Why the deficit of immigration advocacy? A deficit of demand, not supply
October 8, 2012 5 Comments
Post by Nathan Smith (regular blogger for the site, joined April 2012). See:
Adam Ozimek at Modeled Behavior argues that “Bloggers and Economists are Failing on Immigration“:
This is a point I hinted at in this previous post but I wanted to make more explicitly. Bloggers and economists are failing when it comes to their coverage and discussion of immigration as an economic policy lever. Despite the occasional coverage it does get, the fact that we should have more high-skilled immigration (HSI) remains an extremely under-blogged topic. Yes, there are many things that “deserve more attention”, especially many third-world tragedies. But this is domestic policy of extreme importance, and it is a solution rather than an unsolvable problem in a faraway land.
I know that most bloggers do a pro-immigration piece occasionally, but there is nothing like the outrage, urgency, and ceaselessness that comes with other domestic policy blogging topics. Compare the pro-HSI blogging to posts that are pro or con fiscal policy. Or monetary policy. Where is the tirelessness of the market monetarists when it comes to high skilled immigration? Or how about the ceaselessness and outrage that liberal economists bring when arguing for fiscal stimulus?
My tentative conclusion is that people don’t blog this because there is no argument to have with each other. You can see this is true in the fact that I’m not even mentioning any facts or arguments for immigration in this post. High skilled immigrants are entrepreneurs, it would help ameliorate our long-run demographic problems, etc., etc. You know the arguments. The downside is, this means this issue can’t be used as a cudgel against intellectual opponents because few reasonable people disagree. We cannot raise or lower each others status by writing about this. If this is indeed why the topic is so under-blogged, it may well be an unmovable reality of blogging, but it is a pretty poor excuse and we should be challenging each other to do better…
There are some good guys here. Michael Clemens is one of the strongest voices out there regularly arguing for more immigration. Noah Smith dedicates a high percentage of his writing to this. But few write about this issue as it deserves to be written about. Bloggers and economists respond to their individual incentives, so I’m not sure what can be done to motivate more here…
I’m not calling out any individuals here, but I am challenging bloggers and economists to answer these questions: are you writing and talking as much about high-skilled immigration as you should be? And if not, why aren’t you doing it more?
I’d nominate my co-blogger Vipul Naik as one of the “good guys.” Actually, Bryan Caplan is even more deserving of mention, being more long-standing and prominent. But I doubt that Ozimek has ever heard of Vipul Naik, or myself. I would suggest that Ozimek think about the demand side. Maybe bloggers don’t blog about immigration that much because readers don’t want to read about it. Maybe a blog devoted full-time to immigration, like Open Borders: The Case, would struggle to build a big enough readership to get the attention of a Forbes journalist like Ozimek, no matter how scintillatingly smart Vipul and I were. I get the sense from the comments on Caplan’s immigration posts that many readers read him in spite of his open borders views. If he blogged about immigration all the time, he might lose those readers.
I think the topic of immigration makes people uncomfortable. People like to think of themselves as fair-minded, favorable to equal opportunity, generous to the poor, and so on. But anyone who is fairly smart and well-informed can’t think about immigration for long without becoming uneasily aware that open borders holds all the moral aces, and the whole system of nation-state sovereignty and migration control must be re-examined and to some extent eviscerated. The usual food chain of ideas, with elites producing ideas that non-elites want to consume, breaks down, because honesty would force the elites to say things that non-elites would angrily refuse to listen to. I’m oversimplifying a bit, but my tentative hypothesis is that bloggers and economists are relatively silent on immigration because rank-and-file readers can’t handle the truth.