Economist blind spot

This argument against open borders questions the idea that economists have any special qualification that would require people to take seriously the fact that economists consistently show support for higher immigration levels. It is argued that economists suffer from some blind spots, such as:

  • Economists think only about the market interactions and not about all the other social, political and cultural costs of immigration.
  • Economists tend to be concerned only about spurious measures of total welfare and they are blase about the distributional aspects, i.e., the damage that immigration does to some segments of the native population.

In an article titled Economists on Immigration: What’s The Matter?, Steve Sailer writes:

You can’t altogether blame economists for their weakness on immigration. Most aren’t equipped by their training to think hard about the broad range of issues raised by immigration. Economists like to make simplifying assumptions that leave them intellectually disarmed for analyzing an issue that extends so far beyond their bailiwick.

You’ve probably heard the story about the physicist, chemist, and economist who are shipwrecked on a desert island. Starving, they find a case of canned pork and beans on the beach. But they have no can opener. So they hold a symposium on how to open the cans. The physicist goes first:

“I’ve devised a physical solution. We find a pointed rock and propel it at the lid of the can at, say, 25 meters per second—”

The chemist breaks in:

“No, I have a chemical solution: we heat the molecules of the contents to over 100 degrees Centigrade until the pressure builds to—”

The economist, condescension dripping from his voice, interrupts:

“Gentlemen, gentlemen, I have a much more elegant solution. Assume we have a can opener…”

Likewise, economists tend to assume the health of the political, institutional, cultural, and human underpinnings for our advanced economy. Thus they tend to be clueless about the long-term threats posed by immigration.

For more, read Sailer’s whole piece.

In another article for titled Elitist Economists, Immigration, and the American Future, Steve Sailer writes:

And Caplan’s belief that “experts” should be deferred to on the wisdom of open borders is even more self-contradictory because the vast majority of economists surveyed are not at all experts on immigration. […]

Caplan himself has displayed over the years on his blog little awareness of objective facts about immigration. He does, however, possess an unmistakably dogmatic faith in the theories of the late Julian Simon about how immigration ought to be benefiting us.

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