18 February 2017

Conservatism and Diversity

As noted in last week's post, Aristotle as the original conservative asserted that one of the primary tasks of the state is to inculcate virtue and develop to the fullest extent human potentialities. Human beings are the only creatures than can be said to make themselves. With reason and a free will, they shape their destiny over a lifetime of decisions.This does not occur in a vacuum. Every person is born into a family. And the primary non-economic task of family life is personality formation. Moreover, people are shaped by the broader culture and by the laws of the state.

Does this leave room for diversity? What is a conservative view of culture and of multiculturalism?

Multiculturalism in one sense is simply the recognition of the cultural diversity that exists in nearly any given group of people. This common sense observation transcends  political ideology or political party.

The United States always has been a diverse nation. Even though the vast majority of settlers and immigrants came from Great Britain, significant and enduring differences marked those first generations of Americans. These differences included speech patterns, housing, food, marital and child rearing practices, and nuanced differences about the concept of liberty.  You can read about it here. And cultural persistence has preserved some of these differences over the last two centuries. They did share, however, a broader cultural united rooted in language, religion, law, and national identity as free Britons.

Over the decades, the United States has grown even more diverse. Millions of immigrants speaking different languages, worshiping different gods, carrying cultural baggage very different from Great Britain and Europe have come to American for freedom and opportunity. Over several generations most of these immigrants have assimilated to varying degrees--most adopting English as their primary language and conforming to general American cultural norms--even while retaining important elements of their own important cultural practices. This state of affairs is captured by the by the historical metaphor of America as a "Melting Pot."

Our immigration policies helped preserve this state of affairs. Policies based quotas and caps for immigration on existing percentages of the population. In effect, this gave preference to immigrants who largely shared European cultural norms. This helps maintain something of a cultural continuity even in the face of technological and social changes.

Most Americans in general ,and Conservatives in particular, have embraced this vision of society as a unity that also preserves diversity.  It conserves the core of American cultural norms; at the same time it defers to  immigrants the freedom to maintain some of their own traditional cultural norms. Conserving our cultural norms is desirable because, first they are ours, and second, they best maintain the conditions for human thriving. Conservatives recognize that some cultural practices are superior others.

This is where conservatives and liberals part ways.

Moderns Liberals--more accurately described as Progressives-- have challenged these traditional views. They have done so on two general grounds--pluralism and multiculturalism.

Progressives challenge the idea that the state or really government authority at any level should enforce virtue or morality in general on the citizens. They envision a pluralistic nation in which people choose different versions of  "the good life." Moreover, they argue that because all citizens are equal, no version of "the good life" is superior to any other. And more recently, in the renewed "culture wars" over same sex marriage and transgender rights, they seem to think that society needs to embrace and affirm every version of "the good life." They ignore the fact that the basic virtues that families, society, and the state should inculcate in citizens are rooted in human nature and human needs. In that sense they are objective truths about human nature itself and not subjective desires reflecting simply some other vision of "the good life."

Progressives also challenge conservatism on the grounds of multiculturalism. In their view, multiculturalism is more than simply the recognition of diversity. It is the celebration of diversity, Like their idea that all versions of "the good life" should be affirmed by others, the Progressive notion of multiculturalism is that all cultures should be affirmed. Moreover, this view is often accompanied by efforts to increase that diversity. The slogan, "Diversity is Our Strength" captures this perspective. But that is all it does. No one ever offers any evidence or arguments in support of that claim.

Consequently Progressive lawmakers had made concrete efforts to bring this about. The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 fundamentally changed our policies. The United States opened its doors to much larger numbers of immigrants from third world countries. Like most earlier immigrants, they, too, have come for freedom and economic opportunity. Unlike most earlier immigrants, however, their cultural norms differ in fundamental ways. Assimilation becomes more difficult as well. When immigrants arrive in massive numbers over a sustained period of time, they tend to ethnicise rather than assimilate. Moreover, the emergence of Telemundo and Univision as sources of entertainment and news for America's Hispanic population additionally acts as a disincentive for assimilation. Finally, American corporations to non-English speakers; walk into any Home Depot or Lowes and look around.

Sometimes assimilation is actually discouraged. Modern liberals have abandoned the earlier consensus on diversity by celebrating cultural diversity and encouraging its persistence. Liberals condemn even the most benign efforts to encourage greater assimilation--for example, English usage for communication--as racist. Some liberals seem to celebrate every culture but their own.

Finally, many liberals even abandon the pretense of immigration laws altogether. They welcome and encourage illegal immigration. When borders and laws do not matter, it is outsiders who determine our immigration policy--not us.

As Conservatives suspect, the results of such policies are not encouraging. Harvard political science professor Robert Putnam published a lengthy study of the relationship between diversity and social trust. Diversity not only erodes trust between ethic groups, it also erodes trust of a community's traditional social institutions.

The money quote:

"The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us."

—Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam

Meanwhile below, the data-driven Heather MacDonald.

No comments: