We Should Make English The National Language
As any regular reader knows, I’m for nearly-unlimited immigration. Basically as long as you can certify that you’re not a felon in your home country, or have ties to terrorist organizations, I welcome you to come on over and work. But in one area, I go the exact opposite direction of most pro-immigration advocates. I want to see English declared America’s official language.
Now, I say that as someone who doesn’t have a bit of problem with the “Press 1 for English” messages on phone trees. Nor do I have a problem going into Mexican restaurants where the waiters barely understand me. As far as I’m concerned, if a restauranteur chooses to hire people who can’t speak English, he’d better be selling some darn good food. And I’ve found in many Mexican restaurants, the ones where barely anyone English tend to sell the best food. In fact, in order to make myself more able to communicate with people, I’m actually beginning to learn to speak Spanish. It will only make me more valuable to employers. Yet I still advocate for making English our official language.
I don’t see any reason, in a nation which is far overwhelmingly English-speaking, why our government can’t declare that all official government business will be conducted in English. As an example, I did a quick google search on “DMV Languages”, which took me to a site that explained that in the state of Connecticut, they offer written tests in 19 different languages. They offer the test in 32 languages in California.
Now, I fully support the rights of business owners to decide what language they conduct business in. After all, it is their determination how much cost they’re willing to undertake in order to cater to ridiculously small minorities. But when it comes to government, we’re supposedly the business owners. Do I want to use my tax dollars to have a driver’s license test printed in Hmong? There are some points where people should be expected to either learn the language, or provide a translator at their own cost to deal with the government.
The problem is that government isn’t forced into conducting business in multiple languages in order to meet true market demand. They do so when some local representative’s constituents (usually in an ethnic enclave) demand of that representative that they make a change, and the folks in the state legislature have no incentive to oppose the demand. It’s not that they engage in a cost-benefit analysis to see if they’ll be spending tax dollars efficiently, because they don’t have a market to benefit from. One of the downsides of having a government is that it can set certain terms unilaterally, but they refrain from doing so where it will mean efficiency and cost reductions in their processes. Government isn’t exactly good at customer service anyway, so why don’t we at least try to cut the cost?