Bryan Caplan  

Jose the Meritorious

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Has there ever been a better poster child for what I call "Meritocracy Without Borders" than Jose Antonio Vargas?  The guy won a Pulitzer prize without the legal right to hold a job.  Imagine what he could have accomplished free of the shackles of immigration law.  Imagine.

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COMMENTS (12 to date)
Nathan Smith writes:

Matthew 25:35

And what about rule of law? How many unmeritorious and undocumented do we have to admit with little or no education or skills before we find one more Jose Antonio Vargas? We import a vast unskilled workforce over our borders every year for what benefit to the U.S.? How many should we admit. We have laws. If they are too restrictive, say so, and explain why the present system of legal immigration needs to be changed.

Every girl knows that you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you meet a prince. We never know in advance who will achieve what until we allow that to happen.

The benefit to Charlie Quidnunc in the unskilled labor force is that he finds clean restrooms in every office building he visits. Lawns are mowed; gardens are tended; food is served; motel rooms are cleaned. If Charlie wants to do this work himself, he can apply.

America does welcome the highly skilled. Nobel Laureate Samuel Ting was born in Ann Arbor. His parents were graduate students here. They returned home, got caught in WWII, and went to Taiwan. Ting was homeschooled, then came to the U of M, his parents' alma mater where his work in physics and mathematics was praiseworthy.

"In 1960 Ting married Kay Kuhne, and together they had two daughters, Jeanne Ting Chowning and Amy Ting. Jeanne is the Director of Education at the Northwest Association for Biomedical Research. Amy is an artist. In 1985 he married Dr. Susan Carol Marks, and they had one son, Christopher, who is currently a first-year law student at the University of Michigan Law School." - Wikipedia; Samuel C.C. Ting.

America has room for many different kinds of people. All you have to do is make yourself useful.

Seth writes:

Charlie - I'd say the rule of law if pretty clear. Nobody seems too bothered by illegal immigrants so there's not much enforcement on the legislation. Perhaps, intuitively we know that a fair portion of these folks make positive contributions and that their illegal status is a result of arbitrary limits set on immigration by government set well below market demand.

This isn't the first time in history that legislation on the books does not match with the generally accepted rule of law that has emerged from the social norms.

P writes:

It's amazing to me how many normally sensible people are being drawn to generalize about immigration policy from this obvious edge case.

You're smarter than this, Caplan.

Steve Sailer writes:

Vargas won part of a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of an immigrant who murdered 30 people at Virginia Tech.

JH writes:

Bryan, I'm interested in what you think about the following argument:

1. Immigration sometimes reduces social capital (trust and reciprocity). See the literature generated by Putnam on immigration.

2. Less trust and reciprocity causes more costly, ant-libertarian regulations.

3. So, there is some reason to worry about immigration.

Clearly, this argument doesn't justify any actual immigration restrictions. It perfectly legitimate to say that the benefits to the immigrants outweigh any costs in other areas. This argument, if correct, just suggests that, you know, maybe there is some cause for worry.

D writes:

Vargas won part of a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of an immigrant who murdered 30 people at Virginia Tech.

Oh snap! Irony, anyone?

Evan writes:
And what about rule of law?
I wonder how many of these people who go on about illegal immigration and rule of law have ever driven faster than the speed limit because they were in a hurry. That's far worse than jumping a border fence. When you illegally cross the border you might take a citizen's job. When you speed, you might take a citizen's life.
rpl writes:


Is the title of this post a play on "Funes the Memorious"? If so, then well played, sir.

To the other commenters, every time you bang on about "rule of law," you only demonstrate that you don't understand the debate over immigration. Yes, we know illegal immigration is illegal. So what? The question is whether the law should be changed to make it easier to immigrate legally. Banal observations that illegal immigration is currently against the law don't really provide much insight into the question that really matters.

Mitchell Young writes:

JH, you don't even have to bring in Putnam or all that theoretical hi-falutin' stuff. More immigrants means more poor people (even Vargas was heavily subsidized, he attended SFSU for heaven's sake). More poor people vote for people who want to transfer wealth. Take a look at the voting record of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus -- and, you'll not by the existence of that august body, Hispanics and Asians and Blacks have zero inhibition about being ethnic collectivists.

lawrence franko writes:

By extension, why not ignore all laws about anything? Same difference, right? Better yet, we could repeal all laws and thus get rid of all lawyers. There could be a lot of positive exernalities from that move, no? Everyone could just sort themselves out with others as at traffic intersections in India. Might be a bit of collateral damage in folks killed and maimed, but, heck, omlettes don't get made without breaking eggs. And, as everyone knows, all people from all cultures are just nice, regular folks. U.S. national identity (one nation, indivisible....that sort of pap) means nothing. We would only benefit from having lots of people coming in who believe in clitoridectomies, burkas, cousin marriage, aborting girls, all that good stuff. Way to broaden our horizions. Right?

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