from the February 26, 2008 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/0226/p09s01-coop.html
The end of multiculturalism
Vineyard Haven, Mass.
Future generations may look back on
Since the 1960s, multiculturalism has become a dominant feature of the political and intellectual landscape of the West. But multiculturalism rests on a frail foundation: cultural relativism, the notion that no culture is better or worse than any other – it is merely different.
When it comes to democratic continuity, social justice, and
prosperity, some cultures do far better than others. Research at
Extensive data suggest that the champions of progress are
the Nordic countries –
Culture isn't about genes or race; it's about values, beliefs, and attitudes. Culture matters because it influences a society's receptivity to democracy, justice, entrepreneurship, and free-market institutions.
What, then, are the implications for a foreign policy based
on the doctrine that "These values of freedom are right and true for every
person, in every society"? The Bush administration has staked huge human,
financial, diplomatic, and prestige resources on this doctrine's applicability
A key component of a successful democratic transition is trust, a particularly important cultural factor for social justice and prosperity. Trust in others reduces the cost of economic transactions, and democratic stability depends on it.
Trust is periodically measured in 80-odd countries by the World Values Survey. The Nordic countries enjoy very high levels of trust: 58 to67 percent of respondents in four of these countries believe that most people can be trusted, compared with 11 percent of Algerians and 3 percent of Brazilians.
The high levels of identification and trust in Nordic societies reflect their homogeneity; common Lutheran antecedents, including a rigorous ethical code and heavy emphasis on education; and a consequent sense of the nation as one big family imbued with the golden rule.
Again, culture matters – race doesn't. The ethnic roots of
Hispanics now form the largest
Samuel Huntington was on the mark when he wrote in his
latest book "Who Are We? The Challenges to
In "The Americano Dream," Mexican-American Lionel
Sosa argues that the value system that has retarded progress in
The progress of Hispanic immigrants, not to mention harmony
in the broader society, depends on their acculturation to mainstream
Although border security and environmental concerns are also in play, the immigration debate has been framed largely in economic terms, producing some odd pro-immigration bedfellows, for example the editorial pages of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Among the issues: whether the US economy needs more unskilled immigrants; whether immigrants take jobs away from US citizens; to what extent illegal immigrants drain resources away from education, healthcare, and welfare; and whether population growth, largely driven by immigration, is necessary for a healthy economy.
But immigration looks very different when viewed in cultural
terms, particularly with respect to the vast legal and illegal Latino
immigration, a million or more people a year, most of them with few skills and
little education. To be sure, the
In a letter to me in 1991, the late Mexican-American columnist Richard Estrada captured the essence of the problem:
"The problem in which the current immigration is suffused is, at heart, one of numbers; for when the numbers begin to favor not only the maintenance and replenishment of the immigrants' source culture, but also its overall growth, and in particular growth so large that the numbers not only impede assimilation but go beyond to pose a challenge to the traditional culture of the American nation, then there is a great deal about which to be concerned."
If multiculturalism is a myth, how do we avoid the woes that
inevitably attend the creation of an enduring and vast underclass alienated
from the upwardly mobile cultural mainstream? Some policy implications, one for
Latin America, the others for the
We must calibrate the flow of immigrants into the
We must be a melting pot, not a salad bowl. The melting pot, the essence of which is the Anglo-Protestant cultural tradition, is our way of creating the homogeneity that has contributed so much to the trust and mutual identification – and progress – of the Nordic societies.
As with immigration flows of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, an extensive program of activities designed to facilitate acculturation, including mastery of English, should be mounted. A law declaring English to be the national language would be helpful.
The costs of multiculturalism – in terms of disunity, the clash of classes, and declining trust – are likely to be huge in the long run. All cultures are not equal when it comes to promoting progress, and very few can match Anglo-Protestantism in this respect. We should be promoting acculturation to the national mainstream, not a mythical, utopian multiculturalism. And we should take care that the Anglo-Protestant virtues that have brought us so far do not fall into disrepair, let alone disrepute.
• Lawrence E. Harrison directs the Cultural Change Institute