Kevin Drum on “the left and illegal immigration”

by Chris Bertram on October 20, 2011

Kevin Drum writes:

… I think the federal government should do its best to stop illegal immigration …. If you’re in favor of completely open borders, then fine. Make your case. But if you’re not, then no matter how liberal you think our immigration laws should be, you do think we should have immigration laws. And if you think we should have immigration laws, then you think they should be enforced.

Now I’m not part of the “we” in question, but similar issues arise in Europe, and similar considerations apply. But what Kevin says doesn’t seem right, because it depends on an equivocation. Supposing there are justly permissible immigration laws and that open borders are wrong, it might follow that those justly permissible immigration laws should be enforced. But it surely doesn’t follow that the actual immigration laws, far more extensive than those just laws, should be enforced. But that’s what he’s claiming in the linked article. There’s certainly room for discussion about what just laws would look like, and maybe reasonable people, concerned about the rule of law should (out of respect for their fellow citizens) favour the enforcement of laws that deviate from the ideal somewhat. But that doesn’t get you to the conclusion that the existing, manifestly unjust, immigration laws imposed by rich northern states should be enforced. (Example: discriminatory laws dividing people form their same-sex partners – unjust and shouldn’t be enforced.)

{ 187 comments }

1

LizardBreath 10.20.11 at 5:33 pm

I think there is a real problem for left-wing Americans here, in that there’s no politically plausible set of immigration laws that would be just to enforce. So we end up supporting compromises including laws that we don’t want enforced.

I’m a soft supporter of open borders; that is, I don’t have any problem with rules excluding particular people for sane reasons, but I think immigration should be permitted at about the rate at which people want to immigrate to the US, and the citizenship process should be basically about recordkeeping.

If it were politically and otherwise practical to actually exclude people who were not legally permitted to immigrate to the US, so that illegal immigration was a numerically insignificant issue, I’d be interested in haggling over the justice of exactly who should be permitted to immigrate, and willing to support the stringent enforcement of the laws if they were reasonably just. But that’s not the case; the business and agricultural community wants their undocumented workforce, so any immigration law is going to be a joke on the enforcement end. At which point I can’t see any reason to treat immigration issues as intellectually serious: on any sub-issue, I’m going to jump in the direction that seems to injure innocent people least, but I don’t see any way to be theoretically consistent about the desirable policy, even to the extent of it generally being a good thing that the law is enforced.

2

Kevin Drum 10.20.11 at 5:42 pm

Right before the quoted passage, I wrote:

“It should do it humanely, it should do it efficiently, it should do it without trampling on civil liberties, and it should do it without mistakenly scooping up lots of citizens and legal immigrants in its net and putting them through hell. These are, obviously, all big caveats and they’re all hard things to pull off. When we fall short, we should yell about it. Like here, for example. But they aren’t impossible.”

This is pretty obviously *not* a root and branch endorsement of current policy, so I really have no idea why you say that my post plainly endorses the current regime. Especially since in the last paragraph I explicitly endorse a different one. And I imagine you can guess my position on separating same-sex partners, right?

3

Chris Bertram 10.20.11 at 5:53 pm

Kevin, first of all I’m very glad to read your clarification.

However, I read your post, reasonably I think, as taking the position that the current _law_ should be enforced but that the modalities of enforcement should be humane, efficient, and so forth. You now seem to be taking the view, with which I agree, that only those parts of the current law which correspond to what an approximately just immigration regime would be should be enforced. I’m fine with that, but is it what you meant in the OP?

4

soullite 10.20.11 at 5:54 pm

I don’t know, if you think that these laws are unjust, why don’t you actually work to repeal them?

What this looks like to most people is that the elite have simply decided to ignore laws passed with majority support so that they have all the access to cheap labor that they want. It’s of a kind with NAFTA and other free trade deals, which were passed against the overwhelming sentiment of the electorate, and which this so-called ‘democracy’ ensures remain in place by not allowing any candidate that opposes them to come up for a vote. Only to a far more extreme degree because you haven’t even bothered to maintain the charade of democracy by making it actually legal.

5

Jim Harrison 10.20.11 at 5:58 pm

Isn’t the problem that important business interests, especially in agriculture, depend upon illegal immigration, that is, they don’t just need immigrants, they need immigrants who have no legal standing or labor power and therefore can be exploited freely? My point is that it isn’t just liberals who face a dilemma about immigration. If I were an Imperial Valley onion farmer, the last thing I’d like to see is an open border since aliens with legal standing who aren’t hiding out from feds wouldn’t put up with current working conditions and pay levels for very long.

6

christian_h 10.20.11 at 6:03 pm

Kevin, what you do is endorse enforcement of the current regime – enforcement in a humane etc. way, but enforcement nonetheless. And you claim that anyone supporting immigration laws of any kind should be logically required to support enforcement of current law as well. Which is nonsense, as Chris points out.

I see absolutely no reason to support the enforcement of borders drawn violently by white colonial settlers now keeping the descendants of peoples who have lived in North America for centuries out of large parts of it. An anecdote to illustrate the point: a couple years ago I was part of a picket at UCLA with some grad students. A white man walks over to us, points to the only Latino among us and says “you’re not from here!” The comrade in question was the only one of us born in California. Any support for enforcement means throwing in your lot with that man, whether you want to or not.

7

Chris Bertram 10.20.11 at 6:05 pm

I take it, soullite, that your comment is aimed at me. The simple reason that I don’t work to repeal US laws is that I’m not a member of the US polity. However the deeper issue raised by your comment is whether the democratic choice of the citizens of a state to exclude outsiders should be the trump card you take it to be. I don’t believe so, because I don’t think states have the moral right to impose such restrictions unilaterally but should rather work towards a global binding convention on migration rights (and meanwhile should carry some fair burden of immigration from the global south). So, imho, it isn’t up to the people.

8

christian_h 10.20.11 at 6:07 pm

Soullite (4.): If you want to join me on a trip to East L.A. I can introduce you to members of the “elite” you are talking about. The truth is that immigration laws reducing immigrant labour’s bargaining power, in combination with NAFTA’s destruction of small agriculture in Mexico serve to create the cheap labour you mention in the first place.

9

Adrian 10.20.11 at 6:16 pm

Relevant I think is that the mechanics of enforcement will, at a politically salient level, be the same regardless of who is allowed in. Basically, stopping people sneaking over the border, and checking people’s status while they’re in. Kevin’s point is then that unless you’re pro open borders you should be able to support stepped-up border patrols; enforcement per se isn’t a restrictionist position. Of course one might oppose enforcement generally while the laws are unjust, but that’s then a de facto open borders position. What’s the principled defense of *weak* enforcement?

*Electric* fences are a different kettle of sharks, obviously.

10

LizardBreath 10.20.11 at 6:31 pm

What’s the principled defense of weak enforcement?

Well, sort of what I tried to get at in my initial comment. Any level of enforcement that would actually keep large numbers of undocumented workers out of the country is either practically or at least politically impossible — there’s too much support for having a desperate class of workers with no legal rights in the country.

So if effective enforcement isn’t an option, the choice between ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ enforcement is a choice between harassing and immiserating undocumented immigrants more or less. At which point ‘less’ looks like a principled position to me.

11

Jeff R. 10.20.11 at 6:34 pm

Chris: I think that you just (@7) struct a de facto position of open borders, despite starting from an arguendo position that that position was wrong; hardly fair. Because ‘a global binding convention on migration rights’ is politically impossible in this generation, and ‘global binding conventions’ on anything are going to be fundamentally illegitimate until at least a basic subset of liberal democracy becomes universal, something that is profoundly unlikely to happen on its own and which most of us are not sanguine about the morality or effectiveness of any possible ‘work’ bringing about. Tyrants and their handpicked cronys are fundamentally incapable of, in any meaningful way, ‘representing’ their victims. So if nobody, at least not for decades or centuries down the road, has a moral right to close a border, then…

12

Steve LaBonne 10.20.11 at 6:36 pm

I have never seen anybody cut to the chase on this hypocrisy-drenched subject half as well as LizardBreath is doing in this thread. Thank you LB.

13

Watson Ladd 10.20.11 at 6:55 pm

Chris, a global convention on migration rights ignores the fact that it is not states who suffer from restrictions but individuals. One of my friends is jumping through hoops to marry his fiancee because of national borders. I get hurt when I can’t sell my labor to the highest bidder because of a border in the way. What do states have to do with this? Why should state assent justify inhibiting the right to trade wherever I want?

14

MPAVictoria 10.20.11 at 6:57 pm

Open borders would drastically force down the wages of working people. Particularly unionised working people. I would have hoped that contributors to Crooked Timber would care about that.

15

nick s 10.20.11 at 6:58 pm

I’m with Chris in finding ‘if you think we should have immigration laws, then you think they should be enforced’ slightly ambiguous. This is complicated in the US by two abstract positions, which, roughly stated, equate to ‘you support enforcement of what’s on the books first, and then we can talk about reform’ and ‘you support reform to a point at which the laws are enforceable and then we can talk about enforcement’.

16

Steve LaBonne 10.20.11 at 7:03 pm

Open borders would drastically force down the wages of working people. Particularly unionised working people. I would have hoped that contributors to Crooked Timber would care about that.

Along with the fact that nobody has figured out how to actually keep economic migrants out (apart from having a deep recession, which one hopes is temporary), rather than merely making ineffective and cruel gestures in that direction, I think this assumption is nowhere near as unquestionable as many people seem to think. Why do you suppose illegal immigrants are so popular with employers? Would the employers have the same leverage to force down wages and worsen working conditions if these workers had the legal right to be here and to leave for another job? To what extent does the presence of a large pool of workers with no recourse actually enable the immiseration of the working class?

17

Adrian 10.20.11 at 7:06 pm

LizardBreath: why wouldn’t that reasoning favour de facto open borders? Even less harassment—and a better bargaining position for the undocumented. It is, to be sure, a principled reason for taking the weaker of any two politically feasible enforcement options.

Empirical quibble: the current situation in Arizona suggests that “impossible” might be too strong.

18

Adam 10.20.11 at 7:09 pm

Chris’s position appears to be that some laws are unjust, that he gets to decide what those laws are, and once he’s made that decision he no longer has to follow them. Interesting.

@1 “I think immigration should be permitted at about the rate at which people want to immigrate to the US.”

In China right now there are about 100 million or so internally displaced Chinese. Suppose they decided they wanted to come to the US tommorrow. Would you support providing them with citizenship?

19

MPAVictoria 10.20.11 at 7:16 pm

Steve if you drastically increase the number of people in the labour force won’t you force down wages through the forces of supply and demand?

20

Steve LaBonne 10.20.11 at 7:20 pm

Steve if you drastically increase the number of people in the labour force won’t you force down wages through the forces of supply and demand?

Again, the flaw in this argument is that we already have a very large cohort of illegal immigrant workers and as I explained above I suspect this may have at least as strong an effect as a somewhat larger (how much larger? Does anybody really have a good estimate?) cohort of workers with legal rights would have, along with the damage to honest political discourse of everybody pretending that things are the case which manifestly aren’t.

21

MPAVictoria 10.20.11 at 7:26 pm

“Again, the flaw in this argument is that we already have a very large cohort of illegal immigrant workers and as I explained above I suspect this may have at least as strong an effect as a somewhat larger (how much larger? Does anybody really have a good estimate?) cohort of workers with legal rights would have, along with the damage to honest political discourse of everybody pretending that things are the case which manifestly aren’t.”

I accept that this is true but couldn’t the answer be to provide amnesty to undocumented workers currently here and then crack down with much stiffer border enforcement and documentation checks? Do you really think that completely open borders are the best response and do you really think that they would help the poor Americans?

22

Steve LaBonne 10.20.11 at 7:31 pm

I accept that this is true but couldn’t the answer be to provide amnesty to undocumented workers currently here and then crack down with much stiffer border enforcement and documentation checks?

Where is the evidence that the latter every really works for long? Or that big business wouldn’t, as it always has, successfully fight against documentation checks that had real teeth on a large scale and made serious inroads into its ability to find cheap labor?

23

MPAVictoria 10.20.11 at 7:37 pm

“Where is the evidence that the latter every really works for long? Or that big business wouldn’t, as it always has, successfully fight against documentation checks that had real teeth on a large scale and made serious inroads into its ability to find cheap labor?”

Steve this sounds pretty defeatist. Also if you truly believe in open borders I would be interested in your response to Adam’s question above regarding the 100 million chinese eager to come to the US.

24

L2P 10.20.11 at 7:37 pm

“I don’t have any problem with rules excluding particular people for sane reasons, but I think immigration should be permitted at about the rate at which people want to immigrate to the US, and the citizenship process should be basically about recordkeeping.”

I think that’s a prescription for not having a country in a world with easy and fast travel. I hope you’re rich before they change the immigration laws. . .

25

Steve LaBonne 10.20.11 at 7:43 pm

I’m being realistic, not defeatist. The confusion between the two is typical of borked political discourses in which fantasy is widely assumed to be reality. Which is very much the case on immigration.

26

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.20.11 at 7:46 pm

I don’t think states have the moral right to impose such restrictions unilaterally

‘Control of the territory’ is, practically, the definition of ‘state’. This means that states don’t have the moral right to exist.

27

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.20.11 at 7:48 pm

…and we all know that there is at least one that definitely has that right (sorry).

28

MPAVictoria 10.20.11 at 7:51 pm

“I’m being realistic, not defeatist. The confusion between the two is typical of borked political discourses in which fantasy is widely assumed to be reality. Which is very much the case on immigration.”

Steve I disagree with you. Also you never really responded to the question regarding the 100 million Chinese.

29

tatere 10.20.11 at 7:52 pm

amnesty to undocumented workers currently here

one problem with this is that many of the people who are now don’t plan on staying here indefinitely. so that in time you’ve either blocked access to the next cohort of people who would come here to work, or you’ve got a new group of people here.

it may be that if people could come and go legally, more would stay. it seems equally plausible to me that more would do just that – come and go.

are there any countries that have laws closer to the open borders model? if so, it’d be interesting to know how that has worked out. if not, i wonder why not?

30

Adam 10.20.11 at 7:53 pm

My view of immigration laws is this:

Business really, really likes having access to cheap foreign labor. It’s like outsourcing for service industries.

Effective immigration laws are like an injunction, preventing businesses from getting the cheap foreign labor they want.

An injunction is for sale. Effective, enforced immigrant laws give the Left something they can trade to big business in exchange for things of value to the Left.

The present focus on illegal immigrants themselves is counterproductive, but benefits two groups. The first group is business. They get ineffectual laws that don’t prevent illegal immigrant combined with brutal enforcement that ensures the illegal immigrant community will be docile. The second group sees in immigration law another opportunity to demonstrate their moral purity and righteous alientation.

31

Steve LaBonne 10.20.11 at 8:00 pm

Also you never really responded to the question regarding the 100 million Chinese.

My response? Another fantasy. I prefer to deal with real problems in a realistic way.

32

SamChevre 10.20.11 at 8:02 pm

Would the employers have the same leverage to force down wages and worsen working conditions if these workers had the legal right to be here and to leave for another job?

I’m inclined, looking at the impact of H1-B visa contract workers on the IT sector, to say “yes”.

33

Watson Ladd 10.20.11 at 8:03 pm

Henri, ancient states did not have frontiers. Until the late 19th century immigration controls were non existent. The state can control its territory without having the right to exclude people from within it. Nationalism is pernicious and a left that defends it a horror. To say that by accident of birth some people deserve higher wages then others is morally outrageous, as well as rooted in protectionist thinking. The question is not “should people move around the world?” they already do. It is how do we make an emancipated society that takes account of that fact.

34

piglet 10.20.11 at 8:08 pm

The best way to curb immigration to rich countries is to make rich countries poorer. They are currently quite successful in that endeavor. Maybe that is good news in the long run?

35

mpowell 10.20.11 at 8:08 pm

There is no difficulty preventing the 100M displaced Chinese (do they even want to be here) from migrating to this country. Mexicans and other South Americans? Completely different story. Why you would imagine one is relevant to the other I can hardly fathom. Also, you are engaging in a lump of labor fallacy. More workers does not necessarily mean lower wages. Otherwise, natural population growth would have prevent any wage growth over the last century in this country (which it certainly did not). It’s a lot more complicated than that. I do believe, though, that adding 50M unskilled, barely literate workers to the economy would probably be harmful to the lower middle class and strain the provision of appropriate social services. This is partly why I would not favor completely open borders.

36

MPAVictoria 10.20.11 at 8:08 pm

“My response? Another fantasy. I prefer to deal with real problems in a realistic way.”
I can’t say I am very satisfied with this response but such is life.
I am curious what your ideal immigration system would be? Open Borders? Rules that are not enforced? Some sort of wide spread guest worker program similar to Germany? .

37

Steve LaBonne 10.20.11 at 8:10 pm

I’m inclined, looking at the impact of H1-B visa contract workers on the IT sector, to say “yes”.

I don’t think advocates of more open borders have that kind of legalized indentured servitude in mind. Indeed, it is precisely one of the noxious (but business-friendly) products of the current hypocritical mess.

38

Adam 10.20.11 at 8:10 pm

@Steve LaBonne

“My response? Another fantasy. I prefer to deal with real problems in a realistic way.”

No. You just don’t have a good answer. Nice try, though.

39

Steve LaBonne 10.20.11 at 8:11 pm

You just don’t have a good answer.

And I confess, I don’t have a good answer to the menace of aerial pigs, either. I feel so inadequate.

40

piglet 10.20.11 at 8:13 pm

I think the real question for progressives is this: Is there a way to shift the immigration debate towards businesses who benefit from hiring undocumented workers without inadvertently strengthening the racist anti-immigration discourse?

41

Adam 10.20.11 at 8:15 pm

@ Watson Ladd

“ancient states did not have frontiers”

That is an absurd statement and can’t possible be intended to be taken seriously. The Romans had frontiers to keep the Germanic tribes out. The Egyptians had frontiers to keep the Nubians out.

42

LizardBreath 10.20.11 at 8:16 pm

Adrian at 17: Yes, that does pretty much get me to open borders. If someone offered a believably enforceable (that is, that would effectively exclude all but an insignificant number of undocumented immigrants) immigration regime that wasn’t significantly unjust in detail, I’d take that as a compromise, but nothing like that is on offer.

43

nick s 10.20.11 at 8:17 pm

Chris’s position appears to be that some laws are unjust, that he gets to decide what those laws are, and once he’s made that decision he no longer has to follow them. Interesting.

That’s a leap. If enforcement of a particular body of law is demonstrably problematic — an obvious example being capital punishment — then the argument that it’s still incumbent to support it on the basis that ‘it’s the law’ is equally flawed.

Effective, enforced immigrant laws give the Left something they can trade to big business in exchange for things of value to the Left.

And these ‘effective, enforced immigrant laws’ come from… where, exactly?

44

Henri Vieuxtemps 10.20.11 at 8:18 pm

It would be easy to dramatically reduce the undocumented labor force – by cracking down on their employers. But the government is corrupt and won’t do it. The solution is to drop any enforcement (whatever the consequences), because this will prevent businesses from taking advantage. The government is corrupt, but, for some unknown reason, it just may go for it. Because most of the population is dead set against it, I suppose? Is this the logic?

45

Neville Morley 10.20.11 at 8:26 pm

Adam at 41: I know nothing about Egyptian-Nubian frontiers, but the mainstream scholarly view on the Roman frontier along the Rhine and Danube (the eastern frontier was simply a large expanse of desert, not claimed by either side) is that it was about the control and monitoring of movement, mainly so it could be taxed, not the prevention of movement. Very different labour system and conception of citizenship, of course. So I’d agree that at least some ancient states had frontiers, and an idea of the boundaries of their territory, but want to insist that they’re very different kinds of frontiers from those being discussed here.

46

Watson Ladd 10.20.11 at 8:27 pm

Adam, what was being kept out was not individual Germans but Germanic tribes which could destroy the Roman empire’s control of its territory. A Gaul may or may not be a citizen, but that didn’t keep him from going to Rome and living there. Even in the Republic there were no passport agents at the mouth of the Tiber stamping the documents of those aboard ship.

Why was Jewish expulsion necessary in the Reconquista if not that free migration amongst states was a fact of life in those times? When William the Silent announced that the Sephardim would be free to settle in the Netherlands without persecution due to religion it wasn’t in the form of giving them visas, but simply declaring Jews to be citizens and having them migrate like anyone else. Jacques Necker is a French minister, born in Switzerland. Benjamin Constant was also Swiss. Daniel Bandit-Cohen is German and lives in France (or the other way around). The British Royal Family changed its name in 1914 because of nationalist sentiment: It was previously the House of Saxburg-Comte-Gotha. Foreign nationality was never associated with any suspicion of disloyalty or impairment of rights in those times.

It wasn’t until the late nineteenth century that the US even thought about introducing immigration controls. Furthermore, a world in which any country is only a plane ride away is far freer then one where traveling across boarders is dependent on the money in ones purse, or the religion one follows.

47

Zhang 10.20.11 at 8:30 pm

I don’t see this point raised anywhere, so here it is. The problem of illegal immigration really is a problem of “too big to fail”. Regardless what you think is the ideal immigration policy, the existing law was not well enforced, and as a consequence, many are illegally in the United States. These people have now become such a big part of the societry, and established so much social links, that it will cause huge problems if one suddenly stop recognizing them as part of the society. There is no humane way to solve the problem without accepting them. In a sense, “only trying to enforce the law” with regard to illegal immegration is very similar to “let the banks fail” during the financial crisis. It’s not surprising that Republicans, as fundamentallists, advocates both.

48

Adam 10.20.11 at 8:45 pm

You’ve basically described pre-industrial states acting to control citizenship to the full extent of their limited abilities.

Not sure what your point is. Are you contesting the passport regime or the notion that states have a right to control their borders?

49

Adam 10.20.11 at 8:50 pm

@44

“It would be easy to dramatically reduce the undocumented labor force – by cracking down on their employers.”

I’m okay with this sentence – but after this sentence you lose me completely. The rest of your post seems to be a portmanteau of my argument and Steve LaBonne’s argument.

50

Chris Bertram 10.20.11 at 9:29 pm

Jeff R. #11 Chris: I think that you just (@7) struct a de facto position of open borders, despite starting from an arguendo position that that position was wrong; hardly fair. Because ‘a global binding convention on migration rights’ is politically impossible in this generation

Nope. Because I immediately wrote afterwards “and meanwhile should carry some fair burden of immigration from the global south”. I don’t think single countries are under an obligation to have open border when other similar countries have closed ones, but they do have a duty (a) to work towards a global convention and (b) to make some good faith attempt to do their share wrt to poor would-be migrants.

Watson #13 a global convention on migration rights ignores the fact that it is not states who suffer from restrictions but individuals.

Why? Do you think that the conventions on the rights of refugees ignores the interests of individuals. Clearly not. It place obligations on states towards individuals.

Henri #26 This means that states don’t have the moral right to exist.

Why? Does the refugee convention carry this implication?

51

Eric Titus 10.20.11 at 9:59 pm

I think members of the left often don’t think about how tricky the issue of immigration is–while I find the right’s approach to immigration to be inhumane, it is far more coherent.
Much of the left:
1) Wants to ensure illegal immigrants in the country as good of a life as possible, even to the point of granting “amnesty”
2) Considers keeping people out of the US to be immoral…
3) but also recognizes the practical infeasibility of fully open borders
4) Realizes that the steady flow of low-wage, illegal immigrants lacking economic and political rights hurts low income/immigrant workers already in the US, even if the size of the effect is disputed
5) Believes immigration to be necessary for viable agriculture and population growth

The truth is that the left’s opinions on immigration tend to be a mishmash that is largely driven by opposition to Republicans. And this makes a certain amount of sense, since Republican decisions about immigration tend towards inhumanity and racism (to put this in a better light, though, they are driven by the gravity of the situation to look for solutions, the problem is that certain types of solutions require dehumanizing illegal immigrants, and others target all hispanics).

I agree with Drum that the government should take the steps it feels make sense to prevent illegal immigration, and my rationale is primarily pragmatic. If you want to discuss actual implementation of the law as Chris does, then you should realize that illegal immigration (and actually, most low-income immigration policy in the western world) is primarily a pro-business practice. The practical result of illegal immigration is to provide cheap workers who have no real legal rights to those businesses that need them. I am not saying this immigration is never beneficial to the immigrant, or their family. But even if one considers the more idealized immigration policy of previous eras, one has to realize that the “masses” coming from other countries were often used for strike-breaking or maintain a “reserve army” of cheap labor.

52

mpowell 10.20.11 at 10:09 pm

Another way to address Drum’s point is to say that enforcement can take a lot of different forms and this matters quite a lot. You can have many states where prostitution is illegal, but it makes a big difference on whether the state is oriented towards enforcement on the client or provider side. And especially how providers and their relationships with their ‘managers’ are dealt with. It is not nearly so simple as to say you favor enforcement.

53

piglet 10.20.11 at 10:22 pm

Chris Bertram: what is really the point of your “global binding convention on migration rights”? You seem to assume that the possibility of mass migration from poor to rich countries is in the interest of poor countries, and that such a convention would therefore protect the interests of poorer countries.

But that is dubious. Mass migration is a response to global economic inequality. There are many reasons why people migrate to be sure but *mass* migration would hardly occur if it weren’t for economic inequality. From the perspective of poorer countries, migration isn’t a solution to their problems. It may be a solution from the point of view of individual migrants IF they manage to make a better life in a richer country. But it doesn’t do anything to solve the underlying problem of inequality.

So the challenge for progressives I think is to support the rights of migrants as individuals but also to recognize that migration isn’t necessarily a good thing in itself. It is a symptom of a fundamental problem that nobody really wants to tackle.

54

Chris Bertram 10.20.11 at 10:29 pm

Well that’s all very interesting piglet, but again, consider the parallel to the refugee convention. Would you say that refugees would hardly be a problem but for war and human rights abuses … so therefore we shoudn’t have one and should tackle those problems instead? Probably not.

55

stubydoo 10.20.11 at 10:30 pm

Any immigration policy other than complete open borders means necessarily separation of people into two classes – those allowed in and those not. How should such a determination be made? Useful skills and education? Family relationships? Persecution in home country? Likelihood of successful assimilation? US immigration policy already uses all of these things, and lets in a lot of immigrants. You might not think they quite got the mix quite right, but such is life in a democracy where half of the voters are below average in intelligence.

For those of you who don’t accept Kevin’s position, I’m glad you don’t hold all laws to the same high standard. I’m having trouble seeing how the standard Chris seems to want to apply hasn’t already been discharged, at least in the case of the US. Perhaps if Chris attached some numbers regarding what would be “some good faith attempt to do their share wrt to poor would-be migrants”. Any global convention in the current climate would be counterproductive – the only country in the world willing to let in as many immigrants as the US does is the US, so the US would just get outvoted.

56

Dan Miller 10.20.11 at 10:40 pm

” From the perspective of poorer countries, migration isn’t a solution to their problems.”

The massive flows of remittances would seem to argue differently. IIRC they’re much larger than existing flows of foreign aid.

57

stubydoo 10.20.11 at 10:40 pm

My favorite example to use when I encounter people who advocate pure open borders seemingly out of first principles is to say “what about open borders for Israel?”. Not sure how persuasive that one is around here, but there are other examples where open borders would absolutely rearrange the fabric of the country in question (perhaps John Q could weigh in on the case of Australia). And who’s to say that consideration doesn’t also apply to the US?

58

Adam 10.20.11 at 10:57 pm

“The truth is that the left’s opinions on immigration tend to be a mishmash that is largely driven by opposition to Republicans.”

Never was a truer statement made.

59

Luke R 10.20.11 at 11:05 pm

So the argument has arisen that

“Open borders would drastically force down the wages of working people. Particularly unionised working people… if you drastically increase the number of people in the labour force won’t you force down wages through the forces of supply and demand?”

Some counters have been suggested (wages rise when workers have more rights, population growth creates more jobs) but what I’d like to see is a version of this argument which explained clearly why this effect in destination countries wouldn’t be outweighed by a rise in wages in source countries, or by a rise in the wages that immigrants themselves earn. Or else, an explicit statement that the latter aren’t important.

It seems like if more workers -> lower wages, then fewer workers -> higher wages, so open borders would raise wages in source countries.

(conversely, if source countries lose out because of ‘brain drain’ effects, then destination countries should benefit from more delicious brain)

And it seems like if wages in destination countries fall because there are suddenly so many unskilled, illiterate, or otherwise ill-equipped immigrant workers taking jobs, then plausibly those workers would otherwise be very badly off, and so their gain from being able to immigrate and get jobs would be considerable.

It might well be in practice that the reduction in wages for destination countries would outweigh these other effects, or in some other way the net effect would be bad, but I’d like to hear it explained why.

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Jeff R. 10.20.11 at 11:06 pm

Taiwan might be the sort of example you’re looking for there, stubydoo@57.

61

jpe 10.20.11 at 11:55 pm

Shorter: “democracy, shmemocracy.”

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SamChevre 10.21.11 at 12:35 am

And it seems like if wages in destination countries fall because there are suddenly so many unskilled, illiterate, or otherwise ill-equipped immigrant workers taking jobs, then plausibly those workers would otherwise be very badly off, and so their gain from being able to immigrate and get jobs would be considerable.

Yes. This whole debate is one where what’s good for the median worker already in a rich country is bad for the potential immigrants to that country. The question is whose interests are more important.

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Andrew F. 10.21.11 at 12:38 am

Chris, leaving aside the deductive logic of Drum’s argument, are you advocating for a kind of civil disobedience on the part of government employees charged with enforcing current immigration laws?

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Bruce Wilder 10.21.11 at 1:27 am

If there’s some path to political power in a democratic nation-state, for progressives, who will not protect the mass of wage-earning citizens from unlimited immigration, I’d really like to hear it.

To answer Luke R @ 59’s questions:

1. Economically, productivity depends on the capital stock and natural resources. It isn’t just a matter of the number of people, but of the number of people relative to the capital stock and available natural resources.

Much of the capital stock of a highly developed country is “lumpy”. Although economists sometimes posit the possibility of a smooth tradeoff between labor and capital, such that there are “labor-intensive” and “capital-intensive” ways to produce, it is not realistic. Technology is embodied in capital in such a way that so-called labor-intensive methods are completely dominated. Capital accumulation must supply enough tools, in order for people to find productive work, and until capital accumulation accomplishes that feat, lots of people will live in poverty, lacking effective tools.

The poverty and low-productivity, which are the consequences of an inadequate capital stock can, perversely, inhibit capital accumulation, because it tends to depress the returns on capital investment. Business doesn’t have to pay much for the marginal worker, and therefore doesn’t need to manage that worker in ways that yield high marginal productivity and wages. The impoverished sector is not a source of consumer demand or taxes to finance public goods investment. Impoverished workers do not acquire the education or skills, which would be necessary to make productive use of a technologically advanced capital stock. A cycle of immiseration can set in, that frustrates development efforts.

2. Politically, a nation-state is responsible to its electoral constituency, its citizenry.

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MPAVictoria 10.21.11 at 1:58 am

Bruce that is the post I have been trying to formulate (but better put).

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piglet 10.21.11 at 2:14 am

Dan Miller 56: I don’t think remittances do a lot of good. They just exacerbate a state of dependance. Of course from the individual’s point of view they make a lot of sense but I don’t know of much evidence that they actually lead to societal betterment. I’m sure there is some research on that topic and maybe somebody with better knowledge can comment.

Chris 54: the refugee convention is designed to protect – to the extent that it offers any protection at all, which is very limited – individuals. So the parallel you are drawing isn’t clear to me.

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Watson Ladd 10.21.11 at 2:29 am

piglet, I’ld be happy to know where you think I should be forced to live when we reverse migration as a symptom of inequality. Should it be Groningen? Boston? Charleston? Zwolle? Tel Aviv? There are good arguments for all of them. There is something wonderful about a world in which it doesn’t matter where you come from, where bagels and panner can coexist on supermarket shelves, where every language spoken on the earth can be heard in the streets.

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Nick L 10.21.11 at 3:33 am

51, 59 and 64 encapsulate the problem nicely. Open immigration is very probably in the interests of global social justice, at least if we are engaging in static comparisons. The welfare of immigrant workers is very likely higher than it would be in their home countries, else they would probably not migrate in the first place. Remittances that flow back home probably also help to ameliorate inter-national inequalities. The unskilled in the advanced industrialised world probably end up worse off, but the fact is that they are relatively privileged in the global scheme of things. The hard fact is that they reap locational rents purely through their citizenship status at birth.

The problem is that as 64 summarises, open immigration would likely undermine conditions for a social democratic political economy in the advanced industrialised world, meaning that the North also comes to resemble some of the dis-articulated, low-wage, low-productivity, low-public good economic regions in the South. The risk is that you capsize some of the social systems that made the North a desirable place to live and work in the first place.

Nonetheless, throwing up fences to protect the relatively privileged doesn’t sit well with egalitarian sentiments either. No easy answers, only the fudge of managed immigration and policies which protect migrants from unscrupulous employers.

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Martin 10.21.11 at 3:33 am

Is this debate about United States immigration policy specifically or all countries? Some of the comments above seem to focus on the US eg asserting that there has already been large scale illegal immigration and this is a fait accompli. This is not true of other countries such as Australia which has a sea frontier.

Other than believing that I should have free movement across frontiers (border posts as such a hassle, I had to queue for half an hour last week), I’m not sure what my position is. The issue does seem to bring out a nationalism in the left (‘what’s good for the workers in my country?) that seems to contradict claims that socialism is a kind of applied altruism (why does your altruism stop at the border?)

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Marc 10.21.11 at 3:42 am

http://www.gallup.com/poll/124028/700-million-worldwide-desire-migrate-permanently.aspx

700 million people would relocate if they had a chance. Let that number sink in. 165 million people would want to move to the US if there were open borders.

There is something almost obscene about rich and priviledged people talking casually about wrenching social change that wouldn’t affect them. None of the people commenting here would be likely to be in a position to lose their jobs, or have their wages collapse, in the face of the policies that they are advocating. I’m strongly in favor of liberal immigration policies for skilled labor (which would, in fact, impact people in my social class.) But there is a reason why large corporations are so enthusiastic about immigration of unskilled laborers. The economic arguments have the stink of free trade apologetics about them – the casual assertion that adding millions of people to an already depressed market for manual labor would have no impact.

And you might want to talk to gay folks in, say, the Netherlands about what happens when you bring in extremely culturally conservative populations into a liberal society.

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Sebastian 10.21.11 at 3:49 am

I believe in pretty close to open borders for people who can work and their spouses and children if they can support them. But if you don’t believe in that, what exactly is the injustice under the current regime that isn’t about 20 times larger than say our method of drug enforcement laws? Aren’t immigration sweeps just another subset of authoritarian police tactics which have gotten out of control because of the drug war?

Maybe the place to attack the problem is at the police tactic level…

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christian_h 10.21.11 at 3:59 am

A Left that does not advocate free movement of people is not a left Ii recognise. Wages in capitalism are determined in considerable part through class struggle, not through market prices; it is precisely the illegal status of many immigrants that depresses their wages.

But in any event, if you argue for keeping Mexicans out of Northern Mexico and indigenous Americans out of large parts of North America because not doing so would lower wages, why not argue that Jews shouldn’t own land (to lower land prices) or that blacks should be excluded from certain jobs? At various points in time those positions would have been popular in the working class, and the radical left at those times fought such reactionary beliefs, votes be damned. And so should we. If union bosses raise the slogan “British jobs for British workers” we should be the ones pointing out they’re pandering to racists and ultimately helping the ruling class keep us divided and weak – not applaud them for their common sense.

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christian_h 10.21.11 at 4:03 am

What is really unbelievable is how well-off white people presume to speak for the working class – or it it the mythical “white working class”? Again I invite anyone to visit Los Angeles and find out for themselves if it is working people and union members supporting immigration enforcement. It is not. So maybe Marc (70.) and others here should actually talk to working class folks before they appoint themselves spokespeople for them.

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Marc 10.21.11 at 4:47 am

Perhaps you should too Christian.

See http://www.eurojournals.com/ejss_7_4_13.pdf

The hostility to immigration, even though it is declining, is absolutely real among white working class people who perceive an economic threat. Hell, it’s even a serious divide among Mexican-Americans (the “close the door behind me” mentality common in people who move to a popular place.)

You could make a Tom Friedman-style case that free trade has enormous benefits for poor people in third world countries. That doesn’t answer the argument that it has harmed manufacturing workers here in the US. If you can’t construct an open borders argument that differs from “workers in the US getting paid more than anywhere else in the world is unjust”, then perhaps you need to get out more.

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js. 10.21.11 at 4:58 am

A. Marc @70: And you might want to talk to gay folks in, say, the Netherlands about what happens when you bring in extremely culturally conservative populations into a liberal society.

Sorry, but that’s flat out offensive. Why not talk to, umm, abortion providers (in the US), about “conservative populations” in a “liberal society”?

B. CB’s original post was about enforcement, right? On this point, it seems to me that LizardBreath @1 is exactly right—there’s not much of a coherent position to have here; if you’re on the Left, enforcement is pretty much the wrong thing to focus on. (Not that I thereby disagree with CB’s point about a global convention—I think the refugee analogy is in fact convincing.)

C. Building on the last point: Since this has evolved into what seems like a general discussion about immigration policies (open vs. closed borders, etc.), it seems to me like we should in fact not be talking about immigration policies. After all, the problem really is trade policies of various sorts (and where it’s not, it’ll more or less tend to fall under refugee status).

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nick s 10.21.11 at 5:17 am

700 million people would relocate if they had a chance. Let that number sink in.

I believe the standard answer to that line of argument is ‘700 million people would have sex with Jennifer Lopez if they had a chance.’ Vague aspiration is a pretty squishy foundation for policy, and it’s an even squishier basis for debate.

Shorter: “democracy, shmemocracy.”

I’m not sure who that’s aimed at, but as a general rule, born-and-bred citizens of a country are, for obvious reasons, badly informed as to the actual laws governing immigration to that country, which causes problems for the usual appeal to collective experience in an electoral democracy.

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zamfir 10.21.11 at 6:04 am

When people advocate for open borders, do you envision citizenship as part of the process, perhaps with a delay? Or is the idea to have free movement across borders, but citizenship requirements as a separate issue?

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.21.11 at 6:12 am

it seems to me like we should in fact not be talking about immigration policies. After all, the problem really is trade policies of various sorts

That’s right, this is about economics, labor and capital. Sort of like the act II of the industrial revolution. But it’s also about concepts like ‘welfare state’, ‘democracy’, and even ‘state’, as these things, as we understand them, probably can’t exist in a world with open borders.

A completely different world. And if it is a better world, it would be interesting to see some description of it, – and how to get there, because just opening the borders is not enough.

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Chris Bertram 10.21.11 at 7:10 am

piglet:

_the refugee convention is designed to protect – to the extent that it offers any protection at all, which is very limited – individuals. So the parallel you are drawing isn’t clear to me._

Well one thought would be that the range of protections offered by the refugee convention is too narrow and ought to be expanded to the point where those who are denied the most basic opportunities to live a decent life in their native countries have the right to live elsewhere. Clearly, if only one wealthy country recognized that right, that country would face an unfair burden, which is why we also need to focus on a fair distribution of such migration among wealthy countries. A convention would thus take account of rights to immigrate due to poverty and the distribution of duties. Not that this would exhaust immigration, since I take it that other reasons for granting rights (such as spousal reunification) would still operate and that countries would want to permit the immigration of some highly skilled people (for example) who would lack a convention right.

Andrew F: _are you advocating for a kind of civil disobedience on the part of government employees charged with enforcing current immigration laws?_

In some of the most egregious cases, such as Alabama’s new law, yes.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.21.11 at 7:32 am

ought to be expanded to the point where those who are denied the most basic opportunities to live a decent life in their native countries have the right to live elsewhere

In this particular world, this neoliberal world, it doesn’t seem very meaningful. People are denied the most basic opportunities not because they live in certain countries, but for other reasons, having to do with the global economic system. I don’t think what you propose is a solution. And it might, arguably, make matters worse.

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Bruce Wilder 10.21.11 at 7:35 am

I understand why some people become frustrated and enraged, when their most basic arguments about immigration, apparently cannot be understood by people self-righteously advocating the completely unworkable.

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Chris Bertram 10.21.11 at 7:41 am

_People are denied the most basic opportunities not because they live in certain countries, but for other reasons, having to do with the global economic system. I don’t think what you propose is a solution. And it might, arguably, make matters worse._

Henri, you can make similar arguments for a whole bunch of cases. For example, the smart kid at a poor school in a very very bad area. Getting that kid out of that school isn’t a solution to the problems of poverty, violence and inequality in society (and may leave other kids worse off), but it isn’t something that we have the right to deny to them (and it is probably the best solution for them). But doing something about poverty and inequality generally and providing individuals with rights of exit aren’t alternatives. It isn’t as if I have to favour one or the other.

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Andrew F. 10.21.11 at 11:16 am

Chris, all right, I agree that many aspects of the Alabama law are manifestly unjust and bad policy. What makes them sufficiently unjust to justify a government employee’s refusal to enforce them? How would a government employee distinguish between laws he thinks to be unjust, but nevertheless should enforce, and laws he thinks to be unjust and should actively not enforce (or resign rather than enforce)?

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Peter T 10.21.11 at 11:35 am

This is one of those issues where arguing from an individual rights perspective makes no sense. And arguing about economic impacts makes little more sense. Do people exist in collectivities (currently mostly states, before that communes, tribes, provinces, peoples….)? If so, do they have any just concerns with the character of those collectives? Surely so. And would a large influx of very different outsiders alter that character? Also surely so. I am quite happy for a few hundred thousand people a year to come to Australia – it gives them a better life, enriches the culture here, and seems (so far) to have few downsides. I would strongly oppose a million of more people coming to Australia each year – the place would no longer be my homeland – it would be some place I do not wish to live – it would not be Australia. If you doubt this ask an aboriginal Australian, or a Native American. There has to be a cut-off point. Yet nothing distinguishes in moral worth or desert the person who just gets in under whatever quota there is from those who just miss out. That’s life- it’s not about individual rights, it’s about the maintenance of the collectivities within which individual lives are lived.

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Chris Bertram 10.21.11 at 11:47 am

Andrew F. The aspects of the Alabama law that I’d focus on are the fact that it has clearly caused all members of a particular ethnicity (illegals, permanent residents, or citizens) genuine fear, that it is racist and discriminatory in effect.

If you’re asking me for an exact algorithm or test for a public employee to apply then I’m afraid I don’t have one, and individuals always face a difficult choice about whether it is better to stay and influence things for the better or take actions that lose them their jobs. If I were in the police service in Alabama at the moment, at the very least I’d be deliberately failing to notice a lot of “criminal” behaviour though (something cops do all the time).

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John Quiggin 10.21.11 at 11:54 am

On the historical side issue, until recent historical times (and right up to the last few decades in much of the world), the primary restriction on migration was that people weren’t free to leave the country (and often the city or estate) where they were born. As several posters have said, systematic restrictions on immigration were a rarity. The more relevant policy (still in place in some countries) was that immigrants and their descendants typically weren’t citizens and had few rights .

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Marc 10.21.11 at 1:32 pm

I’ve been trying to put my finger on my central problem with the moral argument here.

Basically, the unlimited immigration argument is a statement that I should be free to do whatever I want to, regardless of its impact on others.

If you want real-world examples of cultures devastated by unlimited immigration, look at native cultures in Australia or North America; or perhaps Arabs in Palestine. Anyone advocating unlimited immigration has some pretty powerful evidence against them when arguing that there is no possible negative impact involved.

If you accept that bringing new people in can change the character of a place, then immigration becomes a question of balancing rights. And in such a place there will always be bounds on the rights of the out-group.

I also have yet to see a single argument for unlimited immigration that could not also be substituted for an argument for unlimited free trade of manufacturing goods. Again, at this point it is difficult to argue with the evidence that this process has had a large negative impact on working class people in first world countries, even though it has clearly benefited others elsewhere.

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MPAVictoria 10.21.11 at 1:49 pm

christian_h I would say it is you who needs to actually talk to some working people. Also you don’t know the background of everyone here so I would appreciate it if you did not assume that you did.

“If there’s some path to political power in a democratic nation-state, for progressives, who will not protect the mass of wage-earning citizens from unlimited immigration, I’d really like to hear it.”

This is probably the most important point that has been made so far. How can left wing politicians expect union members/workers to support them if said politicians won’t even fight to protect the wages and jobs of domestic workers? Can anyone name a political party on the left side of the political spectrum, or indeed any side of the spectrum, who won an election campaigning on open borders and depressed wages?

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MPAVictoria 10.21.11 at 1:50 pm

Shorter nick s: Democracy, shmemocracy. I know whats best for those stupid blue collar workers

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Ben Alpers 10.21.11 at 2:22 pm

I would strongly oppose a million of more people coming to Australia each year – the place would no longer be my homeland – it would be some place I do not wish to live – it would not be Australia. If you doubt this ask an aboriginal Australian, or a Native American. There has to be a cut-off point. Yet nothing distinguishes in moral worth or desert the person who just gets in under whatever quota there is from those who just miss out. That’s life- it’s not about individual rights, it’s about the maintenance of the collectivities within which individual lives are lived.

So those collectivities are an absolute good? Or does the particular collectivity of Australia in 2011 deserve to be maintained because you happen to like it? Is the principle here that whatever collectivities happen to exist ought to be preserved? And, if so, why wouldn’t this rule have applied to Australia under the white Australia policy, South Africa under apartheid, the Jim Crow U.S. South, or (at the risk of going Godwin) Germany in 1938?

To a very great extent, one of the prices of maintaining our way of life in the U.S. or Australia today is the continued impoverishment of other countries. And closed borders (plus “free trade”) is one of the ways that relationship is structured.

Should the goal of the (first-world) left be to change that state of affairs, or should it just be to come up with less locally horrific ways of reinforcing it while providing a measure of greater egalitarianism strictly within our own collectivity (and thus abandoning any pretense of internationalism)?

I think this thread suggests that the incoherence of left positions on immigration come at least in part from a refusal to honestly face up to that question (combined with a good measure of learned helplessness from our utter inability to have any impact on the thoroughly hypocritical U.S. immigration debate that exists today).

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christian_h 10.21.11 at 2:33 pm

The indigenous peoples of Australia or North America were not destroyed by “immigration” in the sense discussed here. This is just a completely disingenuous claim. Of course now we have the spectacle that the descendants of white settlers in the US insist on preventing the survivors of those indigenous peoples from moving freely across borders they drew by force. Unbelievable.

The problem with the arguments against open borders – besides imputing those arguments to a mythical construct called the “white working class” – is that they rely on irrational fears, take no account of the way actual immigration is happening in the real world, and plain misstate the effects of that actual immigration.

For example Marc in 74. claims that immigration has “harmed manufacturing workers here in the US”. That is simply absolutely untrue. What goes under the name “free trade” has harmed US manufacturing workers. Immigration has not.

The claim that open borders are a “completely unworkable” policy again ignores historical experience altogether – even recent experience in the EU for example. German racists were cowering in fear that “the Poles” and “the Romanians” etc. would all “flood” into Germany once temporary immigration restrictions that were part of those countries’ accession treaties were dropped last year. Didn’t happen of course – not even close. If the US border to Mexico was opened, there’s similarly no reason whatsoever to believe that half of Mexico would move North.

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christian_h 10.21.11 at 2:50 pm

And by the way, the claim made here repeatedly that open borders are supported by “neoliberals”, and “bosses” is also false. Bosses like temporary guest worker programs and such. They do not like open borders, a policy which would reduce their leverage over immigrant workers. (It is strange that those screaming the loudest about the impact immigration has on wages defend policies that are responsible for whatever impact there is in the first place – making people “illegal” – while opposing those that would minimize it.)

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Marc 10.21.11 at 2:52 pm

No christian – you refuse to take the logical consequences of what you’re advocating. You could use your words to argue against private property as well – after all, if I own some land, I’m preventing someone else from using it.

If you’re making a sweeping argument for a radical change you just can’t brush away evidence that’s contrary to your lovely ideology. For example, the poll that I linked to indicated that a huge fraction of the population of Mexico would leave if they could. 30 million people is not at all unrealistic, given that there are already 11 million people here illegally and many millions more have come here legally over the years. All you have to the contrary is hand-waving.

You can say that the net benefits are positive, in the sense that more people benefit than are harmed. But you can’t make believe that everyone benefits. And you have to grapple intellectually with the fact that the people making these arguments are not the ones who would be most impacted. So, in effect, you’re in the position of arguing that a third party should benefit at the expense of a second party.

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Barry 10.21.11 at 3:16 pm

soullite 10.20.11 at 5:54 pm

” I don’t know, if you think that these laws are unjust, why don’t you actually work to repeal them?

What this looks like to most people is that the elite have simply decided to ignore laws passed with majority support so that they have all the access to cheap labor that they want. It’s of a kind with NAFTA and other free trade deals, which were passed against the overwhelming sentiment of the electorate, and which this so-called ‘democracy’ ensures remain in place by not allowing any candidate that opposes them to come up for a vote. Only to a far more extreme degree because you haven’t even bothered to maintain the charade of democracy by making it actually legal.”

Or, to pull out the really big example, Wall St and the corpocracy.

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Bill Snowden 10.21.11 at 3:32 pm

Ben @90 nails it: the problem of just how downtrodden is downtrodden. Failing the sort of global catastrophe that belongs in another thread, this question promises to grow only more pressing and relevant for the next couple of generations of leftists, doesn’t it? “My country, rich or poor”?

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christian h. 10.21.11 at 3:37 pm

Marc (93.): First of all of course I do oppose private property. So? second you faith in that poll is utterly misplaced. It’s one thing to answer “yes” to a poll question – it’s quite another to actually pack up and leave.

Next, despite all evidence to the contrary, you persist in arguing as if open borders meant immigration would continue as now, only more so. This is precisely analogous to those who oppose drug legalization on the grounds it would just take the current problems with illegal drug trade and scale them up.

Third, the democracy argument. I assume you all support overturning Roe v. Wade as well? You support the death penalty? You were outraged how school integration was forced against the will of the majority of the population in the South? Or, do you agree that a left worth its name would, in the face of mistaken beliefs, racism, nativism, or sexism stand up and make its arguments forcefully – not afraid to be in the minority? That a working class left worth its name would work to overcome these artificial divisions created within the class through joint struggle (like those who argued for integrating unions did, for example)?

Finally, just to repeat, you are simply wrong when you imply that open borders don’t have support in significant parts of the working class, and are somehow an “elite” project. The actual elite doesn’t want open borders, as I pointed out. They are ecstatic every time someone blames immigrants for low wages letting the bosses off the hook. You may think you’re supporting workers – but in reality, you are playing right into the bosses’ hands.

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piglet 10.21.11 at 3:37 pm

“I’ld be happy to know where you think I should be forced to live when we reverse migration as a symptom of inequality.”

What a BS strawman, Watson 67. You didn’t start out that stupid on this thread.

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MPAVictoria 10.21.11 at 3:50 pm

“Finally, just to repeat, you are simply wrong when you imply that open borders don’t have support in significant parts of the working class, and are somehow an “elite” project.”

Would love some proof of this statement.

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Watson Ladd 10.21.11 at 3:53 pm

Piglet, I’m sorry. I misread your previous comment, which was saying migration is not necessarily good as saying that migration is bad. I’m still opposed: i think there is something wonderful about the fact that we have a world in which all kinds of people can interact and live side by side. Its the emancipatory potential of capital embodied.

It is nationalism that transformed social democracy into fascism. Ben Alpers is exactly on point with his comment: we need to decide to be internationalists or fascists.

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christian_h 10.21.11 at 3:56 pm

MPAVictoria, not so long ago millions across the US came out to demonstrate for legalization. Are you saying they were all members of the elite? Or that they don’t count because they were, themselves, immigrants (and their supporters)? I repeat, how about you visit L.A. and go into working class neighborhoods and talk to people.

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MPAVictoria 10.21.11 at 3:57 pm

“It is nationalism that transformed social democracy into fascism. Ben Alpers is exactly on point with his comment: we need to decide to be internationalists or fascists.”

Okay so when did Jonah Goldberg start posting here?

http://www.amazon.com/Liberal-Fascism-American-Mussolini-Politics/dp/0385511841

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ajay 10.21.11 at 3:59 pm

It’s one thing to answer “yes” to a poll question – it’s quite another to actually pack up and leave.

This is a good point. We’ve been experimenting with open borders between countries with very different per-cap incomes for quite some time now over here in Europe. Romania is still not empty.

103

MPAVictoria 10.21.11 at 3:59 pm

christian_h you said “significant support”. Show me some polling data. Also I have already asked you to stop making assumptions.

104

Marc 10.21.11 at 4:00 pm

@96: Ok, I’m dealing with the equivalent of a libertarian arguing for private ownership of nuclear weapons.

Carry on.

105

Watson Ladd 10.21.11 at 4:07 pm

Marc, MPAVictoria, it seems that christian h. and I agree on the proper political response and I endorse his arguments in 96.

As for the rise of fascism, fascism promoted itself as returning to a “real economy” and a peace between workers and capitalists. It was the nationalist perversion of social democracy. This isn’t some right wing myth unless the Sparts are right wing now.

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christian_h 10.21.11 at 5:00 pm

If millions of workers aren’t significant I give up. Poll data is sadly hard to come by since all the neoliberals doing the polls think – contra claims here – that open borders is so outlandish they don’t even make it an option.

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Eric Titus 10.21.11 at 5:02 pm

Chris @82 the example of a smart kid in a bad school is a good one.
The problem is that you are seeing schools, the nation state, etc as institutions separate from individuals, in which case one might conceivably have the “right” to them. The smart kid has the option of switching to a private/parochial school if one exists in their area. They have the “right” to leave school, they just don’t really have the “right” to go to a better school–schools are not natural entities, they are part of the web of social relations. Certainly it might be desirable for the better school to add more student, or to replace less “intelligent” students with smarter ones–it may even be desireable at a social level to have a gradiation of schools and aptitudes. But that does not mean that school enrollment should be entirely open, and students should be free to move about between them. While this may seem “right,” it would hardly solve, and may well exacerbate, educational inequalities. To put it differently, the various moral dilemmas of the current system of higher education does not mean Columbia should have a 50% or 100% acceptance rate. Even if Columbia had the physical capacity to handle 10x the number of students, it’s hard to imagine that there would be no adverse effect on the student body.

Going back to the immigration debate, it doesn’t make sense to examine immigration as a moral issue separate from its actual effects. As Bruce @64 points out, the welfare state may be incompatible with open immigration. The counter-examples aren’t a ringing endorsement of open borders either: in the UAE, natural-born citizens enjoy free healthcare and other benefits and immigrants have limited rights and make up the majority of the workforce. And, as I have argued, immigration may have negative consequences for income inequality. So, a question for the open immigration supporters out there: if we should have open borders, does that mean we should have similarly permissive citizenship requirements?

108

MPAVictoria 10.21.11 at 5:48 pm

“If millions of workers aren’t significant I give up.”
Millions? And how many of those “millions” were actual citizens? Given that no politician of any stripe has actually run on open borders I think we can safely assume the policy is pretty much only popular with fringe elements such as yourself.

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christian_h 10.21.11 at 6:05 pm

I’m sorry MPAVictoria, so what you are saying is that working people only count as working people if they are citizens? And you actually call that a “left” position? (Yes, it was millions. I was in Urbana, IL at the time – population about 100k – and thousands came out. In Chicago it was 300k, in L.A. 500k, etc.)

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nick s 10.21.11 at 6:07 pm

MPAVictoria: if you have a substantive response to the basic fact that immigration is, by definition, an area of governance where most of the electorate has at best second-hand knowledge and experience — as opposed to healthcare, education and most other areas of social policy — then make it, instead of resorting to misfiring snark.

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christian_h 10.21.11 at 6:15 pm

Indeed immigration should not be examined as an individual moral issue. It’s just that those supporting immigration controls (just to be clear we are talking about immigration controls in the imperial core) get their political, economic, historical analysis wrong. The current enforcement-based immigration system is part of the structure of control the ruling class uses to keep power. There’s a reason the most vocal supporters of immigration restrictions in the political sphere are precisely the parties most closely aligned with the ruling class. It’s the Camerons, the Sarkozy, the Merkels and the Harpers going on and on about how the boat is full etc. Why do you think that is – because they have the best interests of the working class at heart?

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MPAVictoria 10.21.11 at 6:20 pm

“I’m sorry MPAVictoria, so what you are saying is that working people only count as working people if they are citizens? And you actually call that a “left” position? (Yes, it was millions. I was in Urbana, IL at the time – population about 100k – and thousands came out. In Chicago it was 300k, in L.A. 500k, etc.)”

I am saying that in a democracy what the actual citizens want should matter. While I accept that many people showed up to these marches I ask you again to point to any politician who has gotten elected on a platform of open borders. Or even one that has gotten a significant percentage of the vote.

I am not against reasonable immigration policy. I suggested upthread an amnesty for people already here followed by more vigorous enforcement. Open borders are simply incompatible with other policy aims of the left, such as universal healthcare, and increased wages for the working class.

Finally would you stop appointing yourself arbiter of all that is “left”. If anyone is out of the mainstream left here it is you not I.

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christian_h 10.21.11 at 6:29 pm

I am saying that in a democracy what the actual citizens want should matter.

But this is missing the point (in addition to according power to a subclass of residents of a place based on arbitrary standards). The question is, what should we, as people involved in the political discourse, argue. You could as well say that we should support lower taxes for billionaires, because the parties supporting such have won elections. If people had followed your advice, women would not have the vote, for example. Good thing people didn’t just say “well, voters don’t like to have women vote right now so let’s just drop the issue”.

Open borders are simply incompatible with other policy aims of the left, such as universal healthcare, and increased wages for the working class.

You’re simply asserting this without evidence. That’s because what evidence we do have does not support your assertion.

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MPAVictoria 10.21.11 at 6:35 pm

“But this is missing the point (in addition to according power to a subclass of residents of a place based on arbitrary standards). The question is, what should we, as people involved in the political discourse, argue. You could as well say that we should support lower taxes for billionaires, because the parties supporting such have won elections. If people had followed your advice, women would not have the vote, for example. Good thing people didn’t just say “well, voters don’t like to have women vote right now so let’s just drop the issue”.”

What I was saying was that your response that the working class supports open borders lacks evidence and the absence of any elected official supporting that kind of platform could be seen as proof of that.

“You’re simply asserting this without evidence. That’s because what evidence we do have does not support your assertion.”

How is universal health care suppose to work with open borders?

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Bill Snowden 10.21.11 at 7:01 pm

Stop, MPAVictoria, stop. I think you should concede christian_h has offered some evidence of working-class support for open (or at least much more open) borders, or risk the appearance of bad faith.

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MPAVictoria 10.21.11 at 7:09 pm

Bill I am totally willing to accept some. She specified “significant parts of the working class”.

117

js. 10.21.11 at 7:29 pm

A point about the argument MPAVictoria, Marc, and perhaps others are advancing:

This is just an application of a more general argument: Start with a subset of the exploited that enjoy some hard won rights, protections, or privileges; introduce another subset of the exploited who are worse off, perhaps in large part because they don’t enjoy these rights, etc.; then argue against the extension of these rights, etc. to the second set as this may endanger or undermine the enjoyment of these rights on the part of the first set.

But this argument is a disaster in any of its applications. All it does is pit one part of the exploited against another, and—as christian_h has been arguing—helps no one but the exploiters.

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James 10.21.11 at 7:47 pm

If I understand MPAVictoria’s argument correctly, there is a specific subset of the working class (unions) who have financial advantages (union contracts) only because this subset represents a super majority of the people who can or currently work at a specific job. If the job requires a higher level of skill or training (plumber, electrician, etc.) an influx of immigrants with those skills will have a noticeable but potentially limited effect on the hard won financial advantages. If the job requires little skill or training (SEIU, farm workers –yes I have worked these jobs) then an influx of immigrants will devastate or eliminate the hard won financial advantages. It is not reasonable to assume that the entirety of new immigrant population will wait in line just to get these jobs at prevailing union rates.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.21.11 at 7:54 pm

then argue against the extension of these rights, etc. to the second set as this may endanger or undermine the enjoyment of these rights on the part of the first set

That is not true, no one argues that. Just like no one argues that bad schools must remain bad. It doesn’t make sense for everybody to rush into one good school and ruin it, what does make sense is to improve bad schools.

The sympathy/solidarity here seems to be pointing into a wrong direction. May I suggest that a vast majority of Mexicans don’t really want to move to the US; they want to have high paying jobs, and other good things in Mexico. They want Mexico to be as rich as the US, or richer. Now, that’s one uncontroversial proposition.

As far as what workers want, that may be an interesting question, but not very relevant. They may want open borders today, but they might also change their mind tomorrow, when there are 5000 applications for every truck driver opening, and java developer becomes a minimum wage job.

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christian_h 10.21.11 at 8:07 pm

MPAVictoria: I’ll stop commenting at this point since I don’t want this to become a fruitless back and forth. Just one thing: it’s “he” ;)

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MPAVictoria 10.21.11 at 8:12 pm

“MPAVictoria: I’ll stop commenting at this point since I don’t want this to become a fruitless back and forth. Just one thing: it’s “he” ;)”

My apologies christian_h. And you are of course right. We are obviously not going to convince each other and I think that we are on the verge of demonstrating the accuracy of this famous xkcd comic:
http://xkcd.com/386/

Enjoy your weekend.

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blah 10.21.11 at 8:15 pm

‘How is universal health care suppose to work with open borders?’ (MPAVictoria)
That’s two counterfactuals. One is usually more than enough.

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blah 10.21.11 at 8:23 pm

‘So those collectivities are an absolute good? Or does the particular collectivity of Australia in 2011 deserve to be maintained because you happen to like it? Is the principle here that whatever collectivities happen to exist ought to be preserved?’ (Ben Alpers, 90)
You can have my collectivity from my cold, dead fingers. I see Romanian Roma begging on the streets of my home town. That’s what it’s like to have no collectivity.

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vimothy 10.21.11 at 8:25 pm

However the deeper issue raised by your comment is whether the democratic choice of the citizens of a state to exclude outsiders should be the trump card you take it to be. I don’t believe so… So… it isn’t up to the people.

I have to say, Professor Bertram, that I’m very glad you’re in a university and not the government.

At least you’re honest, though.

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js. 10.21.11 at 8:38 pm

Henri @ 119.

You may be misunderstanding me. Or at least, I agree with you—as I said above, I think we shouldn’t even be talking about immigration, we should be talking about the trade policies, etc. that create the problem in the first place. And I’m not taking any sides on the open borders question (again: wrong question, no right answer).

All that said, the argument (forwarded by MPAVicotria et al.) that increased immigration does (or would) hurt the interests of the American working class and so we should have stronger border controls is I think a bad argument. It suggests (a) that the declining power and influence of the American working class is a function of immigration, when it’s not, and (b) it pits the interests of actual or potential immigrants against those of the (lets say) the working classes of the developed countries, when in fact the problems for each group are caused by the same set of exploiters.

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Watson Ladd 10.21.11 at 8:48 pm

Eric, you are assuming that immigrants to the US will reduce the attributes that make the US attractive. There is something a bit wrong with this. Its true that in your school example students changing schools might not change the schools, but if you tied funding etc. that would be true. Migration is the ultimate check on tyranny.

Henri, not all migration is economic, and I don’t see a way to differentiate between the two. A law excluding economic migrants will exclude noneconomic migrants, and all a law against economic migration will do is make people worse off then otherwise.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.21.11 at 9:00 pm

js, I agree. I think the argument here is somewhat similar to the one libertarians always make about the minimum wage. Repeal the minimum wage, they say, and more people will have jobs; you’re being selfish for securing a higher wage for yourself at the expense of the unemployed.

Suppose it was true, and indeed more people would get hired if $2/hr wage was allowed. Would it mean that the minimum wage is a terrible, immoral idea?

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vimothy 10.21.11 at 10:02 pm

Surely the idea that increasing the quantity of un- and low-skilled labour in the economy reduces the un- and low-skilled wage is an uncontroversial one.

If you are a high-skilled, high income individual, then unskilled and low-skilled immigration tips the distribution of national income in your favour. So,that’s good news if you’re a well paid professional, not so good if you run a dry cleaners or drive a taxi.

Perhaps the right of the professional to have his suited dry cleaned cheaply trumps that of the dry cleaner. Perhaps the right of the economic migrant to live in a country that provides a decent amount of public goods trumps the right of the dry cleaner to earn a decent wage, and the surplus accruing to the pinstriped classes is an unlooked for outcome and one ought not to bring it up in polite conversation.

But I would have thought that we can agree that there will be winners and losers from mass migration. Why should the free movement of labour automatically generate the best outcome for all concerned?

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MPAVictoria 10.21.11 at 10:26 pm

“Surely the idea that increasing the quantity of un- and low-skilled labour in the economy reduces the un- and low-skilled wage is an uncontroversial one.”

Apparently not.

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Watson Ladd 10.21.11 at 10:29 pm

But vimothy, we need to consider immigrants in considering our immigration policy. I would have very few problems in admitting unlimited skilled immigration to the US, because the internet already made that happen except fro the whole freedom to migrate part. As for free movement giving the best outcome, it seems that Bastiat has something to say about that.

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Brett Bellmore 10.21.11 at 10:57 pm

It’s certainly true that you are not logically obligated to support enforcement of laws whose details you oppose, just because you don’t think that class of law is illegitimate.

It’s equally true that, if you don’t, don’t expect anybody who opposes a law YOU support to feel particularly obligated to comply with it. You can’t appeal to the rule of law after rejecting it outright.

My own view is, I support open borders. I also support a nightwatchman state with no income transfers. These are connected. You can have ‘free’ pie, you can do without fences. You can’t do both at the same time.

Finally, let’s not confuse securing the border being impossibly hard, with having a political class which refuses to secure the border. Securing the border may be politically impossible, in the sense that enough politicians have been bought by companies wanting cheap, easily intimidated labor, that immigration policy has joined the growing list of policy areas where democracy doesn’t function. It is scarcely technically infeasible. It doesn’t even require vicious enforcement mechanisms, unless you define insisting that Mexicans live in Mexico as “vicious”.

Well, anyway, the degree to which the usual contempt for public opinion in a nominal democracy is being expressed openly here, rather than veiled as usual, is somewhat refreshing.

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Witt 10.22.11 at 12:46 am

It’s one thing to answer “yes” to a poll question – it’s quite another to actually pack up and leave.

Indeed. Which is why the US State Department picks twice as many winners of the annual Diversity Visa Lottery for green cards as can actually be statutorily permitted to arrive. Because even among people who have affirmatively applied to come to the US, and who have attested in their applications that they are ready to pack up and leave with only a few months’ notice, there is significant attrition.

Migration isn’t easy, even when there are compelling economic or political reasons to attempt it. I have no doubt that the US could easily triple its current legal immigration numbers (1.1M today), but the fantasy that 165 million people are ready to pack up and move here demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of the migration process.

(Readers of 93 may wish to know that it is either carelessly or purposely ignorant: nowhere near all of the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the United States are Mexican; the number is more accurately assessed at about 6 or 6.5M.)

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lark 10.22.11 at 1:05 am

Chris Bertram: “I don’t think states have the moral right to impose [immigration] restrictions unilaterally but should rather work towards a global binding convention on migration rights (and meanwhile should carry some fair burden of immigration from the global south). “

I think you are weaseling out of the dilemma with this. Let’s say we “work towards” binding global agreements (which will need to have citizen support to be adopted but never mind). What happens while we are so working? Binding global agreements can take a very long time, especially when they must struggle for support from citizens. Are you suggested that states have no moral basis to regulate (restrict) immigration in the meantime? The meantime is where we live.

I dislike arguments that rely on a hypothetical future fix (which will probably never be implemented) to discredit the current approach.

Given no global agreement, it seems to me states obviously have the right to restrict immigration in accordance with what their citizens desire. What, in the present, is the alternative to nation based democracy?

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lark 10.22.11 at 1:14 am

“Why should the free movement of labour automatically generate the best outcome for all concerned?”

This fairy tale which you mention … it is well regarded in the land of ideologues and simpletons, in particular that strange turf where liberalism and the free market begat the bastard, Neo-liberalism. Neo, the bastard, having sucked long and deep and hard on the corporate tit, has been striding across the land destroying democracy and institutionalizing corporatocracy. He has declared victory several times, and been right each time. We are going to have devil of a time getting our democracy back.

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MPAVictoria 10.22.11 at 2:53 am

“Well, anyway, the degree to which the usual contempt for public opinion in a nominal democracy is being expressed openly here, rather than veiled as usual, is somewhat refreshing.”

I find it kind of horrifying myself. These same people often post here wondering why parties on the left have been losing ground the last 30 years. I am a left of centre union member who supports gay marriage, a women’s right to choose, universal healthcare, the legalization of pot and pretty much any other left wing program you could name and I wouldn’t vote for any left wing party supporting the kind of policies suggested here. I think there are lots of other people like me out there who are horrified by the betrayal of the working class by left wing “elites”. They don’t seem to give a damn what we think, yet they expect us to show up for them on election day. It boggles the mind.

136

Luke R 10.22.11 at 3:32 am

To Bruce Wilder @64

Thanks for the response (sorry I’ve been away from the thread for the intervening 70 comments).

If I understand right the point is that “productivity depends on… the number of people relative to the capital stock and available natural resources”, and is highest at some optimum, which present developed countries are fairly close to. 50 million more people would be too many to find efficient employment, and hence would constitute a burdensome and self-perpetuating excess.

But it seems that the converse of such an effect should also be possible: that there might be a society with a relatively large population and a very small capital stock, such that at present most of the people in that society can’t be efficiently employed, and this fact in itself holds back further capital accumulation of the sort you’re describing.

In such a society, massive emigration would seem to promise to relieve all the problems that massive immigration might cause in another society; most of the remaining people can get jobs, at higher wages, and businesses have a much greater incentive to invest in capital and technology because labour is so expensive. Those people can then get education, pay taxes to fund public goods, etc.

How do we tell when a given society has roughly the optimal capital;labour ratio, or too little capital, or even too much capital? It seems perfectly plausible prima facie that many developing societies are at present in such a situation.

That is, it seems like the underlying problem is that there’s not enough capital globally to efficiently employ everyone, given the normal mechanisms. By confining the excess people in developing countries, we at least keep them from clogging up the economy of developed countries; but don’t they then clog up their own economies in a similar way?

If not – i.e. if we’re in a situation where each country’s capital stock is close to the local optimum, so that any major shift in either direction would reduce efficiency – how do we know that?

On the point that a nation-state is responsible to its citizenry above all, I’ll say nothing.

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christian_h 10.22.11 at 3:55 am

Sorry to barge back in but claiming that it’s “the elites” who oppose immigration controls is the one of the oldest right-wing tropes in the book. Claiming that opposing the right of European settlers to impose arbitrary borders keeping the first nations out of their own lands is “opposing democracy” is frankly incredibly depressing. That some union members and leftists embrace this just shows those of us on the radical left have a lot of work to do still. Luckily the more militant unions (like ILWU) are on the side of workers of all colours and nationalities.

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js. 10.22.11 at 7:14 am

why parties on the left have been losing ground the last 30 years.

If you want to find out why this happened, you might try the Occupy sight closest to you. Immigration policy it’s frankly not.

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Chris Bertram 10.22.11 at 7:23 am

Lark: _Are you suggested that states have no moral basis to regulate (restrict) immigration in the meantime? _

Since, in the very passage that you yourself quoted from me, I wrote “and meanwhile should carry some fair burden of immigration from the global south” I guess you can work out the answer. There’s a big gap between making good faith efforts to do the right thing pending a convention and having a discretion to do whatever you like in the meantime. Immigration policy has to take reasonable account of the interests of poor outsiders.

Brett Bellmore (supported by a wider cast than is usual):

_Well, anyway, the degree to which the usual contempt for public opinion in a nominal democracy is being expressed openly here, rather than veiled as usual, is somewhat refreshing._

I’m not a politician, but a political philosopher. Accordingly, my duty here is to say what I think is true rather than what is electorally expedient. As christian_h (with whom I rarely agree) points out upthread, you Americans are generally agreed upon the idea that some matters (basic rights, for example) should not be subject to democratic decision.

There are also democratic arguments against the idea that domestic electorates get to be sovereign here. If we favour democracy because we think that people should have a say over the coercive laws they are subject to, then there’s a democratic problem with political communities unilaterally controlling their own borders since many people who are subject to such controls don’t get a say over them. For discussion of this point see Arash Abizadeh, “Democratic Theory and Border Coercion:No Right to Unilaterally Control Your Own Borders”, in _Political Theory_ 2008.

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js. 10.22.11 at 7:29 am

Occupy site, obviously.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.22.11 at 8:45 am

No Right to Unilaterally Control Your Own Borders

Perhaps what we have here is a mix up of two issues: physical mobility and participation in communal affairs.

If you want to come to see the Grand Canyon, then, indeed, you should be, by default, allowed to do it. And, I think, this is generally accepted; all you need to do is to apply for a tourist visa.

But when you intend to become a member of the community and participate in its economic and social life, it’s a different story: even hard core anarchists recognize the right to refuse to associate. Now, I agree that in this case the application of this right is rather arbitrary; nevertheless, the concept is legitimate.

That’s why the main focus of enforcement needs to be on employers, rather than the borders.

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Chris Bertram 10.22.11 at 8:58 am

_Now, I agree that in this case the application of this right is rather arbitrary; nevertheless, the concept is legitimate._

Well indeed, because it cuts both ways. The would-be democrats think that the collective right of freedom of assocation the members of a polity should enable them to block immigration (and that’s an argument favoured by some political philosophers such as Kit Wellman) , but if they do that they inhibit the right of individuals to associate with other individuals. And if you’re so keen on collective rights to freedom of association then why pick _this_ collective as salient?

You are correct though to notice the fact that both freedom of movement issues and membership issues feature here. Focusing on the second, I’d say that they too, as embodied in all current nationality laws, fall way short of what justice requires, by arbitrarily including as members some people with little connection to the society in question and by excluding some with very deep connections. On which, see Ayelet Shachar’s _The Birthright Lottery_ which I really ought to get round to blogging about.

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Bruce Wilder 10.22.11 at 9:16 am

Luke R @ 136: “How do we tell when a given society has roughly the optimal capital;labour ratio, or too little capital, or even too much capital?”

How does one know whether it’s raining? You look to see.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.22.11 at 9:24 am

Individuals are (usually) free to associate: to communicate/collaborate, to visit, to form a family. Those with with very deep connections (family members) are generally accepted; the problem with the same sex unions seems like a minor detail that can be easily fixed, and has been in some places already.

National economy and welfare provisions are collective institutions, affecting the whole community.

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Chris Bertram 10.22.11 at 9:45 am

Henri, you need to do some research on this. To give but one example, people who have grown up their entire lives in the US, who entered as babies, have been deported to countries they know nothing of. Many people with deep connections are denied membership.

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CRW 10.22.11 at 10:40 am

No matter how the immigration issue is analyzed from above by intellectuals of all persuasions with no personal investment, actual humans are being harmed and families ripped apart by the current catastrophic mess that is ICE.

My sister married a (legal) immigrant who is now a citizen; however, his siblings and their children who came legally are slowly and separately being deported back to their place of origin for such infractions as: a) immigration not processing their application until after the visa runs out, b) immigration losing vital pieces of paperwork and not telling the person until after their visa runs out, c) the person going in to renew their green card and being arrested at the immigration office because of paperwork lost by immigration (which they never notified the individual of being lost).

People say “go home and do it legally,” but the legal process takes 20 years, and once you’re out of status and go home you can’t ever enter again legally anyway. My sister’s brother-in-law and his wife had been married and in the US for 25 years. He was arrested as a passenger at a routine traffic stop and sent to a prison out of state with no notification of family and no access to legal aid. Within says he was back in the south Pacific and his wife (with legal status) struggles to raise the children on her own. The children born in the US work, go to college, get jobs legally – the ones born in their country of origin live in the shadows.

I realize that this is anecdote, not data, but at least it has the advantage of being real, not a philosophical abstraction. Knowing the actual people harmed makes it more difficult to take such conversations seriously. Supporting such efforts as the DREAM Act, small and incremental as they are, seems a lot more worthwhile.

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Brett Bellmore 10.22.11 at 11:49 am

Yes, my experience helping my wife through immigration, is that you have to leap through flaming hoops, with no fire extinguisher handy. The experience of having done so does not endear illegal immigrants to her; “Line jumpers” is the best she has to call them.

We have our own story about paperwork sent in just as a fee changed, and sent back at greater expense in postage than the change in the fee. If we hadn’t used express mail both times, the time the paperwork spent coming back by the slowest means available might have screwed us over, too.

I think a great deal of the difficulty legal immigrants go through is a kind of displacement phenomenon. We have these immigration laws, popularly supported, which the federal government flatly refuses to enforce, (Beyond that level needed to keep the illegal immigrants scared enough to be docile employees.) and will not permit the states to enforce, either. The government won’t directly address popular anger on this score, but instead attempts to assuage it by dumping on legal immigrants. Perhaps buying into their own propaganda line of people who want those laws enforced being generally anti-immigrant.

It doesn’t work, of course, but since enforcing the law is simply inadmissible, what else are they going to do? They have to at least pretend they care about public opinion, even if they don’t.

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vimothy 10.22.11 at 12:01 pm

Looking up the word “sovereignty” on Wikipedia, the first thing I read is this:

Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided. In theoretical terms, the idea of “sovereignty”, historically, from Socrates to Thomas Hobbes, has always necessitated a moral imperative on the entity exercising it.

For centuries past, the idea that a state could be sovereign was always connected to its ability to guarantee the best interests of its own citizens. Thus, if a state could not act in the best interests of its own citizens, it could not be thought of as a “sovereign” state.

How quaint!

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Chris Bertram 10.22.11 at 12:13 pm

vimothy: you would be correct to surmise that I’m not a big fan of the traditional idea of state sovereignty.

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vimothy 10.22.11 at 12:55 pm

Chris: If not state sovereignty, then what?

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Watson Ladd 10.22.11 at 2:45 pm

Henri, the freedom of association of the group is a restriction my right to associate with those I choose to associate with. Groups have no rights: they exercise them against people who can bear rights.

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MPAVictoria 10.22.11 at 3:26 pm

“If you want to find out why this happened, you might try the Occupy sight closest to you. Immigration policy it’s frankly not.”

Sorry I must have been unclear. I was not trying to say immigration alone is the reason. I was trying to say that left elites ignoring the opinion and well being of traditional supporters in my opinion explains a great deal of the loss of support that leftist parties have been experiencing over the last 30 years.

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Chris Bertram 10.22.11 at 4:20 pm

_Chris: If not state sovereignty, then what?_

States limited by international humanitarian law, for starters. That includes things like the refugee convention, but should include some more general convention on the movement of people. The idea that states don’t have unlimited sovereignty is hardly something wildly radical, well not since about 1945 anyway.

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nick s 10.22.11 at 5:36 pm

The government won’t directly address popular anger on this score, but instead attempts to assuage it by dumping on legal immigrants.

I think that’s a stretched rationalisation. Easier to assume that politicians don’t mind dumping fees and bureaucratic nightmares on legal immigrants because those people can’t vote, and their citizen family members and employers represent a tiny constituency, and as such, there are no electoral consequences. I have trouble imagining any widespread motivation to reform the existing process, regardless of illegal immigration.

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vimothy 10.22.11 at 6:50 pm

Do I have this right–essentially, what you’re saying is that the people of a country do not have the right to determine their own immigration policy; instead, it should be the responsibility of a panel of international experts? And if Japan, say, or whoever, would prefer to less rather than more immigration, so much the worse for them?

And why should it stop at immigration policy–can’t we widen the net to include fiscal policy, monetary policy, housing policy, criminal justice policy, and everything else by extending the same argument?

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Chris Bertram 10.22.11 at 7:26 pm

No vimothy, that’s a caricature. I’m saying that the migration policies of individual states should conform to a set of internationally agreed standards. Similary, it shouldn’t be up to individual states whether or not they respect basic human rights, but a wide range of different policies might be compliant with human rights. (Again, a parallel: the way in which individual states implement the refugee convention varies quite a bit (too much probably). )

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Salient 10.22.11 at 7:28 pm

Do I have this right

No, you don’t. (Which isn’t a big deal. I suspect in a dispute the answer to ‘Do I have this right’ is almost always no–including the various times when I’ve asked exactly that.)

Here’s why no: Arguing that countries should engage with the international community to formulate an international standardized approach to immigration is not forgoing their right to determine their own immigration policy; it’s merely agreeing to coordinate their formulation of that policy. It’s anti-capricious, and when designed in ways that CB and I would approve of, it’s anti-exploitative. And it’s not like the United Nations assigns “a panel of international experts” to determine who the U.S. military gets to bomb next. I suspect you have little to fear.

Effective, enforced immigrant laws give the Left something they can trade to big business in exchange for things of value to the Left.

We can offer to let them tear up and shatter an entire population of families, in the hopes that they’ll let us inhibit their ongoing attempts to tear up and shatter some other population of families. No thanks, no deal, no Lucy, no football. The presumption that the Right will act or even be able to act in coordinated good faith, with sufficient consensus to ensure enshrinement of the legislation they propose to offer us in return for ceding ground on immigration, has been forfeited emphatically.

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vimothy 10.22.11 at 10:47 pm

Well, then let me try to defend my caricature.

Perhaps I’m missing some subtle point of political philosophy, but this seems fairly straightforward to me: Either a state controls its own borders or it does not. If it does not, then someone else does.

Say we establish some set of norms that constrain the ability of states to set their own immigration policy. If there is a conflict between state and standards, then standards must take precedence. Otherwise, there is no constraint.

In other words, power is to be taken from the state and transferred to some international institution.

Now, control of the border is but one function of the state, which, of course, has other powers. But should it? Doesn’t the logic that leads you to restrict state sovereignty in fact lead you to think the that state, arbitrary and archaic, should be superseded by something a little bit more universal?

Consider, say, the migration of Moroccans to Spain. Presumably we can explain this movement of people via the relative provision of public goods in the two countries. But why shouldn’t Moroccans be able to enjoy Spanish public goods in Morocco?

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stubydoo 10.23.11 at 12:31 am

So Chris’ position is that the moral authority of immigration law would be enhanced through some international coordination. Meanwhile millions of leftists everywhere insist that trade policies lose legitimacy precisely because it is coordinated through the WTO. The real mechanism here is that people opportunistically attack the process because they find the results inconvenient.

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Chris Bertram 10.23.11 at 6:45 am

_In other words, power is to be taken from the state and transferred to some international institution._

Well the Tory eurosceptic right think that this is the consequence of the UK being signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights. Sane people think that thinking of it like this is paranoid exaggeration.

_Meanwhile millions of leftists everywhere insist that trade policies lose legitimacy precisely because it is coordinated through the WTO. _

Nope. It isn’t the fact of co-ordination, but the fact that the wealthy countries impose an unfair trade policy. Lots of “leftists” would, I think, be fine with international co-ordination to implement a fair one. Unfortunately, the will to do so is lacking on the part of the US and EU (so rather similar to the immigration case, in fact).

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.23.11 at 10:01 am

The thing is, with the refugees, they really have to be relocated; the only alternative is to invade the countries where they are persecuted and physically protect them there.

With the economically disadvantaged, OTOH, relocation doesn’t seem imperative. There are international organizations that provide food, medicine; international organizations that assist with economic development, and so on. Relocating the poor (as well as spontaneous massive emigration that is actually happening, like in Moldova) could, arguably, be counterproductive, as it takes the pressure off their governments.

Well, to be fair, it could also force the rich states to get involved and provide better assistance.

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vimothy 10.23.11 at 12:06 pm

That doesn’t seem consistent with what you wrote upthread, Chris, which was,

I’m not a big fan of the traditional idea of state sovereignty… States limited by international humanitarian law… The idea that states don’t have unlimited sovereignty is hardly something wildly radical, well not since about 1945 anyway.

That is, the idea that institutions like IHL limit the power of the state is uncontroversial and to be regarded as a good thing.

But here you write,

Well the Tory eurosceptic right think that this is the consequence of the UK being signed up to the European Convention on Human Rights. Sane people think that thinking of it like this is paranoid exaggeration.

Implying that the idea that institutions like the ECHR limit the power of the state is a nonsense only believed by readers of the Daily Telegraph.

How can both be correct? It’s got to be one or the other, at most. To my mind, it’s your initial claim: the whole purpose of both IHL and the ECHR really is to limit the power of the state. Otherwise, what are they there for? To confuse and annoy Tories?

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Chris Bertram 10.23.11 at 12:18 pm

Well obviously states subject to such arrangements have less discretion than states that are not. My point is that it is a wild exaggeration to say that such states are “governed from Strasbourg” or that their policies are determined by a “panel of international experts” (your phrase).

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vimothy 10.23.11 at 1:09 pm

Really, though–that these phrases have particular connotations is unfortunate but inevitable.

Clearly, you want to limit the power of the state in some respects. How this happens in practice is some power that the state currently possesses is taken from it and invested it an international institution. Where does this international institution come from? I don’t think that it is a stretch to say that it is created by a panel of experts. Perhaps there are more or less people involved than is strictly proper to refer to as a “panel”. Perhaps they’re not really experts but are randomly selected dudes off randomly selected street corners.

Whatever the case, the essential point is that, whoever they are and however they are arranged, they are not the state, because the whole purpose is to limit its power. You can’t simultaneously propose something that aims to limit the power of the state whilst claiming that anyone who says that the power of the state will be limited is wildly exaggerating.

Now, you will no doubt say that within the bounds set, the state has a certain amount of discretion to pursue the policies it desires. Well and good. But that’s not a relevant distinction with regards to state sovereignty. If you tell your child to be in before 8 o’clock, then there are obviously a whole set of times that satisfy this rule. But that does not imply that your child can determine his or her own bed time.

If an institution has the power to tell a state that it can’t do X, Y or Z, or that it must pick an X, Y or Z such that they satisfy some rule, then that institution has power over the state.

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Chris Bertram 10.23.11 at 1:18 pm

But we aren’t really disagreeing now are we? The way these things usually work is that states choose their policies and then they are tested by courts. Example: the UK is a signatory to the ECHR. Its policy on marriages of under-21s to non-nationals (so highly relevant to immigration) was recently found to be in violation of Article 8 by the UK Supreme Court. In the past (and maybe in the future) the decision was taken in Strasbourg. (Sane) people don’t normally go around saying the the UK isn’t a sovereign country because it has agreed to be bound by the convention. A global convention on migration rights would be the same. States would sign an international treaty and agree to submit themselves to some kind of judicial entity in case of claims that they had violated the rights of people such as would-be migrants.

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vimothy 10.23.11 at 1:52 pm

Well, to be honest I don’t see how we can disagree over this. The argument seems to have turned mostly connotative/semantic, whereas I was trying to argue that states should not surrender sovereignty in this area. But now I’m not sure how to even phrase it without sounding insane.

If the UK really does surrender some of its sovereignty to international institutions like the ECHR, and this is a good thing, why not just say that it does and that it is? Especially since this is precisely what you’re suggesting with regards to immigration policy.

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Chris Bertram 10.23.11 at 2:43 pm

Fine.

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Pär Isaksson 10.23.11 at 7:38 pm

Wow.

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Chris Bertram 10.23.11 at 7:51 pm

As a service to the quality of debate here, I’ve deleted Asher’s comments (I suspect they prompted Pär’s “Wow”. ) Asher, please don’t come back.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.23.11 at 7:53 pm

As Lenin put it “Who? Whom?”

I believe the quote is: “Freedom – yes, but for WHOM? To do WHAT?” Very cogent, actually.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.23.11 at 7:54 pm

Ah, sorry.

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Luke R 10.23.11 at 8:03 pm

To Bruce Wilder, @143:

“How does one know whether it’s raining? You look to see.”
So, what I meant was, what sort of indicators does one look at (I am not at all expert on economics). But to take this response on its own terms, I look at much of the developing world and, prima facie, it looks like they have too many people and not enough capital. So it looks like massive immigration from them to the developed world will be redistributive, worsening economic efficiency in the destination countries while improving it in the source countries, rather than a net reduction of efficiency.

More generally: it still looks to me as though open borders is (conceding that it will work like opponents claim) beneficial to as many people as it’s harmful to, and the beneficiaries are on the whole worse-off than those who lose out. (on the whole – if employers and professionals in developed countries benefit too, that’s a side-effect)

So it looks like egalitarianism and libertarianism (as broad value-orientations) are both in its favour; only nationalism (or nationalistic communitarianism, or nationalistic social democracy, if those terms are preferred) opposes it. Does that diagnosis seem correct?

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js. 10.23.11 at 9:50 pm

vimothy,

Are you arguing against any limits to state sovereignty? Or is the idea that immigration is not an area where such limits are justifiable? (I’m not sure what #148 (e.g.) is supposed to imply.)

The general position seems pretty hard to defend, I would think. Take as an example the US’s refusal to be a member of the ICC. This is in fact a way in which the US can protect (some of) its citizens—say, e.g., soldiers who might violate the laws of war. But this hardly justifies the US’s position. (Unless you think it does?)

On the other hand, if the claim is supposed to be specifically about immigration policy, I am a bit curious what the argument is against limits to state sovereignty in this case.

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stubydoo 10.23.11 at 10:18 pm

Chris @161: You may very well be right that having an international body for negotiating trade policy did not play much of a role in causing people to oppose the WTO, but it still appeared frequently in their rhetoric, for some reason.

More generally, there are several other areas of policy other than immigration where global coordination is desired for one reason or another – e.g. trade policy, environmental policy… In the thread here on Australia’s carbon policy there were people complaining that it was useless because it was just Australia acting alone.

And then you get debates about whether something should be at national or sub-national level. For classic arbritrary-itis, see the American conservatives who insist that a health care policy similar to Obama’s health care plan is perfectly fine if enacted at the state level (e.g. in Massachusetts) but massively destructive if done by the federal government.

I consider the case for international coordination of immigration policy to be weaker than in many other areas. The legitimate objectives (whatever they are) of people who set immigration policy in the UK would only be marginally effected by US policy (though coordination between close neighbors certainly can help, for obvious reasons). And stepping up to a worldwide decision making process brings in a whole host of nasty complications.

People who complain about polical decisions being done at the wrong level of geographical aggregation, and couch that itself as a moral issue, are pretty much always just taking advantage of a cheap opportunity to put a wrench in the plans of their ideological rivals. Of course you are an exception (though you haven’t done much to convince me of this). You’ll be better off though – and more likely to get traction with people who aren’t already on your side – by making points regarding the specific content of immigration policies instead. The position that the legitimacy of a policy depends on the geographical aggregation level of its decision making process (absent any constitutional basis for such) is a very dangerous one.

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vimothy 10.24.11 at 12:08 am

js.,

Not really. At least, I don’t think it’s necessary for my argument. I do think that (1), states should control their own borders, and (2), the primary responsibility of any state is to its own citizens.

That said, the idea of limiting state sovereignty is not unproblematic, is it? For one thing, there’s no guarantee that your international institutions will be any more rational than your national ones. If you’re not careful, you might find yourself invading Morocco to supply it with Spanish public goods. ;-)

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Watson Ladd 10.24.11 at 12:16 am

Henri, economic migration isn’t distinguishable from other migration. Would you say that we should try to save Detroit even if everyone decides to take jobs in Phoenix and take advantage of the warmer climate, because leaving would decrease the welfare of those left behind? What’s needed isn’t assistance: its matching workers with jobs. Mexicans want to come north, employers want to hire them up here: why not let that happen?

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chris 10.24.11 at 4:44 am

I am a left of centre union member who supports gay marriage, a women’s right to choose, universal healthcare, the legalization of pot and pretty much any other left wing program you could name

…except, of course, extending all those nifty rights to people born on the wrong side of an arbitrary line on a map. *Those* people can go straight to hell. Is that really what you’re saying? And do you really expect anyone to accept it as a left-wing attitude? Inclusivity is the cornerstone of liberalism. Nobody should be denied a right enjoyed by others without a damn good reason.

If there really are a lot of people with views like yours, I’m not surprised that left-wing parties have been losing ground, either. But ISTM that to come around to your position would be to become significantly less left-wing and I’m not sure I want to see them do that, even if it’s politically successful. Enough of my own ancestors migrated to make better lives for their families to make me pretty queasy about accepting any political benefit that is achieved at the cost of slamming the door behind my grandfather.

What I was saying was that your response that the working class supports open borders lacks evidence and the absence of any elected official supporting that kind of platform could be seen as proof of that.

That doesn’t work — the working class and the electorate are different groups. Lots of the working class are disenfranchised de jure — immigrants most obviously, but also in some places quite a lot of ex-cons — and many more are disenfranchised de facto, by the various tricks collectively known as “vote caging”. On the other hand, lots of nonworkers vote pretty consistently, including retirees, who are notoriously xenophobic.

Clearly at least one significant subset of the working class has a very strong incentive to support immigration reform (whether or not that’s completely open borders): the ones who are immigrants themselves or have close family members or friends who are immigrants.

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Chris Bertram 10.24.11 at 6:50 am

stubydoo: the way global co-ordination comes into the picture isn’t quite like that, as I see it. Roughly, the content of what justice requires is fixed independently, but no state has a reason to implement that in the absence of an assurance that other states will do likewise. Suppose, just for the sake of argument, that justice requires open borders. It would still be unreasonable to expect any particular state to open its borders in a world where it were the the only one.

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Bruce Wilder 10.24.11 at 7:23 am

Luke R @ 173: “I look at much of the developing world and, prima facie, it looks like they have too many people and not enough capital. So it looks like massive immigration from them to the developed world will be redistributive, worsening economic efficiency in the destination countries while improving it in the source countries, rather than a net reduction of efficiency.”

If you think the problem of efficiency is purely allocative, then open borders and free trade have a certain plausibility. The problem of efficiency, though, is not even mostly allocative. High productivity is largely a matter of achieving high levels of technical efficiency and institutional integrity, as a result of social organization and capital investment and capital accumulation — in other words, economic development.

Massive immigration is likely to be redistributive, alright, but not of technical efficiency. One farm tractor requires one farm hand able to drive it, no matter how many farm hands may bid for the job. Natural resources are, typically, subject to congestion costs, so that additional labor beyond some threshold reduces productivity and welfare, while Capital is, at best, indifferent to numbers, the opportunities to substitute labor for capital at the margin, being quite limited in the case of most of the processes, which account for high rates of technical efficiency and productivity. You can deprive Labor of its ability to bargain effectively for a wage that reflects its productivity, and, in so doing, perversely, reduce the returns on further capital investment in labor-saving processes or output to be sold to the market formed by wage-earners.

And, of course, in your high-minded oblviousness, you’ve pretty much knee-capped mass political organization and institutional integrity.

Relatively few human societies have managed to achieve a high degree of economic development and broadly distributed prosperity. So, letting the failed societies swamp them is perfectly sensible.

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Tony Lynch 10.24.11 at 7:34 am

Sorry. Late on this. But is Chris saying, “never set an example?”

Is this constitutive of “reasonableness?”

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Chris Bertram 10.24.11 at 8:15 am

“is Chris saying, “never set an example?”

For the nth time in this thread

I wrote above

_I don’t think states have the moral right to impose such restrictions unilaterally but should rather work towards a global binding convention on migration rights (*and meanwhile should carry some fair burden of immigration from the global south*)_

i.e they should make good faith efforts to work out what their fair share would be under a hypothetical convention, and implement that pending an actual agreement.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 10.24.11 at 8:22 am

…except, of course, extending all those nifty rights to people born on the wrong side of an arbitrary line on a map.

No, in fact it’s you who are against extending all those nifty rights to people born on the wrong side of an arbitrary line on a map. You want people from the other side, if they have a strong enough desire to enjoy these rights, to leave their communities and move to your side. And then you pretend (or sincerely believe) that this somehow demonstrates that you care about their communities. But obviously you don’t.

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jafd 10.24.11 at 2:54 pm

If the USA _really_ wanted to reduce illegal immigration, we’d simply amend 26 U.S.C.§ 162 (the section of the Income Tax Code which defines deductible “trade and business expenses” (readable online at http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode26/usc_sec_26_00000162—-000-.html)), adding a paragraph to “(c) Illegal bribes, kickbacks, and other payments”, so that after “(1) Illegal payments to government officials or employees” would be a new subparagraph (4), reading something like: “No payments or transfers of value, for labor or services rendered, to any person not legally entitled to work in the United States, shall be considered a tax-deductible business expense,”

So, if Mr OnePercent is paying the gardener and nanny out of pocket, it won’t affect him. But employers will have a choice between hiring tractable ‘legal nonpersons’ expensively or US citizens for less.

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MPAVictoria 10.24.11 at 2:56 pm

” …except, of course, extending all those nifty rights to people born on the wrong side of an arbitrary line on a map.

No, in fact it’s you who are against extending all those nifty rights to people born on the wrong side of an arbitrary line on a map. You want people from the other side, if they have a strong enough desire to enjoy these rights, to leave their communities and move to your side. And then you pretend (or sincerely believe) that this somehow demonstrates that you care about their communities. But obviously you don’t.”

I was about to respond to your strawman chris but I saw Henri did a better job than I would have. As is typical actually.

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Luke R 10.24.11 at 3:45 pm

Bruce Wilder @180

“One farm tractor requires one farm hand able to drive it, no matter how many farm hands may bid for the job. Natural resources are, typically, subject to congestion costs, so that additional labor beyond some threshold reduces productivity and welfare… You can deprive Labor of its ability to bargain effectively for a wage that reflects its productivity, and, in so doing, perversely, reduce the returns on further capital investment in labor-saving processes or output to be sold to the market formed by wage-earners.”

It seems like plenty of countries presently fit the model of “one farm tractor, too many farm hands”, i.e. a situation where there is additional labor beyond the relevant threshold, reducing productivity and welfare, with the further effects you describe.

So I don’t still don’t understand why a reduction in population wouldn’t be beneficial (granting than an increase can be detrimental).

Is it that in ‘developing’ or ‘failed’ societies, there’s just no capacity to take advantage of the opportunities that a lower population would give? That these countries won’t develop, or won’t develop at any great rate, regardless of whether they’re suffering from all the effects you describe?

Is it that sudden large changes can be detrimental but never or rarely beneficial? Development is such a painstakingly constructed acheivement that rapid dislocation always does more harm than good?

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Bruce Wilder 10.24.11 at 4:34 pm

Luke R @ 186

I did not argue, specifically, that a reduction in population would be detrimental to a developing country. I did not argue, either, that immigration would necessarily be detrimental to the receiving country. I think immigration can and has aided development of some countries, historically, when natural resources were abundant and economic development was driven by the expansion of industries exhibiting large increasing returns. The target community of such economic migrations benefits, and, under favorable (“liberal”) institutional circumstances, so can many of the immigrants.

I did argue, I thought, that an uncontrolled increase in population could also be detrimental to a developed country economically — a thesis I thought you accepted in the main — and institutionally.

The immediate question, it seemed to me, was why a political community should (in response to circumstance, but also in accord with moral or “liberal” principles) control immigration into its community or territory. You argued that emigration would benefit some territories in ways and to an extent that counterbalanced the detriment to those developed countries experiencing harm from uncontrolled immigration. It was up to you to come with some plausible mechanism by which emigration benefitted some countries to an extent that balanced the harm done to countries experiencing detrimental uncontrolled immigration, and the only thing you offered was an allocative efficiency argument, which I suggested was inadequate to the case.

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Luke R 10.24.11 at 5:41 pm

“It was up to you to come with some plausible mechanism by which emigration benefitted some countries to an extent that balanced the harm done to countries experiencing detrimental uncontrolled immigration, and the only thing you offered was an allocative efficiency argument, which I suggested was inadequate to the case.”

I’m afraid I don’t know what you mean by an allocative efficiency argument. I thought I was appealing to the same mechanisms that you described. My original interest was just in why the mechanisms by which large, uncontrolled immigration could harm one economy but not benefit the other.

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