The National Questionrnby Peter BrimelowrnPeter Brimelow was supposed to deliver the keynoternaddress at the John Randolph Club conference inrnChicago last December, but he was marooned in NewrnYork by weather conditions. What follows is an extractrnfrom his prepared remarks.rnIbelieve the central issue in American politics at the endrnof the century is what might be described as “The NationalrnQuestion”—whether America is that interlacing of ethnicityrnand culture we call a nation and whether the Americanrnnation-state, the political expression of that nation, is going tornsurvive. It’s a problem that’s difficult even to discuss becausernof a pecuHar semantic accident. American editors arernconvinced that readers will confuse the word “state,” usedrnin the rest of the English-speaking world to mean a sovereignrnpolitical entity, as in the French etat or the German staat,rnwith the component parts of the United States, like Californiarnor Illinois. So they make writers here use “nation” instead.rnAnd this has undermined people’s defenses against a heresyrnthat has recently raised its head: that America is in essence arnpurely political construct, with no specific ethnic or culturalrncontent at all.rnThus you used to hear American journalists refer to “thernnation of Yugoslavia,” although the problem with Yugoslaviarnwas clearly that it was not a nation but rather a state containingrnseveral small but notoriously sturdy nations. Anyonernwho confuses basic terms in this way must inevitably also getrnconfused about what a nation-state is, what its function is,rnPeter Brimelow is a senior editor of Forbes magazine.rnand what it requires in order to survive.rnI’m going to illustrate with three recent newspaper clippings.rnThe first is an editorial from the New York Times (Decemberrn9, 1992) dealing with the disturbances in Germanyrncaused by the collapse of its borders and the subsequent immigrantrninflux, which reached the astonishing rate of 60,000rna month. “Nobody,” the Times editorialists wrote, “can reasonablyrnfault Germany for trying to limit and regulate a hugerninflux of refugees.” This means they do want to fault Germanyrnfor trying to limit and regulate a huge influx of refugees.rnThe Times went on:rnBut Chancellor Helmut Kohl and the Bonn politicalrnestablishment have regrettably taken the easy way out.rnThey would do better to set a quota on immigrantsrnand nurture a more pluralist society by adopting a formularnfor citizenship based on residence rather thanrnblood ties. . . .rnEqually distressing is Bonn’s failure to revise an outdatedrnnaturalization law rooted in ethnicity. Underrnthe existing system, a Turkish guest worker who hasrnlived in Germany for 30 years and speaks German fluentlyrnis denied the citizenship automatically granted arnRussian-speaking immigrant who can prove Germanrnancestry.rnWhat we have here is a total absence of any understanding ofrnthe nation as a family, to which outsiders may indeed be admitted,rnbut only under very special circumstances and withrngreat care.rnThere is also the curious assumption that “naturalizationrnJUNE 1993/19rnrnrn