Unemployment and cultural weakness cause radicalism, not poverty

The process of assimilation is obviously a matter of great concern for any nation with generous immigration policies. Immigration without assimilation is akin to colonization. No nation benefits from importing a large population that does not accept its founding principles, or perhaps even its laws. There are few more reliable places to find anger, despair, poverty and crime in any Western nation than its pockets of unassimilated immigrants.

However, assimilation is important for the native-born as well. It is a grave mistake to assume that people born in a given nation, even after several generations of native birth, will automatically assimilate to its culture. On the contrary, it is not difficult at all to find native-born American populations that refuse to integrate with productive society. They are also reliable sources of anger, despair, poverty, and crime. Sometimes their anger boils over into riots and angry demonstrations that interfere with the smooth functioning of the society they feel alienated from. At such times, they are prone to describing themselves as defiantly unassimilated, standing forever apart from common culture, at war with a society they accuse of ruthlessly exploiting them.

It would be easy for me to guess the images floating through the reader’s mind after digesting the preceding paragraph. Take those images as evidence for the argument that assimilation is not exclusively a problem for immigrants.

Of course, it’s a particularly significant problem for mass immigration, such as America’s political elite have forced upon the unwilling citizens of the United States, or France’s political elite arranged for the Islamic banlieues. Yes, it is entirely accurate to say that mass immigration was accomplished in the U.S. by force, over years of loud objections from the American electorate, particularly the segment of it living along the southern border. We are now told it’s a done deal, there’s no point in complaining about it, enforcing our immigration laws would be an impossible burden on our $3.5 trillion mega-government, and we need to grant amnesty to those who’ve traipsed across the porous border during the decades since the last amnesty deal.

How do we encourage the smooth assimilation of immigrant populations? Unfortunately, one of the most obvious techniques is off the table: control the rate of immigration. It’s easier to assimilate relatively small groups after they have been dispersed into a large, existing population and given plenty of time to make themselves at home. A moderated influx of carefully-vetted immigrants is unlikely to ghettoize itself.

Few would dispute that small numbers of immigrants are easier to integrate than large groups, but once that point becomes moot, everything else about assimilation is the subject of heated debate. The Left, for example, doesn’t want to accept the clear truth that assimilation requires cultural confidence. Why would a large number of new arrivals wish to fold themselves into a culture dismissed by the native-born elite as unjust, its core principles unworthy of defense? Who rushes to join a team of losers?

Since socialism proceeds from the assumption that its host society is unjust – that’s why enormous levels of compulsion must be deployed against the greedy, racist, dimwitted citizens by an enlightened Ruling Class – left-wing political dominance makes assimilation problematic. It’s no coincidence that ideologies such as radical Islam, which offers discipline and absolute moral authority, flourish in the vacuum created by liberal self-loathing. “Whatever floats your boat” is not an appealing ethos for people who desire a firm hand on the wheel of their boats.

Of course, there’s also the little problem of immigrants, and native-born young people who refuse to integrate, going on the dole. A great many home-grown terrorists and fire-breathing radical instigators are welfare cases. UK imam Anjem Choudary infamously told his followers to think of their welfare checks as “jihad seeker’s allowance.”

It’s politically incorrect to discuss the rather obvious reasons welfare dependency breeds radicalism. It leaves people with a lot of time on their hands, which they often use to network with others who feel marginalized. They feel angry and resentful because their lives are stagnant. They chafe under the real and imagined resentment of the culturally-integrated taxpayers who finance their benefits. They nurse a sense of entitlement that dissipates their respect for the rights of others, and they feel they have no stake in a society which offers them no opportunity for production and growth.

It is absolutely vital to be honest about this unfashionable critique of the welfare state, because one of the most insanely dangerous misconceptions of the Western political elite is that poverty causes crime. A subset of this belief is that poverty causes terrorism. It is rare to hear a speech from Left-leaning politicians that does not include some variation on this canard. They’re wrong, and they are insulting the large numbers of impoverished people who commit no crimes and entertain no thoughts of violent fanaticism. Once again, Marxist theories about materialism and the re-programming of human machines have led the Left down a blind alley.

The truth they refuse to see is that unemployment is the cause of social unrest and alienation, not poverty. This is why showering the impoverished with taxpayer-financed freebies doesn’t promote assimilation. Employment is assimilation. There is no substitute.

Everything else we commonly regard as a barrier to assimilation, such as the refusal of immigrants to learn the common language of their new country, is important because it’s a barrier to employment. Learning the local language is not sufficient for integration if the new citizens can’t get jobs. Native-born young people who don’t assimilate are generally fluent in the common tongue.

Employment begins the quest for opportunity and growth. Gainfully employed people develop a stake in society. They have skin in the game. They appreciate the value of order and security. They’re too busy to tolerate radical foolishness – as the old saying goes, idle hands are the Devil’s workshop. Disrupting the Devil’s business model requires giving young hands something more productive to do.

Jobs are productive voluntary cooperation: a form of human intimacy that destroys prejudice and bigotry. When strong hands are joined in profitable labor, the color of those hands soon becomes irrelevant. Commerce is one of the most effective methods for teaching people to think well of each other. It teaches us patience and gratitude. It brings outsiders into the fold, in a way no mere rhetorical invitation can approach.

Grinding labor at dead-end jobs isn’t quite good enough for full-power assimilation, because full investment in a society involves thinking about the future, not just the needs of the moment. This is one reason the conversion of America into a land of part-time jobs under Barack Obama’s presidency is so unsettling. A common trick through the Obama years involves turning one full-time career position into two part-time jobs and calling that “job growth.” In reality, our workforce has been shrinking, and the pool of good career jobs is dwindling. The result is optimal for socialist control: a nation of Takers who are also Makers, people who work hard at part-time jobs but still require government assistance to make ends meet. That’s far from optimal for the cultural assimilation of either born citizens or immigrants, because it compromises the dignity of work, the unifying effect of individual responsibility, and the eager pursuit of opportunity.

Unification through individual responsibility? Yes indeed, that’s important, because the other varieties of unification are dangerous. Proud, responsible individuals unite in the pursuit of opportunity, the desire to build better lives. Every other method of uniting a population tends to leave them taking or demanding instead of joining together and building. They learn to see their neighbors as adversaries instead of potential customers, employers, and competitors. Their unity is powered by howls of resentment for “unfair” treatment, not invitations to work at making things better. When their endeavors end badly, they see themselves as victims, preyed upon by the larger society they refuse to join. They become very sensitive to perceived insults. Political solidarity becomes more valuable than free-market commerce; paranoia and resentment are among the most useful tools for maintaining political solidarity.

Our Ruling Class isn’t very good at fostering the vibrant voluntary employment that fuels cultural assimilation. Instead, it promotes division and resentment, because it harvests votes from alienated populations. Elites openly despise the common culture of their social inferiors, so they make poor sales representatives for that culture to outsiders. They long ago disabled the legal mechanisms that could have controlled the rate of immigration. In sum, they’re doing everything wrong, and we should not be surprised by the unsatisfying result.


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