August 15, 2005

MECCA ON THE POTOMAC (via Timothy Goddard):

American Hajj: Toward an Open Society (Nathan Smith, 08/15/2005, Tech Central Station)

Which of the following best fits the label "the open society": a) the United States, or b) Saudi Arabia? (Hint: It's a trick question.)

Annually, almost twenty-four million foreigners travel to the United States -- equal to about 8% of the US population. (Some may be double-counted.) Just over two million travel to Saudi Arabia, also about 8% of the Saudi population. Tie.

But in the US case, those 24 million are less than one-tenth of the 300 to 350 million who are inspected by the INS, and no one knows how many more don't bother to apply because they expect rejection. Saudi Arabia tries to accommodate all religious pilgrims, and I could find no evidence that getting tourist or business visas is difficult. Saudi Arabia 1, US 0.

Thirty-four million foreign-born persons live legally in the US, about 12% of the population. (Another 10 million or so live here as illegal immigrants.) The Saudi government estimates that seven million foreigners live in Saudi Arabia, almost 30% of the population. Saudi Arabia 2, US 0.

In 2001, foreign workers sent an estimated $28.4 billion a year in remittances to their home countries from the United States. This amount was about 0.3% of US GDP. Foreign workers sent about $15.1 billion of remittances home from Saudi Arabia. This amount was about 6% of Saudi GDP. Saudi Arabia 3, US 0.

As an open society, by these indicators, Saudi Arabia has the US beat.

Mr. Smith has built an ingenious frame through which to examine the immigration controversy.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 15, 2005 3:34 PM

Please tell me this is a joke: "Saudi Arabia tries to accommodate all religious pilgrims, and I could find no evidence that getting tourist or business visas is difficult."


"Saudi Arabia does not issue tourist visas nor is it possible for a hotel to sponsor a visitor.
Other than the two types of visas discussed above which are only available to Muslims, there exist visitor's visas, residence visas or transit visas."

Give me a break, oj. You're far too smart to post something this ridiculous.

The final sentence of this piece reads: "When our society becomes as open as that of Saudi Arabia, we will begin to win the battle for hearts and minds."

Absolutely grotesque.

Posted by: b at August 15, 2005 3:47 PM


"religious pilgrims"

Posted by: oj at August 15, 2005 3:50 PM

oj: He states that he "could find no evidence that getting tourist or business visas is difficult." Getting a tourist visa is not difficult--it is impossible, as the link shows.

Posted by: b at August 15, 2005 4:13 PM

Saudi Arabia tries to accommodate all religious pilgrims

Well - good thing no Christians, Jews, Buddists, Hindus, or animists are trying to pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia - or else Mr. Smith's statistics might get a wee bit skewed!

Posted by: Shelton at August 15, 2005 4:16 PM

I guess the Old South was an open society, since a lot of foreign born workers lived in it.

Posted by: carter at August 15, 2005 4:30 PM


Why should any nation admit people who don't share its values?

Posted by: oj at August 15, 2005 4:31 PM

America was unquestionably an open society when it had slavery.

Posted by: oj at August 15, 2005 4:36 PM

> Why should any nation admit people who don't share its values?

Ummm, huh? You post an article that ludicrously claims that Saudi Arabia is an "open society" and the US is not, and when it is pointed out that this is total nonsense, you come back with a dismissal of the concept of an "open society"? That certainly is an interesting rhetorical gambit...

Posted by: b at August 15, 2005 4:42 PM


That's quite wrong. An open society has all the more reason to require that folks adhere to common values. You're making the Left's mistake:

Posted by: oj at August 15, 2005 4:47 PM

oj: Yes, I am fully aware that there is nothing more intolerant than tolerance. So what does that have to do with this article?

To quote the article again: "But freedom of movement is the most basic of all freedoms." So this is how the author defines an open society--it should be as easy as possible for people and goods to move in and out of a country. He then goes on to claim that this is more true of Saudi Arabia than for the US. Do you seriously agree with him on this point?

Posted by: b at August 15, 2005 4:59 PM

OJ -

1) To answer your question. For visitation? There is a big difference in requiring some cultural adaptation of immigrants seeking permanent residence and in banning 3/4th of the planet from even visiting most places in the nation. I hope you can see that.

2) The article claims SA is an open society - it doesn't really address immigration the way you think it does.

3) Regardless, I'd rather not take my cultural cues from Saudi Arabia, in fact, of all the nations on the Earth SA would certainly be in the bottom 20% when it comes to choosing a role model for America. Thanks anyway.

Posted by: Shelton at August 15, 2005 5:03 PM


An open society needn't be tolerant of those who don't comnform to its norms, just accepting of those who do, as the Sa'uds are and we are.

Posted by: oj at August 15, 2005 5:06 PM


No, I'd keep anti-American tourists out too.

Posted by: oj at August 15, 2005 5:12 PM

oj: Fine. I agree. But based on this story, Mr. Smith sure doesn't.

Posted by: b at August 15, 2005 5:20 PM

This is the sort of contrarian rationalized stupidity you find in libertarian magazines like Reason. They're probably kicking themselves because this guy beat them to it.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at August 15, 2005 5:35 PM


Good one.

Posted by: oj at August 15, 2005 5:39 PM

I have no problem allowing anti-American tourists into our country as long as they don't break any laws while there here and as long as they go home when their vacation is over. Not only is it a good way to make money but the trip would be the educational experience of their lives. Their experience here would go a long way towards disabusing them of all the lies and hatred instilled in them in the maddrasses.

What's the point in having a shining city on a hill if no one can come close enough to see it?

In my reading of history and current events the more a nation restricts visitation the more that nation is trying to hide.

Posted by: Shelton at August 15, 2005 5:39 PM

Shelton just, unknowingly, hit on the entire point of the essay. SA cycles millions of people in and out of its borders annually, influencing them and the nations they return to, giving SA a disproportionate amount of influence. A more open immigration policy would similarly empower America, in part to combat SA's influence.

The author has another worthwhile immigration essay here.

Posted by: Timothy at August 15, 2005 7:36 PM

So "open society" is a completely morally neutral term then. I.e. a society willing to accept any immigrant willing to be a chattel slave of the ruling despot would be "open" under this definition. Even the American South didn't accept African as slaves after 1805, although the treatment of immigrant labor in the Saudi Entity comes close. Sounds like another "I'll secretly redefine a term and then you'll be surprised that it's not what you think" article.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at August 15, 2005 9:13 PM


Societies are always definitional. Do you think you live in a closed society because 45 million babies have beenb aborted? No, we don't define them as human, just like blacks weren't.

Posted by: oj at August 15, 2005 9:18 PM

Well, the author doesn't mention that tens of thousands of Filipino, Palestinian, and other guest workers have been beaten and sexually abused by their Saudi 'masters', both male and female. That should take them down a notch.

Neither does he mention the matwan, who make sure that the gringos in Saudi Arabia don't cross any lines. Freedom of movement? More likely freedom from movement - all Westerners are pretty much kept on narrow paths, behind walls. It is probably more restrictive now than in 1985.

Posted by: jim hamlen at August 15, 2005 9:52 PM

Timothy: Huh? The author claims that 2 million visitors pass through Saudi Arabia each year (basically 100% of them for the hajj). And how many does he say pass through America? Twenty-four million! Although he decries the fact that this is a small fraction of the 350 million or more who allegedly want to visit, he doesn't quite address where we'd get the planes/airports/hotels to deal with so many people.

Posted by: b at August 15, 2005 11:45 PM

he doesn't quite address where we'd get the planes/airports/hotels to deal with so many people

Ever hear of "supply and demand?" It's a very useful concept. You can make a fair amount of money if you understand it particularly well...

Posted by: Timothy at August 16, 2005 12:55 AM

It's a bad article with very flawed reasoning.

His comparison between the US and Saudi Arabia is skewed and biased to portray Saudi as more open which it manifestly is not. Not only does he ignore the religious restrictions, he ignores the additional constraints of living there for immigrants. His indicators are flawed and conceal more than they reveal. He loses credibility to those who knew and deceive those who don't. He'd have done better picking a better country.

And the rest of the article is no better, especially where he implies that the 1924 Immigration Act somehow caused the rise of Hitler and World War II. If Fascism spread due to it, then how come Mussolini seized power two years earlier? I guess all those Italian Americans already in the US by then must have been slacking in not stopping Mussolini. The author is committing the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. And changing the immigration laws in 1965 did not lead to newfound success against Communism. 1965-1980 was the nadir of the Cold War, and the turnaround had nothing to do with US immigration policy.

The most laughable is when he complains that immigration policy is unfair because it benefits Americans as opposed to foreigners. That's a winning proposition. Why not change all our national policies so that foreigners benefit at the expense of Americans. I'm sure there is someone in India who can write much better than Mr Smith on how to do so.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at August 16, 2005 12:35 PM