Bryan Caplan  

Borjas: What's His Problem?

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Anarchy in the W.T.... Contrarian Result of the Day...

George Borjas, the most academically reputable critic of immigration in economics, is now blogging. To be frank, I just don't get him. There isn't a decent economist alive who would oppose free trade in textiles by pointing out that it hurts American textile workers. But Borjas has made a career out of pointing out that unskilled immigration hurts unskilled natives. (The only surprising thing is how small an effect he finds). A major point of economic reasoning, as far as I'm concerned, is going beyond the obvious losers of trade to all of the less-obvious - but equally human - winners.

Borjas' latest post just reinforces my puzzlement. He blogs his research showing that immigration increases black crime by reducing black wages. In other words, "The immigrants made me do it." I'm not surprised by the result, but I'd think the obvious solution (drug legalization aside) is harsher punishments for a few thousand murderers, not exile for millions of hard-working immigrants.

When I read Borjas' work, it brings to mind the old saying, "If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail." If your only policy reform is reducing immigration, then everything looks like it's immigrants fault - even native-born Americans murdering each other.


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COMMENTS (83 to date)
Dennis Mangan writes:

"Exile for millions of hardworking immigrants"? They're already in exile from their native countries, and nothing we do can "exile" them. Your rhetoric is full of loaded words like that, such as when you say that immigrants are "equally human". When was the last time an immigration opponent ever claimed otherwise? The quality of being human doesn't automatically qualify anyone to live here. Immigration is not a human right, and if it hurts Americans, then they have every right to object to it. And as Borjas shows, it does hurt them. And besides, he made it to Harvard on his research, so the default presumption is that it has great merit, despite the carping of critics.

Fritz writes:

What his study reveals, African American culture is more sensitive to immigration. Rather than find this as an unfortunate sensitivity that should be remedied; he peddles this trope to encourage more beautiful minds to not look for work and avoid crime.

Tino writes:

First of all it may be interesting for your readers to point out that Borjas is the most “academically reputable” immigration economist, not just the most reputable “critic”. He is the man asked to write the The economic analysis of immigration article in the handbook of labor economics.

“There isn't a decent economist alive who would oppose free trade in textiles by pointing out that it hurts American textile workers. But Borjas has made a career out of pointing out that unskilled immigration hurts unskilled natives.”
Let me point out just a couple of the differences.

1. Chinese textiles do not collect 1% of GDP in net welfare benefits (probably doubling within a generation). To quote a “decent economist” Milton Friedman opposing American open borders:
“You cannot simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state.”

2. Chinese textiles cannot vote themselves “free” health care and more benefits.

3. Trade largely involves distribution between Americans citizens with different stocks of human capital. Low skill immigration mainly involves distribution between Americans and foreigners. Today the benefit overwhelmingly goes to the later, while the property rights belong to the former. Yet immigrants and their leaders refuse to even consider a Coasian pareto improving deal where they would give some of the benefits to the Americans, for example by paying in order to enter.

Here is another “decent economist” who points out this problem, notes the different problems free trade and free immigration involve, and suggests a 50.000 dollar fee for the right to enter the US.

http://www.becker-posner-blog.com/archives/2005/02/sell_the_right.html

4. Chinese textiles do not commit crime at 261% of the native white rate.

5. The most convincing argument why nations should not engage in strategic trade policy is NOT that they never work, but that they are a zero sum between nations. If the US puts tariffs on Chinese textiles they can respond. This simply does not apply to unskilled immigration, that is one way.

6. The effects of free trade policy on lower income Americans is theoretically ambiguous. They sometimes lose as workers, but gain as consumers of cheap manufacturing goods, through more variety, more competitive markets. Most importantly the most famous trade economists emphasize the political economy of trade policy: If you allow some industries to lobby for benefits, all of them will try to lobby. Than you lose both the deals that hurt low skill Americans AND the trade deals that help them. No such ambiguity exists regarding low skilled immigration.

“but I'd think the obvious solution (drug legalization aside) is harsher punishments for a few thousand murderers”

No, the obvious solution is to take into account all effects of immigration when analyzing the policy.

Here is another basic economics lesson: The MARGINAL effect of increasing punishments is not that large. Otherwise we would already have done it (duh). Punishments are already very tough in the US. If we are not increasing them that implies that there is some cost, either political or social. That cost should be taken into account if you are calculating the social cost.

The strong effect of violent crime through immigration is happening DESPITE the harsh punishments and large (and increasing) investments in security, policing, housing segregation. This demonstrates that underlying effects are mighty strong.

The first thing a decent economist should learn is separate normative and positive analysis. Borjas has done that. If the best research overwhelmingly indicates that unskilled immigration is good for the immigrants but bad for the American Economy all decent economists have a freaking responsibility to POINT THIS OUT.

If you feel because of your personal preferences that American do not have the moral right to determine their policy this disclaimer should be made laud and clear. If someone needs to obfuscate the interest of American citizens to make them support unskilled immigration they are not being a particularly decent economist. You don’t get to pretend immigration is good for the US economy, when by US you mean foreigners.
People not wanting to reduce their welfare for the sake of outsiders is not “bias”, it is enlightened self interests. Someone writing the book on the issue should be able to distinguish the two.

Steve Sailer writes:

We already have 25% of young African-American high school dropout males in jail at this moment. How many more do you want to lock up so we can import more foreigners?

Steve Sailer writes:

"What's Borjas's Problem?"

That he actually knows what he's talking about, unlike most economists when they theorize off the top of their heads about the complicated subject of immigration.

psb writes:

What Tino said.

javier writes:

It's amusing how virulent nationalism is assumed without argument to be the appropriate moral stance by just about everyone in the debate (and in these comments). But unfortunately you're not entitled to that assumption. If you want to defeat the proponents of open immigration, you're going to have to say something about why cosmopolitanism is false--i.e. the view that all humans are equal objects of moral concern and that they're welfare should be given equal consideration in the design of political institutions and policy. Until then, by just showing that some relatively wealthy group loses out in the United States (wealthy relative to the rest of the world), you haven't convinced anyone on the opposing side--at least, that consideration shouldn't convince anyone.

Matthew c writes:

Great comment javier, right on.

Chinese textiles cannot vote themselves “free” health care and more benefits.

Can illegal immigrants do that?

eric writes:

It's always interesting to find someone you find you mainly agree with, but then disagree sharply on some major point. Assuming you are rational and so is he, why are you so sure you are correct? Wouldn't Robin Hanson tell you have a 50% chance of being wrong, so you should now straddle the fence? Hmmm.

jj writes:

Is it surpiring that a professor at a school of government argues that we need more government?

On Boras's CV: kennedy school econ is not even close to the same thing as fas econ at harvard.

almost none of his pubs are not top tier, wheras at fas harvard econ a tenured prof. will have almost all of their pubs. in top tier journals. he could not be a tenured prof. at harvard econ or any other top 10 econ department.

Mensarefugee writes:

This is why I love this site. Being staunchly anti- illegal immigrant, I would have accepted Borjas arguments more or less uncritically. Now I have reason to think about them (not saying I agree with Bryan though).

Great Post!

Tino writes:

“all humans are equal objects of moral concern and that they're welfare should be given equal consideration in the design of political institutions and policy.”

You consider this Marxist view “libertarian”? Why are you not giving away 95% of your income to people in Africa? Are you worth more than them? Do you support taxing “rich” Americans and invading Darfur?

Here is the simple and powerful libertarian morality. People have the innate right of self determination, and of secure property. If I want to ask homeless people live in my house I should be able to. If I don’t want them there I have no obligation.

Property can be owned collectively, in a club or a corporation. If the members of a condo association don’t want to sell to someone this is their right. Americans have the same right to pursue policy that benefits them, not what Mexico wants.

“that consideration shouldn't convince anyone.”

Probably over 90% of Americans agree that they have the right to keep their property, and are “not convinced” by your absurd moral belief that you have the right to force them to give it away. The only reason the immigration bill is probably going to pass is bias, due to intentional obfuscation. Bad economist and worse public intellectuals are falsely claiming that this policy benefits the American economy.


“Can illegal immigrants [vote themselves “free” health care and more benefits]?

Yes. Once they are inevitably given citizenship (and even before that through electoral laws).
Next question? Or are you one of those economists that has not yet got to the “rational expectation” part if the book?

"On Boras's CV"

Jj are you intentionally trying to demonstrate your ignorance?

George Borjas is without comparison the highest ranked immigration economists on the planet. He has 70-80 publications, including 9(!) articles in The American Economic Review, several in Journal of Political Economy, Quarterly, Journal of Public Economics, Review of Economics and Statistics, Review of Economics and Statistics, Journal of Labor Economics, and Nature.

http://ksghome.harvard.edu/~GBorjas/VITA.pdf

He has written the immigration article in both the Journal of Economic Literature and the immigration article in the Handbook of Labor Economics. This is not a coincidence. It means other economists consider him the best in the field.

Got it?

"Is it surpiring that a professor at a school of government argues that we need more government?"

Yes, demostrating that unskilled immigrants are putting pressure on the welfare state is wanting more goverment, but blindly fighiting for open borders in a welfare state is "true" libertarianism.

Jason Malloy writes:

If you want to defeat the proponents of open immigration, you're going to have to say something about why cosmopolitanism is false--i.e. the view that all humans are equal objects of moral concern and that they're welfare should be given equal consideration in the design of political institutions and policy.

Or I could just reject your fallacious premise that 'equal human worth' is only consistent with whatever government or laws you assert it is.

If you believe in 'equal human worth' you'll try and do what secures the maximum good for the most amount of people (Rawls). I believe nation states, and borders, and citizenship currently do this better than their available alternatives and therefore are the most compatible with "equal human worth".

I just discussed this here a couple of days ago.

Tino writes:

"try and do what secures the maximum good for the most amount of people (Rawls)."

Acttually the logical implication of Rawls idea is to secure the highest minimum level of the lowest individual, not the maximum good for most.

Rawls accepted the right on national (associational) self determination. Nozick also accepted immigration controlls.

Steve Sailer writes:

Borjas is the rare economist who, when it comes to immigration, spends more time worrying about what is reality than in preaching morality.

Matthew c writes:

It's interesting that antis propose that we need to do exactly the opposite of what America has stood for for 200+ years that led to our great success, and that their prognostications of doom and gloom are correct unlike the prognostications of doom and gloom from anti-immigrants we have heard incessantly over the past 200 years. They also claim that todays immigrants are different more criminal and inferior, although those same claims were made (with some justification, think about the Italian mafia or various immigrant political machines) about many immigrant groups in the past. Indeed many of the most vocal anti-immigrationists belong to some of these formerly-despised groups.

And in the end they all discount the human rights of those who want to travel so they can work in the name of nationalism, a bloody secular religion which killed 50+ million over the past century (far more than hispanic drunk drivers could ever hope to match).

We could use the same arguments they provide to justify nuremburg-type laws and internal passports to restrict the movement of statistically more criminal subpopulations within our borders in the interest of fighting crime and avoiding tax burdens in the more affluent areas. It is the same tribalistic xenophobia at work in both cases. A wish to punish the masses who only want to come here and work for the sins of a small fraction.

Where they do have a point is that we have no business inviting immigrants to come to America to collect welfare benefits. There can certainly be common ground there to prevent immigrants from using welfare programs such as EITC, food stamps, medicaid and the like. But our idiotic programs to encourage government dependency should not be used as an excuse to attempt more idiotic programs to prevent people from working.

I think we can also find common ground that immigrants who abuse their opportunity by driving drunk, committing violent crimes, and the like, should be dealt with with no lenience whatsoever -- probably a permanent expulsion enforced by biometric identification would be appropriate, and / or extremely long prison sentences.

John Pertz writes:

So let me get this straight. Those that oppose the immigration of low skilled labor believe that it hurts the low skilled natives? So basically there is a current group within the native population that is simply not getting the job done. For whatever reason , living in the United States, which is tantamount to winning life's lottery at almost any socio-economic strata in the history of mankind, is simply not working out for them. You can blame crappy public schools or poor parenting on their lack of skills if you like. However, nothing is going to change the fact that many of the low skilled natives are maybe third of fourth generation residents. What hasnt worked for the past three or four generations is probably not going to work for the future. I say if someone is willing to risk their life to come to the U.S, why not give them a job? All they ask for is work and we treat them as though they are an invading army. If politics was impotent, would so many of you anti-immigration folks still maintain your position?

John Pertz writes:

The real religous hallucination within this debate is the belief, on the part of immigration's critics, that somehow if we continue to outlaw immigration the problem will go away. If only an army(Im in literal disbelief that Im writing this) were stationed on the border between Mexico and the U.S then the problem of illegal immigration will cease to exist. We all know that this is false and a terrible use of scarce resources to say the least. The only thing that will put an end to illegal immigration is the U.S job market. As long as the economy has work to offer to so many then government regulation will be almost powerless to stop the ceaseless flow of those willing to risk their life to help their families.

Tino writes:

Speaking of bias:

There are some perceptions of the public that can be tested against facts. Professor Caplan and others have argued that the difference is likely to reflect bias, when systematic in one direction. Let’s test this notion on unskilled immigration shall we?

According to Us Census 2003 report 57% of foreign born Latino are high school dropouts, compared to 9,6% of non-Hispanic whites. 10% of Hispanics have college degrees, compared to 30% of whites (this is the population over 25).

http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/p20-550.pdf

Yes, according to the Pew 2006 survey Americans believe 41%-33% that immigrants from Latin American countries “Do very well in school“

http://people-press.org/reports/pdf/274.pdf

How does that fit with the theory of “anti-foreign” bias? Why does only one third of the Amerian public know/admit to know that Latinos don’t do “very well” in school?

There is more.

Young Hispanic Men have 261% of the white incarceration rate. Yes the public disagrees 55%-33% that Latinos “Significantly increase crime”.

(of course “significantly” is not defined, and the question may be misinterpreted that all Latinos are criminal). Needless to say the public misinformation about Latinos has been increasing since the midd-90s.

Again, we see evidence of “pro-foreign” bias, no the reverse. How very odd.

Tino writes:

“So let me get this straight. Those that oppose the immigration of low skilled labor believe that it hurts the low skilled natives?”

No. You didn’t get it straight. Instead you misunderstood the relatively simple argument in a way to fit a pre-made cliché.

Low skill immigration hurts ALL groups of Americans. The skilled through hundreds of billions in additional taxation, the lower skilled through lower wages. Unskilled immigration only in net benefits one groups, the unskilled immigrants.

You don’t have much sympathy for the American lower class. Fine. It is not the libertarian lack of sympathy that bothers me, it is the lack of logic.

For someone this disdainful of the American underclass, why do you want to double the size it?


More mindless ignorance:

“All they ask for is work and we treat them as though they are an invading army.”

No, they ask for billions in welfare spending. They ask for tax funded health care, tax funded education, affirmed action to college, in-state (tax funded) tuition, Medicaid, Medicare, social security. They also ask for the right to vote so that they can further expand these programs.

Even today on average each unskilled immigrant household (of 3.5 people it should be noted) gets 20.000$ more per year in benefits that they pay in taxes.

Next cliché?

“real religous hallucination”

The question is whether or not we want to enforce the immigration law. There simply is no issue if this is technically possible. OF COURSE it is. Every other advanced nation on the planet easily stops large scale illegal immigration. Illegal immigration is a political choice.


Here are a few foolproof ways.:

• Go after businesses that hire illegal’s with the same scrutiny as the government goes after business that avoid paying taxes. Make it a crime to knowingly hire illegal’s. How many businessmen do you know who are ready to go to prison to save a little money?


• Build a fence, which will immediately stop half of all new immigration.


• Make it illegal and punishable to be an illegal immigrant. If you catch them, put them in prison until they are deported.

• Check all arrests for immigration violation.

Even a combination of two of these policies will work very well, by increasing self-deportation. ¼ million illegal’s leave every year anyway. If you want to be compassionate give illegal’s that come forward a (say) 4 year temporary work permit, so that they have time to save some money. The enlightened libertarians and liberals can supplement this with as much private charity as their want.

Tino writes:

Matthwe C:

Could you please stop it with this particular cliché? First of all I have already answered the “people said the same about the Irish” argument.

http://econlog.econlib.org/mt/mt-comments.cgi?entry_id=2509

There have been plenty of pro-immigration claims that also proved false (Europe and Muslims, post 1965 America and Latinos). The welfare state and the ideology of multiculturalism that discourages ethnic assimilation did not exist in 1840.

Secondly the Irish assimilated very quickly. According to Thornstrom they went from 10% to 40% white collar in the second generation. By the third generation the Irish tended to have higher occupational status than the native average.
You can’t ignore reality. Unskilled immigrants do get trillions of net subsidies in their lifetime, and there is nothing you can do to change that. You have to take policy positions based on the world as it is, not as you would like it to be.


We keep hearing that Free Market America is better at assimilating Muslims than other countries, such as the European. Clearly this is the case financially. But is it really true politically and culturally?

Some results from Pew Research, just in time for the amnesty to the illegalness and their extended families:

Share of young Muslims (18-29, men and women), that believe that “Suicide Bombing of Civilian Targets to Defend Islam [can] be Justified” often or sometimes.


U.S 15%

France 19%
UK 19%
Spain 17%
Germany 13%


Share of Muslims that understand that 9/11 was carried out by groups of Arabs, rather than US government(7%) or Jews.

American Muslims: 40%


France 48%
Germany 35%
Spain 33%
UK 17%

Nigeria 42%
Jordan 39%
Egypt 32%
Turkey 16%

American Muslims are about as likely as Muslims in Jordan and Germany to believe in conspiracies. They are MORE likely to believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories than French and Nigerian Muslims. (39% of Democrats are sure Bush did not carry out or knew beforehand of 9/11).


70% of Muslims want bigger government, (compared to 60% of Hispanics and 35% of white). 27% of American Muslims believe Homosexuality should be accepted by society, compared to 51% of Americans on average.

Assimilation is sure working great in America. Muslims contain roughly the same share of extremists as Europe, and the same share of conspiracy nuts as Europe, the Democratic party and parts of the Arab world and Africa.

The main reason America does not have Muslims burning cars is not that they are politically more assimilated. They are (so far) 0.6% of the population, not 7-8% as in France. But with the help of all the enlightened libraltarians we will get there.

aetius writes:

I agree with everything Tino wrote, but I just have to make a comment in regards to the role of economists. Bryan writes:

“There isn't a decent economist alive who would oppose free trade in textiles by pointing out that it hurts American textile workers."

This, I belive, reveals a dangerous view on the role of economists in society. The job of an economist is to estimate economic and social effects scientifically.

If negative wage effects from trade on the poor then leads one to oppose trade, that has nothing to do with whether or not one is a "decent economist" or not - it is a matter of preferences.

A person with a high preference for income equality, for instance, might oppose trade even if he agrees that total real income increases because of trade. (There is no need to assume those hurt by trade will be compensated by transfers - that doesn't always happen). That in turn has nothing to do with his or her skill as an economist. As soon as you explicitly connect preferences with "being a decent economist", you equate economics with punditry - we should aim higher than that.

aetius writes:

Bryan writes:

"but I'd think the obvious solution (drug legalization aside) is harsher punishments for a few thousand murderers"

Do you seriously think that the marginal impact of a further punishment increase for *murder* in the US of all countries would be significant? What are we talking here? Converting all life sentences to the death penalty and adding some bonus torture to existing death penalties?

adrian writes:

What a ridiculous post. The American elites, both left and right, have forfeited their country.

“All they ask for is work and we treat them as though they are an invading army.”

Worse than an invading army. Armies usually don't stick around, and conquerers usually only get rid of the elites. Immigrants affect every single part of the social matrix, except, perhaps, the elites, who also decide everything. It's a good system all right.

I would also add to Tino's points - make it IMPOSSIBLE to become a US citizen, this is what Japan does. Japan barely recognizes the concept of an immigrant.

Horatio writes:

So where is the data for the true benefits/costs of immigration to natural Americans? To first order, it should be an average benefit. Though few would argue that it doesn't hurt native born Americans at the same skill level.

Even if a detailed analysis shows an average loss due to immigration, it almost certainly would not show a loss to high skilled workers. So why should we oppose immigration?

Don't give me crap about lower average IQ or per capita GDP. What matters is how people living here now are affected.

aetius writes:

"So where is the data for the true benefits/costs of immigration to natural Americans? To first order, it should be an average benefit. "

Tino has, above, laid out the case for why it is likely to be a net loss to virtually all non-immigrant americans. You, on the other hand, fail to support your position in any way whatsoever.


"Even if a detailed analysis shows an average loss due to immigration, it almost certainly would not show a loss to high skilled workers. So why should we oppose immigration? "

Again, no actual supporting argument whatsoever for your position.


"Don't give me crap about lower average IQ or per capita GDP. What matters is how people living here now are affected."

A worse-educated population and lower per capita GDP will indeed impact "people living here now". Increased crime, increased redistribution (both via wage effects as well as political effects), more quotas, more affirmative action, more ethnonationalism and separatism, multilingualism, etc. The list goes on and on. And you don't even attempt to adress a single bullet point. Weak.

Tanstaafl writes:

I see. This blinkered libertarianism espoused by Bryan Caplan, Matthew c, and John Pertz at least partly explains why our media has been spewing happy talk all these years about how essential it is to our economy that we let millions of poorly-educated indigents flood in.

Avoid the uncomfortable social realities of a slow motion invasion and just focus on the jobs. Very politically correct of you. Bravo.

Just one thing. I've never considered immigration (legal or illegal) to be a threat to my job. However, it is clearly becoming a large threat to the wealth, health, and safety of my family.

adrian writes:

Right. It's pure status seeking. If a member of the elite says something rational about immigration then he is forever shunned from dinner parties etc. Being pro-mass-third-world-immigration is one of the prerequisites of entry into the eliteosphere, after that you can be a heartless libertarian, bomb the world neocon, or bleeding heart leftie, doesn't matter, as long as you say mass immigration is a Good Thing.

adrian writes:

Some anthropologist should write a paper like 'Elites and Immigration: An evolutionary analysis', showing how elite groupthink can emerge, and the role status seeking plays in it all.

John Pertz writes:

So I will repeat, if politics is impotent would the anti-immigration advocates still maintain their position? Im pretty sure that restricting the immigration of the unskilled only helps one group, the unskilled natives. So the economic case is still very much sound. Borjas's work after all has only found a SLIGHT dip in the wages of the native unskilled. Again, the only real problem here is government. It is precisely because the government has power and advantage to offer that there is a debate. If all that was available to new immigrants was merely work and not political power, I feel that many of you would not argue so passionately against new immigration.

As for the problems with cultural assimilation, I dont have much to say. Many new poor latin immigrants move into ethnic enclaves. Does that seem like such a grand departure from the Italian, Irish, Swedish, Middle Eastern, or German immigration experience of the past? I guess those groups came to the U.S and quickly morphed themselves into good little Americans right away. That is why you do not find any remnants of their early group identity in neighborhoods occupying cities such as Chicago, Cleveland, or New York. They merely dispersed themselves across the U.S. upon arrival.

BTW, somebody argued that defending the U.S from illegal immigration was possible because the Nordic states were so successful at it. I believe that this is a case where some arguments refute themselves.

adrian writes:

"restricting the immigration of the unskilled only helps one group, the unskilled natives."

Those 'unskilled natives' (odd colonial style language, like those 'pesky Indians') are FELLOW CITIZENS!! They should be helped before endless swathes of the third world.

"So the economic case is still very much sound. "

Zero stats offered for this assertion, despite Tino explaining in intricate detail all the externalities.

"If all that was available to new immigrants was merely work and not political power, I feel that many of you would not argue so passionately against new immigration."

Crime, community atomization, national disunity, racial animosity and social disfunction would still remain. You just make things up in your brain and plonk them on the page without thinking hard, but then again thinking hard is not to be encouraged when you're ideologically predisposed to mass immigration, it gets in the way of nice warm 'feelings'.

"I guess those groups came to the U.S and quickly morphed themselves into good little Americans right away."

Not right away. Took many decades and was helped by the immigration cutoff of 1924, which ensured that immigrant stocks could not be endlessly replinished from the home country. Hence they were FORCED to integrate. Mexico, on the other hand, is right beside the US, they can maintain ties with the old country indefinitely, and move back and forth. And there has been no immigration cutoff to ensure integration of the present stock, like happened after 1924. Mexicans in California are not becoming American, California is becoming Mexico.

Emily writes:

The welfare state has manifestly changed immigration.

Comparing immigration pre-New Deal and post-New Deal is almost comparing apples and oranges. People have always been concerned about the quality of immigrants. What has changed is that America has become a huge magnet for those who aren't very bright and will never suffer hardship if they fail. The opposite is true: they will have it better here as failures than in their home countries as failures.

If not for the welfare state, people would still be upset, but not apoplectic the way you see now.

Floccina writes:

I find it hard to believe in the USA that poverty causes crime. The problems that poor people in the USA have are often problems otherwise associated with having too much money (see Anna Nicole Smith). Drug and alcohol use, violent crime (see notes below) obesity, divorce, children out of wedlock, seeking tournament occupations too much positions making a mess, poor effort in school.

IMO some people cannot handle too much money we see this in some lottery winners and professional athletes who come from poor backgrounds.

If crime is caused by poverty why do so many professional athletes commit crimes?

Some of these notes are evidence that the poor in the USA have enough money and some of these notes are evidence that poverty does not cause crime:

1. According to a study in England violent crime rises when the economy is good due to increase drug and alcohol use.
2. Violent crime rose sharply in the USA around 1965 just as people began to really prosper
3. The USA has a higher crime rate than India.
4. Japan much lower per capita income than the USA and even than some European countries has the second lowest crime in the world.
5. Violent crime fell in the great depression although most of that decline was due to repeal of prohibition.
6. Tournament occupations include jobs that most people do not make money at but a few make big money. Tournament occupations include entertainment sports and evidently according to Levit et al. drug selling. If you are worried about staving you would try a less risky occupation.
7. Divorce was once thought of as a rich person’s action. Also divorce rose as we got wealthier and could afford it. Some democrats will be frank and tell you that the do not mind that welfare contributes to an increase in the rate of divorce because it enables a woman to escape abusive relationships. Thus they see it as an economic good. High divorce among poor Americans could be seen as result of too much wealth but divorce can lead to violent crime (man kill the woman that dumped him etc.).
8. If you are very worried about being able to feed your children you are careful to not get pregnant. Also out of wedlock births rose as we got wealthier and could afford it. Out of wedlock births may contribute to crime.
9. People in urban settings reduce the number of children that they have in response to poverty see the great depression but birth rates are higher for the poor than the rich. Too much money?
10. Although we associate poor effort in school with poverty people in colleges will often talk about the effort that people from poorer countries make in school to avoid the poverty of their homelands. Too much money?

Finally I lived in Honduras for a while and many professionals (accountants, teachers, etc.) in Honduras have less stuff than poor Americans and they do not commit that much crime.

aetius writes:

"So I will repeat, if politics is impotent would the anti-immigration advocates still maintain their position? Im pretty sure that restricting the immigration of the unskilled only helps one group, the unskilled natives. So the economic case is still very much sound."

Yet you don't offer a single argument for that case. Or any counterarguments to Tino's case for why unskilled immigration hurts most groups in the end. Which is very weak, yet is pretty representative of how the pro-immigration side in general argues.


"Borjas's work after all has only found a SLIGHT dip in the wages of the native unskilled."

If you consider around an eight percent pay cut as "SLIGHT", would you be willing to take it? Not to mention all the negative side effects that occur when low-skill men get pushed out of the regular labor market. (Hint: Crime is always there as an attractive alternative career path.)


"As for the problems with cultural assimilation, I dont have much to say. Many new poor latin immigrants move into ethnic enclaves. Does that seem like such a grand departure from the Italian, Irish, Swedish, Middle Eastern, or German immigration experience of the past?"

It is. After three generations (roughly a century) , Mexican income and educational attainment statistics do not converge on the majority population norm. The development is closer to the permanent US underclass. (I.e. African Americans)

It should be added that the US closed down immigration for 50 years during the early 20:th century. It was during this period that assimilation was allowed to happen.

Add to this the ideology of multiculturalism (making it very attractive to belong to a "victim group"), the abysmal social statistics of Mexican immigrants (roughly three times as criminal as whites, 25 percent welfare dependence, 70 percent without a high-school diploma, etc.), and the picture looks pretty bleak.


"It is precisely because the government has power and advantage to offer that there is a debate. If all that was available to new immigrants was merely work and not political power, I feel that many of you would not argue so passionately against new immigration."

Well, if I had a billion dollars, I would buy a brand new maserati. Millions of people with a common identity living in a democracy will find a way of getting into a position of power given enough time.

Still, even if Libertarian Utopia was to materialize through an act of God, having a powerless helot class in society doing all the dirty work is sort of a mixed bag, imho.


"BTW, somebody argued that defending the U.S from illegal immigration was possible because the Nordic states were so successful at it. I believe that this is a case where some arguments refute themselves."

Please read more carefully. It would help the debate. (I.e. - that particular argument doesn't exist anywhere in this thread)

Terry writes:

There is one question I have never heard a proponent of high immigration levels answer honestly: what level of yearly immigration would you find unacceptable, and why?

Is one million a year too many? How about ten million a year? How about one hundred million a year?

I assume that no honest person believes one hundred million immigrants a year is acceptable. Assuming you believe this as well, WHY is one hundred million a year unacceptable?

I would greatly appreciate an honest reply. As you two seem to be fairly honest, you seem to be the most likely to do so.

Thanks.

Matthew c writes:

The main reason America does not have Muslims burning cars is not that they are politically more assimilated. They are (so far) 0.6% of the population, not 7-8% as in France. But with the help of all the enlightened libraltarians we will get there.

Make up your mind, is this about Mexican and hispanic immigration or about immigration from muslim countries?

If the latter, I think a careful screening to avoid importing terrorists, and covert monitoring is appropriate. But conflating the two populations is not going to work. . .

Matthew c writes:

Those 'unskilled natives' (odd colonial style language, like those 'pesky Indians') are FELLOW CITIZENS!! They should be helped before endless swathes of the third world.

So basically it all boils down to worshipping the death-cult of nationalism which slaughtered 50 million people over the last century. . .

Some of us do not distinguish the worth and value of human beings based on which side of a border they happen to have been born on.

Every day I see people who were born on the wrong side of a border who work hard to contribute to this society. Every day I see people who were born on the right side who are holding up cardboard signs and begging for a handout, or living on the public dole. I know which ones I feel more sympathy for. . .

Matthew c writes:

California is becoming Mexico.

Do you have evidence that a large percentage of second-generation immigrants do not learn english?

Matthew c writes:

How about one hundred million a year?

There aren't a hundred million potential immigrants. But even if there were, you don't own the entire country. That is collectivist thinking at its worst. If you want to move to Idaho to get away from people who scare you, that's your prerogative.

Anon writes:

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ted writes:

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Low skill immigration hurts ALL groups of Americans.

Not according to George Borjas. He argues that the benefits are there (but small), but because ONE Group is harmed (low skilled natives) we should keep out low skilled immigrants.

For Borjas, it's all about income inequality, not net benefit/harm.

JEB writes:

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Terry writes:
Matthew c writes:

How about one hundred million a year?

There aren't a hundred million potential immigrants. But even if there were, you don't own the entire country. That is collectivist thinking at its worst. If you want to move to Idaho to get away from people who scare you, that's your prerogative.

You dodged the question. Would 100 million a year be ok with you or not, and if not, why not?

(I have heard that approximately 500 million people would like to immigrate to the U.S., so it is not impossible that 100 million a year for a few years would do so.)

Well, is there some level of immigration that is unacceptable?

Tino writes:

I came back this morning to see if some smart open borders guy gave me a good challenge. Jesus Christ the quality of the argument is even lower than yesterday .

1. "Borjas's work after all has only found a SLIGHT dip in the wages of the native unskilled."

Yes, he found a relatively small dip, 7,4%. But 95% of the pro-immigration people do not seem to be able to understand the economic implication of this.

Since the cost of labor did not change, the much prompted gains to the economy through cheaper goods and services are also small. Borjas figure is 10 billion (although that is for both high and low skill immigration).

10 billion covers the net taxfunded transfers to 1.6 million unskilled immigrants. Tell me, how many unskilled immigrants does America have? More or less than 1.6 million?


2. “Make up your mind, is this about Mexican and hispanic immigration or about immigration from muslim countries?”


It is obviously about BOTH, since BOTH groups are immigration, and BOTH getting amnesty. Why should I have to ”make up my mind”?!? According to what logic?

3. “Im pretty sure that restricting the immigration of the unskilled only helps one group, the unskilled natives.”

That is because you are not well informed. Importing tens of millions of poor people hurts all American groups. In pure dollars it hurts the skilled Americans most, because they have to pay through taxes (of course they also have more to take from, and can more easily isolate themselves from crime).

4. “If all that was available to new immigrants was merely work and not political power, I feel that many of you would not argue so passionately against new immigration.”

If immigrants and their children worked, did not collect hundreds of billions in tax funded benefits, did not vote for more taxes and benefits once they got the chance, did not commit violent crime, and assimilated to Americans of course I would have no problem. Even if they did some of the bad stuff but some of the good I might be OK with it.
So?

“Many new poor latin immigrants move into ethnic enclaves. Does that seem like such a grand departure from the Italian, Irish, Swedish, Middle Eastern, or German immigration experience of the past?”

Yes. It does. The fact that you think it doesn’t is again due to misinformation.

It took the Irish no more than 3 generations to surpass the native average in measured success (such as share that worked as professionals). Obviously the Scandinavian and German immigrants did even better.

The Germans did have cultural problems. This was met with fierce demands from Americans, so that the Germans were assimilated. The Middle Easterners (at least the Muslim part) simply have not assimilated sufficiently, unless you think it is normal that 15% support terrorism against civilians.

“BTW, somebody argued that defending the U.S from illegal immigration was possible because the Nordic states were so successful at it. I believe that this is a case where some arguments refute themselves.”

Oh? Why don’t you go ahead and refute them?
Sweden and Finland have almost no illegal immigrants, despite the later having long borders with Russia. Sweden did give amnesty last year, but the numbers were even in a per capita basis 5% of the American estimates. Why? Because of ID requirements for working, renting, getting government services.

“There aren't a hundred million potential immigrants. But even if there were, you don't own the entire country. That is collectivist thinking at its worst.”

Is it “collectivism” for shareholders of Microsoft to own an ENTIRE company? Newsflash: Americans do own, have decision right over, America. Deal with it.

“Do you have evidence that a large percentage of second-generation immigrants do not learn english?”

Well, of course almost all of the people born and raised here learn SOME English. That is not the problem.

According to the Pew Latino survey 61% of second generation Latinos describe their language as primirary English, the rest either mainly Spanish or bilingual. Note that this includes all groups of Latinos, Cubans, Spanish, Columbians, as well as Mexican and Central American (that tend to do worse).

About half of second generation Hispanics are high school dropouts. The skilllevel is not very high, despite the “pro-foreign” bias of the population.

Tanstaafl writes:

John Pertz: So it's not just about jobs, it's about wages too? Would you take your job and wage, as is, and transplant yourself to Tijuana? Well, wait just a while, Tijuana is on its way to you. Where I live it's already here.

And in case you haven't noticed, the invaders have no official political power. But after a few hundred thousand with a surly attitude marched in our streets our leaders proposed making them all super-citizen zitizens. They don't need no steeenking official political power.

As for cultural assimilation... you seem unaware of the irredentist and sharia visions of more than a few our new zitizens. A point that makes your comparisons to previous waves of immigration more than a little inapt.

Matthew c: I don't care if someone speaks English or not if they came here to wave foreign flags while riding on our backs and demanding favors ordinary citizens don't even enjoy.

Your fear of the nationalism boogeyman is so deep it has caused you to abandon the notion of borders and nations-states? We'll see how that works out when you place a call to 911 after you live in the imaginary nation-state of Aztlan. I'd rather repel the invasion before we arrive at that unpleasant eventuality.

As for your false dichotomy - I've made up my mind. When it comes to immigration the uneducated impoverished irredentists and the college-educated wealthy jihadis are both a threat.

Robert Hume writes:

One point no one mentions here is that mass immigration is making the US more crowded. An open, spacious America is one of the things that those of us born in the 30's loved about the US. "O Beautiful for Spacious Skies", etc.

There will be less room in Yellowstone and Yosemite and on the beaches, etc. It will take longer to get out of the cities and past the suburbs for a hike. This is not a part of the argument today because the Sierra Club was bought off by an immigrant enthusiast and because people don't want to be thought to be racist so that any critique of immigration if the immigrants are not white is forbidden. US Citizens will no longer be the envy of the world in pretty short order, although immigrants from all over the world will continue to come for as long as our welfare system and residual wealth will ensure that they have a higher standard of living than where they are coming from. I don't see why we should not end up with a population of about 2 billion; importing food by selling off our wealth.

Matthew c writes:

came here to wave foreign flags while riding on our backs and demanding favors ordinary citizens don't even enjoy.

That's funny the mexican workers outside my building aren't waving any flags or demanding any favors. They are just working in the 90 degree heat, laying sod, and doing hard work that seems to disagreeable for most of the native born.

And I am supposed to support throwing these guys out?!

Matthew c writes:

I suppose we can always do what the antis want and round up ten million families and ship them back to Mexico.

Perhaps we can use railroad cars to accomplish this.

It's amazing what you can accomplish with a smart exercise of national sovereignty. . .

Hey, at least they aren't citizens!

adrian writes:

Matt c - Question - Should Israel have an open border with the Arab world?

adrian writes:

Matt C.

Question - should Israel have an open border with the Arab world? Keeping in mind that the most popular name in Israel at the moment is Muhammad.

Horatio writes:

In reply to aetius

"Tino has, above, laid out the case for why it is likely to be a net loss to virtually all non-immigrant americans. You, on the other hand, fail to support your position in any way whatsoever."

He mostly posted statistics that make the anti-immigration crowd go hysterical, but not much that gets to the core of the issue. His most substantive contribution in this thread is from Borjas. Borjas' analysis finds a net gain for natives. This is what we have been saying all along. I want you to provide a cost/benefit analysis that helps your case.

""Even if a detailed analysis shows an average loss due to immigration, it almost certainly would not show a loss to high skilled workers. So why should we oppose immigration? "

Again, no actual supporting argument whatsoever for your position."

The argument is that it would not show a loss to high skilled workers and thus we should not oppose it. I have not provided data in support of that argument. You should think this through more carefully. The net benefits Borjas found certainly aren't concentrated among poor natives. Very likely, they are concentrated among the highly skilled. Think carefully.

I understand why the dummies and the racists oppose immigration but I do not sympathize. Of the concerns the anti-immigration crowd has, only culture matters to me. I do not believe the threat immigrants pose to my culture is serious enough to outweigh the benefits I gain from their availability.

John Pertz writes:

Somebody argued what the maximum allowable amount of new immigrants should be? In response to that question, I would merely state that people will not RISK their lives to come here if it is of no benefit to themselves or family. To argue that once America opens its borders, we will inundated with a flood of hundreds of millions of people is childish. If politics is impotent then the labor market will be the arbiter of the flow of new immigrants. Nobody in their right mind will argue that somebody will immigrate to a new country where they can not eat. Since this an economics blog, maybe I should reiterate the point that people will respond to incentives.


I sympathize with the line of anti-immigration thinking that is fearful of new immigrants coming here merely to suckle off of the government dole. However, I think there is a fair amount of evidence that illegal and legal low skilled immigrants come here to work first and foremost. The welfare issue is a matter of public policy, not a problem of libertarian doctrine.

adrian writes:

"Nobody in their right mind will argue that somebody will immigrate to a new country where they can not eat."

So how did America get populated in the first place?

In 1900 the vast majority of Lebanon was Christian, but it had an open border with the Arab world. Today it is majority Muslim, due to immigration and differential birth rates, and all the Christians are leaving. A similar process will begin in Israel over the next 50 years - Jews are not reproducing themselves, but Muslims are - most of the Israeli Jews will probably move to America or back to Europe as Muslim numbers become too great. An inevitable result of mass immigration.

Tino writes:

Horatio I will not waste more time on you, if you really are this thick.

Borjas ONLY LOOKED AT THE DIRECT MARKET BENEFIT OF IMMIGRATION. He never claimed to do anything else.

I used “statistics” to add the vastly larger cost to Americans through TAXES AND TRANSFERS
10 billion benefit – 100 billion cost = 90 billion cost.

Got it? Or should I explain it in even more simple terms?

Mike writes:

I'm beginning to believe economists cannot tell us anything useful. If Mr. Caplan doesn't give a damn about America, why should we listen to him? I read that a Bush economic adviser once said, "it doesn't matter whether a factory makes potato chips or computer chips". Maybe not to CEOs or Economists. But the rest of the world shakes their head in dismay with such a useless philosopy. It matters very much to both individuals, their communities, their decedents, and the nation they hail from whether they are from a nation of computer chip makers or potato chip makers. Dr. Borjas doesn't write about an ivory tower theory, but the reality of stupid economic theory, and that is what bothers you about him.

Stan Whiting writes:

The fundamental problem with illegal immigrants is that they short circuit the natural evolution of capital allocation precisely because they will do jobs Americans will not at wages and under conditions they will not. (Americans will lay sod in the 90 degree heat: they just won't do it for the same or cheaper wages they can earn working in an air conditioned grocery store or, better, a call center where they sit on their rear end all shift.)

Investments in capital and engineering talent are made when markets force them. For example, I see lawns mowed now mostly by crews with ride-behind or zero turning radius lawn mowers that propel themselves. These machines cost several thousand dollars, but they enable one person to mow a lot more grass a lot faster with less effort than the type of mower consumers use, which twenty years ago is what commercial lawn services did too. (Or they used a small tractor and a bush hog.) They were developed when lawn service operators had to pay-let's just say it-surly blacks $10 to $15 an hour to do this work. This is now done at half those wages by Mexicans-mostly stoic-faced Indios whose feelings regarding their employing group are a cipher, even to those of us who speak un poco Español, because they don't (!) and because, well, they're about as talkative as a the proverbial cigar store Indian.

Why build agricultural machines with engineering innovation when stoop labor is as cheap as ever?

That this hurts the blacks disproportionately is simply explicable. Most blacks can only do the kind of work that the people heading north in Mexico can do. It isn't because of racism or lack of education or poverty or a deprived childhood. It's because they are not terrifically smart, most of them. The Southernmost North American indios are not either, but they are here illegally and know it. They are a more manageable population and business owners know it as well.

As these indios and mestizos reproduce, their children are under American law citizens. What are the odds that they are going to be any more civically competent or even interested than they were in Mexico, a xenophobic kleptocracy? They will respond to political demagoguery and vote-pandering just as they have in Mexico since the time of Benito Juarez.

I won't lie to you, I have no feelings for these peoples as peoples. I personally don't give a care one way or the other about them: I can no more hate them than I can hate dogs for copulating in public or fish for biting the same old lures decade after decade. But I am certainly no obligation to treat them better than they would treat me if I decided to go to Mexico, demand I be allowed to practice my trade for what I could get there (believe it or not, I could make more down there than I get here....if I were a Mexican national) and demand they speak English so I could communicate in my preferred language.

Tanstaafl writes:

If I'm a racist because I don't want to live in Tijuana then there's a load of other racists already here and many more heading our way. None of them want to live in Tijuana either. Unfortunately for us all the most recent batch of arrivals are bringing it with them.

Once the Z-gates open we'll certainly see this Tijuanification proceed even more rapidly.

But gee, I wasn't aware they lay sod. And all we have to do is pick up the tab for their extended family's education, healthcare, and retirement? Such a deal! Sign my back up for more! Not.

I don't think it's "childish" to imagine what will happen when "hundreds of millions" come here. The few million 3rd worlders we already have are in the process of screwing us pretty thoroughly.

See how mob rule dictates politics in Paris and Mexico City? That's where we're heading.

Matthew c writes:

Should Israel have an open border with the Arab world?

No, because they are in a state of war with radical islam and their neighbors are hotbeds of islamic terrorism. And I do not necessarily advocate "open borders" to America. What I advocate is allowing the hard working latin american workers I see everyday doing the hardest jobs in America to continue to come here and get ahead. Screening out ideological terrorists and keeping close tabs on populations that foster most terrorists is a good idea. And if that means some inconvenience for Saudis who wish to come here and work, I will not shed too many tears.

When I see evidence that large numbers of Mexican immigrants want to come here to infiltrate our societies and murder us, instead of cleaning our houses, picking our food, and building our homes, I'll concede your point.

Matthew c writes:

If Mr. Caplan doesn't give a damn about America, why should we listen to him?

Mr. Caplan gives a huge damn about what makes America worth celebrating. You wish to destroy that and wave the rah rah flag, a flag which stands for ideals you fail to understand and wish to trample on.

I ask you this in all seriousness. Do you plan to use railroad cars to help ship the 10 million illegal men, women and children from latin america to the Mexican border and dump them there? Perhaps we can reopen Manzanar, Tule Lake, Poston, Gila River, Granada, and Heart Mountain to help facilitate this. They are located in approximately the right place as a staging area for this massive ethnic cleansing you support.

I have a suggestion for a name for this operation. How about Operation New Echota? After all, many of the ancestors of the people you are eagerly hoping to exile lived in the territory of the United States long before any white men walked here.

Matthew c writes:

I've just had another great revelation.

Obviously this operation to drive the trains to Manzanar and Tule Lake for operation New Echota will require a tremendous amount of materiel and labor.

How fortunate that we have citizens of such tremendous loyalty and concern for our republic. We will need some volunteers to assist in this great project of national ethnic cleansing^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h^h glory and pride.

I nominate Steve Sailor to watch the children's car. Tito can run the mess line at one of the camps. Of course some jobs will require a stouter constitution than others. I think we can trust Stan Whiting to have what it takes to kick any of these "copulating dogs" who need to be taught some manners before we toss them into the southern Sonora.

Tino writes:

1. “the hard working latin american workers”
According to the Bls Hispanics work 7% fewer hours than whites. Despite studying far less.

2. “the hardest jobs in America”

But hardly the most valuable. Some 60% of the spending of unskilled immigrants is paid by Americans taxpayers.

3. “they are in a state of war with radical islam”

Radical Islam is certainly at war with America. At 15% of young muslims in America support terrorist attacks against civilians.

4. “use railroad cars to help ship the 10 million illegal men, women and children”
Nice Nazi reference buddy. Always a sign of having strong arguments.

No, we propose enforcing laws against hiring illegal’s, so that they will self-deport back home. The INS will continue to deport over one million people per year, without “rail road cars” or even gas chambers.

5. "Caplan gives a huge damn about what makes America worth celebrating"

But not the inhabitants, at least not the poor white. That is his views, I see no problem with the prefrences per se. I do see a huge problem when they motivate him to champion bad ideas, or give the trusting American public the impression that immigration benefits them.

6. “ideals you fail to understand and wish to trample on.”

Core American ideals, such as national sovereignty, rule of law, small government, reciprocal altruism, self sufficiency, property rights, patriotism over ethnic identity? Are those the ideals you are thinking about?

Joe Bob writes:


[Comment deleted and commenter banned for supplying false email address.--Econlib Ed.]

adrian writes:

So, Matt C. Israel shouldn't have an open border, but America should?

Strange that economists, journalists & neocons abandon all invite-the-world principles and embrace good old nationalism when it comes to that little ethnostate. I wonder why? It couldn't POSSIBLY have anything to do with this, this or this now could it?

Horatio writes:

tino
Don't throw stones in a glass house! Read what you cite. Borjas included government redistribution in his analysis as well. You double counted you fool.

http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/Immigration.html

You should also check out.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arithmetic

stilichio writes:

Horatio, you are trying to use a figure for *all immigration* and transplant it to a discussion regarding *Mexican unskilled immigration*. You should try actually reading what Borjas wrote:

"The net benefit is even smaller when immigrants are relatively unskilled. For instance, suppose that all immigrants have the skill level of those who came in the late seventies. Lifetime welfare costs per household would then be $13,600, and the immigrant population would add $87 billion to welfare costs. These less skilled immigrants only earn $313,000 over their working lives, so that total earnings are about $2.4 trillion. They would then pay about $960 billion in taxes, of which $29 billion is allocated to funding cash benefit programs. The immigrants would drain the U.S. Treasury by about $58 billion over their lifetime, for a net loss of about $3.2 billion per year"

To sum up:
High-skilled immigration = Gain
Low-skilled immigration = Loss
Mexican immigration = Overwhelmingly low-skill

Is that simple enough for you?

Stilichio writes:

"I nominate Steve Sailor to watch the children's car. Tito can run the mess line at one of the camps. Of course some jobs will require a stouter constitution than others.

I think we can trust Stan Whiting to have what it takes to kick any of these "copulating dogs" who need to be taught some manners before we toss them into the southern Sonora."

This sort of gets down to the real root of the pro-open-borders argument. Wanting to enforce immigration law is Nazi, hence it is wrong.

It is, of course, an argument (if you can call it that) that defies most conventional logic, but it appears to have strong emotional appeal.

Stilichio writes:

Some additional thoughts:

- The Borjas calculation linked above is from the early 90-ies. Things have gotten considerably worse since then, in terms of low-skill immigration.

- The US is supposedly totally incapable of deporting 12 million people, either directly or though creating incetives for self-deportation. Still, the Bush administration brags about deporting 6 million people since coming into office. It should be noted that those 6 million deportations were handled without the use of nor boxcarts, nor gas chambers. (Amazingly enough!)

dennisw writes:

DEPORTATIONSThe US is supposedly totally incapable of deporting 12 million people, either directly or though creating incentives for self-deportation. Still, the Bush administration brags about deporting 6 million people since coming into office. It should be noted that those 6 million deportations were handled without the use of nor boxcarts, nor gas chambers. (Amazingly enough!)

DON'T FALL FOR THAT LIE!
These 6 million are just about all done at the border. We catch Mexicans and they agree to voluntary deportation on a bus back home. Some (5% or so) of these were done from the interior and just about all were voluntary after they receive order of deportation. The USA is too lazy to to deport people. I will admit a lot of "catch and release" at the border has ceased. Those Central Americans and South Americans are now mostly deported. It's harder to send them home than Mexicans which are simply bussed back. Logistics and funding are the bugaboo

These "other than Mexicans" caught at the border where booked and released into the USA. Because we are (were) so damn lazy and GWBush and the hacks in DC think this immigration invasion is one big joke

dennisw writes:

There isn't a decent economist alive who would oppose free trade in textiles by pointing out that it hurts American textile workers.

I oppose your version of free trade that gives us 800 billion dollar trade deficits. This leads to slavery where one day we will work for Chinese and other foreign masters. Unless you believe in debt repudiation when foreigners hold it and it becomes a massive problem


I knew some southern textile workers. They're on welfare now. Happy now? Libertarians don't care if steel gets decimated or if we import huge amounts of oil. Or if high tech tool making goes abroad. Because they live cloistered university existences where they only meet nice and reasonable people. They then extrapolate that most all mankind is nice and reasonable and high IQ. That we can always trade for strategic materials. This is a lousy assumption. Wars put an end to such infantilism. My ideal would be to get off foreign oil by exploiting our huge clean Western cola reserves. Convert them into diesel and jet fuel and heating oil. But this taking leadership and vision. We would rather import cheap Mexican laborers and cheap oil

Horatio writes:

Stilichio

You had a very good reason for not including the next sentence of that paragraph.

"Because national income increases by somewhat more, immigration is still beneficial"

The onus is on the anti crowd to show that the redistribution that is unaccounted for is greater than this benefit.

Mitchell Young writes:

If we could get back to the trade v. immigration issue, it seems to that 'unskilled workers' not only a much broader class, but a more persistent (for want of a better word) class than textile worker. In classical trade theory, if workers are put out of jobs in a specific industry, they should find work in other industries , most times at the same level of skill (it takes time to change skill levels, if it is at all possible). The textile worker become an autoworker, or a glass worker, or an aviation worker. However, immigration has the capacity to hit all those industries at once.

Stan Whiting writes:

Economics is inherently a soft science. Like other soft sciences, it can provide value when it is understood clearly that its conclusions must always be applied with appropriate "sanity checks". Pure libertarians and purely academic economists have always been, in the realm of realpolitik, convenient tools.

As it is being applied today, unlimited immigration is being applied as a method of labor arbitrage to commonize costs and privatize profits. Wal-Mart can import goods from China where their internal value is low and sell them where their value is higher, without having to pay its proportionate cost of the underlying reasons why its value is higher. You do not have to be an economics major to comprehend this.

Consider the Magic Line Theory. The typical Mexican peasant worker is worth about a dollar an hour in Mexico. When he crosses the border he is worth just about the prevailing minimum wage in the United States. Why is this? It's because of the difference between an economy-and a country-controlled by Mexicans and one controlled by Americans.

The corruption, poverty, and general failure to thrive endemic to Mexico has not changed in a hundred years, not in two hundred, and shows no sign of changing much now except to the slight extent globalization has created small changes overall. Wal-Mart has made it possible for working-middle class Mexicans to buy the same junk Americans can for about the same money-and made it that much harder for the traditional Mexicans to make their customary living. You can buy an imported sombrero cheaper than a peasant woman can buy the handmade materials.

Likewise, NAFTA has made life tougher for peasant farmers as subsisized Louisiana farmers with high tech 4WD tractors and turbine cropdusters can produce commodity grains loaded with ag chemicals cheaper than the peasants could grow their all-organic hand chopped grains. So despite their understandable reluctance so many of them have headed north.

No, I do not hate Mexicans at all. I feel bad for them. But I don't want to be one, which is why I don't want them here. I wish them all the success and happiness in the world-in Mexico.

Lemmy Caution writes:

I question the priority placed on the national line. I live in an urban coastal region in the US with higher wages than elsewhere in the country. The immigrants who are lowering my wages are people from mediocre midwest state schools willing to do my job for less: the Mexicans who have been part of the social and cultural life of this region for the past 250 years are neither "foreign" nor an economic problem for me.

That's the wall I want to set up: one around the Bay Area, keeping low-wage engineers and managers out. Nothing against them: I want them to be happy - in Kansas, Texas, and Missouri.

Mitchell Young writes:

Lemmy,

First, your wages are probably being lowered more by H1-B's than by midwesterners. Certainly the rents/home payments are being driven up in the bay area by immigrants of all sorts. Great if you own a place already, not so great if you are starting out. Indeed, I wonder if wages really are that great in SF when that is taken into account. Seems like all the really innovative companies have left.

Second, your history is wrong. 'Mexicans' have a very tenuous link with upper california. The first mission here was founded in 1769 -- over 200 years after Cortes's conquest, and after that a unique 'Californio' culture developed. There simply was no great movement of Mexicans north. Only after those "foreign" Yankees and midwesterners , guys like Hewlett (b. Ann Arbor Michigan) and Dave Packard (b. Pueblo Colorado -- does the name make him Mexican?) built up the place did the immigrant servant class start to move in. In the process, it seems to have really screwed the lifestyle, and I notice a lot of really innovative guys moving up to the northwest and elsewhere.

Actually, I favor a wall around the bay area also -- but to keep you guys in !

Jasper writes:

Low skill immigration hurts ALL groups of Americans. The skilled through hundreds of billions in additional taxation, the lower skilled through lower wages. Unskilled immigration only in net benefits one groups, the unskilled immigrants.

This argument is incorrect, because there is truly no such think as "low skilled" immigration. There are only relative degrees of "skilled."

So-called "unskilled" immigrants obviously do possess some skills. Those skills might include the ability to show up at work on time. Or the ability to communicate in Spanish, say, or in Cantonese. Or the ability to yield a hammer. Or dig a ditch. Or empty a bedpan. Or clean a hotel room. Or work a laundry press. Or trim hedges. These things may not add the value to GDP of, say, your average investment banker. But they obviously do add some value.

Quick back-of-envelope math here: if US per capita GDP is around $43,000, and illegal immigrants create output at only half the level of the national average, we're still talking about 250 billion in output (I doubt very much the level is only 1/2 that of the average, but, whatever). So, even if illegal immigrants are a net drain on public finances (they're almost certainly not a net drain unless you consider their American-born children; but the latter are obviously not illegal immigrants, but, er, American children), they would have to consuming a quarter of a trillion in government services more than they create in tax revenue for the country to come out in the red.

This can't be the case.

Jasper writes:

First, your wages are probably being lowered more by H1-B's than by midwesterners. Certainly the rents/home payments are being driven up in the bay area by immigrants of all sorts. Great if you own a place already, not so great if you are starting out.

Georgia and Texas attract far greater numbers of newcomers than the Bay area, but most metro areas of these two states offer plenty of highly affordable housing. Do you think perhaps we've actually stumbled on an issue we can't blame immigrants for?

Mitchell Young writes:

Do you think perhaps we've actually stumbled on an issue we can't blame immigrants for?

First, I don't think you are right that George and Texas attracts 'far greater numbers' than the Bay Area. But wait a few years, and the 2-3-4 family per house phenomenon will start driving up rents in decent parts of those states, too. Already has in Northern VA

Its actually amazing to sit here and read people denying obvious things like putting millions and millions of people into limited areas (around cities) will not drive up rents, or adversely affect the schools, or increase traffic ... just plain amazing.

Mitchell Young writes:

they would have to consuming a quarter of a trillion in government services more than they create in tax revenue for the country to come out in the red.

I puzzled over what this means. If it means the fiscal red you are wrong, because you are assuming that every single dollar earned by illegal immigrants goes to taxes. That is obviously wrong. What you seem to mean is we should put up with the fiscal costs of low skilled (BTW, 'low' is a relative term) in order to get the quarter trillion addition of extra output to GDP, then you are suggesting we subsidize low skilled immigration.

BTW GDP, while an important measure, is not nearly so important as per capita GDP, and even the latter has problems in measuring economic well being. We could start with a discussion of externalities ...

Stan Whiting writes:

From Alphaville, Lemmy writes;
I question the priority placed on the national line. I live in an urban coastal region in the US with higher wages than elsewhere in the country. The immigrants who are lowering my wages are people from mediocre midwest state schools willing to do my job for less: the Mexicans who have been part of the social and cultural life of this region for the past 250 years are neither "foreign" nor an economic problem for me."

There are more mediocre engineering schools in California than in any other state, and of the top ten engineering schools in the US, only three or four are anywhere near salt water. Caltech and MIT grads command a salary premium in their first jobs, a premium that in my experience is unjustified by actual performance.

Americans from the Midwest or anywhere else are not moving to the Bay Area because even with the salaries there, the cost of living _like an American_ is far too high. On the other hand, the cost of living like a Sri Lankan-twelve-up in a two room apartment-is affordable.

Cutting off H-1B would have the delightful effect of making engineering design in the Bay Area an unaffordable luxury. I predict Silicon Valley would disperse to some extent, just as Wall Street would if financial firms in lower Manhattan were levied an additional tax to provide added security to that area. People in the Midwest subsidize New York City, and probably to a lesser extent Silicon Valley and Hollywood as well.

Lemmy Caution writes:
There are more mediocre engineering schools in California than in any other state, and of the top ten engineering schools in the US, only three or four are anywhere near salt water. Caltech and MIT grads command a salary premium in their first jobs, a premium that in my experience is unjustified by actual performance.

Stan, that's sheer spin, and it's wrong.

Number one: MIT, obviously. The next two are Californian: Berkeley (a state school) and Stanford. We get one "red state" school (Georgia Tech), and then we're back to the rust belt: UIUC and CMU. Then, more California - CalTech and USC. So, we already have 4 of the top 8 in California (not to mention "near salt water.") Cornell and Ann Arbor - both in liberal enclaves with high-value real estate - fill out the list.

Despite talk of globalization and "flattening," it is surprising just how important cosmopoles remain. A response to Friedman's over-reaching twaddle can be found in Richard Florida's "Flight of the Creative Class." His introdction to the newest edition, "The World is Spiky," explains (and documents) how certain environments continue to concentrate talent at an even more accelerated pace, and why flyover country can't keep the brightest and best.

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