Integration and “Savage Liberalism”

As the descendent of a long line of refugees, I cannot be against immigration—though common sense suggests that some immigrants may be easier to integrate successfully than others.

My mother arrived in Britain penniless, but fortunately for her—and for Britain—no one sought to persuade her that she need not learn English, and no one set up expensive and ineffective services for her in case she did not. She was not obliged to give up her tastes or conform in private respects, but she was expected (de facto) to blend into society as much as possible, rightly and reasonably, in my opinion. There was no ideology seeking to Balkanize the sensibilities of the population, enclose people in ghettoes and so forth, in the process acting as an employment opportunity for hordes of officials and bureaucrats.

Although it is not a complete answer, a flexible labor market is very important, because there is nothing like work to integrate people. One of the problems in France is that youth unemployment is very high, and you only have to ask a plumber or a carpenter why he does not employ anyone to find out why. Thus, huge numbers of young immigrants or descendents of immigrants gather in one area—“social housing”—without realistic prospect of work.

In Britain, 25 percent of medical students are now of Indian subcontinental origin. This is not the result of official policy, but because Indian schoolchildren are best, both because their families are intact and there is a serious emphasis on education among them. Not long ago in Britain, black football players were scarce because of prejudice, and the behaviour of the crowds towards them authentically revolting. Fortunately, however, there were 92 competing clubs in the league, and once a few clubs started to use black players, the rest soon had to follow suit—because of the logic of the situation, not because the directors of clubs suddenly became more broadminded. However, prejudice declined in the end as well.

In so far as fear of the future leads governments—often at the behest of the people—to make labor markets rigid, it increases the potential for violence and intercommunal conflict. It is therefore necessary to destroy the prejudice against flexible labor markets. In France, the words “savage” and “liberalism” go together like a horse and carriage (of love and marriage one cannot speak); but this is, in present circumstances at least, the precise opposite of the truth.

Also from this issue

Lead Essay

  • Old Europe may not be doomed, though it is “sleepwalking to further relative decline,” says Theodore Dalrymple. “The principle motor of Europe’s current decline is,” he argues, “its obsession with social security.” If Europe is to have a fighting chance, it must overcome a politics in which “personal and sectional interest has become all-powerful” and “the goal of everyone is to parasitize everyone else.”

Response Essays

  • According to historian Timothy Smith, author of France in Crisis, the main problem of Old Europe is that overregulated labor markets, alleged to “humanize” capitalism and promote “solidarity,” instead work to consolidate economic privileges for tenured labor unionists and state employees, and exclude broad swathes of the population, especially immigrants, from the work force. Smith is careful to distinguish the relative stagnation of France, Germany, and Italy from their more successful Scandanavian counterparts, and argues against Dalrymple that the U.K. is really in pretty good shape.

  • Disagreeing sharply with Theodore Dalrymple’s grim diagnosis, Georgetown University international affairs professor and Council on Foreign Relations senior fellow Charles Kupchan maintains that “it is simply not the case that the continent is populated primarily by sclerotic, dysfunctional economies on their last gasp.” However, Kupchan argues that Dalrymple’s essay “considerably underestimates … the challenge of integrating Muslim immigrants into European society.” The Paris riots and the Danish cartoon imbroglio demonstrate that Europe has “embraced multiculturalism in fact, but not yet in spirit.”

  • In her reply to Dalyrmple’s lead essay, the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum lists “three factors which could, over the next decade, help reverse Europe’s course.” Market-friendly leaders, “an acknowledgment of the possibilities presented by the new members of the European Union,” and ditching “their increasingly bizarre obsession with the evil United States,” would, Applebaum argues, go a long way to “help Europe escape its current economic and psychological slump.”