By Frank Salter | Now my perspective – I’m a political scientist, but I take an anthropological or an evolutionary perspective of humans, which means that I see them as basically the same. Wherever you go, you find a human being, you find the same instincts, characterized by the same universals of human nature. But also interests, and that’s a word I haven’t heard used yet in this meeting. Individual interests, group interests, what could they be? I mean, this is a huge topic and I don’t believe one can just really discuss multiculturalism without that. I’ll be touching on that indirectly.
Now my focus today will be on Western multiculturalism with which I am most familiar. But there is also an Eastern type, and I’m not an expert in that certainly. But as I understand it, multiculturalism as practiced in Singapore and Malaysia, for example, is a different kettle of fish, as we say in Australia. It’s a different matter. One key difference is that Western multiculturalism excludes majorities from the protection of the state. One definition of multiculturalism is that group rights protected by the state, or the state steps in and says, look, we’re going to protect certain groups. And one would imagine they would say all ethnic groups, but it’s not true with multiculturalism.
One authority on American multiculturalism Eric Kaufman observes that it is asymmetrical. So he defines American and Western multiculturalism as asymmetrical. This creed represses majority group ethnic expression. And that is a strong characteristic of Western multiculturalism, that the majority, the core ethnic group of those countries, is not considered to be a protected group.
Now the effect is to leave the ethnic majority vulnerable to subordination. Indeed, Western multiculturalism has as its basis the unilateral demobilization of majorities and the simultaneous mobilization of minority consciousness. It’s asymmetrical. It does different things for minorities and majorities.
Now evidence for this is the undemocratic nature of Western multiculturalism. I know it’s a strong word, but I mean it precisely. Undemocratic nature of Western multicultural practice. In my own country, Australia, for example, multiculturalism was introduced by political elites without ever asking the people’s permission in elections or a referendum. It was brought in as an administrative series of acts. There was a conscious strategy to circumvent democratic choice. And this is quite common throughout the Western world.
Now this undemocratic character is understandable, actually. Because Western multiculturalism facilitates mass immigration that is displacing many Western populations. It’s happening very rapidly. The wholesale displacement of Western populations from majority to minority status. Now, as I understand it, that is not a weakness of Eastern multiculturalism. So we have a clear difference there.
There are also multiple humanitarian costs, and that will be the core of my paper today. Multiple humanitarian costs of Western multiculturalism due to its effect of perpetuating and increasing diversity. And that’s a key step in my argument. We’ve heard a lot about the joys of diversity, and I’ll be giving something of a cautionary note to balance that. One of the characteristics of multiculturalism is that it perpetuates diversity. That’s it’s raison d’etre. And if possible it increases diversity. And so multiculturalism owns diversity.
Let’s consider six humanitarian costs of diversity and therefore of multiculturalism. The first is trust. Ethnic diversity systematically decreases solidarity and trust. The best known study of this is by Harvard professor Robert D. Putnam. His study of 30,000 Americans from 40 different communities and social settings found that rising diversity lowers general social trust. Not only of other ethnic groups but of one’s own, for example of political leaders and the local shopkeeper. Putnam found that as diversity increases, for example due to immigration, altruism and community cooperation decline. Research in Australia has confirmed this.
The second humanitarian cost is welfare rights. In global comparison, welfare rights correlate negatively with ethno-religious diversity. The latter explains 24-32% of global variation in welfare rights. That’s a substantial cost of Western multiculturalism.
The third humanitarian cost is giving to charitable causes. Now this roundtable concerns multiculturalism in everyday life. Giving to charitable causes is depressed by diversity.
Diversity can also degrade good governance. One cross-national study found that ethnic diversity correlates negatively with institutional efficiency, political stability, bureaucratic efficiency, but correlates positively with corruption.
A fifth humanitarian cost of Western multiculturalism is foreign aid. Diversity kills foreign aid. Listen to this statistic. One measure of ethnic diversity accounts for 80% of variation in foreign aid giving. In other words, there’s an 80% negative correlation between diversity and foreign aid.
Civil conflict, this is the most important of all. This is the most important humanitarian cost. There are multiple studies of this. Nothing I’ve stated is based on one study. Multiple studies are triangulating to the same results. A recent study of 176 contemporary societies finds that 66% of global variation in ethnic conflict is explained by heterogeneity. Diverse societies are vulnerable to external shocks such as war, recession, and are prone to spiraling to civil conflict. That’s based on studies that go back to the post World War II era to today. Longitudinal studies with similar results.
So my conclusion is that Western multiculturalism is a high-risk policy with numerous humanitarian costs. Let me just end on a positive note of solutions. What can be done? And my approach is what can be done that will preserve the benefits of multiculturalism, because I haven’t had time to discuss them, of course there are benefits. They should be preserved if possible. And the approach I want to recommend is to emulate Eastern multiculturalism by affording all ethnic majorities, all ethnic groups, equal protection from the state. This would fit the Western tradition of extending the franchise, in this case ethnic group rights. It would be a form of democratization. The principles should be that:
- All ethnic groups, or none, should be protected against ethnic defamation.
- All should benefit from government subsidized ethnic councils and other benefits.
- Government should no longer ally itself against the majority, as the common enemy of other ethnic groups, that’s the trend in the West.
Ethnic swamping of majorities would probably slow or cease if the majority were given a voice.
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