Saturday, June 29, 2013

The dream of a post-racial America




David Brooks has a very interesting column about America's multiethnic future. This is a topic I've been thinking about for quite a while, especially after some Twitter conversations with some hard-core anti-immigrant nativists. Brooks' most important point is that America's increasing racial diversity is inevitable now:
[U]p until now, America was primarily an outpost of European civilization. Between 1830 and 1880, 80 percent of the immigrants came from Northern and Western Europe. Over the following decades, the bulk came from Southern and Central Europe. In 1960, 75 percent of the foreign-born population came from Europe, with European ideas and European heritage.
Soon, we will no longer be an outpost of Europe, but a nation of mutts, a nation with hundreds of fluid ethnicities from around the world, intermarrying and intermingling... 
If enacted, the immigration reform bill would accelerate these trends...It would boost the rise of non-Europeans...In other words, immigration reform won’t transform America. It will just speed up the arrival of a New America that is already guaranteed... 
On the whole, this future is exciting. The challenge will be to create a global civilization that is, at the same time, distinctly American. Immigration reform or not, the nation of mutts is coming.
I agree that this future is exciting. It is also scary and dangerous.

On Twitter, one of the nativists I talked to (a guy called "Heartiste") predicted that new immigrants wouldn't acquire the same national identity that earlier immigrant groups acquired, because of racial differences. A white immigrant, he argued, can acquire the culture of America's Northwest European founders, but a nonwhite immigrant cannot.

I'm much more optimistic than Heartiste, but I have to admit that what he brings up is a real worry. There is evidence that ethnic diversity reduces people's willingness to support public good provision, and that ethnic diversity makes people less likely to support redistribution. And George Orwell noted that a sense of group solidarity was essential to national defense during World War 2.

This implies that when people don't feel a sense of "in-group" commonality with their countrymen, the collective mechanisms of society break down. This is essentially the notion of "volksgemeinschaft", developed by the Germans during World War I (the height of German nationalism). It provides a rough-and-ready explanation for why Japan has such good public infrastructure, and why Sweden is such a redistributive, egalitarian society.

America seems to be already suffering from a lack of "volksgemeinschaft". The popular notion that government spending is mostly racial redistribution (from whites to blacks), promulgated by conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, has made even poor white conservatives implacably anti-government (unless their own Medicare benefits are threatened, of course). As a result, not only are we more unequal than the ethnically homogeneous rich countries of Europe and East Asia, but we have inferior public good provision - crumbling highways, falling bridges, slow internet, etc.

Will nonwhite immigration make this worse? I hope not, but I think the possibility exists.

But like I said, I am a lot more optimistic than the nativists. Why? Because I see lots of examples where multiracial nations end up working pretty well. But there's a catch - they all seem to do it by becoming post-racial.

Two good examples are Japan and Turkey. Talk to any Japanese person, and he or she will tell you that there is only one "Japanese" race. But look at Japanese people's faces, or do genetic tests, and you find that there is a fair amount of diversity; some Japanese people look like Polynesians, while others look like Russians. But these physical differences are not recognized as constituting "real" ethnic differences. Turkey is an even more extreme example; plenty of Turks look like what we would call "white" people, and plenty of others look very dark-skinned and sort of Arabic, while a few even have an East Asian look to them. But they are all just "Turks". Of course, these synthetic ethnicities took centuries to construct.

An even better example is..."white" America. Europeans, you'll notice, do not consider themselves to all be of the same "white" race; "whiteness" is an American invention. And it's an invention that keeps changing. When the country was founded, Germans and Swedes were not considered "white", but that changed as they immigrated in large numbers in the 19th Century. At that time Italians, Greeks, and other South Europeans were still not considered "white", until large numbers of them immigrated here in the 20th century. Nowadays, few if any Americans would deny that Italians are "white people". The group keeps expanding to include people who look more and more physically different from each other.

But the "white-ification" trick isn't going to work this time around. Many Hispanics will be inducted into the "white" category, but it is highly unlikely that Chinese or Indian immigrants will ever be called "white".  And Asia is where the bulk of our net immigration is coming from. If we're going to forge ethnic solidarity between whites, Asians, and the Hispanic immigrants who don't see themselves as "white", then we are going to have to find another way.

What we're going to have to do, I think, is create the notion of an "American" ethnicity.

First and foremost, this means having a common language. That language will be English. Language, it seems to me, is one of the main things (along with race and religion) that defines an ethnicity. Fortunately, despite the dire warnings of people like Sam Huntington, Hispanic immigrants seem to be switching from Spanish to English at a rate equal to or even faster than earlier ethnic groups. "Official language" and "English only" laws will not be required. And Asian immigrants are even less of a worry on this front.

Next, it means intermarriage. Racial mixing will hopefully reduce frictions between groups. As David Brooks says, we must become "a nation of mutts" (if you don't like the canine analogy, fair enough, but dog lovers will know that mutts tend to be healthier and smarter than purebreds!). Fortunately, interracial marriage is proceeding at a very rapid rate, especially for East Asians and Hispanics (South Asians are a notable exception). In terms of actual policies to encourage more intermarriage, the only thing I can think of is urbanism, which leads to more chance encounters with people from different social groups.

On the intermarriage front, history gives us reason to be hopeful. As an example, take my own ancestral religio-ethnic group - Jews. Once famed for their insularity and refusal to outmarry, Jews now have an outmarriage rate of over 50% in the United States (and that percent is going up). Jews are a much smaller group than Asians, of course, but the precedent is encouraging.

I hope that English, intermarriage, and our ubiquitous pop culture will be enough to forge a unique post-racial "American" national identity. They might be. But I worry that more might be needed. Last time we assimilated a large group of immigrants, we had the special event of World War 2 to bring different American ethnicities into close contact, force them to work together, and forge a bond against a common enemy. Thankfully, another war on that scale looks unlikely, but it means we might not get the "freebie" in terms of assimilation this time around.

Therefore, I think we - and by "we" I mean pro-immigration Americans - need to start thinking about revising our negative opinion of nationalism and cultural assimilation. The World Wars understandably gave nationalism a bad name in intellectual circles - things like pledges of allegiance, national anthems, and patriotic history classes were seen as forms of militaristic mind control. There is merit to this view. Ancestral cultures should not be purposefully stamped out or denigrated, and blind worship of the nation-state is of course a very dangerous thing.

But that said, I think we need to realize that in order to assimilate the new waves of immigrants as effectively and rapidly as possible, we should temper our distrust of nationalism and assimilation. This is more a matter of values than of actual policy. Liberals in particular should tone down our rhetoric against American flags, "jingoism", and other expressions of nationalism. And the idea that "multiculturalism" requires resistance to assimilation, and the deliberate preservation of pockets of ancestral cultures within the American whole, probably needs to go by the wayside; remnants and pockets of ancestral culture will preserve themselves just fine on their own. But a unified national culture seems like it needs more active encouragement.

On the whole I think we are already moving in this direction. The much-discussed idea of "universal national service", though probably impractical, shows that liberals are starting to remember the society-building value of the nationalism of the FDR years.

But all the assimilation and nationalism in the world will be a moot point if large groups of white Americans refuse to accept the new nonwhite immigrants. This seems to me to be the biggest danger, since our current lack of "volksgemeinschaft" seems to stem largely from conservatives' insistence that blacks, Hispanics, and urban liberals are not "real Americans". That has to stop; conservatives need to do their part in making the newcomers feel like a real part of the team. That means elevating conservative values like hard work and family values and entrepreneurial spirit - which immigrants tend to have in great quantities - above breeding and bloodlines and skin color. Conservatives need to kill their bad habit of pointing at anyone whose race they don't recognize and saying "macaca".

Anyway, like I said, I am very optimistic about the new waves of immigrants. I do not believe that they will cause our nation to disintegrate. I believe that America is not like the Germany or France or other countries that have struggled with mass immigration. America started as a multi-ethnic experiment, and we have a special ability to turn huge numbers of foreigners into normal, regular, Americans at a very rapid pace (thus altering our own culture in the process). And the signs are encouraging: Even with the percentage of foreign-born residents at an all-time high and the economy still in the doldrums, native-born Americans' attitudes toward immigrants are as positive as they've been since we started taking polls.

I was in Union Square Park in New York recently, and I was looking at the statue of George Washington...at the foot of the statue, kids from every nation you could imagine were hanging out, sharing cigarettes, hitting on each other, skateboarding, and generally being goofy. Black kids, South Asian kids, East Asian kids, plenty of white kids too. I wondered what old George would think if he could see what the country he started had become. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm just being romantic, but I think he'd be pretty damn pleased.

120 comments:

  1. Great article!

    On a separate note, I would love to hear your opinions (in perhaps a separate post) on the recent speech given by Raghuram Rajan about the effects of unconventional monetary policy (http://www.bis.org/events/agm2013/sp130623.htm).

    Last time he penned a piece similar vein, you wrote a post called 'Riled by the wrongness of Raghuram Rajan' and claimed that there wasn't enough reasons for the claims RR was making in that post. This one, as you will see has plenty of reasoning that he's offered about the pitfalls of unconventional policy and why 'spending your way out of a crisis' is a bad idea.

    Hopefully, you'll get a chance to comment!

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  2. I generally agree with the tone and thrust of this post, but there are a couple of factual errors.

    The whole premise, that the US has radically higher immigration than European countries, and is more heterogeneous as a result, is simply wrong. According to wikipedia, here is the foreign-born population percentage of several countries (2005 data):

    US 12.8%
    Germany 12.3%
    France 10.2%
    Switzerland 22.0%
    Australia 19.9%
    Sweden 12.3%

    This doesn't speak to race, but in my experience the cultural/ethnic divides in Europe can be every bit a strong as the racial divides in the US. Here in Switzerland, the prejudice against Croatians and Portugese is extremely strong, for example, and causes problems similar to racism in the US. Don't get me started on Gypsy's.

    A second nit: It is simply not true that mutts are healthier and smarter than purebred dogs. All dogs suffer from genetic diseases, and these are much more prevalent in mutts than in purebreds. Responsible breeders go to great lengths to identify dogs carrying problem genes, and to eliminate them from the breed stock. With the advent of affordable genetic testing, this will accelerate.

    I also would like to point out that assimilation is not the only successful way to deal with diversity. I am thinking about cities like Toronto. The immigrant population there is very high (49%), and there is a conscious effort to retain ethnic identity. People who live there think it is fun and exciting to rub shoulders with those from other cultures. It sure makes for a fantastic restaurant scene...

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  3. Like David, I agree with the thrust of the piece but think some of the elements you've focused on are a bit out.

    To an outsider, the US already practices civic nationalism pretty strongly. You still pledge allegiance in elementary school? And all ethnicities in America seem proud to be an American. Do you have a white-centric political culture descent that runs in the vein of the country? Yes, but it's incorporated ethnicities pretty effectively up until this point and will continue to do so. America could do nothing different to what it's been doing so far and you'll probably build a strong post-racial but cohesive country.

    The bigger problem I think you have is less to do with immigration and more to do with the legacy of slavery. Again, as an outsider, it seems that 2nd and 3rd generation hispanic immigrants will have an easier time fully assimilating into all levels of American society than black people who might be 10th generation (note the 'all levels - there's a big socio-economic element to this). They're fully fledged Americans, but if you have two Americas, I think that would be the other one, not immigrants per se.

    Couple of minor points:

    - Blacks didn't fight in WW2, although they were allowed in logistics etc. I dare say that the fact Saving Private Ryan and every other war film can't have black people in lead, positive roles, is a hindrance to building the shared culture. WW2 did A LOT for integration, but again not for African-Americans. In some respects, it would be better to move on from the WW2 narrative.

    - Japan and Turkey haven't become post-racial. What each country has done is keep the racial categorisation but just allowed more people into 'their' side. It's racial, just working on a more expansive definition. Why? Because states actively look to build nations, and to build a nation that's what the Japanese and Turkish states had to do.

    This is a good debate to be having in the US, but looking at things on the longer view America is the best placed country to deal with the challenges of multi-ethnicity. The UK (where I live) is getting there, but it's slower progress and the post-racial society is limited to London. Canada and Australia are really fascinating with how they're dealing with larger numbers of immigrants, but I worry about much of continental Europe which seems to be struggling to integrate minorities into the national cultural mix.

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    1. You still pledge allegiance in elementary school?

      For what it's worth, I moved a lot growing up and attended a lot of schools, and I can't recall doing the pledge after elementary school, which would have been in the 80s.

      And all ethnicities in America seem proud to be an American.

      Is this true? I would like to believe so, but it's not obvious. Look at this survey data:

      About half [of Hispanics/Latinos] (51%) say they identify themselves most often by their family’s country or place of origin—using such terms as Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran or Dominican. And 21% say they use the term “American” most often to describe themselves. The share rises to 40% among those who were born in the U.S.

      Would seem hard to be proud to be American if you don't even identify as American.

      Blacks didn't fight in WW2

      Not true

      Delete
    2. If they have to choose between Latino/Hispanic, their country of origin, or "American", then yes, they choose their country of origin most often.

      Unconstrained, though, I daresay that after the first generation, the vast majority of Americans of Latino (and Asian) descent would choose to identify themselves as Mexican-American rather than Mexican, Chinese-American (or Asian-American) rather than Chinese, etc.

      Delete
    3. As to your last point, Colin, it's darn shame that Red Tails wasn't a better movie.

      Delete
  4. I don't think George Washington would be "pleased" at all. He owned slaves from the age of 11. He lived in the hierarchical society of Virginia where whites and blacks did not mix, nor did whites of different classes. He was a brilliant leader of America at a critical time, but his views on today's integrated society are really besides the point now.

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  5. Anonymous10:20 AM

    A more appropriate statue in New York to animate for her opinion would be the one in the harbour.

    "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
    With silent lips. "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-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous11:30 AM

      She was a communist jew

      Delete
    2. She was a communist jew

      See, communist Jews are the backbone of America! :-)

      Delete
  6. Demographic change will, eventually, prod the GOP to climb down, eventually, from its Southern Strategy approach to policy and rhetoric-- its efforts to heighten the suspicion of resentful whites that They are getting something at the expense of Us.

    Those folks didn't resent the government too much when One of Us was pushing for No Child Left Behind, Medicare Part D, a war to remake the Middle East in our image, etc. When the resentment machine isn't in high gear, fear of government among whites decreases.

    We will get there in time. American ideals work pretty well-- we've even managed to assimilate Irish people.

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  7. Anonymous11:36 AM

    Ah, the multicultural dream. Problem: society as we know it was invented by whites. Things will change to become more like Mexico or el Salvador.

    Nationalism...that means forming a political unit with people of your KIND. Not a melting pot.
    The trend across the world is balkanization. Self segregation. This libtard dream of happy rainbows...i just don't get it. There's nothing wrong with blacks sticking to their kind, Asians to theirs, and whites to their own too. Different peoples have different fundamental outlooks on things, even basics such as right and wrong. This is why cultures are different...they are a reflection, a manifestation, of aggregated hereditable attributes. Despite what you Marxists believe, we're simply not interchangeable nor blank slates

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    1. Problem: society as we know it was invented by whites.

      By North European whites, you mean? But large numbers of immigrants from Italy and Greece and Poland and Russia did not bring down that civilization. So I think we are safe.

      Nationalism...that means forming a political unit with people of your KIND.

      But who you see as your KIND can change a lot. History shows that.

      There's nothing wrong with blacks sticking to their kind, Asians to theirs, and whites to their own too.

      In America, I think there is a problem with that.

      Delete
  8. Anonymous12:15 PM

    I'm a lot more optimistic than you - what I see is that the homogenization is already happening, along a continuum of course, and doesn't require the tempering of left opinions or the participation of the conservative rump.

    For instance your assertion about Indians and Chinese - that it's "highly unlikely" that they'll ever be called 'white' - is contradicted by my own experience. In my own circle of friends and acquaintances, Asian immigrants and their children, particularly ones from Japan, China, India, and to a lesser extent South Korea, are functionally white. They have the same degrees from the same institutions, the same hobbies and cultural obsessions, the same kinds of jobs. Their mothers serve them different food when they go home for different holidays - not terribly unlike secular Jews.

    My circle is admittedly relatively urban and cosmopolitan, but still. And I don't mean to assert that there isn't discrimination against these groups - god forbid there's ever another serious terror attack or some kind of military conflict with China - but from what I can tell this kind of homogenization is already occurring.

    From a welfare and human capacity standpoint, it feels far more productive to me to be concerned with and try to end the systematic oppression and marginalization of African-Americans - who make up 15% of the population and whose health, as a community, seems to be stagnant at best.

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    1. Anonymous12:44 PM

      good point regarding foods....also shows ethnicity

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    2. Optimistic anonymous (as opposed to the other kind of anonymous) is quite right. My adopted daughter, now 17, is Chinese. Our small college/resort town (Ashland OR if it matters) is 2% Asian but more so among the young. And among the young at the high school, Asian kids are indeed functionally white. Oh, they know they are "Asian," of course, but that fact has about as much importance as the fact that some kids are Jewish. It makes you stand out a little--usually in a good way!--but doesn't make you all that different. Unfortunately, as Asians and long-term Hispanics become white, African Americans stay black, as others have noted. That's what we really need to work on.

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    3. Unfortunately, as Asians and long-term Hispanics become white, African Americans stay black, as others have noted. That's what we really need to work on.

      Yeah, this is a much tougher problem, given all the history.

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    4. "But the "white-ification" trick isn't going to work this time around. Many Hispanics will be inducted into the "white" category, but it is highly unlikely that Chinese or Indian immigrants will ever be called "white". And Asia is where the bulk of our net immigration is coming from. If we're going to forge ethnic solidarity between whites, Asians, and the Hispanic immigrants who don't see themselves as "white", then we are going to have to find another way."

      Agreeing with the Anonomeece, and disagreeing with Noah. Remember the term 'model minority'? That's first/second generation; by second/third being of Asian/Indian ancestry can be visible but not meaningful (in the 'white/non-white' sense).

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    5. Also, when you talk about those white factions resisting new ethnic groups, to a large degree you're talking about older whites (and older Southern whites) who are still not accepting of the Civil Rights movement - in a word, neo-confederates.

      Fortunately, they're dying off every day.

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    6. Barry I don't think you're disagreeing with me at all...in fact we seem to agree completely...I think you've just gotten it into your head that you're going to come on here and disagree with me about stuff...

      Delete
  9. Problem: society as we know it was invented by whites.

    Why don't you just say Protestants post 1650 through the Enlightenment? The Catholics were just along for the ride. If Catholics and the Japanese can be brought into the modern world there is hope for the Muslims and the Hindus.

    I think there are two major issues with immigration:

    1) WHAT BENEFIT? What does the Western world get out of allowing immigration from less developed parts of the world? If there is no net advantage to existing citizens of the US or Canada or Australia or Sweden then I see no reason why those countries should accept immigrants.

    2) AT WHAT COST OR RISK? Culture, in a broad sense of the word, is at the core of the success of the West. There is a danger in suggesting that immigrants retain their cultures since it is frequently their cultures that made the places they are escaping from pest holes to be fled. Do we really want South Asians to make the United States more like India? Do we want Latin Americans to make the United States more like Mexico?

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    1. Your point is actually interesting.

      It is exactly the case that "cultures that made the places they are escaping from pest holes to be fled". And many migrants DO want to flee that culture. In fact liberals should be very much in favour of giving people the opportunity to flee these cultures (as a liberated diaspora is a catalyst for change). But it does involve conflicts with a fundamentally individualist society confronting repressive traditionalists (e.g. forced marriages and honour killings).

      Delete
    2. Huh?

      Do we really want the Italians to make the US more like Italy?

      Do we really want the Jews, Poles, and Czechs to make the US more like Eastern Europe?

      How was Eastern Europe or Italy in 1900 better than India now?

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    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  10. Prof. Smith: Pls discuss Prof. DeLong's Twittercast on this. Get your post; don't get his...

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  11. Anonymous12:33 PM

    no...language does not define ethnicity....looks define ethnicity

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    1. I'm not sure that's true. Serbs, Bosnians, and Croats all look exactly the same...they even did a game show where people from those groups couldn't guess which was which. Same with Hutus and Tutsis.

      And then you see countries where people with very different looks consider themselves part of the same group. Like Turkey.

      Delete
    2. Anonymous1:05 PM

      my rebuttal to serbs, bosnian, croats looking the same would be that they are being defined here by you looking at their territories....

      Delete
    3. Well, and the fact that they slaughtered each other a bunch in the 90s (and many times before).

      They're defined by linguistic and religious differences, not appearance differences.

      Delete
    4. Anonymous1:15 PM

      they defines themselves by these....or their culture defines themselves by these.....i stand by my statement...that looks define ethnicity

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    5. i stand by my statement

      http://noahpinionblog.blogspot.com/2013/06/what-is-derp-answer-is-technical.html

      Delete
    6. Noah,
      I don't think Serbs and Croats are even differentiated by Language.
      If you want another example - try Northern Ireland, or closer to home the American Civil War (and continuing misunderstanding hostility between red - grey states - and blue.)

      Delete
    7. Anonymous9:10 AM

      Serbian and Croatian are the same language by any reasonable definition - they are differentiated for political reasons.

      Delete
    8. Serbs and Croats are primarily differentiated by religion, no?

      Delete
    9. I don't think Serbs and Croats are even differentiated by Language.

      True, except that there is a difference in scripts: the Latin alphabet is used in Croatia, while the Cyrillic alphabet is dominant in Serbia. This probably helps foster the idea that there are two different languages corresponding to Croatians and Serbs.

      Delete
  12. Just so you know who you're debating when it comes to Heartiste, here are a few of his blog posts: http://heartiste.wordpress.com/2013/05/20/comment-of-the-week-17/ in which he seriously entertains the idea that Australian Aborigines are evolutionary throwbacks (in the post and in the comments) and this one: http://heartiste.wordpress.com/2013/06/18/are-women-winning-or-are-men-losing/ where he argues we should "Make welfare contingent on contraceptive use. Offer the option for a guaranteed lifetime income in exchange for permanent sterilization. All voluntary, all eugenic, all humane."

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  13. Anonymous12:41 PM

    how are identities defined

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  14. Anonymous12:44 PM

    You just had a twitter convo with Heartiste?

    Next step: discussing with him the best way to f--k 20 year olds.

    You're familiar with the main 'thrust' of his work, right?

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  15. we have inferior public good provision - crumbling highways, falling bridges, slow internet, etc.

    Is US internet really slow? According to a recent report the US ranks in the top 10 in both average connection speed and high speed broadband adoption. Given that this is typically privately provided, it also calls in to question your description of broadband as a public good.

    As for this:

    our current lack of "volksgemeinschaft" seems to stem largely from conservatives' insistence that blacks, Hispanics, and urban liberals are not "real Americans". That has to stop; conservatives need to do their part in making the newcomers feel like a real part of the team. That means elevating conservative values like hard work and family values and entrepreneurial spirit - which immigrants tend to have in great quantities - above breeding and bloodlines and skin color. Conservatives need to kill their bad habit of pointing at anyone whose race they don't recognize and saying "macaca".

    That's a pretty sweeping indictment to be based on evidence that consists of one person (former Sen. George Allen). This is no more rigorous than if I took the opposite view, claiming conservatives are super inclusive by citing another US Senator, Tim Scott. In any case, I think if you want to talk about dividing the country that the left also bears some guilt here. It wasn't conservatives, for example, who came up with the Jesusland map.

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    1. And as soon as I finished publishing this I went over to Paul Krugman's blog where he asserts that "Acelaland, in short, is the real America." Again, this targeting of urban liberals as not part of the real America is hardly a one way street.

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    2. Except that Krugman is speaking in reaction to being cast out of the "real America" that conservatives like to define to their advantage. Much like the price of milk, facts of demography seem too subtle for the typical rightwing commenter to handle. Krugman's point is, if you're going to define a "real America", you should look at the actual experience of actual Americans, not a rosy-colored illusion informed by misty nostalgia.

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    3. Except that Krugman is speaking in reaction to being cast out of the "real America"

      Krugman links to nothing claiming that the NE isn't part of the real America. It's something he invents. Basically the entire column bashes a strawman. The column meanders from "right-wingers don't like the Acela" to "Acelaland is the real America" when he never links to anyone who claims otherwise. In any case, the idea that one part of the US is more authentically American than another -- an argument Krugman engages in -- is ridiculous.

      Delete
    4. MaxUtility1:28 PM

      Please. Do you really need someone to pull up the endless list of quotes from people claiming that anyone from the northeast (specifically the urban northeast) is not part of 'real america'? Just read Palin speeches to get you started, but this notion pre and post dates her extensively.

      Delete
    5. Anonymous8:51 PM

      @Colin - please learn to read. From Krugman:

      "Except they (we) are, in fact, the real America — a lot realer than the small-town, all-white America such people have in their minds. As I’ve pointed out before, the average American lives in a census tract with a population density of more than 5,000 per square mile. That’s not Mayberry — it’s dense, even quasi-urban suburbia. It is, as it happens, the population-weighted density of greater Baltimore."

      Inside this quote is a link to another post from where he gets that idea.

      Delete
  16. Your comments on moving to post-racial society are interesting. Presumably, that post-racial group would be American. There has already been some movement towards establishing this group. Interestingly enough, self-identified Americans tend to be found in the Old South. See the following map from Wikipedia.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Census-2000-Data-Top-US-Ancestries-by-County.svg

    Arguably, this American ethnic group is the most reactionary force in today's society.

    Going back to your argument, getting to a post-racial country would entail the American ethnic group integrating with other races, particularly African American.

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    1. Going back to your argument, getting to a post-racial country would entail the American ethnic group integrating with other races, particularly African American.

      Yep. That's going to be our toughest challenge, given the legacy of slavery, the Civil War, Jim Crow, etc.

      Delete
  17. Anonymous4:33 PM

    Background information on Heartiste:

    http://manboobz.com/category/heartiste/

    I know you probably didn't know any of this. But I'm now physically disgusted by you too, as if utter repulsiveness is somehow contagious and can be transmitted through Twitter. ( I'm saying this as an observation, not as an actual judgement on you. Social psychologists probably have some kind of name for this phenemenon; it's not rational, and will probably pass. I hope so, because I enjoy your blog and your writing and I don't want that to be ruined!)

    But anyway. Not a good person to quote without some much more obvious nose holding.
    And you really don't want to bring his followers to your comment section.

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    1. Gee, I thought pointing out that the guy was a nativist was enough "nose holding". That is enough to say the guy does not welcome immigrants, probably has lots of anger and anxiety over the idea of a white minority, and is quite possibly a white supremacist. Saying "nativist" is enough to say one whose thinking is dominated by primitive tribal emotions, not broad minded rational liberal inclusive humanitarian values.

      He certainly wasn't quoted either admiringly or as an authority, but rather as a symptom that any realistic view must take into account.

      Delete
  18. "Will nonwhite immigration make this worse? I hope not, but I think the possibility exists."

    What you note is sad and a concern, but this is countered by the fact that non-whites vote Democrat much more. We get five more percentage points voting for Democrats due to an increased non-white population and Republicans won't be able to stop far more spending on high return public investment – basic science and medicine, smart infrastructure, college aid, universal pre-school..., as well as a smart sufficient safety net.

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  19. This implies that when people don't feel a sense of "in-group" commonality with their countrymen, the collective mechanisms of society break down.

    This suggests an interesting paradox. If true then our conservative critics of "collectivism" should welcome an influx of immigration with enthusiasm!

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    1. Many people have argued that America's racial diversity is what made us more laissez-faire than other rich countries.

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    2. It sounds plausible, especially considering how most African-Americans ancestors got here. It's just difficult to reconcile with much anti-immigration sentiment.

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    3. Many people have argued that America's racial diversity is what made us more laissez-faire than other rich countries.

      Sure, although it seems likely that the mechanism is:
      racial/cultural diversity => lack of social cohesion => its every man for himself => laissez faire.

      Another possibility is that historically the sheer size of the United States and the resulting open frontier reduced externalities and avoided zero sum situations and that reduced the urge to regulate your neighbor's conduct. As the frontier has vanished so to the foundation of laissez faire may be vanishing.

      Delete
    4. "It sounds plausible, especially considering how most African-Americans ancestors got here. It's just difficult to reconcile with much anti-immigration sentiment."

      Where 'laissez faire' means 'sure, we'll use government power to enslave people'.

      Delete
  20. I grew up in Southern California in the 70s. There lots of Latinos(the best player on my youth soccer team was from Mexico), Vietnamese refugees, etc. There were also obvious racists who used terms like "wetbacks".

    I think the key is simple, human contact. My best friend in high school was Chinese American (although he was more American than me: football player, had a blond girlfriend, very popular).

    The best analogy to assimilation is gay marriage. 20 years ago it was unthinkable. Republicans used it as a wedge issue to win elections. What happened? Gays came out. People got to know them. People saw them on TV.

    And they realized they're just people. Like us. They like pizza and swimming and good music.

    Human migration (and invasions) are why English is what it is. It's also central fact of human existence. We're all from Africa.

    If you're worried about support for infrastructure, I would note this: more than 50 percent of schoolchildren in Texas are Latino. The average age of a Latino born in America is 18.

    Latinos as a group have a 68 percent favorable view of socialism. You may not agree as an economist, but that would make them more amenable to public oriented solutions.

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    1. That's right. The root cause of racism is fear and ignorance, fear of what is strange and unknown, in particular the ignorance of not knowing that the differences in appearance and culture are smaller than the common human emotional and biological facts that bind us together.

      Contact and shared experiences overcome this fear pretty effectively. Universals, like the love of parents for their children, the desire of individuals to have a place of value and respect in society, and the basic will of people in general to be allowed to go about their business in peace are factors that create mutual understanding when they have a chance to.

      A real test though is to look at how things change with changes in prosperity. When there is hardship and adversity, do people come together, share the pain, and overcome through unity, or do they fragment, compete, and point fingers. Compare the responses of Iraqis to the post Saddam power vacuum to the Japanese post WWII or after the tsunami and Fukushima. The Middle East has roots of tribal unity that far predate any bonds of nationalism for Iraqis, Syrians, and Lebanese, but the island nation of Japan has a longer history of inhabitants feeling they share a common destiny.

      So time seems to be an important factor in dissolving differences and building unity. In a post-racial America, Americans will view their southern border exactly as they view their northern border. Nobody is clamoring to build a fence or militarize our northern border.

      I'm optimistic that economic and technological progress is shrinking the world, and it's only a matter of time before the processes of economic interdependence and cultural exchange bring about a post-racial world.



      Delete
    2. People saw them on TV.

      One of the great strengths of this country is our popular culture. This is a generalization obviously but when conservatives talk about freedom, to a large extent they are talking about economic freedom. The freedom to enrich oneself. When liberals talk about freedom, to a large extent they are talking about freedom of expression. The freedom to say what one feels, to be true to ones heart. And good art, good storytelling, good TV--which we have a surprising amount of--brings us into closer contact with each other and diminishes our fears and suspicions.

      And that culture is attractive to many if not most immigrants.

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    3. This phenomenon of racism
      is not purely American. I remember reading a French magazine about their own brand of racism in reference to the "Arabs", immigrants from North Africa. The lady complained about a visit he made to his childhood neighborhood for it was
      full of "Arabs". He recalled sadly about the despised the felt towards
      Italian, Spanish and Portuguese immigrants, that
      were accused of being dirty and thieves. "But at least they had the same religion and values as us", she said. Then, my point is that exist a tradition of bashing the immigrant everywhere. Then,
      the most different that look the immigrant the worse is the feeling.

      Eridanus

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    4. Jeffrey Johnson:

      Ethnic identity is and can be strengthened by the nation-state. For instance, in Japan, the Tokyo dialect is called "Japanese" while other regional dialects (which are almost different languages; my wife who is Japanese from a region where the local dialect is closer to Osaka-ben & obviously also speaks standard Japanese well, can not understand people from northern Japan or Fukuoka when they speak their local dialects) are not. In the old days (pretty much until after WWII), local dialects were repressed in school. A lot of brainwashing went on in school the many generations between the Meiji reformation & end of WWII as well.

      Delete
  21. Alex Bollinger7:44 AM

    heartiste is the exact kind of person preventing racial integration. It's not the disempowered minority that wants to keep separate, it's the majority that thinks it'll lose out.

    Like in the 60's. Was is blacks or whites who were fighting against integration? People with large endowments are less likely to contribute to the common pot in the public goods game than people with small/no endowments.

    If heartiste is really worried about integration, he should be putting out the welcome mat, not closing all the doors. Of course, he'd probably say that it's those others who are terrible and don't want to integrate properly with kind-hearted white people, because derp.

    Also, Noah, I know it's not fun to write about race with decent intentions but get a negative response, but - and this implies nothing about you as a person - your entire post is premised on the notion that white=American. Even though African Americans predate most waves of immigration to the US. And Native Americans and Inuit people predate all the waves of immigration that came after. "Hispanics" (hey, there's an inter-racial mutt group! I have little in common, racially, with someone of Mayan ancestry, but we get lumped together) arrived in some parts of the US before white people did, too, because 1/3 of the country belonged to Mexico.

    Also too, Hawaii.

    Seriously, the rest of the US is willing to welcome white people to the table. But it's white Americans who think they have the most to lose if they share their stuff with others.

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    1. Alex Bollinger8:17 AM

      To be clear, I bring this up because it's important to point out that the heartistes of the world are not nativists (who can be said to want to protect their homeland, even if they're misguided) or people with different views on immigration (just a policy debate!), but are racists.

      When they separate the white and the non-white immigrants and then crap all over the non-white ones, there's really only one word for that phenomenon.

      Delete
    2. your entire post is premised on the notion that white=American

      No, it is not.

      Delete
  22. Alex Bollinger7:47 AM

    oh, also, the statement on Indian-Americans is false; they used to be considered white (at least legally):

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racial_classification_of_Indian_Americans

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    1. MaxUtility1:31 PM

      They actually are the original Aryans...

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  23. As you mention, this issue has been discussed ad infinitum throughout American history. I have three thoughts, not entirely connected:

    1. The Roman Empire had the same problem--how was "Rome" to be defined? What was a Roman citizen? Contrary to popular belief, these problems were not what led to the decline--it was the city of Rome's lead-laden environment and extreme inequality in the formal economy that caused the political collapse. I digress.

    2. Adolf Hitler pointed out during the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin that the United States was a mongrel nation. He believed that even though the Untermenschen (by which he meant black folks) could excel in sporting events when properly directed, the United States could never overcome German racial solidarity. German racial solidarity turned out not to be as strong a force as the Nazi ideology predicted.

    3. I read a few years back that political opinions on many issues in the United States basically have the same distribution as they do in Canada--if you exclude white men living in the former Confederate States. I don't know where the study originated or verified the mathematics or methodology. I've lived in many parts of the country and this finding meshes well with my personal experience. The real challenge, IMHO, is not how to assimilate immigrants. They seem to do that on their own. It's how to assimilate white folks in the Old South into a fast-changing nation.

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    1. Cameron Hoppe (point 3) Yup!

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    2. Yep. Take out Greater Appalachia & the Deep South and the rest of the US is basically Canada.

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    3. Take out Greater Appalachia & the Deep South and the rest of the US is basically Canada.

      I don't think so. It looks to me like the "Conservative" government of Canada is to the left of the Obama administration. That could only happen if there were really widespread philosophical differences. Michelle Bachmann is from Minnesota, which seems to be one of the most "Canadian" of the States, but she would be laughed off the public stage in Canada. In the United States there are deep divisions over health care - in Canada universal single payer health care is so widely and deeply accepted that speaking out against it is political suicide.

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    4. Absalon:

      Well, you're comparing the US with the South as part of it to Canada. Without the South, both the right and the left in the US would shift to the left. For instance, if the only votes that counted were from the states outside the South & border-South, universal single payer health care may actually have a chance of passing here. Without the South, the GOP as currently configured would be trounced so badly that they wouldn't even nominate someone like a Bachmann in a safe conservative district (even in the North).

      No party wants to stay a permanent minority party. Seriously, count up what the Congressional numbers would look like if the US didn't have the South and border-South.

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  24. This is rather simple to explain in terms of evolutionary biology where kinship and perception of difference play key roles in group evolution, not only inter-species but also intra-species. So group preference and "racism" are evolutionary traits.

    However, the trend of evolution is in the direction of greater universality, and appreciation of universality and ability to use universality gave human beings a huge evolutionary advantage, allowing humans to conquer and then isolate themselves from predators. Now the challenge that humans face inter-species competition, both inter-group and intra-group, leading to war and social conflict and dysfunction.

    America is the first nation that not a "nation." "Nation" is from Latin root signifying birth, and nations were characterized as a people, the Latin term for which is gens, from which English genetic. The American people are not related genetically as are the peoples of virtually all other nations.

    So far Americans have managed to universalize in the face of evolutionary drag, assimilating many peoples into a single people. Previous opposition, which was often fierce at the time, think Irish and Italians, is now largely forgotten.

    Will America rise to the new challenge and successfully continue to universalize the species further? Not with out conflict and travail, as previously. But TINA, and this is the future of a globalized world.

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  25. Anonymous7:42 PM

    Even if it can be done, why is it desirable? To put it uncharitably, immigration is a tool for stealing the high-performing individuals of other societies. The 'ordinary' ones are not necessarily beneficial unless you grant some sort of subjective value to diversity (and arguably that's cancelled out by others who dislike it).

    Back when I came from India (age 8), we were stereotyped as doctors and engineers. Now I see increasing numbers of low-skill Indians being allowed to immigrate. All fine and well from a global perspective, but what purpose do they serve for American societal interests, I wonder?

    The funny thing is, I've kept my citizenship in India (which doesn't allow dual citizenship) rather than switch despite no attachment towards India. Unthinkable to older generations of immigrants. But there's a staleness to the U.S.; the sense that it's already peaked. While you may cheer ever increasing numbers of Indians and others, there's a solid chance I'll head back some time if some lucrative opportunity presents itself in my industry (and take my Stanford engineering PhD with me).

    It doesn't seem to me that there's some glorious future ahead in this country, multi-racial or not. Not that the U.S. will decline in any absolute sense, it will merely be more in line with the global average for developed nations.

    The fundamental point is this: times change. U.S. attractiveness is going down, in small part due to poor policy, but overwhelmingly because opportunities in the rest of the world are climbing. And this will change the quality of the immigrants you will still receive, which may change your opinion of immigrants. America's generally good experience with immigrants isn't due to some innate benefit from immigrants; it's more so that the particular ones it's received are 'high-quality' in some sense. Even the non-English Europeans of the earlier centuries, though poor and uneducated, were the sort that risked a lot to cross an ocean and establish a new life. Today that's a comparatively unimpressive feat, and with societal safety nets, there are few risks to it. Some are even here just for that.

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    1. MaxUtility2:24 PM

      I think it's pretty debatable that the history of America is purely skimming the cream off other countries populations. Of course, you will tend to get more ambitious and risk taking individuals at any time. But look at the large influx of Irish during the potato famine. I think what you saw was basically a huge influx of subsistence farmers. Hard to argue that we were getting the "best" people of Ireland at that point.

      Of course, there are strong counter examples (I think the US has benefited pretty strongly from taking all the European Jews in the 30's who could manage to emigrate.)

      But I think you can make a case that a lot of the strength of American immigration is built just in the fact of constant influx of new people with diverse backgrounds and not solely on a Darwinian notion of getting "the best and brightest".

      Delete
  26. It is really important to note that true patriotism is not being a yes man. The most patriotic thing you can do is recognize your country's shortcomings and fight to make it better. That's the kind of patriotism that really makes your country great, and it's those kinds of patriots who have made our country vastly better since its birth, ending the slavery we once had, giving women the right to vote, passing the New Deal, Medicare,...

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    1. Or, as Carl Schurz[*] put it: "My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right."

      [*] German immigrant, US Ambassador to Spain, Union General, US Senator, Secretary of the Interior...

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  27. I think the key here is just to realize that things like national identity and national unity aren't things that can be counted on to emerge by spontaneous generation and self-organization. They have to be built deliberately. To some extent, we might have been able to free ride in the past on a pre-packaged disposition to get along based on ethnic or religious solidarities. If those solidarities are diminishing, then other forms of building solidarity must be sought.

    A small component step: restore civics education in schools.

    Also, if big wars (with broad or universal conscription) are going to play a smaller role in nation building and national regeneration over the coming years, we need to organize unifying national projects of alternative kinds.

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    1. Anonymous7:57 PM

      You're living in a dream world. You're also pushing for an authoritarian, shove it down the throats of the masses, regime. No thanks.

      Delete
  28. MaxUtility1:38 PM

    I think you touch on some very interesting points, but I'm not sure about all of this. You point to WWII as some critical defining moment that created the American identity due to our pulling together to fight a common enemy. Explain Japanese Americans though. Pretty hard to say that their experince during WWII would be a model for creating a shared American identity. And yet, before, during and after the war they routinely expressed very durable loyalty to this country and to the American identity and many put their lives on the line to prove it even when their relatives might be sitting in an internment camp.

    I can't speak as knowledgeably about the black experience, but it seems to me that there was a strong American identity among the African American community even at times when this country was doing everything possible to disenfranchise them.

    Again, I'm not sure you're wrong about a lot here. But I suspect you're missing something critical about the history, source, and durability of the American identity.

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  29. The factor that will broaden the in group may already be in play: anti-Islam sentiment.

    I'd imagine that the East and Southeast Asian experiences have changed dramatically as WWII, Korean and Vietnam fade from present memory and people from those regions are viewed in a positive light relative to those from the Middle East and Islamic world.

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    1. "The factor that will broaden the in group may already be in play: anti-Islam sentiment."

      No, because 'anti-Islam' sentiment is highly correlated with 'you ain't white, so you aint' sh*t' sentiment.

      Delete
  30. "When the country was founded, Germans and Swedes were not considered "white", but that changed as they immigrated in large numbers in the 19th Century. At that time Italians, Greeks, and other South Europeans were still not considered "white", until large numbers of them immigrated here in the 20th century"
    That's simply false. People should stop saying it. There was an explicit legalized racial caste system in the U.S and European immigrants were always considered white. Even aside from Jim Crow, the Naturalization Act of 1970 required immigrants to be white in order to become citizens.

    It's true that diversity reduces trust, per Putnam. That may be a good thing. I'm primarily concerned with whether immigrants have high IQs necessary to be net contributors in a modern economy with a welfare state, and whether they engage in anti-social behavior which would have negative externalities (IQ tends to ameliorate that due to the risk of imprisonment & harmed reputation). There's also the possibility of degrading the political culture in a democracy, but I haven't given as much thought to that, plus per Garett Jones IQ should ameliorate it.

    Your examples of Japan & Turkey sound terrible. I am actually surprised you used them, because you usually seem pretty smart. They are not "nations of immigrants". Ask a population genetecist how people who have lived in the same place for a long time tend to cluster together genetically. The Japanese regard themselves as one race because they are (Turkey is more complicated). America is in a completely different situation. If you want me to back up that assertion with a citation see Visscher & co's "Recent human effective population size estimated from linkage disequilibrium". They estimated the effective population size of Japanese from Tokyo to be about the same as white Utahans hailing from north/western Europe. Those CEU whites were specifically chosen for population genetic analysis because they were known to be a homogenous closely related population stemming from a small related group of founders. In contrast, Yoruba from Ibadan have over twice that effective population size, not due to immigration but because they are really old & genetically diverse.

    "Last time we assimilated a large group of immigrants, we had the special event of World War 2 to bring different American ethnicities into close contact, force them to work together, and forge a bond against a common enemy"
    We also had a long pause in immigration starting in the 1920s. That was preceded by WW1, in which nationalism ran rather rampant.

    "I believe that America is not like the Germany or France or other countries that have struggled with mass immigration"
    What successful example of multiculturalism are we like? Switzerland, not Belgium?

    "I wondered what old George would think if he could see what the country he started had become. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm just being romantic, but I think he'd be pretty damn pleased."
    He was in office when the Naturalization Act of 1790 was passed. I don't know if he stated any opinion regarding that section, my guess is that it was a "fish don't know they're wet" situation where the possibility of granting citizenship to non-whites never even crossed his mind (even most anti-slavery folks back then assumed the freedmen would be sent back to Africa).

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    1. 1. Did you follow that link to the Ben Franklin stuff about Swedes and Germans not being white?

      2. Wouldn't you agree that the "nordic/mediterranean" distinction has very little importance in America today, in contrast to 100 years ago?

      3. You say you're worried about IQ and productivity. Have you noticed that most net immigration to the U.S. is now from Asia, and these immigrants are highly likely to be relatives of Asian immigrants who were brought here specifically for their high skills?

      4. Your examples of Japan & Turkey sound terrible. I am actually surprised you used them, because you usually seem pretty smart.
      Maybe you assess people's "smartness" by how much they agree with your prior beliefs?

      5. They are not "nations of immigrants"
      Nor did I claim they were. My point was that they have populations whose physical appearances differs widely but who are all considered to be the same race.
      As I say in my post, these racial identities took hundreds of years to build; a nation of immigrants has to do it much, much faster.

      6. We also had a long pause in immigration starting in the 1920s. That was preceded by WW1, in which nationalism ran rather rampant.
      True!

      7. What successful example of multiculturalism are we like? Switzerland, not Belgium?
      Those countries are characterized by linguistic diversity and racial homogeneity. We have the opposite. So those are not good comparisons. Canada is a better comparison to those countries.

      8. Washington may not have stopped to contemplate nonwhite immigration, but he was definitely friendly to non-Christian immigration: http://civilliberty.about.com/od/religiousliberty/a/touroletter_2.htm

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    2. I followed the link and have read Franklin's complaints numerous times before. He didn't like non-English speaking immigrants, that is well known. Calling people at least as pasty as Saxons (like Swedes) "swarthy" comes off as funny, but as his complaint reveals those Germans were able to participate in elections. That's something we reserve to citizens, Germans were never blocked from naturalization because everyone knew they counted as free white persons.

      My comment was not intended to be an argument against immigration. Just noting that I prioritize factors other than eroded trust.

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    3. Germans were never blocked from naturalization because everyone knew they counted as free white persons.

      I think you're assuming your conclusion here...

      The evidence clearly indicates that the notion of "white" has changed (expanded) substantially over the centuries.

      Now this last part is anecdotal, but my German friends tell me that even today, in Europe, most people don't think of there being a "white" race. "German" and "French" and "Italian" are considered races. "Whiteness" is thought of as more of a sliding scale, with the European and other races, or individuals within those races, being various degrees of "white". That's how the "black Irish" got their name. That's how it is in Brazil too. And I think that's where we're heading.

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    4. "What successful example of multiculturalism are we like? Switzerland, not Belgium?"

      How about Canada?

      Delete
    5. What part of my conclusion am I assuming? That Germans couldn't become citizens? We know they did. That they must have been considered white? That's what the law required. If you don't take my word for it, see Fox & Guglielmo. The "black Irish" were in no way comparable to American blacks. The old laws of race concerning non-whites has gone away, but I think it's important to point out that Europeans NEVER fell on the non-white side of those laws here. The dismantling of those laws was not merely the repetition of a process that had occurred before.

      I don't think you're smart merely because you agree with me about some things. When you disagree with me, you typically do so in an intelligent manner. The awfulness of Japan as an example was so obvious I would expect someone whose intellect I respect less to notice it and not attempt to use it. The Japanese haven't had merely "hundreds" of years, but thousands of years separated from other people. There is of course physical variation among them, as with any large nation. The reason they all perceive each other as one race is not because they're "post-racial" but because they really are a large extended family characterized by thousands of years of inbreeding! I don't know what genetic studies you were referring to (I gave a citation above), but everything I've read indicates they're one of the most homogenous countries on earth. And while I haven't lived in Japan like you, I have heard they are not particularly accommodating toward immigrants, including those of Japanese descent from Brazil.

      I have heard Canada is a good example of genuine multiculturalism (as opposed to biculturalism, although I suppose the English vs French conflict is/was an exception). It's immigration system also seems to be admirably skill-based. A comparison of demographics from Wikipedia, without including indigenous people because I know they are sometimes separate and under somewhat different legal systems (although I suppose the way the two governments collect statistics complicates the comparison).

      Canada
      White 76.67%
      South Asian 4.77%
      East Asian ~7.63%
      Black 2.88%
      Latin American 1.16%

      United States
      Non-hispanic white 63.7%
      NH black 12.2%
      NH asian 4.7%
      Hispanic 16.4%

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    6. There is of course physical variation among them, as with any large nation. The reason they all perceive each other as one race is not because they're "post-racial" but because they really are a large extended family characterized by thousands of years of inbreeding!

      So how do they know they're related? Can they smell each other's MHC proteins or something???

      Delete
    7. Because the last wave of migration into Japan occurred thousands of years ago and their genetics don't look like that of a multimodal or recently hybridized group? I don't know enough about the human sensory system to answer your second question, although an interesting bit of trivia is that Japan does have an elevated rate of cousin marriage (it has come down a lot in past decades, but is still above what we would consider normal). The Westermarck effect takes hold when people are raised together, otherwise the sensation of similarity can draw people together (this can happen with adopted siblings who are raised separately). Maybe the elevated rate of cosanguinous marriage is related to some sensitivity particular to them! (Seriously, I expect this just reflects the absence of the historical influence of the Catholic church and possibly some other European cultural factors).

      I suppose I should note that all of humanity is also an extended family, though larger and less inbred than subsets like Japan, which would of course mean a higher effective population size and more distant most recent common ancestor.

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    8. Well, I think this is a long, elaborate way of saying that you really don't have any idea how Japanese people could view themselves as a single race despite disparate appearances, but you assume it's because of their shared genetic ancestry, which you assume is somehow communicated from individual to individual by some sort of direct mechanism that you don't know. Based on these assumptions, you then conclude that America will not be able to overcome appearance differences in order to build a shared national identity, except through what you assume to be) thousands of years of intermarriage.

      And you think I'm "not smart" for not sharing your confidence in your assumptions.

      Got it.

      Delete
    9. I tried to reply earlier, looks like my comment got lost.

      The Japanese view themselves as a single race because they are at least vaguely aware of their milleniae long history of living together. Americans, in contrast, know that they are descended from people who came a variety of different continents over the past few centuries. I don't know what will happen in America in the future, I just know that Japan is in such a different situation that it's not a good comparison. It's one of the worst comparisons you could have come up with. To reiterate, they are not "post-racial" having gone through some process of discarding ideas about race, they haven been mono-racial for a very long time. And I would assert that they really do have less variance in appearance than Americans do, furthermore those differences do not "cluster" into groups of recent ancestry & kinship into which people can be slotted into.

      I don't think you're "not smart". I've read your other writing, and know you're smart. That's precisely what made your use of Japan as an example so surprising!

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    10. The Japanese view themselves as a single race because they are at least vaguely aware of their milleniae long history of living together.

      Partly that, and partly because of a shared language and culture.

      Interestingly, for the last 3 years, I've gone around asking Japanese people the following question:

      "Suppose a Russian couple immigrated to Japan, gave up their Russian citizenship, and took Japanese citizenship and changed their names to Japanese names. Their child, named Taro Tanaka, speaks only Japanese, has gone to Japanese school all his life, and is a Japanese citizen. Physically, however, he looks like a Russian. Would you call Taro Tanaka a 'Japanese person'?"

      What kind of answers do you predict that I got, TGGP?

      I don't know what will happen in America in the future, I just know that Japan is in such a different situation that it's not a good comparison. It's one of the worst comparisons you could have come up with.

      The point was not to make a general analogy, but simply to show that appearance is not always the measure of race.

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    11. I'm curious about the answers you got to your question.

      Delete
    12. Every educated person I asked said "Yes, that person would be Japanese." Every uneducated person said "Hmm, I'm not sure."

      Delete
    13. Anonymous4:47 PM

      However, Japanese found it difficult to integrate Korean immigrants - Koreans being their closest genetic cousins. I'm not sure if your Japanese friends really did think that through. I'm also not sure if you got really honest answers. After all, they knew what answer you were hoping for.

      Delete
  31. erghammer12:24 AM

    Noah, I like your hardcore econ posts, and I LOVE your less technical sociology posts. (I think your review of "Django Unchained" was sublime.) I just wanted to chime in to say how much I appreciate your optimistic view of the future of America.

    I am one of the mutts that you and Brooks talk about. I am half Chinese and half lower-middle-class American German. I associate only as "American". I don't think there is a proper racial classification for me, but even if there were, I wouldn't feel much affinity for it. I long for the day when nobody cares about their racial classification. More people getting mixed blood helps, but waiting for everyone to intermarry could take a long time.

    One thing I've noticed in my "white" family, which has its racial biases like so many others... After my dad married into it, most of those racial biases became significantly reduced, to the point where my family is considered as "white" as they are-- sort of like your theory suggests.

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    1. This is one of the best comments I've ever received. :-)

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  32. Malatesta1:40 AM

    One thing we have built into our culture already is the willingness to integrate new foods and beverages. Also, if immigrants have a holiday we can use as an excuse to get drunk, we'll take that onboard easily.

    And I'm serious about this; these are the kind of things that serve as building blocks for a post-racial people forged out of immigrants. It isn't all about them becoming part of us, but also of us creating something new that brings them into the fold.

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    1. Agreed, I too live in an area of diverse cultures and through sharing the aspects of different cultures it creates a sense of open mindedness and acceptance.

      Very cool.

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  33. Anonymous10:38 AM

    I'm a little surprised you didn't mention Canada in your article.

    Canadian multiculturalism is extremely successful, and we didn't get there by relabelling everyone as an ethnic "Canadian". Toronto, in particular, is a great example of a highly heterogeneous society living and working together. It requires tolerance, openness, and an appreciation for what everyone brings to the table. A willingness to partake in plenty of delicious food doesn't hurt either.

    Multiculturalism has really created a unique sense of identity in Canada. I don't think it has hurt social cohesion - if anything, Canada seems far more willing to support social programs than the States or than countries like the UK. Becoming friends with people who have different backgrounds than you also helps you grow as a person. Homogenizing our ethnic identities really isn't required.

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  34. I find it crazy-making that your definition of a more workable American future revolves around people accepting and assimilating current mainstream. Why shouldn't, rather than everyone switching to English, everyone become bilingual in English and Spanish (thereby incorporating one of the largest immigrant blocs)? This way, even more of Hispanic culture becomes accessible to the "average" (now the merely plurality of "white") citizen and cultural understanding can grow such that "American" culture incorporates an even greater helping of what might be considered Hispanic culture. We might think of the Jewish model, which has involved both acculturation and dissemination of Jewish cultural ideas into "mainstream" culture. Vaudeville, Jewish humor, Yiddish words, a whole bunch of things have become part of more-or-less mainstream US culture, and many Jews maintain a distinctly Jewish identity without, by and large, sustained large-scale friction with an American identity. They are both/and. Why not look to this model?

    Beyond this, if you look at the extensive literature on effective governance, especially that of Lin Ostrom (2009 Prize Winner in Economics in Memory of Nobel), there are many factors that determine effective cooperative governance. The measures you call for are only, by and large, tangential to what she finds to be important. Indeed, one of the most rigorous findings from related researchers is that having to manage a vital resource in common often (not always) generates higher (eventual) cooperation among culturally divided groups. This depends, of course, on the groups' having extensive control over resource access.

    Diversity can lead to a lack of comity. But one needn't lose diversity to achieve comity--numerous examples of cultural different groups co-producing/co-managing resources effectively exist. Rather, one of the things that is necessary is that each person must have a *stake* and a *say* in outcomes; they are able to see benefits of cooperation, and there is graduated punishment for free-riding. If you're not familiar with this area of literature, I highly recommend it. I am perhaps more optimistic than many within that field about the possibility of reconciling diversity and effective governance, but that possibility quite certainly exists both empirically and theoretically. The measures you call for are related to, but don't appear to be grounded in, the existing theoretical and empirical knowledge on governance.

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    1. One quick primer: http://www.esajournals.org/doi/full/10.1890/0012-9623-94.1.17

      And again, I don't see why it's incumbent on immigrants to switch rather than the current majority. Perhaps we, for one, should welcome our new Spanish-speaking Overlords.

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    2. Obviously assimilation is not a one-way street, and immigrant cultures will change U.S. culture to some degree.

      As for being a bilingual English/Spanish nation, sorry but that is not going to work. Spanish is already vanishing among the children of Hispanic immigrants, and this is as it should be.

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    3. On the English/Spanish bilingualism, I should point out that Canada has managed to be a nation even with serious Anglophone/Francophone divides.

      What's more likely, though, is that American English will absorb more words and constructs from Spanish than it already has. That's a pretty common phenomenon: For example, Yiddish words like "chutzpah" and "schmuck" are part of American English but aren't really a part of British or Australian English.

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  35. Anonymous5:24 PM

    As nebulous and banal as this sounds, prosperity is probably key to successful multiculturalism.

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  36. Anonymous11:04 AM

    The US Constitution reads "for ourselves and our posterity". This country was founded by ancestors to benefit our own people, not foreigners. It will take a lot more than a silly blog post to convince those of us descended from the Colonial generations that this is not "our" country and that we don't already have an American nationality/ethnic identity, and that there is some dire need to change our self-awareness and self-identity to be inclusive of foreigners and strangers of various stripes.

    You fail to ask the simple question, what if those of us who already identify as American nationals don't want to redefine ourselves to not be American until we interbreed with a Chinese or Indian or Mexican? What if we want our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren to look like us and not be mutts? Why must we change to welcome in people who we never invited and do not identify with?

    We fought a Civil War over the question of whether the black slaves in America could become black Americans (they could and did) and thus make this a dual-national country with white Americans and black Americans. I think if you would ask black and white Americans if they wanted to give up their existing identities and see their children intermarry with foreigners and have to compete against foreigners and their children in their own land for jobs, housing, land, money, mates, business opportunities you would get a resounding no.

    Why is the question never asked if the existing American people wants to maintain its identity and not change if that is okay? If it is okay for us Americans to want to have our own country and not have to bring in millions of foreigners? What if we like things the way they are or used to be prior to mass immigration?

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    1. The land you call your country was taken from others through force, manipulation, and monetary payments. "Your" country was founded to benefit Europe, so in a sense you are right it was founded for the benefit of "your" people.

      Please define your ethnic identity.

      Mexicans without leaving their country are also "American" so what exactly are you talking about interbreeding.

      I assume you mean your anglo-saxon appearance. Does that mean that breeding with Europeans who share your appearance will not create "mutts"?

      You fought a civil was because the southern states threatened to secede and exercise their right. Slavery was not the issue that led to the civil war.

      Then what are the children of interracial marriages if not "mutts" of a different nature?

      You are already competing with for all the things you mention. That's what is called a global market.

      America is a continent not a country, what is "your country's" identity then. Your forefathers if I'm not mistaken were the first immigrants to this land.

      You have no moral ground to stand on when so many U.S. people are immigrating to other countries without problems as well and your country was founded by immigrants. If you want this freedom to travel and settle in other countries it is only logical that you allow "foreigners" to do the same in "your" country.

      "Your" constitution is being trampled on in so many ways, but this is the issue on which you want to use it as a sounding board. This logic makes me wonder.

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  37. Anonymous11:49 AM

    Sorry "Americans", but you have no choise. You will be what the rest of the world will allows you to be (as the Roman Empire was). You are not anymore "independent". The rest of the world is much bigger than the USA, and will impose its rules.
    I'm portuguese, and some centuries ago, in the age of discoveries, we have to deal with the same problem. How can a little country control so many spaces? The result was a king's law named the miscegenation law, that promotes the mixture between the portuguese and all other races. This law as a tremendous impact on another american country, Brazil. In this discussion I only finded the word Brazil two times. I think that you need to study and learn a bit more about this other "Americans". They have a big story to count... because like is said in Wikipedia, "To this day, the Brazilian class system is drawn mostly around socio-economic lines, not racial ones (in a manner similar to other former Portuguese colonies).".

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  38. I dig what you're trying to say. However here are my 2 cents.

    I am American, Native-American, and Latin-American; yet while I have lived in the U.S. I am not of or from the U.S.

    If people from the U.S. want to create a stronger cultural identity they should find a moniker that clearly identifies them as from their country and not continent.

    The black and white labels need to become obsolete. In one swoop European and African ancestry became muddled, you cannot move forward with a clear path if you do not remember where you have come from. You don't hear people of other countries referring to themselves by color. For example Asians do not call themselves yellow.

    Reverse racism? Really? This is such a silly concept, it is racism pure and simple. Which group directs it towards which group has no bearing on what it is. Another concept that needs to become obsolete.

    The segregationist mentality is deeply rooted in the U.S. psyche. Instead of improving the racial relations the U.S. expanded to cast its views on immigrants.

    People in the states say they are fine with legal immigrants, but not illegal immigrants. BS most of those people don't know the circumstances that can cause the illegal "status" to be applied to immigrants. How can they distinguish? You can't tell by appearances, but the Latino sector bears the brunt of this debate because they are most often associated with immigration.

    Illegal is a status, it does not mean a crime was committed. Failure to follow a procedure should not be associated with criminal behavior. If this was the case the world would be in a much sadder state.

    Education is key, sadly the implementation of the necessary changes to foster this change will not come any time soon.

    The U.S. does not have a clearly defined culture backed by traditions and history. It's a young nation and has yet to realize that its segregating nature will be its biggest obstacle. Even the states have a clearly defined segregated culture from one another. The country has a huge amount of work before it before it can achieve any semblance of true unity. There are just too many things segregating society already in place.

    My 2 cents. Great article, thanks for sharing.

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  39. Anonymous12:55 PM

    Touting liberal ideas is nothing more than status signaling.

    By advocating for mass third world immigration, enormous welfare policies, oppressive tax and regulation to make things "more equal," etc., what one is really saying is "I am wealthy and/or politically connected enough to be able to insulate myself from liberal policies." Advocating for liberal ideas while sipping a bloody mary over brunch in the Upper West Side is the equivalent of living in a gated community away from the favelas and using private schools and concierge clinics while everyone else is stuck in public schools and Obamacare.

    In this way the limousine liberal is able to status signal to other limousine liberals without having to flash expensive baubles, jet set around the world, etc.

    Of course, there is no shortage of media-brainwashed useful idiots who advocate for liberal policies despite not being wealthy and/or politically connected enough to insulate themselves from those policies. This is how the liberal policies are 'democratically' enacted.

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    1. Touting liberal ideas is nothing more than status signaling.

      That's probably true of any ideas. The chances that any one individual will affect the outcome of national policy are microscopic. So most ideas, including right-wing ideas, are probably touted for social reasons like the ones you describe (though some people may just have the urge to speak their minds).

      By advocating for mass third world immigration, enormous welfare policies, oppressive tax and regulation to make things "more equal," etc., what one is really saying is "I am wealthy and/or politically connected enough to be able to insulate myself from liberal policies." Advocating for liberal ideas while sipping a bloody mary over brunch in the Upper West Side is the equivalent of living in a gated community away from the favelas and using private schools and concierge clinics while everyone else is stuck in public schools and Obamacare.

      In this way the limousine liberal is able to status signal to other limousine liberals without having to flash expensive baubles, jet set around the world, etc.


      Well, I've seen some of this, yes.

      But that doesn't mean that liberal ideas are wrong. I think some liberal ideas have done a lot of good for America's non-Bloody Mary sipping classes. We had mass Hispanic immigration for 20 years; crime plummeted, especially in the areas where there was more Hispanic immigration!

      http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2006/03/does_mexican_im.html

      So the facts are often on the liberal side, even if some liberals just advocate them to show how cool they are.

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    2. Anonymous10:07 PM

      This might be the single dumbest thing I've read this year. Bravo sir.

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    3. Anonymous12:56 AM

      common now, be a little polite noah...

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  40. I wrote a response to this if you are interested: http://www.reddit.com/r/SRSPOC/comments/1hyh38/foretelling_a_brown_america_an_essay/

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  41. I find this post disappointing. The potential harm you name is the forgivable crime of under-provision of public goods. Your policy prescription is the unforgivable crime of cultural imperialism. The right thing to do about Rush Limbaugh is to call him out for being racist, and then stop listening to his show. The wrong thing to do about Rush Limbaugh is go on a public campaign to exterminate diversity.

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    1. It seems to me, Matthew, that whether something is "forgivable" or "unforgivable" depends entirely on who is doing the forgiving or lack thereof...

      cultural imperialism

      An incendiary buzzword, to be sure, but one that does not reflect what I want. Assimilation is a two-way street; the majority culture changes as a result of the addition of new ingredients.

      a public campaign to exterminate diversity

      The word "diversity" has many meanings. Insisting that the grandchildren of immigrants segregate themselves and maintain a flimsy plastic imitation of cultural traditions with which they have lost any real connection is often called "diversity" - Hey, do your ancestors' tribal dance for us! - but I view that as more like the wearing of yellow armbands.

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  42. Anonymous9:34 PM

    Fair post Noah. You might find this recent IZA paper interesting based on data from Oz:
    http://ftp.iza.org/dp7300.pdf

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  43. Anonymous12:54 AM

    It seems articles like these are more a sogn of anxiety towards a non white america or atleast a representation of non whites that is not typically from a white lens.

    From how I see it, Japan is an isolated island with a completely incompatible and village like culture, something that the US never had, primarily because it was a nation of immigrants from the beginning, it always knew what was going on in far away lands and adopted those practices and customs. So, comparing Japan and the US is just stupid.

    Second, I don't see how non whites identifying with their country of origin makes them any less american. I have attended the local functions in many communities and in days of national celebrations of their country of origin, I have often found the stars and stripes flying just besides it.

    I don't see how or why English should remain the only language either, it can be in the lead, but doesn't necessarily has to be the alpha language. For all the talk of "American English", the english language itself is foreign and an import from the UK.Changing a few words doesn't make it anymore american.I don't see how different languages are a barrier to trade or culture. Let them settle too, i don't think monotonous and monolingual americans would be at a loss to learn a new language.

    Basically most of the fears expressed here are classic case of "white fear" , of a typically white person extrapolating and greatly exxagerating the effects of a vague event. Just like the Japanese hullabaloo during the 80s. The reality is often less exciting and more straight forward. I think most non white immigrants are as loyal to the cause of america as any self proclaimed white protector. It's just the imagination and weird fetish of whites, perhaps their arrogance or superiority complex that makes them think that others just cannot be loyal to america.

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  44. Hey Noah, longtime reader, first time poster. I'm working on the topic of ethnic diversity and support for redistribution (in Britain), have a little survey experiment paper in progress here which you may find interesting: http://www.academia.edu/1889928/Who_should_receive_welfare_in_a_diverse_society_Experimental_evidence_on_the_impact_of_ethnicity_and_foreign_birth_on_willingness_to_provide_welfare_in_Britain

    Overall message is a bit mixed: plenty of evidence of greater reluctance to help non-white, non-native claimants, but much of the discrimination stems from prejudices concentrated among older Brits who grew up before our own mass migration experience began in the 1960s. Younger Brits who grew up with diversity don't seem to discriminate in the same way - perhaps because they don't see black and Asian Britons as "not-us". Perhaps something similar is happening in the US?

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