Paper Routes and Immigration

I’m not a very deep thinker. Nor am I very worried about immigration. Immigrants make good, hard-working wife material. So, when I heard about our current administration’s immigration policy (“willing worker/willing employer”), I didn’t think it was such a bad idea. It was a little paradigm shift for me when I read Not Our Kind of People in the National Review. Ah! I thought, Now, I get it! (I told you I’m not a deep thinker.) See, protectionist arguments against immigration (“They’re taking our jobs!”) aren’t going to get far with me. “Yeah, so what? That’s the heartless free market for you!” But, an argument against the elitist sentiment (“We’re too good to clean hotel rooms!”) that the the administration relies on to sell its immigration policy makes my blood boil. In America, no one is too good to clean hotel rooms, just as, in theory, everyone, even the president, has to obey the law. As Mark Krikorian writes, “It is precisely [the children of the educated elite] who should work picking tomatoes or making beds, or washing restaurant dishes, or mowing lawns, especially when they’re young, to help them develop some of the personal and civic virtues needed for self-government.” , as an immigrant daughter of a hard-working immigrant family has a much more intuitive grasp of this than I do. My parents did a lot help me understand how important hard work is; by refusing to bail me out, they made sure I understood that nothing was beneath me and, if I had mow yards or bus tables to pay my way, I would. Still, as I said, has a more intuitive grasp of this than I do. So she surprised me when she announced that she was getting an afternoon paper route for our three oldest kids (aged 6-9). A few people made comments about how young our kids were. Even my parents did, till I reminded them that I was delivering a few papers for my older half-brothers by myself at that age. And the kids love it. They earn their own money and, since they can use it to buy things, they have a better grasp of what that money means, how far it will go, what it can do. They have a better understanding of what they are capable of and the beginning of a solid work ethic. The more I think about the rationale that our administration has used to sell its immigration policy (“They’ll only get the jobs that are beneath us Americans”), the more disgusted I am. This is something I’ve forgotten too much: Hard work is inherently ennobling. PostScript: In looking for something to link to on that last sentence I stumbled upon Herbert Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization. It looks as if Marcuse properly anticipated the conflict between our obsession with leisure and happiness on one side and the free market, capitalist society on the other. (I think he was on the wrong side, for what it’s worth.)