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
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
"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]
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
Chilton Williamson, Jr., a fact-crammed collection
of 14 essays from Chronicles Press, which is affiliated
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
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
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
Borjas: "Of course! Of course! The Marxist analysis
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
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
Yet economics is only one aspect of
the immigration quandary. As
Thomas Fleming, editor of Chronicles recalls
in his chapter "Up Mexico Way":
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
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
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
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"
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
country music radio station in late 2006, when
KZLA switched to an "urban" format
quasi-music like the Black Eyed Peas rap travesty
On the political side, Peter
Brimelow has a second chapter analyzing Big Business`s
love affair with immigration "as a savage attack by
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:
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.
features his daily blog.]