Immigration, Inequality and Pie


Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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135 Responses

  1. Avatar Katherine says:

    The arguments being made by conservatives on immigration always seem to assume that illegal immigrants are nothing but a burden on the economy/the state and never will be anything else, and that allowing people who want to work in the country and contribute to its prosperity to do so is some kind of concession or gift.

    To me, the problem with illegal immigration is and always has been that illegal immigrants are living outside of the legal framework, which leaves them open to exploitation. This is bad for them, because they get jobs that are unhealty, dangerous, and underpaid, and bad for American workers generally, because it enables employers to skirt American labor laws and avoid hiring people for reasonable wages under decent working conditions.

    The tendency – evident in every comments section on any media site that I’ve read relating to the Vargas story – to view illegal immigrants as almost subhuman is deeply disturbing.Report

    • Avatar Scott in reply to Katherine says:


      The figures I’ve seen on the web indicate that illegals cost CA about 10 billion dollars. If that isn’t a burden I don’t know what is. As for them living outside the legal framework, they put themselves outside the law when they chose to enter the US illegally.Report

      • Avatar Simon K in reply to Scott says:

        Cite, please.Report

        • Avatar Scott in reply to Simon K says:


          Here you go

          Washington times says $10 billion

          LA Times says well over $5 billion.

          • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Scott says:

            Scott, what’s odd is that even when the cite is presented in these call-outs, it seems to make no difference to the other fellow anyway. Not you specifically, Simon, but it’s a phenomenon. It hardly seems worth the effort to reply; the courtesy is seldom even acknowledged.Report

            • Avatar Scott in reply to tom van dyke says:


              I don’t mind being asked to provide my source. I should have included it in the first place.Report

            • Avatar Simon K in reply to tom van dyke says:

              It won’t make difference to my opinion on immigration as such, since both ideologically and practically I don’t have much choice. And newspaper articles about studies from anti-immigration thinktanks aren’t the most though-provoking sources possible, but nonetheless there were a couple of interesting tidbits in there.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Simon K says:

                Californians have to eat $5-10B for illegals, then get called racists for not liking it, by people in ivory towers and in other states who have no skin in the game.

                Hey, I’ve been a dove on illegals, and on the whole they get respect as hard-working and honest folk.

                But that’s the illegals you see, out at the Home Depot looking for work, or selling oranges and flowers on the offramp.

                Fact is, California has 18,000 illegals in jail, at cost of $1B.

                2008:All statistics give the fraction of households in the LA metro area that receive some type of assistance–either cash, food stamps, or Medicaid:

                All households: 20.9%
                Native households: 12.7%
                Immigrant households: 33.2%
                Immigrant households with a citizen head: 26.4%
                Immigrant households with a non-citizen head: 40.1%

                Just to put things in context, 40% of households in the LA metro area are immigrant households.

                That’s from a Harvard prof, Simon, and I’ll tell you something else–the reason you only find this stuff on “anti-immigrant” websites is…well, you know damn well why.


                California’s broke, I mean really broke, LA is overcrowded, housing and rental prices are still nuts. There comes a point when a problem really is a problem; it’s bad enough some people ignore reality, but it’s not right for them to expect others to live with it.

                We have a problem.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to tom van dyke says:

                Yes, poor people tend to receive social assistance. Film at Eleven.

                And California’s not broke. It just needs to start back on the path to fiscal sanity by repealing Prop 13.Report

              • You got skin in this game, Brother Ewiak?Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to tom van dyke says:

                In the sense I was once (and by some measures) am a poor person? Yes

                In the sense I own real estate in California? Not so much.Report

              • Hmmm, Jesse. This is picking up a kind of U2-Bono vibe, the tax thing, y’know? You heard about it, yes?

                Perhaps not—I’m not finding anything in the US press.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:


                Why should CA have to rearrange their laws so they can afford to support a bunch of illegals? What are the other states with lots of illegals supposed to do?Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to Scott says:

                I’m not sure to what extent I support the obvious answer, but seeing as I think it’s obvious I’ll put it out there anyway:

                Those illegals don’t exist in a vacuum. They are there because California’s economy is to a large extent based upon their cheap labor, both in agricultural/manufacturing for out of state exports and cheaper in state services that allow native families more disposable income. If California is not going to get serious about the problem by focusing more punitive actions against those that hire and live off of illegals*, it has a moral obligation to help take care of them. Otherwise, the economic “having your cake and eating it too” comes a little too close to slave labor.

                *(I’ve always felt it was a bit of a tell that the right seems to find the situation apocalyptic enough to build a wall and beef up border security and go on about how the country is minutes away from falling, but not apocalyptic enough to nip the problem in the bud by focusing on the other end with any gusto.)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Scott says:

                You ready for the arguments? Decide for yourself how much merit they have:

                Given the demographics of illegal immigrants, employers will be more likely to dig deeper into the Social Security cards or Driver’s Licenses of people from a particular background.

                Let’s say that an employer gives Social Security and Driver’s Licenses for all applicants the same whether they be a high school kid looking for a summer job or a laborer who happens to have overstayed a work visa (which is to say, photocopies it, throws it in a file cabinet). To what extent ought he be held liable if the worker lied about his or her work status?

                To what extent is “intent” important when it comes to breaking a law such as “don’t hire undocumented human beings who are only here trying to make a better life for themselves and their families”?Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to Scott says:

                Yeah, I’m not convinced. I’ll still argue that the reason hiring illegals is so prevalent is that the cost of hiring them, and paying the occasional fines as they are currently set, is far far more profitable than not hiring them at all.

                I could be totally wrong, but my observations of business owners (especially in agi-biz and manufacturing) tells me those are arguments to use to defang a critic, not philosophies on you have decided to run your business.Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to tom van dyke says:

                Speaking as the non-citizen head of a household that had “some kind of assistance” in the past year, I don’t think the good professors statistics prove what he thinks they do. I have fairly good reasons to believe we’re not a burden on the state of California. A Harvard professorship gives you many things. Infallability isn’t one of them. Apparently nor is the ability tell the difference between “illegals” (charming term) and legal immigrants. This sort of half-arsed “research” – a guy with tenure running a database query he can’t even be bothered to document properly and doesn’t even understand – is precisely why we should be skeptical about reports from bodies that exist to push only one side of the issue.

                That said, Tom, even if you had gold plated research showing that California’s entire budget deficit was being spent on welfare payments for illegal immigrants, you’re still not going to change my mind on this one. People are assets, not liabilities. If the reasearch really shows otherwise – which it doesn’t – the problem isn’t that people are coming here, the problem is that we’re making them illegal.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Simon K says:

                Yes, my original point is that the facts don’t matter anyway, Simon. You have your ideology and I have to shut up and pay for it.

                But I do appreciate your honesty. Cheers.Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to tom van dyke says:

                Not my point at all, Tom. But play the victim if you like.Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to tom van dyke says:

                Which is to say, in case you really didn’t understand, that rather than throwing out bullshit statistics, wouldn’t it be better to discuss this precisely at the level of ideology?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to tom van dyke says:

                For my part, I do find it irritating to be asked for numbers to substantiate my points, to provide them, and then to have both my numbers and points waved away.Report

              • Well, Simon, you called Scott out for the cite, and then ignored it when he gave it to you. I was commenting on this phenomenon; JB has experienced it too, and finds it as annoying as I do.

                Now you switch to discussing the issue on ideological grounds, while accusing me of “playing the victim.” But such rhetoric is dirty pool and you know it. Further, I and the taxpayers of California are actually the ones set upon here, paying the bills for somebody else’s ideology. That’s just the fact, and it’s incumbent on you to explain exactly why we’re morally or ideologically liable to pay for illegals—or even legals like yourself—out of public funds.

                On the whole, there seems little good faith ground in play here, either formally or interpersonally. I was done with this when you frankly admitted you don’t care whether illegal immigration has a negative effect or not—which was my point, and one you illustrated brightly.Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to tom van dyke says:

                Jay -I’m not waving away the numbers Scott provided. I commented elsewhere on what I take from them. It would take more time than I have to track down and say anything very interesting about the original sources, so what’s wrong with “that’s interesting but isn’t going to change my mind” as a response? There were things Scott could have said that would have started a more interesting conversation. If I waved away something you said elsewhere, I probably didn’t mean to, if its any comfort.

                Tom – When you say “You have your ideology and I have to shut up and pay for it” you’re attributing to me a truly extraordinary degree of power over you. I don’t know what you think my role in perpetuating the status quo is but I don’t see how I could either make you shut up or pay 1c of your money for anything, nor do I especially wish to do so. I don’t know what you’d prefer to call this rhetorical tactic, but whatever it is, please stop it. For the record, I pay well above average California taxes and I can’t even vote. I choose to do that, so I’m not complaining, but if there’s some power imbalance here, its probably on your side.

                And of course I care whether illegal immigration has a negative effect or not, otherwise why would I be bothering? My point was that you’re not going to talk me into further rules trying to prevent or deter immigration or trying to discriminate against immigrants by citing the costs, because in my view the costs derive from the “illegal” part of “illegal immigrant”, not the “immigrant” part. This is where I was going, although I realize I wasn’t entirely clear.Report

              • Simon, “you” meant “y’all,” as in apologists for illegal immigration. As for your own situation, I’ve seldom found personal anecdote helpful: for one thing, to challenge it is to attack the other fellow personally. Arms-length is the only way to proceed civilly, IMO.

                As for differentiating the “illegal” from “immigrant,” ta-da! Canada, as you know, is quite stringent in accepting only the cream of the crop; NZ, as I recall, won’t even take fat people because they’ll mess up their health care system!

                I wrote that I’ve been a dove even on the illegals. I’ve been in CA for 30 years and marveled that we managed to accommodate them. But 18000 of ’em in California prisons and a busted budget across the board is what must now be called a “problem.”Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. in reply to tom van dyke says:

                Well, I don’t know that Canada takes the cream of the crop- I mean, they took me! (rimshot!)

                But I have wondered if something like the point system that Canada uses for immigration wouldn’t ease a lot of the tensions down there in the states because it makes it very clear what people need to do in order to immigrate easily and quickly, while also selecting traits like education level and language skills that locals really like their immigrants to have. It always seems weird to me when I’d meet these ultra-achieving Chinese exchange students in the US colleges that we let them get these advanced degrees knowing that they’re outperforming their American counterparts and then send them back to use their skills over there so they don’t get any leg up over any other group of immigrants.

                Of course, something to remember is that Canada has a declining birthrate and the government is actively trying to combat that by advertising in other countries to immigrate to Canada. They’re especially big on med students because plenty of Canadian med students get their degrees and then go practice in the US where they can make the big bucks. But that’s a whole other can of worms, eh?Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to tom van dyke says:

                “Of course, something to remember is that Canada has a declining birthrate and the government is actively trying to combat that by advertising in other countries to immigrate to Canada. ”

                Far more awesome would be a national ad campaign to encourage boinking.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to tom van dyke says:

                Lower the price on Molson and bring the Hewitts back to life and put them on Hockey Night in Canada again.

                Birthrates in Canada have never recovered.Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to tom van dyke says:

                Tom – I only bought up my own position to point out that your Harvard guy’s database query doesn’t show what he thinks it does. If an legal immigrant in a upper tax bracket falls into his illegal-burden-on-the-state bucket, there’s something wrong with his buckets and I happened to have a perfect counterexample on hand. The sort of sloppiness he exhibited is precisely what we don’t need in this discussion.

                I’m not much interested in being lumped in with other “apologists” I probably don’t agree with. Illegal immigration is a consequence of unenforceable laws. Its a corrosive and corrupting influence. Its a bad thing, so I’m not much interested in apologising for it. The question is, what do you do about that?

                Regarding points systems – they’re a good idea, but I’m skeptical about the US context. The sort of quiet technocratic fiddling they involve doesn’t happen much in US politics. Are we really going to allocate enough points to farmworkers and construction laborers to stop them trying to walk across the border? Somehow I think not. Something more along the lines of “come at your own risk, and if you can look after yourself we’ll talk a about residency when you’ve filled these requirements” would seem more more in keeping with American norms.Report

              • Well, Simon, Borjas’ was a back-of-the-envelope blog post. I don’t obsess on the data because it’s a lost cause for reasons given: it gets ignored in these discussions anyway. When the data goes the wrong way, were promptly into moral sentiments and “rights talk.” We’re all technocrats except when that doesn’t work.

                My core points are untouched: a) the epistemology game is a waste of time and b) people with no skin in the game—non-California taxpayers—presume to lecture CA taxpayers on moral sentiment grounds. Easy for them, and quite the same as Bono dodging his Ireland taxes while lecturing gov’ts on foreign aid.

                As for your own case, it’s clearly the exception, not the rule, that somehow you took public assistance while still paying back far more in tax. It’s simply not worth unpacking on a formal or interpersonal level.

                As for legal immigration, my neighbors are Chinese, and speak English rather so-so. He’s an epidemiologist and she’s a rocket scientist, rather modest on the food chain, not university profs or anything. They’re also wonderful neighbors. The US is better for their residency. [In fact, they are now citizens.]

                Illegal immigration is a consequence of unenforceable laws.

                I don’t buy that, or the “solution” of yet another amnesty. Unenforced laws, yes. I would think Canada and/or wherever you’re from originally do a much better job. The fat chick couldn’t even get into New Zealand. My God, the moral sentiments would go through the roof if they tried that in the US.

                [Or not. Our left has little sympathy for fatties.]Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to tom van dyke says:

                1. Who said anything about amnesty? Fixing the policy regime is the main issue. What to do about people already here is secondary. At worst, just make them go through whatever the new process is.

                2. If you want your data to be taken seriously, don’t post bad data. Scott and Jaybird didn’t. Data doesn’t change people’s minds, but it does contribute useful context.

                3. If you think California’s benefit programs go mostly to people who haven’t paid enough taxes to pay for them, you need to look at them more closely. Only TANF and Medicaid do so. Both programs pay only for citizens and permanent residents. They weren’t the only programs included in the data used for the blog post you referenced, not are they the main source of the costs the FAIR study Scott reference allocated to illegal immigrants. Overwhelmingly, that is K-12 education, followed by emergency room care at a very distant second.Report

              • Fine, Simon. K-12 costs work fine. These are not workers. Whatever. You already blew out the costs question anyway in favor of the moral sentiments question, which is why I didn’t bother with the costs question in the first place.

                Which was my main point. Thumbwrestling in Jell-O.Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to tom van dyke says:

                Parents who work generally have children that need to be in school. I’m happy to talk about costs if you have something interesting to say beyond “there is a budget deficit, immigrants are expensive”. I don’t see how that gets us anywhere much. Lots of things are expensive, where to cut is a question of values.Report

              • Again you return to “values,” Simon, and the expectation that the CA taxpayer must pay to realize yours. [“Y’all’s.”]

                Sales taxes run 9+%. An illegal would have to make $100K to pay for one K-12 child. At $1000 rent, the fraction that goes to property tax is well below the $9K it costs for a K-12 child.

                Spaghetti-against-the-wall factoids obscure the issue. From a comprehensive attempt to determine total taxes paid by illegals

                Note: While California may have realized $2.7 billion from taxes paid by illegal immigrants in 2010, a 2004 report by the Federation for American Immigration Reform showed that California spends over $10.5 billion annually on the education, health care and incarceration of its illegal immigrant population.


                So it’s back to “values,” and who y’all expect to pay for them. Just asking for one ball at a time to be in play, your choice.Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to tom van dyke says:

                I’m not interested in having you pay for anything, Tom. I want to know what it is you want to do – that’s the question of values in my view. But lets look at this from the cost angle if you prefer. For myself, I’ve got three fairly basic premises here:

                1. Its expensive to enforce the existing law. We keep trying, by blockading the border, and it keeps not working. We can try by going after employers instead if you like, but thats going to be even more expensive. At least the border stays still.

                2. There’s an overwhelmingly large supply of willing labor at current wages even given the extra costs of having to enter the country illegally and then hide from the authorities. That would imply you could increase those wages and employers would still be okay and employees would still come.

                3. Whatever social costs we’ve currently got are the costs of a low income population plus lost income from the difficulty in taxing people who can’t legally be paid. Raise the income, and get rid of the tax problem, you’d lower the costs.

                That points solidly to expanded legal immigration as the cheapest option, doesn’t it? Let people come, apply current laws regarding wages and taxes to their pay, let them stay if it works out, and use the money to pay the current social costs.

                But it has to be immigration by the people currently coming illegally, or it won’t help you. Adding more software engineers doesn’t help with the demand for strawberry pickers and drywall installers. If anything it increases it.Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to tom van dyke says:

                I realize on re-reading that point 3 is incoherent. What I meant to say is that increasing the prevailing wage in illegal-immigrant-dominated jobs to legal levels would reduce the number of such jobs, but the fact the added costs of illegal immigration are currently being borne somewhere implies that cost could also be borne.Report

              • Simon, I don’t think we enforce the laws or the border, therefore I don’t accept your premise. Legalizing foreign poor people does nothing; our own citizen poor are a net drain economically, and pay no income tax. How could we benefit by creating more of them? Sales taxes don’t swing it.

                For the record, I’m really not worked up over all this: California politics re immigration are intractable and hell, I voted for Jerry Brown because only a Democrat can do anything with this top-to-bottom fiscal mess.

                The lack of clarity on the issue is what bugs me. And the demagoguery really sets me off—yes, there are a small number of xenophobes whom the press pushes out front to discredit any legitimate concern over the problem—but the real demagoguery is directed at anyone who doesn’t accept the freakonomic assertion that illegal immigration is somehow good for us.

                Yes, there are benefits from importing a certain amount of cheap labor, but there’s a critical mass question, and it has hit the fan as we speak.

                And it drives theorists nuts, but sometimes there is no formal political solution to every problem. It’s said a million illegals have headed home because of the bad economy in the US. Perhaps illegal immigration is a self-adjusting ecosphere.

                But speaking in the meta-, California would be better off without unskilled illegals filling every nook and cranny of its economic ecosphere, less upward pressure on housing costs, and drawing more folks like yrself ala Canada instead. There’s no shortage of skilled people worldwide who’d like to live and work in California, and we could create a lot more wealth with them than with service workers.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Simon K says:

                Simon :

                How can the folks that come here illegally and then suck up education and social services be an asset? Just b/c you are a human being doesn’t make you an asset, you have to contribute something. Most of these folks have no education and cannot contribute anything other than manual labor. If they choose to assimilate, maybe in three generations they might be an asset but I’d prefer to have to support them that long.Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to Scott says:

                This is where the question of how we look at things comes into play. We might as well call it ideology, although if you have a better word I’d be interested, because “ideology” implies falsehood, and I don’t think either viewpoint here is false or even really falsifiable. Whatever data either of us may have is explicable from the other point of view, which doesn’t mean its not interesting, its just not going to change anyone’s attitude to this problem.

                When I consider this situation, I see people coming here to work hard to get a better life for their families, and taking initiative and considerable risk to do it. They’ve weighed our efforts to deter them against being stuck in a shack in Mihoacan with their entire family and no work, and made a choice. Can we agree this is accurate, at least for a majority?

                But you look at this situation and see people who’ve broken the law and not only gotten away with it but also benefited from American services they weren’t entitled to. This isn’t wrong, at least taken broadly. We can debate precisely how much immigrants get in unpaid-for services, versus how much they work, but its all a little beside the point because I see the first set of facts as being overwhelmingly more important than the second, and you see the second as being overwhelmingly more important than the first (or at least from our previous conversations I gather you do – correct me if I’m wrong).

                From my point of view, people with hard work and initiative are likely to become assets, even if they’re not right now, if we lift the cloak of illegality from them. From your point of view, I suspect that’s irrelevant because they broke the law, and anyway they’d be taking jobs from Americans. From my point of view, talk about “taking jobs” is a kind of category error, because hard working people create new jobs. From your point of view, that’s irrelevant because we’d be rewarding bad behavior. Right?

                At a policy level, I don’t think this is impossible to resolve, but we’ve got to actually understand the two ideological positions first.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Scott says:

                Well, exactly, Simon. Now you’re doing the moral sentiment thing. Obliterating the notions of citizenship and sustainability. You show why the epistemology thing is a mug’s game. You asked Scott for a cite of the stats, and when you got it, shifted to a parallel dimension.

                That was my main point.

                My own meta-argument is that we do Mexico no favors by siphoning off their best people while their country spirals deeper and deeper into the shithole. If they want a decent country [and many or most illegals do not want to become Americans], then they have to stay there and make it one. The current dynamic makes failure an option, and a perennial if not permanent one, and another round of amnesty isn’t going to fix it.

                As for “hardworking people creating new jobs,” that’s too nebulous and unspecific to even discuss. If it were strictly true, these hard-working people could stay home and do it in Mexico. Outside the farmworker question, shutting off the tide of illegals would leave us with fewer restaurants and shabbier-looking lawns, neither one a particular threat to the republic.

                Were the virtually millions of illegals not driving up housing prices to dizzying levels, perhaps California would attract more native-born Americans who would be more conducive to growing a more dynamic economy.

                More skilled and educated persons like yourself per the Canadian model, if you follow me here. ;-}Report

              • Avatar RTod in reply to Simon K says:

                “Our left has little sympathy for fatties.”

                Tell that to Michael Moore.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to RTod says:

                Also, Canada and New Zealand’s immigration model works fine because one is an island and the other’s only border is the biggest economy in the world. Throw a Third World nation on the edge of Canada or New Zealand and all of the sudden, they’d have a immigration problem as well.

                Also, the only California taxes that illegal immigrats don’t pay is income tax and even that is a question as many use false Social Security numbers that still get taxes taken out automatically.

                Oh, and as far as taking jobs, go, I refer you to crops going bad in Georgia since they passed their version of SB70. (

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to RTod says:

                Mr. Ewiak, the math doesn’t remotely hold up on this. As for farmworkers, nobody anywhere is opposed to guest worker programs.Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to RTod says:

                Except whoever it was who made is so difficult and expensive to get H2 visas. And whoever it was who decided not to have an actual guest worker program.Report

          • Avatar Simon K in reply to Scott says:

            Thanks Scott. Interestingly, the biggest cost it points to is K-12 education, which I can believe. Thats the main thing I was interested in. I’m skeptical of the the estimate of tax revenue, though. Sales tax is going to be a very large factor and I don’t see where you’d get that from.Report

  2. Avatar tom van dyke says:

    No more than Democrats with bases or defense factories in their districts. And jobs are way down the list of conservative arguments for robust defense spending anyway. Swing and a miss on this one.

    conservatives argue that it will lead to job losses, a downturn in the economy, and so forth.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Schilling says:

    Another thing that doesn’t worry most conservatives is what’s spent on prisons. Three-strikes laws and tough-on-crime ever increasing sentences and non-existent paroles are extremely popular among conservatives, and rarely if ever, in my experience, discussed in terms of cost-benefit. The general conservative response to the court’s recent decision on prison overcrowding was “Fishing activist judges! What do they want prisons to be like, a Hilton?”Report

  4. Avatar KenB says:

    If you haven’t already, take a look at this post by Adam Ozimek, guesting for McArdle — a natural experiment in mass immigration showed no effect on jobs or wages.Report

    • Avatar Simon K in reply to KenB says:

      Ah, but you see they were right-wing illegal immigrants. Makes all the difference.Report

    • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to KenB says:

      “The employment rate of black men, and particularly of low-skill black men, fell precipitously from 1960 to 2000. At the same time, their incarceration rate rose. This paper examines the relation between immigration and these trends in employment and incarceration. Using data from the 1960-2000 U.S. Censuses, we find that a 10-percent immigration-induced increase in the supply of workers in a particular skill group reduced the black wage of that group by 2.5 percent, lowered the employment rate by 5.9 percentage points, and increased the incarceration rate by 1.3 percentage points.”

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to tom van dyke says:

        Correlation is causality.Report

        • Avatar Chris in reply to Jason Kuznicki says:

          I love that Tom considers social science research a trump card when it agrees with his views, and considers it hopelessly biased when it does not.

          Still, the paper he mentions doesn’t rely on simple correlation. They use some pretty sophisticated modeling (regression) techniques to look at the relationship between immigration and the various outcome variables (wages, employment, incarceration). It’s a pretty interesting paper, and it will definitely be interesting to see where the research goes from there. For now, it shows that a relatively small portion of the change in employment and incarceration is related to a wave of immigrants. However, if we were going to come up with some policy goals based on this research, I think it would be something along the lines of increasing education outcomes for African Americans, since the bulk of the impact in the paper occurs for high school dropouts.

          Tom doesn’t think about this as a researcher, of course. As he’s shown before, if a study confirms his prejudices, it’s the last and only study that matters; replication be damned!Report

          • Avatar kenB in reply to Chris says:

            This venom towards Tom seems unnecessary — I posted a link to some research that suggested no ill effects overall in a particular instance, and he countered with a link to some research that suggested some ill effects for certain populations over a longer period of time. They’re not mutually exclusive, and I don’t see where Tom is suggesting what you’re attributing to him.Report

            • Avatar Chris in reply to kenB says:

              ken, you have to understand that Tom is a frequent critic of social science research as a whole when it is presented as evidence against his positions, but will occasionally find one study that supports his views and throw it out as though it were the only study that could possibly matter. So yeah, the venom is necessary.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Chris says:

                Thx, KenB. Yes, I am a frequent critic of the social science establishment’s politicization. This of course earns me venom from it and its sympathizers. Venom is how they do business, and why research [and researchers] contradicting leftist orthodoxy are difficult to find.

                But my main point here wasn’t about the measurable negative effect of illegal immigration, it was that in the end, the facts and data don’t matter to its apologists either way, as Simon honestly admits.Report

        • Now, now, Jason. One must find correlation before alleging cause. In this case, I chose George Borjas because he’s a critic of the linked David Card study, Borjas being one of the few in the academy who stands against its orthodoxy.

          I should have made that clear, but these epistemology wars lead nowhere anyway and it just didn’t seem worth the effort.

          At best in these things, I can open the door that perhaps Definitive Study X isn’t definitive afterall.Report

  5. Avatar E.C. Gach says:

    I’ve also had problems with the constant reference to “the law” in these scenarios.

    Clearly from the stand point of having an effective immigration policy, whatever system that’s in place needs to be reinforced through incentives/sanctions.

    But often with immigration it’s talked about in moral terms as if one immigrant is less deserving than another because they weren’t willing to wait patiently and go through the bureaucratic rigamarole as some others might. Sure, we have laws in place and if they are in place should be upheld. And, it might be argued that an immigrant willing to break the law to come to this country might continue breaking the law once here (I don’t buy that correlation personally).

    But to make it a matter of personal virtue is silly.Report

  6. Avatar Ken Hoop says:

    The leftists who like driving wages of the worker down by following identity politics are also hypocrites. And Buchananite conservative types
    have called for reduction in military spending, outputs and wars for decades. Too bad Obama is on the hawks side.Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird says:

    There’s a cultural issue that nobody likes to talk about because it sounds like an accusation of racism which allows it to be dismissed by folks on the one side because, of course, they aren’t racist while, at the same time, allows the folks on the other side dismiss any legitimate concerns involving the cultural issue because, hey, racism.

    There are language issues fundamentally because the majority of the illegal immigrants walk here and they are only walking from one of the two countries bordering these United States and it ain’t the country that speaks English.Report

    • Avatar Will in reply to Jaybird says:

      Indeed. Mark and I had a pretty lengthy exchange on the issue of cultural assimilation a few months back.Report

    • Avatar Simon K in reply to Jaybird says:

      I always wonder where people get statistics on what “the majority” of people who by definition have to hide themselves really are like. Apparently the majority of illegal immigrants are Mexican, from Central America, not hispanic at all, hardworking, honest, law-abiding, criminals, coming here only to live on our welfare system, intent on staying permanently and want to leave once they’ve made some money. If there were no other reason for immigration reform, it would still be worth doing just to work out who on earth it is we’re talking about here.

      Not directed at you specifically Jaybird. But I would point out that most of those given amnesty last time – admittedly a while ago – did not walk across the border, they overstayed visas or visa waivers. A great many illegal immigrants still do that.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Simon K says:

        Here is a site that explains that 75% of illegal immigrants come from countries South of “the border”. 61% are from Mexico.

        Wikipedia has the percentage at 62%.

        Is there a phrasing you wish I’d use instead?Report

        • Avatar Simon K in reply to Jaybird says:

          No. Its a serious question. Where on earth do people get these numbers from? I see the data on the website is sourced, but the sources are a series of papers entitled “estimates”. Estimated how?Report

          • Avatar James K in reply to Simon K says:

            You know, that’s a good question. Is someone out there conducting surveys? Mind you, the term “estimate” can hide a multitude of sins. You can always produce an estimate, no matter how little data you have – whether it’s any good is a separate question.Report

            • Avatar Simon K in reply to James K says:

              I had a quick look at the papers. They took data from the American Community Survey, which is a kind of mini-census they do every year, on country of origin and subtracted out a the number of legal immigrants known to come from those countries. I can still see a number of problems here, but its not the stupidest methodology imaginable.

              The ACS is quite popular amongst social scientists because its more frequent than the census, asks more questions, and uses sampling. Where I’m not sure is that there’s a good chance of getting dishonest answers to the country of origin question, even though ACS replies are anonymous, and the sampling methodology means they assume they undercount certain groups (including immigrants) and compensate. So its still really a guess.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

      Many of our families came from countries that don’t speak English. My mother’s grandparents, for instance, were Yiddish-speakers who never learned English or had any reason to, since everything they needed (shops, doctors, synagogues, newspapers, theater) was available in their native language. And their descendants followed the usual pattern:

      Generation 1: Yiddish
      Generation 2: Bilingual
      Generation 3: English-speaking, with a smattering of Yiddish (they’d speak it to keep secrets from my brother and me)
      Generation 4 (me): I know how to call people schmucks.

      I don’t see any reason to expect our current immigrants to follow a different path.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        theater was available in their native language

        So this Jewish cabbie sees a distinguished-looking man signaling for a ride, and stops to pick him up.

        “You look very familiar to me… My gosh, John Barrymore! It’s an honor to have you in my car, sir.”

        “You’re very kind. Please take me down to the theater district.”

        “Oh, are you acting in a play right now?”

        “Yes, I’m playing King Lear.”

        “Oh, that’s a terrific play. I’ve seen all the great Lears: Jacob Adler, Thomashevsky, but Mr. Barrymore, I gotta ask you, do you think it’ll work in English?”Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        The dynamic you describe between the generations is one that makes sense to me but I wonder if it is best facilitated by having dozens of communities with different languages.

        I mean, if there’s only one community and 70% of this community all speaks the same language, will there be a similar push?Report

    • Avatar mythago in reply to Jaybird says:

      There have always been “language issues” with every wave of immigrants, legal and illegal. The solution is assimilation, which is much more difficult when a population is forced to hide.Report

      • Avatar Scott in reply to mythago says:


        So then why when I drive thru parts of Atlanta do I see nothing but business signs in Spanish? Surely these successful business owners could assimilate if they really wanted to.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Scott says:

          So then why when I drive thru parts of Atlanta do I see nothing but business signs in Spanish?

          Because their customers speak Spanish?Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Scott says:

          Even when the business owners speak English fine, their customers often don’t.

          In any event, assimilation takes a generation. They don’t speak English, or don’t speak it well, but their kids do. The inundation of mass media actually gives us a leg up. Sure, there are Spanish-speaking TV and radio stations, but for every one they can get in Spanish there are countless more they can only get in English. That’s incentive.Report

          • Avatar Scott in reply to Will Truman says:


            Assimilation only takes a generation if you are inclined to do so. The PC crowd has made the assimilation a dirty word as they encourage everyone to hold on to their ethnic identity. If you don’t want to assimilate you can watch Spanish TV, read Spanish newspaper, vote on Spanish ballots and get get state and federal information in Spanish. Why bother assimilation if the English speakers will accommodate you?Report

            • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Scott says:

              Because for every Spanish TV channel there is, there are several English-only channels. You see all the ways that they’re being accommodated. They see all of the things that they can’t watch, the radio stations they don’t understand, the movie theaters they can’t go to, the newspapers and books they can’t read, the jobs they get, the banks that don’t have anyone that serves them, and so on. Those that come here often do with limited expectations where Univision, Gala, and some simulcasts are acceptable limitations. Their kids are far less likely to be so accepting. Which is why less than a quarter of first-generation immigrants speak English, but 90% of their children and 95% of their grandchildren do.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Will Truman says:


                Those ways immigrants are being accommodated allow them to live in a linguistic ghetto and there is almost no expectation that they will leran English especially if they come with limited expectations. When I was in college I was told the best way to leran a foreign language was immersion. If that works so well for us then why can’t it work for those folks that come here to stay?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Scott says:

                I’m not opposed to language immersion, but that’s the methodology for first-generation immigrants and second-generation immigrants and so on get incredible amounts of exposure due to the fact that most of our mass media is in English, and even ESL students go to schools where a goal is that they speak English by the time they get out. And, judging by the numbers, pretty successfully. The language ghetto is sufficiently weak that by the third generation they start losing the ability to speak Spanish.

                Even with the accommodations, not being able to speak English is a pretty big deal. According to Hispanics, significantly a bigger problem than immigration status, education/income, and skin color.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Will Truman says:


                If not being able to speak English is such a big deal, maybe a lack of accommodation will encourage them to learn before the third generation. I think we have every right to expect folks to learn English before the third generation, come on. These folks want to come to our country so they can learn the language. If I moved to France I wouldn’t expect them to accommodate me and I would learn French so why should we accommodate those that come here?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Scott says:

                The third generation comment is in reference to when they stop learning Spanish, not when they start learning English. They overwhelmingly start learning English by the second generation (see above statistics). The first generation often lacks the time and resources to learn. Applying more pressure won’t change that. I can’t find any hard indication that motivation is the problem. The incentives are there and a great deal of support that they get is actually from the private sector.Report

              • Avatar tom van dyke in reply to Scott says:

                Will, that 10% of those born in this country don’t speak English [that’s what “2nd generation immigrant” means for the lion’s share of them] is a head-scratcher if not a scandal.

                Same goes for 5% of the 3rd generation.

                Which is why less than a quarter of first-generation immigrants speak English, but 90% of their children and 95% of their grandchildren do.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Scott says:

                Are these numbers historically high for immigrate groups?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Scott says:

                Tom, it’s hard to say for sure. The specific numbers for second-gen are 88% speaking English ” very well” and 91% “pretty well or very well”, while for third-gen it’s 94% and 97%. It’s possible that the balance speaks the language moderately or poorly. On its face, though, it is distressing. We’d need to know more about who these people are and what the obstacles are before taking concrete or drastic action.

                In any event, though, my main point is that the vast majority of successive generations are learning English. This makes comparisons with Quebec more difficult, since it is not expected of Quebecois to even learn English.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Scott says:

                One question might be *OUGHT* there be an expectation that immigrants learn English?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Scott says:

                The specific numbers for second-gen are 88% speaking English ” very well” and 91% “pretty well or very well”, while for third-gen it’s 94% and 97%.

                That is, they overwhelmingly outdo Sarah Palin.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Scott says:

                Mike, according to the Manhattan Institute, assimilation is occurring slower than post-1920 early 20th century immigrants, but faster than it was fifteen years ago and faster than it was a century ago. Mexican Americans are assimilating more slowly in economic and civic matters, but culturally (which includes language) their assimilation rates are “relatively normal” and that cultural assimilation has been increasingly rapidly among all immigrants collectively, while civic (which includes legal status) and economic are more uneven and dependent on the country.

                Unfortunately, I was not able to find any information on language specifically. And I haven’t read through the whole (very long) report, so it could have more information in either direction.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Scott says:

                Scott, it’s not taking three generations. The vast majority (91%) of secondgens learn English. Most “1.5 Generation”Report

              • One question might be *OUGHT* there be an expectation that immigrants learn English?

                This is assumed. And to me, a no-brainer. What do we have to gain by a Quebec situation?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

                What do we have to gain by a Quebec situation?

                Might preventable losses be prevented by passage of a law?Report

              • Isn’t that coming up with solutions to an invented problem? Seriously, I don’t understand the upside. The upside to bilingualism I get. The upside to preserving American Indian tribal language, I understand (though don’t believe it’s fair to say that they should remove themselves from the economy for the greater good). But I don’t understand what our rationale would be for saying “Don’t worry about learning English” when their economic well-being would suffer such and it would inherently negatively impact the rest of us.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

                Should the government go out of its way to accomodate languages that are not English?Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman says:

                Is this worth worrying about, when the normal process of assimilation is working, well, normally?Report

              • We could do a lot worse than the status quo, but the status quo involves an expectation that they will learn English.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman says:

                Which they do because it’s the practical thing to do. No intervention (or hysteria) required.Report

              • Public schooling geared towards trying to make sure they learn English helps.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Will Truman says:


                Why do you assume that the normal process of assimilation is working? Learning English in three generation does not sound like success to me.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

                Well, here’s what I see happening:

                Europe has started passing language laws. Why? Well, the reasons you’re most likely to suspect keep popping up. Stuff about “national character” and the need to maintain it and the like.

                Now, many of the laws passed recognize more than one national language but the more than one happens to be one that has been considered part of the “national character”.

                Canada’s done it, more and more European countries are doing it, and I suspect that there is enough cover for America to start floating such an idea (again).Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman says:

                Why do you assume that the normal process of assimilation is working?

                Because the numbers for language acquisition Will posted match historical norms. (The notion that while assimilation has worked in the past, these immigrants are different and are never going to be real Americans also matches historical norms.)Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Will Truman says:

                Bingo. Every argument launched against Hispanics today were launched against the Irish, Italians, the Poles, and the Chinese.Report

              • Scott, it’s not taking three generations. The vast majority (91%) of secondgens learn English. Most “1.5 Generation” Americans (those who arrived young) speak English, as well.Report

              • Avatar Scott in reply to Will Truman says:


                If every immigrant group has been expected to learn English I hope we won’t hear any accusations of racism form anyone.Report

              • Jaybird, I was actually thinking about that earlier. If we made English a national language, it would take a very short period of time before there were calls for Spanish to become a national language as well. I don’t think it would actually come to pass, but it’s not a debate I really think we should be having.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Will Truman says:

                Everyone was expected to learn English if they wanted to move out of the lowest 25%, but it has never been a requirement and _should_ never be a requirement to get into the country.

                However, if we become a truly bilingual country where there are pockets most business is conducted in Spanish, that won’t be the end of the world. One of the things I look back and regret is that I never learned a second language. Hopefully, my kids will measure up to the levels of Europeans and at least know two or three.Report

              • Jesse, there’s bilingual in the sense that the people speak two languages, and there’s bilingual in the sense that part of the country speaks on language and part of the country speaks another. I’m completely on board with the first one insofar as I believe it would be great for everyone to learn a second language, and Spanish is a good default second choice (due to our geography). But the second is something much more problematic. Both for the common culture, and for those in the minority language. We have a good history with folks coming in and assimilating in time, but that second part is important.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to Will Truman says:

                Sure. I guess my larger point is that if in fifty years (and let’s be honest, this has the same chance as EURABIA~! coming true), sections of California, Arizona, and New Mexico have 70% of the population of Spanish-first speakers, America won’t end, as long as 95% of that 70% still knew English, like they would.

                Obviously, a Belgian like divide would be bad, but you and I both know that won’t happen.Report

        • Avatar Simon K in reply to Scott says:

          I shop quite regularly at a carniceria in a nearby Spanish-speaking neighbourhood. The guy who runs it is German.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

      Is Quebec a fair comparison?Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

        Absent a state which is majority Spanish-speaking complete with a separatist movement and a political party dedicated to it, I don’t see how. Nor have I ever been in a Spanish-speaking establishment which refused to serve me because I only speak English.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          I’ve never been refused service in Quebec but I have had people shrug when I told them that I only spoke English and Spanish. There was a Subway where I had to order a sandwich in Spanish because the kid behind the counter was the other kind of bi-lingual.

          I’ve had to order food in Spanish here a couple of times. Anglo places don’t get the beans right.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

            Come to think of it, I was never refused service per se, but one fishole sneered and turned away when I asked for direction back to the subway. Though the woman I asked next was both very helpful and much prettier, so no harm done.Report

  8. Avatar Simon K says:

    I was very struck by that “scarce resource” quote as well. I think a lot of people do think that access to the US economy is a scarce resource, and not all of them are conservatives. Its arguably more hypocritical for supposedly-free-market conservatives who in other context claim that its impossible for participation in a free market to harm anyone, to also claim that illegal immigrants participating in the labor market does harm people. To be fair, though, I’m not sure how many conservatives believe both of these things.

    At its most basic, this is just an example of the lump-of-labor or lump-of-stuff fallacy that only a fixed about of labor is needed by “the economy” or only a fixed amount of stuff is produced, so adding any more people merely reduces wages or increases prices and cannot add productivity. The error is in thinking about the economy as a single giant factory operating at full tilt, and unable to expand production. In reality, barring structural factors adding more people will expand production. By the same amount as the “more people” consume . Of course, this is an argument that conservatives rely on it other contexts.

    But I think what Foster might really have meant is that there’s something about “the US economy” that can’t be expanded to an infinite number of people simply by the laws of economics. This is a more serious argument. If the US were simply to annex Mexico, thus making all Mexicans part of “the US economy” would that immediately make the actual business environment in Mexico the same as in the US? No, of course not. But if we admit one Mexican, they’re pretty much immediately part of the US economy in every respect. So what’s the difference? The difference is “culture” of course.

    Its tempting for pro-immigration folk like me to take this argument lightly or dismiss it as racist, but there’s some substance there. Where exactly is the difference between annexing Mexican and admitting one Mexican in cultural terms? I don’t know, but its not just a matter of numbers, its to do with ease and willingness of adapting to different cultural norms. Certainly illegality itself doesn’t help.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Simon K says:

      But I think what Foster might really have meant is that there’s something about “the US economy” that can’t be expanded to an infinite number of people simply by the laws of economics. This is a more serious argument. If the US were simply to annex Mexico, thus making all Mexicans part of “the US economy” would that immediately make the actual business environment in Mexico the same as in the US? No, of course not. But if we admit one Mexican, they’re pretty much immediately part of the US economy in every respect. So what’s the difference? The difference is “culture” of course.

      Thanks for this. There was something gnawing at me during this conversation, and this is it.Report

    • Avatar James K in reply to Simon K says:

      Where exactly is the difference between annexing Mexican and admitting one Mexican in cultural terms?

      Annexing Mexico just means replacing the Mexican government with a US government. But the Mexican immigrant leaves their old culture behind to join a new one. Now in fairness, cultural transfer is never one way, so a sufficiently large number of Mexicans would alter American culture, so there’s probably some feasible limit to immigration before a major change to culture takes place.

      Mind you, I have no idea if open borders would actually result in this much immigration. The Burkean solution would be to steadily loosen immigration restrictions and see what happens.Report

      • Avatar Simon K in reply to James K says:

        There’s something more than just numbers, though. Hispanic communities are quite wary of government agencies here because although the vast majority of people are legally present in the US, everyone knows someone at least indirectly who is not. I can’t imagine that that helps.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Simon K says:

          It’s notable that for all of the talk about how they come here to clutter our emergency rooms, they can actually be very skittish about it. My wife worked for a year delivering the babies primarily of immigrants and they tended to be the most reluctant patients she ever had, half of the time rolling up in labor after having sought no prenatal care whatsoever up to that point. In some ways they were the best patients she ever had in comparison to the other charity/low-income hospitals where she worked (low drug use, lower levels of personal dysfunction), but that was an area that was maddening for her and the other doctors there.Report

          • Err, I realized after writing it that I didn’t quite connect my comment to yours. My point was that I think the aversion to prenatal care is rooted in a mistrust of American institutions in general. Particularly for those that are not here legally, but not exclusively that.Report

          • Avatar Simon K in reply to Will Truman says:

            Interesting we saw that first hand. We had our first child in March and were in the hospital for 4 days. In that time they had three women “just step out of the elevator”, as they put it, with no prior history or referral. Its a big deal because someone showing up already in the final stages of labor without any history pulls resources away from the rest of the ward. This area is about 50% hispanic, on average, and all three of the walk-ins were.

            It definitely rests on a mistrust of institutions, but its sort of self-reinforcing. Maternity nurses are going to give you a hard time if you do that kind of thing, and I’m sure they’re not the only ones.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Simon K says:

              They’re also lawsuits waiting to happen, or at least perceived to be. The language barrier (that existed with about 2/3 of her patients*) makes communication difficult, and communication is a way that lawsuits are avoided. Then, when they show up at the last minute, you have to communicate a lot of information in a short period of time (often through an interpreter).

              The saving grace is that, as I mentioned, they’re more often ideal patients in others ways. They’re less likely to have the problems that will create problems. They’re also more likely to be “soldiers”, as my wife calls women least likely to complain and least paranoid that something’s going wrong (of course, that can cut both ways).

              Anyhow, I’m sure the frustrations of the doctors and staff are visible to the patient, heightening the mistrust.

              * – My wife speaks rudimentary Spanish, but when it comes to situations like this, that’s often not going to be enough.Report

  9. Avatar Koz says:

    I agree with Foster and Reihan from the wide-lens view but I don’t like they’re phrasing. The resolution isn’t that hard.

    Access to the United States economy is not a scarce resource. We’ll trade with (almost) anybody. Access to the United States itself is a scarce resource. Why? Because the United States is a nations and nations have the right to self-determination, even if it comes at the expense of Mr. Vargas and other illegal immigrants.Report

    • Avatar RTod in reply to Koz says:

      That is an argument that we have the right to severely limit immigration, or not. It is not an argument that doing so is a good idea.Report

      • Avatar Koz in reply to RTod says:

        #1. Having an immigration policy that respects the will of the people is a good thing if we’re going to be a republic.

        #2. We will probably never achieve the total Platonic ideal of cultural unity in America. It is nonetheless a worthwhile policy objective.

        The thing I find most frustrating about the immigration debate is that there seems to be an unspoken assumption that policy elites have a better understanding of Mexico and the situation and motivations of Mexican-origin illegal immigrants. When, in reality I find no evidence for this proposition whatsoever.Report

  10. Avatar Will Truman says:

    It seems to me that part of the question is “What kind of scarcity?” It comes across to me that EDK is referring to whether or not there is a natural scarcity. Like bread. There’s only so much bread, so you can only give so much bread to so many people. And, of course, residence isn’t inherently that way (not so long as we have so much land, anyway). You can give it to one person without taking it from someone else. There are arguments that the benefits of residence would be diminished (if they become citizens, their vote will be diluted, and even if they don’t, more people can drive up property values).

    It’s not clear, though, that Reihan and Foster were not, in part, referring to an artificial scarcity being a scarcity nonetheless. Or rather, simply stating the obvious that it is a scarcity because we make it one. Hence, their reference to “come one, come all” (ie eliminating the scarcity) being at one end of the spectrum. And they make a valuable point, that I think most people here would agree with, that a willingness to break the law should not be rewarded in how we hand out citizenship, residency, and so on.

    In other words, they assume that residence will be limited in one way or another. Only advocates of open borders would disagree with that, and their disagreement lies as to whether this should be the case, not whether it will, as I can’t imagine any of them believe that open borders are a realistic possibility. So, if we’re going to have a scarcity, we should perhaps put more thought into how we allocate it.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain in reply to Will Truman says:

      This is a good point, Will, and certainly there will be a scarcity and it will be determined not by demand for labor, not by markets at all, but rather by politicians acting on the will of the people. How best to allocate it? I’m not sure we can. Whatever the will of the people, it is not so great as the will of the demand. If there are jobs, people will come to fill them. We can build sandcastles against the tide, or silly border fences, but people will still come.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        If we were dead serious about it, I think that there are combinations of things we could do. Not to eliminate it, but put a pretty serious dent in it. I question how serious we are about it, though. Especially when it means that we, in addition to people of Hispanic lineage, are inconvenienced.Report

  11. Avatar Jaybird says:

    There’s an article here (yes, I first read it at Instapundit) that links here to an article discussing a bill that has recently been submitted in the Netherlands that addresses the problems they’ve been seeing with multiculturalism.

    We’ll see if the bill passes of course and how badly it fails (in which case the guy who submitted it is merely a nut) or if it comes close to passing (or even passes!).

    Stuff that was unthinkable 10 years ago is happening.

    I suspect that these unthinkable things are harbingers.Report

    • Avatar Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

      There’s been a trend away from “multiculturalism, and towards integration, in The Netherlands since the early to mid-90s. The multiculturalist views and policies of the 80s have long since been either been watered down or replaced by integrationist policies. The current right-wing government has, to be sure, been actively trying to get rid of the last vestiges of the 80s “multiculturalism,” but this is hardly a new position, or the work of kooks. These are the high ups in the cabinet we’re talking about.Report

  12. Avatar RTod says:


    I just did one of those things I rarely do – go back and reread a post after I have been following comments for a couple of days. And now that I have done so, I think this post acts as a pretty good illustration of what I was getting at in the Classical Liberalism in America post – that labels don’t solve problems, they perpetuate them.

    Your post – correct me if I’m wrong – can be summed up thus: people just gravitate to whatever their side says is right and champion that side’s “logic” in doing so – even if that “logic” is at odds with arguments they are currently making about other issues. Yes, it used immigration as an example, but it is just an example of the double-standard problem different tribes have.

    I’d love to see this idea fleshed out more here. Even with the specific subject of immigration, a “certainly we can all agree that immigration is good in theory, but you can theoretically have so much that you can’t support it, so how might we decide to figure out where lines are drawn” conversation would lend itself nicely. Instead, it (predictably) has become a conversation about how the left is forcing their multi-culturalism on everyone so they can destroy America vs. the right hates Mexicans and wants the elites to own everything. (An exaggeration, yes, but not so much of one.)

    This is what relying on labels gets you.Report