The most compelling alternative to ethnic nationalism is what we might call “meritocrat” or “individualist” nationalism. This is a system in which people are allowed to migrate to a country on a meritocratic basis. In other words, whether a person is allowed to come into a country is solely determined by whether they are, in some respect, good enough. In the real world, these meritocratic criteria usually have to do with occupational status, health, and income. In theoretical discussions, the idea of only letting immigrants in who have a certain IQ score is also often brought up.
This proposal has many attractive qualities. The most often cited problems with immigration, welfare abuse, crime, political ideology, etc., could seemingly be avoided by only allowing certain kinds of immigrants in. Why, then, should we care about what ethnic or racial group an immigrant belongs to?
Regression to the mean
The first reason has to do with “regression to the mean”. This term refers to the fact that when parents are exceptional in some trait their offspring tend to be more average (closer to the mean) than they are. This is because exceptionality in traits is normally caused by a mixture of genes and environment and parents can only reliably pass on genes to their children. This phenomenon, known since the 19th century, is well studied and derivable from basic concepts in behavioral genetics.
This has a clear and obvious implication on immigration: the children of immigrants will often not be as exceptional as their parents are. This means that if we, for instance, require that immigrants are at the 85th percentile or higher in terms of both income and IQ that their offspring may end up being well less than the 85th percentile in these same traits. Thus, an elite 1st generation immigrant population may end up creating a less than elite 2nd or 3rd generation immigrant population. (More on this here.)
Another problem with meritocratic immigration is that it does not necessarily offset the problems inherent to ethnic diversity. For instance, research has shown that ethnically diverse groups trust each other less and get along less well with one another. Because of this, diverse communities tend to have lower levels of social cohesion which in turn make people unhappy (2016). The negative impact of ethnic diversity on trust has even been shown in experiments in which the participants were White and Asian Harvard students, meaning that this problem persits even when everyone involved is extremely elite (Glaeser et al., 2000).
The distrust and lack of social cohesion that ethnic diversity brings also causes people to clamor for bigger government and damages networking. This is why ethnic diversity predicts lowered economic growth, bigger government, and more corruption, even after controlling for a host of other variables (Alesina et al., 2002).
Diversity also has a negative impact on children. While there are many successful mixed race individuals, the data clearly shows that being of mixed racial ancestry is a risk factor for a variety of negative outcomes.
For instance, Udry et al. (2003) looked at kids from 80 schools between grades 7 and 12 and found that biracial kids were more likely than monoracial blacks, whites, and Asians, to smoke, drink, consider suicide, be in poor physical health, skip school, and be suspended. It also found that, compared to Asians and Whites, but not Blacks, they were more likely to have sex and repeat grades. These negative outcomes were found among mixed race children that were black/white, Asian/white, and Asian/black.
That the children were more at risk for many negative outcomes than monoracial children of any group is important because it suggests that mixed race individuals are at a greater risk than would be predicted by the individual traits of their parents. Thus, mixed race children of elite immigrants may have, on average, worse life outcomes than both the elite immigrant group as well as a nation’s native population.
Yet another impact of diversity concerns democratic politics. Minority groups tend to group together and vote monolithically relative to the countries natives. We see this in the United States, where Hispanics, Asians, and Blacks, all tend to vote democrat, and to favor government policies such as economic interventionism and hate speech laws which disproportionately harm White Americans and benefit minorities.
This allows democrats to win elections simply by altering the ethnic composition of the nation via lax immigration laws. In fact, in modern America democrats virtually never win the White vote nationally and, instead, rely on minorities to win elections.
Of course, the meritocratic nationalist can respond by saying that we can screen immigrants based on their political views, but, sadly, this isn’t enough. In the United States, minorities who self-identify as conservative, who favor smaller government, and are socially conservative, still vote democrat (Last, 2016c). In politics, for minorities, ethnicity trumps policy. Thus, screening people based on policy preferences will not stop them from voting against the majority.
The West Factor
So far, the problems I’ve discussed with meritocratic nationalism apply to all nations equally, but there is also a problem which applies only to the West. As detailed elsewhere, quantitative analyses have shown that the vast majority of scientific innovation in human history has come from Western nations, and Western nations have usually been the richest nations on the planet. In short, Western nations have been the most successful ones.
Unfortunately, we don’t know exactly why. The West does not score as high as East Asian nations on measures of general intelligence, nor did it start civilization as early. The West does score more highly on measures of individualism, and this in turn correlates with national wealth and innovation, but this is unlikely to explain all of the West’s relative success (2016).
This poses a problem for meritocratic nationalism: if we allow non-Westerner’s to immigrate into Western nations at a high enough rate such that they cause the West to, at least partially, assimilate to their culture rather than the other way around, the West may lose whatever features have caused it to achieve what it has, and this, in turn, would threaten the future progress of humanity as a whole. We cannot avoid this by screening immigrants because, frankly, we wouldn’t really know what to screen them for. We would, for instance, not know how to screen out those high achieving Japanese individuals who would make the west too much like Japan, which is a fine country but which has contributed very little to global progress relative to the West. As of now, the only way we know of to maintain the essence of Western civilization is by keeping its population Western.
Of course, the West is not the only culture with institutions which its inhabitants whish to preserve. Other cultures may not have achieved as much in science or the economy, but it may still have traditions which its natives wish to keep simply because they feel like home. Such traditions can involve how people dress, the way they talk, what they eat, what music they listen to, people’s mannerisms, what they do for work and for how long they do it, what kind of god they believe in, etc.
New cultures can be fun to explore, but after a while most people long for the society they grew up in. There is nothing shameful in that. Being surrounded by foreign customs and foreign people can feel alienating. In fact, polls show that most Americans today say that they feel alienated from society, and one-third of Germans say that they feel like strangers in their own country specifically due to Islamic immigrants (Culberston, 2016; A.E, 2016).
In conclusion, there are several good reasons to think meritocratic, or individualist, based immigration policies will lead to less than desirable outcomes. These policies typically screen participants in a way that ignores the effect that their offspring will have on the future population given that they will regress towards averageness. They also ignore the problems that ethnic diversity has been shown to cause with respect to social cohesion, the economy, families, and politics, as well as the natural human desire to live in a society which feels familiar. These individualist policies are especially irresponsible when applied to the west which has a set of cultural traditions and population characteristics which have allowed it to achieve so much for humanity. Counter intuitive as it may seem, filling a society with individuals who, in isolation, are all top notch may lead to a less than top notch society.
However, ethnically informed immigration policies can still be meritocratic. When a White nation chooses which immigrants to accept from other White countries, it should choose immigrants which will benefit the native country.
Further more, a small number of non-Whites can be allowed in a White nation without causing the aforementioned problems. At some level of eliteness, the net benefits of immigrants will outweigh the costs of diversity, and their children will still be far above average even after regressing towards the mean. Moreover, a small number of minorities in a nation comprised of Whites who will self-consciously defend their own interests will not threaten the character of a nation’s culture or institutions. Historically, many nations, such as the United States and New Zealand, had significant minority populations while maintaining an explicitly White (or Anglo) culture which immigrants were made to assimilate into (to the degree that they could) and immigration policies aimed at ensuring that White nations kept their White supermajority.
Thus, the ethnic and meritocratic nationalists can meet each other half way. White nations can allow the immigration of a significant number of elite Europeans and a much smaller number of extremely elite non-Europeans while still maintaining a low level of national ethnic diversity. Such immigration policies can easily satisfy a nation’s need for high quality people, it isn’t as if there is a lack of high IQ, high income, people in Europe, while also satisfying the ethnic nationalists need for a sense of racial and cultural homogeneity.