Economic Judgment on Arizona’s Immigration Law

This is a cross-posting, with permission from the author, of an article that originally appeared in the Huffington Post here.

On April 25, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments over the constitutionality of Arizona’s controversial immigration law. But jurisprudence aside, the economic verdict is already in: The law has damaged Arizona’s economy.

Arizona’s immigration law burdens businesses with regulation and penalizes workers. It has driven tens of thousands of laborers, consumers and entrepreneurs from the state, turning its bad economy even worse.

At its heart, Arizona’s immigration policy is an unfunded mandate that raises the cost of hiring workers and expanding production. Neither is good policy in even the best of economies, which we are far from experiencing currently.

The worst example: E-Verify. It’s an electronic verification system that employers are supposed to use to check the legal work status of all new employees. Besides failing to detect unauthorized immigrants 54 percent of the time — thus flunking its core function — E-Verify falsely identifies legal workers as illegal about one percent of the time. Continue reading “Economic Judgment on Arizona’s Immigration Law” »

A Meta-Ethics to Keep in Your Back Pocket

Post by Nathan Smith (regular blogger for the site, joined April 2012). See:

The relevance of this post to open borders will not be immediately obvious, but bear with me, I’ll get to it. “Meta-ethics” is a real word, as my sister, a professional philosopher, recently confirmed to me. I was afraid I had made it up, because it’s so useful in immigration debates. Meta-ethics is basically theorizing about where ethical rules or values come from. “Don’t steal” is ethics. “Seek the greatest happiness for the greatest number” is meta-ethics. Specifically, it’s a statement (a rather clumsy one) of utilitarian meta-ethics. People can have similar ethical views derived from quite different meta-ethical starting places. For example, a virtue ethicist might act bravely because courage is part of the good life for man, while a utilitarian acts bravely because he is convinced that the greatest happiness of the greatest number will be served, in a particular crisis, by his keeping cool while running terrible risks. People can also arrive at quite different views on a whole range of particular ethical questions starting from the same meta-ethical starting point: one utilitarian might believe in largely laissez-faire capitalism, while another is a Communist. If one wants to make a rational argument against a particular ethical rule (e.g., stay in the country you were born in unless some foreign government gives you permission to migrate there), I don’t see much possibility of doing this without appealing to one or more meta-ethical standards. On the other hand, one can argue against a meta-ethical position via a reductio ad absurdum showing that a consistent application of it would lead to monstrous moral positions. For example, one might attack utilitarianism by arguing that, under certain circumstances, consistent utilitarians should be willing to torture children to death. Anyway, in the course of many debates, I’ve found that a surprisingly satisfactory meta-ethics is comprised by the following two rules:

1. Universal altruism. Regard the welfare of every human being as equally important, and act accordingly. The ultimate end or standard of behavior should be to maximize the happiness of all mankind, with no special preference either for oneself or for any subset of humanity– family, tribe, nation, class, religious community, whatever– to which one happens to belong.

2. Division of labor. But as Adam Smith so lucidly explained, people are rendered more productive by specialization and division of labor, and we will do the task of caring for humanity much better if we split it up into many different tasks and assign most people, at least, a much smaller range of activity. Nature and circumstances gives us a kind of rough draft of how to arrange this division of labor, giving us all impulses to serve our families and those neighbors who evoke our pity or who have done us a good turn and earned our gratitude. Reason might urge us to modify this template somewhat, but not to discard it completely.

Continue reading “A Meta-Ethics to Keep in Your Back Pocket” »

Immigration, trade, and reciprocity

In a recent blog post titled What I like about “Alien Nation”, I highlighted some points where I agreed with Peter Brimelow’s book Alien Nation, which features on the anti-open borders reading list. In this blog post, I want to consider in more detail an interesting and valid point raised by Brimelow about reciprocity in immigration law. I’d mentioned this as one of my points of agreement with Brimelow, but now it’s time to voice some disagreement.

Here’s a small excerpt of his argument (about Page 251):

If immigration is such a moral imperative, why don’t the Mexicans/Chinese/Indians/Koreans/ Japanese (fill in any of the other recent top-ten suppliers of immigrants to the United States) allow it?

Don’t say: “These countries already have enough people.” The United States already has more than all of them except mainland China and India.

And don’t say: “They’re too poor.” As we have seen, the whole economic theory of immigration, as developed by immigration enthusiasts, is that immigration does not displace workers: it complements them. Well, it should work both ways.

In my previous blog post, I expressed agreement with Brimelow’s fundamental point that the moral case for open borders applies to all countries, not just the United States or the developed world.

Later in the book, as part of his list of proposals to deal with the perceived problems of immigration, Brimelow suggests (about Page 262):

No immigration should be permitted from countries that do not allow reciprocal emigration from the United States.

The way Brimelow frames the argument, it seems he is saying that allowing immigrants from a country is akin to doing that country a favor, and hence, such a favor should be done only if there is a reciprocal favor from the other country. Continue reading “Immigration, trade, and reciprocity” »

Open Borders and Derrida’s “Cities of Refuge”

Might the late French deconstructionist philosopher Jacques Derrida serve as the prophet of open borders, as another impenetrably arcane Continental philosopher, Immanuel Kant, served as the prophet of the democratic peace? It seems that he advocated roughly my idea of passport-free charter cities, in articles entitled “Hospitality” (gated) and “On Cosmopolitanism” (part of a Google eBook). Derrida is the kind of French philosopher for whom vagueness seems to be a virtue. Not really my type. I read him as an undergraduate and struggled to understand him. One article entitled “Late Derrida: The Politics of Sovereignty” (Vincent B. Leitch, 2007) (available on JSTOR and Scribd) summarizes his career thus:

During the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Jacques Derrida published numerous books, approximately two dozen in French, virtually all translated into English,  but in the 1990s and thereafter up to 2004, the year of his death and  the year in which I am writing, he brought out roughly three dozen more books in France, not including the revised editions of earlier works, coauthored works, and introductions to books. In this period, which I here label late Derrida, about two dozen books by Derrida appeared in English translation, without counting three substantial Derrida readers. Not surprisingly, recent introductions to Derrida have found it especially challenging to systematize this sprawling corpus. The preferred approach is to foreground key Derridean concepts (so-called undecidables or quasitranscendentals) such as the early standbys—difference, iterability, margin,  supplement, text—and later ones like gift, hospitability, forgiveness, democracy to come, justice, messianic, responsibility, spectrality.

Hmm.  Perhaps one shouldn’t expect to understand much about the thought of any moderately subtle thinker from 35,000 feet like that (I was delightfully impressed that Vipul Naik managed to summarize parts of Principles of a Free Society accurately and succinctly; I’m not sure I could!) but Derrida doesn’t get easier close up. But in Sean Kelly’s article “Derrida’s Cities of Refuge: Toward a Non-Utopian Utopia,” (gated) the idea of charter cities seems relatively clear: Continue reading “Open Borders and Derrida’s “Cities of Refuge”” »

Excluding versus avoiding strangers

John Derbyshire, an American writer of British origin, attracted some controversy with his article The Talk: Nonblack Version published in Taki’s Magazine. In an article for The Atlantic titled Why John Derbyshire Hasn’t Been Fired (Yet), Elspeth Reeve quotes the following passage from Derbyshire’s original column:

(9) A small cohort of blacks—in my experience, around five percent—is ferociously hostile to whites and will go to great lengths to inconvenience or harm us. A much larger cohort of blacks—around half—will go along passively if the five percent take leadership in some event. They will do this out of racial solidarity, the natural willingness of most human beings to be led, and a vague feeling that whites have it coming.

(10) Thus, while always attentive to the particular qualities of individuals, on the many occasions where you have nothing to guide you but knowledge of those mean differences, use statistical common sense:

(10a) Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally.

(10b) Stay out of heavily black neighborhoods.

(10c) If planning a trip to a beach or amusement park at some date, find out whether it is likely to be swamped with blacks on that date (neglect of that one got me the closest I have ever gotten to death by gunshot).

(10d) Do not attend events likely to draw a lot of blacks.

(10e) If you are at some public event at which the number of blacks suddenly swells, leave as quickly as possible.

Continue reading “Excluding versus avoiding strangers” »