Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

The Trouble with Assimilation

Maggie Gallagher takes a bracing look at one of the problems WITH the assimilation of illegal immigrants. It echoes some of the arguments made in Victor Davis Hanson’s Mexifornia, a version of which can be read here. All of this remind me again of the argument presented here by Peggy Noonan. The problem with assimilation has many facets to it but the biggest obstacle, it seems to me, is us. We’re not doing it right, we’re not prepared to do it right, and what we are doing is a disaster. We’re assimilating people into everything that is least admirable about ourselves while we deny or attempt to detract from everything that made us great. This is the kind of thing that destroys a nation and a people. The trouble with assimilation is that WE are not assimilated to our own history and virtue.

Discussions - 16 Comments

Well, this is why I think conservatives should distance themselves from market-worship and libertarianism in general. Who "corrupts" these it Ted Kennedy, or is it your corner McDonalds and MTV? The unfettered marketplace, which almost always caters to the lowest common denominator (e.g., commercial television), will gut any society’s social discipline given the chance. Markets really aren’t self-correcting, at least not in the social sense. There is no substitute for virtue and social order.

I think markets are a reflection of the culture more often than they are the driving forces behind it. It’s not that the two things are mutually exclusive--I get that they are not. And market executives should be more responsible than they usually are. But if we were living in 1950 Paris Hilton cheeseburger commercials would not sell cheeseburgers. The fact that they do work today says more about us than it says about ad executives. So I don’t think the solution to our ills is to fetter the marketplace (though common sense standards of decency would be nice). Even so, that won’t really improve our culture and, besides, has the defect of being extremely unrealistic given the state of technology today. What we need is more along the lines of what Doug Jeffrey describes in his great piece in the newest issue of the CRB.

Julie, you can tell yourself that if you want to, but then of course you have to figure out where all this new (crude) culture comes from. It doesn’t just pop up out of thin air...I’ll stand by what I legitimate most of this behavior, whether or not they initiate it.

Actually, I think most conservatives would agree with me...why else fear the liberal MSM? Markets (via the media) set the tone for what becomes acceptable. It takes enormous efforts at the grassroots level (e.g., family, church, school) to counter markets/media, and mostly those efforts fail.

At the risk of being accused of "market-worship" (or worse) the state of the MSM is the result of newsrooms having been shielded from market pressures for years. In the early days of television networks and stations never expected news programs to make money--they were included to satisfy FCC requirements for public service broadcasts. Eventually management began to insist that their newsrooms start generating profits, but by this time a predominantly liberal culture had had time to esconce itself. As a result what we have today is a combination of sensationalism and celebrity-worship (to pay the bills) and liberal commentary on the news.

And lest we forget, the "enormous efforts at the grassroots level" were a matter of markets as well. It was the perception of liberal bias in the mainstream media, after all, that led to the conservative conquest of talk radio, the creation of Fox News, and other parts of the "alternative media." And how do we explain the recent upsurge in Christian-friendly films (Passion of the Christ, Chronicles of Narnia, etc.) if not an effort to reach out to an economically powerful segment of the American population?

I’ll happily agree with you that markets aren’t perfect, and that a lot of what our culture generates is garbage. But markets work a heck of a lot better than government intervention. A government-run culture would seem to me to be the very definition of the "totalitarian statism" that you denigrate elsewhere.

Come on, John. FCC regulations can’t explain the liberal slant of newsrooms. Do you have a libertarian explanation for the bias in newspapers as well? Media companies were always private, and whether or not their news divisions made money was irrelevant...that slant still had the power to offend people, so these companies were taking a risk. News has always been subject to market pressures.

As for conservatives using the market, sure they’ve learned to do that. Nonetheless, it will be an uphill battle BECAUSE the "mainstream" market will agnostically pander to base human appetites. I’m not suggesting a command economy...I’m suggesting "community standards" of what can and can’t be marketed. We do this with drugs and pornography (and many other things), and I think we should start being more active on soft porn, raunchy sitcoms, and exporting capital out of the US (the WalMart effect).

I’m suggesting "community standards" of what can and can’t be marketed.

I’ll assume that you mean through democratic action, rather than through a panel of ayatollahs. But I wonder why you expect people to behave differently as voters than they do as consumers. The fact that some movies and television programs succeed while many others fail suggest that people are more discering in what they watch that you give them credit for. But if people are willing to watch things that you think are "raunchy," why would they vote for legislation that would ban them? It’s sort of like the anti-Wal Mart campaigns--if you can’t get people to stop shopping at Wal-Mart, what makes you think they’ll vote to close it down?

Yea, John, and many more people would speed if no one patrolled the highways. People often vote differently than they behave -- why do we have laws if people just do whatever they want anyway? No, this whole libertarian tack of saying you can’t use authority to curb "natural" behavior is silly. How many people would love to ignore April 15th every year?

Come on Dr. Moser...I have never heard Dain denigrate "totalitarian statism". More to the point I like the articles posted by Julie. I don’t think "integration" taken at face value is the answer, and I am glad that some hispanic immigrants might be capable of "gasp" fighting the pressure to integrate... perhaps they can act as a counterweight in the culture, and thus actually contribute something to it....while it is certainly true that we may not be assimilated to our own history or virtue it is still possible that we can receive a little bit of a nudge from outside. Dain is constantly troubled by immigration ...because it threatens the future jobs of the 30% of high schoolers who do not graduate...well I don’t know what preaching virtue or education or anything else will do to wake people up and get them interested in themselves and the future they could have...but certainly a dose of reality injected from the outside by people who actually want to work doesn’t seem like it would hurt too much. Closeing down borders and placing other restrictions on the hiring practices of business just seems like another way to coddle those who in all truth need a real wake-up call.

News flash: someone who is less babied than you wants your job...he is willing to work harder than you...and has a better grasp on the virtues necessary for can speak better english for now, but his english is better than your spanish...and he is willing to start at the bottom and work his way to your english job. At least your lazy "entitlement" ways(culture?) can infect his children.

Closeing down borders and placing other restrictions on the hiring practices of business just seems like another way to coddle those who in all truth need a real wake-up call.


News flash: someone who is less babied than you wants your job...he is willing to work harder than you...and has a better grasp on the virtues necessary for can speak better english for now, but his english is better than your spanish...and he is willing to start at the bottom and work his way to your english job. At least your lazy "entitlement" ways(culture?) can infect his children.

Congratulations, John, you’ve become the quintessential Objectivist...screw ’em, let ’em eat cake, lazy looting SOBs. It it is this mean-spirited edge that gives conservativism its "Mr. Potter" reputation...and harms our cause to no end.

And maybe working people into the ground for dirt wages is your idea of progress, but for most people the idea of being perpetually on the treadmill, worriedly looking over their shoulders to see who wants their jobs, is the very definition of SLAVERY. It is precisely this kind of elitism that makes Randian nonsense so doggone dangerous.

Why do we have a government? Why do we have a community? I completely agree that we should encourage responsibility and hard work, but expecting everyone to be one of Rand’s conquering captains of capitalism just isn’t reasonable. A realistic approach requires accepting people for what they are, and doing our best to balance rights with responsibilities.

I’ll be honest...I just despise thoughtless elitism and complacent arrogance. By the way, John...aren’t you in Iraq? How does that serve you personally (and, more to the point, is that your primary motivation for being there)?

Yes! Dain accuses me of being mean spirited.

If I have to be Mr. Potter...Can I be Harry Potter?

Look Dain all I am saying is that ideas influence actions and actions have consequences. If kids don’t really want or care about education eventually they are going to be at a disadvantage in the market place. But this isn’t an absolute often times the kids that didn’t care much for school end up doing allright in the market place. With all the toys gadgets/music and entertainment my generation aren’t really going to be able to able to sell virtue or education unless it is in some way tied to consequences... My point is essentially that a lot of people I know can live with parents(who love them and don’t expect them to be Rand’s conquering heroes of fact so far from it they(the parents)are mostly non-judgemental) if they want to. Lots of people have many layers of shielding...with so many layers of shielding what is to force a (truely educational, that is rationality changing) feedback?

If you ask me, (which no one has) part of the reason for the problems encountered by second generation hispanics...part of the reason that they are assimilating in the wrong way is that the parents did have to work extremely hard...and they don’t want that kind of "slavery" for their they spoil them when possible,,,nothing wrong with a little spoiling in moderation...

Dain, I do believe that you can curb "natural" behavior by use of authority. Strange that you would lob me a softball in terms of including Tax day in your example. What do you want to do... curb "natural" behavior that is productive? (that is taxes reduce take home income which in turn reduces the hours one wants to work ceteris paribus.)

In any case I don’t think any rational definition of slavery would include the worry of looking over ones shoulder to see who wants their job...picture this: a slave ship arrives from africa... slaves at plantation X bemoan the fact that the owner might purchase more workers...don’t take my job Mista, I like my hours...I don’t want to work less...I want to pick cotton... Forgetaboutit... completly ludicous. I can tell you one thing fo’ sure if I was a slave anyone would be more than welcome to my job. In fact the very nature of being a free laborer is having a job you enjoy enough(or its compensation) that you absolutely don’t want to lose it, so maybe it is a catch 22. In a sense working in the army I have a job I am not really worried about loosing. In a limited sense I am a slave...bound to a contract I will fulfill whether I like it or not. There are plenty of people my age in the army...who want to get out...Actually I am on leave and back in the states...I need to blog less and go kickback so I promise not to post for a couple of weeks. I do like the army, it isn’t a perfect fit but it works out alright...I am not going to make a career out of it. The army serves my interests by paying me, clothing me, housing me, taking care of me when I am sick. While I am not worried about loosing my job...I guess I would be if it was possible. The army probably compensates me more than fairly. I have no real objections, and I don’t consider myself a slave. I joined the army for reasons that were part pragmatic part ideological...I have little to no influence on army policy so I vent my thoughts elsewhere. In the army I am strictly business...I do what I am told, and I don’t rock the boat, it is as we say "too easy". In the army my motivation doesn’t matter for much...when I am more motivated I probably do a better job...but I do my job regardless. My primary reason for joining the army is a defense of freedom. My primary reason for posting on No Left Turns is a defense of freedom. My secondary reason for both is educational...the army pays off my Ashland education(the army also provides(time permiting) for my graduate education in Economics at the University of Oklahoma...(not to mention being an education in itself) and this blog continues it.

Now I turn over the defense of freedom to others(this is I do appologize)...I am going to Cedar Point tommorow(today).

Have a great day at Cedar Point, I guess.

By slavery I meant having no choices, no autonomy...being perpetually threatened. This is the way beasts live, but it isn’t fit for a human being. If, using social arrangments, we can make the world a bit more secure then we should. There is a balance to be struck, I admit. Too little security and you have slavery, too much and you have socialism and Eurosclerosis. But the government can and should do some things to increase the security of the American people. One of those is trade protectionism, within reason. Another is the provision of public education. A third is to use the tax code to force the wealthy to spread the wealth (by encouraging productive investments -- not simple redistribution). None of this is radical stuff (except in the mind of Objectivists and libertarians, I guess).

At base, you have to realize that you can’t have healthy individuals unless you have healthy communities. None of us are islands, and a few simple collective measures go a long way to promoting the wellbeing of both the individual and the group.

I want to get back to the issue of community standards. I’m glad that Dain invoked the example of speed limits. Now suppose Dain informed us that the speed limit on I-71 should be lowered to 45 on the grounds that this was more in line with "community standards." We would laugh, because Dain would be claiming that his own standards were those of the community, when they are obviously not.

It is the same with obscenity laws, which already exist at the federal, state, and community level, and which the couts have upheld (and before you hit me with the "libertarian" label again, I am not in principle opposed to such laws). There are standards for what can be shown on broadcast television, and the president has recently signed a law that would boost FCC fines for those who violate those standards. Now, obviously you would like to see them extended much further, on the ground that much of what we see in the movies and television today violates "community standards." Well, okay, why don’t you go around your neighborhood trying to get signatures on a petition to demand that shows like "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey’s Anatomy" be banned? Then come back and report to us on what your "community standards" really are.

One more point: "community standards" in the antebellum South dictated that criticism of slavery be banned. "Community standards" in Nazi Germany dictated that Jews be turned over to the SS. I have no objections to the idea that such standards should be part of lawmaking, but what you’re suggesting (both here and in other threads concerning economics) is just a sort of democratic totalitarianism. This is why I believe in natural rights--there are times when the community needs to be told that they are wrong.

Oh, and before I start getting e-mails defending "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey’s Anatomy," I should add that I’ve never watched either one--I only cite them as examples of programs that I have heard described as racy. Don’t even start talking about banning "Lost" or "House," though.

John, I watch ’House’, but only because I enjoy fantasy. Any real doctor who acted like that would have been sued into oblivion years back.

So, you are arguing for absolute values? Whatever "natural rights" mean, they are fictitious. I suppose the folks who died in either the Holocaust or the Rwandan genocide had "rights," but God didn’t step up to help them, and no human beings did either. Unforced "rights" aren’t rights at all, but fictions to make people feel better about themselves.

You need to face it...the only meaningful rights come from communities and rest of partial consensus and coercion. Just the way it is...sometimes communities are capable of great evil (in the eyes of other communities), in which case you go and kick their butts if you can.

I believe in right and wrong, as I said, but I don’t think my sense of morality is culturally universal. If I want to make it so, I’d better be willing to use coercion -- which in turn some would argue is against "nature law." The difference between us is that you are pretending to have some authority for your sense of morality; I’m admitting that my sense of morality depends on my group and their POWER in the world. That’s it...there is nothing else (although there are lots of metaphysical schemes...pick any that you like).

Why bother believing in right and wrong if those things are not absolute? Why bother being bothered by what happened in either the Holocaust or Rwanda, if those were not absolute wrongs against the natural rights of those people? Why was it a "Holocaust at all, if there need be no horror at the wrong done? Yet you cite those things as if they are immoral. Why?

If there is not a natural right to life, leaving death as the only absolute in that equation, then why can anyone not kill an inconvenient neighbor as easily as some women take the lives of their unborn children because they are inconvenient? Is there a culture, a morality in which killing your neighbor for convenience is accepted? Why not?

I propose that we have a natural right to life, but your cultural ethic may be selective in enforcement against the natural law. I may have rights, like life and liberty, that are ignored, even to my death or enslavement, but that does not make them any less my rights. It merely means that you, or even a given society, have chosen to ignore or abuse my rights. Life is unfair, and almost certainly people are evil at root, and we have no right to expect fairness from life. Why not? Because, as you said, you can use brute force against me if you like and I may be powerless to prevent you. When is it right? If it is not right, is it not wrong? Are you saying that life and death are morally neutral? No, because of your citation of the evils of Rwanda and the Holocaust. Make up your mind.

If you find the exception to the rule, that such things are not right in the eyes of some man, does that not make him the anomaly? It might even make him a murderer. This does not mean his victim will not have a natural right, only that he, said man, is evil and is evil because he stole someone else’s natural right to life, unfairly employing the absolute of death.

Kate, these are fair questions. I would say first that it is important for any cultural system for people to ask what you are asking -- if it really isn’t right or wrong, why should we care. The fiction is that we pretend that absolute standards exist, and typically only clever people ask enough questions to bring the whole system into doubt.

I think the best we can do is to 1) select outcomes we value, and 2) demonstrate how a given system of morality best serves those ends. For instance, slavery would be non-optimal if we value self-ownership. Mass murder would be non-optimal if we value human rather than tribal survival. And so on...the problem for societies is apparent. Such lifeless calculations don’t elicit the gut-level belief that is needed to control human behavior.

That’s why Reason alone will never form the foundation of any human’s a weak reed to lean on. :)

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