Victor Davis Hanson neatly skewers the latest in a line of liberal “studies” which purports to show the United States is behind other major, industrialized nations – these studies often comparing us to small, homogenous nations which lack major numbers of immigrants and who are largely freed from such impedimenta as large defense budgets because we defend them. He notes some of the handicaps we have, and yet still do pretty well:
…Speaking of social progress, the United States lets in the largest number of legal and illegal immigrants in the world. Currently 45 million or more residents were not born in the U.S. — a number four times larger than any other nation. Ethnic, religious, and cultural homogeneity promotes some of the values (such as Internet access) that social progress indices usually value.
Yet in my hometown, which has been overwhelmed by illegal immigration over the last two decades, I can see why recent arrivals from Oaxaca have some difficulty in getting online free at the local Starbucks. The problem is not that they do not have cell phones with Internet service or that Starbucks and other franchises don’t offer free Internet services, but that the language, past experience, and culture of central Mexico are not quite the same as those in the United States. Speaking Mixtecan languages and not being able to read Spanish in an English-speaking country makes it hard to surf the net.
One reason why the U.S. is volatile, influential, dynamic, and by far the most culturally influential society in the world are the number and variety of its legal immigrants. No one wants to move to Russia. Switzerland does not want any new immigrants. France and Germany don’t quite know what to do with those already residing in their countries. China and Japan could never consider an African, Swedish, or Mexican immigrant fully Chinese or Japanese. The Arab World would not let in Jews and in many places is driving out Christians. Building a large new Church anywhere in the Islamic world is for all practical purposes now impossible.
In short, people vote with their feet, and by huge margins prefer the greater freedom, economic opportunity, and security of the U.S., not to mention its meritocracy that assesses talent far less than elsewhere on class, racial, tribal, or religious criteria. Because the U.S., also unlike other countries, strangely does not value that much education, capital, or skills in assessing potential immigrants (family ties and the fact of reaching U.S. soil being the more influential criteria), and because it hosts somewhere between 11 and 20 million illegal immigrants, it naturally has ongoing challenges to provide near instant parity to millions who arrive here poor, uneducated, and without money…
While you will certainly find some Americans who will ardently state they prefer Europe to the United States, you’ll also find that they are invariably well off (and thus could afford a higher cost of living) and currently residing in places like San Francisco and New York City. As most Americans have not visited foreign lands, they don’t know how they live in the great Outside – but most Americans also instinctively know they won’t get better, elsewhere. Its why they stay – and why 45 million poor foreigners have moved here of late. And as for those middle class Americans who have traveled overseas, we know first hand just how lousy it is compared to living in the United States. There’s no place like home and we are thankful that we won the “where to be born” lottery.