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« Elsewhere | Main | A Few Small Beefs with Paul Cantor: Part One »

January 03, 2008

Borjas on Immigration

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Harvard economist George Borjas discusses the immigration situation with Vdare's Peter Brimelow: part one, part two. Borjas, who has reviewed all the studies, believes that our current immigration policies are at best economically neutral in their effect, and that they certainly hurt our local less-well-off. Which means, as Peter Brimelow has often written, that we're putting ourselves through a wrenching and unwanted cultural transformation all for nothing.

Nice to see too that -- unlike the more rabid libertarians and the more narrowminded GDP-obsessed types -- Borjas is comfortable with the concept of "cultural costs." After all, even if our kooky immigration policies do result in income going up 0.1%, why should we care if they also mean dramatic increases in crowdedness, ethnic tensions, and economic polarization? Hard to imagine that a crumbling sense of national identity and a feeling on the part of most Americans that they're being screwed is going to do life in this country a lot of good.

George Borjas blogs here.

Best,

Michael

posted by Michael at January 3, 2008




Comments

Most libertarians in favor for a more open border will not argue that it will significantly improve our GDP.

What they do argue is the significant increase in the standard of living of the immigrants, themselves. Your post appears to completely ignore this.

If there's one thing that libertarians like myself don't worry about, it's the oncoming of "economic polarization" or "cultural erosion".

States that have experienced the most increase of population through immigration (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas) are thriving and are decidedly open to more immigration than, say, nebraska and other conservative regions of the country.

Posted by: thehova on January 3, 2008 2:06 PM



Odd, isn't it, how the Left sneers at its opponents as being materialists, and then offers a materialist defence of immigration.

Posted by: dearieme on January 3, 2008 3:23 PM



If there's one thing that libertarians like myself don't worry about, it's the oncoming of "economic polarization" or "cultural erosion".

That comment right there makes thehova as credible in discussing immigration as Rainman is credible in discussing automotive design history.

Posted by: PA on January 3, 2008 3:25 PM



California and NM are thriving? Calif. is undergoing a massive budget crisis, last I heard. And NM's public services, including its school system, aren't doing too well, either. But that's just cultural stuff, I guess.

Most libertarians in favor for a more open border will not argue that it will significantly improve our GDP.
What they do argue is the significant increase in the standard of living of the immigrants, themselves.

And this is an argument for more immigration, how? I'm not sure what you're saying here, thehova.

Posted by: PatrickH on January 3, 2008 3:32 PM



What I'm saying is that immigration improves the lives of millions of people (the immigrants who lived in poverty), while perhaps giving us a small increase in our GDP (at worse, no increase).

Michael Blowhard completely ignores this in his analysis.

As a libertarian, I strongly believe that government should not interfere in the "cultural" concerns of the country. Anything that Washington DC does to combat "cultural erosion" will be harmful and costly. I think most libertarians would concur.

It is striking to me how much more worried people are about immigration in Georgia rather than Texas. Do Texans want to build a fence?

Posted by: thehova on January 3, 2008 4:31 PM



thehova -- I'm impressed by your willingness to speak for all libertarians! I'm wary even of speaking for my fellow Blowhhards. But in any case I've certainly run across tons of libertarians who argue that the current massive immigration benefits Americans economically. They're evidently wrong.

I also admire your conviction that one of the main purposes of American policy should be to benefit Mexican peasants, especially at the expense of poor and working-class Americans. Forgive me if I can't join you in that conviction. I'm more of an "America's government should look out for America and Americans" kind of guy. I wish Mexicans well, of course. And, In the spirit of libertarianism, I invite you to donate your own personal money to however many Mexican peasants you'd care to donate to.

I don't know where you live, by the way, but the Dallas Morning News just proclaimed 2007 the year of the illegal immigrant. Even Texans have noticed.

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on January 3, 2008 4:36 PM



Yeah, perhaps my language is a bit too broad, especially concerning libertarians.

But I do believe that too many people attribute the decrease in pay of blue collar jobs to the increase in Mexican and Central American immigration.

The relative decrease in pay of blue collar jobs compared to white collar jobs has very little to do with immigration but broader globalization trends.

From what I've heard, immigration only lowers the pay of a small percentage of high school dropouts. Limiting immigration is often sold as a step towards resurrecting the standing of America's blue collar worker. That's flatly false.

Posted by: thehova on January 3, 2008 5:06 PM




Since the govt./mafia of Mexico is encouraging immigration, the Mexican immigration is a govt. policy. Should not libertarians oppose it on those grounds? The Mexican govt. is also demanding services from the U.S. govt. for those same immigrants, so it is actually a double govt. policy, one involving two governments. One would expect such a thing would make a libertarian's head explode. Surely, they'd at least like to shake their RPG (rocket propelled grenade) or other tools of "freedom" in the direction of such a policy?

Posted by: sN on January 4, 2008 4:22 AM



What I'm saying is that immigration improves the lives of millions of people (the immigrants who lived in poverty), while perhaps giving us a small increase in our GDP (at worse, no increase).

Well, thehova, you seem to be implying that the majority of the small GDP increase has to go to immigrants, then, aren't you? Again, given your own admission that the economic benefits of immigration are experienced mostly by the immigrants, you are providing ant-immigration forces with the best ammo they could possibly ask for.

Immigration doesn't help existing Americans! Just immigrants! Gentlemen, lock and load!

Posted by: PatrickH on January 4, 2008 9:03 AM



There is a good discussion of latino immigration over on the "Coming Anarchy" blog (cominganarchy.com). I suggest you all check it out.

Two guys from Texas and one guy from Florida say that the Latinos are assimilating and achieving economic success quite nicely, unlike the situation in California. I have not been to Texas and Florida much, but have spent much time in California. I can tell you that the difference is that Florida and Texas are pro-business states, whereas California is very business-hostile. One of the guys from Texas pointed out that Texas does not have the "social benefits" that California has and thus the Latinos work more and are more productive.

Perhaps it is an issue of economic opportunity vs. welfare-state benefits.

Posted by: kurt9 on January 4, 2008 1:11 PM



Kurt9 makes an interesting argument. It's no stretch to say that whatever the merits or problems of immigration, welfare makes a huge mess of things. (See W. Europe for an extreme case study.)

I'm curious if folks like JA and others here who promote immigration are also strongly pro-welfare, and if so, what possible arguments do they have in its defense.

Posted by: PA on January 4, 2008 1:23 PM



"Limiting immigration is often sold as a step towards resurrecting the standing of America's blue collar worker. That's flatly false."

Well, no, not actually. Below see Roy Beck (NumbersUSA) in his discussion of Occupation Collapse in 2004 before Congress.

http://judiciary.house.gov/media/pdfs/beck032404.pdf

It is hard to believe, but construction wages actually FELL during the most recent building boom. If construction workers can't prosper during a building boom, when can they prosper? And BTW since housing prices soared, it can hardly be said that these wage cuts were being passed on to consumers, that is home-buyers. Somebody made a killing though. Toll Brothers, for one.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/ABPub/2006/09/16/2003262477.pdf

Massive immigration transfers wealth from middle-class workers to the well-to-do, from labor to capital. Forget "averages". If Bill Gates wanders into a local bar in depressed Pulaski County VA (formerly a furniture manufacturing base) for a drink, he'd instantly raise the "average" wealth of the bar patrons astronomically. However, not a dime of his billions would actually be in the pockets of the locals when he walked out.


Posted by: D Flinchum on January 4, 2008 4:33 PM



Immigration, especially the H1-b type, are lowering the wages of the white collar job-holders too. Stagnant to falling wages are signs of too many workers for the available jobs. They should be back in their own countries, building those up, not here, undermining the middle class.

I doubt that mexicans in Florida and Texas are "assimilating well". Ask the natives, they'll know the truth. Assimilation refers to cultural assimilation, not economic. There are lots of paid PR guys on the 'net now to sell this type of tripe on blogs, so be very cautious about what you read. The corporations backing this are tech savvy, and hitting the web hard.

An easy tip to spot the PR flaks is that all they talk about is money. Like all salesman, they avoid the negatives at all costs, and if they have to admit to them, will do so rather lightly, then change the subject. Drill 'em hard if you see them doing their bit.

Posted by: BIOH on January 4, 2008 10:57 PM



"An easy tip to spot the PR flaks is that all they talk about is money."

And education, BIOH. As in 'The growing inequality in wealth in the US is the educated pulling away from the uneducated. Ignore the impact of immigration.' There are plenty of people with college degrees, even advanced degrees, who are selling printers at Comp-U-World because of H-1b's.

I read somewhere recently that newly graduated engineers are having major problems finding work in the field. Still we are being told that we don't produce enough engineers and need to import more, more, more, cheaper, cheaper, cheaper!

And while we're at it, whatever happened to the belief that working under harsh, dangerous, or unpleasant conditions should at least command a living wage?

I remember back in the 70's when the women's movement was just getting cranked up. A secretary in our office used to go on and on about how she could type, take shorthand, do bookkeeping, etc and still didn't make any more than a garbage man.

After hearing this about 5 times, I pulled her aside and pointed out that she worked in a clean, safe, weather-controlled office, didn't lift anything heavier than a phoneook, wore stylish clothes, had perfect hair and nails, and never had to touch or smell anything slimy. Still, I assured her, if she really wanted a job in sanitation, I'd support her decision with a job recommendation. Last I heard about it. And FTR, when was the last time you saw a typewriter or shorthand? But we still need sanitation workers!

Garbage men, construction workers, and slaugherhouse workers, among others, should be paid decently instead of being replaced by cheap foreign labor which the community at large then has to subsidize while the biz interests pocket the profit.

Posted by: D Flinchum on January 5, 2008 11:07 AM






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