Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

June 09, 1996|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

THE IMMIGRATION MYSTIQUE: America's False Conscience by Chilton Williamson Jr. (Basic Books: $22; 224 pp.). Chilton Williamson Jr., former literary and senior editor for the National Review and currently a senior editor for Chronicle: A Magazine of American Culture, takes a highly indignant tone in this book, the tone of an intellectual who feels social pressure to cut and shape his intellectual freedom to that lowest common denominator of American politics, at least in academic arenas: American morality, the ideas on which this republic was founded.

In this particular debate, the myth, as Williamson refers to it, is the idea that we are a nation of immigrants and ought, therefore, to welcome immigrants to our shores more wholeheartedly. The body of the book is an effort to show why this myth leads to serious policy mistakes, to demonstrate "that the immigration problem . . . is better addressed by insights taken from moral and religious philosophy . . . than by those appropriated from political economy . . . and the sentimentalities of the mass media."

Journalists' treatment of the issue is "essentially a function of their self-image," "enthusiasts for multiculturalism seem to think that it is a recent invention of the American Assn. of University Professors" rather than a way of thinking that "precludes . . . the preservation of America as we know it," and the "restrictionist . . . is in some ways the best friend the immigrant ever had."

While Williamson concedes that the economic argument for immigration is the most compelling, it is, in the end, outmoded and threatening to "an economically mature Western nation." It's a spunky book that describes the intellectual context of the debate more than its practical nature.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|