Why cosmopolitanism is utopian but useful nonetheless

On the topic of Swiss immigration restrictions, Bryan Caplan has an interesting (but I think quite wrong) recent post about the recent immigration vote in Switzerland.  He writes:

The main hurdle to further immigration is insufficient immigration.  If countries could just get over the hump of status quo bias, anti-immigration attitudes would become as socially unacceptable as domestic racism.  Instead of coddling nativism with gradualism, we can, should, and must peacefully destroy nativism with abolitionism.

In other words, we should keep on letting more people in until nativist bias dwindles away into the dustbin of history.  I say backlash will set in first, as  I have never met a truly cosmopolitan Volk, the cosmopolitanites least of all.  I would say Bryan has the moral high ground but not a practicable proposal.  Nonetheless we can and should favor less nativism and more immigration at the margin.

Steve Sailer of course is far more skeptical about immigration and he serves up — repeatedly I might add — general strictures in favor of a particularist approach to policy and to immigration in particular.  Try this bit from his discussion of Switzerland:

The Swiss, in contrast, put much value on what I call Citizenism. A Swiss Italian is expected to value the welfare of his fellow Swiss citizens more highly than his fellow Italian co-ethnics. And they do.

He expresses related ideas in other posts as well.

My perspective is a synthetic one.  Citizenries will in fact always be Citizenist (surprise) and to some extent this is needed to encourage the production of public goods.  Caplanian proposals to make citizens otherwise are doomed to fail and probably also to backfire in destructive ways.

Now enter the intellectuals, whom I call The False Cosmopolitanites.  The intellectuals, for all of their failings, nonetheless see many of the defects and costs of Citizenism as we find it in the world.  The intellectuals therefore should push for marginal moves toward a stronger cosmopolitanism, even though in a deconstructionist sense their inflated sense of superiority and smugness, while doing so, is its own form of non-cosmopolitanism.  Sailer’s failing is to think or imply that the costs of The False Cosmopolitanites are higher, or more worthy of scorn, than the costs of Citizenism, and also the costs of other particularist doctrines, some of which are less savory than Citizenism by some degree.  The comparison of where the major injustices are generated is not even close.

Both the Caplan memes and the Sailer memes can generate an unending supply of entertaining and indeed edifying blog posts.  Caplan can point to the fallacies of the Citizenists, which are numerous, extreme, and which create high humanitarian costs, including through war and unnecessary immigration restrictions.  Sailer can skewer The False Cosmopolitanites, who serve up a highly elastic and never-ending supply of objectionable, fact-denying, self-righteous nonsense.  Blog post by blog post, either approach will appear to “work” in its own terms.  And blog post by blog post, either approach will be susceptible to attack by outsiders who insist on the opposing perspective.

It is only the synthetic and marginalist cosmopolitan approach which sees its way through this thicket.

Embedded in all of this, Caplan is more particularistic than he lets on, embodying and glorifying a form of upper-middle class U.S. suburban culture of which I am personally quite fond.  Sailer is de facto less on his actual professed side than his own writings will admit, and in fact a group of ardent Citizenists, if they were informed enough to apply their doctrines consistently, might cut him down some notches as a non-conformist and smart aleck who plays at the status games of The False Cosmopolitanites.  Sailer insists on relativizing and deconstructing The False Cosmopolitanites, which is fine by me, but at the same time he overestimates their power and influence and thus he falsely imagines a need to take up common cause with the Citizenists, a group it seems he enjoys more from a distance.

You will find related ideas in my book Creative Destruction: How Globalization is Changing the World’s Cultures.  And here are by the way are my previous posts on horse nationalism.


"Bryan has the moral high ground " - does he? One of the reason why pro-immigration intellectuals are so hated by the lower classes is their neverending moral posturing: "Oh, look at me, how big and generous my heart is, when I promote this."

"we can and should favor less nativism and more immigration" - sounds like article of faith. There are competing faiths in circulation, such as nativism, and when they are directly threatened, they will fight back. Euro cultures are much more nativist than most Americans understand.
From my experience, any country is able to absorb *culturally similar* migrants at some rate, say, 0,2 per cent of the population per year. This level of migration is long-term sustainable and does not seem to produce serious backlash.

It sort-of baffles me that people like Bryan Caplan speak about immigration as if it was a uniform phenomenon where individual people are completely fungible such things as cultural compatibility do not play any role.

In Europe, it is quite obvious that the most backlash is produced by development of "parallel societies" which resemble exclaves of the third world.

Except in the case of Switzerland - unless you think hundreds of thousands of Germans are creating third world exclaves.

Switzerland is a remarkably poor case to talk about 'immigration' - first, the Swiss naturalize very few citizens.

Second, the Swiss are quite strict about residency permits, and this includes needing a work permit that at first is only valid for one year for EU citizens (at least as recounted by a work colleague concerning his son working in Switzerland when he first started, a couple of years ago). The Swiss are very far from EU style freedom of movement and workplace, even after the treaties they signed with the EU.

Third, Switzerland is profoundly regional. And in a region like Basel, the suburbs include part of France and Germany, where people commute to their Swiss job. The number of workers, and the number of residents in such a region, becomes difficult to untangle. For example, 45% of Basel's workforce is not Swiss. Yet no one in Basel seems especially concerned about 'Entfremdung' (it certainly helps that Basel does have room to expand itself in a way that Zürich can't).

Fourth, the odds that the Swiss will change their vote, just like they did when entering the UN, are quite, quite high. This vote will almost certainly come with a bill attached, as the EU feels no need to open its markets to a nation that rejects what the EU represents, which most certainly includes the free movement of people, and not just goods.

It is fascinating to see how some wish to place their own framework what is a fairly straightforward, if only razor thin (2/3 of Swiss voters rejected joining the UN in 1986) Swiss vote to remain as Swiss as possible, in Swiss eyes.

There's some angle of the Swiss vote that has not been analyzed. Perhaps, the main issue was not mass immigration. It was about independence and neutrality, to avoid living under the EU rules. What matters is the right to decide the laws for ruling their country.....a real Swiss thing. So, it's not the dislike of immigrants, but the dislike of living under the rules of people that (in public) favor migration. If immigration is good or bad for employment or culture, that's a secondary worry.

That could also explain the emotional response from comenters in the US. It's not about being displaced in the job by Deepak or Juan, but living under some law you never were consulted about. All the emotion, it's just the expression of powerlessness feelings.

Re in the US: "It’s not about being displaced in the job by Deepak or Juan, but living under some law you never were consulted about."

In the US I don't believe you can separate these things. Millions have been displaced and unless you were part of our elite or a special interest group, your opinion about immigration was never solicited and was ignored at some times, misrepresented at others.

If anybody in charge of anything has ever mentioned that the Senate immigration bill would roughly double the number of green cards and temporary work visas from around 1.7 million a year to over 3 million, I am unaware of it. Actually there is one exception: Sen. Sessions. He's the only one who wants to put Americans' needs and American workers first.

This is about more than displacement, though. It is also about American employers developing a preference for foreign workers, whether they hire them abroad or want to bring them in here, or both.

Another factor is the rapid disappearance of good jobs through technology. Many workers lost their jobs because the machines got better. With low new job creation, why do we need millions of extra workers a year? What we need are millions of extra good jobs.

For anybody coming in late ...

Thanks for the mention of the idea of "citizenism."

I explained the word here in 2006:


Your shareholders's analogy is interesting, but it requires a clear long therm goal to achieve. It the goal is the well being of americans......first define americans. Some people define it as the archetypal WASP (no offense intended). The ones that support migration define it as the people that share the "american dream". So, as long as the immigrants want to live in peace and have a job, they are considered "american". Differents points of view have created the present day mess of immigration law that uses lottery for visa allocation, fashion models competing with technology workers and overall the resentment of present day citizens.

The US has a low hanging fruit type of solution to mass immigration. It's the only developed country with citizenship acquired by birth. All the morally superior europeans that backlash the US for racism does not allow that, at least one of your parents must be a citizen. The US could start with that: work & residence permits but no citizenship, even for children born in the US. Present day shareholders would be less resentful, labor demanding companies can still have their employees.

If present day citizens approved immigration rules, it would also be optimal for immigrants since they would be perceived as productive guests, not dangerous trespassers.

Best to watch clashes between nativists and intellectuals, and between host cultures and marginal trickles of unauthorized immigrants unfold from afar, like, New Zealand.

"I would say Bryan has the moral high ground"

Why? Is it because he calls other people racist, when as a matter of fact it hasn't anything at all to do with racism?

Caplan never explains to us why immigration is so important. Why the rights of travelling opportunist are more important than the rights of the people who have created a society.

It is not at all clear why everybody should always have a right to go to another society to enjoy what other people have created.

Has restriction of this "right" ever produced a positive outcome of any sort? Can you demonstrate that?

Well yes. It is called the Welfare State. All those nice streets in Amsterdam. All those nice creches in Sweden. All those nice neat neighborhoods in Germany.

All of them depend on restricting the right of other people to come and f**k it up.

British civilization generally depends on Britain being English speaking and not Hindi speaking. If the majority of the British population becomes Hindi speaking every single aspect of British society ceases to exist. The politeness, the honesty, the lack of litter (such as it is). All they will have in common is the cricket.

After all, ask the Greeks how well letting the Turks into their country worked out. Germany is finding out that letting in so many Turks is not a good idea either. And when Germany is majority Turkish, it will no longer be Germany.

Remember - culture is almost impossible to shift. People do not assimilate. If they are dysfunctional now, they will be for the indefinite future. If they are dysfunctional in their own country, they will be dysfunctional if yours. If they form a majority, your society will become dysfunctional too. See Detroit. See California.

"Caplan never explains to us why immigration is so important"

I've always understood him as believing that freedom is important. That would include the freedom to live where you want, because national boundaries are an artificial barrier.

I can sympathise with that view. If I were offered an attractive job in a foreign country, I wouldn't want a state to interfere. My employer and I would be two human beings attempting to make a private agreement, which until it harms somebody else is nobody's business.

Would it harm somebody else? My presence would mean an extra garbage bin for the state to empty. But my marginal product might pay for that. It might deny a job to a native, but my marginal product might translate to demand for other goods or services that person can provide.

On the other hand if my evil twin Hover went abroad, he might become a burden - notably to the welfare state and the prison service.

Well, he dosn't care about the freedom of people to create a society like they want it and their rights to keep it that way. They just have to sit down and wait for some strangers with different ideas to come and exploit whatever they have created. Even hostile people.

Property rights in general are just as artificial as national boundaries.

"Would it harm somebody else?"
Maybe or maybe not. Thats why there shouldn't be open borders. The decision should be made by the people of that country. You could then apply and they could evaluate you. Do you have a job, are you a criminal, can you assimilate, are you ugly........

The state inteferes in all kind of aspect of you life.

I have always believed in freedom. That includes the freedom to create a society with my fellow countrymen like we prefer it to be, and decide which strangers should be accepted to enjoy our beautiful society. I just dont see why it is more important that you have the right to demand to live in my society, than we have the right to decide we dont want to live with you.

Property rights are certainly not as artificial as national boundaries.

I would agree, but this is closer to a conflict between the rights of "free association" and "property rights". With our current welfare state, a low skilled immigrant coming in will most probably pay a lower amount of taxes than your average citizen worker. And assuming that the welfare state maintains a pretty constant spending per capita, (which the Left is always pushing for rather strongly), then the average citizen worker's taxes must go up to compensate.

I'm all for allowing high skilled immigrants in, assuming they pay at least an average share of taxes. And that's the average for citizen workers not the average for society. I'm also ok with restricting the welfare state, so that the cost of taxes goes down to lower the threshold.

I'm not ok with a large group of immigrants that effectively raise the taxes on the citizen workers.

And I've seen the studies that purport to show that immigrants don't cost public money.Generally such studies often show that immigrants don't cost more money than the average citizen, but that's a bad metric. I understand that as a tax payer in our society, I'm going to pay the freight for the old and young citizens. However, I'm not willing to pay that same level of costs, for everyone who isn't a citizen, but would like to live in the US.

It seems to me that you would be willing to pay the freight for new citizens, as you are willing to pay it for existing citizens, under the same circumstances -- pay to help when young and old, if they are here then, but then when the new citizens are in the middle they help with your young and old. Isn't it the redistributive system that makes it problematic, not safety nets?

A redistributionist tax system, rather than a safety net system, makes immigration more problematic. It's bad enough to take from one citizen to give to another for no other reason than to bring income to more equal levels, if you open that redistribution up to anyone who can get here you've got a real problem.

I'd complain that the problem then is the tax system and the bars to free market that so warp prices and income and make redistribution look like an answer to Americans, not immigration, but I fully realize repacking that can of worms is something we probably aren't capable of. So should serious immigration restriction be a stopgap? I sure hate to compound loss of freedom with more loss of freedom. But it may be impractical to the point of reckless to do otherwise. Groan.

"It seems to me that you would be willing to pay the freight for new citizens, as you are willing to pay it for existing citizens, under the same circumstances ?"

Well sure, if a group of immigrants come in with a mix of demographics and the average taxes paid by their workers and the average taxes received by them as a group is inline with our current spending, I don't really have a problem with it. But that's not realistically possible with low skilled immigrants.

"A redistributionist tax system, rather than a safety net system, makes immigration more problematic. ... if you open that redistribution up to anyone who can get here you’ve got a real problem."

Hmm, while I agree with this I'm not sure we are ever likely to see our current level of safety net system without a redistributionist tax system.

"So should serious immigration restriction be a stopgap? I sure hate to compound loss of freedom with more loss of freedom. But it may be impractical to the point of reckless to do otherwise. Groan."

I see no way around it. Sure we could theoretically implement some type of Apartheid system of reduced benefits for immigrants, but that's never going to fly. Or as Caplan has mentioned, we could introduce a higher tax rate for immigrants, but again that's not likely to be politically viable in the long run. And in any case, who really thinks that "illegal" immigrants will become legal and pay a higher tax rate.

I’ve always understood him as believing that freedom is important. That would include the freedom to live where you want, because national boundaries are an artificial barrier.

There's no such thing as "the freedom to live where you want." There's only the arguable freedom to live where somebody is willing to lease or sell you real estate.

In the absence of the State, your journey to the foreign country would depend on easements negotiated with all intervening landowners. Your presence in the foreign country would depend on the willingness of current property owners to add you to the mix. If you're a Palestinian looking for an apartment in West Jerusalem for your new job as package delivery driver, for example, you might find that difficult.

This gets back to my criticism of libertarians: they want Open Borders; they don't want no borders because then people get to draw their own.

I can sympathise with that view. If I were offered an attractive job in a foreign country, I wouldn’t want a state to interfere. - See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/02/meditations-on-steve-sailer-and-bryan-caplan.html#sthash.czG3PIb5.dpuf

-- Then you wouldn't be able to accept the job. To do so, the state would have to force other citizens to accept an easement against their will.

Sorry - I don't know how that URL wound up in there.

Does Caplan call anti-immigration advocates, racist? Links please.

If you think Caplan doesn't explain why immigration is so important you're weirdly mistaken, read his posts. He explains why *all the time*.

He doesn't often do so directly, probably because it's potentially libelous, but he comes close — search"Tell me the difference between Jim Crow and immigration restrictions".

If you think Caplan doesn’t explain why immigration is so important you’re weirdly mistaken, read his posts. He explains why *all the time*.

He does, but his explanations are deficient. Read RWCG on Caplan/open-borders, at least you will acquire a different perspective on the question.

"anti-immigration attitudes would become as socially unacceptable as domestic racism. "

What do you think Caplan is trying to say?

That foreign racism is socially acceptable?

Does Caplan call anti-immigration advocates, racist? Links please.

Here you go:

"Caplan notes how the anti-foreign bias can be rooted in pseudo-racist attitudes: For Americans, trading with Japan and Mexico is more controversial than trading with Canada and England, the latter of whom speak our language and look like white Americans."


I certainly accept the idea that any country can set its own arbitrary immigration rules. When I say that some people miss what arbitrary really means. It is an admission that sure we can decide our rules (as Australia did in 1901) and then decide later that they are not so good.

But given that we can be arbitrary, and set "points" for youth, wealth, scholastic achievement, whatever ... a lot of people don't actually go there. The go to the well on "not more Mexicans!" And yeah, that is a racial argument. They certainly didn't say "sure Mexicans, but only with 3+ points."

Australia was a real hell hole.

And of course, Australia, preferences high skilled immigration and aggressively (far more than the US) goes after illegal immigrants. So much so, that they actively inspect construction sites and check the documentation of the workers.

I hired an American construction worker for a project in December who had an Australian wife. He couldn't get permission to work in Australia and they eventually came back to the US.

I am fine with a (race neutral) points system. Negotiations move to where we put the points.

"It is not at all clear why everybody should always have a right to go to another society to enjoy what other people have created."

I didn't create American society; I just happened to be born in America. It's not clear to me that I have any more "right" to enjoy the benefits of this society than people who happened to be born in China or Ghana or Canada.

Also, underlying this is the assumption that a society contains some finite amount of benefit that will be used up or diluted if more people are allowed entry. When in fact, it is possible that these additional people could be contributing to the society and increasing the benefit to everyone.

Mass immigration can dilute or entirely destroy the original society as a cultural unit. The Americans, being very numerous, are probably in no danger in dying out soon, but ask any Indian tribe the same question. The tribes used to be sovereign and speak their languages, now they are under power of the feds and most of their languages have died out thanks to the enormous cultural pressure from the majority.

Small nations and ethnic groups can be entirely destroyed by large influx of people in matter of decades.

As an example, the Lusatian Sorbs in Germany (a tiny Slavic minority, existing over 1000 years) are in serious danger of complete cultural eradication, which was accelerated by massive movement of German speaking peoples into their region after 1945. Why shouldn't they worry about their heritage.

Yep. It's not something etched into the ground or defused in the air that makes American society work. If at t₀ you were to beam all the Americans into space and then one second later beam a bunch of people from a nation under civil war into America, they wouldn't just start getting along.

It doesn't have to be etched into the genes, either. There is the expectation in America that things will be peaceful tomorrow, so things are peaceful today.

I think America should take people in as fast as it can assimilate them. It might even turn out that the maximum assimilation rate is greater than the number of people who would want to move here if the borders were thrown completely open, but that's not necessarily a given.

1) "it is possible that these additional people"
Nobody is talking about no immigration. Most people agrees that some immigrant are a benefit for societe. We are talking about not having open borders. Caplan view is extreme. Mine is not.

2) "I didn’t create American society; I just happened to be born in America"

Surely a joke?
You dont just happened to be born in america. You were born in america because your parents were living there. Hence they have a stake in creating this america and therefore so do you.
Thats the way it has been working in all cultures across the world.

What you are saing is tbasically that e.g. the Germans can work their ases of for decades, invest in public goods, fight in wars and a lot of other stuff. At the same time you and all other americans could be lazy bastards, not investing anything i public goods and so on. And then when you realize that Germany is a nicer place to live, then you could just move there and demand the right to enjoy everything like the germans.

I think it is straneg when you talk to economist. They say and write a lot of good thing about the benefits of property rights. But somehow this idea don't apply to the state/country. Suddenly freeriding opportunist are the most beautiful thing in the world. "democrazy" and "institutions" are valuable, but the people who created them, are not allowed to decide who should benefit from them.

Right on querty. Well said.

I think the argument works from parents' perspective (that they worked for their kids welfare), but from the kids' perspective ... they should be honest enough to see it as a birth lottery.

F*ck it. I want to be Makah. Why should they get to hunt whales and kill multiple elk and deer a year? Whale tastes good, elk tastes good venison tastes good. Why should they get to choose who gets a house on the beach?

Buncha racists.

There used to be some beach cottages near me. Built in the 1930's they were handed down, in a birth lottery. Nearby homes sold for a few million. The state finally ejected the squatters. They claimed that the squatters had an unfair advantage - but the thing is, now wealth is the only lottery for that coastline.

Birth lotteries are unfair, but if we have them, more paths are better.

Well put, +1.

The short- and long-term effects of immigration on the country surely depend a lot on the number and kind of immigrants we accept. To use an extreme example, if the entire population of India moved here next year, we would surely suffer horrible short term effects (overloaded social services, crowding, huge drop in wages at the bottom, etc.), and the disruption would be so great it would lead to terrible long term effects as well. (Also, the resulting country would not be all that much like the US.) On the other hand, if 1000 Indians come to the US next year, the effects will be a lot smaller. They may be positive or negative on net, but they will also be small relative to the well being of the whole country, assuming one of those thousand doesn't fly a plane into a building or cure HIV or something.


Both good points.

>>I didn’t create American society; I just happened to be born in America. It’s not clear to me that I have any more “right” to enjoy the benefits of this society than people who happened to be born in China or Ghana or Canada.<<

Why not just kill yourself? You obviously hate yourself. But being a narcissist, you can't just do that. No, you have to take the rest of us with you. Open borders fanatics are the West's version of the suicide bomber.

Huh? Rights are inherent to human beings as human beings equals you should kill yourself? That's a lot of dead presidents right there.

Part of what makes up our natural identity is the culture into which we were born and raised. If someone looks around them and concludes they should fill up their native lands with people unlike them from different cultures, the only rational conclusion is that person detests their culture and by extension, themselves (their self?). Dan1111 is declaring war on his family, friends, neighbors and ancestors. He wants to replace them so he is no longer reminded by them that he is of them.

It seems to me that the honorable thing for Dan is to off himself. Instead, he chooses the selfish route and lobbies to have all reminders of himself erased through mass immigration. That's his right. Every society must decide what it wants to be and how it wants to decide those things that define it. What I find disgusting about the open borders crowd is they claim that right for themselves and deny it to those who hold a different opinion, by labeling them nativists and racists.

Yes, that is indeed the 'only rational conclusion'

Also, how is 'nativist' a denigrating 'label'? Aren't you quite obviously and hyperbolically a 'nativist'? You extol the existing 'native' culture and decry attempts to bring in foreign people. Without arguing the pros and cons isn't that exactly what a 'nativist' is?

Out here in California we very obviously have a mixed culture pulling from native, Pacific, Spanish, and northern European sources.

(Surfer dudes are not Pilgrims.)

I'm horrified.

It's "If someone looks around HIM and concludes HE should fill up HIS native lands with people unlike HIM. . . . . . that person. . . . . HIMself."

If you prefer to make him a her, whatever, but I'm shocked you'd fall into "gender neutral" language that slaughters clear writing in the name of feminism. Another reason to abolish public schools.

I can't decide if you're a basically intelligent but sometimes unhinged guy, or a basically unhinged but sometimes intelligent guy.

He's definitely into hyperbole

Accepting arguendo I don't have a special right to American society, I'd still argue I have a responsibility to American society. It's not at all impossible for a society to collapse.

I want for humanitarian reasons for as many people as possible to enjoy American society. I also want, also for humanitarian reasons, to maintain American society. Things like "don't kill your neighbor because he's the wrong religion" aren't hard-wired into the human brain.

It’s not clear to me that I have any more “right” to enjoy the benefits of this society than people who happened to be born in China or Ghana or Canada.

Then why not emigrate?

This is why libertarians are just crackpots. Taking it to its logical conclusion, people are prevented from fashioning their society to their tastes. The only way to do that is through force. Libertarians end up at the same place as the Rue Saint-Jacques crowd. That's the gulag.

Applied autism.

I think that was something that makes a normal feel autistic.

With Caplan, I always wonder how much his joyful embrace of immigration is conditioned by the fact that he works in a job where that really doesn't affect him except in positive ways (he's a tenured professor who can only be fired under difficult circumstances). He captures any gains from immigration and doesn't stand to face any real competition from increased integration of the global labor population. If he was at risk of being fired for a much cheaper, similarly smart, english-fluent professor who was willing to take half his pay and fewer job protections, would he be so sanguine, or would he be rationalizing his way towards selective immigration restrictions?

Indeed. This post of Caplan's is required prefatory reading to any of his discussions of immigration/open-borders and I don't know how anyone can say Caplan has the moral high ground on immigration/open-borders after reading it. Elsewhere, RWCG regularly reams his arguments (google it).

A good test would be to measure opinions about immigration among new economists. I would guess, without evidence, that they are as pro-immigration as Caplan.

New economists become economists by repeating back to old economists the polices that old economists believe in.

Failure to repeat back to the teacher the answer the teacher thinks is correct gets you a fail..

How many old and new economists failed to notice the various bubbles in history because it did not fit the approved at the time thinking.

You are seriously highlighting such statements of his as these? - 'more highly than his fellow Italian co-ethnics'

Italy is not a nation comprised of 'co-ethnics' (neither is Spain, for that matter) - it is a nation composed of Sicilians, Florentines, Romans, Tiroleans, Milanese, Torinos. Just ask any politician or voter of the Lega Nord per l’indipendenza della Padania. Or ask anyone from any of those regions - assuming one actually knows anyone to ask.

Why Americans think their ideas of race or 'human biodiversity' have any application outside of the U.S. remains one of those ensuring mysteries.

Unless, of course, as Sailer so creatively expressed in this comment section, the idea of 'ethic Catholic' is a valid one, as he detailed when comparing 'traditional' American settlers to the new group 'ethnic Catholics.' And in his eyes, proposing such a sweeping classification as 'ethnic Catholic' was undoubtedly one of those discoveries of human classification that explains so much, at least in their own eyes.

Well, except for the fact if one takes Sailer's classification of 'ethnic Catholics' at face value, then the Swiss-Italian ethnic Catholics would be in the same group as their Italian Catholic 'co-ethnics.' Which would make Sailer's statement absurd, if he actually cared about being consistent. Or unless his term 'ethnic Catholic' was just another one of those ever so endlessly cute veils used by those in public discourse who know if they were actually honest, they would be unable to be taken seriously.

You are acting like Sailer made up the concept of the Catholic ethnic. The term "ethnics" was used to distinguish between the WASP ruling classes in the north and the almost exclusively Catholics Poles, Italians, Lithuanians, etc. that made up the cities neighborhoods. Jews were generally considered "ethnics" in this regard because they tended to fall on the opposite side of the culture wars, sorth of like how East Asians are not really considered a "minority" when people talk about promoting "diversity".

According to the theory of the triple melting pot, religion would replace nationality among the children of the "ethnics", hence Catholic ethnics. This began to happen in the 1970s as can be seen in Michael Novak's "Rise of the Umeltable Ethnics", however, the Catholic church in the US was corrupted by the last gasp of the Rockefellers and their ilk and the Catholic ethnics dissolved into a more controllable and bogus "conservative" movement.

Josh, thanks for explaining the old term "ethnic Catholics" to Prior_Approval.

So many typos... Most importantly that should read "Jew were not considered ethnics"

Ha. "Jews were not". iPads. Sheesh.

Yeah, typing on the iPad is still a frustrating exercise. I've been contemplating buying a keyboard for mine.

It may be the Four Roses, it may be Shark Tank in the background, but I'm not sure how all these new terms (Citizenries...Caplanian...False Cosmopolitanites...Sailer) add clarity to the prior discussions.

Thanks for the mention of the idea of citizenism.

I explained it here in 2006:


You are being far, far too modest - here is an excerpt from your writing in 2005 -

'That implies the opposite of what Taylor claims. In reality, citizenism entails focusing on the central issue for the future of our country: limiting immigration.

While citizenism is compatible with a realistic appreciation of racial differences, it opposes wasting political capital and energy on expressions of hostility toward our fellow citizens who are African-Americans—energy that could far more profitably be devoted to rallying broad support for preserving the value of our citizenship.

Blacks should be ashamed of the level of crime found in their community, but anti-black sentiment is self-defeating.

Indeed, much of current white conservative support for illegal immigration is a covert way of sticking it to African-Americans and their liberal supporters by importing harder-working Hispanics to drive blacks out of the workforce.

Of course, no matter how satisfying this may seem psychologically to many whites, it's self-defeating. Depriving African-Americans of the discipline of work just worsens their behavior. Admitting vast numbers of Latinos, many of whom will end up in the underclass, just exacerbates America's social problems.' http://www.vdare.com/articles/sailer-vs-taylor-round-ii-citizenism-vs-white-nationalism

The whole article is a fascinating view into Sailer's world, writing for a web site notable for taking in all those poor writers fired by the extremely politically correct National Review for daring to show the world what they actually think.

I have no idea why he wouldn't link to it here, as it is a spirited defense of his beliefs, at a time almost a decade ago when 'Google suggests that I am just about the only person in the country calling himself a "citizenist." So I think I have a certain right to suggest what the word means.'

"Blacks should be ashamed of the level of crime found in their community, but anti-black sentiment is self-defeating."

I would imagine many blacks are ashamed, but on the other hand, most of that crime stems for trading substances that are deemed illegal, and yet have sufficient demand that citizens are willing to spend $B's each year on them, while risking arrest. The authorities that exist to prevent and eradicate this crime are unable to do so, for many reasons, including their being under the influence (on multiple levels) of the interests (gangs) tied to those substances, and being outmanned.

The question lies in what should shame be put and who should be ashamed, if not just blacks- I don't think it's fair to blame blacks or any race, for such a problem. Every US citizen should be ashamed, arguably ones who don't live in such areas moreso than those who do, since the latter suffer the reality daily, while the former mostly take considerable effort to ignore the harsh realities that exist there. In the US, for many things, such as drugs and immigration- we tend to have very strict rules with very loose enforcement. With drugs and the violence that stems from competing over the vast sums of money the drug trade produces, nowhere is enforcement looser than the poorest parts of town, where a large portion of blacks live, which is why there tends to be more crime there.

So while I agree that blacks should be ashamed, I only agree in the sense that blacks are citizens, and all citizens should be ashamed regardless of race.

most of that crime stems for trading substances that are deemed illegal,

This is a fantasy. About 20% of the prison population were there remanded where drug charges were the top count on the bill of particulars. The metropolitan region where I grew up has a population of about 1.1 million. About 2/3 of the homicides are in an inner city zone with a population of about 110,000.

I'd bet a very large % of those homicides were drug (gang) related

The urban reservations the American Left built for blacks operate like any other prison. Respect and status are the currency of the realm. Murder in the hood is more often over these issues than economic considerations. Drugs and the drug economy get woven into all sorts of things, but fundamentally it is just Lord of the Flies with cheap handguns.

Holy smokes the 'Left' is to blame for there being ghettos? So, no conservatives moved away?

When leftoids advocate the following measures, I will stop holding them responsible for the condition of the slums:

1. Vigorous policing (of the sort Bill de Blasio and Judge Shira Pettifogger will not countenance in New York). That means the dreaded 'mass incarceration'.

2. Sequestration of incorrigible youth. That means construction and maintenance of day jails staffed by sheriff's deputies. The inmate/pupils get locked in a cell for most of the day and let out for modest periods for athletics and special education (in classrooms where you have one teacher and six youths). Youngsters who could not get a berth elsewhere in the system get remanded to these day jails.

3. School vouchers. Place all public schools under the authority of philanthropic foundations with boards elected by stakeholders. Finance them (and participating private schools) with voucher redemptions (not tuition). Make use of regents' examinations for quality control. Refrain from any regulatory ordinances which dictate curriculum, hiring and firing, or disciplinary practices (above and beyond respect for the penal code). Eliminate the high school diploma in favor of a certificate book which indicates the student's highest accomplishment in each subject area (as verified by state examinations). Have both academic and trade examinations at the secondary level.

4. Suspension of property tax collection in slum neighborhoods.

5. Re-composition of building codes and planning ordinances to allow more variegated housing options (including flop houses, rooming houses, and apartments with shared kitchens).

6. Enhanced street sweeping patrols, graffiti patrols, and razing of abandoned buildings.

7. Elimination of all extant means-tested state welfare programs bar the public defender and legal aid society, refugee resettlement aid, and disaster relief.

8. Elimination of rent-control. Auction sales of public housing blocs.

9. Elimination of all universalistic welfare programs bar medical insurance, long-term care insurance, school vouchers, unemployment compensation, and vestigial social security.

10. Establish mandatory savings programs conjoined to a negative income tax.

11. Close extant teacher training programs at all state colleges and universities. Eliminate any certification requirements to enter the teaching profession.

12. Close extant programs to train social workers; eliminate occupational licensing boards for social workers; erect an auxilliarly police academy to train sheriff's deputies who volunteer for it child development, abnormal psychology, and family relations; and staff the child protective apparat with clinical psychologists, nurses, and these trained deputies.

While we are at it Mrskings, radical simplification of labor law. That means the entire corpus of employment discrimination law is repealed (leaving just some causes of action for extortionate behavior) and minimum cash take home pay is set at $1.60 per hour (adjustable annually).

And, of course, controls on immigration.

The 'leftoids' told me they'll get back to you, Art. They didn't seem to care that much about what you hold them responsible for.

They do not care about public disorder and insecurity, rotten primary and secondary schooling, decay of building stock, and sclerosis in labor markets.

We all knew that.

Like the Palestinians moved away from Israel.

Most of the racists, as TC points out, are cosmopolitan Americans. The folk outside the USA often don't bother. I've seen black and white couples and asian and white couples, with kids, in traditional Greek villages, without any problems. Perhaps because they were such a minority and posed no threat to the majority? Perhaps. But keep in mind culture changes over time: nationalism and indeed some argue the concept of "tribes" in Africa are recent (last 200 years) trends started by Romantics in Europe and the UK, German, Belgian colonists in Africa, respectively. Time to turn the clock back to open borders? Pace medieval Spain and Japan of course.

You're in the Philippines right? The Philippines has tens of thousands of what are called Kopino children. The children of mainly Filipina mothers and Korean fathers. Whose Korean fathers invariably abandon them because Korea is no place for children of the wrong racial background.

The folk outside the USA very often do bother. To the point that those nice Greek villages you mention vote for Golden Dawn. The US is unique in trying to do something about its racism.

Indeed some argue? "Some" probably live on another planet.

In pretty much every contact between Europeans and natives in pre-state societies (Africa, Americas, New Guinea, Australia), tribes were the established structural society.

Linguistic and cultural divides are real, not an abstract construct of 18th century Romantics. Even modern states have it rather complicated when the population speaks multiple mutually unintelligible languages.

Tribes were, and are, the established structural society in Europe, too. They're just lots bigger, and so we call them "nations".

This post like so articles about immigration in Western countries is to push European people into opening the borders because European people don't like sticking to their guns and looking like the bad guys. You are not racist if you want Switzerland to remain Switzerland and not become New China or New Nigeria. These people want to move to white areas because of the entire system white people create is attractive to them and they can't get it where they are. Once those areas become too non-white they look to find another place that's white. It's a never ending game. Non-white people are not going to replicate white society even if they have all the tools. Take the example of Japan which has the third largest economy in the world and great living standard statistics, Japanese immigration to the US is growing decade by decade. Even with great statistics behind them Japanese want out of Japan and into white society. China has a booming economy and dramatically improving living standards yet an ever increasing number are bailing out of China to permanently live overseas.

The vote in Switzerland was not about Switzerland not becoming New China or New Nigeria bur rather about Switzerland not becoming New Italy or New Germany. The vote was only about quotas for European Union countries (there are already plenty of limitations on immigration from non-EU countries). This was about keeping white immigrants out, not about race or ethnicity.

So. What I wrote applies to that as well. Non-Europeans do use the lax border laws amongst European nations to hop from one country to another.

However the EU is allowing in millions of people from outside of Europe who then get the right to move into Switzerland.

Millions? Not exactly true.

As if asylum applicants was all Europe allowed in. How about family reunification, for one thing? Your strawman needs more work.

According to wiki there are currently 31 million non-EU born immigrants living inside of the EU.

So yes, it is millions. Indeed, there are 6 million non-EU immigrants living in Germany alone.

Incidentally, both China and Japan had self-imposed isolationist policies and restrictions on emigration until contact with the West. The Western powers demanded they open up and trade and have greater relations with them.

On the matter of immigration generally, I keep hearing "Should liberal states open their borders?", but the real question is whether or not any liberal order that does so will remain liberal. A culture may be justly protected by borders on the grounds that liberal institutions (human liberty) are predicated on *it*, not vice versa, and that those institutions are not permanent unless the population is able to maintain them. Could it be that diluting a liberal, high-trust culture with millions of poorly educated people from low-trust cultures could make those institutions harder to maintain domestically?

The number of immigrants the United States could successfully assimilate would be larger if its K-12 schools were excellent, but they are not.

Prima facie, the West is more liberal in practically every regard, economic or social, than in 1979, and immigration has been more common since 1979.

So I guess you consider an enormous prison population, militarized community policing, wealth concentration, partisan hostility, a surveillance society, assassination of Americans at the chief executive's discretion, routine property seizure, politically motivated tax audits, and circumvention of the Constitutional separation of powers among other things to be an example of a more liberal (in practically every regard) society?

Let's just consider you hopelessly ignorant and call it a day.

He doesn't believe in institutions?

Is he accepting free migration into his grad student ranks? Why not?

Sailer’s failing is to think or imply that the costs of The False Cosmopolitanites are higher, or more worthy of scorn, than the costs of Citizenism, and also the costs of other particularist doctrines, some of which are less savory than Citizenism by some degree.

Hang on, there are costs to real Cosmopolitans as well. As Robert Putnam has shown, more ethnic diversity means less social trust. The benefits of living in places like the Mid-West or much of Northern Europe is because they are ethnically homogeneous places where people share values. Introducing immigrants into the picture means that those values slowly evaporate.

What are the benefits to immigration? Some companies get cheaper programmers. The Upper Middle Class gets docile Hispanic nannies instead of uppity Black ones. The reason that people like Caplan cause so much anger is the very real idea that he is in his Ivory Tower, before he drives home to his Gated Community, and so he does not pay the price in robberies, drug dealers, rapes and so on immigration brings. If he lived among the Somalis, he could make a case. But I am willing to bet he lives in an area right out of the 1950s - as Whitebread as the Brady Bunch. He can afford to insulate himself from the real costs of his policies. And he presumes to lecture those that cannot.

Cowen had an opportunity to be courageous and failed.

Unless his half-hearted support of Sailer is courage, in which case America is so given over to the XXXXXXX that it has failed.

Caplan's "solution" to the "problem" he and his ilk imagine to exist is just ethnic cleansing. Put enough Jewish settlers in the West Bank, and Palestinian objections to Jewish immigration will disappear. Or Russians in the Baltics, or Spaniards in the Americas, or Han in Tibet. This is an old, insidious tactic. Caplan is not the one on the moral high ground here.

There's a strange juvenescence to the Open Borders crowd. America is to be always in this emergent, fermenting state--a nation of immigrants can never be allowed to become a nation of natives.

It's strange for an economist's blog to discuss immigration without discussing costs and benefits. If you're Singapore with a high skill and income threshold and small welfare state, the benefits of immigration are high.

If you're Canada where a huge majority of immigrants are family connections and there is free healthcare, education and other costs, you're going to get a negative hit.

The Fraser Institute estimates immigrants are a net annual cost of $21 billion, and it's getting worse as more people arrive from less developed countries and not from Europe.

For me this is the crux of the matter. Immigration policy must be a net benefit. Once it is, you can increase the number of refugees from countries where people are really suffering.

Net benefit to whom, though? What is the relevant moral universe.

Way way way wait. This is the economics department; the department of warm fuzzies is down the hall.

But while we're here, how moral is it to undercut the value of existing citizens' stock? How moral is it for capital to play labor arbitrage with a stacked deck? How moral is it for employers to privatize the profits from immigration and socialize the costs?

So I can choose not to pay my taxes then? It is my benefit.


I don't think Sailer is more repetitious than Caplan on this...

I think the word you're looking for is consistent. An argument isn't more sound because it's only made once.

Explain how your immigration policy for nations is different from your policy for hiring for the GMU Economics department. Why?

We should do an experiment first: only admit immigrants who have a Ph.D. in Economics (from any institution) and pass a law removing all tenure, or tenure like arrangements, for Economists, and require any organization that employees Economists to employ a proportional number of foreign born “economists”.

We can run this experiment for 20 years and then take a poll of the American born Economists to see whether they still take the "moral high ground". I love hearing tenured Economic faculty members - who never suffer any of the consequences when their theories are wrong - tell those who will suffer the consequences how immoral they are.

P.S. I laughed at “and which create high humanitarian costs, including through war “ - yes those crazy Swiss sure have suffered a lot of warfare because of their nationalism. When will they ever learn!

Also, just out of curiosity: all the wars today seem to be civil wars. So does mass immigration tend to increase or decrease the chances of those kinds of wars?

Yep, and through the early modern period, wars tended to be between dynastic assemblages which usually mapped rather imperfectly to extant ethno-national populations. Come to think of it, three of the eight principal participants in the First World War were dynastic assemblages, and one was a society of migrants.

Some recent civil wars have been set off by immigration:

- Kosovo 1998: Immigration of Albanians into Serbia's Kosovo province tipped the demographic balance

- Libya 2011: As part of Colonel Kadaffi's ambitions to be an African continental leader, he sponsored mass immigration of sub-Saharan Africans into Libya, many to serve as mercenaries in his security forces.

- Bahrain 2011: The majority Shi'ites revolted against the Sunni rulers' policy of importing Sunnis from abroad; they were crushed by Saudi tanks

- Lebanon 1975: the arrival of Palestinians kicked out of Jordan in 1970 destabilized Lebanon's delicate balance

It would be interesting to know what role the ~2million refugees that Syria admitted from Iraq had on the Syrian civil war.

I tend to doubt that 10% of Syria's population consists of Iraq war refugees.

- Kosovo 1998: Immigration of Albanians into Serbia’s Kosovo province tipped the demographic balance

Albanians had been a majority in Kosovo for about 80 years when Slobodan Milosevic decided the place had to be brought to heel.

I don't think you have the moral high ground if you won't live among a large group of these new immigrants - that is, if you don't allow free immigration into your neighborhood. A central aspect of upper middle class suburban culture is that they retreat into areas with like minded and similarly well off people, and use zoning laws and the like to keep out the undesireables.

Actually, I think this is behind a lot of the housing bubble, at least at the high end. You can exclude people from your neighborhood by inability to afford to live there, but I don't think there are many other ways to do so. By spending a lot on a house, you can get overwhelmingly white and Asian neighbors who have solid jobs and middle-class values, whose kids are unlikely to be in gangs or engage in much crime, where the schools will generally work pretty well because they have smart kids from functional homes attending.

We fell into that trap once, not about race or immigration, but about the whole "middle class values", "solid jobs", "schools work well", "functioning homes" neighborhood. Those can be pretty hellish places, but if you hang out long enough you won't notice any more. The evil things my neighbors (and probably myself) did in the name of middle class values and functioning homes . . . .

Worked in one of these schools and in a school with gangs. I'd put my kids in the gang school any day over the "pretty well" school, it was 83% sociopaths. Of course, we now know sociopathy can be a feature, not a bug.

"The evil things my neighbors (and probably myself) did in the name of middle class values and functioning homes - See more at: http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2014/02/meditations-on-steve-sailer-and-bryan-caplan.html#comments"

Don't stop there! Give us the gory details. Your post was just getting good.

Oops, didn't mean to insert that link..

Oh, now I'd only disappoint.

I have taught in a school that was more than 90 percent poor black kids and at a wealthy school in Fairfax County (incidentally, far more "diverse"). If you are saying you would voluntarily send your children to the former, you are the sociopath. I had three students murdered in a three year period. I had to stop a male student in the next classroom over from beating a pregnant female student with a chair. I had a female student take off her shirt during class and sing a song about wanting to "hit it from the back". Students talked about the knockout game (although they didn't really use that name) years before the news assured me that it doesn't exist.

I'm sorry for your time there and for those kids.

The school I was referencing had a huge traditional base with a gang influence coming in from California trying to move the culture, but there was a growing gang membership and one student was murdered by another in a night gang dispute. So not the hard core world you were in.

Unless Fairfax is entirely not the kind of thing I've seen, both of the schools you are talking about stink. We home school because that's our opinion. If I were forced to pick between the low and high schools I've seen, I'd go with low. If I had to pick between the low and high schools you've seen? I'd leave the country, or go raise my kids in a cave.

I can't speak for Fairfax these days (Springfield High thirty or so years ago!), but I have to admit I have assumptions. Do you really not see what I'm talking about?

The "good" schools are a joke (students read the Hunger Games in English classes) and the negative cultural influences are good old fashioned American nihilism. I don't know if the students are sociopaths, but they have imbibed a certain understanding of the meaning of life that is basically permanent status competition. Basically, they think like Tyler Cowen. This is a huge problem, but I can't even describe the social pathology at my old school. I was young then, and students would talk openly to me about parties that were essentially orgies, and waiting in the Best Buy parking lot to steal from the people coming out. Add to that the fact that close to zero of the students could read as well as I want my daughter to by the third grade (we used a comic book as our US History textbook), and the bizarre delusion of the staff (on parent teacher night, we used to give away eight donated laptops which the students would take to the pawnshop. We still would only get a total of 30 or so parents.) I hate that things are the way they are, but I will openly admit that I bought my house hoping I could insulate my three children for one more generation from the social decay described by Charles Murray.

So you know exactly what I mean.

I think I've seen a bit more of the pathological side of the "good" schools than you have, maybe, like you saw a more extreme version of the "bad" schools. Like yourselves, my husband and I moved our kids to save them, but it's from the "good school" bunch.

That bunch is sneakier, and they don't talk about their hookup and that other thing parties to teachers -- teachers don't exist, you might as well not be in the room. But it's a jackal culture, and while our kids were in danger of becoming victims of it the biggest danger was that they would become the jackals themselves. After reading Gordon Neufeld's "Hold On To Your Kids" I understood a bit more the peer orientation problem, and if you orient towards peers and your peers are pathological, it's pretty hard for a parent to pull you back out of that pit.

On a meta level, your class before, they're all stuck in their neighborhood predating on each other until they die, if they're not dead already. But if you work in Fairfax -- those kids are going to rule the world. So, good luck getting that break of a generation you were hoping for.

These kids won't rule the world, they will be middle managers for the rulers of the world. The rulers still go to private school.

Good point, they won't rule the world, they'll just administrate it.

"Sailer’s failing is to think or imply that the costs of The False Cosmopolitanites are higher, or more worthy of scorn, than the costs of Citizenism, and also the costs of other particularist doctrines, some of which are less savory than Citizenism by some degree. The comparison of where the major injustices are generated is not even close."

I'm wondering under what scale or timeframe that last statement is supposed to apply. Do you mean today, in America? I can understand saying "Citizenism" has generated more injustices over the course of human history, but if you think instead "on the margin," I'm not sure that's the case. What are the major injustices American Citizenists are committing right now? Maybe I missed how the link to some club brawl was supposed to make that clear.

What about the future? When thinking about the impact of public policies, the future is the relevant time period.

When Bryan Caplan and his fellow libertarian thinkers pay no more for the college tuition and medical expenses of their family than for those of others one might consider that they have the moral high ground.

Until then, other than genetics, there is little difference between taking care of your family first vs taking care of your current fellow citizens before immigrants.

In fact forming social groups is very fundamental to human nature and those that succeed at this do better for their families.

There seems to be an asymmetry in that Sailer frequently links to Caplan's posts and quotes them. Caplan has mentioned Sailer a few times almost as an archetype, but rarely discusses what his actual arguments are. The Open Borders website does though.

Caplan doesn't link to Sailer for the same reason many people don't: the anti-racism trolls show up when you mention Sailer, and destroy the quality of your blog comments.

And, to be fair, the racist commenters that don't quite "get" what he is talking about. In a way, mention of him has become a sort of commenting section nuclear weapon.

Bryan Caplan does not have the 'moral high ground'. He just has a damaged sense of solidarity. Lock him in a closet to play with his blocks and keep him away from any influence on policy.

All it would really take was one very liberal country abolitioning all checks on immigration, see what happens, and then this discussion will be over for good.

But why is it, that not a single (rich) country in the world does that? Because evn the most liberal leaning ones know that it would spell doom on them.

So, wait, are we protecting our culture or our stuff?

And if it's our culture, which one? Because for myself and some silly folks I know, it's that old, naive belief in the founding principles, traditions like rule of law, inalienable rights, individual freedom, those things. Then you have just cultural stuff, like the Judeo-Christian traditions, an absolute view of morality with tolerance for different opinions on what that absolute might be, obligation to family and to community, those things.

So I'm not entirely sure how a new Mexican, Indian, or Arab Muslim immigrant is more distanced from this culture, as compared to the average high school girl I see texting at Abercrombie. I don't think most nativists are all that interested in their role as Citizens.

Pretty much thinking that if you are trying to preserve the culture, that's a lost battle, and if it's not, it's not fought against immigrants.

Now if it's just preserving our stuff, that's maybe 50/50, since folks coming in might make more stuff. But at least that makes more sense, my grandfather built our infrastructure (wait -- isn't that a "you didn't build this" argument?) or, more conservatively, my grandfather built our private commercial and legal system that has created prosperity, so you go make prosperity where you live so your grandchildren can enjoy that. There are holes in that, of course, truck-wide ones (personally, my grandparents were great, but they didn't live lives that were that different from the grandparents of most Mexican immigrants -- and, yes, I'll say it -- my great, great grandparents were not born in America). But at least it makes some sense.


I think the fundamental moral question involves what goals we should pursue with our immigration policy. Specifically, should we be mainly focusing on:

a. The well-being of the current citizens and their future offspring?
b. The well-being of the prospective immigrants?

Many people who argue in favor of freer immigration argue that we should put a lot of weight on (b). I think Steve's point with citizenism is that we should put most of the weight on (a). That is, while we may have some willingness to use our immigration policy for charitable purposes (like resettling refugees), the main goal of our immigration policy ought to be to make the current citizens and our future offspring better off. In other words, our government should in general be trying to act on behalf of its citizens,and in their interests. A little charity (foreign aid, resettling refugees) can happen around the edges, but the job of the government ought ideally to be to work for the well being of its current citizens. (This is why, for example, we're rolling out Obamacare only in the US, rather than spending the same amount to provide a much larger improvement in the quality of life of the average Bangladeshi or Haitian.)

Now, I'm not sure how important this debate is in practice, because for public choice reasons, few government policies have anything to do with either goal. Instead, they are probably driven more by goals that have a closer connection to helping the politicians involved get re-elected--making labor costs go down for politically important industries, wooing voters from politically important ethnic groups by letting lots of their countrymen into the US, appearing compassionate or tough toward immigrants depending on the latest polling numbers, etc.


Selling your children's birthright is not a moral act, our obligation to our children does need to be before our eyes. I'd only ask how you would define well being. If my children are less comfortable and less wealthy, but more free, I'd consider that safeguarding their well being. Safety is a harder one, since safety and freedom are so often at odds.

Similarly, I'm not concerned with immigration as a charitable act (I agree with others that there is huge corruption and self-aggrandizing in that), I'm concerned with the freedom issues. I simply haven't been able to find a good argument for why I, as a free citizen, should not be able to sell my property (a house, say) or direct my business (employment) in a transaction with someone not born regionally. If a Mexican can rent a house and acquire a job in the U.S., where is the argument from rights that says he should be banned from doing so by the state? I recognize, of course, that the extensiveness of our welfare system and the ubiquitous government schooling complicates that a ton.

As for your second paragraph, with you all the way.

I recognize, of course, that the extensiveness of our welfare system and the ubiquitous government schooling complicates that a ton..

Yes, as does the fact that the welfare state is effectively importing its own constituency.

Immigration is political and cultural suicide for libertarians, just as unchecked Israeli immigration would be political and cultural suicide for the West Bank, and vice versa.

There was a reason st. Benedict damanded a vow of stability (and that this led to the developments of western civilization out of barbarian chaos.). Stable communities would go a long way toward correcting the abercrombization of our cosmopolitan elite.



Is this the Benedict Option? It appeals, and to a degree my family is trying to live it, but I don't know.

The purpose of their monastic stability was not just self-protection, or even the preservation of a culture or of stability, if it were it would not have worked because there would not have been respect for them among outsiders and once their stability brought prosperity, it would have been taken -- re: Lindisfarne.

Benedict was charged to love God and man and center his Rule on that, what is American culture centered on that would demand that level of respect even by those who did not buy into it themselves? If a brigand wanted what Benedict had, he'd be wanting theft of some vegetables, or he'd be wanting to take on sacrifice and work himself. If a brigand wants what stable Americans have, he wants an Iphone. To a degree, part of my frustration is that we have replaced Benedict with Abercrombie as our centers, and I don't see that going well.

The Benedictines, of course, also were commanded to welcome travelers, who were treated with particular care, and during such a lawless time this was a huge risk to take (interesting to note, though, they weren't allowed to mix with the community).


Yes, but no, but yes.

Poor people and immigrants are really bad at voting. You gotta really push them.

Personally, I think liberals get lots of votes from their immigration and welfare policies, but it's not from the poor people and immigrants. They get it from the wealthy liberals that feel good about their own lives (often pulling lots of income from federal funds) if they vote for people who promote these policies. These wealthy liberals vote, and they donate money.

I know there's this conservative fatalism that demographics will just push the Republicans out of the picture, but I think that's excuse making. The Republican party is at best a mess, and at worst a corruption, the other side of the Democrat plutocracy coin. For it's leaders to blame its woes on immigrants, well, it might not be entirely inaccurate, but it's pretty lame.

This is a home run post by Tyler - and the comments section, unusually for this blog, a cesspool of poor logic and hate.

I'm on comment 53 and I don't see any hate yet.

A cesspool of poor logic and hate? What on Earth are you talking about?

I'm guessing the poster hasn't bothered to read the actual posts. Since there's been little "hate" and the posts that didn't stand well on logical grounds have been heavily counter-posted.

Datapoint: my upper-middle class suburb of about 50k residents went out of its way to make it easy for Somali immigrants to settle here, building communities with Section 8 housing, have a Somali speaking people show them how to navigate the welfare system for new entrants, etc. Now about 8% of the 'burb is Somali,

1) their neighborhoods dominate our police force's time and attention, because they are involved in a lot of domestic assaults, etc.
2) their students created an achievement gap that is now the main priority of the school board, and has motivated the introduction of busing to move these kids around to hide this fact (the Somali dominated grammar schools did significantly worse on a variety of metrics).
3) According to their version of Islam, they do not like birthdays, holidays, etc. so those little b-day parties (kids bring in cupcakes) in grammar school no longer exist
4) Kids no longer dress up for Halloween at school (wouldn't want them to feel left out).
5) the girls often wear the full suit (hajib) when swimming, which was awkward, so the one grammar school with a pool no longer has swimming as part of gym classes. The pool sits there all day.
6) The boys sit around the library after school because it has internet access and a place to go after school, and generally create a lot of noise relative to other patrons.

Most residents wish these new immigrants weren't here, but anyone who points out these issues in local papers is instantly vilified by letters denouncing them as racist, backward, ethnocentric, and not recognizing they are the community's "greatest strength." So, when problems arise, you aren't allowed to notice them in polite community. Thus, I myself am using an alias in this post.

What town is that?

What town isn't it, rather. This is very common. Immigrant communities bring their pathologies with them. The way the immigration is done contributes to the problem, as well as the political and supporting social structures that encourage immigration.

The Sihk community in Vancouver is by almost any measure extraordinarily successful. Hard working people with strong social structures that make for success. They are prosperous in ways that I suspect surprise even themselves. But when civil unrest in India erupted, in showed up in Canada as murdered journalists, civil unrest and the largest act of terrorism in North America pre 9/11. The local police were utterly powerless and incapable of dealing with the situation, and luckily the community recognized the threat to their well being here, and took action to keep a lid on it.

A couple years ago the Jamaican gangs in Toronto decided to take their murderous score settling into the busy streets of downtown, killing a few innocent bystanders. Again the local police were utterly useless, taking more pride in avoiding mention of the color of the perpetrators that success in catching them. The immigrant community is dysfunctional, and the problem festers.

There are real costs, serious costs to immigration. In Montreal the small merchants downtown, many of them immigrants themselves, are still after what, three generations subject to the Italian mafia protection rackets.

There are real benefits as well. Serious benefits from the hard work of these folks trying to establish a foothold somewhere and benefiting from the security and stability of their new home. That is why they came.

What I hear in the discussion is all the wonderful things, which are true to an extent, but any time anyone even mentions the negatives they are called names and shouted down. When police statistics are called racist then obviously someone has a serious screw loose, and if they are in power need to be forceably removed before they do more harm. There are costs and benefits. Most people are fine with having immigrants. But don't lie to me. I despise people in power who lie, and pro immigration arguments are tainted by the lies and discredited.

A basic fact. People come to Canada because it is better than where they are from. I want to keep it that way. I'm selfish.

Well, its definitely not the town where I live. I am just surprised that an upper middle class suburb would encourage section 8 housing. I mean, I understand the need for housekeepers, but that is why they invented the next town over.

Awesome post Tyler! This is what brings me back to MR over and over!

I have worked in a Swiss-owned company for nearly a decade, and from repeated trips there and frequent interaction with colleagues by phone and when they visit the U.S., I have seen a number of things the Swiss do right with regard to immigration. Among them:

They focus on assimilation at all levels. Immigrant children go to special schools apparently with the goal of mainstreaming them once they have local language skills and have been inculcated with the sort of patriotism the native-born grow up on. But even my colleagues with MS degrees, working in a company where the official language is English, are pushed to become fluent in the local common language. One way is by taking classes sponsored by the retail co-op Migros.

Like Sowell and Sailer, the Swiss recognize that income quintiles are not static, but are composed of individuals moving in and out of them. A native Swiss colleague explained how, having married and had children a little too young, the state helped out with social payments. But now, making a good salary, he has paid back his individual arrears.

I also sense that the state has a better grasp of who is where, but with the level of surveillance and ID-checking not significantly different from ours.

I have to say that I do respect the intellectual consistency of some libertarians. Of the 3 main inputs (land, labor, capital) only capital has freedom of movement. We have spent the last 30 years destroying any friction from international flow of capital. Yet, people are locked into countries like the Congo, Sudan, Afganistan, etc. because they were born there.

For anti-immigration folk, what is the solution for those people?

I can understand wanting to preserve your way of life, cultural connections, and safe, clean environment. But, people's desire for a better life will drive them to extremes that will trump any efforts to keep them out. I can't imagine that building a big wall is a cost effective way to deter immigration. You would think anti immigration and pro immigration would really be able to agree on something like Charter cities. It allows freedom of movement and doesn't happen in your backyard. Probably cheaper as well for developed nations to come up with the money to purchase (lease) 10 large plots of land from developing countries, build infrastructure and allow free movement into those areas. Not saying that it would actually happen, but surely anti immigration need some realistic alternative. Prohibition doesn't work with drugs, why would it work with people?

Just as a nitpick, I don't think you are right about the impossibility of enforcing immigration restrictions. No doubt it's impossible to control 100% who comes into your country, but large-scale illegal immigration is pretty visible, and has been successfully prevented by many countries over the years.

For example, in the Obama administration's first term, My understandingis that the net inflow of illegal immigrants dropped to zero for awhile, based only on the then-current levels of enforcement plus a lousy economy. So it is apparently possible for us to limit illegal immigration to relatively modest levels. You could probably get most of what's needed there by making it a bad business decision to hire illegal immigrants, by way of making the fines for being caught hiring illegal immigrants large enough to outweigh the financial benefits of hiring them.

Not saying it's impossible. It will just be massively expensive.

What's your theory for why it would be massively expensive? It's actually pretty cheap if you have enforcement, lots of illegal aliens do not have the language skills to blend into the population. A wall is not terribly expensive, and the FAA tracks all flight activity. Also, consider the effect of deterrence. If people who enter illegally are punished with fines and jail time, people will avoid entering illegally or overstaying their visas.

As for what to do with these other countries: colonialism. People making the open borders argument are basically making the same arguments that supported British colonialism: the white man's burden.

For anti-immigration folk, what is the solution for [countries like the Congo, Sudan, Afganistan, etc.]?

They can get about the hard work of overthrowing corrupt institutions and enforcing transparency and the rule of law themselves. American citizens' only duty to the citizens of other sovereigns is not to invade their countries. If we breach that duty, then yes, we've bought the place. More reasons for a global stand-down by the US.

Again, not saying you have any moral obligation though many other U.S. citizens feel that we do. Choosing to spend on immigration enforcement doesn't seem to be a cost effective way to combat the problem that people live in places they don't want to be. Especially since large portions of the U.S. don't agree with you and won't support the tactics necessary to effectively keep people out.

My recommendation would be that those who want to help everybody from the Congo, the Sudan and Afghanistan who doesn't want to be there import them into their own neighborhoods and have them go to school with their kids.

It would be simpler if sufferers of autism such as DOOMascus simply moved to the Congo and got raped and murdered.

Most of Europe got to develop it's transparent, rule of law respecting institutions while having open borders outlets in the form of the Americas (the US in particular). US institutions weren't destroyed by huge influxes of low-skilled workers from authoritarian regimes. And those Europeans countries managed to develop pretty well while having large numbers of their people leave. Indeed Europe's worst period of totalitarianism happened right when the moving to America option was mostly cut off (I don't think this was causative probably, both likely had their roots in the increasing statism arising post-WW1, but it's hard to find an actual instance of open borders causing a regime like Stalin, Franco, or Hitler).

So what we're really saying is that Westerners got to develop their institutions while giving people an outlet to more stable and prosperous places, but everyone else is stuck with the work but doesn't get the escape.

What completely bass-ackward reasoning. "Open borders" means Europe allowing egress for colonists and conquistadors? How did the native Americans fare under this "open borders" arrangement?

Upon reflection, American institutions would benefit if we shipped a good deal of our population to Canada.

Rule of law in Europe is a bit older than you think.

How poor was China in 1979? So poor, that Deng laughingly offered Jimmy Carter 50 million Chinese immigrants.

The Chinese took responsibility for their own country and greatly raised their standards of living. The improvement in Chinese living standards alone dwarfs all the beneficial impacts of immigration.

Other countries have also made sizable progress.

China is an interesting example. Granted it did increase its economic development but at a heavy cost both to its environment (and to others, Chinese pollution is in the air on the US West coast) . Also the Chinese economic miracle also happened in part by harming other peoples economies, causing significant job loss to other countries with all the attendant social problems that causes.

In some sense China go to a larger economy but got little of the social capital along the way.

Its pretty much a reflection of the same thing mass immigration causes, short term economic growth with heavy social costs and little values assimilation. People after all are not widgets and human capital is not interchangeable. Different peoples and things are well different

Now certainly if all you care about is economic development globalism could be a good thing if the developing countries got rule of law , not that that is assured but other things like culture, social capital, tradition and the happiness and well being of fellow nationals matter much more.

And in case someone asks what about x,y,z group of people in the 3rd world. They have to fix their own affairs as we have no reciprocal obligations to each other nor do I have evidence that such obligations are beneficial to me or even possible under honorable circumstances,

On the larger scale as I see it the truth there is little downside to homogeneity worth worrying about

Admittedly it can get a a little sclerotic politically (think Japan) but certainly not much more so than heterogeneous or fractured political systems. And sure on whole its not as exciting for for the stimulus craving Liberals (and Libertarians) or foodies its a measurably better quality of life for the existing people in it. Speaking from experience and from living in a more homogeneous nation with high social capital as versus say today’s mess California, in social context most everything was better for the vast majority. I won't make the argument that everyone benefited but I can't see how say poor Blacks benefit from mass Hispanic or Asian immigration or really anyone does outside some upper tiers of the economic sphere.

I always felt kind of ambivalent about unfettered mass immigration but the comments against seem more considered and logical (and numerous) than the comments that support it. Although the arguments that paint Tyler as someone who is completely for it are wrong. He says he is in the middle, reread his initial post.

To the people that support mass immigration or open borders, can you please state your arguments for it? Please refrain from just saying the other side is racist or hateful or whatever.

So much of this thread is a waste of time, because the number of people who favor total unfettered immigration (so called open borders) and the number of people who are racists and/or oppose all immigration is pretty small. Sure anyone who leans either way gets tarred as 'self hating/suicidal' or 'racist' or whatever.

The real productive debate is how much immigration should we have, and what kind. It's not zero, and it's not let 'em all in. Other countries are able to figure this out in a mature, constructive way. Not us.

Frankly this problem plagues most of the current debates in this country, lack of nuance and moderation and good faith debate. It always devolves to straw men and name calling and extremism.

Or maybe that's just the internet.

The moral high ground? What is this,1273?

Neither Bryan nor Steve has the moral high ground because among people who don't believe that God has given Man intelligible orders (>80 MR readers, I'd wager) there is no Right, only preference.

Philosophers have tried to for centuries to establish Right without God and from Kant to Singer and Rawls, they've all failed miserably. Philanthropists have no moral high ground over cannibals (though both rational self interest and irrational gut feeling make me prefer philanthropists).

An argument that something is right because it is Right is not worth reading, which is why so much of Bryan's is of no interest whatever.


Pointing out factual truths isn't trolling.

Trying to shut down argument by asserting that your preferences, whatever they be, are either the will of a supreme being or morally correct by natural law is trolling.

Virtue is an appealing concept to those who find it appealing. Those who do not, shouldn't waste their time on it. A good advocate can make the point both ways. Luckily for us, the case for open immigration has been justified on all kinds of moral, practical, and economic grounds. Take whichever arguments you like, there is no need to settle on just one.

Some people refuse to eat shrimp for religious reasons. I personally dislike the taste. I don't care whether my dinner host chooses to serve chicken for religious reasons or because she agrees with me that shrimp taste gross. I don't even care if my host chooses to serve shrimp and lets me opt out. So long as I don't have to eat shrimp, why should I care?

Package deal fallacies abound.

I agree entirely that immigration can be argued on all sorts of grounds, factual, logical and emotional.

Arguing morals, though, isn't an argument at all. It's an attempt to shut down argument by claiming to be Right.

Now, it is possible that there is a Right, either discerned or flat-out created by God. But virtually no one here believes that the Almighty (if he exists) has revealed His will to man and philosophers have yet to establish any secular way to discern Right (if it exists at all).

Thus, it is lazy at best for people here to argue about what is "right" rather than "what I have a preference for," and, at worst, a cynical attempt to trick others into sharing preferences that don't benefit them. (It is, however, easy to fall into being lazy, says the guy who just tossed "at best" and "at worst" into an argument about morals not existing.)

The moral case only shuts down the argument if you have no moral rejoinder. People can discuss morality, in fact they do it all the time. It's a healthy and clarifying level of discussion. I'm sorry if the moral case I might make in support of open borders makes you feel bad, but it might still be worth discussing, anyway. In fact, I might argue that the fact that it makes you feel bad is a good indication that it's worth probing more deeply. Why are moral discussions off-limits? I don't get it.

Is that a US national park you're in, Ryan? Plenty of space for cheap housing for immigrants there. Why should affluent white people and aspiring Renaissance men enjoy low population density when there are all sorts of moral, practical and economic reasons to fill the place up with the world's less fortunate.

I don't understand your point, except to possibly make me feel uneasy about the fact that you have linked to my public social media profile? Yes, unlike you, I readily attach my real name to my real thoughts. Open borders advocates are frequently denounced as "intellectually dishonest," but I seldom see bloggers like yourself ready to attach a real name to your views. Steve Sailer is the only one of note, and he is to be commended for his candor.

I'm hardly affluent, but I am happy to live in a place like Texas that has plenty of open space available for sale. Making that property available to immigrants as well as domestics would be a boon to the local economy, as well as the local culture. It is, after all, the same reason New Yorkers and Californians also like to move to Texas. I don't see any reason to treat a New Zealander any different than a New Yorker. That's what a lenient immigration policy is all about.

Do you see any reason to treat a Somali, or a Chechen, any differently than a New Yorker? Settling a few ten millions of them in Texas would certainly increase GDP and your new Americans would be free to pursue their way of life without interference from French marines or Russian tanks.

He didn't ask you about "open space" in Texas, he asked you about open space in national parks. Being a longtime resident of Texas, much of the open space there is much less desireable real estate than the median national park. And right now that space is just being used as a recreation area for white people with incomes an order of magnitude higher than the global average, to say nothing of the global bottom 10%. If a Sudanese laborer thinks he can increase his wealth by the cost of transportation +1 by moving into Yosemite, you're violating his rights by preventing him from doing so, and wasting resources on paying the Park Service to boot.

Expressing certain opinions on social media networks under your real name is silly; they'll just close your account (although I admit I don't know about Google+ on this). Likewise it's great that you don't hold any views that would get you blacklisted from your profession, but some who do feel that anonymity is an acceptable compromise between unemployment and total submission to the views of their employers.

"rights" article: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2009/04/is_there_a_righ.html

ivvenalis - Forgive me, I'm having trouble following along. What it sounds like you're doing is another package-deal fallacy: If I support free movement across a national border, then I am forced to support free movement across the border of a national park. No, sorry, it doesn't work that way. It is possible to favor both immigration and the existence of national parks. (Possible, but not necessary.)

And anyway, this whole population density line of discussion fails to account for diminishing marginal utility. That's the ironic thing about Anti-Gnostic's point. Open borders alleviate population density problems for the same reason that people move out of Dallas and into Abilene. Dhaka is over-crowded precisely because its residents have nowhere else to go.

I'm having a bit of trouble following you along myself, but that sort of thing is to be expected in real disagreements I suppose.

As far as I can tell, the arguments in favor of free immigration across national borders are the same as the arguments for free immigration across national park borders. The inverse also seems to be true. If a Dhakan slum-dweller gains greater utility from moving into Yellowstone than staying in Dhaka, then he should move. All that open space!

Now that I think about it, maybe I do see the disagreement. A national park is basically meant to conserve the state of the park, which is not to say that certain concessions can't be made out of economic or other necessity e.g. ANWR drilling. But unlimited numbers of people can't just move into the park and open small businesses, otherwise the park isn't a park anymore. If you view part of the purpose of a nation as conserving the of what's inside its border, then there's obviously an analogous market to be made. If 100 million Indians move to Britain, then it's not Britain anymore.

ivvenalis - Fair enough, and I don't expect us to convince each other. Those who see their countries as cultural preserves have an incentive to prevent immigration. But as long as we're considering the national park analogy, it's worth considering that the whole point of a nature preserve is to prevent progress and development from happening. Bhutan is a great example of what happens when a nation resists the influence of outsiders. Some of us see free interaction among human beings as being a major driver of progress. Isolation does indeed preserve - are we sure preservation is the best policy?

"Being a longtime resident of Texas, much of the open space there is much less desirable real estate than the median national park."

As many country songs have pointed out, much of the scenery of Texas is best viewed through a rearview mirror.

The fact you and others like you may not understand and certainly don't operate under the assumptions of nationhood kinship or fellowship is part of the problem in communication. A great chunk of the human population finds such universalistic ideas silly or even abhorrent and that includes many of the people open borders advocates want to allow into the country.

You might be able to get away with it with a New Zealanders who shares a lot of values you do (I am assuming you are American and probably White or have a subset of those values) but it doesn't transfer outside much of the developed world. Tribalism, Nepotism , High Levels of Corruption and Authoritarianism among other unpleasant systems are the norm there and simply moving here won't make those traits go away. Situations like that don't end well when groups have a conflict of interest and trust me they will.

Also Texas isn't really water rich, there are a lot of reasons great swathes of that state are undeveloped.

A couple of other points, any economic boon is questionable. California went an massive demographic shift and low and behold the parts with high levels of immigration are in fact not doing as well as more homogeneous parts.

AB - The only reason I chose "New Zealand" is because it matched up with the phrase "New York" in an aesthetically pleasing way. It's not to be taken quite so literally - I'm happy with Malaysian and Somali immigrants, too. Distant cultures don't frighten me. This, as I stated above, is a personal choice. Nationalistic kinship may be important to you, but in answer to those concerns, I would point to the many important moral, economic, and practical benefits of open borders. It's up to you and others like you to weigh the pros and cons. The suggestion that an influx of Costa Ricans (again, it's just an example) will ruin your way of life is a strong claim that requires strong evidence.

Just on a personal aside , I work for a living and when you have to deal with people (not tourists) who can't speak English , clean up the human waste left by an "immigrant" who couldn't figure out how to use the toilet ( I saw the Cambodians enter and leave BTW) or have to throw away food maliciously damaged by peoples children from low investment cultures, here almost 100% Hispanic, or deal with the big increase in shoplifting from the same group you might find yourself wondering what they hell good immigration is doing for you. Generally its a disaster for working people, poor the middle and only benefits the elite and a small number of neo-phillic people.

For the rest of us, I can't figure out what god immigration from the 3rd world is. The strong claim is immigration is good, not the lesser claim that immigration not that good.

Now because you are xenophillic and see immigration as good and all peoples as equal (ish) you couldn't really see that Its a slow motion disaster. Cognitive blindness works both direction (xenophobes see any immigration as a threat when that not always the case) but on the whole, nowhere needs diversity and no one needs immigrants. And before you bring up the tech industry, no. There are millions of computer savvy Americans who are willing to work. We as a People are under no obligation to cater to the tech industries desire for cheaper labor. If you want to sell here, hire here,

Now on a a gentler note look at say California in 1965 as vs 2014 and tell me if the new California is better or worse. Look at the stats, look at what changed and figure for yourself that yes I was likely the influx of millions of Mexicans and others was harmful and not a good thing.

AB, I don't get it. You and Anti-Gnostic. Do you think I'm an elite? it's a weird assertion.

RP, being an elite has little to do with actual income and far more to do with being part of a world view.

These days, non elite, regular people are typically parochial todays elites elites (and it wasn't always that way ) are typically transnational.

Luckily for us, the case for open immigration has been justified on all kinds of moral, practical, and economic grounds

The economic benefit to the extant population is minimal and sensitive to common provision distributed to immigrant populations, some of the feeder countries are terribly crime ridden, and 'diversity' is something you adjust to (not something you seek out). I am fascinated whence came this idea that it was immoral for a country to guard its own borders and select applicants for admission with care.

Not seeing the economic, practical, or 'moral' benefit of open borders.

I don't see a reason to choose between guarding a border and letting a peaceful person cross it. I hate to keep hammering the package-deal thing, but it's important to reiterate that we don't have to choose between security and immigration. We can have both.

Regarding "diversity," (not sure who you're quoting, but it's not me - I didn't mention it), people like myself have a difficult time thinking in terms of that word. In my view, people are people, no matter where they come from. You can focus on the differences between us if you like, but it's important to remember that this, too, is a personal choice. Two people from opposite sides of the globe can fall deeply in love and decide they have more in common with each other than they have with the people who grew up in their childhood peer groups. Do you think these people consider their relationships "diverse," or do you think they're just in love? I guess the latter.

Happy Valentine's Day, by the way.

Save the Happys for your wife.

Okay, sure, I'll tell her you wished her. ;)

Let the Open Borders nuts build some O'Neill colonies in outer space -- at their own expense. Then they can import (into their own colonies) all those Dhakans. Or, let them go terraform Mars, or some such. No immigration into the United States, thanks, we're all full up here.

What about reproduction? If the US is full, shouldn't the US reproduce less in addition to stopping immigration?

Dan, if it weren't for immigration the US would have been at replacement or slightly lower allowing for a genteel and healthy population reduction.

A.B. Prosper,

I don't see much evidence for that. And in any case, immigration restrictionists tend to argue the exact opposite: without immigration, the US would have population growth by US citizens, immigration reduces US citizen population growth by raising costs, etc. The immigration restrictionists are inconsistent about this because they're not really concerned about population growth. It's a proxy for something else.

Dan, as to population shrinkage a source


Note here

A caveat: Race-fertility calculations in the USA are based on race of mother. One must remember that by the late 2000s, ~10% of the babies born to American White women were fathered by Nonwhite men. The American ‘White-White’ TFR would thus be ~1.65 in the late 2000s. (White-[Female-]Fertility (x) Share of those births to White fathers = 1.85* 0.9)

Assuming a 2.1 TFR rate of replacement, a population with a sustained 1.65 TFR would produce a child-generation 78.6% as large as the parent generation. This means, every three generations or so, the population is cut in half.

This would have been a good thing as in 3 generations the US sans immigration would have had a population of around 150 million (that of 1980) which would match better the automation job loss and reduce ecological strain.

Its not great for some business models but the social gains would probably have been worth the small economic costs.

A.B. Propser,

That's not evidence. The 80s until 2008 was a period of high immigration and rising home prices. Obviously fertility rates in such a period wouldn't demonstrate fertility rates without immigration. In fact, immigration restrictionists often point to such data to argue that immigration suppresses the fertility of US citizens. Like I said, the immigration restrictionists aren't really concerned about population growth per se. It's a proxy for something else.

TC, see my comment to Scoop, above, re: package-deal fallacies.

In addition: If you manage to convince more people to prefer immigration at the margins, then I'm glad you've written what you've written. But saying that Caplan's case for open borders is annoying is not a very good case against open borders, it's just a reiteration of status quo bias. Disagreeing with Caplan because his point is irritating-but-true is not a very good reason to disagree.

Glad you linked to one of my openborders.info comments in your blog post. It'll of course be obvious to most smart people who follow the link that I don't say anything remotely resembling "Caplan's point is irritating but true"; instead I point out a broader goal which I share with you (and which is often cited as primary motivation for open borders), mention that there are many ways to attempt to work toward that goal and some of them suck, and question the wisdom of elevating a probably-sucky strategy, instead of the broader goal, to "moral imperative" status. (Again, Ryan, if you really believe the strategy doesn't suck, there are countries out there which have natives willing to cooperate with you. The US just doesn't happen to be one of them right now.)

In case Ryan realizes that his link basically just demonstrates lack of reading comprehension on his part and takes it down, my comment was at http://openborders.info/blog/deport-all-troublemakers/#comment-8447 .

You're right - you didn't say "annoying but true." That comment was aimed at those who would give Caplan the moral high ground but find his arguments off-putting nonetheless.

It's not all about you, my friend. :)

I don't know a single person who holds a position like that; your mental model of most of the people who disagree with you seems to be broken. Cowen comes closer than most others do in this blog post, but he explicitly states that he thinks Caplan is "quite wrong"; in case you haven't figured it out yet, "wrong" and "true" are kind of incompatible with each other. A majority of Americans don't think Caplan has the moral high ground at all, and you can find thousands of comments on Econlog and in other places with coherent explanations of their reasons.

Meanwhile, re: "it's not all about you", let's take a look at what you wrote.


Which brings me to the topic at hand. What bothers critics of open borders, such as AnonySonic or "Christopher Chang," is not the many overwhelmingly good arguments in favor of open immigration, but simply that they find a few such arguments irritating. As Chang writes:

Asserting that open borders are a moral imperative is much more specific, and among other things, condemns everyone (including myself) who honestly believes that letting countries voluntarily set border policies achieves better outcomes for practically everyone than forcing them all open immediately as evil.

The idea that it might be completely immoral to bar immigrants from improving their lives using a means that has proven benefits to you, and minimal costs, irritates the critics because they can't respond to it. Instead, they recede into the usual send-up of abstract philosophical reasoning around property rights and the state of nature, and whether this aggregates up to the state level, and whether it implies that if we open the borders we have to disband the army and lolz, lolwut, wtf, bahaha, etc...

One of the reasons open borders advocates make such a hobby horse out of the moral case is that it is completely irrefutable. There is no good argument against the moral case. And because restrictionists understand this, they become irritated and say, "It's not fair! It's not honest! It's not reasonable!"

But of course it is. If it's fair to let refugees die in a boat thanks to border restrictions, then it's perfectly fair to condemn those who defend such practices. I won't call them evil, but I will call them misguided to the point of having questionable morals.

If they find that irritating, I can live with that.


"Not aimed at me", yet I'm the person you quote, call out by name, and transparently misinterpret. And you state that the moral case is "irrefutable" when you've never even managed to counter the arguments in the thread you explicitly chose to link to! Impressive.

I recommend starting by looking up what "type I error" and "type II error" mean. Simply knowing that real-world decisions tend to involve balancing them is enough to let one see through a very large share of political bullshit.

The "irritating-but-true" comment was directed at TC, which is obvious from both of my comments above. The rest of the information you're bringing in here pertains to a separate blog post. You should comment there, not here. Obviously, this deep into the conversation, it's impossible to craft any one sentence that addresses all sides.

I'll note that I invited you to carry this conversation on in private and you refused. Your choice.

Again, "wrong" and "true" are kind of incompatible. And your blog post introducing the "irritating" language was written *before* Tyler's, and I'm the only opponent you quoted there. You've proven your intellectual dishonesty beyond all reasonable doubt, and I can expect a lot of neutral readers to notice this, so I've achieved my main objective here. This makes it especially hilarious that the middle of your post involves a strident dismissal of accusations of intellectual dishonesty:


OpenBorders.info is one of the most comprehensive single-issue websites I have ever seen in my life. The quality of that website is the main reason I chose to respond to one of their calls for guest- and occasional-bloggers. The depth of information there is truly astounding.

What sets OpenBorders.info apart from most other websites of its kind is that it is not merely an advocacy blog. Beyond the blog, it is essentially an immigration wiki, offering moral, practical, "second-order," and country-specific arguments for immigration. The arguments covered are not merely the arguments posed by the website's bloggers; as I said, the website functions as a sort of wiki for all known arguments in favor of immigration, categorized and annotated.

But wait, there's more. In addition to the four categories of arguments in favor of open immigration, OpenBorders.info also offers five categories of arguments against open immigration: harms, more harms, harms (theoretical bases), other practical objections, and theoretical objections.

If you've been keeping score, that means the website covers objections to open borders as thoroughly or more so than it covers arguments in favor. And as well it should: understanding people's objections is an important part of effective advocacy and intellectual rigor.

So claims to the effect that open borders advocates are "deceitful" or "dishonest" ("intellectually dishonest") or that open borders advocates refuse to address the criticisms of others are not just untenable, they are preposterous.


Thou dost protest too much, methinks.

With that said, I do give Vipul and company credit for outlining more concerns than any other pro-open borders source has so far. As an astute commenter ("Unknown") on Carl Shulman's blog noted, though, many of the outlined concerns have not actually been effectively addressed: https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=18935445&postID=7846580269412774837

As for your invitation to private discussion, I already explained that my comments are written primarily for the benefit of anonymous readers. If the wisdom of that stance wasn't already clear before, it's certainly clear now; private discussion with a dishonest opponent is obviously a waste of time.

Oh yeah, Christopher. You've exposed my intellectual dishonesty to the world.

It couldn't be that we simply disagree, it must be that one of us is being dishonest.


Wow, you still haven't figured out that you should stop digging yourself into a deeper hole?

I gave you the usual benefit of the doubt during the entire openborders.info discussion, and I explicitly articulated an "agree to disagree"-type stance in my final comment. It's only after you quoted me by name on your personal blog, totally misrepresented what I was saying to attach my name to a "bad argument" against open borders while claiming that you hadn't seen a good argument (even when, again, you've failed to address the arguments in the very comment you chose to link to), then gave transparently false denials of what you had done when I unexpectedly showed up to defend myself, that I downgraded my assessment of you to "dishonest and clueless".

Since Tyler Cowen has the integrity to not delete blog comments, I am optimistic that this will do lasting damage to the overplayed rhetorical strategy of "claim the open borders folks have all the 'good' arguments, then use any excuse to dismiss the offered counterarguments"; it's easy to get away with this kind of bad faith in Internet arguments, and very rare for someone to actually incriminate themselves like you have. I'll be pointing people to this exchange for a long time to come.

Sounds like a wise investment, Christopher. Time well spent.

If anyone else runs into this, I will state for the record that this eventually triggered a major discussion on the Open Borders blog. A few takeaways:

- "High-minded but impractical" would be a fair characterization of what both Tyler and I think about the more absolutist ideas currently offered by Caplan and Tabarrok. This choice of phrase, in place of "irritating-but-true"/"annoying" would have prevented me from feeling like I was misrepresented. "Irritating-but-true" conveys a sort of intellectual inconsistency that I work very hard to avoid.

- My intuition that I should escalate this issue, because the behavior I was seeing was so strongly at odds with what I knew the Open Borders blog could be about, was sound. Looking at the last several paragraphs of his blog post, I have to say that they're even more destructively polarizing than I had previously realized. It almost looks like a parody.

- With that said, I was too quick to peg Ryan as a "100% mind-killed" argument-bot ("mind-killed" is a reference to http://lesswrong.com/lw/gw/politics_is_the_mindkiller/ ). http://rwcg.wordpress.com/2014/02/10/open-bordersers-coercive-libertarians/#comments is a recent example of Ryan engaging someone on the other side more effectively. And I believe that the conflagration I caused got him the trusted critical feedback he needed to avoid pointlessly antagonizing future discussion partners. So I'm happy to judge him with a clean slate from this point.

"The number of immigrants the United States could successfully assimilate would be larger if its K-12 schools were excellent, but they are not. "

This is purely nuts. The US K-12 system is arguably the single biggest reason that Asian immigration is exploding in this country. Hispanics, too, are coming to the country in droves for work, yes, but also because they want their kids to have better schools.

No one ever talks about the impact immigration has on our schools, both K-12 and beyond, and it's substantial. Not all of it good, either.
http://educationrealist.wordpress.com/2013/05/12/jason-richwine-and-goring-the-medias-ox/ In the last part of this essay, I describe a general process that's identical to the specific Somali one George describes.

It's not a case of "good" immigrants or "bad". Recent Chinese, Korean, and Indian immigrants, the supposedly "good" sort, bring a lot of their own educational baggage, and they certainly aren't interested in assimilating.


No one ever talks about the impact immigration has on our schools? Goodness, do they ever stop talking about it?

I have a brilliant solution to the immigration problem, end public schooling.

And by libertarian standards it is a brilliant solution.

Taking exception to the quality of primary and secondary schooling is 'purely nuts'????

No, assuming that you can "immigrant-proof" a public school system is nuts. That is, you can't retain excellent schools in order to assimilate immigrants since immigrants make schooling that much more difficult.

Or, it's not the educational quality of the school system that aids in assimilation, as our school system is as good as education any give group as their native country, or better, according to PISA scores.

Well, the quality of primary and secondary schooling is quite good in this country. It's our expectations that are idiotic.

However, what is "purely nuts" is the assertion that our educational system is preventing more immigration, when in fact our K-12 educational system is a huge draw for Asians, Hispanics, and probably Africans.

Well, the quality of primary and secondary schooling is quite good in this country. It’s our expectations that are idiotic.

Let go of my leg.

Your leg's sitting there all by its lonesome, an isolation it undoubtedly richly deserves.

We could do better, but only by lowering expectations and demands for most people. And then "better" wouldn't be a whole lot better.


We could do better, but only by lowering expectations and demands for most people.

That's a bizarre non sequitur.

It's a common non sequitur in public education.
Expect less of me and I'll rate higher in your evaluations.
That's the teachers, not the students.

But I'm not going to click links to see how ER meant it.

Not all of it good, either. Talk about rioting in understatement.

How do you define "assimilation"? I believe Asians have among the highest intermarriage rates in the US.

I do find myself baffled by the claim that the costs of restricting immigration are higher than not doing so in the light of Robert Putnam's strong finding that diversity undermines a community's sense of shared values, it's level of participation in community activities, etc.

How do you possibly get around that result, which couldn't more clearly demonstrate a major downside of immigration?

Do the findings of social science mean nothing?

That largely depends on how the "costs" and "benefits" are conceived.

Someone from a libertarian economics perspective might argue that "community" values and participation inhibit market mechanisms that could replace them and provide more overall economic production and "utility".

What's all this then?

Citizenism? Immigration? I'm already late for my $11/hour job as a diesel mechanic. No time to think about this stuff.

Tut-tut. that's still 10$/hour more than most of the world now, isn't it? So clearly there's room for more competition from immigrants hungry for a better life and thirsty for freedom.

Mr. Caplan is an academic hillbilly. He shows his ignorance of the nature of humans. Yeah, new flash. Genetics, biology, neurobiology-- all that stuff actually counts. Groups of people are different, so different, in fact, that they would do well not to live with or among each other unless they welcome a chaotic, even violent society.

You, Mr. Cowan are just a bit less hillbilly-ish as your,
" I would say Bryan has the moral high ground but not a practicable proposal" suggests.

In what way is wanting to live with people with whom you get along, with whom you share beliefs and value systems (a situation which results in a relatively high trust, orderly society) NOT the "moral high ground"? In what way is promoting situations, forcing people who do not share such beliefs and value systems to live with and among one another "the moral high ground"?

How in the world, why in the world would you concede the "moral high ground" to Mr. Caplan? By reflex? Has the small, small world in which you live YOUR daily life, surrounded by the people with whom you live and work, conditioned you as Pavlov's dog to simply respond that way? "Moral high ground," my azzzzz.

I suspect not only do you and he not live in the real world but that you've never spent more than a few hours in it at any one time in any country to say such a thing, much less believe such a thing.

How much of this Caplanian and Cowenian thinking that immigration as unmitigated good is really just the application of lessons drawn from the last war their tribe was seriously involved in, i.e. WWII? Jews are just as guilty of preparing for the last war as most militaries have been throughout history.

The lessons that appear to have been drawn from WWII by certain Jews and seemingly adopted by others without much thought are the following:
1) White people cannot be trusted to live in populations without other races, lest they spontaneously turn into Nazis and want to murder us.
2) Capable white people are the worst kind of white people because they make the most formidable enemy when aroused.
3) Because 1 and 2, we must do everything we can to encourage immigration of other races, especially of the more incompetent types, and have them breed with whites, which includes crushing opposition to this in whatever way we can.
4) It is also necessary for white countries to allow immigration in case the Nazis rise to power again, so that they can accept Jewish immigrants fleeing persecution. However, we don't want us specifically identified in the legislation, so it is necessary to have open immigration for all so that the 0.1% of the world's population we actually care about can move freely.

This is the sort of thinking derived from an understandably highly emotional mindset ("never again!"), but one that has not really examined the situation that well. This thinking is not nuanced and it is not logical when examined closely. First, it ignores the issue that Hitler did not come to power in a vacuum, that Jews did play a very large part in the fomenting of Communist revolution around the world at the time (which was not in the interest of their populations despite the propaganda), agitation for such revolution in Germany, and the impoverishment of Germany at the time due to what happened in WWI and the aftermath. It would have been better to avoid such a war in the first place I would think. Pre-WWI Europe was not a bad place for Jews at all in the scheme of things.

Secondly, it ignores the fact that most of Jewish history for quite a long time (hundreds to thousands of years) has been that of living within a European host for which they are best adapted, and that in many cases they have lived in certain countries for long, long periods of time (e.g. hundreds to thousands of years) without pogroms. In those host countries (e.g. Britain and the greater Anglosphere, most likely others), they have had a relationship with the host that has worked well and could be expected to work well into the future if nothing was done to significantly upset the host (like advocating for massive, host-destroying immigration). Why screw up a good thing? Why create the ill-feeling when there is no great benefit to be derived? We saved your asses in WWII and the thanks we get is race replacement.

Stay classy, king

If I were Jewish and inclined in any way to feel insecure in America, that would super reassure me.

I think it would be splendid if the most privileged and chauvinistic ethnic group in America felt pretty insecure about its present position.

I am a Judeophile gentile. The Jews are massive contributors to the world, because they have policed their own borders. The same can be said to a lesser extent of Brits, Germans, Japanese and Armenians.

There are two possible outcomes to the world proposed by Caplan.

1). A mixed race society like Brazil or India with a GINI coefficient from hell.

2). A vast mush of mediocrity.

Tyler's piece is pretty good, but like most discussions of this issue, it ignores or obscures the most fundamental aspect of this issue: the reality of ethno-nationalism and racialism in human nature. The contemporary moral zeitgeist has made this reality a taboo topic, hence it's never discussed openly and honestly. There are a whole host of euphemisms and side issues that are brought up instead as a way of talking around and past this reality.

The fact of the matter is that ethno-nationalist and racialist feeling are real. People simply can't identify with people that are ethnically and racially different like they can with those that are similar. And they can't view and treat people that are more ethnically and racially different as objectively, fairly, and equally as they can view and treat those that are more ethnically and racially similar. People tend to prefer and favor people who are more ethnically and racially similar, and they tend to judge those who are more ethnically and racially different more harshly and to a higher standard. People tend to view those who are more ethnically and racially dissimilar as outside their moral community and less trustworthy. These tendencies obtain even for people who consciously assent to impartiality, such as the "cosmopolitanites" as Tyler calls them. Revealed preferences as well as studies examining unconscious bias show this.

Real life is zero sum or is turning that way (Google your favorite resourced and add the work peak) and as such being territorial and preserving what I see to be a good society is important.

Its not at all the same as racialism. I can understand that people though different are still people . Over my life . I've met many people from around the world and worked with them . For many I wish them well. That does not mean I want them on my land though and while I support their rights as peoples and to have their own customs and lands I expect the same of them .

"My land" obviously doesn't just refer to the piece of land you might possess title to. It refers to a wider space that's shared by those with a shared identity, and shared identity invariably involves ethnicity and race.

Of course. I apologize if that was not clear.

There is however a huge difference between hatred and looking our for ones fellows. The former, especially for someone who doesn't know a given people is wasteful of effort and aside from increasing in group bonding or creating a premise to take territory serves little use. The later is just common sense, identity is crucial to most peoples experience and well being whatever group they belong to. Its so crucial that dysfunctional groups form gangs to make up for the loss. Give someone of any ethnic group a sense of being part of a folk and one major part their life will be better.

Now clearly there are people, perhaps rootless who cannot see themselves as part of a kindred or a group. That's fine, maybe they can get some land for themselves and live according to their customs. They should not however expect me to live by theirs or to practice theirs on the land I and my kindred claim. Their liberty and the liberty they want for others takes away my freedom to be under my own customs and that’s a problem.

As for race, its most of what makes a kindred but the US as proposition nation a perfected Europe plus others might have been possible in time had we minded immigration. We did not and now we'll reap the consequences, Its sad, I'd have liked that nation to occur but instead we'll fracture, hopefully without violence.

I said in my original comment that this is fundamentally about ethno-nationalism and racialism, and you seem to agree, so I'm not exactly sure what you're objecting to.

This article is babble and I see no signs any commenters here actually get the problem or agenda.
Number One --immigration is more about global 'leveling' of the world's workforces, it works to the benefit of what is now a global economy in the hands of Elites and Multi National corporations if they can keep all the world workers at more or less the same status.
Number Two-- Assimilation is not what it use to be. Look at any country, particulary the US, and you can see that instead of assimilation you have governments that cant balance the 'common good' because politics is now about governing by pandering to ethnic 'niches' as well as elite financial interest.
Its not going to work. Human nature is what its always been and as such the competition and jealousies between groups 'within a nation when the nations government leans too far one way in favor or disfavor of a group means a blow-up eventually.
Consult world history. The patterns of the results of excess for or against a nations majority repeat and repeat.

You're giving Mr. Caplan far more attention and discussion than he merits. He is a termite. His prescriptions are obviously clueless, reality-devoid, deeply ignorant posturing for status in a cultural milieu dominated by Frankfurt School putrefaction and excrement.

I have a question for any citizenists. Does use of a Rawlsian veil of ignorance change your views? As a thought experiment, if you knew you were to be born somewhere in the world but didn't know where, would it change your view of the optimum US immigration policy?

I also have a question for Tyler or anyone who advocates limited immigration. Who should the places be allocated to optimally? Should it be the most needy, like Syrian refugees perhaps, or the most qualified like PhD's? Or perhaps should the places be auctioned? What is the best policy here?

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