Every major news outlet is reporting that the Trump administration is actively suppressing the findings of a study it commissioned on the economic impact of refugees coming to and living in the United States.
It turns out that over the last 10 years, refugees have added $63 billion (with a b) to the United States economy. That’s a far cry from the “our people first, because asylum seekers are a drain on our resources!” trope that dominates so much conventional wisdom. Clearly the administration wanted a different outcome with this report, something that would instead confirm what many, many people have wrongly intuited for a very long time. But the numbers tell the truth: refugees help make a America great. They always have, and they always will.
Call it the Superman Effect.
I’ve been reading Brian Michael Bendis’ weekly Man of Steel series, which is meant to lay the groundwork for where he’ll take the Superman titles during his newly-begun tenure at DC Comics. Yesterday, I saw some tweets reminding everyone that Superman, that paragon of truth, justice, and the American way, is, himself, a refugee. He may as well also symbolize the outsized contributions refugees have always made to America, especially given the findings of this new report. In fact, he already does. The American way, if it’s anything, is the open embrace of people longing for a better, freer life.
Update: You can read the full report here.
This piece by David Brooks is smart and insightful. He makes a compelling case for the communitarian roots of Conservatism as an ideology. “Being a Republican” or “being a Democrat” are not ideologies. They are means to power, more so now than ever. While Brooks is focusing on Conservatism, the same separation between Democrat or Progressive has been getting made on the other side for years. (One concise, if broadly-stroked and not entirely generous way to frame the considerable anecdotal evidence would be to recall how establishment Democrats told Progressives that Bernie Sanders was not a means to power, how establishment Democrats shamed Progressives, especially young, progressive women, for ever trying to go there).
It’s long been a trope of academic Conservatives to say that their conservatism is meant to preserve what liberalism has traditionally been: “Conservatives are simply modern-day classical liberals who believe in limited government and the absolute sovereignty of the individual in matters of state and conscience.” But Brooks locates the true origin of Conservatism in an overall agreement with Lockean liberalism with one important distinction: “Conservatives said we agree with the general effort but think you’ve got human nature wrong. There never was such a thing as an autonomous, free individual who could gather with others to create order. Rather, individuals emerge out of families, communities, faiths, neighborhoods and nations. The order comes first. Individual freedom is an artifact of that order.”
That’s a tremendously important difference between Conservatism as such and classical liberalism, one that has never been honestly and robustly explored in popular discourse. “The practical upshot,” Brooks says, “is that conservatives have always placed tremendous emphasis on the sacred space where individuals are formed. This space is populated by institutions like the family, religion, the local community, the local culture, the arts, the schools, literature and the manners that govern everyday life.”
The piece is short, precise, and incredibly important. It also sets up an unexplored discussion about the differences between true Conservatives, and, say, Libertarians, in addition to the call to parse Republicanism (a Jacobin means to power, really), and Conservatism rightly understood.
I take it that for Brooks, a Conservative regime would not be separating families at the border.
It’s been two months since I posted The Oppressive Metrics of Being Dug.
(As I type this, Doug, the near-perfect 90s cartoon, comes on in the background. Synchronicity is not just an album by the Police).
In those two months, I have not reinstalled Facebook on my phone. Same for Twitter. And honestly, I feel amazing.
Two months ago, I was thinking a lot about Prince and Melvin Udall. Since then, I’ve read Infinity Gauntlet, which, in 1991, anticipated the heightened anxiety of the coming digital age:
What if we’re not meant to know of all comings and goings? What if we really can’t bear the pared-down omniscience the social graph offers?
What if we’re mostly built for the relationships we have in person and the few we’re able to maintain through intentional communication? What if our social feeds are slowly overwhelming our ability to be human in the ways that truly matter?