Elite conscience salve

This is a critique of open borders advocates that goes something like this: Open borders advocates are often well-to-do people for whom support for open borders is a way to assuage their consciences without actually having to suffer any of the adverse consequences of immigration. Below are some examples:

  • Open borders and the Catholic elite by Michelle Malkin.
  • Part of a comment by holier then though on an Open Borders blog post:

    What we’ve got here is a standard case of skip skip. Namely, people skip the community/nation levels of charity for the world level. 99% of the time this is disingenuous (they are really just doing so because immigration benefits themselves or their closer in-groups). Sometimes that benefit it just holier then thou cred on the cheap (as opposed to actually going all “Blind Side” and taking poor Africans into your home you support it in principal (read: on the cheap) and just happen to benefit from the cheap landscaping rates). Though I suppose there are aspie true believers out there who don’t understand what is going on at all (and also aren’t taking poor people into their homes, so there is a limit to their charity too).

    So that’s the state of things. Most people intuitively get that many kinds of immigration aren’t necessarily all that great for average Americans or the nations long term health, but a few people who all happen to benefit from low labor rates because they have capital wield lots of political power so they support open borders. And a few people caught in between who want to feel and look like the cool kids (with capital) will agree for cheap spiritual feel goodism coupled with a hope of social climbing (or flat out court jester bribery in the case of the Caplan’s of the world).

  • An Academic Silver Spoon (link now broken), where Dennis Mangan critiques Gregory Mankiw for theorizing about immigration:

    One has the distinct impression that Professor Mankiw was born with an academic silver spoon in his mouth. To be sure, one has got to be extremely smart to do what he’s done, but his apparently seamless transition from undergraduate at Princeton to Harvard professor (in five years!) makes one realize that his experience differs enormously, to say the least, from that of his fellow citizens. All of his academic theorizing about immigration or indeed about larger economic issues cannot be informed by a direct knowledge of the way these things affect ordinary people. One rather doubts that he lives in one of those “vibrant” immigrant neighborhoods.

    Although the original link is broken, you can read Greg Mankiw’s response and Bryan Caplan’s critique.

  • comment on a blog post by Bryan Caplan about his bubble: The comment was by Jeff, and part of it said:

    Okay, so you’ve had a strong urge all your life to segregate yourself from people unlike you. Reconcile this with your support for unfettered immigration. I don’t see it.

    As a highly educated person with a generous endowment of social capital, you can achieve your own self-segregation relatively easily: working at a University, buying a house in a neighborhood those insufferable proles can’t afford to live in, etc.

    Other people are not so lucky, but may have the same urge to self segregate that you do. I’d imagine this urge is quite common in all hominid species. In light of this, is it so awful that other people might choose to band together and use the apparatus of government to achieve the same goals of creating their own little bubbles? I know, I know, government is coercion, and therefore you can pat yourself on the back because you’ve created your little Caplan Compound without resorting to force unlike those unenlightened masses of nincompoops who never read For a New Liberty.

    Spare me. If the rest of humanity is so dreary, wicked, and blah blah blah, why give a hoot whether some of them choose to build a fence somewhere and stop others from passing it? If you have no egalitarian impulses, as you claim, then what difference does it make to you that some Haitians or Mexicans or whoever are denied the opportunity to drive a cab or wash dishes in Miami or wherever? Why does it trouble you in the slightest? Why not just say “yeah, that’s too bad; they probably should let people migrate freely to take advantage of better economic and social opportunities, but oh well” and then find something more interesting to blog about, like what Robin Hanson said at lunch today or something?


"The Efficient, Egalitarian, Libertarian, Utilitarian Way to Double World GDP" — Bryan Caplan