Immigration

Immigration: The Most Important Economic Issue

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Matt Yglesias at Slate speaks some important truths about a topic not touched on in the presidential debate: immigration.

Imagine a counterfactual history of the United States in which we had slightly different tax and budget policies over the centuries, and you're imagining an extremely boring scenario. Most likely, things would be about the same. But imagine a counterfactual history of the United States in which we never opened our borders to the ethnic "others" of the past—the Catholics and Jews of Eastern and Southern Europe, then more recently Asians and Latin Americans. That is a very different vision of America. Not a bad place, necessarily, but probably one that looks a lot more like New Zealand….

— Inadequate supply of workers with certain specialized skills. — Inadequate demand for U.S.-made goods and services. — Endemic malgovernment and lack of democracy in many countries. — Funding problems for the popular and successful Social Security system.
— Growing anxiety about America's ability to retain a strategic advantage vis-a-vis China. These are problems that could be relatively easily ameliorated through better immigration policy. You start with the literally billions of people in the world suffering from malgovernment either in the form of lack of democracy (Russia, China), endemic corruption (India), poor macroeconomic management (Japan), rampant rent-seeking (Italy, Mexico), or lack of state capacity to perform basic governance functions (most of Africa)….

That's help on the supply side that becomes help on the demand side. Two demand side things happen when someone moves to the United States. One is that since their income rises, their volume of consumption rises. The other is that even in today's global economy, you're going to buy many more US-made goods and services if you live in Dallas or Denver rather than Dalian or Djibouti or Dominica…..

Our politicians talk, constantly, about how the United States is "the greatest country on earth" but they're oddly reluctant to pursue the policy implications of the fact that millions of people around the world agree with them about that. We treat the desire to migrate here with suspicion, as a problem we need to solve with better guards and biometric identity verification systems rather than as something that should be taken at face value. The United States of America is a much better-than-average place to live. Lots of people would like to move here. Taking advantage of that fact has, historically, been far and away the biggest contributor to American national greatness…

If you believe in ameliorating the lot of the less well-off in the world, you one-percent/99 percenters, and not just bettering your position vs. people richer than you, the most important thing you can do is be for more open immigration. 

Adam Ozimek at Forbes thinks that any economics writer who isn't stressing these points about immigration is guilty of professional malpractice:

It's the most important economic issue of our time, far more important than tax reform, and it is a lever that could help improve a lot of problems we have in this country. We should be shouting this from the rooftops daily.

Reason's classic 2006 cover story, "Immigration Now, Immigration Tomorrow, Immigration Forever."

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  1. What is this “rest of the world” crap people keep talking about?

    1. I think that’s what they call the place where the bombs go.

      1. Ah, the drone ranges.

        And people live there you say? Well that’s not very smart of them.

        1. Look they only have so many drones and so many bombs, okay? Give them a few more years and there won’t be anyone living there.

          1. There are limits to my patience, sir. Though I suppose if it will finally solve this ‘immigration fuss’ then the wait will be worth it.

          2. I say we take off and nuke the site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

    2. It is where malaria kills a million people a year and people like Matt Yglesias advocate we prohibit pesticides that could be used to wipe out malaria.

  2. It would have kept the Irish out.

    1. “All right… we’ll give some land to the niggers and the chinks. But we don’t want the Irish!”

    2. TOO LATE YA FOOKER, WE’RE HERE NOW AND WE AINT LEAVIN TILL THE BAR CLOSES!

  3. Matt Yglesias at Slate speaks some important truths

    Unpossible.

    1. Stopped clock, yada yada.

  4. Filthy fekkin furriners.

  5. Contra the JuiceBox Pundit, I’d love it if this country looked more like New Zealand. What’s not to love about a free economy, a sane immigration system, a simple tax code, a non-militarized police force, a small but well trained military, an entitlement state that isn’t exploding, and a largely non-corrupt government? Sure, it’s harder to find decent Mexican food, but that’s mostly made up by the fact that you can find venison in most grocery stores.

    1. Not to mention all those beautiful, beautiful sheep to take to the prom.

      1. Watch it, or a dozen All Blacks will come and stomp on you – stop eyeing their sheep!

      2. Prostitution is legal there as well, though I’m not sure whether that cover MOlly the Merino…

    2. Sure, it’s harder to find decent Mexican food, but that’s mostly made up by the fact that you can find venison in most grocery stores.

      I wouldn’t consider that an even trade.

    3. I was puzzled by the dismissive reference to New Zealand, too.

      1. It’s Matty Yglesias. He thrives on the pointlessly stupid non-sequitur.

    4. New Zealand is a Nanny State par excellence.

      No thanks, you can keep it.

      1. In what way?

        1. Don’t take it from me; here’s a Kiwi on the subject.

          1. I lived there for two years. That stuff is small potatoes to what goes on in California. And in New Zealand, there actually is vehement opposition to it, something that is virtually non-existent here in the land of fruit and nuts.

      2. And remember, I live in California, so comparisons are all relative…

    5. Then again, immigrants aren’t the main reason we have a militarized police force, an overly large military, an out of control entitlement state and a corrupt government

      1. I’m not sure. I’m coming around to the theory that there are severe dis-economies of scale when it come to democratic governance. Which means it very well might be the fact that we have more people here that leads to these problems.

        1. There are severe dis-economies of scale in most endeavors – particularly in government.

        2. If you’re gonna argue that, then you’re gonna have to say immigration should have been cut off way long ago. A hundred years ago, we had close to 100 million people already, and even if we had completely shut off immigration, we would still be one of the most populated countries in the world. Or maybe we should have broken up into smaller political units at some point

          1. Smaller, competitive political units. Hmm, have you read the book my handle comes from?

            1. Can’t say that I have. What’s the title?

              1. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson. Some of the virtual reality stuff doesn’t hold up that well (it was written in 1992, Diamond Age has stood the test of time better), but the societal structure described is interesting…

    6. Can I bring my guns?

      1. Once you get your permanent residency (and depending on the gun). Gun laws are about as bad as California (a little worse regarding handguns), though things like silencers are legal.

  6. And that link goes to an article about the band formerly known as The Beach Boys (if Brian Wilson isn’t there, it’s not The Beach Boys). Up yours with a little deuce coupe, Mike Love.

    1. The link has been fixed, tho the connections between immigration and the Beach Boys are deep, though I don’t yet know what they are.

  7. Part of the problem is the migration is primarily from one place (Mexico – maybe throw in Central America too). The illegal folks coming in from there have helped kill the appetite for people from everywhere else.

    Whether its people grumping about “they take our jobs” or having to wait two hours in the ER to get seen behind 30 others using the ER as their walk-in care or parents having their schools overloaded with kids who do not speak English and strain the rather uncreative teachers union members and admins capabilities, trying to get the message across is pretty rough these days – no matter how logical or backed by study or the like.

    God knows we are going to need some population in this country – and with the economic situation and demographics currently seen, a good chunk is going to have to come from immigration.

    1. Most illegal immigration is coming from Mexico. When it comes to legal immigration, the Americas and Asia are pretty much tied.

      1. Without the illegal immigration, I think it would be easier to get people to support much higher legal immigration from everywhere.

        Well, except Canada, you know how those people are.

        1. Re: LTC(ret) John,

          Without the illegal immigration, I think it would be easier to get people to support much higher legal immigration from everywhere.

          That’s like saying that, without illegal drug trafficking, people would be more open on supporting legal drug trafficking.

          The fact is that the animosity towards Mexicans existed since the 1800’s. It is still common for a lot of people to equate illegal immigration with Mexicans.

          1. No, it really isn’t like saying that.

            1. It is to some extent. There are as many legal immigrants as there are in large part because the immigration laws as they are now let too few unskilled workers in. They are “illegal” because the laws are stupid, not because of some underlying criminality. Which is similar to the case with the drug war.

    2. parents having their schools overloaded with kids who do not speak English and strain the rather uncreative teachers union members and admins capabilities,

      From someone in the field, I can say that’s not entirely true. Compared to Special Ed., ESL places very little burden (monetary and otherwise) on schools. Furthermore, while many mainstream teachers and administrators are not always educated on issues involving English Language Learners, ESL/EFL teachers themselves have increasingly professionalized. At the Secondary level, not only do they have to be knowledgeable on how to teach ESL, but they also have to be certified in another subject; Math, Science, History, etc.

  8. malgovernment either in the form of lack of democracy (Russia, China), endemic corruption (India), poor macroeconomic management (Japan), rampant rent-seeking (Italy, Mexico), or lack of state capacity to perform basic governance functions (most of Africa)….

    And if we work extra hard, we can not only catch up to our rivals but surpass them in each of these categories. The “problem” of illegal immigration will then solve itself: if we turn this country into as big a shithole as the rest of the world, then they won’t want to come here anymore. All we have to do to accomplish this goal is elect Obamney!

  9. You start with the literally billions of people in the world suffering from malgovernment either in the form of lack of democracy (Russia, China), endemic corruption (India), poor macroeconomic management (Japan), rampant rent-seeking (Italy, Mexico), or lack of state capacity to perform basic governance functions

    But… you have ALL those awful things already here:

    Lack of democracy – check! The exclusion of Ron Paul/Gary Johnson from the process, case in point.
    Endemic corruption – check! Charlie Rangel, anyone? ACORN? Barney Frank, Chris Dodd?
    Poor macroeconomic management – check! QE to infinity and beyond, TARP.
    Rampant rent-seeking – check! Solyndra, Unions, regulations/licenses.
    Lack of state capacity to perform basic governance – check! Police going after non-violent offenders while ignoring real criminals; prosecutors more preoccupied with their political future than justice.

    1. Police going after non-violent offenders while ignoring real criminals

      Real criminal might shoot back. They’ve got families to go home to, you monster! Officer Safety FTW!

  10. Matt Yglesias is opposed to free trade which if had not been repressed for the past 100 years by left wing progressives like him the third would would not still be in such dire circumstances and immigrants would not want to come here to escape their plight because the whole fucking world would be astronomically rich.

    Saying immigration is the single most important economic issue is complete buillshit.

    I should also point out that Matt Yglesias places the whole discussion in nationalist terms.

    That is a very different vision of America. Not a bad place, necessarily, but probably one that looks a lot more like New Zealand….

    Different vision of America being lamented by a left winger. Smells like fascism to me.

  11. We are told there is this RACE problem. We are told this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.

    The Netherlands and Belgium are more crowded than Japan or Taiwan, but nobody says Japan or Taiwan will solve this RACE problem by bringing in millions of third worlders and quote assimilating unquote with them.”

    We are told the final solution to this RACE problem is for EVERY white country and ONLY white countries to “assimilate,” i.e., intermarry, with all those non-whites.

    What if I said there was this RACE problem and this RACE problem would be solved only if hundreds of millions of non-blacks were brought into EVERY black country and ONLY into black countries?

    How long would it take anyone to realize I’m not talking about a RACE problem. I am talking about the final solution to the BLACK problem?

    And how long would it take any sane black man to notice this and what kind of psycho black man wouldn’t object to this?

    But if I tell that obvious truth about the ongoing program of genocide against my race, the white race, Liberals and respectable conservatives agree that I am a naziwhowantstokillsixmillionjews.

    They say they are anti-racist. What they are is anti-white.

    Anti-racist is a code word for anti-white.

    1. Re: White Rabbit,

      We are told there is this RACE problem.

      You were lied to. It’s an economic problem – too many restrictions on the labor market.

      We are told this RACE problem will be solved when the third world pours into EVERY white country and ONLY into white countries.

      What’s a “white country”? I only know those that are green… or khaki. Or do you mean Antartica?

    2. Richard Hoste, is that you?

    3. We are told there is this RACE problem.

      Not sure who this “we” is, I’ve never been told that in my life. It’s an economic problem, of course. But you already know that.

  12. Ask the American Indians how open borders worked out for them.

    Immigration can work if you have people who come in adapt, assimilate. I’m part Spanish, part Irish, part Swiss, Part Scottish. But all my ancestor’s dropped their cultures in favor of the America.

    But we don’t see that anymore. We have places where English isn’t spoken, we have women in burkhas everywhere, sharia law. About the only immigrant group that tries to assimilate anymore are Asian Indians. I’m all in favor of bringing more of them over, but not people who won’t leave their language and culture at the door.

    1. Ask the American Indians how open borders worked out for them.

      That’s more of a problem of unequal protection of rights, than border control.

      all my ancestor’s dropped their cultures in favor of the America.

      Relatively few people just “drop” their cultures. Over generations, parts both the larger culture and the subculture is changed by the interactions between them.

      But we don’t see that anymore.

      We never did. That you imagine that “immigrants in the past were different” is false. There have been struggles between immigrant values and “American” values whenever new groups have come here. Both end up being changed.

      not people who won’t leave their language and culture at the door.

      Frankly, you’re wrong. That you think everyone who comes here has to become exact copies of the people who are already here is ridiculous.

  13. The New Zealand comment pretty much sums up this debate. On one side are people who think countries that look like New Zealand are the ideal. On the other side are rich leftists who like to pretend they don’t think places that look like New Zealand are the ideal, but of course the neighborhoods they choose to live in look a lot more like New Zealand than the third world hovels they cite as the ideal. And then you have the immigrants, who are doing everything they can to escape the places Matt claims are the ideal in order to move to countries that look more like New Zealand.

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