Scott Sumner  

The National Review on Immigration

PRINT
An Immigration Puzzle Solved... David Balan Reviews The Cas...

Dennis Prager of the National Review has a new piece entitled:

Three Reasons the Left Wants Ever More Immigrants
While the post is written as an explanation for why the left holds specific views on immigration, the post ends up in a place that (to me) makes it pretty clear that Prager doesn't view those three reasons as being justified:
If any one of these reasons accurately describes the Left's attitude toward America and immigration, America is headed for trouble. If all three are accurate, America is headed for an existential crisis.
To me, this suggests Prager is making arguments against immigration, not just describing left wing motives. If you don't agree with my interpretation of his intent, then you might want to skip the rest of this post.

Here's the first reason:

The first and most obvious reason is political. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, chain migration, sanctuary cities, and citizenship for immigrants living in the country illegally will give the Left political power. An estimated 70 to 80 percent of Latin American immigrants will vote Democratic. So with enough new voters from Latin America alone, the Democrats would essentially be assured the presidency and Congress for decades.
This claim is quite unpersuasive. Since 1965, the US has seen a huge surge in immigration, and yet the GOP has actually been gaining strength relative to the Democrats over the past 53 years, even over the past 5 years. But let's say I'm wrong. There's a much more serious problem with this argument---it's not a good argument against immigration. An argument is something you use to try to convince people who disagree with you. But why would Democrats find this argument to be persuasive? Why would libertarians like me find it persuasive?

Here's the second argument:

The second reason for the Left's support for virtually unlimited immigration is that one of the most enduring tenets of the Left -- from Karl Marx to the present-day Democratic party and left-wing parties in Western Europe -- is that the nation-state is an anachronism.

The American Left doesn't believe in America, just as the English Left doesn't believe in England.


I found this argument to be puzzling. Conservatives often seem to want to go back to the good old days, before modern liberalism ruined the country. But the "good old days" were a period of open borders. America is literally a nation of immigrants. Thus immigration is consistent with our traditions. It's the conservatives that want to experiment with a big government, regulatory, social-engineering policy that is utterly inconsistent with our heritage. That doesn't mean we should have open borders today, obviously things change. My point is that this is a weird argument for conservatives to make. By all means go ahead and oppose immigration, but don't suggest its proponents are being un-American.

Furthermore, since America is already a dynamic, ever-changing nation of immigrants, one million immigrants per year is not really going to fundamentally change things here. Some people seem to think we have a sort of unified, timeless culture, like Japan, which needs to be "preserved". Do Cubans in Miami, blacks in Chicago, Native Americans in South Dakota, Jews in New York, Scotch-Irish in West Virginia, Asians in Palo Alto, and Mormons in Provo, Utah actually have a single culture? How does adding 0.3% per year in immigrants fundamentally change America? Is my daughter less American than I am? (Her mother is an immigrant.) I don't get it.

Some conservatives suggest that allowing in lots of people with dark faces will change the nature of this country. But there is nothing un-American about people with darker skin. After all, about 14% of Americans are African-Americans, and they've been here much longer than the Irish, Italians or Poles. And yet only 9.5% of recent immigrants come from Africa. So if we actually wanted immigrants to reflect our current ethnicity, we'd have to bring in many more people from the sort of countries that the President recent disparaged. Perhaps some Americans confuse "American" with "white American".

Screen Shot 2018-01-30 at 1.15.08 PM.png
Don't get me wrong; I'm not suggesting that cultural change is not something that might be considered when discussing immigration, just wondering why some conservatives seem to view non-white immigrants as somehow reflecting a different culture. Yes, modern African culture is somewhat different from modern African-American culture, but the same is true of immigrants from Norway, compared to Scandinavian families that have been living in Minnesota for generations.

Here is the third argument:

Those who support bestowing American citizenship on the children of illegal immigrants -- the so-called "Dreamers," based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act -- feel very good about themselves. They are the compassionate, the progressive, the enlightened.

This is a really weird argument on two different levels. I don't think even Prager would claim that it's a bad thing to feel compassionate and enlightened. Is Prager saying that conservatives don't also try to feel compassionate and enlightened? In fact, conservatives do seem to share those attitudes. Polls show that an overwhelming majority of Republicans want Dreamers to be able to stay; perhaps because it seems really cruel to send someone back to a "home" they never knew. So does that mean that only a minority of conservatives are able to rise above trying to "feel" compassionate and enlightened?

To summarize, the Prager argument seems to be that:

1. Immigration is really good for the tens of millions of Americans who are Democrats.
2. Immigration feels like a compassionate and enlightened policy.
3. It's un-American to have lots of immigration into a country that was originally founded with open borders, and has since grown to be a highly diverse, multi-ethnic nation of immigrants.

All I can do is scratch my head. What exactly is the point of Prager's essay? It's certainly not a coherent critique of immigration.

PS. Prager also complains that most Hispanics don't vote for the GOP. Instead he should be thanking the Hispanic community for giving Donald Trump nearly 1/3 of their votes. That's actually quite impressive given that as a candidate Trump suggested that he could not get a fair trial from a judge who was of Hispanic descent. (Not to mention a number of other inflammatory comments about Mexican immigrants.) Indeed even Trump thought it was obvious that his campaign was perceived as anti-Hispanic, as he offered that explanation when asked by a reporter why he assumed that a Hispanic judge would be biased against him.

The article also includes (for reasons that I could not discern) a discussion of the various genocides committed by communist regimes, but no discussion of any of the genocides committed by right-wing nationalist regimes. This bizarre digression occurs in an article that basically advocates American nationalism. Obviously it would be silly to suggest that American nationalists favor genocide, so why even bring up the communist examples?


Comments and Sharing






COMMENTS (28 to date)
Bud writes:

We want the rule of law. Is that so hard to understand? #1 If an argument is not on your terms or to your liking, that does not make it invalid. Democrats have shown that they live in a fantasy world of non-existent racists, sexists, and Russian agents. Fixing your sanity is your problem. We still get to speak the truth. #2 The good old days were never open borders. Ignoring immigration law is ignoring the law. You advocate law-breaking. As an economist I'm sure you understand at least some of the reasons why that is a bad thing. #3 You think we're racist. We heard you. You're wrong. Good luck to you. You're going to need it.

Mark writes:

Scott,

While I think Prager's article is thoroughly unimpressive and much of it impertinent, I think your paragraph on race is at best presumptuous, at worst uncharitable. Did Prager actually say anything about wanting to prevent dark-skinned people from immigrating? Did Trump even suggest that? More Salvadorans are classified as 'white' than Asians, and yet even he seems to prefer Asian immigrants to Salvadoran ones.

I don't doubt that "some conservatives" particularly dislike non-white immigrants. I also don't doubt that some progressives relish the thought of a non-white majority being able to marginalize white people in order "overthrow white privilege." But "some" doesn't equate to the main line of argument by a given ideological camp.

Another recent article in the National Review, by Mark Krikorian, pointed out the absurdity of Democratic racial hand-wringing over Trump's proposed compromise on immigration (which Nancy Pelosi claimed was an attempt to 'whiten' America, a sentiment you seem to possibly agree with) because it would increase the fraction of immigrants who are non-hispanic white from... 22% to almost 29%, while also increasing the fraction of Asian immigrants (28% to 34%). (This of course being due to European and Asian immigrants disproportionately migrating for reasons other than relatives already living here, relative to hispanics). In other words, Trump's admin is doing a pretty lousy job of whitening America.

I don't think the debate over immigration is primarily a racial one; I don't think race factors into the motivations for most people's beliefs on the matter. Trying to recast it as a racial issue will only backfire, imo.


Anyway, I think Prager's argument regarding immigrant voting habits is a case of sacrificing the long run for the sake of the short run. Sure, each immigrant today is much more likely than not another Democratic vote in the next election, but in a generation or two they would likely move toward the mean of about 50/50 as with previous generations of immigrants before them, and if economically successful some immigrant subrgoups would likely favor Republicans. But a hardened and persistent stance against immigration could be a self-fulfilling prophecy and help turn immigrant communities and their descendants into reliable Democratic voters for generations to come.

E. Harding writes:

"Why would libertarians like me find it persuasive?"

Name three issues on which the foreign-born population is more in agreement with your policy views than the native-born.

"America is literally a nation of immigrants."
You are using a remarkably loose definition of "immigrants". Even as late as 1970, most of America's genetic stock had come there before 1800.
"It's the conservatives that want to experiment with a big government, regulatory, social-engineering policy that is utterly inconsistent with our heritage."
1924-1965 is somehow not part of "our heritage"??? What?
"And yet only 9.5% of recent immigrants come from Africa."
Add the Black Caribbean to that.

Alan Goldhammer writes:

Scott - interesting take on an article that I likely will never read :-) A couple of things to comment on. In our area (suburban Washington DC), probably 90% of the people doing yard work are Hispanic. Same thing for independent 'handymen.' We needed drywall repair and painting prior to having new light fixtures installed and of the 10 references I got from neighbors, nine were Hispanic. The workers are contributing to the GDP but maybe not in quite the same manner as a software engineer. I point this out to dispell the belief that immigration should be restricted to those with IQs over 120 who only speak English (isn't this really what the Trump Administration current proposal's end goal is? I wonder how many employees at Trump hotels are recent immigrants).

Second point, is that voter turnout by Latino voters runs lower than that for White voters. Democrats should quit trying to figure out messaging and focus all their resources on voter registration and turn out. That wins elections.

@E. Harding - you write

"America is literally a nation of immigrants."
You are using a remarkably loose definition of "immigrants". Even as late as 1970, most of America's genetic stock had come there before 1800.

Did you mean '1900' rather than 1800? If not your statement is rather strange given a large amount of European migration that took place during the 19th century. One only need look at how the Irish, Italian, Jewish, and German immigration was treated at the time. Of course we also must not forget the forced immigration as a result of the Slave Trade whose peoples were counted as only 3/5ths of a person by our Constitution.

Jon Murphy writes:

The second reason for the Left's support for virtually unlimited immigration is that one of the most enduring tenets of the Left -- from Karl Marx to the present-day Democratic party and left-wing parties in Western Europe -- is that the nation-state is an anachronism.

I found this argument puzzling, but for a different reason. Leaving aside questions of accuracy (I don't know anyone on the American left who thinks nation-states are an anachronism, of n=1), it was the Left that primarily championed immigration restrictions in the 1900's (and still do to this day, eg Bernie Sanders). The whole argument by the Left originally was that immigrants were going to destroy American culture, outbreed Americans, and the like (for an excellent discussion, see Thomas Leonard's book Illiberal Reformers).

So, I found the argument puzzling because 1) I don't know anyone who makes it on the Left and 2) the historical record appears to say the opposite.

pyroseed13 writes:

I don't think this is a very persuasive post. Let's start with this:

"This claim is quite unpersuasive. Since 1965, the US has seen a huge surge in immigration, and yet the GOP has actually been gaining strength relative to the Democrats over the past 53 years, even over the past 5 years."

Well, for one, it's well documented that Hispanics vote at lower rates than the rest of the population. But given that they are an increasing share, even if it a small percentage of them vote, in raw numbers it could have a meaningful impact on electoral outcomes. In any event, what is your explanation for why California, once a reliable red state, has become a solid blue state over time?

"America is literally a nation of immigrants. Thus immigration is consistent with our traditions."

Why is it that the period of relatively restrictive immigration from 1924-1965 is always ignored when this statement is made? The so-called good old days that conservatives romanticize was actually when immigration was restricted.

"How does adding 0.3% per year in immigrants fundamentally change America?"

Probably not all the much for the average person, but that's not to say parts of the country have not changed. Look at how Somalian immigration has impacted Minnesota for example.

I also find it unusual that you seem to think that some of the groups you list do not have an identifying culture. I think Mormons in Provo for example have a clear unifying culture, and that's certainly reflected in their economic standing there (low rates of poverty, low rates of drug and alcohol use).


TMC writes:

Trump suggested that he could not get a fair trial because the judge was a member of la Raza, a Hispanic racist organization, not because the judge was Hispanic.

Justin D writes:

--"This claim is quite unpersuasive... An argument is something you use to try to convince people who disagree with you. But why would Democrats find this argument to be persuasive? Why would libertarians like me find it persuasive?"--

Presumably, the argument is meant to be persuasive to Republicans, who don't want the nation to go the route of California from an electoral perspective. I suspect Prager doesn't think Democrats are persuadable on the topic of lower immigration, and he's probably right.

Electoral politics is the main reason why Democrats favor high levels of immigration. Here's a thought experiment that should demonstrate it.

Suppose Donald Trump made the following proposal: he'd legalize all of the 'undocumented' immigrants and raise the ceiling for legal immigration to, say, 5 million/yr, with a focus on family reunification. However, in return, all naturalized citizens going forward would be required to vote a straight Republican ticket in each election, else they would forfeit their citizenship status and be deported. How many Democrats do you think would support such a proposal?

Absent government coercion, this is essentially how many Republicans view the Democratic position on immigration.

Justin D writes:

--"Prager also complains that most Hispanics don't vote for the GOP. Instead he should be thanking the Hispanic community for giving Donald Trump nearly 1/3 of their votes. That's actually quite impressive given that as a candidate Trump suggested that he could not get a fair trial from a judge who was of Hispanic descent. (Not to mention a number of other inflammatory comments about Mexican immigrants.) Indeed even Trump thought it was obvious that his campaign was perceived as anti-Hispanic, as he offered that explanation when asked by a reporter why he assumed that a Hispanic judge would be biased against him."--

Trump was widely perceived as being bigoted towards Hispanics. Trump himself is largely to blame for this perception, but it surely exists and thus it isn't outlandish to say that a Hispanic judge might be biased against him as a result. Your comment that Prager should be happy that nearly 1/3 of Hispanics voted for Trump anyway demonstrates that you understand this.

Separately, something like 25% of Hispanics are Republicans and vote accordingly, with a few centrists allowing for Republicans to pick up a bit more. The personality of the candidates largely doesn't matter. Mitt Romney, who to my knowledge didn't have a tendency to say negative things about Hispanics, did worse than Trump with Hispanic voters. Even John McCain only received 31%.

Hazel Meade writes:

I find the argument that Hispanics will vote Democratic (and therefore are bad for America), unpersuasive for the simple reason that people should not be judged based on how we think they will vote, especially when how they vote for isn't especially different from large percentages of the native population. Half the population already votes Democratic. Are they Unamerican? If we're going to have checkboxes for political alignment (which incidentally we already have for communism and "violent extremism"), we definitely shouldn't include "Democrat" on the list of disqualifying entries, because that's pretty easily changed to "Republican".
Or maybe what they are aiming for is some sort of system like in the pre-civil war period where for every slave state they had to admit a free state and vice versa. Immigration by proportional political alignment?

Jay writes:

"But let's say I'm wrong. There's a much more serious problem with this argument---it's not a good argument against immigration. An argument is something you use to try to convince people who disagree with you."

Scott, you said yourself in your first paragraph, the article isn't, as written, meant to be an argument against immigration, you're adding that interpretation onto it and then trying to take it down.

"I found this argument to be puzzling. Conservatives often seem to want to go back to the good old days, before modern liberalism ruined the country. But the "good old days" were a period of open borders."

Again...the author didn't mention the good old days once, you did, you seem to be setting up another strawman here.

David S writes:

Some conservatives suggest that allowing in lots of people with dark faces will change the nature of this country.

I believe you weaken your position by casting your opponents as racist. Indeed, I actually agree with you on net on immigration, and when I read this I felt that you were calling me a racist. On re-reading, I noted the word "some", and so I am unclear if I am accused of racism or not...

That said:

An estimated 70 to 80 percent of Latin American immigrants will vote Democratic.

I believe this is actually the strongest argument against immigration, though stated poorly. I would rather state it as "People fleeing from the effects of destroying their own country via poor voting habits tend to bring their poor voting habits with them."

Voting for Marxism doesn't work long term. Unfortunately, if you were raised in a state that was capsizing under Marxism, you are unlikely to have learned that.

Of course, this is really a non-issue currently because 1) immigration is very low, and 2) the second generation born from immigrants do not favor crazy economics at a higher rate than others in the US.

The best argument in favor of immigration is a five minute conversation with a recent immigrant from Somalia, and other areas of Africa.

Floccina writes:
After all, about 14% of Americans are African-Americans

I think it is only about 12%.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 12.3% of the U.S. population is black,
Brent Buckner writes:

Jay's comment puts me mind of a Jordan Peterson meme (Prager as Peterson, Dr. Sumner as Cathy Newman), e.g. https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1600/1*jcADP4VATtBi6VIVOVVyXA.png

Scott Sumner writes:

Mark, I agree with your last paragraph.

Regarding race, I did another post explaining my views. Basically Trump is his own worst enemy on this issue. If you are going to suggest we shouldn't be taking immigrants from places like Haiti and sub-Saharan Africa, you need a good story. The story can't be things like education, as most African immigrants (other than refugees) are very well educated. So what's the problem with these countries? How do you think most Americans (on both sides) would have interpreted Trump's remarks? Doesn't Trump know that those remarks would be interpreted through the lens of race?

Harding, You asked:

"Name three issues on which the foreign-born population is more in agreement with your policy views than the native-born."

Free trade? Immigration is good? Asian food is good?

Seriously, I'm not sure, but why would I want to bring in people who happen to agree with me, rather than say Paul Krugman? I have no way of knowing that my views are correct and Krugman's are wrong, so I certainly would not want America's immigration policy to be based of getting people with my particular views on politics. I'd simply want good people.

Alan, Yes, and who would pick the fruits and vegetables in California?

Jon, Good points.

pyroseed, You said:

"I also find it unusual that you seem to think that some of the groups you list do not have an identifying culture."

You misunderstood me. They do have a coherent culture. My point is that America is comprised of many such cultures. Regarding voting behavior, read Mark's final paragraph above. Or Hazel.

TMC, You said:

"Trump suggested that he could not get a fair trial because the judge was a member of la Raza, a Hispanic racist organization, not because the judge was Hispanic."

Sorry, but I actually saw the live TV interview where he made it clear that the problem was his campaign, which was perceived as being anti-Hispanic. That's why a Hispanic judge would not treat him fairly (in Trump's view). It's fine that he came up with the la Raza story later, but that's not the specific comment he said to the TV reporter that I am referring to.

No matter how hard you try, you can't sweep all of his controversial statement sunder the rug, they are in the public domain.

Justin, You said:

"I suspect Prager doesn't think Democrats are persuadable on the topic of lower immigration, and he's probably right."

That kind of thinking always ends up leaving you in the dustbin of history. Your argument should be appealing to both sides of the political spectrum, or else in the long run you'll always lose.

You said:

"Your comment that Prager should be happy that nearly 1/3 of Hispanics voted for Trump anyway demonstrates that you understand this."

So we both agree that it was widely perceived that Trump ran a campaign that was bigoted against Hispanics? Fine, but then you missed my point. In that case, suppose the GOP ran campaigns that actually appealed to Hispanics? How many votes would they get in that case? Why assume that Hispanics would not vote Republican in the future? I recall when it was assumed that white Catholics were Democratic voters. Now they lean Republican.

Most immigrants now come from Asia. Chinese voters like the GOP position on affirmative action, for instance. They also tend to like low taxes.

Hazel, Exactly my view.

Jay, You said:

Scott, you said yourself in your first paragraph, the article isn't, as written, meant to be an argument against immigration, you're adding that interpretation onto it and then trying to take it down."

No, I did not say that, indeed almost the opposite. I said the title gave that impression, but the conclusion gave readers the impression that this was indeed a set of arguments against immigration, or at least high levels of immigration. I also said people were free to disagree with my interpretation, which is fine. If Prager wants to correct me and state that he's not saying these are reasons to worry about immigration, I'll respond "fine, I accept that, but then please explain your final paragraph".

You said:

"Again...the author didn't mention the good old days once, you did, you seem to be setting up another strawman here."

The author made seemingly inexplicable claims about liberals not believing in America. I tried to make sense out of that. How does immigration make America less of a country? In many cases, when conservatives talk that way they are talking about America's historical traditions. That obviously doesn't fit here, which is my point. So his argument remains a mystery to me.

Perhaps I should have made that point clearer. Obviously I know that Prager understands our history on immigration.

ColoComment writes:

"Since 1965, the US has seen a huge surge in immigration, and yet the GOP has actually been gaining strength relative to the Democrats over the past 53 years, even over the past 5 years."

I think that James Taranto would throw this statement into his "Fox Butterfield" category, were he still writing Best of the Web Today for WSJ.

Can we think of any other changes to the national character since 1965 that may have had a greater influence on increasing the strength of the GOP?

Billy Kaubashine writes:

Neel Kashkari was probably correct when he wrote in a WSJ op-ed piece last week that 1 million more immigrants could be extremely beneficial to the United States economy. What he neglected to say was that only the RIGHT 1 million immigrants would benefit the economy.
The WRONG 1 million immigrants do no good for the US economy, and may do great harm.
If we don't set standards for who we want to admit, we leave it all to chance. And if we set standards but then don't enforce them, it's just a hoax perpetrated on the American people.

Scott Sumner writes:

Floccina, Wikipedia says 13.3% in 2016 (census figures).

Add in a few more from the large "other" category, and 14% seems about right.

Weir writes:

Donald Trump: "I think the judge has been extremely hostile to me. I think it has to do with perhaps the fact that I'm very, very strong on the border. Very, very strong on the border. And he has been extremely hostile to me. This is a case that in our opinion should have been won a long time ago. It's a case we should have won on summary judgment. We're nothing with this. This is a very--we have a very hostile judge. Now, he is Hispanic, I believe. He is a very hostile judge to me. I said it loud and clear. Now, the attorney general--"

Chris Wallace: "Why even bring up that he's Hispanic? I mean, it does raise a question."

Trump: "Because you always bring it up, Chris, because you always say how the Hispanics don't like Donald Trump. You always bring it up in your poll numbers. You say that Hispanics don't like Donald Trump. You're the one that brings it up--"

Wallace: "I don't think I ever brought that up. I don't think I ever brought it up."

Trump: "Ok, well, you always talk about the fact that Trump doesn't do well with--"

Wallace: "But you can't blame this one on me."

Trump: "Chris, will Trump do well with Hispanics? Now, in Nevada, I got 46 percent. I won with the Hispanics, ok? So, that's very good. But I can tell you, it's a very hostile judge. This is a judge that in my opinion does not like Donald Trump."

The paradox is that you are yourself saying, Scott, that people of Hispanic descent ought to be outraged on behalf of this judge. You're saying that people who had never heard of the judge in the Trump University case, people who don't know this guy from Adam, should feel a surge of racial resentment on behalf of a judge who was born in Indiana. You're saying the same thing as Trump, and also that he's a racist for saying what you're saying. You're saying that anyone who identifies as Hispanic ought to be prejudiced against Trump, while simultaneously saying that it's racist for Trump to say that this judge in particular is prejudiced against him.

I'm not saying you're racist. I won't go the full Dick Durbin and denounce you as "hate-filled, vile, and racist." Trump was referring to a specific judge. You go further than Trump when you say that everyone of Hispanic descent ought to be anti-Trump out of some tribal fellow-feeling, some sense of shared communitarian identity. But I am saying that you're making the same assumption about millions of people that Trump made about this one guy, which is that people are groupish, and they identify with complete strangers because that's what humans do. Our species is like that. Paul Krugman, as it happens, made the point that it's precisely the Hispanic handymen and gardeners making very little money who ought to object to competition from additional Hispanic handymen and gardeners making very little money. But that's economic self-interest, one of the weaker forces.

Our species can't help itself. We divide ourselves into ethnic camps even at the expense of our economic self-interest. Prager believes that a nation ought to unite people of different ethnicities. "One nation conservatism" is Benjamin Disraeli's name for it, instead of the "two Americas" that John Edwards played up in his campaign, or the dozens of different identity groups on Hillary's list. Trump talks about countries, and Dick Durbin translates that into people instead. Trump talks about countries, and Durbin changes the subject to races instead. You say, "Doesn't Trump know that those remarks would be interpreted through the lens of race?" But most Americans aren't university professors. Campus nationalists and tenured racists interpret everything through the lens of race, but most Americans hear the word "countries" and think it's a reference to countries. You were talking about what "most Americans" believe, but most Americans keep talking about a policy that selects for skilled workers, and you can't hear them. You change the subject to race instead.

There's a tradition in America of university admissions departments picking and choosing between different applicants. Another tradition is that police departments hire people based on whether they can pass the admissions test. The Marines prefer fit and disciplined applicants to overweight schlubs. Congress is familiar with the same principle: rival candidates compete in elections, and although it's easier to get elected if your last name is Kennedy or Clinton or Bush, you aren't automatically a Senator by virtue of being related to a Senator. And that's what most Americans believe. You say it's "un-American" (your word) to discriminate between more promising and less promising candidates. But comparison shopping isn't really "utterly inconsistent with our heritage" is it? Choosing between alternatives is also an American tradition. In some countries it's their immigration policy.

American immigration policy solves the problem of a cousin shortage. If the problem is that you're throwing a big family reunion in your backyard, and you need more cousins at the party, then American immigration policy is perfect for addressing the shortage of cousins. But Americans want to talk about economics. It's the economists who change the subject to race instead. You say, "An argument is something you use to try to convince people who disagree with you." But if the people who disagree with you are talking about economic self-interest, and you keep changing the subject to race instead, what kind of argument is that? Is "shut up" an argument?

To your credit, your digression about "some conservatives" doesn't pretend to link Dennis Prager to the nameless racists you're talking about. When Prager's talking about "left-wing parties in Western Europe" and "the English Left," he's talking about Brexit. You talk about racial and cultural purity instead. Racial and cultural purity is an obsession of the campus racists and nationalist sociologists. Cultural appropriation is deeply offensive to academic racists and pro-apartheid professors, but it's not what Prager was talking about. He's talking about the European Commission replacing the "anachronism" that is England's parliament, and you didn't respond to that. Prager's talking about the American flag and the national anthem, and you didn't respond to that. And as for Prager's other point, there's already an entire book on the subject of what Thomas Sowell calls "self-congratulation as a basis for social policy." A carbon tax is the best and latest example of that. It would postpone global warming by 37 hours. What's the utilitarian argument for that?

E. Harding writes:

"Free trade?"
What evidence do you have to suggest the foreign born favor free trade more than the native-born?
"Immigration is good?"
So you support immigration... for the sake of immigration?
"Asian food is good?"
Where do you get the idea Asian food is liked more by the foreign-born in general than the native-born in general? Statistics, please.

"Seriously, I'm not sure, but why would I want to bring in people who happen to agree with me, rather than say Paul Krugman?"
Do you seriously suggest you do not want your policy views promoted in this country? If so, why have them? In any case, I certainly do not consider Krugman a good person in any sense, and I would see no reason for him to permanently move to the U.S. were he born overseas.

E. Harding writes:

"What evidence do you have to suggest the foreign born favor free trade more than the native-born?"
Whoops; apparently such evidence has been found; Sumner was right on this one.

Mark writes:

Scott,

No, Trump doesn't know that his remarks will be interpreted through the lens of race, nor should they be. He should've known they would be, of course, because a politicians should know better.

The problem, again, is your cherry-picking. Trump says Haiti and El Salvador are bad, Norway and Asia are good. You only seem to hear "Norway good, Haiti bad." But why? Why do so many people have such selective hearing, that they only hear him describing the white country as good, and the black one as bad? It's difficult not to conclude that people are simply hearing what they want to in order to reach a preconceived conclusion.


And I think you're shooting yourself in the foot with Krugman as your example. Even if he's entirely right (and there are cases aplenty where his views have been demonstrably wrong, despite his delusions of grandeur) his character is enough to make me not want more of him coming here. I consider his net productivity to be negative at this point. Christina Romer or Richard Thaler might've been a better example for this audience.

pyroseed13 writes:

Scott, I agree with Mark above that it is true that overtime immigrants become a bit more like us overtime (and we also, I would submit, become a bit more like them). See Garrett Jones on this. But that pace of assimilation, and whether it happens at all, depends on the raw numbers of people we allow into our country. I am not in favor of having a political test for entry, or even saying more broadly that we should never let anyone in who might vote differently than we would like. My point is that the larger the population of anyone group, the less likely assimilation becomes. This is why I would prefer less Hispanic immigration overall and more immigration from elsewhere.

Hazel Meade writes:

@pyroseed,

How do you define the "us" in "like us"? There are lots and lots of Americans with Hispanic ancestry that dates back further than the last 20-30 years. We acquired a huge amount of territory from Mexico in the Spanish American war. Also the accession of Texas included a lot of people with Hispanic ancestry. Also, Florida has many Hispanics. Are those people included in the "us" that the Hispanics need to assimilate to?

Justin D writes:

--"That kind of thinking always ends up leaving you in the dustbin of history. Your argument should be appealing to both sides of the political spectrum, or else in the long run you'll always lose."--

I agree in general but this is a partisan issue. Democrats benefit politically from higher immigration and Republicans are hurt by it, which is the primary reason there is conflict on this issue to begin with. If Republicans cave on immigration, they lose part of their base immediately and should expect more Democratic voters in the long run. Likewise, if Democrats cave on immigration, they lose part of their base immediately and should expect fewer Democratic voters in the long run.

What is Prager supposed to say to convince Democrats to change their minds? Why should Prager be criticized for trying to make an argument to conservatives who are still persuadable on the issue?

--"Fine, but then you missed my point. In that case, suppose the GOP ran campaigns that actually appealed to Hispanics? How many votes would they get in that case?"--

Bush did exactly that and was only able to net 40%. Since that was 16 years prior to the 2020 election and millennials tend to be more liberal than prior generations, the ceiling might well be 35% now. At the same time, appealing to Hispanics will likely cause many Trump voters to stay home.

--"Why assume that Hispanics would not vote Republican in the future? I recall when it was assumed that white Catholics were Democratic voters. Now they lean Republican."--

The Democratic Party lost many Catholic voters because they began to take political positions inconsistent with Catholic orthodoxy. What would the catalyst be for Democrats be to push away 20-30% of their current Hispanic voters? Why, in other words, should we believe the white Catholic experience is a more plausible future for Hispanic voters than the California experience?

--"Most immigrants now come from Asia. Chinese voters like the GOP position on affirmative action, for instance. They also tend to like low taxes."--

But Asians tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic too, and not just in 2016. McCain won only 35% of Asian votes, and Romney just 26%.

I agree with you that this isn't a good policy reason to curtail Asian immigration or immigration in general (I personally am pro-immigration and am comfortable with current levels), but it's a political reason for Republicans to want to do so. I so far haven't seen any convincing rebuttals to the Republican concern that high immigration constitutes a serious risk to their future electoral success, and thus I find it hard to criticize them for not being so sanguine about immigration.

Lorenzo from Oz writes:

The Republicans have done better in high migration periods and the Democrats in low migration periods. State social solidarity programs are generally easier to support the more homogenous your population is might have something to do it with.

Folk tend to have different reactions to legal and illegal migration, though the way a lot of polling is done in the US, it is hard to tease that out. But it would be better if they were treated as two different issues.

E. Harding writes:

"If not your statement is rather strange given a large amount of European migration that took place during the 19th century."

I meant what I said. You forget natural population growth in the U.S. was much, much higher in the olden days than it is today.

Hazel Meade writes:

I think the underlying problem in this debate is that many people do not recognize that America has always historically been a multi-cultural society. During colonial times, there were large numbers of Native Americans. During the 19th century, 30-40% of the population in Southern US states was black, including the period when they were slaves, and during reconstruction. And after the Mexican American war, the US acquired territories with significant pre-existing Hispanic populations. Also, California has had significant Asian populations dating back to the transport of Chinese workers to the US to build railroads across the West. But culturally those people were not regarded as American. Thus the underlying issues is a crisis over what the American identity is. If America is regarded as a historically white European country, then large numbers of non-European immigrants threaten that identity. If America is regarded as a multi-ethnic society which has always been multi-ethnic but has never accepted it's non-white members, then they don't, and the rejection of non-white immigrants becomes an extension of the historical exclusion of non-white ethnic groups from American society.

POST A COMMENT




Return to top