Elitist Economists, Immigration, And The American Future


Economist Bryan Caplan [email
him
], an associate professor at

George Mason U.
, a commuter school in suburban
Virginia, has been getting a lot of

good press
for his recent book The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies
which
argues that voters should have less power because they
make bad decisions compared to experts—such as (to pick
a random example) economists.

Thus Caplan wrote in the online
journal of the
libertarian-turned-Beltway-Establishment-wannabe

Cato Institute
:


"Consider the case of immigration policy. Economists are
vastly more optimistic about its economic effects than
the general public. The Survey of Americans and
Economists on the Economy
asks respondents to say
whether `too many immigrants` is a major, minor, or
non-reason why the economy is not doing better than it
is. 47% of non-economists think it is a major reason;
80% of economists think it is not a reason at all."
[The
Myth of the Rational Voter,
November 6th, 2006]

This is a

particularly foolish argument
—because, of course,
immigration is the single political issue on which the
American elite

most gets its way
over the American

people
.

And Caplan`s belief that
“experts”
should be deferred to on the wisdom of
open borders is even more self-contradictory because the
vast majority of economists surveyed are

not at all
experts on immigration. The

true expert
economists on immigration, such
as labor economist

George Borjas
of Harvard, tend to be

very dubious indeed
about the economic benefits of
our current policy—much less about the benefits of

more
unskilled immigration.


Caplan
himself has displayed over the years on his

blog
little awareness of

objective facts
about immigration. He does, however,
possess an unmistakably

dogmatic faith
in the

theories
of the late

Julian Simon
about how immigration ought to
be benefiting us.

I was reminded of this remarkable
imbalance in empirical knowledge between the two sides
in the immigration debates while reading

Immigration and the American Future
,
edited by
long-time

VDARE.com
contributor

Chilton Williamson, Jr.
, a fact-crammed collection
of 14 essays from Chronicles Press, which is affiliated
with

Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture
of

Rockford, Illinois
. [VDARE.com
note:
  Chronicles fans will prefer to


buy
through the magazine
].

In this book Professor Borjas is
himself represented by a long interview with VDARE.COM
editor

Peter Brimelow
. The two

veteran
students of economics share a laugh over how
the opinion divide on immigration policy between the
rich and the rest can be explained by an old economic
concept that Dr. Caplan has overlooked: class
self-interest.


Borjas:
"Who exactly is lobbying for guest workers?
Is it you and me? No, it`s employers, right? Why would
employers tend to go to Washington and

expend their resources lobbying
for something that
doesn`t benefit them?


Brimelow:
"It can all be explained in rather

crass Marxist terms
, can`t it? The class analysis
works.


Borjas:
"Of course! Of course! The Marxist analysis
works."

In other words, pro-immigration
arguments are so shameless and stupid that they are
rehabilitating the reputation of Karl Marx.

Williamson`s new book includes
three other essays on economics: by Rockford Institute
chairman

David A. Hartman
, VDARE.COM`s

Edwin S. Rubenstein
, and from

James A. Bernsen
and the

Lone Star Foundation
on the costs of illegal
immigration to Texas. Each economics chapter is
beautifully illustrated with very clear graphs and data
tables. Reading any of them would likely double the sum
total of the average economist`s objective knowledge
about immigration.

Yet economics is only one aspect of
the immigration quandary. As

Thomas Fleming
, editor of Chronicles recalls
in his chapter "Up Mexico Way":

"Some
years ago, when I began speaking and writing on the
immigration question, I ran into trouble very quickly.
So long as I was content to quotes

George Borjas
`s and

Donald Huddle
`s statistics on the
economic impact of immigration,
my arguments were
treated politely by advocates on both sides, but when I
made the mistake of raising the question of culture, of

the kind of country
that America would be turned
into by mass immigration, I was informed by opponents of
unrestricted immigration that anyone who raised the

cultural question
would be

accused of bigotry
. How convenient, I
thought."

Fleming offers an informative
contrast between American culture and Mexican culture
and how they are amalgamating, focusing on the

border cities of El Paso and Ciudad Juarez,
where so
many women have been

murdered
. Fleming, a resident of the
upper Midwest,
is particularly struck by the

traditional Mexican love of violence
, which has long
been reflected across the border in Texas, scene of
brutal Cormac McCarthy border novels such as  No Country for Old Men
and All the Pretty Horses.

Indeed, southern Arizona journalist

Gregory McNamee`s
chapter on the environmental
impact of immigration reads rather like a McCarthy
novel. He describes a member of the

Tohono O`odham
(a.k.a.
Papago) Nation (which has

long protested
how the constant flow of illegal
immigrants

degrades their land
along

70 miles of border
) who works "cutting
for sign
"
for an elite unit of the U.S. Customs
and Border Protection Service known as the

Shadow Wolves
:

"The
tracker kneels in the middle of the dry desert wash,
looking intently at the sandy, rock-strewn floor. The
earth bears faint impressions of many kinds… A few hours
ago, before dawn, two men came this way, heading south.
More men passed, heading north. Many more."

"Greetings from Ground Zero"
by

Steven Greenhut
of the

Orange County Register
assesses immigration from
a more urban perspective, that of Southern California.
He notes that this market of 17 million people lost its
only

country music
radio station in late 2006, when

KZLA
switched to an "urban" format
specializing in

quasi-music
like the Black Eyed Peas rap travesty
"My
Humps
"
.

The good news is that SoCal now has
a country radio station again:

105.1 FM
. The bad news is that. to become the new
country station, 105.1 stopped being LA`s only
commercial FM

classical
station.

On the political side, Peter
Brimelow has a second chapter analyzing Big Business`s
love affair with immigration "as a savage attack by
the

American rich
on the American poor (and
middle class), by

American capitalists
on the living standards of the
American working class."

But he goes on to explain:

"The
business elite is surprisingly flexible over time… It
just wants to be left alone. So it sometimes responds
very quickly to friendly hints dropped by politicians…
In the 30-year struggle that

culminated in the legislated cutoff
of the last
Great Wave of immigration in the 1920s, it was the
business elite`s fear of mounting social disorder that
caused it to change sides. The scars from the

little-remembered anarchist bombing
outside J.P.
Morgan, Inc. on

September 16, 1920,
which killed 33 people and
injured 400 are

still visible
on the façade of 23 Wall Street."

The crime was never solved. The
Italian immigrant chief suspect fled back to his
homeland. But business had learned (temporarily, at
least) that cheap labor could be expensive.

There`s a lot to be learned. And

Immigration and the American Future
is a good
place to start.


[Steve Sailer (
email
him) is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and

movie critic

for

The American Conservative
.
His website


www.iSteve.blogspot.com

features his daily blog.]