Immigration and Elections

Long before I started posting here at the DR, there was an interesting dust-up on immigration's effects on political culture, and whether we should care:

If you believe (as Russell claims to) that in a country like the US, an influx of people hostile to freedom will reduce the freedom of people in that country, one is led inexorably to an uncomfortable conclusion. Namely, that the impact on freedom is the combination of gains from the increased freedom of the immigrants and losses from the decreased freedom of the residents. We can let in the coercers and be coerced, or we can coercively keep them out.

Now, there is plenty of room for debate about the resulting net impact. But if immigrants truly are anti-freedom, then the real question is how to evaluate this tough tradeoff. Not whether libertarians can have their immigration and a small government too.

The Economist recently discussed [HT-Maggie's Farm] some recent research on this topic, and the news is not good for libertarians:

Mr Luttmer and Ms Singhal analyse data from the European Social Survey, a biennial multi-country exercise, on the attitudes of over 6,000 immigrants who have moved from one of 32 countries in the survey to another and they find precisely this result.

Even after controlling for income, education and other relevant economic and social factors such as work history and age, views about redistribution in an immigrant’s home country are a strong predictor of his own opinions. Indeed, this measure of “cultural background” explains as much as income levels, and three-fifths as much as income and education combined. These results hold even for immigrants who moved 20 years before they were surveyed; they cannot be attributed to people not having had time to adjust their views.

Nor is it true that simply waiting out for the next generation of immigrants will solve the problem:

Even more convincing evidence of the impact of culture comes from second-generation immigrants. The opinions of children born in the host country about the desirability of redistribution are strongly influenced by the norms that prevail in the countries their parents came from.

Now, there are several possible reactions one could take to this finding, assuming it holds up, which is always tricky in social sciences. One is to find that the net benefit of immigration for libertarians is still positive. Another is that free movement of people is simply a basic civil right, consequences be damned (I'm not wholly unsympathetic to this view). A third would be to blame this entire problem in the existence of the state, which strikes me as true but irrelevant (since anarchy isn't coming any time soon, I fail to see why we shouldn't consider how our policies on immigration will effect the world as it currently is).

But what is unacceptable is to just sweep aside concerns over the cultural and political effects of immigration as simple racism. What this study shows us is that it really does matter who constitutes the voting public, and that immigration could easily change the beliefs of the people in ways libertarians will find discomforting.

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Here's the link to the

Here's the link to the Economist piece, which I messed up in the main post:

Immigration sure screwed up the Indian People.

For the first 200 years people came here to become Americans. It is hyphenated immigration that will ruin this country.

If immigration and voting

If immigration and voting are conflicting then voting has to go, period. Sacrificing honest immigrants because other might commit political crimes by voting is immoral. Besides, when facing an ethic dilemma, always try the reversal. If it is a just policy to keep immigrants out, it's also a just policy to kick out of the country any American that supports political crimes, that is 99.999% of the population.

If you were about to act on your belief and casted a decisive vote to limit immigration in the country, and if an honest immigrant killed you to prevent that from happening, that would be self-defense and I wouldn't blame him.

P.S. I have a green card now ! 5 more years and I can actually afford to insult border grunts :)

Hey, I'd rather ditch voting

Hey, I'd rather ditch voting too, but this is the world we're stuck with.

Besides, when facing an ethic dilemma, always try the reversal. If it is a just policy to keep immigrants out, it's also a just policy to kick out of the country any American that supports political crimes, that is 99.999% of the population.

It's not at all clear to me that this is the "reversal". One can perfectly well view expelling someone as a far greater harm than refusing to admit someone.

The world I'm stuck with

this is the world we're stuck with

The world I'm stuck with is one in which my political views have for all practical purposes no effect on the politics of the world. Because of this, the consequences of my views are zero whatever they are, so a consequentialist argument about what views I ought to adopt, such as the one you are presenting, is moot.

If I had a great deal of political influence, then I might be tempted to push for those policies which I believed would have the best consequences. However, I have essentially no political influence.

One might ask, then, why have any views whatsoever about politics? Why not ignore politics altogether, or why not adopt a more fun politics - for example, why not be a statist, and thus feel joy with each new expansion of the state just as fans of a game feel joy every time their favorite wins, rather than the misery that I feel?

I'm a libertarian as a side-effect of the project of resisting delusion, idiocy, malice, wishful thinking, herd instinct, and so on. It's not so much a project as it is a compulsion. I would like the comfort of believing in the existence of God and heaven, but I don't have that option. I am an atheist because I have no choice but to be an atheist. I can't will myself into reversing my realization that human invention is a far more likely hypothesis explaining the religious texts (particularly in the light of their contradicting each other) than is divine intervention. And similarly, I can't make myself into a communist, I can't make myself into a welfarist, and I can't invent for myself some right to have a say in whether a Canadian or a Mexican or anyone has the right to enter the territory of the US.

Many are impressed by Hume's is/ought distinction to the point that they think that there are no such things are ethical facts, and that ethics is a matter of desire, of preference, and therefore there is no rational reason to recognize as real an ethical system which one does not have a taste for. On this view, ethics is a personal preference. I'm not impressed by Hume's is/ought distinction and I don't subscribe to the philosophy that ethics is a preference.

But what is unacceptable is to just sweep aside concerns over the cultural and political effects of immigration as simple racism.

As of this point, so many people have been called racists by, not only idiots, but intelligent and serious opponents of racism, the accused including people I admire for the offense of expressing views I find plausible and sometimes probable, that I have no choice but to conclude that I am doubtless a racist and, moreover, anyone who cares about truth and reality is in all likelihood a racist, and the only non-racists left, then, are those who willfully delude themselves for the sake of being (what they consider to be) virtuous. If someone is accused of racism, my tentative estimate of their contact with reality now goes up slightly - pending a review of the circumstances of the accusation, of course.

Kling and Caplan had a few

Kling and Caplan had a few posts on this topic a while back. An interesting point that I had not heard before was made by Caplan:

"... Ethnic heterogeneity reduces mainstream support for the welfare state. Ethnically homogeneous countries like Sweden tend to have large welfare states, because voters are happy to help people "like them." Ethnically diverse countries like the U.S. have smaller welfare states, because voters aren't so happy to help "the other." "

Negative Feedback

Empirically, freedom must have some self-limiting consequences. Otherwise, our history would have shown an exponential growth of Liberty, in the same manner that average wealth or digital storage has grown.

Education is trending toward groupthink and herd instinct

And what are the immigrant's children being taught about being a good citizen in government schools? Nothing even slightly resembling libertarianism. Even if the immigrants themselves were libertarian, within a generation or so, their children would be voting in another Obama to tame the wild freedom impulse.

The One, the Only Messiah of Hope and Change did not arise via virgin birth. He was elected by a well prepared electorate. In 20 years, Obama's policies will be seen as having been to the right of Attila the Hun, by the new immigrants and by the children of current immigrants.

Let them work

Will Wilkinson has the right of this - if this were a problem (it's not clear it is) then you could solve 90% of it trivially by getting rid of the citizenship restrictions on labor. Most Mexican immigrants don't want to be US citizens, they just want to work here legally for a while and citizenship is the only way to do that. So allow non-citizens to cross the border freely to work. The ones who then choose to apply for citizenship will tend to be those who find our system particularly attractive; there will be self-selection for value compatibility.

fixing link

Trying again - the link I meant to include was this.


It's about achieving a balance that can be considered the lesser of two (or rather more than two) evils. It would be wonderful if everyone could move everywhere without chaotic consequences, but there is too much inequality in the world to open up all borders. Poor would flood the rich and all would be poor, so there must be US visa laws. However, I think the current system favours the wealthy too much. We can afford to help people more by letting more in and treating 'illegals' with some more humanity.