January 14, 2004

Why the US is Not Saudi Arabia

Mark Krikorian opines that President Bush's initiative will turn us into Saudi Arabia. His article is a bit confused and I'm surprised it got past the editors.

Saudi immigration policies are the product of a hugely rich natural resources extraction economy layered on top of a culture that does not prize work. Their repressive religious and legal codes are unsustainable in the face of any significant immigration of anyone not wholly committed to their world view.

In contrast US political and economic arrangements are highly flexible and have already demonstrated the ability to absorb a great many immigrants from different lands, a process that goes on to this day. Freedom of the press, religion, the right to a jury trial, and free market economics are not under the same sorts of assault that Saudi sunni muslim religious monopoly and sharia code would be if all those filipina maids and cooks were granted citizenship and voting rights.

We've historically tried to americanize our immigrants, make sure they learned english, know the political principles that made this country the attractive place it is, etc. Americanization efforts would need to increase with any increase in immigration to avoid the fate off new residents, new voters, taking over the place. Saudi Arabia has no equivalent program. In fact it would be completely alien to them.

The main difference is that the US has consciously adopted a widely appealing framework that leaves space for traditions and culture from other nations to come in and productively interface in public and civic life and Saudi Arabia hasn't. The idea of not letting them vote is not a retreat into Know-Nothingism but rather a call for a functional, not a time based approach to citizenship.

If immigrants want to recreate North Korea in the US, not letting the vote until they've been shaken of that bad habit is a reasonable idea. How, exactly, such an adjusted program of citizenship would work is likely to require much further thought but nobody wants us to become Saudi Arabia. No actual proposal from libertarian fringer to President Bush's temporary worker initiative, will realistically work to produce such a result.

Posted by TMLutas at January 14, 2004 01:26 PM