Bryan Caplan  

Immigration on Trial

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In a letter submitted to the Wall Street Journal, Cafe Hayek blogger Don Boudreaux observes:

[O]pponents of openness often allege that immigrants come here to free-ride on taxpayer-supplied welfare. That this allegation is a canard is revealed by the innumerable restrictions that Congress puts on immigrants' options to work. If limits on immigration were truly grounded in fears that immigrants are largely shiftless spongers, why would Congress spend so much ink and effort preventing immigrants from finding gainful employment in America?

This reminds me of one of the highlights in Schumpeter's Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy:

[C]apitalism stands its trial before judges who have the sentence of death in their pockets. They are going to pass it, whatever the defense they may hear; the only success victorious defense can possibly produce is a change in the indictment.

Now that the heat is off capitalism, immigration is one of the scapegoats that has taken its place. Maybe immigrants won't work. Maybe they'll take all our jobs. Maybe they create budget deficits. Maybe they lack our wonderful American values. And if you answer all of these objections, rest assured there's something else wrong with them. It's one of the best examples of what I call anti-foreign bias.


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COMMENTS (61 to date)
daveg writes:

May you by struck down by a sudden illness and require immediate treatment in a Southern California emergency room.

(Hint: You will wait behind a long line of illegal immigrants.)

(Only 1/2 kidding).

daveg writes:

More seriously, we as a country have elected to provide all sorts of services, such as schools, law enforcement, welfare, emergency medical treatment and in some case full medical treatment.

Now, being the cold hearted economist that you are, you may not like that, but it is a political fact.

Given that political fact, you must take into account those costs when determining whether huge levels of poorly educated immigrants are good for the country.

Sure, some company will hire them for dirt wages, but that company is not responsible for paying for all the general costs to society. The reality is that the company is creating an externality that is borne by society in general.

In some cases, such as farming, the government is subsidizing the basic activity in the first place, creating a double hit for the taxpayer.

Do you wonder why California with the good economy and high taxes can't keep its government services funded? Illegal immigrants. The cost for education alone is enormous. Law enforcement is another huge cost.

So, the simple fact that someone wants to hire illegal immigrants is not evidence that they are productive for the economy. That is, they not a net benefit.

This doesn’t even count the fact that some may prefer to live in a society that is more homogeneous in terms of culture, religion, or even race, and they are perfectly willing to give up economic growth for that benefit. I think there is a country called Israel that fits into that category. But, I will leave that discussion for another time.

Jav writes:

daveg,

Firstly, not all immigrants are illegal immigrants. Secondly, even if the immigrant is illegal, by not letting them work or take care of themselves, you are essentially making them add no value (and then you go on to blame them for not adding any value to the society).

Even if I am completely wrong, I'd like to think you'd withdraw your first comment if you could.

daveg writes:

Immigration covers both legal and illegal immigration. Right now, illegal immigration is far larger than legal immigration, so when someone brings up the immigration issue I assume illegal immigration is on the table.

Illegal immigrants come here for the work. If we can prevent them from working the flow will go down drastically. So, while preventing them from working will not allow them to "add value" removing them from the country will not allow them to consume resources. I argue this is a net benefit.

Let say a worker comes over with his wife and two or more kids. The kids receive a free education at something like 8000/year/kid. They also will receive free meals and health care which will run into the thousands of dollars.

If the worker makes 10/hour his total income is only US$20,000. Assuming his income is his total value (which is way too high as it would only be the difference between his income and the wage required by a US citizen or automation of his job) the guy is costing us money! This doesn't even include college, roads, law enforcement, etc.

Regarding the illness crack, I take it back, but when someone advocates certain policies they should understand that there are real consequences that often involve life or death.

dearieme writes:

"the innumerable restrictions that Congress puts on immigrants' options to work": but if you don't enforce such restrictions, all you've achieved, I'd guess, is the creation of a distinctly cheap, illicit labour force. Might almost be intended?

Ronnie Horesh writes:

The US (and EU for that matter) could reduce immigration by making life easier in other countries. They could start by getting rid of agricultural subsidies, which so much to impoverish the third world. Dismantle import barriers to agriculture, textiles, footwear etc. Give them a chance to develop and they might not be so desperate. Nobody wants coerced immigration.

PrestoPundit writes:

May you:

-- have hundreds of illegals bused into your children's school.

- have a family member murdered by an illegal who then flees back to Mexico, escaping extradition.

- compete for wages with illegal aliens.

-- pay taxes covering government education, medical care, law enforcement, etc. in California, at the margin where a second parent is forced to work to cover the added family expense.

-- have your vote deluted by illegal aliens who are officially counted by the U.S. census for representational purposes, on both the national and state level.

Well, you get the point.

Boudreaux's claims are nonsense. Essentially no one is being prosecuted for hiring illegals -- the laws may be on the books, but there is for all intents and purposes absolutely no enforcement of those laws. NONE. You can look it up.

And the second part of Boudreaux's argument is also nonsense. It's lost on no one that illegals come here to work _and_ to take advantage of government healthcare, schools, social services, etc. The government health clinics are packed with illegals.

Mike writes:

So, is what some of you are saying is that Mexicans are less important than Americans?

Also, as many have argued more eloquently before me, if we are so concerned that illegals are overwhelming government healthcare, schools and social services, etc. doesn't it suggest that we ought to reduce the scope of these programs? There is no legitimate reason to believe that such services would not flourish under a system of reduced government involvement.

NCA writes:
It's lost on no one that illegals come here to work _and_ to take advantage of government healthcare, schools, social services, etc. The government health clinics are packed with illegals.

I don't mean to single Prestopundit out; this paragraph just seems to summarize the views of most dissenters. But here's my question: How come no ever shifts (at least some of) the blame of illegal immigration on government healthcare, schools, social services, etc. -- i.e. the public utilities that create the incentives?

Perhaps immigrants (legal or otherwise) don't put in as much as they get out of social programs, but then neither do a lot of natural citizens, so why is it that the same pundits who favor immigration restrictions/harsher punishments for illegal immigration attack the welfare state on the latter front but not on the former? The only reason I can think of is an anti-foreign bias, too.

Ivan Kirigin writes:

"How come no ever shifts (at least some of) the blame of illegal immigration on government healthcare, schools, social services, etc. -- i.e. the public utilities that create the incentives?"

I do! I think most libertarians do, at least the ones that somewhat believe in the externalities argument.

An entirely consistent viewpoint is as follows:
1-Government limits on labor should be reduced
2-Government gifts to businesses (esp. those that harm other countries) should be eliminated.
3-Government services that are wasteful should be eliminated.
4-Immigrants that cost the system more than they return in labor are bad. If the net value is positive when taking into account remittances and other such international devices, then the situation changes.
5-There should be no limit on immigration by those who yield a net gain for our country. This might seem difficult to estimate, but probably includes the most intelligent, educated, and wealthy immigrants. All three are testable.

6-All immigrants fall into issue #5 if issues #1, 2, & 3 are resolved!

NCA writes:
5-There should be no limit on immigration by those who yield a net gain for our country. This might seem difficult to estimate, but probably includes the most intelligent, educated, and wealthy immigrants. All three are testable.

Then does it follow that we should kick out all natural citizens who aren't a net gain (or intelligent, educated, and wealthy)? I think this just keeps coming back to the anti-foreign bias.

John P. writes:

I want to pick up on something that daveg said in his second comment:

This doesn’t even count the fact that some may prefer to live in a society that is more homogeneous in terms of culture, religion, or even race, and they are perfectly willing to give up economic growth for that benefit.

This echoes a question that bothers me more and more about wealth-maximizing utilitarianism (which seems to lie at the intersection of libertarianism and economics): How do you choose between a policy that creates more wealth but less freedom, and a policy that creates more freedom but less wealth? Very often (perhaps most often), freedom and wealth go hand in hand. But it is certainly conceivable that there could be situations in which they don't, and the current immigration situation may be one of them.

Ivan Kirigin writes:

"Then does it follow that we should kick out all natural citizens who aren't a net gain (or intelligent, educated, and wealthy)? "

Deciding not to let someone into your country is different than deciding to kick someone out.

Believe me, in my ideal world, there would be no limits on immigration. We're far from there.

I can even reduce my list of views. It is consistent to oppose the massive influx of illegal immigration AND to oppose rules set by congress to limit immigrants' options to work.

Is it a surprise that congress makes inconsistent laws?

Ivan Kirigin writes:

"But it is certainly conceivable that there could be situations in which they don't, and the current immigration situation may be one of them."

If you don't believe the government programs in question are wealth creators, you can increase freedom and wealth by eliminating them.

Randy writes:

I agree - its anti-foreign bias. Then again, in a country such as ours with a very low population density and very high prosperity in comparison to most of the rest of the world, a bit of anti-foreign bias may not be such a bad thing. Should the Romans have welcomed the Goths and Huns with open arms?

Bud1 writes:

1) Completely open legal immigration for non criminals

2) Eliminate minimum wage

3) Tax 'em

daveg writes:

First off Ivan, do you think Israel should allow unlimited numbers of immigrants, regardless of their religion?

Second, you are not going to be able to eliminate any of the government programs under discussion here. Any discussion about that is a waste of keyboard strokes. The supreme court has said it is constitutionally required that illegal immigrant children receive a public education. This can't be changed via the ballot box.

Also, you will have to enforce the laws regardless, and there is actually good arguments for treating people medically if they are here as failure to do so will allow disease to propagate.

Niether republicans or democrats will even consider reducing such benefits to any material degree.

Lord writes:

Anyone so concerned with freer immigration is welcome to emigrate. I can think of any number of countries that would likely welcome you with open arms and have no such programs for you to pay for. They don't even have hoards teeming to get in. You could probably live like a king there. Come on, give it a try.

spencer writes:

The bulk of immigrant children grow up and remain in the US. Moreover, they actually do a better job of moving into the middle class then the native born poor. Consequently, spending money to educate an immigrant child is an investment in our future just like the education of other citizens that generates significant positve returns to both the public and private sectors.

spencer writes:

Daveg -- if your calculation about the value of immigrant labor were correct the American standard of living would have been falling ever since the Jamestown settlement.

nn writes:

All discussion of illegals means nothing if we don't and can't enforce the laws.

How about the following: a) strictly enforce laws including deporting illegals and those who have violated immigration rules b) open 5 year visas to anyone willing to pay a tax of $20,000 with green cards available to anyone willing to pay $50,000 c) severely restrict the family unification rules to spouses and underage children

Of course if a) were enforceable much more would be on the table. Since a isn't enforced, almost all reform is pointless.

daveg writes:

Daveg -- if your calculation about the value of immigrant labor were correct the American standard of living would have been falling ever since the Jamestown settlement.

Spencer, you are simply ignorant. These government programs did not exist at the time of Jamestown, nor for the next 130+ years. As a consequence, many immigrants you came over during those times (mostly from europe) returned. That is, those who could not contribute left. This is a part of our immigration history many are not aware of.

Sine FDR and more harmfully the great society programs of LBJ our government has changed substantially. Immigrants almost never leave now, whether they contribute or not.

The Supreme Court decision I mentioned earlier is only about 30 years old.

Also, the current immigrants from mexico are far less educated and far more poor relative to the native population compared to past immigration waves.

There is just no comparision between what is currently happening and past immigration movements.

daveg writes:

Oh, and I forgot to add that past immigration was legal immigration. There are many reasons why this is important, but the biggest is that legal immigration is, in a democracy such as america, supported by the population in general.

Illegal immigration is, but definition, some that society does not want. We should respect and enforce the laws we have and if people want more immigration they should seek to change the laws via the democratic process.

daveg writes:

The following letter can be found Link

I also note that the California Budget deficit is about 4 Billion right now, which is half the cost listed below. So instead of a 4 billion dollar deficit, we would have a 4 billion dollar surplus.

--

Mr. Zalaznick: Whenever I read articles such as yours (“That Immigrant tide,” Nov. 24 commentary) they’re invariably coming from those whose ideology has overridden the rational pursuit of facts. I’m curious whether you’d been smoking your house plants prior to rushing into print with this opus erratum.

Here in California, if we add-up the expenses of just the basic components of illegal immigration for a single year — K-12 education for 430,000 kids, pre-natal and delivery costs in county hospitals for 84,000 illegal moms, monthly subsidies to these same illegal moms for their new U.S. citizens, emergency health care costs borne by the state’s major counties, and the costs to incarcerate about 24,000 illegal alien felons in state/county prisons, we’re at $8.7 billion, year after year after year (and climbing).

Los Angeles County’s underground cash economy is a financial disaster, with an estimated 28 percent of the workforce (mostly illegal immigrants) paid in cash, thus depriving the safety net of an estimated $1.1 billion annually.

California leads the nation in suffocating under the burden of medically uninsured people. California spent $1.55 billion in 2002 for medical care for uninsured illegal aliens. Los Angeles County recently voted to close 16 community clinics, and reduced by 25 percent funding for its network of private clinics partnering with the county. In addition to this, within the last decade, 52 emergency rooms and 17 trauma centers (13 within the last 16 months) throughout Southern California have closed their doors, all because they couldn’t afford to keep them open because of the exponentially increasing numbers of uninsured patients, which include critical masses of illegal aliens. The county’s population grew 7.4 percent in the last decade; a period in which 36 hospitals closed their doors. Additionally, 81 hospitals no longer have emergency rooms. Los Angeles County spent about $340 million in 2002 providing health care to illegal immigrants, according to a report from the Department of Health Services. So bad is the crisis here that some patients must wait four days for a hospital bed, up to two years for gallbladder surgery, and some even die while waiting for these beds.

The statewide system is “on the brink of collapse,” according to a 2003 study by the California Association of Public Hospitals and Health Systems. The study warned that thousands of workers will lose their jobs and hospitals will close if the split between rising costs and declining revenues keeps growing.

Ivan Kirigin writes:
"First off Ivan, do you think Israel should allow unlimited numbers of immigrants, regardless of their religion?"

I'm not Jewish, meaning my comments about an inherently religious democracy are a bit useless. If the people of Israel want homogeneity, or feel that the populations of neighboring states are hostile, they have a right to restrict immigration. In the US, we celebrate diversity. There is no great, unified threat, like terrorism. The US is different.


"The supreme court has said it is constitutionally required that illegal immigrant children receive a public education. This can't be changed via the ballot box."

Perhaps if a voucher system were adopted, immigrants could be educated in a more dynamic fashion.
Perhaps if catastrophic health insurance and health savings accounts were adopted, fewer immigrants would go without proper preventative health care.
Perhaps if immigration laws were enforced, illegal immigrants wouldn't be so much more likely to tax our legal system.

These reforms are all possible. Alone, any of them could be an improvement. I don't see it as a waste of time to suggest them.

"there is actually good arguments for treating people medically if they are here as failure to do so will allow disease to propagate."

What percentage of ER visits are for communicable diseases? My guess is that it is small.


Anyone so concerned with freer immigration is welcome to emigrate. I can think of any number of countries that would likely welcome you with open arms and have no such programs for you to pay for. They don't even have hoards teeming to get in. You could probably live like a king there. Come on, give it a try.

There are many reasons to stay here and demand change. How's about #1: I'm a citizen. Others: the US is wealthy, I have a job, friends, & family. The rule of law is a large part of it. Ultra-free nations are closer to anarchy than a modern constitutional democracy.

But you should keep your eyes pealed for Ivanistan. Give it 15 years.

Ann writes:

"We should respect and enforce the laws we have and if people want more immigration they should seek to change the laws via the democratic process."

My thoughts exactly! In all these calculations of healthcare and other costs, we have to include the cost of abandoning the rule of law. Who gets to decide when we do and don't enforce our immigration laws? And if those laws are optional, which others are we also allowed to ignore?

Also, what kind of selection bias are we introducing when we favor law breakers (illegal immigrants) over the many that show respect for our laws by trying to come legally? Of all the many people that want to come to the US, why should we admit primarily those that display a strong disregard for our laws?

daveg writes:

If the people of Israel want homogeneity, or feel that the populations of neighboring states are hostile, they have a right to restrict immigration. In the US, we celebrate diversity. There is no great, unified threat, like terrorism. The US is different.

Well, you were very concerned with divestment in Israel in a prevous post.

Regardless, that fact that you accept that is ok for Israel to restrict immigration based on religion means that there is nothing inherently hateful in such a policy. It is just a matter of preference.

As to whether the US celebrates any and all types of diversity, the fact is that the immigration we are discussing is against the law. So, the reality is that the US citizens don't want the type of diversity that is being introduces right now.

You may want the US to celebrate diversity according to your view of diversity, but don't try and pin those same feelings on everyone else.

AnonymouseG writes:

What's wrong with a little "anti-foreign bias," Bryan? We're humans; we're tribal; we care more about people who are ethnically and culturally closer to us. In that we are identical to every nation, people, and country in the world.

Now, obviously that can be taken to extremes with bad results, but giving preference in hiring to American citizens over foreigners is totally acceptable and normal and not nefarious in any way. If that's your "anti-foregin bias," then count me in!

This rant has concluded.

John S Bolton writes:

A characterization of opposition to mass antimerit mimmigration into a welfare society as being anti-foreign bias is either an ad hominem concession that no rational argument against restrictionism can be found, or it is additional and gratuitous. Labor restriction consists mainly of unions, minimum wages and enforcements of minimum standards. If such restrictions were responsible for the declining relative personal incomes of foreign born, from near parity to 1/3 below the national median today, such restrictions would have had to be increasing. Actually ,though, unionization has declined massively; real minimum wages have fallen considerably, and minimium labor standards have been allowed to decline as needed to accommodate the immigrant multitudes.

Steve Sailer writes:

C'mon, Bryan, this isn't worthy of you. Your implication that people like George Borjas, Samuel Huntington, Robert Samuelson, Christopher Jencks, Peter Brimelow, and myself haven't made an intellectually rich and powerful case on multiple grounds against the current immigration system is beneath you. The reality is that most economists have simply ducked the controversy and are unaware of the state of the art in the argument.

Dan Landau writes:

Those opposing immigration are definitely economically illiterate. They are also historically illiterate. Everyone in the Americas is either an immigrant or the descendant of an immigrant. Of course, they will tell you today’s immigrants are different. Our parents were good immigrants and these are bad people. That is undoubtedly what the Polynesians said when the first Indians showed up. The Indians said it when Europeans showed up. And certainly the English said when the Irish showed up. All of the above said it when the Jews showed up.

The anti-immigrant illiterates try to pretend they only want to enforce the laws against illegal immigration. So why don’t you increase the number of legal immigrants allowed? They don’t have an answer.

Anonymouse writes:

Dan Landau wrote breathlessly:

"So why don’t you increase the number of legal immigrants allowed? They don’t have an answer."

Sure they do, Dan, and I suspect you know it: because it takes time for immigrants to assimilate, and if you have too many immigrants at once, like many people feel we have in the U.S. at the moment, it makes it less likely that the ones already here will assimilate.

But when you make this extremely reasonable argument, Dan Landau doesn't have an answer. Except perhaps: "Raaaaaaaaaaaaaccccccccciiiiiiiiisssssstttttt!" (sp.?)

scottynx writes:

Bryan Caplan writes:
[It's one of the best examples of what I call anti-foreign bias.]

Being against skilled immigrants may be anti-foreign bias. Being against unskilled net-tax eaters is not. Not wanting your taxes to rise is not anti-foriegn bias. And no, I don't have to advocate deporting net tax-eating native-born to be consistent. Just because a mother has an abortion of her down-syndrome carrying fetus doesn't mean she has to kill her 10 year old down-syndrom suffering child to be consistent.

scottynx writes:

Bryan, just for the sake of argument, lets say that being against even net-tax eating unskilled immigrants is anti-foriegn bias, because maximizing world utility is our highest goal (ie: it's worth a tax rise to raise the utility of unskilled foriegners). Do you now hold the moral high ground? No.

Let me paraphrase a priceless Gregory Cochrane quote from an old www.gnxp.com discussion on exactly the same topic:

A truly far seeing world utility maximizer would see the benefit in keeping America different from the world average.

(sorry if it isn't exactly right, but this is the jist of it)

daveg writes:

Everyone in the Americas is either an immigrant or the descendant of an immigrant

Anyone else think there is a huge difference between an immigrant and a descendant of an immigrant? I sure do. I love how you try and blend the two together in the same sentence.

And until recently most people were descendants of legal immigrants. Now that is not the case.

Do you understand the difference?

And I love how people write how all the previous wave of immigrants were “hated” and so forth. But the fact is they were allowed in legally, which means they really were not that hated after all were they?

Again, I am not convinced that unlimited immigration of poorly educated people is good for the economy. I think we should try it in a test country first, like Israel for example to confirm this theory that Mr Landau is so confident of. If it works there, Mr. Landau, we can consider it here.

Since you are so confident that only "ignorant" people think immigration is bad for the economy I am sure you will be excited to start this wave of immigration into Israel, which is asking the US for 2 billion to help its supposedly hurting economy.

Rather than take a 2 billion dollar hit to the US economy we should introduce, say, 500,000 Mexicans over the next 18 months. This will, according to Mr. Landau, boost the economy helping Israel out while also saving the US 2 billion.

Sounds like a win-win to me.

scottynx writes:

Anonymouse writes: [if you have too many immigrants at once, like many people feel we have in the U.S. at the moment, it makes it less likely that the ones already here will assimilate.]

Here is an excerpt from a Heather Macdonald article backing you up:
[...When pressed, open-borders advocates dismiss worries about the Hispanic future with their favorite comparison between Mexicans and Italians.

The analogy goes like this: A century ago, Italian immigration anticipated the Mexican influx, above all in Italians' disregard for education. They dropped out of school in high numbers - yet they eventually prospered and joined the mainstream. Therefore, Mexicans will too.

But the analogy is flawed. To begin with, the magnitude of Mexican immigration renders all historical comparisons irrelevant, as Harvard historian Samuel Huntington argues. In 2000, Mexicans constituted nearly 30 percent of the foreign-born population in the U.S. But in 1910, Italians made up barely a seventh of the immigrant population. There was no chance that Italian would become the dominant language in any part of the country. By contrast, half of today's immigrants speak Spanish.

Equally important, the flow of newcomers came to an abrupt halt after World War I and did not resume until 1965. This long pause allowed the country ample opportunity to Americanize the foreign-born and their children. Today, no end is in sight to the migration from Mexico and its neighbors, which continually reinforces Mexican culture in American Hispanic communities and seems likely to do so for decades.]
-A New Latino Underclass
http://www.manhattan-institute.org/html/_dmn-new_latino_underclass.htm

Also, here is some info on the percentage of post high school degree attainments of different generations of mexican-americans in 1990:
First Generation: 5.4%
Second: 9.3%
Third: 8.5%
Fourth: 9.6%
All other americans:45.1%
Source:http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=2495&page=9

Anyone who says assimilation is working just fine and dandy needs to give data to back up thier assertion as I have just done. Anyone who thinks I am picking on Mexicans/hispanics needs to ask themselves which policy prescription will result in higher hispanic living standards in america(ie: who is reallypicking on hispanics): open borders or a halt/reduction in massive unskilled immigration. Heres a hint: Apply the laws of supply and demand.

Also, hispanics live in areas disproportionately affected by massive unskilled immigration (kind of a tautalogy, I know) and thus have to go to some of the most overburdened, disfunctional schools in the nation. Why make thier schools more overburdened and disfunctional through continued massive unskilled immigration? Is it any surprise that mexican-americans get so few post-high school degrees? Where is the ACLU to file a suit on the disproportionate impact of massive unskilled immigration on hispanic americans?

eddie writes:

Steve Sailer said:

Your implication that people like George Borjas, Samuel Huntington, Robert Samuelson, Christopher Jencks, Peter Brimelow, and myself haven't made an intellectually rich and powerful case on multiple grounds against the current immigration system is beneath you. The reality is that most economists have simply ducked the controversy and are unaware of the state of the art in the argument.

I'll admit to being ignorant of the best arguments that anti-immigrationists can put forth. If you could point to the current "state of the art", I'd would appreciate it.

I quickly skimmed through the immigration-related posts on your site, and while admitedly that's not a great way to find your best argument, the arguments that I did see in my brief perusal amounted to 1) immigration is bad because it means there will be a lot of people living here that came from someplace else, and 2) immigrants come from a different culture and bring it with them.

As a case against immigration, I don't find those arguments particularly persuasive. Could you point me to some others, please?

I also note that "assimilation" seems to be a big deal with you, in that you criticise the open-border advocates for being unrealistically optimistic on how quickly immigrants will assimilate and/or how many immigrants we can assimilate at one time. Would it help matters that as an open-border advocate, I couldn't care less whether, how, or how quickly immigrants assimilate? What I care about is that immigrants want to work for American employers and that American employers want to hire them - this is an economic benefit for all Americans, in the same way that WalMart and international trade benefit Americans.

Although as Bryan points out, most people have an anti-foreign bias which wrongly leads them to believe that international trade hurts Americans. Perhaps you feel the same way about international trade in goods and services as you do about international migration of labor.

Randy writes:

Is it anti-foreign bias? - or anti-getting-hurt bias. I mean, the evidence seems clear that foreign trade and even illegal immigration is a net good for americans as a whole. But that doesn't mean its good for everyone immediately, and for some not at all. Not everyone is capable of adapting. And nearly everyone fears having to adapt. I'm not saying we should cut off foreign trade or even illegal immigration. Just that if we're going to change the rules, we've got to recognize these fears for what they are. Sending a message like, "you're a racist, get over it", is unlikely to have much of an impact on the receiver - and may actually harden their resistance.

daveg writes:

Link

So silly. If Israel only new that keeping these illegal workers would have helped their economy, they would not be in the position of asking the US for 2.2 billion in additional aid.


Israel intensifies efforts to deport foreign workers

AVI MACHLIS
Jewish Telegraphic Agency

But work is scarce and time is running out: In October, Israeli police plan to step up deportations of illegal foreign workers, and James' work permit expired six months ago.

"I want to leave the country," he says. But "I don't have enough money for a ticket. I don't want somebody to dump me in a prison. I'm willing to work for my ticket or I'll go home immediately if the government pays."

Until recently, there were some 250,000 foreign workers in Israel. Only about 100,000 of them were legal. [What anti-foreign bias!]

Israeli officials say a decision to stop renewing permits has reduced the number of legal foreign laborers to about 75,000.

Starting in October, Israel plans to deport 1,000 illegal workers each month, after expelling 500 per month during the past year. In 1999, authorities hope to deport 2,000 workers a month, and eventually they want to double that.

The drive to deport foreign workers stems from public criticism that their swelling numbers, against a backdrop of rising unemployment, are creating a social time bomb.

Let Us Have Peace writes:

For the public the choice is between free trade in goods and free trade in labor - i.e. people. In the second half of the 19th century the political consensus among Americans was that the country would have open immigration and tariffs. The current political consensus is that the country will have limited immigration and open trade in goods.

The public is smart enough to think that the majority party - the Republicans - has failed to honor the agreed-upon political consensus by failing to limit immigration.

In 1920 immigration was legally closed because of (1) the general sentiment that there were too many Jews, Slavs, Italians, Japanese and Chinese in the U.S. already, (2) that the Great Influenza had been caused by those recent immigrants, and (3) that those immigrants were the source of moral corruption - i.e. drinking. The Volstead Act (prohibition) was another part of the political response. Closing the borders to immigration without at the same time opening them to free trade in goods made the Depression almost inevitable.

The present political consensus will demand that immigration be genuinely limited. The risk is that the Democrats and Republicans will make the same kind of Devil's bargain over the restrictions on the free trade of goods that they made in 1920 over labor. If they do, the consequences will be just as painful.

The American public has been wise enough to know that the country must have open and unrestricted competition as an element in the economy. They have also been shrewd enough to believe that their votes entitle them to at least some part of a free lunch - either in the wages they earn (supported by immigration restrictions) or the prices they get from their goods (supported by tariffs).

Steve Miller writes:

I don't think anyone has answered Boudreaux's basic question:

Which is it? Are most immigrants rushing over the border to free-load on welfare (and then vote for more welfare) or are they coming to take our jobs (which means they're coming to work, to be productive)?

daveg writes:

Which is it? Are most immigrants rushing over the border to free-load on welfare (and then vote for more welfare) or are they coming to take our jobs (which means they're coming to work, to be productive)?

They are coming over to work, but they end up consuming public resources and infrastructure and disrupting society in general.

And just because they come over to work doesn't mean that we should allow them to or need them to.
Many countries do very well with little immigration including Japan and Finland. These economies have much lower crime and are very pleasent to visit as well.

Steve Miller writes:

They are coming over to work, but they end up consuming public resources and infrastructure and disrupting society in general.

Moreso than any other group of working class people? They use roads more? They don't pay for the electricity or water they use? Other than policing the crime of illegal immigration, do they require require more policing than other groups? I'm not sure what you mean when you say that.

They're coming to work, I agree. So let's not pretend there's a major welfare state issue, or a "net tax-eater" problem.

Anonymouse writes:

Steve Miller writes:

"Moreso than any other group of working class people? They use roads more? They don't pay for the electricity or water they use? Other than policing the crime of illegal immigration, do they require require more policing than other groups? I'm not sure what you mean when you say that."

I hope you're kidding. If you're not, here goes: 1) they have more children than other groups, requiring more money from public schools. 2) their children do worse in school than other groups, leading to further public costs; 3) they are more likely to require apprehension, prosecution, and incarceration than other groups; 4) they are more likely not to have health insurance, leading to expensive, taxpayer-funded emergency room visits; 5) they are more likely to work *very* low-wage jobs than other working poor, leading to even less benefit to the economy than native-born working poor; 6) they are far less likely to speak English, which leads to further taxpayer-funded costs; 7) move to Southern California and you discover lots more.

Steve Miller writes:

So the problem isn't welfare or any of that stuff, it's education?

And they don't pay their share, because they make less than everybody else? Is that an argument against immigration, or an argument against a redistributive education system?

Oh wait, it's the hospitals. Because poor people don't have health insurance, it costs more for the rest of us.

So the problem is that they're poor. Not deadbeat poor, but working poor. But even the working poor are a big drain, net tax eaters? Over their lifetimes? Over two or three generations? Forever?

All of these objections don't seem to take economic growth into account, or its ultimate cause.

Oh wait, it's the language. They donta speaka English. Unlike all the other immigrants most of us are decended from who weren't from the British Isles.

Of all the objections, the language objection seems closest to the true problem most people have with immigration. They're different from me, and there are a whole lot of them.

scottynx writes:

Steve Miller writes:
[Of all the objections, the language objection seems closest to the true problem most people have with immigration. They're different from me, and there are a whole lot of them.]

Who are you to read peoples minds and question thier motives? Let's argue using facts.

Steve Miller writes:
[But even the working poor are a big drain, net tax eaters? Over their lifetimes? Over two or three generations? Forever?]

You completely ignored the data I posted about the low average educational attainments of hispanics into the 4th generation (9.6% getting post-secondary degrees). It's from a Samual P. Huntington article: Source:http://www.foreignpolicy.com/story/cms.php?story_id=2495&page=9

Steve Miller writes:
[All of these objections don't seem to take economic growth into account, or its ultimate cause.]

Are we talking total gdp growth or per capita gdp growth? Adding any given people to a country will definately raise the former, but not necessarily the latter.

Excerpts from America the Uneducated: Businessweek (nov 21, 2005)
http://www.businessweek.com/print/magazine/content/05_47/b3960108.htm?chan=mz
[.......But now, for the first time ever, America's educational gains are poised to stall because of growing demographic trends. If these trends continue, the share of the U.S. workforce with high school and college degrees may not only fail to keep rising over the next 15 years but could actually decline slightly, warns a report released on Nov. 9 by the National Center for Public Policy & Higher Education, a nonprofit group based in San Jose, Calif. The key reason: As highly educated baby boomers retire, they'll be replaced by mounting numbers of young Hispanics and African Americans, who are far less likely to earn degrees.

Because workers with fewer years of education earn so much less, U.S. living standards could take a dive unless something is done, the report argues. It calculates that lower educational levels could slice inflation-adjusted per capita incomes in the U.S. by 2% by 2020. They surged over 40% from 1980 to 2000.

.........Callan's projections are based on the growing diversity of the U.S. population. As recently as 1980, the U.S. workforce was 82% white. By 2020, it will be just 63% white. Over this 40-year span, the share of minorities will double, to 37%, as that of Hispanic workers nearly triples, to 17%. The problem is, both Hispanics and African Americans are far less likely to earn degrees than their white counterparts. If those gaps persist, the number of Americans age 26 to 64 who don't even have a high school degree could soar by 7 million, to 31 million, by 2020. Meanwhile, although the actual number of adults with at least a college degree would grow, their share of the workforce could fall by a percentage point, to 25.5%.

......... Even with No Child, backsliding already has happened in Texas, the laboratory President George W. Bush used for the law when he was governor of the state. Why? The Lone Star State's Hispanic population is exploding. Because minority students are far more likely to drop out of high school, Texas now ranks dead last among the 50 states in the percentage of adults who have a high school degree. That's down from 39th in 1990.

Similarly, Texas ranks 35th among the states in the percentage of adults who have a college degree, down from 23rd in 1990. State demographer Steve H. Murdock is telling anyone who will listen that Texas public schools will be 80% minority by 2040, up from 57% in 2000. If the education gap persists, he warns, the income of the average Texas household will fall by $6,500 by 2040, after inflation adjustments -- potentially fueling a spike in poverty, the prison population, and other social problems. "We've been very hard hit," says Murdock......]

Mr. Econotarian writes:

Let me know when you win the war on drugs. At that point, I am sure we will be ready to take on the war on illegal immigration. Oh, I forgot, both are impossible.

Steve Miller writes:

Are we talking total gdp growth or per capita gdp growth? Adding any given people to a country will definately raise the former, but not necessarily the latter.

As I suspected, you're missing the point. Adding more people who specialize and trade will increase both. You'd have to explain why comparative advantage doesn't apply to immigrants.

Further, you haven't said anything about current immigrant groups that hasn't been said about blacks, Catholics, Jews, etc. in the past.

Fallacy #1: Immigration brings down average education levels, and this is bad. Except that bringing down the average is not the same as bringing down the number of people educated. Your degree doesn't disappear because of immigration. If anything, it becomes more valuable.

Fallacy #2: Same with living standards. A reduction in average living standards due to immigration doesn't turn your house into a shack, or your Toyota into a beat-up Oldsmobile.

Fallacy #3: Low average educational attainment among hispanics immigrants. Is this low average higher than that of the people they left behind? Is it rising? Is the 4th generation more educated than the first? If so, it doesn't sound like something to be concerned about. It sounds like progress.

As an aside, I'm not reading peoples' minds. I'm listening to what they say: They're not like us. They don't speak English. They don't participate in the larger community. They don't buy American goods, they send the money home. They don't share our beliefs and values. And at the top of the list, there are just too many coming in too quickly. Your own post reveals this thinking: the workforce will fall from 82% white to 63% white. Oh, horrors!

Nevermind that over that 40-year period the increases in standards of living have been and will continue to improve dramatically.

Anti-Foreign bias goes hand-in-hand with the other three types Caplan identifies: make-work, pessimistic, and anti-market.

daveg writes:

Steve, have you even read the comments on this thread?

Californa has an 4 billion dollar budger deficit, and this is after much cutting and raising taxes. It was as much as 12 billion during the gray davis era.

We can trace 8 billion dollars of public expenditure to illegal immigrants or their direct offspring. That is only what we can trace directly. There are many more costs that are not as easily traced.

At a 10% tax rate immigration would have to generate 80 billion dollars in taxable revenue, which at a average 10% profit margin means something like 800 billion! What a joke! And that is still too low because 10% is the highest bracket in CA, and those illegals are not paying at 10%, it they pay at all.

We are not talking about chump change here.

Als, I haven't seen one post saying I don't like these people becuase there are "different," although that is a perfectly good reason to not want immigration in my opinion.

There are public schools in California with more than 50% of the kids can't speak english. There are studies that show that 50% of Los Angeles is function illiterate. This is not helping the american ecomony or social structure.

Some Americans love to show that the are whollier than tho by demonstrating how open they are to unlimited and uncontrolled immigration. But perhaps looking at another society that will allow more distance and more objectivity.

What if we introduced 15 million uneduated mexicans into Japan? That is about 10% of the population, which is less that what we have in the US by all accounts.

Do you think that would improve the Japanese economy? Would it improvie the Japanese crime rate? Would the educational system of Japan benefit or suffer? Would they be more competitive internationally?

To me it is obvoius that the answer to all these questions is the effects would be horrible for Japan accross the board. Can't we use the same objective judgement for the US as well?

Lord writes:

Except that bringing down the average is not the same as bringing down the number of people educated.

No, but it does lower gdp per capita. I want to live in a society, not a third world country.

A reduction in average living standards due to immigration doesn't turn your house into a shack, or your Toyota into a beat-up Oldsmobile.

No, it turns your neighbors into one.

It sounds like progress.

For them certainly. For us no. And the fact that their descendents will do better has no bearing on the next that will follow.

John S Bolton writes:

If we're loyal to civilization and its advancement, we should want the rich countries to increase producutivity and per capita income more rapidly than would occur, when there is pressure towards equalization of wages and unemployment rates between countries via immigration. Loyalty to the advancement of civilization, the citizen and to the net taxpayer, should not be described as bias against the foreigner. There is high moral and economic value in not allowing the progress of civilzation in its most advanced forms, be held hostage to the reproduction preferences of the more backward countries.

daveg writes:

Now I know most on this blog don't care whether Americans lose jobs to illegal immigrants, but remember this is a democracy and you will end up supporting fellow americans who can't support themselves. They will vote to ensure that eventually.

November’s Job Numbers: Good for immigrants; Bad for the Rest of Us

U.S. job market sprang back last month from a hurricane-induced slowdown as nonfarm employers added 215,000 workers, according to the government’s report on business payrolls.

But another report—the one based on a survey of households—reported a 52,000 job decline from October. More important, from our perspective, is the composition of that decline:

Non-Hispanic employment fell by 183,000;

Hispanic employment rose by 131,000.

Thus non-Hispanics bore the full brunt of the November job decline, according to the Household survey.

To be sure, the Household survey is dismissed by MSM pundits as quirky and unreliable. Yet over the past the past year it has closely tracked the more widely cited Payroll Survey: Both surveys report that about 2 million jobs were created over the past 12 months. But only the Household Survey presents monthly job data by race and ethnicity.

Link

daveg writes:

I have redid the numbers for tax inputs and outputs for illegal immigrants in California.

California GDP is 1.5 trillion (1500 Billion). The tax receipts are about 90 billion, or about 6% of GDP. Using the 6% figure one would have to produce about 133 billion in business activity to generate 8 billion in revenue.

Now, assuming 4 million working illegal immigrant in California and an average wage of $20,000 you get 80 billion in business activity, which falls 50% short of the needed revenue.

However, these numbers give the maximum benefit of the doubt to the illegal immigrant activity. THe reality is that much of this income is under the table and untaxed. Also, the average of 6% is too high on its face as this is the average of all tax brackets. The first 20,000 of income is basically untaxed in California.

If you adjust the average tax rate for illegals to 3% you need 266 billion in income to generate 8 billion is tax revenue. The 266 number is more than 3 times the estimated 80 billion in actual business activity.

I think the 3% is still too high, but it is good enough for blog work.

Bottom line, businesses that hire illegal aliens are sticking the state, and therefore california residents, with a big tab. They are being subsidized by the state are are the main reason for the 4 billion dollar budget deficit in CA.

scottynx writes:

As I suspected, you're missing the point. Adding more people who specialize and trade will increase both. You'd have to explain why comparative advantage doesn't apply to immigrants.
**I prefer free trade to do that as opposed to unskilled immigrants. There are less negative externalities. Someone in a foriegn country can't commit crimes against, use more government services then they pay in taxes, or vote for Liberal Democrats so that your taxes rise.

Further, you haven't said anything about current immigrant groups that hasn't been said about blacks, Catholics, Jews, etc. in the past.
**Jews, were a group who had quotas working against them so that they were once largely kept out of elite college. Currently, hispanics get the exact opposite treatment, affirmative action, yet still don't approach current college rates of asians, another immigrant group that does not recieve affirmative action.

Fallacy #1: Immigration brings down average education levels, and this is bad. Except that bringing down the average is not the same as bringing down the number of people educated. Your degree doesn't disappear because of immigration. If anything, it becomes more valuable.

I have no doubt schools will lower standards that to bring average education (of sorts) levels up becaue of Affirmative action plus continued latin american immigration. Asians come here now and do great. Some x-factor or factors results in the hispanic-asian difference in income, education, etc. I don't profess to know what these factors are, but won't they be around for at least several generations? What happens to america in the meantime?


Fallacy #2: Same with living standards. A reduction in average living standards due to immigration doesn't turn your house into a shack, or your Toyota into a beat-up Oldsmobile.

**When 12 illegals live in a house next to yours it could reduce the value of your property. W
**When the gini coefficient rises more then it would have due to massive unskilled immigration, doesn't that increase the chances of Liberal Democrats winning elections and trashing economic libertarians dreams? Poor whites vote disproportionately for liberal democrats as well, but I'm not complaining about them because they aren't immigrating en masse.
**Maybe over the very long term, all groups will come to have the same levels of poverty and per capita income, given libertarian economic policies. But what if in the mean time socialist policies are adopted and prevent poor people from moving up (See FRENCH RIOTS)? It's a feedback loop: More poor people leads to more socialism which leads to more poor people which leads to more socialism and so on. Poor people and hispanics do actually vote disproportionately for Lib-Dems. It is a fact. Just like it is a fact that the Republican California of Reagan's time is no more due to Hispanic immigration. Maybe a Libertarian (large L) doesn't care. Trotsky did say worse is better. Just realize that ruin caused by French socialism doesn't seem to be leading voters to want Libertarianism. Just tell me how you convince poor voters to eschew socialism for libertarianism, against thier (percieved) self-interests. I'm just dealing with the world as it is now.
**Also, every asian and white is put at a greater disadvantage with the immigration of every underperforming minority, in getting into college and finding a job, due to affirmative action.
**You completely ignore the reduction in quality of life due to the immigration of underperforming minorities:

[...An estimated 12.8% of black males, 3.7% of Hispanic males, and 1.6% of white males in their twenties were imprisoned at midyear 2002

...In 2003, there were 4,834 black male prisoners per 100,000 black males in the U.S., 1,778 Hispanic male prisoners per 100,000 Hispanic males, and only 681 white male prisoners per 100,000 white males.
see http://www.defendingjustice.org/pdfs/factsheets/8-Fact%20Sheet%20-%20Trends.pdf]

Crime hurts people, and not just the ethnic group that commits them (see interracial crime). School's go downhill. It sucks to have to move into a more expensive neighborhood to get away from rising crime and declining schools. This is not just theoretical. These are facts. I want to hear facts, and while you wait for your theoreticaly inevitable (historical analogy is not proof) convergence to happen, real people suffer. In three generations from now (the most optimist convergence estimate without being ridiculous) a large amount of damage in the form of crime, taxes, costs of middle-class flight, etc. Having people of one speaking ethnic group go from practically zero to 25% of the population in just 95 years (1965-2050) has probably not happened since the English. I think it calls for a big wall. Did the germans even reach 25% of our population? Even if they did they came over a period of hundreds of years. That was a good thing.

Glen Raphael writes:

Regarding education spending, the sensible way to do the accounting is to think of it as a subsidy to the kid, not to the parent. It is a subsidy that gets paid back out of that same child's taxes when he grows up to be a productive citizen. If you think of it that way, then the problem that immigrants have more kids and are therefore costing the school system more money goes away - there's no perceived subsidy in the direction of the more fruitful.

Even if you insist on matching the funding with the parents, you still have to take into account that a population that has more children than average is less of a burden than average on the social security system. If the demographics mean they "bankrupt the school system" the flip side is that the same demographic characteristics mean they save social security and medicare. Isn't that basically a wash?

Hispanics have more kids, so they have a lower average age, which means more workers per retiree. Less college means they enter the workforce sooner, which means they pay into the system earlier. Lower earnings means they pay a larger than average percentage of income into the system (due to the cap). Lower-than-average life expectancy means they also receive payments for fewer years at the end. It seems likely the net effect is the hispanic population is heavily subsidizing the retirement of the white population. Just one more of the many ways immigrants make our lives better...

Glen Raphael writes:

Come to think of it, since colleges are heavily subsidized in California, the fact that recent generations of hispanics tend not to attend is yet another benefit, a place where they are saving us money by paying taxes and then not consuming services those taxes pay for. If the California college system is still in financial difficulty that is despite recent immigration, not due to it.

John S Bolton writes:

Foreign born are more than 3 years older than the national average, and their personal incomes are 1/3 below. If one says that their characteristics can be adjusted for age and other factors decreasing the chance for them to parasitize the net taxpayer in the welfare society, that's a lot like saying the more restrictionism of immigration the better. If one says that we just have to accept whatever the third world throws at us, because our gov't is for the world altogether, or because we shouldn't have a government, what was the point of pretending that foreign born are younger or equally likely to be net taxpayers?

Ann writes:

If our goal is to maximize the utility of all people around the world, then we should encourage, even pressure, other governments to improve, rather than allowing unlimited numbers of immigrants to drag us down with them. Out of the billions of people in the world, how many do we have space for in the US? Doesn't it make more sense for them to fix their own countries, and then we can have open borders without being expected to support everyone? Why do we want people to have to face a choice between living in poverty and struggling to come to the US, when they could be prosperous at home if their government would get its act together?

As for what Dan Landau said earlier:

"The anti-immigrant illiterates try to pretend they only want to enforce the laws against illegal immigration. So why don’t you increase the number of legal immigrants allowed? They don’t have an answer."

Yes, I have an answer: I support increased legal immigration. Some of us distinguish between legal and illegal immigration, and you have no right to simply assume that anyone who wants our laws upheld is a racist or an illiterate. I've lived and worked in another country, but I did it legally and would have considered it wrong to instead break in and violate their system to suit my own purposes.

I think that we should increase legal immigration, giving preference to those who have been trying to come legally, and that we should deport any and all that came here illegally, regardless of race. Why is that racist or illiterate? Please explain why it is illiterate to argue that the rule of law matters.

Alan Reynolds writes:

It is quite possible to favor immigration yet oppose U.S. immigration policy. This is essentially a rationing problem, and we make too little use of the price system and too much use of political preferences and waiting lists.

Some of the comments on this article, such as the notion that illegal immigration is larger than legal immigration, are based on "facts not in evidence." The highest estimates of illegal immigration (from the Pew Center) amount to about half a million a year which compares to nearly a million legal immigratants a year over the past four years. Pew figures Mexicans account for 57 percent of illegal immigrants, a fraction unchanged for a decade.
There are more heresies in my column:

http://www.townhall.com/opinion/column/alanreynolds/2005/12/01/177282.html

daveg writes:

Glen, if you just want to make up nice sounding stories then I can just as easily say that most illegal immigrants work under the table and pay no SS or taxes whatsoever. This is highly likely to be the truth of the matter.

There is a religious tone to immigration that borders on worship. It is very odd.

Again, think as to whether another country would benefit from this many uneducated people entering their country.

-b

daveg writes:

Here is an example of how reduced labor increases productivtive and innovation. This creates opportunities for engineers and other "high value add" jobs in america while eventially leading to greater productivity as these machines will undoubtedly work better than humans after some period of time.

Fruit growers turn to technology to ease labor woes

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WENATCHEE, Wash. -- Stymied in efforts to ease labor problems through a guest worker immigration program, Washington state orchardists have been advised to seek relief through technology.

"Labor costs are going up and availability is going down. It's quite likely that the availability will continue to go down. This is where technology can help us," said Bob Brammer, president of Crane & Crane Inc. of Brewster, at the Washington State Horticultural Association's 101st annual meeting that began Monday.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, told the 1,400 growers of apples, pears, cherries, apricots and other crops that a guest worker program to ease agricultural labor shortages faces an uphill political battle.

...

Link

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