The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

10 October 2006

Classic peg/hole mismatch

Ethnic diversity, we are told, is a Good Thing, and to some extent, I have to agree: I have no desire to live among a bunch of people who are exactly like me, assuming that there exists a bunch of people who are exactly like me, which is something I don't really want to assume.

But there's always been a serious downside to it, and now it's being quantified:

A bleak picture of the corrosive effects of ethnic diversity has been revealed in research by Harvard University's Robert Putnam, one of the world's most influential political scientists.

His research shows that the more diverse a community is, the less likely its inhabitants are to trust anyone — from their next-door neighbour to the mayor.

This is a contentious finding in the current climate of concern about the benefits of immigration. Professor Putnam told the Financial Times he had delayed publishing his research until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity, saying it "would have been irresponsible to publish without that".

The core message of the research was that, "in the presence of diversity, we hunker down", he said. "We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it's not just that we don't trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don't trust people who do look like us."

My vestigial leftist reflex immediately came back with "Yeah, so there are xenophobes out there. We're not like that." Which suggests further research — say, busing churchgoing NASCAR fans into Berkeley.

And Putnam isn't by any means calling for re-isolation:

Prof Putnam stressed, however, that immigration materially benefited both the "importing" and "exporting" societies, and that trends "have been socially constructed, and can be socially reconstructed".

In an oblique criticism of Jack Straw, leader of the House of Commons, who revealed last week he prefers Muslim women not to wear a full veil, Prof Putnam said: "What we shouldn't do is to say that they [immigrants] should be more like us. We should construct a new us."

This strikes me as fatuous. "Us" is already under construction, and always has been; these things happen on their own, and efforts to direct the process are not guaranteed to produce the desired results, as Putnam's own research presumably shows.

Or, as Rachel says:

[I]sn't forcing majorities to cope with the whims, desires and customs of minorities also a source of friction?

Think of it as the Law of Unintended Consequences in action. Or you can just snicker at this:

Another frequently asked question is about polygamy. "We have a simple answer to this question: Islam allows its male followers to marry more than once to help maintain gender balance in society," he said.

There are, for instance, 7.8 million more women than men in the US today. "This means that if every male US citizen picks a wife, 7.8 million women will be left without marriage. These women will either have the option of getting married to an already married person or become promiscuous," said Ghazanfar.

Some choice. "Ghazanfar" is evidently Arabic for "Morton". And while we're on the subject, veils suck.

Posted at 9:24 AM to Dyssynergy

We should construct a new us.

Reading that made me throw up in my mouth a little.

Posted by: McGehee at 11:43 AM on 10 October 2006

The diversity training I attend yearly consists of putting all the white males I work with in a room and talking about how, in theory, we could hire people who aren't white males.

Posted by: robohara at 1:33 PM on 10 October 2006

Oops, I almost forgot. This year they gave us all blue bracelets to wear, so that we may celebrate our diversity by all wearing the same thing ...

Posted by: robohara at 1:34 PM on 10 October 2006