There is no easy way out on immigration

In a post on Cafe Hayek about immigration yesterday, Russell Roberts takes the easy way out:

But why should I care if America is more Hispanic in the coming years? Or more Christian? Or more Islamic? The answer, tragically, is that I should care if our political system allows a group to channel money or power to its own group at the expense of others.

The answer to this challenge is not to close our borders. The answer is to strengthen the Constitution and reduce the power of government.

Personally, I'd like to strengthen the Constitution, reduce the power of government, *and* have a pony. But neither of us get to wave our hands and have whatever we want. And the question of how libertarians should feel about actual immigration laws in the real world is a question about what we can achieve, not what we can imagine.

If you believe (as Russell claims to) that in a country like the US, an influx of people hostile to freedom will reduce the freedom of people in that country, one is led inexorably to an uncomfortable conclusion. Namely, that the impact on freedom is the combination of gains from the increased freedom of the immigrants and losses from the decreased freedom of the residents. We can let in the coercers and be coerced, or we can coercively keep them out.

Now, there is plenty of room for debate about the resulting net impact. But if immigrants truly are anti-freedom, then the real question is how to evaluate this tough tradeoff. Not whether libertarians can have their immigration and a small government too.

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Cornelius - you are assuming

Cornelius - you are assuming that the children of current Americans have the same orientation towards freedom as the incoming immigrants. And the entire argument is founded on the claim that the immigrants have a different attitude towards freedom than the residents.

Bill - what does that have to do with whether they'll vote for big government? Women prefer honest to dishonest employment too, yet female suffrage resulted in a huge increase in the welfare state.

The current immigrants try

The current immigrants try as hard as they can to stay honestly employed, even though it's against the law:
http://www.strike-the-root.com/61/walker/walker1.html

Patri is absolutely correct.

Patri is absolutely correct. On a daily basis this country is inundated with uneducated, lazy leeches on society. Their distaste for liberty, passed down from their forebearers, will after a number of years result in ever increasing government parentalism. Of course we need the labor these people will provide now and in the future, but certainly we -- as a community -- must decide how and when the gains from their presence outweighs the burdens they generate upon others. I hope Parti and my fellow Catallarchists will agree that this country urgently needs a Federal program to regulate and license the practice of conceiving children, possibly requiring the mandatory sterilzation upon sexual maturity of all persons deemed unfit. The scourge of illiberal children must end!

In the same way ending

In the same way ending apartheid in South Africa was a tough tradeoff (for whites).

America's immigrants - from

America's immigrants - from the Irish to the Italians to the Polish to the Chinese - have never understood "freedom" in the way that we mean it here on Catallarchy. Have they and their descendents really been, on net, a negative rather than a positive? Russell Roberts has it right from what you've shown me.

Someone over at The Austrian Economics blog, maybe Boettke, had it right in their critique of Samuel Huntington recently. It isn't immigrants' hostility (if there truly is any) to America's ethos, it's the gradual dimuntion of the belief in classical liberalism among the intellectual and political class. This mindset of course "trickles down".

Patri- (In the voice of

Patri-

(In the voice of Cartman)
Well, Jews really do vote for big government, so you've got me there, Kyle... some groups never do wise up and read TMOF. But instead of trying to guess the voting habits of middle-class Mexican-Amurricans in 2040, shouldn't we be more worried about letting the government build a wall around us in 2006? We might want to leave, after all...

And if you read the links in the STR article (especially Mehtia's at Reason.org), you'll find that the conventional wisdom on immigrant taxes and welfare is wrong... and we're surely not encouraging immigrant employment by making it illegal.

Your ideas on banning female suffrage are intriguing, but only if we can also ban Jewish suffrage. In fact, suffraging of all kinds should be strictly limited to voting for Idol winners.

Now I must go have another Dove Bar, while reading the Declaration of Independence (where it complains about King George and his immigration restrictions).

PS for those who don't know, I'm part Khazar myself. It's why I'm so annoying. So I'm covered under the ADA, and you must make accomodations for me and give me free Dove Bars.

^ I was always struck by the

^ I was always struck by the idea that women drove the growth of government as off the mark. A lot changed in the early 20th. Many western states allowed women to vote surprisingly early in the 19th century with little negative impact. However, many of the other changes in the early 20th, such as the 17th Amendment, were expected by most involved (including the founding fathers) to result in ever more largess in government.

Not to mention the rise of Germany, which was credited to socialism and the rush among political parties to include the ever larger communist/socialist voters.

Ahh, for the good-old-days when the minority-dissenters were anarchists and not communists.

Hell, Teddy Rosevelt did more to popularise big government than women could ever be blamed for.

Under this rationale,

Under this rationale, liberals and conservatives shouldn't be allowed to breed.

- Josh

LoneSnark, women always

LoneSnark, women always drive the growth of government. Men must compete for status, and therefore they create central banks, and manipulate the currency to attain the wealth necessary to pay for the extravagance of women. Look at Greenspan and his extensive harem. (OK, it's only one, but that's one more than he could get without his ill-gotten gains).

van Vorst, you are a genius. One only wonders where they will build the wall to implement your plan.

Cornelius - you are assuming

Cornelius - you are assuming that the children of current Americans have the same orientation towards freedom as the incoming immigrants. And the entire argument is founded on the claim that the immigrants have a different attitude towards freedom than the residents.

Neither, I'm merely continuing the principle established; that the ideology of an individual (or more accurately, the perceived ideology of the group one falls into by accident of birth) is criteria for whether or not he should be allowed into a geographical area delineated by a particular political dominance of another group. As such, it seems eminently logical that we should consider all sources of potential opponents of freedom.

Also, by what metric could one assert that Mexican immigrants are more hostile toward freedom than red-blooded Americans? Or that they would be but a drop in the ocean of man-children yearning to be coddled by their elected surrogate parents?

The fault, dear Patri, is not in our immigrants, but in ourselves.

As a side note, just out of

As a side note, just out of curiosity: how does forcibly keeping these alleged anti-freedom people in (say) Mexico help the prospects for freedom and smaller government in Mexico? Or do you just not care what happens there?

Patri:

Now, there is plenty of room for debate about the resulting net impact. But if immigrants truly are anti-freedom, then the real question is how to evaluate this tough tradeoff. Not whether libertarians can have their immigration and a small government too.

There is no tough tradeoff here unless you think that justice only demands that you try to reduce the net quantity of coercion going around in your neighborhood, or in the world at large. I don't think that; I think that justice primarily demands that you, personally, not coerce anybody else. There are lots of things that I might do to try to stop myself or my friends from being plundered or assaulted; but plundering or assaulting unrelated third parties, merely on the basis of the political views they are demographically likely to hold, doesn't even rise to being a candidate for consideration, let alone an attractive one.

Patri:

Cornelius - you are assuming that the children of current Americans have the same orientation towards freedom as the incoming immigrants. And the entire argument is founded on the claim that the immigrants have a different attitude towards freedom than the residents.

I think you may be missing the point.

Let's suppose that we accept the principles you lay out in this post. Since you supposed, arguendo, that one hypothesis was true (viz. whether immigrants are substantially more illiberal than native Americans), in order to argue for a general principle, then we are entitled to do the same with a different hypothesis (viz. whether American-born children are substantially more illiberal than immigrants) in order to test the same principle. So the question is: if it turned out to be the reverse, and American-born children were, on balance, more illiberal than immigrants, would you then be willing to accept government eugenics, mandatory sterilization, forced abortion, et cetera on American citizens, as a means to getting a society with a lower ratio of illiberal residents to liberal residents? If you aren't, then what makes child-bearing, or Americans, or American child-bearing, so special that you're unwilling to allow coercion there but willing to allow coercion against peaceful immigrants? If you are, well, then, I suppose we know what sort of a political theory is yours.

_neither of us get to wave

_neither of us get to wave our hands and have whatever we want. And the question of how libertarians should feel about actual immigration laws in the real world is a question about what we can achieve, not what we can imagine._

If you had the power to do what is right, then surely you would do what is right. Since you have no power but can speak to what is right then surely you must speak to what is right.

Keeping out immigrants is

Keeping out immigrants is pre-emption against the possibility that they might one day take away our freedoms. Invasion of Iraq was pre-emption against the possibility that Saddam Hussein might one day take away our freedoms.

In most cases I lean against pre-emption. This is as a practical matter. Pre-emption is a bad idea a lot of the time because we don't really know the future all that well, not usually well enough to justify a pre-emptive policy - i.e., one that pre-emptively violates the rights of others before they get the chance to violate our rights. (Of course if the danger were clear and present enough it would not be a violation of rights, but work with me, it's a policy of do unto them before they do unto us, and I think rarely is the danger really as clear and present as some of our more panicked fellows make it out to be visavis the Mexican 'invasion'.)

I argued against the Iraq war back in 2002, and the crux of the argument was pre-emption. I was against it, the other guy argued for it (though his actual views I do not know). I'm sure you've heard the point that the next smoking gun may be a radioactive mushroom cloud. In my mind, and in my opponent's, the question of whether or not to invade turned on the matter of pre-emption.

I agree with several of the moral arguments already stated. Additionally we might point out that preventing the Mexicans from entering the US without knowing how each one would vote is "collective guilt", whihc is a no-no. But here I wanted to set the moral issues aside and at least try to draw attention to the fact that there can be a practical reason for not violating the rights of others.

Another point worth mentioning is that while Mexicans *might* vote communist (or whatever), one thing they definitely *will* do is increase the size of our economy by contributing their work. And in the meantime the more socialist economy of Mexico would be diminished by their absence. If we want a world dominated by capitalism, a reasonable approach is to encourage migration of people away from socialist states and towards capitalist states.

"By what metric could one

"By what metric could one assert that Mexican immigrants are more hostile toward freedom than Jewish immigrants?"

Good question, van Vorst. Ask Patri for his copy of The Protocols of the Elders of Aztlan; it explains their secret plot to use Mormon babies in their Aztec cardiac rituals.

I think we should use our massive anarchist powers to fight the welfare-warfare state, not to add .0001% to the support for another people-control bureaucracy. Although I guess if we use the same RFIDs for people that they want to mandate for cows, it would save the government lots of money.

Bill, I appreciate the

Bill,

I appreciate the sentiment, but please don't misquote me.

It is possible, even

It is possible, even probable, that we are getting the least paternalist Mexicans (and other latinos) here, and therefore leaving the most paternalist Mexicans there. After all, the people coming here are obviously sharper, less risk averse, and more open to new ideas/experiences than those left behind. The result? They may become influenced by us. Meanwhile, those left behind will keep voting for Lula and Chavez clones who continue trying out their stupid policies. Eventually, the immigrants and their progeny look back and realize how much better they have it.

I'm just curious where Patri

I'm just curious where Patri gets the precedent for his thesis: If you believe (as Russell claims to) that in a country like the US, an influx of people hostile to freedom will reduce the freedom of people in that country, one is led inexorably to an uncomfortable conclusion.

Roberts said nothing about an influx of people hostile to freedom. He didn't state or even imply (to my reading) that the inflowing Mexicans are hostile to freedom, or at least not any more hostile to freedom than any other group of people, including various groups of people born in this country. Patri's argument is based on the notion that the immigrants are less inclined towards freedom than those already here; Russel's article shows no support for any such differential.

Personally, I don't believe immigrants are less freedom-loving than the native born. Even if I did, that shouldn't be an impediment to their immigration; I don't believe in violating the freedom of a person to live and work where they wish simply because they share some characteristics (skin color, place of birth, primary language) with a group of people whom, on average, have certain ideological beliefs, even if those beliefs are directly hostile to me. I don't want to be kept out of a libertarian shindig by the bouncer just because I have long hair and wear Birkenstocks just like all those left-wing west-coast socialists; I can't countenance condemning Mexican immigrants for their group characterstics rather than treating them as individuals.

On the other hand, immigration and citizenship are two different things. If I were King of the US, I'd have ideology tests for citizenship. Actually, I'd do away with citizenship entirely - nobody gets to vote (we're anarchists here, remember?). But if we're going to have voting (after all, Patri insists we not go pony-shopping here) then it should be restricted to dyed-in-the-wool freedom-loving Austrian economists. And if that's too pony-like, then I suppose we could settle for making sure potential voters can speak English and know a little something about the Constitution and the US Government and the history of our country. Oh, look, that's exactly what we do - for immigrants seeking citizenship, anyway.

If only we could do that for the native-born citizens. Now *that's* a pony.

I'd rather have Latin

I'd rather have Latin American immigrants who have shown a clear inclination to break bad laws and then behave decently once they're here than any number of "it's a law, so let's worship it no matter how bad it is" legal citizens.

Bill: "Shouldn't we be more

Bill: "Shouldn't we be more worried about letting the government build a wall around us in 2006? We might want to leave, after all."

That is a great point!

Rad Geek - "how does forcibly keeping these alleged anti-freedom people in (say) Mexico help the prospects for freedom and smaller government in Mexico?"

Yes, that is what I was referring to by saying that letting them in led to "gains from the increased freedom of the immigrants". That is certainly a factor.

"So the question is: if it turned out to be the reverse, and American-born children were, on balance, more illiberal than immigrants, would you then be willing to accept government eugenics, mandatory sterilization, forced abortion, et cetera on American citizens, as a means to getting a society with a lower ratio of illiberal residents to liberal residents?"

I didn't say anything about what I would accept or even what I advocated. I was only talking about the pragmatic consequential tradeoffs which were being glossed over. If immigrants were more illiberal than residents, then my personal feelings about the costs and benefits of immigration would be different. And I would be happier to hear about increased immigration and decreased resident birth rates than I am now. How you get from that to advocating eugenics, sterilization, etc., is beyond me.

Furthermore, I *explicitly* stated in the cost/benefit analysis that the coercion done to prevent coercion was a meaningful cost to be considered. And that the decreased freedom of those being coerced was meaningful. I am not ignoring the costs of having the government coerce people, I am only pointing out that the government not coercing some people in some ways may result in the government coercing other people in other ways later.

Constant: "In most cases I lean against pre-emption. This is as a practical matter. Pre-emption is a bad idea a lot of the time because we don't really know the future all that well, not usually well enough to justify a pre-emptive policy"

Yes, I totally agree.

"If we want a world dominated by capitalism, a reasonable approach is to encourage migration of people away from socialist states and towards capitalist states."

That's not so clear. Remember the claim is that by moving people away from socialist states and into capitalist ones, we move the capitalist states towards socialism. It is not clear that this increases the net amount of capitalism in the world. One might argue that having a very successful, very capitalist country serves as an example to encourage others to change, while having every country be a mixed economy gives no examples of why becoming more capitalist is a good thing.

Eric H - Excellent point, and one that argues against what I just said to Constant. If we enrich the most dynamic, open-minded Mexicans, surely we are doing good things to the balance of power among Mexican ideologies.

Eddie - to quote Russell's post: "But when government is powerful and the Constitution is just a piece of paper, the growth of groups that are hostile to freedom and liberty is no longer unimportant." I took that as a claim about potential immigrants.

I’d rather have Latin

I’d rather have Latin American immigrants who have shown a clear inclination to break bad laws and then behave decently once they’re here than any number of “it’s a law, so let’s worship it no matter how bad it is” legal citizens.

Many Latin Americans are also supporters of populist thugs that are turing their nations into socialist states. I'd say that the political culture of the US is preferable to the political culture of Latin America. (Though this difference does not necessarily apply to immigrants from Mexico, as Eric H points out.) I think that people are too easily brushing aside the consquences of different political cultures changing the US political culture.

While modern day Republicans and Democrats are bad, Chavez and Morales are horrendous. If immigration resulted in populist authoritarianism rising in the US, that would result in a net loss of liberty. These potential consequences should be explored with empirical data, not mere hand-waving.

After all the yammering is

After all the yammering is done...

It is among the simplest and most proven social
equations in human history.

The use of force escalates to the self-defeat of
the institution that is using force, always.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the distractions
continue.

How does that relate to the immigration arguments?

Just distractions on the road to the Big Defeat.

Patri, "We can let in the

Patri,

"We can let in the coercers and be coerced, or we can coercively keep them out."

I assure you that *we* are not going to keep immigrants out since *I* am not going to do so.

If imagine that you can keep them out then why not imagine you can avoid being coerced by them instead?

How are Mexicans are significantly more hostile to freedom than Roberts anyway, when both are apparently willing to wield state coercion to achieve their ends?

[...] Yer Tradeoff Right

[...] Yer Tradeoff Right Here
May 27, 06 | 8:22 pm by John T. Kennedy

Patri, You write on immigration: If you believe (as Russell claims to) that in a country l [...]

Memo To Patri: I Got Yer

Memo To Patri: I Got Yer Tradeoff Right Here
Patri,
You write on immigration:
If you believe (as Russell claims to) that in a country like the US, an influx of people hostile to freedom will reduce the freedom of people in that country, one is led inexorably to an uncomfortable conclusion. Namely...

Patri, I overstated your

Patri,

I overstated your position. My bad. On the other hand, you're understating the position you expressed earlier when you gloss it by saying "If immigrants were more illiberal than residents, then my personal feelings about the costs and benefits of immigration would be different." In the post above, you didn't just talk about "the costs and benefits of immigration;" you talked about "how libertarians should feel about actual immigration laws in the real world."

As I'm sure you know, establishing that unrestricted X is bad is not the same as establishing a case for a law aimed at prohibiting, minimizing, or controlling X. But when you say that "how libertarians should feel about actual immigration laws in the real world," and then talking about "pragmatic tradeoffs" allegedly involved in one country ending up with a higher ratio of illiberal to liberal residents, or in using systematic government violence to stop that from happening, pretty clearly suggests that you think libertarians ought to at least feel more positively towards government force against would-be immigrants -- e.g. violence to harass and restrain immigrants trying to cross the border, and/or violence to round up, confine, and then exile immigrants already within the U.S. who haven't been officially approved by the government -- even if, on balance, those more positive feelings are overridden by other considerations about the negative effects of the policy.

So, allow me to revise my position. Suppose it were discovered that native-born American children were, on average, more illiberal than Mexican immigrants. (This may or may not actually be true, for all I know.) Would you then think that this ought to affect how libertarians feel about proposals for mandatory sterilization laws, forced abortion laws, mass deportation of American infants to Mexico, or any number of other schemes that we might cook up to lower the ratio of illiberal to liberal residents in the United States? (Note that I am asking you how you'd feel about government laws to lower birthrates. Not just how you'd feel about lower birthrates happening somehow or another.)

Generally speaking, there are all kinds of statist methods of making one kind of people disappear from a stretch of territory, all of which you could go around evaluating for cost/benefit ratios. The question here is whether there is any policy so horrible that you wouldn't even consider the necessary consequences of the policy a candidate for a "trade-off," or anything that you would consider not yours to "trade," even if the pay-off were right.

If there are any such, then it seems like you're engaging in special pleading when you accuse Roberts of "taking the easy way out" by refusing to consider a coercive policy that he considers categorically unacceptable. Or if you're not engaging in special pleading, it can only be because you think there is something special about Americans, or child-bearing, or American child-bearing, that allows you to refuse to consider population control laws that affect would-be American parents, but leaves the question of immigration laws open for consideration.

If, on the other hand, there is nothing (not even other people's lives and livelihoods) that you would refuse to consider yours to trade off, and if there is no policy so monstrous that it wouldn't be at least a potential candidate for achieving your demographic goals, then your position will, admittedly, be consistent. But consistency in ruthlessness is not something to take pride in.

My earlier remarks about the demands of justice also stand.