Les Misérables

It’s tough for me to sit back and watch the immigration reform discussion currently taking place in this nation.

Driving back from work last week to the house my immigrant wife and immigrant children live in, I listened to two talking heads on NPR discuss the best way to prevent illegal immigrants from contributing to the economy. One talking head believed that the current system places an undue burden on employers – switching to an electronic system to bar illegals from employment will take the burden of law-enforcement off job-creators and reduce overhead costs. The other talking head agreed that the best way to marginalize illegal immigrants is through an electronic system, but he did not seem to think it was necessary to also deploy drones to patrol the Mexican border, build a wall to keep Mexicans out, or expand the role of the Department of Homeland Security to include enforcement of immigration policy.

Shortly after this conversation took place, the US Senate passed an immigration reform bill:

If the Senate legislation were to be signed into law, it would set millions of eligible immigrants on a 13-year course toward achieving permanent residency status or U.S. citizenship, but it would also require them to pay thousands of dollars in fines and back taxes.

Before those things could happen, however, the federal government would be required to spend tens of billions of dollars fortifying the U.S. border with Mexico with thousands of new federal agents as well as radar and unmanned aerial drones to track illegal border crossings. The Department of Homeland Security also would have to establish a biometric tracking system at the nation’s 30 largest airports.

The bill will now come up for a vote in the House, where it is likely to be defeated by Tea Party Republicans for not throwing enough money or guns at the fallacy of illegal immigrants taking jobs from real, freedom-loving Americans. In fact, the House Judiciary Committee supports making it a federal crime to be in the United States illegally. This would expand the present list of known fugitives by anywhere from twelve to thirty million: between 3.8 and 9.6% of the population.

To summarize the consensus then: we all seem to agree that people who came here without following the proper procedure should not be allowed the means of securing the necessities for life. At the same time we prevent these people from obtaining a legitimate income, we will punish them for not paying taxes and demand thousands of dollars in fines and fees from them. We will also continue to pay the social and medical costs associated with having a massive, disenfranchised underclass.

At my job I watch illegal immigrant after illegal immigrant come through our emergency department. Overwhelmingly, they are afraid of what will happen to them and their families if they expose themselves by seeking medical care, and so they wait until the very last minute. Multiple outcome studies have demonstrated marked disparities because of this.

But still, it beats living somewhere with no health care system at all. Or somewhere your children could be forced into child soldiery. A law that denies you equal justice is still superior to no law. And a land where your children and grandchildren can automatically become citizens by simply being born here gives you hope for the future when there may be no future in your country of origin. So you come here anyways, and you do what you need to do to survive. Once you get here, you follow incentives just like everyone else.

If it were me faced with the incentives we continue to foist upon illegal immigrants by marginalizing them, I would do whatever it took to support my family, even if that meant becoming a “criminal”. If I could not find legitimate employment, I would find some other means of supporting myself and my family. If my children were sick and I did not have health insurance, I would take them to the emergency department.

Rich lawmakers and other members of the American public are kidding themselves if they believe they would just give up on life and “go home” like we seem to expect our illegal immigrants to eventually do if only we double-down on enforcing unenforceable laws enough times.

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287 thoughts on “Les Misérables

  1. The implications of your argument are as follows:

    1. It is wrong to regulate transit across the border;
    2. The extant population of the United States have no legitimate interests at stake;
    3. Collectively, we should be willing and able to provide welfare services to anyone in this world of 7 bn people who ask.
    4. That your wife is an immigrant gives you some special insight.

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        • You’re insisting that I am arguing something that I am not, simply because you do not like my argument.

          Contrary to your straw man, I am saying that the extant population of the United States has a responsibility to regulate traffic across the border in a manner that best serves all parties involved and that we are failing to do so.

          Foreign citizens who are not migrating to the United States are not discussed in the OP.

          Having gone through (and continuing to go through) the immigration process in two nations, I think I do have a special insight on this topic, which is why my opinion here is so strong: if I as a well-educated and privileged citizens struggle with immigration hurdles, surely those who are trying to enter our lowest class – immigrants – must struggle all the more.

          Is that a fair response?

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              • No, it is not.

                1. If you have a considered immigration policy, you have to have a mechanism of implementation. That will include the means to compel compliance with that policy. Without this compulsion, you do not have a policy (or you are defaulting to a policy determined by the many individual decisions of aspirant immigrants).

                2. You have your choice of penalties for non-compliance. That would be incarceration and corporal punishment. You can transport them over the border, but that will, all things considered, offer only a remedy and not a deterrent.

                3. People make choices given certain options. You enter a country unlawfully, you do not have the benefit of certain legal protections. That is to say, you are ‘marginalized’.

                4. Implicit in his complaint about ‘marginalization’ is that it is somehow dirty that they should not have the benefit of legal protection. That is to say, that there should be no distinction in status between those who respect the law and those who do not in the course of immigrating.

                5. Again, if respect for the law and disrespect for the law have the same consequences, the law is a nullity. The implication of that is that you have no considered immigration policy and do not regulate the traffic across the border.

                6. There is a world of hurt out there and vast differences in the quality of life from one locus to another. That is a motivator of migration, though it usually is insufficient in the absence of a social network in the host country.

                7. Residents of this country cannot in their individual or collective capacity do more than make small incremental gestures to ameliorate the trouble in the world.

                8. Importing a select few of the world’s distressed foreigners ameliorates the condition of those people and those among their proximate relations. It is not the only means there is to ameliorate conditions abroad.

                9. To say a society is more ‘diverse’ is to offer a descriptive statement and not a normative one. If a society is more diverse, that creates challenges which have to be negotiated. Those in the extant society generally benefit little from ‘diversity’.

                10. Before you can pronounce on the rights of the people, you have to understand who are the people.

                11. Citizens of Mexico are not stakeholders in this Republic. The degree to which you accommodate them is a matter of discretion.

                12. The social benefit from trade in factors of production (labor, in this case) flows predominantly to the new immigrant population. The benefit to the extant population is small and tends to be distributed northward.

                13. Rephrased, it is passably but not perfectly established (see Borjas) that immigration has unfortunate distributional effects and is injurious to the material interests of certain strata within the extant population.

                14. Walls are ugly and cops and courts cost money. So what? If these are the necessary means to enforce the law these are the means. Note that the New York City Police Department arrests about 340,000 people a year and the criminal courts of the five boroughs dispose of around 800,000 cases of all types. Activity on that scale would suffice to reduce net annual migration from overstaying visas to nil. The budget of the New York City Police department is about $4.9 bn. The federal government can readily afford that.

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                • The point wasn’t whether Chris’s argument was the better one, but whether his reply was fair, because that’s what he asked.

                  As to your argument.

                  1. Nowhere did Chris dispute that; in fact he talks about the U.S. having a responsibility to regulate immigration.
                  2. Nowhere did Chris dispute that.
                  3. Nowhere did Chris dispute that.
                  4. Chris would probably agree with the first sentence, but not the second, which does not logically follow from the first (having some legal protection != “no” distinction in status between illegal and legal immigrants, as the latter could have significantly greater legal protection).
                  5. Irrelevant, since it does not address anything Chris actually said.
                  6. Pretty sure that fits perfectly well with Chris’s argument that folks are going to come anyway.
                  7. Chris didn’t talk about solving the world’s troubles.
                  8. Nowhere did Chris dispute that.
                  9. Nowhere that I’ve noticed did Chris talk about diversity.
                  10. Nowhere did Chris dispute that, although it’s not clear that it’s anything more than a truism, like, “before you can weigh the cat, you need to know what a cat is.”
                  11. The first part fudges over the broad range of meanings of “stakeholder.” The second part is not something Chris disputed.
                  12. I don’t think that’s something Chris disputed.
                  13. Nowhere did Chris dispute that.
                  14. Nowhere did Chris dispute any of that; he was talking about whether we needed different rules, not about what is required for enforcement of existing rules.

                  So it looks to me like you’re not actually responding to what Chris wrote, as much as complaining that he didn’t address the issues that concern you. Given that you’re pretending to rebut him while actually addressing a different set of immigration issues, it’s pretty clear that it’s your response that’s not fair.

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                    • No, you weren’t. I doubt you could even state his actual argument with any accuracy.

                      The fact that Chris deigned to respond to your points below does not in fact mean they actually addressed anything he said above.

                      Now, you’re obviously a self-satisfied little schmuck, unwilling to listen to anything but the hum of your own awesomeness, so further discussion with you is obviously pointless. You’ll not bother to listen and actively consider anything someone else has to say, but will look only to grind your own axe. That’s rather boring, and certainly you haven’t yet said anything particularly enlightening, so I’ll just mosey on to a better use of my time. Picking my teeth, perhaps, or watching reruns of Three’s Company.

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                • 1. What if you don’t have a considered immigration policy? What if you have some ineffective and self-contradictory kluge thrown together out of fear and nativism after 9/11?

                  2. Do you really believe that we should go about incarcerating or deporting 4 – 10% of our own population? Is there a universe where that is not only cost effective but even feasible? Could we even do it if we harnessed our entire civilizational capacity? Wouldn’t more achievable goals like universal preschool, eradicating malaria, or reversing carbon emissions be a better use of an equivalent amount of resources? Rather than causing pain because some people did not properly file paperwork?

                  3. How many undocumented immigrants do you think are even aware that what they’ve done is wrong? Have you ever been to a foreign country? If so, did you notice people looking strangely at you when you used your cell phone on the train or sneezed into your hand or failed to tip your train conductor? Do you think it would have been fair if you were incarcerated or deported for that?

                  4. Again, how many people know the immigration law in their own country? What about a nearby country where people speak the same language? What about a nearby country with a different language?

                  5. You’re exactly right here. If respect for the law and disrespect for the law have the same consequences then the law IS a nullity. The implication of that IS that you have no considered immigration policy and do not regulate the traffic across the border. Since the law IS a nullity, it’s not worth throwing more money and guns at enforcing it. Instead you should gather the relevant experts and draft a more sensible law to accomplish the same purpose. People are coming here anyways. We should welcome and include them for their sakes as well as our own. We certainly shouldn’t not allow them to work. That would be completely insane.

                  6. Wouldn’t it be great it that social network were then integrated with the main network of the target nation instead of isolated?

                  7. Perhaps (a bit defeatist I think), but there’s no reason why we have to actively oppose the rights of self-determination of others.

                  8.Okay, but are you presuming that only the government gets to decide who can live here or not? I’d argue that it is the government’s role to minimize the harm that happens when two people or groups interact and not to control the interactions or who gets to play.

                  9. The idea that members of the extant society do not benefit from immigration from diverse nations flies in the face of research consensus in this area.

                  10. Okay, but I don’t think this point argues for or against anyone’s position here.

                  11. Okay, but I think we should be more welcoming that we are. As it is, our own policies are excluding Mexican immigrants from meaningful participation in the American experiment.

                  12. False.

                  13. True. There are winners and losers with all social change. Just because losers exist doesn’t mean we should prevent all change from happening. There are certainly better ways to mitigate the negative effects of immigration than to prevent it altogether.

                  14. Citation please. Also, your argument that we spend a lot of money enforcing laws in one place therefore we should spend a lot of money enforcing different laws in another place is not an argument at all.

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                  • Memo to Aitch. These remarks actually are responsive (and concede my original point).

                    —-

                    Some of George Borjas articles on the subject of the material benefits of immigration (and how they are distributed amongst population strata) appeared in the Journal of Regional Science in the mid-1990s. I no longer have access to EconLit and GEOBASE, so I cannot get you the citations. There is a contrary view associated with Chad Sparber.

                    That aside, the New York State Statistical Yearbook is available online, including the sections on police manpower and the disposition statistics of the New York State Courts. Generally, public budgets are available online as well.

                    This country built 38,000 miles of Interstate Highways but you are telling me we are unable to build a 1,900 mile long wall along the Rio Grande. The conventional estimate for illegal immigration due to overstays of visas is 300,000. A common estimate of the share of immigrants of voluntarily return is a third, so you are talking along the lines of processing 200,000 violators a year to contain the problem in its dimensions. A police force with the wherewithal to do that can be hired for less than $3 bn per annum (including administrative and support personnel). A corps of border guards of appropriate dimensions with associated support personnel can be had for less. At this time, the two police forces we deploy for immigration enforcement have other duties (customs inspections &c.) and the executive has refused to build the infrastructure on the border mandated by law. At a time when farm subsidies chew up about $20 bn, the notion we cannot afford immigration enforcement cannot be taken seriously. It is learned helplessness, or effort proportionate to interest.

                    The notion that we benefit from ‘diversity’ is a taste-preference and a posture of the professional-managerial bourgeoisie. The notion that it is somehow verified by research (as if normative statements were readily verifiable in that way) is rubbish. Still, look up some recent work by Robert Putnam. He did not come to his conclusions happily.

                    You offer that people are unstoppably drawn to migrate here, apply for visas at American consulates or march across the Sonoran desert or put themselves in the hands of coyotes to do so, and are somehow unaware that ignoring the expiration date on the visa is unlawful and are unaware that the border guards are employed to guard the border and are unaware the chain-link fence with a warning sign is there for a reason. You said that, not me.

                    The rest of your remarks amount to a complaint that there is public policy on this matter and that people might assert their interests as it “interferes with social change”. That’s what I said to begin with and you and this Aitch fellow tell me I have a reading comprehension issue. No, most people who grew up in this country and have never called any other place home are not down with the idea of America as the world’s youth hostel, no matter how much you fancy ‘social change’ to the detriment of us ‘losers’.

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                    • No one disputes that the US could physically build a border wall. The question is whether that is a good investment.

                      “2. You have your choice of penalties for non-compliance. That would be incarceration and corporal punishment. You can transport them over the border, but that will, all things considered, offer only a remedy and not a deterrent.”

                      It needs to be recognized how extreme this position is. Not only is it arguing for a massive increase in our criminal justice system, but also that incarceration or corporal punishment are ‘needed’ as penalties for our immigration law to be an effective policy.* From this and subsequent comments it is clear Art wants to go after many (if not all) illegal aliens in this country, and, further, that the US should incarcerating a significant (just guessing–ie. not really a deterrent if you not using it) number of these people as a deterrent.

                      Your talking about some 10 to 15 million people, not just that our law enforcement have to find, arrest and deport, but that we are going to have to pay to incarcerate. At present we struggle to house the number of immigrants being deported, and your incarceration plan would mean lawyers (you are charging them with a crime after all), new prisons, and a massive new bureaucracy. Whether finding and deporting most illegal immigrants in this country is even possible is open for debate. Incarcerating them too . . . that’s ridiculous.**

                      This quote, coupled with your comment above that we can contain the problem by building a wall and catching all subsequent visa overstays, are so completely foreign to me that I have trouble responding. As a jumping off point, there seemed to be some unfounded assumptions at play wrt your claim that increased enforcement would control the problem.

                      Quickly (as this comment has gone on too long). The ability of a border fence to significantly limit the number of illegal entries to the US, or (more importantly) to limit the number of illegal immigrants in the country (almost half came here legally and overstayed), is dubious. Fences, tunnels, boats, to name three options for the enterprising immigrant, as well as an increase in legal migration and overstaying are but a few of the possible outcomes. So, will a fence make to harder to enter illegally? Sure. Will it have a significant effect on illegal immigration? Probably not. Then your numbers for rounding up those who overstay their visa’s may be correct, but again, there will probably be significantly more tourist and business visa’s. So up that number, then add to that money for prosecutors and (in your world) defense then attorney’s, the courts, and prisons. We already spend more on immigration enforcement than on other federal law enforcement agencies (18 billion compared to 14.4). Forget moral arguments, your claim that the fence and increased enforcement would not be a significant outlay of money is almost unbelievable.

                      *If I remember correctly, crossing the border is a crime, while illegal presence is not (at least the first time).

                      ** We currently spend 18 billion on immigration enforcement.

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                    • Various federal agencies with a hand in immigration control have budgets which sum to about $28 bn. However, each of these agencies has mixed responsibilities, infrastructure is not present, and best practices are not present.

                      I doubt with a fortified border you are going to have too many apprehensions per year. The state prison service in New York has an operating budget of $2.5 bn and a census of 63,000 inmates. You can see the executive summary here.

                      http://www.doccs.ny.gov/Commissioner/Testimony/2012-13_Executive_Budget.html

                      You take 200,000 people who have overstayed their visas and slap them with 80 days in jail and you have a census of 43,000 inmates.

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                    • People can work out various technical means of evading a border wall. The point is to engineer the wall in such a way that the means are prohibitively costly and the number making use of them are not demographically important. People are walking across the border because it is a low-cost option. Raise the cost and some will give up and some will use other means. You have a police force to attend to the other means.

                      Their are more and less optimal ways of deploying your forces. By way of example, the City of New York does not have an exceptionally dense police presence. The number of sworn officers per capita is perhaps 5% above the national mean for a metropolitan settlement, yet New York has a homicide rate which is precisely the national average in spite of facts on the ground which would lead you to expect much higher levels of disorder.

                      I am not precisely sure why you all keep speaking of the stock of the problematic population. We have a large stock of crime prone youths as well, but we understand performance in this realm by looking at indicators which tell us over time whether collective management of social problems is improving or deteriorating. As long as the number of illegal aliens expelled exceeds arrivals, we are proceeding in the proper direction. We can, in that circumstance, implement policies which screen applicants for legal entry according to collective objectives.

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                    • But building and guarding a sufficient wall ain’t free, especially if you lost below-minimum-wage labor. So the question becomes is it advantageous for is to do such. What do we gain and what do we lose?

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                    • I’m with you Kazzy. Financial cost isn’t a trivial issue. I wish I knew more about economics but the calculus should really be a comparison between the cost/benefit of The Wall vs. the cost/benefit of … well … all the other policies.

                      Building a wall strikes as very similar to making pot illegal. It’s just a money drain. All costs, no revenue.

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                    • Though, to be more serious for a moment, I am still not a fan of a fence Because I do have doubts about is efficacy and expense, a well as eminent domain. But I am a believer of a more serious turns for the tat of amnesty, and I was informed last election that my preferred method (employment enforcement) was inhumane, immoral, and unamerican. So, a wall does at least have the benefit of providing jobs and will address certain concerns (and likely disabuse some folks of what they consider to be an obvious solution).

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                    • “The important thing is to build the wall. Complaints about its initial cost, maintenance cost, and ultimate effectiveness are just nay-saying to avoid admitting that it has to be built.”

                      Shocking that this logic comes from the same folks who brought us the invasion of Iraq.

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                    • Non sequitur.

                      Given current highway maintenance budgets in New York and federal distributions for Interstate Maintenance, a passable guess at annual maintenance charges would be under a billion dollars. Given the construction cost the Interstate system in current dollars, a sunk cost in the range of $20 – $25 bn would be in order.

                      I do not recall anyone on this board making an issue of the Energy Departments $50 bn loan portfolio or the $20 bn which are puked into farm subsidies each year.

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                    • I do not recall anyone on this board making an issue of the Energy Departments $50 bn loan portfolio or the $20 bn which are puked into farm subsidies each year.

                      You haven’t been paying much attention, then. Farm subsidies in particular have been criticized a lot around here.

                      But just comparing costs of programs is a pretty meaningless thing unless there is agreement on the net value of that spending. The point here is that a lot of folks disagree with you about the net value of our spending on keeping certain people out of the country. For my part, I side with economists whose analyses shows that illegal immigration is a net plus for the U.S. economy, and stemming it would probably be a net drain on the economy.

                      Why spend billions of dollars a year to hurt the economy?

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                    • I am broadly familiar with the literature.

                      1. A principle can be derived from a theoretical model. The conclusions of the theory are dependent on the the constructions of the model and the truth of the model is dependent on its correspondence with the world as it is.

                      2. The theoretical construction can identify a true social phenomenon which is, however, of scant practical significance. Borjas research (ca. 1996) identified the benefit to the extant population of trade in factors of production as being worth (IIRC) about 0.1% of gross domestic product. In other words, with a moratorium on immigration, we would be largely uninjured.

                      3. Again, Borjas: benefit to the natives is sensitive to the public benefits regime.

                      4. Again, Borjas: benefit is a function of the sort of screens in place governing immigration. The unfortunate social statistics adhering to the Puerto Rican population are instructive here. Puerto Rico is a distinct society (they are sociological though not juridical immigrants) and Puerto Rican migrants have free rein to settle here (no screen) and full access to public benefits – the default preferences of the Democratic congressional caucus. The result has been a social disaster, and this migration stream has at its source Latin America’s most affluent society.

                      5. Your screens only work if you enforce policy.

                      6. And, again, economic analysis cannot capture the value of certain intangibles.

                      7. Please recall Milton Friedman’s observation: you cannot have free immigration and the welfare state at the same time. Open borders advocates are often people who recognize no ethic of common provision nor any loyalty to any collectivity they did not manufacture from their consumer choices. (Yes, I do want Bryan Caplan to emigrate. I do not want anyone in my house not loyal to the house).

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                    • Open borders advocates are often people who recognize no … loyalty to any collectivity they did not manufacture from their consumer choices.

                      You’re goddam right, I don’t! Fuck all this goddam nationalism–it’s a scourge, just brute tribalism writ large and given lots of emotionally manipulative symbols to fool us into believing it’s somehow more sophisticated and meaningful than just another Hatfield-McCoy feud.

                      People want to come to my country because they like my country. I say let them in.

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                    • Wrong. I like my country, even though I don’t think it’s perfect. I do have allegiance to it, but it is a chosen allegiance, not something imposed on me by some theoretical collective. So your attempt at dispossessing me is rejected–it’s my country, too, every bit as much as yours.

                      Really you’re just doing exactly what I said, making another effort to distinguish “us” from “them,” and this time you’re trying to squeeze me out of the “us.” It’s sad and pathetic. Mere tribalism.

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                    • Art,

                      Your taking something that many here, and most economists, feel is not serious economic problem and throwing significant amounts of money at it. Maybe most importantly, I think you are seriously underestimating how much it is going to cost to make 11 million people criminals.

                      First, your use of 200,000 as the number of people we would be forced to arrest and incarcerate is a little strange. And saying that we can spend 3b* and contain the ‘problem’ seems like wishful thinking. I’ve already explained why I don’t think the wall or increased enforcement will do much to control illegal immigration (tourist visa’s aren’t that hard to get after all).** But that’s just the number of new arrivals (which would vary greatly based on the factors that actually effect illegal immigration), what about all those already here?

                      If you make overstaying a visa a crime punishable by 80 days in jail/prison you have effectively made those 11 million people criminals. Just look at the war on drugs–these things tend to metastasize, especially when there is a large number of potential targets. You’ve taken an already over burdened system*** in which people present illegally are picked up (or not, based on discretionary factors and funding), held (or not, based on likelihood of return to court or ability to pay bond), given a hearing, and deported (or not, based on circumstances and applicable law), and removing at least some discretion on initial arrest, increasing the likelihood that the person will be held, increasing the cost of the hearing significantly, holding the person for 80 days, and then deporting. All because policy needs a penalty to enforce compliance (and apparently being held in our hellish immigration system and deported is not enough). And this is without taking into account that you want to increase deporting illegal immigration from the staggering rate we are deporting presently.

                      TL/DR- Illegal immigration is not a significant problem, and prioritizing enforcement and criminalizing immigrants is an outlay that would certainly add to the increase of 46 billion dollars allocated to enforcement in the current immigration bill.

                      *Plus 2.5b for prisons (actually more because the idea that we would only incarcerate 200k when there are 11 million illegals is patently ridiculous), and then more to allow the courts to handle the increased caseload, and then still more to hire defense attorney’s, and around 9 billion for 700 miles of fence or 20b to fence the whole thing, plus however much to for cameras, motion sensors, and drones to patrol that insanely long border, and alligators for the fire pits lining the wall . . . suffice to say the costs add up.

                      **We significantly increased enforcement with no discernible effect over the last 15-20, in large part because they don’t impact the factors which lead people to illegally immigrate (source and destination country economic conditions, host country birth rates, etc.).

                      ***So overburdened that immigration cases comprise 30-45% of appeals to federal appellate courts.

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                    • Your taking something that many here, and most economists, feel is not serious economic problem and throwing significant amounts of money at it.

                      What economists ‘feel’ or do not ‘feel’ is not important. Economists in my experience are usually loath to discuss normative questions and, in any case, bring their own social biases to these problems. Measurable benefits from trade in factors of production are small and there are social and political questions at stake that are outside the ken of economics as a discipline.
                      Maybe most importantly, I think you are seriously underestimating how much it is going to cost to make 11 million people criminals.

                      My back of the envelope calculations are derived from what working police departments and courts spend going about their daily labors. Unless you fancy there are complicated technical challenges in tracking illegal immigrants that do not apply in tracking ordinary hoodlums, I cannot see what the objections are.

                      Just look at the war on drugs–these things tend to metastasize, especially when there is a large number of potential targets.

                      What metastasis? Street drugs are a social problem and police, penal courts, and prisons devote about 20% of their manpower to containing the problem. That’s life in a world with large quanta of anomie and affluenza. It used to be worse than it is.

                      You are taking current practice as a given. There is no need to give every advantage to lawfare artists and there is no need to have the Immigration and Customs Enforcement behave like the Keystone Kops. These are policy decisions. Verifying someone’s residency status is not that difficult if you keep proper records, which public bureaucracies are quite capable of doing if they are not execrably led as a matter of policy. A ten minute hearing, a few documents produced, eighty days in the cooler, and a trip across the border is all that is necessary.

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                    • AD,

                      If I’m understanding you correctly, you are attempting to have it both ways: we should provide practical disincentives to potential immigrants while ignoring the practical disincentives to doing so because of some broader calling.

                      That doesn’t compute, for me at least.

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                    • Art,

                      Your numbers are based 200k immigrants, which is in turn based on what? Absolutely nothing (ie. your conventional estimate of immigrants overstaying visa’s every year). But, as pointed out, this varies by year, and would increase significantly if we actually spent 20-30 Billion (and probably much more) to fence the border. The Fence also doesn’t solve the problem of illegal entry, which wasn’t included in your 200k figure.

                      You’ve said, “let’s make 11 million people criminals,” but based your expected costs of enforcement on flawed calculations of the number people overstaying their visa’s every year. I mean your ‘proposal’ is incoherent. It’s like saying to ‘contain’ the problem of smoking we make cigarettes illegal, but judge enforcement costs on only arresting the new smokers, not the 44 million existing regular users.

                      “What metastasis? Street drugs are a social problem and police, penal courts, and prisons devote about 20% of their manpower to containing the problem. ”

                      So I’m guessing your basing that 20% number on the percent of the total prison population incarcerated for drug crimes (which is slightly under 20% in 2011, thank god). Having worked in court here in Kentucky, I would bet that the amount of time prosecutors and the police spent enforcing drug laws is far higher (ie. most people are given probation or conditional plea deal, not jail time). Now, we have an incarceration problem (note, not a crime problem, where are rates are similar to other countries, but rather a problem of locking up people for too damn long), so, especially after recent concerted effort to lessen the severity of drug laws, of course drugs offenses are not going to dominate our massive prison system. But we have imprisoned 31 million people on drug charges, we have basically the same usages rates as the 1980’s but imprison 500k in federal prison compared to 41k in 1985. Billions (maybe trillions) spent, countless lives destroyed, no real differences in usage rates. Yeah, I call that a cancer on the body politic.

                      In sum, the current plan is a 46 billion dollar increase (granted some of that is one time costs) on the current 18 billion. You want to up this while criminalizing immigrants, but based the math on dealing with new immigrants under some incredibly generous assumptions. Color me unpersuaded.

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                    • You keep confounding stock and flow.

                      The estimate that 300,000 immigrate unlawfully via ignoring the expiration date on their visa is commonplace. I am sure there are a range of estimates. The source of the estimate that a third of immigrants voluntarily return home is the demographer E.P. Kraly. She spent the first leg of her career producing this estimate in co-operation with another demographer on the staff of the Census Bureau, so I tend to doubt it was a half-assed exercise. IIRC, she supplemented her academic publication with a small monograph on the subject with the title The Elusive Exodus.

                      So, 200,000 is the net flow passing through consulates abroad and then ports of entry. I imagine you seal the border, some portion will attempt more conventional channels of entry. This is the rough dimension of your problem. And, again, you find local police and courts which process this sort of case load. The municipal courts in the City of New York disposed of 372,000 arrest cases and 466,000 summonses in 2010. They employ about 180 judges. When I worked for the Unified Court System, there were about 9 support staff for each judge, so that amounts to just south of 2,000 people. You are telling me the federal government is incapable of erecting a set of dedicated JP courts which employ 2,000 people?

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                    • And, again, since you are fixated on stocks, the following:

                      I live in a country where there are around 17 million people at any one time given to dealing drugs or burgling houses or stealing cars or or robbing convenience stores or getting into p.o.s. bar-room brawls or p.o.s. road rage fights or raping random women or killing some neighbor who they fancy had treated them with disrespect. That’s life in the city. You hire cops and court employees and prison guards to contain the problem and clean up some of the mess because there is no alternative outside of the imagination of purveyors of social therapeutics. We enact penal codes which ‘criminalize’ 17 million people because alternatives are worse.

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                    • One other point. The Appendix to the Federal Budget for Fiscal Year 2012/13 includes some tables issued on behalf of Customs and Border Protection. They allocate $3.6 bn to border patrol “between points of entry”. Not exactly breaking the bank with this line item.

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                    • Art, you wrote:

                      “I live in a country where there are around 17 million people at any one time given to dealing drugs or burgling houses or stealing cars or or robbing convenience stores or getting into p.o.s. bar-room brawls or p.o.s. road rage fights or raping random women or killing some neighbor who they fancy had treated them with disrespect. That’s life in the city. You hire cops and court employees and prison guards to contain the problem and clean up some of the mess because there is no alternative outside of the imagination of purveyors of social therapeutics. We enact penal codes which ‘criminalize’ 17 million people because alternatives are worse.”

                      Does this mean you equate overstaying a visa with rape and murder?

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                    • No Art, I’m not confounding stock and flow. You aren’t responding to what I have written. Criminalizing illegal immigrants, which is your plan, means that you have to account for ‘stock’ when figuring out how much it is going to cost.

                      Immigration courts are administrative proceedings, and have no jurisdiction over criminal charges. At present they are criminally underfunded with huge caseloads. Under your plan we have to upgrade to a full Art I or Art III court with better resources, defense attorney’s etc. IJ’s already handle 400-500k cases a year, and you want to add criminal charges. You have to account for the ramifications of your policy (and this ignores the chilling effect on immigrant’s relationship with the police).

                      On the 200k number. Why are we basing the size of the bureaucracy on the new violators and not the size of the whole population that you are targeting? As pointed out repeatedly, the policies you are advocating target the whole population. If every time an undocumented immigrant comes into contact with the state (local, state, and federal) they are picked up and processed (this seems to be what you advocate at 2:37), we need to think about how many more people are going to be coming through the system, not the average number of people overstaying a visa annually.

                      Your second comment gets to why this is going to be a pointless discussion (I also echo Chris’ surprise that you seem to be equating rape, murder, and burglary with illegal immigration, at least in that they are both serious offenses). As discussed elsewhere on this thread, there is little economic harm from illegal immigration (and I think we can just agree to disagree about the social/cultural benefits and costs of our new neighbors). Said simply I have a fundamentally different take on the situation: one that acknowledges our partial responsibility for the drug violence in Mexico and other central American countries, that recognizes the immigrants motivation and desire for a better life, that sees the immigration system (ours) they need to come here legally as fundamentally broken, and which, as a consequence, would seek to legitimate the immigrants already here and reform said system to take into account the supply and demand for low skill workers.

                      I also think you are severely overestimating the effect of the wall on both illegal entry and legal entry/overstaying.

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                    • @Gaelen:

                      “You have to account for the ramifications of your policy”

                      That’s how we got here in the first place. Immigration hawks continue to wax on and wax off about what is “right”, what is “just”, what is “fair” without taking into account the feasibility of forcing the nation to exist as they believe it should.

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                    • Does this mean you equate overstaying a visa with rape and murder?

                      No, any more than I equate burglary with murder. Illegal immigration and street crimes are social problems to be managed through the police power of the state. In both cases you have a stock of offenders who come to the attention of the authorities episodically. Those of us in the non-idiot population do not regard general law enforcement as a failure because the entire population of hoodlums does not disappear or is not at a discrete point in time behind bars. We ask if our infrastructure of coercion lead to improved metrics of public order or stable metrics at some tolerable level.

                      With regard to the problem at hand, we have two inflows: one from people walking across the Rio Grande and one from people obtaining the necessary visa and then ignoring the expiration date. There are a number of factors which influence the respective dimensions of this inflow, but the dimensions are not unlimited and we have a civil infrastructure working right now in localities such as New York City which handles similar case loads. Reducing the net inflow to nil and gradually squeezing some of the pus out over a generation is not an impossible task nor a hideously expensive one. It will require a commitment to building effective institutions, which the New York City Police Department is and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement service is not. Mr. Gaelen prefers not to acknowledge any of this so is waving his hands and blowing smoke. The math is not that difficult and the published reports detailing actual public expenditures, case loads, and manpower are not difficult to locate either.

                      You chaps would make better use of your time explicating why you have an emotional investment in what you do than in attempting to con me or con anyone else reading this.

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                    • Indulge me, Art.

                      How would you rank the following in terms of serious problems to be solved:

                      1. recreational marijuana use
                      2. murder
                      3. illegal immigration
                      4. jaywalking
                      5. rape
                      6. online music piracy
                      7. petty theft
                      8. gang violence
                      9. economic recession
                      10. global terrorism
                      11. cancer
                      12. preventable industrial accidents

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                    • We have a fundamental difference of opinion on the nature of this ‘problem,’ which I touched on above. And you still haven’t responded to why criminalizing all immigrants doesn’t overhaul our entire immigration system and makes it vastly more expensive.

                      “Reducing the net inflow to nil and gradually squeezing some of the pus out over a generation is not an impossible task nor a hideously expensive one.”

                      Your argument is that we will reduce “the net inflow to nil” by building a border wall and funding a service to deal with the 200k who overstay their visas.

                      We are never, repeat never, going to be able to stop people from crossing the border, or overstaying their visas. The Senate bill is an extra 46 billion, and if our economy improves and the drug violence and instability in Mexico and Central America get worse, that’s not going to stop net inflows. So we disagree on the nature and extent of the problem; we disagree on whether your proposed solution would do much to stop net inflows; we disagree on how much criminalizing the immigration courts would cost. Most fundamentally, we disagree on whether this is a good use of tens of billions of dollars.

                      Finally, being present illegally is not a crime (as much as you might want it to be), so stop comparing it to ACTUAL crimes where a person is targeting and harming a victim.

                      Oh, and squeeze the pus, con you? No, fish you Art. I’m done.

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                    • We are never, repeat never, going to be able to stop people from crossing the border, or overstaying their visas.

                      Gaelen, the problem here is that that is your postulate. And it is demonstrably untrue. Why you are invested in it, I do not know.

                      Christopher Carr:

                      1. Heck if I know.
                      2. Here, there, and the next place, local police have managed to dissolve criminal gangs through collaring a critical mass of their members and seizing their property. Other than ‘gang violence’, not one thing on your list is a soluble problem. These are problems contained to the point where marginal cost equals perceived marginal benefit or (in the case of cancer) contained best anyone knows how.

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                    • Art, your arguing that we can reduce net inflow to zero by focusing on a wall and enforcement. History has shown that this is a problem that enforcement is not going to be able to stop. The fishing Korean DMZ doesn’t stop everyone from crossing, so good luck with our 2,000 mile border.

                      And you haven’t convinced anyone that illegal immigration is a problem that demands increased enforcement (above the billions we already spend), or that your preferred policy is an efficient way to handle undocumented immigrants in or coming to this country.

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                • The logic of your argument is that each person inhibited from entry by a wall will make use of some other means to enter and that each additional increment in gross removals will be answered by an increase in gross successful entries. You do not at any point elucidate why these hypotheses should be so and yet I’m unconvincing.

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                  • No, I’m saying that it will not have a large effect, not that it will have no effect. And that the reduction in flow for the money spent is a poor investment.

                    The US has been spending ever increasing amounts of money over the last 30 years to stop illegal immigration with little discernible impact. We’ve double, then tripled the amount of border agents, built walls, increased enforcement and deportation. All of which only made it more costly and dangerous to come. You want a cost effective way to lower illegal immigration, fund family planning services in the countries from which our illegal immigrants hail.

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                    • the reduction in flow for the money spent is a poor investment.
                      The US has been spending ever increasing amounts of money over the last 30 years to stop illegal immigration with little discernible impact.

                      A concise history of almost every prohibition effort humans have ever tried.

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                    • C’mon, Gaelan. They are heading across the desert and hiding out in box cars to avoid the consulates and visa inspectorates or to avoid the expense. As for the rest, there is nothing preventing us from building and maintaining fingerprint databases and exit-and entry tracking systems except this particular bureaucracy’s chronic ineffectuality, a problem with which both the Democratic Party and the Chamber-of-Commerce wing of the Republican Party are perfectly comfortable. If it be your contention that flows are entirely demand driven and will invariably overwhelm increases in police manpower and organizational improvements, you will have to argue around the remarkably unbalanced sourcing of illegal immigration.

                      Again, Customs and Border Protection allocates about $3.6 bn to policing the border. The rest is devoted to customs inspection and the like. All of these agencies were derived from the old Immigration and Naturalization Service, which had a wretched institutional culture which lives on. Years ago, I came across an interview with a retired INS agent who was assigned to look for visa overstayers in New York City. They assigned seven (7) agents to that task in New York ca. 1990. The agency was not making a serious attempt to catch them; said agent also reported that improvements in the agency’s budget were allocated to hiring naturalization examiners.

                      Look, 30 years ago you had a mess of characters in academic sociology departments and among the social welfare apparat who were arguing that there was nothing that could be done by administrative means about street crime then spent another mass of years half a generation later arguing that manifest improvements in public security were serendipitous. Arguments like these are not novel.

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                    • Improved law enforcement, which does have increased manpower as a requirement. And yes, I do. That is a perfectly commonsensical position to take. In New York City, the rapid decline in crime rates was abrupt, unexpected, and co-incident with a change in administrations.

                      I have been assured by a research psychologist in the smuggest terms that Messrs. Giuliani and Bratton just happened to be there to take the credit. Said psychologist (who supervises shell-shocked veterans, despises the military, and has never worked in law enforcement or done a sociological study in his life) never did explain why the homicide rate in Buffalo and in Rochester is 3x that of New York City (given that it was nothing of the sort 30 years ago). Then there was the economist who offered a eugenic argument that the legalization of abortion weeded out the most disruptive population (not explaining why the decline in criminal behavior was abnormally concentrated in the wrong cohorts). And one of your crew offered a link the other day to an article by an employee of an advocacy group founded by Herbert Needleman offering that it was all a function of lead levels in people’s teeth, &c. I guess it is Dr. Needleman’s view that the crime explosion after 1960 would have been even worse if Latex paint hadn’t hit the market.

                      Or maybe it is just that people who have no respect for cops and prison guards would prefer not to acknowledge that they do any useful work.

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                  • You really don’t seem to understand the general failures of prohibition efforts. I heard a good interview with a guy in Mexico who facilitates illegal border crossings, for a fee, of course. His response to the wall was dismissive. We’ll just charge more to compensate for the increased risk, he said. People will pay it, as long as they have better opportunities in the U.S.

                    People die crossing the border. Everyone knows it, and yet people still come. You think increased enforcement is going to be more of a deterrent than the very real risk of death? I don’t think you understand how humans actually respond to incentives.

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                    • He’ll charge more to do what? Hire tanks to knock the wall down? Hire hitmen to kill the border guards? A little skepticism of NPRs editorial line, please.

                      People die from gunshot wounds living in inner city areas, too, yet they still rent apartments there and buy houses there. Everyone has their own set of actuarial calculations and their own risk tolerance and their own preference structures. What they do not have is the ability to walk through cement.

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                    • You don’t understand. Sure, people have found ways around the current desert terrain, border guards, INS sweeps, I-9 requirements, etc, etc, but their creativity is now exhausted, and any further obstacles placed in their way will be insuperable.

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                    • He’ll charge more to do what? Hire tanks to knock the wall down? Hire hitmen to kill the border guards? A little skepticism of NPRs editorial line, please.

                      I’m sorry….you think I should be more skeptical of an interview with an actual guy who helps people cross the border, rather than be more skeptical of some random guy on the interwebz?

                      Srly yr jkng.

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                    • I’m sorry….you think I should be more skeptical of an interview with an actual guy who helps people cross the border, rather than be more skeptical of some random guy on the interwebz?

                      People do not generally trash their own business, and may not wish to acknowledge threats to it.

                      Now, how many people did NPR interview before they found just the quotation they wanted?

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                    • Knock the wall down, dig under it, buy off or blackmail border patrol agents.

                      I am afraid one byproduct of the brazen world in which we live is that it is bloody difficult to blackmail anyone. Some portion of this world’s cops are corruptible, but in general they still manage to enforce the law as a rule if they are properly manned and deployed. It takes a certain amount of preparation and time as well as capital investment in heavy equipment (with a skilled operator) to knock down a sturdy piece of construction. With a federal police officer five or six hundred yards each side of you armed with a sniper rifle, seems a trifle imprudent.

                      I get it. You can imagine work arounds. They have to be applicable with sufficient regularity to result in demographically consequential inflows.

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                    • NPR is a leftist conspiracy!

                      Build a wall made of uranium and diamonds and put spikes on the top with the heads of people who tried to cross. Then install those weird worm things from the Tremors movies to make sure no one tunnels under. Then breed rabid attack cats and spread them all over the desert. Then cover the cats in poison and Ebola. Then hire low-wage, illegal Mexicans to patrol the border and get of the rabid, radioactive, Ebola infested, poisonous cats and tunnelling monsters.

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                    • Now, how many people did NPR interview before they found just the quotation they wanted?

                      I don’t know that it’s not true, so it must be true! Really now, base speculation is really among the lowest forms of argument.

                      I am afraid one byproduct of the brazen world in which we live is that it is bloody difficult to blackmail anyone.

                      Heh, I think I get you now. You’re a good guy, not someone who spends much time around the seamy side of life. I’m not knocking that. But anyone who peers much into the dark side knows that bribery is far easier than blackmail, because it’s a win-win for each side.

                      Some portion of this world’s cops are corruptible,

                      Some goodly portion of this world’s people are corruptible. And police work doesn’t disproportionately draw the most noble people. Being a policeman is stressful, and particularly so for good honest caring people. So simple application of the concept of self-selection bias leads to a prediction that among the ranks of the police are a higher proportion of not so good, not so honest, not so caring, people than among the general population. That doesn’t mean all cops are bad, but it does mean finding corruptible cops won’t necessarily be that hard.

                      It takes a certain amount of preparation and time as well as capital investment in heavy equipment (with a skilled operator) to knock down a sturdy piece of construction.

                      Nobody’s talked about knocking the wall down. That’s a strawman (also among the lowest forms of argument). We’re talking about going over (two girls climbed it in under 20 seconds) or under (tunnels are not uncommon–we’ve found some, but no serious analyst of border security thinks we have, or can, find them all).

                      With a federal police officer five or six hundred yards each side of you armed with a sniper rifle, seems a trifle imprudent.

                      OK, so we have a 2,000 mile border fence, which is 3,520,000 yards. Divide that by 600 yards, and we get 5,866 border guard stations. Each has to be manned 24 hours a day, so that’s three shifts, and we’ll need two men per shift so they can take their breaks without leaving their sector unwatched, so 5,866*3*2 = 35,200 guards. Each will work 5 day weeks, so we need guys for the weekends, too, so add another 40% (2/5), and we have 49,280 border patrol. Plus a few more to cover vacations and sick days, and we can reasonably round that to about 50,000 (if we set the posts 500 yards apart, that number increases to close to 60,000).

                      We currently employ just over 21,000 border patrol agents, so that will require us to more than double their number. And of course if we assume that currently ICE tries to hire the best available, that means the new 28,000+ will be, on average, of lower quality than our current body of border patrol agents. Among other things, both the absolute increase in numbers and the average decline in quality mean the prospects for finding a bribable agent will increase.

                      It can be done, sure. But is it a worthwhile endeavor? I get that you think so, but I sure as hell don’t see the cost-benefit analysis turning up positive.

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              • It’s in that vein that people say that unskilled labor trying to make better lives for themselves and their families and their children and their babies are injuring the workers here.

                Indeed, perhaps even every worker here.

                I see the benefits of open borders outweighing the costs, mind… but I’m vaguely skilled labor. The costs are likely to be born by people who ain’t me and I’m likely to see the benefits of it.

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                • Thing is, many those jobs go to places where union organisers are beaten and jailed outright.

                  Other things being equal, sure, you might see the benefits of cheaper goods. You won’t see anyone arrested or beaten for trying to improve working conditions or wages. Well, come to think of it, if a factory full of garment workers collapses and kills a few hundred of them — those people’s lives are cheap. As long as it translates into costs borne by others, it’s all good, nu?

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                    • Refugees sort out into two categories: conflict and economic. In the last category, either you go to the job or the job comes to you.

                      One of the more interesting and obscene parts of economic migration is the exploitation of the refugees by their own ethnic groups. The coyotes who bring the refugees across oblige them to carry bales of drugs. It’s terribly efficient. The Snake Head gangs routinely bring in women for forcible prostitution, again, it’s all quite profitable — a certain hideous quid pro quo: they get in the country and they must turn tricks, too.

                      It is all of a piece. America got the 40 hour week and all those health and safety regs because of the trade unions. Now they’re disappearing and with them, we see Americans working more hours for less wages in increasingly difficult conditions.

                      The number of people crossing from Mexico seems to be going down: there’s far less incentive to cross. People are actually leaving on their own: this isn’t the Land of Opportunity that once it was. For those who remain, we’re now a two-tier society: los indocumentados have hidden themselves well enough, aided and abetted by their exploiters.

                      It’s all a big con, Jaybird. America’s hollowing out. The Congress can build their Hoops of Fire for all these folks to jump through like so many trained poodles, it won’t change anything. It’s all of a piece: the jobs go elsewhere, the refugees stop coming. Why should they come any more?

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                • If people prefer to preserve their jobs at the expense of some, is that irrational? If people prefer to preserve their jobs when it benefits some, is that irrational?

                  If self-interest is rational, then I think the issue amounts to an argumentative stalemate.

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                    • If that’s really what you think Roger was saying, you’re wrong.

                      And now you’re mixing up the issues of rationality and morality, which Roger was distinguishing between.

                      Why don’t you take off your Anti-Libertarian Auto Knee-Jerk (TM) device? It wouldn’t mean you had to agree; it would just mean that you might avoid writing foolish things when you do.

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                    • Perhaps you’ll explain what Roger was trying to say. We’ve all been here, times without number, James. At present, we seem to be on pretty good terms, or so I hope.

                      But the Libertarians are in a cleft stick of their own making. The interests of one are best served by serving the interests of the many: no one person has sufficient power to make a difference. Crossing a picket line is playing Beggar Thy Neighbour. Employing an illegal alien is playing Beggar Thy Neighbour. In such a world we shall all be beggars.

                      The Libertarians must at some point come to some sense of how others view their positions. Labelling some viewpoint as Rational does not make it rational.

                      Either we are either members of a society, citizens of a nation — or we are not. With that membership come rights but that membership has dues and all who apply for membership must meet requirements and play by the rules. Want membership in American society? Get in line and apply for a goddamn visa, that’s how it works. I have stood in that line down at the Dirksen Federal Building for many, many hours and I’ve sponsored six such people. Those lines are long. The bureaucracy is tough but not impossible.

                      I strongly dislike the tenor of this immigration conversation. Others manage to play by the rules. At present, large numbers of American employers are employing illegal immigrants. This phenomenon does harm those who play by the rules. How could it not harm those who play by the rules? Just because someone doesn’t like the rules doesn’t mean they aren’t valid, does it?

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                    • I’m making the same distinction; self-interest is always rational, but in a capitalist system (libertarianism is not the issue, which is one reason I haven’t used that word), the self-interest of capital is moral while the self-interest of labor is not. Funny how that works.

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                    • I’ve said it a thousand times. Capitalism isn’t immoral. It’s amoral. It serves the interests of the owners. There’s no virtue to this position and no shame, either.

                      But those who would demonise trade unions and get all huffy about the Evils of Socialism condemn themselves from their own mouths. They would would praise Ownership as a virtue might see their way clear to praising the power of capitalism to pull us all down the track to prosperity. They never get that far, of course.

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                    • A guy crossing a picket line strikes me as being about as morally interesting as a guy crossing a border and undercutting an American worker’s bid for any particular job.

                      There is moral content there… but I don’t know that we (as a society) should use the force of the government to prevent it from happening.

                      I understand absolutely why the guy is crossing the line. I understand absolutely why he’s hated for it. I understand absolutely why the guy might cross a border illegally. I understand absolutely why he’s resented.

                      And if I were in the place of any one of those folks, I’d probably do the exact same thing. It depends on which group I feel solidarity with.

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                    • Mike–the guy crossing the picket line is labor, too, and the necessary implication of Roger’s statement–regardless of whether he is correct or not–is that that particular laborer’s interests have moral weight.

                      Blaise–On the surface, you seem to be inviting me to have a nice conversation. But since can’t resist the opportunity to set it up as yet another fight about libertarianism, even though I wasn’t even talking about that, I will decline.

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                    • So, basically, Jaybird — this has nothing to do with reason and everything to do with self-interest. It has nothing to do with solidarity, that much is for sure.

                      Mel Brooks: “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die.” I’m sure you’ll tell me the guy who walked into the open sewer and died did so of his own free will, same as the scab who crosses a picket line or the coyote and the Snake Heads who force illegal immigrants into lives of essential slavery and prostitution.

                      It sure must be nice, being a Libertarian. Some might say you guys don’t have consciences. I would defend you from such scurrilous and unkind accusations. You do have consciences. They only extend as far as your own reach, though. The plight of others is invariably their fault.

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                    • The question remains unanswered: if people prefer to preserve their own jobs at the expense of others, knowing such a trade-off ultimately damages their own potential earning power, knowing it becomes a game of Beggar Thy Neighbour, there’s not even a borderline of immorality. It’s and amoral and ultimately self-defeating proposition.

                      It’s demonstrably irrational: a group has power where an individual does not. That’s a fact. And it’s on this hill where the Libertarian doctrine ultimately fails. Some associations are not voluntary: actions have consequences beyond ourselves. Wishing this were not so is madness.

                      Attempting to reduce this to a discussion about reason versus morals will never fly. Stillwater points this out, Mike points this out — look, James, nobody even mentioned Libertarianism until your Patellar Reflex kicked in. You’re bright enough to know that’s where the Libertarian philosophy fails, you saw it, you reacted. I’m not asking for a discussion on this subject, either. Reason and Morals have nothing to do with this issue. Consequences, consequences of our actions, our actions both collective and individual, that lies at the heart of this problem.

                      America has always thrived on the basis of exploiting each new wave of immigrants to this country. Exploitation isn’t pejorative, it’s just the way capitalism works. If the workers can be exploited, that’s not volitional on their part. If they can’t see the damage done by crossing the picket line, playing Beggar Thy Neighbour, how many times must we iterate over the Prisoner’s Dilemma before we conclude mankind is just not a rational or even a particularly moral animal?

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                    • Well, it looks like a stalemate.

                      I think Roger’s distinction is a good, and as James’ said, whether he’s right or wrong about it the distinction itself still holds as a valid one.

                      Here’s my two cents: I think there are two conceptions of rationality being employed here. One is purely subjectively determined instrumental rationality; the other is a more objective and categorical rationality. Likewise, I think there’s two conceptions of morality being employed as well, a subjectively determined morality and an objectively determined one.

                      Roger’s distinction relies on crossing between the subjective and objective, it seems to me. He’s claiming that a person who opposes scabs is acting subjectively instrumentally rationally but objectively categorically immorally.

                      So here’s a question: is it possible to act rationally and immorally without engaging in a subjective/objective ambiguity? Can a person’s actions be both rational and immoral according to either standard without the claim devolving into incoherence? Eg: if a person is rational to prevent scabs from crossing the line, doesn’t that indicate that their actions are moral?

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                    • So, Blaise, what’s the proper Libertarian response? Is it “Open Borders!” Is it “We need to keep American Jobs American?”

                      To be perfectly honest, I thought that my position of “increased immigration has costs and benefits and I’ll see most of the benefits and none of the costs” was pretty aware of the various dynamics.

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                    • rationality entails morality

                      The problem is that there are plenty of ways to stack “this thing is more important than that thing”. To bring morality into it seems to me to imply that someone ranking things differently is acting immorally… when it’s just as easy to conclude that they have different preferences (due to cultural issues, or taste issues, or time horizon issues, and the list goes on).

                      I don’t know that morality clarifies things more than it muddies them.

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                    • The proper response is to abandon Libertarianism. It’s as woefully incomplete as Marxism ever was — and for the same reasons. If the Libertarian doctrine of Voluntary Association is to mean anything in the real world, (and it surely does not) — the Libertarians would be the most vociferous supporters of trade unionism ever seen. That they are not shows the inherent self-contradiction of their philosophy.

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                    • Barring that?

                      (And, for the record, we do support Trade Unions. Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, and so on. We just also look at stuff like Detroit and say that corporations should be allowed to fail if it comes to that. We oppose public sector unions, of course, but that’s a different kettle of fish. We also support the right of people to cross picket lines, though… so I suppose that might be seen as less than perfect support for Trade Unions, but what can you do?)

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                    • Jaybird, I appreciated that view of things right when you first said. I tend to feel the same way – to a certain extent, anyway, – and that’s why I wrote the response that started this thread.

                      The only reason I’m focusing on morality in the above comment was because Roger brought it up and it’s actually a good point. But like my comment implied, I have some problems with invoking morality at this particular point … whatever people are disputing at this point.

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                    • Who are these amorphous (and entirely mythical) “we” who support trade unionism among the Libertarians? Not in the ranks of Cato Institute, my yardstick for Libertarian thought.

                      As for public sector unions, who do you propose to negotiate for salary negotiations? You have essentially conceded the obvious: there is strength in numbers.

                      No, the Libertarian’s conscience extends no farther than his own arm. Unless the shit rolls downhill onto him, he is perfectly content that it should roll onto others. I have often said Libertarians are defined by what they are Not, not by what they Are. Who are these pro-union Libertarians?

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                    • No, the Libertarian’s conscience extends no farther than his own arm. Unless the shit rolls downhill onto him, he is perfectly content that it should roll onto others.

                      Very very definitely not looking for a conversation.

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                    • Unless the shit rolls downhill onto him, he is perfectly content that it should roll onto others.

                      Uhhh. I don’t think that’s a correct way to describe the libertarians you’re actually talking to on this board, BP. But that claim is platitudinous enough that it would apply to liberals as well, from a libertarian perspective at least.

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                    • Let what passes for Libertarian thought in print be put aside, for if any person call himself a Libertarian — all else must be discarded. That’s Voluntary Association for yez, I may be a Libertarian too, and not even know it yet!. That’s a terrifying thought.

                      How did Firesign Theater put it?

                      Many busy executives ask me, “What about the job displacement market program in the city of the future?” Well, count on us to be there, JIM, because, if we’re lucky tomorrow, we won’t have to deal with questions like yours ever again.

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                    • That would imply some answers might be forthcoming. Where are those pro-union Libertarians of which I am told? Perhaps, when that question is squared away, a conversation might be forthcoming.

                      In the meantime, I do not expect, nor have I ever had, a meaningful conversation on the subject of what Libertarians believe — for it is patently obvious, after several years here, that the Libertarian believes nothing. It is true, he denies many things — but what he actually believes is an inscrutable mystery.

                      Talk to someone else. George Carlin said he talked to himself because his were the only answers he could accept — and you accept no answers, or indeed, definitions beyond your own. When you have something by way of what Libertarians believe, do let me know. I won’t be holding my breath.

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                    • It’s kinda like asking whether Christians believe stuff. There are some that do and some that don’t. But to ask a Protestant for a document from the Pope (because he’s the only one with authority that you recognize as being authoritative) is to misunderstand Protestantism.

                      There are Christians who have a doctrine called “Universal Priesthood”. This, essentially, means that there isn’t a layer between the unwashed masses and God/Jesus. We can go directly to Him instead of having to go through a priest.

                      This is like that.

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                    • Let us suppose this is true, Jaybird, though it does not address the issue at hand, these mythical Libertarian union supporters of which I am told.

                      A Christian has a creed. Mine is the Nicene Creed. I accept it for what it is and can be said to be a Christian on that basis. I believe something. I accept the saving work of Jesus Christ in my life. It changed me. It gives me hope. I approach life on that basis.

                      The Libertarian Creed, where is it elucidated? What are its principles, what does it believe to be true about mankind and his relationship to the world? Is there a Jaybird variant, one you believe to the exclusion of other Libertarians? Can you furnish it for me, so I can work with something here?

                      You may not have it both ways: either you are a Libertarian, which implies certain beliefs to the exclusion of others, or you are a Jaybirditarian, acceptable enough to me. The word Libertarian means nothing at present. I am a Libertarian, too, in that case. In which case, I’ll just lay off and we can all agree Libertarianism is a catch-all term with no definitional basis. Howzat? Works for me.

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                    • Well, the problem is that there are dozens of kinds of Libertarians. There are intellectual, analytical types. There are existential libertarians (waves hand). There are the economic types. There are those who came to Libertarianism via Ayn Rand. There are those who came to Libertarianism via a horrible interaction with the police or with the government. There are those who came to Libertarianism because Clinton was one hell of a Republican President and Dubya was one hell of a Democratic one.

                      A creed that would catch all?

                      If I cannot see how I (or someone like me) would have the right or the obligation to interfere with your life, I do not see how the government gets this same right or obligation… and without either the right or the obligation, the government shouldn’t.

                      I imagine most Libertarians would purse their lips and say “yeah, that’s mostly almost right.”

                      Heck, you can get to public education, a social safety net, and even laws from there!

                      But you don’t get stuff like Prohibition, abortion bans, gay marriage bans, or forfeiture.

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                    • Libertarians are all Jaybirditarians, or Hanleytarians. The formula is simple. Take a name, add -itarian to it and hey presto, you have a Libertarian. There’s no need for any intellectual or political congruence at all. I seem to have cracked the code here, folks. It is logically impossible to define a Libertarian, each Libertarian defines himself. How delightfully solipsistic! Saves on having to do any actual thinking — it’s actually Biblical, too. Judges 17: 6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

                      There’s nothing to be said further on this subject. There are no Libertarians, plural. There is only one Libertarian at a time. And with each instance, the definition is entirely dependent upon the self-description of each such Libertarian. If this makes the definition of Libertarian a bit squishy, topological taffy can be stretched as far as you’d like. It’s strictly theoretical.

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                    • You can’t have both. Either you are for the trade union’s right to strike, or you’re for the scab crossing the picket line. As I’ve said, Libertarian means nothing. It might be excused its self-referential justification if only it weren’t so self-contradictory.

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                    • It is logically impossible to define a Libertarian, each Libertarian defines himself.

                      Well, first off, a while ago I said something on this board to the effect that a necessary condition on libertarianism is that NAP is either a first principle or logically entailed by other principles. ANd I think that’s right, actually. So I think it can be defined.

                      Another thing is that Jaybird more or less defined libertarianism in terms in the above comment, and he did so in terms of the non-aggression principle. He even said that most or all libertarians would agree with it. In that sense, if he’s right (and he’d know better than I but I tend towards agreement with him) NAP actually is a (or the) central principle of libertarianism.

                      So, saying that it has no definition isn’t quite right. In fact, it’s sorta the opposite of not quite right.

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                    • The Non-Aggression Principle means nothing to a Libertarian, at least not to Rothbard, who’s danced around the problem for years. Put out the Ol’ Trolley Problem and the Libertarians will shatter like an icicle on the side walk.

                      It’s all nonsense. If the Libertarians were even remotely consistent on what follows from the Non-Aggression Principle, I’d have some respect for them. They aren’t. They like civilisation when it suits their purposes.

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                    • A Christian has a creed. Mine is the Nicene Creed.

                      And others have other creeds, which is pretty much Jaybird’s point. Excellent.

                      As to the rest, nearly everything you say about libertarianism is just stream-of-consciousness nonsense. Your questions have been answered repeatedly, and you repeatedly ignore those answers and pretend they haven’t been given.

                      As far as unions go, Roger’s explained the extent to which he does and does not support unions at least 3 or 4 times. You didn’t listen then, so it’s hard to see a reason why anyone would bother to answer you, and have their answer ignored, yet again.

                      Every time you approach the topic you shift immediately into hyper-aggressive mode, accuse people of things they don’t believe, and falsely claim they haven’t answered questions they have in fact answered before. What reason would any libertarian have for trying to engage you, when you clearly don’t want a conversation, but just want an excuse to rant at and about libertarians?

                      That is to say, why would any of us want to have a conversation with someone who refuses to listen but doesn’t have anything worthwhile to say?

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                    • When it becomes about me, I win the debate. I’ve pointed out the contradiction in supporting trade unions and supporting the right to cross a strike line. This is contradictory and you have provided no resolution.

                      Nor have you come up with those Pro-Union Libertarians.

                      Intellectual disgrace
                      Stares from every human face,
                      And the seas of pity lie
                      Locked and frozen in each eye.

                      Perhaps you’ve squared things up in your own mind, all those niggling little contradictions. But you’re lousy preachers, Libertarians.

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                    • “Who is the injured party when a willing worker crosses a picket line?”

                      Riffing off Stillwater, I simply commented that it is rational yet borderline immoral “to preserve their jobs at the expense of some.”

                      Mike then replied with some snarky comment that implied some of us support poisoning and killing in free enterprise. This is not worthy of a comment. He then clarifies that his argument is that some of us support self interest of capital but not labor.

                      My point is that, in general, I do not support actions which benefit one at the expense of another. There are exceptions to this, exceptions which I hope to expand on some day in a post on the nature of HARM.

                      The notable exception that this conversation is working around is the type of circumstantial harm that comes about by losing out on an opportunity for a positive sum, mutually voluntary exchange. Every time I choose to interact commercially, romantically or playfully with one person, I have by definition harmed every other person on the planet that wanted to trade, date or play with me. No violence… I simply refused to select them to benefit from cooperating with me.

                      Societies have identified many areas of acceptable constructive competitions, where people compete to cooperate (trade, employ, date, play, etc). I strongly support the freedom of constructive competition, and I find attempts to limit this freedom and choice to be borderline immoral. I can defend rules envouraging constructive competition from utilitarian, selfish and altruistic perspectives.

                      As James, noted, I do not believe capital qualifies for special treatment or exemptions.

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                    • When it becomes about me, I win the debate.

                      Go ahead and believe that if it makes you feel good about yourself. It’s all part and parcel of your on-going exercise of public self-gratification here.

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                    • Nor have you come up with those Pro-Union Libertarians.

                      By the way, Blaise, here is a case in point of you either simply refuse to listen or just flat out lie. I specifically mentioned Roger, but you just continue pretending nobody’s ever answered your question.

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                    • SW,

                      “I think there are two conceptions of rationality being employed here. One is purely subjectively determined instrumental rationality; the other is a more objective and categorical rationality. Likewise, I think there’s two conceptions of morality being employed as well, a subjectively determined morality and an objectively determined one.”

                      This may indeed be the case. Personally, I do not “get” categorical rationality or morality. These are alien to the way I think, but may be closer to the mark for Jaybird??

                      You and I certainly lean more toward instrumentalism. My morality might be more toward rule instrumentalism. I believe the goodness of a set of rules is in what type of results the rules can be expected to result in.

                      I do believe subjective and objective cross and merge. As we have discussed in prior conversations, these words are only opposites in certain definitions, not others. Some actions can thus be both subjectively and objectively good, as long as we carefully define the words we are using.

                      ” He’s claiming that a person who opposes scabs is acting subjectively instrumentally rationally but objectively categorically immorally.”

                      I am claiming it is instrumentally rational. So is cheating in a prisoners dilemma. The meta rational action though is to design a system with rules so that neither party gains by cheating. I believe the higher level instrumental rationality and morality is to establish a system where everyone is free to apply for a job, and nobody is allowed to use force to prevent it.

                      This moves the voluntary choice up a level, to what Buchanan would call the constitutional level, and what Rawls would call behind the veil. I am suggesting we would all be better off agreeing to play by a set of rules which allow freedom of interaction, and which prohibits forceable harm. Knowing that everyone would benefit from having all others play by the rules, but by cheating themselves, we agree that the only rational solution to the dilemma is if everyone plays by the rules, even ourselves. Dilemma solved. This is the optimal solution for the altruist, the egoist and the utilitarian.

                      This is my answer to your question on the subjective/ objective ambiguity. It is possible to merge rationality, instrumentality, morality, non aggression and liberty.

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                    • Mike,

                      We support market wages and voluntary employment opportunities. Nobody here defends imprisonment, torture and murder, currently or in the past. I am not sure how anyone can even accuse us of this.

                      I assume you are trying to be funny.

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                    • I’ve pointed out the contradiction in supporting trade unions and supporting the right to cross a strike line.

                      I don’t see a contradiction here, Blaise, but admittedly a lot depends on how a person understands the concept of a labor union. Roger supports the right of workers to collectively bargain but not the right of unions to use force to achieve their goals. So he denies that unions have the right to prevent a scab from crossing the line.

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                    • “You can’t have both. Either you are for the trade union’s right to strike, or you’re for the scab crossing the picket line.”

                      Wait, what? Why? What is inconsistent about saying this group of people have the right to strike AND that guy over there has the right to seek employment in their place? Supporting the right to strike is not akin to guaranteeing the success of the strike.

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                    • I am not sure anyone in this discussion has parsed the utility and posited status of unions according to their functions. Unions can function as mutual aid societies (operating credit unions and insurance pools and maintaining labor lawyers on retainer). However, after 1935, they were granted the authority to act as the exclusive agent for swatches of a company’s workforce and commercial companies were compelled to follow ‘fair labor practices’, including bargaining in ‘good faith’. Prior to 1935, the position of the union was often acquired and maintained through physical rough justice.

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                    • There is an obvious resolution to this problem: make labour part of the management process. Putting a few workers’ representatives on the board of directors is the usual route.

                      Short of that, the contradiction has not been resolved. And everyone bloody well knows it. It’s as if I’ve encountered some Humpty-Dumpty Anti-Consequentialists, who make up meanings for words as they go along, denying the obvious. Screwing the workers out of their wages, forcing them to work longer hours for less money, child labour, a thousand indignities, petty and great — is this not Aggression? Not according to our friends the Libertarians.

                      Let history show what happened before the trade union movement. And let the present times show what happens when they fail. We are now entering a new Age of Les Misérables, a two-tier society. That much is undeniable. And as when every other society degenerates to this state of affairs, there will be consequences of a particularly unpleasant and entirely predictable variety.

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                    • On unions and the non-aggression principle, because I am sure there are people out there who are sincerely interested:

                      1. Libertarians have no problem with voluntary associations, so they (at least should; I can’t speak for everyone) have no problem with voluntary unionization.

                      2. Because of the non-aggression principle and voluntary associationalism, libertarians (should; repeat disclaimer) oppose both laws banning the formation of unions and and violence against union organizers.

                      3. Collective bargaining can, at least theoretically, be conducted in a voluntary manner, if both the firm’s employees and the firm’s owners/managers agree.*

                      Aside: So far, unionization and the non-aggression principle, or voluntary association, are non-conflicting for the libertarian.

                      4. Mandated collective bargaining violates the non-aggression principle and voluntary association by imposing enforceable constraints on the firm’s owners’/managers’ voluntary associationalism.**

                      5. It may well be that unions cannot exist under those conditions, as greginak suggests below. There is no doubt that unions suffer from a severe collective action problem.*** But libertarians treat that as an “oh, well,” issue, much as liberals treat the constraints on owners’ voluntary associationalism as an “oh, well,” issue. Libertarianism doesn’t require rejoicing in the slim chances for purely voluntary unionization (although no doubt you can find some less thoughtful libertarians who do), and in fact is compatible with some regret about that.

                      6. Libertarians would suggest that if unions can’t manage to institute collective bargaining voluntarily, they should seek other means of providing value to their members. In the language of rational choice and interest group theory, they need to find selective benefits (limited to those who join), since unlike collective benefits (available to all, even non-joiners) they are immune from the collective action problem.

                      7. Libertarians would disagree that crossing a picket line is an act of aggression to other labor, since the act is an offer (to the business) of a lower price (for labor). If that is aggression, then by extension it seems that a business lowering its price (which benefits consumers) is an act of aggression which harms other businesses. Therefor, price competition should be outlawed.**** At this point strict adherence to the non-aggression principle would lead to a ban on competitive markets. But that result is as flawed as the result of this math puzzle: it requires an error along the way. That is, an error, at least, in the view of libertarians–that offering labor at a lower price is an act of aggression. In fact, because offering greater value to one person is not an act of aggression towards another person, the non-aggression principle is not in conflict with being a scab.

                      Now please notice that I am not arguing against liberals’ predictions of what the outcome would be in the absence of mandated collective bargaining. That’s an empirical question, outside the scope of my argument here.

                      What I am arguing is that a libertarian position on unions is, contra a claim made above, entirely consistent with the non-aggression principle. Any claim to the contrary either relies on defining the offer of a lower price for one’s labor as an aggressive act towards other labor–which still leaves the libertarian position entirely consistent by the terms of its own, undeniably plausible, interpretation of that act–or on a failure to think through the logic of the libertarian position.

                      So of course a person can disagree on several points here. And one can argue that even if the libertarian is correct about the non-aggression logic, the outcomes will be so bad, so violative of competing principles, that the non-aggression and voluntary association principles must be limited. I don’t think that’s unreasonable (of course I wouldn’t, since I don’t hold any principles as absolutes, to the best of my self-understanding).

                      But I don’t think a person can correctly claim that there isn’t a plausible logic by which the non-aggression principle is consistent with opposition to mandated collective bargaining.

                      And of course anyone who in the future happens to claim that no libertarian has answered this question is a liar.

                      ______________
                      * This may be unlikely to happen in the real world, as liberals will quickly point out, but I am speaking of libertarian theory here–what libertarians will/will not accept. The complaint that it’s not realistic, while true, is irrelevant. Imagine, for example, a peacenik-style liberal’s response to the idea of a military invasion that removed a brutal dictator, installed a functioning democracy, and killed no one–most would probably be quick to assert that, yes, that particular kind of military intervention is one they could support.

                      **I understand that liberals are less concerned about that than libertarians, and that’s fine; I’m not arguing they’re wrong, just stating the libertarian position, and noting that–contra what one commenter suggests–it’s not contradictory to the non-aggression principle.

                      ***Because of that it’s understandable why unions seek laws enforcing collective bargaining on firms, and why liberals support that, given their value commitments. Libertarians, of course, have a different, albeit overlapping, set of value commitments. So it’s unsurprising that the two groups end up with some differing policy preferences. It’d be pretty bizarre if they didn’t!

                      ****And in fact, has at times been outlawed. But that was primarily a Depression/post-Depression thing, and for the most part liberals of the current generation don’t seem to be in favor of the practice.

                      Liberals, I think, make a distinction between labor and capital here that libertarians do not make. Libertarians are inclined to treat all economic inputs as equally subject to competition,

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                    • 1. In the real world, workers trade time for money and thus their wages are construed. Those wages are the result of a dialectic of power. The Libertarian seems to think all associations ought to be voluntary. The real world dictates otherwise.

                      2. Libertarians should, but enough self-described Libertarians don’t for me to believe you’re a good-hearted man who sees enough reason to espouse such a position. But it’s far enough from Libertarian dogma for me to declare you a profound outlier. A Hanleytarian, a point I have made before.

                      3. Collective bargaining in good faith is never voluntary. There’s contention for resources. Power, not good faith, dictates the terms of that struggle. I have proposed, time and again, that the USA follow the example of other nations, outlawing the closed union and obliging publicly-traded firms to put workers’ representatives on the boards of directors, thus eliminating the problem Marx outlined all those years ago. This point has been studiously ignored by all and sundry.

                      4. See above 2 and 3. The problem and its solution are engrained in the amoral nature of power itself. Until the workers have representation on boards of directors, every attempt to solve this problem will come to no good end.

                      5. You’re just repeating Point 4.

                      6. Again, see my answer to Point 3.

                      7. It might be said, with equal certitude, the scab is taking what’s on offer, not what he’s worth. Your continued use of Voluntary presumes other options are on offer. They aren’t. You take the job, you trade your time for money — or you don’t. In the real world, where there are more workers than jobs, it is a one-way proposition. Beggar Thy Neighbour is not a choice. That’s why unions collect dues, to insulate themselves from hardships during strikes.

                      The Non-Aggression Principle is an intellectual dead end. It fails to account for anything in the real world, where force is required to maintain rights. In the face of even the most rudimentary principles of pragmatism, it fails completely.

                      Dissecting Power away from Aggression is not a trivial exercise. I do not deny the ideology of Non-Aggression so much as complain of its incompleteness. Marxism suffers from the same incompleteness, the same fundamental failures arising from its axioms about human nature. Government must arise from the consent of the governed — but beyond that, man must be governed. The Libertarian must present a more balanced approach to power: there is no separating Political Power from Economic Power or Military Power. They are all of a piece.

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                    • Not trying to be funny at all, just wondering how to reconcile a defense of sweatshops as a voluntary arrangement with the fact that local activity to improve working conditions is fought with state and private violence.

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                    • Blaise,
                      I wasn’t actually writing that to you, and as you’ve thoroughly persuaded me that it’s impossible to have a reasonable discussion with you on anything having to do with libertarianism, I didn’t waste time reading what you wrote.

                      But since you apparently were responding to what I wrote, you are aware that I answered your question. So let’s please never again hear your lying about libertarians never answering. I fully anticipate that you will do some again at some point, and I fully intend to point out that you are lying about that again.

                      I’ve had it up to the neck with you. I don’t care if you disagree with libertarianism, but flat out lying about we actual libertarians here at the League is a different issue–every time you accuse us of not answering questions, you are lying about us personally. I have no problem calling you out for lying about me, Roger, and others.

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                    • Mike,

                      What’s to reconcile? Fighting any voluntary association with violence, whether personal or state, is wrong.* Reconciling the two would require a very real contradiction.

                      ___________________
                      *That is, assuming you’re fighting the very existence of the organization or it’s purely voluntary activities. Fighting any violence committed by the organization–whether it’s unions tossing molotov cocktails into factories, factory owners hiring thugs to beat picketers, the Klan lynching people, a private college encroaching on neighboring property; a factory harming people with pollution, etc.–is, without a doubt, legitimate.

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                    • I didn’t call union activity cheating. I called “using force to screw prospective employees out of a job” cheating. If the two terms are synonymous to you, then that says a lot more about your view of unions that it does about my view.

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                    • Honestly, I’m not being that unclear. The present labor conditions in Bangladesh are not purely the result of voluntary, positive-sum transactions. They are also the result of violence perpetrated both by the state and by the garment industry to prevent union activity, i.e. to prevent workers from joining voluntary organizations. Yet, libertarian publications like Cato ignore this in favor of the usual assertions that all problems are solved by free trade. The Cato piece is correct that suspending Bangladesh from the GSP is purely symbolic and barely even that. But it doesn’t even mention the, shall we say, significant breach of the non-agression principle that anti-union violence represents. What conclusion should we draw from that? It’s quite clear that some voluntary, positive-sum interactions are more equakl than others.

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                    • I’m sure you have had it up to the neck with me, Hanley. It won’t save your positions. It won’t answer my inconvenient questions. It’s sheer laziness which keeps you from answering any of my questions, Little Prince. There’s another character who asked a lot of questions and never answered any.

                      You call me out again instead of answering any of my questions, as if outrage was any substitute for honest answers. You’re perfectly incapable of such answers because you’re lost in your dogma. Goddamn Ron Swansons, every one of you Libertarians.

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                    • it’s sheer laziness which keeps you from answering any of my questions

                      Well, Blaise, I’m glad to see that you didn’t waste even a day, hardly an hour, before you went right back to lying.

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                    • Mike,

                      Are you blaming the labor conditions in Bangladesh on free trade? I’m not sure if that’s a correct reading of you or not, but if so, it ignores several things. One is that non-free trade countries usually have even worse working conditions; true prison camps. The second is that free trade isn’t presumed to create an instantly perfect world, but that it is a process. Countries that engage in free trade become more susceptible to pressure (non-violent pressure, let’s be serious about distinctions) from outside, and become wealthier which in the long run results in internal demands for improvement (ala ROC and ROK).

                      I don’t know that anyone denies that there’s nasty collusion between firms and state in developing countries, and if you think libertarians are defending that, you’re reading them wrong, whether purposely or not. But what libertarians are arguing is that free trade is an important factor that leads to improvement, by creating the economic growth that moves people past mere subsistence living, so they have room in their lives to push for improvements in working conditions, basic guarantees of liberty, democracy, and so on.

                      I know I’ve explained this before, so it’s a bit of a frustration to have to repeat it yet again. If you want to argue that we’re wrong, that’s one thing. But to pretend that this isn’t actually our position is, well, it’s not an indication that you’re interested in having an honest conversation here. Like Blaise, you seem to be interested in consistently misrepresenting our position.

                      I guess I don’t get why it’s not sufficient to just argue that we’re wrong about something libertarians actually do say and believe, but necessary to misrepresent their positions almost every time you engage.

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                    • I don’t know that anyone denies that there’s nasty collusion between firms and state in developing countries, and if you think libertarians are defending that, you’re reading them wrong, whether purposely or not.

                      The Cato piece I linked doesn’t defend that; it doesn’t mention it at all. Is it a major concern of the folks who write at libertarian publications that I’ve somehow missed? Because it seem to me that something involving torture, murder, and the suppression of the rights of millions of people is at least as important as Kelo, so I have to wonder why one is a cause celebre and the other ignored.

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                    • Mike,

                      Can we distinguish between “not a major concern” and “denies”? I understand why you would object to it not being a major focus of the article.

                      But this article was just commenting on the likely effectiveness of the Obama policy response–it was about that response, not the collapse itself.

                      And note that the article assumes the undesirability of Bangladeshi working conditions. It doesn’t pretend they’re not bad. But the article makes the same point I do; that ultimately improvement requires economic improvement.

                      Now you can disagree with that, of course. But you’re either implying that the person made a claim they didn’t (that there’s no collusion between Bangladeshi corporations and government) or demanding that they write an article about the issue you want them to write about, implying that it’s illegitimate to write at all about Bangladesh working conditions without explicitly emphasizing that collusion. It might in fact be a better article with such an emphasis, but it’s certainly not a duty to include that, especially in what is clearly just an op-ed length piece (less than 500 words)) responding to a U.S. policy, not a fully developed analysis of Bangladeshi political economy.

                      I think your concern about Bangladeshi working conditions is entirely legitimate, and I think it’s legitimate to be frustrated by libertarians whose concern is not as strong as yours. But I don’t see that you’ve made a legitimate critique of the article, because it doesn’t deny the role of firm/state collusion and violence, and even though it’s well worth writing about, it’s unreasonable to demand that any particular article be about that, and not other related issues.

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                    • I’d think that relates to a lack of call to action on what to do about it.

                      Another thing is that some actions/states of affairs lend themselves to a really obvious ideologically based criticism, while other states of affairs might present big problems for the ideology. So it’s better to avoid them.

                      It’s the politics of ideology, I guess. Or just straight ahead politics.

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                    • Can we distinguish between “not a major concern” and “denies”?
                      Sure: I’m complaining that the anti-union violence is not a major concern. I’ve never claimed that it was explicitly denied.

                      And perhaps it is invalid to complain about that specific article, so I’ll ask to be pointed at the ones that do discuss it.

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                  • I’d actually make a different distinction which i haven’t seen addressed. If enough people cross a picket line then the union is crushed, gone , kaput. It is pretty much a zero sum game. If people can or do cross picket lines then union can’t exist, which i what many people want of course. It’s naive or disingenuous to talk about people crossing picket lines without the obvious implications and as actual scabs have been used. If people cross the border to immigrate then there might be more competition for some jobs but nothing has been destroyed. It is much less zero sum, although certainly if you are out competed by an immigrant then it feels pretty zero sum to you.

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                    • I was thinking about our Dexter when I was writing this stuff.

                      He works with his hands and complains about the illegal immigrants taking jobs away from him.

                      He pointed out that it’s easy for me to support open borders.

                      And you know what? It *IS* easy for me to support open borders.

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                    • Glyph, if we had a commenter named Walter like the one I’m thinking of, he definitely wouldn’t cook meth, OK? Not that Walter. You can be certain of it. OK? So just back off my Walter.

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                    • “If enough people cross a picket line then the union is crushed, gone , kaput. It is pretty much a zero sum game. If people can or do cross picket lines then union can’t exist, which i what many people want of course.”

                      You can’t expect a positive sum outcome for all when some are pursuing such a destructive won lose course of action. In this case the union is pursuing a destructive, zero sum game. They are attempting to unfairly advantage themselves by using force to eliminate competition from less fortunate prospective employees. They are trying to reap the benefits of free enterprise while carving out an exemption of playing by the rules. In other words, they are trying to cheat at the game. Of course they coat this in a thin veneer of it being a struggle between them and the employer, but in essence it is about them cheating on other prospective employees. The nerve!

                      Some employees may benefit from collective bargaining, or by having representatives of labor on the board. To the extent that they benefit by screwing over other prospective employees, they deserve to lose that “game.”

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                    • Let us suppose for a moment, Roger, in some happier world, workers were not pitted against owners and management. If business declined, workers and management would cope by various concessions, volunteering improvements and strategies whereby everyone could maintain their positions — in short, coping reasonably with the vagaries of the marketplace.

                      But if business picked up, if the workers were more productive, if management was providing sound strategy resulting in an improved market position, there is no particular reason for management to issue rises to the workers. They’re no more valuable than they were before, individually, even if they’re producing more value for money.

                      But there’s no Fairness in this proposition: business is all about profits and overhead. Coming from your mouth, the verb “screwing over” rings hollow: if workers are screwed, ficta voluptatis causa sint proxima veris == if you’re going to make an excuse, at least try to approximate the truth.

                      Who do you propose to represent the workers in this Free and Fair Enterprise of which you speak? A trade union benefits those who join up and pay dues, as surely as investors profit from their investments. Your tinhorn damnation of trade unions is ridiculous.

                      Don’t even bother attempting to use the word Fair. Fairness is what you think is fair.

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                    • Blaise,

                      Let it be noted that you are responding to Roger’s answer. So please remember this and do not make any more false accusations about never getting an answer from libertarians (getting an answer you don’t like, and don’t agree with, is not the same as not getting an answer). I am not going to get into anymore fruitless arguments about libertarianism itself, but I will ride your ass every time you lie about libertarians never giving you an answer.

                      That may see to run afoul of the commenting policy, but what could be more afoul of the policy than to persistently lie about what others have said?

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                    • Precisely my point. Union activity is declared ipso facto “cheating”, and arguing that places of work should not be death traps is called “coercion”. It leaves nothing to discuss.

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                    • Mike,

                      “Means” are always available for discussion. In the way you phrase your objection, all means are lumped together. Your implicit focus is on outcomes, so that if we disagree with a particular means you take it as opposition to the outcome.

                      It’s like someone who opposes U.S. intervention in Syria being accused of being opposed to the replacement of Assad with a democratic regime. It’s not necessarily so; there’s just disagreement about what means are justified by that end.

                      And in both cases, disagreement about means are justified. It just means people are giving different weights to different values. It’s more than fair to criticize someone for not giving enough weight to your favored values and too much weight to values you don’t favor, but it’s not so fair to imply that they oppose the outcome or any and all means to that outcome.

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                    • Ungentlemanly? You wound me to the quick, sir. Do us both a favour, summon up the cerebral voltage, apply yourself — and one day you will say something worth responding to. For to this point, I have seen no evidence of it, yet hope springs eternal that one day I will find a Libertarian who can transcend his little goldfish bowl of doctrine. I would also relish the opportunity to find one who has actually read Ludwig von Mises. Whatever you are not, you silly man, you are neither a gentleman nor a student of Mises. He is worth reading and you are not.

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          • I’m an immigration lawyer. Being an illegal immigrant is considered a civil rather than criminal violation because treating illegal immigrants as criminals would tax the resources of the Federal Government. In removal proceedings, immigrants may get a lawyer to represent them but the Federal Government doesn’t need to provide one. If being an illegal immigrant was a federal crime than the Sixth Amendment right to counsel would kick in. Since undocumented aliens are only considered civil violators, they don’t have to be locked up during the course of their proceedings which saves the federal government a lot of money to since they don’t have to cloth, house, and feed them. The fact that many undocumented aliens are children also makes treating them as criminals inconvenient from the government’s standpoint since juvenile rights would kick in.

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    • I think the issue is that federal crimes are generally more serious. They would entail sending guilty parties to federal prisons which tend to be for more hardcore and/or big time criminal.

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    • Being an illegal immigrant, as Chris noted, is considered a civil rather than criminal violation. Its akin to a restaurant not fully following all the health regulations rather than burglary.

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  2. I fundamentally agree with your point, Chris. Liberalization and not restriction of our immigration policy is the road that will lead us to a result more likely to be prosperous for all.

    A serious question: did you use loaded phrases like “the best way to prevent illegal immigrants from contributing to the economy” and “the best way to marginalize illegal immigrants” intentionally? It’s an interesting rhetorical device if so.

    So, bearing in mind that I come from a basic posture of wanting to open up our borders rather than close them, is it actually the case that undocumented workers are not competing with citizens for work? Agricultural work is not interesting to a lot of citizens, it is true, particularly for itinerant labor with only sporadic demand in specific localities, but in other industries? Professionally, I’ve seen a number of employers for whom a blend of citizens, green card holders, and undocumented compose their workforce — construction, food service, janitorial, domestic help, gardening. Maybe that’s just California where I live and counsel employers, but… I don’t think it’s just California. It’s not a frivolous claim that citizens and green card holders do indeed want these jobs and have to compete with undocumented workers for them, and that this does have a depressing effect on wages.

    Does this justify using the Army to transform the border into the equivalent of the Korean DMZ? Of course not. And I am firm in my conviction that a reasonable pathway to citizenship should be available to the undocumented among us — we’re so clearly better off with people in the system than outside of it, in nearly every way imaginable, that I have difficulty understanding why it’s even up for debate. (“But they’re criminals, they broke the law! We’re entitled to protect our borders! Other nations are mean to their illegal immigrants!” as if any of this had any utilitarian impact on our situation in the real world.)

    But that doesn’t mean we have to blind ourselves that undocumented workers are a meaningful factor in the labor market, that the labor they contribute is either free or without impact on the labor market as a whole. I’ve said for a long time that undocumented workers should be able to get documentation, albeit at a higher price than the people who have followed the rules, but not a price so much higher that they feel incentivized to continue to absent themselves from compliance with the law.

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    • Burt, some great points. I agree that those problems exist. The problem of companies or individuals hiring undocumented workers in order to skirt minimum wage laws is particularly pernicious.

      However, I do not believe these are problems per se so much as they are problems that are exacerbated – or even created – by policy. If the incentives were structured for undocumented immigrants to participate in the economy in an open fashion, it would be a lot easier to ensure just and equitable results for all.

      And yes, my language in the piece was extremely loaded. This is one of few topics I have a strong and unequivocal opinion on.

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    • “did you use loaded phrases like the best way to prevent illegal immigrants from contributing to the economy” and “the best way to marginalize illegal immigrants” intentionally? …
      is it actually the case that undocumented workers are not competing with citizens for work

      Just to note, what he said and what you asked are not mutually exclusive outcomes. My wife just was outcompeted for a job, but that doesn’t mean the person who got it is not contributing to the economy. The legal/illegal distinction doesn’t really change that.

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    • In New York, the bulk of restaurant workers in certain types of restaurant establishments and many construction workers are immigrants, both documented and undocumented. Usually they work in the non-chain, non-franchize but not necessarily high class restaurants. Chinese immigrants tend to go into restaurant work, construction, or providing services to other Chinese immigrants. Hispanics tend towards the same plus gardening work and domestic service, which Chinese immigrants tend to avoid unless their employer is also Chinese.

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    • Burt,

      What I have been trying to figure out is the extent to which undocumented unskilled workers’ undocumented status itself may actually be a competitieve advantage for them in the unskilled labor market (in which I am more or less currently a participant for a lot of intents and purposes, i.e. I’ve seen the inside of some not-exactly-high-end food service establisgments over the last couple of years and may still see more). Essentially, might it make them able, by altering their incentives, to compete on price in a way that they might not be so inclined to do if their status were more secure. Another way to say this is that it might make them more prone to manipulation, not to say exploitation (of their legal status) by particular employers. If a legal status that allowed them to act openly as free economic agents were conferred upon them, might it not be the case that net competition in these markets might not be all that affected (would conferring status on people already here precipitate a massive influx of new labor that the economy wasn’t already drawing by its own force?), might this not actually decrease competition for particular jobs by improving the opportunity cost picture for a large segment of the low-skilled labor market? If employers are suddenly having to bid higher for a segment of low-skill workers who previously had artificially low asks, doesn’t that change the picture for the whole low-skill market, as the wage savings that an employer experienced by going the undocumented route now are lessened, making the wage range he’s willing to discuss with documented or citizen workers before defecting to the undocumented market somewhat more flexible? I.e. if before he could pay an undocumented worker just minimum wage (or less) because that worker had so little freedom to shop his labor, but now that worker commands, say $8.00 due to competing offers that he has, now from the employer’s view, where before the citizen worker’s ask for $9.00 wasn’t even considered and the jump to undocumented labor was automatic, now that the undocumented worker gets $8 instead of $7, it isn’t nearly so irrational to offer the citizen $8.50. Or even if it’s just $8 across the board, it still seems better or the citizen to be competing with a body of laborers who now command $8 when before they commanded $7 due to a legal artifact.

      That does assume that we’re talking roughly similar-sized undocumented (or, now newly documented) worker segments in the before and after. (I tend to think those sizes are determined much more by the demand for the labor than by the legal regime.) It also assumes that there will be broad participation in the new documentation system, and that’s the assumption I’m more worried about.

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        • Or worse, they find ways to seek justice through systems alternative to the governmental law enforcement and adjudication systems. One of the reasons organized crime syndicates thrive is that they use violence to mete out a rough form of “justice,” albeit one that favors their clients or themselves. One of the ways that such syndicates can gain support from the communities in which they exist is to discipline themselves according to a perceptible form of “justice”: you pay your taxes but you get protection; if you take from a protected person, then you have to give back; loans get enforced; etc.

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        • …As Chris says, the issue here is really more the rational behavior of more-or-less honest businessmen responding to others’ incentive structures which are influenced by law, not so much the problem of lawless power centers that maintain their own alternative enforcement operations. We could say that undocumented immigrants’ lessened bargaining power due to their legal status is an injustice, but I’m not sure the effect of that we are most concerned about is their pursuit of redress for that injustice through alternative avenues, so much as simply the immediate economic effect of their having that lower bargaining power (particularly employers’ response to that reality) for the rest of the labor market.

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          • …Perhaps the injustice is their lack of legal status to work (the right to migrate due to economic imperatives as a fundamental human right), and the alternative justice system in question is the just the widespread illegal employment of people without proper documentation, resulting in artificially low bargaining power for everyone trying to work in a given labor market segment. That’s what I was initially pointing to.

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              • This reads incredibly uncharitably. Like you think that, “So what, undocumented “contract” cleaner with the broken ankle–we ain’t unlocking the doors of this Wal-Mart until 7am. You call the amublance, we all ICE,” is somehow acceptable?

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                    • So you went for the most uncharitable reading? You certainly don’t need me here for that.

                      Why not just write the rant you want to write and attribute the worst motives to anyone who disagrees with you? Just come out and *DO* that and you’ll feel a lot better.

                      Hey, how’s this? “Everybody who hates Immigration is a racist!” “WAL-MART! MURKA! WHY DO I HAVE TO PRESS ONE FOR ENGLISH! SUPPORT THE TROOPS!”

                      Ah, I feel better. Do you feel better?

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                    • I’ll go here again. This:

                      So you went for the most uncharitable reading? You certainly don’t need me here for that.

                      Why not just write the rant you want to write and attribute the worst motives to anyone who disagrees with you? Just come out and *DO* that and you’ll feel a lot better.

                      … is BS as a response to a comment whose entire mode of communication is to be as cryptic as possible. It’s your game: be cryptic -> draw out confused responses -> jump on their lack of charity/assumptions (when assumptions are necessary to even attempt to construe the initial cryptic comment).

                      It’s BS.

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                    • BS as a response to a comment whose entire mode of communication is to be as cryptic as possible

                      …as a response to a comment that was responding to a comment whose entire mode of communication is to be as cryptic as possible, was what I meant to say there, if it wasn’t clear.

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                    • Cletus,

                      If what you were going to say was actually on the topic that Burt was discussing and that I responded to before the discussion got sidetracked onto the pursuit of what were meant to be analogies for the purpose of examining underlying principles (but became the subject of dispute on their own terms to no useful purpose), I’d actually be very grateful if you still wanted to do that.

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    • I think there is a tendency to presume any person of South American descent working in a particular field is undocumented, which is hardly the case. I used to work in an Italian restaurant where the chef was Brazilian. Consequently, all of the kitchen staff were Brazilian because A) many of them he knew from his community and B) it cut down on language issues. And they were all here legally (I can’t speak to the individual status of each of the kitchen guys but I know the owner insisted on paying everyone above the table). However, to an outsider, you just saw a bunch of brown dudes speaking non-English working in food service and assumed, “Illegals.”

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  3. With respect to illegal immigration from the south, no one is discussing what the effects of the long term fall in the total fertility rate in these countries will be. The TFR was 6 in the 1960s and is now 2.3 (total fertility rate is children born per woman over her life). As a result the basic supply of folks who might want to come to the US from these countries will be less than in the past. If you think about it the movement from rural areas to the cities in these countries combined with the high birth rate meant a lot of what could be regarded as surplus population. I wonder if the current drop in illegal immigration besides just the US economy, could be related to the drop in the total fertility rate.
    At any rate IMHO securing the border now might be akin to fixing the barn door after the horse has escaped from the barn.

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  4. A second comment following from the first, this does suggest that the exit import visa tracking system is more important to get those who overstay legitimate visas as well as the e-verify system. More illegals will be overstayers relative to southern border crossers in the future. Combine this with bringing back the old alien registration system (every year you fill out a card with your location, failure to do that is a crime, as it was in the past)

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  5. One of the things I’m concerned about in the immigration bill is the employee verification system. It seems like another device to monitor people. That is worrisome.

    As to illegal’s, I’m all for immigration, but I don’t’ think we’ve really had a debate about it, nor has the public really weighed in. (I have some experience in this because I have family along the border and I’ve gone through dozens of checkpoints a long way from the border. Frankly, it smacks of a police state when you have to stop on the road so the federalies can check if you’re smuggling illegal’s.)

    My personal thoughts are that our policy should be to attract intelligent/ successful/ wealthy people to this country to invest in it and who intend to stay. If there is a need for unskilled workers, they can be let in on a temporary basis, and maybe some can be in a lottery to stay permanent IF we decide they are needed and it is in our interested to do so.

    But those who come into the country outside of these vehicles deserve to be deported. I’m also of the opinion that if you’re born by an illegal, citizenship isn’t immediately conveyed, thus we can deport whole families back to their place of origin. And I’m really not all that worried that folks here illegally are concerned about getting medical care and getting found out. We shouldn’t be paying for their medical care anyway.

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      • I was tempted to reply “that’s the typical statist response that if “the gov’t” doesn’t do something, blood will run in the streets, but let’s examine this a bit more than a cheeky reply.

        1) The medical providers could invoice those getting the care. Payment can and would be enforced through collections agencies, etc., just like with natives. However, the illegal have an out. They can go back home to avoid the collection agency. From the perspective of the natives, this is a win win. The illegal’s either pay the bill (win) or leave the country to avoid a crushing medical bill (win). Another disincentive for the group as a whole to remain.

        2) You are ignoring any charitable efforts that would spring up, either from illegal immigrant groups or natives, to tend to those who needed care and couldn’t afford it.

        No, let’s get back to “blood in the streets”. What would the likely impact of news reports of illegal immigrants not receiving free care, reports of immigrants skipping the country to avoid collection agencies, of being refused care, of them dying in the streets. Why, THEY MIGHT DECIDE TO LEAVE.

        Might just work. So, yes. It is an option. Depends upon how cold hearted you want to be.

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  6. For what it’s worth, my intention of bringing up unions (and picket line crossers) was not to start a debate on libertarianism or of unions for that matter.

    I was just trying to point out that a large influx of unskilled labor will have costs and these costs will mostly be paid by other unskilled laborers.

    I know that the comparison isn’t exact but there is a lot of overlap… and certainly when it comes to “with whom should I feel solidarity?” It’s not obvious to me that the answer is necessarily the immigrants who are coming here to make a better life for themselves and their children and their babies. (Though, granted, it’s also not obvious to me that the answer is necessarily The Beleaguered Unskilled American Worker who just wants to make a living wage for himself and his children and his babies.)

    When it comes to the issue of the unions, the argument seems to be that we need to feel solidarity with the union at the expense of the scabs (check that word out!) who want to cross the picket line.

    Why isn’t there similar solidarity for the citizen unskilled worker?

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    • Everything has costs to someone. In general few people from any side ever really discuss them.

      Could feeling solidarity for the unskilled worker include wanting cheap college loans so they can get some skills, wanting uni medical care so they will be able to get to a doc since its the lowest paid/unskilled workers who often don’t get care through their employer or wanting OSHA to be a PITA to employers to keep workers safe

      Also i don’t know if its been noted already in this tread, but for most of us its easy to feel solidarity with immigrants since we are the children or grandchildren of immigrants.

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      • Beyond a certain point, I’m beginning to question the efficacy of education. Which skills are needed? How can they be identified, to the point where we can apply Cheap College Loans to some cost/benefit equation? Wouldn’t it be better, perhaps, to have some sort of apprenticeship program for the unskilled?

        As for universal health care, once again, there’s no One Size Fits All solution. If we had the data sorted out by HCPCS codes and cost per procedure/incident, we could come to terms with the problem domain. There’s no competition at work for most of the health care biz: the same procedure in two different hospitals varies wildly. We’re lost in the Funhouse of Mirrors, saddling employers and employees with the burden of health care. It never used to be that way until WW2, when workers’ wages were frozen and the only way to give them a rise in benefits was to offer health care coverage. The health care market isn’t working: ask any physician about the Kafka-esque nightmare of getting paid. Insurance is bad and Medicare is worse.

        As for Feeling Solidarity for Immigrants, nobody hates the current crop of immigrants more than the previous crop of immigrants. That’s been true as long as we’ve been a nation.

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    • Why isn’t there similar solidarity for the citizen unskilled worker?

      The answer is completely obvious to any but the most intensely self-deluded: it is from Karl Marx:

      The working men have no country. We cannot take away from them what they have not got.

      Citizen workers is a contradiction in terms. The worker goes to the job or the job to the worker. Capitalism knows no boundaries — it certainly observes none.

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    • FWIW, I did get that point, even though I participated in the thread that distracted from it.

      I think there is similar solidarity for the citizen unskilled worker, at least to some extent, that is very widespread. The “they took our jobs” meme resonates, even among a significant set of people who don’t really have to worry about their jobs getting took.

      It seems to me, though I could be way wrong, that this solidarity is the core motivation for opposition to illegal immigrants. Or at least one of the top few motivations.

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    • I was just trying to point out that a large influx of unskilled labor will have costs and these costs will mostly be paid by other unskilled laborers.

      I’d want to point out that if there is an operative assumption in this concern that the immigration reform proposal that just passed the Senate, or any other immigration reform law that might remotely probably be passed by the Congress in the next few years, would if implemented result in such a large influx, that is an assumption that very much remains to be borne out or not by events. It’s entirely possible that demand will continue to determine inflows and outflows of unskilled labor (while visa grants will tend to continue to determine flows of skilled labor) regardless of the laws that pass, and that the primary thing to be affected by whatever laws may pass will be those workers’ legal status, the process for establishing said status for the purpose of the initialization of each individual employment relationship, government accounting for their earnings for tax and other purposes, et cetera. There isn’t any necessary relationship between the passage of an immigration reform law that allows legal working status for the workers already here and an easier route to that status for people who want to be here and a resulting large influx/increase in the rate of flow of workers coming here to work. That assumes our current immigration regime prevents some significant number of people who want to do that now from doing it, and that relaxing that would allow some large number of those now being prevented from doing it to come and work. I don’t think that’s in evidence.

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      • When Shazbot asked for evidence, I provided this link from the United States Commission on Civil Rights:

        http://www.usccr.gov/pubs/IllegImmig_10-14-10_430pm.pdf

        Now, granted, that’s talking about illegal immigration and not immigration, but if the question is whether the immigration reform proposal will result in a greater influx of immigration than otherwise, I can only ask “what happened the last time immigration was reformed?”

        What happened after the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986?

        If undocumented immigration increased dramatically (and it did), I’d not mind an explanation for why this would totally be different than last time.

        It seems to me that the stuff that is in evidence is the report from the United States Commission on Civil Rights and the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 and the aftermath of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986.

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        • What happened after the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986?

          If undocumented immigration increased dramatically (and it did), I’d not mind an explanation for why this would totally be different than last time.

          undocumented immigration was on the upswing before 1986 it’s possible that the bill didn’t have any effect as the trend was already in place.

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