the opportunity to learn (adult education, teaching immigrants how to become Americans, was always an important tool of integrating new immigrants, but wasn't just the provenance of the state, but also churches and other organizations.

For the US today, the great problem with immigration is identifying those who come to the US to live the American Dream and those who come to the US expecting the American Dream.

The difference is not one of nuance, but fundamental: those who come to the US to live the American Dream are those who not only work, but also work at becoming Americans. Those who expect the American Dream want to live like Americans, but without the values of what makes the American Dream work: the Puritan Work Ethic and its many, many variants.

Those who expect the American Dream may live for generations in the US, but demand of the government that which those who live the American Dream work for: wealth.

Not merely the MTV Cribs type of wealth, of huge houses, luxury cars and a decadent life style that rivals that of the heads of state in many Third-World countries (well, maybe minus the ability to have your enemies simply shot at sight), but rather the wealth of the Rule of Law, the wealth of being able to actually save money and create capital (which makes the American Dream, at the end of the day, so desperately attractive that people literally die trying to just get here in order to try it).

Wealth isn't just fancy houses, cars and clothes - and vast amounts of leisure time - that are associated with the idea of wealth. Wealth, at the end of the day, is simply capital, and capital makes the world go around. It turns Hmong tribesmen into successful merchants, it turns Vietnamese Boat People into successful business owners, it turns European immigrants into factory owners, it transforms people from mere elements in a labor equation into free agents in capital equations.

This article underscores what happens when things go wrong.

Thanks to wartime and Cold War defense spending, a flourishing consumer economy, and a seemingly ever-expanding tax base, the state was at the forefront of the single greatest rise in prosperity in American history. In 1959, wages paid in Los Angeles's working-class and solidly middle-class San Fernando Valley alone were higher than the total wages of 18 states. This affluence ushered in an era of exhilarating if headlong growth and free spending. The state's public schools—the new, modernist elementary schools with their flat roofs, gleaming clerestory windows, and outdoor lockers; the grand comprehensive high schools (Sacramento, Lowell in San Francisco, and Hollywood and Fairfax in Los Angeles)—were the envy of the nation. Berkeley, the flagship campus in the UC system, emerged as the best university in the country, probably the world. It was a sweet, vivacious time: California's children, swarming on all those new playgrounds, seemed healthier, happier, taller, and—thanks to that brilliantly clean sunshine—were blonder and more tan than kids in the rest of the country. For better and mostly for worse, it's a time irretrievably lost.

Go read the whole thing: it's not that long. But let me cover the main point:

California, as he's argued in earlier volumes, promised "the highest possible life for the middle classes." It wasn't a paradise for world-beaters; rather, it offered "a better place for ordinary people."

This is, alas, no longer:

For nearly a century, California offered ordinary people better lives than they could lead perhaps anywhere else in the world. Today, reflecting our intensely stratified, increasingly mobile society, California affords the Good Life only to the most gifted and ambitious, regardless of their background. That's a deeply undemocratic betrayal of California's dream—and of the promise of American life.

Now, what happened? Well, to be blunt: everyone else moved in. The sheer attractiveness of California life made it a mecca for people who weren't interested in becoming Americans, weren't interested in the American Dream, that WASP paradigm of work ethic, conservative financial planning and family values, but rather who wanted to live the dolce vita, the sweet life, whose resentment of success fueled La Raza and other destructive, rapacious ideologies that demanded and insisted that the only reason the gringos were so successful is that it was because they stole everything.

It's not limited to the Latinos. Far from it. The problem lies in what Hayek meant above: just getting to the US means a higher standard of living, even if you are living off the system in what would otherwise be considered abject poverty.

America is seductive. American politics are, if you read the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, outright subversive to established orders and elitists. America is dangerous as well: even the best of intellects and the best businessmen can fail where elsewhere they wouldn't have been allowed to (this seems to be changing). Birthrights are no guarantees, your position in society is not ensured by who your parents are (facilitated yes: ensured, no).

What has happened?

California is now bankrupt, ruined by racial politics and a massive influx of people who burden the system without paying back into it. The Chicago school of Democratic politics dominates the Californian political system, rewarding cronyism and corruption, while ensuring that dissent and independence are punished severely. There is a modern "Gleichschaltung" that is in some way comparable to that of the Nazis: this is difficult to translate, referring to an enforced conformity of thought and action, one that pervades into consciousness and does not brook independence of thought and action, but rather demands that any other such thought be seen virtually as a crime against the State.

Of course, this is now called "political correctness" and is a stain on society.

So, the uncomfortable question, one I do not have an answer for: how much immigration is enough and, more importantly, what do you do with millions of illegals?

The policies that have allowed this are hideous: they have caused more pain, more danger to American society than most realize. The party that openly embraces the illegals and invites them in to be citizens plays a dangerous hand of cards, expecting thus to become dominant at the polls. It also spits in the face of the legals, those who did it the hard way, the legal way, effectively making a mockery of the process of becoming an American.

Why did the government allow this to happen?

And more importantly: what can be done?

The California Dream and, by extension, the American Dream is slowly, insidiously being betrayed in the name of political power. The clown from Minnesota was elected because those charged with overseeing the electoral process have been replaced with partisans who have no difficulty in changing the rules in order to get their own way, financed by men of capital whose fortunes were made exploiting the system. People like ACORN or whatever they are calling themselves today - change the name, the sins remain the same - are not anything but partisan organizations dedicated to one goal: political power, to be seized and never released.

There are a lot of uncomfortable questions out there. By ignoring illegal immigration and how it weakens to fabric of American society, those who wish to have power create the conditions for democracy to fail.

And fail it will if things so continue.

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