"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Interesting Immigration Proposal

Tech Central Station contributing writer Nathan Smith offers an interesting proposal regarding immigration, in today's issue of TCS Daily. Smith's idea is that instead of putting a number on the amount of people allowed to immigrate into the United States, or allowing all comers to live here as long as they like without having to meet any criteria for their presence here, we should tax immigration.

His proposal has merit in that, as he says, it applies economic incentives to let the market find an answer to how many immigrants should be here at any given time. He also leaves open the question of exactly what the right numbers for the taxes should be, though he gives suggestions to start the discussion rolling.

Smith's proposal does not directly address assimilation, though it is possible that his proposed tax program could be used to create incentives for immigrants to assimilate and could be used to indemnify the nation's current residents for any losses of cultural values.

Naturally, the tax numbers and associated policies, including enforcement measures, would become a matter for gross political manipulition, but at least the discussion would be out in the open and legislators and presidential administrations could be held accountable for their positions. That would be a great improvement over the current situation.

Of course, if the U.S. Senate and House can reconcile their two very different bills, it's possible that this train has already sailed. But if that doesn't happen, this would be something to consider.

23 comments:

Tlaloc said...

Can we change the inscription on the statue of liberty then?

In case it doesn't leap to mind it reads:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

S. T. Karnick said...

Fine with me.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, when you tax something, anything, it discourages it, right?

Sounds good to me.

James Elliott said...

"Smith's proposal does not directly address assimilation, though it is possible that his proposed tax program could be used to create incentives for immigrants to assimilate and could be used to indemnify the nation's current residents for any losses of cultural values."

As the confused dinosaur says: "Mrr?"

Are cultural values fungible? Is the patty melt terminally threatened by the chimichanga? And the real question: Is assimilation really all that desirable? [Hint: There's an alternative, and it's not enclaving.]

S. T. Karnick said...

Most people prefer not to have the culture around them changed too radically too rapidly, and it seems absurd not to expect the public to want any program to reflect this notion if it is to achieve widespread public acceptance.

Tlaloc said...

"Most people prefer not to have the culture around them changed too radically too rapidly"

While true is politics about giving people what they want no matter the cost? Cause if so I gotta say i want to be fabulously wealthy and so does everyone else.

Gimme!

Maybe this is the time to opine on the difference between politics (the abased pandering to what people want) and statesmanship (the art of leading people toward what they need but may not like)...

James Elliott said...

"Most people prefer not to have the culture around them changed too radically too rapidly..."

I'm going to confess something here: I don't even know what that means. I'm honestly curious, not trying to start something. What is threatened by the influx of different folks with their different strokes? What change will occur that would be fundamental, dire, or even substantial in a negative way? And what is it about assimilation that makes one think it will be successful? Are we even discussing the same thing when we think of assimilation?

[I think of assimilation as the subjugation or stifling of one's native culture to accomodate the norms and expectations of the dominant culture. I'm thinking fin-de-siecle Vienna and the Jews here.]

S. T. Karnick said...

Try this and this for a very brief introduction. There's tons more on the subject, which a simple google search will reveal.

James Elliott said...

While I find nothing "xenophobic" in Huntington's work, the idea that he is our "foremost political scientist" is pretty funny.

Those articles are very pretty and use lots of big words, but they, and the mass of "literature" available by Googling, appear to use sweeping pronouncements, broad attributions, and straw men to martial most of their intellectual soldiers.

For example: "'...it would be hard to overestimate the importance' of the effort by elites to promote racial and ethnic group preferences. This is a major assault on a core principle of the American Creed: the concept of equal rights for individuals regardless of race. Significantly, almost all of the deconstructionist measures are strongly opposed by substantial majorities of the American people, leading Huntington to ponder the emergence of 'unrepresentative democracy.'"

I defy anyone to explain what that means in a manner not open to wild ideological speculation. And that's about as specific as it gets.

So, I ask again: What are people so threatened by? What threatens acculturation? Who resists it?

Everyone's throwing around this word, "assimilation," but what does it mean? What does it mean for "us" and what does it mean for the people who are "supposed to be assimilating?"

See what I'm getting at?

James Elliott said...

From one of those Hudson pieces:

"Because we are a multiethnic, multiracial, multireligious country, our nationhood is not based on ethnicity, race, or religion, but instead on a shared loyalty to our constitutional republic and its liberal democratic principles. If immigration to America is going to continue to be the great success story that it has been in the past, it is essential that newcomers have an understanding of, and attachment to, our democratic republic, our heritage, and our civic principles."

Now, that's as nicely put as anything out there. What threatens this? What is it about current immigration that makes one think this is not the case for the vast majority of immigrants?

S. T. Karnick said...

Mr. Elliott, if you truly cannot understand the passage you claim to find so utterly opaque, no one can help you. We'd best move on to other subjects.

James Elliott said...

Mr. Karnick, I don't think you're understanding the question(s) I'm posing. What I'm trying to do is turn the proposition on its head: Everyone throws around terms like "assimilation" and "American culture" without having a concrete idea of what they mean or what they entail. Everyone has their own definitions. Further, no one questions their definitions and what processes these entail.

I'm sorry you interpreted that as willfully obstinate. Living as I do in one of the most high-immigrant, mutlicultural areas of the country, I find such questions to be of crucial importance.

Ed Darrell said...

Why not let the market figure out what "assimilation" is, also?

For example, if we favor Chinese immigrants, we can use a fish-sauce-based condiment as our nation's favorite, a tomato puree in a vinegar base with a name like "qetsiap." Or if we instead favor immigrants from Mexico, Central America and South America, we can use a tomato-pepper based condiment recently named "salsa."*

Or, we may notice that the market has already made some of these determinations, and anything else we do is to frustrate market solutions.

* Sales of salsa surpassed sales of ketchup several years ago. Pizza sauce, while still a marketable commodity, was never close to the market leader in tomato-based sauces or condiments. England and Germany are totally out of the running.

James Elliott said...

"Why not let the market figure out what "assimilation" is, also?.."

Ed, whether you intended it to or not, that was the best satire of the free market I've seen in a long time.

tbmbuzz said...

Everyone throws around terms like "assimilation" and "American culture" without having a concrete idea of what they mean or what they entail.

As a first generation American I know what American culture is NOT. It is not Mexican or Central American culture, nor is it Spanish-speaking.

James Elliott said...

"As a first generation American I know what American culture is NOT. It is not Mexican or Central American culture, nor is it Spanish-speaking."

Really? Are New Mexicans or Californians any less American because of the beautiful influences of Latino culture, which have combined with their identity as Americans into a coherent whole? After all, they are profoundly different from New Englanders or Mid-Westerners. Why cannot American culture include those who also speak Spanish? Why can't people be American and retain fidelity to the traditions of their heritage?

Put it on the other foot: Why should someone feel encouraged to assimilate/acculturate if the culture they are being asked to embrace is viewed as eminently hostile to something that makes up a pretty fundamental (though not walled-up) part of their identity?

Can someone say "Eff those Spanish-speakers and their burrito-swilling, extended family caring, mariachi loving ways and their Godless, incomprehensible foreign tongue" and expect that person to feel like they've instead said, "Bienvenidos as los Estados Unidos"?

Doesn't the flip side discourage acculturation and encourage enclaving far more than any wrongheaded interpretation of multiculturalism?

tbmbuzz said...

James, I think you misinterpret my point. What you wrote is very well put and I agree 100% from my immigrant-root perspective. By all means they should assimilate into and enrich our American culture, the richest and most varied in the world. The issue I have with the current immigrant situation is two-fold: 1) new immigrants to this country are disproportionately Mexican / Central American solely because of illegal border jumpers who have an unfair advantage over the rest of the world, and 2) this community is increasingly insistent on having America award them special privileges from social services that illegals have no right to, to dealing in both the private and public sector in Spanish, thereby granting them primacy over all other immigrant groups instead of celebrating our English-speaking commonality as multi-cultureed Americans.

James Elliott said...

“1) new immigrants to this country are disproportionately Mexican / Central American solely because of illegal border jumpers who have an unfair advantage over the rest of the world,”

Yeah, okay, and..? Immigration has already come in waves. This mirrors precisely what was said in the early 1800s when the Irish were coming in droves, and then the Eastern Europeans in the 1840s and ‘50s, and later the Chinese, and so on. And they didn’t exactly have visas and such to contend with, either. This Latino wave is merely a rehashing of history. While most people who are all worked up about this try to shrug off this history by saying, “It’s the illegality that’s the problem,” they’re expressed concerns don’t mirror the simply procedural. It’s dishonest and disengenuous.

"2) this community is increasingly insistent on having America award them special privileges from social services that illegals have no right to..."

Okay, then your problem with the current situation is predicated on a complete misunderstanding. I’m going to say this as probably the only person here who on a daily basis provided social services to immigrant families, whether legal or illegal: Where illegal immigrants are awarded social services, it is because by law those services are prohibited from excluding them. This means that they are, in fact, entitled to such services, by law. Further, University of California studies have shown that illegal immigrants are less likely to use such services, such as emergency rooms, than other uninsured peoples. Wal-Mart employees are more of a drain on social services than illegal immigrants. I can say that, personally, the most entitled-feeling people I deal with are the rich parents who call me from their private airplanes demanding to know how the state could have the audacity to request that they pay 80% of their child’s daycare costs. True story.

“...to dealing in both the private and public sector in Spanish, thereby granting them primacy over all other immigrant groups instead of celebrating our English-speaking commonality as multi-cultureed Americans.”

Now, I live in what is probably one of the three most immigrant-heavy areas in the country, and I know for darn sure that it’s one of the most multicultural, multi-lingual places around. One in 18 citizens of Santa Clara County is an illegal immigrant. Nearly one in two is Latino. I’ve yet, in both professional and personal dealings, to meet someone who isn’t trying to get by in English.

In fact, all of our official documents are in Spanish, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Mandarin and Cantonese Chinese, Japanese, and Thai as well as English. And there’s talk of adding Farsi and Hindi. Are all these other groups demanding primacy? I am not required to speak any of those languages to do my job, nor has it been impossible to communicate. No one has ever demanded a translator. It helps that I can get by in Spanish, but mostly to communicate difficult concepts as English is their second language. Just as in the 1800s people in Little Italy spoke Italian, or today in Brighton Beach they speak Russian. In San Jose, they speak Vietnamese and Spanish. As well as English. Sometimes, as Americans, we forget that English is an extraordinarily difficult language to learn, one of the hardest in the world. It takes a long time. I don’t see how people wanting to preserve their first language as they learn a second is a threat to the primacy of English.

The proliferation in Spanish is a pragmatic response to the reality of an immigrant wave, not a demanded concession from invaders. It's an attempt to make sure no one is disenfranchised (like making Braille documents available to the blind). We could all make like Utah and ban all government documents in Spanish as a violation of the primacy of English, but all that does is serve to disenfranchise and alienate Latinos. Instead of encouraging acculturation, it discourages it and encourages the enclaving others find so threatening.

What’s next, outlawing the burrito as a threat to the hamburger?

Tom Van Dyke said...

There is a critical mass problem, though, James, where assimilation becomes unnecessary and devotion to group politics overrides the commonweal. The problem becomes not so much assimilation of the individual, but that of the group. None in the panoply of ethnicities you cite were of sufficient numbers to reject melting into the pot. Our evolving joint culture gets the benefit of their flavor without them taking over the soup.

I don't want 12 million illegal Frenchmen, for instance, let alone 20 or 30.

James Elliott said...

"There is a critical mass problem, though, James, where assimilation becomes unnecessary and devotion to group politics overrides the commonweal."

In theory, sure, that's possible. In practicality, I disagree. I don't think we're seeing that, and there is no indication of any such threat. Or rather, no more so, say, than from the current Third Great Awakening revival currently occurring among Christians that appears so antithetical to the first two. Practical experience on the ground tells me that we don't need to worry.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Oh, James, I think we're agreed that wealthy Santa Clara County is in the process of creating a permanent underclass. Actually, in the adjacent counties, because your Latino underclass can't afford to live where they work.

You must ask yourself why the majority of those who are mellow on immigration come from the wealthier places. The Democrats' key demographic, the black vote that makes under $30K a year, isn't very happy about it, although the Democrats are able once again to ignore their concerns without paying a political price. Illegal immigrants, especially ones that are willing to live with more than one family in a home (contra the "American standard"), compete and drive northward the cost of available affordable housing.

Neither are you likely to see ethnocentric politics in Santa Clara, because your illegals can't vote, or even afford to live there.

Now, a nice, gentle, caring, reasonable, mildly conservative fellow like myself could easily get behind some sort of amnesty for our 12 million illegal guests---if that would be the end of it.

But (and as you know, I live in LA), we have reached a tipping point. There was a nice fluid consensus-forming here in LA for the last 50 years between blacks, Latinos, and others. Blocs shifted in a checks-and-balances thing, albeit all under the Democrat banner.

However, for the first time, there is a mayor whose politics are markedly ethnocentric, and the strength and size of his Hispanic-American voting bloc has, in my opinion, reached a critical mass, and is growing.

I don't believe your attestations from experience hold up. And this is from a guy who's much rather have a burrito than a burger. Or coq au vin.

tbmbuzz said...

Sometimes, as Americans, we forget that English is an extraordinarily difficult language to learn, one of the hardest in the world.

So what? My parents had to learn it. And they did so very well, without one penny of welfare or social services, by the way. I didn't learn English until I started kindergarten, and 12 years later scored in the 95th percentile on the SATs. Numerous studies show that bilingual public school classes (which are really only for Hispanics, no other group) for kids, who incidentally can learn a second language quite easily, actually inhibit their learning development and ability to integrate into this society with given skills.

tbmbuzz said...

“It’s the illegality that’s the problem,” they’re expressed concerns don’t mirror the simply procedural. It’s dishonest and disengenuous.

*shrug*

To me, brushing off the illegality is dishonest and disingenuous. So is claiming that the current wave of illegal immigration, which is unprecedented both in its scope and illegality, is comparable and equivalent to this nation's past history of immigration. We are either a society of laws or we are not. It's bad enough that Congresspeople and Senators can get away with illegal behavior the rest of us can't, apparently it's OK now if a subset of Mexicans can do so too.


We could all make like Utah and ban all government documents in Spanish as a violation of the primacy of English, but all that does is serve to disenfranchise and alienate Latinos.

No other immigrant groups in the 200+ years of this country have been "disenfranchised and alienated" because the government didn't conduct business in their language; they adjusted to and readily accepted the reality. Hispanics can do the same.