G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams was the liberal governor of Michigan throughout the 1950s. In 1961, President Kennedy named him Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. It seemed like a good fit for Williams, a longtime civil rights advocate.
Williams generated controversy in his new job by declaring: “What we want for the Africans is what they want for themselves.” The press translated this as: “Africa for the Africans.”
The catchphrase didn’t please the white Africans of South Africa and Rhodesia (as it was then called), nor were the British and the Portuguese amused. But Williams explained that Africans included white Africans, and President Kennedy defended the statement saying:
Africa for the Africans does not seem to me to be an unreasonable statement. I don’t know who else Africa should be for.
Ah, for the days when liberals backed nationalism.
Williams’ original statement is eminently reasonable. In general (and there are exceptions), we should want for the people of a continent or a nation what they want for themselves.
In Hungary, the people have elected a government that wants to address its population shrinkage by providing big financial incentives for Hungarians to have more children. The Trump administration supports this effort. Administration officials attended an event at the Library of Congress hosted by the Embassy of Hungary to show its support. A senior adviser at the Department of Health and Human Services spoke at the event.
The Washington Post isn’t happy. It’s not that the Post wants Hungary’s population to shrink. Rather, it wants Hungary to remedy the problem by admitting immigrants from Africa and the Middle East.
Hungary for the Africans.
Promoting higher birthrates and allowing mass immigration are both legitimate solutions to the problems caused by Hungary’s extremely low birthrate (1.45 total births per woman). And, of course, the two solutions are not mutually exclusive.
But the choice between them is for Hungarians to make. If Hungary favors incentives for having more children, there’s no reason why the U.S. shouldn’t support the decision, and certainly no reason why a “pro-life” administration shouldn’t.
The Obama administration didn’t see it this way. The Post quotes Robert Berschinski, who helped formulate U.S. policy towards Hungary under President Obama. He sniffs that Hungary’s birth plan “is at odds with accepted best practices in other countries.”
Why? Because “it does not encourage women to rejoin the labor force, but keeps them home and pregnant in more of a traditionalist sense through financial incentives.”
But no Hungarian woman is forced to stay “home and pregnant.” Instead, women have a choice.
Berschinski may not like the choice some of them make — to stay at home with children — but many Hungarian women will be pleased with it. Those women it doesn’t suit presumably will usually make a different choice.
The real objection to Hungary pushing for more births is that the left wants Hungary to populate itself with immigrants from African and the Middle East, a point the Post makes through Mary Alice Carter of a group called “Equity Forward.” But considering the disruption, crime, and terrorism experienced by countries that have opted to admit large numbers of immigrants from these areas, Hungarians can be excused for not deeming this “best practice.”
In any event, the decision is Hungary’s to make, just as Germany’s decision to opt for mass immigration is up to the Germans (many of whom, though, seem unhappy with the government’s decision). In the words of “Soapy” Williams, we should want for these nations what they want for themselves.