More Diversity = Less Welfare?

I wrote an article in 2001 entitled "Immigration and Welfare" recounting a study done by Frank Salter (the sociobiologically-oriented political scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Germany) on Moscow beggars. Some were Russians, just like the vast majority of the pedestrians. Other panhandlers were dressed in the distinctive garb of Moldova, a small former Soviet republic that gained independence in 1991. Finally, some of the beggars were darker-skinned Gypsies (also known as Roma), who are visibly of South Asian origin.

"Unbeknownst to them, the beggars were being monitored by a team of ethologists (students of the science of behavior). The researchers counted each time a passerby gave money to a beggar. A pattern soon emerged. The Russian pedestrians preferred to give to their fellow Russians, with the Moldavians, their fellow Eastern Europeans, as their second choice. The Asiatic Gypsies were so unpopular that they had to resort to a wide variety of tactics to scrounge spare change, ranging from singing and dancing, to importuning tightwads, to dressing up their children in crutches and eye-patches."

This wasn't an anomaly. Salter has compiled a broad array of evidence (summed up in his new book Welfare, Ethnicity, and Altruism: New Findings and Evolutionary Theory) indicating that people tend to be more generous to those more closely related to themselves genealogically. He summed up the political implications like this:

"The liberal left supports generous welfare but also policies that add to ethnic heterogeneity, such as high levels of immigration. It does not seem to have occurred to them that they must choose between maximizing the two."

David Goodhart, the editor of the fine center-left British magazine Prospect, mentioned to me recently that he used my article in writing his now famous essay in his February 2004 edition: "Too diverse? Is Britain becoming too diverse to sustain the mutual obligations behind good society and the welfare state?" In it, Goodhart echoes Salter:

"A generous welfare state is not compatible with open borders and possibly not even with US-style mass immigration."

Goodhart's reasoning is more rigorous than most because of his respect for both the great Edmund Burke and the late William D. Hamilton, the English evolutionary theorist who may eventually emerge as the most influential English thinker of the second half of the 20th Century:

"Thinking about the conflict between solidarity and diversity is another way of asking a question as old as human society itself: who is my brother? With whom do I share mutual obligations? The traditional conservative Burkean view is that our affinities ripple out from our families and localities, to the nation and not very far beyond. That view is pitted against a liberal universalist one which sees us in some sense equally obligated to all human beings from Bolton to Burundi… Evolutionary psychology stresses both the universality of most human traits and - through the notion of kin selection and reciprocal altruism - the instinct to favour our own… In any case, Burkeans claim to have common sense on their side. They argue that we feel more comfortable with, and are readier to share with, and sacrifice for, those with whom we have shared histories and similar values. To put it bluntly - most of us prefer our own kind."

After Goodhart's piece was reprinted in the Guardian, it caused a ruckus in Britain among the politically and culturally dominant left. It's a little hard to figure why—his policy recommendations are rather weak tea—other than that nobody had ever had the courage before to say in polite society such common-sense truths as that welfare states work best in homogenous Scandinavian countries. Goodhart gently points out that just because "diversity" and "solidarity" may both be good things, they are not necessarily compatible.

Some Americans on the right have taken up the cry that therefore mass immigration saved us from socialism or European levels of welfare. Their argument is that since ethnic diversity tends to corrupt the workings of government by making politics into a scramble for tax dollars and government jobs for relatives, as the history of Democratic machines in immigrant cities like Chicago and Boston testifies, that made big government less popular with voters.

Okay … but you've got to be a truly fanatical libertarian to argue that the more parasitical and inefficient the government the better. How about if we had honest, effective government and let the voters then choose the size of government they wanted?

Further, this immigration-prevented-socialism theory is a massive misreading of American history. There was never socialism in America because there was never feudalism in America. Contra Marx, the socialist urge grew not out of capitalism but out of the extreme inequality and rigidity of the aristocratic system, where the nobility owned almost all of the land by inheritance. Early in the century, a hereditary member of the British House of Lords complained that Prime Minister Lloyd George had created new Lords solely because they were self-made millionaires who had only recently acquired large acreages. When asked, "How did your ancestor become a Lord?" he replied sternly, "With the battle-ax, sir, with the battle-ax!"

Fortunately, Thomas Jefferson worked hard to make land ownership extremely widespread in America, banning primogeniture (the English tradition of leaving all the real estate to the eldest son) and setting up a Federal bureaucracy to sell government land on the frontier cheaply to the common man. Combined with the low population density of 19th Century America, this kept land costs low, wages high, and opportunity present. That is the historical basis of America's vast middle class, a foundation being undermined by the current mass immigration system (and let's not even speak of President Bush's Open Borders proposal).

Moreover, America's relatively brief experiment with a generous welfare state was doomed by our African-American population. America tried to import the two fundamentals of the Swedish welfare state—high welfare payments and an end to social disapproval of illegitimacy—beginning about 1961. In parts of the U.S., such as heavily Scandinavian Minnesota, this worked reasonably well. But American voters were confronted with stunning speed with the realization that African-Americans responded differently than Swedes did to the new incentive structures. Welfare allowed much of African-American society to revert to African-style family structures. In Africa, men often expect to be provided for by their women. One group of African feminists recently estimated that women do four times as much work in Sub-Saharan Africa as men do. (See James Q. Wilson's recent book The Marriage Problem for the normally covered-up details on the relationship between African family structure and African-American problems.)

With paternal providers rendered obsolete, the black crime rate skyrocketed and urban whites fled to the suburbs, selling their homes cheaply at great damage to their life savings. As early as the 1966 Congressional elections, the voters were in revolt. Over time, voters had their officials throw a vast number of dangerous young men in prison and, in 1996, cut back on welfare for single mothers. Social conditions seem to have stabilized and even improved due to these illiberal measures as the crime rate has dropped sharply and the black illegitimacy rate inches downward.

The conservatism of current American voters, so widely decried around the world, stems in large part from this increase in the black crime rate in the 1960s. The politically correct way to refer to this historical event is "white fear of crime," as if it was all a hallucination. But the statistics are clear that there is nearly a degree of magnitude difference in the crime rate between non-Hispanic whites and African-Americans. Blacks are imprisoned nine times as much as non-Hispanic whites and commit eight times as many murders. White Americans do not accept this behavior as their own.

That is why America is turning away from a Scandinavian-style welfare state.

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]