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To what extent did immigration contribute to the erosion of liberty

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There was a large amount of immigration to the U.S. between 1870 and 1930, during which time the country took its first big steps toward statism. Ayn Rand said that the corruption of American culture came about as a result of the importation of European philosophy. To what extend are these developments related? Did America lose its Americanism because European immigrants brought European values with them? Would an "Objectivist" country with an easy immigration policy be able to avoid a cultural-philosophical infection through the vigilance of its native intellectuals alone? Is this intellectual immune system what the U.S. lacked?

Edited by happiness

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10 minutes ago, happiness said:

Ayn Rand said that the corruption of American culture came about as a result of the importation of European philosophy.

Citation please?

Edited by dream_weaver

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Without having made a study of the question, I find this difficult to credit. Most European immigrants of the era came from Ireland, Italy and eastern Europe rather than from the cultural centers, and they didn't have much formal schooling. The cultural elite, after all, had a pretty good life back home and thus no reason to emigrate. Those who left the old country did so precisely because they didn't like the status quo there, and they wouldn't have wanted to bring it with them even if they could have. Imagine a boatload of Sicilian peasants fleeing starvation and Russian Jews fleeing the Cossacks, lugging their Hegel and Comte with them and heading from Ellis Island into professorships, and you begin to get the picture. (The ones who came from Mexico or the far east are even less likely to have brought European high culture with them.)

Some latter-day Objectivists have said, credibly, that bad ideas came from Europe, but, like dream_weaver, I'm not aware of Rand's having said this. John Dewey was supposedly one of the importers.

Totalitarian regimes have tried for decades to keep out unwelcome ideas and to advantage their their "native intellectuals" and have failed. I don't see why anyone here in OL-land would even consider it.

 

Edited by Reidy

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I'm listening to a lecture course about the history of American philosophy, and according to one of the lectures Hegel's philosophy came to the United States in part by means of theology. Theology students would often travel to Europe and bring back the philosophical and theological ideas that were current there. One of the first major Hegelian works in the United States was by a theologian who was trying to show how God had allowed history to develop through the thesis - antithesis - synthesis pattern Hegel described.

Theology has had a pretty big impact on intellectual life in the United States in general, not just in this case. The most important American philosopher of the 18th century was Jonathan Edwards, a theologian who wrote a treatise defending compatibilism about free will.

Also, from The Ominous Parallels, p. 119:

"During the nineteenth century it became a trend and then the rule for American students, especially in philosophy and theology, to spend a year or more in Germany absorbing the latest German culture. An army of American students absorbed it. They came home, and they repeated what they had learned. They repeated it throughout the country that had been founded on the ideals of an enlightened mind and man's inalienable rights."

So, yes, philosophy and theology students, but prior to the second World War when people started immigrating from Germany to escape the collectivism.

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7 hours ago, William O said:

So, yes, philosophy and theology students, but prior to the second World War when people started immigrating from Germany to escape the collectivism.

I'm not so sure I'd agree that German immigrants were trying to escape collectivism; from my reading it, and a little bit of family history, the motivation was little more an simple economics. American employers paid more for the same labor. However, I found your answer very interesting, largely because of the inclusion of students and other members of the academic body of America. The trend toward collective action was always a part of the American Revolution, if one considers war a collective action. In the early 1800s, reform movements of all sorts sprang up. Collectivism, as it emerged from European society, was imposed by the state, such as the national reforms imposed by the German government under Bismark. These reforms were acceptable to most Germans, and yet many believed they could do better emigrating to the US. And they did. But many also brought with them their view of class-struggle, the core of the socialist argument. Doubtful they could quote Hegel or Marx on academic matters, such as the material dialectic or anything on that intellectual level, (as Reidy pointed out.) But vast numbers of immigrants, German or any other national origin, viewed themselves as members of the bottom tier of American society regardless of the gradual improvements in their standard of living. Many native middle-classed Americans sympathized with the plight of the newcomers, as matter of Christian charity. As pointed out in the above post, the intellectual movement toward socialism was the work of universities and members of the media. Journalists, such as Lincoln Steffens, Ray Stannard Baker, and Ida Tarbell, supported demand for government action. Much of the propaganda aimed at laborers was printed in bilingual format, second language being German. As a matter of family history, we have a well-preserved letter from one relative, one immigrant from Germany to another, dating back the 1920s, which includes comments about the injustice of the workers suffering for the benefit of the rich. And yet, he was making enough money to send a little back to family members who help him establish himself here in America. Actually, it was a wedding present.

Point being, the influence on popular ideas brought over from the Old Country should not be overlooked. But the main onus of the Progressive Era reforms rests of the intelligentsia of those times. The immigrants and their children were very receptive to these ideas, and cast their votes accordingly.

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On December 22, 2015 at 7:49 PM, dream_weaver said:

Citation please?

I don't remember for sure where I read that, but I believe it was in "Ayn Rand Answers," which I no longer have. I should have checked this before posting. 

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I don't own a copy of Ayn Rand Answers. It would be interesting to learn the context of the question and the answer. However, as to a corruption of the American culture, you might consider her opening article in her book For The New Intellectual entitled the same, the crux to the corruption being:

It was the morality of altruism that undercut America and is now destroying her. From her start, America was torn by the clash of her political system with the altruist morality. Capitalism and altruism are incompatible; they are philosophical opposites; they cannot co-exist in the same man or in the same society.

This in conjunction with her recurring theme of the corollaries of reason and freedom contrasted with faith and force and the political institutions that arise from these respectively, have broader implications than an importation of European Philosophy.

Western Philosophy has it's roots going back to ancient Greece. European Philosophy is a part of that heritage.

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There was indeed several immigrant intellectuals who came here with highly active philosophical  and cultural efforts.  The Frankfurt School marxist who fled Nazi Germany to settle at Columbia University to mention a major source of cultural decay.( Fromm, Horkiemer, Marcuse etc.) Also several philosophical physicist  and philosophers of science, Popper, Fayerabend, Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg, Planck, the Positivist, etc....

 

Also, Russell and Wittgenstein influenced these thinkers. Another European influence.

 

These intellectuals were not trying to "escape collectivism". They came here and agitated-implemented their own kind of collectivism.

Edited by Plasmatic

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Whatever these intellectuals' reasons for coming to the US might have been and whatever they might have done once they arrived, their examples don't help the case for regulated immigration. They were skilled professionals with refugee protections, just the kind of people who've always been welcome and have always been the beneficiaries of special exceptions.

Edited by Reidy

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Reidy said:

Whatever these intellectuals' reasons for coming to the US might have been and whatever they might have done once they arrived, their examples don't help the case for regulated immigration

Oh, I wasn't intending to argue anything like that. Only that there were very effectual cultural influences arriving with these immigrants.

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happiness,

Your first post is correct.  There was virtually no immigration from the Revolutionary War to the 1830s.   During that time America grew by natural increase.  And there was very little immigration (except for slaves) from the end of that period until about 1870.

Many of the immigrants after that agitated for welfare policies.  That was part of the motivation behind the immigration restriction movement , which culminated in very restrictive immigration laws early in the 20th century, especially the one in 1924.

The restrictions were more or less affirmed and a bit repealed in the early 1950s, and completely repealed in the late 1960s.  Hence the demographic change, ongoing, that we see today.  


 

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On 1/10/2016 at 5:23 PM, HandyHandle said:

happiness,

Your first post is correct.  There was virtually no immigration from the Revolutionary War to the 1830s.   During that time America grew by natural increase.  And there was very little immigration (except for slaves) from the end of that period until about 1870.

That's an odd claim to make, since, according to the US census, the percentage of foreign born people went from 4.7% in 1840 to 9.7% in 1850. That's a growth of 5%, which, given the low life expectancy of the time, actually means that total immigration that decade amounted to at least 7% of the population, or 0.7% per year.

The equivalent of that, today, would be 2.3 million coming in a year, every single year. Or, in the case of Europe, about 4 million people coming in every single year.

We are not even close to that. We have never been close to that, in modern history. Right wing politicians and "journalists" are panicking and predicting Armageddon over a tiny fraction of those numbers. So, when you say there was "very little immigration", what are you comparing it to? Compared to today, there was an order of magnitude MORE immigration, in the 1840s.

Edited by Nicky

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On 1/10/2016 at 5:23 PM, HandyHandle said:

The restrictions were more or less affirmed and a bit repealed in the early 1950s, and completely repealed in the late 1960s.  Hence the demographic change, ongoing, that we see today.

When  you say demographic change, you mean the growth of the "Hispanic" population, right?

But, most Hispanics aren't immigrants at all. Only 35% are immigrants (legal or illegal). And the Hispanic immigrant population isn't going up by all that much. Between 2000 and 2013, the number of Hispanic immigrants in the US grew by 5 million. Or, 1.4% of the population.

Of course, that doesn't mean the Hispanic population isn't growing in the US at a faster pace than that...but it's not growing just thanks to immigration. It's growing because Americans of Hispanic origin (it's not a race, it's not an ethnicity, it just means their parents or grandparents, or even older ancestors, came from a Spanish speaking country... other than Spain, ironically) are having more children than Americans of European and SE Asian origin.

Sorry, but I don't see any reason to expect wholesale political changes because Americans who's ancestors used to speak Spanish (but aren't from Spain) are having slightly more children. I also don't see any reason to worry about that 1.4% who are actually immigrants who came into the US this millennium.

I do expect that a political party who's politicians and media outlets routinely vilify Hispanic immigrants are going to have a tough time getting votes from Hispanics as a whole, though. But that has nothing to do with liberty. Advocates of liberty would have no reason to vilify Hispanic immigrants, and thus alienate the mostly American born Hispanic population.

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Just to amend the above post, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are obviously not vilifying Hispanics...since they are Hispanics. If Cruz/Rubio ends up the Republican ticket (odds are it will), then never mind. Republicans won't be affected by demographic changes, and the Republican party could still end up on the side of liberty.

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On ‎12‎/‎22‎/‎2015 at 10:44 PM, happiness said:

Would an "Objectivist" country with an easy immigration policy be able to avoid a cultural-philosophical infection through the vigilance of its native intellectuals alone? Is this intellectual immune system what the U.S. lacked?

Once an Objectivist country were actually formed, it should be able to withstand anything short of organized mass violent uprising.  If the government's proper role is protection of individual rights, once government were in place, it would have a plan to ensure those rights were protected - long term.  As such all branches of government would be carefully cultivated, ensuring its survival, monopoly on the use of retaliatory force, etc. ensuring objectivity and rationality in its operations.

Objectivism is NOT democracy... as such it forms a sort of vaccine against "rule" over you, the individual, by ANY other, whether the totalitarian housewife next door, or the millions of the mob/majority throughout a geography, as such it would be set up to protect you from violation of your rights stemming form cultural infection. 

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8 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Once an Objectivist country were actually formed, it should be able to withstand anything short of organized mass violent uprising. 

I'd simplify it further: immigration only "threatens" a country's culture if the culture is -already- weak. People have to choose their ideas, not absorb by osmosis. HandyHandle and similar xenophobic racists would have us believe that immigrants ruin things, without looking inward to say the problem came from within all along. The idea should be that a country is so strong, that country's culture is preferable to whatever the "Old Country" had.

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