Monday, August 08, 2005

A healthier multiculturalism.

In one of my undergrad philosophy classes, I had to write a paper about whether the concept of toleration was self-contradictory because it would lead one to tolerate the intolerant. I looked at two views of toleration and concluded that neither was self-contradictory. First, you have the straightforward relativist who doesn't think any culture is better than any other. For such a person, it wouldn't be a contradiction to tolerate the intolerant, since the intolerant wouldn't be any worse than the tolerant. Second, you have something like Mill's defense of toleration, which is based on some sort of higher value (in his case, utility). That sort of toleration doesn't have to contradict itself because it can simply exclude anything that harms the larger value; so you might think that allowing the KKK to march is conducive to utility, but allowing it to act on its beliefs is not.

For too long, European liberals have endorsed a multiculturalism that reminds me of that first kind of toleration -- a multiculturalism that tried to accommodate every culture without making judgments. This was, as Johann Hari notes, partly in reaction to ugly nativist sentiments from the right. But at the same time, as he also notes, it "force[d] multiculturalists into alliance with the most conservative and unpleasant parts of immigrant communities".

Recent trends and events in Europe (from the general difficulties with assimilating the immigrants to the recent terrorist attacks in London) are forcing even the leftists to get over their disdain for any attempt to rein in multiculturalism. People are realizing that multiculturalism is not our highest value; it is one of the values that serves our greater goal of creating a safe, prosperous, free society.

(Link via Michael Totten; the guestbloggers are doing well by Instapundit once more.)

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