December 22, 2006


Affirmative action: Racism's escape — or a trap?: a review of The Trouble with Diversity
How We Learned to Love Identity and Ignore Inequality By Walter Benn Michaels (Christopher Caldwell, December 22, 2006, International Herald Tribune)

[D]iverse societies do appear less able, or less inclined, to redistribute money than homogeneous ones. The Harvard economists Alberto Alesina and Edward Glaeser have argued that American racial heterogeneity explains about half the gap between American and European welfare spending, and Thomas and Mary Edsall's 1991 classic "Chain Reaction" described how a backlash against the civil rights movement resulted in a waning public willingness to support the welfare state through taxes.

Indeed, it can be argued that what's killing the welfare states of Europe is immigration rather than their failure as economic entities. No one much minded a wasteful transfer of money from Swede to Swede, but from Swede to Lebanese is a whole different kettle of lutifisk.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 22, 2006 8:32 PM


Speaking as one of Norwegian heritage, please don't refer to lutefisk, even in jest. It is the most vile substance ever invented by man.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at December 22, 2006 9:52 PM

Note that Caldwell laments the end of the Cold War. Paging General Loan; paging General Loan.

Casting aside Tovarisch Caldwell's conclusions, there are other explanations for a correlation between cultural diversity and economic diversity.
Part of a free society, is being free to chose to extent to which one would esteem money over other values. Given a safety net, a floor if you will, individuals need not exert themselves beyond what they deem appropriate.

Now, in a culturally diverse population, not only individuals but recognizable cultural groups may demonstrate variety as to wealth-seeking traits such as diligence, thrift, promptness, deferral of pleasure--all those "capitalist" things.

This is not a bad thing. What would be a bad thing would be yoking those who drive themselves to the service of those with other priorities.

Thus diversity and freedom result in inequality--not unfairness, simply variation.

Posted by: Lou Gots at December 22, 2006 10:33 PM

The problem in Europe is the aging native population. The old folks expect the young immigrants to work their butts off to support them in their retirements. Of course, the problems originated from the fact that the natives worked their butts off to support unemployed young immigrants in the first place. No welfare states, no high taxes, everyone supports him/herself in retirement. There should never be welfare for healthy able bodied young people, immigrants or natives.

Posted by: ic at December 23, 2006 2:44 AM

The welfare state is slowly collapsing because it is an illogical economic model that runs counter to human behavior. Anything that speeds up that process is good in my book.
Immigration is only one aspect of the global economy. Free capital movement and free trade are putting more pressure on the welfare state thsn immigration does.

IC: most of the problems with (young) immigrants can be traced back to the fact that they are largely unemployable under the constraints of the welfare state.

Posted by: Daran at December 23, 2006 6:12 AM

It didn't suddenly become illogical, it did become a transfer program from natives to immigrants in Europe.

Posted by: oj at December 23, 2006 11:53 AM