Michael Medved writes that the idea that Americans have an inherent – even Darwinistic – advantage over other peoples is gaining additional respect in the scientific community as a result of new research. The reason? Immigrants who self-selected themselves have a greater tendency to exhibit risk-taking and inventive skills. Perhaps. But I wonder if we’ve not lost that aspect of ourselves.
According to Peter C. Whybrow of U.C.L.A.:
Compared to the Irish or Germans or Italians or Chinese or Mexicans who remained behind in the “Old Country,” the newcomers to America would naturally display a propensity for risk-taking, for restlessness, for exuberance and self-confidence –traits readily passed down to subsequent generations. Whybrow explained to the New York Times Magazine that immigrants to the United States and their descendents seemed to possess a distinctive makeup of their “dopamine receptor system – the pathway in the brain that figures centrally in boldness and novelty seeking.”
Whybrow isn’t alone.
John D. Gartner of Johns Hopkins University Medical School makes a similar case for an American-specific genotype in “The Hypomanic Edge”—celebrating the frenzied energy of American life that’s impressed every visitor since Tocqueville. The United States also benefited from our tradition of limited government, with only intermittent and ineffective efforts to suppress the competitive, entrepreneurial instincts of the populace.
Medved’s conclusion is that this particular bent toward American ingenuity is in inflict with liberal policies such as expanded welfare programs and federal regulation and that such policies can only fail when brought to battle with our predispositions.
If only that were true. I would suggest that the idea of a ever-present government has been firmly implanted in the minds of a majority of Americans who are now unable to envision life any other way. Personal responsibility and personal choice is out of vogue now, in large part because the "safety net" that leftist policy provides has become so much more than that. It’s a way of live that seems to be overwhelming the individualistic qualities that Americans have historically prized.
PZ Myers disagrees with Medved too, taking issue with Medved’s assertion that descendents of the American slave population may not share the American drive to create that he assigns to voluntary immigrants.
Regarding the slave question, it’s true that they did not self-select their fate. However, slave traders presumedly attempted to select stronger, healthier persons to sell into bondage, perhaps offsetting the self-selection effect.
Myers would probably take issue with that, too. It’s a matter of unproven science for him, which is an admirable perspective, if limited. Not all things must be proven to be true, although it certainly helps an argument. Take, for example, Myer’s first counter to Medved’s argument about self-selection:
Wouldn’t this imply that Moslem immigrants to Europe, with their risk-taking willingness to move to new environments, are their true hope for the future?
Actually, given Muslims’ aggressive socio-theology, their relatively closed, controlling society, and extraordinarily high birth rates relative to their European hosts, the answer is clearly "Yes", barring an unforeseen change in European demographics.