»  Taki's Magazine

January 12th, 2012

  Killing the West with Kindness


A couple of hard luck stories here to begin with.

First story: Randy Johnson of Marion, Indiana was laid off from his job at a paper products company in 1995 along with 200 other employees. The company had been purchased by Bain Capital six months previously. Mitt Romney was a principal of Bain Capital at the time. Mr Johnson was laid off: that's the hard luck story, the whole thing. The guy was laid off. In 1995. He's still whining. In fact he's going professional with the whine: He's being trundled round the country by Obama's people, telling his story to halls full of empathetically weeping citizens.

Second story (scroll down a bit): Mr and Mrs Smith of Bristol, England have ten kids, but only a four-bedroom house. Things are cramped. They are also hard up: Mrs Smith tells us that the children have only one Nintendo Wii games console between them. If that's got you reaching for your hanky, please note that neither of the Smiths has held a job since 2001, when the child count was three. They live entirely on government benefits, north of $150,000 worth per annum. The house was given to them by the town, which also delivers breakfast to them.

The first story there is a story about capitalism, one feature of which is that employees get fired, sometimes through no fault of their own. It happens to the nicest people. It's happened to me. I was once fired from a job as a dishwasher (for taking a day off without telling the boss). As well as being a firee, I've also been a firer. In charge of small programming teams, a couple of times I had to fire people. (There is quite a high level of incompetence among computer programmers.) Swings and roundabouts.

The second story is about the welfare state. The welfare state seemed like a good idea when it first came up a hundred or so years ago. There was a lot of real distress beyond the reach of private charity: the chronic sick or disabled, the unemployed, the old. Diverting some portion of state revenues for relief of that distress seemed like a good idea — like a civilizational advance, in fact. Now it's a gravy train for the workshy, especially for those willing to put a wall of kids between themselves and responsibility.

The common denominator there is kindness. Randy Johnson's beef with capitalism is that it's unkind. The Smiths' beef with the welfare state is that it's not being kind enough to them.

Here's a different story, one that should be an illustration of kindness in action: the story of refugee resettlement in the U.S.A. This one's on my mind because I just got back from a lecture by Don Barnett, an expert on the topic. Don ran through points he's made in his Center for Immigration Studies research papers. Bottom lines: Refugee resettlement is a huge money racket, with executives of the VOLAGS drawing extravagant salaries, the funds mostly coming from the U.S. taxpayer. Government money has wellnigh chased out private charity. The United Nations drives the process, the State Department waving refugees through to the VOLAGS, who after a few weeks dump them on the welfare systems. (Refugees are immediately eligible for all welfare benefits.) Claims of refugee status are checked perfunctorily, or not at all, so that a high proportion — Barnett thinks 90 percent — are bogus.

(There was a nice illustration of that bogosity in Portland, Maine recently. City officials wanted taxi drivers with airport access permits to show up in person when renewing permits. Portland's large contingent of Somali cabbies protested. "The Somalis have argued that they sometimes have to go to their homeland to attend to family matters, and that those trips can be lengthy. They might not be in the country when their permit is up for renewal." For people admitted on refugee visas because of a "well-founded fear of persecution," it seems a bit odd to be shuttling back and forth to the persecuting country. Hat tip here to the invaluable Refugee Resettlement Watch website.)

U.S. refugee policy has always been borderline insane. Living in Hong Kong forty years ago I several times met smart, well-educated young people, with decent apartments and good jobs, who told me they were waiting for their U.S. refugee visas. Their families had fled to the colony from mainland China during the great famines of 1958-62. Now, ten or a dozen years later, well-settled and prosperous, they were still considered refugees by the U.S. government. When I mentioned this to Don, he agreed, but added that things have gotten way worse, very fast, since 1980.

Again, it's a matter of kindness. That at least is how uninformed people — say, 99 percent of the population — think of refugee resettlement. In fact, as I said, the thing is a money racket, a scam on the taxpaying public — "ACORN Without Borders" (Don Barnett).

That illusion of kindness is bolstered by the churchly names that many of the refugee VOLAGS have. Catholic Charities (the biggest one); Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service; Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society; Episcopal Migration Ministries … to object to anything these godly outfits are doing would surely be akin to blasphemy. Meanwhile, I'll leave it to the ACLU to figure out how the VOLAGs' receipt of boxcar-loads of government money squares with church-state separation. Hello, ACLU? Hello? Hello? …

Steven Pinker, in his recent book, tells us how violence, cruelty, and hardship have declined across the modern period, with the decline apparently accelerating in recent decades. Pinker himself refrains from following the trend line into the future, but you can't help thinking, and thinking Pinker thinks, that the world — at least the Western world — will go on getting kinder and kinder until all occasions for distress or discomfort have been vanquished from human life.

Perhaps so; but my three stories illustrate that there may be an undertow working in the opposite direction.

If revulsion at the unkindness of capitalism brings us down to state socialism, and welfare-state kindness encourages parasites like the Smiths to breed incontinently, and the bogus kindness of the refugee resettlement scams fills up our towns with people utterly alien to us in religion and culture (around 30 percent of current refugees are Muslim, and the proportion is rising), said people simultaneously exhibiting sensational TFRs, then Western civilization is killing itself with kindness.