I’m reading Tom Woods’ “Politically Incorrect Guide to American History”. The book got predictable criticism from liberals and neoconservatives for its sympathetic portrayal of the Confederacy and skepticism towards the New Deal, but right at the very beginning he makes an interesting point that should give many conservatives (if not libertarians) pause. The point is this: while from our viewpoint the first European settlers in America were highly homogeneous, being all white Protestants from the British Isles, they were in fact culturally quite diverse, being split between Massachusetts Puritans, Virginian aristocrats, Delaware valley Quakers and Appalachian hillbillies. This diversity in turn gave rise to a great deal of mutual suspicion and hostility, which in turn led them to insist on a central government that left local communities as much alone as possible to run their own affairs.
In the current debate, conservatives have taken the lead in arguing for immigration restriction, with the more sophisticated among them pointing to much evidence that ethnic diversity harm trust levels in society. However, in the US at least, these conservatives also generally bemoan the expansion of government and the growth of the welfare state. But if Woods is right, then the last thing we should try to do, if we want to roll back the welfare state, is insist on keeping ourselves ethnically homogeneous. Instead, the more diversity we encourage through immigration, the more likely that political pressures will arise that will force central government to back off, returning ourselves to the highly decentralized system of the early US.