When there are problems in a society or tribe, it is politically expedient to focus attention on a threatening external enemy. As Shakespeare’s Henry IV advised his son:
- Be it thy course to busy giddy minds
- With foreign quarrels
In a recent Foreign Policy article, Harvard Professor Stephen Walt pointed out,
- When the wolf is at the door, domestic quarrels are put aside in order to deal with the more immediate danger.
Here's an interesting illustration from almost a century ago of the resurging tendency to blame problems on foreigners:
- “Physically, the bodies of recent immigrants are sounder than those of the average American stock,” Harry H. Laughlin, appointed “expert eugenics agent” to the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, noted in 1922 testimony. “But with this sound body we have recently admitted inferior mental and social qualities of a constitutional nature which neither education nor better environment can be expected to raise above, or even to approximate, the average of the American descended from older immigrants.”
- - Eduardo Porter, Can Immigration Hurt the Economy? An Old Prejudice Returns, NYT, FEB. 14, 2017 (A version of this article appeared in print on Feb. 15th (p. B1) with the headline Immigrants Sap Productivity: An Ugly Trope Returns.