Political Compass #36: First-generation immigrants can never be fully integrated

Many political debates here have included references to The Political Compass, which uses a set of 61 questions to assess one’s political orientation in terms of economic left/right and social libertarianism/authoritarianism (rather like the “Libertarian diamond” popular in the US).

And so, every so often I will begin a thread in which the premise for debate is one of the 61 questions. I will give which answer I chose and provide my justification and reasoning. Others are, of course, invited to do the same including those who wish to “question the question”, as it were.

It would also be useful when posting in these threads to give your own “compass reading” in your first post, by convention giving the Economic value first. My own is
SentientMeat: Economic: -5.12, Social: -7.28, and so by the above convention my co-ordinates are (-5.12, -7.28). Please also indicate which option you ticked. I might suggest what I think is the “weighting” given to the various answers in terms of calculating the final orientation, but seeing for yourself what kind of answers are given by those with a certain score might be more useful than second-guessing the test’s scoring system.

Now, I appreciate that there is often dissent regarding whether the assessment the test provides is valid, notably by US conservative posters, either because it is “left-biased” (??) or because some propositions are clearly slanted, ambiguous or self-contradictory. The site itself provides answers to these and other Frequently Asked Questions, and there is also a separate thread: Does The Political Compass give an accurate reading? [size=2]Read these first and then, if you have an objection to the test in general, please post it there. If your objection is solely to the proposition in hand, post here. If your objection is to other propositions, please wait until I open a thread on them. (And for heaven’s sake, please don’t quote this entire Opening Post when replying like this sufferer of bandwidth diarrhea.)

The above will be pasted in every new thread in order to introduce it properly, and I’ll try to let each one exhaust itself of useful input before starting the next. Without wanting to “hog the idea”, I would be grateful if others could refrain from starting similar threads. To date, the threads are:
Does The Political Compass give an accurate reading?
Political Compass #1: Globalisation, Humanity and OmniCorp.
#2: My country, right or wrong
#3: Pride in one’s country is foolish.
#4: Superior racial qualities.
#5: My enemy’s enemy is my friend.
#6: Justifying illegal military action.
#7: “Info-tainment” is a worrying trend.
#8: Class division vs. international division. (+ SentientMeat’s economic worldview)
#9: Inflation vs. unemployment.
#10: Corporate respect of the environment.
#11: From each according to his ability, to each according to need.
#12: Sad reflections in branded drinking water.
#13: Land should not be bought and sold.
#14: Many personal fortunes contribute nothing to society.
#15: Protectionism is sometimes necessary in trade.
#16: Shareholder profit is a company’s only responsibility.
#17: The rich are too highly taxed.
#18: Better healthcare for those who can pay for it.
#19: Penalising businesses which mislead the public.
#20: The freer the market, the freer the people.
#21: Abortion should be illegal.
#22: All authority must be questioned.
#23: An eye for an eye.
#24: Taxpayers should not prop up theatres or museums.
#25: Schools shouldn’t make attendance compulsory.
#26: Different kinds of people should keep to their own.
#27: Good parents sometimes have to spank their children.
#28: It’s natural for children to keep secrets.
#29: Marijuana should be legalised.
#30: School’s prime function is equipping kids to find jobs.
#31: Seriously disabled people should not reproduce.
#32: Learning discipline is the most important thing.
#33: ‘Savage peoples’ vs. ‘different culture’
#34: Society should not support those who refuse to work.
#35: Keep cheerfully busy when troubled.

Proposition #36: First-generation immigrants can never be fully integrated within their new country.

SentientMeat (-5.12, -7.28) ticks Strongly Disagree.

What does it mean to be “fully integrated within a country”? I would suggest a useful measure of “integration” is the ease with which one can go about everyday life according to that country’s laws. Clearly, language is key to facilitating many aspects of everyday life. When I am in a country where neither English, French nor German is common, I struggle with all but the most basic social interactions, and were I to avoid everyday interactions requiring anything more than sign language, I could not very well say that I had “integrated” particularly fully.

So, after a certain level of fluency in a country’s primary language is attained, what else might hinder “everyday life”?

Discounting outright prejudice and discrimination, I would suggest very little. Any criterion whereby one might be judged to be “not fully integrated” would surely apply to a whole load of that country’s natives? For any custom, pastime, attitude or manifestation of ‘culture’, the first generation immigrant’s distaste or indifference towards it would likely be matched by a whole host of his new compatriots, some of whom may have traced their native ancestry back through the centuries. Yes, feelings of pride or loyalty towards their new country might be rather scarce, but many natives might well think that patriotism is for morons, too. There might be some aspects of their new life of which they disapprove and prefer to eschew, but is there anything so universally participated in or advocated? Not much, say I.

(Of course, all this assumes that the immigrant does not break the law of the new country, a condition which I suggest that one effectively agrees to by the simple act of entering it voluntarily. I believe that lawbreaking would indeed reasonably constitute not being “fully integrated”, but it would be absurd to claim that first generation immigrants can never obey the law.)

So, as long as one learns enough language to get by and leaves the house once in a while, I fail to see how one might be considered not as “fully integrated” into a country as some of its residents who live and die near their great-grandfather’s birthplace. Am I “not fully integrated” to my country of birth, or something?

Disagree. (7.15, -1.15)

Re the question. Surely it depends on wherefrom the immigrants come. I know several first generation Spaniards, Germans and Iranians, one Turk and one Iraqi. All seem to be just as Danish as the average Dane. I’m also self something of an immigrant, though poorly integrated I’ve started to suspect.

I disagree with at lot of your musings SentientMeat, integration entail more that simply learning the basics of the language and being able to pass the day without being arrested.

I appreciate that, but my point was that when I consider whether I myself, a native Briton borne of AFAIK near-exclusively British lineage, am “fully integrated into my country”, I would likely fail quite a few of the criteria. Care to offer some example criteria?

Mangetout (-4.75, -3.38) ticks ‘OMMMMMMMM’

The question, or rather the term ‘fully integrated’ is pretty meaningless unless explicitly defined - we could arbitrarily define ‘integration’ at any level, including (if we wanted to be silly) skin colour, which would make full integration of some groups of immigrants logically impossible. IMO Immigrants should only be expected to comply with that level of integration as is necessary to forestall the incidence of genuine problems.

Also, integration is not a property entirely created by the immigrant; certain elements of integration are created (or withheld) by government and certain elements are bestowed (or withheld by) existing residents. In an intolerant, insular, xenophobic culture, immigrants of any generation can never be integrated; in a tolerant, egalitarian one, it needn’t be such a hard thing.

One of the most curious behaviors I’ve encountered is that of first generation immigrants trying to be “more Roman than the Romans” (that would be in Rome, of course).

Some people think that if your name is José Rodríguez, you were born in Mexico, and you call your born-north-of-Rio-Grande kid Thomas, you’re “betraying your roots”. Some think that if you call him Tomás you’re “not integrating”. Methinks both groups need cold showers.

I think that you’re integrated in the place where you live if that place is what you think of as “home”. According to that definition, there are quite a few areas in my own country where I don’t think I’d ever be able to integrate, as well as places in other countries that felt like “home” after a few days.

The BBC Asian comedy sketch show Goodness Gracious Me had a family that did this (but of course failed spectacularly, which was the funny bit).

It’s been awhile since I took the test
(-4.x, -5.x) Disagree due to the absolute “can never”

Integration seems to at least encompass a generalized ability to work within the social conventions and legal structure of a society. The success of an immigrant’s integration is almost completely dependant on how others within that society perceive the new comer. The ability to adapt to new social customs takes time and effort on the behalf of the immigrant to learn them. That’s the crux of my issue with the question. It’s a matter of time.

A teen arriving to Canada from China could easily be integrated into normal society after say 10 years. Part of that is due to the Canadian view on multi-culturalism; it widens the acceptable behaviors/conventions people are comfortable working within. Place the same child into Lebanon and the length of time to successfully become Lebanese might very well be longer. The chance of the teen’s grandparents becoming fully integrated (or accepted as fully integration) is significantly lower simply due to available time to adapt. They might very well learn the language and know not to steal, kill, or maim but yet remain outsider in the society in which they exist.

Had the question asked “Is it possible for new immigrants to not integrate into society?” I would’ve ticked Agee.

-2.0, -3.28 (or the other way around, It’s been a while)

Another Strongly Disagree on account of “can never”.

However, I have to acknowledge Mangetout’s point, in that “full integration” is a fuzzy concept that each party interprets their own way. Leaving aside those who will latch on to “racial” criteria, there are people, in both nativist and inclusivist camps, and even among the immigrant group who will believe that “full integration” is a fundamental impossibility and that aspiring to that is a waste of time and energy.


Never say never. Wow, two pretty silly P.C. statements in a row.

I guess this is a “trick” question to catch all those folks who think it’s “them damn feriners that’s ruinin’ things around here!”


I’m ignoring the “never” in the statement due to the fact that it is simply an instance of careless wording IMHO. If you literally include the “never” than the statement is impossible to agree with at all.

However, I would agree that the vast majority of people who come to the US from across the globe will not be fully integrated. People will retain the culture, customs and language of where they are from and this will make them different from those born here. This isn’t a bad thing, but IMO it does prevent them from being “fully integrated”.

Like many of the political compass questions, I fail to see how any answer to this question has anything to do with ones political beliefs.

Then how do you explain teen immigrants that to all outward appearance (and really that’s all that matters) seem fully integrated? Obviously they can make the transition.

Respond as you will, Debaser, but if I might politely suggest that we respond to the propositions as they are (if necessary giving a caveat) rather than as we’d like them to be, since this will provide a more accurate view of which kind of scores correlate with which kind of responses. (Otherwise, we could surely ignore the test altogether and simply declare what kind of score we’d like to have!)

As I asked Rune, might I not be fully integrated to my own country? How do you suggest we could tell?

I could imagine an outright racist ticking Strongly Agree here (not, of course, that doing so makes one a racist). Do you not consider there to be a correlation between racism and authoritarianism?

Good point, although the teens in question might have already adopted a lot of the new country’s customs (esp if the new country is the US) before immigrating.

Had the proposition read: “The younger the immigrant, the more likely he or she will fully integrate into the adopted society”, I would have ticked agree (although not strongly agree). That’s just common sense, as younger people generally adapt to new circumstances more easily than us old fogies.

Ultimately it comes down to what the new culture deems acceptable behavior. It’s a bell curve if you want to think of it that way, with the culture’s acceptance of social behavior being the sigma.

Which would be why I would argue that SentientMeat could be considered integrated within his society. The range of acceptable/tolerable behavior and mastery of social convention is reasonably wide in liberal democracies.

Well, except for high school of course.

I politely decline to follow your suggestion. Out of the millions of immigrants to and from every country in the world, surely, there must be one at least that is fully integrated in the first generation. To read the statement like this would mean every reasonable person would have to disagree. If this is the case, then what could possibly be learned from the statement being in the test at all?

This is even more true when we consider that many of the statements from the test are poorly worded and confusing.

Why, by opinion of course! This sort of thing isn’t something that can be classified or measured very accurately. What does it mean to be “integrated” anyways? It’s all simply a matter of the opinion of the test taker.

Wha? I have no idea what a racist would pick. I think racists come from all types of backgrounds. Perhaps you are confusing racism with fascism. Just because many modern day racists are the neo-nazi type who idolize Hitler doesn’t mean there is a correlation between racist beliefs and authoritarianism.

Damn, another post eaten by the hampsters.

This is total friggin horseshit…er, I mean I strongly disagree. My father is a first generation immigrant (as am I technically, though I was a child when we came to the US…my mother is second generation). By any standard I can think of my family has fully integrated. My father served in Vietnam, went to a US college and obtained a degree and owns a company of his own. We have TV’s, electricity and running water, and are all getting fat…hows THAT for integration?? Though I can still speak spanish fairly fluently, my own children have learned what little spanish they know where other children learn it…in school.


Hold on a minute thought; if the choice is truly presented as absolute (as defined by the ‘never’), then how could there be degrees of agreement or disagreement? I would say it is entirely reasonable to treat it as something like:

First-generation immigrants can never be fully integrated within their new country

Strongly agree = They can never be integrated
Agree = They can usually not be integrated
Disagree = They can sometimes be integrated
Strongly Disagree = They can always (or perhaps just often) be integrated.

To find and categorise those people who genuinely believe that it is impossible for immigrants to integrate fully?

Well, OK, but if it is also possible for a native not to be fully integrated, might it be possible that nobody is fully integrated to any country?

Well, I happen to think that most racists don’t idolise Hitler actually, but would you not agree that racist views are more closely related to social restriction than to social liberty?

Speaking as a second generation immigrant, I would have to say Agree. From personal observation, a huge number of traits and ways of thought are set into place by the age of around 10 or so and I’ve only seen this rarely overcome. Its true that many immigrants may seem to all outwardly appearances to be successful and happy in a new culture but I don’t think they really integrate at the very core.

Speaking from a purely statistical point of view, most first generation immigrants DON’T integrate for any reasonable definition of integrate. Nearly all 3rd generation immigrants are usually completely intergrated and 2nd generation typically straddles the divide.

Such as? Was my definition of “able to go about everyday life” unreasonable?