Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Immigration Won't Spark a Civil War

Central planning doesn't work. The labor market is no exception.

Melting Pot or Civil War?: A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders, by Reihan Salam, Sentinel, 224 pages, $27

Reihan Salam is not a grim guy. In fact, he comes across as preternaturally ebullient in person. Yet his book Melting Pot or Civil War?: A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders predicts a dark future for this nation of nations if it doesn't rethink its immigration policies to keep out the wretched and huddled masses.

Joanna AndreassonJoanna AndreassonSalam admits no costs or unintended consequences to his program—only benefits that, in his telling, include making the country more socially cohesive, as conservatives want, while paving the way for a new egalitarianism, as liberals want. The cost of ignoring his advice, meanwhile, would allegedly be nothing short of a racial civil war.

The basic storyline goes something like this: Admitting large numbers of poor, linguistically challenged immigrants with nothing to offer but the sweat of their brows was one thing when America was transitioning from a rural to an industrial economy. Its factories and mines needed imported labor because "free American workers had the escape valve of the frontier." And manual work paid well enough that the immigrants could eventually propel themselves into the middle class. But things are different in a knowledge economy that puts a premium on cognitive skills. Today, America allows more low-skilled immigration at its peril.

Salam, whose parents are Bangladeshi Muslims, doesn't peddle the common restrictionist myths about the negative economic impact of low-skilled immigration. He invents new ones. He readily admits, for example, that there is no evidence low-skilled immigrants decimate the wages of poor natives. He agrees that these immigrants increase the real incomes of high-wage workers, especially in cities, by lowering the prices of goods and services that professionals consume. In New York, where Salam lives, they have put affordable dog walking, housekeeping, nannying, cleaning, cooking, and transportation services at his beck and call. This, he acknowledges, has allowed him to "enjoy the lifestyle of a Rockefeller."

He then adds two plus two and gets minus five. This ready availability of foreign labor isn't good but bad, he says, because it is producing structural changes in America's economy that will thwart automation and cost the country its long-term technological edge.

Labor scarcity has historically been the mother of innovation, Salam declares. If America relieves its labor pressures by importing more low-skilled workers while advanced but aging countries such as South Korea and Japan opt to maintain these pressures through restrictive policies, then they, not America, will end up pioneering "technologies and business models that have the potential to spread beyond their borders."

SentinelSentinelThis sentence packs more economic fallacies than a potato samosa packs calories. By Salam's logic, America should restrict walking to spur innovations in Segways or ban water to encourage new beverages. No economy advances by squandering or refusing resources. Salam's argument resembles progressive claims that America could costlessly innovate its way to a more prosperous green future if only fossil fuels were banned. Coal miners who lost their jobs to Barack Obama's environmental regulations might disagree. Forcing an economy to use higher-priced inputs when cheaper ones are available isn't a recipe for competitiveness.

As behooves an editor at National Review, Salam's larger concern is not with what low-skilled immigrants will do to America's economy but with what they'll do to its culture—or rather, what their "babies" will do.

For Salam, parentage is destiny. Children of highly skilled professional immigrants tend to quickly close the gap with natives on education, wealth, and other socioeconomic metrics. Channeling Charles Murray's Coming Apart, he insists that's because they benefit not just from their parents' financial capital but from their human capital—connections, skills, and good habits, such as self-control. They climb up the socioeconomic ladder, meet and mate with other elite Americans, and in the process give up their ethnic identities and assume new ones, a process of assimilation that Salam dubs "amalgamation."

But the offspring of low-skilled immigrants—especially those from Mexico and Central America—"racialize," Salam writes. They don't "vault into the bourgeoisie." Their parents arrive with only nine years of education on average. The second generation finishes high school and even a little college, but the third generation makes no meaningful advances. This, Salam argues, leads to a persistent education gap between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites. Ditto for earnings and poverty rates. These poor foreigners retreat into their ethnic ghettos, preferring the comfort of their own kind, clinging to their old identities.

If America keeps "replenishing" this Latino underclass, Salam argues, the resulting income polarities will become a national tinderbox. The initial arrivals might not care about their place in American society—they are still better off compared to where they came from. But their children, who don't have that reference point, will demand more. "The interethnic tension will skyrocket, to the point where we'll look back wistfully on the halcyon days of the Trump years," he warns.

To arrive at this dark prognosis, Salam implies the most negative explanation for Hispanic underperformance: that low-skilled families are poor because they don't believe in delayed gratification and therefore don't invest in education. In short, he thinks they have all the wrong values. He's basically using social science to endorse the right's stereotypes about Hispanics. But he ignores the policy barriers that have stymied Hispanic progress and fails to grapple fully with some widely recognized difficulties in measuring it.

Since the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act criminalized hiring undocumented workers, Mexican immigrants have suffered a 17 percent wage penalty. This has imposed a downward pressure on Hispanic wages in general, making it much harder for Hispanics to save or invest in their children. (Salam, to his credit, supports legalizing these undocumented workers.)

At the same time, as Hispanic children and grandchildren become more successful, they tend to adapt, intermarry, and stop self-identifying as "Hispanic," leaving researchers with a biased sample that exaggerates Latinos' lack of mobility. This well-acknowledged methodological problem of "ethnic attrition" looms over all serious discussions of multigenerational assimilation.

To the extent that there is a problem, the recent precipitous and lasting drop in the number of people coming in illegally from the south might well solve it, given that research shows that new low-skilled immigrants can push down the wages of the low-skilled immigrants who came before them. But that doesn't stop Salam from demanding tougher border enforcement and no expansions in our low-skilled guest-worker programs. An acute and artificial labor scarcity, he believes, will force service industries that rely on manual labor to cough up more pay for those already here, allowing the Hispanic underclass to catch up to native workers.

Meanwhile, manufacturing and nonservice industries will either outsource or automatize. That aspect of globalization need not be feared, he insists, and it is a mistake that many Americans mention automation and low-skilled immigration in the same terrified whisper.

Salam doesn't just want to keep out low-skilled workers. He wants to curtail family-based immigration too. Although he acknowledges that newcomers sponsored by relatives tend to be better educated than natives—half of them have college degrees, compared to a third of the American population—they aren't the crème de la crème of their society. A family-based system makes no distinction between an immigrant with a humanities degree from a mediocre college in his or her home country and one with a computer science degree from an elite institution, he says, even though the earning potential of the former is much lower than that of the latter. Salam, a Harvard graduate, wants America to apply a modified version of Canada's point system to distinguish between the two types.

But the biggest problem with this sweeping reform agenda isn't its elitism, which Salam tries mightily to disguise by insisting that his plan will help Hispanics who already live in the country. It is its hubris.

Free marketeers have long warned against the pitfalls of "industrial policy," in which the government takes it upon itself to direct investment and pick winners and losers. Central planners simply don't have enough granular knowledge about our complex economy to effectively separate the industries, technologies, and strategies that are worth boosting from those that aren't. American energy policy, for example, is littered with government-backed projects, such as Solyndra, that failed spectacularly. Yet Salam has no compunctions about applying such an approach to America's labor market.

Canada's point system—which is less restrictive than what this book recommends—at one point generated such a glut of high-skilled immigrants that Russian physicists were driving cabs. It's hard to predict the precise consequences of Salam's proposal. One only hopes we never find out.

Photo Credit: Joanna Andreasson

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 Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Uncle Adolf's Gas and Grill||

    Cool story, bro.

  • BigT||

    "Forcing an economy to use higher-priced inputs when cheaper ones are available isn't a recipe for competitiveness."

    That's why Shikha is firmly against a minimum wage, obviously!

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Why yes, she seems to be.

    Your attempt at a gotcha is interesting though. I'm assuming you're firmly against a minimum wage, yet agree with the arguments as laid out by Salam against immigration?

  • BigT||

    "Canada's point system—which is less restrictive than what this book recommends—at one point generated such a glut of high-skilled immigrants that Russian physicists were driving cabs."

    God forbid!! Keep those Russkie physicists back home where they can help Putin develop better weapons!

  • sharmota4zeb||

    It's a waste to have people get an expensive education so that they can come to America and wait on tables when they should be able to skip the university and come to America to wait on tables if that is what the market has a demand for.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Good joke, thanks!!!

    My comment is that I wish we had more low-skill immigrants and less high-skill immigrants. The more doctors that we have, the more that they lobby to make us get prescriptions before we can scratch our own assholes! The guy that mows my lawn doesn't pull bullshit like that!

  • M.L.||

    Less immigrants, period.

    The percentage of the immigration population here now is at an all-time historical high watermark -- even with less demand and justification for this than ever before, and more downside than ever before. Last time there was a high watermark we tapped the brakes.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    We tapped the breaks, because the UK closed it's borders to Jews fleeing Russia around 1905, and our Progressive leaders have a history of eventually wanting to be just like the UK. That's why they keep screaming that they are afraid of Nazis bombing their buildings. It's the lag caused by the Atlantic Ocean.

  • DiegoF||

    I haven't read it (and probably never will) so I can't comment definitively. But it certainly does sound as though HnR's sweetheart, Shikha Dalmia, has found a few holes in Reihan Salam's reasoning. (Needless to say this doesn't mean her own positions are sound.) I'm not surprised. He's never been exactly an intellectual heavyweight in the conservative commentary community.

    I see Mr. Salam's new book has a jacket blurb from that Midwestern gentleman who has been feted on the urban coasts as an expert in "hillbillies" because he is descended from them. Makes sense; they are approximate intellectual peers. I suspect Salam is just him in blackface with a New York accent, come to think of it.

  • MJBinAL||

    Not endorsing Mr. Salam's work, but it would be hard pressed to be any worse that Shitma's.

    Her continued presence on Reason is one of the reasons they got not a dime from me. And I used to subscribe and suggest it to others.

  • JWatts||

    "He agrees that these immigrants increase the real incomes of high-wage workers, especially in cities, by lowering the prices of goods and services that professionals consume."

    TRUE

    "He readily admits, for example, that there is no evidence low-skilled immigrants decimate the wages of poor natives. "

    FALSE, well I'm sure it's technically true by using the word decimate. But there is, despite Shika's misleading statements, studies that conclude high numbers of low skilled immigrants depress low skilled wages.

    Which is fucking obvious. The first statement admits that very fact.

  • JWatts||

    "The standard textbook model of a competitive labor market yields an estimate of the immigration surplus equal to $35
    billion a year — or about 0.2 percent of the total GDP in the United States — from both legal and illegal immigration."

    The immigration surplus of $35 billion comes from reducing the wages of natives in competition with immigrants by an
    estimated $402 billion a year, while increasing profits or the incomes of users of immigrants by an estimated $437 billion."

    https://goo.gl/ghS5c3

    This is basic economics. Shika is just as clueless as someone who insists that raising minimum wage doesn't decrease the hours (mostly hours worked) by low wage employees.

  • DiegoF||

    Well if Salam does indeed "readily admit" it then that is indeed another flaw in his book! If people think this is nonetheless a good thing overall they should argue from that premise.

  • Shirley Knott||

    Reducing wages and eliminating jobs is one off the two prongs of economic success.
    Jobs are a cost, not a benefit.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Immigration is good for the economy as a whole. That is a logical fact stemming from basic economics. If you argue that it hurts some particular group, and use that as justification for government regulation, you might as well throw away all free market principles. Every economic action hurts someone else through opportunity cost. Wanna ban imports of some good because an American factory is closing? Where does it stop?

  • DiegoF||

    Mr. Baculum has the right idea. Ms. Dalmia's claim is ridiculous.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Immigration is good for the economy as a whole.

    "Just ignore the $20 trillion in national debt, $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, $3.95 trillion in consumer debt, and 13.29 trillion in total household debt."

  • ||

    Yeah, that statement is dubious on its face.

    Not "Cheap labor is good for production in manufacturing/agrarian economies." Nope. Immigration without any regard for impact on wages, the tax base, the labor force, etc. is good for every part of every economy. Nobody ever crossed a border anywhere and produced a negative effect on the host economy.

  • MJBinAL||

    Wow, the farce is deep in this one.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    How do those relate to immigration?

  • ||

    How do those relate to immigration?

    Safety net notwithstanding, your blind zealotry is still pretty naked as I said. If immigration is completely detached from labor, wages, production, etc. It literally can't mean dick with regard to the economy and if it impacts the economy it will be through wages, labor, production, etc. not the immigration itself.

    It's like saying the color red is good for the economy as a whole. No, red ledgers are generally bad for an economy and you're a fanatic who loves the color red to the point of idiocy. If the entire population of Ohio immigrates to Indiana that's not necessarily good for Ohio or Indiana's economies and the extrapolation need not be so extreme, 10% of Ohio's population moving to Indiana could be terrible for one or both economies.

  • M.L.||

    It's not good for the economy as a whole. It's good for a very narrow set of rich people and destructive politicians who hate America.

  • JonFrum||

    "He agrees that these immigrants increase the real incomes of high-wage workers, especially in cities, by lowering the prices of goods and services that professionals consume."

    So you're telling us that slavery is good for the master class?

  • Social Justice is neither||

    Add to that the fact that poor natives don't have wage reductions count if they simply become wards of the state. Win-Win for the open borders crowd as they get to both signal their stance on immigration as well as show their compassion for those falling into the "safety net" of society.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    I think the wage depression requires a restriction on home construction. Low income people spend most of their money on housing. If we could build more, home prices would drop too, thereby keeping low income wages afloat via deflation.

  • MJBinAL||

    "if we could build more home prices would drop"

    But does not increased immigrants increase the need and demand for housing? Housing that they generally qualify for Section 8 subsidy on? Thereby increasing prices via demand and increasing government expenditures?

  • GeoffB1972||

    Maybe, but the same rich professionals whose real wages increase because of cheap immigrant labor zone the hell out of their neighborhoods to the point where both natives and immigrants live 6 to a house for 3 or commute two hours a day in the San Francisco Bay Area for the privilege of serving them.

  • Benitacanova||

    I saw an article by Shiksa somewhere else in which she was arguing against the idea that the muslim invasion of India had been a bad thing. I heard she's going to take on Ireland next, cuz you know the Brits meant well.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    India's Jewish community goes back a long time, and India had cross cultural exchanges with Israel for thousands of years. Check this out for information on both.

    India was held in the highest regard in Greek culture, and it is not surprising that this view is reflected in the writings of Hellenized Jews. It was during Greek rule that the monsoon winds were discovered, speeding the maritime journey between West and South Asia to one month, greatly enhancing the spice trade and the cultural interactions it fostered.
  • Ordinary Person||

    American culture is the thing creeping across the border. You don't even need to live here to soak it up. It's the other way around. We're the invaders but it's cool because it's by choice.

  • Ordinary Person||

    It's just the way Rev Kirk tells it. It's the bigots here who refuse to assimilate into our modern accepting society.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    That's because the hicklib has never actually lived outside whatever whiteopias he's inhabited.

  • MJBinAL||

    Where is the Rev today? Isn't the psycho ward letting him use the computer today?

  • tinwhistler||

    Trump could fix immigration today with an executive order to the DOJ to prosecute employers of illegals under the RICO Act, which has much greater penalty potential than the useless Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

    He order the DOJ to seek penalties for employers of $1 million or more, one year in federal prison for each illegal they hired, and seize their assets.

    It would be a free Financial Wall, clean out 20,000,000 illegals to save our cities, schools, and hospitals, and give our welfare takers job openings.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Libertarians for prosecuting victim-less crimes unite!

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Fuck off, slaver.

  • John||

    Salam admits no costs or unintended consequences to his program

    And of course reason is all about giving an honest assessment of the costs and unintended consiquences of open borders.

    If we had no welfare state, all governments were the same and there was true freedom of movement between all nations, then an open borders policy would be a true free market noninterventionist policy. Sadly, none of those things are true. The status quo is an endless set of interventions and distortions that are never going to go away. So, there is no "non interventionist" option available, since doing nothing is allowing the existing intevertions to go on without mitigation.

    To put in terms Reasonites can understan, to quote Rush "if you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice". Having an open borders policy is just as much of an central planning policy as closing the border. Both manage the economy and produce a set of results, neither of which is going to be a "free market".

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Having an open borders policy is just as much of an central planning policy as closing the border. Both manage the economy and produce a set of results, neither of which is going to be a "free market".

    Please expand more on this point. How is allowing people to freely move and associate with whomever they choose a form of central planning? You've lost me on that. To me it seems the opposite of central planning. It allows individuals to plan their actions.

    I am happy to see you admit that controlling the border is central planning though. That argument makes sense.

  • John||

    Because they are not 'freely moving' in the sense that their movement is being drven by market factors. We have welfare and a host of other things that distort the economy. You are assuming that opening the border will cause people to move "freely" because of market forces. That would be true if there were not any other government interventions that make such a result not an option.

    Beyond that, the enture asumption behind your argument is that the result of a "market" is automatically a "better" result. Better is a value judgement. Just becuase whatever results you get from opening the borders are in your view closer to what a "free market" would produce, doens't make them "better' in any absolute sense. Economics and the study of markets does not give answers to value questions. The market isn't some magic machine that if left alone gives just or better result. The laws of economics are a description of mass human behaviors. They tell you what results you will get from different economic policies but say nothing about which of those results are "better"

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    You are assuming that opening the border will cause people to move "freely" because of market forces.

    I can't speak for Leo, but that is not what I assume.

    I assume people will move freely based on WHATEVER suits their fancy. Market forces, or no.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    I assume people will move freely based on WHATEVER suits their fancy

    Such as the gringo's welfare system.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Sure. If that's the case, that is an argument against the welfare system, not an argument against migration per se.

  • Ryan (formally HFTO)||

    This is bothering the hell out of me today. I made a point about the kind of people who would come here if borders were open, and can't back it up. 23 million people would come here from China if they could. I can't imagine its because their goal is to spread communism. Yet I make the same dumb point about Latin America. Which makes me think I don't actually believe in the system like I say I do. Because my main concern is the amount of people coming at once, and then how they vote. It's been proven assimilation becomes unsteady when immigration happens massively. Let's ignore that for now.

    I also needed convincing that lots of poor immigrants will vote in more welfare and big government. Doesn't matter where they come from. Which is what I worry about Americans anyway. We vote stupidly all the time.

    So I guess I'm that much closer to open borders, and I want to know open border peoples thoughts on the issue that large swaths of outsiders at once is a good thing.

    Looking at you Jeff

  • MJBinAL||

    And this, is disingenuous in the extreme.

    If you have a plan to eliminate the welfare state AND open the borders, I am willing to listen. If you only have a plan to open the borders then I am opposed. I indeed get that opening the borders with the welfare state will eventually collapse the system. But it appears to me that it will result in a police state not the libertarian one we would like.

    You have to be careful about breaking things. What you get to replace it might not be what you want.

  • ||

    Beyond that, the enture asumption behind your argument is that the result of a "market" is automatically a "better" result.

    It also distills the world down into a false "market=good, government=bad" duality. There are lots of other bad conditions out there that markets don't fix, government didn't necessarily cause, and migration doesn't inherently fix.

    The government didn't burn your brother-in-law's house down and he voluntarily chose to sleep on your couch, which you generously offered. That doesn't mean, 3 yrs. later, him sleeping on your couch is inherently an optimal outcome and/or a good result produced by market forces.

    People being allowed to move freely based on whatever suits their fancy includes lots and lots of anti-market and anti-libertarian movements.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    People being allowed to move freely based on whatever suits their fancy includes lots and lots of anti-market and anti-libertarian movements.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Ugh. Stupid squirrels.

    People being allowed to move freely based on whatever suits their fancy includes lots and lots of anti-market and anti-libertarian movements.

    Yes that's right. In other words, people being free to express their liberty doesn't guarantee that all of those people will use their liberty in a wise or rational manner.

    Saying "we will support your liberty to do things, but only if you do things in a manner that we approve of", is not libertarian at all, it is statist.

  • ||

    In other words, people being free to express their liberty doesn't guarantee that all of those people will use their liberty in a wise or rational manner.

    Those aren't other words for what I said and, once again, you're oversimplifying. Markets don't explain the immune system or epidemiology. They affect it and can be trained on it, but viruses aren't bound by market signals and vice versa. Compelling people to accept a disease carrier (for a disease to which they are susceptible) is no more or less pro-/anti-market or pro-/anti-liberty than those people quarantining the carrier(s) entry. Framing one side as pro-liberty or pro-market is presenting a false dichotomy.

  • MJBinAL||

    Open borders and completely free movement of people and goods is not libertarian. I know you think it is, but that is a condition that completely eliminates the concept of the nation-state and citizenship. It is anarchism, not libertarianism.

    The difference between libertarianism and anarchism is that anarchy takes it all the way. Just as your describe it indulges the concept of freedom and the NAP without restriction. Libertarianism is anarchism with what are considered practical limits. Those practical limits rely upon a valid nation-state. Taxation for defense, legal systems, and the trappings of the nation-state, including citizenship.

    All of your posts are in favor of anarchy, and that is perfectly fine. I have no problem with your posts or your opinions. I do have a problem with anarchists usurping the libertarian label. It leaves no space for actual libertarians and you already have a perfectly accurate label for your anarchist views.

    And no, AntiFA is not anarchist, they are fascists. They want government control, so long as they get to be in charge. It is a shame they try to call themselves what they are not.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    You are assuming that opening the border will cause people to move "freely" because of market forces.

    My assumption is that people are more capable of deciding for themselves how they want to move and interact in commerce than a collective (ie government). Governments distort markets in countless ways. Immigration control, vis a vis the labor market, is no different.

    Beyond that, the enture asumption behind your argument is that the result of a "market" is automatically a "better" result.

    This is true, and I believe that markets (ie people acting freely in their own self-interests) are always more efficient than central planning allows. This is true for consumer markets as well as labor markets.

    Maybe our differences on the subject are around the definition of "better." To me, freer is always better, because I value individual freedom above all else (so long as everyone has rights to life, liberty, and property.) If you value something else higher than individual freedom, then I would tend to agree that open borders may not be better for your value system.

    But if that's the case then come out and say that your values are different. Don't claim that there is some libertarian argument for government to regulate the labor market and meet the libertarian ideal of individual freedom as I've defined it above.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Shorter version...

    In my ideal world freedom is the goal. Full stop.

    In the restrictionist world, freedom gets in the way of some other goal like higher wages for citizens or lower welfare expenses.

  • Social Justice is neither||

    So in your view, being free to rob your neighbor is a good thing, or at least a thing you're willing to put off addressing to a later date while the robbery continues unabated or exacerbated today.

    Thanks Wimpy

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    I thought on a libertarian site the concept of freedom implies that one can't impose on another person's right to life, liberty, or property.

    If you're claiming that we as Americans have some collective right to property, then I guess I would surmise that your collectivist position and my individual liberty positions are incompatible and we're probably at an impasse.

  • MJBinAL||

    Leo,

    What defines a market? It is entirely possible to put a 50 ft wall around say Montana, let nothing go in or out and have a free market within Montana. I could in fact have a completely libertarian society within those borders.

    By this same token, I could (in theory) isolate the US, nothing in or out and nobody in or out and have the same thing, within the US. In fact, such isolation could in theory be imposed on us, and we could have a libertarian society within our borders.

    There is a question raised when those borders are imperfectly porous, and the societies outside it are not libertarian, on what happens. You see, free trade, is not going to happen any time soon no matter what the US does. Because other nations do not practice free trade, in fact NONE of them practice it. What are the consequences of managed trade when it is entirely managed by other nations, to their real or perceived benefit?

    In all the anarchist positions here, the constant lack, is the lack of discussion of what happens in this real world environment. I understand how wonderful it would be if the entire world was free trade and open borders. (of course, in that case there is still a limit to the border isn't there?) But lacking that possibility, unless you are willing to accept the consequences of other nations managing trade to their liking without interference, you have to accept that our government will need to manage trade to balance or neutralize the actions of other nations.

  • MJBinAL||

    You will note, that whether it is truly his motive or not, this is exactly what Trump claims, with considerable validity. He claims that other nations, in this case China, are managing trade in an orchestrated way to damage our economy and our military capability. That China does this is beyond reasonable doubt.

    Many of this arguments can be used for migrant labor and a welfare state with necessarily limited resources.

    Libertarianism, is more limited in goals that anarchism because it recognizes that these real world conditions exist and therefore the anarchist ideal (which is the same as the perfect libertarian world) does not exist.

    So, I must say I reject the admitted lure of anarchy for the real world applicability of libertarianism.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    The idea that a country like China can, through central planning, damage our country is the fallacy you've fallen for. If their form of economic planning were superior, ie can damage a more free market economy, then why argue for free markets at all? There's no harm being perpetrated on us by an economy that subsidizes cheap steel, for instance. Why wouldn't we just buy up all the cheap steel and allocate our resources elsewhere?

    The same goes with labor. If an abundance of cheap labor were detrimental to our economy, then why argue against a minimum wage? That seems to be the argument, at least proposed by this article.

    Do you believe free people in a free market make better decisions that central planners? If so, then why abandon that principle for these issues?

  • MJBinAL||

    Leo,

    The idea that a country like China can, though central planning, damage our country is not a fallacy, it is a fact. The fallacy, is your assumption that this is not possible.

    In your, and my, value system, individual choice and freedom is important, and because of that we agree that free markets driven by individual choices and decisions provide a better economy because all those independent decision makers collectively understand the market better than any government can.

    A nation like China however, does not share our value system. They view the survival of their nation, and tactical advantage over others as superior over the desires of individuals. In this regard, the government is less reliant on those individual decision makers to optimize the operation of the economy toward meeting individual needs, as they are seeking to optimize national tactical advantage.

    So your assessment of the situation is flawed because it assumes that China (in this case) will be unable to harm us.

  • MJBinAL||

    Consider, strategic items needed in a potential conflict might include electronic components, metals, and many other components. If a nation such as China, could manage affairs such that our capacity to produce such things were abandoned, production facilities lost, production skills lost, not only would we at a great disadvantage in a conflict where our sources for those were lost, but our just knowing of our vulnerability would provide them cover for other military actions.

    If you happen to be in fields related to IT or electronics, you know that it was recently discovered that motherboards from China (we get nearly all of them from there) produced for US companies had design modifications hidden on the boards to provide a hardware backdoor for Chinese access. This included large numbers of servers in Google, Apple and Amazon server farms AND equipment used on US Naval ships. This was in publications like Electronic Design News and since the military hates making stuff like this public, one would suspect that far more than some servers on Navy ships was impacted.

  • MJBinAL||

    So can China hurt us with managed trade? Damn right they can, and have.

    So do I believe in free people in a free market? yes. Within the US I believe in that almost without exception. In trade with other nations, I believe in it as a ideal that must be tempered with practical consideration of how things are in the real world. This is why I am a libertarian, rather than an anarchist who believes in these things without limit or consideration.

  • Ryan (formally HFTO)||

    Do we know the percentage of people who come here for welfare, vs. the people who want to be here for freedom and that its a generally awesome place?

    I've been firmly for imposing restrictions based on the idea that poor immigrants will take welfare and make bad voting decisions, but I don't have a source for that.

  • MJBinAL||

    It would be really difficult to get that information. Few to none of the immigrants would say they were coming to access our welfare system. Additionally, one would assume that some number of those who were not coming for that reason would find things more difficult here than expected and would end up using government support anyway.

    There are government numbers on this that could be looked up and compiled. This has been done many times and has established that illegal immigrants consume government services at high rates such that the local taxes and SS taxes they pay are dwarfed. The last numbers I saw showed a net government burden in the hundreds of billiions of dollars. This was a few years ago, I have not seen anything recently.

    The numbers I saw included all government services, including medical care, public schools, housing, and other welfare sources. I saw several different numbers produced by pro-immigration and anti-immigration groups, all showed a net government burden. The pro-immigration groups showed a much smaller number in the tens of billions but it appeared to me at the time that they did not include all sources of government services.

  • John||

    Opening the borders will produce a set of consiquences. There is nothing that says those consiquences are automatically better than the consiquences of closing the border in various ways. Which consiquences are better just depends on what you value. If you value the freedom of movement of Mexicans over all else, then those consiquences are great. If you value things like quality of life and social stability or higher wages and a tight labor market over cheap wages and freedom of movement for Mexicans, not so much. Which side is more compelling is the entire debate. And it is a debate that open borders people try and avoid by pointing to the "free market" like it is the word of God. it is not.

  • ||

    And the empirical evidence is that the free movement of Mexicans isn't an inherent boon to the free market. At least, they're pretty free to move around Mexico and most of the people living like Rockefellers there are murderous drug dealers.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    I should have read this before my previous reply. But I didn't.

    This is the crux, but of course you're wording it differently than I would. In your argument "quality of life and social stability... etc" for you as an American is coming at the expense of limiting the freedom of others through the power of force. That's fine if that's what you value, but don't pretend that this is a libertarian ideal. In fact, it is rent-seeking. In this scenario, the protectionist seeks to improve the value of his labor by restricting the access of employers to other labor. This fits the definition of rent-seeking; ie "seeking to increase one's share of existing wealth without creating new wealth."

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    John has never claimed to be a libertarian. He is just fine with forcing others to support his way of life. He is a federal government employee, after all!

  • John||

    And if allowing those others to come here harms people those people can just fuck off right? It is forever everyone else' duty to suffer for your principles isn't it?

    You assume that there are no downsides to your position and no one is ever harmed by it. But they are. You just don't give a shit because you want your pony. Yeah well, everyone wants their pony. Welcome to the club.

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Harmed how, phyiscally? Sure, arrest them and prosecute them. Property damage? Sure, arrest them and prosecute them. Go after them for a tort if you have a legitimate claim.

    If your claim is that the supply of cheap labor infringes on your rights to have a good-paying job, then I guess we're probably at an impasse in the debate. I deny that you have a right to a good-paying job. Not sure what your position on that would be.

    It is forever everyone else' duty to suffer for your principles isn't it?
    It sounds like you would rather everyone else suffers for your paycheck. I prefer my position.

  • MJBinAL||

    Leo,

    If you get the welfare state eliminated, then we can talk about more open borders. But as I replied to your before. While open borders is pretty sure to break the welfare system and bankrupt the government (even more than it is now), that is not necessarily going to result in a libertarian system.

    I believe that breaking things will result not in a libertarian system, but a totalitarian one. That is not a risk I am prepared to take.

    So you can put all your idealistic rants aside, most of the people here share those ideals. The difference is that blindly throwing things open as you indulge your anarchist ideals is going to get the kind of society you prefer, and many of us believe you are instead going to get exactly the opposite as a result of societal collapse.

    Historically, people don't pursue freedom after a disaster, they pursue safe.

  • Mr. JD||

    As it turns out, people matter. Their character matters, their ideology matters, their intelligence matters. They're not interchangeable!

    Too many people ignore that when talking about immigration. Yet every anarcho-libertarian implicitly requires that everyone in his ideal society shares the non-aggression principle, if not even more principles.

    What happens to his society if it is overrun by conquerors? Or leeches?

    Being the only libertarian in the room doesn't get you any of the benefits of libertarianism. Salam is correct to say that the melting pot must actually include melting, or else we get Balkanization, which is a recipe for disaster.

    Social trust matters.

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    Yet every anarcho-libertarian implicitly requires that everyone in his ideal society shares the non-aggression principle, if not even more principles.

    Wrong. We just require a majority.

  • ||

    Wrong. We just require a majority.

    And if I oppose you and can kill my way to a majority? How about if I can't kill my way to a majority, but can totally deceive, buy off, and intimidate enough of the rubes in the room to render you

  • ||

    ...less than 5% of the popular vote?

  • MJBinAL||

    Good point, remember to corollary to "one man, one vote" is "one less man, one less vote".

  • M.L.||

    Spot on Mr. JD.

  • NoVaNick||

    they have put affordable dog walking, housekeeping, nannying, cleaning, cooking, and transportation services at his beck and call.

    And most of these will be replaced by robots within the next few decades. I guess that's bad news for low-skilled immigrants-and native-born humanities majors

  • Chipper Morning Baculum||

    I, for one, welcome our new robot dog walker overlords.

  • Vernon Depner||

    Robot dogs will not require walkers.

  • Robert||

    This ready availability of foreign labor isn't good but bad, he says, because it is producing structural changes in America's economy that will thwart automation and cost the country its long-term technological edge.

    Labor scarcity has historically been the mother of innovation, Salam declares. If America relieves its labor pressures by importing more low-skilled workers while advanced but aging countries such as South Korea and Japan opt to maintain these pressures through restrictive policies, then they, not America, will end up pioneering "technologies and business models that have the potential to spread beyond their borders."


    This is all partly true, partly false, but more good than bad.

    Who can deny that labor & machines compete? Of course there's less pressure to develop new technologies when the labor they'd replace is cheap. But who can say that the new technologies would be "better" than labor at their price? Let them float vs. each other, & markets will find their balance.

    If other countries specialize in new technologies & business models, what's wrong w that? It's not like licensing fees are going to be the major revenue makers or costs in the world! The restrictive policies will be a net cost, but after that's subtracted we can all benefit from what's left.

  • Robert||

    But the offspring of low-skilled immigrants—especially those from Mexico and Central America—"racialize," Salam writes. They don't "vault into the bourgeoisie." Their parents arrive with only nine years of education on average. The second generation finishes high school and even a little college, but the third generation makes no meaningful advances. This, Salam argues, leads to a persistent education gap between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites. Ditto for earnings and poverty rates. These poor foreigners retreat into their ethnic ghettos, preferring the comfort of their own kind, clinging to their old identities.

    If America keeps "replenishing" this Latino underclass, Salam argues, the resulting income polarities will become a national tinderbox. The initial arrivals might not care about their place in American society—they are still better off compared to where they came from. But their children, who don't have that reference point, will demand more. "The interethnic tension will skyrocket, to the point where we'll look back wistfully on the halcyon days of the Trump years," he warns.


    I don't see the evidence of this w Hispanics in the USA. Where one does see this type of problem is w the recent Muslim arrivals in France. The problem there is partly the making of the culture of the newcomers, partly the policies of the host country.

  • Cyronic||

    Well, he may very well be right that replenishing the labor force might prompt less innovations in some fields (robotics and automation)... doesn't mean it's worth the opportunity cost of NOT replenishing the labor force, though.

    I'd say the natural ethnic segregation that seems to occur from immigrant communities is a bit more demonstrable, historically. Whether that would lead to a racial civil war is a bit of a stretch, requiring a whole lot of things to go wrong.

  • M.L.||

    If it was only the "labor market" at issue, then this author might have a theoretical point. But that's not the case, and this author is as dumb as a box of rocks.

    You also have to consider the out-of-control welfare state being leeched on by immigrants, strained public resources collapsing under sheer volume in education, infrastructure, law enforcement, and so on, the VOTE of the CITIZENRY which is being diluted and replaced with illiterate socialist-loving 3rd worlders, the culture at large and cultural cohesion, and many other externalities.

  • sharmota4zeb||

    Central planning doesn't work. The labor market is no exception.

    Yep. Let's streamline and hasten the immigration process and increase the number of visas we grant. Visas should go to immigrants through a combination of a random lottery and reciprocity programs.

  • TJJ2000||

    Salems stupid excuse - America should ban water to encourage new beverages.

    Salems brilliant thoughts - The initial arrivals might not care about their place in American society—they are still better off compared to where they came from. But their children, who don't have that reference point, will demand more.

    Which leads right into Salem being right but using a stupid excuse. Immigrants ( not all ) come here to escape a self-induced resulting reality that didn't turn out as grand as they expected/preach (worse than America). Why else would they be so excited to immigrate to America?

    But far too often those immigrants won't/don't accept the error of their own ideology - like trying to teach an old dog new tricks - they remain ignorant and deny any responsibility for the hell their ideology has created by opting to RUN from it instead of correcting it.

    This exact scenario is being played out in California at this very moment. Do the masses of California's migrants start voting conservatively now that they acknowledge the mess created? NOPE! They just keep voting for EXACTLY the same mess created in California. Did Detroit elect a more conservative mayor after Detroit went bankrupt? NO -- THEY STILL voted to put the SAME in as mayor.

    Open Borders is not a far stretch from Opening the Prison doors. They're BOTH encouraging RUNNING from self-induced problems instead of taking responsibility for individual ideology/actions.

  • librich||

    The same old stupid arguments, pro and con. So just how many people can the American land mass support?
    Our cities are clogged, our freeways are frozen. We're going to run out of fossil fuel before much longer, and emissions are screwing with the planet's climate. We have a looming disaster when it comes to arable land. My local government wants me to take 5 minute showers because we're running out of water, and my daughter refuses to eat beef because cow farts are destroying the ozone layer. We're admitting a million legal immigrants every year, rain or shine. To repeat the real question: how many people can the American land mass support? When I was a kid, there were 150M. Now there are 320M. Do we think 500M is a good number? How about 1B? Maybe 2 or 3B? Is there any REASON to explain why no one is talking about this?

  • JoeB||

    What hogwash from both of them. Keep the borders strictly intact because I don't want my taxes to go up supporting these deadbeats crossing over for the welfare and free schooling and free healthcare, ad nauseam. Simple.

  • Tony||

    Now listen to their demands of you and perhaps we can come to a compromise.

  • PG23COLO||

    The problem with government planning is not, as Shikha writes, a lack of "knowledge about our complex economy to effectively separate the industries, technologies, and strategies that are worth boosting from those that aren't." The problem is that government planning is based on disrespect for individual liberty and autonomy and always requires suppressing freedom. An inevitable consequence is the loss of liberty and the suppression of economic vitality. In other words, government planning is bad for our life, liberty, health and happiness.

  • vek||

    Late to the game, but that guy is FAR more right than you are Shitma.

    You are completely ignorant of history. Mass migrations are ALWAYS followed by massive ethnic tension, and most of the time outright bloody wars.

    Compare the US to Japan. We spend half our time and political capital in the USA listening to minorities bitching about irrelevant bullshit. In Japan, they spend ZERO time considering such useless issues. Which nation is the better for it? one where the entire government is paralyzed by out of control minority identity politics, or the one that can go about handling its shit? Japan is borked for lots of reasons, but not having half illiterate third world immigrants ain't one of them.

    I'm OKAY with skilled immigration, but endless unskilled immigration will be the death of this country as a first world nation. I grew up around poor immigrants, they're a shit show. It's not that all of them are bad people, it's that they're LESS GOOD than native born Americans, and stay that way generation after generation. The ENTIRE US Hispanic population ON AVERAGE is a net negative tax payer group. In other words white, Jewish, and Asian Americans have to have money forcibly removed from their pockets to support Hispanics as a group, because as a whole they don't pay their own way.

    This guy was too kind and too soft when one really looks at a lot of the facts... But again, more right than you ever have been.

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online