The Open Borders Movement

by on May 7, 2013 at 7:30 am in Economics, Law, Uncategorized | Permalink

I spoke on The 180, a Canadian radio show on CBC, on the open borders movement. Ironically, the streaming version appears not to be available to Americans. You can listen to the podcast, however. The interview starts at about 3:18. Jim Brown, the interviewer, was very gracious in letting me speak and I thought we covered a lot. Here are two lightly transcribed bits:

The problem with poverty is not that people don’t have skills it is that they are imprisoned in countries where their political or geographic institutions prevent them from making a living. When people move to the U.S. or Canada they are perfectly capable of making a decent living. It’s not that there is something wrong with the people in other countries. The poverty is the fault of the governments under which they live and the unfortunate fact that some people are just unlucky and they happen to be born in a barren region and because of the policies of other countries they can’t leave that barren region. I think that is wrong.

When someone with low skills comes into Canada that benefits people in Canada who have high skills as it helps them to focus on what they do best. As I like to put it, a gardener who works for a particle physicist is indirectly helping to unlock the secrets of the universe.

See OpenBorders.info for a superb resource on all aspects of this question.

Pensans May 7, 2013 at 7:49 am

So political communities are what separate prosperous from disastrous states, but we should let anyone who wants to come into America. If that is economic wisdom, it’s stupid.

Andrew' May 7, 2013 at 8:13 am

Not really. The benefits are obvious while the threats are largely speculative. “Oh no, terrorists might come!” Well, they have come and the government never identified them. We also have plenty of American terrorists, not to mention our government is cruisin’ for a revolution by things like justifying X-rays at airports on what seems to me to be the lie that they aren’t looking for gold, drugs, cash, etc.- a lie based on the convenient excuse that they are utterly useless against terrorism unless they can treat us all like terrorists. At best that seems like an inefficient strategy. I’ve proposed the immigration tax. Now I realize that I should amend it to be cash value refundable immigration insurance.

LeonK May 7, 2013 at 8:36 am

Uh. No. The threats are that the median immigrant votes hard leftist and has a low-IQ not amenable to improvement and both of those aren’t speculative at all. At least, not anymore speculative than the benefits of comparative adv.

Andrew' May 7, 2013 at 8:56 am

Well, they are actually. Not that you don’t have the problem right, but the magnitude is debatable and that’s not even being debated. Want to create a political entry test? I’m all for it. And the benefits to those people immigrating are obvious. First generation immigrants have almost unbelievably low crime rates, as in I don’t believe them, but the data indicates they are low.

It sucks that people move to Nevada and then plant grass, but we can take it. It’s not like we don’t have plenty of undomesticated domestic progressive dopes already.

Andrew' May 7, 2013 at 8:57 am

Hell, propose a basic political entry test and make the Democrats oppose it on the record.

Why do I have to come up with this shit?

cournot May 7, 2013 at 9:17 am

Current immigration is already divisive. We have members of the Democrat party openly exulting over the fact that existing trends in immigration and demography are likely to knock out many viable Republican positions within the next generation. The last time one party (the Republicans then) used new states entry to help promote changes in the balance of power we had this little thing called the Civil War. One doesn’t have to go that far to claim that the burden of proof is on open borders proponents to show how their views will not affect the political balance asymmetrically. If they can’t make propositions stick and won’t follow US laws (I’ve seen many calling for openly violating laws or exploiting loopholes to bring more people in. Immigration reformers invariably promise enforcement but never follow through as in the last big reform) why should those who want more measured responses trust them? Does anyone seriously believe that political tests would be put in place that ar enforceable? They can’t even enforce older rules that said that immigrants who go on welfare might lose their green cards. The openborders movement is leninist to the core. Compromise where necessary. Break agreements in the future where possible.

Andrew' May 7, 2013 at 9:24 am

So, your plan is “we already lost”?

Good luck.

My ideas will work.

Republicans are just dumb and are allowing themselves to be outplayed by Democrats on nearly every issue, except turning our country into a terrorist police state. Fantastic.

Andrew' May 7, 2013 at 9:41 am

By the way, how is our “closed borders” policy working out for you?

Obviously, we should have a border. The Democrats are the problem. But mistaking the problem to be hispanics makes sure the border stays porous. Make the border a revenue stream for government and get the hell out of the way because it is slamming shut at breathtaking speed.

LeonK May 7, 2013 at 11:33 am

The magnitude of *what*?
That Hispanic immigrants have lower mean IQs?
Pretty much all the tests say so and the problem doesn’t correct itself in second, third, fourth gen….

That they vote left and usually *insane* left?
The conservative party in Mexico has “revolution” in its name and there has been no opinion polling to suggest that immigrants are any more conservative (or at least sane/liberal) than the domestic population; they reliably vote Democratic in Republican districts and push the Democrats left in Democratic ones.

W.r.t. California: as someone moderately familiar with the California situation all I can say is this: for now the quirkiness/skill(?)/wisdom(?) of Governor Jerry Brown has (surprisingly) proven a major barrier to the ascent of some of the more say, “eccentric” figures that might rise in D-party politics with the new socialist majority. If there are no term extensions, in about five years we’ll start to see the *real* fruits of immigration on the Sunshine states’ political institutions.

Political correctness makes the discussion of the IQs of various subgroups and open discussion of the bayesian implications of those facts impossible. What is the second-best solution?

I’m all for inviting all of the world’s most talented people to be here (so long as they aren’t terrorists…), but let us not delude ourselves into thinking that the most likely beneficiaries of amnesty or even the bottom 95% of the 300 million people who would come here tomorrow if it were legal are in that category.

Peter Schaeffer May 7, 2013 at 6:23 pm

The idea of Open Borders is absurd. The developed world can’t maintain full employment as it is. Drastically increasing immigration can only reduce the GDP of the natives, not raise total GDP.

However, the real problem is deeper. That’s the assumption that massive immigration can occur without radically transforming and ultimately destroying the receiving societies.

Even the advocates of global immigration admit this. They know that what they are proposing is transferring the wealth of the developed world to the failed states of the third world. Proof? None of the advocates of global immigration thinks that the failed states of the third world can prosper on their own.

If the culture and values of these third world societies make advanced economies impossible, how can the same people sustain the economies of the developed world? Does a magical unicorn wave a wand over the immigrants as they migrate?

A few quotes should make this very clear.

Swiss writer Max Frisch – “We wanted workers, and we got people”
Milton Friedman – “You cannot simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state”
Paul Krugman – “On the other side, however, open immigration can’t coexist with a strong social safety net; if you’re going to assure health care and a decent income to everyone, you can’t make that offer global.”

Has anyone noticed that Open Borders assumes full employment? Last time I checked the U.S. labor market had been declining for 13 years.

Peter Schaeffer May 7, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Open Borders are such a wonderful idea. Let’s import the entire population of Haiti into the United States where they will make a vast positive contribution. After all, the values and culture of Haitians have been a stunning success story in Haiti. Why shouldn’t those values and culture be a big plus in the United States?

Immigration isn’t fundamentally about economics, its about people. People who bring their flaws, failings, burdens, and weaknesses with them. The Swiss author Max Frisch once wrote

“We imported workers and got people instead”

If Haitians had the social cohesion and human capital to max a positive contribution to the United States, we wouldn’t be discussing this, because Haiti would already be a success story. It isn’t.

That’s really the big story here. Michael Clemens implicitly assumes (but never dares to state) that people in the third world lack the culture/values/human capital to achieve economic development at home. However, they can exploit the superior social structures of developed nations. If these people really can’t develop their own countries, why would anyone assume that they won’t undermine the existing developed nations?

Note that painful experience to date shows that they will. For fun look up the definition of “tournantes”. Check out immigrant PISA scores around the world.

Rather thank looking from trillion dollar bills, how about ten trillion dollar bills? Hundred trillion dollar bills? Raising world per-capita output to the level of the G7 would increase world output by 207 trillion dollars. Makes emigration / immigration look pretty trivial. If that not happening (207 trillion in growth), why not?

Seb May 7, 2013 at 8:16 am

And those foreigners smell funny.

Andrew' May 7, 2013 at 8:18 am

Don’t get me wrong, I hate them. But then, I hate everybody.

dead serious May 7, 2013 at 10:45 am

Pretty sure the feeling is mutual.

Everyman May 7, 2013 at 3:10 pm

Nope.

S May 7, 2013 at 7:52 am

Institutions and governments are not independent of the people living in them.

http://www.themoneyillusion.com/?p=20949&utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+Themoneyillusion+%28TheMoneyIllusion%29

Children are not randomly assigned to countries, btw.

Tim May 7, 2013 at 11:59 am

But they are assigned without their consent.

LeonK May 7, 2013 at 12:11 pm

I love that the solution to libertarian factual question-begging is libertarian *moral* question-begging.

Tim May 7, 2013 at 4:37 pm

I don’t see any question-begging at all.

LeonK May 7, 2013 at 6:36 pm

And that’s why you’re a libertarian.

LeonK May 7, 2013 at 6:36 pm

…and most people aren’t.

Tim May 7, 2013 at 7:24 pm

1. You’re making no logical sense whatsoever.
2. You don’t even know that I’m a libertarian. In fact, I’m not.
3. You don’t even know that I’m for unconditionally open borders. In fact, I’m not.

People like you are why we can’t have calm, rational debates about controversial topics. I fully regret having interacted with you now, and that’s a repeated phenomenon in these debates, especially on the internet. Think about what this means for your political culture, and the functionality of democracy. (I personally don’t even have a stake in it, since I’m too old to be affected by future policy much)

LeonK May 7, 2013 at 8:08 pm

The unsupported assumption in Tabarrok’s argument is that the institutions of the United States are *better* than third-world institutions by random chance rather than the quality of people in those institutions. S, lots of others, and I call him out on it.

You follow-up with the non-sequitor: “But they are assigned without their consent.” In addition to being a deep sense non-sequitor (because not only does it engage a completely different aspect of borders, but in fact moves us from factual to moral ground) it also question begs: why assume that consent of non-citizens be the grounds for our immigration policy at all?
It’s not important, but I also don’t buy that you’re not a libertarian, at least not if you’re the Tim who typically hangs around MR.

albert magnus May 7, 2013 at 8:00 am

Of course, particle physics is a job that is flooded with foreign competition, both at the grad school and post-doc level. Low wages, low job security and lots of moving around to stay employed. Not many can afford a gardner.

Andrew May 7, 2013 at 8:02 am

Possibly for the same reason that it is an example that comes to Alex’s mind. There are probably thousands of jobs and a couple dozen academic specialties.

albert magnus May 7, 2013 at 8:33 am

Was his point that feudalism is the natural outcome of open borders?

Andrew' May 7, 2013 at 8:36 am

No, he picked a bad example that is vivid and is a bad example probably because it is vivid. If he wanted to say “engineer” and “hopes to cure aging” he’d be talking about me, except my Mexican lawn guy fired me and I had to hire a white guy.

Andrew' May 7, 2013 at 8:38 am

And then I had my white guy plant a row a trees, paid him thousands of dollars and now he raised his landscaping price because of the additional weed eating. White guys are sneaky.

Navin R. Johnson May 7, 2013 at 3:14 pm

1. God loves a workin’ man.

2. Don’t trust whitey.

3. See a doctor and get rid of it.

Nathan W May 7, 2013 at 8:33 am

Surely unlocking the true potential of humanity is a risk worth taking. One step at a time though, no one wants a bloody revolution along the way if we can avoid it, and there are certainly entrenched interests with a long tradition of organizing to represent their economic interest. So we couldn’t say Pareto quite applies here, particularly in the more immediate sense, but humanity as a whole could benefit from moves to increasingly open borders, imho.

I especially like the sentence ” a gardener who works for a particle physicist is indirectly helping to unlock the secrets of the universe.” Quite loosely speaking, in the Confucian (dedicated at the work of studying how to do what you do well, and the many arts, while respecting the traditions that put many things into place), Hindu (embrace your role, if/when you find it, and respect everything for who/what it is) or humanist (everyone’s human and deserves a chance to make something of themselves) traditions, you could say that if people had greater opportunities to develop and be rewarded for their skills and efforts, I reckon some things might fall into place a little more nicely.

Morgan Warstler May 7, 2013 at 8:38 am

Open borders isn’t enough! It isn’t just about their coming here.

We have to be able to buy and own their land…

http://www.morganwarstler.com/post/35346903657/manifest-destiny-mexico

Axa May 7, 2013 at 9:30 am

Granted =)

MEXICO HOUSE OKS LOOSENING FOREIGN LAND OWNERSHIP
http://bigstory.ap.org/article/looser-rules-proposed-foreign-owners-mexico

What else?

Andrew' May 7, 2013 at 10:11 am

Stop making their citizens want to flee, please.

DK May 8, 2013 at 9:18 pm

They flee their fellow citizen’s country

Morgan Warstler May 7, 2013 at 10:23 am

I know isn’t it grand!

Sadly, econ bloggers aren’t paying the legislation much mind.

Rich May 7, 2013 at 8:39 am

While immigrants may be capable of making a living, they are generally not capable of making enough money to support the standard of living that they will enjoy. Most immigrants are a massive drain on the public fisc. In other words, the physicist’s gardening service is being subsidized by the rest of the taxpayers. It’s true that most Americans are also massive drain on the public fisc. However, adding more negatives doesn’t somehow make it positive.

Andrew' May 7, 2013 at 9:03 am

More immigrants, fewer Democrats. Done.

Andrew' May 7, 2013 at 9:14 am

I think you are getting it twisted, people aren’t net negative. The government makes them net negative. The whole thing is they’d do fine without the superfluous and counterproductive government benefits. I doubt that many immigrants come for the welfare state incentives. It also makes perfect sense to put in a kind of immigration to benefits vesting program. Make the democrats oppose it on the record. They lose, you win. Their constituency becomes yours. Done.

JWatts May 7, 2013 at 3:57 pm

I think you are getting it twisted, people aren’t net negative. The government makes them net negative.

Sure, I think that’s true. But low skilled immigrant currently are a drain on the treasury. So until we either prevent immigrants from accessing government benefits or reduce benefits across the board, the US can’t afford large scale immigration.

Finch May 7, 2013 at 9:33 am

This is something I don’t understand about immigration economics. Most everyone, not just immigrants, are a serious fiscal drain. We are running deficits, which means the median taxpayer is a fiscal drain, and because our taxes are extremely progressive, you have to move well to the right of the median to find net contributors. Admittedly, the economy does not equal the government, but a solvent government seems kinda important.

I’ve seen arguments that try to claim things like defense spending don’t need to grow with population but that seems obviously ridiculous, and social spending dominates the budget anyway.

Andrew' May 7, 2013 at 10:13 am

Excellent point.

dead serious May 7, 2013 at 11:04 am

Why is it obviously ridiculous that defense can’t remain stable or even contract as population grows?

Our borders aren’t suddenly longer. We don’t automatically accumulate more enemies as we grow in population.

Hell, in this Republican/NRA paradise we’ve built here, there’s a gun owned for every person in the population so we’re well-armed in case of invasion.

Finch May 7, 2013 at 11:23 am

Well, first, focusing on defense is missing the point, since it’s a small part of the budget. We’ve set things up so most people are going to live out there lives as a net negative to society, and that might be fairly considered a bad thing.

Putting that aside, the amount of money you spend securing a thing ought to move with the value of the thing, ceterus paribus (meaning in this instance at a constant level of threat). So if we increase the value of the nation, we ought to increase what we spend to secure it. It’s hard to come up with some measure of national wealth or value that isn’t driven by human capital, which in turn grows with population. Every person adds a little value to the trade routes the Navy secures, and adds a little consequence to the possibility of a nuclear terrorist attack, that sort of thing.

Further, whether or not you _want_ defense spending to move with population and GDP, it pretty clearly _does_ move with population and GDP. So an argument about how things ought to be is moot. It’s like Bryan Caplan arguing that immigration would be great if we could just turn off the welfare state and set up apartheid.(*) It’s not a good opening argument.

(*) I realize Caplan goes further than this.

dead serious May 7, 2013 at 3:17 pm

Your assertion that defense spending is “a small part of the budget” pretty much invalidates any other “opinions” you have on national fiscal matters.

Finch May 7, 2013 at 3:47 pm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:U.S._Federal_Spending_-_FY_2011.png

This is spending and doesn’t show the present value of future commitments.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GAO_Slide.png

In present value terms, the problem with the US budget is Medicare, followed distantly by Social Security, followed by everything else.

If I was in charge I would cut defense spending, but I’m honest enough to admit that it is not an important part of the problem.

I’m not sure why you’re confused. This is simple math. The government is losing money. Therefore the median person is a fiscal loss. This is not a good way to run a country.

Dan Weber May 7, 2013 at 4:27 pm

The government is losing money. Therefore the median person is a fiscal loss

Average person.

I’m not sure that this is obviously true wrt our goals for number of people. If IBM were losing money, is that proof that the average employee is losing money, and they should reduce employees? They are also cash-negative for every manager, for every factory, for every shareholder, for every computer and/or service contract sold.

Or, flip it: if the USG were to manage to get out of deficit, would that mean we should bring in as many people as possible?

The idea that we should grow population in order to spread out fixed defense spending is silly, of course. If that were the argument people would say it in debates, but people don’t say it because it would make them look like goofs.

Also, the US is world cop, for better or for worse. If its military spending is proportional to something, then it’s to global population or to global wealth or to global GDP — not American.

Finch May 7, 2013 at 5:39 pm

The median person is worse than the average person, fiscally speaking, because of progressive taxes.

Regarding how you should use the fiscal contribution in immigration decisions, my suggestion is that we should sell immigration slots to offset fiscal losses and to make sure citizens capture any gains from the trade. I am open to opinions on whether or how we should otherwise constrain the selection of immigrants, perhaps to promote diversity among them to help ease assimilation. I’d probably raise the number of immigrants, but I think with a rationalized policy that would be more tolerable than the present system. Notably, I’d make assimilation an important goal.

Basically this is analogous to IBM choosing to fund positive expected value projects, and not to just hire anybody who walks into the building.

dead serious May 7, 2013 at 6:33 pm

19-20% isn’t “a small part of the budget.” Furthermore, defense spending is something you can actually cut today without reneging on promised obligations (e.g. SS).

I don’t disagree that our entitlements spending needs to be revamped, but the ole “wave one hand to distract us from the other very real (and practically useless) one” detracts from your larger point which is, I hope, that *all* spending needs to be reduced. I think defense spending could be reduced to 1/3 of what is currently is and we’d notice not a whit. Let’s fix some infrastructure – here at home – with those funds.

dead serious May 7, 2013 at 6:38 pm

Further, I agree that open borders would be disastrous for present-day Americans. We could disallow every immigrant from every social program from this day forward and it would still be disastrous.

Finch May 7, 2013 at 7:52 pm

> 19-20% isn’t “a small part of the budget.”

Okay fine. It’s small relative to the 75% that’s social spending. You could zero it out and it would barely affect the immigrant calculation. We can still only accept doctors and similar $200k/yr earning immigrants, who are at the start of their career, if we want to expect to see a gain. We have the government of a much richer society than the one we actually have.

Nathan W May 7, 2013 at 3:06 pm

We spend more money subsidizing oil exploration (a tax deduction) which benefits significantly and directly from highly educated workers than we spend subsidizing physicist’s gardeners (not a tax deduction) who probably receive little or no support at any stage of cultivating their valuable skills, especially in the case that we’re talking about immigrant gardeners.

Do you have a green thumb to boast of, or are you prepared to respect that many immigrants can do some things BETTER, FASTER and CHEAPER than many non immigrants. If they couldn’t do at least one or more of these three, then an American would obviously be doing it. Everyone gains except for those who can’t compete with the immigrants.

Time to get your thinking caps on. Chop, chop and make your time worth it, working class Americans. The American system does not help a man who is down and out.

Asher May 7, 2013 at 9:07 am

Once upon a time (I guess it was when I was an undergrad physics major) it was obvious to me that unlocking the secrets of the universe was a worthwhile endeavor. Lately I just can’t convince myself of its social value. Will someone remind me why I should care if black holes do or do not radiate, or if we can find traces of this or that boson?

Axa May 7, 2013 at 9:33 am

It’s called middle age crisis =)

Mark Thorson May 7, 2013 at 10:05 am

Yeah, finding out why amyloid clearance is impaired in Alzheimer’s disease is suddenly waaaay more important.

Andrew' May 7, 2013 at 10:15 am

7 Deadly Things

Look it up. Then keep that in mind with every medical news story related to degenerative disease and see how often they fall into one of those 7 and particularly the junk toxic protein buildup category, then ask ‘why is the focus on the myriad of disease instead of aging?’

Andrew' May 7, 2013 at 10:16 am

On the other side, particle physics is virtually interchangeable with English major in Alex’s argument from yesterday.

Adam May 7, 2013 at 9:10 am

Hi Alex, I like how you presented the argument, and I think it should be compelling to social conservatives who see America as exceptional and blessed by the hand of providence (or random luck for the non-believers). If the U.S. is a light on the hill, why make it harder for others to enjoy it?

I think scholars have done a good job of showing that immigrants aren’t a fiscal drain and don’t commit crimes at higher rates than other groups. But I wonder about the political ramifications of mass immigration given that low-skilled immigrants do not appear to hold classical liberal views. You could also think about it in terms of the classic Meltzer and Richard model of redistributive policies in a democracy. More low wage workers increases the income gap between the mean and median voter leading to a stronger push for redistribution.

I’d love to hear your views on this particular aspect (or those of anyone else who’s thought systematically about it) especially since it’s an argument I’ve heard more frequently lately.

JWatts May 7, 2013 at 4:00 pm

I think scholars have done a good job of showing that immigrants aren’t a fiscal drain

I question the validity of that statement.

Marian Kechlibar May 9, 2013 at 1:49 am

In Denmark, the scholars have done a good job of providing the precise opposite of what you claim: the non-Western migrant community (< 4 per cent of the total population) consumes about 40 per cent of total welfare spending. Violent crime in "neighborhoods" exceeds the Danish average by at least factor of 3, which is remarkable, as some of the intra-migrant crimes are never reported to the police and instead "solved" by family feuds and retaliation, per standard of the source countries (rural Iraq etc.)

Of course, Danish (and generally Scandinavian) welfare system and nonviolent society is just ripe for such fleecing. I can imagine that, say, Scottish hooligans are an even match when it comes to violence in the streets.

In many other EU countries, collection of such statistics is explicitly verboten, precisely because the politicians fear the expected results. Nevertheless, even the elites of the migrant communities are starting to speak aloud about the intractable problem in which their own people stick. Says Baroness Warsi of UK: "You can take a man out of Pakistan in a few hours. Taking Pakistan out of a man may take more than a lifetime."

RPLong May 7, 2013 at 9:10 am

I enjoyed that excerpt quite a bit. If more people understood the truth of that first paragraph, the world would be a better place. Marginal Revolution, indeed.

Chip May 7, 2013 at 9:19 am

So how has immigration from south of the border benefited California?

No references to particle physics necessary. Just give us a rundown on the benefits to the public purse, and education and prison systems.

Andrew' May 7, 2013 at 9:32 am

The economic impact has been roundly positive. The fiscal impact to state and local governments solidly negative. Partly because the taxes that are collected go to the Feds while the costs are incurred at the state and local levels.

Government sucks, who’da’thunk!?

Chip May 7, 2013 at 9:49 am

I didn’t realize CA only recently started sending their revenue to Washington and that this doesn’t apply to other states.

And there I thought California was just spending too much money.

Andrew' May 7, 2013 at 10:17 am

It is similar to my argument on medicare and social security. Is the problem that people are getting older, something that noone could have predicted? Or is the problem a jacked up program that did not foresee the obvious problem?

Andrew May 7, 2013 at 10:25 am

Remember the key point: the economy assimilated the immigrants at a net positive result. The government didn’t. The problem was the structure of government programs, partly the simple problem that federal taxes go to pay for old age care while state and local spending go towards more current services. Simply increase the taxes on the immigrants. If Democrats don’t let you do that then either get rid of the Democrats or get rid of the immigrants and you can’t and shouldn’t get rid of the immigrants.

There is this assumption that ‘hey, immigrants are causing a problem, so let’s just not have the immigrants, especially because they vote Democrat.’ But you’ve been controlled by Democrats forever. Democrats don’t need immigrants to destroy budgets. Fiscal failure is just Republican opportunity.

Peter the Shark May 8, 2013 at 5:07 am

The economic impact has been “roundly” positive in the sense that maybe the top 10% of the population benefitted. It would be interesting to poll people who lived in California 20-30 years ago and ask them if the quality of living in CA has improved or worsened due to immigration. Of course you would now have to go out-of-state to find many of those people, which suggests an obvious answer.

Eli May 7, 2013 at 9:33 am

Finally something I can watch from here in Canada that the Americans can’t watch!

Marian Kechlibar May 7, 2013 at 9:43 am

So, in Afghanistan there are regions where barely 1 per cent of the population can read and write. Not English, of course.

What kind of valuable skills will any developed economy gain from migration of, say, 100 000 random people of that country?

Andrew' May 7, 2013 at 10:18 am

Drone fuel.

j r May 7, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Why would you think that immigration brings a random sampling?

Nathan W May 7, 2013 at 3:08 pm

Experienced farm labourers with a village of hopeful family and friends to support. They’ll pick in one day what you’ll pick in three, and machines can’t give fruit the attention they need … for example.

Marian Kechlibar May 7, 2013 at 3:50 pm

Relatively primitive agriculture of Hindu Kush valleys and heights (over 12000 ft. elevation), based mainly on herding of goats and sheep, bears little similarity to the American hi-tech lowland farming of today. I don’t think that any skills of Hindu Kush subsistence farmers carry over to California.

If I was on the other side of the discussion, I would probably start with “some Afghans make great warriors, with 10+ years practice in extremely harsh conditions, why don’t you create an American equivalent of the Gurkha legion out of them”.

Nathan W May 7, 2013 at 5:44 pm

Fine, you win. Goat herds at 12000 ft sounds intense. Actual experience working with people from those areas, in the specific industry I mention, should hardly be taken seriously.

Marian Kechlibar May 9, 2013 at 1:37 am

I wrote you a long(ish) reply, Nathan, but the comment system ate it, throwing some error. Of course, the text wasn’t there once I clicked on “back”.

Tyler, could you PLEASE do something with your commenting software? It is 2013. If submitting of a WWW form fails, the content should be kept, this has been good practice for at least 15 years already.

Bill May 7, 2013 at 9:50 pm

They probably can make good Afghan food, at least some of them. Quality of food doesn’t depend on education level.

This of course is TC’s motivation for open borders…higher quality ethnic food.

Nathan W May 8, 2013 at 6:28 am

I think if that’s all we got, it’d be worth it already :)

Matt May 7, 2013 at 10:04 am

The problem with poverty is not that people don’t have skills it is that they are imprisoned in countries where their political or geographic institutions prevent them from making a living.

So then, why not just conquer those countries and administer them as territories, bringing them more in line with First-World governance? Seriously, what is so sacred about the nation of e.g. “Mexico” that it must exist forever as an independent entity? If we were to conquer Mexico’s corrupt and ineffective government and replace it with our own presumably less corrupt one, how is that not a win for everyone completely consistent with the open-borders philosophy?

derek May 7, 2013 at 10:09 am

Fine as long as the people coming here are able to integrate with the destination country as opposed to being stuck in an ethnic ghetto. Quantity matters. The more dysfunctional their originating country is, the less functional these folks will be until they learn the things necessary to do well in their new country. Having large numbers arrive, naturally and by policy funnelled into near ghettos, then the dysfunction maintained by the Official Ethnic representative through whom government largess arrives.

Andrew' May 7, 2013 at 10:18 am

True, and we ran this experiment. And the results are “bad government programs are still bad.”

Simon C May 7, 2013 at 10:31 am

Just to check, Alex is in favour of open borders but Tyler not. Is that right?

The Anti-Gnostic May 7, 2013 at 10:32 am

Alex, did your interviewer get around to asking you about Israel’s border policies? Did he mention how open borders worked out for the First Nations?

Also, why aren’t you looking for all these precious diamonds in the rough closer to home? You could invite all those budding oncologists and physicists trapped by corrupt institutions in Newport News (just 160 miles away!), Detroit, St. Louis, Atlanta and elsewhere into your Beautiful Bubble in Fairfax County, Virginia..

If your impoverished fellow Americans aren’t exotic or numerous enough for you, there’s always Yemen, Palestine, Haiti, Jamaica, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Liberia, Somalia, Guatemala and probably a few others I’m forgetting. I can only imagine what great ideas the economics department at GMU will think up once they’ve all gotten their own cheap immigrant gardeners, maids, nannies, valets, cooks and drivers!

(In fact, I recall your very own State of Virginia tried that labor model once before. How’d that work out any way?)

RPLong May 7, 2013 at 11:12 am

The “beautiful bubble” thing is a bit silly to bring up here, don’t you think? Last time I checked, Alex Tabarrok and Bryan Caplan were two different people.

The Anti-Gnostic May 7, 2013 at 11:28 am

Thank you Captain Obvious. I assumed some license, as both are libertarian-oriented economists working down the hall from each other. (Perhaps you can correct me on the location of their offices as well.)

For that matter, it just makes the Open Borders Axiom all the stronger, aligning it perfectly with its real-world effects: Alex can invite immigrants into Bryan’s Beautiful Bubble!

RPLong May 7, 2013 at 12:11 pm

Sorry, I didn’t mean to let specific individuals’ actual opinions interfere with your desire to paint all these crazy libertarians with the same brush.

Dave May 7, 2013 at 11:39 am

AG — in what sense did (do?) the First Nations have open borders? I can’t tell what you have in mind here.

The Anti-Gnostic May 7, 2013 at 11:51 am

The borders of North America were de facto open to anybody. As a result, the First Nations became marginalized, impoverished strangers in their own lands.

For proud people who jealously guarded their lines of patro-lineal descent and inter-tribal borders, it was doubtless a soul-crushing humiliation.

PL May 10, 2013 at 1:02 pm

I don’t get it. We have enforceable property rights here, so wouldn’t people who immigrate plan in advance to find out/make sure they were able to secure some place to live here? This sounds much different than the past where the asymmetry in potential for violence made defense of your property untenable.

Unless of course, as Andrew’ says, government programs keep working the way they do to subsidize undesirable individual behaviors.

dead serious May 7, 2013 at 10:40 am

In this light, maybe the onerous taxes ::eyeroll:: the rich are paying – or are supposed to be paying, anyway – are a bargain.

It’s not just the poor who benefit from our political and economic system.

Nathan W May 7, 2013 at 3:12 pm

I always get a kick out of this one: “The rich pay taxes and don’t benefit from the system”. Let me say that differently: “The rich … don’t benefit from the system”.

As though they aren’t getting a good deal out of the matter. Yes, you (usually) have to work real hard to get rich, but to think that you benefit less from the system when sitting on piles of millions or billions, BMWs and the latest gadgets, fine dining and the whole lot … to think the rich don’t benefit from the system … lol.

dead serious May 7, 2013 at 6:42 pm

I think you’re agreeing with me but don’t know it.

Brian Donohue May 7, 2013 at 7:48 pm

…and that concludes this episode of ‘liberal confusion’.

Nathan W May 8, 2013 at 6:36 am

I know it.

Jacob Lyles May 7, 2013 at 10:44 am

“The poverty is the fault of the governments under which they live”

If it’s a democratic government, it seems the fault would go both ways.

Andrew S May 7, 2013 at 11:01 am

With regards to the first paragraph, does it fit the empirical facts? For instance, the poverty rate is 33% for Hispanics, 35% for blacks, and 13% for whites. If the only cause for poverty is being born in the wrong place, why does the high poverty rate for Hispanics persist post-immigration?

Jacob Lyles May 7, 2013 at 11:08 am

My hesitation over open borders comes from what I call the “Purple State Effect”. In America, this happens when a red state has economic policies that promote strong growth (e.g. Texas, North Carolina). This causes liberal grads to immigrate from blue states seeking jobs. Then they vote to undo the very policies that attracted them to those states in the first place.

In short, I worry that the attractive qualities that make America a good place to live depend on certain cultural and political values that can’t survive annual immigration over X% for some value of X. This is especially true in an environment of cutthroat political competition where parties will be quick to exploit the prejudices, envy, and anxieties of third-world immigrants for quick political gain.

Jacob Lyles May 7, 2013 at 11:09 am

Oops, I meant to make this a top-level comment.

LK May 7, 2013 at 11:15 am

Hispanics do *better* in America than in wherever they’re from.

But (and I think this is pretty much without question) the median Hispanic immigrant will fail to assimilate, increase the mean crime rate (in the second and third gen), lower the mean IQ (and thus institutional quality in both the private and public sector), weaken civic society and drag down the success rate of every government program.

Frankly, as someone who has used unemployment insurance the way it *ought* to be used and is simultaneously against most workplace regulation, I find the libertarian glee at welfare breaking under the brunt of a massive indigent population pretty horrendous/borderline sociopathic.

However, it is not our duty to improve the lot of everyone, everywhere.

Poverty is endogenous to the population, not exogenous.

It’s not the land that makes us rich, it’s the people.

johnleemk May 7, 2013 at 11:54 am

“Poverty is endogenous to the population, not exogenous.”

Strong claim. Where’s the strong evidence? I can buy that *some degree* of poverty is (at least in the short to medium run) endogenously determined, but not that 100% (or perhaps even a majority) of the income differences between poor and rich peoples. The wage gaps that exist between rich and poor parts of jurisdictions with open borders (e.g. the mainland US and Guam or Puerto Rico) are on the order of 20 to 30% (adjusted for purchasing power, job type, worker qualifications, etc.). The wage gaps that exist between rich and poor parts of the world with closed borders are more on the order of 90%. These gaps were never observed in the 19th century era of open borders. When Italians were the “low-quality” immigrants ostensibly bringing crime and low IQ to the US, wage gaps observed between Italy and the US were in the 20 to 30% range. To put it differently, the artificial erection of closed borders is responsible for up to 2/3rds of the poverty in the world.

LeonK May 7, 2013 at 12:08 pm

“These gaps were never observed in the 19th century era of open borders.” –

No for at least five reasons.

First, I simply disagree with the facts. Gaps did exist and show up in the data. (Americans were richer than the British were richer than the Germans and so on). Second, 19th c. data is of low-quality and not-to-be-strongly-extrapolated-from. Third, some massive gaps did exist. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, many parts of sub-Saharan Africa has not yet invented the wheel. Fourth, the world was only just *escaping* the Malthusian trap in the early part of the 19th century. The stylized facts of growth-population-technology-political institutions are completely different between then and now.

Even so, it’s simply *not* our duty to help everyone everywhere.

The Anti-Gnostic May 7, 2013 at 12:09 pm

Free and open immigration exists between all the subdivisions of the United States but poverty persists and has salient characteristics. Immigrants and aid freely sojourn into Haiti. Speaking of Haiti, ask their Dominican neighbors about their border. South Korea maintains a very well-guarded border with the North and pretty much everywhere else. Switzerland has only recently and grudgingly loosened its borders. Israel is quite prosperous and maintains an iron grip on its borders.

And there’s the Australian experiment: drop a bunch of Anglo-Celt convicts off in the middle of hostile wilderness and see what happens in a century. And compare it to what the indigenous did for the previous millenia.

KLO May 7, 2013 at 12:14 pm

The US had 2.5 times the per capita GDP of Italy in 1900. To argue that the typical immigrant from Italy expected only as much as 20 percent increase in wages is farcical given how much trouble immigrating was in that era.

There also were never open borders in the 19th century, although the barriers were largely physical rather than legal. In that era, we really did receive immigrants from the wealthiest, most developed countries in the world, becuause no one else was able to afford to migrate. Today that is not true, and the average migrant is from a significantly poorer country relatively speaking. Again, if you genuinely believe that borders were open in the 19th century, why did the US, which was among the wealthiest countries in 1900, not receive many more migrants from Africa and Asia?

Nathan W May 7, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I dare you to say “having more Hispanics will lower average IQ” with your full name and address appended to the post. There’s a reason that some people are fearful: a lack of respect is dangerous for your health.

The Anti-Gnostic May 7, 2013 at 4:14 pm

That’s a pretty silly argument. If you gave your full name and address while posting “Hispanics are on average far better at the physical sciences and higher math than whites,” you’d be perfectly safe, but you also wouldn’t even have made a decent joke.

Hispanic, of course, is a linguistic label. In this context, I assume when you say “Hispanics,” you’re referring to indigenous Meso-Americans and mestizos and not, say, Javier Ángel Encinas Bardem, or Pablo Picasso.

LK May 7, 2013 at 6:44 pm

I don’t get your point?
Is your point that IQ isn’t important for policy decisions?
Is your point that importing more Hispanics will increase violence?
Is it a vague threat?
Or is it that you’re a passive-aggressive self-hating SWPL (SWHPL?) and want to enforce PCness for status but just don’t have the balls to do it yourself?

RPLong May 7, 2013 at 11:17 am

The point is that poor Hispanics fare better in Canada than they do in the Dominican Republic.

LK May 7, 2013 at 12:02 pm

That’s precisely *not* the point. If we only imported thieves they would do better here than in their native countries.

RPLong May 7, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Exactly. Because we have a higher standard of living, thanks to our comparatively freer markets and lower levels of political corruption. So far we both agree with Alex, right?

lords of lies May 7, 2013 at 11:57 pm

no, because we have more good stuff for thieves to steal. importing parasites is not an improvement for the host.

ps nice troll bait post, cheap chalupas jr.

LK May 7, 2013 at 12:25 pm

Well, perhaps the bit quoted, but certainly not the whole interview.
I thought your comment was top-level when I first replied.
Carry on.

Idiot from abroad May 7, 2013 at 2:20 pm

“The problem with poverty is not that people don’t have skills it is that they are imprisoned in countries where their political or geographic institutions prevent them from making a living”

What luck, that USA have so many white people who can create well-functioning political institutions.

Apparently thats not an option for all these strange coloured people. They are just imprisoned, without any possibilities of ever changing their institutions. If they want decent institutions, they have to move to USA. What else?

Everebody. Please remember that “institutions” drops down from the sky at random. Some countries are lucky and some are not. And hence, it is also fair to assume that the mass immigration wont affect the institutions of USA.
There is no reason to speculate about why institutions are different in different countries, and to wonder if maybe – just maybe – people actually influence these instutions.

Andrew S May 7, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Regarding the second paragraph’s point on immigrant-native complementarity, didn’t Borjas show that the Ottaviano-Peri result of strong complementarity between similarly skilled immigrants and natives was driven by questionable assumptions. Namely, Ottaviano and Peri included high school students as part of the “high school dropout” workforce, and removing these high school students eliminated the complementarity finding.

Peter Schaeffer May 7, 2013 at 6:14 pm

AS,

“Regarding the second paragraph’s point on immigrant-native complementarity, didn’t Borjas show that the Ottaviano-Peri result of strong complementarity between similarly skilled immigrants and natives was driven by questionable assumptions. Namely, Ottaviano and Peri included high school students as part of the “high school dropout” workforce, and removing these high school students eliminated the complementarity finding.”

Yes, you are correct. The OP results fell apart. See

“Borjas, Grogger, and Hanson: Immigrant and Native Complementarity
http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2008/03/borjas-grogger.html

George Borjas, Jeffrey Grogger, and Gordon Hanson have a new paper, and it’s not good news for the Ottaviano and Peri result that immigration can cause native wages to increase due to strong complementarities between native and immigrant labor:”

Note that the author quoted above is the very liberal Mark Thoma.

Roy May 7, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Canada has a really effective solution to high skilled immigrants competing with high skilled Canadians.

They make it impossible to practice a highly skilled profession if you haven’t trained in Canada. I know a prominent physician in the US who has actually taught at one of the best Canadian Universities. She is bilingual and just married a top medical researcher and director of an important Canadian research instute. She was willing to move, but she would not be able to practice medicine until she was accepted and completed a Canadian residency. Oh and because her family is from Montreal, she was eligible for Canadian citizenship. So instead her new husband has emmigrated and the institute is still searching for a new director a year later. The same sort of thing is true in a lot of Canadian fields, not just medicine.

This coupled with an admission system in which advance degrees greatly aid in entry, is probably why Canada is one of the few Western Countries in which the immigrant-native income gap actually grows the longer an immigrant has been in Canada.

John Mansfield May 7, 2013 at 3:51 pm

Promoting open borders for Canada is a more daring idea than open borders for the Uniteds States since the existing population is only a fraction the United States’, while the tens or hundreds of millions of people worldwide who would opt to move there given the chance are likely about the same for either nation.

Steve Sailer May 7, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Rather than try Alex’s Open Borders idea out in huge America first, we should test run it in a small country. An ideal test case would be a small country located at the confluence of Africa, Asia, and Europe so that immigrants would have easy land access.

It’s time for Alex and Bryan Caplan to start an Open Borders for Israel campaign. Here’s a line they could use:

“Mr. Netanyahu, tear down this fence!”

I look forward to seeing the response they get.

dead serious May 7, 2013 at 6:45 pm

+1000

Bill May 7, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Open border proponents say that the risks are speculative. Fine, then look at how immigrant communities, 2nd generation, and 3rd generation are functioning in American society and choose immigrants based on how well they have assimilated/how they are doing.

I would cut off Somalian immigration because I know that the children would just be assimilated into the African American culture of underachievement. Indian 2nd generation people, on the other hand, function quite well in American society. We obviously have good historical experiences with European immigration. Chinese immigration has gone well. Let’s make an immigration policy based on results, not just “all immigrants are equal let’s let them all in” policy. By the way, our selection criteria shouldn’t be as crude as accepting or rejecting based on country of origin or race, but it should consider as many factors as are correlated with good outcomes.

jonpez May 8, 2013 at 12:32 am

Then lets go the last mile and apply those sophisticated selection criteria to the current population. Utopia, here we come!

TR W May 7, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Piggyback off the successes of Europeans and dispersion Europeans. That’s Tyler Cowen’s message. Not shocking given Jews have done that for centuries. European people made the sacrifices to get to the point where there is freedom, upward mobility, education for all etc. Many non-whites don’t want to make the sacrifices neccessary because they likely won’t live to see the changes, don’t really want their people to change or believe it’s impossible for their people to change.

RJ May 7, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Open borders and a welfare state are an impossible combination.

JWatts May 8, 2013 at 10:08 am

Exactly and pretending otherwise is just hiding your head in the sand. Low skill immigrants when you include their families and all associated governmental expenditures, have a lower (taxes paid)/(public services consumed) ratio than the current American average. So they lower that average and drive up deficits and/or taxes.

Peter Schaeffer May 7, 2013 at 8:17 pm

Heritage just released a study showing that Amnesty will cost $6.3 trillion. Say Open Borders brought in 10 times as many people, what would the cost be? $63 trillion? Madness.

Chris May 7, 2013 at 8:21 pm

The problem is that it hurts low skill workers already in the country. It creates a larger sector of the population that earns little money, exacerbating inequality and increasing political tension. Historically, nations have not developed by importing low skill labor, but importing relatively high skill labor.

Importing a small amount of low skill labor isn’t necessarily bad as long as it is limited in scale so that it does not destabilize the country, keeps wages high, and allows for assimilation.

Supporting open borders because “I’d really like to pay gardeners almost nothing” is about as good as a reason as supporting irresponsible lending because “I think people who oppose me are credit snobs”.

How many people who support open borders live in gated communities?

Peter Schaeffer May 7, 2013 at 9:05 pm

C,

“How many people who support open borders live in gated communities?”

Essentially all of them (physical gates or inflated real estate values).

Next question

“How many people who support open borders send their children to schools inundated by Open Borders immigrants and their children”

Zero.

asdf May 7, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Open Borders is a Close Case

1) The majority of immigrants today are NAM, mostly Mexican.

2) NAM current immigrants don’t assimilate and cause cultural strife.

3) NAMs are genetically low IQ and will always be low skilled drains on the system.

4) The only people who support such an insane policy given #1-3 are people who personally gain from it at the expense of their countrymen. That includes libertarian economists.

5) If we are lucky one day such people will be dragged out of their bubbles, lined up against a wall, and shot for being traitors.

Done, there is no need to talk about this issue anymore.

ladderff May 8, 2013 at 12:51 am

I used to disagree but now I agree.

Eric May 8, 2013 at 3:53 pm

These traitors don’t deserve a quick death by firing squad; they deserve to dance at the end of a rope.
I’d even argue for crucifixion, but I doubt many people have the stomach for that sort of thing.

Brendan May 8, 2013 at 4:19 pm

Let the immigrants they brought in do it. After all, they tend to do the jobs we won’t.

Marian Kechlibar May 9, 2013 at 1:28 am

Interestingly, executioners in Saudi Arabia are almost all immigrants. The natives wouldn’t touch that dirty job, though they generally enjoy the dirty spectacle.

Marian Kechlibar May 9, 2013 at 1:27 am

Ignoring the merit of the discussion … people have some misconceptions regarding the speed of death in various execution methods. Those who suffer death by shooting squad may well live up to minute after the shooting. Long-drop hanging (British and Singaporean style) breaks the neck in fraction of a second.

Peter the Shark May 8, 2013 at 5:19 am

The problem with poverty is not that people don’t have skills it is that they are imprisoned in countries where their political or geographic institutions prevent them from making a living.

Well, there is certainly far more abject poverty in the US than you find in Japan, Switzerland or Germany. Obviously there is something wrong with our institutions. Maybe we should ask those countries if they would allow our fine underclass to move there to have the freedom to use their many skills make a living.

Marian Kechlibar May 9, 2013 at 2:06 am

So, how much of that abject poverty in the US is seen among Japanese-Americans, Swiss-Americans and German-Americans? Not much more than in their respective countries of origin, probably even less, I would bet.

Peter the Shark May 9, 2013 at 2:42 am

Exactly. But according to Alex and the Open Borders fanatics it is the “institutions” that are the problem.

Scharlach May 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm

As I like to put it, a gardener who works for a particle physicist is indirectly helping to unlock the secrets of the universe.

Funny, but I think physicists’ gardens got tended in the 19th and 20th centuries before massive third world immigration went full-speed-ahead. Come to think of it, my grandfather tells me that when there were no Mexicans around, his trash still got picked up and the local strawberry field still got picked.

It’s almost as if you’re saying you want the native lower and working classes to get shafted. But you’re probably right in the long run. Much easier to keep labor dis-organized and cheaply paid when it’s coming from the third world. Those white natives tend to demand a little too much from their employers.

Filomena May 12, 2013 at 12:34 am

I loved listening to Dr. Tabarrok’s interview on CBC. I agree 100% and almost wish that I were 30 years younger to go on studying economics…
I read some of the above comments and can’t help but plead for the compulsory teaching of economics from as soon as grade nine. Childreen need to be encouraged to think on their own, before they give in on ready made ideas passed on to them by family or church.
I hope that the MRuniversity has young people ready to give childreen the freedom to think, because only then (or rather 10 years later) will Dr. Tabarrok’s ideas receive the acceptance that they deserve.

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