Bryan Caplan  

Evolutionary Psychology and Economic Bias

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Defending Libertarian Coercion... Another Herring...

One of the most common questions I get about my research on systematically biased beliefs about economics is: Yes, but why do people have these biases? Why do people underestimate the social benefits of the market? Why are they particularly unreasonable about international and labor markets? And why do they think the economy is bad and getting worse?

I've got a few answers of my own, but the scholar hardest at work on these questions is Paul Rubin. He had an interesting piece on this topic a couple years ago in the Southern Economic Journal. And Monday, amazingly enough, the Washington Post published his op-ed on this very topic. (HT: Mankiw).

Here's Rubin on the origin of anti-market bias:

Our primitive ancestors lived in a world that was essentially static; there was little societal or technological change from one generation to the next. This meant that our ancestors lived in a world that was zero sum -- if a particular gain happened to one group of humans, it came at the expense of another.

This is the world our minds evolved to understand. To this day, we often see the gain of some people and assume it has come at the expense of others.


Here's Rubin on anti-foreign bias:
[O]ur evolutionary intuition is that, because foreign workers gain from trade and immigrant workers gain from joining the U.S. economy, native-born workers must lose. This zero-sum thinking leads us to see trade and immigration as conflict ("trade wars," "immigrant invaders") when trade and immigration actually produce cooperation and mutual benefit, the exact opposite of conflict.

I'll share my thoughts in a future post. But first, I'm curious to hear readers' reaction to Rubin's story. What do you think?


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The author at Modeled Behavior in a related article titled The Evolution of Economic Psychology writes:
    Paul Rubin echoes an argument popular in economics and business circles these days. Most people fail to appreciate the gains from trade and immigration because they are trapped by Neolithic analysis. They see outsiders as treats to the tribe. The vie... [Tracked on May 10, 2007 11:14 AM]
The author at Economic Investigations in a related article titled News of the World #34 writes:
    Elsewhere… Coercion Coercive Regulation and the Balance of Freedom, Edward Glaeser doesn’t pay attention to Klein definition either and conflates “coercion” with “use of or threat with force”. Ed Glaeser on Utility, ... [Tracked on May 13, 2007 5:29 AM]
COMMENTS (34 to date)
SteffenH writes:

In his book "Darwinian Politics" Rubin describes his ideas in detail. I wonder why he didn't get more attention when it was published some years ago. Funnily enough, I learnt about this book from your "armchair economist"-mailing list. See my guest-post at Mahalanobis: http://mahalanobis.twoday.net/stories//comment

caveat bettor writes:

1. When I was a naive undergrad being immersed in Keynesian economics at Cornell, I was able to grasp the "give a man a fish vs. teach a man how to fish".

2. When I started working, I then learned "there are only so many fish".

3. Then I had a kid which changed my worldview, started reading your blog (and others), and realized "through pro-growth condidtions like unfettered markets, we can raise standards, i.e. improve fish yields and/or discover fish substitutes.

I think most people don't get past .1. or .2.

Tim Lundeen writes:

I'm not convinced that there were evolutionary pressures that shaped us to think of the world as zero-sum. There are obvious benefits to specialization in even small groups, and it is clear that you can make a lot of things and find a lot of things without taking them from anyone. It is also clear that there are evolutionary pressures to have a higher level of trust in the people in your group, because this allows the group to be more productive, and thus to have a better chance of surviving and thriving.

Now at the same time, it is clear that via warfare that you can take things from other groups, and that this is an alternative to making things. But I don't see this as requiring a zero-sum perspective.

Evolutionary explanations for human psychology are blatantly obvious and every economist should read up on evolutionary psychology. The world of yore was indeed almost-zero-sum.

Mark Seecof writes:

Rubin shows how desperately some economists wish to reinforce their ideological position by borrowing ideas from other disciplines. Sadly, Rubin shows that stealing a few buzzwords from another discipline isn't the same as drawing real understanding from it. Rubin wants to hitch his no-borders wagon to evolutionary psychology, but hasn't read much of it--or he would have learnt that humans are capable (have evolved to be capable) of a variety of more or less selfish or cooperative behaviours. He would also have learnt that groups of humans scattered around the world are very different in capabilities, attitudes, and behaviours and that many of those differences are genetically mediated (that is, they cannot be altered much by economic education).

Rubin's supposition that a world with little sociological or technical change must be one of zero-sum economics is false. All of recorded history abounds with examples to the contrary and anthropologists will testify to the eagerness with which many peoples have traded with outsiders--even in eras of "little change."

Equally false is Rubin's supposition that everyone is really the same, so people viewing others as members of (in- or out-groups) is arbitrary. Evolution depends on differences--it cannot act without them--so any economist who wishes to draw on evolutionary theory must acknowledge and account for real differences among people. At the same time, evolutionary pressures (almost certainly) cause people to vary their amount of cooperation with their degree of kinship. Cooperative phenotypes act on socially-mediated pseudo-kinship as well as actual genetic kinship. It's not hard to get people to cooperate, if you persuade them to treat each other as kin. In fact, that's the point of the Golden Rule.

Look, Rubin's own discipline can explain why many people want to restrict trade. Those who wish to restrict trade are those who expect, personally, to gain by such restrictions! Economists often call them "rent seekers" and they include producers and merchants more often than "common folk." Does the term "Corn Laws" mean anything to you?

Rubin's op-ed falsely suggests that the prejudices of ordinary voters result in trade restrictions, but anyone who looks into the matter will discover that industrial interests drive lawmaking in this area. Virtually every restriction on trade in the USA is a triumph by rent-seeking incumbents in some industry.

We can theorize both "classical economic" and "evo-psych" reasons why people would like to restrict immigration. For the first, people who will personally suffer from immigration (that is, to a first approximation, workers rather than employers) would like to restrict it. This is not irrational, because (Rubin's purely ideological assertion to the contrary notwithstanding), economic gains from immigration are not evenly distributed. As for the second, evo-psych predicts people would be wary of immigration, because most immigrants are not kin (note that this theory perfectly explains the special case of people favoring immigration from their own ancestral regions). Evo-psych predicts, on a very strong basis, that people would rather preserve the economic bounty where they are for their own kin.

Even an economist must agree that (a) immigrants themselves only move because they expect to be better off in their new homes than their old, and (b) once they arrive they will compete with natives for existing economic resources. To genes competing in evolution's rat-race, there is no reason to help immigrants better themselves, and every reason to discourage local competition from immigrants.

(It's true that immigrants may help expand economic resources--in a society where greater availability of labor fuels economic expansion. However, the notion, oft-repeated by economists, that labor availability necessarily fuels industrial expansion is obviously false (if it were true, Bangladesh would be rich). History shows that industrial economic growth depends on high-IQ labor, and is retarded where chiefly low-IQ labor is available no matter how cheaply.

Since IQ is at least 60% heritable, only an ideologically-blinded economist would suppose that unlimited immigration by low-IQ people would certainly fuel economic expansion. In fact, there are strong economic reasons to think otherwise, because in the presence of many low-IQ people, society diverts the labor of many high-IQ people from industry to simply managing (or exploiting) the low-IQ crowds.

An economist who really wants to reconcile his discipline with evolutionary psychology should ask "why should people follow abstract theories rather than behave in the ways that promoted the survival of countless generations of their ancestors?"

He should then return to Rubin's notion of education, but educate people to discern rent-seeking proposals and oppose them.

As for immigration, once the economist clears his mind of the notion that all immigration is an unalloyed blessing, he can promote a rational policy of encouraging immigration only by people who would promote the industrial economy. Those people could/would be accepted as "kin" and so engage our evolved capacity for cooperation.

(Note that demands by particular industries to import cheap labor (regardless of externalities) may properly be regarded as a form of rent-seeking.)

Matt writes:

Well, first, a mathematical zero based accounting system is much more accurate. The concept of increased positive standard of living is a valuable measure, but it is not a "eigenvector" of the economy in any sense. This idea that we should contort the mathematics of economics just because businessmen do not like negative numbers is nonsense.

Back to the main point. A sensible economist can easily create the economic model for squirrels gathering nuts in an oak orchard. Whatever biases we, or the squirrels have, economists are better off incorporating those biases in the market model they use rather than "reinventing" man just to make the math simple.

Mark Seecof writes:

Oops, missed a point. The one area of economics which has been pretty-much zero-sum from ancient times right up through today is competition for land. Even if you slept through everything else I wrote you should agree that to the extent immigrants compete for land, they really are zero-sum competitors and a rational economic actor would seek to exclude them, the more vigorously as he cared more about land. In former times when many people depended directly on their own land for their own and their family's subsistence, both "economic" and "evo-psych" reasons would teach them to oppose immigration.

Only those parts of our modern industrialized economy for which land is not a major factor of production can look upon immigration with complacency. You shouldn't expect (reasonable, as opposed, say, to Marxist) "economic education" to persuade other people to irrationally favor immigrants entering a zero-sum competition for land.

(This is probably why people readily see non-kin immigrants as "invaders." For all time, a bunch of non-kin moving into the area meant greater (zero-sum) competition for food, because food was directly proportional to land. So immigrants are invaders.

(Today a bunch of immigrants means zero-sum competition for pleasant suburban homes. This is why rich people who want low-wage immigrants to serve them favor immigration and everyone else in America rationally opposes it.)

Lord writes:

I can't top Mark, but the notion of primitive societies being zero-sum is silly when so much of the bounty or scarcity originate in variability of nature.

sourcreamus writes:

It reinforced my idea as evolutionary psychology as an exercise in circular reasoning. Similar logic could explain the exact opposite conclusion. Primitive societies had to trade or faced being wiped out by a bad harvest, thus some of mankind evolved into being pro-trade, their descendants are called economists.

Horatio writes:

I've believed something similar for years. Anti-market bias comes from human brains that are not well adapted to advanced civilization. The great mass of humanity cannot deal adequately with communities with more than a few dozen individuals.

Steve Sailer writes:

Mark Seecof: Wow!

Simon writes:

The one case I can think of where immigration is desirable re land is where you think you can use the immigrants as allies vs some other group, such as expanding the power of your group through taking land from others. My own Ulster ancestors were 'planted' in northern Ireland for just this reason. Immigration helped fuel the 19th century expansion of the USA vs the Amerindians & Mexicans, likewise. In modern Europe, USA et al, it seems that the elites promote non-western immigration both for exonomic advantage (to them) and as a means to attack the native populations, as commanded by the dictats of cultural Marxist ideology.

TGGP writes:

Mark Seecof, I agree with you on a lot of things, but you stray off-course in some areas. Old Public Choice Theory explains trade restrictions with reference to rent-seekers. And indeed there are rent-seekers. But opinion polls show that the Self Interested Voter Hypothesis has very little support. People who would be hurt by trade restrictions support them anyway. Furthermore, land is not really all that scarce. It matters a lot less now than it used to. There is plenty of land in Wyoming or Alaska, but people are not flocking there. People want to live in certain kinds of places. Cities have much to offer (a lot of business is done there), but bad policies (including immigration) are currently driving people away from them and to the heartland, when it used to be the opposite. Furthermore, if it was just land we would also consider the children of other native people to be threats to our children's ability to obtain land. We don't. There is something more specific about immigration policy that distinguishes the two cases.

mike writes:

I can't top Mark, but the notion of primitive societies being zero-sum is silly when so much of the bounty or scarcity originate in variability of nature.

The final score may have changed, but the game is still zero-sum from season to season if two or more tribes are competing over those same essential resources, scarce or abundant.

Brad Hutchings writes:

You'd think that if evolution was a strong enough mechanism to predispose us to certain bad economic theories that it might have gotten rid of our appendix already. That's not to say evolution is a bad theory, just that applying it to higher level abstractions might be a stretch. I'd look to intergenerational social constructs like religion and language for more insight. By all accounts, the Muslim world is struggling with the concept of interest on loans, which is just batsh*t crazy in the year 2007. Unless you're prepared to go Charles Murray to the 50th power (and still distort him in the most disgusting ways imaginable), you're gonna have a hard time making an evolutionary argument for predisposition against free trade without making one against usury or even banking.

Mark Seecof writes:

Evolved xenophobia may sometimes estimate the "expected value" of immigration more accurately than Rubin-like economists do. Ask yourself, "where are all the pre-Columbian Amerindians now? Where are the descendants they could have produced, if European immigrants hadn't wiped out 50-80% of them? Do you suppose the genes for phenotypes most welcoming to immigrants survived the plagues more often than genes for less gregarious phenotypes?"

Carter writes:

I'm less worried about the irrational biases of Americans than the irrational biases immigrants bring with them.

John S Bolton writes:

If there were a rational argument for mass immigration of undesirables, economists would not have to use the smear method of suggesting that only 'tribalists', primitives or otherwise hopelessly backward mentalities would not just believe in the desirability of the undesirables.
Immigrants can be undesirable for many reasons; from the economic perspective, immigration on to net public subsidy is all but inevitable in an alternative welfare society.
Economists imagine themselves to be ever so advanced by saying don't blame the immigrant, or the immigrant is no different than an additional citizen of any other kind, but such doctrines are neither economic in themselves nor true.
An immigrant who comes in on net public subsidy, increasing the aggression on the net taxpayer thereby, is accessory to treason, the treason of offcials which diverted the public revenue to him, but an additional native is not.
Economics can try to make a virtue of ignoring this point, but ignoring the relevant considerations of politics and morality, is not decent or intelligent.

Scott W writes:

Rubin is dead on. Zero-sum thinking probably dominates anti-market bias.

Another good explanation is the ease of understanding order imposed by government, rather than spontaneous order. We can point to the politicians who will provide a good or service, but we can't point to the potential entrepreneur who sees profit in providing that good or service.

Of course, it may be rational for people not to think about all of these things a lot either. Markets don't punish market ignorance very much. I go to the store and buy food without knowing where it all comes from.

Dennis writes:

Scott,
you worry about "anti-market bias" when the real issue is anti-market behavior, which of course is most often and with the greatest effect exhibited by self-interested entities at the organizational level, commercial and political. The real red herring is of course that individuals expressing themselves democratically against the wishes of such as Rubin et al constitute a threat to "free markets", which do not exist as such anyway.

Some effectively argue that democracy itself threatens the preeminence of markets that are already far from free and unfettered, manipulated by the extra-democratic influence of corporations and the state. I think I'll take markets made nominally inefficient by popular democratic representation over democracy made irrelevant by free market thinking fallen into dogma unable to incorporate information outside of a narrow ideological framework, as evidenced by Rubin's comic misunderstanding of evo pysch, so capably demonstrated by Seecof above. Ideology always fails to account for nature; witness the glaring lacuna in Rubin's argument: that all individuals are equal in ability and desire, and unencumbered by ethnic, racial, or cultural biases (unless of course they oppose the dogma, at which point they become primitives of a sort).

Individuals oppose open borders policies (that is to say, the vast majority of Americans) out of rational self-interest, as benefits are unequally distributed and the paltry net benefit to the economy as a whole from the mass importation of unskilled, uneducated labor and the poverty attached to it, are lost to externalities, to say nothing of the arguably greater losses to quality of urban life, the environment, and the increasing factionalization of the body politic.

Gary writes:

Isn't economics fun? We see a result then try to explain why it happened! Here are some of my thoughts. I believe humans are prewired to have certain biases, though this is not all.

First, we naturally band together around family, community, religious faith and country. Sports rivalries, political loyalties and competing groups at work all come naturally to us. Humans have a natural community spirit, but it can be and is manipulated to fuel racism, hatred, religious fanaticism and protectionism. This is probably the easiest and most used human trait that is exploited by politicians to create voter bias.

Second, I believe we are programmed to be on the lookout for danger. This leads us to listen for and pass along the latest disaster story. Whether it is global warming, the next pandemic, wandering black holes in the universe or terrorist attacks, we listen to these predictions of doom and again open ourselves up to manipulation. Unfortunately, the politician that proposes the solution is probably not the person to listen to, but who is going to listen to someone that says to do nothing. More bias!

Third, people have an underlying sense of insecurity. I don't know if this has any roots in our primitive survival instincts, but it is certainly there. It is incredibly easy to convince people that others are getting an advantage. This easily turns into the politics of victimization. Insecurity also leads to the mob mentality. We go with the crowd because we do not trust our own decisions. We tend to believe something based solely on how many times we have heard it, even if it makes little or no sense.

This is human nature as it has been for centuries. A little education and some good leadership, though, are all that are required to overcome human nature.

The most important source of bias, though, is understanding the nature of dynamic interaction. Most people have trouble accepting that cutting a tax rate can lead to more tax revenue. They cannot accept that free trade can do more to protect their jobs than preventing offshoring. In a static model, subsidizing college education will mean more kids can afford higher education. In a dynamic model it results in colleges raising their tuition and the subsidized students are where they were before but non-subsidized students are priced out of the market. This leads to additional subsidies until everyone is subsidized. Who wins?

So much for my thoughts.

Dennis writes:

Most people have trouble accepting that cutting a tax rate can lead to more tax revenue

Probably because it isn't true. Perhaps you meant that most people cannot accept that a dollar not collected in taxes doesn't necessarily equal a dollar lost in tax revenues (not that I'm sure this is true either; people are getting more sophisticated about economics all the time, contrary to hand-wringing of Rubin et al). This is not an argument against low taxes or supply side insights, but no, you can't increase tax revenues solely by cutting taxes.

mike writes:

People like Rubin never bother to submit their theories to even the the most basic reality checks. Here is a guy who, as Mark Secoff mentioned, borrows a bunch of terminology from evolutionary psychology yet somehow manages to ignore IQ completely. Take a look at fourth generation Mexican-American educational stats and tell me whether anyone seriously believes a First World economy can be maintained when an increasing percentage of the population looks like that academically. Hispanics, soon to be a majority of California's population, contribute almost nothing to the state's high tech sector.

Still, I suppose open-borders libertarians will continue arguing in one guise or another that America is in such desperate need of landscapers, meat packers, and fruit vendors that it doesn't really matter...

[Commenter banned for supplying false email address. To restore your posting privileges, email the webmaster@econlib.org from a functioning email address.--Econlib Editor]

TGGP writes:

Dennis, what are you talking about? Cutting a tax rate can and HAS led to increases in tax revenue. In the past these occurences can likely be attributed to natural growth of the economy so that revenues would have increased with rates staying the same and the slight decrease in rates did not eliminate that natural increase in revenue. Theoretically the Laffer curve shows 0% rates and 100% rates to give the same revenue ($0), with revenue maximization being in between the two.

dob writes:

Mark's case against Rubin is strong - but it is even stronger when one looks closer at modern sociopolitical reality.

This is mainly because of a new and decidedly non-ancient factor in the immigration stakes: the comprehensive welfare state. (Larger in Europe, but still significant in the US)

There are few purer zero-sum games than recent immigrants voting themselves money from various public insurance systems, that depend heavily on a good work ethic and a strong sense of "we". (Third-world immigrants display abysmal employment numbers in Europe). This is a large reason for immigration enthusiasm on the left - a large, permanently resentful population group that depends on the state for a living ensures power for the left, as long as native reaction can be supppressed.

That people are able to observe this phenomenon and deem it bad for themselves is hardly evidence of any cognitive deficiency - on the contrary.

Furthermore, other external effects like crime (where poor immigrant groups are massively overrepresented), and rent-seeking from relatively failed groups not directly related to the welfare state (quotas, "affirmative action") compound the negative impact of immigration even further.

Dennis writes:

TGGP,
Don't take it from me, take it from Bruce Bartlett, original supply-sider, from his recent NYT op ed:

We believed that our tax plan would stimulate the economy to such a degree that the federal government would not lose $1 of revenue for every $1 of tax cut. Studies of the 1964 tax cut showed that about a third of it was recouped, and we expected similar results. Thus, contrary to common belief, neither Jack Kemp nor William Roth nor Ronald Reagan ever said that there would be no revenue loss associated with an across-the-board cut in tax rates. We just thought it wouldn’t lose as much revenue as predicted by the standard revenue forecasting models, which were based on Keynesian principles.

Furthermore, our belief that we might get back a third of the revenue loss was always a long-run proposition. Even the most rabid supply-sider knew we would lose $1 of revenue for $1 of tax cut in the short term, because it took time for incentives to work and for people to change their behavior. When President Reagan proposed a version of Kemp-Roth in 1981, every revenue estimate produced by the Treasury showed large revenue losses from its enactment, based on standard models. The independent Congressional Budget Office produced figures that were almost identical.
Moreover, we were adamant that only permanent cuts in marginal tax rates would stimulate the economy. We thought that temporary tax cuts, tax rebates, tax credits and such were economically worthless, and we strongly opposed them.


Perhaps its true to say that maintaining sensible marginal rates maintains healthy growth in the economy and therefore can be said to increase revenues very long term (I honestly don't know), and obviously there exists a ceiling above which taxes can strangle an economy (but it would be remarkably high; before Kennedy's cuts marginal rates were 91%) but invariably what people mean when they say "tax cuts increase revenues" is something like what Bartlett derides above.
Take Reagan's cuts; had he left rates alone revenues, yes, would have been higher. None of this is to defend confiscatory taxes, of course.
Floccina writes:

Mark Seecof although I agree with you in part you seem to ignore 2 things.

1. The benefits of increased division of labor which means that although workers may be hurt in the short run by immigration in the long run the increased division of labor that immigration enables should benefit all. The great Julian Simon pointed out this fact and I think that most economist would agree – short run costs long term benefits.
2. As far as land for living goes although we cannot create more land (unless you consider high rise apartment creating land) there is so much available but inaccessible that building roads could be considered creating new land. The following is Tongue in cheek: Is land, land if there in not access to it? end Tongue in cheek.

Now the issue of people being different and perhaps less adapted to freedom may be a sad, ugly but true point.

Fundamentalist writes:

Sourcreamus: It reinforced my idea as evolutionary psychology as an exercise in circular reasoning. Similar logic could explain the exact opposite conclusion.

Right on! Evolutionary psychology can explain anything, and its opposite. It should take the grand prize for junk science!

Keep in mind that evolution deals with the selection and promulgation of GENETIC traits, not ideas. For evolutionary psychology to explain economic ideas, scientists would have to show that the zero-sum economic environment of the past somehow influenced the selection of genes. But if the economic environment improved the survival of people with the zero-sum genes, then how was it possible for mankind to rise above the gene and consider a different economic environment? Is Rubin saying that a few people without the zero-sum gene survived and economic science progressed only when their population grew large enough?

Of course I'm being ridiculous. There's no such thing as a zero-sum gene. Ideas are passed from generation to generation through a variety of means, tradition, logic, literature, religion, etc.

But Rubin is partially correct in that the old world did believe that trade was a zero-sum game. Even Roger Bacon believed it. Zero-sum trade is the heart of mercantilism and socialism. Most people in the US believe all trade is zero-sum. Zero-sum trade is the most persistent and pernicious economic doctrine the world has ever had to deal with.

Economister writes:

I need to read the SEJ article, because the op ed left a lot to desire.

Take for instance his claim: "Our primitive ancestors lived in a world that was essentially static; there was little societal or technological change from one generation to the next. This meant that our ancestors lived in a world that was zero sum -- if a particular gain happened to one group of humans, it came at the expense of another."

The conclusion does not follow from the premise. Even in an essentially static world, people could still have mutually beneficial exchanges through (positive sum) trade.

I do think evolutionary psychology has a lot to do with our innate systematically biased beliefs. However, I think they come from the (double) Smithian subject of personal vs impersonal exchange.

Lord writes:

The final score may have changed, but the game is still zero-sum from season to season if two or more tribes are competing over those same essential resources, scarce or abundant.

Not when they are perishable.

dilys writes:

When wealth was land and its food products, especially in a non-monetized society, there was a fixed amount, and one raider's gain was another chieftan's loss.

A smart friend believes this is why usury was deemed bad by some religious systems in such eras, but that now, with the "value-added" potentiality, interest makes sense and is not immoral.

John Pertz writes:

So basically those who do not agree with Rubin are arguing that our ancestors did specialize and trade. The gains from trade and specialization lead to growth and we began to move away from a zero sum world? Does anyone really believe that? Is there really any evidence to show that before the industrial revolution that world gdp growth wasnt meager to static, at best. I agree with Rubin's premise. There may have been some trade amongst early primitives. However, to argue that benefits from this exchange were beneficial to such a degree that our ancestors would be enthusiastic about exchange strikes me as specious.

Ciaran writes:

The benefits of increased division of labor which means that although workers may be hurt in the short run by immigration in the long run the increased division of labor that immigration enables should benefit all. The great Julian Simon pointed out this fact and I think that most economist would agree – short run costs long term benefits. - Floccina

Interesting point. However, part of the advantage of free trade is that such increased divisions of labor can be moved across borders. Instead of bringing Mexicans here (with attached welfare and education costs), to work at slaughterhouses, we can move the slaughterhouses there.

The end result of increased importation of low IQ labor will always be a lower average quality of life for some substantial number (perhaps majority) of people - the people who don't employ them and who compete with them in various ways (for land, employment, etc.)

Mexico, too, would benefit from the need for increased economic investment: it's like the old joke about the guy who left one town for another and increased the IQ of both towns.


As far as land for living goes although we cannot create more land (unless you consider high rise apartment creating land) there is so much available but inaccessible that building roads could be considered creating new land. The following is Tongue in cheek: Is land, land if there in not access to it? end Tongue in cheek.

Obviously true, yet discouraging nonetheless. You need only look at the relevant data points: New York, LA, Phoenix, etc. When you increase the land available (for urban/suburban use) the net result is ALWAYS increased commute times and greater class stratification. The correlation is both strong and positive. Social policies cannot do much to mitigate this fact.

And land isn't the only relevant variable, of course: fuel and water are two rather important ones, and neither is looking good right now. I live in the West, and the creek in my backyard which would normally sing me to sleep at this time of year is as quiet as a church mouse.

As always, the most important thing to note about Rubin's article (or that of anyone who sings the economic benefits of open borders) is that he has NO NUMBERS to back him up. It's never more than demoagoguery from these folks. The data always show the same thing: somewhere between very little beenfit and very high cost.

DARD writes:

RE: M. Secoff's longer comment above. In regards to immigration I think the political class can be labeled "rent seekers" too; I'm thinking of the 2006 election to fill the Duke Cunningham seat near San Diego when the Democrat candidate informed the townhall meeting that you did not have to be a registered voter to help the cause. I can recall other examples of political rent-seeking as well.

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