A Summer Project to Nourish Your Political Soul

Then do something truly radical: Consider changing your mind, at least partially.

Doing so will remind you that democracy isn’t simply about political force. It also depends on inquiry and open-mindedness. “The spirit of liberty,” as Judge Learned Hand wrote, “is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right.” Imagine what this country would be like now if people hadn’t been willing to change their minds in the past.

Today’s polarization — in which left and right are more cleanly sorted — pushes us to double down on all of our views, even the ones we doubt. Opinions, the psychologist Steven Pinker told me, “have become loyalty badges for one’s tribe.”

In response, I’ve decided to devote part of my summer to thinking through vexing issues. I have steered clear of those where I find the evidence overwhelmingly on one side. I’m not agonizing over whether voter fraud is widespread, climate change is statistical noise or capitalism is dead. If I’m somehow wrong about one of these, I can revisit it later.

In the meantime, I’ve chosen three issues that feel trickier.

Immigration. America is the world’s strongest country thanks in no small part to embracing ambitious, hard-working immigrants. But an anti-immigration backlash just helped elect a president, which calls for some reflection.

It’s possible that the country would benefit from a different policy — one like Canada’s, which admits more people based on skills and fewer based on family ties. That combination could lift economic growth and reduce inequality. It is worth consideration for the political left, center and right.

I recommend the immigration chapter in a new book by the legal scholar Peter Schuck, “One Nation Undecided: Clear Thinking About Five Hard Issues That Divide Us.” I’m also rereading research on the upward mobility of recent immigrants to see if it’s less encouraging than I’d like.

Yes, the immigration debate is stained by racism and lies….

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