After reading books by both Krikorian and Riley, I am struck by the contrast in what they consider the natural/efficient state of labor markets to be.
Restrictionists like Krikorian view the “natural” state of the labor market as one with no immigrants. Thus, if large scale immigration increases the supply of labor in a particular labor market, Krikorian refers to this as an “artificially loose labor market” which he in turn blames for the suppression of wages of natives and slowdown in technological progress. This isn’t to suggest that Krikorian isn’t open to allowing immigration when it is helpful, but rather, he views any immigration as a distortion of labor markets that needs justification. Quotes are included below the fold.
On the other hand, moderate open borders advocates such as Riley, as well as more radical open borders advocates like Lant Pritchett, view local labor markets as inherently embedded in global labor markets, and the “efficient” state as one with relatively unrestricted labor mobility. To Riley, then, it is immigration restrictions that constitute a distortion of the labor market. Again, this is not to suggest that Riley would not be open to immigration restrictions under any circumstances, but rather, he would view them as a distortion of the labor markets that would need to be justified on other grounds. Quotes are included below the fold.
Is there a way of resolving the issue? Continue reading Efficient or artificial? Restrictionists versus open borders advocates
I’ve just finished reading Mark Krikorian’s The New Case Against Immigration: Both Legal and Illegal (Amazon hardcover) and Jason Riley’s Let Them In: The Case For Open Borders (Amazon ebook).
As the titles make clear, Krikorian (director of the “low immigration, pro immigrant” Center for Immigration Studies) wants immigration reduced, while Riley (a Wall Street Journal writer) wants it increased.
Nonetheless, I was struck by the similarities between the books:
- Both books consider immigration from a highly US-specific perspective
- Both books argue from the citizenist and/or territorialist perspective, i.e., they argue about the benefits/harms of immigration to current citizens and in some cases, to residents of the country post-immigration. Both books refrain from general discussions about the moral or philosophical issues surrounding immigration policy and its legitimacy, and also from the benefits and harms to immigrant-sending countries.
- Both books cover roughly the same topic list: economic and fiscal (both the suppression of wages of natives and welfare objection), violence-related (crime and terrorism), overpopulation and environment, and assimilation problems. One global harm that both books discuss — cheap labor leading to a technological slowdown — is covered from a relatively citizenist perspective.
- Both books avoid, or reject, discussion of the more controversial arguments for immigration restriction, such as the IQ deficit of immigrants, or the political externalities of immigration. They also give less weight to the second-order harms to immigrant-receiving countries.
- Both books make moderate appeals to the United States of America’s founding virtues, but not so much as to distract or irritate people who aren’t impressed by these kinds of appeals.
- Both book are politically centrist, in that they try to appeal to values held by (US) Americans within one standard deviation on either side of the political center. The books aren’t trying to appeal to libertarians or communists, but rather to people who are reasonably comfortable with the concept of free markets and with government intervention where justified.
Continue reading Krikorian and Riley: quick comments