In an important sense, everyone must be a multiculturalist, because each culture is itself a multiculture. Take the social and political culture of the West. It is famously constituted by a dialogue between two intellectual poles—Athens and Jerusalem—a culture of reason and a culture of faith and tradition. But, of course, the culture of the West is not only a social and political culture but an aesthetic one. And here it is composed in part of all sorts of national cultures that are themselves the products of subcultures within the nation.
All cultures thus are mongrel cultures. A culture is also never static but always in motion propelled by collisions with others. And what emerges from the collisions is the result of millions of choices of individuals over generations who determine how to mix and match what many cultures offer them. At its best what underlies all multicultures is the dynamism of liberty.
Unfortunately, much that goes under the name of multiculturalism today is a multiculturalism of coercion.
According to John Fonte, “transnationalism is a concept that provides elites with both an empirical tool (a plausible analysis of what is) and an ideological framework (a vision of what should be).” What is, is humanity divided into groups along racial, ethnic, and gendered lines, with a fundamental line to be drawn between them, not in terms of spiritual or intellectual contributions to a common humanity, but rather between dominant and oppressed groups, victims and victimizers. Alas, however, not all groups or members of groups see themselves that way. Hence, the reference to “elites” in the foregoing statement: they are…
Chris Eisgruber, the President of Princeton University, recently expressed concern that universities are perceived “right or wrongly, as blue dots” in a politically divided America and thus said that universities must be concerned with political diversity. Some other university leaders have also cautiously suggested that the academy may put out the welcome mat for the right. Nevertheless, there is reason for doubting that political diversity will be increased or discrimination against conservatives and libertarians ended in the elite university setting. The causes of political imbalance and of discrimination are entrenched and are unlikely to change soon.
By the time the refugee crisis of 2015 came to dominate the European press, the unfolding catastrophe and its historical echoes could not be dissociated from two interrelated concerns felt across the Continent, to speak of which had long been tendentious: immigration and Islam. What might ordinarily have been an opportunity for Europe to reaffirm its liberal values and humanitarian instincts proved instead a stark indication that the facts had changed—and many minds had changed, too.
This week Tim Farron, the leader of the British Liberal Democrats, resigned because he found his Christian faith incompatible with leading his party. Apparently, the problem was that while he agreed with the Liberal Democratic position that homosexual relations and same-sex marriage should be legal, he also believed, like many Christians, that homosexual relations were wrong. Many party colleagues found the combination of these two positions intolerable.
But this kind of combination traditionally defined the essence of liberalism, supposedly the guiding light of Farron’s party. Liberalism was exactly the view that government had no business regulating actions or beliefs unless they could be demonstrated to cause concrete harms to a third party. As a result, liberals have supported legalizing all sorts of matters that they may have believed immoral or imprudent. In my view, the best test for a liberal is the willingness to tolerate behavior of which he morally disapproves.
The next administration and Congress need to reach a compromise on immigration. The continuing battle on the status of illegal immigrants is leading to enormous political divisions and fueling the identity politics of multiculturalism on the both the left and right. For me the compromise must reflect four imperatives. First, it should recognize the reality that we cannot deport millions of people without turning ourselves into a temporary police state—harmful not only to illegal aliens but to our citizens. Second, it should make sure there is a substantial penalty for those who broke the law. Third, the compromise must secure the border of the United States against further such immigration on a massive scale and contain a trigger to verify that security has taken place before those who broke the law benefit from the compromise. Fourth, the compromise should make it easier for highly skilled immigrants to come to the nation, because welcoming more such immigrants will benefit America, not least by continuing our tradition of assimilating talent from overseas.
First, ultimately the compromise will have to provide a legalized status to many aliens who entered illegally so long as they have not violated other laws. Catching all those who have come here illegally is impractical. It would also require a law enforcement presence so heavy as to affect adversely many law abiding citizens, particularly those who share the ethnicity of immigrants who have come here illegally. Moreover, since many of those who came here illegally have had children born here who are citizens by virtue of the 14th amendment, mass deportations would result in the tearing asunder of children from parents.
Second, the legislation should make it clear that coming into America illegally was wrong. Fines will not prove adequate to make this point either expressively or practically.
The American Left generally welcomes immigration, but opposes foreign trade. There are exceptions of course, but generally the further left one moves this combination of policy preferences is even starker. Bernie Sanders seems wholly opposed to free trade and yet favors immigration. Indeed, he wants to make citizens of immigrants, even if they have come here illegally.
What explains this divergence? It cannot plausibly be concern for low-wage workers in the United States. It is true that trade, while being generally beneficial, can depress the income of low-wage workers (at least in the short term), because they must compete more with low-skilled workers elsewhere. But the effect of low-skilled immigrants is the same. It puts pressure on the wages of low-skilled Americans.
It can’t be concern for the poor abroad.
This conversation with Roger Scruton engages his defense of the conservative disposition. Scruton’s just-released book, How to be a Conservative, might be said to take on the challenge Friedrich Hayek issued in his famous essay “Why I Am Not a Conservative.” There, you will recall, Hayek argued that conservatism does not offer a program, or any substantive content that would affirm a free society. It is always in prudential retreat. This conversation explores Scruton’s Burkean-informed notion that tradition and habit aren’t blind guides, but are teachers and modes of social knowledge by which the perennial problem of social coordination is…