Thursday, March 23, 2006

Xanadu Falls

Commentary by Martin Kelly
March 4, 2004

Probably the greatest issue of concern for social conservatives right now is illegal immigration. Although the President’s public statement that he will promote a constitutional amendment that would deny confirmed bachelors the right to marry each other is welcome, on a more profound level the illegal immigration question is far and away the more important. Gay marriage affects how a society perceives itself. Illegal immigration affects how it actually works.
For those conservatives afraid of the tide on the shores, one would urge them to take heart and look at the experience of the fictional Michigan town of Xanadu Falls. If the experience of Xanadu Falls is replicated across the United States, as looks increasingly likely, then the issue of illegal immigration will solve itself, and all too soon.
Immigration is the demographic equivalent of blood donation – it enables the body politic to renew itself with new skills and new talents to face the challenges that any sophisticated society must face during the course of its development. As Victor Davis Hanson and others have charted, historically it is always a one-way street – the primary cause of any immigration is the economic opportunity offered by stable and mature societies. Therefore, although the Bayswater area of London is regarded as an Arab quarter, or the Garnethill area of Glasgow is a Chinese quarter, there are no similar Cockney quarters in Damascus or Scots quarters in Shanghai.
The secondary cause of immigration is that the stable society is less likely to govern through the mechanics of oppression. The language of societies that receive immigrants always adapts and introduces words that immigrants bring with them. Without immigration, it is unlikely that the word ‘pogrom’ would ever have been introduced into English. Stable societies are not perfect – in 1923, the Church of Scotland produced an official document arguing against continued immigration entitled The Menace of the Irish Race. In 1968 Enoch Powell, a former Conservative Minister who had become a Professor of Greek at age 23 and who enlisted as a private in 1940, ending his war as a brigadier, made a speech in Birmingham, England, saying that if mass immigration continued, ‘like the Roman, he saw the Tiber foaming with much blood’. Powell’s ill-advised words have hung like a thundercloud over any meaningful attempt by British conservatives to debate the positive as well as the negative aspects of immigration ever since.
It is, however, an undeniable fact that English-speaking societies succeed most readily at assimilating immigrants. The UK and USA were the first countries in the world to offer multi-ethnic citizenship. It is still difficult for the children of second-generation Turkish immigrants to Germany to obtain German nationality. France excludes its immigrants in slightly more subtle ways, by giving them the paperwork but effectively denying them opportunity. The Dutch liberal immigrant experience has been a disaster, proving that in order for the immigration process to be successful there must be a desire on the part of the immigrant to integrate. It is not possible, indeed it is unreasonable to expect, that a host nation tolerate the continuation of some practices deemed acceptable in the immigrants country of origin.
Which is where, right now, the whole immigration question becomes a moral car-wreck. The continued pursuit of social democracy in both our societies, through the promotion of welfare and calls for universal health care, have produced the philosophy of multiculturalism. Multiculturalism makes the unsustainable intellectual demand that one must regard all societies and cultures as being of equal value – therefore, the traditions of Anglophone liberal democracy have no greater or lesser historical weight than Islamist denial of the role of women in society. The extension of the franchise to all females was the sort of historical development that could only have taken place in the English-speaking world first, simply because our traditions of debate and free enquiry enabled us to speak openly of the matter – in some parts of Switzerland, women were denied the franchise as late as 1979. However, if a Muslim immigrant refuses to ‘permit’ his wife to vote, he is thumbing his nose at the historical and social traditions of the society in whose opportunities he has sought to participate, and which has permitted him to do so. Multiculturalism says that’s OK, and that’s the strain of thought that now governs all policy in the matter.
Added to the mix is the post war theory of welfare statism. The provision of industrial welfare has been a social disaster in any society where it has been introduced, only ever sucking up otherwise productive money to employ bureaucrats whose wages far outweigh the dole they dispense, while rotting the initiative of the recipients. Manual labouring is a classic case in point. Societies will always have a demand for manual workers – by our essence we need to feed ourselves, so there will always be a need for farm-labourers. However, the fact that, certainly in the UK, welfare provision provides a more attractive lifestyle for many than the demands of the self-discipline required to go out and get and then keep a job means that that particular section of the workforce is now manned almost exclusively by immigrants. This is not a healthy thing, as what old romantics call the ‘work ethic’ will, like the steam train or the horse and trap, eventually disappear.
Skilled immigrants will always be able to seek opportunity, as the children of previous immigrants become the first in the family to attend college and enter the middle classes. The principal effect of some practices like outsourcing, however, is that, while manual and industrial jobs can be replaced with low to medium grade ‘white collar’ jobs, once those jobs go overseas, unless there has been a continuous effort at private sector job creation throughout the economic cycle then there is nothing to offer the citizen other than welfare. This scenario seems, unfortunately, to be playing out in the USA at the moment, with recent high growth being stimulated by corporate profit without any substantive numbers of new jobs being created at all. In turn, this will only have the effect of destabilising the society that produced the opportunity to begin with.
Which is precisely what’s happening in Xanadu Falls, a fictional city of 50,000 about 20 miles outside Detroit. In 1911, General Alternators opened what became the world’s largest automotive components factory there, employing 20,000. The city grew up around the factory, with generations of its men working in the plant. However, disaster struck in 1983, when General Alternators was taken over by the South Korean giant Park Lights. Park Lights immediately closed the plant, putting everyone out of work.
The town was depressed for a year. It developed the social problems of all depressed areas. The divorce rate increased, due to the presence of the primary cause of divorce, lack of money. Drug and alcohol abuse increased. Then, thanks to tax-breaks and inward investment incentives offered by the State of Michigan, the town was saved.
In 1984, Deutsche Transistor (US), the American arm of German electronics giant Deutsche Transistor Gmbh announced the opening of a computer assembly plant in Xanadu Falls. At the same time, OmniDairies, a foods giant based in Omaha, took advantage of the same tax breaks and announced that it was opening a factory in the town for the production of in-flight meals. Both Deutsche Transistor (US) and OmniDairies received tax breaks worth $140 million each from the taxpayers of Michigan for their trouble. The problem was that the breaks only lasted for 10 years.
For ten years, everyone in Xanadu Falls had a job. This hadn’t always been the case – although the wages paid by General Alternators had been described as ‘uncompetitive’ by the CEO of Park Lights, they had been enough to ensure that men who worked at the plant earned enough to enable their wives to stay at home. Although Deutsche Transistor paid well enough in the climate of the mid-80’s, the wages weren’t at the same level, so many of the stay at home moms took part-time shifts in OmniDairies to cover the balance. The divorce rate remained at its new, increased rate.
However, inevitably, disaster struck Xanadu Falls again in 1995, when Deutsche Transistor’s and OmniDairies tax breaks ran out. Both corporations closed their plants.
Almost immediately, the hour was saved by Tim Rothelmann, a Xanadu Falls native and graduate of Stanford Business School, who was looking for a location to open not one but four call centres, for four new customer service contracts he had won with Ambleton Energy, Nefesix, The Creative Corporation and MacHaggis (US). The hometown boy came home and once again everyone in Xanadu Falls had a job. Xanadu Falls won a new reputation for excellence as the call centre capital of the Great Lakes, although its wage rate fell again and its divorce rate increased accordingly.
However, in the last quarter of 2003, a disturbing rumour hit the streets. Tim Rothelmann had spent three weeks touring Asia. He had been spending a larger and larger proportion of his time at his house in Florida, taking the sun. People were worried that their jobs would soon head over to Asia.
And it happened last week. 30,000 people in Xanadu Falls lost their jobs, for the third time in 20 years.
Don’t forget that illegal immigrants seek better opportunities. Once all of America is like Xanadu Falls, there will be no opportunity. And they will not come any more.