What is American culture?

I’ve been asked by an open borders advocate to provide a description of the American culture that I say is threatened by mass Third-World immigration. What follows is a brief and obviously incomplete selection of angles on this question, culled from my earlier writings.

First, America is an offshoot of the Western, Christian, Classical heritage. It was formed by Western Christians, not by Africans or Moslems or Chinese or Asian Indians or American Indians.

Second, within the Western tradition, there is the more particular Anglo-American tradition, some features of which are (paraphrasing The Path to National Suicide):

  • The remarkable degree of freedom from external controls made possible by the Protestant ideal of moral autonomy and self-restraint.

  • The habits of self-reliance and local government, which are largely absent from other cultures including continental Europe

  • The shared faith in natural rights, deriving from Locke and the Declaration of Independence.

  • The common law tradition and due process of law.

  • The principle against self-incrimination.

  • The tradition of the loyal opposition and the right to dissent, which stands in contrast to the power group warfare that obtains in many other cultures.

  • Freedom of speech and the appeal to reason in public discourse.

  • The traditions of honesty and fair dealing. The sense of fair play.

  • The high degree of trust and social cooperation made possible by the above.

  • And finally—as the result of high moral standards, cooperativeness, trust and freedom—America’s extraordinarily rich tradition of voluntary associations and institutions—ranging from pioneer communities to churches to business enterprises to philanthropies to political and scientific societies—operating within the law but otherwise free of the state.

In addition to our civilizational and religious character and our more particular British and Anglo-Saxon-based political and moral traditions, there is the ethno-cultural component of our nationhood. Culture, Jim Kalb has written, depends on the long shared life of a people in common, which means ethnicity; and ethnicity is based on (though it is not exclusively defined by) race. As I wrote in Erasing America:

For most of our history as a nation, the majority group that set the tone and gave flesh to our political and moral ideals consisted of Anglo-Saxon Protestants and closely related Northern European peoples. Members of later and somewhat more distantly related European immigrant groups, such as Irish Catholics, Italians, Poles, and Jews, became Americans in the act of assimilating, more or less, to the outlook, habits, and allegiances of the original core group. These associated WASPs, while expanding and modifying America’s culture in various ways, did not disrupt America’s basic national identity because they had effectively become—through spiritual adoption—part of one people with the ethnic majority, a process greatly assisted by the ethnicity-conscious immigration quotas passed in the early 1920s. Americans thus remained a particular, ethnic people, though it was a uniquely broad ethnicity because of the pan-European elements that had contributed to it.

How the black population was to fit into this European-based culture remained an unresolved problem, and, with the exception of an honorable minority of blacks who have fully adopted the norms and allegiances of American and Western society, remains largely unresolved to this day. It may be unresolvable, given the fact that after 40 years of tortuous efforts by white America to achieve full integration and equality between the races, a decisive portion of the black community exhibits increasing , not to say unappeasable, hostility toward both whites and America….

To stress the importance of ethnic particularity in the making of America is not to suggest that Americans were an ethnic people in the Old World sense, united only, as the derogatory phrase puts it, by “blood and soil.” As the political scientist Ellis Sandoz has written, the American people were forged into a nation during the Founding period and afterward by the experience of liberty under law, in which men and women voluntarily obeyed the law and did what was right out of a sense of moral obligation rather than coercion. At the same time, this intensely shared moral and political ethos that defined Americans as a people required pre-political commonalities—i.e., a common culture. In order for there to be a free government such as America’s, writes Sandoz, there must be an actually existing, viable community, comprehending such things as “common language, heritage, race, religion, geography, customs, manners, principles of government … all of which weld refractory individual men together to form an identifiable “common sense …” This amalgam of inherited qualities and shared principles, emerging from a people’s common heritage and forming the foundation both of their cultural identity and of their political freedom, is precisely what, in the American context, I am calling ethnicity.

Finally, what is the West of which America is a part? As I wrote in Erasing America):

The West, if it means anything real, means Western European Christian society and its modern successor states in Europe, North America, and Australia. It means the culture and civilization created by Western European white people, joined by numerous people of other backgrounds along the way, but not capable of infinite expansion and redefinition. If the modern branches of the West lose so much of their moral, cultural, and racial character that they become irrevocably separated from their European and Christian roots (an event that has already occurred to a large if undetermined extent), then they will no longer be part of the historic West in any real sense, and the West will have ceased to exist.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 11, 2004 10:44 AM | Send

Thanks to Mr. Auster for another fine article and his tireless efforts. (I was not intending to imply that Mr. Auster should do anything more; he had already gone way out of his way to assist Mr. Hornak. The load is on Mr. Hornak’s shovel; if I am guessing right, he is drawn to our arguments but is searching for reasons to discard the propaganda filling his mind.)

Posted by: P Murgos on February 11, 2004 11:50 AM

I’d argue that America has no culture. This country’s indigenous population was pushed aside by it’s immigrant population.

I find it distressing that you feel that Christians take precedence over the other people. This nation was founded by people seeking to escape religious persecution. But within this nation, religious persecution abounds.

The culture of America is a hodgepodge of English, Spanish. French, African and Dutch, if we’re speaking colonially. Factually, the entire world has a representative in the population of this country. There are Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, Zoroastrians - the lot.

I believe in a seperation of church and state. All people must be treated equally in the eyes of the law. If you want to start a religious community. What you are not free to do is to take apart a religious community until they are breaking the law - and remember, these are the same laws that treat everyone as equals.

Which reminds me, on the subject of homosexual marriage:

Marriage in the eyes of the church is a holy convenant. But to the state, it is a social contract. I don’t feel the church has any obligation to honor homosexual marriage, as it has no obligation to recognize any pagan marriage ceremony, any civil ceremony, or any ceremony not performed by one of it’s own. So what is all the fuss about?

Posted by: An Outside Caller on February 11, 2004 1:56 PM

“I’d argue that America has no culture. This country’s indigenous population was pushed aside by it’s immigrant population.”
A complete non sequitur.
An Outside Caller also reveals his complete contempt for the majority culture. It is the leftist view that all cultures are worthy of respect except the American ( or white or male or Christian, or whatever the left condescends to call it).
Mr. Auster here also answers the neo-con retort against those of us who are concerned by Mexican immigration. The retort is that the Mexicans are Catholic Christians, hence really Western. But they are not in the Anglo-American tradition, and their culture does not possess many of the attributes enumerated by Mr. Auster.

Posted by: Gracián on February 11, 2004 2:12 PM

Someone called An Outside Caller wrote:

“I’d argue that America has no culture. This country’s indigenous population was pushed aside by its immigrant population.”

The second sentence has nothing to do with the first sentence. Was it supposed to prove the first sentence somehow? At just about no place on earth can you find the same indigenous population as existed there 10,000 years ago. By your “logic”, this would mean that there is no such thing as a culture, anywhere.

“I find it distressing that you feel that Christians take precedence over the other people. This nation was founded by people seeking to escape religious persecution. But within this nation, religious persecution abounds.”

This nation was founded to be a Christian nation, but not to have any particular established church. Having learned from the wars of religion in Europe, and being founded largely by Christians who were in the minority in Europe, our founders wisely decided to have no particular state church at the federal level. However, you would be hard pressed to conclude from their writings that they did not really care whether the country was demographically taken over by Muslims or Hindus or Buddhists or whatever.

The primary religious persecution in this country is of Christians, as has been well documented in recent books, e.g. David Limbaugh’s. Can you document “persecution” in this country of non-Christians by Christians?

“The culture of America is a hodgepodge of English, Spanish. French, African and Dutch, if we’re speaking colonially. Factually, the entire world has a representative in the population of this country. There are Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, Zoroastrians - the lot.”

But all groups are not equally represented. We have persons here of German descent, yet our culture is definitely distinct from that of Germany. Likewise for Holland, Spain, etc. Our dominant culture throughout the first 300 years since Jamestown has been an Anglo-Saxon culture to which Dutch and Spanish settlers assimilated. If you want to know what a culture derived from Spanish and indigenous peoples looks like, take a look at Mexico and much of Latin America. It looks like a very different culture than our own.

Those of us who cherish the positiv aspects of our heritage don’t want to turn us into a clone of continental Europe, Latin America, Asia, or Africa. Why turn the whole world into one homogeneous place? The fact that there are “representatives” from each country on earth in the USA does not mean that we have no distinct culture.

Posted by: Clark Coleman on February 11, 2004 2:46 PM

Somehow some people started believing that all existing cultures are illegitimate and only one unidentified culture is permissible. This is not a social value, it is a tyrannical value like the value of the Cambodians that seized power in Cambodia in 1975 (the Khmer Rouge).

Some Americans have allied with the above believers. These Americans believe other countries are illegitimate. These Americans believe in a creed which includes law and democracy but only if law and democracy don’t threaten the other parts of the creed. They believe in evading, ignoring, or suppressing the enforcement of laws (such as border laws) against the will of an overwhelming majority of Americans because, well, it threatens some creed such as “we are a nation of immigrants.” Only they, like the Khmer Rouge, see the light. Sacrifices must be made. In addition, they are not satisfied with driving home to and subsuming themselves into one of their precious co-equal cultures and leaving the rest of us alone. No, they want to drive home to the comfort and security our white, Western, Judeo-Christian culture works hard to preserve while supplying the invaders’ invasion of other people’s cultures. Some token cultures are allowed in, but once the neighborhood goes, the multiculturalists leave just as quickly as the rest.

Others have joined the alliance based on race. A portion of these allies believe the white race is illegitimate and is not entitled to preserve itself by any means that would actually result in preservation. This belief is hidden behind slogans such as strength in diversity, multiculturalism, race doesn’t matter, and racist. A subcategory of ally goes even further and believes that only one race is legitimate: the one super-race, the worshipers at the Tower of Babel. Any attempt to resist the formation of the super-race is, well, deserving of the same treatment Jewish people, for example, have experienced: at best, ostracizing, jealousy, scorn etc.

Other allies believe that because of the above, it follows that a human’s instinctive territorial imperative, our sense of our own space and of space for our families, is of no value. Communism collapsed in part because of this inhuman belief.

Posted by: P Murgos on February 11, 2004 4:45 PM

A correspondent asks:

“Should the word ‘Western’ be deleted from the entry’s final paragraph, where it appears twice in the first two sentences? Central, Southern, and Eastern Europe are also an integral part of the original West, no?”

In my definition of the West I follow Toynbee and Henry Bamford Parkes, who define the West somewhat more narrowly than others. Instead of ancient Israel and Greece and Rome being called the “West,” they are seen as the parent civilizations of the West. According to this understanding, the West began in the Dark Ages after the fall of the Western Roman empire, as the merging between the cultures of the Germanic peoples of northern and western Europe with the Christian religion and Mediterranean civilizational elements. The illuminated manuscripts of the Lindisfarne Gospels epitomize this new culture, a creative merging of the North and the South, abstraction and concreteness, spirit and nature. Eastern Europe adopted a different form of Christianity and thus a different civilization, including different political forms. In a broader sense, in modern times, we could say that all of Europe is the West. Notice that I referred to the “modern successor states” of the West in “Europe.” So I’m including Europe in the West, just as much as North America. However, even today, I would have trouble thinking of much of the Balkans as truly being part of the West.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on February 11, 2004 5:06 PM

“I find it distressing that you feel that Christians take precedence over the other people. This nation was founded by people seeking to escape religious persecution. But within this nation, religious persecution abounds.”

Retaining a dominant Christian religion is not persecution. Moreover, I can’t save everybody’s religion. I have my hands full saving my own.

One person said America is a hodgepodge of people from many countries, therefore we should have more. These people are here only because of the dominant white, Western, Christian culture. But too many outside of this dominant culture are creating severe problems for the dominant culture, which has the right to say who can be let in. If this fundamental principle is not accepted, no country is possible.

A person said any religion is permissible as long as it isn’t breaking the law. The laws are written by people that belong to a religion or have no religion, and if the people writing the laws say their religious beliefs include killing non-Muslims, homosexuality is not sinful, Jews are noncitizens, or clitorectomy is right, those are going to be the laws. In a democracy, the people in religions ally with people having other wants and grievances and get their minority-supported laws enacted. So you have to keep the numbers of non-Christians down if you ever want to retain Christianity. The same holds true for race, culture, and country.

Posted by: P Murgos on February 11, 2004 5:20 PM

I’ll stop monopolizing “the Board” now, but please let me encourage Paul C. to retain his most current thoughts from the “Bush Explains” thread and not stop repeating them in due course.

Posted by: P Murgos on February 11, 2004 5:44 PM

Mr. Auster has delivered a superb summation of the virtues of our American civilization. I would only add that these virtues are the basis of our enormous prosperity and scientific advance. These latter are not of course virtues in themselves, but they make possible the exercise of other virtues. As Americans, we have rapid and easy access to information and learning, and we have the ability to travel and benefit from observation of culture and history. If we choose, we can more easily than our forebears and most people living today make ourselves learned and cultured. Even if it is only a minority that will do so, this is a wonderful achievement.

Posted by: thucydides on February 11, 2004 6:07 PM

This is somewhat off-topic, but I just watched Tamar Jacoby declare on CNN that it would be “counterproductive” to demand that Mexican immigrants renounce their Mexican citizenship before becoming Americans. Ain’t that something.

Posted by: Paul Cella on February 11, 2004 6:40 PM

Tamar Jacoby used to be a pro-immigration shill; now she has graduated to the higher calling of the fully paid for.

Posted by: j.hagan on February 11, 2004 7:24 PM

Paul C’s observation about the notorious Tamar Jacoby is very interesting. Tamar, as a representative of the WSJ/John Podhoretz wing of the GOP, gives clear evidence that open borders conservatives are simply posturing when they claim that modest, incremental reforms can be made to iron out minor problems with immigration. Of course these modest reforms (eg. abolishing state sanctioned multiculturalism & affirmative action; restricting free education & health care to citizens; prohibiting dual citizenship) are never aggressively advocated by her ilk - they are just a disposable debating tool. So, they continually retreat leftward ceding ground to the ACLU and antiAmerican Marxists. In a small way, I contend that Bill Buckley’s attempt to appease the New York neocons by demoting John O’Sullivan & throwing overboard Steve Sailer, P Brimelow, F Ikle & others … WILL Not be adequate. Timorous Immigration Reformers can compromise, triangulate, waffle & appease all they want but it is in vain. The open borders crowd is not ultimately interested in any reforms. They seek a complete, irreversible demographic transformation of the US. Watching this transformation unfold gives them a prozac-like pleasure since they deeply resent the former political & economic preeminence of the Euro/Anglo elite.
How ironic it will be when it all unravels and the very American culture than enabled the neocons is scuttled to make way for a multicultural police state.

Posted by: Chris M. on February 11, 2004 7:27 PM

Chris M. makes the case for a future police state, and on that we agree. As the demographics keep changing the government will need to step in to (control) all the diverse new peoples that crowd the public square. We see the start of this with so-called hate crimes bills; which of course seem to only target white males.

Posted by: j.hagan on February 11, 2004 7:36 PM

Some additional readings for those who are at a loss to perceive the American culture.

“Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America” by David Hackett Fischer, professor of American History at Brandeis. He outlines how four waves of immigration from Britain formed our culture in ways which endure today in our freedom of religion, politics, tradition of volunteerism, patriotism and fighting, and architecture. The four groups were the Puritans, the Cavaliers (and their indentured servants), the Quakers, and the Borderlands or Scotch-Irish. An eye-opening book which shows how very British we continue to this day.

Then also I recommend “The Creation of the Modern World: The Untold Story of the British Enlightenment” by Roy Porter, a multifarious intellectual British writer. He discusses Addison and Steele, Locke, Godwin, Newton, Hutton (founder of Geology), Darwin, Hume, Adam Smith; and many others. He details how the French (Voltaire), Germans and Russians all acknowledged that the Enlightenment actually was born and brought to fruition in England. It made no news because, unlike in those other countries, the revolution was peaceful, operated through clubs and coffeehouses; another feature of our heritage, in general.

James Madison, the intellectual powerhouse of the American revolution, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, was widely read in the leaders of the British enlightenment.

I would add that the principal reading of the colonial era was the King James Bible and Shakespere. What could we read today that would make us better citizens? Until very recently our culture was very closely tied to England. Remember that Churchill’s mother was American.

The only reason so many do not credit our heritage today is that we have made it dominant throughout the world. It is so much a part of our thinking that we do not recognize our own heritage… we take it for granted and think that everyone must have thought like this for all time, until confronted with folks who want no part of it… like Al Qaeda.

Here in the US multiculturists think that the rights to which they appeal fell from heaven. Some of them do not realize that they were created by the culture in which they live. They do not realize that it is somewhat fragile and can be destroyed by those in which it is not fully inculcated. How easily can it take root in China or Iraq? We shall see.

Posted by: Robert Hume on February 11, 2004 10:22 PM

What seem to emerge from the position of the deconstructionist is that our pretty land has no real culture of its own, but in any event,certainly not one that gives it’s historic inhabitants a right to defend or prefer their culture over other cultures or peoples that happen to have their eye on it.

I was reminded of Arthur Schlesinger’s to me, confused work, “The Disuniting of America.” There, he observes that our nation and culture has from the start, “been modifed, enriched and reconstituted by other continents and civilizations.” We have an “ever-changing culture and an “ever-evolving philosphy…” While I am selectively quoting from a chapter, I think it is a fair description of such notions (and the creed of course) that to him, “binds all Americans together.”

Ifwe do have a common cultural characteristic,to post nationalistsuch as he and John Miller. it seems that it is a duty to sacrifice ourselves and our nation into “a new race of men.”

I cite thes examples to observethat the deconstructionist want it both ways: on the one hand we have no culture of our own or no right to a nation characterized by that culture. On the other hand they insist that we open our border so as to fragment and dissolve that culture we do have. Mabe that is the enriching part that Schlesinger is talking about. But it doesn’t feel too enriching when you are on the receiving end of the process.

Posted by: Robert Cox on February 11, 2004 10:47 PM

Just to add to what j. hagan notes, it is well known that Hispanics can only be a *victim* category in FBI government crime statistics and not a perpetrator (they are lumped in with whites for that). For questions, answers, check out the “Color of Crime” report here: http://www.amren.com/

As for the issue of the Balkans being Western, Mr. Auster is no doubt familiar with Serge Trikovic’s arguments in the “Sword and the Prophet” about the tragedy of the region. It was militant Muslim expansion centuries ago which made the area so divisive for today. Muslim expansion is making a similar impact on the larger Western world today, yet very few people (except most VFR readers) seem to recognize the fact. If the Balkans are “iffy” on whether they are Western — will the same “iffy” standard soon apply to France, the Netherlands, etc. when they are over 50% Muslim? And as demographers are soon projecting? Everyone reading this ought to know the answer to that one by now. Well, with the possible exceptions of people like “An Outside Caller” and Mr. Hornak.

Finally, I have always admired how Mr. Auster never flinches from acknowledging the West’s very real racial and ethnic components. This is something that even those on the “conservative” side of things are now too squeamish to do (if they even do at all, e.g. Tamar Jacoby, the WSJ editorial page, etc.).

Many “conservatives” I debate with tell me that, for example, Mexicans are a “Western” people because they speak a Western language and come from a Christian faith. So they will be a lot easier to assimilate. Well, perhaps when compared to others (e.g. various pygmy tribes, Islamic extremists, etc.). At the same time, by these rather small standards of what is “Western,” we ought to at least allow Haiti in (French speaking and Catholic) as a worthy Western state. Ditto certain parts of Asia and Africa. And yet, I’m sure even the “conservative-lite” group would quickly realize that by their own standards, it doesn’t follow that these countries should be considered “Western.”

Posted by: Bob Vandervoort on February 11, 2004 10:59 PM

“The origin of the Anglo-Americans”:


Posted by: Peter Phillips on February 12, 2004 2:02 AM

Mr. Hume wrote: “James Madison, the intellectual powerhouse of the American revolution, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, was widely read in the leaders of the British enlightenment.”

A word in favor of Col. George Mason, our great legislator and the architect of our Constitutional liberty.

It was his Virginia Declaration of Rights that Mr. Jefferson borrowed from (and mangled) to form the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, and which Dr. Franklin copied almost verbatim to form the PA Bill of Rights, and which Mr. Adams did the same to begin the MA Constitution. Also copied by Maryland, Delaware … in fact most of the States in our Union.

The Declaration of Independence is certainly the greatest piece of propaganda in history, but it never drew one breath as living law, and even a casual glance at the various State constitutions will show that its influence thereon was insignificant as compared to Col. Mason’s Declaration. No provision of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights can be traced to Mr. Jefferson’s pen.

It was Col. Mason’s master draft of proposed constitutional amendments that was presented almost word for word by the ratifying conventions of New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, (after being rubber-stamped by the Virginia Convention,) which Mr. Madison took and watered down to form our current Bill of Rights.

I’ll forgive Mr. Auster as well for crediting Locke and Jefferson, but omitting mention of history’s Grand Champion of Liberty.

Posted by: Joel LeFevre on February 12, 2004 3:53 AM

Well, if we are going to start quibbling, Mr. LeFevre, I might be coaxed into arguing that the influence of Locke on the Framers is dramatically overestimated.

Locke, an unquestionably great thinker, should be located squarely in the line of Machiavelli, Hobbes, and Rousseau; that is, in the line of thinkers in revolt against the Great Tradition of the West. He was a “social contract” man, believing that the features of man and society were CREATED, not DISCERNED.

The very phrase, “we hold these truths,” is a repudiation of Locke and the “contractarians” because it calls on a higher moral law to which Americans are committed. Men did not enter into a contract with one another, based on self-interest, to form the state in order that they might protect what they judged desirable; rather, men discovered, by reason and Revelation, that some things good, they discovered a law of nature and morality, and went from there.

Posted by: Paul Cella on February 12, 2004 7:23 AM

This is slightly off topic, but I don’t quite grasp Mr. Auster’s idea of the relation between race and ethnicity. Based on the above, he seems to see American ethnicity as a multi-racial ethnicity, although it is very limited in its ability to absorb different peoples.

To what extent does he see race and ethnicity as seperable? I realize that historically they often go together, because people who live and breed among each other for at least a few generations tend to look like each other.


Posted by: Damon on February 12, 2004 7:45 AM

I know this isn’t spelling bee, but it should have been “separable”, sorry.

Posted by: Damon on February 12, 2004 9:28 AM

To Damon,

That particular formulation is derived from something Jim Kalb wrote in his essay, “Anti-Racism,” published at Pinc, April 2000, http://www.cycad.com/cgi-bin/pinc/apr2000/ . It’s one of the clearest statements of the issue I’ve ever seen, and I’ve often quoted it:

“The seedbed for culture is the complex of pre-rational connections a people develops through long common history—in other words, ethnicity. While ethnicity and race are not the same, they cannot be altogether separated because both are consequences of a people’s long life in common. Since all actual cultures are tied to ethnicity, and therefore at least somewhat to race, to give culture free play is to permit race to have significance.”

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on February 12, 2004 11:09 AM

Oh, dear. Does Clark Coleman believe that Goethe, Schiller, Hoelderlin, Heine, and Nietzsche are among the “many ‘Westerners’ [who] are anti-Western and hence undesirable?” Because they are part of this debate, and they happen to have established views that do, in fact, belong to the lineage of today’s Greens. That’s not to say the *politics* of the Greens is something desirable. But the cultural heritage connected to “Green policy” certainly lies at the core of German, and, hence, Western intellectual development. Look, I cannot presume on the hospitality of Mr. Auster, as the owner of this site, and engage in a lengthy description of the interpretation of classical Greece by German thinkers, poets, and dramatists in the 18th and 19th century. But even the briefest of internet searches should reassure you of the validity of this point of view. And there is, too, much recently written on the position of today’s Greens *within* this heritage. The black man from Trinidad you admittedly idealize lies totally outside such a cultural self awareness—no matter how much he has studied, lived, and worked within its confines.

Posted by: Paul C. on February 12, 2004 11:16 AM

Paul C.’s latest reply is all very interesting, but does not really address the central question of my most recent posting on the issue in the other thread. Should we give immigration preference to an anti-Western white European because he is white and European? I am concerned about the politics of such people, who might get the right to vote in our elections if they naturalize as citizens (and might very well vote even before that time, given Democratic party operations in some precincts.) Asking whether I think Goethe is anti-Western is a non-sequitur and straw man. Nietzsche is another story; no, I would rather not take the likes of him as an immigrant.

As Mr. Auster posted in his summary of American culture, the decentralized and local form of government has long distinguished Britain from the Continent. I am wary of letting in too many immigrants from any one place on this earth, even from a place such as Germany or France or Sweden or Holland, because I understand just how special Anglo-American culture is. Thus, while I want Westernized immigrants, even more than that I want Anglicized immigrants, and if I had the means to enforce it, I would want them to be committed Christians as well.

I guess there are different degrees of stringency in defining who will assimilate well into America. Some, like the neocons, include “anyone who wants to be free and prosperous” or some such. Others limit it to Westerners. I go further and want mostly Anglicized immigrants, with smaller numbers from the “Westernized but not Anglicized” group. Others have a criterion that does not perfectly intersect this progression: they want white people. That group has a large overlap with the Westernized group, and with the Anglicized group, but also includes whites who are Marxists and otherwise anti-Western.

Which leads to the question of priorities: Given two men who are fluent in English and educated and likely to be economically successful, if one seems to be Anglicized and Christian and black, while the other is Continental and secular and neo-Marxist and white, which do you prefer? I think I have clearly stated my preference. Why doesn’t everyone else on the board do the same, so that we can see what sort of community of minds we really have here?

Posted by: Clark Coleman on February 12, 2004 12:09 PM

Mr. Coleman, your black man of African ancestry can no more be “Anglicized” than either you or I can be “Windsorized” and made a member of the Royal Family. I hold your premise itself as fantasy.

Posted by: Paul C. on February 12, 2004 12:27 PM

Other than as a theoretical issue, I am at a loss to see any practical significance in the Coleman-Paul C debate which has been raging for some time now. Obviously we don’t want white leftists coming into the country, and, after 40 years of mass third-world immigration, we don’t need or want more non-whites coming into the country either.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on February 12, 2004 12:28 PM

“Obviously we don’t want white leftists coming into the country …”. That brings the total up to 2 now, who have been able to bring themselves to say this. I thought it was a no-brainer, but it seems to be a sticking point.

Posted by: Clark Coleman on February 12, 2004 12:47 PM

I’d say the bigger problem is that Clark Coleman doesn’t know exactly what the “Left” is. Following Mr. Coleman’s diktats, for example, we would exclude the likes of George Orwell and Arthur Koestler from America. But I’ll cease. Mr. Auster doesn’t want the topic or discussion to continue, and I’ll respect his wishes.

Posted by: Paul C. on February 12, 2004 1:01 PM

Well, I’ve always been a big fan of the Palmer raids, which kicked white (mainly Jewish Russian) Communists out of the U.S., and I applaud the national quota acts of 1921 and 1924 which in drastically reducing European immigration as a whole, also kept many further leftists out of the country as well, though many of them were of the same ethnic background as myself. By the same token, I wouldn’t welcome Nordic gentile leftists either.

A discussion of who is and who isn’t considered assimilable into a culture is of course relevant to the whole topic here, and I wasn’t trying to cut the discussion off. But it seems to me that at this point in time we desperately need a drastic reduction of immigration across the board and want neither white leftists nor more third-worlders.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on February 12, 2004 1:21 PM

I agree with Mr. Auster’s comments. I think there is plenty of common ground here. I also think that it sharpens our understanding to consider just who we want, in what numbers, and why.

The more I study Anglo-American culture and contrast it with other cultures, the more stringent my criteria get, to the point that it becomes hard to imagine that I could find 300,000 willing immigrants a year who suited my tastes. One solution is to accept a lower number than 300,000, even if it means population decline. The other solution is to get the very best 300,000 that you can, and that leads to the discussion of what criteria make them the best, given that we could not get exactly what we wanted in the ideal.

But let me throw out a possibility that I have personally espoused, off and on, for the last several years, but which I am unsure of: Take only the 100,000 or so who really satisfy stringent criteria. Allow a little population decline in the short term. I believe that, among several factors affecting birth rates, one is little talked about compared to the others, and that is the perception of crowdedness, of overpopulation, of the attendant rise in the cost of living in certain areas (housing prices, etc.) With a slow and slight population decline, might there be hope for increased native birth rates so that population stability is achieved with far fewer than 300,000 immigrants a year? In that case, we can be VERY selective in immigration and still have no deflation, etc.

Posted by: Clark Coleman on February 12, 2004 1:37 PM

Mr. Auster, on the practical level, as you say and I agree, cease all immigration and deport even more millions that do not belong here—even if they’ve gained green cards and the like. But the larger question dealt with the issue of what Western culture consists of. And Mr. Coleman simply cannot understand the difference between culture and politics.

The ideas that led to the current Green Party movement in Germany have their origins in how generations of German intellectuals have interpreted classical Greece and how this obsession has become central to German culture. Their Philhellenism has provided the motivations for movements on *both* the political right and political left. Nobody would consider Friedrich Jahn, the Wandervogel, or several similar movements neo-Marxist are “Left”. Yet they bubble up from the same cultural stew as the current Green Party. On one hand, you have a movement, led by Jahn, that drove toward the creation of the modern German nation state. The Greens, as we know, eschew the very notion of the nation.

For me, it’s more than a theoretical issue. In this country, for example, we have a similar divide, driven by cultural assumptions that are more specific to America, currently being exposed by the rift in the Sierra Club. Issues of nature, conservation, and, yes, the environment are playing out in a very practical way in politics of immigration.

Posted by: Paul C. on February 12, 2004 1:42 PM

Mr. Cella wrote: “Well, if we are going to start quibbling, Mr. LeFevre, I might be coaxed into arguing that the influence of Locke on the Framers is dramatically overestimated.”

I think Mr. Cella is quite right. Locke seems to have been read widely at the time, but how much he actually influenced our form of govt. is another question. He doesn’t seem to have been able to translate his philosophy into a sustainable government himself, as showed by his pitiful attempt at writing a constitution for the Carolinas, which died an early death and has been called among the worst in the history of the Anglo-Saxon race.

Locke gets credited especially for the “pursuit of happiness” phrase, even though Jefferson denied it explicitly and repeatedly. But Jefferson never directly denied that he had copied from Mason, though he was coy about it. And as for Mason? A number of political thinkers are mentioned in his writings — but Locke seems to be strangely missing.

Posted by: Joel LeFevre on February 12, 2004 1:49 PM

“But the larger question dealt with the issue of what Western culture consists of. And Mr. Coleman simply cannot understand the difference between culture and politics.”

I thought the larger question was what culture are we defending, and why do we think that it is endangered by any particular immigrants. This was in response to a request by Mr. Hornak on another thread, wherein he doubted that our culture was in any danger from immigrants. The discussion was not about culture per se; it was about culture in the context of a discussion about immigration.

“The Greens, as we know, eschew the very notion of the nation.”

In which case they can hardly be counted on to defend the interests of our nation if they come here, in which case I don’t want them here. It may only be because of their “politics” that I don’t want them here, rather than their “culture”, but you will have to explain to me, in the context of a discussion about which immigrants are desirable or undesirable, why I even care what their “culture” is in this case.

Posted by: Clark Coleman on February 12, 2004 2:19 PM

In the late 80’s and early 90’s there was an influx of Irish illegals into the Boston area; you could simply not avoid them. I interacted with a number of these individuals and found them to be well educated, but almost uniform in their Leftism. They looked like me, acted pleasent, worked hard, but when they opened their mouths what came out was the most unreconstructed; horay, and vile forms of Leftism that I have ever heard. I thought to myself at the time that these people were worse than any native liberal I had ever debated with. And as much as I respect the Irish people, and love the culture; I knew I did not want these people immigrating to the U.S.A.

Posted by: j.hagan on February 12, 2004 5:58 PM

I have noted, with some surprise, the concern among some here about population decline, at least of native born Americans, and the suggestion that some immigration is desirable to counteract it. I would be very cautious about accepting such projections, since population projections are notoriously unreliable. Noone, for example, predicted the post World War II baby boom. About all we can say for sure is that continued mass immigration will cause our population to grow. It might start to grow, however, even if immigration were stopped.

Posted by: Alan Levine on February 12, 2004 6:41 PM

A perhaps minor pair of questions for Mr. Hagan: Does he have any explanation for the extreme leftism of the Irish illegals he encountered? What in their views was particularly obnoxious? I was a bit surprised by his remarks, since the Irish I’ve encountered in NYC are either conservative or non-political. Maybe I was just lucky!

Posted by: Alan Levine on February 12, 2004 6:45 PM

Well Alan I suspect the Irish illegals I was dealing with at that time in the late 80’s came from a Nation where a large number of the population was on some form of welfare, and some of their fellow citizens had been on assistance for life. These Irish felt government should play a large role in the life of its citizens. They expressed shock at what they felt was American negligence in dealing with the poor and the sick. We must remember the times: the media had Reagan made out as the devil; and the Irish Nation of that time was in crisis, not the economic success story it is today. Aside from being used to government dependence at home; I think these Irish were somewhat bewildered, and shocked, at what they felt was a form of hyper-capitalism in America. Of course these are different times for the Irish. And after a generation; perhaps American style capitalism looks more like the Ireland of today than it did almost a generation ago. And perhaps the Irish you see today are more comfortable than their older brothers and sisters were with the U.S. :)

Posted by: j.hagan on February 12, 2004 7:23 PM

Lawrence Auster writes, “Americans thus remained a particular, ethnic people, though it was a uniquely broad ethnicity because of the pan-European elements that had contributed to it. “

In what sense was America — pre-1965 — a uniquely broad patch of pan European elements? I think neo-conservatives have deliberately exaggerated the differences between various European ethnicities in order make the case for non-white third world immigrants more persuasive.

After all, European countries have not been static, unmoving gene pools. Britain’s ethnic heritage includes Celts, Danes, Normans, Anglo-Saxons, Picts etc. Russia is an amalgamation of the German Rus and the native Slavic people. The same could be said about Italy, Prussia, Iceland etc. America’s success at assimilating Europeans has doubt been played out multiple times in Europe.

Posted by: Caballero on February 14, 2004 6:04 AM

I’d like to put, on the table for discussion, whether or not assimilation and a democratic tradition based on debate and disagreement are actually compatible.

That is to say, given the premise of the right to dissent, his can assimilation become a prerequisite for membership in a society? Does the right to dissent only exist once one has passed a battery of tests? One can dissent, but only if one isn’t going to dissent too much?

There’s a Chinese proverb that is worth considering here, about the man who set out to conquer China, only, when he had finished, he discovered that he had become Chinese.

Posted by: Phil Sandifer on February 14, 2004 1:49 PM

“In what sense was America — pre-1965 — a uniquely broad patch of pan European elements?” Because, while Russia was a blend of German and Slavic ancestors, the USA had German, Slavic, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Dutch, French, Italian, etc. components enter it in years before 1965. Likewise for any other European country you can name. No single country was racially pure back to the beginning of time, but if you pick a country and go through the list of European groups you mentioned, you will find many that were not significantly represented in that country. How many Italians in Sweden in 1965? How many Celts in Greece?

Posted by: Clark Coleman on February 14, 2004 3:46 PM

I think the point was one of cultural shift (and progress) through mass immigration, or, more conventionally, invasion.

For instance, English culture, which is, of the European cultures, the one we’re most directly a descendent of, is basically a fusion of an existing Celtic culture that then got invaded successfully by the French.

The entire notion of European culture was largely driven by the invasion of much of Europe by the Romans, who were in turn shaped by their invasion of various cultures, most notably the Greeks.

Cultural migration and conquest is a fact of history, and a productive one at that.

Or, at least, I think that was the point being made. Caballero should feel free to correct me if I’m misrepresenting his views.

Posted by: Phil Sandifer on February 14, 2004 3:51 PM

Not all conquests and migrations are created equal, and not all results are equal. The Mongol conquests seem to have benefited Europe very little compared to some other cultural mixings, for example. As a result, we like to try and control just who mixes with us and just who conquers us, if possible. :-)

Thus, I conclude that the statement that cultural migration and conquest are “productive” is a half-truth at best.

America was unique in having so many cultures come here at once in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and only the immigration pause from 1924-1965 helped maked such a radical thing work. Most assimilation happen one at a time. English culture was shaped by Celts, Anglo-Saxon-Jutes, Romans, Vikings, and Normans, but not all in the same 50-year period. Those influences were absorbed over more than 1000 years.

Posted by: Clark Coleman on February 14, 2004 6:57 PM

In answer to Mr. Sandifer’s post of 1:49 PM: Yes, there is a limit to dissent. There is a limit to the diversity that is productive. A society needs a certain core, a common denominator, that is free from radical change. America will not profit from having a huge influx of immigrants who believe in any one of the following: that a wrong suffered is best handled by private vengeance; that human sacrifice is an acceptable religious practice; that a majority in any political unit should be able to vote to confiscate the property of the minority; that one’s rights before the law should be based on one’s membership in a certain ethnic or religious group; etc., etc.

We have developed a culture that is far superior to any culture that would embrace such things, so we don’t need to be enlightened by such inferior cultures. If they wish to prove me wrong, then I invite them to stay where they are and work for their culture to eclipse ours over time. I will take my chances.

On the other hand, if someone is assimilated to the core of our culture but has some diversity to offer in less central respects, and can be a positive contributor to our community, then that will be fine, subject to caveats about population growth and other practical problems that have been covered well in many threads at VFR.

Posted by: Clark Coleman on February 14, 2004 7:07 PM

Also, it needs to be pointed out that even if conquests can have benefits, it does not mean that conquest is a desirable thing or that we shouldn’t fight against being conquered. Firstly, the benefits may not accrue to us or our offspring. Secondly, whatever benefits there are do not necessarily offset the cost we would have to endure.
The fact that a rape resulted in the conception of a beautiful child does not justify the rape. Or, for a more history-minded example, the fact that blacks in the US generally have a better standard of living than Africans does not justify bringing them here in slavery.

Posted by: Michael Jose on February 14, 2004 8:04 PM

Posted by Gracián:
“I’d argue that America has no culture. This country’s indigenous population was pushed aside by it’s immigrant population.”
A complete non sequitur.

I think his point is that this country is made up of what amounts to a representatives of the entire world. I think the question is how do you decide who comes first? Certainly once you become a citizen, you are an American, would you agree on that point?

An Outside Caller also reveals his complete contempt for the majority culture. It is the leftist view that all cultures are worthy of respect except the American ( or white or male or Christian, or whatever the left condescends to call it).


Strawman fallacy. He said nothing of the sort.

Posted by: Frank Horace on February 15, 2004 5:19 PM

Mr. Horace,

Given how lax our immigration and naturalization policies are, I cannot agree that once a foreigner secures American citizenship he is necessarily truly American. The United States and the rest of the world are full of non-Americans with U.S. passports (increasingly they still have the passports of their native lands as well). To begin with, no-one who cannot speak English can become a functional American. Also, no-one who does not truly renounce any previous allegiances to foreign powers can be a true American. Even some who do both remain so alien to American culture and traditions that I could never consider them Americans, any more than disaffected Berbers in French ghettos are Frenchmen or rioting Pakistanis in Yorkshire are Englishmen. Call me nativist if it pleases you: I’ll just thank you for the compliment. HRS

Posted by: Howard Sutherland on February 16, 2004 12:55 PM
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