The Case for Open Borders

by on September 15, 2014 at 7:20 am in Uncategorized | Permalink

Dylan Matthews summarizes the The Case for Open Borders drawing on an excellent interview with Bryan Caplan. Here is one bit from the interview:

Letting someone get a job is not a kind of charity. It’s not a welfare program. It’s just the government leaving people alone to go and make something out of their lives. When most people are on earth are dealt such a bad hand, to try to stop them from bettering their condition seems a very cruel thing to do to someone.

My elevator pitch has no economics in it, because the economics is actually too subtle to really explain in an elevator pitch. If I had a little bit more time, I would say, “What do you think the effects for men have been of more women in the workforce?”

Are there some men who are worse off? Sure. But would we really be a richer society if we kept half the population stuck at home? Isn’t it better to take people who have useful skills and let them do something with it, than to just keep them locked up someplace where their skills go to waste?

Isn’t that not just better for them, but better for people in general, if we allow people to use their skills to contribute to the world instead of keeping them shut up someplace where they just twiddle their thumbs or do subsistence agriculture or whatever?

On the economics, David Roodman has a characteristically careful and comprehensive review written for Givewell of the evidence on the effect of immigration on native wages. He writes, “the available evidence paints a fairly consistent and plausible picture”:

  • There is almost no evidence of anything close to one-to-one crowding out by new immigrant arrivals to the job market in industrial countries. Most studies find that 10% growth in the immigrant “stock” changes natives’ earnings by between –2% and +2% (@Longhi, Nijkamp, and Poot 2005@, Fig 1; @Peri 2014@, Pg 1). Although serious questions can be raised about the reliability of most studies, the scarcity of evidence for great pessimism stands as a fact (emphasis added, AT)….
  • One factor dampening the economic side effects of immigration is that immigrants are consumers as well as producers. They increase domestic demand for goods and services, perhaps even more quickly than they increase domestic production (@Hercowitz and Yashiv 2002@), since they must consume as soon as they arrive. They expand the economic pie even as they compete for a slice. This is not to suggest that the market mechanism is perfect—adjustment to new arrivals is not instantaneous and may be incomplete—but the mechanism does operate.
  • A second dampener is that in industrial economies, the capital supply tends to expand along with the workforce. More workers leads to more offices and more factories. Were receiving economies not flexible in this way, they would not be rich. This mechanism too may not be complete or immediate, but it is substantial in the long run: since the industrial revolution, population has doubled many times in the US and other now-wealthy nations, and the capital stock has kept pace, so that today there is more capital per worker than 200 years ago.
  • A third dampener is that while workers who are similar compete, ones who are different complement. An expansion in the diligent manual labor available to the home renovation business can spur that industry to grow, which will increase its demand for other kinds of workers, from skilled general contractors who can manage complex projects for English-speaking clients to scientists who develop new materials for home building. Symmetrically, an influx of high-skill workers can increase demand for low-skill ones. More computer programmers means more tech businesses, which means more need for janitors and security guards. Again, the effect is certain, though its speed and size are not.
  • …one way to cushion the impact of low-skill migration on low-skill workers already present is to increase skilled immigration in tandem.

Plaudits are due to Givewell. While others are focused on giving cows, Givewell is going after the really big gains.

1 Anon September 15, 2014 at 7:42 am

No

2 Oh, Not Again! September 15, 2014 at 12:27 pm

Dismissing immigrant-crowding-out of native labor by blithering about wage rates is misleading to the point of dishonesty, for two reasons. One is that economists who are not dependent on US elites for funding and social status (cf. G. Peri) easily show how the decrease in capital intensity caused by immigration depresses productivity and wages over time. The other reason is that US minimum wage laws and the eternal demand for subsistence put a floor under the lowest wage rates. Low-wage immigrants do not (cannot) just drive down low-end wages a little bit, rather they displace native workers (especially blacks) into unemployment. The unemployed natives then live off welfare and the proceeds of crime (both imposing stiff costs on the middle class). In “Effects of Immigration on African-American Employment and Incarceration” by Borjas, Grogger, and Hanson, the authors showed, among other things, that a 10% increase in immigration translates to a 2.4% drop in the (native) black male employment rate and about a 1% increase in the black male incarceration rate. Note that most crimes go unpunished, so sending 1% more to prison means crime has increased by a much larger proportion.

Also, Caplan’s elevator pitch has no economics in it because any honest economic analysis militates against mass immigration. Caplan never utters the word “externality” and refuses to answer any questions or objections which contain the word or refer to the concept.

3 Nathan W September 15, 2014 at 3:54 pm

You are pretending that they don’t consume anything and that they do not contribute in any manner to underlying determinants of labour demand.

The post was very explicit about this sort of thing, yet you continue on as though the only thing that immigrants do is take jobs. Whether or not they are complementary or compete for jobs is an empirical question. I don’t want to talk about that.

They consume. And therefore people are employed as a result of their existence.

4 blighter September 15, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Excellent point. The most important thing for our economic well-being is to make sure we have enough consumers — the more consumers the better. The absolute best thing for our economy would be to import every single invalid from the rest of the world. Just think how much better off we would all be if we, say, doubled our population and the entire increase was febrile invalids who only consumed resources. We’d have full employment at vastly increased wages. That’s just basic economics.

5 leftist conservative September 15, 2014 at 5:09 pm

the most important aspect of the force-fed mass immigration crammed down our throats by the corporations (and their lackeys in academia) is that diversity is weakness–for the people. More diverse means a less focused and coherent public will. That means the majority cannot exert its will and control the government. Which means the corporations can control the government. Which explains why CorpGovMedia is constantly promoting mass immigration and diversity.

6 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 7:14 pm

What it means is that political division starts to break down along communal lines and policy determination is disrupted by ethnic spoils. The Canadian political system has been frequently bedeviled by ethnic questions since 1960, as has the Belgian.

7 Oh, Not Again! September 16, 2014 at 12:01 am

Most of the occupations complementary to subsistence-wage immigrant labor are actually funded by harsh taxes on middle-class native workers: welfare lady, police officer, ESL teacher, prison guard, paramedic, burglar-alarm installer, rape counselor, Head Start teacher’s aide, etc.

More seriously, it is an obvious lie that there is lots of demand for low-wage labor. Low wages indicate low demand. All the guff about how English-speaking low-wage natives will gain high-paying-supervisor jobs just as fast as they are displaced from their low-paying-job jobs is completely anti-empirical.* Nearly 50 years of actual experience with high immigration since 1965 shows it produces: relentless decrease in actual employment ratio (i.e., inverse of U6) of natives; relentless and (very) large increase in (constant-dollar) welfare spending (yes, even after the 1986 reform); relentless displacement of American blacks into crime and unemployment; expulsion of English-speaking natives from occupations dominated by immigrants specifically because the natives don’t speak the language of the peons and therefore (a) are unable to cooperate effectively with them in the workplace and (b) are more likely to file EEOC or legal complaints about discrimination so employers don’t want them around; and rapid increase in the underclass population because low-wage immigrants are much more fertile than natives and even more fertile than their countrymen who haven’t migrated, but the offspring of low-wage immigrants are less likely to work than their parents, much more likely to become criminals, and without exception consume vast amounts of educational, medical, welfare, and other social-welfare spending financed by taxes on natives because the low-wage immigrants pay far less in taxes than they and their families consume in social welfare spending.

Most of the “demand” you want low-wage immigrants to supply would be demand for subsistence at the expense of native taxpayers since the earning power of low-wage immigrants is negligible and the more who arrive the lower it will be. Appeals to some supposed magical increase of industrial capital along with population are misplaced: low-wage immigrants bring no industrial capital with them so necessarily decrease the capital:labor ratio in the destination country, driving down productivity and therefore wages, and if mere population growth caused capital increase then countries like Bangladesh would be rich already. Industrial capital is increased by savings. Taxing the middle class to provide subsistence to low-wage immigrants decreases savings by diverting capital to consumption (even subsistence is more costly in rich countries than poor) and therefore mass immigration to rich countries reduces capital formation rather than increasing it.

*Heck, we don’t even have to go to the stats (though we can). What is the ratio of supervisors to janitors? 1:5? 1:10? So how can every black janitor displaced by a cheaper, more docile Mexican become a cleaning-crew supervisor? As for becoming a “computer programmer,” if the janitor were qualified to do that he wouldn’t wait around until he was fired from his cushy part-time minimum-wage no-benefits night-shift janitor job to go into software engineering!

8 Steve Sailer September 15, 2014 at 4:23 pm

In the comments at the end of Roodman’s long post, please see the discussion between myself and Dr. Roodman over what economists typically overlook when thinking about immigration:

http://davidroodman.com/blog/2014/09/03/the-domestic-economic-impacts-of-immigration/

9 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 5:02 pm

I do not think your going to prevail by a focus on ‘living costs’, which are going to incorporate assumptions about people’s propensity to consume a given good or service which propensity may vary regionally.

Excessive immigration has unfortunate effects on income distribution and diminishes social solidarity, as well as exacerbating the problems in the political culture. The problems are tangential to those of interest to economists (and economists themselves are often insulated from the effects).

10 almond September 15, 2014 at 5:58 pm

And here come the rest of the racists top posting. Now all we need is Z-man and the party will be complete.

11 Cliff September 15, 2014 at 7:24 pm

ad hominem

12 Just Another MR Commentor September 15, 2014 at 8:14 pm

MORE IMMIGRANTS MORE IMMIGRANTS! We cannot allow the principle of Freedom of Movement to perish from this Earth!!!!

13 The Z Blog September 16, 2014 at 12:00 pm

My verbal dismemberment of Tyler’s dimwitted flunky, Alex Tabarrok, was too much for the little hot house flower to bear so I was asked not to post here anymore. I’ve made this one exception since I was specifically called out by an egregious scumbag.

Now, go home and drink varnish.

14 Anon September 15, 2014 at 11:57 pm

I would be more that willingly to debate open borders once Tyler and Bryan Caplan have secured a wide ranging multi party agreement that immigrants would have no access to any social security/welfare and no ability to vote.

15 rick September 15, 2014 at 7:43 am

First, assume that people are widgets…

16 Inuit September 15, 2014 at 8:27 am

+1
Exactly, because open borders has one and only one impact on society – employment.

17 NPW September 15, 2014 at 8:49 am

Let us assume people are widgets.

Let us assume that letting people who are relatively unproductive in their birth nations into the US makes them and the US better off.

Then please explain what about this particular piece of dirt magically transforms people. Why does living in the US make things different for them? The US doesn’t have anything special except for a relatively well working social construct in a larger country.

How are these people, who are currently unable to create and live in a productive society, going to come to the US and make it better off?

In specific, explain how people who have a dysfunctional native society AND who consider it racist to be required to speak the common language of the US, are going to contribute to the continued existence of a free society?

18 mavery September 15, 2014 at 9:42 am

There’s substantial selection effects for who immigrates, but in the opposite direction you seem to think. It’s generally really difficult to get here and requires substantial personal initiative and desire to improve one’s (or one’s family’s) circumstances. So what you tend to not get are dumb, lazy people. You get the opposite.

19 NPW September 15, 2014 at 9:52 am

That is under the current system, not the one proposed by Alex.

20 thomas September 15, 2014 at 12:01 pm

The US has capital and institutions obviously. What about this piece of dirt magically creates 14 trillion in GDP you might ask next.

21 ThomasH September 15, 2014 at 12:01 pm

This is not a question that anyone familiar with the real world could ask. It would be astounding if the migration of a person from a place with less well functioning institutions were not more productive in the country he was migrating to.

That said, all of the evidence that shows that on the margin more immigration is beneficial is valid for a marginal increase. It is still reasonable to have doubts if absolutely open borders would be optimal.

22 Clover September 15, 2014 at 1:12 pm

But why do some countries have better institutions than others? My wacky theory is that it might have something to do with the inhabitants of said countries.

23 Nathan W September 15, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Everything is always better when widgets are free to go where they are most highly valued, no?

That is, assuming that there aren’t too many widget buyers who will die without widgets but can’t afford them.

But most people won’t die without a maid or gardener. They will just have to do their own laundry.

24 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 8:52 am

Bingo.

25 Quite Likely September 15, 2014 at 9:36 am

This is really a great response to any time an economist says anything. It’s just that people act more like widgets in some situations than others.

26 So Much for Subtlety September 15, 2014 at 7:43 am

Isn’t that not just better for them, but better for people in general, if we allow people to use their skills to contribute to the world instead of keeping them shut up someplace where they just twiddle their thumbs or do subsistence agriculture or whatever?

The people in the Third World are not twiddling their thumbs or doing subsistence agriculture by accident. They do so because they have created societies that are, to be polite, dysfunctional. The people of Northern Europe have created very prosperous societies where people have more to do than grub in the Earth among the weeds.

The fallacy is to assume that if Northern European people create a functional society, it will go on being functional if said Northern Europeans are replaced by the feckless incompetents of the Third World. We have done this experiment. It has not worked. See Detroit. Newark. Chicago even. It is not enough that feckless Third Worlders have First World institutions – see Puerto Rico. Whatever it is Northern Europeans have, they are virtually the only people to have it. They cannot teach it.

So no, it is not better. While California remains a product of Northern European civilization, it will produce things like iPhones which benefit the entire world. As it is slowly becoming Mexico Part II, it will slowly cease to do so. The world benefits from American science and technology. It will not benefit from Mexicali of the North.

27 Moreno Klaus September 15, 2014 at 8:00 am

But wasnt California part of Mexico anyway? Karma my friend…

28 JasonM September 15, 2014 at 8:09 am

A moment’s reflection would confirm that if Alta California were still part of Mexico, it would have the socioeconomic profile of Baja California, and its people would be scrambling over the border to live in the peaceful, prosperous, high-tech meccas of Oregon, Nevada and Arizona in the U.S.

If “karma” means “make the U.S. more like Mexico in terms of wealth, innovation, crime and corruption,” then there’s hardly a better way to do it than by importing Mexico to the U.S.

29 Ray Lopez September 15, 2014 at 8:12 am

Not to defend the SS luvin’ racist SMFS, but General Fremont et al (including the East Coast H. Greeley inspired ’49ers) did colonize NorCal in the 1840s, so you could argue the White Man instituted his brand of culture in California and overthrew the Spanish culture. Personally, I think once immigrants come into the USA they become part of a melting pot –unless they are black in which case they seem to be discriminated against–and assume N. European “culture”, so that negates the “GDP is caused by culture” arguments of the kind econ historian David Landes makes.

30 Cliff September 15, 2014 at 9:28 am

And did you convince yourself of that by closing your eyes and repeating it to yourself over and over for a while?

31 China Cat September 15, 2014 at 10:50 am

SS? You lost me.

32 So Much for Subtlety September 15, 2014 at 4:54 pm

The unbelievable dishonesty of Ray’s post is shown by his SS crack which makes much the rest of anything he has to say worthless, but, you know, whatever.

By all means, let us agree that the annexation of California from Mexico was blatant theft and totally wrong. Let us even agree that morality would demand it be returned to Mexico. So what? Where does that get us? We get another Mexicali. We don’t get California as it now is. The world loses all the benefits that California has given the world. The world is worse off.

Theoretically immigrants come to the US and become part of a melting pot. In reality they do not. Immigrants, even White immigrants, maintain very different voting patterns. Largely dysfunctional voting patterns too. Southern European immigrants have not voted for the Republicans in large numbers – or at least didn’t until the Democrats made abortion a sacrament required for party membership. Jewish Americans still do not.

33 Ray Lopez September 16, 2014 at 12:45 am

@So Much for Subtlety – SS stands for S teve Sa ilor. You do agree with him on immigration, don’t you? I never advocated returning California to Mexico, that was your projection.

34 Marian Kechlibar September 15, 2014 at 8:13 am

Whoa. Though I am generally a skeptic when it comes to 3rd world migration, your comment is so simplified that it asks for some rebuttals.

Historically, Northern European countries were no paragons of prosperity. As late as the Titanic era, Scandinavia was very poor. There was endemic leprosy in Norway and 3rd class compartments of Atlantic steamers were full of Swedes and Finns looking for better life across the pond.

If we, OTOH, limit ourselves to the last 3 generations, there is nothing unique about Scandinavian economic growth. At the same time, countries like Japan, South Korea and Singapore jumped from poverty to the pinnacle of the First World.

Open gapminder.org (an extremely useful statistic website, if there is one) and play around with the graphs of GDP per capita etc. You will notice that countries like Turkey and Thailand have been growing so fast that they will reach Western levels of affluence in 10-15 years (Western Turkey is arguably already there).

What bothers me is not the money, but the political traditions. You can have plenty of prosperity without democracy and human rights, as long as the tyrant is sane and kills only selectively.

35 BC September 15, 2014 at 9:19 am

Marian, some good points, although I would not include Japan in the list of recently formerly poor nations. Japan was a longtime empire, only temporarily destroyed by World War II. (They had the military technology capable of attacking Pearl Harbor after all.) Japan is more comparable to Germany than South Korea and Singapore. Must be a lot of Northern European blood in Japan.

Also, regarding So Much for Subtlety’s observations on “American science and technology”, I wonder which American university’s STEM faculty and graduate student populations he sees as being characterized by Northern European purity.

36 XVO September 15, 2014 at 10:36 am

“Must be a lot of Northern European blood in Japan.”

Burn strawman burn. North East Asian people score at least as well on IQ tests and have the proper temperament to keep up with/adopt “western” social structures and technology. Still waiting for an equatorial country to rise up into the first world to prove the genetic determinist theory wrong. Oh and not Singapore (77% Chinese) or the gulf states (who says environment doesn’t matter, oceans of oil matter)

37 Marian Kechlibar September 15, 2014 at 10:58 am

Countries as a whole, or do regions count?

Bangalore is close to the equator and quite developed. Same for urban regions of Malaysia (OK, the engine of Malaysian prosperity is the Chinese community, but it seems that the Malays are catching up).

Even Mauritius and Barbados seem to be well-off, although their original populations are descended from former slaves.

38 XVO September 15, 2014 at 1:24 pm

It would appear that gdp per capita of Bangalore is $1200 which is extremely poor. Malaysia, perhaps the same as Singapore, but I’d note they are not especially wealthy (10k gdp per capita).

As for Mauritius and Barbados, I would expect that their apparent tax haven status, small population size and being prime tourist destinations for westerners have contributed to their wealth.

What I would like to see, to disprove the idea that genetic determinism is responsible for the wealth of nations, is a nation like Brazil, India, Nigeria, Ethiopia or Indonesia rising to or exceeding a western nation.

39 Marian Kechlibar September 16, 2014 at 10:06 am

“tax haven status, small population size and being prime tourist destinations for westerners”

Yeah, but this is the “chicken vs. egg” problem, right? Because Cuba, Jamaica and Haiti, all in the proximity of Barbados and all inhabited by a mixture of former slaves and masters, do not seem to be able to attract Western tourists and tax escapees.

Barbados and Mauritius have managed to keep the institutions inherited from the British remarkably well and develop them further. Why precisely, that is the question. Many decolonialized countries have gone in the other direction, from a hopeful country into a basket case in a single generation.

40 Marian Kechlibar September 16, 2014 at 10:17 am

“What I would like to see, to disprove the idea that genetic determinism is responsible for the wealth of nations, is a nation like Brazil, India, Nigeria, Ethiopia or Indonesia rising to or exceeding a western nation.”

I do not see how such event would either prove or disprove that idea. Economic development is often driven by a small subset of the total population, and that subset, if not actively hindered by their own fellow citizens (or an oppressive foreign power) will eventually drag the entire country to prosperity.

So the real question is “how much are those countries resistant to being seduced into some dysfunctional systems like socialism”? For an example, see North Korea vs. South Korea, and South Korea prior to 1980 vs. South Korea today.

From your list, I would expect that at least Indonesia will be able to grow into Western-like affluence. Not uniformly across the archipelago, but Java is a good candidate. They have had good economic growth for more than a decade. Of course, Irian WILL remain backwater, but the same is true about wild and remote parts of many developed nations.

41 Marian Kechlibar September 15, 2014 at 10:55 am

Well, I am aware of the defunct Japanese empire, but this isn’t mutually exclusive with widespread poverty. Many militarily powerful nations offer only modest living standards to the ordinary folks.

AFAIK living standards of the Japanese working class in the empire era were much worse than those of Germany and the USA (I do not count the unemployed now…). Child boom, inadequate housing and sanitation, ubiquitous tuberculosis, expensive food etc. Only after 1945 would Japan really start to grow into a wealthy society.

42 So Much for Subtlety September 15, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Marian Kechlibar

your comment is so simplified that it asks for some rebuttals.

Well sure, it is only a short blog post. Simple is what it has to be.

Historically, Northern European countries were no paragons of prosperity. As late as the Titanic era, Scandinavia was very poor. There was endemic leprosy in Norway and 3rd class compartments of Atlantic steamers were full of Swedes and Finns looking for better life across the pond.

Indeed. Although I do not think the words “very poor” ought to be applied to Northern Europe. Not by Asian standards. Even before the Swedes started to grow. But this is not really the point is it? These northern Europeans were able to adopt the industrial cultures of other northern Europeans without any trouble at all. Compared with, say, the Chinese, who had to leave piles containing tens of millions of dead bodies before they worked out how to do it. It was close to their own cultures and they were able to move effortlessly into the modern world. Unlike pretty much everyone else on the planet. There must be a reason.

At the same time, countries like Japan, South Korea and Singapore jumped from poverty to the pinnacle of the First World.

That is, basically one and a half cultures. Northern Europe did it. The peoples of East Asia, after a great deal of violence and bloodshed, have been able to copy them. Up to a point. Whatever Japan had is not working any more. Taiwan too looks to be in trouble. This shows it is not unique to Northern Europe, and that others can do it. But they don’t. That is the really frustrating point. It ought to be easy for Brazil to do it too. So far, not much sign of that.

You will notice that countries like Turkey and Thailand have been growing so fast that they will reach Western levels of affluence in 10-15 years (Western Turkey is arguably already there).

Let us wait until they are there shall we? Turkey seems to have looked at the promised land and decided they would rather not be Western European after all. Goat herding seems to be their democratic choice. Although both have done well by providing lots of cheap labor to other people’s industrial societies. Less well generating their own. Thailand does well because Toyota finds Japanese workers too expensive. Not because Thailand has been able to generate a stable and self-sustaining industrial society of its own.

What bothers me is not the money, but the political traditions. You can have plenty of prosperity without democracy and human rights, as long as the tyrant is sane and kills only selectively.

Saudi Arabia ought to be doing well then. I agree the political tradition is what is important. The political tradition of most of the world is utterly dysfunctional. Time and time again countries do what they have to for economic growth. And then they elect a buffoon who undoes all the good work and they are back herding goats. Precisely what India did. Although the best example is Argentina. Even the people of New York could not resist the economic illiteracy of De Blasio.

43 buddyglass September 15, 2014 at 9:00 am

I’m curious: what’s your opinion on “more open borders” in place of “open borders”, with the stipulation that the increase in immigration will be cherry picked from among the set of all immigrants? Say we modify our policy to be much more welcoming to highly-skilled and/or educated immigrants. Canada/Australia style.

I ask because I notice a curious thing when I dialogue with people on this topic elsewhere. Slashdot comes to mind. In a lot of ways the folks there having nothing in common with the stereotypical nativist. They’re socially liberal, hostile to religion, disapproving of the GOP, etc. But when it comes to immigration they’re steadfastly protectionist, constantly worried that “cheap” Indian software developers and engineers are going to take their jobs and/or massively depress their wages.

It’s debatable whether that’s a legitimate concern. Even if it is, though, it seems likely that while an influx of highy-skilled labor may be bad for the native workers with whom they’ll compete it’s still a net positive for the country as a whole. It’s hard to imagine how skimming off other countries’ best and brightest could be disadvantageous for the U.S. in the long run.

44 HL September 15, 2014 at 10:39 am

Worked out well for the native americans.

45 Marian Kechlibar September 15, 2014 at 11:03 am

I suspect that, if the Native Americans had more resilient immunity systems (and thus not die in millions after European diseases swept through the continent), they would beat the Europeans off.

The Aztecs, the Incas etc. seemed a) very skillful in waging long-termed military campaigns; b) quite adaptive when it came to learning about the weapons of the enemy. Given that they were used to sailing on the local seas, they might even adopt European-style vessels and attempt an invasion of the Old World.

46 chuck martel September 15, 2014 at 10:54 am

” it’s still a net positive for the country as a whole”
How is that determined? Isn’t the country just 330 million individuals going about their own business? Hasn’t there always been competition between workers for jobs? Isn’t that why people get a higher education, so that they have a comparative advantage over others?

47 buddyglass September 15, 2014 at 11:53 am

“How is that determined?”

Dunno. Per capita GDP? Average productivity per worker? Getting the cream of other country’s crops to immigrate to the U.S. just seems like a no-brainer. It’s like adding a “ringer” to your pick up basketball team. Unlike sports, though, the size of the team isn’t fixed.

As a thought exercise, we might imagine the reverse. Suppose we deported (gradually, over time) every person currently living in the U.S. with a Master’s degree or higher, citizens included. Would the folks left behind be better off?

48 TMC September 15, 2014 at 12:33 pm

As a thought exercise,….

At a Master’s that would be a flip of a coin.

49 Al September 15, 2014 at 1:21 pm

“…it seems likely that while an influx of highy-skilled labor may be bad for the native workers with whom they’ll compete it’s still a net positive for the country as a whole. It’s hard to imagine how skimming off other countries’ best and brightest could be disadvantageous for the U.S. in the long run”

What’s good “for the country as a whole” is one area of concern, but not the only one.

A lot of people in the US are concerned with the ways immigration affects them locally and immediately, not the “country as a whole.” That is, people in the US have concerns about quality of life in their neighborhoods, overcrowding in their school districts and emergency rooms, degradation of publicly funded infrastructure, increased highway congestion — that sort of thing.

These things are a concern because, while the government can be pretty effective at liberalizing immigration (just stop enforcing some regulations), it is generally ineffective when addressing these sorts of quality of life issues for the people who currently reside in the US. I mean, in order to reduce overcrowding in schools and emergency rooms, fix worn out roads and relieve highway congestion the government must raise and spend a whole lot of money quickly and effectively. That’s a lot harder to do than easing up on some immigration regulations (for government or anyone else).

This is one of the really sad things about the “immigration debate”: it’s focused on the wrong thing. It really shouldn’t be about “making government more compassionate and defeating the evil, close-minded, hate mongering racists” or whatever. It should really be about why the government has done such a lousy job of regulating people and provisioning/managing services and infrastructure, and of equitably raising funds to pay for it.

I mean, somebody out there is making a tidy profit by exploiting very poor immigrant labor. Meanwhile, local and state governments pick up the tab for very significant externalities which a growing poor immigrant population requires. There’s a mismatch between the net increase in GDP which comes when additional labor is deployed in an economy and the real-world system of taxation and service/infrastructure provisioning by government.

This is the kind of difficult subject that ought to be debated: How can very significant _additional_ taxes be collected from those who are profiting from increased immigration? How can we change regulations and use eminent domain in order to add another sixteen lanes to the 405 freeway, add more policing to high crime areas, build more schools, etc? But, of course, the politicians who favor lightly regulated or totally unregulated immigration don’t ever seem to answer those questions vigorously and equitably. They want growth without the pro-growth policies required to maintain a decent quality of life for the existing residents.

It seems as though every politician is a terrible manager who simply don’t want to or cannot do the difficult job that’s required to make the system functional and equitable. And, if they’re criticized, they simply respond with the lazy “you’re an intolerant, hateful racist” argument.

50 HL September 15, 2014 at 2:26 pm

Hmm but if we started to tax those who profit from immigration in order to pay for the externalities, I’d bet they wouldn’t be cost effective anymore!

51 buddyglass September 15, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Not every immigrant is the same. Some may represent a net negative when externalities are taken into account. Though, even that’s debatable. Others would seem to be obvious net positives. Mitt Romney divided the country into the 47% who are dead-weight moochers and the 53% who are productive and who subsidize the other 47%’s existence. If we accept that premise (big if) then importing foreigners into the 53% group seems like a good thing. Split the burden more ways, as it were.

52 Al September 15, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Yeah. That’s a real possibility.

If the goal is to maintain the standard of living and quality of life for current residents, AND bring a poor person from a foreign country up to that same standard of living and quality of life, it may well turn out that a lot of jobs just don’t generate enough taxable additional economic activity to fund it all. If that’s how it works out, then we should at least be honest about it: there will be winners and losers.

Furthermore, it’s understandable if the losers notice that they are losing and object. It isn’t necessarily appropriate to attack the losers with accusations of intolerance, xenophobia, racism, etc. But, of course, that’s what happens.

It’s an interesting history to reflect upon. In the 1960’s and 1970’s ideas like zero population growth, expanded reproductive rights/abortion on demand, protecting the environment from overpopulation and so on seemed to be growing more popular in the US. But, once the politics of immigration came into the debate, roles got reversed. Democrats started to look a bit like pro-growth conservatives or something. The Sierra Club grew silent with regard to immigration and population growth caused by it. The rhetoric got scrambled. It’s all kind of amusing.

53 Careless September 17, 2014 at 9:43 pm

The Sierra Club hasn’t gone silent, they’ve come out in favor of amnesty just last year. Apparently getting Democrats elected trumps the environment for them

54 Floccina September 17, 2014 at 10:25 am

I mean, in order to reduce overcrowding in schools and emergency rooms, fix worn out roads and relieve highway congestion the government must raise and spend a whole lot of money quickly and effectively.

Not really those things are relatively cheap what costs the big bucks are SS, Medicare and defence.

55 Cameron Mulder September 15, 2014 at 11:48 am

I am under the impression that many of the tech companies that we find so innovative use a ton of immigrant labor, high skilled but still not exactly people from a northern european background.

56 cafne September 15, 2014 at 2:27 pm

It’s a product of largely European civilization, not simply Northern Europe. The North American continent was discovered and colonized by Southern Europeans as well as Northern Europeans. Western Civilization as we know it originated in Southern Europe. You need to temper your biases.

57 Nathan W September 15, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Would you argue that a farmer of the Sahel is responsible for the socioeconomic situation within he may pursue opportunity?

How about colonialism? Is that relevant?

How about enormous US trade subsidies which make it impossible for him to accumulate capital because US farmers get handouts by the truckload, not the least of which via enormously advanced and subsidized public education which makes it possible to access high quality agronomists?

58 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 4:55 pm

because US farmers get handouts by the truckload

About $20 bn.

59 HL September 15, 2014 at 5:33 pm

We protect the american farmer but why not other sectors?

60 Chip September 15, 2014 at 7:44 am

Do the proponents of open borders recognize that immigrants consume government services and that this might be a problem because:

1) they consume such services at a higher rate than non-immigrants

2) govt services and debt are unsustainable and growing

3) immigrants and children of immigrants are very statist in their voting patterns, which is why statist politicians want them

61 Moreno Klaus September 15, 2014 at 7:56 am

Well, you can always say something like: You need to be 5/10 years in the country to be eligible for these services. I dont think thats a real problem. The biggest problem is that for most non-western emigrants there is simply a huge cultural gap, that will ensure that children, greatchildren, etc, will not be able to compete for the best or most reasonable jobs.

62 a Michael September 15, 2014 at 8:03 am

These are the points that the open border movement also needs to hit hard on. I’m not saying that I agree with Chip’s points, but they’re a good summary of people’s concerns (in addition to those concerning jobs and economic impact).

I would tack on to number 3 that open immigration potentially imports more economic inequality, which will also be ammunition for the statist crowd.

63 NathanP September 15, 2014 at 9:29 am

I would tack on to number 3 that open immigration potentially imports more economic inequality, which will also be ammunition for the statist crowd.

Great point.

64 chip September 15, 2014 at 10:50 am

Perhaps the libertarian wing of the open border movement should ask itself why they are perfectly aligned on this issue with statists, socialists and politicians who despise the free market.

Guys like Caplan and Taborrok are sheltered academics who throw around ideas like children playing with balloons. Harmless fun and all.

But the battle tested power brokers in politics are pursuing this for different reasons. They see votes and the potential to permanently shift the country to the left.

Who’s weighed the costs and benefits of open borders most carefully, with the most at stake? And who is more likely to be right?

65 Andrew' September 15, 2014 at 3:30 pm

The two groups are not pursuing the same thing. The left likes the current situation where they get to periodically offer amnesty to the poor immigrants in exchange for voting against Republicans.

What Alex Tabarrok and Bryan Caplan are proposing is not that. In fact, in some ways it is entirely different.

66 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Guys like Caplan and Taborrok are sheltered academics who throw around ideas like children playing with balloons. Harmless fun and all.

They’re rather like Gatsby’s father. The photograph of his son’s house was real and the house itself was an icon.

67 Cliff September 15, 2014 at 9:30 am

You could, but has anyone ever? Is that even remotely politically possible? Would any democrat support that ever?

68 Al September 15, 2014 at 1:57 pm

I think there actually is a constitutional problem with saying “You need to 5/10 years in the country to be eligible for these services” if by “services” you mean childhood education and health care.

See for example: https://www.aclu.org/immigrants-rights/cas-anti-immigrant-proposition-187-voided-ending-states-five-year-battle-aclu-righ

69 Careless September 17, 2014 at 7:17 pm

Well, you’d also have to sterilize them or remove jus soli

70 Quite Likely September 15, 2014 at 9:39 am

1) Not the case
2) Not the case
3) Not a problem

71 chip September 15, 2014 at 10:29 am

You’re like a Jehovah’s Witness doorknocker who just tripped over a dinosaur fossil.

“Ha ha, just a stick, no problem, moving along, Ma’am would like you like a copy of Spotlight … “

72 NathanP September 15, 2014 at 9:43 am

Another tangent to #3. Increased capital flight and off-shoring by corporations to decrease tax burdens.

73 Jeff September 15, 2014 at 11:45 am

Compounding these are the fact that immigrants tend to have higher fertility levels than natives, also.

Incidentally, when Caplan and Tabarrok and whomever else cite these estimates that open borders will double world GDP or whatever, do the estimates account for any of effects 1-3? Or are they of the variety “Per capita GDP in country Y is X, but for individual workers, it rises to Q after immigrating to country C, so just multiply the difference between X and Q by some number of expected additional immigrants under an open borders regime and then start posting the numbers along with breathless exhortations on your blog about it and call anyone who poses counterarguments a racist?”

74 Ghost of Christmas Past September 16, 2014 at 2:25 am

“Do Caplan and Tabarrok and whoever consider thus-and-such when claiming open borders will ‘double world GDP’ or whatever?”

Why, no! They do not! And they have been warned in open forums on their websites and others, along with Michael Clemens and the rest of the crowd. Clemens has a little more self-respect than the bloggers so he only claims he can increase world GDP by 20-60% by (I am not making this up, follow the links to his paper) quadrupling the populations of the US and other rich countries by moving almost half (3/7) of the world’s population from poor countries to rich ones. Even though the migrants won’t bring any capital with them and no one can even imagine any respectable way for them to earn their livings in their new homes. Still, however absurd Clemens’ calculations may be, when Caplan and friends cite them they exaggerate even more!

75 Cameron Mulder September 15, 2014 at 11:46 am

Would you care to cite your sources so that we can have a productive debate?

76 Nathan W September 15, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Right. The problem is that immigrants overconsume services that they don’t qualify for.

77 Floccina September 17, 2014 at 10:34 am

3) immigrants and children of immigrants are very statist in their voting patterns, which is why statist politicians want them

Maybe the Democratic party would be even more wacky leftist without the Blacks and immigrants who often are democrats even if hey are very conservative.

78 The Other Jim September 15, 2014 at 7:44 am

It’s like talking to a Warm-monger. They’ve already taken as fact, despite all evidence to the contrary, that humans are destroying the weather. So naturally they push a carbon tax.

Alex has already taken as fact, despite all evidence to the contrary, that US economic problems are caused by a shortage of people. So naturally he pushes open borders.

They have invented a problem, and all they want to do is discuss the solution. Conveniently the problem they invented is already tailor-made to the outcome they desired in the first place.

79 Jan September 15, 2014 at 8:11 am

Your analogy fails hard for obvious reasons.

80 TMC September 15, 2014 at 12:37 pm

A.) Open borders proponents still have some credibility, and B.) ???

81 So Much for Subtlety September 15, 2014 at 7:45 am

There is almost no evidence of anything close to one-to-one crowding out by new immigrant arrivals to the job market in industrial countries. Most studies find that 10% growth in the immigrant “stock” changes natives’ earnings by between –2% and +2%

So in other words having your home totally transformed by Third World immigration – along with the crime, the litter, the dysfunctional politics and so on – brings no measurable economic benefit at all.

Therefore there is no sane reason to allow it to happen.

82 whatsthat September 15, 2014 at 11:14 am

No.

83 Nathan W September 15, 2014 at 3:59 pm

I disagree.

And that’s my complete argument.

84 8 September 15, 2014 at 7:53 am

But would we really be a richer society if we kept half the population stuck at home?

A slightly leading question, but it depends on if you are a materialist who thinks quality of life is measured by GDP or if there are other values reflected in polling data. Certainly, real estate values would be far less with more women staying at home, and given that many women would choose to stay home if their husband’s earned more, a non-trivial slice of the population is worse off. Now factor in that the U.S. would have had a higher fertility rate had those women stayed home, and basically you need these low skilled immigrants (whose children are far more likely to be welfare recipients and part of a permanent underclass based on the fact that the low skilled immigrants from decades before fit this pattern) to replace the native children who weren’t born in order to make the country materially wealthier. Ultimately then, the answer is probably no, the country is not wealthier for having women work. GDP ran above trend for a time, but the human capital was not replaced. It would be similar to depleting the capital stock, and then needing to pay high rates to import foreign capital to replenish. GDP is higher for a time, but the bill eventually comes due.

85 Nathan W September 15, 2014 at 4:00 pm

If I understand correctly, your argument is that a society is wealthier when fewer people are working.

86 greg September 16, 2014 at 12:04 am

I was surprised no one had commented on this part. It is odd how women’s domestic and civic contributions are assumed to have no value whatsoever. I would say that it is true that there is an opportunity cost for women staying home, and that could be very high in some cases. But to say that it’s clearly better to have women in the paid labor force rather than sitting at home “doing nothing” is just sloppy.

87 Joseph September 15, 2014 at 7:58 am

How does the mass immigration of low-skilled workers square with increasing automation?

88 Chip September 15, 2014 at 9:12 am

It doesn’t. Peter Diamandis said the other day that less than 1% of the disruptive change coming this decade has occurred to this point.

This makes me optimistic that open borders will become irrelevant as other countries become better places to live.

But – and this is the big but – the risk to tech progress is if the underlying culture empowers idiots in govt to screw it up.

Which brings us to the reason why statist politicians want the border opened.

89 Kevin September 15, 2014 at 2:44 pm

“less than 1% of the disruptive change coming this decade has occurred to this point”

What does this even mean? It sounds equivalent to “Today I’ve only eaten 1% of the food I’ll eat in the next three months.”

90 Chip September 15, 2014 at 7:34 pm

It refers to the exponential nature of tech change.

The law of accelerating returns.

91 NathanP September 15, 2014 at 9:27 am

Latin American housemaids for all!

92 eccdogg September 15, 2014 at 12:03 pm

“Latin American housemaids for all!”

People say this like it is a bad thing. This is a great example of a win-win-neutral. Middle class folks don’t have to clean their house allowing working mothers (and fathers to be less stressed), immigrants get a better paying job than they could have gotten at home, and most existing workers are not impacted because they were not doing these jobs to begin with.

93 Clover September 15, 2014 at 1:28 pm

Middle class folks can’t afford that.

94 eccdogg September 15, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Not today they can’t because there is a restriction on the supply of laborers to do the work.

95 Clover September 15, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Theoretically, if you import so many third world workers such that the wage for their labor sinks to .50 $ an hour or something.

But that doesn’t account for the fact that most of the middle class will be in competition with the newly imported third world workers.

96 eccdogg September 16, 2014 at 11:06 am

I don’t think they are in competition for those jobs. Middle class folks are not doing those jobs today (well they are, they are just doing it for themselves). No middle class person is going to lose their job as a house cleaner to lower wage competition.

This is one of those instances where a lower price might lead to higher demand of a service.

97 Clover September 16, 2014 at 12:51 pm

All middle class folks have jobs that can’t ever be lost to immigrants. But don’t ask me for evidence for my nonsensical theory!

98 eccdogg September 16, 2014 at 1:53 pm

This discussion was in regards to house cleaners. How many middle class house cleaners (other than their own) do you know?

99 Brenton September 15, 2014 at 3:27 pm

I’m not sure that the housemaid’s income will pay for her family’s living expenses, with enough taxes to pay for her children’s schooling.

100 HL September 15, 2014 at 5:46 pm

Don’t worry, we have government programs to cover the gaps.

101 eccdogg September 16, 2014 at 11:09 am

That is a fair point. And I don’t disagree that there may be negative externalities outside of the employer/employee/labor market.

But as far of those two groups it looks like a win for the employer win for the employee and probably neutral for native workers (since they are not doing those jobs today). It may very well be a loser for the tax payer and perhaps a loser for the citizen who sees their country changed in ways they do not like.

102 bjk September 15, 2014 at 7:59 am

How much longer before the libertarians start advocating straight-out neocolonialism? Caplan has expressed his admiration for Singapore, “Charter Cities” tiptoes right up to the edge of colonialism, Millenium Villages was colonialism in miniature. But why not go all the way? Start small. Take over Namibia and then work the way up to Congo. Now those are really big bills on the sidewalk . . . Immigration is small change by comparison.

103 Quite Likely September 15, 2014 at 9:40 am

That’s a good point. There’s not that much distance from guest worker programs to colonization.

104 Jeff September 15, 2014 at 11:55 am

It makes a good deal of sense in the end, doesn’t it? If coming to the US is such a great way to boost productivity for non-US workers, then, given that not everybody can or should come to the US, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to export whatever it is about the US that creates these productivity gains? I don’t understand why Caplan and the rest of the open borders crowd don’t simply bite that bullet. What, are they unwilling to violate the sovereignty of the Mugabe regime?

105 Nathan W September 15, 2014 at 4:01 pm

Charter cities are not libertarian. They are an effort for public-private partnerships to offer decent infrastructure so that at least somewhere in the country it will be possible to run a business and live a life according to “modern norms”.

106 bjk September 15, 2014 at 5:18 pm

That’s why I mentioned the libertarian admiration for Singapore. Libertarianism doesn’t need democracy. In fact, it’s more than happy to be rid of democracy if it can. To the extent that charter cities are voluntary associations of free individuals, they are as libertarian as seasteading.

107 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 7:01 pm

In fact, it’s more than happy to be rid of democracy if it can.

Because people who are not chess nerds are not ‘rational voters’.

108 Asher September 15, 2014 at 8:00 am

I was quite perplexed by the men/women analogy. It is obvious that US men should be concerned about the economic well-being of US women, and indeed the women who are not in the workforce are willy nilly supported economically by the men. By contrast, I don’t really see the moral imperative for US citizens to be concerned about the economic well-being of people who live in foreign countries. Are they designing their own economic policies with an eye to how it will benefit US citizens?

The fact that current US citizens plus current third world residents would be collectively better if the US allowed more immigration seems to me a very silly argument for allowing those immigrants into the US. You would have to convince me that US citizens are themselves better off, and you haven’t done that, as So Much points out.

109 Quite Likely September 15, 2014 at 9:42 am

I identify more with being a human being than being an American. It makes sense that American government policy focuses on helping Americans, because they are the ones with a vote, but that’s not an argument in favor of not assigning the same moral weight to foreigners as to Americans.

110 mavery September 15, 2014 at 9:48 am

Or, you know, ANY moral weight to foreigners.

111 HL September 15, 2014 at 10:42 am

I identify with being poor white midwesterner more than an American. This open borders thing seems like a good way to make me even more irrelevant.

112 Cliff September 15, 2014 at 11:31 am

Killing the goose that lays golden eggs is not going to do anyone any good in the long run

113 fwiw September 15, 2014 at 12:35 pm

The goose has to work hard to remain the goose.

114 Nathan W September 15, 2014 at 4:02 pm

I feel pretty human too. Anyone else?

115 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 4:53 pm

I identify more with being a human being than being an American.

Feel free to make your residence in and among the other 95% of humanity.

116 intensive purposes September 15, 2014 at 8:01 am

Still not addressing long-term cultural changes. I’m sure the importation of poor laborers from the southern U.S. was a great deal for Detroit (and the workers) at the time. How did that work out in the long run?

117 Quite Likely September 15, 2014 at 9:44 am

In what way do poor workers moving to Detroit caused the collapse of the American auto industry? I’m trying to imagine some causation and coming up blank. The US has a lot of problems with deindustrialization, and none of them are caused by immigration.

118 Jody September 15, 2014 at 10:27 am

I don’t think intensive was referring to the auto industry and was rather making an argument along the lines of the following:

Good cultural qualities => good governance => economic growth (Detroit’s starting point for intensive’s argument)

Importation of lots of people with poor cultural qualities => bad governance => Detroit as we see it today

119 Bruce Cleaver September 15, 2014 at 11:11 am

That is how I read it too.

120 Jeff September 15, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Quite Likely,

Contrast Detroit with Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh was once the seventh largest city in the US, and it was hurt badly by the collapse of the American steel industry in the same way Detroit was by the automotive industry. Pittsburgh today is a nice, pleasant, livable city that has rebounded fairly well from its travails in the ’70’s and ’80’s, whereas Detroit is a punchline. I suspect the demographics of the two cities have a lot to do with that. Pittsburgh never had the race riots that Detroit had, nor the street crime associated with low skilled factory workers losing their jobs and subsequently joining the underclass.

121 intensive purposes September 15, 2014 at 12:59 pm

Jeff, Jody, and Bruce have covered the original intent of my comment, although Quite Likely brings up another point:

Is it a smart idea to import lots of low-skilled labor (cultural issues aside) if that very class of labor is under the most pressure from globalization?

Compare Ann Arbor to Detroit. In 1950 Detroit was importing low-skilled labor while Ann Arbor was importing high-skilled labor. Ann Arbor was a nice little college town, but Detroit was booming. Sixty years later the results are predictable as low wage jobs have disappeared.

Economists understand the need for cities/regions (NYC, London, Silicon Valley, etc.) and companies (Google, Apple, etc.) to attract and keep talented, highly-skilled employees/residents, but for some reason this doesn’t apply to the country.

122 prior_approval September 15, 2014 at 12:53 pm

‘In what way do poor workers moving to Detroit caused the collapse of the American auto industry?’

Well, see the poor workers are the ones that made all the boardroom decisions that led to the glory years of the American auto industry in the 70s, 80s, 90s, and this millenium. This even extends to GM’s incompetence in Germany, where Opel continues to suffer problems that nobody in Germany feel that German workers have any role in (including those poor workers which came from Turkey – the proportion likely being roughly the same between Mercedes and GM in German plants).

In the sort of alternate reality that some commenters here live in, it is workers than make corporate decisions. As for some of the others, they just don’t want to be labelled as racists in a public forum.

123 Nathan W September 15, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Probably the US auto industry collapsed because they employd black workers.

Not because the Germans make better cars. Nor because Koreans make cheaper cars. But because they employed black people.

If only the negro would own up to his own shortcomings, he would stand a chance. No?

124 So Much for Subtlety September 15, 2014 at 5:20 pm

The Unionized section of the US automobile industry has collapsed. The non-Unionized part, less so.

The problems for the US car industry have little to do with Unions except in so far as they join and support insane unions. Well, stupid unions. British workers supported insane ones. But that has nothing to do with Detroit. Because no car maker does well in Detroit – Unions or not. Not Japanese car makers. Not German ones. Not ones run by Uncle Sam.

It is dishonest to move from the problems of Detroit to the problems of the auto industry. They are two separate issues. The problem with Detroit remains its voters. Detroit is exactly what this blog would like all of the US to become – a functional society, a prosperous society, created by people of Northern European origin, but with open borders. Other people moved there in large numbers and voted for very different political traditions.

How did open borders work out for Detroit?

125 Curt F. September 15, 2014 at 8:10 am

I’m never sure what to think when I see empirical arguments mixed in with moral arguments. If the empirical data changes, will Alex change his mind on open borders, or would closed borders still be immoral? If still immoral, why does the empirical data matter at all?

I never hear anyone argue against murder by saying its bad for the economy — and conversely, I’ve never heard an economist say “the economic impact of murder is small so let’s allow it.”

126 Urso September 15, 2014 at 11:04 am

The problem with mixing moral arguments and economic arguments is that they start from diametrically opposite premises. Economic arguments require you to assume that the primary purpose of all human endeavors is to maximize financial wealth. The moral argument requires you to assume otherwise.

You can convince one group of people with one argument, and another group of people with the other argument. You’ll convince no one by muddling the two together.

127 Nathan W September 15, 2014 at 4:04 pm

Wrong. Economics is moral philosophy, hijacked by utilitarians.

128 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Rubbish.

129 eccdogg September 15, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Don’t you need both to make any decision.

Empirical fact: X will produce more Y

Moral judgement: Y is good(bad)

130 greg September 16, 2014 at 12:26 am

I think of arguing on purely moral grounds as something more along the lines of, “X may or may not result in Y, but we should do X regardless because it is the right thing to do.”

131 Al September 15, 2014 at 8:05 pm

Nice Point. Sometimes it seems as though the actual democratic will of the people is set aside as irrelevant too.

I haven’t heard a lot of economists arguing against, say, the national park system. But it locks up a lot of valuable real estate. I mean, we could create a lot of good jobs for immigrants (and maybe even a few US residents) by inviting a big developer to construct a couple hundred luxury mansions for the ultra-rich in the middle of Yosemite Valley. But the idiotic American people irrationally persist in their foolish demand that national parks be kept pristine. Don’t these idiots know the boost to GDP we could achieve if we could actually use that land for something?

Of course, economists _do_ allow for a sort of aesthetic, conservationist sentiment in the case of keeping all national parks pristine. (Am I wrong? Do economists ever review the status of the national parks and publish a result like, “Yosemite still makes economic sense, but Point Reyes National Seashore should be bulldozed so we can build another tech mecca like Silicon Valley. A lot of smart people would love to live in a place like that.”)

On the other hand, if the American people make it known through the usual democratic channels that they don’t want the US population to grow any further for no other reason than “because a majority of voters said so” then, somehow, economists don’t consider that idea acceptable. It’s not taken seriously.

Not every policy decision boils down to a sketchy little handful of variables in the pocket of some economist, does it? Or does it?

132 Jeff R. September 15, 2014 at 10:11 pm

I’m reminded of Mencken’s line about “bug house professors sweating fourth dimensional economics.”

133 HL September 15, 2014 at 11:20 pm

“I haven’t heard a lot of economists arguing against, say, the national park system. But it locks up a lot of valuable real estate. I mean, we could create a lot of good jobs for immigrants (and maybe even a few US residents) by inviting a big developer to construct a couple hundred luxury mansions for the ultra-rich in the middle of Yosemite Valley. ”

guess who

http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2011/05/selling-government-assets.html

134 HL September 15, 2014 at 11:22 pm
135 Al September 16, 2014 at 11:00 am

Nice graphic! Thanks for the links.

136 DJF September 15, 2014 at 8:11 am

“”””It’s just the government leaving people alone to go and make something out of their lives. “””

But the government is not leaving people alone in open borders fantasy worlds.

Government by their very nature destroy natural borders created by individuals and groups and force open transport routes that the immigrants use. In a market world there could be up to 7 billion borders, each one would have their own rules and restrictions on use. Instead we have a mere 200 or so borders created by government force. And the rules for those borders are put in the hands of government officials not the people who own the land inside that country.

There is no such thing as a market right to movement. Every step outside of your own property would be done only with the permission of the property owner. Some right of movement might be sold or traded but unlimited rights would not because once you give away unlimited rights to a property you have given away the property.

There would also not be any Common Carrier, Public Accommodation, nor anti-Discrimination laws without government force.

It takes a huge amount of government force to create a open border fantasy world

137 Quite Likely September 15, 2014 at 9:47 am

Sure, but that’s because you can’t have markets or private property at all without a government. The economy in general is a government project, not some mysterious outside force. This is just saying that rather than use the vast resources of our government to make it more difficult to relocate to whatever part of the world you want, we should use them to make it easier.

138 Jody September 15, 2014 at 12:19 pm

You make too strong a statement by saying that markets and private property do not happen *at all* without govt as private property and markets are naturally emerging phenomena.

Markets without govt are so prevalent that they even have a term for them – black markets. See Silk Road for an extreme example.

Similarly with private property. (Even my dog and cats have established who owns which toys among themselves and animals do just fine staking out their territories).

In fact, markets and private property emerge even when the govt is trying to actively suppress them – see drug gangs.

If you argued that markets and private property work more efficiently with proper govt oversight, then your point would have been incontrovertible, if for no other reason than everyone has their own definition of “proper govt oversight”.

139 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 8:51 am

Another indication, in case we needed one, that economists have a circumscribed skill set (something to which the economists of the vintage which taught yours truly were alive).

140 xkrl September 15, 2014 at 5:23 pm

If you have nothing but contempt for the proprietors of this blog, why do you spend literally hours every day commenting here? Is your life really that dull?

141 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 6:59 pm

I do not spend hours, nor am I here every day, nor do I have contempt for the proprietors. I have some schooling in economics and respect it as a discipline. It’s the queen of the social research disciplines. It is not, however, omnicompetent. On this issue, if you confine yourself to making economic assessments, you miss what’s important.

The policy prescriptions of the proprietors annoy me, but the policy prescriptions are not dictated by economic considerations.

142 Tom DeMeo September 15, 2014 at 9:09 am

Say there is a a group of organized, civil people and a group of less civil people show up and want to live with them. Is the combined new group better off? It depends on which group has the greatest influence on the new society, and roughly speaking isn’t that about the relative size of the groups? The idea of open borders ignores this.

Whether immigration is good or bad is almost completely about how much and how fast.

143 prior_approval September 15, 2014 at 9:15 am

‘There is almost no evidence of anything close to one-to-one crowding out by new immigrant arrivals to the job market in industrial countries.’

This is so wrong that it approaches satire. But then, this is not a web site that actually supports unions in any way, shape, or form, so the displacement of unionized workers by undocumented workers in the midwestern meatpacking industry (documented in Fast Food Nation) is likely considered a good example of why open borders is desirable in an American context. (A quick summary from https://migration.ucdavis.edu/rmn/more.php?id=610_0_6_0 – ‘Deskilling jobs and lowering wages created a new meatpacking work force, “industrial migrants.” Often immigrants who do not speak English, they see meatpacking jobs as pretty much the same, regardless of the company name on the door, and contribute to high turnover by quitting when they have saved some money and want to return home, or when they get into disputes with fellow workers or supervisors. Schlosser, who lays the blame for the transformation of the meatpacking industry on the Reagan administration, which did not oppose mergers, and a 1986 US Supreme Court decision that facilitated mergers (p158), notes that high turnover can save the meatpackers money, since benefits such as health insurance are not available to workers until they have worked six months in the plant (p161). Immigrants are the mainstay of the meatpacking work force today.’)

And why this web site is seemingly uninterested in the world’s largest experiment in open borders, that experiment being embodied in the socialist hellhole which is the EU. Because though the EU has open borders, it did not dismantle such things as unions, health insurance, or environmental regulations.

144 athEIst September 15, 2014 at 9:25 am

Boy are you right. I owned some shares of Occidental Petroleum years ago. Armand Hammer was a big agllominator and had added a lot of meat-packing businesses to Occidental. After his death the new CEO spun them off. I received warrants to buy shares in (I think) IPB or some such. I sold them off for $1 each. Later they soared in price as the unions were broken. The unions were broken using (dare I say illegal) immigrants.

145 Urso September 15, 2014 at 9:35 am

Totally agree, the US really went down the tubes once unions, health insurance, and environmental regulations all completely disappeared. When did that happen again?

146 prior_approval September 15, 2014 at 10:04 am

In the meat packing industry, in the 1980s, though in our age of pink slime, it isn’t as if Americans care much.

But to continue citing Fast Food Nation – ‘Federal officials and meatpacking executives often claim that the United States has the safest food supply in the world. There is little evidence to support that contention. Other countries have enacted much tougher food safety laws and implemented much more thorough food inspection systems. Sweden began a program to eliminate Salmonella from its livestock more than forty years ago. Today about 0.1 percent of Swedish cattle harbor Salmonella, a proportion vastly lower than the rate in the United States. The Netherlands began to test ground beef for E. coli 0157:H7 in 1989. The Dutch food safety program is administered not by agriculture officials, but by public health officials. Strict regulations cover every aspect of meat production, prohibiting the inclusion of animal wastes in feed, banning the use of hormones as growth stimulants, limiting the stress that cattle endure during transport (and thereby reducing the amount of bacteria shed in their stool), and confiscating tainted meat. At Dutch slaughterhouses the speed of the production line is determined by food safety considerations.

———————————

The steps taken to improve sanitary conditions at the nation’s slaughterhouses can have the added benefit of lowering the injury rate among meatpacking workers. The line speeds at Dutch slaughterhouses average less than one hundred cattle an hour; the American average is more than three times as high. IBP workers that I met in Lexington, Nebraska, told me that they always liked days when their plant was processing beef for shipment to the European Union, which imposes tough standards on imported meat. They said IBP slowed down the line so that work could be performed more carefully. The IBP workers liked EU days because the pace was less frantic and there were fewer injuries.

The working conditions and food safety standards in the nation’s meatpacking plants should not improve on days when the beef is being processed for export.’

As for environmental regulations – well, read about the Eastern Shore some day. Here is some background – ‘Once in a while, chicken waste that consists of chicken feces, bedding materials, feathers, spilled feed and occasionally bird bodies would be taken out of the chicken barns and be stored in an open house for up to several months, before it would finally be used as a fertilizer. The waste in the storage shed can form piles several meters high, nearly reaching the ceiling of the storage facility. When it rains, components of chicken waste seep into the subsurface and then into the groundwater, while surface runoff drains into local ditches and eventually into remote water bodies.

Not far away from our field site is the Pocomoke River, an important Chesapeake Bay tributary that flows past Pocomoke City, which meanders through the lower Eastern Shore, and finally enters the Chesapeake Bay. According to the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program, animal manure and poultry litter form about half of the Bay watershed’s agricultural nutrient load. “EPA officials say that agriculture is the largest single source of pollutants and sediment in the Chesapeake Bay, accounting for over 40 percent of the nitrogen and phosphorous and over 70 percent of the sediment. [1]”

Unfortunately, nutrients are not the only pollutants that enter the Chesapeake Bay. Bacteria come with the chicken waste, and some of them are resistant to antibiotics. Antibiotic resistance is a growing public health problem worldwide. Due to the widespread use of antibiotics for livestock and poultry, both for therapeutic and non-therapeutic reasons, CAFOs have become man-made reservoirs of antibiotic resistance. The emergence and persistence of resistant bacteria and even pathogens from CAFOs is already a big public health concern. Even worse, bacteria can exchange genetic materials through a process called horizontal gene transfer. Such a process can occur between bacteria belonging to the same species or between phylogenetically distant microbes, causing the spread of antibiotic resistance genes. Therefore, as resistant genes in chicken waste enter the environment, they can further affect the local microbial community. Recently studies reported antibiotic resistant genes in lagoon water, irrigation ditch water, agriculturally impacted river sediments and groundwater. Consequently, environmental scientists start to view antibiotic resistant genes as emerging contaminants. More investigations are needed to understand man-made reservoirs of antibiotic resistance in the environment. This is exactly why we headed to the Eastern Shore on that early April morning.’ http://water.jhu.edu/magazine/towards-a-more-sustainable-agriculture-challenges-from-chicken-farms-on-the/ (Routine use of antibiotics and hormones is banned in the EU, by the way.)

Or even just read about the Chesapeake Bay, and its increasing dead zones – ‘The phenomenon has been recurring in the Chesapeake whenever hot summer weather and pollution combine to trigger algae blooms that suck life-giving oxygen from the water. But this year’s dead zone was bigger than most, making 2014 the eighth-worst year since record-keeping began in the 1980s, according to monitoring data compiled by Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources.

The grim news for the bay comes during a year when U.S. waterways have seen large dead zones and nuisance algae blooms, brought on in part by pollution from the land. In the Gulf of Mexico, this year’s swath of “hypoxic,” or oxygen-depleted, water covered 5,052 square miles, an area nearly the size of Connecticut.

Toxic algae in Lake Erie last month forced nearly a half-million people in Toledo to temporarily stop drinking tap water. About the same time, scientists in Florida observed one of the biggest “red tide” algae blooms ever recorded, a 100-foot-deep column of poisonous microbes stretching nearly 90 miles off the state’s southwestern coastline.The phenomenon has been recurring in the Chesapeake whenever hot summer weather and pollution combine to trigger algae blooms that suck life-giving oxygen from the water. But this year’s dead zone was bigger than most, making 2014 the eighth-worst year since record-keeping began in the 1980s, according to monitoring data compiled by Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources.

The grim news for the bay comes during a year when U.S. waterways have seen large dead zones and nuisance algae blooms, brought on in part by pollution from the land. In the Gulf of Mexico, this year’s swath of “hypoxic,” or oxygen-depleted, water covered 5,052 square miles, an area nearly the size of Connecticut.

Toxic algae in Lake Erie last month forced nearly a half-million people in Toledo to temporarily stop drinking tap water. About the same time, scientists in Florida observed one of the biggest “red tide” algae blooms ever recorded, a 100-foot-deep column of poisonous microbes stretching nearly 90 miles off the state’s southwestern coastline.

“We’ve been working on this for 30 years and we’re not seeing reductions,” said Nancy Rabalais, a marine ecologist who monitors water quality in the gulf near the mouth of the Mississippi River. Despite years of efforts to stem the flow of pollutants into the river basin, “some people haven’t gotten the message,” she said.’ http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/large-dead-zone-signals-continued-problems-for-the-chesapeake-bay/2014/08/31/1e0c2024-2fc2-11e4-9b98-848790384093_story.html

Oops – seems to be a national problem.

Not that apparently many people seem to notice.

147 chuck martel September 15, 2014 at 11:03 am

There is no such thing as a beef processing line that averages over 300 head per hour, which would be slightly less than one a second.

148 Artimus September 15, 2014 at 11:10 am

Unless I am missing something 300 per hour comes out to one every 12 seconds.

149 prior_approval September 15, 2014 at 12:24 pm

Well, as Tysons now owns IBP, I did a quick search for ‘tysons plant line speed’ with this is as the first result –

‘The U.S. Department of Agriculture is considering a proposal that would allow faster line speeds and fewer federal inspectors in poultry processing plants, which include the Tyson Foods Inc. chicken-processing complex in Wilkesboro.

The changes are included in a budget proposal from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. If approved, they would be implemented in fiscal 2014.

The USDA’s proposal would let plants increase line speeds to 175 birds per minute, up from the current 35 birds per minute.

It would result in poultry company employees doing most inspections of poultry carcasses on the lines instead of federal inspectors, giving companies more control. By law, each poultry carcass must be inspected for defects and visible contamination.

Worker and food safety proponents oppose the changes and say faster line speeds would worsen repetitive motion injuries among processing plant employees and result in less thorough chicken and turkey carcass inspections.’ http://www.journalpatriot.com/news/article_1fb43a28-8203-11e3-9370-0019bb30f31a.html

Five times faster than currently – no, I don’t find the idea of merely being three times faster as the Dutch implausible in the least. Do note that the citation is from Jan. 20, 2014.

150 Urso September 15, 2014 at 12:29 pm

So true, you can’t walk down the street in the US without tripping over someone suffering from a crippling bout of salmonella. Thousands dying every day, made all the worse now that health insurance is also illegal (along with unions).

151 prior_approval September 15, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Well, if one is to play the sarcasm game in this comment section, shouldn’t it be more along the lines ‘now that health insurance is mandated’?

152 Cliff September 15, 2014 at 12:50 pm

I don’t think you understand sarcasm. It is mandated.

153 prior_approval September 15, 2014 at 12:57 pm

‘I don’t think you understand sarcasm. It is mandated.’

Such refined japery, truly an impressive display of wit.

Sadly, I tend towards cynicism generally, but that is only because of what I used to get paid to do at GMU.

And what Prof. Tabarrok, Bartley J. Madden Chair in Economics at the Mercatus Center, is still being paid to do today.

154 msgkings September 15, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Nobody cares, p_a, nobody cares….

155 Quite Likely September 15, 2014 at 9:50 am

“And why this web site is seemingly uninterested in the world’s largest experiment in open borders, that experiment being embodied in the socialist hellhole which is the EU. Because though the EU has open borders, it did not dismantle such things as unions, health insurance, or environmental regulations.”

Haha, what is this paragraph?

The EU is not socialist, not a hellhole, and does not have open borders (open internal borders is not close to the same thing as deciding to accept all peaceful immigrants from around the world).

156 prior_approval September 15, 2014 at 10:23 am

‘open internal borders is not close to the same thing as deciding to accept all peaceful immigrants from around the world’

A reasonable point, of course. Not that the Daily Mail is likely to agree completely with that statement, at least until it finds a replacement for the Romanians and Bulgarians, who themselves replaced the Poles as a Daily Mail staple of the sort of people one needs to fear if one is interested in the preservation of civilization. To give credit to Prof. Tabarrok and his attempts to provide one viewpoint among many, it is not exactly hard to find idiocy among some of those who seemingly care little about details when it comes to immigration policy.

Nonethless, the EU is a concrete step towards open borders, regardless of the EU’s particular policies applying to immigration on a global scale.

A concrete step which has provided material benefits to its citizens, without any need to reduce worker rights. Unlike the equally concrete example of the American meatpacking industry, and how workers were imported specifically to change the labor market.

157 chuck martel September 15, 2014 at 11:13 am

Even when the workers in packing houses in large cities were represented by unions the work force was composed of latino immigrants, blacks and white hillbillies. Those smelly plants were despised by their city government overlords and moved from places like Chicago and South St. Paul to localities closer to their raw material, Norfolk, NE and Liberal, KS, for instance, where zoning was less onerous and there was a population happy to have well-paying jobs. Breaking the unions might have been one factor in the changes in the meat packing industry but it was only one. There were many others.

158 prior_approval September 15, 2014 at 11:51 am

To avoid getting drawn into a broader argument, I merely referred to Fast Food Nation as an accurate source.

Of course, the chicken industry (and to the best of my knowledge, no one in the EU imports American chickens) provides another example of how companies like Tysons viewed unions – and open borders.

‘By the early twenty-first century, Tyson Foods stood as the world’s largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef, and pork. Yet along the way, the company has drawn considerable controversy for its business practices. Labor union advocates have charged Tyson with taking a strident anti-union stance, and the company withstood major strikes at processing plants in, for example, Pasco, Washington, and Jefferson, Wisconsin. Environmentalists have charged that the company consistently flouts environmental and safety standards. In 2001, a trial was held in Shelbyville, Tennessee, in which Tyson managers were accused of smuggling illegal aliens into the country to work in poultry-processing plants. The trial ended in acquittal but nevertheless tarnished Tyson’s image as a corporate citizen.’ http://www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=2101

And here is how that ‘acquittal’ looks in reality – ‘After a seven-week trial, Tyson Foods and several managers of poultry processing plants were acquitted in March 2003 of charges that they conspired to recruit and smuggle unauthorized workers to work in poultry processing plants. Tyson managers had paid INS agents posing as smugglers $100 to $200 for each worker brought from the border to 15 plants in nine states (the migrants also paid the smugglers a fee). The government argued that Tyson’s top management knew what the managers were doing; Tyson argued the plant managers were breaking company rules on their own.

The federal charges were the first against a large US company. Tyson has 120,000 employees and annual sales of $11 billion (it had 67,000 employees in 1997, when the smuggling occurred, and added employees when it merged with IBP). Employment in the US meat and poultry processing industry is 400,000, so Tyson accounts for almost 30 percent of the industry’s workers.

Some of the workers employed in the plants were hired through temporary employment agencies to avoid detection of their unauthorized status. Tyson participated in the INS’s Basic Pilot employee verification system, which checks data from newly hired non-US citizens against INS databases. The government said that Tyson enrolled in the Basic Pilot program to deflect attention from its hiring of unauthorized workers via agencies.

The major charge in the case is that Tyson managers conspired to hire unauthorized workers to boost Tyson profits, making them, in the prosecution’s phrase, “pinstriped coyotes.” If convicted of conspiracy, Tyson could have faced forfeiture fines of over $100 million, based on allegedly illegal profits derived from lower wages paid to the unauthorized and other workers.’ https://migration.ucdavis.edu/rmn/more.php?id=12_0_4_0

Open borders in practice in the U.S. Whether in the 1980s, 1990s, or the current millenium, all one has to do is follow the money and law breaking – and when it comes to union busting, apparently no law is beyond trespassing.

159 chuck martel September 15, 2014 at 12:18 pm

The chicken industry, indeed. Few people are aware that their dietary habits have literally changed the appearance of commercial chickens. The popularity of chicken wings has meant that there is a demand for more wings than butchered chickens can supply. Now wings are amputated from living laying hens to meet this demand. Conceivably one could eat a wing from a specific chicken while sitting at the bar watching the Bears pummel the Lions and then eat an egg the next morning laid by that very same chicken.

160 Cameron Mulder September 15, 2014 at 11:54 am

The EU is a hell hole? Was rather nice last time i visited and the people were happy, educated, and healthy. More than I can say for the US.

161 TMC September 15, 2014 at 1:14 pm

Agreed about th EU, but that is also what you’d typically find in the US too.
Also, I’m pretty sure prior_ was being facetious.

162 Nathan W September 15, 2014 at 4:06 pm

Yeah, I’d hate to live in that socialist hellhole. You even get to go to the hospital when you need to, and your children will get a decent education even if you live in a poor neighbourhood.

See how they all drive really crappy cars? Live in shacks with no heating? Can’t count to ten in five languages (unilingual idiots) let alone carry conversation in three?

What a socialist hellhole. Because all of what I just said is true.

163 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 4:50 pm

and your children will get a decent education even if you live in a poor neighbourhood.

Your children will get a passable education if you live in rural areas and small towns in this country as well, even though these are less affluent than metropolitan centers (and often not much different than core cities re real income levels). The prize problem re inner city schooling is the level of order in such schools.

164 athEIst September 15, 2014 at 9:15 am

one way to cushion the impact of low-skill migration on low-skill workers already present is to increase skilled immigration in tandem.
Cuz it’s only fair to increase skilled unemployment as well as unskilled unemployment.

165 Nathan W September 15, 2014 at 4:08 pm

For a long time, immigration programs were highly skewed to attracting only the highest skilled workers.

But now there is an oversupply of highly skilled workers, so there is more preference to bring in low-skilled workers. But apparently we don’t want them to stay, as evidenced by things like the TFW in Canada.

166 cliff arroyo September 15, 2014 at 9:19 am

There will always be some degree of migration. If a very, very large number of people want to leave their birth society then chances are excellent that said birth society has some serious structural problems. Surely it would be better to try to fix those than just say “Hell yeah, rats! Jump that sinking ship!”

In some circumstances I think open borders make sense, as when the countries in question are at similar levels of socio-economic development and the open borders works both ways.

I’ll even go further, I think the US should establish open borders with any other country that agrees to open its borders to American citizens. Think of what 20 (or even 10) million Americans couild do if they were let loose on Mexico.

167 athEIst September 15, 2014 at 9:31 am

HA HA. the Federales would love that. But why would Mexico do that? They already get all the benefits of open borders. If you think Mexico is at a similar levels of socio-economic development as US…well………

168 cliff arroyo September 15, 2014 at 10:54 am

I was thinking of two separate questions (I could have made it clearer)

1. Open borders makes a lot of sense between Sweden, Norway and Denmark with very similar levels of development and languages and cultures. Open borders to Sweden from Syria (for example) is good for selected Syrians and an unmitigated disaster for Swedes.

2. On the other hand, reciprocal open borders between countries of different levels could (gvien the right property rights and other rule of law protection)* provide a well need jolt to the less developed country as high skilled and capitalized entrepreneurs could help in ways that returning migrants …. won’t (or don’t).

*that’s the fatal flaw, of course, the countries that produce large numbers of emigrants tend to have crappy and corrupt legal systems that protect native elites and screw everybody else

169 prior_approval September 15, 2014 at 11:40 am

Let me adjust your first point to reflect current reality in the EU – ‘Open borders makes a lot of sense between Sweden, Italy, Bulgaria, and Greece with quite different levels of development and languages and cultures.’ (Though dropping the word ‘development’ as being a bit imprecise, especially when one throws in the influence of communist rule in Bulgaria, would probably help. )

And here is something to ponder – I’ve just named four countries which speak four languages from at least three language groups (Romance, Germanic, and Slavic), embody three different Christian religious traditions (Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant), and which use three different alphabets.

Seems to be working out at least acceptably, compared to past European experience.

170 HL September 15, 2014 at 10:45 am

fascinatingly, most other countries actually have strict immigration rules and enforce them

171 cliff arroyo September 15, 2014 at 10:56 am

Maybe Caplan needs to take his act on the road….

172 Clover September 15, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Think of what 20 (or even 10) million Americans couild do if they were let loose on Mexico.

I’m struggling here…..

173 HL September 15, 2014 at 11:35 pm

yes all us rich gringos can migrate and inflate prices so the poor natives cant afford to live anymore, ha ha ha

174 Dismalist September 15, 2014 at 9:26 am

Let’s adapt the Rybczynski Theorem to a large country: In the short-run, the influx of unskilled labor lowers real wages at home, of course. Over time, the economy respecializes, and real wages return to their previous levels. But for a large country, the increased output of labor intensive goods drives down world prices of those goods, which amounts to a terms-of-trade improvement, making everyone better off. Great story, but I have difficulty believing such a process occurs quickly.

175 Nathan W September 15, 2014 at 4:08 pm

How much do tomatoes and pork cost?

176 Shin September 15, 2014 at 9:30 am

If one has something of value that other people wants, like a nice place to live and work in, the first thing to do is to figure out the price to charge, and the right amount of transfer payments to those that lose from this transaction. Giving away free stuff and having bad rules does not go with a sane immigration policy.

Neocolonialism? Ask the Chinese. Perhaps it can be sorted out to work this time.
—-
The politics is the only difficult part here.

177 Luke September 15, 2014 at 10:12 am

It is hillarious that when people like Alex and Caplan talks about whats “better for people in general” – as if thats a moral policy recommendation they normally believe in.

” if we allow people to use their skills to contribute to the world instead of keeping them shut up someplace where they just twiddle their thumbs or do subsistence agriculture or whatever? ”

Isn’t that kind of a racist remark?
Caplan makes it sound like people are uable to use their skills until the day they come under the supervision of white people. As if they are not allowed to contribute to the world in their on countries.

Surely it does represent a view of Africa, Asia, Middleeast that is exactly like that of many racist commentators.

178 Marian Kechlibar September 15, 2014 at 11:15 am

Re “they just twiddle their thumbs or do subsistence agriculture or whatever”.

This kind of ignorance is actually quite widespread around the West. Partly, this is because local media only push the “famine, war and poverty” line. If it bleeds, it leads.

The truth is that, apart from the war zones (Congo, Syria), much of the Third World has made a lot of “quiet” progress. Child mortality goes down almost uniformly across the globe. Income per capita is rising, even in Africa, and so does life expectancy.

In some way, the intensification of migration is a result of the fact that the Third World grows wealthier. It means that the people have enough resources to pay for their journey (often in lower thousands of dollars per person), are in connection with the already established migrant community (smartphones, Skype) and are at least partly informed about their target countries.

This isn’t something that a subsistence farmer can pull off. One perhaps, but not in hundreds of thousands.

179 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Income per capita is rising, even in Africa

It’s hard to measure in Tropical Africa because household production is so consequential there. IIRC, if incomes are not stagnant there by and large, their relative position has been declining vis a vis the West since about 1980.

180 Nathan W September 15, 2014 at 4:10 pm

let’s say you’re born in the Sahel. It rains 6 weeks, maybe 3 months a year. What do you do the rest of the year if you’re not allowed to go anywhere other than where you were born?

181 Cliff September 15, 2014 at 4:32 pm

There is no country lying entirely in the Sahel. But, probably lots of things. I could probably go there right now with Satellite Internet and work just like I do here

182 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 4:45 pm

In that part of the world, pastoralism is extensively practiced. I’m not sure it does implicate traveling between climatic zones.

183 Clover September 15, 2014 at 6:33 pm

Iceland is another example of that. Far away from other countries, with little natural resources to speak of, a very cold climate, and it’s a third world country.

Israel is also a third world country due to being located in the desert, as is Australia and the American Southwest.

184 xkrl September 15, 2014 at 10:31 am

It’s a bit ironic that the resident trolls of a blog written by economists reject the field’s basic premises. I guess it speaks to the paucity of voices on the internet that are: 1) plausibly described as other than liberal and 2) written by anyone with two brain cells to rub together.

185 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 12:31 pm

It’s a bit ironic that the resident trolls of a blog written by economists reject the field’s basic premises.

The notion that human beings are interchangeable parts and that there is no such thing as common bonds of association which are manifest on the scale of a territorial state is not a premise of economics, basic or otherwise.

186 Nathan W September 15, 2014 at 4:11 pm

OK, if you’re the one making the grandiose statements about how we can bind together, why not go the next step up and just acknowledge that we are all human, and that can bind any and/or ALL of us together?

187 Cliff September 15, 2014 at 4:33 pm

We are and it does. Your point being what? That humans in general would be better off if every country was like Africa or even Latin America?

188 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 4:42 pm

If everyone is your brother, no one is. One can understand this through observation.

189 xkrl September 15, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Dunbar’s number is on the order of 30. There’s no difference at all between 315 million and 7 billion in terms of what human beings are able to comprehend.

190 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Yes, but there is a difference between America and Mexico, and everyone knows it.

191 Son-volt September 15, 2014 at 5:21 pm

Shorter Art Deco: Ein volk, Ein reich.

192 Godwin's Law September 15, 2014 at 9:13 pm

It only took 10 hours!

193 HL September 15, 2014 at 11:39 pm

Leben ist Kampf

194 China Cat September 15, 2014 at 10:32 am

The Samuelson observation applies here.

This discussion is not even wrong.

Next.

195 Libertarians With Tenure September 15, 2014 at 10:45 am

Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta.

196 msgkings September 15, 2014 at 3:24 pm

Just spit out my coffee with this one. Outstanding.

197 Massimo September 15, 2014 at 11:12 am

Caplan has this same “elevator pitch” dozens or hundreds of times. I actually agree with the points made here, but the counter arguments are stronger, and the open borders crowd like Caplan and Tabarrok just redirect back to their elevator pitch.

198 Massimo September 15, 2014 at 11:20 am

Caplan, as a Jew, should champion this policy in Israel first. I think Jews championing extreme closed borders when it comes to their society and open borders on other people’s society is hypocritical.

199 chuck martel September 15, 2014 at 11:51 am

Is Caplan an Israeli as well as a Jew? What does being an ethnic or religious US citizen Jew have to do with Israeli immigration policy? Does an American of Scottish descent have a legitimate voice in Scottish independence?

200 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 12:28 pm

Does an American of Scottish descent have a legitimate voice in Scottish independence?

Can settle in Scotland (or Ulster, in my case) at my own discretion?

Since his mother’s maiden name is ‘McCarthy’, Bryan Caplan may not have such discretion vis a vis Tel Aviv or Jerusalem (and would surely end up in jail for shirking military service). Most men named ‘Caplan’ would, however.

201 Clover September 15, 2014 at 6:29 pm

Apples to oranges comparison. You don’t have a huge, well funded lobby of Scottish Americans dedicated to manipulating American foreign policy to favor Scottish Independence, while simultaneously favoring the rest of the world coming under a world government.

Caplan seems to be consistent on his opposition to all forms of ethnic nationalism. Does anyone know the ethnicity of his wife?

202 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 6:52 pm

His wife was born Corina Mateescu on 29 July 1971. She was admitted to the D.C. Bar in 1996. Evidently they met in college around about 1990. Roumanian, I think, and from California. Again, Caplan’s mother-in-law has the maiden name ‘McCarthy’. Unless the maternal grandmother is named Shapiro or some such, I do not think he or his children qualify under the Law of Return unless they convert. I tend to suspect he’s one of those who just does not get religion, like some people do not get art.

203 FC September 15, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Patrilineal descent qualifies. One can’t spin a dreidel in Tel Aviv without hitting a Russian with an icon in one hand and a ham in the other.

204 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 8:45 pm

No, you have to be born of a Jewish mother. The precise text is as follows:

“4B. For the purposes of this Law, “Jew” means a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion.” ”

Again, the elder Mrs. Caplan (not his mother-in-law, in error above) was born Miss McCarthy.

205 almond September 16, 2014 at 12:18 pm

Are you a stalker?

206 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 12:16 pm

I doubt Caplan cares much about Israel, or anything else going on outside his own skin.

207 Nathan W September 15, 2014 at 4:13 pm

Let me guess.

You are highly in favour?

208 Libertarians With Tenure September 15, 2014 at 11:20 am

I’d get into the detailed economics argument, but that would just confuse the issue with facts.

209 Brian Donohue September 15, 2014 at 12:12 pm

Yeah. Anyone who thinks about the subject for a minute knows that autarky is the best economic system.

210 Colin September 15, 2014 at 11:21 am

Wouldn’t immigration have a marginal utility component? How can he assume every next immigrant will be as beneficial as the last? Seems conceptually flawed at many basic levels, even if it’s a positive attempt at spinning the issue in a new light.

211 Andrew' September 15, 2014 at 12:06 pm

See above how people helpfully point out that humans aren’t widgets.

212 prior_approval September 15, 2014 at 11:30 am

‘the scarcity of evidence for great pessimism stands as a fact (emphasis added, AT)’

Especially when breaking unions is considered a beneficial side effect of open borders. After all, the fact that it provably happened is easily considered grounds for optimism in a world where average is over, with no needing to fear collective action on the part of those actually doing the work.

213 Andrew' September 15, 2014 at 12:07 pm

What really breaks unions is capital flight.

214 prior_approval September 15, 2014 at 12:37 pm

Well, only in the sense that some capitalists prefer investing in Mercedes and BMW, with their politically well represented unionized work force and profit margins providing a very comfortable return on investment over a couple of generations, while other capitalists prefer pocketing government bailouts (that Fiat is now the owner of Chrysler should provide some insight in how that works globally).

Capital flight is always about the rich ensuring that the natural process of the rich getting richer is not interrupted.

Importing undocumented workers to break a union is what breaks unions (and health and wage and safety regulations), if American experience since the Reagan revolution is considered to be within the purview of a discussion started by a GMU Econ Dept. professor.

215 Andrew' September 15, 2014 at 12:48 pm

No, in the sense that moving a plant is pretty easy.

I would start the bidding at oh, zero unions displaced by illegals.

216 prior_approval September 15, 2014 at 1:07 pm

Moving a plant is actually pretty hard – when one cares about the quality of its output, that is. That widget thinking is flawed at the workforce level too.

To put it a bit differently – the fact that the Soviet Union imported entire factories from Germany did not lead to Russian industrial dominance based on moved plants. Whereas having a workforce capable of rebuilding its factories meant that Germany was able to restore its pre-eminent industrial position in less than a generation.

Skills are what create wealth, not machines.

217 Andrew' September 15, 2014 at 1:49 pm

Please note that I said “moving a plant” and not “moving a plant and entirely replicating the cost and quality profile of the plant.”

In fact, to not do that is why the plant is typically moved.

218 prior_approval September 16, 2014 at 6:40 am

So, did the Soviets follow your idea or not? (That last sentence is quite confusing – and let us be honest, there is a reason why companies in Germany export their older production facilities/designs to countries that simply don’t possess a high quality work force – like in this example.

‘For engineer Oliver Hauck, manufacturing rail vehicles is more than ordinary industrial production. In fact Hauck proudly calls it a “real craft.”

Hauck knows what he’s talking about. He runs German engineering giant Siemens’ streetcar manufacturing plant in Sacramento. But when the German company showed up in the California capital more than two years ago with its plans to build trams there, it found little evidence of craft or even skill. Hauck couldn’t find a single welder with the right skills for the job anywhere in the region.

Making meter-long welds across thin sheet metal without the car “bending like a banana,” says Hauck, takes talent and sensitivity. More important, it takes good training. To provide that training, Siemens flew 50 welders from its Munich locomotive plant to California, where they spent six months retraining local welders. Now the Sacramento plant is up and running.’ http://www.spiegel.de/international/business/a-streetcar-named-siemens-germans-woo-car-loving-us-with-eco-friendly-trams-a-536892.html )

219 Mesa September 15, 2014 at 11:37 am

Bad. Boo. Below any previous low standard on this topic.

220 Mesa September 15, 2014 at 11:50 am

The huge problem with this argument is that there is a huge legacy investment in a country, it’s institutions, schools, government, neighborhoods, capital stock, culture, etc that has been performed by its citizens over time. Let’s call this the national capital stock. It’s the main reason some countries are successful and others are, well, Mexico. There is certainly no “right” of others to come in and appropriate some of this national capital stock, nor any “moral obligation” to share it without permission. If it is deemed advantageous to the nation to share this national capital stock with qualified new participants (immigrants) then so be it – both parties can gain. It’s much like a family or company or a university department. The libertarian “movement” rhetoric behind this stuff is really something I only though undergraduates participated in.

221 Andrew' September 15, 2014 at 12:05 pm

This represents a free option of immigrants to cherry pick successful systems. It’s not un-addressable.

The libertarian take on immigration is light years beyond anything I’ve ever heard. But I quit listening to anyone else a long time ago.

222 chuck martel September 15, 2014 at 12:07 pm

” It’s the main reason some countries are successful and others are, well, Mexico.”

Evidently, you’re saying that Mexico is unsuccessful. In what way would that be? Mexicans seem to live, reproduce and expire pretty much like humans have always done. Is the Mexican state less adept at pillaging its citizens than the US? Or is the Mexican culture inferior in some way to that of the US? And does that inferiority mean that people of Mexican ancestry should be confined to a particular area, in fact one that doesn’t include an area that they once considered to be Mexico?

The “national capital stock” is an interesting concept. If there is indeed such a thing, it’s evidently not transferable, except for US political leaders attempting to export it. Thus there must be two national stocks, one reserved for documented US citizens, and another, more abstract one for export, the democratic, consumer society model that American troops are sent to impose on the less successful of the world.

223 China Cat September 15, 2014 at 1:34 pm

John Kay writes about this in his book ‘The Truth about Markets’. Both the “national capital stock” and the idea that our concept of the ‘American Business Model’-which is what we export-is simply a useful myth.

224 Cooper September 15, 2014 at 12:45 pm

From the linked study:

“For nonmigrants, the outcome of such a wave of migration would have complicated effects: presumably, average wages would rise in the poor region and fall in the rich region, while returns to capital rise in the rich region and fall in the poor region. The net effect of these other changes could theoretically be negative, zero, or positive. But when combining these factors with the gains to migrants, we might plausibly imagine overall gains of 20-60 percent of global GDP. This accords with the gasp- inducing numbers in Tables 1 and 2.”

So all of the gains go to the migrants and rich people in rich countries. All of the losses happen in poor countries and to workers in rich countries.

Sounds an awful lot like the current system which is widely disliked by native born workers of rich countries. I wonder why…

225 Hasbro September 15, 2014 at 2:59 pm

We should give it a try. Then, if for some reason the experiment backfires horribly, we can always just… oh.

226 Nathan W September 15, 2014 at 4:14 pm

just …. learn to get along.

227 Cliff September 15, 2014 at 4:35 pm

Learning to get along in a post-apocalyptic struggle for survival may be unpleasant and involve hundreds of millions of people dying, but sure

228 Harold September 15, 2014 at 8:32 pm

Brilliant! Why has no-one thoght of this before. Hey, you should take your message of getting along to the Middle East.

229 msgkings September 15, 2014 at 3:29 pm

Once again Mr. Moderate (me) wonders why in this comment section this endless debate always comes down to ‘open borders’ vs ‘closed borders’

There’s got to be a reasonable middle position that most can agree on. Some cite Canada or Australia. Shouldn’t we be debating and advocating the plausible choice in the middle somewhere between ‘let everyone in’ and ‘let no one in’?

230 Luke September 15, 2014 at 3:44 pm

@msgkings

I think youre wrong about the commentsection and the debate in general: it is not “open borders” vs. “closed borders”.

Nobody is in favour of completely closed borders. Not even Steve Sailer.

It is Caplan, Alex …..and those people who are extremist. They are the ones having unbelievable primitive ideas about an easy quick fix that benefits everybody without any serious costs. I have never understood why Tyler continues to share his blog with Alex, and why he insists on letting these extremist viewpoints drag down the quality of the blog.

Most of us, believes in a reasonable middle position.

231 msgkings September 15, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Then I’m with ‘most of us’. I’m ok with Alex/Bryan beating the drum, even here, but I definitely don’t favor totally open borders.

232 mavery September 15, 2014 at 4:12 pm

Have you read the above? The talk is all “people aren’t widgets” (insightful!) and “immigrants are the worst”.

233 Clover September 15, 2014 at 5:47 pm

Here’s a suggestion, suppose you accept, IMHO there’s no evidence to support it, that having a million immigrants a year benefits all Americans including the working class? Why can’t we get the immigrants from Europe?

I suspect most libertarians here would hate that suggestion even more than they would hate no immigration.

234 msgkings September 15, 2014 at 6:23 pm

Do 1 million immigrants a year want to come here from Europe?

This is what I’m talking about, pretty much everyone in the thread is positing these all or nothing type theoretical ideals, both pro and con. How about some basic real world discussion of the reality and how to improve it? We probably need more (but not infinite) high skilled immigrants and less (but not zero) low skilled ones. How do we get there?

235 Clover September 15, 2014 at 6:38 pm

My suggestion would be to give pretty much instant access to Germans and Brits, and after that fill the remaining slots with Poles, Italians, Hungarians, ect, and then lastly with Russians, or Ukrainians or Greeks. We know there is a great deal of migration within the EU countries, so it’s hardly theoretical to suggest that Europe could supply the immigrants.

236 msgkings September 16, 2014 at 12:54 pm

What if those Brits are of Nigerian and Pakistani origin and the Germans are Turkish?

237 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 7:09 pm

We ‘need’ high skill immigrants like your uncle needs another boat. We can benefit from people who nestle well here. It’s a somewhat dubious idea to be importing technicians we are capable of training and perhaps manufacturing occupational castes (e.g. computer programming as a trade dominated by orientals and east Indians much as the diamond trade is dominated by Jews).

238 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 6:34 pm

If you want a reasonable position in the middle, you have to advocate things the open borders crowd will never concede to you willingly:

1. A cement wall fifty feet high and topped with razor wire on the Mexican border, complete with towers holding armed guards. Conjoined to these would be road patrols, specialized detention centers, and quick-and-dirty magistrates’ courts. You sneak across the border, we catch you, and it’s 10 weeks in jail and we shovel you across the border at the end of it (and wasnt’ it funny when your legal aid lawyer slipped on that banana peel?).

2. An amply manned police for hunting down, detaining, and deporting those overstaying their visas, along with institution of the check-in-check-out system which has been mandated for over 15 years but never implemented in an act of bureaucratic contumely. You jail them for ten weeks, deport them, and ban them from entering the United States for 10 years.

The reason you advocate these things, is that without enforcement, you have no deliberate policy. The open borders crowd is dead set against enforcement, because then they’d have to discuss policy and real options when it’s easier just to lie and claim that no one can control the border.

239 HL September 15, 2014 at 11:46 pm

somehow the romans and chinese can construct great walls thousands of years ago but that technology has been lost

240 josh September 16, 2014 at 10:31 am

If you brought all of our servicemen back from protecting the investments of our plutocratic overloards and placed them side by side along the Mexican border, could you form a red rover-style human fence?

241 Careless September 18, 2014 at 12:20 am

Two million times six feet is 2300 miles, so yes

242 Cletus September 15, 2014 at 3:50 pm

This doesn’t even address the main issue, which is political change. If the country triples in size over a few years, shouldn’t we expect new political parties running on new platforms, that likes of which we can’t possibly predict? What if we end up with political institutions as corrupt as those of Mexico, or worse?

It doesn’t sound like you have given this subject much thought.

243 chuck martel September 15, 2014 at 5:41 pm

“What if we end up with political institutions as corrupt as those of Mexico, or worse?”

What do you mean, “What if”?

244 chuck martel September 15, 2014 at 5:45 pm

By the way, except for the Mexican president, much of the current Mexican political elite has been educated at US Ivy League schools, previous president Calderon having been a student at Harvard.

245 Godwin's Law September 15, 2014 at 9:58 pm

That really only strengths the point that the quality of institutions come from society and the customs and culture that back them, not from the hoards of ivy league educated top men.

246 chuck martel September 15, 2014 at 11:20 pm

You’re saying that the Mexican peasants make their Ivy League political elites steal from them?

247 Clover September 15, 2014 at 6:08 pm

Plenty of African states have no welfare, no safety nets, virtually no public education or public health system, they should be libertarian paradises, except for the corruption that libertarians can point to and say “look government is ruining it.” But why is there so much corruption? It’s not a matter of laws they could theoretically change but a matter of people and culture.

248 Art Deco September 15, 2014 at 6:24 pm

But why is there so much corruption?

See Theodore Dalrymple on this point. An African occupant of a plumb position in the civil service has a considerable extended family who will look to him as a source of patronage, and he will understand himself as obligated to them. This creates great temptations to embezzle. Dalrymple’s account of the decay of the hospitals in Rhodesia after the end of white rule is salient here. As soon as the black administrators took charge, they were stealing the place blind because they had relatives. Antecedent to black rule, white and black doctors were paid the same salaries but had radically divergent standards of living because the black doctors were expected to be a river for their people.

249 Cliff September 15, 2014 at 7:30 pm

My understanding is that African politics, while rife with corruption, are also super progressive/socialist

250 Nathan W September 15, 2014 at 3:52 pm

I agree with all of the above.

However, native residents also have a democratic right to represent their own interests, even if they choose to exercise that right in a highly short-termist manner.

That having been said, when looking at the long game, perhaps they can be persuaded to consider the possibility that they might rather live in a world where they are free to go where the best opportunities are.

251 China Cat September 15, 2014 at 6:44 pm

He said knowing full well that the US is considering doubling the exit tax.

252 Careless September 18, 2014 at 12:23 am

Destroying the US in hopes that other places will let me in when the US is destroyed seems like a really bad plan

253 The Anti-Gnostic September 15, 2014 at 4:00 pm

There is no case. Even Tyler admits it lowers wages and living standards with profits captured at the top and by the immigrants themselves, who are now poor rather than dirt-f***ing poor.

This is just one of those categorical imperatives that economists have to follow if they want to hang with the right crowd.

254 Hasbro September 15, 2014 at 4:43 pm

We can just… all… learn…to…get…along. We can just all learn to get along. Hey everyone, we can just LEARN TO GET ALONG! That’s all we have to do! Why can’t we just do that? Why does everyone have to fight and disagree? Why do we need cops and laws? Why do we need armies and wars? All we have to do is… learn to get along! Why do even need property? Can’t we just share everything and get along?

Suddenly Caplan doesn’t seem so Utopian.

255 HL September 15, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Say you had a family business. Would you fire your siblings and children and replace them with non-family members who were 25% cheaper?

256 msgkings September 15, 2014 at 4:54 pm

Say you had a family business. Would you fire your non-related workforce and replace them with workers who were 25% cheaper?

Say you had a family business. Would you hire nonrelatives if your relatives didn’t want to work for you?

257 HL September 15, 2014 at 5:36 pm

Say you work for a family business, would you take a pay cut if your brother threatened to hire someone else to work for cheaper? How would that affect family relations? Is the family (as a whole!) better off with a cheaper laborer working in place of yourself?

258 josh September 16, 2014 at 8:48 am

You’re missing the point. The whole concept of the “family” is evil. We must abolish it.

259 dirk September 15, 2014 at 4:51 pm

Robin Hanson has a great post somewhere about the differences in mindset of short-term thinking vs. long-term thinking. Long-term thinking doesn’t always make for the clearest thinking, if I recall.

260 josh September 16, 2014 at 8:47 am

Therefore….let’s destroy civilization.

261 Donald Pretari September 15, 2014 at 5:01 pm

I’m wondering if some people even read the paper, since Roodman has evidence pertaining to some people’s opinions. I’ve now read it twice. It is very thorough and balanced, and leads me to conclude that more immigration of both higher and lower skilled immigrants is a good idea. Is the paper convincing, though? No. I don’t think so. There are simply too many well-intenioned and sincere methods that rely on iffy assumptions and data. Looking for ways to figure this issue out gives the paper, at least to me, a kind of mind-bending experience that reminds me of rough puzzles in logic. The issue seems clear enough, but Roodman has convinced me it is actually very complex. And given that complexity, I don’t see a major attempt at vastly more immigration being even remotely possible. Such a major policy shift as say, open borders, needs a lot more convincing evidence. A convincing thought-experiment is not going to cut it.

262 Clover September 15, 2014 at 6:53 pm

A third dampener is that while workers who are similar compete, ones who are different complement. An expansion in the diligent manual labor available to the home renovation business can spur that industry to grow, which will increase its demand for other kinds of workers, from skilled general contractors who can manage complex projects for English-speaking clients to scientists who develop new materials for home building. Symmetrically, an influx of high-skill workers can increase demand for low-skill ones. More computer programmers means more tech businesses, which means more need for janitors and security guards. Again, the effect is certain, though its speed and size are not.

To demonstrate this, look to Mexico. Lots of cheap manual laborers is likely the reason why Mexico is often cited as the world leader in civil engineering.

263 Peter Lauer September 16, 2014 at 3:59 am

I admit I haven’t read every post on this issue (its a long list) but it occurs to me that the enormous number of humans living in America but denied citizenship means that much less tax revenue for the use of local, state and national government. Without citizenship and the rights and responsibilities concomitant wages are depressed for citizens and funding for the number of users of publicly funded services and systems is coming from a smaller number, the number of citizens. Citizens should want everyone in their communities to also be citizens in order that all should contribute to the infrastructure costs that enable the quality of life available in any particular political/economic ecology.

264 Clover September 16, 2014 at 12:53 pm

A good argument for deporting the immigrants.

265 Careless September 18, 2014 at 12:25 am

Yes, we’ll have lots more net tax dollars once we add 10 million people to Medicaid.

266 josh September 16, 2014 at 8:46 am

In Perelandra, the hero Elwin Ransom engages in a prolonged argument with a devil who cares nothing about Truth and uses logic as weapon rather than a source of illumination. He eventually realizes he can’t defeat the devil by these means and resolves to beat it to death. He eventually smashes its head with a large stone.

I’m just saying.

267 DaveinMn September 17, 2014 at 12:53 pm

My town in central rural Minnesota: large factory I work at – cleaning. Two temp agencies permanant on site moving an endless supply of mostly Somali and Ethiopian people in and out of jobs there. Bathrooms destroyed, excrement on wall, floors, ceilings. Broken sinks from washing their feet constantly. Broken toilets. Trash everywhere on floors despite many garbage cans. Two prayer rooms set up for their use. Most of their days at work spent eating and drinking, and running to bathroom. But the company gets a big tax break for hiring these new immigrants. Pay is minimum wage. These temps don’t care about the facilities, the company, or anything and why should they ? They’re just temps. They trash everything. So now all the apartments in this once American area are filled with these people who also trash the apartments. I know – I’ve also cleaned these apartments. And all the Americans who once had regular non- temporary jobs at this factory which then paid decent money are now un-employed. And where companies once shipped their factories off to lower cost areas of the country, they now just simply ship all the foreign workers here to the factories intead. Cheaper I guess. All this to make this well known company a nice profit which I may just be invested in. Hope my retirement is a good one…because watching my once nice community destroyed is hard to watch. And disgusting to clean up.

268 Dr. Doom September 17, 2014 at 7:22 pm

I can’t believe there are still dishonest Economists selling the Snake Oil of Free Trade! The problem with experts is they cling to theories and disregard any evidence to the contrary. This is the opposite of science where you collect evidence to form theories.
However, it is obvious that Economics is not a science, because the Economists cannot do Math.
This idea of immigration and open borders leading to prosperity flies in the face of the facts on the ground. Immigrant heavy states like California are bankrupt, and cities are lying in ruins as low-wage welfare cases suck up resources and gut the tax base.
Prosperity does not usually lead to bankruptcy and ruin, where cities’ infrastructure collapses and people flee for their lives as crime soars and property devalues.
Where is the prosperity in the cities like Sacramento, where welfare colonists have stripped the budget bare and now the city contemplates bankruptcy protection to prevent foreclosure and receivership?
This country is beginning to resemble Feudal Europe, with the Rich living behind Iron Gates with moats around their estates! Will these filthy curs keep their riches when their servants realize that only a sharp knife and a well-placed blow stands between them and their master’s bedroom? probably not, but greed tends to blind the weak to obvious conclusions that stronger men can see in their sleep!

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: