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Saturday, July 12, 2014

“Migrations And Cultures: A World View”, by Thomas Sowell


528 pages, Basic Books, ISBN-13: 978-0465045891

Distinguished Stanford University economist Thomas Sowell’s Migrations and Cultures: A World View is the most thoughtful, articulate examination of immigration across the globe which I have ever encountered. Sowell traces the immigration histories of six Eurasian peoples: Germans, Japanese, Italians, Chinese, Jews and Indians (from the Indian subcontinent, NOT the Americas). He contends that the relative success of these peoples as migrants owes more to their cultural capital (the set of beliefs and practices taken from their ancestral homelands) than to the economic capital of their new countries. It is a compelling argument which he demonstrates repeatedly, tracing the migration patterns of each of these peoples across the globe; furthermore, it is an argument that is well-reasoned that is fully supported by ample data – noting for example, the degree to which Indian migrants from different parts of India have been able to accrue wealth for themselves and their descendants in far-flung regions such as East Africa, Caribbean islands, and the United States.

Migrations and Cultures: A World View should be widely read in the United States since Sowell’s arguments deserve to be considered seriously in the ongoing debate over illegal immigration and in light of President Obama’s manufactured immigration crises going on right now. Much to his credit, Sowell succeeds in presenting an as objective a view of immigration as is possible, concluding his book with an intriguing observation on the effectiveness of educating foreign-born “sojourners” here in the United States and other Western democracies in the hope that they would return to their home countries with our knowledge, skills and attitudes on economic and political freedom; he contends that the rise of what he regards as managerial and technological capital via multinational corporations has lessened the need for human capital transfers via these sojourners (written just as the internet was rapidly emerging, I suspect that Sowell in an updated edition of this book, might make a more persuasive argument by citing the successful existence of the internet).

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