Peter Morici: Our cultural wars offer no value to newcomers
Mass immigration, low birth rates and China’s rise pose challenges our political and economic institutions appear ill-equipped to address. Rising to these challenges, however, will prove critical to sustaining our economy in the near term and ultimately the viability of our democracy.
Some 750 million people would like to migrate — mostly from the Third World to Western Europe and America. Close to home, millions from Latin America could easily overwhelm our capacity to culturally assimilate new arrivals and create destabilizing tensions within working-class communities.
Casting an undisciplined eye at failing economies, state entropy and rampant violence, immigration maximalists advocate policies that would effectively create an open border. Many preach limiting the human tsunami by aiding economic development, promoting democracy, and weeding out corruption in places like Colombia and El Salvador.
Unfortunately, globalization and modern technology make those prescriptions nearly impossible. Unlike 100 years ago, these societies must build export industries to buy tractors, industrial machinery, computers and technology from the North — long gone is it tenable to rely on draught animals, plows, and artisan workbenches to create prosperity.
Trade tensions among America, Europe and China clearly demonstrate there are hardly enough manufacturing jobs to go around. President Donald Trump and populist movements in Europe owe their electoral success in some measure to the shortage of good-paying industrial employment.
Building universities and technical programs to train enough workers across the broad range of skills necessary to compete with the likes of America’s finance and high-tech businesses is no more plausible in El Salvador or Colombia than it is in poorer counties of Mississippi or West Virginia.
For the same reason that rural Americans must migrate to more prosperous medium-sized cities, Latin Americans must move to the same places to escape poverty.
The bottom line is that no matter how effective American border enforcement may be they are going to keep coming.
America’s declining birth rate is an obstacle to accomplishing the economic growth needed to support our aging population without bankrupting the federal government. Consequently, we need immigrants but immigrants with skills and reasonable fluency in English.
Acculturating new arrivals to American values to preserve our society is critical. We must recognize that some immigrants are not very assimilable — and this is tough juxtaposed against freedom of religion, thought and speech.
Seeking new citizens that embrace American values — tolerance, race and gender equality, self-reliance and respect for free markets — and not establish insular communities hostile to those values — should take precedence over allocating visas merely on the basis of economic expediency or personal distress.
After all, what are the American values we offer newcomers when we are engaged in a self-destructive cultural civil war?
It’s time to address the world as it is — messy in upheaval and riddled with injustice as it always has been. But to welcome the afflicted and for newcomers and Americans of established lineage to prosper together, we must put aside our hateful obsessions with sins past and fight less among ourselves.