Melting-Pot Shots

I have enjoyed your magazine immensely, but I found the article "No Fruits, No Shirts, No Service" by Glenn Garvin (April) heavily biased and one-sided. Rather than openly address a serious problem, Mr. Garvin ostensibly wrote as a spokesperson for the Urban Institute, a pro-immigration organization that is hardly objective.

Were I to advocate a particular school, I would address those students who perform very well. I would not discuss the poor performing students. Mr. Garvin's article was written in the same manner. He failed to address the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who are not contributing to our society.

While immigrants "are at worst a break-even proposition in terms of creating jobs and paying for the government services they consume," they are not contributing to the general revenue for schools, roads, military, etc. As a taxpayer, I consume no direct services from any government. Were my taxes based on the government services I consumed, I would pay no taxes.

The article's greatest misrepresentation was the expressed fear of "draconian anti-immigration laws." Few Americans support ending immigration, but most want our borders protected and immigration controlled. Immigration should be a benefit, not a burden.

Our current immigration policy does not address the needs of the United States. We have become the repository for the world's excess population. Americans cannot afford to finance open borders and a welfare state. The United States is being hurt economically, socially, and culturally.

The most interesting bit of information was that "[a]bout 60 percent of all students earning advanced degrees in American universities in engineering today are foreign." Such a glaring fact, if true, is proof that our education system has failed. While taxpayers are forced to finance scholarships (many to unqualified students), they are obtaining degrees in fields that are not "relevant to industrial innovation." Instead of financing degrees in psychology, sociology, women's and black studies, taxpayer-financed scholarships should be restricted to those qualified individuals in fields that are relevant to industrial innovation. Our immigration policy should do the same.

Richard T. Dumont
Silver Spring, MD

George Borjas, professor of economics at University of California, San Diego, who once was very pro-immigration, concludes in his recent study that immigration costs $114 billion a year in job competition losses to U.S.-born workers. Can politicians who wish to court the middle and working classes in 1996 not address immigration?

In recent years, legal immigration alone brings about 1 million newcomers to this country who need jobs, health care, welfare, and many other services that we cannot even provide to millions of native-born Americans! Even if immigrants are high achievers, should the United States invest in its own citizens or citizens of other countries?

A CBS/New York Times poll published in February shows that most Americans feel that the new Congress should stress jobs, crime, and health care. An earlier CBS/New York Times poll showed that the majority of Americans across party lines favor a reduction in legal immigration.

If our policy makers in Washington, D.C., are serious about addressing voters' informed concerns, they should support an immediate moratorium on immigration. A five-year moratorium on immigration would save billions of dollars to fund crime-prevention programs, health care reform, work-training programs for welfare recipients and low-skilled workers, and measures to stop illegal immigration. A moratorium would also provide time to work out a long-term sensible immigration policy that would respond to our economic realities and resource availability.

Yeh Ling-Ling
National Representative, Outreach
Carrying Capacity Network
Washington, D.C.

Glenn Garvin opens with the charge that the United States is engaged in a "battle against immigration." Lest he forget, immigration is a purely discretionary policy. Arguments to reduce immigration are not attacks against individual rights since U.S. immigration policy extends privilege, not entitlement.

Mr. Garvin maintains that some legal and all illegal immigration (he does not distinguish between the two) is essential to provide low labor costs. Referring specifically to proposals to stop illegal immigration, Mr. Garvin quotes an illegal immigrant who says "Americans would have to put black people back into slavery" to achieve the same low labor costs. Amazingly, Mr. Garvin equates illegal immigration with slavery, then advocates the continuation of this phenomenon. Does Mr. Garvin really wish to claim that the preservation of American agriculture necessitates illegal exploitation?

Finally, Mr. Garvin fails to mention the studies, including the comprehensive study by Donald L. Huddle of Rice University, that find that immigration (legal and illegal) does indeed displace U.S. workers. One need only look at the janitorial and hospitality industries to see where native black labor has been replaced by recent immigrant labor.

It is a myth to claim that the U.S. economy requires immigration; in fact, most data show that current levels of immigration are economically and environmentally harmful. Rather than continuing down the current path, we should place a temporary moratorium on immigration while we rethink our current immigration policies.

Mark W. Nowak
Executive Director
Population-Environment Balance

Washington, D.C.

Glenn Garvin asks, "Once we've gotten rid of the immigrants, who is going to pick the lettuce and tomatoes?" He estimates that, among other things, it would cost the average American household $4.00 a week in higher produce prices if immigrants were no longer imported to work in the fields.

Is this all the cheerleaders for open borders have to offer? Mass unskilled immigration—with its undisputed effect of accentuating the gap between rich and poor, with its harmful impact on unskilled Americans, with its distorting effect on the economy, achieving economic growth at the cost of retarding economic development—this mass immigration can be justified because families will save $4.00 a week on groceries? (Incidentally, real economists have estimated that the cost would be far less.)

Mr. Garvin seems to recoil from the idea that without large-scale immigration of unskilled workers, vegetable growers and garment manufacturers would have a greater incentive to mechanize. Or that some products would be imported instead of produced domestically. But what's wrong with that? This is, after all, merely a description of continuing economic development in an industrialized country. American business shouldn't try to compete with the developing world on the price of labor, but rather should create high-wage jobs through greater productivity and automation.

And if some products are simply too expensive to produce in the United States without imported labor—in other words, if another country has a comparative advantage in the production of that good—then, by all means, let's buy it from them, importing products rather than people.

This points up the fundamental fallacy in Mr. Garvin's thinking, and that of many others whose libertarianism is as simplistic. Although economics teaches us that labor is a factor of production, it is also more—it is people. Whatever one's views on free trade—which I personally favor—bolts of cloth or casks of wine are mere objects to be consumed. Immigrants, on the other hand, become new members of the receiving society, with human and civil rights unrelated to their status as workers.

Thus, the rotten core of the open-borders ideology—the implicit belief that workers are simply objects to be used, to be factored into an economic equation. Those working for immigration reform actually show immigrants more respect by acknowledging their humanity and taking into account their ongoing impact on the societies they seek to join.

Mark Krikorian
Executive Director
Center for Immigration Studies
Washington, D.C.

Glenn Garvin puts a functional face on absorbing legal and illegal immigrants. The dirty, poorly paid, and sometimes dangerous jobs that immigrants take are but stepping stones to bright futures, writes Mr. Garvin, including entrepreneurship and graduation from Ivy League colleges as early as the second generation. Work disdained by native Americans turns out to be a gift of (and for) capitalism as desperate Latinos, Asians, Caribbeans, and others penetrate our inner cities. Libertarians come into fortuitous agreement with liberals in rejecting the xenophobia of California's Proposition 187. Let's hear it for porous borders!

Not many potential sweatshops turn out like the happy mix at Kingston in Fountain Valley as described by Mr. Garvin and feted by Fortune and Inc. Take the latest revelation in Los Angeles, where workers paid even less than the minimum wage (and some who had not been paid at all) were caught turning out designer jeans that were sold in mainline America for $65 a pair. Did these workers quit their jobs and go on to college? And what of the migrant field workers who pick our crops? Despite the efforts of the farm workers union to promote their welfare and elevate the job above one to be left to illegals, are conditions that much better than yesterday? Do the children of farm workers attend school full time and are they as free as anyone else to make their way in the world? Not if they are needed in the field.

Mr. Garvin needs to tell us why market forces that (anecdotally) provide miraculous opportunities and successes in the second and third generations require such misery in the first. Personally, I would rather pay an extra 50 cents a head for lettuce than continue to benefit from the lowest wage the migrant labor pool will bear. The question for Garvin and for REASON is how the "free market" of owners and consumers can be brought to reward the paying of a living wage and the "affordability" of healthy and safe working conditions.

Denton Porter
Long Beach, CA

Glenn Garvin replies: To say I'm perplexed by some of these responses doesn't go nearly far enough. I have read and re-read my story several times, and cannot for the life of me figure out where Richard T. Dumont got the idea that I was trying to pass myself off as a spokesman for the Urban Institute. Let me just state it clearly: I am not a spokesman, ostensible or otherwise, for the Urban Institute. Though I'd be happy to consider the job, if the price is right.

To further my confusion, I cannot tell whether Yeh Ling-Ling is attempting a deception, or simply got bored with George Borjas's most recent study of immigration. It is certainly true that Professor Borjas identified $114 billion in U.S. economic losses due to immigration. But then he proceeded to identify $120 billion in gains, leaving the balance sheet $6 billion in the black. (As to my article's alleged "greatest misrepresentation," I refer Mr. Dumont to the following two letter writers' calls for an immediate moratorium on all immigration.)

I admire the brass of Mark W. Nowak, who is willing to misrepresent my story in the very magazine in which it appeared. Alas, my regard does not extend to his economic sources. The Donald Huddle study to which he refers has been thoroughly refuted and even economists who share his opinion of immigration hang their heads when it is mentioned. Professor Huddle sent students to Houston construction sites to count the number of illegal aliens at work; he then simply assumed that each had displaced a native-born worker. From there it was an easy step to projecting the numbers onto the rest of the United States and came up with a million lost jobs in the construction industry alone.

And finally there's Mark Krikorian, who grieves that immigrants will work under harsh conditions for low wages here. His solution is to let them stay in the Third World and buy the products they make there under conditions that are assuredly far worse than those in the United States. In other words, low wages and harsh conditions are perfectly OK as long as they remain decorously out of sight. (That seems to be Denton Porter's point of view, too.)

I have no idea what Mr. Krikorian is talking about when he contrasts "economic growth" and "economic development." But I do know that the rest of his assertions—that immigration accentuates the gap between rich and poor, and takes jobs from unskilled Americans—are by no means "undisputed." Julian Simon, to name just one of many economists, has argued that immigration does not skew incomes; and in my original story I covered David Card's study that showed that even mass, abrupt immigration has little impact on jobs or incomes.

In fact, there's practically nothing in labor economics that is "undisputed," which is probably one reason why so many non-economists give up trying to make sense of it. It seems that for every study that purports to prove something, there's a counter-study purporting to disprove it. But, contrary to the assertions of these letter writers, the bulk of economic scholarship supports immigration as, at worst, a break-even proposition for the United States. A 1990 survey of 38 leading U.S. economists (including seven Nobel winners), conducted jointly by the Hudson Institute, the American Immigration Institute, and the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution, found that 80 percent believe that 20th-century immigration has had "a very favorable impact on the nation's growth." Not a single one thought the impact had been unfavorable.

Vial Bile

Jacob Sullum's article, "A Vial Crime" (May), gave me an idea to help win "the war on drugs." Let's rename everything for its possible use as drug paraphernalia and then go after the manufacturers! Plastic sandwich bags are now "marijuana baggies." Spoons are now "heroin cooking devices." Federal Reserve notes are "cocaine-sniffing instruments."

Drug warriors, like socialists, believe that if they could just get the right program in place, had a little more money and the right people running things, they would succeed. But, like socialism, the drug war is fundamentally flawed.

Even if drug use were to go up significantly with legalization (I don't believe it would), it would be preferable to the society we live in now, where such tragedies as befell Sam Zhadanov are becoming commonplace.

Scott Frost
Seattle, WA

I may be wrong, but nowhere in Jacob Sullum's article on Sam Zhadanov was it stated just who the end customers of Belkin and Edelson were, other than Roni Moshe.

If Zhadanov leased equipment and manufacturing space to Srebrianski at his Vortex location, who then made the vials for Belkin and Edelson as wholesalers to Roni Moshe, the owner of two general merchandise stores, and conceding that Edelson pleaded guilty to possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to deliver, to whom were they to deliver the merchandise other than Moshe?

In addition, in the last paragraph of the article the prosecutor says, "He admitted that he made hundreds of millions of crack vials." Why would an attorney opt for a plea bargain when this statement could have read, "The defendant admits that he made hundreds of millions of plastic vials that could be used for perfume, crack cocaine, or anything else that would fit into them including sand from the beaches of Florida for a tourist souvenir of their Florida vacation"?

James J. O'Malley
Encino, CA

Jacob Sullum replies: Based on conversations among the distributors and undercover purchases by investigators, it appears that the retailers did sell the containers to drug dealers (although the government did not cite any particular customers). Sam Zhadanov says he did not know that the containers could be used to package crack until late 1991 and did not realize that manufacturing them was considered illegal until his arrest. But making that lack of knowledge seem plausible to a jury would have been difficult, and Zhadanov was facing a minimum sentence of 14 years, the loss of all his assets, and the possibility that his wife might be charged. Under the circumstances, his decision to plead guilty is understandable.

Arendt Message

Paul A. Rahe's book review of Jean Bethke Elshtain's Democracy on Trial ("Civility Wars," April) was, I believe, unfair to Hannah Arendt. That Martin Heidegger was a supporter of National Socialism and that Hannah Arendt was a student of Martin Heidegger does not indicate any continuity of thought. On Revolution is a very instructive book indicating very clearly why the American Revolution succeeded and the French failed.

Arendt wrote, "Not 'life, liberty, and property' as such, but their being inalienable rights of man, was the result of revolution." These were the driving force behind both revolutions, but the French corrupted these rights by inclusion of what Arendt called the "Social Question"—in other words, "generic, unlimited 'rights of man.'" Social and economic "rights," or as Arendt described it, "the realm of necessity," invaded the political realm. Today, it is the private—i.e., identity politics—that is also invading the political realm and this seems to be what Elshtain's book bewails.

Arendt's assessment of the American Revolution and its results is correct: "[P]ower, which rests on reciprocity and mutuality, is the only "real power and legitimate." Doesn't this correctly describe Jefferson's view of "good government," "which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits"?

The reason the American Revolution succeeded was that its adherents created a republic with counterbalancing powers. What is destroying this foundation? The faith that people like Elshtain have in "democracy"—every man's ideas, needs, and wishes have invaded the political realm.

Arendt spoke of "The Recovery of the Public World." What is this "public world"? It is no longer the town halls of the American Revolution. It is not a place but a medium where ideas are exchanged and fought for, i.e. REASON. It is when "citizens" come together and "find a way to express their collective hopes and possibilities." Only after the fittest ideas have survived can we then turn to the political realm and apply them. This, of course, includes what Professor Rahe calls "the fundamental principles" of liberal "democracy" or "republics."

Edgar Grinnell
Worcester, MA

Paul Rahe replies: In quoting the particular passages from Hannah Arendt's On Revolution that he has chosen, Edgar Grinnell unwittingly casts light on the woolliness of her quite fertile mind. To begin with, apart from alluding in the vaguest of terms to the "Social Question," neither he nor she gives us any way by which to distinguish the inalienable rights of man, embraced by revolutionaries on both sides of the Atlantic, from what Arendt calls the "generic, unlimited 'rights of man.'" In fact, the rights asserted in the crucial second paragraph of our Declaration of Independence are as "generic" and "unlimited" as those described in the French Revolution's Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen, and they gave rise to what was for Americans from 4 July 1776 on a burning "Social Question"—whether it was possible and legitimate for one human being to hold property in another.

Arendt's assessment of the American Revolution and its results is in other regards incorrect as well. There is all the difference in the world between a government of counterbalancing powers limited in the manner described by Thomas Jefferson and a political regime which treats as "real…and legitimate" any "power, which rests on reciprocity and mutuality" and expresses the "collective hopes and possibilities" of its citizens. One of the advantages that we derive from our attachment to the "generic, unlimited 'rights of man'" is that a respect for these rights limits what we as a people can legitimately do.

Neither "reciprocity" nor "mutuality" nor our "collective hopes and possibilities" can justify a breach of these rights. As Jefferson put it in his First Inaugural Address, we must all "bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable." It is symptomatic of Hannah Arendt's debt to her beloved teacher Martin Heidegger, and it is indicative of her acceptance of his critique of Western Civilization's reliance on rationalism, that one finds in her musings on politics nothing comparable to the American Founders' insistence that the popular will is unjust when it contravenes what reason teaches us concerning the individual's inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Arts and the Man

"Artistic Licenses" by Nick Gillespie (April) was excellent, but it missed one of the key elements in the debate about federal funding of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting: privatization.

The loss of federal subsidies does not in fact threaten public broadcasting. It threatens only the fact that it is not advertiser-sponsored.

Public broadcasting will easily survive the loss of tax funds. What will not survive is the elitist idea that advertising and public choice are to be avoided at all costs. This is a classic case of liberals wanting centralized power in bureaucratic hands, hence avoiding control by the public and requiring subsidies. Conservatives want that power devolved to the public and paid for by private sources through advertising geared to the public's choices.

Matthew C. Fox
Chicago, IL

As an admirer of the quality programming found on PBS, I found Mr. Gillespie's remarks unsettling. I would prefer PBS to thrive, not just survive, and it needs more funding. Several times a year we must endure "pledge drives" where PBS officials beg, plead, and cajole for individual donations and still get only a small percentage of viewers to give. The deep pockets Mr. Gillespie refers to are rather shallow in my viewing area.

The suggestion that the best PBS offerings might be picked up by broadcast or cable TV is plausible, but is it desirable? Would The MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour be as effective if it were interrupted by commercials? It would no longer be a news hour but a news 45 minutes. PBS could solve their funding problems with advertising, but the fact that they don't have these interruptions is an attribute.

Mr. Gillespie's personal dislike of Car Talk and Prairie Home Companion does not mean these shows are without merit. How many "landmarks of civilization" does he find on broadcast or cable TV? Other arts may be seeking a "seal of approval," but I perceive PBS as seeking only funding. Considering all the pork and waste in government spending today, the tax dollars received by CPB is money well spent.

Arthur L. Hale
Hampton, VA

Nick Gillespie assumes that programs such as Barney and Sesame Street would be picked up by broadcast or cable TV if not funded by the government. He's probably right, but they would be funded by objectionable advertising pushing products that kids would be better off without.

Public radio carries excellent classical music, as well as explanatory information on such programs as Adventures in Good Music and Performance Today. And all of this comes without the obnoxious advertising of commercial radio or television. However, only about 10 percent of listeners contribute to help fund public radio. I'm afraid that without public (government) funding, some of these "good things of life" would be lost.

R.H. Booth
Aiea, HI

Nick Gillespie replies: Arthur L. Hale and R.H. Booth are in the difficult position of admitting that the very people who tune into public broadcasting don't think enough of it to pay for it. Why then should people who don't even listen to NPR or view PBS be stuck with any part of the tab, no matter how small the bill?

Beyond that, I don't see commercials as inherently disruptive to television or radio programs. Nor do I see public broadcasting as currently devoid of advertising—most shows have fairly lengthy bits in which they list their sponsors (often including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, euphemistically defined as a "private corporation funded by the American people"). And, in fact, shows such as Barney and Sesame Street can legitimately be seen as advertisements for a dizzying array of trademarked merchandise on sale everywhere.

Contrary to Matthew C. Fox, I'm not sure that a complete withdrawal of government funding (which seems unlikely now anyway) would necessitate a shift to network-style advertising anyway. In terms of viewer donations, CPB has had a banner year so far. If government funds were actually zeroed out, I suspect that some current free riders would pony up contributions. Deep-pocketed entertainment industry types who have voiced support of public broadcasting, such as Garth Brooks, Charlton Heston, and Barbra Streisand, would surely help out.