What does the Exodus story tell us about immigration?

A reader writes:

I wanted to ask you this. Does the Exodus story have any instruction for U.S./Western immigration policy in the 21st century? An entire people seeking a new location in the face of privation and lack of opportunity (to eat!) in their own land; the Egyptians allowing the Israelites in, and incorporating them for 400 years; accepting some immigrants as important people in the court (if not the society); putting most immigrants into forced labor (to do “jobs no Egyptians would take”); advisors warning the government to treat harshly with the immigrants lest they become numerous enough to revolt or side with enemies. How did all that work out for the dominant culture?

LA replies:

Wow, you’re right. It ended in disaster for the dominant culture. And it all happened from admitting a single alien, as a slave. This alien happened to be extremely gifted and fortunate, and ended up in a position of great power, and so let in his fellow ethnics. a tiny group, no more than a hundred people, but they reproduced so rapidly they became a problem for the majority culture, and in trying to cope with this threat (whether real or imagined) the majority culture got itself caught in a situation where it was dependent on the minority group and couldn’t let them go. But that’s where the analogy breaks down: the conflict and final disaster develop over the fact that the minority group wants to leave, not to stay, and the majority group, dependent on their labor, won’t let them go.

But still, the upshot is that, while the majority got a lot of useful labor out of the immigrants, letting in one alien, as a slave, led step by step to a terrible disaster for them. It led them to be dependent on the aliens, and so they lost control over their own destiny. If they hadn’t been so dependent on the aliens, and so greedy to keep them as slaves, then they could have let them go, and there would have been no problem. That way, they would have benefited greatly from the aliens’ labor for hundreds of years, and suffered no bad results from it. But still, there is a fatedness in it. They felt they couldn’t let them go because they had indeed become dependent on them, and they became dependent on them, because they had let them in. So the only sure way to have avoided the disaster would have been not to have admitted that single alien in the first place.

But still, maybe it was worth it, since if they hadn’t let the single alien in, they wouldn’t have benefited from his “expertise” which told them to prepare for the seven years famine, and much of the country would have died.

However, I just realized that your point may have been the opposite of mine: that the disaster came from fearing, treating harshly with, and exploiting the immigrants, not from letting them in to begin with. It hadn’t occurred to me at first that you were using the story to make a pro-immigration point. I thought you were making an anti-immigration point.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 24, 2009 01:29 PM | Send

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