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05/28/2007

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Alan

Posner writes that amnesty "for some reason horrifies a lot of people," and then moves on without discussing the point, thereby excluding half of the country from this debate by shutting down discussion of their horror at amnesty.

Oh. So lots of people oppose amnesty "for some reason." As if we have no idea what that reason is. (Or, perhaps, what those reasons are.) As if that reason or those reasons must be so contemptible and stupid that the people who are "horrified" should see their concerns dismissed out of hand. Heaven forbid Posner should actually address people's concerns on that issue. But it's so much easier simply to dismiss the opinion of millions upon millions of people as inexplicable and irrational. Condescension makes for *such* good reading, doesn't it? I could tolerate the condescension if it had something to support it, but I'm not seeing support, only a hit-and-run insult. I really would like to think that this disgraceful post is beneath a man like Posner.

I don't know what happened to this blog. It used to be the site of much more intellectually stimulating and much less offensive posts. Posner's work in particular has become quite intellectually flabby, and this post is a striking case in point--the product, I'm sure, of too much confidence.

Jake

It is unfortunate, indeed, that our Nation has come to the stage where we have 12 million illegal immigrants doing the work that our children should be doing. Commenters should recognize, however, that many citizens in the US do not want their precious kids to get any dirt under their nails. It has not always been so in this republic. Someone has to do the dirty, hard work and our Hispanic friends are willing to do it. Deporting them by the millions is a pipe dream -- though if Moms and Dads across the country want to do this so Johnnie and Susie can go dig ditches, drive nails, and clean other folks' messes, then let them have at it.

Andy

I remember Milton Friedman commenting once, on Charlie Rose, I think, that the US has benefited less from immigration as the government expanded welfare programs after the Depression. I think he even went as far as saying that immigration is no longer good for the US. My own impression is that he overstated the negative effects of this government assistance on the fate of immigrants after they arrive - that on the whole recent immigrants have contributed, although perhaps not to the extent or in the same way as immigrants that arrived around the turn of the 20th century, for example. I would be curious to hear the writers' opinions on Friedman's line of thinking.

Mr. Econotarian

"we have 12 million illegal immigrants doing the work that our children should be doing."

I really hope my children are computer programmers, not lawn mowers or brick layers.

Indeed, the current low US unemployment rate shows that immigrants are mainly creating new low-skilled jobs, not taking away jobs from Americans citizens who are entitled to at least 12 years of free schooling and then cut-rate state college education which can still be financed through low-interest loans.

The biggest question is when has immigration into an economically free country ever truly hurt it?

The US has historically been able to handle far more immigrants on a percentage population basis than we do today and had no significant problems with long-term growth.

I can understand why some Americans are concerned with certain cultural issue of some immigrant groups, but perhaps we should all espouse and support the culture of economic freedom (including free tade and free migration or labor).

For much of the history on the US, our immigration laws were "come here, stay a few years, and get citizenship." It is only since 1920 that we've seen the "quota system" (except of course for the Asian Exclusion acts which pre-date 1920).

BJ Feng

Most Americans are against amnesty, not because of some irrational fear, but because they rightly believe that amnesty, under its current form, will not solve our illegal immigration problems. The reluctance Mr. Posner has towards enforcement is exactly why Americans have no faith that giving amnesty will do anything other than encourage 20 million more illegals to come across the border.

Mr. Posner makes absolutely no attempt to solve the current enforcement problem other than suggesting amnesty when there are clearly ways to get illegal immigrants to deport themselves. A crackdown on employers and the denial of social services would eliminate the reason why illegals crossed our border in the first place. Yes this is a tough method, but the reluctance to even discuss these methods by our intellectual elites shows that they have absolutely no intention of enforcing immigration law at any point, even after this amnesty. Without an attitude change, the

American people are right to demand that the government show a willingness to enforce immigration laws. The terms of the debate have to be shifted and our right to limit immigration has to be emphasized and acknowledged by all. We cannot move forward until then.

Robert

Two comments: first, amnesty sends the wrong message to legal immigrants who have been patient and expended resources to stand in the "back of the line" only to see illegal immigrants rewarded. Second, illegal immigration is a consequence, not a cause. If Mexico were to capitalize on its wealth, as per Posner's comment in this regard, then there would be no need for a fluorishing middle class to come to America in the first place. This is our best hope for dealing effectively with this problem.

N.E.Hatfield

The fact of the matter is, the U.S. has become the destination of choice for all those who wish to leave a bad situation behind and cross over to "greener" pastures. Why? Because the U.S. does not have a coherent and effective immigration policy. Just ask yourself why don't immigrants go to Italy, France, Switzerland, Spain, Britian, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Russsia, Ukraine, India, China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan and any of the other countries of the world? Answer, an effecftive, comprehensive immigration and control policy that is enforced. Unlike the U.S.. As for the "free trade, free market, free movement of peoples" position, It never takes into account the realities that most nations are mercantilists and are more concerned with their own well being. Any one wish to discuss the current U.S. trade deficit?

Perhaps, it time the U.S. woke up to the realities of the modern world and it's economic order and started putting it's own interests first. Like everyone else.

jimbino

Becker says that the United States “would benefit greatly from immigration of many engineers, computer experts, scientists, and other highly skilled men and women.” This is something only someone in an ivory tower could say. While it is self-evidently true, the fact is that there are hardly any women in any of those fields, especially at the levels of recognized great achievement and especially in those countries likely to supply the immigrants.

Hell, there hasn’t even been an acclaimed female economist since Rose Director—this in a field where you can skip trying to master the vector calculus and quantum theory and can make a living uttering silly statements that nobody can refute by experiment.

So here I sit, a skilled computer engineer, awaiting the flood of competition from other males, at the same time not allowed to even entertain my darling Brazilian girlfriend for a summer visit in the States, since our Amerikan gummint won't even grant a tourist visa to a pretty, young Brazilian woman who is not shackled by marriage, burdened by kids, and a homeowner with a permanent job in Brazil.

I think it’s a fine idea to base immigration policy on merit. But, apart from merit, any decent immigration policy, at a minimum, should be neutral with regard to sex, age, race, religion, national origin, sexual preference and family status. Give me a break: our immigration policy will always favor young, white, christian, heterosexual male pro-natalist breeders from the ‘right’ countries. Do you think a gay immigrant Nobelist in physics will ever be able to bring in his gay partner from Haiti for the purposes of “family reunification"? Hell no. We live in a very sick society and can expect our immigration policy, whatever it turns out to be, to reflect that sickness.

Robert

A further comment: control of a nation's borders is consistent with the idea of sovereignty. If we don't control our borders then we don't have a nation. I suggest that the United States place a moratorium on ALL immigration for a finite amount of time (say three to five years) for the express purpose of assimilating those immigrants--legal and illegal--which we do have. This will allow us to truly consider the implications of immigration policy, as well as afford us the chance to inculcate in immigrants a true appreciation of what it means to be American.

Nelson

Xenophobia vs. Freedom. Which will win?

Greg

Jake your comments are hilarious and naive. I'm also guessing that you are also concerned by "wage disparities" between income classes and you also believe that America's middle-class is shrinking as never before. You also likely support a "livable" federal minimum wage. If you read my post, PLEASE correct me if I mis-presumed you.

If you agree that you'd like to see wage disparities decrease, expanding the middle-class and greatly increasing the federal minimum wage, then you should absolutely despise the current influx of illegal workers. A massive illegal artificially keeps wages very low, achieves few middle-class status participants and begs the government to NOT increase the minimum wage. From the employer's perspective, illegal workers are the best cure for higher wages!

You've obviously bought in to the whole "doing work that Americans won't do" statement. What a farce! That's because you forget to add the obvious caveat that workers choose to work at a price they'll agree to. Remember in October when the Swift & Co. plant was raided and it netted something like 800 illegal workers out of 1200? The next day the company posted those open positions but had to offer them for $3/hour more. Want to know how many applicants they got? 2500. All legal.

P.S. It's not 12 million...more likely than 20 million. The US Social Security office has admitted they have 11 million "unmatched" but current SSN's alone!

N.E.Hatfield

"xenophobia vs. freedom", a bit of the black-white fallacy ehh? Talk of freedom always seems too be the last refuge of scroundels and scallawags. I much prefer "Liberty and priveleges", at least it keeps chaos and anarchy at bay.

Asher Meir

Allowing only skilled immigrants will encourage brain drain from less developed countries. It may be perceived as a bad neighbor policy by poor countries. Some of these countries are taking our advice to invest very limited resources in education and training, only to find that their hard-earned sacrifices are subsidizing the US economy.

Anonymous

Mr. E. says, "I can understand why some Americans are concerned with certain cultural issue of some immigrant groups, but perhaps we should all espouse and support the culture of economic freedom (including free tade and free migration or labor)."

How's that been working so far? Heck, they're not even coming from countries that have a culture of that sort. Why wouldn't we expect this country to become more like the countries they're leaving, in terms of public policy? They're not coming here because they can't stand all those stifling regulations and generally socialistic policies at home; they're coming here because there are more jobs here, and that's it.

The plain fact is that immigrants don't vote the rugged individualism that the libertines (oops, libertarians) think inheres in them. I can't remember where I read that our immigrants are just about all coming from countries that have "labour" governments, but I'm absolutely sure it's true. There are very few countries that have a culture of economic freedom. The countries from which we get our immigrants have a very illiberal politico-economic culture. There's no reason to think that immigrants won't take their values with them when they come.

Empirically, we see this as plain as day. Immigrants overwhelmingly vote for our own Labour Party, the Democrats. And that's not because immigrants perceive Republicans as xenophobic--immigrants have been voting overwhelmingly for the Democrats for generations, and it's not until very recently that there was any difference at all between Republicans and Democrats on the issue of immigration.

Alan

Mr. E. says, "I can understand why some Americans are concerned with certain cultural issue of some immigrant groups, but perhaps we should all espouse and support the culture of economic freedom (including free tade and free migration or labor)."

How's that been working so far? Heck, they're not even coming from countries that have a culture of that sort. Why wouldn't we expect this country to become more like the countries they're leaving, in terms of public policy? They're not coming here because they can't stand all those stifling regulations and generally socialistic policies at home; they're coming here because there are more jobs here, and that's it.

The plain fact is that immigrants don't vote the rugged individualism that the libertines (oops, libertarians) think inheres in them. I can't remember where I read that our immigrants are just about all coming from countries that have "labour" governments, but I'm absolutely sure it's true. There are very few countries that have a culture of economic freedom. The countries from which we get our immigrants have a very illiberal politico-economic culture. There's no reason to think that immigrants won't take their values with them when they come.

Empirically, we see this as plain as day. Immigrants overwhelmingly vote for our own Labour Party, the Democrats. And that's not because immigrants perceive Republicans as xenophobic--immigrants have been voting overwhelmingly for the Democrats for generations, and it's not until very recently that there was any difference at all between Republicans and Democrats on the issue of immigration.

Jake

First, to my remark that "we have 12 million illegal immigrants doing the work that our children should be doing," Mr. Econotarian observes: "I really hope my children are computer programmers, not lawn mowers or brick layers."


Well, it depends. My kids becoming computer programmers, and having the opportunity to work in clean, climate-controlled environments, is an idea I'm receptive to. They should, however, experience a little hard work first.


Anyone who demeans bricklayers has never tried to lay bricks. It is not easy. And the skills and patience required to lay bricks, sturdily and in a straight line, do not differ materially from what it takes to write software code.


Second, "Greg" comments (albeit while sparing the reader any attention to punctuation, grammar, or syntax, or any of that other "stuff" that he probably found more boring than video games while enrolled in elementary school):

"Jake your comments are hilarious and naive. I'm also guessing that you are also concerned by 'wage disparities' between income classes and you also believe that America's middle-class is shrinking as never before. You also likely support a 'livable' federal minimum wage. If you read my post, PLEASE correct me if I mis-presumed you."


"Hilarious and naive," indeed. "Greg," whatever you may be, let me assure you that my forefathers who settled this country well over 300 years ago, and later served in General Washington's army, probably did not foresee that their labors would lead one day to nitwits like you buying computers and littering the Internet with such inane commentary.

Long live the conservative tradition. Bless Friedman and Hayek. Harboring conservative economic views does not, however, include demeaning folks who work hard and get their hands dirty. "Greg" should give it a try, but probably never will. He'd have to leave his dark room, littered with empty pizza boxes and empty M&M wrappers, to emerge into the light and share the experience of productive citizens. Not likely, to all appearances.

Nelson

Hatfield writes "xenophobia vs. freedom", a bit of the black-white fallacy ehh? Talk of freedom always seems too be the last refuge of scroundels and scallawags.It's certainly not a falacy. It's a choice that drives policy. Which do you think is more important? (a) That all men and women are created equal. That men and women should be free to live and find work where they can to support themselves and their families. That employment agreements between two parties shouldn't be thwarted by government just because one of those parties was born at the wrong latitude. Or (b) should "we don't want Mexicans here ruining our way of life" be our guiding principal? Try reading our Declaration of Independence some day. The scoundrels and scalawags part I'll give you if you agree that our Founding Fathers were scoundrels and scalawags.

America is a country defined not by its borders but by its belief in individual freedom.

N.E.Hatfield

OK. Let's call it, "Begging the question" then. As for the U.S., it was founded on the principles of Liberty, not Freedom. It has always recognized the relationship between the individual and the state/society and granted such liberties as was in the interest of the Nation and Commonwealth (see the Bill of Rights and the Preamble). It always will. Oh, BTW, there are two "L's" in fallacy.

Nelson

Hatfield,

What would be so bad about just granting Mexican citizens the right to work and live here, but requiring that if they choose to do so they live by the same rules we do? Their responsibilities and rights would include paying taxes, right to apply for a driving license (with mandatory auto liability insurace), minimum wage, right to file complaints against their employers for sub-standard working conditions, live here, open bank accounts, rent or buy property, etc... Some rights American citizens would get that would not be offered to our friends would include welfare, unemployment benefits, voting, Social Security, Medicare and Medicade (they'd still have to pay for them to make wages equal, but they'd get no benefits from them without becomming a full citizne).I see far more benefit to everyone involved in bringing the hidden economy into the light and ligitimizing it than trying to destroy that part of our economy outright.

N.E.Hatfield

Nelson, It's not just "granting" Mexicans the "right?" to live and work here; it's also Central Americans, South Americans, Orientals, and not too mention the rest of the globe. If we were to just grant the "right" to immigrate to every Tom, Dick, Harry and Juanita; the Nation would be overwhelmed. Not too mention the problems of depopulating large sectors of the globe.

Stop to think about it. If the U.S. had had a comprehensive, effective, immigration policy that was rigorously enforced, 9/11 would never have happened. We wouldn't have gone into Afganistan or Iraq and the body count wouldn't be climbing on a weekly basis. Mass migrations can destroy nations. Look at the history of Rome or that of China or better yet that of North and South America. There is a lot more to immigration than just the "free" movement of peoples across boundaries. Idealism has its place, but then so does national sovereignty and security and immigration controls are the gate keepers.

Nelson

This is from the BBC's web site regarding labor migrations within the EU: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3516432.stm

Wage equilibrium

"The forecasts that there'll be a massive movement of low-cost labour from the east to the west will not happen," Manpower Senior Vice President David Arklas told the BBC's World Business Report.

Mr Arklas said the European Union had already expanded to take in low-wage economies without triggering a mass movement of economic migrants.

"When Spain joined the union, their wage rates were significantly lower than the rest of Europe.

"But in fact what happened was that Spanish people living in the rest of Europe moved back to Spain, and over a five or six year period, wage levels 'normed up' in almost every job category.

"I don't see any reason why that trend would change this time."

Dan Cole

I agree with Prof. Posner's position on amnesty, but disagree with out of his reasons, namely that "virtually anyone can obtain a tourist visa to enter the United States." I think that is factually inaccurate. There is, for example, a strict quota on tourist visas for Poles (one of our erstwhile partners in misadventure in Iraq), including for close relatives of American citizens.

This small point notwithstanding, Prof. Posner is clearly correct that a fence will not keep even the majority of illegal aliens out of the country. What it will do is raise both the price and quality of false documents for gaining entry. To the extent a fence succeeds in keeping out some number of illegal aliens, it can be expected to result in marginal increases in the costs of goods and services that depend on unskilled labor.

N.E.Hatfield

I'm probably going to be classified vicious, cold hearted, and less than a humanitarian, but one solution to the immigration crisis is to remove the rewards for illegal immigration. We know that capture and deportation doesn't work. Most of them are back in the country within three months or thereabouts.

What ought to be done, is that upon capture, those who are in the country illegally, are sent to internment camps around the country where labor is needed and farmed out on a daily basis, returning to the camps at night. The pay is then taken by the governing board to pay for the maintanence and upkeep of the camps, room, board and clothing for the illegal immigrant. Much like we used to do with the prison population which was converted into convict labor in days past and also much like we did with German POW's during WWII. By capturing this money we also at the same time remove the "remittance" benefit that various nations receive from their citizens living and working in the U.S. illegally.

As for their release, this must be contingent on their desire to leave the country of their own free will, but only after a ten year term in the camp.

Peter Schaeffer

All,

I hate to say this, but you folks don't know the first thing about the bill pending before the Senate. There is no "three-tier" structure. That was last year's bill.

Beyond that, you have little idea of what Amnesty means. If I steal a car, Amnesty will keep me out of jail, but I don't get to keep the car.

The Senate bill provides Amnesty and let's the illegals keep the “fruits of their crime” by staying in the US legally. It's really Amnesty with the lottery jackpot thrown in.

Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation has shown that illegal immigration is a disaster for taxpayers. The current bill will cost the American people $2.5 Trillion (with a "T") over a period of years.

Given the vast negative externalities associated with illegal immigration, economic rationality dictates that large resources be allocated to stopping it, not rewarding it.

By the way, Eisenhower removed 1-2 million illegals with just 1000 agents back in the 1950s. It wasn't very hard either. The immigration reform community has outlined plans to get the illegals to leave on their own for tiny amounts of money.

To quote from someone else, "it is amazing how little economists think about economics, when the subject is immigration".

For a serious discussion of the Amnesty bill, see "The Bush-Kennedy-McCain Sham(nesty)" (http://borjas.typepad.com/the_borjas_blog/2007/05/the_bushkennedy.html) by George Borjas (the foremost immigration economist in the US).

Keypoints

The Best immigration policy is to enforce existing laws, avail social benefits only to legal residents and its citizens -- it's a shame that our elected congress are repeatedly wasting precious time and taxpayers' money and misrepresenting our interests (they should be voted out of the office, especially those with the longest tenure, practically with an "iron rice bowl"!).

All other factors conerning consequences of not having illegal or legal immigrants to do the work are really "not relevant" as provided in some of the following workable solutions:

1) True prices of food, etc. should reflect the true labor costs of its legal residents and citizens -- not of illegal or guest workers (thus, this artificially puts pressure on lowering the true costs).

2) US companies who need highly skilled non-us workers can just open offices overseas without asking the government to issue more working visas or giving the excuse of not finding enough us workers.

3) AS for products and services that require hard labor that we don't wish the later generations to do, we can just buy imports.

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