Libertarians Tend to Favor Immigration, But …

Libertarians also tend to favor free expression. And there appears to be a real-world trade off.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

UC-San Diego's Hal Pashler has an interesting paper entitled "U.S. Immigrants' Attitudes Toward Libertarian Values." Using data from the 2010 General Social Survey, Pashler examined differences between foreign-born residents and US-born residents in their views on free expression.

The General Social Survey contained 15 questions specifically on free expression values. Five hypothetical situations were covered—all of them concerning the expression of individuals whose views could be seen as distasteful to a significant number of Americans. Respondents were asked whether these individuals (an "atheist," a "communist," a "racist," a "homosexual," and an "anti-US Muslim cleric") should be allowed to speak on a college campus and whether should be able to teach there. They were also asked whether such a person's book should be allowed in the library.

Pashler combined the speak/teach/library questions and found that in all cases, the foreign-born residents were less likely to support free expression than US-born residents. In all cases except the "homosexual" scenario, the difference was statistically significant. For example, almost 80% of the US-born residents' responses supported the atheist's free expression, but only about 65% of the foreign-born residents' responses did. About 60% of the US-born residents' responses were favorable to free expression in the "racist" scenario, while about 42% of the foreign-born residents' responses were. For the "anti-US Muslim cleric," the figures were about 45% and about 27%.

Will the foreign-born population's views change as time goes by? Maybe. But as any poor sot who has ever been hired by one of the major political parties to woo an ethnic group that has traditionally voted for the other party will tell you, it's not as easy as it sounds to change people's political views. Most people, immigrant or not, vote the same way their grandparents voted. It is especially difficult to try to get foreign-born residents to "think like" US-born residents given the anti-assimilationist ideology that has been prevalent now for decades, particularly in our schools. The culture of "safe spaces," "trigger warnings," and "hate speech codes" makes it twice as difficult.

There is no good reason immigration policy should be driven solely by this angle of the issue. But there is no good reason policymakers should ignore it either.

NEXT: The Right of Publicity?A Misunderstood, Misshapen, Bloated Monster

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  1. This is what David Brudnoy was afraid of.

  2. That study stinks. The foreign-born residents number only ~550 in the entire survey, and only ~400 are she’s each question. The relevancy of 400 to an actual population of 23 million is suspect.

    It indicates that it samples ‘residents’ but it seems to be ‘residents’ of households, not a resident in immigration status. The study is probably including a fair number of people who are living here temporarily and don’t plan to stay.

    It only considers one adult in each household. That’s okay if there isn’t any correlation with family size and beliefs but it oversamples adults in smaller households.

    1. That doesn’t seem that bad. But really, you don’t even need a study to see the general point has merit. No country (i.e. people) in the world values free speech as much as the U.S. does. Most don’t value it at all.

      1. you don’t even need a study to see the general point has merit.

        With opinions as good as M.L.’s, who needs facts?

        1. Do you disagree that no other country values free speech as much as the U.S., and that most don’t value it at all?

          1. How much of the attitude is merely being afraid of giving an answer that, where they came from, might piss off the government? For all they know, the wrong answer might lead to an arrest of being put on a list.

            I remember an old episode of Cops where a sheriff pulled over a Mexican family traveling cross-country, found $8000 in a tire in the trunk, and took it as obvious crime money and sent them on their way. Congress hyperventillated and wondered why the cop wasn’t arrested for theft.

            Anyway, if you come from a corrupt country, legal or illegal, you let the cop keep it or you will be hassled anyway. I am not sure the current discussion doesn’t have overlap.

            1. Krayt, I understand the appeal of, and I do think there’s a kernel of truth to, this unversalist notion that our values should have universal appeal because freedom is the best.

              But it should be clear by now that it’s tremendously naive and mistaken to imagine that all the world is just eagerly waiting to adopt our values tomorrow if only their evil leaders would get out of the way or be taken care of somehow, or worse, if only they could be transplanted en masse. This thinking has led to immeasurable harm and destruction. At the end of the day, government and politics is a downstream product of the people themselves, who by and large get the government they want and deserve. If a people truly internalize the values of freedom and the attendant responsibility, then they will have it. There is a contemptible line of thinking that says we should condemn most of the globe to horrific oppression and poverty by imagining that relocation is the only hope and we should just siphon off the people best positioned to heal those lands.

    2. A sample size of 400 is actually a pretty good sized sample, so long as it was truly picked randomly from the general foreign-born population. By comparison, presidential election polls generally have a sample size of ~1,000

      1. Yep. Unfortunately, most things are not the GSS

  3. More to the point, this is the typical right-winger approach of hoping to drive wedges into the left – Muslims hate Jews and want to subjugate women, immigrants hate atheists, Planned Parenthood sells body parts.

    Who decided that Heriot would be a valuable addition to VC? She would be more at home at The American Conservative, where this sort of thing is the sea they swim in.

    1. So, you’re one of those people who get offended when anyone points out the bad consequences of political positions you support. Noted. Of course, I probably would feel embarrassed to advertise such a fact if I were in your shoes, but to each his own.

    2. If I remember correctly, in France, Muslim immigrants are more antisemitic than the far right.

  4. Oof. This is too much common sense on the topic of immigration, such that it’s obvious to most people and quite pertinent, but you don’t expect to see anyone point it out.

  5. I of course favor freedom of expression, but the flip side of freedom is consequences: You aren’t actually prevented from exercising the freedom, but others are equally free to respond to the exercise.

    In this case, of course, freedom of expression is an actual right, whereas immigrating to the US isn’t. So denying a non-citizen the privilege of coming here isn’t in any sense a punishment.

    By the way, thanks for saying Libertarians “tend to” support free immigration. Like abortion, this is a question libertarians have long been divided on, and even libertarians who favored free immigration at least used to acknowledge that there path dependence issues involved. (A night watchman state can afford open borders, a welfare state can’t. And we, regrettably, are now a welfare state.)

    1. “In this case, of course, freedom of expression is an actual right, whereas immigrating to the US isn’t. So denying a non-citizen the privilege of coming here isn’t in any sense a punishment.”

      The particular thing that comes to mind here is that repeatedly immigration barriers historically repeatedly infringed on the freedom of expression, such as certain “bad ideas” blocking speakers from coming here. They other times also violate other aspects of the First Amendment, including the religious liberty clause.

      “Libertarians” divide on lots of things, including what the heck that word means. Yes, some do divide on abortion, though others think the state punishing a basic aspect of control of one’s body is problematic. Others have degrees of concern. They in theory care about many things, but the types of candidates, e.g., they really get emotional about involve only certain things.

      1. I’m not very found of people who say, “The Constitution isn’t a suicide pact!”. Because what they usually mean is that it IS a suicide pact, and as such should be violated.

        But I find myself driven to say this: If the Constitution really, truly does require that we admit to our country people with expressed values hostile to our rights and culture, then the Constitution really IS a suicide pact.

        And should be amended, not violated, of course.

        But I don’t actually believe the Constitution requires that. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

        Barring somebody hostile to our nation from our nation has nothing to do with establishing a state religion. It doesn’t interfere with the free exercise of religion. It doesn’t abridge freedom of speech or the press, or the right to assemble and petition your government for redress of grievances.

        It merely requires the person in question to exercise all those rights someplace else, because they don’t have any right to be HERE. The 1st amendment is utterly irrelevant when the question is whether a non-citizen can enter our country.

        The key thing to remember is that non-citizens have no right to be in the US., and so are deprived of no right by being kept from entering.

        1. But I find myself driven to say this: If the Constitution really, truly does require that we admit to our country people with expressed values hostile to our rights and culture, then the Constitution really IS a suicide pact.

          At a minimum, it would seem that no immigrants should be admitted who are unwilling to agree to the oath required upon naturalization, which includes a promise to

          ? Support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic;
          ? Bear true faith and allegiance to the same;

  6. Will the foreign-born population’s views change as time goes by? Maybe. But as any poor sot who has ever been hired by one of the major political parties to woo an ethnic group that has traditionally voted for the other party will tell you, it’s not as easy as it sounds to change people’s political views.

    Generalize much?

    That’s quite a move from the stability of political affiliation to the stability of attitudes investigated in the survey.

    Most people, immigrant or not, vote the same way their grandparents voted.

    Do they? Which grandparents, exactly? And how did it happen that the grandparents of immigrants voted in the US at all?

    It is especially difficult to try to get foreign-born residents to “think like” US-born residents given the anti-assimilationist ideology that has been prevalent now for decades, particularly in our schools. The culture of “safe spaces,” “trigger warnings,” and “hate speech codes” makes it twice as difficult.

    I don’t suppose there is evidence for this. There certainly is none in the paper you link to. It looks a lot like just a cheap shot at universities.

    1. American Jews voting for Democrats against their self interest is a good example (I hate when progressives say this about rural whites, but what’s good for the goose…).

    2. Another pedant. “vote the same way their grandparents voted” can certainly mean voted back in the old country, and can also be a slightly sloppy metaphor for “would have voted if they were alive and voting today” or even “felt” instead of “voted”.

      And “Generalize much?” Of course it’s generalization! What a sorry comment, what else would it be?

      Your comment contradicts itself. You need to do better.

      1. American Jews voting for Democrats against their self interest is a good example

        Thanks for telling me what’s in my interest. I’ll give your opinion the weight it deserves.

        1. Yeah, you don’t like it. Most people don’t. Then why are you okay with smug urban liberals making that claim about white middle class conservatives?

          1. Who said I was OK with it?

            Are urban liberals the only people who are smug about their political views? I don’t think so. Lots of smugness by conservatives is on display right here in the VC comments section.

            There is a difference between telling people what their self-interest is, or should be, and telling them that the candidates they are voting for will not serve their own stated self-interest.

            If someone in Kansas says they are voting for Brownback because his tax cuts will generate huge revenue and make everyone in the state rich it’s fair to say they are wrong.

            1. That’s not usually the way the argument is framed. It’s usually “You are voting against your own interests by voting for Brownback because you care about cultural issues. You should only be voting for free stuff like Democrats do.”

      2. I don’t think one’s grandparents’ views or voting in a different country – which may not even have been a democracy – and in a totally different political environment tells us very much. And of course people do have four grandparents, not one. Even if we grant that husband and wife will vote the same most of the time, you are still talking about two votes, not one.

        But say all four voted the same. Even if there is no carryover there is still a 50% that someone will vote the same way as their grandparents, so you would have to show that the actual number was greater. Do we know that, or is Prof. Heriot just making stuff up?

  7. That’s exactly the reason I oppose nearly all immigration; the people who immigrate don’t share our values, our commitment to due process and the rule of law, and to our limited national government.

    1. Then you should go back to wherever you illegal immigrant ancestors came from.

      Oh wait, you said “nearly all”, so I see you carved out a loophole for your immigrant ancestors.

      1. Had I been a WASP in America in 1880, I would certainly have attempted to block my ancestors, as they are nearly universally liberal, which means bad for America. But the fact that America made a mistake with respect to my family doesn’t mean I am morally obligated to continue that mistake today.

      2. There are two things that happen when you try this, scarecrow: one, they typically point out they didn’t have illegal immigrant ancestors, which leads to you saying that they didn’t have permission from the American Indians to come here, then someone points out how well allowing that immigration turned out for them.

        It doesn’t end well for you.

        1. LOL

  8. re: “Most people … vote the same way their grandparents voted.”

    I can’t speak to the literal truth of this statement since my grandparents all passed before I understood politics and have no record of their political opinions but I can say that at the single generation level, my own experience is opposite of the claim. My political opinions were pretty much diametrically opposed to my father’s and almost as strongly opposed to my mother’s. Having seen the number of Thanksgiving dinners disrupted by intra-family disputes over politics, I am skeptical of the underlying claim.

    One anecdote does not make data – but neither does one unsupported allegation. All the longitudinal studies I’ve read about immigration have indicated that full integration usually occurs by the third generation. For example, it is rare for a member of the third generation to be able to speak the original language (assuming the grandparents emigrate from a non-english-speaking country) and essentially unknown for the third generation to not be fluent in english. I see no reason why voting patterns would fail to follow that general observation.

  9. Most people, immigrant or not, vote the same way their grandparents voted.

    That explains why the south has remained solidly Democratic throughout my lifetime.

    Or it might be an unreliable assertion.

    1. Or, it might be a reliable assertion.

      Setting aside that one can’t refute an argument about “most” of something by pointing out that it isn’t universally true, “the south” is not people. The south is a geographic area. If people move in and out of a region, then it would not be surprising if the voting patterns of that region changed even if people did vote the same way as their grandparents.

      1. Has the proponent persuaded you that it is a reliable assertion?

  10. Sincere question: What measures could be incorporated into our immigration system that would be most effective in furthering the selection of immigrants that are supportive of, or at least receptive to, the fundamental tenets of the Constitution and American values?

    1. Limiting admission to those descended from European based societies.

      1. I salute reason.com for providing a forum for unvarnished right-wing thinking in all of its intolerant, ignorant, stale, authoritarian splendor.

      2. Anyone who thinks Europeans hold anything like American values, hasn’t spent much time in Europe.

        1. Agreed. They shouldn’t be let in either.

    2. Requiring passage of the current citizenship test in advance of immigration?

  11. Sperg Alert! Sperg Alert! I’m sure Ilya will be here any moment with a 50 page treatise tendentiously explaining why open borders libertarianism is absolutely not in conflict with libertarian values -not at all! And it’s absurd if not racist to say otherwise. And I’m right because….bzzzzzzzz

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