Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Being your own boss

Morning meditation:

French blogger at No Pasarán! looks at an immigrant population in France, then at another immigrant population in America...

First, a post quoting a wise faculty member at Princeton, giving advice to new grads.

I couldn't have spent four decades as a humanities professor without gaining fluency in the sclerotic cliches of a soft left rhetoric. But it appears that in France, the mainstream political spectrum actually believes it. The place is positively crawling with time-warped Socialists who still quaintly believe in Marxism.

Though its ostensible motives had to do with employment, the Paris demonstrations were more closely affiliated in spirit to what we recently witnessed in Damascus and Karachi than what we saw in Los Angeles. Theodore Dalrymple has argued in his remarkable essays that Islamic truculence, including that of some highly visible European Muslim youth, is born not of strength and confidence but of fearful disquiet and perceived inferiority, weakness and vulnerability. In general, similar anxieties command the French "Youth Employment" protests.

What we laughingly call the "real world" can be a scary place. But … I have a few words of advice for graduates.… Do something serious, useful, daring and fun. Travel around, and use the foreign language we helped you learn. Invent something. Start a company. Teach something wholesome to somebody who needs it. Revel in your individuality and personal enterprise in a way that satisfies you by helping our needy world. Take some big risks, and fail a few times. Let your attitude be closer to that of an immigrant Mexican yard-worker than of a French bureaucrat. This country doesn't owe you a living, but it affords you unequalled opportunities to make a decent one. Work really hard. Create the wealth of the commonwealth.

Got that?
What we saw in Los Angeles was not the same as what happened in Paris (or Karachi or Damascus). Such comparisons miss a very important point.
The aims and ambitions of Mexican (and other) immigrants to America are different.

A couple of entries in the comment thread drew this rejoinder.

The "Mexicans only work to make the rich richer" and "minimum wage is evil" arguments are total bullshit. I would kindly ask anyone who wants to defend that argument to present their extensive evidence and experience with this bizarre point of view.

My best friend is an immigration lawyer in Chicago and is constantly recounting stories of his experiences with the Mexicans and other Latinos that are his clients. His clients are not only extremely hard workers, they understand the political and economic realties of their situation. They band together in groups of families (from the same town in their home country). They work as many jobs as they can and pool their money to help (legally) bring more family and friends into the country. When they're ready to strike out on their own, they start a landscaping business, or a catering service, or open a diner, or buy a convenience store or a gas station, you name it. Anything to be in control of their own destiny.

They realize that their only way up in America is to stick together and grab economic and political power the old-fashioned way -- by creating value for other people, by starting successful companies and not expecting any handouts from Uncle Sam. The INS teaches them very quickly that the government is not their friend -- the INS can deport people that have already achieved permanent resident status, how nice.

Look -- everyone works for someone else until you're self employed. Statements about "the bosses" are such a joke in America, because it's so easy to become your own boss.

What is the rate of startup creation in France? What does it take to get a new company off the ground in France? Any French entrepreneurs care to tell their story of starting a successful small company, because truly I am curious. Who wants to take the risks of creating jobs when the government takes 60+% of your income and puts hundreds of red-tape roadblocks in your way? Who wants to hire employees when you can never fire them? And do you think starting a company is even remotely possible for any of your North African immigrants? Where are their success stories? It goes on and on...

Think about it.
The observation is right.
Now ask youself: Is this a population that we really want to drive away?
Or do they represent the same kind of ambition and creativity that have animated our country from the beginning of this, history's most audacious experiment in cultural melting?

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