How Peter Brimelow Caused Me To Rethink Immigration

Peter Brimelow writes: Happy Anniversary to me! Twenty years ago this week, my 1992 National Review cover story, Time To Rethink Immigration, was on the newsstands. NR Editor John O’Sullivan later said it “launched the modern American debate on immigration.” It was the subject of an unwontedly rational  Wall Street Journal Op-Ed worrying that third-party populist candidate Ross Perot might seize on the issue—a very real possibility, judging from the enthusiasm of the Perot groups I spoke to later when on the road with the book that grew out of this cover story,  Alien Nation. Alas, that was to be perhaps the first of so many almost-breakthoughs.


In my cover story, I wrote “Very few people can absorb new realities after the age of 21.” Polymath Michael Hart (author, historian, astrophysicist, etcera) was sixty at the time, and had been born during the Great Lull, but he was the exception that proved the rule. I learned this just recently, and asked him to tell his story


One mind at a time, the Second Thirty (?)Year War for patriotic immigration reform will be won.


I was reared as a liberal. Both my parents were liberal Democrats, as were most of my teachers and friends.  Along with my other liberal ideas, I had been brought up to believe that only bad, prejudiced people opposed immigration.


My grandparents had all been Jewish immigrants, and their immigration to the United States had obviously benefitted them, and apparently (since they were honest, intelligent and hard-working people) the country as a whole.


Even when I came to realize the shortcomings of common left-liberal doctrines on economics, and on various other topics, it never occurred to me that my beliefs concerning the benefits of large-scale immigration could possibly be wrong.


Then, in June 1992, when I was sixty years old, I read in National Review an article by Peter Brimelow entitled “Time to Rethink Immigration.”  I was thunderstruck: Could it really be that a set of ideas that I had accepted throughout my adult life could be so wrong?


But the logic of Brimelow’s arguments persuaded me that I had indeed been wrong.  In that article, he not only explained the problems that our current immigration policies—which included admitting large numbers of non-European immigrants—were causing, but he also replied cogently to each of the pro-immigration arguments I had been hearing (and sometimes repeating) for years.


Not all his arguments were new, of course; but many were new to me. And all of them were presented with that clarity which is a hallmark of Brimelow’s writing.


For example, Brimelow dealt with the pro-immigration argument “How can you be against immigration when the nativists wanted to keep out your great-grandfather?” with the common-sense reply: “This is like saying that a person already on board a lifeboat should refrain from pointing out that taking on more will cause it to capsize.”


I was, of course, fortunate that my parents had always urged me to keep an open mind and to consider carefully the arguments that opponents make concerning political questions. (Of course, they themselves almost never did so; however, this was one of those instances where the age-old plea of parents to children: “Don’t do as I do; do as I say,” was heeded.)


I have since rethought the issue of immigration many times. Invariably, though, the arguments presented by Brimelow in that 1992 article prove persuasive.


I therefore wish to thank him for marshalling those arguments and presenting them so well that even a man of sixty was able to see that his prior beliefs had been wrong.


Michael H. Hart [Email him]is the author of  Understanding Human History , See Steve Sailer`s review here.In 2009, he organized a conference on Preserving Western Civilization, at which Peter Brimelow spoke.