A 21st Century Immigration Policy for the West: A Reason Foundation-Michigan State University Conference

Will the future problem of the West be too little rather than too much immigration? And what should we do about it?


No one doubts that Donald Trump rallied anti-immigration resentment to the White House. Likewise, anti-immigration politicos from both the left and the

djtansey via Foter

right have made rapid gains in Europe. Politics is usually a lagging indicator of socio-cultural problems. But when it comes to immigration, is it perhaps not just lagging but also directionally wrong? Is it possible that the West's future problem might be too few immigrants flocking to its shore rather than too many? Are we fighting the last war?

The process of modernization has tended to produce an initial burst of population increase as infant mortality rates drop but birth rates don't. After that, a nation faces steady declines. In the near future, as the developing nations complete this "demographic transition" and liberalize themselves, they might send fewer and fewer immigrants to the shores of the developed nations at the very time when the latter, facing serious depopulation thanks to aging and lower birth rates, will need them more.

Thus, the great "problem of immigration" as we have known it might undergo a reversal: the problem will be not how to restrict immigration, but how to court and facilitate it. But the outcome of that debate may depend on whether there is a defensible normative case for relatively unfettered mobility rights. It will also require that we examine and resolve the cultural, political, and institutional concerns that immigration raises: Will large numbers of immigrants be able to rapidly assimilate, will they uphold our commitments to liberal democracy, will their presence strain or strengthen the welfare system? Can automation relieve a tight labor market? What are the tradeoffs of different postures that various developed countries are deploying?

All of these issues will be thoroughly thrashed out in a three-day conference this week, Oct 11 to 13, titled "A 21st Century Immigration Policy for the West, that I've organized on behalf of Reason Foundation and Michigan State University's LeFrak Forum and the Symposium on Science, Reason and Modern Democracy in the political science department.

After the kickoff keynote by Princeton's Douglas Massey, "Doubling Down on a Bad Bet: Immigration Policy Before and After Trump," there will be a series of six panels, each set up like a debate. The point is to invite speakers from across the political spectrum – right, left and center – to air all sides of the issue.

Among the luminaries will be Reason's beloved and uber-smart, Ron Bailey, Volokh Conspiracy's Ilya Somin, George Mason University's Robin Hanson, Cato Institute's Alex Nowrasteh and many, many more.

The confab was preceded over the last academic year by seven lectures by Harvard's Lant Pritchett, George Mason's Bryan Caplan and Jack Goldstone, University of Colorado's Mike Huemer, Migration Policy Institute's Alan Kraut,'s Dara Lind and London School of Economics Chandaran Kukathas.

All of the lectures will be published in an anthology, but, meanwhile, everyone who can should come for what in the words of Center for Global Development's Michael Clemens promises to be an "electric and highly informative" conference. It is totally open to the public: No walls. No visas. No entry fees. So let the mass migration begin.

Go here for more program details.

NEXT: Tariffs Won't Bring Toymaking Jobs to the U.S., but They Might Kill Toymaking Jobs Already Here

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. “You know what we need. Even MORE open borderz” — every single Dalmia article dealing with if

  2. “Will the future problem of the West be too little rather than too much immigration? ”

    Betteridge’s law of headlines
    is an adage that states: “Any headline that ends in a question mark can be answered by the word no.”

    also: “The West” is a bullshit construction in context of this isse. What’s true for the US could be false for EU, or vice-versa.

    Most of our immigration is due the fact our southern neighbors remain dirt-fucking-poor, ‘developing nations’

    (*’third world’, as i’ve said bazillion times, is about politics, not poverty, and the fact that it changed doesn’t make it more-useful)

    Europe’s influx from Africa/ME is different enough in structure that there’s no single idea that could encompass political thinking appropriate to both.

    The important question for the US isn’t necessarily “what immigration policy”, because any sober analysis of the last 50 years would show policy has had little to do w/ it: it happens, whether we like it or not.

    What should be discussed is: “Why is it our southern neighbors *remain* so dirt-fucking-poor?”

    There’s no good reason Mexico should be a failed-state, yet it is. And we’ve ignored it for far too long.

    Perhaps our Foreign Policy should be trying to help these shitty countries be places their populations doesn’t want to leave en masse.

    1. The last 50 years of supposedly unstoppable immigration “legal and illegal” also comes after liberalizing our immigration laws. That wasn’t so much of a problem from 1924-1964. Now it’s possible that technology has made for third-worlders to enter the country illegally and changing the laws made no difference, but it’s not clear to me if we still had the 1924 immigration regime that we’d still be in our current situation.

      1. “it’s not clear to me if we still had the 1924 immigration regime that we’d still be in our current situation.”

        Its not clear to me why 1924 immigration policy could secure the southern border?

        this is a sincere question

        also, given most illegals are overstayed visas – what about 1924 policy would have made that impossible?

        1. I don’t think the 1924 immigration policies secured the border at all, but rather left them 2-way porous.

          Today you have people who come here to work and stay for an extended amount of time then bring the family up to reunite whereas 1924 you’d have people come up for a season or two then return. Today that return trip means running back through the heart of immigration enforcement rather than staying where you’ve been being ignored or overlooked.

      2. “The three decades . . . from the mid forties to the mid seventies, were the golden age of manual labor.” Why were times so good for blue collar workers? To some extent they were helped by the state of the world economy. They were also helped by a scarcity of labor created by the severe immigration restrictions imposed by the [ Johnson?Reed ] Immigration Act of 1924.” Paul Krugman, Conscience of a Liberal, Chapter 3 (pages 48-49)

    2. End the war on drugs.

      1. ^ Good start.

    3. Perhaps our Foreign Policy should be trying to help these shitty countries be places their populations doesn’t want to leave en masse.

      Unless you want to annex everything south of Texas and use post-WWII-Japan-style ground-up reform, that’s simply not going to happen. Between the cartels and the governments basically being the same thing, and the people consistently voting for socialism, nothing will change. Particularly because migration acts as a pressure release valve, allowing those governments to outsource their problems north.

  3. There you go again. Anti-illegal immigration is the same as anti-immigration. That way you get to call them racist. Your mendacious propaganda is why you will never convince anyone. Suggestion. Maybe try an honest conversation and see if you have better success.

    1. Of course if your only goal is social signaling and besmearching those who are,against putting illegal immigrants in front of those trying to follow the law and you don’t really care about policy success, then by all means keep up what you’re doing.

  4. So let the mass migration begin.

    How about not. We can’t even assimilate the immigrants we currently have. And I don’t understand this “libertarian” affinity with importing millions of people that will vote for anti-freedom policies and programs.

    1. Nobody said Libertarians were big on self-preservation.

  5. As long as we have iron clad adherence at the federal level to our constitution, immigration won’t be an issue.

    Oh, wait…

  6. Nothing has done more to diminish the quality of life for the United States middle class through higher housing (land) costs, greater competition for jobs, lower wages, higher taxes to pay for greater poverty, mortgage fraud, medicare fraud, tax fraud, other crime, higher taxes to pay for indigent healthcare (hospital closings), higher taxes for cost of public schools, price of college, degradation of the military, depletion of resources, burden on the taxpayer and overall congestion than the INCREASE of and change in the nature (more poor, more criminals, e pluribus multum) of the POPULATION since 1965, driven almost entirely by late 20th century entry of migrants (immigrants, illegals, h1b visa holders, visa overstays, refugees, etc) their families and descendants.

    1. This is a result of NIMBY restrictions on home construction. The solution is loosening land use policies. I will luck to my fellow libertarians pushing for more legal immigration as I focus on the YIMBY fight.

  7. We should raise the number of immigration visas we hand out as a matter of principle.

    As for fixing our economy and eliminating the debt, just sell Governor’s Island to the UN for $50 Trillion so they can build their new headquarters on it before the old headquarters collapses … with all the UN representatives locked inside.

    After all, this is sort of how taxing immigrants to pay down our debt works anyway.

  8. Oh noes!

    Cheaper housing!
    Higher wages!
    More capital stock per capita!

    You know, lower birth rates may be self regulating, if immigration is limited.

    All of the above make it easier to start and support a family.

  9. Well ! Looking to the rest of the 21st Century, we ask: how are overall populace developments and weights liable to change in that period and, locally, what is probably going to rise as the best stance toward migration from the angle of our own monetary self-intrigue and political standards? I am happy to visit here, I will share you dissertation writing service website to you to check out new techniques of writing.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.