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Coming to America


Imagine you are an U.S. immigration officer handing out green card to American citizens. Two applicants are before you. One of them is almost identical. You can only approve one applicant because of some obscure bureaucratic reason. They’re both well-educated by American standards, both bringing identical families, both passed their background checks.

Their nation of origin is what makes them different. The one is from a country with strong traditions of rule of law and free markets. The other comes from a country that is dominated by kleptocracy and autocracy as well as socialism. The difference refers to the culture of the country from which the two would-be immigrants are coming. It is important to ask: Is this really relevant?

The argument that the basic idea of Culture TransplantGarett J. Jones’s new book, “Yes,” is that, at least in aggregate, this answer is “yes.” It may not matter what the marginal immigrant is, it must be said. Jones demonstrates, though, through an engaging tour of academic literature, how people bring their national character when they migrate; these values persist for many generations; and…

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