Arnold Kling  

Divisions on Immigration

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Jerry Bowyer writes,


If 200 years from now America will be filled with people who know and love the ideas of Jefferson and Madison -- but these people are overwhelmingly dark skinned -- will this be good or bad?

That's the question I asked Pat Buchanan when I debated with him about the content of his book, The Death of the West. He said it would be 'a disaster and a tragedy'. What do you say?

Your answer is a pretty good indicator of whether you're a we-hold-these-truths-to-be-self-evident conservative or a blood-and-soil conservative.


If you can't already guess which kind of conservative I am, you can read this essay.

My idea of an assimilated immigrant is someone with a strong commitment to the Bill of Rights, separation of powers, and federalism.

As that essay pointed out, the immigration issue also divides liberals into two camps: universalists, who take into account the benefits to immigrants; and national socialists, who focus only on the alleged harms to domestic low-skilled workers.


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COMMENTS (25 to date)
drtaxsacto writes:

You are right. Buchanan is wrong. The promise of America should be to the vision of the founders not the color of the citizens. Buchanan is wrong on several counts - his analysis of the contributions and costs of immigrants is wrong and as importantly he is poorly read on the founder's vision. He is one of those talking heads that should have learned when it is appropriate to keep your mouth shut.

Nathan Smith writes:

Pat Buchanan is a useful man, because he is an apostate from the American Creed. He does not believe that all men are created equal. He sees the melting-pot, the American Dream, as a mistake, and wants to re-invent America as what it never was: a nation-state, where nationality is a function of birth. Apostates are useful because they help to clarify the contents of a creed. To be an American an heart is to wrestle with and overcome the Pat Buchanan within each of us.

That said, there's a distinction that can be made here between border-closers who are motivated by hate and border-closers who are motivated by greed. Pat Buchanan is the former, but he is empowered by an alliance with a lot of people who think immigrants are a fiscal drain (and they may not be completely wrong) or that immigrants drive down their wages (which is true for a lot of blue-collar workers). I think the smart strategy for immigration advocates is to drive a wedge between greed-anti-immigrationists and hate-anti-immigrations by supporting the following proposal: "Don't Restrict Immigration, Tax It."

nelziq writes:

I am usually loathe to play this card, but is there any way to describe Buchannans position as anything but racist? He is saying outright that the acceptability of person as a worthy American is dependant on their skin color. Unless someone else can point to a different reading of what seems like a very straightforward statement, I think its best just to call a spade a spade here.

TGGP writes:

I wonder how upset Buchanan would be if the sun got much brighter and we all got really dark tans?

I, personally, would be none too happy about bringing in a bunch of Sharia-loving pale people from Bosnia or Chechnya. However, I don't see us handing out Madison-appreciation-tests right now as it is, and our current government is both more democratic (as opposed to republican/representative) and less bound to the Constitution and Bill of Rights than it was at its founding.

Despite being a libertarian, I'm also distrustful of transnational universalists, and those that believe ethics are objective. Hayek's ideas on how society evolves seem much more sensible and take into account what is obvious to any but those who want to appear more moral or enlightened: people care more about their friends, family and neighbors and they resist changes in something they find satisfactory. The goofballs involved in "national anarchism" seem much more sensible in comparison to me, even though I hate most of the movements they support and they hate governments I'm relatively partial to: http://www.attackthesystem.com/nationalanarchism.html

Nathan Smith writes:

The only thing I can say in defense of Buchanan against the "racist" charge in this case is that the word "overwhelmingly" might give him a bit of cover. Unless the population is going to increase to 1 billion or something, for the US population to be "overwhelmingly" dark-skinned suggests that the white race would drastically shrink in numbers. It seems hard to see how that could happen without a generation or two of whites pretty much giving up childrearing, and if you regard childrearing as part of a fulfilled life, you might regard this as a personal tragedy for a lot of people (even if they freely chose it).

Of course, there could also be high racial inter-marriage rates. But maybe Buchanan didn't think of that.

Mr. Econotarian writes:

Let's not forget that the last big chunk of immigrants brought us anarchist terrorists, who assasinated the President of the U.S. among other things.

Yet somehow we seemed to have done OK over the last century.

dWj writes:

I think it would be brilliant if the world 200 years from now were dominated by a freedom-and-liberty--loving United States populated primarily by people of Chinese ancestry, but, oddly enough, I'd be disappointed if the world were dominated by a freedom-and-liberty--loving China. I can't figure out what distinction I'm making; it can't be geographical location.

Steve Sailer writes:

It always amusing listening to people declaim about what the Founders actually meant. The neocons never seem to quote Washington's Farewell Address, and the Open Borders folks never seem to remember the Preamble to the Constittuion.

I guess Buchananites must have written the Preamble to the Constitution, which (in case you've forgotten) reads:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

Note the dread phrase "to ourselves and our Posterity." For some reason, the Founders didn't say to "to everybody else on Earth and their Descendents."

Mass immigration has driven down the birthrate of native-born blacks and whites in California. The white birthrate in California collapsed from 1.93 babies to 1.65 just between 1990 and 2000. The black total fertility rate fell even faster. That's less posterity American citizens are having because of the huge increase in the cost of family formation in California, much of it due to massive illegal immigration, and the gigantic Hispanic baby boom that followed the 1986 amnesty.

Steve Sailer writes:

Speaking of the Founding Fathers' views on immigration:

My theory that affordable family formation drives marriage and fertility was anticipated in 1751 by Benjamin Franklin in his landmark "Observations concerning The Increase of Mankind:"

"For People increase in Proportion to the Number of Marriages, and that is greater in Proportion to the Ease and Convenience of supporting a Family. When Families can be easily supported, more Persons marry, and earlier in Life."

A quarter of a millennium ago, Franklin explained the virtuous cycle connecting low land prices, high wages, marriage, and children:

"Europe is generally full settled with Husbandmen, Manufacturers, &c. and therefore cannot now much increase in People… Land being thus plenty in America, and so cheap as that a labouring Man, that understands Husbandry, can in a short Time save Money enough to purchase a Piece of new Land sufficient for a Plantation, whereon he may subsist a Family; such are not afraid to marry;… Hence Marriages in America are more general, and more generally early, than in Europe."

As old Ben might have expected, I found that:

"Bush carried the 20 states with the cheapest housing costs, while Kerry won the 9 states with the most expensive… The Mortgage Gap has been growing. Bush was victorious in the 26 states with the least home price inflation since 1980. Kerry triumphed in the 14 states with the most (according to the invaluable Laboratory of the States website)."

So, what can Republican government do to help preserve the traditional American patrimony of high wages and affordable land prices (and, in turn, help itself by creating new family values voters?) Franklin offered a sensible answer, which is even more logical now. Restrict immigration. As old Ben asked:

"[W]hy should the Palatine Boors [Germans] be suffered to swarm into our Settlements, and by herding together establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion of ours?"

Good question.

I guess Old Ben must have been one of those horrid Buchananites.

Brad Hutchings writes:

What to call Buchananites besides "rascists"? How about "Knuckledraggers"?

I don't think you get the essence of these people unless they're in your family or close friends and you can really dig into what they think and why they think it. These are the grandparents who would have coronaries if you married someone outside your race or religion or didn't have a church wedding or whetever. Love them as family and friends as we do, their attitudes belong in a different millenium, and even in their own context are shameful and embarrassing. And no, I do not think we all have a little bit of Pat Buchanan in us any more than I think we all secretly want to bugger newborn calves.

Nathan... just go back and read the comments in your latest piece on TCS. To suggest that these are thinking people with a view we need to care about for any reason other to offer a fals backhanded platitude is to suggest way too much. As Don Boudreaux says, these are the champions of the D and F students. Fine, treat them humanely and make sure they are fed, watered, and walked, but their politcial opinions are not to be taken seriously.

John S Bolton writes:

Isn't it a false and misleading restriction of alternatives, to narrow race and its correlates down to skin color, as if everyone were otherwise equal in capabilities; while knowing and loving Madisonian concepts is treated as simply lacking in differences of depth of understanding?
Likewise the road traveled to the centuries-off resultant is left unspecified as to the level of aggression on the citizenry which allows for such a changeover.
All sorts of leaps of faith seem required, that affirmative action would end just as it became more desirable to a new majority, that man would become free of disaffinities which increase as genetic distance increases, and much more.
If the Madisonian culture is to be presumed the natural tendency and birthright of all mankind, why has it not spread in the last 200 years, and why is it practically extinct even in the US?
The burden of proof surely is on those who propose an extremely counterfactual scenario, 700 million or more tropical-adapted Madisonians in America, to show how this could come about without greatly increasing the aggression on the net taxpayer, and our other fellow nationals to whom we owe loyalty, over against foreigners using aggression to put there children in line to be Madisonianized.

Brad Hutchings writes:

and our other fellow nationals to whom we owe loyalty

This is where you lose the argument. I owe you nor any other American any loyalty. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to ask for my "loyalty", you can pretty much depend on me sending a care package to whoever is kicking your butt. Loyalty is reserved for family and friends, or perhaps to a grocery store with a really good rewards program. It is not owed to someone who was born in the same geopolitical boundary.

To extend this further, loyalty to country is not loyalty to particular fellow citizens. There is nothing patriotic about hiring 20 Americans to do the work that 40 whomevers could do for 1/2 the cost or 10 could do for 1/5 the cost. There is nothing remotely intelligent about having 106 million people directly to the south of us, and not cooperating with them to help them become a strong economic and ideological partner in a very dangerous and fragmented world.

John S Bolton writes:

You read yourself out of the nation then; but it exists and commands loyalty, simply because aggression is always a public affair. Libertarians are incapable of winning any argument in which their premise is that aggression might be privatized, and that there would be ideal qualities in that.
On the original scenario and its implications:
What economist would say to just assume that a corporation will increase its volume and profits tenfold in two years, and hire and lease accordingly, but with full quotas of disadvantaged minorities, and anyone who doubts the success of this is a racist.
That is what's wrong with the original future scenario; it assumes success of unheard-of degree, and its only 'argument' against those who say what about the facts and the feelings and cultures that exist, is the ad hominem one, with a possible intimation of a slippery slope included.

John S Bolton writes:

Further: there may be parts of cultures which are transmitted with the necessary fidelity only through families, except for the super-intellectual levels of education, which will always be inaccessible to all but the few.
The scenario assumes that this is not the case with the Madisonian esoterica; but there is no compelling reason to assume so, and the evidence of that culture's bare survival in hyperintellectual hothouse shelters, does not encourage any acts of faith.
On cooperation with Mexicans: why should it be believed that it is more than a false dilemma, to imply that our alternatives are only zero cooperation or one that is disadvantageously excessive, by the standard of loyalty to the good people here, and the resolve not to increase aggression in this jurisdiction?

Matt writes:

The essential question is why are we moving people around in large numbers?

The economists seem to be saying the the US is so productive that it is cheaper to move all the people here, pack them into cities and make them more prodctive then they would be in their native lands.

In addition, economists seem to be saying the it is a better investment to purchase some $800 billion in extra foreign goods then manufacture them here.

I guess we have managed to convince the nations of the world of this great capital poductivity plan of ours. They manufacture a significant portion of our goods while we build these massive cities to house thier workers in a more productive enviroment.

Something does not seem right.

Robert Speirs writes:

The difficulty is to determine whether immigrants do indeed subscribe to the American ideal of democracy and economic freedom and individual rights. There is clear evidence that many immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, don't care any more about universalist, non-racist politics than they care about violating US law. After all, they call their movement "La Raza"! 'Nuff said.

Nathan Smith writes:

In one way, Steve Sailer is right. The Founders would certainly have been horrified to find out that the future population of this country would be overwhelmingly dark-skinned. They were admirable in many ways, but many of them were slaveowners, and all of them participated in the government of a slaveowning country with what seems, today, like disturbing complacency. The country did have open borders then-- there's no room for controversy about that, of course-- but anti-racism became part of the national creed much later, even if, in their better moments, some of the Founders seem to have aspired to that.

Nathan Smith writes:

By the way, I thank Brad Hutchings for reading my article at TCS, but I don't endorse his disdainful tone towards "low-skilled Americans" and anti-immigrationists. Mass immigration causes major societal change, and people may have made their plans without taking it into account. In a high-immigration environment the skill premium will probably rise and it's smart to acquire a lot of skills, but if you didn't KNOW that mass immigration was in store in the future, you might rationally decide not to acquire skills, thinking that low-skill work would pay well enough and the return to skill acquisition would not be worth it for you (if, for example, you don't like studying and have low marginal utility from income above a certain lower-middle-class threshold). I don't think we should keep the borders closed for the benefit of these people, but I think it's a good idea to provide immigration adjustment assistance to them without trying to attach a lot of stigma to it.

Miracle Max writes:

" . . . national socialists, who focus only on the alleged harms to domestic low-skilled workers."

Never seen any of them, among liberals. Sounds like an urban legend.

Brad Hutchings writes:

If I come off as disdainful to the low-skilled, I should give equal time to the medium and high skilled. Every one of us over 30 is subject to global competition for work that we probanbly didn't plan for. And those under 30, we know they don't do a lot of planning ;-). I have friends who had their IT organizations outsourced to India or Estonia, were displaced from their jobs, only to see the jobs re-insourced when outsourcing didn't work out. We're all subject to whims of companies, customers, or the market. I don't think the government owes skilled people displacement compensation for H1B workers or outsourced jobs. Even if I did, I wouldn't think the accounting could ever be fair.

I could meet you halfway though Nathan. Sure, lets compensate everyone low and high skilled who loses wages from competition by foreign workers and immigrants. At the same time, let's deny them the benefits they hadn't plan for. No shopping at WalMart or Costco. No personal electronics or computers. No fresh strawberries the size of oranges. No bananas in the winter. No customer support (ok, that might be a bonus).

Brad Hutchings writes:

Robert wrote:
There is clear evidence that many immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, don't care any more about universalist, non-racist politics than they care about violating US law. After all, they call their movement "La Raza"! 'Nuff said.

Sigh. You either watch too much TV or are stuck on a college campus. I have an idea for you. Go rent a U-Haul truck and find a friend with a lot of heavy furniture that needs to be moved. Hire a couple (Hispanic, perhaps illegal) day laborers off the street to help you out. I'll bet dollars to donuts you don't hear squat about La Raza. The closest you might hear is discussion of soccer, totally unAmerican for sure, but mostly harmless.

"La Raza", Mecha, Atzlan, etc... these are all products of oversensitive spoiled college aged kids from upper middle class families. The rest of us had keg parties, they had that. Most of us grow out of it by our mid 30s.

Dezakin writes:

"You read yourself out of the nation then; but it exists and commands loyalty, simply because aggression is always a public affair."

I'm supposed to care more about some slob two towns over than my neighbor just because the slob happened to be born in the same country as me? Ludicrous.

Robert writes:

In a high-immigration environment the skill premium will probably rise and it's smart to acquire a lot of skills

In terms of the improvment in standard of living made possible by immigrating from a low-wage country to a high-wage country, the newly-minted M.D. has greater incentive to immigrate than the day laborer. The illegality of immigration, however, does tend to restrict it to those who have little to lose by trying. Compare the composition of the immigrant fluxes from India (from whence illegal immigration is impractical) and from Mexico (from whence it is relatively more feasible).

Timothy S. da Silva writes:

I agree wholeheartedly with Dr. Kling, in an ideal libertarian state his ideas would work very well indeed. The problem is America is a more socialized state then it is libertarian. As Sowell would state at stage 1 Kling's ideas look very valid but at stage two(the application) they may be counter-productive(this doesn't even get into the fact that these people have broken at least one law by entry). The issue is we are not going to wake up tomorrow in a libertarian nirvana, change takes time. So working Kling's ideas into our current system does not work. To allow completely open our borders to all who dare to enter would collapse the US system as we now know it. Of course it could be argued that this might not be a bad thing the problem is the Debt accrued initially would be massive and could feasibly cripple any new government. Also with all the new immigration there would be a creation of a larger poor class,there is no guarantee that they would want a libertarian form of government, in fact they would be more likely to want a socialist or communist regime because of their living conditions. I am not saying that our economy can't handle the illegals coming to the country right now I'm saying if the US were to completely open the "flood gates" (like purposed) then it could double or triple what it is and the current system would not be able to handle it(that's a lot of free health care,etc).

Brian writes:

If 200 years from now America were...If pigs could fly! That is the extent of your grasp of reality vis-a-vis race, ethnicity, and human nature. If pigs could fly you might have a point, other than on your head. The fact is they cannot, and neither can your ideals. Even your connecting rootless immigrants with The United States' origins is fraudulent. Our nation was founded of, by, and for English speaking white Europeans. In fact the Constitution restricted full citizenship to whites, and it was a matter of policy to conduct all government business in English from the first draft of The Declaration of Independence to the final draft of the Constitution.

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