Immigration is currently one of the "hot topics" in the press (see here and here). Co-blogger Pete Boettke and I have a paper, "Institutions, Immigration and Identity," forthcoming in the NYU Journal of Law & Liberty which attempts to address some of the issues associated with immigration and the American identity. Specifically, we focus on addressing some of the issues raised by Samuel Huntington in his book Who Are We?
Here's is the core argument of our paper:
Our core thesis is that Huntington is correct in arguing that the American culture and creed are in fact eroding, but mistaken in asserting that immigration is the mechanism through which we lost the American Creed; rather, the erosion is due to a more fundamental issue, namely the attrition of constitutional rules that provide a relatively higher payoff to engaging in activities that support the American Creed. The result has been an increase in activities that run counter to the creed. Where self-responsibility, the rule of law and productive entrepreneurship once largely characterized America, the country has become increasingly characterized by reliance on welfare and unproductive activities that focus on political transfers and taking from others.
Our main conclusion is that while historical traditions and cultural factors play a significant role in the political and economic development of any country, they should not be overestimated. While immigrants come from a diverse set of backgrounds, the American Creed can in fact be learned. The fundamental problem is not one of immigration or culture, but rather one of establishing institutions that create a relatively higher payoff to activities that recognize and respect the principles of liberty, equality, individualism, representative government and private property.