TO New book for Wall street journal columnist Jason Riley is a reminder of Thomas Sowell’s important writings on the movement of people. Immigration continues to be hotly debated, and Sowell provided insight into how education, culture, and government actions influence migration around the world.
On Maverick: A Biography of Thomas Sowell, Jason Riley describes Sowell’s intellectual journey and various writings, including his research on migration. “[I]it wasn’t until he [Sowell] read Nathan Glazer and Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s classic 1963 study of racial and ethnic minorities in New York City, Beyond the crucible, that Sowell would be interested in conducting his own comparative analyzes of different cultures, ”writes Riley. “It was really the first book I read about different ethnic groups,” according to Sowell, whom Riley interviewed extensively for the book. “There were a lot of different patterns. And more than anything, each group had its own pattern. ”
On Migrations and cultures: a vision of the world, published in 1996, Sowell makes several observations about immigration that are important to the historical record and are still relevant today.
Italian immigrants: Analysts have pointed to Italians in the early part of the 20th century were treated similarly to Mexicans in the second half of the twentieth century.th century and later. That makes Sowell’s observations of Italian immigrants of interest beyond history. “Italian emigration also illustrates the different roles that the emigration process can play in the lives of individuals and families,” Sowell writes. “Residents and remittances from foreigners have played a key role in the survival of desperately poor families in Italy. Men living in overcrowded and miserable conditions abroad, skimping on their personal expenses even to the detriment of their health, were often the objects of pity or contempt, when in fact they were heroic in their quiet tenacity and self-denial for their loved ones. at home . ”
Chinese immigrants as entrepreneurs: Sowell calls Chinese “middlemen” overseas, which means that many became merchants and retail operations of their own. They evaluated the local market conditions and became entrepreneurs. “This small Chinese majority played a disproportionately large role in Indochina’s economy,” according to Sowell. “They owned about 70% of the retail trade in Vietnam and Cambodia. In South Vietnam in 1974, the Chinese owned 60% of all capital invested in papermaking and fisheries, and 80% of all capital invested in the manufacture of textiles, iron and steel, and chemicals and the like ”.
Japanese immigrants were mistreated in both the US and Canada: In the United States, Japanese immigrants were initially welcomed as replacements for Chinese workers. But the Japanese were bitter when they went from laborers to farmers and small entrepreneurs. White farmers lobbied for Alien Land Laws, making it illegal for “aliens ineligible for citizenship” to own land in California, he notes. Sowell condemned the internment of Japanese Americans, writing: “The economic impact was as devastating as the social trauma. Companies built over many years had to be liquidated in a matter of weeks, with ruinous losses. “
Few Americans can realize that people of Japanese descent were also mistreated in Canada during WWII. “More than a thousand Japanese-owned fishing boats were seized,” according to Sowell. “Japanese newspapers were closed. Then Japanese employees began to be fired and political pressure groups in British Columbia began to demand that the Japanese be interned. . . . Political pressure from British Columbia provoked [Canada’s] central government to give in to their demands ”.
Indian immigrants as professionals and entrepreneurs: “The economic role of the Indians in Uganda can perhaps be better appreciated by considering what happened after they left. The economy collapsed, “says Sowell, describing the impact of Idi Amin, the country’s dictator, who drove 50,000 Asians out of Uganda in 1972.” Asian stores were often simply handed over to Amin’s favorites, who sold everything and then closed them. “
Jean Raspail, author of the racist treaty The camp of the saints, made the inaccurate prediction that poor and uneducated Indian immigrants would overwhelm richer countries. In fact, as Sowell points out, the vast majority of Indians who immigrate to the United States are doctors and technology professionals. The income and education levels of Indian immigrants are much higher than those of the Native American population.
Donald Trump once asked why more people from Norway did not immigrate to the United States. Had he read Sowell’s writings, Trump would have learned that poor people in Norway once immigrated to the United States, but it was during the 19th century. Trump would also have found that people generally migrate to countries where they can earn more money and enjoy a higher standard of living. Sowell has long understood that economic calculus has motivated immigrants for centuries, even if governments around the world have failed to learn and address this motivation.
That does not mean that Thomas Sowell favored open borders. “Tom is not saying that people are not able to assimilate, as people have adapted for centuries,” Riley told me. However, he notes that Sowell has expressed concern that liberal elites are not encouraging immigrants to assimilate. Still, Riley notes, objective indicators of English learning and educational attainment provide evidence that immigrants are assimilating in the United States.
“I liked their international comparisons,” Riley said. “The Chinese immigrants in Southeast Asia, the Jews in Eastern Europe, the Japanese in Canada and the United States, were hated groups. They were minorities and impoverished, but they had human capital and not only did they lift themselves out of poverty, they surpassed the majority in terms of income. Tom took away from that the importance of human capital, culture, attitudes and behavior as much more important than whether you are discriminated against or even hated by the majority. “
Riley points to a passage in Migrations and cultures: a vision of the world which sums up much of what Thomas Sowell learned in his research: “There is nothing more common than making poverty-stricken immigrants more prosperous in a new country and making that country more prosperous as well.”