Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Putnam and diversity

In the Comments Steve Thomas section linked to this article in the Boston Globe about Robert Putnam’s latest study on diversity. Just wanted to make sure everyone saw it.

Discussions - 7 Comments

"Meanwhile, by drawing a portrait of civic engagement in which more homogeneous communities seem much healthier, some of Putnam's worst fears about how his results could be used have been realized. A stream of conservative commentary has begun -- from places like the Manhattan Institute and "The American Conservative" -- highlighting the harm the study suggests will come from large-scale immigration. But Putnam says he's also received hundreds of complimentary emails laced with bigoted language. "It certainly is not pleasant when David Duke's website hails me as the guy who found out racism is good," he says."

I bet the Ashbrook Center is printing up hundreds of copies of his report and will cite it as support for various and sundry right-wing policy proposals that will sink America further into the toilet.

In fact, this blog has featured spirited, even bitter, disputes about the merits and implications of such a study. There is utterly no record of this outfit, the Ashbrook Center, doing any such thing as you suggest.

Sounds about right...Once I get ahold of the actual study I will cite it in my Urban Economics paper. Diversity leads to a bunch of private Idaho's..hunkering down...turtling up...the more people differ in priorities...the harder it is to come up with a budget that suits everyone.

Bottom line unless the citizens see a benefit to living in a diverse community that community will segregate, defacto. Or in order for an area to remain diverse the benefits of diversity have to outweight to costs of diversity for the residents.

Aristotle says that it is difficult to wish your friends great fortune, because once they attain this they may no longer be on the same level as you, and the ties that bind the friendship may disolve. Diversity really equals large variations in priorities which equals fewer ties that bind which equals decreased "Social Capital". Different languages/different Ontologies/Vocabularies/More Specialization..enter Ortega and the curse of Specialization...

Studies show that difference leads to less in common.

But as Putnam notes: "history suggests that ethnic diversity may eventually fade as a sharp line of social demarcation." which is true if we think of diversity in the larger intellectual/priorities sense....because the more diversity the greater the number of possible social demarcations. In Economic speak greater diversity equals greater/more varied indifference curves...with widely varying indifference curves finding the socially optimal level of public goods is a lot more challenging/impossible.

As I've posted her before, it's pretty clear that it's natural for human beings to prefer "their own kind," but it's striking how people's ideas have changed over time about what constitutes their own kind. A hundred and fifty years ago not even the Irish were regarded as white. And it's only been in the last sixty years or so that Italians, Eastern Europeans, and Jews have come to be so regarded.

Definitions of "whiteness" are admittedly somewhat abstract and fungible. But Putnam, I believe, found that even very modest degrees of diversity make some difference in terms of social trust and comfort levels: That Swedish-Americans and Norwegian-Americans in a small town have a different, less trustful or comfortable, dynamic than either group on its own.

Not surprised by the basic finding, but depressed that it is so decisive, and doesn't contain more "and yet" counter-balancing factors regarding social capital and trust. I.e., this is good news for important conservative arguments for 1) less immigration and more selective (i.e., fewer Muslims, fewer from crime-ridden regions, etc.) standards applied to it, and--less so--2) for chucking diversity as a significant (and really the ruling) standard for college admissions. But it is really bad news for the USA. We are the diverse nation, nor can this fact possibly be undone. I.e., a debate about this, using this evidence, would have been useful in 1965, perhaps up through the late 70s, but there is now simply no going back on the fact of the decisions made then. (And I do recall a number of stories and studies about how immigrant children often boosted failing American schools, particularly b/c they hadn't yet acquired certain bad American habits!) Even if immigration were shut-off tomorrow--a sheer fantasy--it would still be the case that we really will wind up becoming the genuine la raza cosmica. It will take a long time and the temptation to over-embrace ethnic idenitity will be constantly present--and one worry is, we could also turn out to be la cultura de nada en particular.

And yet, doncha just know in your gut that this is even worse news for Britain, France, and Sweden, all of whom have piddling experience w/ diversity compared to ours? And all of whom have more Muslims and more elites hung-up on PC? I guess I'm saying there are long-term reasons to expect that the Americans of 2107 will have greater trust of their (often mixed-race) fellow citizens than Europeans of that year will of theirs. And those reasons are at bottom religious and "foundational" more than they are ethnicity-related.

I think you guys are missing some of the boat. Given how quick you seem to be to attack Rawls...I think it is interesting that you don't see a connection between the conception of social capital. I think the premise of social capital is very Rawlsian. Society must prioritize its affairs so that the least among its members is as well off as possible, because it is a hope of a way out of drudgery that sustains social connectedness, civic engagement and civic trust...Nobless Oblige...Bono/Gates, and Henry Ford and the wage that allowed his workers to purchase a vehicle...The Spiderman Social Contract Theory or Calvianism to an extent.

Now the entire argument is that diversity erodes social capital... But if you pay attention you will realize that you can't prioritize Liberty and Fratenity(so says Bastiat) have to choose between the 60's and the 80's, between the civic engagement of the French Revolution and the working conditions of the Industrial Revolution(the Jungle by Upton Sinclair...The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism by Daniel Bell). Perhaps I jest but the focus on Fraternity or to cast it in conservative language civic virtue doesn't always coincide with great results. In my opinion civic virtue and social capital and any means of measuring it all increase in times of turmoil. Disasters, Wars, tragedy...all these things force a re-orientation of priorities sometimes even towards God. If you ask me socialists aren't people enamoured with ruinning the Economy they are just economists who prioritize Social Capital. If you really want to know what happens when you try to combine Fraternity with Liberty look no futher than the contraditions and difficulties inherent in Compassionate Conservatism.

This is really the Zeitgeist of politics today...and no one will agree on anything because the standards of accounting are different. The socialists find a million and one externalities with Capitalism...and in the end they say "we reject your Ontological structure, your system of valuation, your dollar signs." People should be treated as ends in themselves, and never as means or factors of production...and if you look closely at deontological will see that it is all about is really the Social Capital ethics.

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