Brimelow On That Buchanan Book

(Peter Brimelow writes: this review ran in the Washington Times Sunday, February 3, 2002)

"The supreme function of statesmanship," British Tory rebel Enoch Powell began his famous 1968 speech on immigration, "is to provide against preventable evils." (It's one of the great political speeches in the language, by the way, and one which contrary to popular wisdom did not end Powell's career but made it, bringing him within an ace of taking over the party leadership in 1974.)

Whatever you think about Patrick J. Buchanan, who for one similarly hilarious moment gave the GOP Establishment collective cardiac arrest by winning the 1996 New Hampshire primary, it is undeniable that has he been trying to anticipate future evils. In his 1998 book The Great Betrayal, he worried about the redistributional and deindustrializing effects of free trade. In his 1999 book A Republic Not an Empire, he worried about imperial overstretch. Now, in his new book Death of the West, he is worrying about the impact of massive, non-traditional immigration on a demoralized, demographically-declining America and Europe.

Buchanan would have been well advised (not that he ever takes advice) to have written this book first. It is not a narrow monograph on an arcane, minestrewn topic, but a well-rounded and internally-consistent theory of politics, economics and society. And it is simply right on the facts - surprising though these apparently are inside the Beltway. The West's proportion of the world population is indeed collapsing. The U.S. is indeed undergoing a racial transformation, because of the unexpected consequences of the 1965 Immigration Act, that is unprecedented in the history of the world. And the consensus among academic economists, scandalously unreported because of political correctness in the business press, is indeed that native-born Americans receive no net aggregate benefit from this influx. America, in short, is being transformed for nothing.

Anticipating future evils brings its own problems, as Powell noted back in 1968. Because the future evil has, by definition, not happened yet, there are always people who will deny it. Others will hope that, if only we don't talk about it, the future evil may just go away. Professional politicians tend to be particularly irritated at being asked to consider anything not immediately under their exquisitely sensitive snouts, which they use to snuffle along like blind shrews--clearly an evolutionary adaptation enabling them to make 180-degree turns without rupturing their consciences.

The semi-skilled intellectuals who will make up the bulk of this book's reviewers are especially unfitted to handle the new and unfamiliar. For example, Brian Doherty of the dogmatically libertarian Reason Magazine, writing in the Washington Post (January 6, 2002) was obviously quite genuinely baffled by what he described as Buchanan's "obsessions with nationality and ethnicity"–"obsessions" which have, of course, constituted the stuff of politics, and of human experience, for all recorded history. But they aren't in the Ayn Rand playbook, you see. Similarly, Doherty was perplexed that Buchanan regards Mexicanization as a threat because Mexicans are predominantly Christian – distressing to Randists – although Buchanan patiently explains that assimilation is a function of ethnicity and culture and numbers and time, all of which combine to make the current historically disproportionate Mexican influx ominous.

"All of our worlds die with us," Doherty concluded in incomprehension. Buchanan, by contrast, concludes by echoing Lincoln's invocation of the "mystic chords of memory" that bind a nation to its past. It is not too much to say that the one view is alien atomism; the other American. But no longer, apparently, Republican.

Of course, a whole generation of intellectuals, liberal and "conservative," has been indoctrinated that any frank discussion of ethnicity must mean "racism." Buchanan actually says very specifically that immigrants of every race can become Americans. His concern is with their numbers, combined with the collapse of the assimilating institutions. But this will not save him from the inevitable accusations. And, ironically, it will further alienate those white nationalists who objected to his choosing a black woman, Ezola Foster, as his vice-presidential nominee in 2000 – an act for which he has received remarkably little credit.

Buchanan's discussion of demographics could be qualified. While the West's share of the world's population is falling, this is only after a tremendous growth surge that dramatically expanded its share beginning in the eighteenth century. No-one really knows why fertility rates fluctuate – no-one expected the Baby Boom of the 1950s – but it would be unwise to assume that the West will not eventually stabilize. Moreover, as Buchanan himself says, population quality, technical skill, is far more important than quantity. Ask the Taliban. Still, Buchanan is unquestionably right that the West needs careful management during this transition. A White House in thrall to ethnic and cheap labor lobbies cannot provide it.

Cynics may object that statesmen are merely dead (or compulsorily retired) politicians. But Buchanan in this book has transcended both categories. He has become, once again, a journalist.

(The Death Of The West: How Dying Populations and Immigration Invasions Imperil Our Country and Civilization, by Patrick J. Buchanan. St. Martin's Press, 308 pp., $25.95)

Peter Brimelow is the author of Alien Nation: Common Sense About America's Immigration Disaster.

February 03, 2002