Many thinking Americans wonder why common sense is so uncommon these days. Seemingly intelligent people in reputable positions so often say the most weird and bizarre things. Take, for example, the recent statement by Adam Davidson in The New York Times Magazine. He claimed that “it’s possible that we could absorb as many as 11 million immigrants annually.” To support his view, he cited a 25-year-old study by an economist, which has its share of shortcomings.
If Davidson had bothered to exercise common sense, he might have considered the following questions: Would increasing legal immigration from the current annual level of 1 million to 11 million have any negative effects on our national unity, already strained to the limit by diversity? Could it overburden our now strained infrastructure and place excessive demands on natural resources like water? Maybe he hasn’t noticed, but California and other Western states are in record drought with no end in sight.
And 11 million more people a year won’t take jobs from Americans and depress wages? Instead of heeding rarefied studies, Davidson might want to look at real economies to see if immigration is the economic elixir he claims it is. Certainly a good place to consider is California, the state with the highest percentage and numbers of immigrants. Before mass immigration began in 1965, the state was prosperous and solidly middle class. Today, the prosperity has faded, and the middle class has dwindled. More and more, California is showing a gap between wealthy and poor most typical of the homelands of so many of her immigrants.
Common sense consists of looking at reality and drawing appropriate conclusions. Unfortunately, in our advanced technological society, we can easily ignore the realities of cause and effect. We can turn on the tap and not have to know or care where the water comes from. We can flip a switch with no need to know about the source of electrical power. And we can get our food at the supermarket without knowing a thing about agriculture.
On top of this myopia, our media-saturated world often makes reality hard to perceive, thus enabling us to indulge in fantasies. Typically we Americans like to imagine that we live in a world of no limits, that human nature and nature are completely subject to our whims, and that we can overcome any problem with positive thinking and applied technology. Eleven million immigrants a year? No problem. We can take in 20 million, or even 30 million! “The more the merrier,” as immigration enthusiasts like to say.
Is there any hope for common sense to become more common? Actually there is. It’s what the poet Rudyard Kipling called the “Gods of the Copy Book Headings.” In Kipling’s time, copy book headings were wise sayings that revealed the consequences of living in illusions and folly. Inflicting those consequences were the outraged “Gods” of nature and reality.
As Kipling expressed his view in verse: “When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins / As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn / The Gods of Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!”
The drought in California may soon be an illustration. It is reaching the point where most people will receive painful notice that illusions must yield to the reality of limits. Recently a column in the Los Angeles Times reported that the state has only about a one-year supply of water left in its reservoirs. Shortly thereafter, Gov. Jerry Brown imposed mandatory water restrictions on all residents, businesses and farms in the state. The goal is to reduce consumption by 25 percent.
If the drought continues, one wonders if the governor will finally make the connection between immigration-pushed population growth and the water crisis. Certainly it would not be quite so dire now if an estimated 2.5 million illegal aliens (more than 6 percent of California’s population) weren’t living in the state and consuming water. Brown in recent years has done his best to encourage them to stay, while inviting more to come.
The governor and other Californians may persist in their flight from common sense. But let them beware. The Copy Book Gods are watching – and they’re angry.