The Corner

Numbers

On “people power”: That’s just silly. China’s population in 1483 (according to Colin McEvedy’s Atlas of Modern History) was 120m; Britain’s was about 5m (Reader’s Digest Complete Atlas of the British Isles). Which nation had a better time of it during the subsequent 500 yrs? As to estimating the effects of continuing high immigration across 1924-65: The very fact of popular demand for the legislation of 1924 tells us that the American people felt they’d had quite enough immigration for a while. If the flow had continued at the 1870-1920 levels ( i.e. an average of 0.4m or so a year), it is not hard to imagine widespread unrest in areas where immigrants had concentrated, and those concentrations reaching the “takeoff point” where people, comfortable in their large, and largely self-sufficient, communities, no longer felt any need to assimilate. The reason it’s not hard to imagine is that this is pretty much what is happening now. Time for another pause. Immigration is not an unqualified good, JPod, any more than hot weather is. Hot weather’s great for surfing, but lousy for skiing. Immigration might be a great idea in certain national circumstances, a lousy idea in others. I think continued immigration at the present high levels, from the present mix of sources, is a lousy idea. And I can’t see why that makes me a wicked person. Still less is immigration a sort of sacrament, shot through with mystery and wonder and shrouded in holy fire. It’s just a policy issue, that’s all, like securities regulation, or Air Traffic Control. I just don’t get this mystical, reverent attitude, this moralization. Well, I think I can sort of get it in some cases; but I sure don’t see how it helps us hammer out a policy for the best interests of our country.

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