Immigrants and Assimilation

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Tyler Cowen and Dan Rothschild of George Mason Univ. and the Mercatus Center have an excellent op-ed in today's Wash Post about Latino assimiliation. Snippets:

Only 7 percent of the children of Latino immigrants speak Spanish as a primary language, and virtually none of their children do. Just as they did a century ago, immigrants largely come knowing little English. But they learn, and their children use it as a primary language. The United States is not becoming a bilingual nation….

The family has long been the core social unit in America, and immigrants share that value. Census data show that 62 percent of immigrants over age 15 are married, compared to 52 percent of natives. Only 6 percent of Latino adults are divorced, compared with 10 percent of whites and 12 percent of African Americans. Latino immigrants are more likely to live in multigenerational households rather than just visiting grandparents a couple of times a year.

Most Latino immigrants want to become U.S. citizens. This process takes years, so recent immigrants are not a good barometer. But according to the 2000 Census, the majority of Latinos who entered the United States before 1980 have become citizens. And second-generation immigrants are more likely to marry natives than immigrants, further assimilating their children. The majority of immigrants also own their own homes, a key part of the American dream….

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that Hispanic men are more likely than white men to be in the labor force. While immigrant Latinas initially lag behind native women, Francine Blau and Lawrence Kahn of the National Bureau of Economic Research have shown that, despite initial inclinations to be stay-at-home moms, immigrant women quickly assimilate into the American workforce.

Whole thing here. As with their earlier LA Times op-ed on the benefits low-skill immigrants bring to the economy, this is a must-read.

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  1. Ya gotta luv the way “must-read” article’s authors purposely and misleadingly interchange ‘Latino,’ ‘immigrants,’ ‘recent immigrants,’ etc., in the same paragraph. Such misrepresentation makes one wonder what they’re trying to sell.

    “You cannot simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state.” – Milton Friedman

  2. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that Hispanic men are more likely than white men to be in the labor force.

    Well duh, they’re taking all our jobs.

  3. “Only 6 percent of Latino adults are divorced, compared with 10 percent of whites and 12 percent of African Americans.”

    Good Lord! The divorce rate for blacks hasn’t been a useful statistic in forty years. if no one gets married, then no one gets divorced. Cowen should be above such nonsense.

  4. Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicate that Hispanic men are more likely than white men to be in the labor force.

    Fear not! It should be no surprise that such an obvisouly dishonest article would contain false statements:

    http://www.access.gpo.gov/eop/ca/pdfs/ch4.pdf
    “Hispanic men’s participation rates are higher than those of black men and approach those of white men.”

    “About 20 percent of young black men are neither in school nor working, compared with 14 percent of
    young Hispanic men and 9 percent of young white men (Labor Markets 3). The percentage of young
    men who are in this situation has not fallen substantially over the past 10 years.”

  5. THEY TOOK ARE JAAAAAAAAARRRRRBBS!

    Seriously, though, like reasonable argumentation will persuade LeMur and his ilk of brown-people-hating xenophobes.

    “You cannot simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state.” – Milton Friedman

    Then get rid of the welfare state. Obviously.

  6. “Fear not! It should be no surprise that such an obvisouly dishonest article would contain false statements:”

    Actually the statement is correct, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, out of the 14,962,000 hispanic men older than 16, 11.337,000 (or 75.8%) are employed; and out of the 90,027,000 white men older than 16, 63.673,000 (or 70.8%) are employed.

    http://www.bls.gov/cps/

  7. “LeMur and his ilk of brown-people-hating xenophobes.”

    Sarcasm I hope. Ad hominem is just a poor debating method. Being against unrestrained immigration I take issue with those who respond to every argument with an Ad hominem.

    First of all I don’t think our country with 400-500 million people would be a better place. I may be wrong but before you get on your high moral perch please spend a few years in a major city in India and report back. I’ll be waiting.

    Secondly, I my case at least, my ancestors were brown, my aunts still are as was my grandfather. Most of my neighbors are brown as well. I’m sure many posters here could say the same so you’re calling them racists and self-haters. Neat!

    Third, when discussing assimilation we are also talking about people who aren’t assimilated. Maybe the second or third generation assimilates but there is still a large group who won’t that with unrestrained immigration will grow larger. Many from south and central american countries- read conservative in a religious way. Against abortion and women’s rights. Don’t believe me spend some time working in a kitchen or landscaping or roofing. Oh my god, I’m American I guess I shouldn’t have been working those jobs!

  8. Immigrants Yes. Freeloaders No.

  9. Ad hominem is just a poor debating method. Being against unrestrained immigration I take issue with those who respond to every argument with an Ad hominem.

    Whatever else one might say about what Timothy said about Le Mur, it’s based on past statements and not just on Le Mur being against unrestrained immigration. Ad hominen is indeed a poor debating method. But good debate is not necessarily the purpose of everything said here (or anywhere else).

    First of all I don’t think our country with 400-500 million people would be a better place.

    I’ve said before and I’ll say again that if I could wave a magic wand and make significantly less people want to move here, I would likely do so, mainly just cause I prefer open spaces to living amidst larger numbers of people. If I could wave a similar wand and make all traces of Barry Manilow and his music disappear, both physically and from people’s memories, ooooh, that would be sweet…. But no such magic wand exists, and thus it’s not one of our available choices. Efforts to limit immigration are better at creating unintended and unwanted consequences than they are at driving down the number of immigrants. And that’s why framing the issue in terms of not thinking “X” number of additional people is a good thing is a canard. And large numbers of new citizens ain’t so bad either, even if it wouldn’t be my first choice if I could make the world exactly as I wanted it without impinging on anyone’s freedom. There’s a reason they’re coming here, and people being allowed to do what they want yields lots of good stuff. Even if they take a couple of generations to fully assimiliate. So there’s Spanish billboards around and answering services give you the choice of hearing the message in Spanish, big freakin’ deal.

  10. “First of all I don’t think our country with 400-500 million people would be a better place. I may be wrong but before you get on your high moral perch please spend a few years in a major city in India and report back. I’ll be waiting.”

    From CIA Factbook:
    India: 3.0M sq km/1.1M people = 2.7 sq km/person
    Your USA: 9.2M sq km/0.5M people = 18.4 sq km/person

    Even with 500 million people, we would be far from the population density of India.

  11. First of all I don’t think our country with 400-500 million people would be a better place. I may be wrong but before you get on your high moral perch please spend a few years in a major city in India and report back. I’ll be waiting.

    I’d be interested to hear about your own experiences in living in India.

    Anyway, it’s my sense that India’s problems have less to do with population, and much more to do with a system of law which, while a democracy, features little of individual freedom that we have as our assumed birthright in the US.

    A complex interaction of religion (and its associated caste-system restrictions and dietary practices), holdovers from sometimes-brutal colonial rule and the staggering breadth and diversity of culture, language and terrain makes India an utterly invalid example to cite in trying to draw conclusions regarding the impact of higher population in the US.

  12. Clearly, this calls for legislation of some sort. We must Do Something!!!! For the children!!!

  13. If we had open immigration, a substantial portion of immigrants from Mexico would cross the border to work but go back to Mexico to live (just as the people from Portugal don’t stay in Spain to live). They don’t go back now as the risks are too great in crossing back and forth.

    It might not be as pleasant if more people were moving to our cities, but just because we got here first we deserve special entitlement? The Me-First crowd reminds me of the guy on the crowded bus that’s pulling up to a bus stop so yet more people can get on. He moans, “damn, MORE people are getting!” But notice he’s not the one who volunteers to get off so the conditions will be less crowded for everyone else.

  14. “But good debate is not necessarily the purpose of everything said here (or anywhere else).”

    I first started reading this site beacuse of the reasoned 😉 debate. Sadly There’s not so much of it lately. I enjoy looking at things from different angles(note I didn’t say both sides).

    “India: 3.0M sq km/1.1M people = 2.7 sq km/person
    Your USA: 9.2M sq km/0.5M people = 18.4 sq km/person”

    That’s mostly because our population is concentrated in the cities. I live in a city, chicago, that has a huge immigrant population, even a few percent more people would change living conditions-traffic, parking, schools to name a few. I already pay an ungodly amount in property taxes for education, way more than my neighbors with multiple kids- zillow.com, I work in the real estate industry, I actually know what they pay.

    We could start spreading out into our less populated areas but I think having large stretches of wilderness is a non-negotiable quality of life issue.

    “I’d be interested to hear about your own experiences in living in India.”

    I have some very close Indian friends- they don’t recommend it. Anyway I’m not claiming I lived there I’m saying please, please tell my how a larger population is going to improve our lot. Yes, more people bigger economy- what about the law of diminishing returns etc. Economic theory can be used to make a case for more people but it also has many caveats.

    “makes India an utterly invalid example” well what would be a good example? There are only a few highly populated countries the US being #3.

  15. Whoops, should have written, “getting on” not just “getting.” I wonder if that was some sort of Freudian slip. 🙂

  16. “Ad hominem is just a poor debating method.”

    By some metrics, e.g. those used in a formal debate, you’re right. But like many tactics, there are other dimensions to consider. In some, ad hominem may be much more effective than people would like to admit. People are social animals.

    Within blogging space, consider the importance of using names and pseudonyms versus anonymous posting. There are blogs that request people to use their real names, and there are blogs that don’t even allow anonymous posts. I’m not that interested in blogging per-se, so my sample size is extremely narrow, but I don’t know of any blogs that deliberately try to obfuscate who has said what.

    People strongly prefer to know who has made a particular post, even if the identity is simply a pseudonym that provides the context of previous and future posts within a particular blog rather than a real life name that allows context outside the blog. Such a preference seems at odds with the idea that ad hominem is a poor debating method. If people carry forward context from previous posts, it’s reasonable to believe that some of that context includes information that suggests that a given poster should be paid more (or less) attention than others. Attacking the man may be a useful way to alter that context in a way favorable to one’s objectives.

    Ad hominem has been around sufficiently long that there’s good reason to believe it’s valuable, even if perhaps it shouldn’t be.

  17. well what would be a good example?

    How about… the United States?

    Since 1950, the population in the US has roughly doubled, growing from 151 million to 299 million. What you’re talking about (growth to 400-500 million) represents much less growth than that, yet I doubt that you’d argue that we’ve had a disastrous change in quality of life in the past 56 years.

  18. “The Me-First crowd…”

    I thought the basis of Libertarianism (if that’s a word) was complete freedom of action as long as they don’t impact others freedoms. Until the whole world lives by this idea I don’t see how this ideal can work. If I only have a choice of living here or immigrating(if I’m allowed) to another country with possibly less freedoms or opportunity aren’t our immigrants pursuing actions that impact my freedoms. They want a better life which in turn might make my life worse. I’m not saying what they want is wrong but I think it would be foolish to discount that doing what feels good now might result in something that feels much worse.

  19. Extra Frosting,

    I agree that Ad hominem methods work on an emotional level. My point is that this site is called reason.

  20. Stupendous Man,
    You want a better life; for you that entails keeping more immigrants out, which makes their life worse. Since this nation is a nation of immigrants the only difference I see between you and them is that your family got here first. That hardly puts you on a higher ground of entitlement. So, why not make everyone else’s life better – you get off the bus so there will be more space for the rest of us.

  21. Both of y’all are playing the zero-sum game here, which is demonstrably invalid in this debate.

  22. But the blog is named Hit and Run.

  23. Also StupendousMan,

    There are a number of people in the US who fully recognize that their lives are made better through greater immigration. What right or authority do you have to limit their first-order freedoms for, at best, second- or third-order reasons?

  24. “I doubt that you’d argue that we’ve had a disastrous change in quality of life in the past 56 years.”

    You’re right I wouldn’t argue that. But my point about Economic theories and their caveats holds. How many people is optimal?

    I’d like to add that I would like for the standard of living in Mexico to be higher. But people there(and here as well) make choices that contribute negatively to that standard. I’m talking about having too many children. As individuals they decide that more children makes them happy or they feel they need to do so due to beliefs they hold. That’s fine but the extra individuals are their resposibility primarily. Having children then deciding that you can’t support them in your current location doesn’t shift the responsibility to others. My point is that there are many reasons people want to immigrate to the US. Looking only at the end of the chain to place the ethical burden is unreasonable(there’s that word again)

  25. Clean Hands,
    Sure that’s true. An increased population doesn’t necessarily mean quality of life will go down. It might even go up in some respects – a greater variety of social interactions, more interesting food, music, etc, and other new skills. Quality of the people is just as important as quantity as well. So, it’s just a personal bias, but I think if the “I got here first” crowd decided to set off for the Antarctic the rest of us would feel life immeasurably improved.

  26. “you get off the bus so there will be more space for the rest of us.”

    The point is I’m not an actor in this situation I’m static while others are acting. Their actions require me make decisions I might not have had they not acted. I should certainly have a choice about how I want to go forward. If I relinquish my place aren’t I now in the position they were just in?

  27. “Both of y’all are playing the zero-sum game”

    I’ve already gotten into that argument here and conceded that a zero-sum game isn’t applicable in certain situations. I think my argument here was more cause and effect. This happens and here are the possible outcomes. In part of the process there are zero-sum sub-processes, for example when two people vie for the same job only one can get it but overall it is much more complex than a binary situation.

  28. Their actions require me make decisions I might not have had they not acted.

    You’re proving the very point of the analogy, ie, that you’re claiming some inherently moral superiority from the status quo nature of your being there first. But just as the bus analogy demonstrates, you have no more right (in a moral sense, as opposed to what current law acknowledges) than the people who want to get on afterwards. Just because you may have preferred that those folks have kept off the bus where you were first, and that you now have a “choice” you didn’t have before, does not demonstrate that they have any less right to be there than you do.

    If I relinquish my place aren’t I now in the position they were just in?

    Yup. Your point being? Please not no one is saying you should get off the bus, only that those who want to get on have every right to be there that you do. Once off the bus we would likewise support your right to get back on and annoy those already there, if you were to so choose.

  29. In part of the process there are zero-sum sub-processes, for example when two people vie for the same job only one can get it but overall it is much more complex than a binary situation.

    Have you ever applied for just one job, pinning all of your employment hopes on that single position? Or do you apply for a range of jobs, some of which might be better-suited to your abilities and requirements, but all of which are acceptable?

    Even in this microcosm, it’s not a zero-sum game — and if you get beat out by an immigrant for a specific position, isn’t the hiring organization (and, by extension, the whole economy) better off for having found the better candidate?

  30. Both of y’all are playing the zero-sum game here

    It’s a zero-sum game if you assume that a player such as StupendousMan has a preference for less immigrants (and that such preference can be brought about by immigration policy, which I’ve already expressed my skepticism for, which he has not addressed) totally without regard for what the actual and reall affects of immigration would in fact be. That is, if I decide I don’t want X number of immigrants, that’s in effect a given, regardless of whether the results of X number of immigrants would really be as bad as I think.

    I’m personally in the middle of the road on the matter of such a preference. I recognize that there’s pros and cons to everything and that many of either are impossible to predict. I do recognize certain drawbacks of there being more people here, for my preferences.

    That said, I think trying to stop those people from coming fails on both practical and ethical levels, as victimizing victimless crimes usually does, and I think (so far anyway) the bus analogy seems like a good way for explaining the moral failure aspect of it.

  31. “you’re claiming some inherently moral superiority”

    I’m doing no such thing. I’m claiming that if by chance my position is superior to yours I’m under no ethical requirement to give up my position- unless you are in imminent risk to life and limb which could be resolved by my giving you my position and didn’t result in me immediately be at risk.

  32. I have a “How India is Different from the West” story. An Indian-American friend of mine in law school went to India to visit his uncle, a wealthy M.P. My friend is thoroughly American and was berated a few times for treating the servants as, well, people. They even gave him a hard time for taking pictures of the servants.

    While he and his uncle were watching TV, his uncle wanted to change the channel. Next to him was the remote control. About three feet farther away was the button for calling a servant. He reached for the button, called a servant, and had the servant operate the remote for him. Obviously, this isn’t the story of an average Indian, but I think it speaks volumes about the difference between our cultures.

  33. …but I think it speaks volumes about the difference between our cultures.

    …and about the people who leave that culture to immigrate to the US.

  34. “Have you ever applied for just one job, pinning all of your employment hopes on that single position? Or do you apply for a range of jobs, some of which might be better-suited to your abilities and requirements, but all of which are acceptable?”

    You point leaves time out of the equation. Certainly one should apply for many jobs but the sooner I get a job the better. If I’m not able to pay my bills tomorrow and I would have gotten paid from the job that day then it certainly is a zero-sum deal. Get job pay bills, no job don’t pay bills, bills now higher due to interest, fees, worse credit score resulting in less opportunity.

  35. “those who want to get on have every right to be there that you do”

    Even someone from Cambodia? Certainly it isn’t fair that people born on our continent through pure chance should be able to immigrate freely while Cambodians are stuck because of the intervening ocean. The obvious solution is to start ship transport from all the nations on earth to the US so that everyone can exercise that right.

  36. Stupendous Man,
    No one is suggesting you be required to give up your stool at the bar for someone else. All we’re saying is, other people have as much right to come in the bar as you do. You are not being required to trade places; it is only suggested that you have no right to bar others from coming in, even if it makes your place at the bar a little less cozy. That’s the price we pay for recognizing that the right to free movement is not only about what makes the first person in the most comfortable. It applies equally. But like I say, if you’re feeling a bit crowded, you can always head for the open spaces of the Antartic. Or even Alaska. No one is saying you have to do that, just it’s your option if you don’t like the crowds moving in.

  37. MikeP, that raises an interesting question. Most of the Indians I’ve known have been fairly affluent. Or, at least, their families were in India. Do they easily adapt to American values, especially our egalitarian views? I’d say yes as far as second generation Indian-Americans are concerned, but I’m working from a small sample size. And, of course, with the economic boom in India (the real economic juggernaut in Asia–China has too many internal problems to overcome to maintain its growth over the long haul), a large number of less affluent people are making the move. No doubt they’ll appreciate the nominal egalitarianism of the U.S.

    This reminds me of a professor I knew at Ohio State. She was Japanese but had no intention of returning to live in Japan. Why? Because she felt that she was a second-class citizen there and didn’t want to give up the status she had here. Hard to argue with that.

  38. Maybe we should ban people from crossing state boundaries (Hell, why not city boundaries. Maybe even neighborhood boundaries while we’re at it). I mean, I was in Washington first. What right do you have to come here and take my job, steal my girlfriend, and have all those East Coast babies? Besides, what about New Yorkers? You want all those people moving here, too? Should we set up a national mass transportation system to ship New Yorkers here in boxes then so they can exercise the right of free movement just like the rest of us West Coasters?

  39. Sorry that was a smartass comment. Everyone should have a chance to better themselves but due to the reality we live in some start off in a better position. I think that opening the floodgates would allow others better opportunies but if we do so where do we draw the line? Would you still advocate open borders if it was demonstrated that it would decrease the standard of living in the US? The ideal is honorable but is it workable? There has to be a population number that is detrimental what is it? If we find it how would you argue to go beyond it. How would you argue to keep people out once we hit near that number?

  40. There has to be a population number that is detrimental what is it?

    This is the same argument that was used to enact barriers to immigration in the first place — though then, those pushing the argument were unabashed about their personal racism.

    No, I do not believe that there is a population number that is detrimental. There, I’ve said it. Even the wildest projections of population growth don’t show the US hitting numbers even close to the range that India and China support, with much less territory.

    Add into the mix our stable and freedom-oriented form of gov’t, and you have a recipe for ongoing advances in the American standard of living, not retreat.

  41. SM,
    Okay, I see where you’re coming from. But you haven’t been boning up on Thomas Malthus lately have you? Your argument seems to assume that open borders would be all negative. But look, some countries are having under-population problems – allowing greater movement would help them. Secondly, the world’s population is supposed to top off around 2050 and then start heading back down as wealth and other factors increase. Sure, there might be more people in the U.S. for awhile but that will change as well with or without open borders. The U.S. could handle quite a few more people in this country than it already has, especially since many of those people will bring their labor, their skills, their food, music, other cultural elements, etc.

    Is there a certain number that might overload us? Maybe. I don’t know what that number is. But unlikely that the rest of the world would just head here. The ones who can get into Europe or some of the Asian countries will go there. Also, as I said, many Mexicans would probably just work here then return to Mexico. But regardless of all this, it still leaves the moral issue of who has the right to decide who gets to be the gatekeeper. I don’t see that I have that right, just because I was here first.

  42. Would you still advocate open borders if it was demonstrated that it would decrease the standard of living in the US?

    That’s like asking if I would be willing to limit free speech if it were demonstrated to lead to more crime.

    In either case, I doubt very much that would or could ever happen in any meaningful sense. You might find isolated examples that might seem to suggest it, but on the whole, no. Freedom is good.

  43. Whenever I see a thread on assimilation and read the anti-immigration comments, I’m always struck by the apparent disconnect between pro-immigration/pro-free trade people and their anti-immigration opponents.

    The pro-immigration/pro-free trade people offer evidence of easy assimilation as a pro-immigration argument, ignoring the obvious, that assimilation is one of the things anti-immigration people fear most.

    …not that I’m sure how to improve on the argument–so many of the arguments are quantifiable. I know that free trade is great thing. I can apply all the same arguments to immigration. I know what immigration does for economic growth. I find the anti-immigration arguments regarding the costs of social services ridiculous.

    …but how does one persuade a xenophobe that assimilation is a good thing?

  44. Ken,

    I’m not sure what you mean. Assmiliation usually means when immigrants lose their distinctiveness and become more like the larger culture to which they immigrated. I certainly don’t think the anti-immigrationists fear that. Lonewacko complains that East L.A. resembles Mexico. I don’t think he’d mind if it resembled Beverly Hills.

    Do you mean something else by assimilation? One thing anti-immigrationists do fear is how much our culture may be affected by immigrants, how much they may assimilate us, as opposed to vice-versa which is how the word is normally used. Is this what you mean? If so, I agree, though I don’t think it’s necessarily necessary to convince them that such an affect is good per se since it’s generally fairly minor, which may be the preferable point to make to them, though they may not believe that either….

  45. Every culture that has been assimilated into the American melting pot has certainly had its influence on the larger culture. Being able to purchase bagels, or pretzels, or good beer, nearly anywhere in the country are all signs of this.

    I guess some folks don’t care for churros or pulque – which is certainly their perogative – but I guess I don’t see how this makes for a cogent argument against immigration.

    Actually, it’s really hard to see what is actually driving their argument, other than the racism they so loudly and repeatedly deny lodges in their hearts.

  46. Ken,

    Maybe you could remind Milton Friedman that brown people are OK, too, you know ? like jews. That would probably persuade him. Most likely he hasn’t heard that argument before, and it never gets tiring.

    Another possibility would be to admit that there are people who disagree with you who aren’t xenophobes. If you admit that as a possibility, perhaps you can review each of the comments on this thread and try to figure out which are made by xenophobes.

    This comes up again and again. Some “pro-immigration now”, (e.g. regardless of the existence of a welfare state) people insist that people who would abolish the welfare state first are xenophobes. There are certainly xenophobes who are opposed to immigration, but there are also protectionists, nationalists, and at least one economic Nobel laureate who are or have been opposed to unrestricted immigration for other reasons.

    What’s so hard about admitting that someone can disagree with you and not be a xenophobe? People disagree with me a lot, but I don’t feel compelled to ascribe hidden intentions to them.

    As it is, I suspect enough people don’t want to be called a xenophobe or a racist that they simply stop participating in conversations where that happens repeatedly. Do it long enough and perhaps people will indeed stop reiterating the non-xenophobic objections to immigration. I know I’m certainly tired of pointing this out.

  47. I suspect enough people don’t want to be called a xenophobe or a racist that they simply stop participating in conversations where that happens repeatedly…

    I’m pro-immigration. I believe immigration will provide a great deal of benefit, taken as a whole. (I also believe that this is irrelevant, since what matters is the individual’s right to move where they want – at their own expense, and not violating the rights of others, etc., etc.)

    Having said that, I’m also sick of the ad hominem attacks on anyone who questions the pure, unadulterated bounty that immigration will provide. The constant cries of “Racism!” on these threads would tire out Al Sharpton. The vast majority of people in the US oppose increased immigration. Are they racist? All of them?

    There will be costs incurred, and externalities created by increased immigration. These costs will not be distributed evenly among people. Ignoring this does not make it less true. Stating that hate is the only reason anyone could oppose increased immigration does nothing to change anyone’s mind on the subject.

  48. They let 15 year olds marry. Cool.

  49. “No, I do not believe that there is a population number that is detrimental. There, I’ve said it. Even the wildest projections of population growth don’t show the US hitting numbers even close to the range that India and China support, with much less territory.”

    First those population projection do not take open borders into account. Second the standard of life in China and India is considerably below the US. Third please tell me how, let’s say, 500 million or a billion more people would not be deterimental. I’m finding it hard to connect to your thought process.

    “That’s like asking if I would be willing to limit free speech if it were demonstrated to lead to more crime.”

    Huh? First off the right to free speech is a right
    spelled out in the constitution. Second I specifically didn’t posit a single social ill, I was talking about standard of living which is comprised of many different factors. And why do you doubt it very much? Tea leaves?

    “evidence of easy assimilation as a pro-immigration argument”

    Over what period of time? Are there no growing pains or is that not a concern because only poorest will feel them? There is no immediate outcome, these things take time. Also I find it hard to believe that anyone thinks things always turn out the way we predict. I’m saying that we should use caution you’re saying throw it to the wind.

    Clean Hands,

    I’m not against immigration, I’m against open borders as are most who argue with you. Second why can’t you see that referring to people as racists is insulting? Please refrain from doing so you jackass.

  50. Third please tell me how, let’s say, 500 million or a billion more people would not be deterimental.

    Why don’t you first tell us how it would be, then we can comment on that. I think that makes more sense.

    Huh? First off the right to free speech is a right spelled out in the constitution. Second I specifically didn’t posit a single social ill, I was talking about standard of living which is comprised of many different factors. And why do you doubt it very much?

    First, unless you allow others to do your thinking for you, you don’t need a right to be spelled out in the constitutution to consider it a right. I made the comparison to free speech because people make the argument that rights should be limited by pragmatic concerns all the time, and yes, that very much includes the right to free speech which not everyone considers so absolute even if it’s in the constitution. What I was saying about that, which I hoped wouldn’t need to be spelled out, is twofold. First, a right is a right whatever the consequences, and next, rights that are worthwhile generally have a net benefit for societies that recognize them. This is how I view freedom issues of all sorts, and that includes both the right to free speech and the right to travel freely, which I consider a basic human right whether there’s a national border in your route or not. And that’s why I don’t see a need to discuss trade-offs as such.

    Next, when people speak of standard of living, usually they mean wealth. I think experience and reason demonstrate that allowing people the freedom to go where they wish consistently increases wealth. This, not tea leaves, is my basis for doubting that allowing people the freedom to immigrate here would do anything different than freedom always does.

    Now, if you mean other things by “standard of living”, at a certain point this becomes a tautology, since, as I pointed out earlier (while actually defending you, or at least your chosen line of reasonig), if you decide that increased immigration is a bad thing in your eyes, then ipso facto it’s a bad thing in your eyes and cannot do anything but decrease your “standard of living”, just because you’ve defined your standard of living to not include increased immigration. Tautology. I can’t make you see it any other way, and it’s your right to not prefer more immigration. It’s just not your right to force that on others (in my view; I understand the law grants the power to control others in this way; that doesn’t mean I have to recognize that as a legitimate power).

    Beyond that, as I’ve also said before, there’s pros and cons to everything. I’ve already stated why I think immigration freedom (which, BTW, is very different than increased immigration resulting from our government deciding to encourage immmigration, perhaps through incentives, which I would oppose), would increase our wealth. That doesn’t mean you or I have to like everything about it, anymore than either of us would necessarily like more people getting on the bus. My main two reasons for supporting immigration freedom is that it’s the most fair thing for would-be immigrants (because I believe freedom of movement is a basic human right notwihstanding that it’s not spelled out in the constitution) and because I think trying to limit immigration causes more problems than it prevents. In the nutshell.

  51. StupendousMan, I did not call you a racist; what I said is that it is difficult to understand the underlying motivation that leads anti-immigration folks to dismiss logical arguments, absent an animating principle that includes a seed of racism.

    If you can help me to understand what other underlying cause there is behind your opposition to immigrants, I’d love to hear it — so far, your strawmen and red herrings have been falling short of the mark.

    “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they ain’t out to get you.”

  52. First, unless you allow others to do your thinking for you, you don’t need a right to be spelled out in the constitutution to consider it a right.

    Oh, please… Surely you’re not suggesting that people had a right not to be enslaved before December 18, 1865.

  53. SmokingPenguin,

    Thanks for speaking up.

    To be fair, people who are calling others xenophobes may be accusing the others of fearing the foreigners, rather than hating them. That may make it easier for such accusations to be lobbed.

    People who are quick to lob “xenophobe” and “racist”,

    The interesting thing (to me) is that clearly some of the people who are anti-immigration are making protectionist arguments that are easily rebuffed with standard economics (e.g. comparative advantage). Addressing the out-in-front protectionist arguments directly rather than attacking the people making them as xenophobes or racists makes more sense to me regardless of whether the person making the protectionist claims really is a crypto-xenophobe or a crypto-racist.

    If the person using a protectionist argument really is a xenophobe or a racist, then successfully countering the protectionist argument strips one of the layers away, bringing the true xenophobic or racist argument closer to the surface. OTOH, it the person really isn’t a xenophobe or racist, then addressing the issue that is honestly at the heart of the matter for that person may result in a convert away from protectionism in general. Yay.

    However, the argument that “”open borders now” are in conflict with the welfare state” can’t be resolved with standard economics, because if welfare benefits are high enough, increased immigration is likely to be a net loss. Not only is that obvious, but Milton Friedman himself apparently concluded that welfare benefits were indeed sufficiently high in 1999 to be incompatible with open borders. That makes the question very hard to resolve for people who favor libertarian’s economic policies for pragmatic, rather than ideological reasons. Since such people are going to be hard to convince, saying, “we disagree on immigration, but let’s work together to dismantle the welfare state” seems a lot more productive than “admit it, you’re really a xenophobe at heart.”

    BTW, I think that overall, everyone, libertarians and non-libertarians, do better when they refrain from assuming that people who disagree with them are idiots, xenophobes, racists, statists, or some other flavor of inferiority or evilness. Libertarians may benefit a little more though, because libertarianism favors the individual over the group.

  54. anon2, you make some excellent points, and say better than I did what I was trying to get at.

    The problem is that we’re on the brink of Doing Something about immigration — so agreeing to disagree on that, while working together to end welfare has a whiff of “hey, look at the pony!” about it.

  55. Living in a rural and mostly white area, most of the folks here are on the anti-illegal-immigrant side of the argument, with an emphasis on “illegal”. Few of the people I have talked to are racist or xenophobic. Most just believe that there should be rules about who we let in and who we don’t, and that we should punish, not reward, those who have broken the rules. This is not unreasonable.

    Frankly, I don’t see why letting in 11 million largely poor, uneducated Mexicans and Central Americans helps the US at all. If we really need 11 million workers (I doubt this), we would be much better off importing the best 11 million volunteers from around the world, because they would bring both more talent and more diversity. Also, the whole “melting pot” theory works a lot better when the chunks are small enough to melt. If you have been to SoCal recently, you might come to the conclusion that “melting” is no longer the correct metaphor.

    I don’t understand the “it would be too hard to deport them” argument either, because it is easily solved. All we have to do is open up a guest worker program that allows employers to replace the illegals with legal workers from abroad. Most employers would rather obey the rules than break them, and with sufficient penalties, the rest will be scared into doing the right thing anyway. To be double-sure, we can implement another common sense policy – that if you want to apply to be a guest worker, you have to apply at a US embassy in your home country. This is normally the way working abroad works (I had to go to the Japanese embassy three times to get my work visa), and makes sense in this case. Now, if you are an illegal Honduran working in Texas, you have to go home, and to the back of the line, to get a shot at working legally in the US. Sounds fair to me. Without jobs, most illegals will leave, and to get a legal job, they have to leave. Let them deport themselves.

  56. Addressing the out-in-front protectionist arguments directly rather than attacking the people making them as xenophobes or racists makes more sense to me regardless of whether the person making the protectionist claims really is a crypto-xenophobe or a crypto-racist.

    I, too, tire of seeing the calls of racism or even of xenophobia when pure unadulterated protectionism is the more likely explanation. It’s main effect, and apparent goal as well, is to raise hackles.

    However, I do not give protectionists moral quarter. Protectionism defines an “us” and a “them” and plays “us” against “them” for the benefit of few of “us” at the expense of most of “us” and all of “them”. Protectionism is a violation of the freedoms of people who have done nothing wrong.

    Just because “us” and “them” are not defined by race or origin does not make it any more morally tenable.

  57. The interesting thing (to me) is that clearly some of the people who are anti-immigration are making protectionist arguments that are easily rebuffed with standard economics (e.g. comparative advantage). Addressing the out-in-front protectionist arguments directly rather than attacking the people making them as xenophobes or racists makes more sense to me regardless of whether the person making the protectionist claims really is a crypto-xenophobe or a crypto-racist.

    That’s, more or less, what I did in my last comment. …then I asked, once I’ve gone around the block a few times with a xenophobe, why pretend he cares about economic issues, etc. ? I should confess, I tend to assume people know more than they do–I find it hard to believe that people who spend so much time talking about economics know so little about the subject. …I tend to assume such people are simply disingenuous rather than ignorant, and maybe that’s a mistake.

    …although if I’m talking about people making ignorant statements betraying their irrational fear of foreigners, I think it’s hard to argue that I’ve misapplied the term “xenophobe”, don’t you agree?

  58. Chad, your comments fail to address the question of why the immigration is illegal in the first place. Let’s unpack that one and then we’ll talk about whether there’s xenophobia, racism, ignorance or just an honest “I hadn’t thought of that” involved.

  59. Most just believe that there should be rules about who we let in and who we don’t, and that we should punish, not reward, those who have broken the rules. This is not unreasonable.

    It’s so vague and squishy, how could it not be unreasonable, eh?

    I don’t think people should necessarily be punished for breaking rules that I don’t think should have been there in the first place. That said, I don’t think they should necessarily be rewarded, either. They should go through whatever minimal procedures may be necessary same as anyone else.

    Frankly, I don’t see why letting in 11 million largely poor, uneducated Mexicans and Central Americans helps the US at all.

    Comparative advantage and freedom versus the unintended consequences of trying to stop them.

    If we really need 11 million workers (I doubt this)

    It’s easy to decide for others what we, or more literally, they, need. Fact is, those folks wouldn’t be coming here if there weren’t a need for them. If no one was going to hire them, they wouldn’t be leaving their homes for nothing. We could quibble over the word “need”; perhaps I should say there’s a “want” for them, or a “use” for them, or perhaps just a market for them. The fact is they’re valuable to the economy or they wouldn’t be making the trip, regardless of what you deem “necessary” with your armchair philosophizing.

    we would be much better off importing the best 11 million volunteers from around the world, because they would bring both more talent and more diversity

    Again, nice of you to decide what’s best for others. For myself, I’m for lifting quotas for all immigrants. The market can sort out the rest.

    Regarding your guest worker proposal, I’m okay with that, at least compared to the status quo.

  60. Most just believe that there should be rules about who we let in and who we don’t, and that we should punish, not reward, those who have broken the rules. This is not unreasonable.

    Actually, it really is unreasonable. How many other things should I have to check with your neighbors about? Should I have to get their okay about whom I marry? What about where I send my kids to school? …or are they going to satisfied just telling me who I can and can’t hire to mow my lawn, take care of my grandparents or work in my business. How did your neighbors get involved in my life?

    …if your neighbors think they should be involved in decisions about whom I hire, then your neighbors are entirely unreasonable.

  61. “Chad, your comments fail to address the question of why the immigration is illegal in the first place.”

    I am taking the existence of welfare-providing nation-states as a given. Yes, I am sure we would all like these to disappear in the hypothetical, but in reality, it just ain’t gonna happen. In a perfect libertarian world, it would not matter a whit where Jose chose to live. In the real world, it darned well does.

  62. Ken, when you pay for all of the welfare benefits of all of your illegals, as well as magically increase the amount of public lands, water, and wildlife that belongs to the American people in proportion to the numbers of illegals that come, only then can you begin to claim that their arrival is not affecting me and therefore is none of my business.

    Of course, in a perfect libertarian world, open immigration would be the only rational policy. Likely, there would be no meaningful borders, so “immigration” wouldn’t really exist anyway. Here in reality, however, each person who immigrates to the US is one more person who can hold the metaphorical gun to my head and demand all sorts of “rights” to my time and money. Therefore, I darned well have the right to limit or restrict who gains these abhorent “rights” in the first place.

  63. “what I said is that it is difficult to understand the underlying motivation that leads anti-immigration folks to dismiss logical arguments”

    I didn’t say every argument was illogical. I disagree or think some are incomplete. If someone is going to make a argument using some economic theory they should certainly define the limits which apply to that theory. Period of time, what things stay static what change etc. They should state under what circumstances the theory/law wouldn’t apply. Otherwise you’re just quoting from a book.

    “The fact is they’re valuable to the economy or they wouldn’t be making the trip”

    So people are immigrating to better our economy?

    “If you can help me to understand what other underlying cause there is behind your opposition to immigrants, I’d love to hear it — so far, your strawmen and red herrings”

    I’m… not… against… immigrants! clear? I’m against open borders. What particular strawmen and red herrings? You should address them rather than going on about my motivations.

  64. So maybe there are some anti-illegal-immigration folks out there who are not racists and/or xenophobes, but they still come across as crankier than s**t.

    To sum up this page:

    Open border supporters feel that they own only what they own, not the entire country. They believe the economists who tell us that open borders are good for our economy.

    Closed border supporters don’t believe the economists. They believe Lou Dobbs and Ann Coulter. Not that they have been discussed on this page, but the views expressed here do align with statements those two figures have made.

    If this was called Intuition rather than Reason, I would say that I would side with open borders simply due to the company they keep.

  65. highnumber, I am not sure what economic theory you believe in which states that open immigration is good for a nation’s economy. I can think of numerous counter examples, all of which depend on said nation’s laws. For a hyper-ridiculous example, imagine a country with a completely open policy with the following laws: all people with IQs under 70 receive $1,000,000 every year, and all people with IQs over 110 had to give up 90% of their wealth each December 31st while paying a 90% income tax. Now what would happen to the economy of such a country if they were to adopt an open policy?

    If you have a theory, it probably works – in that hypothetical libertarian world which does not exist. In that world, Yellowstone and Mt. Fuji are equally “mine”. If a Japanese moves to the US, I neither gain or lose. However, in the real world, Yellowstone is much more “mine” than Mt. Fuji. When a Japanese moves to the US, my share of Yellowstone is diluted by one part in 300,000,000, while I gain no share of Mt. Fuji. Hence, I lose. Now, if that Japanese happens to have lots of skills and be a solid taxpayer, he or she probably offsets the dilution factor with their economic contributions. However, a low-wage worker rarely will. Indeed, their welfare claims alone will probably be larger than their contributions. So not only is my share of America’s natural resources diluted, but I have to pay for their kids education and their retirement.

    We should have the right to say “no”.

  66. highnumber,

    The very first comment mentions a quote by Milton Friedman. It’s easy enough to poke around using Google and come to your own conclusion as to whether he said it and what he meant by it.

    I’m not a big fan of argument via authority, but MF has better credentials than Lou Dobbs and Ann Coulter.

    I’m surprised that anyone with an inkling of knowledge couldn’t see that in the abstract it would be possible for a nation to provide benefits that would cause unrestricted immigration to be a net loss to the country.

    It’s kind of like the argument that says that regardless of what you think of minimum wage in general, a minimum wage sufficiently large would be a net loss. Most minimum wage supporters I know agree that a minimum wage of $1,000/hr. would be harmful, even though they think that $7.00/hr. (or whatever) would be beneficial.

    So if one can see how it would be possible for a nation to provide inappropriate incentives for immigration, it shouldn’t be too unreasonable for someone to ask whether the U.S. is currently in that state. It appears that Milton Friedman thought that the U.S. in 1999 was in that state.

  67. Chad,
    How’s it hanging? (Oh, dear lord, I hate myself. I am so sorry. You probably have been thrilled to not hear that for a while. I am sorry. It was a compulsion.)
    Google “economics immigration” You’ll find many different viewpoints, but the more reasoned studies point to an overall benefit from immigration. Not managed immigration, but immigration in general.
    For a hyper-ridiculous example…
    Yes, that example is very “hyper-ridiculous.”

    Anon2,
    Was Friedman arguing against immigration or the welfare state?
    Here a (classically) liberal economist references Friedman’s comment.
    (It is interesting to note that the first hit when I did google that quote was from the website that Immigration Realist recommended. Again, the company one keeps…)

  68. Some people immigrating to the US would bring a net gain. Some would bring a net loss. Should we attempt to sort between them, limiting the latter to a few refugees, or should we have an open policy, in which case we will get a lot of the latter? Either way, the people need to be documented and pay their taxes. Illegals rarely pay the taxes they owe. A great deal of their work is under the table or significantly under-reported. Even when they do pay, they are in the lowest tax brackets and therefore wouldn’t be carrying their own weight.

    Until we are all in the same boat, I want the best people in my boat. Is there something wrong with this?

  69. Illegals rarely pay the taxes they owe.
    Warning! Anecdotal evidence follows.
    In the mortgage industry, I see a lot of illegal immigrants who think they have become legal with purchased social security numbers which are actually TINs (taxpayer id numbers). They do pay taxes. The IRS is more than willing to take their money.

    A great deal of their work is under the table or significantly under-reported.
    Same thing goes for citizens who work labor intensive jobs. At work, I see a lot of construction workers who can’t fully document their income because they work as many cash jobs as they can. I have relatives who work full time as firemen or police officers and work cash jobs on their days off.

    Until we are all in the same boat, I want the best people in my boat. Is there something wrong with this?
    Me, too, but
    1. I think that the immigrants tend to be among those people, and
    2. I don’t believe the gov’t should be making that decision for any of us.

  70. I’m not a big fan of argument via authority, but MF has better credentials than Lou Dobbs and Ann Coulter.

    And I believe David Friedman has better credentials than any of them. He posits that perhaps welfare is not the enemy of open borders as much as open borders is the enemy of welfare.

    1) Open the borders. 2) Discover how unaffordable a welfare state is. 3) End the welfare state.

    It’s at least as reasonable an argument as the position that anti-immigration types take that illegal immigrants cost more in welfare than they give to the economy — a position that all evidence says is false.

  71. highnumber,

    If you read the page that you linked to yourself, you’d see that it too provided Milton Friedman’s quote. As such:

    “(It is interesting to note that the first hit when I did Google that quote was from the website that Immigration Realist recommended. Again, the company one keeps…)”

    is nonsensical. There but for the page rank algorithm go I.

    In other words, it’s Google that chose to associate the page containing that quote of Milton Friedman as high as it did. Had Google ranked “your” page higher, someone opposed to libertarianism could make the same “?company one keeps?” quote. Then, just like when you do it, it still wouldn’t change the fact that Milton Friedman said it.

    At least one serious economist disagrees with you. You blustered at 8:08pm, got called on it, and are now digging in your heels.

  72. MikeP,

    All evidence doesn’t say that your position is true. That’s why Milton Friedman disagreed (and as far as I know, still disagrees) with you. You want to pretend that your position is a slam dunk. Such pretense doesn’t actually bolster your position though.

    It’s like when a pro-life person or an anti-abortion person believes his position is inherently correct. As long as he totally dismisses his opponents points, then, of course, he’s not only correct, but he has no credible opposition. This may be comforting to that person and his friends, but in reality it’s still a complex issue.

    There are some arguments against immigration that are widely recognized, by the vast majority of mainstream economists to be incorrect. There are other arguments against immigration that economists disagree on.

    Let’s take the argument in a slightly different direction. Let’s pretend that I’m right and that there really are serious economists who believe the welfare state is incompatible with open borders. It doesn’t have to be Milton Friedman or anyone in particular. You can even believe that in reality there are no such economists, but for my thought experiment, you stipulate that there are. In this hypothetical world, where there are indeed serious economists who believe in this incompatibility, would you be doing your argument a favor or a disfavor by pretending that they don’t exist? Would I be doing you a favor or a disservice for pointing out that such economists do exist?

    In other words, if you truly don’t believe that there are no serious economists who see the incompatibility, that’s fine, but at least try to understand how some people think that it is credible that a nation can distort a market sufficiently to cause actors within the market to do sub-optimal things, even when that market is labor and the distortion is welfare.

  73. Ken,

    I don’t agree that calling protectionists “xenophobes” is productive or is even within the bounds of the definition of xenophobe that I’d use. I also wouldn’t use xenophobe to refer to the people who objected to Dubai Ports World operating various U.S. ports. I wouldn’t call a person who favored affirmative action racist, either. There are certainly broad definitions of xenophobe and racist that permit such use, but those definitions are easily confused with more narrow definitions.

    One can argue that protectionists have nothing (in the aggregate) to fear from people taking jobs at lower than prevailing wages. That’s what I believe.

    One can also argue that in the case of immigration, many of the non-citizens who would take jobs in the U.S. would do so at lower than prevailing wages. I also believe that.

    The next step is to say well, since it’s irrational to fear the taking of jobs at lower wages and since, in this context, it’s foreigners who take the jobs, then we have xenophobia, which is the irrational fear of foreigners. The problem with that reasoning is that the fear isn’t fear of foreigners qua foreigners, it’s the fear of the loss of jobs. There’s already a name for this particular fear and using the word xenophobe (or as I’ve seen other times, people mentioning skin color or language spoken) only muddles the issue.

    I prefer the word inflammable to the word flammable, probably because I learned it first. However, if I ever thought that my audience might mistake inflammable as meaning “not flammable,” concerning some substance where the difference could matter, I’d use flammable or some other set of words to convey my point. If I use inflammable and someone mistakenly gets burned, does it matter that I used the word correctly? If you call someone a xenophobe who doesn’t fit the definition that most people would use and doesn’t self-identify as such and you push him further away, does it matter if you used the word (broad definition) correctly?

  74. anon2,

    I’m sorry you took my “illegal immigrants cost more in welfare than they give to the economy — a position that all evidence says is false” to be a universal statement. That was an empirical statement true in 2006 about the US welfare system and illegal immigration.

    Do you have a reference that says that illegal immigrants are in toto a drain on the US economy today? I’ve seen only the contrary.

    Yes, one can imagine a regime where immigrants are a drain on a welfare state. One can imagine that throwing open the border with no concurrent reform of government services might lead to such a condition. But the US is not in that condition today. And suggesting that the US is in that condition today is not a reasonable argument against immigration.

    Any comment on David Friedman’s argument?

  75. anon2,

    In a sense you damned yourself:

    There but for the page rank algorithm go I.

    In other words, it’s Google that chose to associate the page containing that quote of Milton Friedman as high as it did.

    In other, more correct words, Google did not select to associate that page with that quote. The algorithms found it. But let’s leave Google out of this.

    I checked that link before posting the one that I chose. It had simply an excerpt of the article that told just enough to prove the point of the racist website it was on. Benjamin Powell’s speech that also referenced the quote was much more thoughtful and sympathetic to Friedman’s philosophy. I imagine that it doesn’t make as quick an impression as the vdare link.

    You blustered at 8:08pm, got called on it, and are now digging in your heels.

    Yes, I did bluster a little. I am sorry.
    I don’t believe that I “got called on it” and am “digging in my heels.” I read through the length of the page at the time and caught a quick impression of some populism and a bit of nastiness from some of the anti-illegal-immigration posters. Hence the Lou Dobbs and Ann Coulter references.
    If I ever dug in my heels, I did it long ago on this issue. I am in favor of open borders. From the evidence I have seen, I believe that open borders would be good for our economy. I do not, however, believe this to truly be the issue. I want the gov’t to protect our borders against physical assault, but not to run our economy. or provide welfare.

  76. All the economic reasoning aside, pro or con, it doesn’t change the underlying issue of why someone who has gotten here first suddenly has the moral high ground to play gatekeeper for others. He merely has the physical high ground.

    Now I wouldn’t call anyone here a racist who opposes open borders. And I think too often the race card has been used to distract from whatever topic people are talking about. And often it’s unfairly and inaccurately used. But stringing together enough of these comments from some of the opposition to open borders does make a pretty good case that there’s some sort of cross-pollination of xenophobia (generally or target towards specific groups) and protectionistic “I fear for my job and quality of life” sentiment underlying the arguments. It might be unproductive not to point this out if it were completely off target or if the argument really was only about economics but it’s neither completely off target, if you go back and read through the string, nor is the argument clearly only about economics or fear that the welfare state will be stretched too far (a system everyone here agrees is a dinosaur). To deny this is to…well, live in denial. At the very least, “fear” is what is driving this. Fear for one’s job, one’s quality of life (more people? more people who are not my image of high quality people? more people crowding up Yellowstone so I can’t get the peace I want). But those fears, of life being a little less pleasant, doesn’t give someone else the right to deny someone a fairly basic human right to move where they want.

    To sum some of this up: Larry, Moe, Curly, and… Homer… are sitting at their favorite corner bar in SleepyVille. They sit there every night, sipping their beers, waxing nostalgic for life in the good ole days. A few moments later, a group of out-of-towners enters. Some of the strangers saddle up to the bar, speaking in a strange accent (says odd things like, “I hear tell you’re also the saw bones in these parts”) order beers, and talk up the bar keep. Larry’s annoyed as he liked his corner bar all quiet and peaceful like. He doesn’t mind the strange new ways of the strangers, their accents or way of talking, so much as the fact that more of them means his enjoyment of his sleepy little bar is no longer quite as sleepy. He was here first, doesn’t he have any say in the matter? Moe, however is even more upset. He can’t stand their way of talking, the way they smell, the music they put on the juke box, etc. And like Larry, he thinks that because he was there first, he has the moral high ground there. Curly’s having a ball though. He’s learning new pool playing techniques, he thinks some of the women are easy on the eyes, he likes the music, etc. And he finds out the strangers are even opening some new bars and restaurants down the road, adding variety to this sleepy little town. Homer has mixed feelings about it all. He thinks it could be better in some ways, worse in others. But he at least recognizes that he is no different from the strangers in wanting to move to a different place if he chooses. But then he falls asleep at the power plant and the issue becomes moot.

  77. I’m thirsty.

  78. MikeP,

    I may have misunderstood what you were claiming, due to the context in which you brought it up. I was discussing the Milton Friedman’s claim that open borders and the welfare state are incompatible. As such, I was thinking about possible objections to making all immigration legal, rather than the net effect of illegal aliens in the U.S. in 2006.

    Off the top of my head I don’t know if there are any studies that show that illegal aliens have cost more in welfare in 2006 than they were a boon to the economy. I’m up past my bedtime, so I won’t look now. However, the difference between what immigrants have done in the U.S. in 2006 and what effect they have with totally open borders is sufficiently large that even if it’s stipulated that illegal aliens have been a net boost in the U.S. in 2006, it still remains an open question whether open borders would be a net win.

    I read David Friedman’s page a few days ago when someone (perhaps you) brought it up. I was not convinced, but it would be great if he were right and we wound up with no welfare state and open borders. However, I haven’t claimed that open borders are a bad idea. I’ve only claimed that it looks very likely that there are non-xenophobe, non-racist people (libertarians even) opposed to opening the borders with our current subsidies (welfare, education, health, etc.) in place.

  79. ” it looks very likely that there are non-xenophobe, non-racist people (libertarians even) opposed to opening the borders with our current subsidies (welfare, education, health, etc.) in place.”

    Maybe but there are enough comments on this string to suggest some form of xenophobia, specifically targeted towards certain groups, or in general is underlying “some” of the control the borders arguments. There’s the “11 million Mexicans” moving here argument – having all those babies, bringing skills ‘we’ supposedly don’t need, and supposedly having a net negative effect on the economy. There’s the argument that of not being against immigrants but just that we should be able to decide “who to let in and who” to deny – ‘high quality people’ is what ‘we’ want. There’s the “even Cambodians?” argument.

    But even if none of this were true, that there was no xenophobic sentiment at work here at all, that it was all just about the stretch on the social services we have, then it’s still “Me-First” argument, a morally dubious position, to say the least.

  80. Nick has been repeating “The United States is not becoming a bilingual nation….” in his immigration talking points too often. Mexican’s aren’t bad, they learn English.

    I’m not feeling it.. It’s not going to convince anyone on the other side of the fence, and it doesn’t sound very thoughtful from this side.

    America has always been a multilingual nation, just as every other nation in existance. And there is no reasonable reason why monolingualism is a sign of supremacy… it’s a sign of nationalism, and it stops there.

  81. anon2: Such a study would be meaningless. The biggest form of “welfare” is FICA, which the immigrants will not be collecting for some time. What are we going to do when they all start retiring, after having worked under the table half of the time (paying no tax) and working for minimum wage or so the rest (paying nowhere near enough to carry their own weight). Importing an uneducated low-wage worker might help us as long as they are young and healthy, but probably not in the long term. In contrast, allowing a Chinese scientist to immigrate is a tremendous boon to the economy, as this person will create several jobs by spending the money that they earn one the one job they “took” from some American.

    Can someone please explain why importing millions of unskilled uneducated workers benefits the average American? All I see is more competition for land, housing, and resources, fewer tax dollars per person, more welfare claims per person, fewer jobs for poor people here (leading to more welfare claims from them), etc. To offset this, we get our lawns mowed for a few bucks less and save a nickle on a Big Mac? Thanks but no thanks.

    We should be bringing in the best people we can, not the ones most willing to break the rules.

    Additionally, if you really opened the borders completely, you won’t be talking about ten million immigrants. You will be talking about a hundred million. Then what? We have neither the space nor the systems to handle such a surge. Everyone here seems to be living in some sort of twilight zone where the world is something that it is not. When the world is roughly flat, and their are either no nation-states or at least all nation-states are roughly equivalent, the open policy is both the correct and moral policy. Unfortunately, this world is not that world.

  82. “Can someone please explain why importing millions of unskilled uneducated workers benefits the average American?”

    Does it have to benefit the average American in order for it to be right? It benefits the people coming here. It benefits the people wanting to hire them. Why does the collective preference of the average American to have life stay the same trump the right of a person to move and better their life? Can someone explain that to me?

    Not only does this question assume that the uneducated and unskilled (though I doubt this one. Most likely they have some kind of skill even if it’s not the ones you like) bring nothing to contribute but it leaves out the possibility that their children will go on to become educated and skilled just as our families arrived much earlier with little education or skill but the following generations went on to go to college (many for the first time in their family) or to get other skills. It’s an assumption of stasis.

    “Additionally, if you really opened the borders completely, you won’t be talking about ten million immigrants. You will be talking about a hundred million. Then what? We have neither the space nor the systems to handle such a surge.”

    Well, you could move to Alaska if you like. I hear tell there’s plenty of space up there. And if their populations empty out, maybe you could move down there. But again, lots of assumptions that might not be right. If the borders were open many Mexicans could more easily return to their countries to live. The risk of doing so when it’s illegal to immigrate makes that jump back prohibitive. This question also assumes that they’re all going to end up on welfare, which most statistics seem to point out is wrong. If the argument is purely about this fear, then would it follow that we should export everyone on welfare now? If not, why not? I mean, it certainly doesn’t benefit the average American to have anyone on welfare.

  83. Additionally, if you really opened the borders completely, you won’t be talking about ten million immigrants. You will be talking about a hundred million.

    Your clairvoyance is impressive. But look, people aren’t going to come here if the opportunity for them has dried up. If that many people came just for the welfare benefits, well guess what, I think those benefits would dry up fast. I’m all for a process to become voting citizens, so I don’t foresee a hundred million voting themselves welfare overnight. People have reason and allowing people the freedom to use that reason and decide for themselves what’s best allows circumstances to reach a copecetic equilibrium.

  84. as this person will create several jobs by spending the money that they earn one the one job they “took” from some American

    Has anyone else noticed the high correlation between being anti-immigrant and sounding like a Keyensian? I suspect it might explain a lot of the protectionist tendencies…

    Can someone please explain why importing millions of unskilled uneducated workers benefits the average American?

    Yes, as long as by “importing” you mean “voluntary migration” and as long as the migrant nominally supports himself. Under those conditions, the wealth of the economy before the immigrant arrived can only go up.

    There is increased production in the economy because of the added labor. The new worker clearly values the wage more than the labor, or he would go back to his home country. The employer clearly values the labor more than the wage, or she wouldn’t be hiring at that wage. These are all positive contributions to the wealth of the society. How can the total wealth per person possibly go down?

    In other words, it’s not a zero-sum game. The fact that there was productive work to do and that someone was freely found to do it means there is more wealth in the society as a result.

  85. Good post, MikeP.

    One question, though. Who are you quoting at the top of your post? Are you accusing him of being anti-immmigrant and Keynesian? (Okay, two questions!) He sounds pro-immigrant to me, as he’s explaining that immigration helps the economy. Are you associating Keynesianism with a belief in the “multiplier effect”? (Okay, THREE questions!) It’s been 26 years since I got my BA in Econ, but I don’t think you have to follow Keynes to believe in the multiplier effect. I would say Keynes’s big fallacy was thinking that deficit spending by the government was a good way to exploit the multiplier effect, not that it exists in the first place. And I think the person you quote was right to point out that immigrants do more good than harm by spending the money they earn, although you’re also right that they benefit their employer as well. But maybe I misread you….

  86. MikeP,

    Keynes or Krugman?

    PK’s March 27th 2006 NY Times editorial “North of the Border” seems congruent with the protectionist argument.

  87. fyodor,

    Both of my quotes come from Chad’s last post. He appears pro-skilled-Chinese-immigrant (the first quote) but not pro-unskilled-uneducated-immigrant (the second quote).

    Yes, using Keynes as the multiplier-effect boogieman might not be the most accurate, only the most known. It’s just that this is the second time in a week that someone who was arguing against open borders was watching the dollar bills instead of the produced wealth.

  88. anon2,

    Yes, Krugman’s article is congruent with protectionism:

    …while immigration may have raised overall income slightly, many of the worst-off native-born Americans are hurt by immigration – especially immigration from Mexico. Because Mexican immigrants have much less education than the average U.S. worker, they increase the supply of less-skilled labor, driving down the wages of the worst-paid Americans.

    It is true that both the production and the production surplus of a low-skilled worker are small, and that the benefit to the economy can be swamped by the consumption of poorly conceived government services.

    But that’s an argument against poorly conceived government services, not an argument against low-skilled workers or against free migration.

  89. MikeP,

    Ah, if you had included Chad’s part about Chinese skilled labor being superior to unskilled labor in your quote, I would have understood better what you were responding to!

    Chad might be right about that, but of course only lifting quotas on all immigrants and allowing the market to sort it all out would tell us for sure!

  90. MikeP,

    I don’t respect PK’s opinions enough to read him often. The times I’ve read him (that I remember), including that piece, I’ve disagreed with him. I’m not a protectionist and I believe that comparative advantage is applicable in favor of immigration, creative destruction, too.

    However, I pop up on the various immigration threads occasionally to chide people for, what I believe, to be a tendency of some, including Reason editors, to ascribe to racism and xenophobism, that which can be ascribed to other motives, even when those motives are ones that I disagree with.

    Immigration is inherently about foreigners. People’s opinions on immigration vary, even those who are opposed. PK and friends are opposed to low-skilled immigration, but not necessarily high-skilled. Since the low-skilled immigrants who could most inexpensively come to the U.S. in large numbers come from Mexico, it’s easy to tar people who take PK’s arguments seriously as racist. I think that doing so is a big mistake.

    So my point in pointing out PK’s article was not to imply agreement, only to point out that there are living, popular, economists who feed the fear. I don’t read PK enough to say that he’s not a xenophobe or a racist, but I don’t recall reading anything that made me think he was and I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt.

  91. anon2,

    I, too, don’t think that most of those arguing against free migration on this forum are racist or xenophobic. But the reason racism and, to a lesser extent, xenophobia are so reviled is not that they are morally worse than other discriminatory beliefs: It is that there is precious little excuse to grow to adulthood in modern America with those particular discriminatory beliefs.

    I long for the day when the same can be said of protectionism. Government-enforced discrimination is wrong, whether it’s on the basis of race, origin, or nationality.

    …or, frankly, skills or education.

  92. fyodor, I wish the “market” could sort it out. However, the “market” has nothing to do with it. Rather, it would be their exact opposites – the welfare-providing nation-states, that would drive the sorting. If the “market” was sorting it out, we would be the fantasy of the libertarian dream, where I have stated repeatedly an open immigration policy would be best.

    Here in reality, we do not have a free market for citizenship. That is an injustice, but it is the way it is. For the US to do what would be the equivalent militarily to unilaterally disarming would be suicide for our nation. I think my estimate of 100,000,000 is if anything low. If the only rule was “you need to get here” half the populations of China and Africa would be on their way. Do you think people stuck making a buck a day working in the paddies or starving in Somalia wouldn’t give a kidney to get here?

    An open policy is fundamentally moral, and it works as long as the nations are roughly equal. We could easily adopt an open policy with Britain, Germany, or Japan. The flow of people would be both ways, and the skill/education levels of the migrants would be roughly the same. The nations would become more diverse, and of course the migrants are winners, as evidenced by their voting with their feet. However, if we adopted the same policy with Haiti, several million poor, uneducated people would show up and we would get stuck with the bill for caring for them. They win, but it is hard to argue that we do not lose.

  93. Deseo que el ?mercado? podr?a clasificarlo hacia fuera. Sin embargo, el ?mercado? no tiene nada hacer con ?l. Algo, ser?a sus contrarios exactos – los naci?n-estados de bienestar-abastecimiento, de que conducir?an clasificar. Si el ?mercado? lo clasificara hacia fuera, ser?amos la fantas?a del sue?o libertarian, donde he indicado que en varias ocasiones una pol?tica abierta de la inmigraci?n ser?a la mejor. Aqu? en realidad, no tenemos un mercado libre para la ciudadan?a. Eso es una injusticia, pero es la manera que es. Para que los E.E.U.U. hagan cu?les ser?an el equivalente unilateral a desarmar ser?an militar suicidio para nuestra naci?n. Pienso que mi estimaci?n de 100.000.000 es si cualquier cosa bajo. Si la ?nica regla fuera ?t? necesidad de conseguir aqu? mitad las poblaciones de China y de ?frica estar?an en su manera. ?Piensas a gente pegada haciendo un buck al d?a que trabaja en los paddies o el morir de hambre en Somalia no dar?a un ri??n para conseguir aqu?? Una pol?tica abierta es fundamental moral, y trabaja mientras las naciones sean ?spero iguales. Podr?amos adoptar f?cilmente una pol?tica abierta con Gran Breta?a, Alemania, o Jap?n. El flujo de la gente ser?a ambas maneras, y los niveles de la habilidad/de la educaci?n de los n?madas ser?an ?spero iguales. Las naciones llegaron a ser m?s diversas, y por supuesto los n?madas son ganadores, seg?n lo evidenciado por su votaci?n con sus pies. Sin embargo, si adopt?ramos la misma pol?tica con Hait?, vario mill?n de pobres, uneducated a gente demostrar?an para arriba y conseguir?amos pegados con la cuenta para cuidar para ella. Ganan, pero es duro discutir que no perdemos.

  94. The economic reasoning from both sides is impressive (as is the Spanish!…know any Freisian?) but we shouldn’t let it obscure the moral dimension to the argument: why should being here first grant one the omniscient wisdom, moral superiority, and legal and moral right, to decide who and how many get on the bus? (and just out of curiosity, did your own ancestors arrive here with a Ph.d in molecular biology or industrial engineering? Did Milton Friedman’s?)

  95. Has anyone considered the impact of widescale automation? No more agriculture jobs, no more jobs at McDonalds, etc. I’m sure this angle has been addressed but I’m curious as to how this has been accounted for.

  96. Paleolib:
    I respect the reasons for why Germany’s aggression should have been stopped. All I’m saying is that it might have been better to let the Soviets and Germany duke it out, weakening each other to the point that neither could do much damage to other countries. Considering that after the war, the Soviets went on to kill and enslave many more people than the Nazis, there’s something to be said for this argument, at the very least.

    “Has anyone considered the impact of widescale automation? No more agriculture jobs, no more jobs at McDonalds, etc. I’m sure this angle has been addressed but I’m curious as to how this has been accounted for.”

    Stupendous Man: if your point, by way of an analogy, is to compare the ideological with the practical, I don’t see it. The natural and voluntary evolution of business practices is in quite a different category from the coercive use of gatekeepers to control immigration.

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