Letters

Spring 2004
A Criminal Immigrant Policy

To the editor:
Many thanks to Heather Mac Donald for putting the spotlight on the dirty little secret of illegal immigration—the crime wave that illegals bring with them [“The Illegal-Alien Crime Wave,” Winter 2004]. Her analysis is especially important as our government considers sweeping immigration reform.

My hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania, has become a haven for illegal immigrants and continues to appear on a list of the 25 most dangerous cities in the nation. In my local newspaper’s police blotter, over 80 percent of all crimes in which the perpetrator is identified are committed by individuals with Hispanic names. One must assume that a significant portion of these are illegal aliens.

Have we forgotten that several of the September 11 hijackers went to illegal aliens to learn how to obtain driver’s licenses?

Michael Cain
Via e-mail

To the editor:
Many California police agencies are in violation of section 834(B) of the California Penal Code, which requires them to cooperate with immigration authorities. Localities do not have the authority to opt out of the law’s requirements. I’m a frustrated retired police officer who is considering moving out of my native California—or is it Mexifornia?

Don James
Via e-mail

To the editor:
In 1996, Chris Bell was elected to the Houston City Council, and among his first initiatives was an effort to make Houston illegal-friendly. Though he failed at the time, subsequent city hall policy has been: “hands off illegals.” The city’s taxpayers maintain at least three commodious day-labor sites where illegals can congregate, and the police department is barred from inquiring into immigration status and from detaining those without appropriate documentation.

Chris Bell went on to Congress, but redistricting left him in a majority African-American district, and now he’s gone. Houston has a new mayor and police chief, and we’ll be looking for a change.

Larry Lane
Houston, TX

To the editor:
I have asked my neighbors, both parole officers, about crime committed by illegals. The ACLU prevents them from tracking that information.

In our San Diego suburb, two middle-school girls were attacked and molested on the way home from school by Hispanic males—one wielding a knife. You don’t see this in the newspapers, so parents don’t even have the information to get outraged.

Gloria Wolf
Via e-mail

To the editor:
Here in southern Arizona, I have personally observed illegal aliens driving around town completely unsupervised in officially marked U.S. Border Patrol SUVs. I have also observed convicted felons on parole driving Arizona Highway Patrol squad cars—again, wholly unsupervised.

How can this be? you might ask. Hint: the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence—the official certifying agency for U.S. auto mechanics—admits that there are more “Hispanic” mechanics than all other races combined.

Wayne C. Harriman
Via e-mail

To the editor:
Can I sue the various levels of government that have failed to protect me from illegals taking all the jobs in my area? I am a painting contractor, and over 80 percent of the work in my field is now being done by Mexicans. My career has been shot out from under me by the government’s failure to enforce its own laws.

Gary Arrington
Via e-mail

Identifiably European

To the editor:
In “Why History Has No End” [Autumn 2003], Victor Davis Hanson demonstrates significant insight into the issues and a convincing political realism. Nevertheless, he sometimes paints with too broad a brush.

I myself am a European immigrant to the U.S., a Hungarian from Rumania who came here at age 12 with an ethnic and a national identity that I still maintain—despite having acquired an American one as well. I also have a strong sense of European identity, as I know many on the Continent do. Yet Hanson dismisses this reality in a single sentence: “[F]or most people being a European could never be as meaningful, have such rich cultural and historical resonance, as being a Frenchman or a German.”

I beg to disagree. As a Central/Eastern European who also lived as a refugee in Austria for two years, I identify with the broad Western tradition. I think that two millennia of mostly shared history contribute more powerfully to modern European identity than post–World War II politics. I lived under communism, completely isolated from the notion of an EU—which seemed a good and reasonable idea from the first time I learned about it in college, here in the U.S.—and yet I felt European as a natural result of my education and upbringing.

So am I just another mad utopian, or a natural European?

Overall, I thank Hanson for a very enlightening article.

Emil Bogdan
Via e-mail

To the editor:
Hanson offers a wonderful analysis of the general European mindset. At first, I was a little offended: I am a European, from Finland. Nevertheless, Hanson’s analysis of Europe has merit. His realism guided him to the right conclusions. But what happens to that realism when he thinks of his own great nation?

First, Hanson should note that, when speaking of international politics, words like “good” and “evil” don’t have any meaning. Second, he should remember that in his democracy par excellence, only half the population bothers to vote. About Israel and Palestine, he should read some Noam Chomsky—who has a point, when he is not speaking about economics. Last, when Hanson notes that the U.S. doesn’t believe in utopias, he should recall the “drug-free society” that your “War on Drugs” is supposedly building.

These criticisms aside, his article was entertaining and insightful.

Jari Mustonen
Via e-mail

To the editor:
This article is absolutely brilliant! Victor Davis Hanson is a national treasure.

Angelo Mannino
Via e-mail

Victor Davis Hanson responds:
I thank Angelo Mannino and Emil Bogdan for their kind words. Yet I think in his reference to and appreciation for a rich literary and cultural European tradition, Mr. Bogdan really means our shared Western heritage rather than any meaningful political allegiance to the new and murky idea of the European Union.

I am sorry that I could not take Jari Mustonen’s comments all that seriously—once he evoked the disingenuous and now discredited Noam Chomsky as someone relevant to discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Pace Mr. Mustonen, good and evil mean a great deal in international affairs—at least for Americans, who have always thought a Hitler to be different from a Churchill, Mao’s China unlike Taiwan, and North dissimilar from South Korea. These contrasts are not mere “differences,” but the manifestations of evil versus good discernible to anyone who can dismiss the now-popular canard that “power” alone adjudicates morality in international relations.

The regrettable laxity of some Western citizens in not taking full advantage of their own participatory government is a far cry from the coercion and tyranny of a totalitarian society. Count the corpses.

Finally, all free societies engage in idealistic rhetoric, but a simple comparison between the American and proposed European Union constitutions elicits my concern about the desire of continental elites to acquire enough power to change the nature of man for the good—a desire that has been the prerequisite for almost every pernicious -ism and -ology of the twentieth century.

A Quantum Leap for Iraq?

To the editor:
As George F. Will points out [“Can We Make Iraq Democratic?” Winter 2004], the Iraqis lack a Washington, a Madison, and a Marshall. And the Iraqis will be operating on a timetable shorter than that required by the U.S. However, they are not traveling an untrod path.

It took thousands of years and some of humanity’s most brilliant minds to develop classical physics and pass it on to subsequent generations, who would improve on that work. Now, in a single year, a mediocre physicist can teach a fair amount of that physics to university students.

Ilan Levine
Indiana University–South Bend

To the editor:
“Can We Make Iraq Democratic?” may be the most brilliant article I have ever read. On the topic of nationalism versus internationalism, George Will is on the side of the angels.

Allen K. Stewart
Via e-mail

The Truly Creative Urban Economy

To the editor:
I moved to Las Vegas two years ago from the “hip” Boston area. We have little culture, no ballet, no hiking trails, and no bike lanes.

But we also have no income tax. We have a booming housing market, 4.5 percent unemployment, and well-paying jobs aplenty. That is why 5,000 people move here each month, most of them from the “trendy” Bay Area, and why the wait at the DMV to exchange out-of-state plates takes over three hours, six days a week. And as I write, while it is five degrees in Boston, it is in the sunny mid-60s here.

If I lived in New York or San Francisco, instead of owning a new 2,300-square-foot house with a pool, I would be living in a one-bedroom apartment in a 40-year-old building and paying more in rent than my current mortgage payment. It would be nice to have more cultural amenities here, but should I choose high taxes and high rent just so I can go hear live music every now and then? I don’t think so.

Mr. Florida is entitled to his opinion, but thousands of new Las Vegans are voting with their feet that his theories are pure bunk.

Ed Dordea
Las Vegas, NV

To the editor:
Richard Florida’s book is valuable in that it recognizes the arts as an economic development engine, supplying jobs, holding real estate, and circulating money through a city’s economy. In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, the arts supply 3,700 jobs and bring in or recirculate $1.3 billion annually. Malanga should not discount out of hand what he calls “arts amenities.”

James Harris
Via e-mail

To the editor:
Some communities have gone too far in swallowing Richard Florida’s entire message. But his fundamental premise is solid: create a place that will attract people and businesses who care deeply about the quality of life. That’s why Richmond’s business community endorses the construction of a new performing-arts center. Many restaurants supported a small meal-tax increase, and the hotel/motel association endorsed a hotel-tax hike. It’s not accurate to suggest that local business communities are not in favor of these things.

Brad Armstrong
Virginia Performing Arts Foundation

To the editor:
Some of what “The Curse of the Creative Class” [Winter 2004] says about Richard Florida’s ideas is valid, but to write that the economics is “plain wrong” seems a bit much. “Creative” cities might lag on job growth, but not on wages. Not all jobs are created equal, and many of the things that our economy values most are the things that New York, Boston, and San Francisco do best.

Those cities have slow job and population growth because they are crowded and thus expensive. Many growing businesses can’t afford to pay the wages that workers in “creative” places earn.

This is certainly a flaw with implementing the creative-class idea everywhere: it seems a stretch to think that Winnipeg will compete for workers with a lot of choices on where to locate. But that does not mean that cities where “creatives” now congregate should discontinue the policies that have led to their leadership position in wages and wage growth.

Rich Kleinman
Via e-mail

Steven Malanga responds:
I agree with Mr. Harris that a thriving arts scene is wonderful. But jobs in the arts don’t amount to economic development if they’re bought and paid for with public dollars, because the taxes required to fund arts subsidies wind up killing far more jobs than the subsidies create. I suspect that, despite Mr. Armstrong’s self-interested optimism, Richmond’s business community will soon learn this lesson.

Mr. Kleinman’s contention that cities like New York, Boston, and San Francisco have slow job and population growth because “they are crowded and thus expensive” is a common misconception—one that has lingered for years, despite the fact that Jane Jacobs demolished it in The Economy of Cities over 30 years ago. Size for cities is relative. Geography alone does not explain why New York’s population grew to 8 million, while Boston’s has largely peaked at 585,000, and San Francisco’s at 775,000.

Population and employment peaks have more to do with the efforts of the cities themselves—both intentional and unintentional—to limit growth through zoning, high taxes, and other policies that make them more expensive—though not necessarily crowded.

These policies don’t merely limit growth; they limit economic efficiency. New York City, for instance, which began instituting its most damaging economic and tax policies starting in the late 1950s (when the city boasted a population equal to that of today), has a labor force–participation rate that typically runs 6 or 7 percent below the national average—and that is currently about ten points lower. That means that even with its current population, New York City’s economy should be supporting hundreds of thousands more jobs that simply don’t exist now.

Under Richard Florida’s “creative” regime, cities produce jobs only along narrow income bands: high-end jobs that can be supported in places where it is expensive to do business, and the low-wage jobs necessary to provide services to those at the high end. What is missing from this equation is the rest of the job market: the solid middle. That’s why, as my article shows, these “creative cities” wind up producing jobs at a pace that lags the national average. Their economic model, with big wage gains along narrow bands of jobs, is not a recipe for increased economic opportunity.

The rising tide that lifts all boats does more for arts patronage and urban quality of life than the most well-intentioned government-sponsored redevelopment plan—which is why Mr. Dordea can expect cultural amenities to proliferate over time in low-tax Las Vegas.

From Left Field

To the editor:
Your publication is great. I live in a crazy-left area and really appreciate what your writers have to say. The quality of the writing is excellent.

Susan Sherman
Via e-mail