NATIVISM DEFIES REASON AND EVIDENCE
-- Govind Nair, NoVES Member
Here’s an addendum to our 2/18/18 multi-member panel Sunday platform on immigration and American identity. It completes our closing statement with clarifications which were not possible in our time limits.
In closing this platform, I touched very quickly on our need as humanists to apply reason and evidence to counter the growing scourge of nativism across the world, well beyond just America. I also promised to offer references to a few quick evidentiary claims I made to counter widely propagated myths founded upon the notion of nativism valued by those opposed to immigration, immigrants, and multi-cultural society.
Opportunistic and cynical politicians appealing to nativists love to tout a claim that immigration leads to greater crime, which well over 50 scholarly criminology and other studies have debunked. Another favorite claim is that immigration causes job loss at home. Despite some methodological difficulties in the relevant research, none of which disqualify the conclusions, evidence from both Britain and USA do not indicate any impact of immigration on unemployment. The evidence on wages is a bit more varied, but still negates a favorite nativist trope that “immigrants push down wages.” Some data on sectors employing immigrants may show declines in low-wage occupations, but may be picking up more than just the effect of immigration, whereas data on high-wage occupations show continued wage increases. The overall positive impact of immigration is however the overwhelming conclusion in the vast majority of research studies.
If evidence counters the nativist false claims on immigrants’ adverse impact on crime, jobs, and wages, why do such nativist falsehoods still find favor? Whatever the cause, it is clearly not the result of applying reason and evidence to back nativist claims. Ultimately, we can reduce the basis of such claims to tribal instincts and the fear of the “other.” Such irrational tribalist claims too must be challenged by reason and evidence. Advances in global genetics research now place us on firm ground that race is a biological fallacy and only a misleading social construct and also that we share overwhelming similarity in our common origins as a species which migrated worldwide out of Africa.
If we can accept that reason and evidence overwhelmingly refute the claims of nativism, we also need to ask what are the costs of nativist myths and the potential benefits of policy built on non-nativist foundations. Recent research concludes that migrants constitute just 3.4 per cent of the world’s population, but contribute 10 percent of the world’s economic output. Moreover, some of the most recent research estimates persuasively suggest that removing all global barriers to migration would actually double global output and dramatically lift living standards worldwide.
Clearly, reason and evidence alone may not be sufficient to extinguish the appeals of populist politicians to those seduced by the myth of nativism. As humanists however, we today face an even greater imperative to bring the light of reason and evidence upon the dark and delusional visions of nativism, and to further unleash the greater human potential that remains unrealized in our midst as we erect barriers to further free movement of people.