Matt Yglesias on Tyler Cowen

Which is to say that while Cowen’s point about the global picture is both interesting and correct, his political stance is backwards. It’s not fans of Capital in the 21st Century who are pushing nationalism as an alternative to plutocracy, but its detractors. And though the recent politics in the US Congress have been driven by the somewhat odd sequence of events around the arrival of unaccompanied minors from Central America, the underlying pattern runs much deeper than that.

I don’t have an “he says exactly that” quotation to pull from Matt’s piece, but I believe he is saying I (or someone?) should be a Progressive instead of a “conservative economist” as he calls me.  The article is interesting throughout.

My framing of course is different.  It is not about who are the best people, but rather which are the best set of positions.  Just to summarize, I generally favor much more immigration but not open borders, I am a liberal on most but not all social issues, and I am market-oriented on economic issues.  On most current foreign policy issues I am genuinely agnostic as to what exactly we should do but skeptical that we are doing the right thing at the moment.  I don’t like voting for either party or for third parties.


From "Examining the Terrorist Threat from America's Southern Border"

"Clearly, illegal immigration flows are shifting from Arizona and California to Texas. In fiscal year 2013 (all Border Patrol data is recorded by fiscal year), the Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol sector surpassed Tucson as the leading sector for the number of apprehensions (154,453 in Rio Grande Valley versus 120,939 for Tucson). Also, between fiscal years 2011 and 2013, the number of Border Patrol determined "other than Mexicans" -- mostly Central Americans -- apprehended by the Rio Grande Valley sector increased by more than 360 percent, from 20,890 to 96,829. (By comparison, the Tucson sector apprehended 19,847 "other than Mexicans" in 2013.) Significantly, minors constituted a large percentage of the "other than Mexicans" apprehended in the Rio Grande Valley in 2013: 21,553 (compared to 9,070 in Tucson sector). However, the majority (84 percent) of those labeled Unaccompanied Alien Children by the Border Patrol are teenage minors and not younger children."

We are not talking about children in the usual sense of the word. 84% of teenagers and crime fell in Central America from 2011 to 2013 (at lot actually in some countries).

Another quote

"Of course, apprehension statistics are not an accurate count of total immigration and do not account for those who cross without being caught, and the statistics are also slightly skewed by the fact that Unaccompanied Alien Minors are far more likely to surrender to authorities rather than attempt to avoid them. In 2011, the Border Patrol apprehended 4,059 unaccompanied children; by 2013 that number had reached 38,759. Year to date, the Border Patrol has apprehended more than 46,000 unaccompanied children and estimates it will apprehend around 60,000 total in 2014. Still, overall, the Border Patrol will apprehend and process hundreds of thousands fewer people this year than it did each fiscal year from 1976 until 2010."

From 2011 to 2013 UACs went from 4,059 to 38,759. Crime in the region fall. What actually happened? Obama's DACA Amnesty.

In case anyone is wondering, the authors found little evidence of a significant terrorist threat.

You're 9 times more likely to be killed by a cop in the US than by a terrorist, by the government's own official and authoritative estimates.


"You’re 9 times more likely to be killed by a cop in the US than by a terrorist, by the government’s own official and authoritative estimates"

So why do people fear terrorism so much? Because a single terrorist act (the killing of Archduke Ferdinand) can lead to a global conflagration. The North Korean sinking of the Cheonan only killed 46 sailors. Why was it treated as major global event? Because of the risk of it triggering a massive war. If MH-17 had crashed because of pilot error or a mechanical malfunction, it would be tragedy. Because it was an act of war, it is threat to global stability.

By the way, your statistic is an average that includes lots of folks with "high-risk lifestyles" (bank robbers, drug dealers, etc.). For ordinary folks the odds are probably reversed. To date, terrorists have killed one friend of mine (Lockerbie), tried to kill a family member (Berlin), and killed friends of friends (WTC). The police haven't killed anyone I know. Selection bias to be sure.

Wouldn't be a stretch to say working at the WTC was a relatively high risk lifestyle, considering that it had already been bombed by terrorists. If you're only counting 'ordinary Americans' in your assessment of risk of being killed by a cop, only count 'ordinary Americans' who don't fly constantly or work in buildings that terrorists specifically want to blow up.


The risk of being killed by a police officer in the United States is very low.

"The FBI data shows that between 1980 and 2008, there was a slight decline in the total number of justifiable homicides by law enforcement officers (Table 1). From 1980 to 1984, the average annual number was 395 such homicides, whereas for 2005 to 2008, the average number was 374. This was a 5% decrease in the total number of these justifiable homicides."

Read the actual list of justifiable homicides for a typical month (,_January_2013)

Other than some domestic violence cases, it's all drug dealers, robbers, etc.

I agree Peter, that the risk is low. But it's not all drug dealers and violent people. A homicide commited by a cop can be justifiable even if the victim was just holding a toy gun, or drunk and belligerent. It happens to decent people. I'm not saying this as theory but based on actual homicides that have occured.

You are certainly more likely to be killed by cops in America than by terrorists if you are a dog- puppycide.

Working in New York is certainly a high risk endeavor. There are many places where terrorists could reach you. An attack was foiled at Times Square, for example. It is also America's most populous city.

Pearls before swine.

"Because a single terrorist act (the killing of Archduke Ferdinand) can lead to a global conflagration."

Don't put too much emphasis on the assassination--it was one of a string of crises and smaller wars in the 1900's that could easily have sparked the Great War (Bosnian Cris,Tangier Crisis, Agadir Crisis, 1st Balkan War, 2nd Balkan War, etc.).


Of course, that's true. The assassination was just the spark that set Europe aflame and burned the world. The tinder had been accumulating for decades. However, incidents matter. Pancho Villa engaged in several acts of terrorism against the U.S. in 1916. The U.S. responded by invading Mexico with 5,000 troops. 9-11 triggered significant wars. You can easily argue that Bush wanted to invade Iraq and was looking for a pretext. 9-11 provided it. It is unlikely that either Bush or Gore would have invaded Afghanistan barring 9-11. After 9-11 both would have.

Well arrest that cop instantly, he's obviously a menace.


Exactly how many black or Latino men (not involved in DV, drugs, robbery, etc.) do you think are killed by the police each year? Each case makes national news, so that actual number can't be very high. However, you are certainly correct in estimating that the odds of being killed by the police (innocently) are higher than terrorism. Say the police kill 400 people a year in justifiable homicide incidents (a little bit high). Say half are black or Latino. That's 200 per year. Say just 1% are innocent. That's 2 per year. After 9-11, 30 Americans were killed by terrorists in the years up to 2011. That's just 3 a year. Of course, not all of the 3 were black or Latino. Say 25% were. That's just 0.75 black and Latino deaths per year versus 2 for the police.

Of course, all of my percentages are just guesses. But you see the point. Terrorism is so rare (since 9-11) that even a negligible rate of police killings (of innocent people) yields are greater death toll. Both are extremely rare.

There is actually a deeper and sadder story here. Overall, police justifiable homicides are slowly declining overall. However, a subclass is rising. See "Justifiable Homicides by Law Enforcement Officers What is the Role of Mental Illness?" ( Quotes

"Although the total number of justifiable homicides decreased by 5% between 1980 and 2008, those resulting from an attack on a law enforcement officer increased by 67%, from an average of 153 to 255 such homicides per year."

"Studies suggest that approximately one-third of the shootings by law enforcement officers results from the victim attempting to commit “suicide-by-cop.”"

My small town has seen two cases (roughly) along these lines The first was an armed bank robber chased by police cars. The robber stopped his car, drew his weapon and aimed it at the police. They shot and killed him. The robber did not fire. Probably, “suicide-by-cop”. The second case was a man who called the police and said he was going to kill himself if they didn't show up. They did and he opened fire on them. He was killed. Once again, a likely "suicide-by-cop". The second one was a block or two from my house.

Nonsense. If I were a black or Latino man between 18-32 years of age, then I would be more likely to be killed by a policeman, whether or not I was involved in a crime. If I were white man with a gun, say, holding up a liquor store, then my odds of being shot by a policeman would be pretty high. But as an average suburbanite, the odds of being shot by a policeman are very low.

On the other hand, I lost three classmates in the World Trade Center attacks.


See above. Meant for you.

So. Fans of Piketty are [fill in the blank]..

...economic illiterates.

.... extremely unlikely to have read the book.


[model Soviet citizens!]

[Believers in preventing AGW at all costs, including dictatorship]
[Believers that minorities can't be racist]
[Believers that Affirmative Action does not discriminate against whites, males, and asians]
[Believers that unlimited government spending can only be a good thing]
[Non-believers in absolute truth]
[strongly correlated with unhinged lunatics]

Fans of Piketty are [insert your priors here].

This set of posts/tweets best shows why I much prefer reading here than almost anywhere else: the folks at MR (commenters included) are much less about "us" beating "them." MY's writing is just dripping with "here's how you can become one of us good people." I much prefer the humility here.

"I much prefer the humility here."


Everything's relative. There are some specific discrete topics which always lead to boring, repetitive comments, but on the whole MR has good comments, relative to the rest of the internet.

As to Yglesias, it's obvious that he starts as a political partisan and backs his way into his economic theories based on which theory best fits his preexisting political beliefs. (Don't we all! True, but Yglesias is a particularly bad example). He has more interesting things to say when he's not talking about the pet political topic du jour.

"the folks at MR (commenters included) are much less about “us” beating “them.”"

LOL. Oh, my belly aches...

dont read too many blogs. others must be truly dismal then.

Yep. And for every bad blogger elsewhere, there is a thousand knuckledragging commenters.

Well done. At first I thought you were not joking.

As a free market capitalist and pragmatist ,yeah, I'm kinda the same way . I support more high tech immigration because it will help the economy, in addition to immigration reform and securing the borders. The problem is the left wants more overpaid jobs, provided only they can have them. In a free market, anyone who is qualified should get the job at a wage set by the market.

Let's hear it for Tyler Cowen. We just took 12 G'town Univ students to Shanghai and Chengdu, the latter at Sichuan Univ. All delighted for guidance from TC on where to get local chow. He lectured here on the Hilltop what seems like years ago: Tyler, we need you back.

"Dr. McGreevey has worked in more than seventy countries."

Middle brow or not?

From Yglesias

"The moral math whereby this policy becomes more attractive than the win/win/win alternative of broadly freer movement of people paired with progressive taxation and more provision of public services has always escaped me somewhat. It appears to involve putting a negative value on the interests of foreign-born people. But it is a real movement. But it's a movement on the right of politics in the United States and other English-speaking countries. Progressives, rightly, see no need to chose between equality and cosmopolitanism."

The notion that some win/win/win future exists with Open Borders is absurd. A great life for Dalton School graduates. Misery for the rest. Let me quote from "Gail the Teacher". She is writing to denounce Bryan Caplan, but just substitute Yglesias and you get the idea.

"Let me guess: you don't(nor have you ever)lived in a community, a neighborhood, in which open borders has resulted in welfare lines at the HHS building two miles away, with anchor baby mothers and their little ones being served your tax dollars. You haven't waited in a doctor's office while MediCal patients, armed with their anchor babies, sit five to a row, a mother with four kids (each child about 14 months apart--oh, and btw, not all the kids are actually "anchor" children...maybe only one or two were born here but in your open borders world it's a moot point anyway). You haven't stood in the line at Food-4-Less, trying to save a few bucks on your families' grocery bill while the open borders crowds in front of you pay the bill with food stamps and merrily walk out, only to find a dent they left in your car door. (Funny how they have no appreciation of MY car). Let me guess: you're thinking, "What a small-minded person, worrying about such little things while I, Caplan the Economist, think of the large ideas of life, the trivial daily problems of regular ole working Americans and their families be damned.")

You haven't had the principal tell you that because he needs an extra teacher for the new ESL section he's opened, he's pulling out one of your colleagues from the English Department, leaving 37 kids from her former class to be absorbed by the four other sections of the course; thus, you've not been told to be ready the next day to receive your "share" of the change.

You haven't had meeting after meeting to determine some way, ANY way, to encourage the Open Border kids and their parents to learn English, to see to it homework is done--or at least attempted-- and most importantly, to see to it they don't remove their kids from school for five weeks around Christmas and ten days around Easter. ("How is it 'poor people' find the money for all that gas or airfare," you never have to wonder.)

You don't ever get to see first hand, do you, Bryan, that there are indeed peoples and cultures that don't want to live the "American Dream" as YOU understand that dream, which includes an education and a grasp of at least the basics of such an education?

Nor do you understand that there are people who don't wish to assimilate, do you? Nor do you need to ponder why they should when the border is open, when they can cross it any time they wish, and when their real home, the home of the heart, is tanks of gas and a cheap plane ride away.

You do not send your children to these schools, do you, Bryan? You live in no such neighborhood, do you, Bryan? Nor would you because you know the performance of a school is really the performance of the children of that school and your children would learn next to nothing in such a school, but you don't think anything's wrong with the children of other Americans who are middle and working class sending their kids to this school, this school of kids who aren't really (oh, oh, this is probably a really sore spot with you) not_ very_ bright. No, Bryan, not bright. In fact, the occupy the lower end of the Bell. Is it any wonder they don't show an interest in school? How does one learn algebra, how does one care about algebra with an IQ of 87 or so when multiplication tables are difficult enough?

Indulge in all the intellectualism you wish. It changes nothing. You are intellectually dishonest, and face it, a hypocrite. Or, surprise me by having a new baby, moving to a community like the one I've described, living in the neighborhood, and sending your son or daughter to the neighborhood school there."

Caplan would bite the bullet that open borders hurts poor Americans living in areas with high immigration, but he thinks that's okay because it is a net benefit to the world since it helps immigrants and non-poor Americans more than it hurts poor Americans.

The idea that immigration helps non-poor Americans is actually very questionable. They get cheap servants, but they also pay higher taxes. Since the tax cost per hour of labor, for low-skill immigrants, dwarfs their entire earnings (much less they taxes they pay), they are shockingly expensive. However, the single largest impact is on the cost of education. In high immigration areas, they either have to pay for private schools or go broke trying to buy their way into a 'good school district'. No bargain either way. Quote from Megan McCardle.

"For my entire adult life, an education has been the most important thing for middle-class households. My parents spent more educating my sister and me than they spent on their house, and they’re not the only ones ... and, of course, for an increasing number of families, most of the cost of their house is actually the cost of living in a good school district. Questioning the value of a college education seems a bit like questioning the value of happiness, or fun."

What is a "good school district"?

I don't know if enough to dispute this, but Caplan would still bite the bullet and say that open borders helps poor immigrants more than it hurts Americans overall. (due to diminishing marginal returns of wealth among other things).

Immigration is not so much about "servants", which is a trivially dishonest framing, as about ensuring that all sorts of low-productivity economic activity can still take place in high-wage economies. You can't just turn off the immigrant valve and redistribute things to poor people ceteris paribus. There would be less (to redistribute, if you must) of non-tradable services (like servants, if you must, but more importantly logistics, hospitality, sanitation, etc.). But also less of tradable goods that would otherwise be offshored. I have no idea what the Bell Curve intervention is about, except that it's a telling sign of a good old-fashioned racist, one who a hundred years ago would have been advocating some very interesting medical theories.

So it's about serfs not servants glad we cleared that up.

If you think people who pick up garbage are serfs, fine. If you want to pay more for these services, fine. I distance myself from your judgements.


"as about ensuring that all sorts of low-productivity economic activity can still take place in high-wage economies"

You have heard of "markets"... But that's really the point isn't it? Higher wages and better working conditions for natives are an unbearable affront to the plutocracy. Cheap labor is a non-negotiable entitlement... Obviously. Your life depends on it.

"You can’t just turn off the immigrant valve and redistribute things to poor people"

No you can take jobs from people who are illegally present in the United States and give them to natives. That's essentially a 100% gain for America and Americans.

However, you have missed the logic of your own point. If the tax cost of "low-productivity economic activity" exceeds the net value, the "low-productivity economic activity" makes Americans poorer. You have heard of Americans?

"But also less of tradable goods that would otherwise be offshored"

Very few immigrants (legal or illegal) are working in the production of tradable goods. 100 years ago it was the other way around (natives worked disproportionately in services). Times changes. However, "low-productivity economic activity" is a losing proposition even if it does produce tradable goods. Remember health care alone costs $12 an hour and the welfare state doesn't stop with medicine.

"I have no idea what the Bell Curve intervention"

Bell Curve? Where did you come up with that one?


From "The Nation: A New Order; Imagining Life Without Illegal Immigrants"

"But while the disruption would be real, Professor Borjas argues, it would not be long lasting. As proof, he says, look no further than places like Iowa, where foreign-born residents are relatively rare, but there are people working in hotels, fast-food restaurants and all the rest. Most illegal immigrants, in fact, are concentrated in a handful of states -- California, Texas, New York, Illinois and Florida -- leaving many parts of the United States relatively untouched by the influx. Estimates by the Immigration and Naturalization Service based on the 2000 census show that 15 states accounted for all but 13 percent of illegal immigrants. If there were no undocumented workers to tend to the gardening, Californians who wanted a nice lawn would pay more for it, eventually drawing low-skilled workers from other parts of the country, Professor Borjas said, adding that American workers would be the better for it. ''The workers would be slightly wealthier and the employers would be slightly poorer, but everything would get done,'' said Professor Borjas, who used to live in California. ''I moved to Boston and the lawn is still green.''"

Higher wages for American workers... The ultimate nightmare.

"Most illegal immigrants, in fact, are concentrated in a handful of states — California, Texas, New York, Illinois and Florida — leaving many parts of the United States relatively untouched by the influx."

Boss, legal or illegal, I have never in the last 6 years in the US met a single cook/gardener/maintenance person who wasn't hispanic. Please explain who these "americans" are who are working in Iowa.


If you check, you will notice that the article was written in 2004. However, I travel the Midwest and meet plenty of cook/gardener/maintenance people who are not Hispanic. Most are white. Some are black. Even in Texas you will lots of food service people who are not Hispanic.

However, the basic point should be clear. The work always gets done. Sometimes wages are higher and people of the "wrong" color get hired, but lawns stay green and restaurants stay open. Higher wages and hiring the 'wrong' people? Unthinkable.

What is a “good school district”?

One in which most of the parents intend that their kids will go to a university and have an upper-middle class career and all the kids that your kids will hang out with are likewise focused on that objective.

Somebody should do a study of what percentage of students in English as a Second Language classes have cellphones in their pockets, and even smartphones.


"Somebody should do a study of what percentage of students in English as a Second Language classes have cellphones in their pockets, and even smartphones."

Very high and they don't buy the Apple stuff either. To a strange degree, Apple is SWPL. Type "demographics iphone android" into Google and you will see what I mean.

The dirty little secret of Apple's marketing is that the brand is beloved by middle-aged white people who like our gadgets easy to use.

Apple is preferred by people who want to control what personal info is accessible by Google / 3rd party apps.

Android effectively makes you disclose everything.

That's not a secret. That is a pretty common and obvious observation.

It might be a commonplace observation among the observant, but it certainly isn't how Apple advertises itself.

The treaty of Guadalupe Hildalgo that we signed with Mexico states that territories of New Mexico California and Arizona will forever remain bingual. English of a second language should never be a talking point


Life in the fact free zone. Go read the actual treaty ( Language is never mentioned. See also

See "About the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo" (

"In 1986, opponents of Proposition 63, which made English the official language of California, cited the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in opposition to official English. The Attorney General of California examined their claims to special linguistic rights under the Treaty and declared:

The treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo contains no mention of either Spanish or English.... An examination of the relevant provisions of the Treaty and the case law interpreting them indicates that their purpose was only to ensure that Mexican nationals residing in the ceded territories at the time of the treaty could acquire U.S. citizenship.... [The provisions] do not purport to give such persons any rights above those of other U.S. citizens.

Office of the Attorney General of California, News Advisory, October 9, 1986."


"I am a liberal on most but not all social issues."

Liberal on contraception doesn't mean "contraception should be legal" it now means "people should be forced to pay for contraception through insurance". It's hard to see where you disagree with conservatives on social issues as they currently stand.

The debate on social issues isn't about what's legal, it's about what gets subsidized.

Somehow I doubt that Tyler actually agrees with conservatives on social issues and just didn't realize it.

Notice he wrote (l)iberal, with the small (L). Liberal, in the classical sense, means supporting of liberty. It's modern connotation is almost the polar opposite.

Since your "true liberals" believe poor people should be free to die without healthcare, one can see why most people prefer the other kind of liberal. (But maybe some charitable doctor might found a hospital to heal people for no money!)

I'm here all night, people.

Perhaps I am misunderstanding the argument for the pre-Obamacare status quo, but it seemed to me a lot like "wait for a charitable doctor to heal you for no money".

Every sane person believes there is a limit on what society, through government, should (or can) spend to extend a poor person's life. We all "let people die" at some cost point.

Except in the United States, those sane people think the limiting cost point is above zero.

I believe poor people should live forever, unlike hateful Liberals.

"I believe poor people should live forever"

Pure gold. By the way, isn't that a Democrat party plank?

Odd that you picked a mostly non-contentious social issue to try to make a point.

Why contraception, which is not particularly divisive (other than the funding aspect, and then it's not a social issue) and not abortion (which is entirely a social issue)?

The debate on social issues isn’t about what’s legal, it’s about what gets subsidized

Ever greater restrictions on abortion clinics is about subsidies? Gay marriage? Gun control?

Yglesias is actually a somewhat shrewd guy. He wrote this for VOX where comments are not allowed. He didn't like the comments over at Think Progress, but the site mandated them.

Strongly agree.

'The arrival of unaccompanied minors' - Yglesias is careful to write as if this is an exogenous event and not the consequence of deliberate actions by Obama.

It's also the consequence of recent Mexican immigration reform, which is roundly ignored by the media for some reason. Mexico has greatly liberalized their immigration laws, making it much easier for people to cross their southern border.


The actual changes to Mexican immigration law aren't overwhelming. However, the new 3 day pass system basically lets anyone / everyone over Mexico's southern border on the way to the U.S. Basically, Mexico dropped any pretense of enforcement on its southern border and yes that has contributed to the flood north.

Why did they do it? Apparently to promote Open Borders further north.

Yglesias' article is mostly just partisan point scoring more that anything else. He starts out by declaring TC to be "both interesting and correct" and then goes on to associate TC with all republicans who are against on immigration and fans of Pikety as being associated with being pro immigration (conveniently ignoring how bad on immigration the current president is) None of that has anything to do with the article he links to had to say. So shorter Yglesias:

Yea, TC is correct, but my team is awesome and republicans are poo poo heads.


You are not giving Yglesias enough credit. He makes an interesting observation (for an Open Borders fanatic).

"In the United Kingdom where the transient political factors are entirely different, the ruling Conservative Party runs on a platform of Capping Welfare and Reducing Immigration. Inside the United States, a major debate has taken place inside GOP circles as to what to do after consecutive Republican Party losses in presidential elections. An initially popular idea, especially in business circles, was that the GOP should moderate its stance on immigration and seek Latino votes. This was, of course, countered by the party's most retrograde elements — the Michele Bachmanns and the Steve Kings. But more importantly, the pro-immigration impulse was also opposed by the most forward-thinking elements in American conservative politics. Douthat, David Frum, Reihan Salam, and other "reform conservatives" have positioned themselves as leading opponents of a compromise with the White House on immigration."

If he was really being honest, he would admit that they only Republicans who still favor Open Borders are the corporate, cheap labor types. That's probably asking too much from him given that he is corporate, cheap labor type.

The other type of Republican vests great moral value in purity and believes the foreigners are impure, unintelligent and dangerous, or at least worth throwing under the bus so that those who think so will reciprocally back their more quixotic conservative endeavours.


So " the most forward-thinking elements in American conservative politics. Douthat, David Frum, Reihan Salam, and other “reform conservatives"" are really obsessed with foreigners who are " impure, unintelligent and dangerous".

Who knew? Why didn't anyone tell us? We have been ignorant for so long.

Nah, they're definitely in the second category, "throw foreigners to the masses to immanentise the Pentecosto-Catholic Doutheschaton".

He isn't saying your political stance is wrong in the sense that you should be a Progressive (although I'm sure he wishes you were. ) He is saying that you framed Progessives as the political wing which is unconcerned or uninformed about changes in global inequality when in fact it is the Steve Sailer/Peter Schaeffer political wing that is unconcerned about global inequality. If Progressives are guilty of anything on this score, it is their denial of the economic realities of the (possibly) unavoidable tradeoffs between intra-national equality and international equality. They want to have it both ways and don't understand why they can't.

I am concerned about inequality. Who here has spent the last month obsessing over compressed earth blocks?

But to quote Adam Carolla, "everyone else get your shit together."

I agree. Tyler is mis-reading Matt's argument.

Matt has nothing to say about Tyler's political inclinations. Rather, Matt is arguing that Tyler's original NYT column wrongly blamed Progressives for prioritizing income equality over immigration..


The debate isn't about prioritizing global inequality vs. domestic inequality. Alleged concerns about global inequality are just a pretense and cover for a core agenda of personal, class, and political profit from Open Borders. Don't believe me?

How many progressive advocates of Open Borders, have ever even hinted that half of the Federal Budget ($1.9 trillion) should be sent abroad to help poor people in poor countries? Given the marginal value of a dollar here vs. Africa or Latin America, it's obvious that a radical redistribution of Federal spending would aid desperately poor people outside the U.S. enormously. It would also greatly diminish global inequality.

How about doubling class sizes in the U.S. and sending the savings abroad for education in poor countries? Why not? It would both raise utility a lot and reduce global inequality (in education if nothing else). Of course, America's own children and poor people might suffer a bit... However, if global inequality is the priority, it's obvious that my "modest proposal" is a moral and ethical imperative.

So why isn't Yglesias beating the drum for this vision of how to alleviate human suffering and enhance global education? Because impoverished Americans would suffer? Clearly not. He doesn't have any problem selling them down the river with Open Borders.

Why then? Because he is a cosmopolitan enthralled with some notion of a borderless world. Of course, cheap servants, cheap votes, and a vast new clientele for the welfare state (and the warfare state) aren't to be laughed at either. Yglesias is just the last in a long line of left-wing elitists dripping with contempt for ordinary Americans. Poor immigrants are just tool for bashing middle-America. Global inequality is a thin pretense.

Why is it clear that "the biggest inequalities are those across borders" so a laxer attitude toward immigration "should be the number one priority for anyone concerned about income inequality."?

Someone concerned about the effects of inequality might be worried about
1) Low overall standards of living among the poorest
2) Changing economic parity between the richest and the poorest.
3) Changing political parity between the richest and the poorest

Assume, all things being equal, that mass unskilled immigration lowers wages for unskilled work in the US, but raises wages for the unskilled workers that have moved from a poorer country to a richer one.

Going by the three criteria:
1) The standard of living for the poorest in the US goes down on an absolute scale.
2) Because of this, economic parity for current citizens decreases.
3) If the new citizens feel like they owe a favor to the (rich) people who let them in, political parity for current citizens decreases.

Offsetting these is
1) Economic parity between the poorest in the US and the poorest in other countries is decreased.

Reducing global inequality is certainly desirable if all other things are held equal, but all of the concerns in the immigration debate are about the things that aren't being held equal.

I think that Cowen is being overly theoretical about a debate which is almost entirely about the practical effects of immigration.

If global inequality is your only concern, it seems like you could get all of the good side and none of the bad side by simply exporting jobs and social benefits to the immigrants in the countries where they live currently. No need to relocate anybody, and no need to expand the voting rolls.

If that seems ridiculous, then at some level you're probably expecting benefits in the form of lower wages or a new voting block -- precisely the things that the populists are complaining about.

All your points 1, 2, and 3 only consider the wellbeing of one segment of US citizens, who are not the poorest people. People include non-Americans.

Granted, but surely US policy should be about improving the well-being of Americans so long as it doesn't infringe on the rights of others? If immigration helps immigrants at the expense of Americans then can you understand why some people would reasonably oppose it?

Let's get more extreme than open borders. Cross national redistribution. Due to the diminishing marginal returns of wealth, the world would be better off in a utilitarian sense if rich countries were forced to give a percentage of their wealth to poor countries. Yet most people would reasonably oppose this. Because most people are not utilitarians.

Alexander, sorry I don't follow the second paragraph. Could you explain? People have reasonable opposition to 'giving wealth' to poor countries because they feel it doesn't work due to corruption, not necessary because they disagree with it in principle. Also, open borders is about freedom... letting people rent or buy property to live where they want to, and to work for whoever is willing to pay them. Forced redistribution of wealth is not an 'more extreme version' of this... it's extremely different.


"Also, open borders is about freedom… letting people rent or buy property to live where they want to, and to work for whoever is willing to pay them."

Edward O. Wilson, referring to ants, once said that "Karl Marx was right, socialism works, it is just that he had the wrong species"

You have the wrong planet. On this planet, Open Borders means taxpayer exploitation and societal immiseration. Go read what 'Gail the Teacher' has to say. Take her advice

"Or, surprise me by having a new baby, moving to a community like the one I’ve described, living in the neighborhood, and sending your son or daughter to the neighborhood school there.”

Until you do, you are just pretender.

"surprise me by having a new baby, moving to a community like the one I’ve described"

Not clear why locals should be given a veto over who gets to be neighbours. Last time white people in America tried that, you did not make it work out very well for all concerned.


You need to read a bit more carefully. Gail the Teacher was writing to condemn Bryan Caplan who boasts about living in his "My Beautiful Bubble". Quote from Caplan

"Unlike many readers of Coming Apart, you don't have to convince me that I live in a Bubble. I've known it for decades. In fact, I think my 3-out-of-20 score on the "How Thick Is Your Bubble?" quiz greatly overstates my integration into American society. I live in a Bubble Within a Bubble."

"Why put so much distance between myself and the outside world? Because despite my legendary optimism, I find my society unacceptable. It is dreary, insipid, ugly, boring, wrong, and wicked. Trying to reform it is largely futile; as the Smiths tell us, "The world won't listen." Instead, I pursue the strategy that actually works: Making my small corner of the world beautiful in my eyes. If you ever meet my children or see my office, you'll know what I mean."

Some people (Gail the Teacher) don't get to live (and work) in a "Beautiful Bubble". They have every right to demand that the U.S. enforce its immigration laws and keep their world livable.

If your reasons for supporting open borders are something other than utilitarianism, then ignore the second paragraph.

Freedom is not a terminal value for me. In practice I don't mind that the law infringes on the freedom of individuals when society benefits significantly. For example, people are not allowed to work for less than minimum wage. Where to draw the line is an interesting question and I have no good answers.

Alexander Stanislaw August 4, 2014 at 9:34 pm

"Freedom is not a terminal value for me. In practice I don’t mind that the law infringes on the freedom of individuals when society benefits."


Which is why I am not a libertarian.

Peter, my mention of 'freedom' was to explain my confusion with equivicating the open borders position with a UN mandated massive wealth transfer from wealthier countries to poorer countries. I don't mean to imply that the only reason for 'open borders' is 'freedom', or that the 'freedom' aspect is 'freedom for freedom's sake'.

I'm not sure your reference but it sounds like an argument from fear. I'll say that there are many neighborhoods full of Americans that you couldn't pay me to live in, including white neighborhoods. But nobody is forcing me to live in them and nobody is forcing me to live in a barrio either.

This dystopia you speak of doesn't show much in real life. Americans aren't fleeing Texas for Wyoming. Bringing up Caplan's bubble sounds like more of an ad hominem than anything.

Try to have an open mind and look at all the arguments from both sides, not just your own. I don't have a solid opinion either way at this point, except that status quo bias is strong in politics... and that people fear change, and can think rather selfishly if they feel that their future is at any risk.

Travel a little... meet people in really poor countries, and ask yourself if they shouldn't be allowed to migrate to a country that has an average life expectancy 30 years greater than theirs. Talk to the people who have had family die from relatively trivial medical issues that are easily treated/prevented in the USA. You don't have to give a shit about humanity, but it doesn't hurt to try, instead of caring only about your own property tax rate.


In real life I have traveled the world. Not all of it of course. But I have racked up a large fraction of 1 million frequent flyer miles (perhaps more than 1 million actually).

"I’m not sure your reference but it sounds like an argument from fear. I’ll say that there are many neighborhoods full of Americans that you couldn’t pay me to live in, including white neighborhoods. But nobody is forcing me to live in them and nobody is forcing me to live in a barrio either."

There are two points here. First, is that not everyone has such easy choices about where to live and the consequences. However, the second one is more important. No one can escape the consequences of what their society becomes. Crime, taxes, poverty, prosperity, discrimination, prices, wages, etc. reach all of us. Immigration materially impacts all of these which makes it a rather significant issue.

"This dystopia you speak of doesn’t show much in real life. Americans aren’t fleeing Texas for Wyoming. Bringing up Caplan’s bubble sounds like more of an ad hominem than anything."

In real life, natives have been fleeing high immigration areas for a long time. Note that Open Borders ideology says that immigrants are complementary and should be attracting natives. The reality is the other way around. However, if you need evidence of imported dystopia, it's easy to find. Start with public education. However, for some real insight read.

6 + 4 = 1 Tenuous Existence
An illegal immigrant couple with six children were already living in poverty. Then the quadruplets arrived. They're still in a daze.,0,4751217.story?


"What we weren't able to do in many years in California," Alejandra said, "we've done quickly here. We're in a state where there's nothing but Americans. The police control the streets. It's clean, no gangs. California now resembles Mexico — everyone thinks like in Mexico. California's broken." - Since Open Borders has broken California... We should have Open Border to break the rest of the United States...

"Her sister Alejandra was the first to leave. In Los Angeles, she and her husband were barely able to make ends meet. As in Mexico, "there was little work and it's poorly paid," she said." - Clearly, Open Borders has made Los Angeles an earthly paradise.

"Eight years ago, she and her family moved to Kentucky, where a friend said there was more work and were fewer Mexican immigrants bidding down the wages for unskilled jobs."

In Lexington, she said, "at the school there are just people who speak English. It's helped my children a lot." - Fewer immigrants, more assimilation.

In Lexington, school was hard because few people spoke Spanish, and the city "barely had one Spanish radio station," Kelly said. - Perhaps we should outlaw Spanish radio?

"I said, 'Damn, that's weird,' " Kelly said. "The girls right here in Los Angeles are like in Mexico. There are girls that are 14, they got kids." - Clearly, Open Borders has made Los Angeles an earthly paradise.

The family in Kentucky "is more in the United States than" her mother, Kelly concluded. "They want a better education for the kids. With less kids there's better possibility of you having something." - If poor immigrants can recognize that Los Angeles is no longer part of America, why can't Bush?

"Neither Magdaleno nor her husband speaks English, though she has been in the United States 22 years and he 28. Even her teenage daughters speak mostly Spanish; their English vocabulary is limited." - Assimilation is really working, isn't it?

If poor immigrants can recognize that Open Borders has wrecked LA... Everyone should be able to.

"meet people in really poor countries, and ask yourself if they shouldn’t be allowed to migrate to a country that has an average life expectancy 30 years greater than theirs"

Billions of people live in poor countries. We can't solve the world's problems. We can't even solve ours.

"You don’t have to give a shit about humanity, but it doesn’t hurt to try, instead of caring only about your own property tax rate."

It should be obvious that I am not a tax-obsessed Republican.

A few closing remarks. Someone once asked me if I was personally economically harmed by immigration and to what extent. My response follows.

"I am not sure if I personally benefit or suffer from low-skill Hispanic immigration, measured in economic terms. Frankly, I have never thought about the issue that way. Since you asking, I can not claim any wages losses. I do gain from cheaper services, but also pay higher taxes. In California, the income statement would be negative. However, Texas doesn’t have an income tax, so the tax burden is presumably diminished. I would guess that I all still a net loser (of course, I pay Federal taxes).

I do not object to Hispanic immigrants. I object to high-cost, low-skill immigrants from anywhere/everywhere. Indeed, you can find a paper by Edward P. Lazear (“Mexican Assimilation in the United States") that demonstrates that United States is simply importing the wrong Mexicans. Summary quote:

“By almost any measure, immigrants from Mexico have performed worse and become assimilated more slowly than immigrants from other countries. Still, Mexico is a huge country, with many high ability people who could fare very well in the United States. Why have Mexicans done so badly? The answer is primarily immigration policy."

To be honest, no amount of money would persuade me to accept the status quo. My concern is that my children grow up in safe, stable, prosperous, and unified country. My increasing fear is that the nation they will inherit will be a giant barrio turn asunder by tightly linked fault lines of class, race, and language. Such considerations are beyond price."


"In considering our future immigration polices, and what to do about those who have violated our immigration laws, we as nation must make choices. Do we choose to be a nation of equals, a middle class nation, a nation that strives to provide the best possible wages and working conditions for its own people? A nation of thriving schools, affordable housing, personal mobility? Or do we embrace radical inequality, a nation divided by language, race, and class? A nation of impovished servants and billionare plutocrats? We know what direction the forces of greed and evil desire. We also know, that for the good of all American, including lawful immigrants, that direction must be completely rejected".

Finally let me quote from Samuel Huntington in the "The Hispanic Challenge"
March/April 2004 []

"The persistent inflow of Hispanic immigrants threatens to divide the United States into two peoples, two cultures, and two languages. Unlike past immigrant groups, Mexicans and other Latinos have not assimilated into mainstream U.S. culture, forming instead their own political and linguistic enclaves‹from Los Angeles to Miami‹and rejecting the Anglo-Protestant values that built the American dream. The United States ignores this challenge at its peril."

"Continuation of this large immigration (without improved assimilation) could divide the United States into a country of two languages and two cultures. A few stable, prosperous democracies‹such as Canada and Belgium‹fit this pattern. The differences in culture within these countries, however, do not approximate those between the United States and Mexico, and even in these countries language differences persist. Not many Anglo-Canadians are equally fluent in English and French, and the Canadian government has had to impose penalties to get its top civil servants to achieve dual fluency. Much the same lack of dual competence is true of Walloons and Flemings in Belgium. The transformation of the United States into a country like these would not necessarily be the end of the world; it would, however, be the end of the America we have known for more than three centuries. Americans should not let that change happen unless they are convinced that this new nation would be a better one.

Such a transformation would not only revolutionize the United States, but it would also have serious consequences for Hispanics, who will be in the United States but not of it. Sosa ends his book, The Americano Dream, with encouragement for aspiring Hispanic entrepreneurs. ³The Americano dream?² he asks. ³It exists, it is realistic, and it is there for all of us to share.² Sosa is wrong. There is no Americano dream. There is only the American dream created by an Anglo-Protestant society. Mexican Americans will share in that dream and in that society only if they dream in English."


My apologies, that was unclear. I'm not equating them, I think that utilitarianism mandates both positions and I assumed that most open borders advocates hold that position because of utilitarianism. I was wrong in this case.

"I’ll say that there are many neighborhoods full of Americans that you couldn’t pay me to live in, including white neighborhoods. But nobody is forcing me to live in them and nobody is forcing me to live in a barrio either."

Well of course, given that you read this website you are probably considerably above average in terms of mobility and earning power. But there are people who have little to no mobility. There are Americans who are forced to live in or near a barrio because they have no ability to leave. I agree that many immigrants benefit from open borders, would you agree that there are many Americans who are hurt by open borders? This is just in the short term I think the long effects are more interesting, and much harder to study.

Of course I understand, much as I understand French, but in each case it doesn't make it right.

Most people do oppose giving away their money to other people, but it is over-dignifying this instinct to conflate it with a rejection of utilitarianism. I'd reject lots of academic theories for $15,000 a year, but I might not think too hard about why.

Sorry I don't understand. Are you saying that people are wrong to reject utilitarianism?

So encouraging the best and the brightest to relocate to an already developed and rich country is going to make the place they came from better off?

The improving living standards in developing countries has come partly as a result of production capacity moving from the developed world. That and liberalization of economies which then create their own growth dynamic.

Both Britain and the US have political parties whose stated goal is to import voters and hopefully change the electorate in their favor. Unless Yglesias' strategy for getting rid of inequality is to import the poor and give them welfare benefits, I fail to see how the issues correspond. Of course, global warming is the real problem, and more immigration will fix that too.

I read something from Yglesias a few years ago and wondered why this guy was considered at all, and ignored him until reading this. I was right the first time.

"So encouraging..." - It's unlikely that it matters much either way. Countries grow when they have good ideas about what to produce, and as you note these ideas tend to come from overseas nowadays. Once that happens, you don't need really clever people manning the factories. If growth depended on having lots of the high-IQ people, the Bell Curve obsessives should tell us why their beloved China wasn't a lot richer, a lot faster. Both Britain and the US have a lot more politicians who are eager to keep out productive foreigners to sate the basest xenophobic instincts of their electorates.

You are aware that China has been ruled by a communist country for a long time? If anything, China is an example that proves the rule that free market reforms in a high IQ country lead to above average economic growth compared to free market reforms in low IQ countries.

Yes. China has been ruled by a communist country called... China. Actually, they still are. But shouldn't they have used their high IQ to figure out that market reforms were best for Chinese peasants, rather than sending tens of millions to their deaths? So maybe this high-IQ rule is less useful than it seems.


They did figure it out. China is now the dominant economic power of the world. Typical statistic. From 1900 to 2000 the U.S. consumed 4.5 billion tons of cement. China consumed 6.6 billion tons cement from 2011 to 2013.

It's almost as if deterministic Bell-Curve IQ theories fail due to contingent, non-IQ related circumstances somehow.

A country having a median IQ of 105 means that half of the population have an IQ below 105. It doesn't mean that all of its citizens are highly intelligent, or even that the average citizen is highly intelligent. Regardless, no psychometrician argues that smart people never make mistakes, or that smart people always make the best political decisions. Also, you really need to do something to give yourself a basic understanding of science, or even basic statistics. You're implying that a theory fails because of a correlation less than 1, as if a correlation of 1 was implied. Your comments contain so many fallacies that they're almost 'not even wrong'.

Fallacies! Diddums. All you have done is point to more contingent, non-IQ related circumstances that disprove deterministic Bell Curve theories. But as long as white superiority over blacks appeals to people, those theories will not die. ("But we let the Asians play too, so we're not racist!")

I think I would be far more agreeable to immigration reform if it were not the case that certain political parties were slavering to get a new electorate installed. That just seems obscene.

Also, is this why America cannot copy Canada's points based system?

Because that won't bring in the new electorate?

Final thought: the Democrats will not fix immigration. If they get amnesty, it will be a temporary one. Because if you want to ensure your new electorate is properly thankful to you, you have to keep making these new amnesties every so often. Also allows you to keep on pillorying your opponents as racists.

Which is not a good plan either...if you want to open up immigration you want a solid long-lasting reform, not ad hoc amnesties.

I am also surprised that Vox is moving so quickly away from its supposed mission of explaining difficult issues in a neutral way.

If you were an investor in Vox, would you really have anything to show for your money at this point? Sure, well established liberal bloggers are blogging on your site, but both Klein and Yglesias have switched sites before, and taken a lot of their audience with them. Who's going to stick around for the Voxsplaining once it becomes clear that Voxsplaining is just liberal blogging, and the bloggers are free to leave whenever they want?

I'm pretty sure they can make money creating a cheat-sheet for the liberal base. It's a place you go to get pre-digested chunks of info for your on-line arguments on facebook. I'm assuming it's popular for whomever it was intended for.

Show me an ad on Vox. I see none.

Basically, Journolist inside out. I hadn't thought of it like that before.

You misunderstand the nature of the investor.

I don't think that GE or any other investor in Vox views Vox as a profit-making enterprise but instead as an in-kind political campaign contribution.

Think about it. Its much cleaner to donate money this way than directly to a politician. The politician knows they will get another "unbiased" cheerleader which is far more valuable than a political ad.

Also, if you notice, Vox has no ads on its webpage. Kind of amazing to do that if you wanted to make money, to have such a clean look without any ads. I remarked on this and another commenter at Megan Mcardle's explained it to me: they want the site to look unbiased and not beholden to corporate appear objective and fair. Thus no advertising.

Just like Archer Daniels Midland's years of backing Sunday morning political shows, that was probably the best political investment any US company made since WWII

"I don’t like voting for either party or for third parties."

This seems like it could be shortened to "I don't like voting"

Start a 4th party and lock his vote.

There is more to voting than picking between person A or person B. Have you voted lately?

Who likes voting with all the finding the car keys, locating the polling place, remembering to pee first...

A lot of what Yglesias publishes are his attempts to come up with a response to the Dark Matter of modern political discourse -- the ideas espoused by a handful of people like Peter Schaeffer and myself. Yglesias is a smart, competitive guy, so he recognizes that we currently represent the big leagues of debate. On the other hand, we're not supposed to be mentioned in polite society, so Tyler becomes a respectable proxy.

It's all very odd.

Why would a moderate liberal be talking about what is an internal libertarian debate?

If immigrants were all rich people who voted Republican, Democrats would drop it like it's hot.

Are you sure? Arabic immigrants are about as far away from the left as you can get politically but liberal Europeans still support (or at least don't oppose) Arabic immigration.

I'm pretty sure. The big driver seems to be the oppressor-oppressed dimension.

I think it is all just Orientalist fantasy. Northern Europeans fetishize Arabs as the romantic alien other while Jews are too deeply engrained as the unpleasant familiar other.

It has nothing to do with who is the oppressor, non Arabs just aren't as traditionally romantic.

I don't agree with your premise, and that is based on what I've seen growing up in the Detroit area. Immigrants from Arab countries are a diverse lot, to be sure, but in general I think their voting practices are left leaning. I suppose the European experience may be different.


"mmigrants from Arab countries are a diverse lot, to be sure, but in general I think their voting practices are left leaning. I suppose the European experience may be different"

The European experience is different. Much more left wing.

I can't seem to find it again, but I read a piece a year or so ago on the voting patterns of Muslim Arabs in the US. Up until 2001, it was a pretty reliably conservative voting block. After 2001, they swung hard to the Democrats. The obvious explanation is the way they were treated by Republicans as a group after 9/11.

Muslim immigrants are the most loyal supporters of the major left wing parties in both France and England. I have yet to encounter an immigrant group whose social conservatism influences the party they vote for. Handouts trump cultural conservatism every time. One possible exception is émigrés from communist countries.


"One possible exception is émigrés from communist countries"


And those must have fled communist regimes for a reason.

The ones coming from China who are cashing out their illicit loot, or that simply emigrate for economic reasons often bring Big State ideas with them.

Its the guys who were oppressed who don't.


"Are you sure? Arabic immigrants are about as far away from the left as you can get politically but liberal Europeans still support (or at least don’t oppose) Arabic immigration"

No. Their personal values (marriage, sex, etc.) are conservative. However, their economic ideas are very left-wing and they (invariably) vote for the parties of the left, indeed the far left.


It's almost as if these Dark Matter immigration-restrictionists are prejudiced!


"It’s almost as if these Dark Matter immigration-restrictionists are prejudiced!"

Factually oriented.

"According to a survey of 10,000 French voters conducted by the polling firm OpinionWay for the Paris-based newspaper Le Figaro, an extaordinary 93% of French Muslims voted for Hollande on May 6. By contrast, the poll shows that only 7% of French Muslims voted for the incumbent, Nicolas Sarkozy."

"In Denmark, Socialist Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt won the parliamentary election in September 2011 by a margin of just 8,500 votes. According to an opinion survey, 89.1% of Muslims said they would vote for Socialist or leftwing parties. There are an estimated 200,000 Muslims in Denmark, 100,000 of whom are eligible to vote."

"In Britain, a new research report entitled, "Degrees of Separation: Ethnic minority voters and the Conservative Party," shows that 47% of Muslims say they have affinity for the Labour Party, while on 5% say they identify with the Conservatives. During the 2010 elections, Muslim voters were the deciding factor in 82 constituencies."

"In Spain, the Socialist Party recently attempted to pass a law in parliament that would have enabled more than 500,000 Moroccans residing in Spain to vote in Spanish municipal elections. If enacted, the measure would have ensured permanent Socialist control over all Spanish towns and cities with significant Muslim minorities. The measure was derailed in November 2011, when, in the general election, the Socialists were ousted from power."

47%. So invariable. Very invariable. Wow.

If we had fewer immigrants our overton window of what is acceptable politics would be radically different. Romney would have crushed in the last election if demographics were the same as 30 years prior.

But hey "Tabula La Raza", everyone is the same right? No, adding new influences to our country affects us tremendously, for better or worse.

"47%. So invariable. Very invariable. Wow."

Millian, you're being obtuse, or at least show no understanding of statistics. Re-read the quote:

"47% of Muslims say they have affinity for the Labour Party, while on 5% say they identify with the Conservatives"

Your invariable differs from my invariable. In our timeline, 47% is a minority.


Go read the report. 35% have no party affiliation. The means that labor has a 72% majority.

Sorry Millian, you're probably the most thoughtful contrarian at MR, but when all you can do in the present instance is cling to the word 'invariable', it is clear that you have lost. Can't win 'em all.

Nil desperandum Brian, I never said Muslims vote for European centre-right-wingers (often Christian in their beliefs, or hostile to immigrants and Islam, so not suprising). I merely take issue with the word "invariable" because it is very revealing of their fear of an undifferentiated inhuman mass of Muslims.

Arabs who stay in the Middle East often vote for left-wing parties when they are allowed to, so maybe Islam doesn't automaticaly mean right wing politics. Of course, not all Arabs are Muslim.

The Lib Dems and Labour got 85% of Pakistani votes and 81% of the Bangladeshi vote. Not quite black American monolithic, but that's voting as a block.

Welfare state or open borders: pick one ( or zero, I suppose.)

The nativist view is at least coherent, unlike the progressive 'win/win/win' BS.

It's even more stark than that: diversity, liberty or equality; pick one.

Nope. The first two can work together.

And the third can't work at all, despite the best efforts of social crusaders.

Sure they can, wherever we repeal civil rights laws and allow people safe harbors, from which they can associate or not associate as they choose. You agree with this, right?


I don't grok. I will say that 'within group variation', even in a 'homogeneous' society will, by itself, thwart egalitarian dreamers. Plenty of inequality even in Sweden.

Diversity requires stacks of civil rights laws and national security regulations. Diversity, in sum, is political and cultural suicide for libertarians.

Again, choose one.


Liberty and diversity don't play nice. The advocates of diversity invariably demand (these days) racial and ethnic preferences that are the anathema of liberty. Let me quote from

Hispanic Americans Face Real Challenges

"Another core part of the story is that the U.S. is a more egalitarian society now than we were in the first decades of the twentieth century. Large ethnic and racial disparities that were tolerated then are less likely to be tolerated now. The fact that Italian immigrants and Americans of Italian origins were poorer than other Americans was not considered a pressing issue that threatened the legitimacy of Americans politico-economic order. It is not clear that persistent Latino poverty will meet with the same acquiescence in the decades to come."

It already doesn't. It gives rise to endless demands for quotas of every kind, handouts, more doomed education spending, etc. that conflict with liberty. Perhaps worse, it produces an incessant political correctness that stifles any legitimate discussion of immigration, poverty, crime, academic failure, etc. 20 years ago all liberals called illegals, "illegal immigrants" (which is actually wrong, they are illegal aliens). Norw failure to call them "undocumented" is considered racist.


"Invariably demand (these days)"? This construction suggests that a former variable has now become fixed. Which tells me this is not a feature of human interaction generally, but something that has happened more recently- viz. political correctness.

I don't care for political correctness myself, but in the long sweep of human experience, this too shall pass.

During the recession, millions of illegals went home. Why? It's not like 'counter cyclical' government programs dried up, it was jobs that dried up.

Most Hispanics in this country are not focused on affirmative action, an idea that already crested years ago. You are reacting to a noisy minority, not the scads of Hispanics I see every day at 5:30 AM on my way to work.


Make that "invariably demand in this day and age".

"Most Hispanics in this country are not focused on affirmative action, an idea that already crested years ago"

The Hispanic leadership is obsessed with importing more of 'my people' and obtaining racial preferences for them Since these are the people who get elected, their views matter. Take a look at the effort to publicly restore racial quotas in California ( Note that racial quotas were privately (and illegally) restored some number of years ago ("How UCLA Lies about Affirmative Action" -

"Why? It’s not like ‘counter cyclical’ government programs dried up"

If your inference is that immigrant welfare utilization is low, then the facts are otherwise.

The externalities associated with the current generation of low-skill immigrants are negative and quite large. See “Seeing Today’s Immigrants Straight” by Heather MacDonald over at the Manhattan Institute ( Section 4 contains the ugly truths that PC advocates of immigration don’t dare talk about. Key quote

“If someone proposed a program to boost the number of Americans who lack a high school diploma, have children out of wedlock, sell drugs, steal, or use welfare, he’d be deemed mad. Yet liberalized immigration rules would do just that. The illegitimacy rate among Hispanics is high and rising faster than that of other ethnic groups; their dropout rate is the highest in the country; Hispanic children are joining gangs at younger and younger ages. Academic achievement is abysmal.”

The details put Heather’s succinct summary to shame.

Advocating low-skill immigration in America today requires blinkers and the thickest rose colored glasses known to man. It is act of creationist faith. In my view, your view of immigrants amounts to selection and observation bias. You see the hard working ones who are useful "cheap labor" (which is almost never cheap).

Other perspectives exist... See "California’s Demographic Revolution" (

One of the comments follows...

"Hispanics are not "angry" like the Blacks in Philadelphia? Geez...spend time in So. CA the HS you wrote about above. My "Hispanic" students wear "Brown Power" T-shirts to school, carve the saying into anything they can, destroying/marring the school materials and environment. They dedicate every niche of space in their art work, doodles, classwork, to the Mexican flag. destroy my personal belongings in class (even a picture of my son on the wall posed with a local sports hero), steal from me and each other, fight and threaten, and generally trash the place. That's anger. That's an entitlement metality that says "You owe me and even so, I hate you as you "pay up" to me----and I hate you if you don't and I hate you if you DO." This attitude can eminate from even the kids who have been here all their lives, who by high school, are still "English Language Learners." No expectations at home that they will or SHOULD learn English ....and yet ...the "failure" of their children in school is all the "fault" of the school system (????). Fooey. They shall speak the language of the market place when and where they have a need for it. They will learn the ways of the market place when they must participate. If they don't learn English or agree to participate in our national culture...the entire mix of it all...then they will be entrapped within the very small world of their own making and who and WHAT says that we are ordained and ordered to drag them out of of it---mostly against their will? Unlike the immigrants of a century ago, these recent "Hispanic" immigrants...both legal and non-legal...have an umbilical cord connection to their homeland. They travel back and forth on a regular basis; nothing unusual about a student disappearing right before winter break and not reappearing until nearly spring break......never taken off the school rolls, never filing for an independent study, and students all chiming out each morning at roll "He's in Mexico," as though a perfectly excusable "He's been hospitalized for the last two months...." It's normal to have that same student return to stand before me and proclaim,"My mother says you're supposed to give me all my missing assignments..." The terrible problem we have here is there is no "fit" between the Hispanic culture you describe--the one in which I live and work--- and the "real world" of day-to-day commerce and schooling. We keep trying to make "them" fit to the greater model, and often times we even try to make the commercial model and school model bend to fit around "them." It benefits no one. It should all stop and allow the individual to choose. Let the families choose into which world they and their children will aim. It's "OK" if they choose the smaller ethnic world. It's "OK" if they raise their children with expectations of living in both worlds...and it's "OK" if they expect children to move on and embrace the larger commercial and educatioinal world...It's time to stop turning our ed system inside out and upside-down to please this or that" minority" expectation, while smaller numbers of other minorities and majority others sit by silently, suffering the disruption, the pervasive "biligualism" that speaks to NEITHER their first language OR the English language they are trying to learn. I once had a recent 12-yr-old Egyptian immigrant innocently look up and inquire of a "La Comite" member inspecting our classrooms, "Tell me why I must have a Spanish-English dictionary on my desk?" I felt like yelling out...."YES!" In my room that year was a Thai, a Korean, two Russians, 2 New Zealanders, a Mexican who spoke the original Indian dialect of his village/state, and the little Egyptian. No one else besides the Hispanic kids who were almost aLL born in this country, had a political group empowered to inspect our classrooms to make sure that we were all using an English-Spanish Dictionary. What's wrong with this picture?"

If you believe both:

1) Open borders would raise growth and income per capita
2) Open borders would hurt a sizable minority of the population

Then it's not at all incoherent to pair open borders with a robust welfare state. The idea is to encourage growth through immigration, and compensate the losers via higher levels of income redistribution.

Perhaps not incoherent, if we assume complete innumeracy.

If empty snark is the best response I get, then I probably have a good point.

Yeah, creating even more multi-generation layabouts is a terrific plan.


"Open borders would raise growth and income per capita"

Nice theory, but the facts are contrawise. Mass immigration has continued since 2000, even though job growth has been marginal. LFP has plunged. More workers has resulted in slower growth, not faster. Per-capita GDP peaked in 2007 and has fallen materially since then (with mass immigration continuing).

Importing more people into an economy that is not growing (or growing very slowly) doesn't boost growth, but does impoverish Americans. Median household income has fallen 10% since 2000. All of those immigrants are making America poorer, not richer. California is ground zero for mass immigration. Median family income is below where it was in 1986.

Importing unemployment makes America poorer, not richer
importing poverty makes America poorer, not richer
Importing academic dysfunction makes America poorer, not richer
Importing welfare dependency makes America poorer, not richer

This shouldn't be too hard to understand.


Mass immigration has been a fact of life during periods of both high and low growth. You are of course correct that median household income has been declining for far too long now, but there is no convincing evidence that this is being caused by immigration. Quite the opposite -- every respectable economic study I've seen on the subject supports the thesis that immigration is good for growth.

You also make a lot of unsupported assertions equating immigrants with unemployment, welfare dependency, etc, when in fact our immigrant population is harder-working and more self-sufficient than the population as a whole. I can see you have some pretty strong feelings on this subject, but I don't think the facts support your position. That shouldn't be too hard to understand.


"Mass immigration has been a fact of life during periods of both high and low growth"

No. Check the actual data. Immigration has in fact been highly variable. The U.S. stopped mass immigration around WWI and for the next 50-60 years enjoyed fast growth, rising wages, and general prosperity (on average). See for a set of graphs showing a stunning correlation between inequality, political polarization, and immigration.

"You are of course correct that median household income has been declining for far too long now, but there is no convincing evidence that this is being caused by immigration"

The evidence is math. More people (the denominator) and less income (the numerator) yields lower income. Google has a built-in calculator you can use.

However, the deeper connection is that cosmopolitan globalization has led to an intensive hollowing out of the U.S. economy (outsourcing) and out-of-control mass immigration (legal and illegal). It's a lose/lose/lose proposition for the American people. A more immediate point is that the downturn that started around 2007/8 was clearly a consequence of a Bush (and many others) plan to convince immigrants that they could join the American Dream via the housing bubble. Like it or not, but mass unskilled immigration played a material role in the current crash.

" Quite the opposite — every respectable economic study I’ve seen on the subject supports the thesis that immigration is good for growth."

What does "good for growth" mean? A higher GDP (yes)? A higher per-capita GDP (no)?

However, there is a much deeper problem. The "respectable" economic studies assume full employment. You aren't really going stake your credibility on studies that take full employment as a given? Are you?

"You also make a lot of unsupported assertions equating immigrants with unemployment, welfare dependency, etc, when in fact our immigrant population is harder-working and more self-sufficient than the population as a whole"

Of course, they massively use the welfare system. Both theory and empirical data make this all too clear. This should be obvious to anyone with even one ear or eye open. Everyone agrees that America’s own poor people are a burden. Why would anyone expect that imported poor people would be any better? Let me quote from George Borjas (America’s leading immigration economist).

“There’s also been a lot of fake fog thrown into the the question of whether immigrants pay their way in the welfare state. It’s time for some sanity in this matter as well. The welfare state is specifically designed to transfer resources from higher-income to lower-income persons. Immigrants fall disproportionately into the bottom part of the income distribution. It is downright ridiculous to claim that low-skill immigrants somehow end up being net contributors into the public treasury.”

The literature is full of references to the negative tax impact of low-skilled immigrants. In the pre-welfare state era, this wasn’t true. The poor got little or nothing from government (even education was very cheap), and they worked long hours for low wages. The were clearly complementary to higher income groups. That era is over. Health care and education are extremely expensive and the poor are major consumers, to say the least. It would be essentially impossible for a poor person today (other than a single working age male / female with no children) not to be a burden on society. A few specific data points.

1. “Guest Contribution: The ageing, crisis-prone, welfare state is bad news for welfare migration”

“Edmonston and Smith (1997) look comprehensibly at all layers of government (federal, state, and local), all programs (benefits), and all types of taxes. For each cohort, defined by age of arrival to the U.S., the benefits (cash or in kind) received by migrants over their own lifetimes and the lifetimes of their first-generation descendents were projected. These benefits include Medicare, Medicaid, Supplementary Security Income (SSI), Aid for Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), food stamps, Old Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance (OASDI), etc. Similarly, taxes paid directly by migrants and the incidence on migrants of other taxes (such as corporate taxes) were also projected for the lifetimes of the migrants and their first-generation descendents. Accordingly, the net fiscal burden was projected and discounted to the present. In this way, the net fiscal burden for each age cohort of migrants was calculated in present value terms. Within each age cohort, these calculations were disaggregated according to three educational levels: Less than high school education, high school education, and more than high school education. Indeed the findings suggest that migrants with less than high school education are typically a net fiscal burden that can reach as high as approximately US$100,000 in present value, when the migrants’ age on arrival is between 20-30 years.”

2. “Los Angeles and Welfare”

“I am sure that I’m not the only one who’s noticed how almost all of the discussion over California’s budget problems managed to avoid using such words as “immigrant” or “illegal”. So I decided to do a few calculations using the 2008 Current Population Survey to follow up on Instapundit’s remark. Well, here are some interesting results for your perusal–no remarks are needed:

All statistics give the fraction of households in the LA metro area that receive some type of assistance–either cash, food stamps, or Medicaid:

All households: 20.9% Native households: 12.7% Immigrant households: 33.2% Immigrant households with a citizen head: 26.4% Immigrant households with a non-citizen head: 40.1%

Just to put things in context, 40% of households in the LA metro area are immigrant households.”

3. “Impact of Mexican Immigration on Public Coffers”

“The most comprehensive research on this subject was done by the National Research Council (NRC), which is part of the National Academy of Sciences. The study, conducted in 1997, found that more-educated immigrants tend to have higher earnings, lower rates of public service use, and as a result pay more in taxes than they use in services. In contrast, the NRC found that because of their lower incomes and resulting lower tax payments coupled with their heavy use of public services, less-educated immigrants use significantly more in services than they pay in taxes. The NRC estimates indicated that the average immigrant without a high school education imposes a net fiscal burden on public coffers of $89,000 during the course of his or her lifetime. The average immigrant with only a high school education creates a lifetime fiscal burden of $31,000. In contrast, the average immigrant with more than a high school education was found to have a positive fiscal impact of $105,000 in his or her lifetime. The NAS further estimated that the total combined fiscal impact of the average immigrant (all educational categories included) was a negative $3,000. Thus, when all immigrants are examined they are found to have a modest negative impact on public coffers. These figures are only for the original immigrant, they do not include public services used or taxes paid by their U.S.-born descendants.”

That last sentence is important. Low-skilled immigrants produce low skilled children who will cost even more.

4. “The Fiscal Cost of Low-Skill Immigrants to State and Local Taxpayers”

“In 2004, there were 4.54 million low-skill immigrant households. The average net fiscal deficit per household for federal, state and local spending combined was $19,588. This means that the total annual fiscal deficit (total benefits received minus total taxes paid) for all 4.54 million low-skill immigrant households together equaled $89.1 billion.”

“In FY 2004, the average low skill immigrant household received $30,160 in direct benefits, means-tested benefits, education, and population-based services from all levels of government. By contrast, low-skill immigrant households paid only $10,573 in taxes in FY 2004. A household’s net fiscal deficit equals the cost of benefits and services received minus taxes paid. The average low-skill household had a fiscal deficit of $19,588 (expenditures of $30,160 minus $10,573 in taxes).”

5. “The High Cost of Cheap Labor: Illegal Immigration and the Federal Budget”

“This study is one of the first to estimate the total impact of illegal immigration on the federal budget. Most previous studies have focused on the state and local level and have examined only costs or tax payments, but not both. Based on Census Bureau data, this study finds that, when all taxes paid (direct and indirect) and all costs are considered, illegal households created a net fiscal deficit at the federal level of more than $10 billion in 2002. We also estimate that, if there was an amnesty for illegal aliens, the net fiscal deficit would grow to nearly $29 billion.

Households headed by illegal aliens imposed more than $26.3 billion in costs on the federal government in 2002 and paid only $16 billion in taxes, creating a net fiscal deficit of almost $10.4 billion, or $2,700 per illegal household.”

Note that this is just the Federal impact. Illegals and other low-skill immigrants have a greater impact on state and local governments (education, health care, crime, etc.).

One more note. U.S. health care expenditures are around $12 per hour for the entire economy. The minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. If a minimum wage worker paid 100% of his income in taxes (or health care premiums), America would still lose $4.75 on health care costs alone.

And you want to flood American with low-skill immigrants to drive wages down further (presumably after repealing the minimum wage)? Is this meant to be a parody of ‘privatizing profits and socializing costs’? Perhaps it is.

Of course, it can be argued that low-skill immigrants don’t cost $12 per hour in health care costs. As long as they are young and single that is true. However, low-skill immigrants have children and grow old just like everyone else. Even if they don’t cost $12 per hour in health care costs now, they will cost far more than $12 per hour in the future.

Health care alone shows that low-skill immigration will always be a burden on society. It can not possibly be profitable.

The welfare state and low-skill immigration don’t play nice. One or the other has to go. Since the welfare state is only expanding, it should be obvious that mass immigration has to end."


"when in fact our immigrant population is harder-working and more self-sufficient than the population as a whole"

Do facts matter? Does reality matter? Does reality exist?

Thirteen years after welfare reform, the share of immigrant-headed households (legal and illegal) with a child (under age 18) using at least one welfare program continues to be very high. This is partly due to the large share of immigrants with low levels of education and their resulting low incomes — not their legal status or an unwillingness to work. The major welfare programs examined in this report include cash assistance, food assistance, Medicaid, and public and subsidized housing.

Among the findings:

In 2009 (based on data collected in 2010), 57 percent of households headed by an immigrant (legal and illegal) with children (under 18) used at least one welfare program, compared to 39 percent for native households with children.

Immigrant households’ use of welfare tends to be much higher than natives for food assistance programs and Medicaid. Their use of cash and housing programs tends to be similar to native households.

A large share of the welfare used by immigrant households with children is received on behalf of their U.S.-born children, who are American citizens. But even households with children comprised entirely of immigrants (no U.S.-born children) still had a welfare use rate of 56 percent in 2009.

Immigrant households with children used welfare programs at consistently higher rates than natives, even before the current recession. In 2001, 50 percent of all immigrant households with children used at least one welfare program, compared to 32 percent for natives.

Households with children with the highest welfare use rates are those headed by immigrants from the Dominican Republic (82 percent), Mexico and Guatemala (75 percent), and Ecuador (70 percent). Those with the lowest use rates are from the United Kingdom (7 percent), India (19 percent), Canada (23 percent), and Korea (25 percent).

Here are a couple of columns in Taki's by me on Piketty's massive blindspot full of billionaires (e.g., Piketty defends the relative virtue of Carlos Slim as a victim of "Western ethnocentrism"):

Yglesias isn't as clueless as poor Piketty about such matters, so he writes vague columns like this one.

I think Yglesias is sort of trying to call bullshit on Tyler (or possibly just paint him as holding the Team Vox position), but he has really fumbled the ball.

It seems that this all began with the large amount of discussion about inequality these past few months, which Tyler felt he had to address head-on. First, he sought to refute Piketty at every opportunity, including pushing out basically any analysis that found a flaw in the Frenchman's research. He also wasted no time trying to clarify that inequality isn't actually a problem, or at the very least it is an inevitability about which nothing can really be done. This has allowed him to downplay the need for, or viability of, any policy that would reduce inequality in the US, as it would not align with his political interests (and those of his funders).

In the most recent chapter, Cowen has been making the point that in fact global inequality has gone down. As part of this campaign he has said that more immigration is the one tiny thing that would reduce global inequality. It is also a policy that he has long supported, irrespective of its impact on wealth/wage distribution. And this is where progressives seem to be getting confused about his motivations. Tyler doesn't really care about inequality, but he found that repeatedly citing the decline in global inequality serves his primary purpose in these debates, which was to denigrate any efforts to reduce in-country inequality through redistribution or other liberal policies. Now when Matt attempts to use Cowen's own words against him to paint him as a potentially closet progressive, he has to be reminded that Tyler is actually agnostic about most policy and will be retaining his freedom to oppose almost all progressive policy on the basis of...TBD.

Maybe some people really think that dismantling a factory, selling the parts for scrap, and distributing it to the factoryless really isn't pareto improving.

Ever considered that?

Don't get all bent out of shape. Everyone knows you're Tyler's most Pareto efficient commenter.

I don't even need to know what that means to strongly suspect it is not right.

It is more that I read Koch's book. He said many things he sounded very serious about, made a shitload of money doing, and not one line was asking for direct subsidy.

So don't get me wrong they love none. But they seem way more interested in sincere policy philosophy than would be necessary or even feasible to just be advancing their secret oligopoly designs.

They love money that is.

And yet they give a lot away.

I read Koch's business book before I knew who they were.

He had an entire chapter about Compliance being one of their key competences. They actually focus on complying with regulations.

You'd think the Left would put them on a pedestal for that chapter alone. Nope.

They comply to make money in the most efficient way possible. They also fight literally any kind of regulation tooth and nail.

Andrew, I believe that the bros certainly have sincere and deeply help beliefs about many an issue. And I don't dispute that they give away lots of money, even to some good causes. However, they aren't going to be supporting any causes that could possibly compromise their bottom line--most of their money actually goes to things that help them make more of it. Also, do you think Charles would write a book asking for a subsidy? That is the last thing a "free market" billionaire under a lot of scrutiny would do. No, they pay people to do their bidding for them, just like any other sane billionaire would.

"Tyler doesn’t really care about inequality …" yeah, cause *Average is Over* had nothing to do with changes in the income/wealth distribution. Seriously, Jan? What I see is one person trying to understand 'positions' and their natural extensions (as an academic economist) and another worried about the 'people' or politics (as a policy wonk). Sure they are talking past each other but both views are needed … and they seem to be operating in their comparative advantage (something more immigration would help too).

I think he is interested in it, but doesn't see fixing it as a priority. Maybe because he believes that it can't be done.

Or can't be done in any way that would avoid sacrificing something else dearer.

It's going to be real helpful to the debate in the US when both the Sunni and Shia viewpoints are fully represented in the US. I'll never forget, for example, those warm, fuzzy feelings of inclusiveness I felt on September 11, 2001, when the Wahabbist perspective got added to our national debate. I'm sure there are many, many other internecine overseas disputes from which we can invite the protagonists from both sides to endow us with their comparative advantage in the debate. This is really helpful stuff, Claudia. I can only hope policy-makers in Washington DC are listening to you. I can foresee a lot of momentous debate following from our inviting the protagonists from all sides of ancient disputes which we don't comprehend to the US.

This whole argument over inequality is absurd. Liberals misappropriate the term as a poor short-hand for the decline of upward social mobility in the U.S. As a consequence, the misappropriation becomes another inter-partisan distraction, giving conservatives a silver-platter opportunity to play the "OMFG--SOCIALISM!" card again. Libertarians chime in with "...but if you really cared about inequality, you'd acknowledge how much better off Asian peasants are today." The GOP and the Dems each have another canard to flog in order to fire up their donors and their activist bases. Faux outrage and passive-aggressive bullshit all the way down.

Meanwhile, the real underlying problems--shrinking middle-class, lack of opportunity, declining social mobility, domestic failure of the trickle-down model--continue unabated.

But, that's sort of the point, isn't it. Question is, is that because those in power don't know how to address those problems? Or because they don't consider them problems at all?

And we have begged them not to increase fixed cost of labor in a great reset. But they think those things help and they think we are evil.

Corporate tax reform would be a good start. But nobody with goodies wants to give them up.

I think its a non-starter on the left and parts of the right because it looks like a give-away to corporashuns.

Economic illiteracy makes some people think of wealth or the economy as zero sum. The thought process is that since the rich are doing well, it must be at the expense of everyone else. I don't think that this is the sole reason for the inequality focus but it seems to be a significant factor for the American Left.

In the UK, EVERYONE runs on both capping welfare and reducing immigration, from Labour to UKIP to Liberal Democrats. Mr Yglesias is probably being forgivably ignorant here. It's intuitive to believe that only nasty conservatives want these things, but in the UK (which is not exactly a theocon free-market paradise compared to the US), everyone does!

Then again, Vox just posted maps of "what America would look like without gerrymandering", which seem to forget that states exist and matter in Congressional elections. So what do they know?

In general, the progressive's theory is that if they import enough Mexicans, they are going to Elect a New People who will finally stick it to the billionaires. After all, look how the wise, activist voters of Mexico have made sure that nobody in Mexico is a plutocrat.

What, you say that Carlos Slim is just about the richest man in the world by charging poor Mexicans high prices to phone their loved ones? Yes, but he's in favor of more Mexican coming to America so that means Slim is on the side of Good. Don't you read the New York Times?

Just to play devil's advocate; couldn't white people just gauge all of the new brown skinned immigrants and massively enrich themselves? I mean, that is what being a Latin American country is all about, right? Is it really worse to be white in Latin America than in the U.S.? If not, why should white people in the U.S be concerned about Latin American immigration?

No, because civil rights laws and transfer payments prevent all but upper tier whites from exploiting the difference in bargaining power. That's why econ professors making $150K+ think immigration is such a great idea. They make just enough to price themselves away from the diversity. It also helps to live in heavily zoned college towns. But I promise you their wives have a much more realistic view of matters.

I think the immigration question is tie up with the free trade question. Economics hasn't done a great job of analysing the ganme theory between free market and mercantilist economies.

When a free market country has free trade with a mercantilist country or countries, the free market country tends to experience some degree of deindustrialisation. To maintain employment, the free market country enters into a certain amount of credit expansion and financialisation. An influx of low skilled labour can help to prolong this dynamic, but allowing lots of credit expansion without wage breakout. This dynamic has been seen in may English-speaking countries.

A better dynamic might be to have free trade only with other free trading countries, in the short term. If the mercantilist countries want the trade, they can always drop the mercantilism. This is the first best solution.

You're saying that exporting the means of production to a foreign land, might not be a good idea?


"You’re saying that exporting the means of production to a foreign land, might not be a good idea?"

Heresy. The witch burning starts immediately.

You know peter, as much as I love your well researched and documented responses, I realize that we must communicate this to the masses. Do you have any idea how to do that?


"I realize that we must communicate this to the masses"

Foreign Policy has been surveying American public and elite opinion for a long time. By far, the largest gaps (between elite opinion and public opinion) are with respect to immigration and trade. The public is already quote suspicious of free trade and Open Borders. The problem is elite opinion. Let me quote from "Mediscare And Elite Bias" in the New Republic.

"Elite opinion and the biases of the news media, which are generally synonymous, tilt left on social issues, like gay rights, abortion and immigration, reflexively deeming conservative views as bigoted and irrational. On economics, elite opinion tilts slightly right -- opposed the the GOP agenda of debt-financed tax cuts, but strongly in favor of free trade. Elite opinion militantly favors deficit reduction and regards the cause of cutting entitlements as sacred writ."

Influencing elite opinion is obviously non-trivial. My approach is (mostly) to use detailed, data based arguments. Whether this works or not isn't clear. However, I have been kicked out of a few sites for posting Census department statistics on school funding (you can't make this stuff up). Facts and data are obviously very scary things in some circles.

Elite opinion will change when the writing is on the wall. There's a reason the left is very fearful of right-wing populists. Liberal policies do hurt the average America, all you'd need to do is cut and paste and quote all the liberals talking about "global inequality." Right now, there is no right-wing politician waging a major campaign against immigration, but voters, even reliably Democratic black voters are already angry about immigration. The economy is doing well too. Things will get crazy in the next recession.

Peter Schaeffer, I don't get why you're not blogging. You write more than well enough, you have plenty of material, and at the least it would provide a set of useful links you could point to when making comments.

It seems like there is a short run/long run distinction on immigration and inequality that is ignored. In the short run (which in this case I would define as a generation) I think it is clear that global inequality would tend to decrease and (assuming diminishing returns to wealth) global welfare wouls increase. But over a longer time horizon, one could argue that overly-open borders lead to changes in incentives/societies/whatever that lower welfare versus a less open border world. If, for instance, diversity led people to expend less effort on leaving the world a better place (because in the corner of the world they might effect, a lot fewer people are "like them,") then the global effect of such a change in incentives could lessen global welfare among future generations.

I agree with your point about short term vs. long term.

Some changes start out small and relatively undetected but snowball.

Instead of trying to imagine the US will be like in 50, 100 or 200+ if we bring in lots more new people or if we cannot/ do not replace the many middle class jobs we've lost, we see great resistance to that kind of thinking.

What right do we have to only think of ourselves when making changes that cannot be undone? Yet that is exactly what we are doing.

If I was going to make an observation about TC's positions, it would be that his criticisms of progressive positions often paint conservative positions as a realistic/reasonable alternative. However, it's hard not to see US conservative positions, especially given the influence of Tea Party types, as far less optimal than those espoused by progressives. MY is pointing out that as far as immigration policy is concerned, TC's "optimal" position really is far closer to that of progressives than TC would like to think. Further, his positions on many other policies, including economic ones, are probably also much closer to those of progressives given the deficit of good policies coming from the current conservative wing, including not just the Tea Party but also mainstream/moderate/intellectual thought leaders(!) like Brooks and Douthat.


Why do you HAVE to cram the discussion into a box that assumes TC is starting with partisan advocacy?

It makes you wrong before you even begin.

This is proof of the sincerity suspicion discussion.

Can you all see it?

The most broad analyst/pundit you will ever know of just HAS to be shilling for a secret agenda.

What is so weird is how obvious and moderate his position is.

I'll add another one. Mr. Cowen prefers influence over money at the margin relative to Yglesias. I'm still not sure why Cowen isn't editor-in-chief-emeritus at WaPo under Bezos with Yglesias filling in Klein's old spot. Is Vox really all that revolutionary? How does the world's capital have no respectable daily for so long?

My framing of course is different. It is not about who are the best people, but rather which are the best set of positions. Just to summarize, I generally favor much more immigration but not open borders, I am a liberal on most but not all social issues, and I am market-oriented on economic issues. On most current foreign policy issues I am genuinely agnostic as to what exactly we should do but skeptical that we are doing the right thing at the moment. I don’t like voting for either party or for third parties.
-H.L Mencken?

Mencken is on record that he favored drastically expanding the USA's immigration quota for European Jews in the lead up to WW2. At the same time, The NYTs was burying stories about German abuses of power against the Jews. Dude was an honest journalist.

Loyal MR readers, what do you think?

I think the point Yglesias is trying to make is not about who the best people are. Its about political economy. Basically he's saying that in order to obtain the kind of broadly cosmopolitan policies that you favor you have to accept certain left wing economics. He specifically suggests progressive taxes as the price, but I think he would also add to that the rest of the welfare state. This isn't a new argument really, but I don't think i've ever seen a good refutation to it. Cosmopolitan libertarianism seems to me to be both a bad idea and an impossible to implement one.
But I will step out and make the argument that given the set of values that you claim to have it is weird that you don't nearly always vote for Democrats in national elections. What economic policies is the Republican party offering that come close to offsetting their hatred for more immigration and their opposition to the sorts family planning goods and services that make it possible for women to have careers?

"opposition to the sorts family planning goods and services that make it possible for women to have careers?"

Thank you for the laugh of the day. You probably think Republicans eat kittens for breakfast, too.

I also find it fascinating that the progressive who value government regulation of almost all facets of life - say soda size, suddenly drop this requirement when it comes to immigration.

You'd think they'd want government controls over that instead of some crazy free market scramble.

Because the Venn diagram of people who oppose all immigration and those who simply want more control over the border and more legal immigration and less illegal immigration do not fully overlap.

No, that Venn diagram doesn't even overlap within the GMU economics department. Venn diagrams don't overlap by definition so the point is moot, but whatever.


I went to a Republican party picnic last week. Every family had at least 10 kids. Some had 15. Republicans take opposition to birth control very seriously. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

So, no family where the wife was younger than 30 or so?

And no one who had only been married a couple of years, with just one or two children?

And why should anyone be scared of families with 10 or 15 children?

Or is this Mark Steyn style math, where anyone in the U.S. under 40 - no, make that 60, if not 75 - is all but guaranteed to end his days living in Repuberica?

No, it's one of those instances where you show your low intellect.

He was joking, you twit.

Wow that is amazing. I am Catholic and active in my local church which includes a very popular lady who writes books on Natural Family Planning, and we have exactly one couple under 70 with more than 8 children, and this is a semi rural area with a low cost of living and very traditional gender roles. Even among the local mormon population 10 kids is an remarkable number.

PA, Roy

You folks missed the sarcasm tags.

PA, Roy,

Let me try harder. Sorry, I really didn't think anyone could take my comments seriously. I thought that the "Be afraid. Be very afraid." would be interpreted as sarcasm tags. In real life, I haven't seen a family of 10+ kids since around 1981/2. That's selection bias on my part (they exist). I actually haven't been to a Republican party picnic since Nixon was in the White House (maybe Ford). My goal was to satirize the idea that Republicans don't know about, or allow birth control.

Well, you won't find a new refutation to that argument on MR. As a matter of fact, many libertarians are on record that Mr. Cowen is too much of a libertarian bargainer. They think that the Paul dynasty is hurt by LBJ's versatility.

The fact he is considered apostate in some circles should give people pause.

It doesn't.

Those circles don't matter. Like the iRacist hangers-on to libertarian blogs, repeating their memes about Forbidden Truth of White Supremacy unspoken since eugenics went out of fashion, in real life they're just four white guys at keyboards eating pudding.


Still trying for your CPUSA Anti-Racism Merit Badge

I find it astounding that many people with triple-digit IQs cannot see the harm that our insane open borders immigration policy is inflicting on the vast majority of American citizens.

It is even more astounding that such people still fail to perceive the disaster after reading the comments here of Peter Schaeffer. Peter Schaeffer must be thinking, "WTF is wrong with these people?"

What is generally stunning is that Tyler is against the welfare state, and yet he wants to import the welfare state. Most of these low skill Mexicans, even if they have crappy service jobs, will never earn enough to support themselves. They will get subsidized medical care, education, etc and never pay enough taxes to net out. And given their low IQ, that will persist in every generation.

The only way to square that circle is the believe that Tyler is a toadie sell out destroying those around him for personal profit and using whatever rationalizations get the job done.


Cowen is actually being quite consistent with his actual value system. However, his actual value system is simply not libertarian, or at least not libertarian in some larger sense. The truth is that most folks (probably all folks) have conflicting values that they attempt to balance and rationalize. Sooner or later they must prioritize their values to resolve conflicts, and the result shows what they care most about.

Let me offer a few examples (albeit deliberately extreme). Let's say you care about the environment. Would you then advocate imposing a one-child-per-family rule like in China? A few people would (in the U.S.) but not many. The higher value of personal autonomy and allowing people to have kids takes precedence. Does that mean you don't care about the environment? Of course, not. You just care about personal autonomy more.

Lets say you care about education. Does that mean you would pay 99% of your income in taxes to improve education? Imagine if someone proved (this is a hypothetical) that sending all children to government run boarding schools, at the age of five would improve education by 5%. Would you support such a scheme? The taxes to pay for it? Making it mandatory? If not, why not? Presumably because you have other values that outweigh a 5% gain in education.

Abortion is obviously a case of conflicting values. Perhaps what makes the abortion debate unusual, is that the value conflicts are more freely stated.

Immigration is just another example of the same logic. Libertarians favor low taxes, less government regulation, less welfare, free speech, etc. They oppose racial and ethnic quotas, income redistribution, etc. Obviously Open Borders conflicts rather badly with these core libertarian values by expanding the welfare state, limiting free speech, imposing racial quotas, raising taxes, etc. Why Open Borders then? There are actually two potential answers. First, so-called libertarians are actually Open Borders obsessives first, and libertarians second. In other words, their highest priority is Open Borders, everything else is dispensable.

That makes them Open Borders ideologues, because objectively, they are willing to subordinate all of their other political values to Open Borders. A second (more charitable) interpretation is that they regard Open Borders as part of the libertarian agenda. Since it (Open Borders) conflicts with the rest of the libertarian agenda, they are (once again) Open Borders libertarians willing to sacrifice all other issues to Open Borders.

Liberals and left are just as bad, if not worse. Liberals and left pretend to care about education, housing affordability, unemployment, workers, wages, the environment, stable families, inequality, social cohesion, poverty, crime, polarization, and claim to oppose corporate exploitation of workers. However, once immigration is mentioned, the entire liberal / left agenda goes by the wayside. Indeed, it is now possible to find left-wing publications extolling the virtues of low wages. Does that mean that liberals and leftists don't care about all of those things? Of course, they do. They just care about Open Borders a lot more. Once again that makes them Open Borders ideologues for whom everything else is secondary.

Perhaps the best demonstration of the subordination of all other liberal / left-wing values to Open Borders is the National Immigration Forum. The members are a motley crew of the far-left (very far-left) and the worst corporate cheap labor types. Somehow collaborating with the likes of John Gay (National Restaurant Association) doesn't offend their delicate sensibilities. Note that a minority on the left is actually disgusted by, and with, the National Immigration Forum for all of the obvious reasons. Just a minority though.

In Europe, the situation is arguably worse. The left in Europe is so (fanatically) committed to Open Borders that it is willing (very willing) to overlook conduct (FGM, honor killings, domestic violence, forced marriages, etc.) that would bring violence protests if Open Borders Über Alles wasn't the rule.

To summarize, a lot of folks who call themselves libertarians, really aren't. They are Open Borders ideologues with a secondary libertarian agenda. The same holds for many (most probably) who call themselves liberals and leftists. They are actually Open Borders ideologues with a secondary liberal / left agenda. Of course, the primacy of the Open Borders agenda makes it easy for the "left" and "right" to collaborate because they are aligned on their core issue.

I see a consensus forming in the US that will not please the NYT or TC. The everybody in the world is equal and all deserve a share of our pie ideas pushed by the media and academic elite have gone over the heads of most people. They cannot picture anyone being so dumb or devious and tune it all out. They are starting to catch on and there will be no stopping their rage against the establishment once a critical number of citizens catch on.

I hope to God you are right.

I do not want my own personal slice to be decreased anymore.

This is brilliant - "I am a liberal on most but not all social issues, and I am market-oriented on economic issues."

Can someone please design and sell effective bumper stickers with this message so I can paste them over all the "We Vote Pro-Life", "We Vote Pro-Choice" and all the other single issue message stickers I see?

Comments for this post are closed