Diversity and Trust 2

Thomas Sowell wrote in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal,

…the Iraq war has some special lessons for our time, lessons that both the left and the right need to acknowledge, whether of not they will. What is it that has made Iraq so hard to pacify, even after a swift and decisive military victory? In one word: diversity.

…Iraq is only the latest in a long series of catastrophes growing out of diversity. The include “ethnic cleansing” in the Balkans, genocide in Rwanda and the Sudan, the million lives destroyed in intercommunal violence when India became independent on 1947 and the even larger number of Armenians slaughtered by the Turks during the First World War.

Despite much gushing about how one should “celebrate diversity”, America’s great achievement has not been in having diversity but in taming its dangers that have run amok in many other countries.

Diversity has other, less dramatic effects than ethnic cleansing or genocide. One is a loss of trust. Some years ago, in 1997 I believe, Reader’s Digest ran an experiment. They dropped 10 wallets in each of a number of cities around the world, with the equivalent of $50 in each wallet. All 10 wallets were returned intact in only three places; Oslo, Norway; Odense, Denmark; and Moncton, Canada. I don’t know Moncton, but Wikipedia says,

Historically, the population of the city has been racially very homogenous with almost all residents originating from northwest Europe (United Kingdom, France and Ireland). This is slowly changing but it still remains a challenge to attract visible minorities as new immigrants to the city.

The Reader’s Digest experiment was not rigorous, but anecdotal evidence is also evidence. Oslo and Odense are both much more diverse now than they were then, and I don’t think there is any doubt that the level of trust and cooperation in both cities has declined. That is a shame, and the decline has great social and economic costs. If the people who return lost wallets believe that no one else will do so, they will also not do so. To maintain cooperation, the upholding of the belief that all or most people will cooperate is decisive.

After the First and Second World Wars, borders were redrawn and European countries became much less ethnically diverse. That happened for very good reasons. Now that diversity is increasing again, how should we handle it? Very, very carefully.


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