Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Are we are going to be the great country in the world, or not?

I've asked before "What's conservative about opposing immigration?" Writing in the National Review Online (April 18), the American Enterprise Institute's Ben Wattenberg makes the neoconservative case for expanding immigration instead of restricting it:

American greatness and influence depend on immigration and assimilation. The U.S. is the only major country in the world growing at a moderate but geometric rate, while all the others shrink, including the two great peasant giants, China and India. (If you're an investor, bet on India.) Europe is turning into a theme park with fewer and fewer shows and barkers.

If you know that American greatness, with its concomitant problems, comes from immigration and subsequent assimilation--immediately, or in a generation or two--you understand the situation. If you don't, ask an immigrant cab driver in any big city to explain. Immigration and assimilation are our most important comparative advantages in a roiling world. Does it cause problems? Sure. What in the realm of public policy doesn't? (Always answer a question with a question.)

There's nothing wrong with Mexican immigrants. My favorite stats come from the Defense Department, which has data on most everything except who will win the war. They calculate that Mexican-American GIs have been awarded proportionately more Congressional Medals of Honor than any other sub-group in the American military.

U.N. projections show America growing from 300 million to 400 million to 500 hundred million by 2300, but they underestimate.

America is influential now, albeit unpopular in some, but by no means all, places. The Indians like us, which is nice, because they will likely be our most important ally as the years roll on.

Immigrants are our best publicists. They fly home on cheap flights, they e-mail home, they use their cell phones to say America is O.K., and then some. They send home "remittances" to their families, the best form of foreign aid. Immigrants have an average age of 29. They will pay into Social Security and Medicare for 40 years before getting a nickel back. This, we want to encourage!

At its most elemental, size means it is easier to fund a defense force, which is cheaper per person when paid by 500 million people instead of 300 million. That is a particular advantage when other nations are shrinking--albeit some of them getting richer, like the China. It means more influence available for export. All things being equal, which is often the case, a large population yields power and influence. Belgium won't have either.

Diminishment means "old people, in old houses, with old ideas," as French demographer Alfred Sauvy said in the 1930s. It also means empty houses with falling prices, a shrinking market, and a shrinking labor force. ...

In any event, it's a dumb show. A nation that can't keep out illegal drugs, can't keep out illegal immigrants. If we try to do it harshly, we are begging for trouble with Mexico, and with observers around the world. President Bush is on the right track; the road to citizenship should be open, albeit with penalties to make up for prior illegality.

Are we are going to be the great country in the world, or not? I vote yea.

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