Bryan Caplan  

Finally, An Intellectually Serious Case Against Immigration

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In langur troops, a core of related females and their offspring associate for up to a few years with unrelated immigrant males.  If the newcomers win, they drive the other males away and systematically kill infants less than six months old.  The mothers come into estrus again much sooner than if the infants had survived and continued to nurse, and they are impregnated by the new males.
From Melvin Konner's The Evolution of Childhood, the best book on evolution I've read since Graham Bell's Selection: The Mechanism of EvolutionThis I promise: Once we uncover a massive immigrant conspiracy to drive off the American male population, murder our young, and enslave American womanhood, I'll be the first to eat crow.



COMMENTS (53 to date)
Justin writes:

I am utterly mystified by the libertarian inability to understand the case against immigration.

Virtually every progressive argument ultimately boils down to "Look at all these places with lots of white people and no brown people - look at how great they are!"

So the libertarian responds with "yes, it is great. Now let's let in lots of brown people."

There are only three ways to explain this data:

1. Brown people are genetically incapable of participating in a cohesive and dynamic society.
2. Brown people herald from a culture that is, in its current state, generally inhospitable to a cohesive and dynamic society.
3. Sweden is not actually more cohesive than other nations. Rather, it is a testimony to the wonderful things that happen with a larger tax and transfer system.

Instead libertarians go for the "let's affiliate with progressives" route. They ignore the cultural basis of a cohesive society and then declare all conservatives who worry about immigration as (1) racists, (2) irrational, (3) utterly without even a remotely cogent argument. Ironically, in doing this, libertarians end out making arguments as weak as those of the progressives with whom they wish to affiliate!

See also: the world values survey, Putnam's E Pluribus Unum, Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, trust, social capital, etc...

Not that I expect any of this to get through. It is all about status and that's what progressives have and libertarians desperately want. So I guess I'm not mystified by the libertarian inability to comprehend immigration hawks after all.

Maniel writes:

@justin
I would like to thank you, or more properly, your ancestors, for being there for my grandparents (who arrived in this country poor, not knowing a word of English) and my wife’s grandparents (ditto). My wife and I are professionals, graduates of major universities (if you like credentials) as are our offspring. Our fathers fought alongside your father (or maybe it was your grandfather) in WWII and had the scars to show for it. Libertarians, like Tom Jefferson before us, are for limited government. With any luck, we will show some success which (unfortunately?) will make the USA attractive to many.

PrometheeFeu writes:

As an immigrant, I can tell you that it is all true. I have driven away a number of my wife's American suitors, I then married her (ask the feminists, that's slavery) and I am working on the murdering the young part. Just kidding! Seriously, just a joke DHS people. I know it's not a concept you understand so here is a reference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joke.

More to the point. My sister is a smart hard working college student who wants to be able to work to help put herself through college so she can become a psychiatrist. She is part of several honor societies, respected by her teachers, earns good marks etc. The Feds are telling her to leave the country because right now she is short on cash and cannot register for school this semester. Mind you, she is not asking for government assistance. She is just asking that she be allowed to work to save some money and then return to school next semester. But of course they can't let her do that. She might steal american jobs, drive away the females, seduce the males and murder the young. Who knows, they haven't met her. Maybe she's not white.

PrometheeFeu writes:

@Justin:
There is a huge volume of evidence that shows that non-whites are no more no less capable of being successful members of society than whites. Some light reading for you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_correlation http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation Furthermore if your issue is actually with non-whites coming into the country, why don't you just do it openly and keep immigration restrictions only for non-whites?

On your issue of culturally different people coming into the country and changing the culture, you show nothing but your ignorance of culture dynamics. Cultures of foreigners are generally absorbed not the other way around and static cultures decline and disappear. As for state-mandated culture, they are worth nothing to anybody except as a laughingstock for everyone else. I should know as I'm French... The white kind, not the kind you like to disparage with ignorant statements.

Saracen writes:

PrometheeFeu: correlation may not guarantee causation, but it does require an explanation. Tell me, why _is_ there such a strong correlation between educational performance and "% white and Asian"? Why is this pattern also reflected in the ethnic composition of our most innovative companies (which have plenty of nonwhites, but NOT of the Mexican immigrant variety unless you count janitorial staff and the like, despite the massive overrepresentation of Mexicans in our immigrant population)?

The East Asian tiger story has been visible to all for decades. Why is China the only country successfully following in the footsteps of Hong Kong/Singapore/Taiwan/South Korea? There are many, many developing countries in South America and Africa, some of which had sane governments before China did. (You get a gold star if you think of Paul Mugabe as a counterexample, but then you still have to explain why he's alone... and why the Tutsi were targeted by the same sort of genocide that overseas Chinese have occasionally had to deal with in Southeast Asia.)

I would question the judgment of a 10 year old who said there wasn't an intellectually serious case against unrestricted immigration. Bryan is far, far beyond having no excuse here, especially since he accepts a connection between IQ and genetics. He can correctly claim that the case for heavy restriction has not been proved beyond all reasonable doubt, but Justin correctly observes that Bryan is engaging in intellectually vacuous status posturing here.

stephen writes:

So, other than something close to genocide you see no legitimate concerns about immigration?

Would it be intellectually serious for a welfare supporter to claim victory for any outcome less than total enslavement?

Justin writes:

Hi Prometheefue,

I realize that my post is challenging, but please, read the whole thing before you respond. It sounds like you saw the phrases "white people" and "brown people" and then switched your keyboard from select-fire to fully automatic.

On your issue of culturally different people coming into the country and changing the culture, you show nothing but your ignorance of culture dynamics. Cultures of foreigners are generally absorbed not the other way around and static cultures decline and disappear.

I specifically put some references, or at least some buzz words, in my post. It would have been nice for you to deal with them before proclaiming me ignorant. For example, Robert Putnam's paper E Pluribus Unum shows that multicultural communities actually result in lower social capital for all groups. Secondly, some cultures assimilate faster than others. Culture create enduring patterns that can last a surprisingly long time, even in immigrant communities (an extreme case: the Amish). It took Italians a long time to assimilate into the United States because they had to overcome the dynamics of amoral familism. That same dynamic explains why it takes Mexican immigrants longer to assimilate than Asian immigrants.

In the long run entropy will surely win out, but in the short run immigration results in real costs. Libertarians who pretend otherwise are hopelessly naive Utopians.

PrometheeFeu writes:

@Saracen
I would argue that you can explain much of the income gap between whites/asians and others using evolutionary game theory. Blacks and latinos are generally considered to be poor performers. (Consciously for some unconsciously for others) As such they are afforded less opportunity to prove themselves. Because of that they have less of an incentive to put effort into proving themselves. It's a vicious cycle. I wrote a paper about that and you can setup that model as an agent based model fairly simply. This applies not just to getting a job, but also getting into a good school, networking with people who are likely to hold much social capital/useful dispersed knowledge, attracting good teachers to the school districts where blacks are found etc...

When it comes to eduction, while I would again point you to what is above, there is some interesting data regarding framing. A study was performed where black and white students were randomly assigned to two groups. Both groups took the same IQ-style test. (it was a standardized test of sorts) Group A was told it was a test of their intelligence. Group B was told is was a test relating to street-smarts. I can't recall the exact differences but they are not actually relevant for our purposes. The bottom line is while in group A whites outperformed blacks, in group B blacks outperformed whites. The results were statistically significant. I would imagine you can probably account for a lot of the education gap that way.

Now, all of this deals with differences within the United States (or developed countries in general) right?

So what about non-white countries versus white countries. Well, I would tend to say development is a contagious process through increased trade and immigration between neighboring countries. So, the luck of the draw (otherwise known as a very complex set of factors which we can only model in retrospect) would have England start the industrial revolution which would have it become developed and spread that development to all the countries it was heavily connected to.

Another reason is the natural resources curse. When you have a lot of very valuable natural resources in your country, it is very attractive to kleptocrats. In a country with few natural resources, the only way the kleptocrats can make money is by building successful businesses which require overall economic development, greater market freedoms and political freedoms. But if all you need to get rich is to dig stuff up from the ground, screw any sort of development or freedom. What you need is to make sure nobody ever challenges your personal ownership of those resources, extract, sell, count your money, repeat. Since so many countries in Africa are subject to the natural resources curse, there are few prosperous partners to trade with in the region. That makes it difficult for any country to develop since it must either do so entirely alone or trade with countries that are far away.

There are also international political considerations to examine. During the Cold War, both the United States and the USSR expended significant resources in keeping their dictators in charge of countries which could be deemed of importance. That was often harmful to economic development as dictators were provided with the tools they needed to repress their people.

I could probably go on much longer with a variety of explanatory factors. The bottom line is: Justin's explanation in terms of "Brown people vs White people" has nothing but correlation going for it and there are many much more compelling alternatives.

Finally, on the issue of IQ, I seriously doubt that IQ is the answer. The famous adoption study on the effects of genetics on IQ is often misread. Effectively, what the research found was not that IQ was genetically determined. The research found that how high your IQ is is determined by your upbringing. However, outliers were genetically determined. So Einstein was born a genius. But you and I were born relatively normal and our upbringing made us smart of stupid.

Mercer writes:

PromeetheeFeu said:

"There is a huge volume of evidence that shows that non-whites are no more no less capable of being successful members of society than whites."

Where is this huge volume of evidence? You give two links neither of which provides any evidence.

Evidence disputing your claim is easy to find. Here is a sample. It shows Hispanics dropout of school at over three times the rate of whites:

http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=16

Mercer writes:

At 12:47 PromeetheeFeu said there is evidence showing nonwhites are as capable as whites.

Then at 10:44 he writes that there is an income gap but it is because:

" Blacks and latinos are generally considered to be poor performers. (Consciously for some unconsciously for others) As such they are afforded less opportunity to prove themselves."

So I guess he thinks any poor performance of nonwhites is due to their "having less opportunity to prove themselves". If nonwhites in the US can't do well because they have "less opportunity to prove themselves" why should they be encouraged to come?

Saracen writes:

[Comment removed for crude language.--Econlib Ed.]

PrometheeFeu writes:

@Mercer: Re-read what I said. The issue is one of a self-reinforcing cycle where non-whites are discouraged from investing in themselves to make themselves look attractive to employers/good schools since there is a good chance that investment will be a waste. (They might be rejected anyways) Because immigrants were not born in America by definition, they come from a country where they did not face that issue. So there is little to no reason to believe they faced the same incentives and therefore have probably invested more in making themselves more attractive to employers. So a massive influx of immigrants could change the perception of non-whites and give everyone high incentives to invest in themselves.

Furthermore, immigration is a very high risk process because you move from a place where you have a support network and significant access to diffuse knowledge to a place where you don't know anyone, where you don't know the customs, or possibly the language and where you don't even have a place to stay of your own until you show up. It is very hard to do. This tells me immigrants are likely to be risk-loving, hard working and driven individuals simply by the process of self-selection.

Also, nobody said they should be "encouraged" to come. Just that they should not be stopped. Let them come in, find a job if they can, buy/rent a place to stay if they can etc...

As for your earlier comment, I assume you saw my response.

Mercer writes:

"So a massive influx of immigrants could change the perception of non-whites and give everyone high incentives to invest in themselves"

We have had a massive influx of immigrants in the last two decades. I don't see evidence of non-whites investing more in themselves. What I see is attempts to blame other people for the poor performance of non-whites.

Nick Bradley writes:

Bryan, thank you for the argument you put forth -- it exposes the absurdity of the anti-immigration arguments.

As for everyone else, there is no statistical difference between Latino immigration today and Southern European Immigration 100+ years ago. And from my understanding, Latino assimilation and language-learning rates are higher than they were for Italians. Eventually, I expect Latinos to be considered culturally 'white' -- Jeb Bush even made this argument a month ago when he pointed to latino-white inter-marriage rates. The definition of 'white' has been expanded many times over America's history -- there was a point in time that only Northern European WASPs were considered 'white' -- that definition then expanded to include Catholics, Southern Europeans, and even those of Christian Lebanese descent today (Samuel Huntington even pointed this out before).

As for other immigrant groups, Arab and other middle-eastern Americans out-earn the average American household by 15%, and that's with a lot less mothers/wives in the workforce.

Asian immigrants out-perform Americans in school and the workforce -- if you exclude Filipinos from this demographic, they do even better.

African immigrants and Afro-Caribbean immigrants significantly out-earn black Americans and their children out-perform black Americans in school.

Immigration is a self-selection process, wherein only the most ambitious and capable get off their behinds and move half-way around the world. The lazy ones don't bother to immigrate.

And those that do come here and aren't up to snuff end up going home, eventually. Many Italian and Serbian immigrants ended up going home after laboring as guest workers -- I wager many Latinos will do the same.

Open the borders.

Nick Bradley writes:

@PrometheeFeu,

I like your point about let them come in and find a job and they can stay if they can. I think this is the historical pattern of migration.

Everyone can come here, but not all will become citizens.

I would like an unlimited guest worker program and an auction for citizenship. After 3 - 5 years, guest workers are eligible for a path to citizenship. After meeting certain income and language skill criteria (at least the head of household should speak english), they can bid on citizenship.

We can set the citizenship quota at 1 or 2% of the US population -- 1% probably makes more sense. As a result, the top 3.1 million bidders would get citizenship. If the market price for citizenship was $10,000, that would be $30 billion a year in revenue.

As Bryan Caplan has suggested, that money could go towards defraying the impact of immigration for Society's bottom rung. High school dropouts and the lower end of HS grads would get large tax credits to re-train.

Steamer writes:
Bryan, thank you for the argument you put forth -- it exposes the absurdity of the anti-immigration arguments.

I do not know since when it became absurd to want to preserve your higher economic status, your position of political power and to strive to preserve your etnicity and your culture.

In some libertarian heads, complete mess reigns.

PrometheeFeu writes:

@Nick Bradley:

Hm... Honestly, I am somewhat unsure as to how to handle citizenship. We definitely need to give a path to citizenship to people because otherwise you may end up with more non-citizens than citizens which is effectively non-democratic. But a quota and a bidding system does not necessarily make sense to me. I think a simple thing such as: you have to have lived in the US for 5-10 years without receiving welfare or been convicted of a crime would probably be sufficient. Also, make it a bit difficult so that that you need to actually want it to get citizenship. Something like having to file loads of paperwork. (the Feds already know how to do that)

PrometheeFeu writes:

@Steamer:

You wrote:

I do not know since when it became absurd to want to preserve your higher economic status, your position of political power and to strive to preserve your etnicity and your culture.

So, as Bryan has explained multiple times and as many people try to explain to you, you will most likely become better off economically speaking after the immigrants come over.

Concerning your political power, I seriously doubt its dilution will be noticeable. There are a couple thousand people in the United States who have political power. The rest of us are nothing more than the environment in which the political elite operates. You will not lose anything.

The protection of your ethnicity is nonsensical. Nobody is going to force gene therapy on you to transform you into a black guy or whatever. If you mean something more like being afraid that the mexicans will marry white women, you are right. Your fear has never become absurd. It always was absurd. Also, despicable and morally bankrupt.

The preservation of your culture is a lost cause. Cultures survive by changing and intermingling. Trying to protect your culture will do nothing except make you a laughing stock and you will still fail. But if that appeals to you, I'll trade you my citizenship for yours. You apparently make a better Frenchman than I do.

Saracen writes:

"So, as Bryan has explained multiple times and as many people try to explain to you, you will most likely become better off economically speaking after the immigrants come over."

Are the Native Americans better off because of European immigration over the last 500 years?

Steamer writes:
So, as Bryan has explained multiple times and as many people try to explain to you, you will most likely become better off economically speaking after the immigrants come over.

In a libertopia, maybe. In the real world where people can vote themselves benefits, that does not apply. Not even mentioning the fact that absolute application of the principle of free trade combined with improvements in communication technology makes immigration almost completely unnecessary in economic terms.

Concerning your political power, I seriously doubt its dilution will be noticeable. There are a couple thousand people in the United States who have political power. The rest of us are nothing more than the environment in which the political elite operates. You will not lose anything.

I'm not an American. However, the fact that there are ethnic parties all over Eastern Europe and that certain immigrant groups in Western Europe vote as "blocks" (almost always favouring socialist-style politics)clearly shows why I will be losing political power in the case of extensive immigration.

The protection of your ethnicity is nonsensical. Nobody is going to force gene therapy on you to transform you into a black guy or whatever. If you mean something more like being afraid that the mexicans will marry white women, you are right. Your fear has never become absurd. It always was absurd. Also, despicable and morally bankrupt.

Ever heard of group selection? Fact is, extensive immigration of people that differ significantly in genetic terms from me is not in my evolutionary interests. Therefore, I oppose it.

And spare me the moralization part. I am a moral nihilist - and couldn't give less damn about your moral arguments. As is the case with every rational egoist also.

The preservation of your culture is a lost cause. Cultures survive by changing and intermingling. Trying to protect your culture will do nothing except make you a laughing stock and you will still fail.

That's really interesting. And obviously false. But I guess that any sensible argument why this is not true will be lost on you so I intend to spare myself the effort.

Steamer writes:
If you mean something more like being afraid that the mexicans will marry white women, you are right. Your fear has never become absurd. It always was absurd. Also, despicable and morally bankrupt.

One more think about that. I find it almost laughable how leftist people (yes, most libertarians actually hold socially leftist values and would have been communist if communist policies actually worked) always try to frame this debate as if it is all about "Oh gee, foreigners will steal our women". In light of the fact that this is essentially an ad hominem attack on the group that you suppose your opponent belongs to, you might consider using it less often. As your oponent can sometimes happen to be a woman.

Mercer writes:

"So, as Bryan has explained multiple times and as many people try to explain to you, you will most likely become better off economically speaking after the immigrants come over."

If we are all better off from immigration why is the bestselling economics book titled The Great Stagnation? Do you think California is better off now then it was three decades ago?

Nick Bradley writes:

@Steamer

"I do not know since when it became absurd to want to preserve your higher economic status, your position of political power and to strive to preserve your ethnicity and your culture."

- How could you not preserve your ethnicity? Is being a minority contagious -- are you going to catch "mexicanitis"?

- Letting in immigrants does not degrade your real purchasing power whatsoever -- unless you're a high school dropout...then it's slight. For 99% of Americans, immigration increases their purchasing power.

- Being anti-immigrant is also morally indefensible. How is it different than banning people from moving to your state for work? Or to your city?

Justin writes:

PrometheeFeu,

Blacks and Latinos are generally considered to be poor performers. (Consciously for some unconsciously for others) As such they are afforded less opportunity to prove themselves. Because of that they have less of an incentive to put effort into proving themselves. It's a vicious cycle.

We have datasets that falsify this variant of the self-fulfilling prophecy defense. The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth tracks children who are now well into adulthood. If you control for (1) region of the country, (2) amount of education, and (3) IQ (or more precisely AFQT score) then the gap between black and white earnings is only about 3%. See Ronald Ferguson's Towards Excellence with Equity. In short: blacks who work hard in school and on the job make about as much as similar whites.

A study was performed where black and white students were randomly assigned to two groups. Both groups took the same IQ-style test. (it was a standardized test of sorts) Group A was told it was a test of their intelligence. Group B was told is was a test relating to street-smarts. I can't recall the exact differences but they are not actually relevant for our purposes. The bottom line is while in group A whites outperformed blacks, in group B blacks outperformed whites.

I would love the specific citation for that study. Overall it does fit more broadly into the stereotype threat theory. But that theory doesn't work because blacks do much worse than whites generally. Case in point, blacks actually do worse in college than their SAT score suggests. Moreover, the black-white test score gap is in place by age 3 (see Fryer and Levitt's work on the ECLS dataset) and it is not reasonable to argue that the stereotype threat effects three year olds. Finally, there is a three grade gap (three quarters of a standard deviation) in NAEP performance between blacks and whites. A stereotype threat cannot explain such a broad array of bad performance. Finally, a recent meta-analysis suggests that the stereotype threat research is the result of data-mining and publication bias (Wickerts and Haan 2009).

So what about non-white countries versus white countries. Well, I would tend to say development is a contagious process through increased trade and immigration between neighboring countries.

Look, there is a large literature on this and you show almost now familiarity with it except enough to throw out the phrase "resource curse." But you can look at natural experiments like Haiti versus the Dominican Republic and other more sophisticated studies based on instrumental variables such those by Acemoglu, Knack and Keefer, and Paulo Mauro as well as William Easterly and Dani Rodrik. Does geography matter? Sure, but culture matters too.

If there is one point that I'm trying to make in this discussion, it is that culture does matter and this cost of immigration is not being factored into the equation. Even if immigrants ultimately assimilate, we have to factor in the present values of costs and benefits of immigrating. I personally like immigration, but I disagree completely with the status-seeking "holier than thou" attitude of the immigration doves. It is the exact same thing that progressives do with the welfare state.

Justin's explanation in terms of "Brown people vs White people" has nothing but correlation going for it and there are many much more compelling alternatives.

First, the "correlation versus causation" argument is a refuge for the reasonably bright but intellectual lazy. They trot it out to play defense but they do not use it on their arguments. See also: PrometheeFeu's resource curse argument. I'm sure that there are careful studies that use instrumental variables to investigate resource curses, but he does not mention them. Secondly, as good Bayesians, we note that correlations do count as confirming evidence. We are more likely to observe an event if a theory is true than if it is false (just beware that the base rate may be low). Finally, most of the studies that I've mentioned rely on natural experiments and instrumental variables like settler mortality, ethnolinguistic fractionalization, and others.


JPIrving writes:

Look, it is absolutely an empirical slam dunk that Europeans and Asians have a cognitive profile more suited to capitalism than other groups.

Read A Farewell to Alms or watch a summary on youtube. Read IQ and the Wealth of Nations or the wikipedia entry on it. Then tell me how an Ravens Progressive Matracies (just visual patterns, no words or culturally specific objects) test is biased for all Africans, Arabs and Latin Americans but not biased for rural Chinese (who grew up half starved under mao) or Mongols. Tell me why nearly every non oil producing country outside the West or not bordering China is dysfunctional.

Then go to google scholar and read about adoption studies and IQ. IQ is real, it can be measured and it explains nearly everything. The parts it doesnt explain are probably due to other less easily measured cognitive differences.

Even with no welfare state (Bryan's nonanswer) all else equal, bringing in low IQ people will in general increase crime and lower average income.

Saracen writes:

A few more points:
- Correlation may not guarantee causation, but it requires an explanation.
- Just about every model of population growth posits lower growth as "carrying capacity" is approached. Given that Bryan does accept the heritability and relevance of IQ, what does he have to say about the fact that permitting unrestricted low-skill immigration increases the low IQ share of world population in the long run (by increasing the effective carrying capacity for them and decreasing carrying capacity for the rest of us), while keeping our borders tight and exporting our expertise has the opposite effect? Shouldn't the author of "Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids" be massively in favor of the latter approach over the former?

Nick Bradley writes:

@Mercer,

"If we are all better off from immigration why is the bestselling economics book titled The Great Stagnation? Do you think California is better off now then it was three decades ago?"

- wet sidewalks do not cause rain, and correlation does not equal causation. California has been turning into a socialist backwater ever since the last time Jerry Brown was governor.

- California is considered the worst place to do business in the country -- I wouldn't blame that on immigrants.

- The only thing keeping California afloat are its elite universities. The smartest people in the world go to school in California and many of them stay there after graduation.

Saracen writes:

"California has been turning into a socialist backwater ever since the last time Jerry Brown was governor."

Strange how other socialist backwaters don't seem to suffer nearly as much from their poor policies, though. Coincidence?

I don't think I need to explain why we want to have a society robust w.r.t. poor policy choices.

Justin writes:

JPIrving,

Well, having defending culture against the open borders Utopians, now let me defend it against the strong hereditarians.

Read A Farewell to Alms or watch a summary on youtube. Read IQ and the Wealth of Nations or the wikipedia entry on it. Then tell me how an Ravens Progressive Matracies (just visual patterns, no words or culturally specific objects) test is biased for all Africans, Arabs and Latin Americans but not biased for rural Chinese (who grew up half starved under mao) or Mongols.

Rural Chinese spend more time in school than people in other non-Confucian cultures. I remember reading Color Lines, Country Lines by Lingxin Hao. He looks at immigrants from various Confucian nations and Latin American nations. I wanted to use it to make the argument that Asians assimilate faster to the US, but I learned that Asians get a lot more schooling. And we do know that IQ is increased by being in school for longer.

Tell me why nearly every non oil producing country outside the West or not bordering China is dysfunctional.

There are really only a small number of distinct cultural groups in the world. If you check out a book on the World Values Survey you can see this dramatically. They are: (1) Protestant, (2) Catholic, (3) Confucian, (3) Hindu, (4) Buddhist, (5) Islam, (6) Animist. That is for the historical roots of a society. Obviously many nations with historical roots in Protestant Christianity are now secular.

Then go to google scholar and read about adoption studies and IQ.

Adoption studies are worthless. We already know from behavioral genetics that parents have no long term impact on the IQ of their children. None. That is one of the single most important findings of behavioral genetics, so forget the adoption studies. The IQ of children is based on (1) genetics, and (2) environment outside the home. So the fact that adopted black children have low IQ's does not allow us to choose (1) over (2).

Now, you might appeal to distribution curves of environment versus genetics to argue that the environments of black children would have to be unrealistically bad in order to put the gap on environment. And I would agree with you, but for the Achilles heel of behavioral genetics, which is that those studies cannot compare the, for lack of a better term, "shared environment outside the home." And that is precisely what us cultural conservatives attribute the low IQ's of blacks to.


IQ is real, it can be measured and it explains nearly everything. The parts it doesnt explain are probably due to other less easily measured cognitive differences.

IQ is powerful, which is why I've used it in previous comments. But it is not as powerful as you think it is. It does not explain impulse control and time discounting. I've always found it interesting that the HBD bloggers always talk about low IQ's, but what they actually describe is bad behavior. We are not talking about black children sitting quietly with their feet together and hands at their side like English schoolboys in the Victorian era. We are talking about kids who are literally out of control and terribly behaved.

Now, to the extent that IQ is correlated to impulse control and time preference, the correlation almost certainly runs the other direction. People with good impulse control will end out with higher IQ's.

In other words, I think you have it precisely backwards: culture explains nearly everything. Even Sweden.

Saracen writes:

Justin, nobody is saying that IQ (and a few other heritable traits such as future time orientation) are *sufficient*. North Korea vs. South Korea is an absolute counterexample.

I don't even believe that Hispanics aren't capable of achieving at close to a middle class American level. If we were sufficiently culturally assertive.

However, the way things are currently going, that will never happen, and Hispanics can therefore be expected to achieve at the inadequate level predicted by the IQ regression line.

PrometheeFeu writes:

@Saracen:

Are the Native Americans better off because of European immigration over the last 500 years?

Is your argument that the immigrants will expropriate you and wage biological and conventional warfare against you?

@Steamer:

However, the fact that there are ethnic parties all over Eastern Europe and that certain immigrant groups in Western Europe vote as "blocks" (almost always favouring socialist-style politics)clearly shows why I will be losing political power in the case of extensive immigration.

I don't know about every country's politics. However, off the top of my head, in France, Germany, Austria, the US and Italy, the "right-wing" parties are heavily opposed to immigration. So it is no surprise that those who were until recently immigrants see those right-wing parties as the enemy and will vote for their opponents who happen to be more favorable to socialist policies.

Ever heard of group selection? Fact is, extensive immigration of people that differ significantly in genetic terms from me is not in my evolutionary interests. Therefore, I oppose it.

Perhaps you should realize that there are significantly faster and more pertinent evolutionary dynamics than genetic evolution. Humans have the capability to transfer their genes, but also their skills and their knowledge, not just between generations but within generations. And quite honestly, I find absurd the idea of pursuing your evolutionary interest. Evolutionary interest is an abstract concept evolutionary theorists use in order to explain evolutionary patterns. It is not generally considered to be a normative prescription. But I suppose it's no more no less valid than any other morality.

And spare me the moralization part. I am a moral nihilist - and couldn't give less damn about your moral arguments. As is the case with every rational egoist also.

Interesting. I had never met an actual nihilist before. How do you reconcile evolutionary interest with rational egoism?

Saracen writes:

"Is your argument that the immigrants will expropriate you and wage biological and conventional warfare against you?"

No, this wave of immigration hurts us in moderately different ways than the Europeans hurt the Native Americans. (Several of those ways have been mentioned in this thread already.)

My point was just that it's practically beyond dispute that immigration has hurt the hosts in the past. Human hosts, not langurs. So, unless one simply doesn't care about the future of their own society, one has to carefully evaluate the pros and cons for any form of immigration. It's particularly tricky because the short-term consequences could be different in sign than the long-term ones (though the massive number of Native American deaths to disease shortly after the Europeans' arrival ensured that no such ambiguity was involved last time).

Saracen writes:

"And quite honestly, I find absurd the idea of pursuing your evolutionary interest. Evolutionary interest is an abstract concept evolutionary theorists use in order to explain evolutionary patterns. It is not generally considered to be a normative prescription. But I suppose it's no more no less valid than any other morality."

One does not have to be concerned about maximizing their evolutionary interest to be strongly opposed to low-skill immigration. One simply needs to plan on retiring in the US toward the middle of this century.

Your retirement savings are a claim on the output of those of working age. If those folks aren't very productive, well, that's not so good for you...

Steamer writes:
I don't know about every country's politics. However, off the top of my head, in France, Germany, Austria, the US and Italy, the "right-wing" parties are heavily opposed to immigration. So it is no surprise that those who were until recently immigrants see those right-wing parties as the enemy and will vote for their opponents who happen to be more favorable to socialist policies.

This line of reasoning may pass for accurate description of reality regarding the situation in Western Europe but not necessarily in the Eastern part of the continent.
Just from the top of my head:
Ethnic Turks in my homecountry (Bulgaria) have their own ethnic party despite the fact that they are not migrants - they were around since liberation in 1878 and were there a couple of centuries before that. True, their party is not particularly socialist by European standarts but advances ethno-religious interests.

Albanians in the Balkans are not immigrants (actually, they were on the penninsula before most of the other ethnic groups) but also have ethnic parties everywhere they are present.

The same holds true for Hungarians in Serbia, Romania and Slovakia.


Perhaps you should realize that there are significantly faster and more pertinent evolutionary dynamics than genetic evolution. Humans have the capability to transfer their genes, but also their skills and their knowledge, not just between generations but within generations.

I do not see how this is relevant to my argument. Moreover, assuming even moderate influence of genes on skills and moderate preference of people having similar interests and capabilities than oneself, evolutionary interests seem to matter - a lot.


Interesting. I had never met an actual nihilist before. How do you reconcile evolutionary interest with rational egoism?

I simply do not find many situations in which they conflict. Unless one is intergenerationally suicidal, that is.

Having said that, I think that the libertarian cling to free migration somehow disregards the fact that if natives act individualistically in social and political matters and immigrants act collectively (on ethnic or religious basis), natives are screwed big time. In other words, libertarians are assuming most people are like them. Well, a quick glimpse at almost any relevant sociological survey will tell you they could not be further from the truth.

JPIrving writes:

@Justin

Is it true that exogenous changes in schooling increase adult IQ? Do they increase it 20 points? (About the difference between American Black mean and Chinese mean) I wonder what the gap is if we only look at well nourished younger Chinese.

I live in Sweden and can't believe people survived winter before 1900. I think impulse control and foresight must have been selected for. The benefits of impulse control are so obvious that if it were easy to adopt them (culture), everyone would.

instead i find the logic in this Kanazawa paper much cleaner.

http://personal.lse.ac.uk/Kanazawa/pdfs/I2008.pdf

Needless to say I don't believe this because it makes me feel better about myself. I wish it were culture, then it would be possible to fix the situation and we would all be richer and safer.

barbarian writes:

The argument isn't complicated. Take a trip to Juarez, Mexico sometime. That is America 2100. It isn't exactly a utopia.

Why is it that the biggest supporters of massive 3rd world immigration are the first people to move their kids to majority white school districts? Somalia for thee, but not for me?

There's a well-known result in social science that a more diverse society makes people less trusting. Another way to express the same fact is that ethnic diversity makes people less gullible. That might explain why voters actually used to believe in the New Deal but are much more skeptical nowadays.

By the way, the supposed nasty effects started before the revival of large-scale immigration got underway. We had cities starting to fall apart and the beginning of a crime epidemic in the mid-1960s.

Justin writes:

JPIrving,

My argument about schooling was to explain differences between rural Chinese and rural Latin Americans or Africans. I do not think it explains the gap between urban or Western Chinese and blacks. I attribute that to a dysfunctional culture that teaches bad behavior.

I live in Sweden and can't believe people survived winter before 1900. I think impulse control and foresight must have been selected for.

I am much more sympathetic to an argument about racial differences in time preference than in IQ. I think it was Jared Diamond who pointed out that hunting ability tends to peak much later than physical abilities - upper 30's or 40's. That suggests that hunting is a difficult skill that takes both time and IQ to master. OTOH, as Clark points out in A Farewell to Alms, foragers have notoriously high time preferences. And of course, all traits are at least partially genetic.

Still, I am also skeptical. Ethiopians currently have IQ's about as low as other African nations, but they have a longstanding farming tradition. In fact, they have been using plow-based agriculture for thousands of years and I'm sure you know the significance of that. But Ethiopia is also a poor and ethnically fragmented nation that is still at the level of subsistence agriculture. That suggests to me that the dominant factor is not time preference, but modernization. The more backwards the culture, the later they have modernized.

[name fixed--Econlib Ed.]

Justin writes:

Ok, I must be pretty absent-minded. That last post is by Justin and a response to JPIrving.

[You are not the first person ever to make that switch in the heat of a discussion. I've fixed it. Chalk up another use for those invisible email addresses!--Econlib Ed.]

PrometheeFeu writes:

@Saracen:

Europeans coming to America was not immigration. It was conquest followed by immigration. The conquest part did horrible things to the Native Americans. (You know, murder and theft) The immigration part helped things a bit as the NAs traded with the Europeans

Also, your argument on retirement is wrong. Your savings are a claim against a share of the total amount produced, not against average productivity. Consider a company who currently has 100 workers who each create a net value of around $1000 per day. Now consider another company who has 10000 workers who each produce $100 net value per day. Which one has the greatest productivity? Which one do you want to own the same amount of shares in? Actually, amongst serious commentators, there is no doubt at all that immigration would improve the position of future retirees. Not even anti-immigration hawks deny that.

PrometheeFeu writes:

@Steamer:

I don't know enough about the politics of Eastern Europe to comment on that apart from what you mentioned. It appears that the groups you mentioned are not immigrants. They just happen to be ethnic minorities. I would suppose that ceterus paribus, (especially if they are not vilified by the only real alternative to left wing parties) the self-selection of immigrants would be mean that they would be more likely to be non-socialists as it requires significant amounts of personal risk taking. But that is an empirical question I suppose.

I simply do not find many situations in which they conflict. Unless one is intergenerationally suicidal, that is.

Well, but your personal interests surely often conflict with the interests of your descendants right? So how do you deal with that?

Having said that, I think that the libertarian cling to free migration somehow disregards the fact that if natives act individualistically in social and political matters and immigrants act collectively (on ethnic or religious basis), natives are screwed big time. In other words, libertarians are assuming most people are like them. Well, a quick glimpse at almost any relevant sociological survey will tell you they could not be further from the truth.

Well, that depends upon the political stucture. And right now it is true that in such a political structure a large group that clings together will slam libertarians. (Happens about every 2 years and whenever there is a special election) But let's be honest. That's not necessarily a problem with immigration or one of immigrants vs natives. It's a problem that libertarians face all the time simply because we are in the minority. For libertarianism to work, we have to have the right institutions with strong safeguards against government intervention. Otherwise, we have the problems we get today which have nothing to do with immigration.

Mercer writes:

"amongst serious commentators, there is no doubt at all that immigration would improve the position of future retirees. Not even anti-immigration hawks deny that."

That would depend on the skill level and age of the immigrants. I don't think importing a lot people who make low wages does anything to help social security because low income people will get more in benefits then they will pay in FICA taxes.

Saracen writes:

"That would depend on the skill level and age of the immigrants. I don't think importing a lot people who make low wages does anything to help social security because low income people will get more in benefits then they will pay in FICA taxes."

Indeed. The net productivity of most of these guys is below zero after you consider all the opportunity costs (especially the foregone automation, and the wasted educational effort on their kids).

Japan is dealing with its retiree-to-worker ratio in a sustainable fashion that serves the long run interest of both existing and future Japanese people. The US is not. Most people who think otherwise are letting a few metrics like total GDP get in the way of their understanding of the bigger picture.

Saracen writes:

"Europeans coming to America was not immigration. It was conquest followed by immigration. The conquest part did horrible things to the Native Americans. (You know, murder and theft) The immigration part helped things a bit as the NAs traded with the Europeans"

The long-term consequences of unrestricted Mexican immigration are almost indistinguishable from murder and theft.

Murder: Mexican-American fertility is roughly 3 children per woman, while all other racial groups are at or below 2.1. This isn't just a matter of reshuffling around people who would exist anyway--TFR of those who stay in Mexico is only ~2.

Our open border is resulting in a totally predictable replacement of much of the existing American population. (Look at the demographics of Texas and California kindergartens.) Compare this to Japan, which isn't diluting population quality at all.

By the way, I'm actually a nonwhite second-generation immigrant to the US. I'm just one that recognizes that the US will almost certainly no longer be worth staying in if its existing population is mostly replaced with Mexicans.

Theft: Behind this Mexican-American TFR of 3 is a substantial transfer of resources from other Americans to them. Teachers who should be spending their time on higher IQ students are forced to waste huge amounts of effort on the kids of Mexican immigrants. People benefit roughly equally from infrastructure such as roads and hospitals, but they don't pay equal taxes.


Now, I don't blame the Mexican immigrants for what they're doing. Most of us here can agree that having and raising children is an investment in the future underrated by too many in the West. They certainly shouldn't be blamed for literal murder and theft (except the few who actually do that)! The problem is with US government policy, which makes the rest of us subsidize their kids when said kids are unlikely to be productive enough to preserve the US's standard of living or power.

Doc Merlin writes:
"The long-term consequences of unrestricted Mexican immigration are almost indistinguishable from murder and theft.

Murder: Mexican-American fertility is roughly 3 children per woman, while all other racial groups are at or below 2.1. This isn't just a matter of reshuffling around people who would exist anyway--TFR of those who stay in Mexico is only ~2."

So having babies is the same as murder? What kind of insane, stupid moral equivocation...

Look, dude, me having a kid doesn't somehow kill your kid. If anything because of increasing returns to scale as a result of population, it makes your kids better off.

- Jorge Emilio Emrys Landivar, Hispanic immigrant and naturalized US citizen.

Saracen writes:

@Doc Merlin
"So having babies is the same as murder? What kind of insane, stupid moral equivocation..."

Um, try reading the last paragraph of my comment:

"Now, I don't blame the Mexican immigrants for what they're doing. Most of us here can agree that having and raising children is an investment in the future underrated by too many in the West. They certainly shouldn't be blamed for literal murder and theft (except the few who actually do that)!"

I said the *long-term consequences* were similar, not that the Mexicans themselves are doing anything wrong. It's the US government that is responsible for the population replacement that's resulting from its deliberate refusal to enforce the law.

Tracy W writes:

Tell me why nearly every non oil producing country outside the West or not bordering China is dysfunctional.

Or alternatively mention to you:
- Botswana (with an estimated GDP growth averaging 9% per year from 1966 to 1999)
- Mauritius (5% to 6% annually)
- India
- Seychelles (7-fold increase in per capita GDP since independence)
- The Bahamas

I also note that in the 1950s you could have said similar things about Asia.

Saracen writes:

"Or alternatively mention to you:
- Botswana (with an estimated GDP growth averaging 9% per year from 1966 to 1999)
- Mauritius (5% to 6% annually)
- India
- Seychelles (7-fold increase in per capita GDP since independence)
- The Bahamas"

Well, he said "nearly". I don't know many people who doubt the productive ability of India's middle and upper castes (so Mauritius is also unsurprising).

That said, I agree that there's insight to be gleaned from the other three countries re: how to lift at least a few other African and South American populations above the grim IQ regression line.

Steamer writes:
Well, but your personal interests surely often conflict with the interests of your descendants right? So how do you deal with that?

I'm not compeltely sure what you mean by that. But if you suggest that, for example, I will be better off if I do not provide enough food or parental care to my 6-year old and do something else with the time and money instead, I'll simply say that apparently the utility function that guides my behaviour puts more weight on his happines than on my material (or other) well-being.

PrometheeFeu writes:

Steamer:

I'm not compeltely sure what you mean by that. But if you suggest that, for example, I will be better off if I do not provide enough food or parental care to my 6-year old and do something else with the time and money instead, I'll simply say that apparently the utility function that guides my behaviour puts more weight on his happines than on my material (or other) well-being.

Being an egoist is specifically not having a utility function which includes the well-being of others as a factor. That is why I was surprised by your earlier statements regarding being a rational egoist and wanting to assist your descendants.

Justin writes:

Being an egoist is specifically not having a utility function which includes the well-being of others as a factor. That is why I was surprised by your earlier statements regarding being a rational egoist and wanting to assist your descendants.

I am not a libertarian, but this is the internet, so I will claim expertise. Biology and human nature endow us with various passions: the pleasure of good food, sex, friendship, companionship, etc... To the extent that we are endowed with feelings of sympathy, it will give us pleasure to help others, particularly our children.

This falls well short of being congruent with a reasonable set of moral intuitions, but it does explain some seemingly altruistic behaviors in self-regarding terms.

Tracy W writes:

Saracen - I assumed that by the "nearly" he was excluding Singapore, Malaysia, and any other countries with a large overseas Chinese population, as JPIrving seemed to be running a genetic argument. (Not to say that Malaysia is as rich as Singapore, but it's a comfortable middle-income country).

Steamer writes:
Being an egoist is specifically not having a utility function which includes the well-being of others as a factor. That is why I was surprised by your earlier statements regarding being a rational egoist and wanting to assist your descendants.

That's what people mean when they say that someone is an egoist.

Being a rational egoist means maximizing your own well-being without caring for the moral feelings and the happiness of others. It does not mean you have to lack empathy and care for anyone else and act according to them.

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