Bryan Caplan  

Good News That Should Have Been Kept Secret

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I've long scorned mainstream media for their relentless, misleading negativity.  Now the NYT publishes a gloriously positive story - and I wish it hadn't.  This is Huemerian civil disobedience in action:
The tens of thousands of migrants who have flooded into the Balkans in recent weeks need food, water and shelter, just like the millions displaced by war the world over. But there is also one other thing they swear they cannot live without: a smartphone charging station...

Technology has transformed this 21st-century version of a refugee crisis, not least by making it easier for millions more people to move...

[...]

In fact, the ease and autonomy the apps provide may be cutting into the smuggling business.

"Right now, the traffickers are losing business because people are going alone, thanks to Facebook," said Mohamed Haj Ali, 38, who works with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Belgrade, Serbia's capital -- a major stopover for migrants.

Originally from Syria, Mr. Ali has lived in Belgrade for three years, helping migrants and listening to their stories. At first, he said, most migrants passing through Serbia had paid traffickers for most or all of their trip.

But as tens of thousands completed their journeys, they shared their experiences on social media -- even the precise GPS coordinates of every stop along their routes, recorded automatically by some smartphones.

For those traveling today, the prices charged by traffickers have gone down by about half since the beginning of the conflict, Mr. Ali said.

Why do I wish this story hadn't been written?  Because laws this evil are made to be broken - and NYT-level publicity raises public pressure to make immigration enforcement even more draconian than it already is.

P.S. Of course now that the cat's out of the bag, I see no harm in further discussion here on EconLog.




COMMENTS (18 to date)
Shane L writes:

According to the World Bank, the Middle East and North Africa region added 7.3 million people to its population between 2013 and 2014. Sub-Saharan Africa added 25 million. Many European countries are very small. If their governments threw open their borders, might the natives in states like Switzerland or Norway become minorities within a few decades?

The US may be big enough to absorb large immigrant groups but tiny European states? I worry that it is a threat to their existence: a small state would be incapable of defeating a rebellion by a huge immigrant group who outnumber the natives. I'm not sure why we should assume that immigrants wish to obey the laws of destination states.
https://www.google.ie/publicdata/explore?ds=d5bncppjof8f9_&met_y=sp_pop_totl&idim=country:SYR:IRQ:JOR&hl=en&dl=en#!ctype=l&strail=false&bcs=d&nselm=h&met_y=sp_pop_totl&scale_y=lin&ind_y=false&rdim=region&idim=country:SVN:LUX&idim=region:MEA:SSF&ifdim=region&hl=en_US&dl=en&ind=false

Massimo writes:

Caplan is calling people who disagree with him "evil" and "draconian". If anyone reversed such accusation, of course, they would be banned. By the Caplan principle of the person demonstrating less emotion generally being on the moral high ground, clearly such accusation is the more exaggerated and emotional.

I suggest that Caplan does not even believe his own arguments. One example, is that he argues that immigration, any immigration, does not increase crime. A second is that Caplan argues that if people care about their society's culture, and specifically their language, they can keep their language. Caplan has cited tons of stats and rhetorical debate tactics, but even his own supporters will admit these things aren't true, especially when with larger volumes of immigration that "swamp" out the host population.

Former Caplan student and prominent open borders proponent Nathan Smith admits that the open borders expectations are highly speculative and unstable, that the "forebodings of the grimmest open border pessimists will also prove more than justified", and that American ideals such as "one person, one vote", "equality of opportunity", the "social safety net", and our basic model of public education "would die of their own increasing impracticality".

And even if "we" do want to try these radical, no turning back, transformations of nations, why don't we do this on the disaster nations. Caplan cites Haiti as a miserable place to live. Why don't we try the experiment in the miserable nations of Earth if there is so little to lose? Even the open borders proponents admit that many horrible things will happen and they aren't really sure how things will pan out, and this is quite irreversible, which sound like very good reasons for caution?

Can we accept Japan as the model advanced nation that has successfully politically resisted mass immigration and South Africa as the advanced western nation that succumbed to "swamping", to use the Nathan Smith term, of a rival ethnic population? Can we set Caplan style bet terms about bad things happening in the former and wonderful things happening in the latter?

dave s writes:

there's always the outside possibility that, eventually, the sheer volume of immigration across the world will break the backs of the control over nations borders and force us to deal with the root causes (trade restriction, welfare).

Have to almost laugh at myself for writing that.

Mark Bahner writes:
P.S. Of course now that the cat's out of the bag, I see no harm in further discussion here on EconLog.

Nobody reads the NYT. But Econlog...

Massimo writes:

Caplan is actively advocating hiding information from and misleading the public because they won't like what is happening and may resist his policy agenda.

Caplan genuinely wises that NYT kept big real world truths secret from the public.

This sounds precisely like the academics behind the ACA health care act who quite deliberately lied about their intentions, advanced intellectual arguments they didn't seriously believe for an instant, and engaged in elaborate deceptions of the public because they knew the public wouldn't like the policy agenda they were advancing.

Ann on a Mouse writes:

"laws this evil are made to be broken"

I'm sure Caplan thinks the same way when strangers break into his house and start eating his food playing with this children...

Look, I'll never understand Caplan's statist position here, and I'm done trying. Why does he think that government's are the true owners of the land within certain borders? What does he think of all the mundanes who live there (including, presumably, himself)? I guess because he feels it's fashionable and will make him popular with his undergrad students?

Does he not believe in private property? So strange.

I'm not sure what kind of ethical system Caplan believes in, but when the demographic replacement of the same societies that brought us the modernity that draws these migrants is seen as a good, it seems that it is a very short-sighted and self-destructive type of ethics and, indeed, immoral in and of itself.

Hide the decline?

Sigh...

Do you realize that now any fact I might cite while arguing with a nativist will not only be taken as propaganda (they were doing that anyway) but will also look like propaganda to formerly-neutral third parties?

Demographic replacement? Or demographic addition? Does immigration lower native birth rates?

"I'm sure Caplan thinks the same way when strangers break into his house and start eating his food playing with this children..."

Don't you mean "when strangers are invited into his neighbor's house"?

"Why does he think that government's are the true owners of the land within certain borders?"

That's our line.

Ann on a Mouse writes:

@Joseph Herzlinger

"Don't you mean "when strangers are invited into his neighbor's house"?"

No. If someone owns property and invites someone onto that property that is 100% right and good. That's the opposite of what I said, and in fact is my point. Trolling me won't work, because readers of this blog are literate.

"That's our line." Who is this "our" you refer to? Check to be sure they want to be associated with you.

The US State has by violence taken control of the geographical region between Mexico and Canada. This is not "private property." The "Open BordersĀ®" argument assumes that the entire country is the private property of the US State. I disagree.

If anyone wants to invite anyone to live on their own property, that is their right.

But it takes a "special" kind of mind to think that the US is someone's home, that that someone is "Uncle Sam," and that Sam is just "inviting" people onto his private property.

Joe writes:

Joseph,

What comment did you read? What is your point?

I was not talking about Uncle Sam. I was talking about Zoe Baird, Kimba Wood, and Walmart. I was saying that Uncle Sam should not have the right to forbid them to hire strangers.

"Our" referred to my fellow open-border fanatics.

Massimo writes:

@Joseph, I actually agree in the abstract that employers including Walmart having the right to hire foreigners over natives is a positive. But when you bundle that positive with granting of full citizenship privileges and voting privileges to strangers, you are invoking a whole array of massive structural changes that seem to overrun the initial cited positive of letting Walmart higher a more qualified worker.

In debates, Caplan asserts that he does not advocate giving foreigners voting rights or citizenship, but that makes the open border concept more of a conceptual thought experiment than a real world policy recommendation. Surely, when Caplan and the open border proponents cheer real world mass immigration into Europe, they are obviously aware that full voting rights are inevitable, and they show every sign of celebration.

I am a nobody, so I don't blame you for ignoring my logical counterpoints. However, may I request that you debate more credentialed, famous, intellectual, and influential skeptics such as Alain Finkielkraut?

Colombo writes:

To understand how absurd the restrictions on migration are, people should taste restrictions on the Internet. For example, limit all youtube and twitter commentaries to just the country of the registered user. Your opinions, good or bad, would be then banned from migrating to interact with other people. Then people would finally connect the dots and learn. Nothing like personal experience.

How to do that? Policing the internet, establishing fines, seizures of hardware for reapeated offenders, and even deportation to old technology, like books, radio, and playing cards or domino.

Massimo writes:

@Shane L, the open borders crowd is enthusiastic about European states like Sweden and Norway losing their traditional ethnic majority. The nations would still exist, it's just their current ethnic groups would vanish in peace, small bits of their culture and history would be absorbed by other ethnic groups, and the rest would vanish. Ultimately, the ethnic groups should compete based on fertility rates, and the less fertile groups should peacefully vanish.

This horrifies most common folk of most ethnic groups. The open border crowd have invested quite a lot of thought into this logic, and are quite confident in their policy recommendations, they know this horrifies the public, and are quite comfortable routinely suppressing and subverting public opinion.

I disagree btw. I side with the less educated horrified majority. It seems that most others that feel that way have migrated away from here to other web site discussion outlets.

Mr. Econotarian writes:

"The nations would still exist, it's just their current ethnic groups would vanish in peace, small bits of their culture and history would be absorbed by other ethnic groups, and the rest would vanish."

Their kids are going to eat McDonalds and speak English anyway :)

Massimo writes:

"To understand how absurd the restrictions on migration are, people should taste restrictions on the Internet. For example, limit all youtube and twitter commentaries to just the country of the registered user."

Sure, limiting Internet comments to a single country is silly. But, I don't have to give foreigners voting rights over large pieces of my life and the culture I love and prescribe to. I also don't have to assume responsibility for social safety nets when things go wrong. And I know Caplan specifically says host countries have no obligation to do those things. Sure, in some abstract thought experiment any of us can suggest that. In the reality that Caplan is advocating and celebrating, that is how things work. And Caplan and his crew aren't pushing to end mandatory government charity or birth right voting privileges.

"Their kids are going to eat McDonalds and speak English anyway :)"

This would make a great open borders pitch. Who cares about Western civilization when all culture boils down to McDonalds and English anyway. And those things will inevitably change to...

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