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Friday, January 12, 2007

A Matter Of Trust

Over at the Instant Bark chatroom, Loyal Citizen Darth Bacon (aka TripleNeck) linked this Steve Sailer article on how mixing cultures together doesn't always produce the results desired by multiculturalism.

Getting multiple cultures to actually work together on something is hard, as the author's wife discovered. She tried to organize a park renovation in Uptown Chicago. The language barrier was just the beginning:

Getting Koreans, Russians, Mexicans, Nigerians, and Assyrians (Christian Iraqis) to agree on how to landscape a park is harder than fostering consensus among people who all grew up with the same mental picture of what a park should look like. For example, Russian women like to sunbathe. But most of the immigrant ladies from more southerly countries stick to the shade, since their cultures discriminate in favor of fairer-skinned women. So do you plant a lot of shade trees or not?

The high crime rate didn't help either. The affluent South Vietnamese merchants from the nearby Little Saigon district showed scant enthusiasm for sending their small children to play in a park that would also be used by large black kids from the local public-housing project.

Exotic inter-immigrant hatreds also got in the way. The Eritreans and Ethiopians are both slender, elegant-looking brown people with thin Arab noses, who appear identical to undiscerning American eyes. But their compatriots in the Horn of Africa were fighting a vicious war.

But that wasn't the worst of it:

Finally, most of the immigrants, with the possible exception of the Eritreans, came from countries where only a chump would trust neighbors he wasn't related to, much less count on the government for an even break.

This attitude has its advantages and disadvantages:

If the South Vietnamese, for example, had been less clannish and more ready to sacrifice for the national good in 1964-75, they wouldn't be so proficient at running family-owned restaurants on Argyle Street today. But they might still have their own country.

The article explains the relevance of trust to economics:

An important contribution to the scholarly revival came in Francis Fukuyama's 1995 book Trust: The Social Virtues & the Creation of Prosperity. Fukuyama raised the hot-potato issue that Americans, Northwestern Europeans, and Japanese tend to work together well to create huge corporations, while the companies of other advanced countries, such as Italy and Taiwan, can seldom grow beyond family firms. (As Luigi Barzini remarked in The Italians, only a fool would be a minority shareholder in Sicily, so nobody is one.) Fukuyama prudently ignored, though, the large swaths of the world that are low both in trust and technology, such as Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East.

Note that Africa and Latin America tend to score exceptionally low on the Index of Economic Freedom. And like South Vietnam, they also tend to be politically unstable.

What can overcome this barrier? They key lies with one of the key characteristics of the Anglosphere and especially the United States:

Alexis de Tocqueville famously attributed much of America's success to its "forever forming associations. There are not only commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but others of a thousand different types—religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very limited, immensely large and very minute. Nothing, in my view, deserves more attention than the intellectual and moral associations in America."

What this means is that any given individual seeks identity in multiple cultures. Work, family, and recreation aren't all self-contained in the same unit. Cultures learn to get along with each other when they are interdependent on each other for these pursuits.

Evangelical Christianity serves as an example of the success of private associations:

Another untold story is the beneficial effect on race relations of the growth of Christian fundamentalism. Among soldiers and college football players, for instance, co-operation between the races is up due to an increased emphasis on a common transracial identity as Christians. According to military correspondent Robert D. Kaplan of The Atlantic, "The rise of Christian evangelicalism had helped stop the indiscipline of the Vietnam-era Army." And that has helped build bridges among the races. Military sociologists Charles C. Moskos and John Sibley Butler wrote in All That We Can Be: Black Leadership and Racial Integration the Army Way, "Perhaps the most vivid example of the 'blackening' of enlisted culture is seen in religion. Black Pentecostal congregations have also begun to influence the style of worship in mainstream Protestant services in post chapels. Sunday worship in the Army finds both the congregation and the spirit of the service racially integrated."

The attitude comes naturally: We'll look out for him; he's one of us. Cross-cultural cooperation doesn't abandon the principle - it broadens the definition of "us."


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