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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Arab and European Culture

The 9/11 attacks on the United States were perpertrated by Arabs. In The Netherlands, Theo Van Gogh was murdered by Arabs and Hirsi Ali, a member of parliment, is under constant and permanent police protection due to death threats from Arab immigrant groups. There's rampant poverty across Arabia and Arab immigrants to Europe are poorer and less educated than the natives.

These facts beg the following questions. Is Arab culture simply not compatible with modernity? If so, should we restrict Arab immigration (this question is being asked very seriously in The Netherlands)? Is spreading democracy to Arabia a lost cause?

I believe that the answer to all these questions is a resounding NO!!! My evidence? Consider the following excerpt from an article in the May/June issue of Foreign Policy:
People of Arab descent living in the United States are doing far better than the average American. That is the surprising conclusion drawn from data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2000 and released last March. The census found that U.S. residents who report having Arab ancestors are better educated and wealthier than average Americans.

Whereas 24 percent of Americans hold college degrees, 41 percent of Arab Americans are college graduates. The median income for an Arab family living in the United States is $52,300 - 4.6 percent higher than other American families -and more than half of all Arab Americans own their home. Forty-two percent of people of Arab descent in the United States work as managers or professionals, while the same is true for only 34 percent of the general U.S. population. For many, this success has come on quickly: Although about 50 percent of Arab Americans were born in the United States, nearly half of those born abroad did not arrive until the 1990s.

That immigrants do better than their compatriots back home is of course no surprise. What is far less common is for immigrants to perform that much better than the average population of their adopted home.
So why do Arab immigrants to the United States do so much better than their counterparts in Europe? Consider "An Immigrant's Tale":
I arrived in Sweden in 1989 together with my mother and brother. We were refugees from Iran and since we arrived we have depended on welfare and government benefits in one way or another. In a sense I believe that this gives me a much better understanding of the Scandinavian welfare system than most ethnic Swedes have. [...]

Living in Gotland was an interesting experience. Back in Iran my brother and I went to school six days a week and wrote our homework about two hours each day. A lot of our spare time was spent at the local library. My father worked full-time and my mother had worked first as a teacher and later as a vice president in the kindergartens that we had attended. Later she became a housewife. In the refugee camp nobody did anything. Nobody learned how to speak Swedish. Nobody was integrated in the Swedish society and nobody was allowed to get a job. The strong work ethic that we had brought from our home countries simpered away and we became used to the idea that social security was responsible for our lives.
The Netherlands has a similar system. Not only are the immigrants not encouraged to work, they are not allowed to work until they become citizens (because that might take jobs from natives). By the time they finally get citizenship, their work ethic has "simpered away".

This particular immigrant goes on to say that the work ethic of native Swedes is also simpering away:
One thing that my up growing has shown me is that there is little incentive to work and educate yourself in the Swedish welfare system. According to the Institute for Labour Policies the average salary of a person who has studied at a university for three years is only five percent higher of somebody who is uneducated. Most Swedish families would have higher income if they lived off government and made some money working in the black market. For a long time the strong work ethics in Sweden has prevented people from exploiting the system. But this seems to be changing. The work ethic has dramatically fallen in Sweden. More and more people are finding ways of living off government as an alternative to working. Between 20 and 25 percent of the working age population does not work. Between 1997 and 2003 the number of people who were on sick leave increased by more than 200,000, a dramatic number for a small country such as Sweden. [...]

The European welfare systems have functioned because of strong work ethics that made people reluctant to exploit them. But these work ethics are the product of a society where you had to work in order to provide for yourself and your family. As people adjust to the political systems we have today the ideas of individual responsibility diminishes. This is exactly what has happened among the large number of emigrants who are dependent on social security. What happens when the rest of the population adjusts to the system?
In summary, Arabs are excellent immigrants to the United States and there's no reason they wouldn't be excellent immigrants to other countries. In addition, the same factors that cause Arab immigrants to be a drain on European societies may eventually cause the European natives to also be a drain on those same societies. They may then reach a tipping point, where the society rapidly disintegrates, requiring the government to intervene in a coercive fashion (no doubt with popular support if things have actually disintegrated) in order to keep things running at all. At that point everybody will essentially be a ward of the State. In other words, they will have followed "The Road to Serfdom" to its logical end.

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