EconLog comments policy and open borders
November 10, 2012 43 Comments
Post by Vipul Naik (regular blogger and site founder, launched site and started blogging March 2012). See:
Open borders advocate Bryan Caplan recently forayed into citizenism with a blog post titled A Question for Steve Sailer’s B-School Professor. Caplan quoted from Sailer’s VDARE piece on citizenism and then proceeded to make two points:
- Citizenism, which involves giving more weight to the preferences of current citizens as opposed to prospective future citizens and other foreigners, must operate within moral side-constraints (a point made at the citizenism page and in Nathan’s blog post on the subject).
- Just like those using the nation as family analogy, citizenists need to not merely acknowledge these side constraints, but seriously consider whether the actions they propose (such as immigration restrictions) violate these side constraints.
Caplan then invited citizenists to respond in the comments. I think Caplan’s post was well-written and to the point, but I have one point of contention with Caplan: his use of the word “monster” to describe hypothetical people who took citizenism to its logical extreme. Caplan believes that few citizenists take citizenism that literally, so he wasn’t calling any actual people monsters. But the use of the word “monster” is not exactly an invitation to civil debate, to put it mildly. Caplan’s commenters were quick to critique him, and some went beyond critiquing to offering candid thoughts on what they thought of Caplan. A lot of these comments were deleted, and the commenters banned, from EconLog. Fortunately for free speech and the Internet, the commenters found refuge in Steve Sailer’s blog. But the most fascinating and hard-to-rebut critiques among those deleted seem to not have made it to Sailer’s comments either — either because they weren’t posted, or because Sailer deleted them. Fortunately again for free speech, the commenters found yet another forum that would prove more welcoming and tolerant of their unorthodox views. Here’s page 1 and page 2 of the thread. Here are some of the best examples:
The masochistic morality of Caplan’s argument is merely the symptom of a late stage complex society with a parasitic elite, plus politically correct radiation treatments, which have obviously rendered Caplan’s brain into a vestigial organ.
To anyone of above feeble intelligence, it’s obvious that large migrations of people will lead to conflict, instability, social dysfunction, and other not very nice things. It’s obvious that employers who seek to bring in illegals so they can pay sub-middle class wages are not acting out of moral impulses to better the lives of foreigners. The rhetoric is all hypocrisy. When Caplan opens his mouth about moral imperatives, something retarded and offensive pours out. It seems to be a condition he should seek treatment for, although I understand it’s difficult to cure libertarianism.
MikeP is a racist! He thinks I should have to fill out a form when I say Bryan Caplan enticed me to post here–but what about those who were born here, like MikeP? Did they fill out any forms? Now I have to evade some Jewish woman who is patrolling the posting border with extreme prejudice! Ay caramba, I’ve been hit!
Underneath the oppressive Bush administration, little-known anti-liberty regulations prevented HIV positive immigrants from crossing so called “borders” and entering into employment contracts at my exclusive nightclub, wherein they displayed their micros to paying clients. Now, however, thanks to noted micro-American ALLAH HUSSEIN OBAMA, that regulation has been revoked, and a beautiful scene of international GDP growth ensues.
Naturally, if he were to answer these, Caplan would bluster and babble about comparative advantage and the lump of labor fallacy while dismissing cultural concerns as being of the ignorant, unwashed masses. Ultimately, Caplan is so dull that he can’t think beyond libertarian talking points to realize that importing a bunch of browns to do cheap labor is going to backfire horrendously when those same browns vote straight ticket Democrat and their elected representatives raise the minimum wage, strengthen environmental regulations, and raise taxes.
Oops. I wonder if Caplan would short-circuit on the lawgic trap.
(Not an EconLog comment)
Libertarians are basically liberals with less self-awareness, they lack even the liberal’s simple ability to project empathy onto niggers and other non-humans, perhaps because they lack any emotional capabilities whatsoever.
(Not an EconLog comment)
Kill this fucking thing with fire, tia. [referring to the EconLog comment moderator]
And revealing images such as this.
One of the comments that didn’t get through was by Dr. Stephen J. Krune, but he posted a similar comment on Open Borders:
This is far and away the spergiest discussion among the usual libertarian spergmeisters. Of course people react to overcrowding around them–typically in cities–regardless of whether there is a giant desert available somewhere else (and where they would prefer these immigrants to go and die in).
And so it is possible to have overcrowding in cities while there is “plenty of land” (I understand that spergy libertarians see no point to land other than paving it over and erecting a business park.)
Why do we favor descendents, asks the chief sperg? Because they are genetically related, which is the basis for most social behavior and cultural development. (Which is why our off-the-rails society is in a state of pre-collapse, using Tainter’s definition of collapse.) All social animals are nepotists. This isn’t “curable” because it isn’t an illness, it is the normal functioning of animals. We are animals, not replicas of Data from Star Trek, which is how most of you faggots come off.
There were also some gems among the comments that did get through. James Bowery:
Both Caplan and AMac are inhuman monsters that would deny the right of people to join together under mutual consent to pursue their strongly held beliefs about causal laws of human ecology by excluding from their territory those whom they consider incompatible with testing of those laws.
That these inhuman monsters call others “monsters” should be expected since, however inhuman they may be, they do possess the gift of gab.
If I were on a jury that was trying someone for having done harm, of any nature whatsoever, to AMac or Caplan, I would vote to acquit.
Moreover, there is no greater cause for liberty than to identify such inhuman monsters, whether they call themselves “libertarians” or “liberals” or “neoconservatives”, as the primary enemies of liberty that today wield the power of tyranny over mankind.
Any proper use of military force would have as its declaration of war that a state of peace may once again reign once these inhuman monsters no longer wield any powers of government.
EconLog comments policy
The reason I quote all these comments is not to critique them. When faced with critiques as penetrating as these, it is time to concede defeat and go home. There were a lot of other comments that made points that we’d be happy to address and discuss further on the Open Borders blog in the coming days. Steve Sailer’s own post, as well as Sonic Charmer’s thoughtful addition to the debate, are definitely more at our level and we can address these. I left a couple of comments on Sailer’s post, but haven’t had time to respond to his substantive points yet; Nathan left a comment on Sonic Charmer’s post. Other interesting critiques that we hope to address in the coming day include Maurice Levin’s critique (assuming it is written as sarcasm) and Dave’s comment. Jason Malloy’s analogy may also be worth addressing.
So why am I bringing up these comments? Because the banned commenters and others sympathetic to their plight discovered a novel and innovative way to expose the hypocrisy of open borders advocates. They drew a parallel between banning blog comments and turning away potential immigrants (or deporting illegal immigrants). For instance, Svigor:
Makes perfect sense to me. But why Caplan is willing to put up with this and associate with such egregious offenders of the rights of undocumented posters (thanks Alfonso, I love that) is beyond me.
“Comment removed pending confirmation of email address”
All these poor undocumented commenters fundamental moral right to engage freely in discussion is being discriminated against!
Free the Undocumented Commenters!
And a presumably sarcastic comment from Hannah Levin-Rosenberg (my apologies if I misread sarcasm where none was intended):
I completely agree with [the comment moderator] [on banning commenters]. This is not a country with borders, it is an intellectual salon intended for use by those of a high IQ and/or penchant for social justice.
Essentially, the commenters are pointing out the moral inconsistency between arguing for open borders and denying people the right to comment on a blog that is open for comments. EconLog has a clearly outlined comment ban policy. Looking at the deleted comments quoted above, you can judge for yourself if the deletion of these comments was consistent with the policy. Although I personally found these comments thought-provoking and intellectually stimulating, I think their deletion was consistent with EconLog policy. Here are some elements of the policy that I think commenters find objectionable:
- The requirement to have, and fill in, a valid email address: Commenters consider not having an email address, or not filling in a valid email address, analogous to being an “undocumented” aka “illegal” immigrant.
- The requirement to not use words that are considered broadly offensive, or make personal attacks.
I will address both these points. But before doing that, I should point out that the analogy is less than appropriate. EconLog comments are a private domain managed to the editors. They are under no obligation to even allow comments. But, clearly, this seems like a distinction without a difference to those who believe in the collective property rights argument. So I will attempt to engage these critics on their own terms.
The email address and form-filling burden
What open borders advocates want is a presumption in favor of free movement and migration of people across national borders. This presumption is consistent with modest immigration tariffs and other keyhole solutions. It is definitely consistent with visa application procedures.
These are the typical steps that a person needs to take to legally migrate or temporarily visit another country today, in the best case:
- Acquire a passport: In my opinion, for an average person in the world to obtain a passport is considerably harder than it is for an average person with Internet access to obtain an email address. I’d be happy to stand corrected. A Huffington Post article refers to a poll showing that 85% of people worldwide with Internet access have email addresses (this is the relevant fraction because anybody commenting on Caplan’s post must have Internet access to begin with — this is a technological limitation rather than a limitation imposed by EconLog). Even in the United States, the most optimistic estimates of passport ownership seem to be below 45%. The number is probably lower in other countries. An article in TechCrunch also suggests that more Americans are on social network Facebook than own passports. The author of the article notes that:
50% of all Americans are on Facebook (155 million) while only 37% of Americans have a passport (115 million). To its credit, the Facebook onboarding process is a lot more streamlined.
- For some lucky country pairs, acquiring a passport is good enough to travel between the countries for short trips. But acquiring a visa is still necessary in order to settle for the long term. For most other country pairs, the person needs to apply for a visa. This includes an application fee, a form that needs to be filled in accurately, and a number of proofs that need to be submitted. I’ve applied for multiple visas and filled in even more EconLog comments, and my impression is that, even ignoring the application fee, this process is at least as demanding as filling out EconLog’s comment form.
- Some country pairs insist on interviews for every visa. And you have to usually go to the consulate personally and have the visa stamped on your passport, even if there is no interview requirement.
- After doing all this, you can still be turned back at the port of entry. Although this is not usually done, the United States Border Patrol agents retain the right to reject anybody.
There are two more relevant points:
- The visa application processes of most countries place a burden of proof on the applicant to show that he/she will not be a drain on the state, will leave the country, etc.
- The visa application criteria for many countries, such as the United States, are far from transparent, unlike a fairly clear and generally consistently applied comments policy on EconLog.
The regime that open borders advocates hope for in the near future is perfectly consistent with the continued existence of passports and visas. The main difference we hope for is the elimination of quotas and restrictions, and a shift of the burden of proof away from the applicant and to the consulate if it chooses to deny the visa. The other difference we hope for is that the criteria become a lot more transparent. Even with these changes, the visa application process would still be considerably more demanding than posting an EconLog comment in every respect.
The abusive/offensive comment ban
Some commenters may take issue with the idea of banning comments considered offensive. Doesn’t this violate the ideal of free speech and a marketplace of ideas?
One analogy in the open borders scenario would be to deny people entry into the country for their political views and beliefs. Although I personally oppose viewpoint-based immigration restrictions, I am more sympathetic to these than to most other forms of immigration restrictions, and am ultimately ambivalent about these. Many other open borders advocates have conceded quite a bit to the restrictionist side when it comes to viewpoint-based immigration restrictions. See, for instance, my co-blogger Nathan here.
My view regarding comments is similar. Definitely, the Open Borders blog (as of now) has a far more accommodating comments policy than EconLog. Even though EconLog has a fairly restrictive comments policy, there is a lot of leeway:
- People who filled in an incorrect email address can have their comment restored by sending an email from a correct email address.
- Even after one comment of a person is deleted, the person can usually post other comments. Only repeat offenses lead to long-term bans. Even these long-term bans tend to be shorter than the time period between successive visa applications for many country pairs.
What about illegal immigrants?
Astute restrictionists would be quick to point out that my analysis has one gaping hole in it: illegal immigrants often don’t follow these rules. But I find it a little hard to believe that the costs of migrating illegally are lower than the costs that people who can migrate legally face for migrating legally. At any rate, it seems a stretch to say that migrating illegally is easier than posting an EconLog comment with a valid email address. If restrictionists have some personal experience or data in this regard, I’d be happy to stand corrected.
For all the reasons above, I find the analogy drawn by these commenters to be insufficient to make the point I think they’re trying to make.
I wish to take this opportunity to reflect a little more deeply on the fact that so many commenters, including the erudite Steve Sailer, found the analogy convincing. Clearly, these are commenters who know and have read and thought about immigration policy. They have some awareness of the complexity of getting passports and visas. Some of them may even have traveled to countries other than their country of birth, in which case they have had to deal with visa application procedures (unless they were lucky enough to be making a short-term visit to a country that did not require visas from their home country). A little reflection would reveal to them the inappropriateness of the analogy.
I’ll be far more uncharitable than I would ordinarily be, because I want to make this point as bluntly as possible: I think part of the explanation is that some restrictionists live in a privilege bubble. This privilege bubble insulates them from actually thinking about the costs of getting a visa and making a realistic comparison between these costs and the costs of posting an EconLog comment without using offensive words. Hopefully, such a blase attitude is a minority attitude within restrictionist circles. I definitely know a number of restrictionists who don’t share this blase attitude. But it’s ironic that such arguments go unchallenged by fellow restrictionists who then turn around and critique Bryan Caplan for openly admitting that he cherishes his own beautiful bubble while explicitly stating that he has no authority to trample on the free association rights of others.
My apologies if the preceding paragraph offended the sensibilities of any restrictionists or other readers.