Response to Dr. Wheeler’s Response to Me (Marc Clauson)

Posted on April 17, 2013 by


This debate on immigration is a very helpful one.  Dr. Wheeler did catch me in a missatement, that is, my statement that “millions of immigrants wish to come to America with little capital, little skill and, in some cases, little desire to work”.  I remember vividly–and to my regret–that as I was typing this, I was debating with myself (always dangerous) how to say that and explain that “many” came to the United States, which could mean a relatively few or a majority.  I suspected not a majority, but that the “percentage” was more some minority.  But I had no actual figure.  So I did get “zinged” there correctly.  I am not sure yet what the labor force participation rate tells us.  It may or may not give insight into “desire to work.”  Regardless, it was helpful to bring it up.

On the civilization versus culture issue, I should make myself clearer.  I see a difference between the two concepts of culture and civilization.  The former has to do with customs, traditions of dress, music, art, architecture, cooking, leisure, and even religious practice, as well as other factors.  The latter has to do with elements of a society that make it “civilized,” including law, religion in a doctrinal sense, a political system or type of system, an economic type of system, a capacity for philosophical reflection, language and the capacity to communicate language both in time and through time.  I argue that culture ought to be as broad and diverse as we can make it.  I argue that civilization ought to be narrower.  Now Dr. Wheeler is partly correct that some elements of our civilization have had many diverse contributions.  However I submit that the dominant (until recently) contributions are all characterized as “Western.”  It is not that Western civilization is always inherently better, but that it has shown itself to be more consistent with the Christian worldview than any other civilization.  Moreover, this is not because it was/is Western but it was/is to the extent that it IS more Christian.  Certainly some elements of a civilization can be neutral, but others are not at all.  It is essential that a legal system be as close to Christian as we can make it, and it just so happens that the Western legal tradition is closest (though still far from perfect).  The underpinnings of a great deal of Western civilization are also religious, specifically, Christian, and even though the “makers” of Western civilization and the “Christianity” they espoused were not perfect, they remain closest to what is genuinely Christian.  By contrast, Islamic civilizatiion or Chinsese civilization has historically been much farther removed from the Western civilizational model.  To be sure, Western civilization has itself on occasions oppressed other civilizations, but it would be a fallacy to blame the ideal of Western civilization for the lapses of Westerners.  Finally, I also recognize that Christianity itself is derived from a Middle Eastern milieu, not a European one.  But it was quickly transmitted to Europe where it flourished–again, never perfectly.

Hopefully, this response can clarify my own position and carry on the most interesting and useful conversation.  I do believe Dr. Wheeler and I are in agreement however on the fundmental notion of opening borders as much as is feasible and with eliminating arbitrary and capricious barriers.


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