Richwine Tells Krikorian: The Problem is "Them"

This afternoon, the American Enterprise Institute held a panel [video and audio will be up later] on Mark Krikorian’s latest book The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal. Krikorian gave his speech, and comments were made by Fred Siegel of the Progressive Policy Institute and Jason Richwine of AEI and was moderated by David Frum.

I arrived twenty minutes late and missed most of Krikorian’s opening remarks where he outlined the basic arguments in his book. This is just as well, as I plan on reviewing the book (which is quite good) at length in the future, and what was really interesting was the Jason Richwine’s response.

Richwine praised Krikorian’s book, but said he disagreed with its opening lines “It’s not the immigrants, it’s us. What’s different about immigration today as opposed to a century ago is not the characteristics of the newcomers, but the characteristics of our society.”

He agreed that our society changed, but made the blunt point that a major difference between today’s immigrants and yesterday’s is that today’s are almost all non-white while the earlier groups were almost all white. He went on to say this is important because whether we like it or not, people are naturally tribal and—to the gasps of many of the audience members—there are serious racial differences in IQ and that having groups with vastly different achievement levels will create more racial strife.

He said that the fact that saying that all European immigrants once thought unassimilable were eventually included into the Melting Pot in no way means that non-white immigrants will also be assimilated.

He pointed to Native Americans, African Americans, and earlier Mexican immigrants as examples of groups that have not assimilated after hundreds of years. He echoed Peter Brimelow by suggesting that Krikorian  is triangulating between the Open Borders crowd and himself.

He ended by making a thought experiment: What if the earlier waves of immigrants had been Pakistanis and Australian Aborigines instead of Italians, Germans, and Irish? Would they have assimilated? In the Q&A, I brought up Pat Buchanan’s comments about Englishmen assimilating more easily than Zulus and asked a corollary question: If our immigrants were coming from Europe, would we have the problems we are having today with Third World immigrants?

Siegel's response to Richwine was that Ayaan Hirsi Ali said she did poorly on IQ tests, and she is so brilliant, that we cannot take the concept seriously.

Krikorian made a decent response, which is that the real racial gap in this country has been historically “ black vs. non black” than “white vs. non-whites.” Therefore, he argued that immigrants essentially assimilated by being “non-black” at the expense of African Americans. He responded to my point by saying that while there would not be as many problems with British immigrants, in today’s society they would still set up ethnic grievance lobbies.

Richwine responded that even if the British set up their own lobbies, they would still assimilate because they would reach social and economic parity with the native-borns, which the Zulus wouldn’t. He didn’t express it that way, but it could be said that racial grievances hold little weight when there aren’t racial disparities. There would be these disparities with the Zulus, but there wouldn’t be with the British.

When one questioner called it “offensive” to hold an ethnic based immigration policy, both Krikorian and Richwine said that they did not endorse a policy, but Krikorian said that his immigration policy would have disparate impacts on different races.

He then said he opposes making ethnic based immigration systems on both political and moral grounds. Does this mean that all our immigration laws were immoral until 1965?

I had never heard of Richwine before this speech. It turns out that he is currently finishing his dissertation at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government on the topic of immigration and IQ. He will then stay on as a research fellow at AEI focusing on “applying the science of mental ability to better inform public policy on a variety of issues, including immigration, race relations, education, and welfare.” Definitely someone we want to keep our eye on.