17 December 2015

on human migration

Couple things I noticed

- The persistence of the analogy being made to "letting someone in my house/family" as a property right type analogue for allowing people to migrate within borders. In this case, it's also variously described as letting anyone grab the microphone at a radio station or anyone try to play point guard for the Knicks. (The latter situation might be warranted anyway.)

The stupidity of this argument could be applied to, say, Ohioans moving to Michigan or vice versa. Or the people of the town of Shelbyville restricting access to the people of Springfield nearby. What is actually happening is not the same thing as some sort of uninvited personal guest making unreasonable demands that we are acceding to in order to let them come here. This is a terrible analogy. It's more like "I now have a new neighbour to ignore". Nobody is forced to give them a job. We do a fair amount to acculturate refugees and help them succeed, but no one is required to help them (there is a fairly modest amount of tax money to initially settle them and help fund the charitable groups that do the work of resettlement, but this is easily recouped by the economic contributions of refugees, and the associated tax receipts they generate, on average within a short time frame, no more than a few years).

This I think gets at the heart of the problem more closely is to say that most people opposed to (more) immigration believe they won't or don't or couldn't like their new neighbours. They therefore think it unreasonable that they should have such neighbours, or that their very existence is a demand upon their well-being (given we have a long history of redlining and housing segregation throughout the country, this should not be a surprising feature to discover might apply to migrants from other countries). People in support of it either don't care, or will even enjoy the new cooking or music that's now made more accessible to them from a new cultural heritage placed at their doorstep.

- The salience and overwhelming power of the economics arguments for more open migration is nearly universally accepted, I don't really see anyone pushing against it in this piece, and it's practically non-existent in mainstream economic literature simply because it so easily passes a cost-benefit curve.

But that is not the primary argument individuals disposed to be against immigration use (see above). Which means "arguing" over it doesn't really improve the moral arguments for allowing refugees and immigrants to come here. It's already part of the bedrock because it's become inarguable. What needs to be argued against is questions of culture, national identity, and security, all of which I would argue are strongly improved by having a more open policy toward both refugees and immigrants, or even migrant labourers.

- The position however that "libertarian economists" are the only ones in favor of open borders, or more open borders, or that the nation-state would disappear if such a state existed is nonsense. It's pointed out directly in the bit that the US and UK both had for decades, if not centuries, fairly open borders allowing virtually anyone to come and live and work there. Both of these are countries typically regarded as some of the most successful world powers in world history and have a strong coherent national identity as nation-states, complete with distinct legal and moral traditions to which these historical flows of immigrants have often made powerful contributions.
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