This comment fragment was left on this AEI blog post today:
Of course, many, if not most, commenters here are acolytes of diversity and scream RACISM at the top of their lungs with any suggestion that having large amounts of immigrants who have a culture the polar opposite of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is a dumb idea.
The commentator’s point is that an influx of immigrants from what is deemed illiberal cultures will ultimately change America’s liberal* culture into a carbon copy of wherever they came from.
The arguments against this are legion. I’ve written on them multiple times here on this blog. But there is a larger, more fundamental error contained in the argument: illiberal values can coexist in a liberal society. However, liberal values cannot coexist in an illiberal society.
Within a liberal society, many kinds of value systems can coexist. Indeed, that is the emphasis of liberalism: individual freedom to live as he so chooses so long as he doesn’t involuntarily violate the rights of anyone else. Mini dictatorships, communist societies, socialist, they all can (and, in fact, do exist) within relatively more liberal societies. Corporate structures can be dictatorial. Family structures tend to be communist. Religious organizations can be socialist. And yet, none of these illiberal institutions threaten the overall liberalism of a society.
However, in an illiberal society, liberalism cannot exist. Illiberal societies require conformity and homogeneity. They tend to ruthlessly squash dissent (and that ruthlessness need not be overtly violent. For example, imagine a social-democratic society. They vote to build a bridge. One person dissents and refuses to pay. The others throw him in jail for tax evasion. This is an example of the kind of ruthlessness I mean). Liberalism is not tolerated in this kind of a society, even as a sub-culture.
To bring this back to immigration, people who make the argument like I quoted above, under the guise of liberalism, advocate for very illiberal policies. While an immigrant can come from an illiberal place and have an illiberal culture all his own, in a liberal society he cannot foist that upon anyone else. He can live as he so chooses, but cannot compel anyone else. Liberal values are preserved. However, in an illiberal society, such as the one advocated for by the commentator quoted above, by necessity destroys liberal values (in this particular case, the right to pursue property and liberty of both the domestic citizen and immigrant) and indeed promotes illiberal values (hegemony).
The restriction of immigration will not, indeed cannot, preserve liberal values. It can only seek to undermine them.
*Please note I am using the word “liberal” in its classical sense.