Arnold Kling  

My take on anti-foreign bias

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In my latest essay, I write,


The Battle of the Borders is a distraction. In the context of an existential threat coming from militant Islam, Mexicans and other Hispanics seeking better opportunity in the United States are, at worst, a minor nuisance.

After we satisfy our anti-Hispanic hysteria, and after we throw the Jews under the bus, our real enemies will be even stronger.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds writes


I'm not sure how much of the political resonance comes directly from economics, though. I think there's a political aspect, too, having to do with the effort of people who aren't citizens, and aren't here legally, to wield political power within the United States.

I can see his point. I would rather see immigrants assimilate first and become a political force later, rather than the other way around.


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TrackBack URL: http://econlog.econlib.org/mt/mt-tb.cgi/479
The author at The New Market Machines in a related article titled Mojados, Jihadis and Red Herrings writes:
    What do they all having in common? They’re all swimming around in the minds of the drowning burning Bush administration. ... [Tracked on March 27, 2006 10:49 AM]
COMMENTS (28 to date)
T.R. Elliott writes:

It is inflamatory to use the rhetorical device of throwing jews under the bus against those who believe US policy should be defined by US objectives. Israel plays a role in those objectives, but to sling mud at those who want to ensure US policy is not negatively influenced by the Israel Lobby is nonsense.

This made me curious. I asked myself: What are Kling's positions on the settlements? I didn't exactly discover them, but did discover that, in contrast to his previous post on the theatre of anger, in which he writes:

anger must be very successful from a marketing standpoint. If so, then I am certain to fail in the political debating marketplace

we learn from his essay on fighting Palestinians that in fact

anger serves to maintain a decent sense of your self as an autonomous human being that can say "no" when necessary

Anger is in fact an appropriate response when boundaries are crossed.

This is a problem I have in general with TCS and some of the posts I've read of Kling and Caplan. And please note, this is not ad-hominem. It is a summary of my analysis. My problem is that they have fundamental positions--I would even call them fundamentalist positions--and then they are spending more time and effort arguing these positions, clothing them in twisted language, than they are testing these positions.

This is an exageration on my part. And I'm not saying I've not done the same. But to be told that that anger is useful when in support of Israel, and then be told that Krugman's anger--at the mendacity of the Bush adminstration, its failures, and crossing of boundaries that should not have been crossed--to be told this anger is theatrics: this is simply self-serving propagandizing on Kling's part.

And it does make me angry to be told that I'm throwing Jews on the bus if I believe that we should consider the influence of Israel on US policy. In particular, consider that the Israel lobby in the past 25 years has come to include fundamentalist evangelical christians who may not even have the best interest of Israel in mind.

Unlike Mr Kling, I think the primary war is not with Islam. It is with fundamentalism. And he ought to look around because the war against Islam, the diatribe and etching away of liberties and rights, could very well lead to results, even in the US, that he will come to regret.

There is a battle of ideas in the world right now. It is between a liberal tradition--a tradition that includes BOTH marx and locke--against a fundamentalist reactionary urge, whether it expresses itself as Christian Nationalism, Islamic Terror, US Hegemonic manipulation of foreign governments in the past 50 years, or the drive to create a larger Israel based upon tenuous biblical and historical arguments (which if true, make me think the Native Americans have a good case for the return of much US territory).

Basically what Mr Kling is telling us is that we should not open up certain boxes. We should not consider them. To do so is apparently racist and tantamount to a pogrom. My reaction to his accusations are--what else--anger. And rightly so.

Roger M writes:

Arnold writes “As long as militants are strong and occasionally successful, they will attract recruits and succeed at intimidating moderates. In order for moderation to have any chance, we need to inflict crushing defeats on the militants.”

Wow! That shows incredible insight into the Arab mind, insight that our State Dept severely lacks. I have studied the Arab world for over 30 years, and have lived there. Our “win-their-hearts” strategy has failed and will continue to fail because Arabs respect strength; they interpret kindness as weakness.

I also agree with Arnold on the illegal immigration issue. But I’m surprised more economists haven’t talked about improving Mexico’s economy as a way to encourage Mexicans to stay home. Mexican workers send about $9 billion home each year. Most of them long to return home to family and do so after building a nest egg. The vast majority do agricultural work. If we would allow Mexican agricultural products into the US without restrictions, more illegals would find work at home.

Neo writes:

I really didn’t think much about this immigration stuff, but I must say looking at the photos that this really brings home just how big a problem illegal immigration has become.

Worse of all, they hide in plain sight. After weeks of talking about port security where something might be smuggled in, we are faced with this. Here they are in LA, half a million, in plain view, with no "might" attached.

Perhaps the INS could sponsor another one of these rallies, requesting that all participants use public transportation to the rally as they will provide transportation home.

Deoxy writes:

I think you hugely ovrestimate the expense of building a wall. Walls are cheap. That we HAVEN'T done so before it appalling.

And I'm not "anti-foreign" any more than somene who lives in a house with walls is "anti-neighbor". Let's have large gates! Let's let large numbers of people come in, that's fine.

But I want them to come in by the front door, not through windows or holes in my walls.

Big D writes:

I don't have a problem with immigration. The "they'll steal our jobs" line doesn't impress me in the least. Besides, a legal immigrant is--an American.

What I *do* have a problem with is the "illegal" thing. I want all immigrants (really, all citizens) of this country to *be* Americans.

Being an American is a state of mind; not just a birth certificate or a green card. That's what the immigration process *should* be doing, as it teaches immigrants our history, our language, our government, and our society.

Illegal immigrants bypass all of that, and many fail to assimilate as a result. They live in America, but they don't consider themselves to be Americans.

Note that assimilation works both ways--it's also a valuable means for changing the broader society to adapt to the immigrants. We're not talking Borg, we're talking Melting Pot.

Take that away, and what you have is Europe.

I'm all for tripling legal immigration from Mexico--as long as immigrants are taught what they need to know about this country, including respect for a mostly non-corrupt rule of law, *and* as long as those who seek to skip this process are punished.

TLB writes:

Does anyone who uses a phrase like "anti-Hispanic" and then gets even worse when discussing a vital issue like immigration even deserve a response?

No, but anyway: we've got foreign citizens who are here illegally marching in our streets demanding rights to which they aren't entitled.

The Georgia march was organized by a former Mexican Consul General.

Mexico may have just delivered a show of political and physical force inside the U.S.

And, worrying about that is just "anti-Hispanic hysteria"?

T.R. Elliott writes:

I'd also like to point out that in Kling's discussion of the Palestinian issue in No Boundaries he argues that the "absence of borders" is a problem. I find it ironic that he argues that the absence of borders in that case is bad yet the absence of a border that is respected on the South side of the US is somehow not a problem.

I disagree.

I will also point out that in the reference Kling does not argue for settlements. I agree with his opinion on the need for a settled border, wherever it may find itself. But he does argue for borders. And I think immigration is similarly a problem in which borders are not respected.

Immigration is fine. Let's define the terms and make it legal. Illegal immigration is wrong.

I'd also recommend checking out James Hamilton's blog as he's commented on this issue as well.

And please remember: if everyone, on both sides of the political aisle, won't get together to solve this problem reasonably, which I think includes solving imbalances in globalization, populists, racists, and demagogues will.

Libertarians will lose. Pragmatists will lose. Everyone will lose.

Silas Barta writes:

I'd respond T.R. Elliot's comments, but he/she will just ignore them and or respond with soundbites without quite explaining their relevance. So, I'll pass, thanks.

Mr. Econotarian writes:

"Take that away, and what you have is Europe"

No, to have Europe you need socialism and labor regulation, which ends up ghettoizing both immigrants and their children.

The children of all the immigrants in the US I know speak English and have assimilated just fine. Children of maids are working in white collar jobs in offices. Some of the maids even opened up their own chains of restaurants.

Keep in mind in the 1930's to 1950's there were plenty of Yiddish Radio (http://www.yiddishradioproject.org/) stations on the air. Mass immigration waves of foreigners who don't speak English is no new occurance in the U.S., it happens every 50 to 100 years, and we end up a richer country for it every time.

...if we can avoid the socialism...

Orwell's Ghost writes:

"Keep in mind in the 1930's to 1950's there were plenty of Yiddish Radio (http://www.yiddishradioproject.org/) stations on the air. Mass immigration waves of foreigners who don't speak English is no new occurance in the U.S., it happens every 50 to 100 years, and we end up a richer country for it every time."

A constant wave of this size and length is unprecedented, as is the fact they come from the country next door where people are taught the American Southwest should belong to them.

Just wait till our friends in the UN figure out what's going on and begins calling conferences and drafting supposedly non-binding resolutions that build up tensions and create victim complexes.

Orwell's Ghost writes:

Furthermore, the idea that Americans have a choice between Mexicans and noone to do their jobs is false. If we wanted to, we could diversify the source of our immigration easily, there is no shortage of Asians, Africans, Europeans, etc, who are just as willing. The Israelis import Fillipinos, for Christ's sake.

Going next door is stupid on too many levels.

Dezakin writes:

What does Israel have to do with US immigration again? The loose tying of these two issues together confuses me at best.

Its worth noting also that the Israel zionist lobby is a much more fundamentalist christian phenomenon than a jewish one also; If it were only a jewish position then we would have long ago abandoned Israel for purposes of realpolitik as we've abandoned pet causes of every other minority lobbying group.

But is this about immigration or jews or Israel or foreign policy? It certainly doesnt seem to be about economics.

mark writes:


No question, Los Angeles has a large illegal immigrant population. A 500,000+ rally is enormous. But keep in mind that the population of Los Angeles county alone holds roughly 12 million residents. The 3 or 4 immediate surrounding counties hold another 9 or 10 million peeople. So a localized rally of a half million is about 2.5% of the immediate population? I'm sure you'd get similar numbers in NYC as well if not more.

Second, I suspect at least half the rally participants, if not more, were probably American Citizens. The presumption is that 500,000 illegal immigrants all got together for this rally. But 500,000 illegal immigrants in Los Angeles simply don't have that kind of time to hold a rally. They work crappy jobs, and long work hours.
Yes, there were anecdotal evidence of foriegn nationals influencing domestic issues (The classic photo of someone waving a Mexican flag always does the trick).
but I suspect more US citizens waved Mexican flags during the rally than illegal immigrants.

Third, assimilation is much more complex than simply fillng out the right paperwork. It seems evident that someone who grew up here in the US illegally would be much more assimilated into our society than someone one who moved here five years ago and recently naturalized.

Fourth, the late 1880's to 1920's witness immigration into the US that was comparable (or exceeded) current immigration trends in terms of volume and duration. So it is not like this is completely unprecedented.

Last, It is truth that large immigrant pools await in Asia and Africa. But attempting to bring in White Europeans into American to mow our lawns and pick our fruits may not be realistic. Current US immigration law provides diversity waivers which activity give preference to European immigrants (Think Affirmative Action for white people (i know, shocking...). However the program has not been as successful as some of our politicians would have liked.


I did grow up in Los Angeles (so factor that in however you like). And no, I don't support illegal immigration, and I do support the idea of making the immigration process more just for immigrants who play by our rules.
But it's evident to most that illegal immigrants do not steal our jobs, they are not a teror-security problem, largely assimilate inspite of us Americans, and have been vital to many small and midsize American companies.

Finally, it is not in thier economic interest to "take back southwest" for Mexico. My impression was that the Mexican economy was why they came here in the first place.

mark writes:

Dezakin writes:

What does Israel have to do with US immigration again? The loose tying of these two issues together confuses me at best.

I'm with him on that one.

Glen Raphael writes:

I agree with T.R. My immediate reaction to the "throw the Jews under the bus" line in the linked article was to wonder "what the hell is wrong with Kling?"

Being a Jewish American does not require defending US military or monetary support for Israel. To cut the middle east off cold turkey would not be to throw me under any tracks since I suspect Israel would be much stronger and safer without our "help". Foreign aid rarely works to the great benefit of the peoples of the countries that are "helped", and I doubt this is an exception.

If you think US intervention in Iraq or aid to Israel or intervention in Iran is vital to the security of the Jews in Israel, make some kind of argument to that effect. But don't act like the assertion requires no evidence. And please don't bring American Jews into it unless you're willing to give at least a hint at a logical connection between the two.

Orwell's Ghost writes:

"Fourth, the late 1880's to 1920's witness immigration into the US that was comparable (or exceeded) current immigration trends in terms of volume and duration. So it is not like this is completely unprecedented."

The US now has more people inside it that were born outside the country than at any time in its history. And, if the politicians had their way, there would be no end in sight. There has also never been such a large percentage of immigrants from from country, let alone one that is next door.

Traditional immigration waves have consisted of distinct beginnings and ends, we've had relatively open borders since the 1970s. It was also all legal immigration, to a society that pressured citizens to learn English and assimilate.

"Last, It is truth that large immigrant pools await in Asia and Africa. But attempting to bring in White Europeans into American to mow our lawns and pick our fruits may not be realistic. Current US immigration law provides diversity waivers which activity give preference to European immigrants (Think Affirmative Action for white people (i know, shocking...). However the program has not been as successful as some of our politicians would have liked."

I said, Asia, Africa, and Europe, meaning specifically Eastern Europe, where there is no shortage of potential immigrants. And there is nothing shocking about giving preference to people who are culturally most similar to you. It is actually a matter of common sense, we're just too politically correct to acknowledge it.

"I did grow up in Los Angeles (so factor that in however you like). And no, I don't support illegal immigration, and I do support the idea of making the immigration process more just for immigrants who play by our rules.
But it's evident to most that illegal immigrants do not steal our jobs, they are not a teror-security problem, largely assimilate inspite of us Americans, and have been vital to many small and midsize American companies.

Finally, it is not in thier economic interest to "take back southwest" for Mexico. My impression was that the Mexican economy was why they came here in the first place. "

I grew up in Southwest Florida, went to school in a school that was 50% Cuban, Dominican, and Mexican...since we're appealing to authority.

Economic interest? Is it in the Palestinian's economic interst to secede from Israel? I think not, now that it is happening they are actually fighting to keep economic ties, to no avail. Economic interests often go by the wayside in these matters.

The point is that there is no reason to even risk creating an American Quebec.

John S Bolton writes:

Not as bad as the moslem, in terms of hostility; does not mean lacking in hostility. These rallies are further declarations of war by Mexico; how can we be said to be at peace with Mexico in these circumstances?
They're saying that the country is theirs to walk in and plunder as they like. America has all sorts of weaponry, including nuclear; which these hostiles need to be reminded of.
The right mix of appeasement with occasional provocations, is the most efficient recipe for war. To take the side of the foreign hostiles now, is to appease them, and help bring on that war.

Dobeln writes:

Immigration, both legal and illegal, to the Unites States carries with it huge negative externalities. Why?

- The major immigrant groups coming into the US (Mexicans foremost, of course) exhibit social statistics that are below the norm in virtually every category. This means in turn that immigration enthusiasts are imposing on their fellow citizens all the associated costs, such as:

- An increased risk of being exposed to violent crime (Hispanics are roughly three times as prone to violence as the US white population) This can of course be construed as something benificial: immigrants just doing "the rapes and murders americans just won't do".

- Larger transfer payments

- A tighter low-end job market leading to even larger transfer payments and even more crime (I.e. displacement of US blacks)

- Yet another "no ****, no peace" ethnic block, with a taste for socialism and a distaste for Gringos. Witness the demonstrations of the last week for a taste of what's coming.

- Large-scale ethnic cleansing of lower-income blacks and whites. The middle class has to spend even more resources escaping from "poor schools", etc.

- Finally, on the issue of Israel - where do you believe Hispanic sympathies lie? Ever seen any strong support for Israel coming out of Latin America?

Oxymoron writes:

Arnold,

I enjoy this site and your and Bryan's commentary.

This was your worst post I've ever seen. "Anti-Hispanic hysteria" -- please, so I can still respect you, never, ever, ever use this phrase again.

JohnDewey writes:

Dobeln,

I'm not sure about a couple of your points.

About your claim that Hispanics are three times more likely than white citizens to be guilty of violent crime:

That doesn't really distinguish between Mexican immigrants working in restaurants or orchards and Columbian drug dealers, does it?

Would it make more sense to compare illegal immigrant crime rates with crime rates of all low-income citizens? and ignore skin colors and ethnic backgrounds?

Your claim about larger transfer payments:

What data did you use? Did you offset transfer payments with all the taxes that immigrants pay? including FICA taxes they pay to a dead man's account but which incur no corresponding liability?

About your claim that immigrants are displacing blacks:

Do you have any evidence of this at all? Unemployment in the U.S. is 4.8%. I'm inclined to believe that unemployed African-Americans in the U.S. really don't want to pour foundations, pick produce, and carve up beef carcasses. Did you notice the residents of housing projects gathered at the New Orleans convention center last fall? Or the ones looting on the streets? How long are they going to last out in the fields or up on an asphalt roof?

Roger M writes:

Arnold is right about the left's lust to "throw the Jews under the bus." Some of us recall their "Better Red than Dead" slogans before the USSR collapsed. They always want to appease any anti-American group. They're probably cheering the Afghan court decision to execute the guy who converted to Christianity. Muslims murder Christians by the hundreds across the Middle East with impunity. These are the people the left want to embrace and rescue from Israel and the US.

Dobeln writes:

"Would it make more sense to compare illegal immigrant crime rates with crime rates of all low-income citizens? and ignore skin colors and ethnic backgrounds?

No, as importing more low-income inhabitants also means importing more crime. There is no point to "taking income into account" etc. as doing so does not make the crime go away. As for the Colombian drug dealers, they don't tick "Colombian drug dealer" on their amnesty form - colombian drug dealers are merely another part of the wonderful diversity of the lax-immigration-enforcement package.

"What data did you use? Did you offset transfer payments with all the taxes that immigrants pay? including FICA taxes they pay to a dead man's account but which incur no corresponding liability?"

The one thing that is clear is, that as immigrant have low socio-economic standing, and are swelling the ranks of US poor, the US will be subsidizing them through:

- Public benefits
- Affirmative action
- The various rents they will start extracting as soon as they have the majority population intimidated enough. (See recent demonstrations for an example of how it will go down)

Costs are likely to be substantial, as to quote Robert J. Samuelson: "Since 1980 the number of Hispanics with incomes below the government's poverty line (about $19,300 in 2004 for a family of four) has risen 162 percent."

As a bonus, they will also force more regulation of the economy, as they have more socialist preferences than average Americans. (Hello, Mr. Chavez!) If you want someone to fabulate together an excact dollar figure, you will have to go to someone more dishonest than me.

"Do you have any evidence of this at all? Unemployment in the U.S. is 4.8%. I'm inclined to believe that unemployed African-Americans in the U.S. really don't want to pour foundations, pick produce, and carve up beef carcasses."

This article sums up the situation nicely:
http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20D10FA34550C738EDDAA0894DE404482

Roughly 50 percent of black men without college degrees have jobs. (20 percent for whites)

"Did you notice the residents of housing projects gathered at the New Orleans convention center last fall? Or the ones looting on the streets? How long are they going to last out in the fields or up on an asphalt roof?"

Let's put it this way - having huge amounts of cheap hispanics around certainly doesn't help the situation. And US blacks certainly used to be able to work - I doubt that has changed fundamentally.

Dobeln writes:

"Arnold is right about the left's lust to "throw the Jews under the bus."

Which is why it's so strange that Arnold is such a firm advocate of importing huge quantities of hispanics, who couldn't give a rodent's behind for Israel.

Has there ever been a vocal supporter of Israel among south american politicians? I can think of some hard-core nazi symps, but I am at a loss for even one strong pro-Israeli voice.

JohnDewey writes:

Dobeln,

I don't want to pay for the subscription at the link you provided. Would you mind allowing me to forego this expense by summing the argument you wished to make?

I seriously doubt that half the adult black male non-degreed population is out of work and seeking jobs. I do not believe that one-fifth the adult white male non-degreed population is either. I'll accept the BLS unemployment data before the biased reporting in the NY Times.

"Let's put it this way - having huge amounts of cheap hispanics around certainly doesn't help the situation."

Oh, yes, Dobeln. Having extremely productive, low-cost labor inside our borders does very much help our economy. For years my wife and my brother have both worked alongside those "cheap hispanics", as you refer to them. They know exactly the economic contribution Hispanic immigrants are making. Our nation would be better off with 12 million more just like them.

Just to clarify, I did not in any way demean the contribution of African Americans in general. I was only referring to those able-bodied people who continue to not work and receive public assistance.

Ajay writes:

I generally respect Arnold's opinions on other topics but, like some other jews, he seems to be too biased about israel to provide any meaningful analysis of middle east policy. A crucial insight into his mindset can be found in the language he uses in his essay. He starts off by talking about Israel and the leftist, anti-war view of Israel and says that the left wants to "throw the Jews under the bus." Presumably, he's talking about jews in Israel as he began the piece talking about Israel. However, in the next sentence he says "go ahead and try to throw us under the bus"[emphasis added]. He places himself in this group of israeli jews rather than american jews (he does make the distinction between the two groups and presumably is not referring to them collectively as he refers to both groups separately later in the piece). In the next paragraph, he feels the need to rebut this association of himself with israeli jews by stating "I see myself as an American, first and foremost." These mixed allegiances are obviously why his analysis of this issue is so sloppy and badly thought out.

Dobeln writes:

"Oh, yes, Dobeln. Having extremely productive, low-cost labor inside our borders does very much help our economy. "

Your personal experience counts for nothing when it comes to policy - only statistics matter for policy, and hispanic social stats are considerably worse than for the average american. Thus, every additional hispanic immigrant on average lowers the social viability of the United States. (Average population quality is what differentiates, say, Nigeria from Switzerland)


As for the state of Black men, some of the original graphs can be found at zero cost here:

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1599432/posts

JohnDewey writes:

Dobeln writes:
"Your personal experience counts for nothing when it comes to policy - only statistics matter for policy, and hispanic social stats are considerably worse than for the average american. "

Policy is not made by statisticians or economists, but by the elected representatives of the public. The shared personal experiences of the public does count for a lot. I've been told by their advisors that elected leaders often react more strongly to 2,000 letters than to statistical summaries.

The problem with a statistics-only approach is that most of the public and its representatives have only a rudimentary knowledge of statistics. For that reason, it is very easy for an advocate to use simplistic statistics to "prove" a point.

Personal experiences act as a check on the statistical propaganda disseminated by advocates. If our collective personal experiences show that immigrants from Mexico are hard-working and independent, then we will question statistics that show Hispanics to be net consumers in the economy. When that happens, policy makers will correctly ask statisticians to relook at their numbers.

Dobeln writes:

"I've been told by their advisors that elected leaders often react more strongly to 2,000 letters than to statistical summaries."

True, but this is due to a major (albeit understandable) flaw in human psychology. It is up to each one of us to overcome it, not to take pride or wallow in it.

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