Gonzalez on the Multicultural Threat
By Bryan Caplan
In my talk, I underlined the point that another friend, Niger Innis,
always makes: Even if we were to shut the immigration doors completely,
the next president will have to start reversing the social engineering
of the past five decades.
If he or she doesn’t, we will end up with another country, and not a
better one. Bryan Caplan is a nice guy, but he’s wrong; multiculturalism
is taking root and reordering society.
At risk of compromising my “nice guy” status, Mike’s evidence is underwhelming. Why should we think identity politics is winning in America? First, a little sensational journalism:
It is there in small ways. For example, when the principal at a San Francisco middle school cancels the student government election
because too many white students won–and cluelessly defends abrogating
the student’s choice by saying, “I want to make sure the voices are all
It is also there when Salon writes the umpteenth brainless blog post (of the morning) decrying how there are not sufficient cast members of this group or that on any given TV show.
The whole new environment has left Peggy Noonan pining for Joe Biden, because the vice president reminds her of Democrats of old.
Second, a little history of thought:
[M]ulticulturalism builds on the works of Marxist European thinkers
such as Herbert Marcuse and Antonio Gramsci, whose “Critical Theory” has
greatly influenced American progressives.
As my colleague John Fonte and I wrote recently
in The Weekly Standard, multiculturalism inherits from Critical Theory
the idea that society is “divided along racial, ethnic, and gender lines
into a dominant group (white males) and ‘marginalized’ groups (ethnic,
racial, linguistic, and sexual minorities). The goal of politics should
be first to ‘delegitimize’ the ideas of the American system and second,
to transfer power from the dominant group to the ‘oppressed’ groups.”
Read the whole piece; I don’t see anything else resembling evidence. If that’s all one of the most prominent opponents of multiculturalism has to offer, I shall sleep easier than ever. What would count as evidence? Some basic facts from public opinion would be a great start. I’m only a dabbler here, but if we’d really endured five decades of social engineering, you’d think it would show up in the General Social Survey. Most of the most pertinent questions were only asked in 1994, but here’s what Americans thought after what Mike paints as thirty years of strident multicultural indoctrination.
Question: “When you think of social and political issues, do you think
of yourself mainly as a member of a particular ethnic, racial,
or nationality group or do you think of yourself mainly as just
Question: “How proud are you to be an American?
being truly American. Others say they are not important. How
important do you think each of the following is… g. To feel
If I were Mike, I’d be tempted to hail the big decline from 2004 to 2014. But the change from 1996 to 2014 is barely visible. The simplest explanation is that 2004 was the tail-end of the post-9/11 rally-round-the-flag effect.
The best evidence for Mike’s view: If you regress these responses on age, you do indeed see that younger respondents have a more multicultural orientation. The size of the difference, though, is minute – in the ballpark of one year of age making answers on a 1-4 or 1-5 scale a hundredth of a point more multicultural. On the implausible assumption that multicultural propaganda explains all of this generational shift, it’s still chicken feed.
I freely concede that I’m only doing a fly-by of the relevant public opinion evidence. Feel free to add to my efforts in the comments. But Mike’s the one claiming the damage of a half-century of multicultural social engineering is all around us. I don’t see it.
Where does Mike go wrong? Like most intellectuals, he takes ideas seriously. An admirable trait, but it blinds him to the fact that most people don’t take ideas seriously. Whatever their pseudo-intellectual pretensions, normal humans are lazy, forgetful, and compartmentalized. Putting multiculturalism in a history textbook does little harm because most students – and plenty of teachers – don’t even read the textbook. The identity politics activists that Mike decries aren’t America. In fact, there’s little sign that most Americans know these activists are alive.