Bryan Caplan  

Turning the Camera: The Political Externalities of the Status Quo

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Imagine you live in a democracy surrounded by a hostile majority.  The median voter wants to deprive you of the rights to (a) accept a job offer from a willing employer, or (b) rent an apartment from a willing landlord.  Politicians eagerly oblige the median voter, so legally speaking, you're an unperson.

Question for anyone who thinks that political externalities are a compelling reason to restrict immigration: Do you seriously believe that open borders would lead to such an outcome for you?  An outcome anywhere in this ballpark?  In all my years of arguing about immigration, I've never met an opponent paranoid enough to make such a claim.  Even in South Africa, treatment of whites after apartheid is far better than treatment of blacks under apartheid.

Strangely, though, political externalities of this severity already exist.  There are countries that vote to deprive most people of the rights to sell their labor and rent a place to live.  In fact, this is the political equilibrium in every First World democracy.

When we discuss immigration, we shine a camera on the vast majority of the world's population that cannot legally work or live in the First World and ask ourselves, "What might they do to us if they got the chance?"  Imagine, for a moment, what the camera would show if they were pointing it at us?  The new directors wouldn't have to muse, "What's the worse that could happen?"  They could immediately start filming the status quo: A system where we tell virtually everyone born on the wrong side of the border, "You can't legally work or live anywhere in this entire country."

A true national egoist might claim vindication: "See!  Political externalities are very real - and only immigration restrictions can guarantee our safety."  But if you oppose injustice, no matter who commits it, you should be very disturbed indeed.  For most people on earth, our policies are worse than our worst nightmare.  On any remotely plausible estimate of the political externalities of immigration, the people we target with our immigration laws are far more sinned against than sinning. 



COMMENTS (67 to date)
johnleemk writes:

For some reason, American opponents of more immigration seem to believe that most immigrants would vote to turn the US into another Venezuela. (Never mind that those who already think "socialist" countries like Venezuela are so great would not see much reason to emigrate to a "capitalist hellhole" like the US.)

Such an argument was actually used by Know-Nothings in the mid-19th century in favour of restricting the political rights of new US immigrants. The Know-Nothings failed, and yet all the monarchists and feudalists immigrating from the Old World somehow didn't turn the US into a feudal monarchy. I've yet to see an argument about political externalities, at least in the US, that isn't based mostly on conjecture.

If one wants to look at the evidence, there are plenty of OECD countries which have gone as far as to grant voting rights to non-citizens, and hardly gone to hell in a handbasket: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_of_foreigners_to_vote All EU citizens can vote in local elections anywhere in the EU, including in the UK, and some EU countries have extended suffrage in local elections to all resident foreigners; any citizen of a Commonwealth country resident in the UK can vote in UK general elections; any foreigner resident in New Zealand can vote, just to name the most egregious examples. If the political externality argument is actually evidence-based, I haven't found the evidence for it.

Ken B writes:

What if you live in a country which is already an outlier in historical terms in regard to the freedoms it allows and defends? Let's take a couple concrete example. You are gay and married to someone of your own sex. Do you think that there are a lot of would-be immigrants who would want to change the laws on this? I bet there are and I bet they would chose to restrict not just your employment and housing, but a lot more.


KLO writes:

There are, of course, ways immigrants can change a country other than through the democratic process. If you permitted 1 billion people from third world countries to move to the United States within the next 10 years, the United States would not be the same country it is today. Sure, it might have the same laws, the same electoral procedures and the same government institutions, but these are far less important to national success than the culture and attitudes of the citizenry. When you change the citizens, you change things in a way that may not be for the better for either the immigrants or the natives. This doesn't seem like a hard argument to grasp, and it is the one that is most often made by opponents of large-scale immigration of poor residents of third world countries.

Alex Nowrasteh writes:

The culture argument for development is vastly overblown. If culture explains development, how can you explain why Indians, Chinese, Vietnamese, Middle Easterners, and Mexicans thrive when they come to America relative to when they were in their home countries? If culture made them poor, it wouldn't matter where they lived or the institutions around them.

Or maybe you think the most ambitious are the ones that move, so that why immigrants do the best? Great, that supports the pro-immigrant argument. Those most likely to immigrate are those most likely to shed the parts of their cultures that hold back development.

The culture argument is a very weak boogeyman.

Michael W writes:

I'm with KLO. There seems to be no grasp of these externalities when considering unlimited immigration. Moral considerations? There are still people starving in Africa, yet we spend a pittance on correcting that situation. I fail to see why there is a moral imperative for open borders given all the other moral failings in the world.

roystgnr writes:

Bryan: is "opposing injustice, no matter who commits it" really a good idea? This sounds like more of your "pacifism is fine as long as you can go find non-pacifists to hide behind" idealism - the key is not to be dumb enough to oppose injustice or promote pacifism *too* hard, lest you undermine the unjust and violent institutions that act to prevent greater injustice or violence.

johnleemk, your "never mind" only makes sense in a world where most voters and would-be voters accurately connect the consequences of their policies to those policies. This is not actually the case - lots of people people vote based on ideologies, then move based on results. How many people believe some variety of "X can never fail; it can only be failed."? This probably isn't a threat in the case of non-ideologies like feudalism and monarchy (how many people really believed in the divine right of kings, and how many just believed in not getting thrown in the local Schnelling point's jail for sedition?) but things might be different in the case of ideas like extensive centralized planning or sweeping redistribution of private goods, which sound much better than their eventual results indicate.

Ghost of Christmas Past writes:

Right now, most other countries around the world forbid me to accept a job or occupy an apartment within their borders-- though many of them might give me permission to do either if I were to apply for a "visa" months in advance and demonstrate to some bureaucrat's satisfaction that my presence in his country would benefit it, not just me.

Strangely, this horrible oppression does not keep me up at night. In fact, I go for years at a time without even thinking about it.

I think the Golden Rule is a pretty good "first cut" moral guideline. I don't think immigration restrictions violate it.

egd writes:
Do you seriously believe that open borders would lead to such an outcome for you?
No, but that's not the right question, is it?
Even in South Africa, treatment of whites after apartheid is far better than treatment of blacks under apartheid.
Has ending apartheid made whites better off?

Has ending apartheid made blacks better off?

The answer to both of these questions is pretty clearly "no": more poverty, more income inequality (to the extent it's bad), reduced life expectency, and other problems have developed in South Africa.

The root cause isn't desegregation, the root cause is political externalities associated with desegregation. Political externalities matter.

johnleemk writes:

Michael W:

I'm with KLO. There seems to be no grasp of these externalities when considering unlimited immigration. Moral considerations? There are still people starving in Africa, yet we spend a pittance on correcting that situation. I fail to see why there is a moral imperative for open borders given all the other moral failings in the world.

The lifetime NPV of microcredit for a Bangladeshi, one of the most economically effective development economics interventions, is equivalent to how much that same Bangladeshi would earn if he were magically transplanted to the US for 2 months: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2012/02/microcredit_ver.html

Preventing more Bangladeshis who desire to work in the US from doing so is one of the biggest moral failings in the world.

roystgnr:

Bryan: is "opposing injustice, no matter who commits it" really a good idea?

So what you're saying is that it's ok for rich people to oppress poor people, because it's for the greater good. That's a strong claim; do you have evidence that the greater good is in fact served by this, or is it mostly conjecture?

johnleemk, your "never mind" only makes sense in a world where most voters and would-be voters accurately connect the consequences of their policies to those policies. This is not actually the case - lots of people people vote based on ideologies, then move based on results.

What's keeping the people on the South Side of Chicago from moving into the more prosperous neighbourhoods to the north? What's keeping the people of Camden, NJ from literally occupying Manhattan? If you're afraid of poor people and/or people who support bad ideas sharing your country with you, you don't have to look very far. The results of urban areas like Detroit speak for themselves -- and yet I don't see the people of more fortunate cities in Michigan worrying about a deluge of Detroiters moving over and voting to reappropriate others' wealth.

How many people believe some variety of "X can never fail; it can only be failed."? This probably isn't a threat in the case of non-ideologies like feudalism and monarchy (how many people really believed in the divine right of kings, and how many just believed in not getting thrown in the local Schnelling point's jail for sedition?) but things might be different in the case of ideas like extensive centralized planning or sweeping redistribution of private goods, which sound much better than their eventual results indicate.

So you think the median human being with political opinions is a hardcore communist? What evidence do you have for that?

I'm still not seeing arguments for the existence of meaningfully frightening political externalities that rely on more than conjecture.

A system where we tell virtually everyone born on the wrong side of the border, "You can't legally work or live anywhere in this entire country."

Like Israel? What would happen to that country if they allowed unlimited, unrestricted immigration?

johnleemk writes:
Has ending apartheid made whites better off? Has ending apartheid made blacks better off?

The answer to both of these questions is pretty clearly "no": more poverty, more income inequality (to the extent it's bad), reduced life expectency, and other problems have developed in South Africa.

The root cause isn't desegregation, the root cause is political externalities associated with desegregation. Political externalities matter.

Where is the evidence here? It is perhaps defensible that ending apartheid made whites worse off -- but ending slavery in the US made whites worse off too, so should the US have not ended slavery? The claim that South African blacks are worse off after the abolition of apartheid is an extremely strong one, and demands strong evidence.

Here is one literature review of the economics of South African policy since the end of apartheid: https://www.econstor.eu/dspace/bitstream/10419/45144/1/61607588X.pdf

The closest support I can find for your assertions is the finding of increased inequality (although more recent data indicates inequality began decreasing post-2000) and increased poverty only for the period between 1995 and 2000; all studies cited find that poverty began declining after 2000. Where is the evidence?

Chris writes:

The political externalities of uncontrolled immigration to early 20thC Argentina were a century of revolution, dictatorship, socialism and impoverishment. So, yes. It's a big deal.

gwern writes:

Hah, I was actually going to use homosexuality as an example in reply to

> Question for anyone who thinks that political externalities are a compelling reason to restrict immigration: Do you seriously believe that open borders would lead to such an outcome for you? An outcome anywhere in this ballpark?

But I see Ken B beat me to it.

The example of homosexuality can be multiplied pretty indefinitely. (How democratic are the masses of most country? Let's recall how illiberal even the American masses are...)

Also, is South Africa really a good example given how much of the white population fled the country rather than stay there? What about Zimbabwe, where the whites were completely expropriated (with all attendant crime and assault)?

Tom West writes:

Do you seriously believe that open borders would lead to such an outcome for you?

Historically speaking, cultural or ethnic groups that have been reduced to minority status have not usually fared well. (Thinking American natives or Israeli Arabs, who might be materially better off, but are no doubt vastly less happy, for example.)

Obviously the open borders of early North America did not, in the end, have this problem. (Are there any other examples of massive migration not eliminating/marginalizing the original culture?)

My question is "What was different about the early North American migration that allowed the other non-Anglo immigrants to gradually become considered part of the greater culture?"

My first guess would be race, which makes it easy to point out "the other", but we've seen plenty of example ethnic strife that is not racially based, so I'm at a loss for answers. (And before we sink into IQ quagmires, let me point there's been plenty of ethnic strife in Europe and East Asia...)

I think if we could answer that question, it would go a long way to reassuring those who are afraid of cultural displacement. Pure moral imperative is unlikely to change too many minds if people really feel there is the chance of cultural self-destruction.

Ross writes:

I Hear among my family that a country should protext its own citizens first, and that foreigners well being should not come at any price to citizens. They have no problems with these injustices because of the little weight placed on their comfort.

regularjoeski writes:

Think tragedy of the commons.

David W writes:

"For some reason, American opponents of more immigration seem to believe that most immigrants would vote to turn the US into another Venezuela.(Never mind that those who already think "socialist" countries like Venezuela are so great would not see much reason to emigrate to a "capitalist hellhole" like the US.)"

Well, I've seen that Californian immigrants are turning Colorado into another California. I've certainly heard similar complaints from denizens of other western states. So there's a practical example. My understanding of history suggests that the political machines built in New York, Philadelphia, and etc, were fueled largely by immigrant ignorance, too, as another example, and the legacy of those is still with us today.

The fundamental problem is that the immigrants don't see the cause and effect of socialist policies -> poor economy. They emigrate from the California economy, certain that California's problems are caused by something other than its policies. When they arrive, they are shocked at the lack of 'basic, civilized policies'. Then they use their voting power to enact them, unaware that will simply bring the problems along. I see no reason to believe that this dynamic would stop - if anything, Californians would seem to be the lesser of potential evils when compared to Europeans or other socialists.

I don't fear revenge of the immigrants. I fear their best intentions and ignorance. I see this as a Bastiat situation, where the benefits to the immigrants are concentrated and obvious, and the costs to the rest of society are dilute and subtle.

Brian, I think the assumption of yours that confuses me the most is your apparent belief that a country's culture and institutions can act on an individual to increase that individual's productivity and hence wellbeing, but that influence only goes one way. That individuals cannot affect culture and institutions, but are helpless pawns in the hands of the institutions. This seems totally contrary to libertarianism, and to your views on most other political subjects, for that matter. That assumption seems to lead naturally to the belief shared by most Washingtonians that all that's necessary is to get the right people in power, and they'll enact the correct policies, and that'll fix everything that's wrong with the world.

Silas Barta writes:

Again, I agree in general about reducing immigration restriction, but you're only addressing a very narrow version of the "immigrant externalities" argument. The broader, stronger point is about that, *plus* "cultural" externalities: a country's society has a certain amount of "cultural capital". That is, their general habits of expectations of others, ability to trust each other, tolerance of anti-social behavior, enforcement of Schelling points, etc. Massive immigration undermines these things that are responsible for a nation's desirability as a target for immigration.

Note that your attempt to "reverse roles" and apply the critique to citizens doesn't work here: yes, there are native citizens who "bring down the culture" -- but at least they're surrounded by people who will draw the culture upward, in their direction. This doesn't exactly apply when you flood the country with people who haven't assimilated that culture! (So yes, your position could be salvaged by suggesting "let's swap out all our lazy, untrustable people with a random willing immigrant from a foreign country" -- but that would have its own problems, obviously.)

I agree that it sucks to tell people they can't work anywhere in country X because they were born on the wrong side of the border. But it sucks even more to say, "we're going to to let in so many of you that it's not worth living here any more". (And, in fairness, the US is unique in soil-birth citizenship. Most other countries aren't in such a position: they don't care where you were born, just if you were born in such a way that you've assimilated their culture's values. So they'd deny citizenship to anchor babies, while granting it to foreign born ones raised by citizen parents.)

Also, you haven't addressed the extreme opposite counterexample I offered you in the last thread: truly open borders would mean that a hostile power could peacefully march its forces into the country, and then turn them unpeaceful and take over the country entirely. Where before this point do you draw the line, or do you bite the bullet?

Ken B writes:

@egd: What has apartheid to do with immigration anyway? It's just BC being tendentious and inflammatory. He might as well ask us about boiling puppies for all the relevance it has.

mikedc writes:

@johnleemk,
Foreigners (non-US citizens) can still be citizens of a state and in most states can vote in most state level and local level elections to varying degrees. So that's already in place.

--------------

Anyway, how about a parable of the status quo with respect to teaching a class? A teacher who allows anyone, not even a registered student, to come into their classroom and audit the class has an open borders teaching policy.

This seems to be a perfectly reasonable approach when the educational output is lots of signal and a little human capital. In such a world, free riders are rare and largely inconsequential.

Increase the human capital content, however, and you will get more non-paying students. The classroom fills up, there's more noise, so on and so forth, until the teacher is forced to resolve the issue somehow. Open borders will give way to a system that establishes legal rights to the scarce resource.

Backward induction explains why we already have that system and choose to selectively enforce it (I can kick auditors out of my classroom if they become a problem).

------------------

At the other end of the spectrum, a homeless man can walk by a mansion and complain about the injustice of him being hardworking and homeless and the man inside the mansion being rich as a result of his lucky birth, but he doesn't have a right to even a single room at the mansion.

It might be morally indefensible and even economically stupid for the rich man to ignore and ignore or turn out the poor man, but he certainly should have a right to do so.

At a national level, while we libertarians often don't like this tribal/familial version of nationality, but it seems part and parcel of the system of legal rights we've established.

Tom West writes:

Has ending apartheid made blacks better off?

The answer to both of these questions is pretty clearly "no":

You're kidding, right? Next up, blacks were better off under slavery...

Tom West writes:

Oops. Should have held on to my outrage long enough to see that johnleemk had already dealt with this bizarre claim (and looked closely at preview to see that italicization doesn't last between paragraphs. The quote is *two* paragraphs, of course.)

If political externalities are important ... should we deport anti-immigration activists?

If we deport anti-immigration activists, should we start with the membership of Aztlan?

Chris H writes:

I have to say I'm not particularly impressed by this batch of political externalities arguments. Here's things you all are completely ignoring.

Immigrants are not simply a representative group from their home countries

Immigrants aren't a random sample you might gather to learn about the points of view of that country. They are a self-selected minority who are already exhibiting traits at variance with their societies' social norms. Namely, they are leaving the society of their birth. That's not some minor difference you can hand wave away as unimportant to their potential political views. They have problems with their home society so significant that they actually want to leave it for something else. Why would this group of people even want to impose upon America a type of society which they themselves demonstrably view as a failure. Now it's true, they may not think all the aspects of their society was a failure, but why would this be their economic or political system? Those are typically the things these groups are fleeing from. Maybe they'd prefer if more of their home country's food was around, but it seems crazy to assert that these people are likely to support the very things that made them leave their homes in the first place!

Immigrants aren't all coming from the same culture

OK, let's say immigrants do for some insane reason want to transplant the very political/economic system they found so repulsive they fled from it. Even under that circumstance they will NOT agree on which of their home systems to adopt. The political and economic system of Mexico is different from that of Venezuela which is at variance from Vietnam which is distinct from Inida. The disagreements between which of these systems to adopt would be as profound as any difference they'd have with the American system. In fact, the American system would be the logical compromise for all these disagreeing governing philosophies as it's the one system that every immigrant would agree was at least acceptable (if it wasn't acceptable they wouldn't have moved here in the first place).

You're assuming all the immigration would happen at once

There's only so many flights and ships that have space for new immigrants in the US at any one time. And furthermore there's only a certain amount of currently existing housing for those wishing to come over this. These would be limits on immigrants as prices would rise for legitimate travel to get to the US and for acquiring housing in the US. Over time entrepeneurs would respond to the increased demand and expand these services, but this process takes time. Over this course of time, the first immigrants will have time to undergo some assimilation, their children more so, and thus learn the advantages of freedom. Obviously the rate of immigration would likely rise, but we aren't talking tomorrow there's one billion new Americans.

Now let's deal with some other specific objections.

What about the Native Americans? Didn't they get screwed by free immigration?

In a word: no. But that might take some explanation.

First, American immigrants didn't really keep their anti-freedom European culture did they? Remember that Europe wasn't exactly a bastion for economic or civil freedom in the 17th and 18th centuries. Monopolies were rampant and guilds just as prominent. Serfdom had mostly been abandoned but many feudal privileges remained. Censorship was common and though by the 18th century there weren't religious wars anymore, religious persecution was still common. Native Americans in North America had traditions which were down right libertarian in comparison, and where did the Founding Fathers and many other classical liberals in America draw inspiration from? The Native Americans.

But clearly, the Native Americans did get screwed. Wasn't this due to immigration? No, this was due to invasion. Here's the difference. Immigration is leaving one's home society for a new one peacefully. Invasion is leaving one's home society to take over new land by the use of force. Native Americans tended to influence groups which came in peacefully towards more freedom as examples like Rhode Island and Pennsylvania show. But it was the invading groups which deprived them of their land. It was invaders from Massachusettes, Virginia, and the like who used their superior military technology to fight wars that destroyed Native American culture. That and the diseases brought over unintentionally which drastically weakened Native Americans before the English came over. But that was before the whole world had linked and had resistance to the big diseases was mostly universal (or in this case counterable by medical advances). There is no immigrating group now which is going to inflict a 95% death rate on our population.

So open borders doesn't mean we're going to get people invading with guns to take over (they'd lose if they tried) and we aren't going to lose 95% of our population to diseases. Thus, we aren't going to end up like Native Americans.

What about homosexuals? Don't many immigrants come from homosexual hating countries?

It's true, many and perhaps even a large majority of immigrants come from anti-gay cultures. And this might not be something most of them fled from, it's likely that many and maybe most immigrants would view this as one of the positive things in their society. So shouldn't those concerned about gay rights oppose free immigration? I still say no, but this is of course a more valid concern.

First, the United States wasn't all that pro-gay not too long ago. Some of the changes in public opinion about gays has been extremely rapid. The gay rights movement has proven very good at getting converts so maybe what will happen is fewer homophobic people in the world rather than rolling back the clock in the US.

Second, again they aren't all coming at once due to economic constraints. This gives adjustment and assimilation time.

Third, if they actually want to do more than to continue to block gay marriage they've got to overcome the Supreme Court. In order to do that they'll need a constitutional amendment which requires them to not only have enough votes to get tons of senators and representatives on their side. There's not really a big constituency for actually banning homosexual acts right now, only gay marriage and that's weakening fast. So these immigrants are going to have to basically start a political movement from scratch, with little money and little native support for the extremes they might want. Then they'll have to be spread out in enough states to get the amendment ratified, something that's unlikely as a few states attract immigrants a lot more than most. They couldn't even make sodomy illegal on a state level without running into the need for a federal constitutional amendment. This fear, though it might reflect most immigrant views, is ultimately unfounded based upon the political realities of the United States.

Alright, that's all I've got time for right now. But the political externality is at best misunderstanding some basic points about immigration and the American political system, and at worst simply hysterical.

Silas Barta writes:

@Tom_West: Blacks have certainly gained more civil and political rights in SA since the abolition of apartheid, but there are some metrics by which they haven't done as well economically, IIRC.

Similarly I don't think it would be obviously wrong -- though I'd be labeled as racist -- to say that, e.g., blacks in America were economically worse off (lower consumption) in the first 10 years after the abolition of slavery than before (but not the next 100), even though they had more legal rights. It's also possible for an economy to tank even as more rights are granted to a specific group.

So it may be wrong, but it's not as ridiculous as you're making it sound.

@mikedc: The problem with the comparison is that immigration restriction is analogous to a case where the wealthy man *wants* the homeless dude on his property because they've worked out an arrangement, but people are legally barring him from doing so.

CC writes:

A few people mentioned same-sex marriage as a policy that could be endangered by open borders. Abortion rights are another. This one seems so obvious that I'm surprised to not hear this point constantly brought up.

Mercer writes:

" if you oppose injustice, no matter who commits it, you should be very disturbed indeed. For most people on earth, our policies are worse than our worst nightmare. "

I am not disturbed. The vast majority of people in the US and the world are not disturbed.

As someone commented on a previous post Steve Sailer's posts about immigration are more convincing. Reading about how immigrants from Latin America have changed the place where he lives carries more weight than abstract moral questions. Bryan's posts remind me of liberals who praised busing to integrate public schools while they sent their own kids to private schools which had no poor black students.

Ghost of Christmas Past writes:

Actually, Prof. Caplan is making a big concession. It's like the story of the philosopher and the beautiful woman at a dinner party. Caplan is no longer arguing immigrants lack political externalities; now he wants to debate their magnitude. Sure, he says, immigrants may vote for socialism, but they won't forbid you to take a specific job or rent an apartment!

It wasn't that long ago that Caplan acknowledged that socialism necessarily leads toward totalitarianism and shared Eugen Richter's fine book Pictures of the Socialistic Future to prove that it was always predictable and predicted.

Today the median American voter thinks it is okay for the Federal government to enforce an official policy that skin color trumps all other qualifications for a job or an place in school.

How much further does the balance have to tip before even Caplan doesn't want to keep rolling down the socialist road?

BZ writes:

Dr. Caplan speaks well here. In fact, he comes dangerously close to making a non-utilitarian plea for treating people morally. There's hope there.

However, to satisfy externality detractors (of which I am not one), he should tackle arguments for effects on the margin more directly.

I believe what he's saying is that, things are so bad for immigrants now, that at no margin of improvement for immigrants would it get bad enough for natives to hurt overall utility. The above essay would be slightly better if he said that more bluntly. It would also help dampen my hopes of seeing an inner Rothbardian emerge from Dr. Caplan more than the current essay does. :)

guthrie writes:

@Ghost... are you familiar with the Golden Rule? The obligation for right treatment of others is on you... the direction comes from oneself -> outward, not the other way around. If we acknowledge the Golden Rule applies to immigration then the onus is on us to set the example and free people to move here.

Other nations' bad policies do not justify maintaining our own.

Ken B writes:

Chris H: "First, the United States wasn't all that pro-gay not too long ago. Some of the changes in public opinion about gays has been extremely rapid. "

You do realize that for those of us who do advocate gay rights and gay marriage this is a reason for heightened concern about mass immigration?

Jeff writes:
Immigrants aren't a random sample you might gather to learn about the points of view of that country. They are a self-selected minority who are already exhibiting traits at variance with their societies' social norms.

This is true as of right now, but that equation changes under a system unlimited, unfettered immigration such as is advocated by Bryan and others. A century ago, do you suppose the fact that there were Italian neighborhoods in cities like Boston, New York City, Philly, and Baltimore made immigration to the U.S. more appealing to the average Italian?

They have problems with their home society so significant that they actually want to leave it for something else. Why would this group of people even want to impose upon America a type of society which they themselves demonstrably view as a failure. Now it's true, they may not think all the aspects of their society was a failure, but why would this be their economic or political system? Those are typically the things these groups are fleeing from. Maybe they'd prefer if more of their home country's food was around, but it seems crazy to assert that these people are likely to support the very things that made them leave their homes in the first place!

I think you are ascribing a degree of sophistication, education and worldliness that the average immigrant from India/Colombia/Egypt isn't going to possess. Like other people alluded to above, I don't think most people are going to make the connection that the government in the country of their birth or their parents' birth stinks because it implements bad policies; they're just as likely to think it stinks because the people running it are simply bad/stupid/evil. They might even be right about that, but that won't necessarily lead them to the right conclusion: that in their adopted home, they should support free market, socially liberal policies like all of us super-smart folks here in the comments section. ;)

Some people will have reasoned through all of this, but I'll bet most won't. And still more will have been educated in some ridiculous leftist/nationalist persecution rhetoric about how it's all a conspiracy of the white man to keep Egypt/Colombia/India poor or something. Seriously. What do you think they teach in the Chicano Studies Programs at UC San Diego?

Think about this: why are there still socialists alive today? After the 20th century, it would seem preposterous that socialism would have any serious advocates or partisans left anywhere. And yet...lo and behold, we see socialist parties all over Europe, South America, Africa, and elsewhere, many of them wielding substantial power. Why didn't the people who support these parties look on the Russian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Cuban, etc experiments with socialism in the 20th century and reach the logical conclusion? I'm sure there are lots of reasons, but the important point is that there are lots of these people. Yikes!

The problem, of course, is another awful twentieth century idea: universal suffrage. The average person spends next to no time thinking about either politics or public policy, but of course his vote counts the same as someone who thinks about them all day long. Bryan wrote an entire friggin' about this. His faulty assumption here is that the biases afflicting the views of American voters don't differ substantially from people in other societies. It'd be nice if that were the case, but I doubt it. Third worlders, I'd wager, have all sorts of terrible ideas and biases that they won't mind inflicting on Bryan and, unfortunately, the rest of us.

Andrew Blackmer writes:

Bryan has said before that as an academic he has endured more negative effects of immigration than many other jobs. So it's not exactly like he has no skin in the game. More immigration actually means he'd have a lot to lose.

In any case, I'm baffled at the inane criticisms here. Unrestricted immigration simply means that, "without restrictions". What's the ideal number of immigrants we should allow to enter every year? I don't know. What's the ideal number of students we should allow to graduate with an engineering degree every year? We have a market to take care of these things. Let it work for labor as well, regardless of where that labor comes from.

If I own an apartment complex, what business is it to anyone else who I rent to? If I have a business what's it to you who I hire? As long as I pay my bills, it's none of your business.

All of this, of course ignores how many people would come to the US for seasonal work only, leaving their families behind, essentially negating the externality issue entirely.

Mikedc writes:

@Silas,
The problem with the comparison is that immigration restriction is analogous to a case where the wealthy man *wants* the homeless dude on his property because they've worked out an arrangement, but people are legally barring him from doing so.

It's a bit more analogous to see that there are lots of wealthy heirs of the living as joint owners in the family mansion. Just because one of the wealthy owners wants to invite the homeless man in doesn't mean the other owners consent or the one guy that does want him there can overrule the others.

In a typical legal right's setting, we require the pareto and Calculus of Consent ideal of unanimous consent. As a practical matter, this is pretty much exactly the sort of problem we face with most any collective action political problem. I'd certainly prefer a minimal state with relatively open borders and a voting rule somewhere > 50% and less than 100%, but I'm not going to throw out the baby (the whole system) because my preference isn't the winning one.

I can argue with my fellow owners for more lenient rules so I can invite the homeless guy into the family, or I could sell off my share of the family estate and move off to somewhere where I can freely associate, or I can just accept that the situation kind of sucks. But what I can't do is deprive my co-owners of their rights even though I think they're exercising them stupidly.

BZ writes:

@Mikedc

It's a bit more analogous to see that there are lots of wealthy heirs of the living as joint owners in the family mansion. Just because one of the wealthy owners wants to invite the homeless man in doesn't mean the other owners consent or the one guy that does want him there can overrule the others.

Whoa buddy! Does your analogy suggest that Americans are Joint Owners of America? What are we, some sort of commune? Not sure you thought that through completely. I own my house. Not you. Not my neighbors jointly. If I want to invite someone in, that's my business, not yours, and not my neighbors.

Philippe Belanger writes:

The argument is not that immigrants would use state power to curtail the economic freedom of americans so as to benefit themselves. Rather, it is that non-western cultures are less liberal in their values, which goes against even their own economic interest. Just look at Chavez's recent re-election (the man pretty much embodies illiberalism) or the recent protests in the arab world, where Egyptians wrote on the US embassy, "If your freedom of speech has no limits, may you accept our freedom of action."

One should also note that immigrants do not need to become a majority to exert political influence when power is decentralized, as is the case in a federation like the US. Current estimates predict that the Hispanic/latino population will overtake white population in 2020.

Philippe Belanger writes:

^ In Texas that is.

Ghost of Christmas Past writes:

Perhaps I wasn't clear. I am not playing tit-for-tat. I simply think that all countries may morally adopt and enforce exclusive immigration policies. I don't think foreigners attack me by maintaining their own borders, and I don't think I attack them by maintaining mine.* So I don't think I need remedial coaching on the Golden Rule.

(I wish it would go without saying, but around here some people think that any shocking special case they can think of invalidates any general policy proposed by someone else, so I will specially mention that my acceptance of immigration restrictions does not extend to machine-gunning lifeboats of shipwrecked mariners just because they drifted into territorial waters without having gotten visas first, nor enslaving illegal immigrants in lieu of deporting them, nor any other stomach-churning horribles eager-beaver critics may propose.)

*This isn't the place for a long essay on morals, but I really do have a substantial anaysis behind my views, not just uncritical acceptance of some ipse-dixit slogan-based moral scheme.

johnleemk writes:

Ghost of Christmas Past:

Let's reword that a little...

"I simply think that all races may morally adopt and enforce exclusive segregation policies. I don't think other races attack me by maintaining their own borders, and I don't think I attack them by maintaining mine."

If you don't like to mix with people foreign to your colour, creed, or nationality, that's fine. But I think the burden of proof is on you to show that it is a just and appropriate use of government power to rigidly enforce your own preferences on others.

I can't speak for Bryan, but I don't have any problem with nation-states or national sovereignty. What I have a problem with is assuming that because a nation has sovereignty over its borders, its government can do whatever it likes within that territory. This may be ipso facto true from a realpolitik standpoint, but as a matter of morality, there are many things which sovereign nation-states can do but ought not to do. Imposing arbitrary restrictions on immigration is one of these things.

Silas Barta writes:

@Mikedc:

It's a bit more analogous to see that there are lots of wealthy heirs of the living as joint owners in the family mansion. Just because one of the wealthy owners wants to invite the homeless man in doesn't mean the other owners consent or the one guy that does want him there can overrule the others.

And it would be even more analogous to when one of the mansion's joint owner invites the homeless guy into just his room, the others can't even tell he's not one of them.

or I could sell off my share of the family estate and move off to somewhere where I can freely associate,

Alright, and when the US allows citizens to sell of their share, then it will have genuine standing to object when someone wants to do something the others don't like. Until that happens, they are the sole cause of the shareholder's limitation and can't object when he wants to let a Latino enter their line of sight.

MikeDC writes:

@BZ,
That's absolutely what I mean and I have spent years thinking it out.

No, your neighbors and I don't own your house, but it's only by mutual recognition and enforcement of your right to property that you own your house.

Without that mutual recognition and enforcement, what does you "owning" your house mean? The right of ownership is a rational agreement between people. As such it's implicitly limited in scope to the terms of that agreement. I can't dictate what you do with your property within the terms of the agreement, but the terms themselves are nothing but mutual agreement.

Note that this would be explicitly true in a something approaching an ideal anarcho-capitalist state where some individual (or group of individuals) would own each item of property and private justice services would adjudicate disputes. You can invite over whomever you want, and do whatever you want on your property until it pisses off your neighbors and they take steps to quash you. Maybe they see the convoy of immigrants you're happy to put up and say that while you're perfectly free to allow them on your land, they, as 999/1000th share owners of a common access road are perfectly free to deny them the right to allow them on what is overwhelmingly their land.

Bostonian writes:

Andrew Blackmer wrote,

"If I own an apartment complex, what business is it to anyone else who I rent to?"

It is common for towns to discourage residential construction, especially high-density construction, because the new residents will consume social services, including public education. As a quasi-libertarian, I generally oppose this, because I think my opposition to welfare obliges me to also oppose policies that raise the cost of living of others (which is what "open space" policies do). However, given the current system of social services and public education, people who object to new construction in their town are not just being nosy.

Ghost of Christmas Past writes:

As a government employee with tenure, Caplan has less to fear from immigration than just about anyone. (I think he wrote in the past that he competed against immigrants to get his current job, not that he has anything to fear from new immigrants.)

The "what is it to you if I invite someone to visit my home/business?" question has been asked many times in Econlog comments. It is not the winner many people think it ought to be. Do you plan to confine your visitor to your property? No? Then if he wanders into mine will you pay for any harm he does? No? 'Cause he's an autonomous person, right? Then I must evaluate how much he threatens me and take appropriate precautions. If I think he's a friendly tourist I just make sure my homeowner's insurance is paid up, in case he slips and falls on my doorstep. If I think he's a Romanian Gypsy, I need to belt on my pistol, padlock all my gates, and turn the Rottweilers into the yard. More realistically, since I don't want the inconvenience of maintaining a pack of Rottweilers, I'm going to get with my neighbors and enforce immigration restrictions even though they peeve you. Some guests impose too many externalities, and community defense is self defense under nearly any theory of libertarianism I'm familiar with.

MikeDC writes:

@Silas,
I agree in principle (without devoting too much thought to it I'm inclined to believe that we should probably be able to buy and sell our rights of citizenship and we should be open to the possibility of buying and selling our right of sovereignty over areas of land). But as a matter of practice, we can get pretty close to that already; if I sell off my land, move away, and naturalize somewhere else, I can certainly opt out of being American.

However, your argument about standing loses me entirely. There's no "sole cause" of one joint owner's limitation because the pious, right-thinking "limited" owner has no more right of ownership than the nefarious hispanic hating "limiting" owner.

It's a Coasian bargaining problem stemming from the nature of our rights to mean that we can, so long as we're inside those rights, be as hateful, unreasonable, and quixotic as we can get away with being.

Fortunately, having a right of ownership means I get to be as unreasonable as I want to with my stuff. Unfortunately, having a right of ownership means everyone else gets to be as unreasonable as they want to be with their stuff.

I view objections to immigration and discrimination in general as very unreasonable exercise of of the rights of others, but it's still a lot better than the alternative of subjecting more of my own (rapidly diminishing) rights to the unreasonable whims of others. The best way to win the game is not to play in the first place.

guthrie writes:

@Ghost, et al

Can we agree that it is immoral to prevent a stranger from helping himself if his life is in danger?

Couldn't it also be immoral to prevent a stranger from improving their lives, so long as they do not do so by taking someone else's life or property?

Can't a nation-state enforce restrictions to certain destructive behaviors without keeping otherwise innocent human beings from ambulation or free-exchange?

Isn't it possible that a nation-state overreaches it's power when it blindly blocks human movement with no other practical consideration except for point of origin?

In the 19th century Mexico allowed open immigration (even encouraged it). Some Americans took advantage of it and moved in. Then they rebelled, called themselves Texans and established a new country.

Mr. Econotarian writes:

Anti-immigration bigotry is like a skipping record - here is "Restriction of Immigration", Atlantic Monthly, 1896 - 100 years old, but Steve Sailer could have written it yesterday:

"In all the social and industrial disorders of this country since 1877, the foreign elements have proved themselves the ready tools of demagogues in defying the law, in destroying property, and in working violence. A learned clergyman who mingled with the socialistic mob which, two years ago, threatened the State House and the governor of Massachusetts, told me that during the entire disturbance he heard no word spoken in any language which he knew - either in English, in German, or in French.

There may be those who can contemplate the addition to our population of vast numbers of persons having no inherited instincts of self-government and respect for law; knowing no restraint upon their passions but the club of the policeman or the bayonet of the soldier; forming communities, but the tends of thousands, in which only foreign tongues are spoken, and into which can steal no influence from our free institutions and from popular discussion.

But I confess to being far less optimistic...Have we the right to expose the republic to any increase of dangers from this source which now so manifestly threaten our peace and safety?"

100 years before that, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 8 "The number of its inhabitants?" Thomas Jefferson; 1787:

"Yet, from such, we are to expect the greatest number of emigrants. They will bring with them the principles of the governments they leave, imbibed in their early youth; or, if able to throw them off, it will be in exchange for an unbounded licentiousness, passing, as is usual, from one extreme to another. It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at the point of temperate liberty. These principles, with their language, they will transmit to their children. In proportion to their numbers, they will share with us the legislation. They will infuse into it their spirit, warp and bias its direction, and render it a heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass."

johnleemk writes:

Mr. Econotarian,

On that note, here is Abe Lincoln in 1855:

As a nation, we began by declaring that "all men are created equal." We now practically read it "all men are created equal, except negroes." When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read "all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and catholics." When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretence of loving liberty — to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be take pure, and without the base alloy of hypocracy [sic].
Steve Sailer writes:

The Republican Party won California's huge haul of Electoral Votes 9 out of 10 times between 1952 and 1988, but are zero for 5 beginning in 1992. The Democrats' Grand Strategy is to flip Texas too in the long run, putting the White House effectively out of reach of Republicans permanently.

Ghost of Christmas Past writes:
Tom West writes:

Thank you, Mr. Econotarian for that. (And thanks johnleemk for the follow-up.)

Chris H writes:

Jeff writes:

This is true as of right now, but that equation changes under a system unlimited, unfettered immigration such as is advocated by Bryan and others. A century ago, do you suppose the fact that there were Italian neighborhoods in cities like Boston, New York City, Philly, and Baltimore made immigration to the U.S. more appealing to the average Italian?

This is only a minor effect for a few reasons. First, those villages will over time adopt more and more American ways making their appeal weaken over time. But even more immediately, you have to consider many aspects that cannot be transplanted. You will always be moving into a country where you are the minority (there are only two countries with a population larger than the US and neither is in the lowest levels of poverty so inherently any ethnic group that comes here must be in the minority regardless of how open our borders are). In order to get ahead you will have to learn English (those immigrants who don't are relegated to the economic, and thus political, margins). Your children will begin adopting American customs and beliefs. And then there's just the stress of moving from home which is major in traditional societies where most people live in one place their entire lives.

Thus the effect of having immigrant communities, immigrants who remember are likely to be deviant to begin with, does not significantly remove this self-selection bias against the original cultural traditions.

Jeff:

I think you are ascribing a degree of sophistication, education and worldliness that the average immigrant from India/Colombia/Egypt isn't going to possess. Like other people alluded to above, I don't think most people are going to make the connection that the government in the country of their birth or their parents' birth stinks because it implements bad policies; they're just as likely to think it stinks because the people running it are simply bad/stupid/evil. They might even be right about that, but that won't necessarily lead them to the right conclusion: that in their adopted home, they should support free market, socially liberal policies like all of us super-smart folks here in the comments section. ;)

I understand this point but I think there's reason to think that they'll move beyond the simply "it was just bad leaders" idea. First of all, moving to a new culture shows a streak of individuality. People who only want to fit in to a collective typically don't make this harder upon themselves by leaving the culture they are familiar with. These are people who are thus more likely to be receptive to classically liberal ideas, if they care about politics at all.

Second, people who think the problem is just "bad leaders" are more likely to believe in change at home. Those who have problems with the system itself are more likely to have the level of cynicism necessary to leave (or start a revolution). Now, they can and often do come to the wrong conclusion on how to fix the system, but those who come to conclusions that more government is needed seem unlikely to move to the United States. Remember, most of the world (albeit inaccurately) views the US as a bastion of lassiez-faire. If you believe the problem is too much lassiez-faire at home, why would you go to a country with a reputation for MORE free markets?

Do I think most immigrants are trained economists or consistent libertarians in waiting? No, but their choice of moving to the United States does say some things about their views. They may be politically apathetic and just looking for work, in which case they are no political threat at all, or they may be seeking a freer country in all sense of that word in which case they are allies. The anti-freedom immigrants may have a few feel compelled to come to the US for jobs, but that's going to be a disproportionately small group compared to the apathetics and smaller government people.

Jeff:

The problem, of course, is another awful twentieth century idea: universal suffrage. The average person spends next to no time thinking about either politics or public policy, but of course his vote counts the same as someone who thinks about them all day long. Bryan wrote an entire friggin' about this. His faulty assumption here is that the biases afflicting the views of American voters don't differ substantially from people in other societies. It'd be nice if that were the case, but I doubt it. Third worlders, I'd wager, have all sorts of terrible ideas and biases that they won't mind inflicting on Bryan and, unfortunately, the rest of us.

I agree that universal suffrage has done significant damage, but then again I'm a Rothbardian so any government is going to screw up in some way from my point of view. ;) But nonetheless, I think you're overestimating the divergence in the biases of immigrants from Americans themselves. Those who are politically interested are likely to go to a country that they think better matches their views and those who aren't won't vote anyways (we'd have more problems in that regard if we made voting compulsory but then the problem would be compulsory voting not immigrants).

But let's look at this historically since we do have a historical example with this very country. Did free immigration lead to an influx of statists who ruined the country? Well the country did start going more statist, mainly during the Great Depression when immigration totals were extremely low after a decade of strict immigration restrictions.

But maybe we just got lucky in the countries of origin. After all, they were mostly Europeans right? OK, so the largest single ethnic group in the United States is Germans. 19th century Germany was definitely known for it's liberalism right! It wasn't the state infatuated with Hegel's state-as-god philosophy, the largest portion of it covered in the authoritarian Prussian school system, the place where classical liberals were abandoned by the masses in favor of conservatives like Bismarck, and the home of Karl Marx right? But even the other groups came from areas with weak liberal traditions. Italy, Poland, Russia, Greece, Austria-Hungary, etc. were all pretty anti-liberal.

The result? Immigrants mostly voted Democratic during the time that Democrats were actually more lassiez-faire than Republicans. Republicans liked high tariffs and all sorts of Sunday blue laws and temperance propositions. Democrats ditched all that until the Progressive era, which was driven by the native born middle class not immigrants. History and logic both tell us we should not expect immigrants to support a wave of statism.

Ken B writes:

Chris H: "First, the United States wasn't all that pro-gay not too long ago. Some of the changes in public opinion about gays has been extremely rapid. "

You do realize that for those of us who do advocate gay rights and gay marriage this is a reason for heightened concern about mass immigration?

Actually even if immigrants will be more anti-gay (and actually care enough to vote based on that, a big if) that should hearten you. Social change can be rapid and gay rights groups have gotten good at it. If large numbers of immigrants come in and are fairly anti-gay you can expect that resistance to be short lived in the face of the well-honed pro-gay rights machine.

Plus, while I'm completely in favor of gays being able to marry (I'm actually in favor of getting government out of the picture altogether, but it's not a bad step in that direction), that's really the only realistic concern. To be honest I see border agents using guns to force people back into poverty and starvation as a more pressing concern than marriage rights. If there really is a trade-off I'm sorry but removing the injustice perpetrated against tens of millions of people forced into worse economic and political conditions has to come first.

Ghost of Christmas Past writes:

Does the fact that libertarians (and I, for that matter) like to quote Adam Smith and Fredric Bastiat and Lysander Spooner and Ludwig Von Mises and Murray Rothbard mean libertarians are broken records, or does it mean that some people were pretty smart even a long time ago, though the masses are still being deceived by rent-seekers and charismatic fools?

James A. Donald writes:

> "Do you seriously believe that open borders would lead to such an outcome for you? An outcome anywhere in this ballpark?

Whites were ethnically cleansed from Detroit. Rural whites face near genocide in South Africa. Whites were ethnically cleansed from Rhodesia. Whites were genocided in Haiti.

So, yes, I expect widespread ethnic cleansing of whites and, in a few places, genocide.

As for "(a) accept a job offer from a willing employer, or (b) rent an apartment from a willing landlord".

Affirmative action already does this. For example, in any firm where women are given power, they are not given responsibility, which necessarily requires that some white males be given responsibility without power.

James A. Donald writes:

It is glaringly obvious that not only are whites far worse off with the end of Apartheid in South Africa, blacks also are worse off.

The flood of illegals from neighboring black countries has ended with the end of apartheid, and in many cases reversed. Blacks are voting with their feet that black South Africa is no good, after previously voting with their feet that white South Africa was good.

Electricity has become intermittent, water is dangerous, and the higher stories of tall buildings have become uninhabitable

Black incomes have fallen dramatically following the end of apartheid

http://www.nber.org/digest/jan06/w11384.html

http://www.globalresearch.ca/economic-and-social-crisis-in-post-apartheid-south-africa/

When the superior rule the inferior, it is not only better for the superior, it also better for the inferior.

Even if blacks had the same income, that would be no substitute for the lack of clean water, lack of reliable electricity, and lack of law and order.

And that is what America will become in due course with current levels of immigration of inferior people.

John Strong writes:

I just wish we could have passed President Bush's immigration reform, so that the Mexicans I know who are working illegally in the U.S. would not be afraid to go home for fear of not getting back in next time they need some work. They wanted some seasonal employment, and thanks to the hard line we take on work visas, they end up settling permanently. It's an example of unintended consequences on steroids.

MikeDC writes:

@James A Donald,
I commend your willingness to look some simple and obvious facts (such as declining incomes and standards of living) in the eye.

But your unsupportable racist and misogynistic conclusions pretty completely undermine them. My god, man... that's an ugly bunch of thoughts you just wrote.

Tom West writes:

A quick scan of the both papers does not make it clear whether they are including the Black "homelands" of Apartheid S.A. It's a neat trick when you can simply not count statistics in all your poor areas by claiming that they're not really part of your country...

Moreover, I'd be very clear that *nothing* justifies slavery (in the real sense of the word, not the "Oh my God, I have to pay taxes"), and a person making that claim or strong implication richly deserves the social shunning they'll receive.

johnleemk writes:

While I won't bother engaging with the idea that whites are the superior race, it's worth noting that James A. Donald seems to have ignored the final paragraphs of that NBER link, which highlight the fact that abolition of apartheid did not make apartheid's effects on blacks disappear:

Labor, and particularly lower-skilled labor, has been entering the market faster than it could be absorbed, putting downward pressure on wages. Blacks have suffered because their education levels are lower following the discrimination of the apartheid era.

South Africa's reengagement with the world economy, after relative isolation during the period of anti-apartheid trade sanctions, may have added to the downward pressure on the incomes of lower skilled workers. Younger workers - from 18 to their early 30s - and women have suffered because of lower skill levels and less-established positions in the workforce than older workers and men.

The researchers emphasize that, in spite of these plausible explanations, the drop in South African incomes is not fully understood. But there are some implausible explanations that they can dismiss. They include the notion that high-skilled and high-earning white workers left the country after the African National Congress came to power in 1994, or that the data are somehow faulty. Nor was it the case that the most able workers were no longer among those reporting positive incomes.

Blaming a hangover from apartheid on the abolition of apartheid is just silly. And the suggestion that South Africans lack electricity and running water today is not self-evident; in fact, here is an otherwise critical WSJ article which says:
Some big things have improved in South Africa under the ANC. Nearly all citizens have access to electricity and clean drinking water today, compared with less than two-thirds in 1994. Welfare grants to 15 million poor parents and seniors have cut the proportion of South Africans living on less than $2 a day to 5% from 12% in 1994.
Chris H writes:

@James A. Donald:

Others can critique the statistics you offer but consider this. If apartheid was better for blacks and blacks now run the country, then why isn't there a big movement among blacks to reinstate apartheid? If apartheid was so great for them, why don't they at least start electing more white candidates?

Even if every statistic you mention has in fact worsened for black South Africans, that would not imply that they were necessarily worse off. If they are willing to trade higher crime, lower life expectancy (which is mainly driven by AIDS), or whatever for equal legal rights, who's to say they are wrong for valuing freedom over those things? The only people who should have a say in whether or not getting rid of apartheid was worthwhile it are the people who are impacted by the decision.

Ghost of Christmas Past writes:

It's easy to explain why South African blacks would rather be poor but with political power and opportunity than rich without either: natural selection of humans runs on relative status, not absolute wealth. It also runs on cooperation in proportion to degree of kinship. South African blacks naturally and predictably resent obvious non-kin like whites having more power.

To avoid the economic pathologies of South Africa, the US should stop importing low-IQ foreigners whose descendants will eagerly form political blocs characterized by the combination of resentment and ambition which are manifest in South Africa.

It's beyond me how "libertarians" can be so suicidally-eager to surround themselves with hostile non-libertarians. Don't they realize that they are advocating their own gruesome demise? Libertarianism is a hothouse flower, viable only in a calm society of high-IQ, highly-cooperative people. Any local majority of impulsive, fractious, low-IQ people will quickly generate a rate of crime and thuggish politics which will make libertarianism impossible, if only because of the military discipline any high-IQ minority would have to adopt to successfully defend its members against the rapacious majority.

Silas Barta writes:

Let me firmly re-iterate that I was not at all trying to justify slavery or apartheid, just refuting some misconceptions about its short-term impact on material well-being on the previously-oppressed group.

With that said:

@Chris_H:

Others can critique the statistics you offer but consider this. If apartheid was better for blacks and blacks now run the country, then why isn't there a big movement among blacks to reinstate apartheid? If apartheid was so great for them, why don't they at least start electing more white candidates?

That's very much like asking, "If Americans became worse off after the imposition of huge trade barriers, why isn't there a big movement to reinstate free trade?"

The answer is, as usual, that they don't see (or don't want to see) the connection between a policy change and their standard of living. It's always "Those greedy corporations jacking up prices", never "gee, maybe we should restore the access of foreign companies to our markets ..."

Ghost_of_Christmas_Past's point applies as well: if you -- as your genes pressure you -- care about relative (possibly political) stats rather than absolute consumption level, you have even less incentive to restore previous policies on the basis of what they do for your consumption, if it would mean loss of your relative status.

But anyway, it's getting hard having to argue (what sounds like) both sides of the immigration debate ... and believe what I say.

Tom West writes:

... if you -- as your genes pressure you -- care about relative stats rather than absolute consumption level ...

Doesn't this lead to the obvious conclusion that if your reason for having an economy in the first place is to maximize happiness rather than satisfy some "God of Consumption", then left-wing redistribution politics is the more rational choice?

:-)

James A. Donald writes:

"But your unsupportable racist and misogynistic conclusions pretty completely undermine them. My god, man... that's an ugly bunch of thoughts you just wrote"


From people's words, no one would have expected South Africa to go to hell when white rule ended. From people's deeds, most people expected South Africa to go to hell when white rule ended. People act like John Derbyshire, while speaking like those that punished him for telling the truth.

If you acknowledge the reality that South Africa and Rhodesia are going to hell in a handbasket, it is hard to avoid unspeakably racist conclusions.

As for "misogynistic", observed behavior is that no one takes female degrees in STEM fields very seriously. Is this because everyone is quietly misogynistic, or because female STEM degrees usually reflect affirmative action, with the consequence that females with STEM degrees are seldom actually qualified?

I will debate whether "misogyny" is justified another place and another time, but observed behavior is that the vast majority, especially women are "misogynistic", and the vast majority, especially blacks are "racist". They follow John Derbyshire's advice, at the same time as they condemn him for saying it out loud.

What woman wants to work for a female boss? Are they "misogynistic", like a black taxi driver who will not pick up a black fair is "racist"?

MikeDC writes:

If you acknowledge the reality that South Africa and Rhodesia are going to hell in a handbasket, it is hard to avoid unspeakably racist conclusions.

It's not at all hard to avoid them. There's a great economics lesson in Exodus when God makes the Israelites wonder in the desert for 40 years. If you've lived a life of servitude, you probably won't be fit to rule.

But that doesn't mean those people and their heirs are inherently or genetically incapable of being successful. The former is not racist, and does not at all lead to the latter, which is racist.

I'm not one that throws a term like racist around very much. I think it's horribly overused. But you, sir, are racist in the correct sense of the term that you seem to be espousing one race's inherent inferiority over another.

I don't think it's racist, for instance, to say if you put a culturally backward, poorly educated mob in charge of a country, things will go poorly. Even if the culturally backward, poorly educated mob is mostly black. But as you seem to say a group that is black must inescapably be a culturally backward and poorly educated mob, that's definitely racist trash and unlikely to boot.

Likewise, the blanket statements regarding women are foolish, incorrect in my experience, and should be embarrassing for you.

Tom West writes:

Thank you, MikeDC.

Mark Crankshaw writes:
Imagine you live in a democracy surrounded by a hostile majority.

No imgination necessary! I do live in a democracy surrounded by a hostile majority...

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