The little dust-up following Monday’s post was not, I’m afraid, this site’s finest hour, and I certainly take responsibility for doing a poor job as moderator. I had written the post during the day and evening Sunday, and put it up on Monday around lunchtime. There were a few responses early on, but I was ill-prepared for the onslaught on Tuesday, when over 80 comments — many of them long and bristling with links — poured in. I was at work, and was not in a position to keep up.

There are some topics that are so highly charged that whenever they come up, particularly in the blogosphere, interlocutors are driven by an irresistable repulsion toward one or the other pole — and it would be hard to think of a better example than the subject of race and immigration. The left sees those on the right as despicable racists, lacking the most basic human fellow-feeling, and the right sees those on the left as contemptible fools who, blinded to the documented realities of human nature by their pie-in-the-sky idealism, are deliberately complicit in the destruction of the West. Each side tends just to preach at and lecture the other, as was amply demonstrated here, and the tone usually starts off as what we might charitably call “confrontational”, and deteriorates from there. I think it is probably safe to say that in all of the terabytes of such “debates” that must, by now, be stored in the capacious indices of the Web, not a single mind has ever been changed.

I am susceptible to this also: I don’t like being talked down to, being sneered at, and having my words deliberately misinterpreted, and I certainly got more than a little prickly myself, and finished off on a nasty and sarcastic note. For that I apologize. This was the first time in the 1,243 posts I have written for this website that I have ever shut off comments, but the conversation had deteriorated, I thought, to the point of real ugliness. (It did not have to descend far, to get there, from where it began.) Almost none of our regular commenters were inclined to join in (many emailed me to explain why), and those who did, didn’t stay long. I was plainly a very poor host. I have never had to use comment-moderation here before, but it would have been appropriate in this case. Despite the ruinously unpleasant tone, though, there were many serious and important points brought out by many of the commenters.

I find myself in a sort of middle position on the issues we tried to discuss, which is, of course, an awkward place to be, as you don’t please anybody, and you get it from both sides. I’m going to sum up my own view, very, very briefly, once again, just for clarity’s sake. If you think I am a fool, that’s fine, and possibly you are right. You needn’t come rushing back in here right away to tell me, though; I heard you the first time.

*     *     *     *     *

America is founded on a core set of cultural principles that are essentially Western.

The country’s greatest strength has been that despite its heterogeneity it has managed to preserve these core principles more or less intact.

This has been possible because those who have come here from foreign shores have, until recently, generally assimilated successfully into the national culture — and for the most part gladly so.

One of the most important bonds of American cultural unity is our common English language. There is nothing so fundamentally disunifying as differences of language; without the shared metaphorical framework that a common language provides, real national solidarity is hopeless.

In the past 40 years or so there has been an enormous increase in immigration from cultures that are far from the Western root-stock of our own. When so many arrive at once from such distant destinations, the pressure to assimilate is weakened. The problem is made far, far worse by the “chain” effect by which relatives are admitted, and then their own relatives, without any regard to any criteria whatsoever. Meanwhile, porous borders have admitted an enormous, illegal, shadow population that adds enormously to the strain.

The problem has also been made worse, dangerously so, by the rise of radical multiculturalism as a political dogma of the Left. There is a perilous self-reinforcing effect: more multiculturalism leads to poorer assimilation, while poorer assimilation leads to more deeply entrenched multiculturalism.

Meanwhile, however, in many places in America, there is now far greater harmony, and far less antipathy, between racial groups than ever before. (Whether this is in fact true was a point of contention in Monday’s thread — and of course there is still far to go — but I think it is clearly, obviously the case.) That millions of white people would vote for a mixed-race president would have been inconceivable 50 years ago. A great many people feel that the hatred and mistrust that separated the races in America is truly beginning to dissolve, and that this election is occasion for real hope, and real joy. America has, after all, been a multiracial country since the earliest days, and the descendants of slaves and “coolies” have been here all along. They are as American as any white people are, and we can either learn to get along, to see each other as fellow human beings, and move forward together, or just keep on hating each other till the end of our days.

That this softening of antipathy has happened shows that it is possible: that the structure of human relations is affected by nurture as well as nature, that acculturation can actually make a difference. This is a hopeful fact, because were it otherwise we would be doomed, both within our borders and as one nation in a crowded and shrinking world, to endless misery and strife. (Of course, endless misery and strife might still be where the smart money goes, but at least there’s some evidence that there are other possibilities.) It also means that our attitude matters: if we approach each other with enmity and distrust, we will be repaid in the same coin. I don’t mind sounding corny here: hate begets hate, and love begets love. (If you are one of those who are fond of reminding us that Christianity is a pillar of Western culture, the idea, hopelessly naive though it may be, may sound vaguely familiar.)

But these unifying gains can easily be, and arguably are already being, swamped by a rising tide of unassimilated immigrants. The US is under no more obligation than any other nation on earth — most of which have extremely restrictive immigration policies — to admit citizens of other countries. In order to stabilize our fragile domestic gains we would do well, I think, to sharply restrict immigration, remove a great many who are already here illegally, and to admit only those — in very small numbers, for now at least — whom we think will be genuine assets, and who are seriously interested in joining our richly spiced, but essentially Western, culture.

How shall we determine who those people are? That’s a fair and important question, and I do not have a detailed answer. But there are a few obvious criteria that would make good starting points: familiarity with English, exceptional skills or aptitudes, and so forth. I expect we ought to be clever enough to develop some reliable profiling method; certainly anything would be an improvement over no criteria at all, which is essentially the situation at the moment. Failing that, a complete moratorium would be wiser than our present course.

I do not, however, think that race per se is the right criterion, for the reasons I outlined in Monday’s post.

*     *     *     *     *

These are essentially the same views I tried to explain in the original post and comments; it seemed, at least to some, that I had done a poor job of expressing them. If so, I hope this second try helps.

These is an extremely difficult topic. The stakes are very high, and the issues are fraught with enormous moral, political, and cultural significance. I have no doubt that all of those who have here expressed, even in anger and outrage, their opinions, have done so out of a genuine interest in finding the right course for America.

I won’t block comments to this post, but I will say: if you do decide to comment, please be thoughtful; please be civil. Do not lecture each other, and do not assume the worst of each other. Try to exchange ideas as if you were with friends or co-workers; as if you actually cared about preserving an amicable relationship. Try to learn as well as teach; don’t just try to score points. (I promise to do the same.) If that is too difficult, then please — I’m asking you nicely here — don’t comment at all. I will have very little opportunity over the next few days to join in, but I will do so as time permits.

If nobody wants to comment at all, that’s fine too. Maybe better, even.

Related content from Sphere


  1. Alex says

    Malcolm writes: I think it is probably safe to say that in all of the terabytes of such “debates” that must, by now, be stored in the capacious indices of the Web, not a single mind has ever been changed.

    Opinions on the subject of race and immigration are seldom if ever changed by “debate” – especially debates conducted with partisan fury behind the mask of anonymity on the internet. In this respect, perplexity is normal. Maybe the best that can be hoped for, as Aquinas suggested, is that we should listen to those with opinions we share, and those with opinions we reject. If both have applied themselves to the quest for the truth, then both have helped us in it.

    Posted January 29, 2009 at 10:43 am | Permalink
  2. I think I can guess why many of Malcolm’s regulars wrote to him and said that they would not be participating: they think that immigration restrictionists are “despicable racists”. Hey, I’m extremely biased here, but it seems to me that having tried the current immigration regime for the past forty years, and having allowed scores of millions of illegals in, those supporting the current immigration regime have a lot to answer for and are in no position to be calling anyone names. One could easily reciprocate with a few choice ones, though most of them show that the word “traitor” no longer means anything to them.

    One commenter offered an anecdote about an Indian entrepreneur as an argument for mass immigration. Another quite frankly said that he didn’t care for American culture, finding it too insipid and therefore rightly doomed; he has nothing to say to those who love their country and people and want to see both continue. Yet another implied that there’s a binary choice between open immigration or Nazism. This from a guy who ought to be in his native land in the army, instead of American soldiers there in his place. Other commenters feigned ignorance of the most basic knowledge of racial differences, race relations, and history. It’s clear that most supporters of mass immigration, if those here are any guide, base their support not on any detailed knowledge of the question, but on feel-good emotions, bad logic, inertia, and demonizing their opponents.

    I don’t think that Malcolm was a bad host, but I do think that his closing comment in that other thread betrays his true sympathies, or at least shows that he’s aware that discussing race in any but the most politically correct way can have deleterious consequences for job, career, and social standing. The establishment favors mass immigration and does not like rebels.

    Posted January 29, 2009 at 11:52 am | Permalink
  3. Malcolm says


    I don’t mean to suggest that everyone on one side or the other sees everyone on the other side as despicable racists or traitors, but many do indeed, and that is always what the tone of these “conversations” seems to indicate, on the Internet at least. The commenters who mailed me mostly just said that the discussion semed too heated to be productive.

    The point of this last post was to clarify what my “true” sympathies actually are, at least at this point in the evolution of my understanding.

    Posted January 29, 2009 at 12:08 pm | Permalink
  4. bob koepp says

    Dennis – If you had me in mind when you referred to commenters who “feigned ignorance of the most basic knowledge of racial differences, race relations, and history,” then I think you missed the mark. I do have some “basic” knowledge in these areas, and I don’t pretend otherwise. But that basic knowledge is of little value when assessing the many empirical issues that bear directly on any proposal to use race as a criterion for determining whether a person or a people are fit for residence and eventual citizenship in this fair land. Perhaps you and/or some of the other commenters are in possession of the sort of information I lack — but I have seen no reason whatever to think that is the case. And this is most definitely not a matter feel-good emotions, bad logic, inertia or demonization. It is a matter of having sound reasons for the positions one espouses.

    Posted January 29, 2009 at 1:13 pm | Permalink
  5. Andrew E says


    You write:

    “America is founded on a core set of cultural principles that are essentially Western.”

    I think this misses the point. Allow me a brief quote from John Jay in Federalist #2:

    “With equal pleasure I have as often taken notice that Providence has been pleased to give this one connected country to one united people — a people descended from the same ancestors, speaking the same language, professing the same religion, attached to the same principles of government, very similar in their manners and customs, and who, by their joint counsels, arms, and efforts, fighting side by side throughout a long and bloody war, have nobly established general liberty and independence.

    This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence, that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a band of brethren, united to each other by the strongest ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties.”

    The first thing I’ll point out is that when Jay gets around to putting his list together in the first paragraph quoted, it is not a list describing some new nation [whatever that is] but a list describing the people who form that nation. He does this because he understands that a nation is not a constitution nor a set of laws or abstract ideas, which simply don’t exist if there is not a people to breathe life into them. The nation is the people, they’re fused together, inseparable.

    You write:

    “I do not, however, think that race per se is the right criterion, for the reasons I outlined in Monday’s post.”

    Now, looking at Jay’s list we see that race per se is not THE criterion but it is A criterion. It is immaterial for the time being whether race belongs at the front of the list or at the back of the list, the point is race a) does not comprise the entire list, nor is b) absent from the list.

    Jay includes race because race matters to people as we clearly see when we look around the world even today [including white liberals] and observe where the vast majority of people choose to live and whom they choose to marry, to take just two examples.

    So instead of saying that America was founded on a set of principles that are essentially Western, I think it is much more complete and correct to say that America was founded by Western people. And stating it this way makes all the difference when it comes to setting a proper immigration policy.

    Posted January 29, 2009 at 2:49 pm | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says

    Andrew, we must keep in mind that even as Jay was writing all of this we had already imported a substantial non-white population, whose decendants are now an integral part of our citizenry. America is a multiracial nation, even if Jay didn’t think of it that way in 1787.

    Posted January 29, 2009 at 3:16 pm | Permalink
  7. bob koepp says

    Andrew – You and Malcom might want to rest your respective cases on “founding documents.” I don’t. Though I have great respect for the founders, and hold the Federalist Papers in particular esteem, I note that this country is no longer confined to the east coast of the continent. The country has expanded far beyond what most founders imagined possible, and has been settled by people many of whom did not fit Jay’s description. Until fairly recently, these varied people managed more or less well to become “americans”. And this was accomplished, I think because they embraced a language, a culture, a system of ideals. I suppose it’s possible that this only happened because of some underlying biological similarity among immigrants. But where’s the evidence for that thesis?

    Posted January 29, 2009 at 3:16 pm | Permalink
  8. Andrew E says

    Malcolm and bob koepp,

    I hear what you both are saying but I was attempting to construct an argument [granted, a short intuitive one] that, in the general case, race matters to some nontrivial extent when discussing a nation’s identity. And therefore this fact must be accounted for when setting immigration policy. I was using Jay’s quote to buttress my argument about the general case.

    I don’t think the presence of African slaves at the Founding or the expansion of the western frontier invalidate that argument.

    Posted January 29, 2009 at 3:43 pm | Permalink
  9. Malcolm says


    The point is not the presence of slaves at the time of the Founding. It’s the fact that tens of millions of their descendants are our fellow citizens now.

    Posted January 29, 2009 at 5:04 pm | Permalink
  10. Andrew E says


    It’s a rather straightforward question I think. Is race a nontrivial component when describing the identity of a nation?

    Posted January 29, 2009 at 5:49 pm | Permalink
  11. Addofio says

    I feel some trepidation in entering this exchange at all, but will risk it in order to bring in a whole other poiint. Malcolm argues that immigrants used to assimilate to a greater extent than they do today, and that they did so willingly. (By the way, exactly this same debate about immigration was taking place approximately a hundred years ago, only then the “old” immigrant groups who were then comfortably assimmilated were Northern European, and the “dangerous new” groups were Southern and Eastern European.)

    The point I want to make has to do with the role of public education in the process of, not necessarily assimilating, but of enculturating newcomers into a set of core American citizenship values and beliefs. Sometimes this has been done with a very heavy hand, as it was at the beginning of the twentieth century (the multiculturalism you find so dangerous is in part a reaction to that heavy hand), but this was for a long time seen as one of the primary roles for public education. While many, perhaps most, educators still believe that preparing our kids for full participation in American citizenship is one of the reasons we need a strong public education system, attention to and concern for this role seems to have eroded among the general public. Too often public education is discussed in economic terms only. I’d like to see support for public education sold to the public not just as the means to economic success for our kids, but also as one of the most potent forces for developing some kind of American shared identity and education and enculturation into core public values.

    A separate point, more pertinent to your discussion: what you are concerned to preserve has more to do with culture than race. Unfortunately, in this country, we have so thoroughly confounded race, SES, and culture that we use the terms nearly interchangeably and often attribute the effects of all of them to race alone. Which, to me, is a form of racism. A little clarity about the distinctions among race, culture, and SES could go a long way toward allowing for more rational discussions of the issues with which you are concerned (assuming that’s really what people are after in the first place, of course.)

    Posted January 29, 2009 at 9:48 pm | Permalink
  12. Malcolm says


    It would be disingenuous of me to say that race is a trivial demographic fact about a country; certainly places like Japan would have a different character if they were as polyracial as the US is. And that is the fact about the US: it is a multiracial society.

    But how important race is in terms of community can vary according to acculturation. For example, I remember that one summer when I was about twenty years old I got a call from a bass-playing friend of mine to go down to Tampa, Florida to play drums in a band he was in. It was what you might call a “funk” band, we played songs by the Ohio Players, Sly & the Family Stone, the Commodores, etc., and we had a small horn section.Well, our saxophone player quit the band one day, and my friend and I went down to the local music store to put up a flyer. In the store was a young man playing tenor sax, and he sounded pretty good. I started to go up to him to ask if he was looking for a gig, and my friend pulled me back, explaining that if we hired him we’d never get any work, because he was black. I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t. We didn’t hire him. This would never have happened back home in New Jersey.

    Well, actually, it would have happened in New Jersey too, thirty years earlier. But by the time I was a teenager things had changed.

    The point is that things can change, if we want them to. It’s not all just in our genes.

    Posted January 29, 2009 at 11:13 pm | Permalink
  13. Malcolm says

    Thanks, Addofio, for joining in. I was hoping you might.

    You are quite right. What I care about preserving has far more to do with culture than race. (Really, it has nearly everything to do with culture, and almost nothing to do with race.) The important question, and the place where, I think opinions differ the most here, is to what extent they are separate.

    Posted January 29, 2009 at 11:18 pm | Permalink
  14. Andrew E says


    I agree with you when you say that America is a multiracial society. Specifically, a biracial one, that is, an essentially white, Anglo, Protestant nation with a small black, Christian population. However, finding ways to “make it work” with two different races, present since the very beginning, and that are separated by lots of space on the evolutionary scale (eg. see Carleton Putnam’s Race and Reason) is a very different thing than saying race has absolutely nothing to do with it and being completely and utterly indiscriminate with new immigrants, from a racial point of view.

    I guess what I’m saying is that race matters or it doesn’t. If it matters to individuals then it matters to nations. You say it doesn’t matter if we don’t want it to. But I don’t think that is realistic. Look around, is an interracial marriage just as probable as an intraracial one, even in this age of unprecedented political correctness, ie. liberalism? I think the answer is obvious.

    In my opinion it’s unquestionable that race matters to people and it makes logical sense that it does, given what race represents. And it doesn’t merely represent genes as you say, but it gives us a window into our past. Race helps explain where we come from and what our legacy is and it connects us to our ancestors. These are not things to be dismissed lightly.

    Lastly, I would say to Addofio that race comes before culture, which is to say the race must exist before the culture can be created. I again refer to Putnam on this point.

    I’m going to be away from the computer the next couple of days but I appreciate the forum.

    Posted January 29, 2009 at 11:53 pm | Permalink
  15. Malcolm says

    Well Andrew, of course people do often associate by ethnicity and race. But given that you chose to make that flamboyantly and gratuitously provocative remark about being “separated by lots of space on the evolutionary scale”, I think you want race to matter an awful lot more than some of us do.

    Shall we compare, say, Thurgood Marshall and this fellow? Certainly one might imagine an evolutionary gulf there.

    Readers may glance at Carleton Putnam’s tract here, and form their own opinion of it.

    Posted January 30, 2009 at 12:49 am | Permalink
  16. Jacob says

    Don’t forget the indigenous peoples of this continent. Nor the tremendous numbers of Chinese laborers.

    But anyway, interesting post Malcolm.

    Posted February 2, 2009 at 12:39 am | Permalink
  17. Subotai says

    “And that is the fact about the US: it is a multiracial society.”

    Within living memory, that was not a fact. It is the fact at present. History suggest that it will not be a fact in the future.

    Posted February 2, 2009 at 3:47 pm | Permalink
  18. Subotai says

    “A separate point, more pertinent to your discussion: what you are concerned to preserve has more to do with culture than race. Unfortunately, in this country, we have so thoroughly confounded race, SES, and culture that we use the terms nearly interchangeably and often attribute the effects of all of them to race alone.”

    In this country? This is the normal perspective of most humans on the planet, very much including the non-white immigrants at issue here. THEY don’t regard their race and their culture as being disconnected. Hell, blacks and Jews who have been in America for hundreds of years still feel this way today. I could elaborate on this point at some length, if I didn’t know bobby would dismiss any information outside his preconceptions.

    Posted February 2, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Permalink
  19. Malcolm says

    “Within living memory, that was not a fact.”

    Subotai, unless you are several hundred years old, it’s hard to see how you can possibly imagine this to be true.

    Also: there is no need to be pugnacious. If you have points you would like to make, you are welcome to make them, but please do so without adding provocative remarks like “…if I didn’t know bobby would dismiss any information outside his preconceptions.”

    Posted February 2, 2009 at 4:13 pm | Permalink
  20. bob koepp says

    After all, this isn’t bobby’s blog, so why bother about what he would or wouldn’t dismiss?

    Posted February 2, 2009 at 5:07 pm | Permalink
  21. “Subotai, unless you are several hundred years old, it’s hard to see how you can possibly imagine this to be true.”

    Malcolm, you are kidding right? With 88% whites, 12% blacks, almost no “others”, and official segregation, you really think the U.S. was a “multiracial society” in the same sense that, say, Singapore or Malaysia are? And even if our definitions of multiracial and society differ, that does not call for making it even more so.

    Also, regarding the comparison between Thurgood Marshall and a white punk – and I am not endorsing the “separated by space on the evolutionary scale” thesis – I don’t know what you want to prove with that example. Statistics are involved in such comparisons: standard deviations, normal curves, and so on. It would be as silly to deny that no blacks are smarter than any white as it would be to deny that, at the level Marshall operated at – not that great, IMO, Ellington is a better example – whites outnumber blacks by far more than the population differential. Your example means very little.

    Posted February 3, 2009 at 9:40 am | Permalink
  22. Malcolm says


    At the end of the 19th century, which was surely beyond the living memory of anyone here, one-eighth of US residents were non-white. I think that qualifies as a multiracial society; certainly in the rural South, or any of the major cities, that proportion was considerably higher. (As you know, I agree with you that it would be in our interest, for now at least, to sharply curtail immigration overall.)

    My comparison of Thurgood Marshall and that splendid specimen of the white race was intended solely as a response to Andrew’s absurd and bellicose remark about being separated by “a lot of space on the evolutionary scale”. Of course, any metrics about cognitive differences are statistical — but it is also obvious, I think, that any variation between groups is tiny compared to variation within groups. It also seems disingenuous to suggest that any disparity in the historical distribution of non-whites in elite jobs is solely due to some sort of innate inferiority, and not at all to systematic racism.

    Posted February 3, 2009 at 12:38 pm | Permalink
  23. Andrew E says

    I thought I could leave the discussion, thinking I had nothing more to contribute, but I feel the need to defend and perhaps clarify my comment about the relative positions, from an evolutionary status, of the white and black races. First, “separated by lots of space on the evolutionary scale” is a morally neutral statement. It does not nor is meant to suggest a scale in which one group is more or less human than another. In my mind, this phrase says nothing more than the two races having “vastly different civilizational abilities.” I think the word “vastly” is justified but the degree can be debated. What do I mean by civilizational abilities? What I’m talking about is the level of high culture, art, music, literature, economic and political development, science and engineering, etc. that can be achieved in the respective, indigenous environments.

    If my clarification is still too controversial then we really have nothing further to discuss.

    Posted February 3, 2009 at 4:02 pm | Permalink
  24. Malcolm says

    We may not. Your disclaimers notwithstanding, I think “scale” is a telling choice of words.

    Posted February 3, 2009 at 4:10 pm | Permalink
  25. Andrew E says

    What is it telling you exactly, that I am a racist? Why don’t you just say so? Though it would be almost impossible to make that charge stick to a white man whose inner circle is entirely non-white and liberal.

    Posted February 3, 2009 at 4:32 pm | Permalink
  26. Malcolm says

    Well, Andrew, what you have said so far would at least seem consistent with that conclusion.

    “Scale” implies a linear progression, with some higher, some lower, or some more, some less developed.

    How would you define “racist”? Perhaps we ought to clear that up. I also have to say that I wonder how your inner circle, entirely composed of non-white liberals, would interpret what you have said so far, and what their take on Mr. Putnam’s tract would be. (It does seem odd that you’d choose such a circle to hang around with in the first place, given their evolutionary distance and vastly different civilizational abilities.)

    Posted February 3, 2009 at 5:00 pm | Permalink
  27. Andrew E says

    You’re insistent on dismissing Putnam’s work regarding civilizational differences, fine. You’ve made up your mind and I’m not going to try to change it. Like all liberals, my friends wouldn’t be the least bit interested in his work and I don’t care. It’s either valid or it isn’t regardless of what they think.

    Like all liberals, you conflate group characteristics (civilizational abilities) that have absolutely no meaning at the individual level with individual identities. It is possible for both groups and individuals to exist at the same time. That is how I am able to have the friends I do, I make friends with individuals and not groups. However, immigration policy is made with regard to groups and not individuals. It can be done no other way except in very rare instances.

    If you think my politics are a secret to those around me, you are mistaken. Discussions are lively but those relating to touchier subjects are kept to a minimum since it’s recognized all around that no minds will change. I will say that I have plenty of experience dealing with people who have strong group identities, the only difference between us being that I explicitly acknowledge their right to have theirs and that it is a healthy thing to have, for their sakes.

    “Scale” is a legitimate word when used within the right context. Children are “scaled” all the time with respect to their athletic or academic abilities, for example. The same can be done with groups as with individuals. I offered my clarification to make sure it was understood I was not referring to some kind of degree of humanity, but group abilities that evolved over time.

    Posted February 3, 2009 at 6:09 pm | Permalink
  28. Malcolm says

    Hi Andrew,

    Well, in just the same way you choose your friends as individuals, not as members of groups, I have been arguing throughout these threads for an immigration policy in which applicants are also considered as individuals, and not in terms of racial groups.

    I wouldn’t really describe myself as a “liberal”, at least not in the sense that the term is usually used these days. Just for starters, I think I part company with most liberals in arguing for sharp restrictions on immigration. And I hardly think I am conflating any group characteristics with individual ability here; in fact I have not suggested basing any policy whatsoever on group characteristics. It is others, including you, who keep raising the subject of the comparative shortcomings of various racial groups.

    If “civilizational abilities” have no meaning at the individual level, then let’s just try to fashion a nation of civilized individuals, and leave groups out of it. I think we can do without both the divisive and destructive “identity politics” of multiculturalist liberals and the racial polemics of separatist conservatives.

    Posted February 3, 2009 at 6:35 pm | Permalink
  29. Andrew E says


    When I say you conflate groups with individuals I mean that you seem to have the idea at times that group identities negate individual identities. They exist simultaneously with different spheres of relevance.

    The main point I’ve tried to argue in this thread is that group identities (of which race is an important part) are not just imposed from without, they are also upheld from within. And for this reason I contend that group identities must be factored into immigration policy. But I clearly have not convinced you of this.

    Posted February 3, 2009 at 7:13 pm | Permalink
  30. Malcolm says


    Agreed that group identities are upheld from within, and that an important part of any person’s self-image is ethnic and racial. This is one of the many trait-groups a person can be associated with. The question is whether that particular association must be paramount, or can be subordinate to a person’s assimilation into the broader national culture. I think it can.

    As I have argued, the context in which a person is acculturated makes an enormous difference. I think we would agree that aggressive multiculturalism and open borders make the problem far worse.

    Posted February 3, 2009 at 8:26 pm | Permalink
  31. Malcolm says

    Seven years later: I am no longer nearly as optimistic about any of this as I was at the time I wrote this post and the one preceding it. The late Lawrence Auster (with whom I subsequently became friends) said, when I wrote my original remarks at a now-defunct blog, that I was at the “kindergarten stage” of understanding this issue. He was right.

    I drew heavily for my opinions upon my own experiences in the music industry — a uniquely blessed microcosm whose members truly are bound together by a shared love, a common language, that really can form the basis of a community that, at least as I experienced it, transcends normal human boundaries. My error was one of naive generalization, and a lack of awareness of the awkward statistical realities of human biodiversity — which have only come into clearer focus in the succeeding interval.

    Posted February 10, 2016 at 11:16 pm | Permalink