The Newton Enigma. A Novel by Linton Herbert

Chapter 11 b


While Hapgood and Jon were having a lunch of crepes at a restaurant in the stylish Georgetown section of Washington, miles away in Baltimore Aden Kamali waiting to see his dean at Johns Hopkins.  Dean Braddock was not happy looking forward to the interview.  Kamali was unquestionably brilliant, and his reputation was above reproach.  But his visa was in trouble.  It was the kind of thing that could usually be negotiated, but in the past few days the Inland Security people had been intransigent. 


It was hard enough to attract good graduate students under any circumstances.  But now with half the world turning hostile toward America, it had become worse.  While some countries had virtually ceased sending promising students, others had increased.  The shortfall had been almost completely made up.


Too completely.  When half of a supply source drops off and the numbers remain constant, there are three possible reasons.  One possibility would be that the random fluctuations in the market simply damped out the effect, making it invisible.  That was not credible with such a large segment of the world disaffected.  The second possibility was that the supply was wonderfully elastic, that the slightest increase in demand ushered in a flood of thoroughly capable people.  Bradford was in a position to know that this was not the case. 


The third and true possibility was that the demand was very inelastic.  Those graduate students were absolutely needed.  That meant the status was brittle.  American graduate students were simply incapable of producing the numbers and skills to keep the system rolling. 


Braddock touched an intercom button and summoned the young man.


"Sit down, Mr. Kamali.  You know how things change.  Well they've changed again."


Aden thought that this obviously was going to be bad news.


"We're going to have to let you go."


"Why, Dean Braddock?"


"It's your visa.  It really is a minor problem, but Inland Security is not letting us breathe.  I've handled twenty cases like this in the past, but since the skyscraper attack …” 


“What has the skyscraper attack got to do with it?”


“They are beefing up security because the Purity of Islam has claimed responsibility.” 


“But, Sir, there is no such group.”


“Do you know something I don’t know?”


“No.  Yes.  Look, there’s this thing called the Arab Street.  I suppose it means we all stand around on the street talking about things because we don’t know how to walk inside.  Anyway, it’s quite true that there is a public opinion that tends to be fairly unanimous.  And there’s a lot of information that everybody shares.


“I don’t know much about the Arab Street, myself, but everything I ever knew about it points to one thing.  If the Arab Street knows about it, the papers know about it.  And if the papers say they haven’t heard of it, then it doesn’t exist.  And from what I read, the papers say they haven’t heard of it.”


“Well, I believe you.  For all I know Inland Security believes you.  But for now, they’d deport every Arab in the country if they had the chance.  I hope and pray they do not.  You aren’t the only able graduate student we’d lose.


“Your visa is being revoked.  You are in no trouble with the university, and I will put in your record that you left because of reasons totally out of your control or ability to predict.  If you ever get a chance to come back, and if you want to, I’ll do everything in my power to fix this.  But right now, it is out of my hands.  I can ask for visas.  I can fill in paper work.  But I can’t actually give you a visa.


“I’m sorry.”


“It’s not your fault,” said Aden and made his way out.


When he reached the hall he took out his cell phone and pressed a number.  “Run down town, Gamal, and buy a couple of trunks.  We’re going to need to pack tonight.”


Within an hour, while Hapgood and Jon were making their way to the census bureau, Gamal was out shopping.  In the old industrial heart of the city near Washington Square he had found a place that carried trunks.  Parking was a different matter.  He put the car away about two blocks away and started afoot.  He entered an alley.  Three young punks entered behind him, following him slowly.  They kept their place until they saw another punk appear at the other end of the alley.  They broke into a run, and one of them shouted, “Hey, stop!”


Gamal glanced back curiously and almost immediately found himself surrounded and backed against a wall.


“Well, Ayrab, what cha think you’re doing here?  Gonna do some terrorism, eh?”


Gamal began to protest, but it did no good.  The punks were not looking for the truth.  They weren’t even looking for Arabs.  They just wanted to beat somebody up.


“Listen to him whine,” said one of the punks.


“Listen to this,” said another and slugged Gamal in the stomach.  Gamal put up such resistance as he could, but after being blindsided by a few more punches he sank to his knees.  One of the punks picked up a rock and held it over Gamal. 


At this moment there was a roar as a Grand National entered the alley and sped toward them.  It stopped and three figures got out.  The biggest one said, “You people have a problem?”


“La dee dah,” said one of the punks.  “Looks like a white girl and her boyfriends.”  The one with the rock hurled it at the big one.


Ivan caught the rock with one hand, and his eyes narrowed with the cold savagery of the Asian steppes.  He wasn’t mad.  He wasn’t in a hurry.  He was just about to kill somebody very soon.


The punks sensed the change in the balance of the fight and ran like cowards.  Ivan lifted the rock up beside his right ear, but then something in his nature compelled him to lower it again.  They knelt beside Gamal.


“We saw them ducking into the alley and wondered what it was,” said Tracy. 


“Thank you.  I’m all right,” said Gamal.


“You look kind of winded,” said James.  “Maybe we can give you a lift.”


“Yes.  Yes.  To the luggage store.  I’ll be all right there.”


They helped him into the car.


Hapgood and Jon entered the census bureau and found their appointment.  Charles Moore, met them in his office.  He observed, “Well you certainly seem to have impressive friends.”


“Glad you could speak with us, Mr. Moore,” said Jon.  “We are looking at something that relates to the birth rate in the West.”


“American West or Western Civilization?”


“Western Civilization.”


“Well, in the United States it’s up and its down.  The total number of births per woman is about what it was some twenty five years ago, actually up a little.  On the other hand, the number of childless women is half again what it was, and that’s a lot.”


“What do you make of that?”


“It’s the immigrants.  The babies we do have, more than a normal proportion that is, are children of first generation immigrants.  So our birth rate is just about right for stability.  It’s just that a smaller proportion of women are having the children.”


“Poor people.”


“Yes, poor.  And of course that means they can’t offer the advantages of a middle class home.  But it isn’t so grim.  Immigrants are poor now, but in a generation or two they’ll be assimilated and rich and those children will be productive as anybody.”


“And have a low birth rate,” said Jon.


“Yes, of course.  That goes with wealth and urbanization.  The fertility of immigrants drops rather quickly.  But there are plenty available.  It’s just a matter of selling it to the American people.  We have the makings of a serious immigration backlash of there.  That would be bad.  It would put us in the same boat as Europe.  The West, as you say, has a low birth rate, but in America our policies have spared us.”


Hapgood spoke up.  “What we are curious about is when ethnic groups combine, does their fertility drop.”


“Yes indeed.  But that’s wealth and urbanization.  It’s not as if fertility drops because of mixing ethnic groups.  It’s a matter of when they combine, not if they combine.”


“Do you have numbers that would support that, for instance ethnic groups that have combined for several generations and maintained their birth rates?” Hapgood asked


“No.  I can’t say we do.  But nobody doubts what’s going on.  You can collect data on ethnic groups and watch them intermarry with others, you can watch their incomes rise and you can watch their fertility fall.  But all you get a picture of is the whole group maturing as Americans.”


“So you can’t put together a sample of a few thousand people, half of which have done just as you say, entered the urban mix and become rich and childless, and the other half has stayed home, married the girl next door and become just as rich and just as childless.”


“No, we don’t track people that way.  What you are asking for is for us to identify everyone in the country from one census to the next.  We can trace names, but we can’t really trace individuals that way.  Almost, but not quite.  Give us your name, and we’ll try to run you down on the previous censuses, but that’s your own business.  We’d never release that to anyone else.  Neither would we tell you the life history of anybody else.”


“But you could do it, then.  You could figure out for some group whether there was a relationship between mixing ethnic groups and falling fertility,” Hapgood suggested


“Well, no we couldn’t because we know what causes the falling fertility.  And we can’t let you do it because we can’t give you other people’s confidential material. 


“But it wouldn’t do any good anyway.  Suppose you did it.  You got your sample, compared people who came from the same place and after a few years had the same incomes, and divide them between mixed and unmixed.  And suppose, and I don’t know if you’d find it or not, but just what if you found a difference.  It would tell you nothing.”


“It sounds like it would tell you a lot,” said Jon.


“No, people looking at it would just say, ‘Those people who like tradition married close to home and had big families.  Those who preferred to be modern did just the opposite.  Conclusion is no conclusion.”


Jon rubbed is head.  “So we’re like this big whirlpool, this big tar pit.  We bring them in, they die out, and we bring more in.”


Moore smiled.  “Before you conclude that, talk to the mammoths.  Immigrants aren’t trying to get out.  They are free to go like any Americans.  And we need them.  Civilizations have always recruited.  We’re no different.  At the present rate, it won’t be more than a few decades when there are a billion Americans.  Think of that.  Think of the kind of influence we’ll have in the world.  There will be more people, but the world will probably never double in population again.  We’re going up four fold.”


“By ‘we’ you mean ...,” Hapgood prompted. 


“I mean America.  Our principles.  Our way of life.  Sure, it won’t actually be our children, but that’s what the American people are choosing.  They can have children if they want.  And if what we are doing continues, those children will be citizens of a country that has more relative power than we do even now.”


Hapgood and Jon made their way out. 


“Another bureaucrat reduced to tears,” said Jon ironically. 


“I hope we didn’t give him nightmares,” Hapgood rejoined. 


There have been 2,085 visitors so far.


Home page.