In Memoriam: John Attarian (November 25, 1956—December 31, 2004)


[Peter Brimelow writes: By my hand as I write this, I still have John Attarian`s typically sweet condolence letter on the death of my wife (one of a number I`ve, alas, not yet answered). I reproach myself now: did that very sweetness and gentleness cause me to answer others first?—just as his great patience with my editorial chaos certainly caused us to publish his articles, despite their great popularity, at a slower pace than we tend to do with more demanding writers. Similarly, John left this life as quietly as he lived it. News of his passing is only now spreading among his many admirers. We publish this obituary far too late.

The Russian city of Saint Petersburg is notoriously built on the bones of Peter the Great`s serfs who died filling in the swamps. Similarly, the revived American nation will stand on the bones of those who fought to reconceptualize it. I hope that mine bear the weight of John Attarian`s.]

John Attarian, one of the most interesting and thoughtful writers on the Right and a welcome newer voice in the immigration reform movement, died suddenly on December 31, 2004, at the age of 48. A non-smoker who walked every day and had no history of any illness, he suffered a massive heart attack on December 28 and died at Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan three days later. Outside of his surviving family and fellow congregants of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, word of John`s passing did not begin to circulate until weeks after his unexpected death.

John Attarian earned his Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Michigan in 1984, writing a dissertation dealing with the economics of Ayn Rand.  Thereafter he published articles and book reviews on such topics as general entitlements, the budget deficit, the decline of American education, and culture wars in Academic Questions, Crisis, The Freeman, Modern Age, National Review, The Human Life Review, The St. Croix Review, The University Bookman, Chronicles, The Social Critic, The Lincoln Review, The World & I, Religion & Liberty, and other journals, in addition to such newspapers as The Chicago Tribune, The Detroit News, and the Wall Street Journal.

With the publication of his book, Social Security: False Consciousness and Crisis, John Attarian established himself as one of the preeminent authorities on this topic. While he was critical of the way Social Security was founded by FDR during the New Deal and the means for its perpetuation, he was also skeptical of some of the privatization schemes promoted by various “free enterprise” think tanks, such as the Cato Institute.

And in his monograph, Immigration: Wrong Answer for Social Security (American Immigration Control Foundation), Attarian deftly refuted the proposition that mass immigration will save Social Security. When Stephen Moore was with the Cato Institute, he floated the notion that a growing pool of immigrants would underwrite aging Baby Boomers` Social Security. Attarian detailed how the largely unskilled Third Worlders who comprise the vast majority of new immigrants haven`t the education and productivity to make a net financial contribution to society. In addition, he noted that Moore, Ben Wattenberg, and other Mass Immigration Enthusiasts, fail to account for the additional costs that Third World immigration brings to the U. S. (crime, health care, education, housing, and the undermining of social cohesion, etc.).

It was only in the late 1990s that Attarian turned his attention to the problems associated with mass immigration. As he wrote in the Fall of 2003, after the deaths of famed ecologist and ethicist Garrett Hardin and his wife, Jane:

“The last three years or so have been a decisive, if often agonizing, intellectual odyssey for me, as I have become vividly aware of the mortal danger mankind is in from simultaneous population growth and rapid drawdown of finite nonrenewable resources, especially petroleum and natural gas.

It is horribly clear that humanity has overshot the planet`s carrying capacity, is actually reducing carrying capacity in almost every location, and is lurching blindly towards a hideous population crash; that the reigning ideology of perpetual economic growth and denial of scarcity and the reality of limits is nightmarishly wrongheaded; and that America is far gone in committing suicide through, among other things, hyper consumption, overpopulation, immigration, and self-lacerating multiculturalism.

Garrett Hardin was one of the thinkers most prominent in turning my mind to confront our terrible predicament, and for that I am forever grateful.”

[John Attarian, Tribute to Garrett Hardin, October 3, 2003]

From 1999 until his premature death on New Years Eve, Attarian wrote monographs, articles, and book reviews on aspects of mass immigration, as well as scholarly analysis on oil depletion and the huge challenge this will present our civilization. He was also a penetrating critic of the current brand of “American conservatism” which he felt had abandoned its roots and “will go down in history as a failure, a crass and clueless movement that never really understood its mission, nor ever grasped reality.”[John Attarian, “Requiem For the Right,” The Occidental Quarterly, Volume 4, Number 1, Spring 2004; also “Huntington and the Clueless Right,” TOQ, Volume 4, Number 3, Fall 2004,]

At the time of his death, John Attarian had just completed a book-length study of the Marquis de Sade as a literary figure and moral revolutionary. He was also a novelist and artist. And he was far and away one of the nicest people I have ever encountered in my professional life.

Louis T. March, J.D., a former U.S. Senate aide now serving as President of the Representative Government Press, summarized the work and character of John Attarian in these words:

“Foremost among his blessings was a prodigious capacity for scholarship. Research for John was a labor of love. He would focus on his subject like a laser in the night, inevitably bringing forth essays of impeccable erudition, yet understood by the casual reader. He was fast becoming one of the leading writers in the movement to salvage our civilization. At the rate he was going, there is no doubt that in five years or less he would have been the leading writer on the economic and cultural impact of America`s immigration invasion.

While exceptional in his accomplishments, John did not take himself too seriously. He was genuinely modest, unfailingly polite and a pleasure to work with—a gentleman and a scholar. We will certainly miss this happy warrior, though his formidable work will fortify our intellectual arsenal for years to come.”

Dr. Wayne Lutton is editor of The Social Contract quarterly. He has been writing on immigration-related issues for over twenty years.