Tag Archives: Immigration

Sentences to Really, Really Ponder: Gregory Clark Edition

There’s been a lot coming out of late. Much to consider. Perhaps no more so than Gregory Clark’s work on social mobility over the past thousand years: 

The American dream is an illusion

“The United States seems to cherish an image of itself as a country of opportunity for all, a country that invites in the world’s tired, its poor, and its huddled masses. But the United States is not exceptional in its rates of social mobility. It can perform no special alchemy on the disadvantaged populations of any society in order to transform their life opportunities. The truth is that the American Dream was always an illusion. Blindly pursuing that dream now will only lead to a future with dire social challenges.”

I’ve learned a lot from Gregory Clark. I learned more by reading Farewell to Alms than I picked up in eight years of high school and college history. 

Here’s my thought: perhaps there are two American dreams.

One dream is that you (the immigrant) can rise to the top of the American social status. 

The second dream is that you (the immigrant) will be much better off economically in America than you would have been in your home country.

Clark may be right that the first dream is an illusion.

But the second dream might very well still be true.

If it is, perhaps immigration will deliver increases in American inequality but also increases in aggregate welfare. 

Or maybe this inequality will tare at the fabric of our institutions and decrease aggregate welfare. 

My instinct is immigration to America is still a net aggregate benefit for humanity. 

I hope I’m right.