A Man for No Season in Particular


Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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73 Responses

  1. Avatar Kimmi says:

    Hilarious. Have a cookie!Report

  2. Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

    Just because land exists means it must be developed. I’m perfectly OK with the idea of there being some land out there that’s just being land, not bought and sold, fenced off, and extracted.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      Then you should be outraged by what corporations routinely do to huge swathes of federal land.

      It’s possible that you are, but I’m not finding it yet.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

        I pretty much am. I’m quite aware to keep the machinery of the economy running, some mining, extraction, logging, etcetera of federal lands has to be done because that’s where the stuff is, but I can pretty much guarantee the way it’s done is corrupt, filled with mismanagement, and untold environmental damage.

        Also, there is the small fact that we don’t have to open up federal lands to have open borders. We could double the density of most major cities without a problem.

        Finally, the reason why the federal government owns so much of the land out West is that lot of it is crap land nobody wants, can farm on, etc. Now, it turns out some of that crap land had minerals and such on it so now corporations want to buy it, but there are no great expanses of farmland sitting out there for Juan and Li to buy up.Report

  3. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Don’t forget to repeal all the regulations on workplace conditions and minimum wage; otherwise all those new immigrants will be exactly as expensive as the Americans they’re replacing. There is not some Magic Mexican Power that makes them able to work twice as hard as Americans for half the pay.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      If we guaranteed to Mexicans the same wages and working conditions we extend to Americans, my guess is we’d get a lot more of them coming over, and they’d probably work a lot more hours.

      Raise the price of labor, the quantity supplied goes up.Report

      • Avatar Citizen Alan says:

        If we guaranteed those Mexicans the same wages and conditions we extend to Americans, we’d have fewer, since the only reason to hire undocumented workers is because doing so is cheaper than hiring a legal worker. Why would anyone pay the same amount in wages and benefits for someone who is less fluent in the local language and customs.Report

    • Avatar Kimmi says:

      sure there is! Amusement park workers work 12 hour days without overtime — it’s the farm workers act (they’re classified as seasonal laborers, who don’t make overtime). Magic Mexicans can work 16 hour shifts with no breaks… so long as we only employ them for part of the year. Any job, any labor.Report

  4. Avatar James K says:

    Nicely done Jason.

    This line in particular:

    “Sometimes signalling isn’t about signalling,” said the Cynic.


  5. Avatar E.D. Kain says:

    You’re a damn fine writer, Jason.Report

  6. Avatar greginak says:

    FWIW there is already a ton of open land in the middle of Alaska which people can buy. Every once in a while someone up here suggests a bunch of libertarians can form there libertopia out in the wilds. For some reason ( well actually a bunch of obvious ones) people don’t seem to do that.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      It seems you’re playing it both ways on the value of this land.

      Either it’s very valuable to have it sitting around, untouched, pristine (which, we know, it isn’t).

      Or else it’s so worthless that no one will even buy it on the cheap so that it may sit around, untouched and pristine.

      You can’t have it both ways.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Well i mean there is land that the gov doesn’t own that people can buy. Its not being protected or preserved. Its just brutally cold most of the year, very remote and life is real hard. Very few even want to try it and most don’t stick with it. Of the people i know who do the remote Alaskan life style they are either fairly anti-social or are retirees who have plenty of money. There is plenty of worthless land nobody wants to buy. There is plenty of land people want to buy, often because it is close to pristine preserved wilderness.

        The value in untouched, or minimally touched, wilderness cannot be solely measured in dollars. This makes the argument difficult for everybody. Is the money the only value in the world? Who is losing a job or productivity due to wilderness? Does wilderness have a value, lots of people seem to think so? What do we owe the future in terms of preserving parts of this world for them?Report

    • Avatar dexter says:

      Why don’t they like 60 below with no way to grow anything other than cabbage and carrots. If they change their mind I have a great recipe for moose burgers.Report

  7. Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

    “Perhaps,” said the Cynic, “the followers of the stoic philosophy should be permitted by the state to suffer even more.”

    I laughed for a solid three minutes.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      I wish I could claim credit for the underlying idea, but I got it from Michael Walzer, Spheres of Justice, chapter 11 p 269-70: “We conscript the able-bodied, men and women deemed capable of bearing the rigors of war. But we punish only the deserving: not those people most able to bear the stigma of punishment or some random selection of them, but those who ought to bear it… If we distributed punishment differently, it would not be punishment at all.”

      And yeah, I laughed out loud at that, too.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        By the way, just about every time I start thinking, “Goddamn it, why isn’t Jason participating in the comment threads more, I’d like to know what he thinks about this one,” you pull one of these brilliant bits out (I’m assuming, not out of your ass like I do with most of my writing, because it’s stellar stuff) and I have to forgive you. I hate you for that, you bastard.Report

  8. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    First, a gift of land isn’t going to appeal to people who just want to go on welfare anyway.

    “If you can sell the land, isn’t that equivalent to welfare?” asked the Accountant.Report

  9. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    “No problem!” quoth the Entrepreneur. “I’ve got it all worked out. Just sign here, on the dotted line.”Report

  10. Avatar North says:

    I’m bemused at the starry eyed optimism that posits that non/poor-english speaking immigrants in an unfamiliar country would be handing their allotted patches of land to corporations for anything remotely approaching fair market value. Maybe I’m channelling the cynic too much today but I suspect that after the shyster immigrant importer, the crooked land agent and the corporate appraiser had taken their cuts the immigrant would probably get a handshake and a carton of smokes to enjoy while he hitched back to Mexico to jump onto the ride again.

    But it’s beautifully written and funny in any event so bravo.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      Does it matter, really? I think the whole idea is to get the land into private hands. Who exactly makes money off that isn’t terribly important.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        Ah well if that’s the underlying premise I guess that’s fine. Though it poles the whole concept further out into Lala River along with the People’s Centralized Economies barge and the Galt’s Gulch Yacht.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

        The problem is how to get the land into private hands in a way that’s not just a crass handout to well-connected business interests. The original post suggests all kinds of ways that one obvious solution would fail.

        If I had a better one, I’d have written a policy proposal, not a silly one-off thing during my lunch hour.Report

        • Avatar wardsmith says:

          “a silly one-off thing during my lunch hour.”

          You realize those who hated you for your superior writing skills hate you even more now for your /speedy/ superior writing skills?Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:


        • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

          You say “crass handouts to well-connected business interests” as if it were a bad thing. I thought you were a libertarian.Report

          • Avatar North says:

            That’s harsh Mike. Libertarians are all about denying politicians and officials the power and position to be able to hand out squat to cronies or otherwise.
            A politician in a minimally invasive state or an official in a very constrained regulatory roll would have little to no favors to offer.
            But you know this perfectly well so why be all mean and snarky about it. Are ya trying to give us lefties a bad name? I only ask cause I care.Report

          • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

            Ideally you should only use words you actually understand.Report

    • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

      This is what happens to some degree, historically, even if the immigrants aren’t poor and speak English.

      The question is, to what degree. Any plan is going to have some failure cases in implementation. If a few guys take their land and sell it at under-market values to buy whiskey, but most don’t, it’s probably still an okay plan.

      It’s all about the details.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      I suspect that after the shyster immigrant importer, the crooked land agent and the corporate appraiser had taken their cuts the immigrant would probably get a handshake and a carton of smokes to enjoy while he hitched back to Mexico to jump onto the ride again.

      As I said, it’s how the West was won.Report

  11. Avatar David Cheatham says:

    I’m confused. What exactly is the left not going to like about this idea? I’m on the left, and I think it’s somewhat silly, but if I actually had a vote on it, I’d vote for it, simply to fix immigration.

    The left wouldn’t like the whole ‘losing national lands’, but in reality, we’re already doing that, very cheaply, to mega-corps. If this plan _replaced_ that, then fine, no objection. (Except to ask why we’re limiting it to just immigrants.)

    You seem to think the left wants a ‘strong welfare state’, which we do…but that does not mean ‘a lot of people on welfare’. That just means that welfare should be broad and actually helpful. The left wouldn’t mind if no one was on welfare.

    Well, strictly speaking, _some_ people probably ‘need’ to be on welfare, or we’d stop it. Just like _some_ people ‘need’ to be sick…or we’d close hospitals. Those outcomes would be well and good if all problems have been solved and no one’s ever going to be sick or poor again, but in the real world, it’s not so good. OTOH, in the real world, there will always be sick and poor to start with, so the idea that the left ‘want’ anyone to be that is a bit silly.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      I’d thought the extensive development and national land giveaway bits would be more objectionable.

      You’re right, though — there would be no good reason to limit the plan to immigrants.

      The left wouldn’t mind if no one was on welfare.

      I find this difficult to believe, particularly given that welfare eligibility is tied to the poverty line, and that line adjusts upward when the country becomes wealthier. Given current policies, someone will always be eligible for welfare. I can only imagine that most people agree this is how things should be, particularly on the left.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

        I think you misunderstand the point. In a perfect world, there’d be no need for welfare ’cause there’d be no poverty or barring that, private charity would pick up the slack. Unfortunately, we live in the real world, as David said, there will always be poor people, so welfare is needed and there ya’ go.Report

      • Avatar David Cheatham says:

        That’s not really how the poverty threshold is set. It is set at the level where people are ‘lacking the resources to meet the basic needs for healthy living; having insufficient income to provide the food, shelter and clothing needed to preserve health’.

        That line does move due to inflation and what we consider ‘sufficient’, but there is nothing, theoretically, stopping every single person from being above that point. (Or, strangely, below that point. If we has a zombie apocalypse, for example, the entire population would probably lack the shelter needed to preserve health, because the requirements for that got much larger, and thus would technically be in poverty.)

        There are other poverty guidelines, for example the EU has ‘people making less than 60% of the median income, but also doesn’t require anyone above it…if the median income is $50,000, then if everyone make $30,000, no one is in poverty. (This standard fails rather horrifically in a recession, though, because the less in general people are paid, the less ‘poverty’ there is.)

        There’s really no poverty guideline that says ‘The lowest 10% are in poverty’, which is the only way what you’re talking about could work. That wouldn’t really make sense, though, because what would it measure? We already know how many people are counted under it!Report

        • Avatar North says:

          Well technically it depends on your definition of poverty because you’re both right. On one hand poverty is a finite line.. on the other hand it’s a formal income level below a line that is defined by the average income in the country. So one definition is somewhat static (though still moving) and the other moves quite a bit both up and down.Report

  12. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    Won’t illegal immigration disappear overnight… because you’ve opened the borders? Or does that just mean stopping all enforcement at the border itself – if you cross without papers you’re still committing a crime, you just won’t run into any agents? What is it to “open the borders”?

    And for the record, the plummeting values of land were, if not the first, among the first considerations to cross my mind here.Report

  13. Avatar MFarmer says:

    Living in the south most of my life, I’ve always found the idea of over-population in America a strange concern. I can ride for hours through parts of the south and see only a handful of homes. There’s so much space in America, it boggles the mind. I suppose if you grew up in NY or LA you might feel cramped, but America is really wide open — and, on another topic, I think this has a psychological effect on people, depending on where you live. Like in South America where there’s so much space, geographical diversity and tropical surroundings — it creates a different view of the world that has to do with abundance, potential and a sense of freedom. But then controllers in centralized locations mess things up.Report

  14. Avatar Christopher Carr says:

    The capitalist seems reasonable, because you made him so.

    “The gains would mostly go to the migrants,” said the Malthusian. I’m not sure anyone describing himself as Malthusian would say this, but I’m also not sure any “Malthusians” actually exist. What would you say if I said that I think your reliance on contrived ideal cases and parables discredits your main point?

    “If we increase our racial diversity, we can expect less in the way of welfare overall.” – I think you’re confusing cause and mechanism here. Perhaps the reason people don’t support welfare benefits for minorities in democratic societies is because people be racist. I mean, in Finland, that poor guy with four kids delivering newspapers as an adult is like an adult and he shouldn’t have to deliver newspapers so we should like make some law that lets him sell insurance of whatever, but, in America, that poor black guy with four kids is lazy because capitalism works.

    “It’s designed to wound everyone’s fake interests, and to get everyone to notice it.” – Definitely, and indeed. But I think readers here are sane, academic dudes, so they’ll definitely agree that academic wounds are not real wounds, but, they’ll also argue that real wounds exist (see explanation above.). Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki says:

      The capitalist seems reasonable, because you made him so.

      Guilty as charged.

      “The gains would mostly go to the migrants,” said the Malthusian. I’m not sure anyone describing himself as Malthusian would say this, but I’m also not sure any “Malthusians” actually exist. What would you say if I said that I think your reliance on contrived ideal cases and parables discredits your main point?

      I would say:

      1. The Malthusian always pipes up when zero-sum or other doom-and-gloom thinking lurks nearby. Here, he is complaining that we would not benefit existing Americans, only new ones.

      2. There are too Malthusians. Gregory Clark is one of the more prominent.

      3. In pieces like this, I often don’t have a point. This piece is a good example. I like a lot of the policy ideas articulated within it, but I also recognize their problems and try to grapple with them. Bundling them all together creates more problems, and of course I’m aware of it. The point of the bundling is to get people — with me first on the list — to think.Report