Vinod's Blog
Random musings from a libertarian, tech geek...
Sunday, September 21, 2003 - 11:51 AM Permanent link for Mexifornia
Mexifornia

I read Victor Davis Hanson's Mexifornia en route to Iceland a few months ago.   Overall, the book was "good" -- it's a subject matter that's not normally at the top of my interest list but since it was VDH, I figured it might be interesting.   Some of Hanson's individual articles in NR are "Great", this book is a notch or 2 below that but still rises above the pack of material that's out there.

The book has an uncanny timeliness - California recall elections, national security concerns about open boarders, and new found cultural assertiveness that has arisen from the ashes of 9/11 (in some sectors at least) - have all conspired to push VDH's book far deeper into the spotlight than he could have imagined when he first started pounding out words into his computer.  The book is an extension of an article VDH wrote for City Journal.

Relative to Hanson's other works, Mexifornia waxes more literary / poetic - particularly in his deep and fascinating character sketches of Hanson's own youth in Selma, California and his interactions with illegal aliens today.  The book at times reads more like a series of memoirs rather than a serious, academic study of the econ of illegal immigration.   Hanson isn't trying to provide such a study and is admittedly rather cursory in his reference to deep statistics ;  there are, however, ample footnotes and references for those interested in this type of material.

Hanson is emphatically NOT RACIST and it makes me angry how cheap and easy it is to throw that grenade at anyone who contradicts anything that La Raza or MECHA might argue about illegal immigrants.   Hanson - recognizing the need to preempt this assertion - carefully notes how thoroughly populated his immediate world and family are with individuals of Mexican background.

Hanson's literary sword is wielded against both the Corporate Right who just wants cheap labor as well as his traditional targets on the Loony Left who've found a new constituency whom they can pitch victimization rather than assimilation to.  At the crux, a "right-wing" concern - labor markets [p xi]:

Our immigration dilemma is a simple but apparently unsolvable calculus:  Americans want the work they won't do to be done cheaply by foreigners who, they wrongly assume, will inevitably tranform themselves into Americans.  

Between these economic interests, fiscal/state problems, and an activist climate of political correctness and multi-culturalism, the California electorate is in a deep bind.  We're a state of famously hyperactive lefties and barricaded conservatives [p 7]:

Embittered Californians decline to challenge the therapeutic bromides offered to Hispanics in their schools and state agencies -- but then go quietly to the polls to vent their rage by ending what they see as special concessions to those who broke the law in coming here.   It is not a very healthy state of affairs to have a voting population of millions thinking privately what they would never express publicly.

The problem, of course, is that the "illegal immigration constituency" is already rather well entrenched both here in the US as well as in Mexico.   A large dose of illegal immigration has the the tacit approval of a racist / classist elite in Mexico who would put our Country Club Republicans to shame in their desire to "export" a problem rather than deal with it in their country.  That's the story of Mexico and it's underclass today [p 28]

One can imagine the state of politics in America should the nation's unemployed, uninsured, and insecure decide to walk across the border to Canada by the millions each year:  our reactionaries would have little to fear form the less affluent who stay, and our reformers would have little constituency.

Illegal immigration - particularly of the unskilled, non-assimilating, semi-human-legal-status, social-service-draining kind is AWFUL. Both to the rest of taxpaying society and, perniciously, in the long-run to the alien himself - something unique in Hanson account relative to the more macro-econ docs I tend read.   The alien - due both to his legal status AND skill set can't participate in our tech / service economy in a long run, meaningful way.   He doesn't understand the nuances of socio-economic subspecialization and skill-scarcity, he sees himself doing backbreaking yardwork for a "pink" person who sits in her solarium and sips lemonade and practically acts like he's invisible - the alien's "politics" become inextricably intertwined with a form of class and ethnic / racial rivalry that's a fundamental anathema to many of our liberal democratic precepts [p 59]

Lecures about complex economies, the delegation of authority, rare skills and education, control, and use of capital free will and responsibiility -- all that wisdom means little if you are on the hot tractor and someone else is in the cool Lexus.

There's a kind of seething resentment towards Humanity this simple observation fuels - the "system" keeps him down but with the benefits of being "inside the loop" within sight -- just a pain of glass and shrub away. This kind of socio-economic disenfranchisement is the *real* root cause for so many of our social ills - not money.  Hanson points out [p 51]

But again, envy -- what the Greeks called phthonos -- is not logical.   Rather it is inborn in man.   You can have ten times what you had in Mexico, but still be miserable that you have one-tenth what others in America do.

The worst transgressions, however, are by the America-bashing Left.     They rightly praise Hispanic cultural achievements and history but do it with a sneering undertone of belittling what the "Gringo West" has done - aside from the language of oppression.    With this world view from the educational establishment, why should any form of assimilation be pursued?  [p 104]

But what is missing in the new dispensation is any sense that the world in which we now live -- the cosmos of universities, the rule of law, antibiotics, surgery, and eyeglasses -- for good or ill evolved from the world of Father Serra, not from the indigenous peoples of California whom he may or may not have oppressed.

The fundamental question they never seem to ask themselves is "if everything is so unjust and morally reprehensible here, why do so many of them come here rather than vice versa?


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