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Migrant Labors

Nick Gillespie's article ("Beyond the Family Way," June), suggested a change in immigration preferences from family members of current residents to foreigners with money, skills, or both. The key point he missed, however, is that the "immigration problem" is only a problem in a welfare state.

As demand for welfare benefits increases, the state's costs soar. Most taxpayers view immigrants as net tax consumers, and thus want to keep them out. Mr. Gillespie's visa auction plan seeks only to improve the chances that legal immigrants will pay more than they receive from the welfare state. Regrettably, his plan implicitly accepts the faulty premise that individual immigrants cause the high cost of the welfare state.

Richard W. Stevens
Lorton, VA

Mr. Gillespie suggests immigration policies that may be considered improvements over our present ones. However, it is my understanding that for a small sum, it is possible for anyone knowing the right people to obtain a Social Security card. For a larger sum, it is possible to obtain a valid birth certificate that may then be used to obtain a passport which can be sent anywhere in the world, allowing the recipient to enter this country "legally."

It is worth noting as well that children born of illegal immigrants in the United States automatically become U.S. citizens. And, regarding the U.S.-Mexican border, even if a wall were built, anyone could simply come by boat and land almost anywhere on the coast. Doesn't all this make any immigration policy a farce?

Mary R. Hoover
Houston, TX

The hands of government and lobbyist were clearly visible to me in 1978 when I made it through the Immigration and Naturalization Service maze and emigrated from the United Kingdom—even before discovering REASON. INS publications made it plain that the U.S. government permitted some to enter, but not others: Specifically, "it has been determined that there is no need" for people with skills on a long list of menial jobs (presumably, ones not well-unionized).

The huge flow of immigrants in the 19th century, which generated almost all U.S. prosperity, came not so much because of a favorable immigration policy, but because of the absence of an immigration policy. It was just taken for granted that if people wanted to come to America, it was no business of the feds to stop them. Now, by proposing a reform of the maze, Gillespie is still granting government the one thing it loves to retain: the power to dispose of peoples' lives, in one way if not in another.

His preferred reform is to charge immigrants an entrance fee, which he supports by pointing to the huge costs borne by 19th-century immigrants when crossing the Atlantic. But the similarity is superficial. That high cost of passage was paid to people—shippers—who provided a useful service. The proposed "entrance fee" would be paid to parasites who provide no service, but merely stand at the toll gate and collect tributes. I can think of little less comparable to a free international market in labor.

REASON, surely, should not bow to considerations of what may be politically feasible in the short term. Of course, cancelling all restrictions on immigration would encounter vast political opposition. And of course, it's utterly incompatible with the welfare state. Of course, all the government's petty rules on who can hire whom, and what they can be paid, would also have to go overboard. And of course, American labor would have to compete on a level playing field again.

A principled stand on unrestricted immigration would not only conform properly with Emma Lazarus's invitation to the "wretched refuse" of foreign shores, it would sharply remind domestic opinion that America has become something that was never intended—and so hasten the end of the welfare-warfare state.

A.J. Davies
New London, NH

As a lawyer who has practiced in the area of immigration and visa law for many years, I, too, believe that family immigration amounts to nepotism and that we should seek immigrants with skills that will aid the American economy. But there are realities that need to be faced.

No American government should have the power to say that an American citizen could not bring into this country a spouse, child, or parent. If an American serviceman stationed overseas marries, almost everyone would agree that he is entitled to bring his spouse. The vast majority of family-sponsored immigration is of this type.

There are about 65,000 immigrant visas issued each year to brothers and sisters (and their immediate families). Although this seems a lot, it is only about 7 percent of all immigration each year. I am telling my new client applicants in this category that I expect a wait of between 15 and 20 years.

Other classes of relatives include spouses and children of legal permanent residents. Because these immigrants come under a quota list, they have to wait from three to five (and, for nationals of some countries, many more) years to obtain their immigrant visas.

Family applications are hardly the way potential immigrants wish to come into the United States in the 1990s. Our government made a big mistake during the 1980s by granting amnesty to undocumented aliens and agricultural workers. This created a massive incentive to fraud and to enter illegally while awaiting the "next amnesty." There is a better way.

Immigrants should be allowed to enter the United States to work in certain occupations that are experiencing shortages, as determined by measuring unemployment claims. If those claims amount to 2 percent or less of the estimated workers in a category, aliens who can prove at least two years experience or training in that skill should be given work visas. Those visas should be renewable every two years only upon the alien proving he or she is paying taxes and continues to work in the occupation. After six years that alien would be entitled to legal permanent residence. Harsh penalties would have to be imposed for persons who provide fraudulent documentation.

A system such as this would be easy to administer and would allow persons to come into the United States who would benefit our country and who would benefit by our country. Those people would be unlikely to abuse our system of government services and would be likely to pay more into the system than they take.

Harry A. DeMell
New York, NY

Mr. Gillespie replies: My article begins with the premise, "If the United States is not going to allow open immigration…." Within a framework of limited immigration, I think that entry fees are a workable alternative to the current policy of family reunification. Entry fees would, I think, simultaneously motivate potential immigrants to hone the skills necessary for success in America and ameliorate growing anti-immigrant sentiment.

It would also sidestep the bureaucratic inefficiencies built into employment-based systems, such as the one proposed by Mr. DeMell, in which the government decides what skills are most in need. Contrary to Mr. Davies's assertion, I don't see the entry fee as analogous to travel costs experienced by 19th-century immigrants. I was instead repeating Gary Becker's important point that contemporary immigrants are already paying huge costs in the form of "long queues and bureaucratic procedures that often delay entry for years." I also don't think that proposing a more efficient way of allocating scarce visas necessarily means I accept, as Mr. Stevens charges, "the faulty premise that individual immigrants cause the high cost of the welfare state." In fact, I explicitly reject that premise by quoting statistics that undercut "the increasingly common portrayal of immigrants as welfare dependents mooching off the taxpayers."

Having said all that, I agree with the respondents that immigration policy is really only of concern in a welfare state. As I noted in my article, "The rise of the welfare state in the 20th century greatly complicate[s] the model of largely unfettered immigration." If we dismantled the welfare state—a proposition to which REASON is obviously dedicated—we would similarly dismantle most impediments to open immigration. As I wrote regarding 19th-century immigration, "Although there was always considerable anti-immigrant sentiment, there was also at least a grudging sense that anyone had a right to settle in America."

Protectionism Racket

The similarities in your back-to-back articles, "A Tale of Two Countries" and "P.S., Inc." (June), were striking. In the case of the Philippines, the ruling elite has enacted protectionist laws and regulations designed primarily for self-enrichment at the expense of the overwhelming body of the Philippine people—under the guise of the noble aim of keeping the Philippines for the Filipinos and not allowing foreigners to profit in an exploitative way.

In the case of the public schools, teachers' unions try to stop any form of choice or private-sector involvement in the school system. While they abhor profit on the part of any private enterprise that might improve results at lower costs, they certainly seek to maximize their own profit at the expense of taxpayers and children alike. Again, they claim a noble aim: to keep the dirty word profit out of the minds of children and keep them pure and pliable to the ultimate aim of socialism.

James T. Loberg
Anaheim, CA

Although I agree with William McGurn ("A Tale of Two Countries") that protectionism is harmful to the consumer and beneficial only to the vested interests that control uncompetitive enterprises, his article does not prove his case. If one is to argue against protectionism, one must somehow explain the economic success of Japan and South Korea. Both of those economies are fiercely protectionist and both have enjoyed tremendous success during the period in which the economy of the Philippines was spiralling downward. They have also managed to attract foreign investment by companies such as Ford Motor Co., General Motors, and RCA Victor even though foreign ownership in local companies is limited to minority interests.

It would appear to me that what has destroyed the economy of the Philippines is corruption. Although there is strong evidence that corruption existed in Japan and South Korea, its nature and extent seems to have been quite different from that which exists in the Philippines. Corruption in Japan and South Korea seems to occur when successful businesses make payments to political parties and elected officials to favor laws which help the industry in which the business operates. In the Philippines, corruption seems to take the form of individuals buying the right to operate a monopoly which is protected from competition from within the country as well as from without.

D.L. Freeman
Montreal, Canada

Mr. McGurn replies: Mr. Loberg has it exactly right. Protectionism is a racket, and the ones who agitate most loudly usually have something to protect. Unfortunately, one political problem with free markets is that marginal incentives for the person lobbying to protect his market from competition outweigh the marginal communal incentives in opening it up.

There are indeed many causes of the Philippines's misfortunes, and corruption certainly ranks at the top. But corruption itself depends largely on either closed or politically regulated markets, both of which the Philippines has in abundance. Nor do I take South Korea to be the unmitigated success Mr. Freeman supposes: Hong Kong, which started at roughly the same level, today has more than double the per capita income of South Korea, whose Japanese-style development is today giving it Japanese-style problems vis-à-vis its more open and competitive neighbors. The Philippines has also managed to attract some foreign investment; once inside the accepted circle, business can be great in a protected market, which helps explain why the Philippine stock market has been booming while Filipinos remain mired in poverty.

In the end, however, it does little good to ask about the causes of poverty. If that is the chief impression I conveyed in my article, I have missed the mark. The question that matters is how to become rich. And in the Philippines, that much is already clear: Open up to foreign investment without restriction. Were foreigners allowed to compete for labor in all markets and develop the Philippines's resources, wealth would increase and Filipinas with university degrees would not have to go into prostitution or work as maids for people overseas. Anyone disagree?

Chlorine Questions

Michael Fumento's column, "Chemical Warfare" (June), is dangerous for its illogic, false statements, and stunning omission of some very serious facts. I don't have the time to rebut each distortion, so I'll simply challenge you to read the International Joint Commission's 7th Biennial Report on the Great Lakes, published in 1994. Call their office for a copy: (202) 736-9024.

The IJC decision to phase out industrial uses of chlorine came after serious investigation into the effects of this chemical which, after being mixed with others in industrial uses, creates a possible 50,000 untested, persistent, toxic, newly derived chemicals. The IJC commissioners, all conservative appointees under Reagan and Bush, decided unanimously that the chemicals must be treated as a class, that they are so dangerous they act like toxic hormones; children in utero are affected. There is ample scientific backup for this statement and the commissioners made their decision after reviewing a growing body of well-researched data.

I also urge you to pay close attention to the final Environmental Protection Agency reassessment of dioxin, due out this summer, done by independent scientists with impeccable credentials. Apparently, the findings are so significant—dioxin is so toxic on so many levels—that EPA administrators are anxious to delay making them public for as long as possible. Industry is not going to be very happy. Not only is the immune system compromised at very minute levels by dioxin, it also has the capacity to wreak reproductive havoc. A number of studies have already been published indicating this; it's all available to any reporter who is willing to look up the bibliography.

One of the great myths developed by modern industry-paid public relations is that "what happens in animals does not necessarily translate into humans." That's dangerous thinking. Humans are part of the whole life chain. Any toxin strong enough to kill an insect will eventually—with sufficient exposure of small amounts over time—harm a child first, and eventually an adult. With repeat exposure to small amounts of these toxic, persistent substances, (parts per million, billion, or trillion) negative responses will occur in humans; it may take a few years. Of course, the symptoms will show up earlier if the dose is heavy.

The only folks who say dioxin is not dangerous are those doing public relations for industry or government, those whose studies are paid by industry, or those media that own chlorine-bleaching pulp and paper mills. For example, The New York Times is battling a $1.3 billion lawsuit brought by the Canadian Eskimos living downstream of its paper mills.

The many thousands of product liability suits brought by contaminated victims are always settled out of court because chemical companies do not wish the data to become public. Currently, there are billions of dollars worth of such suits pending, and when the EPA reassessment of dioxin becomes public, dioxin-producing industries will certainly feel the pinch.

Mr. Fumento's article does little to advance the cause of truth or help the thousands of innocent victims who did not choose to get prostate and breast cancer, rare forms of other cancers such as non-Hodgkins lymphoma or soft-tissue sarcoma, develop compromised immune systems, give birth to defective or learning-disabled children, and in general live compromised lives.

Phasing out certain forms of industrial chlorine is not only good for the future, it will ultimately be good for business. A number of European countries are already finding equally effective and much cheaper substitutes for their bleaching, solvents, and refrigeration. Greenfreeze is the name of a revolutionary new generation of environmentally friendly refrigerators. They use propane and butane as the refrigerant and in the insulation rather than CFCs or HCFCs. More than a million Greenfreeze refrigeration models are being sold throughout Germany, England, Holland, Austria, Sweden, Switzerland, France, and Australia. In their rush to see only the short term, our American companies will be left out of the competition.

You really should get with the program. True conservatives are just that; they want to protect and conserve the wealth, and that includes the wealth of human resources. It's too late for me. Because you are so cavalier with decent journalistic practice, I am cancelling my own subscription. I cannot trust your integrity.

Liane Clorfene-Casten, Chair
Environmental Task Force
Chicago Media Watch
Evanston, IL

Mr. Fumento replies: Ms. Clorfene-Casten's indignant letter is perhaps most telling in what it doesn't say. The two most important points in my article were that chlorine has no special properties that necessitate its being treated as a class of pollutant (any more than all environmentalists should be locked up because some do commit crimes) and that the over 1,500 natural organochlorines, such as table salt, are chemically indistinguishable from man-made ones.

She completely ignores the second point while barely touching on the first, saying the IJC "decided unanimously that the chemicals must be treated as a class, that they are so dangerous they act like toxic hormones; children in utero are affected." Presumably she means so dangerous because they act like toxic hormones, but only a precious few have even been accused of this. Her lengthy letter mentions only one by name, along with two small subclasses, CFCs and HCFCs.

Ms. Clorfene-Casten's appeal to authority is hardly attractive in that the IJC members were nonscientists. In their ignorance, they put their full faith in the self-anointed guardians of the environment, namely groups like the Environmental Task Force. Her reference to the upcoming dioxin report is just another effort to portray a single organochlorine as representing all organochlorines.

Readers should pay close attention to Keith Schneider's article in the May 11 New York Times, stating the report's conclusions "are based on mathematical assumptions that have not been published in scientific journals" and that it "already caused a storm of dissent in federal agencies, principally in the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture, the agencies that have the primary responsibility for insuring the safety of food." For over a decade, radical environmentalists (including Ms. Clorfene-Casten in several articles for The Nation) and the EPA have sought to burn dioxin as a massively carcinogenic witch, only to watch helplessly as study after study found no carcinogenic effect on humans except, at most, at the very highest levels of exposure in workers exposed daily for over a decade. Now they are simply retrying the witch under new accusations, moving away from cancers and toward the effects on the fetus.

Far from being an industry-fabricated myth, the fact that "what happens in animals does not necessarily translate into humans" is shown by dioxin itself and the effect it has on different species. The impetus for the dioxin witch hunt was that it is amazingly lethal to guinea pigs. Yet, other studies have shown that 500 times the amount is necessary to have the same effect on the guinea pig's close cousin, the hamster. Overall, about 30 percent of that which causes cancerous tumors in rats during maximum tolerated dose testing does not do so in mice and vice versa. What, then, does this say for correlating between rodents and humans?

Ms. Clorfene-Casten also simply assumes there is no threshold below which carcinogens are no longer harmful, yet that flies in the face of everything we know about acute toxicity, in which the dictum is "the dose makes the poison." Dioxin specifically has been cited by several researchers as one that is probably harmless below a certain level of exposure.

The ad hominem about "folks who say dioxin is not dangerous" is just that. I, for one, was paid by REASON, and REASON's contributors are unknown to me. Saying don't trust anybody who prints on chlorine-bleached paper is practically the equivalent of saying don't trust anything in print—unless, of course, it's negative. It's become popular lately to attack The New York Times because Keith Schneider has become a real pain, but early during the Love Canal incident that same newspaper did some of the most alarming reporting on dioxin.

Dioxin-related lawsuits have been systematically filed by a group called Trial Lawyers for Public Justice. Settlements are normally sealed from view, but the fair presumption is these cases are settled out of court because it is easier to pay off their nuisance value than go to trial.

The implication of the list of cancers and other disorders is that all are caused by organochlorines. But none has been strongly connected to any, much less all or most, organochlorines. The Great White Hope of the radical environmentalists was Mary Wolff's 1993 study purporting to link breast cancer and DDT, but that was shot down in April by a much larger study. Both studies exonerated another environmentalist- targeted organochlorine, PCBs.

I trust most readers will recognize the resort to Bastiat's Broken Window theory. In this, the French economist mockingly noted that France's economy would boom if someone went around busting every window in sight, thereby creating tremendous employment opportunities for window makers and fixers and causing a ripple effect throughout the economy. Greenpeace's Greenfreeze refrigerator may be a big hit in Europe, but if Americans won't buy it there's probably a good reason. It's not that U.S. companies don't make it; they don't make VCRs, either.

It's true there are alternatives to organochlorines. Some will mean tremendous expense, including having to spend up to $800 to have car air conditioners converted. Some will mean doing without. Some will cost lots of lives because of inaccessibility to many pharmaceuticals and other products. All of this places a tremendous burden of proof on the would-be banners. Readers may judge whether Ms. Clorfene-Casten has met it.

NEXT: The Law: Defending the President

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  1. The strongest attack on this assumption comes from an unlikely source: Warren Farrell, formerly an activist in the women’s movement and the only man elected three times to the board of the National Organization for Women. Farrell is the author of The Myth of Male Power (Simon & Schuster, 1993), which Barbara Dority, co-chair of the Northwest Feminist Anti-Censorship Taskforce, says has the “potential for being The Feminine Mystique of the men’s movement.” Farrell writes: “Feminism justified female ‘victim power’ by convincing the world that we lived in a sexist, male-dominated, and patriarchal world. The Myth of Male Power explains why the world was bi-sexist, both male and female-dominated, both patriarchal and matriarchal–each in different ways.”

  2. The strongest attack on this assumption comes from an unlikely source: Warren Farrell, formerly an activist in the women’s movement and the only man elected three times to the board of the National Organization for Women. Farrell is the author of The Myth of Male Power (Simon & Schuster, 1993), which Barbara Dority, co-chair of the Northwest Feminist Anti-Censorship Taskforce, says has the “potential for being The Feminine Mystique of the men’s movement.” Farrell writes: “Feminism justified female ‘victim power’ by convincing the world that we lived in a sexist, male-dominated, and patriarchal world. The Myth of Male Power explains why the world was bi-sexist, both male and female-dominated, both patriarchal and matriarchal–each in different ways.”

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