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July 19, 2004

More Politics

Dear Vanessa --

* The other day, The Wife -- who's usually even more uninterested in politics than I am -- made what struck me as an amazingly useful point about American politics. "The reason why politics in America is so infuriating," she said, "is because the only thing it's ever really about is business. It isn't about 'liberalism' or 'conservatism' -- there's never anything philosophical or political in the larger sense at stake. It's really just about where you stand on business. The Republicans are pro-business and the Democrats are anti-business. That's it. And what's deeply infuriating about that is that in America the only thing that's ever really at stake is business." I'm not sure her formula explains absolutely everything about the American political scene, but it seems to do an awfully good job of explaining about 80% of it. It also strikes me as a far more solid and defensible thesis than what many recent deep-think political bestsellers have peddled. ("The End of History," anyone?) Interested publishers are invited to make offers through my email address.

* John O'Sullivan's excellent cover story in The American Conservative is readable here. It's an essay about Samuel Huntington's recent book, "Who Are We?", and it's thoughtful, informative, and hysteria-free. Those curious about American identity -- and especially the America's-always-been-a-multicultural-society crowd -- should enjoy giving O'Sullivan's essay a wrestle. They'd get a lot out of Huntington's book, as well as David Hackett Fischer's study of America's British roots, Albion's Seed, too. The Huntington can be bought here; Fischer's book is buyable here. A good passage from O'Sullivan's essay:

America’s elites—both the corporate elites of the Right and the academic elites of the Left—do not share the opinions and tastes of the American people. Both elites have been, in effect, “de-nationalized” by the processes of economic and cultural globalization. They are more likely to share the tastes and opinions of their counterparts in other countries than those of their own countrymen in provincial and small-town America. They regard patriotism and national feeling as atavistic emotions that retard both economic rationality (in the case of the Right) and cosmopolitan ideologies of “democratic humanism” (in the case of the Left). And they see America not as a nation like other nations, if more powerful, but as the embryo either of the global market or of a new “universal nation” without boundaries or restrictive citizenship. As a result, on a whole range of policy issues—racial preferences, bilingual education, military intervention abroad, open borders —the American people are firmly on one side and the American elites are on the other.

I'd argue that the same situation prevails in our cultural sphere -- but that's for another posting.

* In a previous piece for City Journal (here), Heather Mac Donald called attention to high rates of immigrant crime. Sample facts: in Los Angeles, 95 percent of all outstanding warrants for homicide target illegal aliens; and 30% of inmates in Federal pens are foreign-born. In a new piece here, she writes about Hispanic gangs, covering a lot of ground clearly and fearlessly. Key passage:

Hispanic youths, whether recent arrivals or birthright American citizens, are developing an underclass culture ... Hispanic school dropout rates and teen birthrates are now the highest in the nation. Gang crime is exploding nationally—rising 50 percent from 1999 to 2002—driven by the march of Hispanic immigration east and north across the country. Most worrisome, underclass indicators like crime and single parenthood do not improve over successive generations of Hispanics—they worsen.

The new issue of City Journal is packed with other goodies too, including pieces by Myron Magnet, Kay Hymowitz, Richard Brookhiser, and Theodore Dalrymple. City Journal strikes me as the most substantial American magazine published today. Its contents can be found here.

* Many well-meaning people assume that "multiculturalism" is a sweet, vague way of saying, "Hey, I wish everybody well," and maybe in some informal sense that's true. Unfortunately, in a more formal sense it's also become a hardened and dogmatic political program that sketchy people are trying to put over on the rest of us. Lawrence Auster explains why we need to be wary, here. In another gutsy piece here, Auster takes on a question that's often puzzled me: Why do so many left-wing Jews favor policies that don't seem good for Jews? I've tended to attribute blame for this to the reflexive love many Jews have for underdogs (even when the underdog means you ill). Auster sees a lot more going on there; his piece is a fascinating and impressive psychological study.



posted by Michael at July 19, 2004


Uh...You are shocked that politics is mostly about money? (which means resources, land, water, control of how things get decided? etc etc.)

What else could politics be about? It's always been about power, which in pretty-much every era has boiled down to money/land/resources etc.

Even our own national blot -- racial segregation -- was more about cheap labor than some sort of ideology.

Posted by: David Sucher on July 20, 2004 1:34 AM

"... in a more formal sense it's also become a hardened and dogmatic political program that sketchy people are trying to put over on the rest of us."

What does that mean? I am so out of the loop on what you and the rest of the New York Intellectuals are doing, Michael, that I have no idea who/what you are talking about. But I love a good conspiracy theory, so let 'er rip.

Posted by: David Sucher on July 20, 2004 1:40 AM


What Michael is referring to are freshman orientations like this one:

Crossing the Line Program that should be held in the winter and spring quarters after a community has developed sufficient trust to explore deeper issues. Crossing the Line works because it allows a community to acknowledge both individual and group identity, diversity and humanity, community without cultural uniformity. It is an exercise that builds community by visually demonstrating dimension in individuals and commonality in a community at the intersections where there is overlap in multiple identities.

The Power Shuffle
Program that should be held in the spring quarter after a community has developed sufficient trust to explore deeper issues. The Power Shuffle allows participants to explore the meaning of "power".

There's much more of this stuff. It sounds innocuous, perhaps, but it's some *really* weird stuff that's meant to emotionally re-arrange incoming frosh. Consider the questions:

You are male You are female Since joining (this program), you have broken off a serious relationship. In the past year you have been in a relationship and been hurt. You feel that you have not formed a close friendship in national service. You take pride in your work in national service. You are Catholic You are Protestant You are Jewish You are another religion other than those three major U.S. religions. You are an atheist or agnostic. You are a person of color. You know little about you cultural heritage You wish you had more money You consider your family as working class You consider your family as middle class You consider your family as upper class (VERY FEW WILL GO, BECAUSE THAT NOT HOW THEY THINK OF THEMSELVES, BUT THAT'S OK) You have felt embarrassed about the economic class your family is in You come from a family of four or more children you are an only child You live independently of your parents You have taken primary responsibility either for raising another member of your family or caring for an elderly member of your family You have low self-esteem You would like to lose ten or more pounds You feel lonely (ALWAYS AN IMPORTANT QUESTION) You have been to college or plan to go to college You have not graduated from high school You have had serious thoughts about leaving national service You feel physically unattractive You consider yourself a Democrat You consider yourself a Republican You consider yourself a socialist You consider yourself a feminist Your parents have either divorced, separated, or never married At least one of your parents have died You feel estranged or unconnected There have been times when you have seriously felt that, if you could choose, you would not choose the ethnicity into which you were born You find yourself thinking about food considerably more often than you want You have medical problem You have a learning disability You have a physical disability You have questioned your sexual orientation You have experienced the effects of alcoholism in your family You have experienced the effects of drug addiction in your family You have had a sexual experience that you regretted You have experienced suicidal thoughts at some point in your life You have cried at least once this year You have cried at least once this year for someone or something other than yourself Since you joined _____________, you have laughed at yourself at least once Cross the room if you could use a hug right now. (People generally begin hugging each other during this time.)

In practice there are also a bunch more questions. For example, "cross if you're a member of the victim or opppressor group with respect to sex. To race. To sexual orientation". It's mean to make people emotionally vulnerable and reprogram them at the start of college.

Basically, they are soft re-education camps. It's all about denouncing your counterrevolutionary parents.


And what's deeply infuriating about that is that in America the only thing that's ever really at stake is business

Hmmm. I disagree. I actually think the post-USSR Democratic *leadership* is fairly pro-capitalism, despite the fact that the base hasn't learned the lesson.

I actually think the economy is less of a battleground than in the past. What is argued over now is whether the top marginal tax rate should be 20% or 35%, not whether it should be 100% (= communism, seizure of private property, etc.).

You'll be unsurprised to know that I think the key dividing line in US politics is between those who think ethnicity matters and those who think it does not.

Posted by: gc on July 20, 2004 3:02 AM

From Heather MacDonald's article, The Immigrant Gang Plague:

Upward mobility to the suburbs doesn't necessarily break the allure of gang culture. An immigration agent reports that in the middle-class suburbs of southwest Miami, second- and third-generation Hispanic youths are perpetrating home invasions, robberies, battery, drug sales, and rape. Students at the University of California, Irvine, retain their gang connections. Prosecutors in formerly crime-free Ventura County, California, sought an injunction this May against the Colonia Chiques gang after homicide rocketed up; an affidavite supporting the injunction details how Chiques members terrorize the local hospital whenever one of the gang arrives with a gun shot wound. Federal law enforcement officials in Virginia are tracking the spread of gang violence from Northern Virginia west into the Shenandoah Valley and south toward Charlottesville, a trend so disturbing that they secured federal funds to staunch the mayhem. "This is beyond a regional problem. It is, in fact, a national problem," said FBI assistant director Michael Mason, head of the bureau's Washington field office.

Maybe, just maybe, as the criminal consequences of unrestricted Hispanic immigration begin to seriously impact White middle and upper middle class suburban America real pressure will finally be placed on the political class to at least slow the tide; enough pressure to override the cry of racism and bigotry that will immediately arise from the multi-culti crew.

Posted by: ricpic on July 20, 2004 8:41 AM

this comment should be directed to Mr. Fischer, but I'm lazy:

"both the corporate elites of the Right and the academic elites of the Left" - Jesse Jackson's shakedown partners fit in where, exactly?

Posted by: playrink on July 20, 2004 9:19 AM

I think I have to agree with David that there isn't much else for politics to be about - but that may be only because I know so little about the politics of other countries. How do you (or The Wife, perhaps) view, say, Czech politics, or Chinese, or even British? Are they not also about business? Have there been any societies since ancient Greece that tackled philosophical issues for their own sakes? Suddenly I think of African or South American tribal cultures (which I learn about from TV - portrayals which are quite likely inaccurate) - what are their political scenes about? I'm very curious as to what a little compare/contrast might reveal.

Posted by: Dente on July 20, 2004 10:14 AM

Lawrence Auster is a nasty man. See this link for his ideology in his own words (look up his comments).

He is, at the very least, honest about his beliefs and motivations- the same cannot be said for you.

Posted by: SC on July 20, 2004 10:55 AM

Just to clarify, I'm not attacking you or trying to end the debate.

Basically, Auster believes the US is a white nation, and the key is not culture or economics, but race. He believes that the genetics of the white race is responsible for much of the country's success. And he had a paranoid fear of non-white immigrants leading to "the extinction of the white race" (his words).

How much of his ideology do you share?

Posted by: SC on July 20, 2004 11:09 AM

Correction: he still has that paranoia, not had

Posted by: SC on July 20, 2004 11:11 AM


Auster writes in How Multiculturalism Took Over America:

When I speak of America's "dominant Western culture," or of its "majority culture and people," these are not intended as code words for whites. Individuals of non-European ancestry are and can be full members of America's majority Western culture. At the same time, it is a historical fact that America's defining political culture is Anglo-Saxon and Protestant in origin and charachter. A Japanese-American can become an American by embracing this culture - as his own. (And I write this as a non-Anglo-Saxon Jew.) The same is true for individuals of any ethnic or racial group.

Since I assume you are not stupid, your statement that, "Auster believes the US is a white nation, and the key is not culture or economics, but race," is a willful, malicious slander!

Posted by: ricpic on July 20, 2004 12:43 PM

Come now, SC. Michael has already established in previous comment threads that he's not concerned about the (occasionally rabid) ideologies of the people with whom he agrees or whom he cites. The frequent bashing of multiculturalism is sort of old hat at this point, too. Consider the ideas that gc cites above -- confronted with problems that one hasn't before encountered pushes one to mentally step into another's shoes, trying to understand their perspective. Horror of horrors!

Might one's outlook on social issues be colored by a teenage abortion, a parent's terminal medical condition, by one's skin color or gender? Might one even be (*gasp*) queer? Could there not be some personal value in bringing these personal dilemmas to the fore in a respectful environment?

Well, maybe. Perhaps. As long as you're not latino. But perhaps as a "post-adolescent" college graduate working full-time for peanuts and living in an economically lower class and primarily latino neighborhood, my twenty-one year-old eyes are particularly naive, for I have to wonder whether those who discuss the "hispanic problem" have actually spoken with any recent immigrants lately -- not including one's gardener. You all certainly don't seem to live on the same planet as I.

Posted by: Mike on July 20, 2004 12:51 PM

The thing I found most interesting about the post, though, was the posited difference in perspective between the educated and the uneducated. I think that it's probably unsurprising, given my previous post, that I feel much more comfortable with both economic rationality and democratic humanism than with hysterical fears about an American population boom.

The converse of O'Sullivan's argument? People with houses and picket fences, more fortunate to have been born here than they will ever try to understand, want to pretend that racial bias doesn't exist, that totalitarian and fascism abroad doesn't affect them even indirectly, and that no foreigners/outsiders/deviants/outcasts should be permitted to have the same opportunities that they've taken advantage of.

If that's the "average American" perspective, I think I'll stick with the elite camp (which hardly gives blanket endorsement to bilingual education, unless it's teaching Americans foreign languages).

Posted by: Michael on July 20, 2004 1:01 PM

David -- I'm not sure that saying "Politics is about money and power" (certainly true) is quite the same thing as saying that "90% of American politics is where you stand vis a vis business." Republicans (no matter what they say) are often nothing finally but pro-Chamber of Commerce, pro-corporations. Dems (no matter what they say) often do little but exploit anti-Chamber of Commerce and anti-corporate feelings. Can quite the same thing be said about English or French politics? (I'm not saying that English or French politics are better, god knows, just maybe more multisided. Where you stand on the Chamber of Commerce isn't the only fulcrum things pivot on, which it often seems to be in the States.) I'm not sure that they're quite as open to Sinclair-Lewis-style satirizing as the US is.

As for multiculturalism, yeah it's an entire program, with an industry behind it. It's gotten to be a little like environmentalism or feminism, actually. Innocently, you think, yeah, I care about the planet (or, sure, women ought to have a fair shot at things). But then you discover that you aren't "really" an environmentalist or a feminist unless you also sign up with a 100-item list of things you absolutely must, must support, all of which are made to seem as though they're necessary consequences of being ecologically concerned, or rootin' for the gals. Fail to do so, or even offer some quibbles on individual points, and you're ejected from the community of the right-minded.

GC -- Thanks for multiculti links. Horrifying, no? And I agree about some Dems -- Clinton was startling because he seemed willing to work with business. Smart move! But I'd make the distinction between being concerned about the economy and being pro-or-con American-style business specifically, as I tried to explain in my response to David. Repubs, for instance, the actual top brass of the party, hardly seem at all concerned with the economy while looking out aggressively for the concerns of their business friends. Dems often seem to want to do little but assail the same business class the Repubs represent -- trial lawyers, school unions, eco-freaks, etc, nearly all trade on demonizing the business class (while simultaneously wanting to piggyback on it). It's the near-total centraility of the American-style business class (as opposed to the economy) that I think partly distinguishes American politics.

Ricpic -- Wouldn't it be lovely if it were true? The combo of political self-righteousness crossed with being insulated from the actual consequences seems to be fatal to clear thinking. I wonder how and when the elites will start experiencing some of the downsides for themselves. Maybe with crime? I wonder if grass-roots rumblings will ever make themselves heard -- who knows, maybe the good work of some people on the Web will begin to have an impact. But I could be dreaming...

Playrink -- It's a good question, and I'd love to hear an answer to it.

Dente -- Haven't I read some of the evo-bio types characterizing what's at stake as "access to resources"? Sex, power, money -- whatever a given life offers? I like that phrase "access to resources." Seems to account for money, in cultures where money's at stake, or women, or prestige -- whatever the possbilities are, which presumably vary from culture to culture...

SC -- I generally find Auster very smart but 'way too much myself. But I thought these two pieces were really helpful. How'd you respond to them?

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 20, 2004 1:06 PM

Oops, hit the "post" button at the same time as a few others ...

Mike -- I think I get your tone (sarcastic, right?). But I confess I'm not sure what to make of what you're saying. Happy to compare notes, though, and glad you're joining in.

Michael -- You''ve certainly got a point, but I hope you don't mind if I play jaded for a sec? I think it may be a little naive to think that the people who are enforcing the current immigration situation have any interest in 1) looking out for you, 2) looking out for immigrants, or 3) looking out for humanity any more earnestly than someone like O'Sullivan is. The fact of the matter is that the Dems who are pro-the-current-state are looking for votes, and the Repubs are looking for cheap labor. Where do the desires and preferences (as well as the well-being) of "the rest of us" fit in? I'd also suggest that if you do have some concern for the less-well-off -- I'm sure you do, as I do -- that you consider starting at home. Current immigration levels and policies have been terribly hard on our own less-well-off population. I wish the whole-wide-world well too, but I don't think throwing our doors open is finally going to do the whole-wide-world a lot of good, where looking out for our own, including our own less-fortunate, might actually achieve a few worthwhile things, however imperfect.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 20, 2004 1:19 PM

MB, in his case, Michael and Mike is one and the same (as clicking on his name reveals).

I'm sure David will respond by himself, but if I'm alowed - to your mentioning of French and English politics:
I think as the French socialists in government almost suffocated their country private business, there is really no substance in "business pivot" anymore.
Just my 0.002c.

Mike/Michael: 1) why as a recent graduate you think you should expect any other than low-paying job after college? You are at the entry level of your profession, aren't you?
2) why you think of people of other countries as "less-fortunate"? They are at the level their countries' histories brought them, and developement of any country is not a matter of fortune, but complex, mostly economic, reasons.
Americans are not just "given opportunities", they have earned them by hard work and whole democratic history of their country. And this historyshould serve as developement model for others willing to accieve same economic and moral results. It's not American's fault that poverty level in Zair is not the same as in America.

Posted by: Tatyana on July 20, 2004 1:41 PM


Sorry about the name mix-up. I didn't notice my brief MPD until after I'd hit the Post button.

My major point in the first post is that multiculturalism is generally used as a straw man. If its critics have actually read multiculturalist theorists, that fact isn't reflected by their simple-minded attacks on it. The general idea, of diversity and variance not necessarily being deviance, seems simple enough to me. I'm a white, economically-conservative queer male. I stray from the mean but don't consider myself deviant (i.e. pathological). The statements that MB views as horrifying are simply part of a role-playing/perspective-sharing exercise.

I cannot find much in that to despise. If there had been a considered claim to the exercise's invidiousness, I might be able to answer it with something better than sarcasm.

We can do a more in-depth argument about multiculturalist theory itself, if you like, though I have to admit my training is in international politics and economics, not radical theory. But I'll wait on that one.


First of all, I'm not concerned about the motives of those people arguing for or against greater freedom of movement. I'm more interested in the policies they espouse.

Business owners (a group that includes members whose social justice perspectives vary widely, making "Republicans" a misnomer) want cheap labor. (Cheap inputs would work, too, but considering the current tariff levels on fibers, agriculture, etc., I'm not holding my breath.) There are three ways to get cheap labor easily: hire teenagers, hire legal, unskilled immigrants, or hire illegal, unskilled immigrants. (Alternatively capital investment can streamline most production processes, but I doubt that'd be a preferable option in this forum.)

Frankly, I'm not worried about teenaged unemployment, and I'd rather have our work force be legal than illegal.

Now, there are some obvious arguments to address before moving on. First: I've never been concerned about the color of our nation. Arguments that people of color, whether Latino, Black, or Martian, can't acculturate don't sway me. Perhaps I'm being naive (again), but I have some little faith in the strength and persuasion of American traditions. Second, why care about small/large business owners? I'm certainly not one. Well, primarily because I do care about the larger economy in a very self-interested way. Lower factor costs equal higher profits; competition pushes product prices toward the margin, which benefits. Third, if immigration were really driving people out of work, I think there'd be a larger uptick in the unemployment rating. Fourth, theoretically freedom of capital without freedom of movement will lead to significantly inefficient allocations of both. I'll take legal strides toward efficiency over protectionist stumbles and greater ineffiency.


1) I'm fine working for peanuts. I just threw it in there, trying to reinforce the starry-eyed characterization. I'm not even working in my industry yet.

2) I don't hold people responsible for their histories anymore than I hold contemporary Americans responsible for slavery. Conversely, modern Americans are hardly responsible for their birthright -- nor can they take credit for it. All they can do is be thankful and (hopefully) open to the realization that not all people have been as fortunate.

Really, the question isn't one of "fault". I'm not casting any blame for the plight of the third-world, except on the tyrannical governments that crush their nations. (Please don't tell me they should revolt.) The question instead is whether we respect the rights of other human beings, whether we believe that all men are created equal and deserve access to equal opportunities. Will there be free riders? Of course. But we'll know that we haven't blocked those people who will contribute fully. And I personally think that's more important.

Posted by: Mike on July 20, 2004 2:32 PM

Dang it, it's hard to edit these things as you write them, isn't it? Only the first para is directed to MB/Tatyana. The multiculti stuff should've started the response to MB.

And I'll go by Mike from now on.

Posted by: Mike on July 20, 2004 2:36 PM

it's all right to talk about "rights of other human beings" if these rights are not the "right" to rip the fruit of our (American) labor. The wealth of this nation is not just appeared out of nowhere, it was created by many generations. And of course Americans primarily are entitled to the fruit of their ancestors's labor.
I would agree with your reasoning if you would've been campaigning for charity.
By all means, those who're inclined, can support materially any nation abroad they like. Or sponsor new immigrants - legal, of course. As I was supported for my first 4 months in this country, and I'm forever greatful to these people.

But you're talking ENTITLEMENT, not charity.
That's where I have to disagree.

Countries as responsible for their wealth/poverty as people are personally responsible for their well-being. If there are no other means but revolt - well, they have to revolt (as they had, you know - recent example of Georgia)
Your use of "less fortunate" is, once again, rather unfortunate.
Excuse me.

Posted by: Tatyana on July 20, 2004 3:43 PM

Third, if immigration were really driving people out of work, I think there'd be a larger uptick in the unemployment rating.

Not necessarily. Many people decide to stop looking for work, and such people are not counted in unemployment numbers. Note that while the population has gone up 12.3 million since April 2000, employment has grown by only about 2 million (if that). Something has to give, unless only 10-20% of population growth is in the working age population.

More generally, the economic argument in favor of mass unskilled immigration is dubious. "Cheap labor" is really subsidized labor. I doubt demand for unskilled labor would be nearly as high if employers couldn't pay unskilled workers dirt wages as they leave education, health care, housing assistance, policing, courts, jails, transportation, and other infrastructure costs to the taxpayers. Because unskilled immigration drives down the wages of unskilled native-born Americans, taxpayers must bear a greater tax burden to support them as well, since their lower wages mean they will pay less in taxes and be eligible for more means-tested benefits. Since mass unskilled immigration means more poor people, both the immigrants themselves and native-born unskilled Americans who face lower wages, unskilled immigration is also likely to generate greater social welfare costs since the poor are more likely to support big-spending politicians.

Unskilled immigrants are also not assimilating very well economically and educationally, and in some ways are assimilating downward (IIRC second generation immigrants have higher illegitimacy and crime rates than their parents). Mexican-Americans (a crude proxy for unskilled immigrants) have low levels of education through the second, third, and fourth generations. On a per capita basis, Hispanics are the poorest racial/ethnic group in the U.S., and note that better-off Cubans and whites from Spanish-speaking countries are counted as "Hispanic." Illegal aliens have very low levels of education, and are extremely poor. Illegal aliens legalized in the 1986 amnesty made an average income of less than $9,000 a year in 1992.

Posted by: birch barlow on July 20, 2004 3:51 PM


Great points, especially the second, with regard to the economic argument. I'll try to address them.

Not necessarily...

If you’re unemployed for a long time and then decide that you no longer need to seek work, you’re either already well-off – or you’ve found a job. Or died of starvation, I suppose. I’ve never quite understood the “unemployed but not seeking work” substitution explanation. Maybe only 10-20% of the population growth is in the working age population? Or perhaps they’ve found work illegally. Beats me.

More generally, the economic argument in favor of mass unskilled immigration is dubious.

So immigration has positive externalities and negative externalities. The first, lower wage costs make for higher profits across the board, which means lower product costs across the board. Increase in consumer surplus. On the other hand, taxpayers cover all the factors you mentioned above. I guess a better question would be whether those two balance, or exactly how the change in overall surplus is distributed. It probably goes to the poor, including new immigrants, and the business-owners, presumably upper-class citizens. But couldn’t this be an argument for higher taxes on businesses that employ cheap labor? Like, say, a minimum wage?]

Unskilled immigrants are also not assimilating very well economically...

This is not an argument for keeping immigrants out; it’s an argument for helping immigrants assimilate. Also, do you have comparable figures for Americans in the lower economic strata? (I didn't check the figures you linked, trust your judgment; are they there, too? Dunno.) I’d like to see their increasing levels of education over generations, if you’ve got them.

Posted by: Mike on July 20, 2004 4:51 PM


Also, I don't think I ever argued in favor of illegal immigration. (I think those last few lines were an unintentional bait-and-switch.) I just don't think that blanket anti-immigration policies are realistic. If people want to move here, people will find a way. Letting them in, helping them integrate, and not begrudging the dilution of the white race, seems better to me.

I don't think the most efficient solution is to spend tons of money throwing them out of the country once they've been found. (I also don't think maintaining the death penalty for murder will prevent murder, either, or at least I've never seen a [convincing] study to that effect.)


All you do in your recent comment is knock down straw men, and oh so snidely. I'll be quick, because I'm not impressed.

Americans have no more "right" to American jobs than anyone else. Plain and simple. Where do you think you are, Germany? Jobs are earned here. Not inherited.

I never wrote of a "right to work" -- I wrote that people regardless of nation should have equal opportunity. Anti-immigration policies and tyrannical third-world regimes actively prevent that. Rights and entitlements are different creatures.

You're speaking of racial or national ancestry, not literal ancestry, right? I of course agree with the latter -- it's my property to will to my children if I so desire -- but not with the former. You are an American because you were born on American soil, not because you built the railroads or designed the Constitution or did anything else that contributed to the country into which you were born. That argument is simply untenable.

Good luck promoting charity and third-world revolution.

Posted by: Mike on July 20, 2004 5:02 PM

So immigration has positive externalities and negative externalities.[...]

I'd argue that the negative externalities are substantially greater than the positive ones, at least for unskilled immigration (immigration of the skilled/educated is a different story). Certainly, at a theoretical level, it is possible for people (including employers) to continue to demand a subsidized good or service (such as unskilled labor) even if using more of it has a net negative effect on society. Unskilled immigration creates quite substantial costs, often more than a worker makes, much less pays in taxes. For example, at a cost of $7,000 per kid/per year, educating the average ~3 children of unskilled immigrants costs ~$21,000 (note that someone working 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year at $7 an hour only makes a paltry $14,000 a year). Health care is likely to cost thousands more. Those costs don't include the other costs I listed (policing, courts, jails, transportation, and other infrastructure costs).

People at all income levels may benefit from cheaper goods, but for many goods labor is only a small fraction of the total cost (IIRC only 10% of the cost of lettuce is labor costs, for example). Cheap goods are also of little benefit if one faces lower wages and/or higher taxes.

This is not an argument for keeping immigrants out; it’s an argument for helping immigrants assimilate.

Unfortunately, there is no proven way to make immigrants assimilate; certainly what we are doing now is not working. Why create a problem that could be devastating and that we don't really understand?

Also, do you have comparable figures for Americans in the lower economic strata? (I didn't check the figures you linked, trust your judgment; are they there, too? Dunno.) I’d like to see their increasing levels of education over generations, if you’ve got them.

So...because we already have one problem that is thus far intractable, we should create another? The persistance of poverty for many Americans is reason to be more concerned about importing unskilled immigrants, not less.

Posted by: birch barlow on July 20, 2004 6:16 PM

I don't think the most efficient solution is to spend tons of money throwing them out of the country once they've been found.

One of the best ways to deal with illegal immigration is to enforce employer sanctions--once employers realize that they will face heavy fines and possibly jail time for hiring illegal immigrants, they will be much less likely to do so.

Mark Krikorian has a good overall plan for dealing with illegal immigration:

Not Amnesty but Attrition: The Way to go on Immigration.

Posted by: birch barlow on July 20, 2004 6:31 PM


Theoretically, yes, it's possible that the negatives outweigh the positives: I don't have the numbers. I am aware that 2040 hours of work at $7/hr comes to about $14k annually. I'm also aware that when I worked at a grocery store during high school as a night stock worker, earning $6.50/hr in Florida, my coworkers were mostly immigrants who had already worked an eight-hour day. What's $7/hr if you're working 4080 hours a year? More than $30k. My point is not that the numbers work one way or another -- it's that I don't know, and that I don't think you do, either. I also don't know whether there aren't other, more subtle positive externalities: a continual low-cost housing boom for developers, expanding markets for corner stores and local businesses, etc.

Another mitigating possibility: the factors you listed: courts, policing, jails, medical expenses, schools -- I'd wager first that those benefit from economies of scale. Second, I'll bet that your average unskilled immigrant doesn't partake of them quite as readily as your already-assimilated Americans. The illegals even less so. And I've never had a latino ask me for a handout.

I will admit that you've made the problem appear much less clear-cut, but I remain unconvinced that closed borders will improve the state of the union, or that more open borders will be "devastating."

Posted by: Mike on July 20, 2004 6:36 PM


Interesting points, but I suggest that whether a political party is pro/anti business is best measured by its attitude toward small business. Both parties are comfortable with big business, but the Republicans are much more hospitable to small business. And it's small businesses that create most of the jobs and ideas that ultimately expand the economy and everyone's wealth and opportunity.

BTW, Clinton's vaunted business-friendliness applied only to big business. WRT small business, he and his wife were oblivious at best, hostile at worst. A good example was the failed health-care scheme, which would have been extremely burdensome to small- and medium-sized businesses, while allowing big corporations the freedom to run their own HMOs and thereby escape much of the intrusiveness and rigidity of the government's system. Hillary famously made a remark about how she couldn't be bothered to consider the needs of every undercapitalized small business. (After all, politicians' needs come first, and who are these complaining pipsqueaks who don't even donate money to us? Let them eat cake.) And of course the Clintons gave their trial-lawyer constituency license to extort money from anybody and any company that was conspicuously successful. Pro-business they were not.

Posted by: Jonathan on July 20, 2004 7:07 PM

In the future could you please avoid putting so many interesting and conversation-inducing topics (and not about FLW!) in ONE post?:)

Also, since I am not "institutionalized" I find it hard to understand "multiculturalism" in its real-world manifesation i.e. I don't see how it actually works to, I gather, oppress people.

Posted by: David Sucher on July 20, 2004 7:38 PM


I'm brown skinned. I'm the child of immigrants. I'm not at all anti-immigrant.

But the thing is, there is a stark difference between the economic profiles of immigrant groups. Skilled immigrants - Chinese, Indians, Russians, Koreans - hit the ground running. Typically they have a college education or better, rapidly assimilate, and are overrepresented in technology, elite schools, and so on. Great.

Most Hispanics, however, are unskilled immigrants. And statistically speaking, immigrants with less than the American mean educational level are net tax recipients:

"It doesn't take a genius to figure out that education is the best predictor of income and thus of benefit and cost," said UC Davis economist Philip L. Martin, an expert on rural immigrants.

He cites studies that say an arriving immigrant with at least a high school education will pay an average $89,000 more in taxes and other revenues than he or she costs in services. Those with less than a high-school education, however, put such a demand on public services that their large negative value persists through their children's and grandchildren's generations.

So here's the bottom line: The total the state spends on illegal immigrants is no more than $4.6 billion a year, with CalWorks being a judgment call.

California's budget deficit was around $8 billion dollars. So given that (conservative) estimate for the costs imposed by illegal aliens, we're talking close to 50% of the budget deficit due to illegal aliens.

What's more, unskilled immigrants comprise the bulk of the flows. So on net, our current immigration policy imports net tax recipients - and the tax burden is substantial:

Californian taxpayers are picking up the tab for a net annual fiscal cost from immigration budget outlays minus tax payments of $1,178 per native-born household. For the nation as a whole, the net fiscal drain on the American taxpayers is stated in the study as $166 to $226 per household.

Note that this figure lumps skilled with unskilled immigrants, which is somewhat misleading.

Perhaps the most inexplicable thing is that some voluntary immigrants (Hispanics, black Africans, Spanish Europeans) receive hiring and admissions preferences while others (Arabs, non-Spanish Europeans, South Asians, East Asians) do not. I personally don't believe that voluntary immigrants should be receiving preferences over native born citizens. IMO, if we're going to have them preferences should only go to the descendants of slaves and Native Americans.

Upshot being: I'm all in favor of skilled immigration. Let's take the best of the world. We could literally take hundreds of thousands of the world's smartest people every year, if only we implemented a merit-based admissions policy. As it stands we are taking large numbers of people - some of them very nice - who are, on balance, net tax recipients.

In the long run it's not a good idea to dramatically expand your recipient class...not least because there are many other deserving candidates out there whose immigration will be positive-sum rather than zero or negative sum. This isn't about irrational racism - it's about economics and merit.

Posted by: gc on July 20, 2004 9:30 PM

I think the root of the problem is the welfare state, not immigrant skills or education. Reducing our subsidies (a/k/a immigration incentives) for people who don't work might be a more effective way to reduce the freeloader population than is trying to keep people out at the border.

Besides, I don't trust the government to make accurate merit-based evaluations of potential immigrants. If we try, we're likely to overweight measurable, though not always relevant, variables such as formal education, and to underweight critical intangibles such as initiative, drive and other entrepreneurial characteristics.

Ideally, we would 1) eliminate subsidies for immigrants and 2) let everyone in who isn't a spy or terrorist and is willing to pull his own weight. More people aren't a problem, they are a tremendous resource -- if we treat them right.

Posted by: Jonathan on July 20, 2004 10:05 PM

"Come now, SC. Michael has already established in previous comment threads that he's not concerned about the (occasionally rabid) ideologies of the people with whom he agrees or whom he cites."

Maybe he isn't, but he should be. Get bitten by rabid creatures, turn rabid.

On a separate note: If American politics were always about business, I wouldn't have to deal with the anti-Gay legislation those wacky Congressional Republicans keep dishing out.

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on July 21, 2004 2:08 AM

"My major point in the first post is that multiculturalism is generally used as a straw man. If its critics have actually read multiculturalist theorists, that fact isn't reflected by their simple-minded attacks on it. The general idea, of diversity and variance not necessarily being deviance, seems simple enough to me. I'm a white, economically-conservative queer male. I stray from the mean but don't consider myself deviant (i.e. pathological). The statements that MB views as horrifying are simply part of a role-playing/perspective-sharing exercise."

Chiming in on this... I've been having a conversation with a girl over the past month about a comment she made about how sexy she would find it if she could meet a guy who could discuss Judith Butler and post-communist conceptions of masculinity with her. I'm not exactly an expert on feminist theory (there are limits to how much of that can be tolerated, even by septic tanks) but I am no neophyte either. While I can address specific individual points that a theorist might bring up, my attitude is, generally, why bother?

There are serious flaws not only in the arguments themselves but in the framing of debate, the methodologies used, and the logic presented. To bother to refute an individual point, in the context of a debate, puts you in a defensive position. Essentially you are accepting your opponent's argument except for the things you can specifically disprove. In other words, your opponent is a priori correct and the burden of proof is on you to disprove aspects of their ideas. That's not a favorable position to be in when debating, nor is it a position that lends itself to scientifically credible results. When theorists start presenting evidence to back up specific claims instead of proclaiming "This is the way the world IS" then it will be worthwhile to discuss specifics.

I don't think that girl finds me very sexy, though.

Posted by: . on July 21, 2004 8:55 AM

"I don't think that girl finds me very sexy, though."

We all have our crosses to bear.

Posted by: ricpic on July 21, 2004 9:53 AM

I disagree with your wife. I'm not anti-corporation. I am anti-monopoly. And I want people's rights balanced against those of big powerful rich corporations.

My primary interests are public education, civil rights, health care, infrastructure, and defense. The Republicans only seem to care about the last one; and then only to run covert little wars in faraway lands.

This article by Garrison Keillor really hits home on why I'm a Democrat:

Posted by: Yahmdallah on July 21, 2004 10:45 AM

On immigration policy, I'll venture my usual thing and then retire from the field, at least for a few days. Y'all get mighty caught up in a certain set of debates: skilled vs. unskilled, what to do about welfare and transfers, etc. All important, of course. But I can't help noticing how quickly y'all run away from another important factor, which is the preferences of the American people. Can I take it from your refusal to take the American people's repeatedly-demonstrated preferences into account that you're perfectly OK with enforcing on an unwilling populace your particular policy preferences? Does that hold only for immigration, or would you like to impose your particular preferences (as though that were possible, by the way) where all other public-policy issues are concerned? Would you mind letting me know what kind of political philosophy your screw-the-general-population's-preferences attitude represents? Because, offhand, it doesn't seem very democratic. By the way, why exactly do you think the general populace should be willing to let you impose your preferences on them, let alone pay you any mind at all, given that you seem to be telling them that they're idiots? Or are you one of those people who thinks that the current inhabitants of a country should have no say in that country's future makeup? Note: I'm not arguing that the prefs of the populace should be the only factor to take into account, just that it's a very important factor (both from a moral and a pragmatic p-o-v); that it needs to be respected; and that preventing it from taking part in the general debate seems to me like an act of intolerance, if not borderline totalitarian.

But fun, as always, comparing notes about the topic.

Jonathan -- Good distinction between the big-biz and small-biz p-o-v's, thanks. But -- I know nothing here and am eager to learn -- would you say that Bush has been good for small businesses? Has he shown much concern for small-biz at all?

Tim -- I shouldn't bite, but I will.

1) You seem to have got blog chitchat mixed up in your mind with some kind of world-historical gathering where silver-haired statesmen debate matters of High Principle. Chill. If it amuses you to carry on like blogdom's superego, or to prowl the stage like some hotheaded idealist at the Army/McCarthy hearings, help yourself, though I'll politely request that you do so on your own blog.

2) You seem fascinated by certain guilt-by-association questions. Good for you! I don't for a minute think these aren't important questions. Nonetheless, I'm not very interested in them -- I'll join in these debates when I hear the jackboots about to march 'round the corner. Since that doesn't seem to be happening right now, I prefer to get back to the subjects that do interest me. For the moment, here's how my reasoning goes: The Guardian and the Village Voice, for instance, both have numerous (and really rabid) former and current Marxists on staff, and I don't need to remind you of those 60 million dead (or was it 100 million? damn middle-aged memory), do I? But if I see a piece that strikes me as good or provocative in either paper, I may well link to it and I certainly won't get hung about about who the piece's author shares an office with. Even more: if someone like a Richard Goldstein, for example, who strikes me as a dangerous political nutcase, writes a good piece (and he's a smart guy who has written good pieces), I'm going to feel free to link to it. Hey, I think it's a good piece. Perhaps I'm deluding myself, but I like to think I'm performing a friendly service for a few visitors by guiding them to some pieces they may enjoy. To let a little ego show: I think linking to pieces people may enjoy wrestling with is a genial, sweet, and generous thing to do; it's also something I enjoy putting a fair amount of time and energy into doing; and I hope a few people get the occasional kick out of my efforts. I find it fascinating that this activity should throw you into a disagreeable tizzy. Well, no, actually I don't find it fascinating, I find it tedious, which is why I ask you to take up these arguments back on your own blog rather than here. Me, I want to get back to this blog's (to my mind) really ravishingly wonderful buzz and chitchat.

"." -- I hear 'ya and couldn't agree more. The "Theory" (or maybe it'd be better-put to say "post-Marxist") crowd is forever trying to lure sensible people into engaging with their individual points and arguments. (Some of which aren't half-bad, by the way.) I used to be more of a sucker for that move than I am now. These days, I know better: all they're doing is inviting you into a mirrored-glass labyrinth. The only thing a sensible person can do is decline -- and then show the poor be-labyrinthed person that there's a way out. Very sad how few of them take advantage, isn't it? My hunch is that they really like the labyrinth, but I could be wrong.

Yahmdallah -- I think the Wife and I are more cynical than you are. Our point is that whatever the announced principles are, what the Repubs are basically about is looking out for the business class, while what the Dems are basically about is looking out for the anti-business class. We could be wrong or jaded or something -- certainly wouldn't be the first time. But neither of us can see any reason to think that what either party's really about is looking out for the country's general well-being, except insofar as it helps them achieve power.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 21, 2004 11:39 AM


Bush's income-tax cut, though not big enough IMO, was certainly favorable for small businesses, to the extent that many such businesses are sole propietorships or Sub-S corps or LLCs where business income is treated as personal income for tax purposes. The LT-cap-gains- and dividend-tax cuts he supported are good for all business, which means workers too. He has done some bad things such as imposing tariffs, continuing antitrust crusades that I think should have been dropped, providing lousy leadership on telecom regulation, and supporting destructive legislative piling-on after the corporate-accounting scandals. He could have done much better in many areas, particularly in reducing burdensome regulation.

But he is still better than, for example, Clinton, because of what he didn't do: Bush is known to support tort reform, and may (if we're lucky) press for it nationally -- certainly he isn't in political debt to lawyers' groups as the Democratic candidates are; he has appointed people to the regulatory agencies who have shown less zeal than did their predecessors for destroying small businesspeople who violate arbitrary regulations; and he hasn't caved in to the Cassandras of climate change. And Bush doesn't seem hostile to business, as many prominent Democrats do no matter how often they are photographed shaking hands with big-company CEOs. Attitude is worth something.

Bush isn't great for business, but the realistic alternatives to him all seem to be worse.

Posted by: Jonathan on July 21, 2004 12:25 PM


Thanks for the substantive response. I was going to quibble with numbers, but it doesn't seem meaningful. I'll just piggyback on Jonathan's comment about reducing subsidies to prevent that kind of freeloading while agreeing with you completely about the benefits of well-educated immigrants. I wasn't saying to open the borders only to the unskilled and the downtrodden. Just that we shouldn't keep them out exclusively. Sorry if I misrepresented that position. I also agree that immigrants shouldn't receive hiring preferences.


My personal opinion? The "common people" shouldn't make policy. That's what representatives are for. Just look at the fiscal wreck that referenda have created in California and imagine it on a national scale. Dems and Reps love pork already, and they're not getting the funds directly! Imagine if people voted on their own pork. It'd be a free-for-all.

One of my first comments addressed that divide between elite and non-elite opinions, but just because a majority of people agree on a certain policy doesn't mean that it's the correct one. I'd rather debate an idea on its de/merits than on whose endorsement it carries. For example: I've been convinced that within the current system, illegal immigration is definitely costly (4.5% of annual CA expenditures, if GC's broken link is correct). In deciding how to handle immigration, that's a good thing to know. But what we're doing is debating ideas, not making policy.

If I'm elected President, I'll assume that my political point-of-view has some support.

[and I know this comment is horribly disjointed, but work is much busier today, sorry.]

Posted by: Mike on July 21, 2004 1:43 PM

Finally, w/r/t multiculturalism -- dismissing it out of hand is dismissing it out of hand. You can justify it if you like, but as someone comfortable on the other side of the fence, your perspective sounds as ludicrous to me as mine must to you.

No winner on that one, I'm betting. ("De-labryinthing", indeed. Hah.)

Posted by: Mike on July 21, 2004 1:45 PM

Michael, I've called you on your less savory moments before (beating up on college kids, citing racialist websites, etc.), and I'll be all too happy to do it again. Alas, I didn't know enough about Auster to mention his questionable past: Congratulations and, yes, praise are due to SC for informing us about the man.

I'm all in favor of bloggy frivolity, and I have a high threshhold of offense where intolerance is concerned. I can deal with Marxists, as long as they're sociable. I can even tolerate racism and homophobia to a degree (though not when they threaten to become official governmental policy). People who can't stomach deep-seated prejudice operate at a distinct disadvantage in the Southland.

But that said, let's not forget that some people simply don't have a legitimate claim to the sort of civilized chitchat you wish to promote. A bomb-throwing terrorist has placed him/herself outside the social and discursive pale; ditto a bedsheet-wearing race-baiter. When these people start showing up at your dinner party, it's time to check the guest list.

I've had more than a few embarassing gaffes on my own blog, including run-ins with political extremists. These were the products of carelessness and gullibility on my own part, and I've apologized for them. What's more, I'm grateful to readers who point my own errors out to me. They help keep me honest.

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on July 21, 2004 5:08 PM

Feel free to stay on the other side of the fence Mike, just don't complain when Occam's Lawnmower comes along to do a little trimming.

Posted by: . on July 21, 2004 10:58 PM


Perhaps, but I try to avoid cynicism (the quote below has been a guiding light of mine since I read it) - not that I always succeed. Even though it's obvious that the political process is tainted, I think it goes back and forth in the level of taintedness. I think it often has to do with the mix of the characters (meaning moral character) of the president, the senate and house majority and minority leaders, and the justices. Right now we've got evil bastards in those positions in all the branches. I think we had a better balance during the Clinton era (in sheer defiance of the image the Republican attack machine wanted us to have). I think if Kerry gets in, it will be a better balance again. And, just so ya know I don't view it primarily as a matter of partisanship, I think that John McCain would have made a good president, too. Maybe someday he will.

"To be cynical is not the same as avoiding illusion, for cynicism is just another kind of illusion. All formulas for meeting life - even many philosophies - are illusion. Cynicism is a trashy illusion."
- Robertson Davies, from The Manticore

Posted by: Yahmdallah on July 22, 2004 4:28 PM

About multiculturalism, you write: "Unfortunately, in a more formal sense it's also become a hardened and dogmatic political program that sketchy people are trying to put over on the rest of us."

I am still confused. What is your fair-handed analysis (not just for a few good laughs on a blog) of multi-culturalism? I have no doubt that there are "multi-culturalists" who go to and over the edge and say dumb things. Hey! We have that in every area of our culture: there are enthusiasts for capiatlism who go over the edge and say absurdities such as we should get rid of all laws which limit the use of property.

But you can't let a few extremists of a movement define that movement.

So, Michael, what's a really precise definition of the gripe? I might well agree if I could understand it.

Posted by: David Sucher on July 28, 2004 2:17 AM

David -- Well, a scattershot response ...

I'm not quite sure where to start. Try typing "diversity" into the books-search function at Amazon. Here's a book-description example:

"The first part of the book helps the educator understand the reasons for resistance and ways to prevent it. The second part explains how educators motivate dominant groups to support social justice."

Other titles on the first link I clicked on: "Readings for Diversity and Social Justice"; "Multicultural Competence in Student Affairs."

It's quite an immense industry with quite a definite social program.

Here's one description of official multiculturalism from Spiked Online:

"Multiculturalism is not about ethnic diversity, linguistic pluralism, faith schools or culinary variety. It is certainly not, as is often assumed, an enlightened approach to running a multi-ethnic society. Multiculturalism is an official response to the identity crisis within Western society, brought about by the collapse of common values, national institutions and traditional political solidarities. It attempts to provide a positive cultural sheen to this crisis, re-presenting the lack of common identity as a new cultural pluralism, and the fragmentation of communities as an enriching kind of diversity.

The official promotion of multicultural codes and policies weaves the notions of multiculturalism into everyday life and politics. By refusing to allow claims that any one culture is superior to any other, by carefully allocating resources to community projects engaged in entirely different, and often contradictory, activities, and by encouraging members of society to take pride in their different beliefs and identities, multiculturalism pretends that the hole at the heart of Western culture is in fact something positive and enriching.

An elite that is unwilling to make judgements about why any one cultural practice is better than another, to set universal standards about what role individuals should be expected to play across society, and to promote a distinct set of values that a society should agree upon, finds a useful tool in multiculturalism. This is why it has been so well-suited to Western societies in the past few decades, increasingly disorientated by the erosion of cultural and political certainties. Clearly, the official promotion of multicultural policy has not provided any solution to this disorientation - indeed, by actively encouraging expressions of difference and divisions between communities, it may well have fuelled the process of fragmentation. But despite the problematic character of multiculturalism, this is not what caused these problems - and it is not as if coming out 'against' multiculturalism now promises any solution in itself."

An example of multiculturalism in action can be found in a profile in the current New Yorker of a multimillionaire who's giving away all his dough. He started out as a brilliant grad student who earned two lib-arts PhD's, got references from stars like Stanley Fish, but who couldn't land an academic job. Reason repeatedly given: you're a very good candidate, but we need more diversity. (Punch line, by the way: he's Jewish.)

Kenan Malik did a TV show in Britain targeting multiculturalism, "not just in its more absurd and censorious guises, but as an ideology that emphasises difference rather than commonality. The writer charges that multiculturalism has intensified divisions, and led to something like apartheid in northern English towns."

From an article about "The Diversity Industry":

"In the last 10 years alone, diversity training has spawned a multimillion-dollar industry with its own consultants, books, magazines, certificate programs, and even an online university. Trainers, for their part, are paid anywhere from a nominal fee by community-based organizations to $5,000 a day by corporations."

Peter Wood's book "Diversity" (here) is a good survey and history. Here's a review of it; here's another.

Here's a decent blog posting about multiculturalism by a self-described progressive. It's got a bunch of good links to other souces.

Lawrence Auster's series about multiculturalism is worth a look, here.

David Goodhart's discussion of the problems of "liberal universality" here is worth a look too.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on July 28, 2004 2:57 PM

Well thank you, Michael. I will do some surfing.

Posted by: David Sucher on July 28, 2004 8:26 PM

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