Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
If People Could Immigrate Anywhere, Would Poverty Be Eliminated? (theatlantic.com)
61 points by colinismyname 1632 days ago | hide | past | web | 71 comments | favorite



I do think increasing migration from poor to rich areas is a good idea, although it should probably be scaled up slowly to make sure that there is no unexpected effects that makes the wealth of rich areas suddenly collapse.

I have a different cause though, which I also feel receives too little love: increasing migration between rich areas.

Currently citizens of EU states have the right to move freely inside the EU, subject to them getting a job or having enough independent means to not need state welfare. This is seems like an excellent idea, and surely it could scale up to a larger area than just the EU. For example, how about the EU, the US, Japan, and the rich areas of China [1]. For software developers, being able to conveniently move to the Bay Area would be really welcome.

[1] E.g. Beijing and Shanghai. These already have strict immigration restrictions, so including them in the common area would not expose industrial regions to immigration from agricultural regions.


To see their point, imagine an American in rural Mississippi being told she cannot move to New York City to seek a better career.

Tangentially, this is exactly the situation in China today. The central government restricts movement, particularly between rural and urban areas. Many rural poor want to move to cities, but it is not legal.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hukou_system#Household_registr...


In America, the ruling elites have ways of keeping out the rabble by means of making city life both costly and difficult.


City life is costly and difficult precisely because so many people freely choose to live there.


This New York Times article discusses not only why it is so hard for poor people to live New York but also why the cost of living for the affluent is lower there than elsewhere.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/28/magazine/who-says-new-york...


Yes, but, (importantly) only if the immigration isn't so rapid that it destroys the cultural and social capital that makes the wealthier countries desirable targets of immigration in the first place.

Caplan has very insightful remarks about the benefits of immigration and the inconsistency of current policy on it. But he is unhelpfully silent on the question of the upper bound on ideal peaceful immigration, and yes, there certainly is one. Taking his ideas literally, we should be totally okay with Chinese army regulars "peacefully" immigrating, then using their free trade rights to import their weaponry. Sure, enacting their "takeover America" plan would be worthy of opposing (and violating free trade/movement ideals), but by then it's too late.

(Before you flame me: no I'm not saying that this would be the result of relaxing immigration policy; please read it carefully and flame me for the right reason.)

There has to be some principle that tells you when you are allowing in too many immigrants, which would stop you before you reach that point, and Caplan shows far too little interest in articulating it.


I get the impression that these "open borders" advocates are utterly uninterested in the fallout in the West. The advantage of open borders for the economic elite is it will likely drive down Western labor costs and will further weaken the union movement. Labor costs and union strength have already been dramatically reduced by globalization: another idea promoted using similar rhetoric.


I've been thinking about the idea of free migration for a while. Not in the context of eliminating poverty, but as the perfect implementation of democracy: Vote with your feet, go to wherever you like it best.

If all immigration and emigration restrictions were dropped everywhere, and anyone could freely move from any country to any country, and you were full citizen of whatever country you are living in at any given point, what would happen? Would democracy as political system prevail or would people simply move in and out of non-democratic countries depending on how their respective rules work for them? Would there be inhabitable regions on earth that are abandoned because everyone moved away? Would there be countries that attract all the "desirable" citizen while other countries collapse because they were left with "undesirable" citizens? Is there even such a thing as a generally "desirable" citizen or are people only desirable to some countries but not others? If one (but only one) of those open-border countries were to start implementing new immigration restrictions (that should be possible, after all you can leave if you don't like it), would this result in a net outflow of people and the ultimate collapse of this country? Or would the country strive and be home to some kind of elite group of people? Would the world move back to a state where every country has immigration restrictions, or would we find a different equilibrium?

I know next to nothing about immigration policy, but thinking of this as a game is quite interesting. I wonder if there are simulations where you can model scenarios like this?


I think that in the long run, true open borders would be a death-knell for the nation-state. The two central purposes for nations, as opposed to local and regional governments, are regulating immigration and responding to (or mounting) military threats. After societies have intermixed to a certain point, you'll see the death of nationalism and sufficient cultural and religious diversity in the electorates of wealthy countries that declaring war on any other country will become very difficult as you'll always have 20% of your populace sharing a religion or cultural kinship or some other line of sympathy.

Add to this the strain of large demographic shifts on representative democracies and you have the recipe for a break up into a decentralized network of regional and local governments that run things according to their particular demographic make-ups. The correlation we have come to expect between geographical proximity and consistent culture and politics would begin to disappear.


The thing that is really going to collapse our current national system is crypto currency. Once governments can't collect taxes easily, could easily see us going to a Neal Stephenson Diamond Age style post national, lifestyle group based system.


"20% of your populace sharing a religion or cultural kinship"

Germany/Poland/Russia


The problem with modeling it is likely to be defining all aspects of the problem. The most immediate result of "I can just move" is likely to be some environmental problems. And its not like you'll be able to enforce environmental laws if you can, as you say, just move.

"Is there even such a thing as a generally "desirable" citizen" I've done some minimal research and worldwide immigration policies have more or less congealed on certain desirable characteristics, which boil down to money, job, credentialed education, family connections, and fame. Age and health and clean record vary somewhat from country to country. There are variations in the level of the category, like some 3rd world countries sell citizenship for only $50K or so, but the 1st world wants $500K or more. But the organization is remarkable. It would be like if a space alien civilization coincidentally organized their books with the same Dewey Decimal system numbers we use.


I agree with most of your second paragraph. The baseline requirements for immigration are the same almost everywhere. A side effect of that is that there are people today who practically live without immigration restrictions. If you are born into the right nationality, and have the right combination of wealth and/or education, you can move pretty much anywhere you want. I'm soon going to finish grad school and recently ranked all countries in the world on how much I'd like to live/work there. There wasn't a single one where I'd consider going but couldn't.

Looping back to your first argument on environmental problems: Those people who could do the most severe environmental damage are probably in that group who can move freely already. And my impression is that they are already doing a fair bit of environmental damage. A trivial example would be the people who travel to the Alps every winter to do winter sports while merrily destroying the ecosystem there.


Good points and examples but my fear with the 1st argument was more along the lines of home based businesses. "Oh, you say I can't run a home based cyanide process metal plating business in my basement, and dump the waste in the (drinking water) river? Well I'm a job creator and I'll just move to someplace I can!" That kind of thing could cause, oh, about a billion times more damage than an occasional short drive to the alps.

From my old chemistry days, there's a dude active in the 40s to 70s named Max Gergel who pioneered advanced organic chemistry in that era, unfortunately safety and environmental concerns were kind of dark ages, just pour stuff out in the backyard type. Google for "Excuse Me Sir, Would You Like to Buy a Kilo of Isopropyl Bromide" and there's pdfs floating around. Its kinda popular, sorta, in comparison analogy to the BOFH legend. Unfortunately in contrast to the BOFH its all true stories if anything somewhat censored down. I'm pretty sure the old factory site is/was a superfund site although I don't remember.

There's another classic chemist book about "questionable" behavior called the green flame of boron or something like that, basically the manufacturing side of John D Clark's "Ignition" book (which I still own a copy of). That's another enviro hair raiser.

I think the TLDR for pretty much any pre-70s era chemical plant (and, maybe to the current date) is you really don't want to live downwind or downriver if at all possible.

One interesting CS/IT/tech lesson is these guys didn't think they were doing anything wrong which is part of the strange otherworldly appeal of reading their books. Its fun to contemplate what contemporary "data hygiene" practices will be looked back on with horror in perhaps as little as a generation. Sharing executable files? DRM? Tracking? Social networking? Who knows, but evidence from other fields is that things we don't blink about doing now might make our kids recoil in horror decades later.


One of my mom's hippie friends brought up the idea of a single world government to me when I was young enough to think it was a beautiful idea. Every time I've thought about the idea of open borders since, the analogy of driving in traffic comes to mind. To wit, the idea of open borders seems as orthogonal to basic human nature as allowing someone to change lanes into the space in front of you. Even when it is possible that the other driver has to exit the expressway for some very real reason (mechanical troubles, physical illness), it seems difficult to overcome the reflex of NOPE. Of course the scale is different. Letting someone into traffic doesn't cost you very much, in the grand scheme of things. Outside of that one movie plot where you are one minute late and miss some opportunity that changes your life.

The US has been headed very much in the opposite direction for the last decade. These decisions seem very counter-intuitive and I've read and heard a number of stories where people have tried to get into the states to contribute (teach, give talks, consult) and have been sent home. Likely these stories make the romance of freedom seem all the more compelling. But I see the reality of a rate of change that has historically created a bad environment. Think New York City circa 1880.


This video, although speaking only about allowing unrestricted immigration to the US, is worth watching for perspective.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPjzfGChGlE

Unrestricted immigration would make the West's social safety nets and healthcare impossible to maintain. There would be corresponding civil unrest as a reaction.

The obvious first thing to do about world poverty is provide free birth control and related education.


Here's a real-world example of a mass migration occurring: German reunification. 20 years on, a disparity remains but both economies have grown substantially and towards parity, and the population figures have only shifted somewhat.[1] To some extent this is a best-case since there are other similarities among Germans, but it's an example of how it can go well.

[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/09/west-east-german...


H'm, I have indulged in this as a thought experiment plenty of times, and actually think it might ease the pressure of immigration, specially on countries like the United States. Although I suppose the complications of things like benefits and medical care make it probably un-implementable in practice.

I'm reasonably well off, childless, and if I were given a free choice of any country to emigrate to, I'm fairly sure the U.S. wouldn't be the first on my list.


Although I suppose the complications of things like benefits and medical care make it probably un-implementable in practice.

There's a case to be made that welfare states are immoral for this reason. If national social guarantees force you to restrict third-world economic mobility, it's not progressive: it's the opposite. Internally it's egalitarian, but globally, it's a group of rich people using force to preserve inequality. It's not just failing to help the poor: it's actively repressing their attempts to help themselves.


Absolutely.

I've always thought of this in relation to the outcry against "the 1%" in the US from people outside the country (like Scandinavia, etc). We might be unequal in the US but the One-percenters don't have the right to use deadly force and do not have standing armies. But these so-called egalitarian northern European states have both. (Although I do in fact love Northern European countries and their people, I'm just pointing out the strangeness of the position.)

In many ways we'd see a massive US if borders in all countries were opened. The author of the piece hints at this as well. Many groups will still lose out, but the laws will be uniform and will add to efficiency. I feel like the British Colonies were a good example of this.


Yes

I believe most of the people, especially the most poverty stricken ones, would stay put

How would they move if they can't support themselves? Food is the priority

Of course, this may lead to a different balance of people in countries, so it may work from that side.

Well as a citizen of two countries (one in the EU) I am quite mobile myself, but sometimes the language is a bigger barrier than the 'official' borders.

On the other hand, some people go out of their way to cross borders illegally exactly because it's illegal.


Sometimes overpopulation and a lack of education is an important reason for poverty. If a lot of the more well-off people in underdeveloped countries freely travelled to the more developed ones, a percentage of them would make efforts to improve the lot of people in their native countries, since they wouldn't have to jump through a ton of hoops to go back to living in the more developed countries.


A special case of this question is that the destination of the immigration is the US. Let's assume this, and let's also assume that an immigrant is magically and automatically converted into a proper US citizen (believing in women's rights, having gay buddies, etc.). Now imagine that EVERYONE outside of the US immigrates to the US. Because nobody would be left outside of the US, the US could expand to cover the entire planet. The real question now is: Is the US self-sustainable, i.e. can it function totally on its own?


> a proper US citizen (believing in women's rights, having gay buddies, etc.).

Sometimes it is hard to see when people are joking here.

> Is the US self-sustainable, i.e. can it function totally on its own?

There's a huge question that needs to be answered first then: who would we wage war on?


Oh try harder, consider "The War of Northern Aggression" in the early 1860s.

We currently have a VERY profitable civil war against our own population, "The War on (Some) Drugs".

I feel quite confident the military industrial complex would continue to profit.


There seems to be an implicit assumption that every body wants to emigrate to the US.

I don't that is true. If given the choice a lot of people would choose to stay. Sure, you can have more material things, but you will have to go to a strange place, far from friends and family, where you are just a stranger, that possible don't even speak the language.

People who decide to emigrate is because they have strong reasons. Either your situation is desperate or your are very courageous, or both. Leaving your country is really not easy.


It's a manifestly false assumption, too. We've had free movement in the EU for quite some time, and yet Greece is not empty. Migration waxes and wanes with economic factors, but most of the population stays home, where their family, language, and culture is, regardless.


I think something that's not discussed as much, but would resonate with the HN audience...with lots of us being full or part-time remote workers, imagine being an American and doing your remote job with the low low cost of living of living in Thailand? Or how about waking up on a beach and eating fresh Oysters in Ecuador? Imagine if the majority of your salary went into the local economy of the Dominican Republic?

Sure lots of Thais, Ecuadorians and Dominicans might move to the U.S. and Western Europe for jobs, but the Americans and Europeans might move to their countries and live like kings, generating tons of local jobs.

Now suppose you did your remote job in the countryside of South Korea (relatively cheap and has its charms), and you decide you need an junior person to help you out with your work? Why not hire an incredibly well educated local, who'd be just as happy to not take a job in a boring chaebol grinder? Now you're generating high-end white collar jobs?


Eliminated? No, I think that's overstating it. But reduced? Likely.


Welfare states are quite fault tolerant, but could they handle unlimited immigration? It isn't just money. Societies with high level of trust would change psychologically if too many people from states in disrepair would arrive at once.

How much poverty would need to be eliminated that dismantling of welfare state becomes an acceptable trade-off?


I've thought about this for a long time, as an American who twice lived overseas as a bona-fide long-term resident of another country. My wife, a first-generation immigrant to the United States, is just one of many examples of first-generation immigrants to the United States I know, from many countries.

From the article: "George Mason economist Bryan Caplan, whose writing at EconLog inspired Naik's interest in open borders, has offered 'keyhole' solutions as a substitute for black and white, yes-or-no questions on immigration. 'If immigrants hurt American workers, we can charge immigrants higher taxes or admission fees, and use the revenue to compensate the losers,' Caplan wrote last year. 'If immigrants burden American taxpayers, we can make immigrants ineligible for benefits. If immigrants hurt American culture, we can impose tests of English fluency and cultural literacy. If immigrants hurt American liberty, we can refuse to give them the right to vote. Whatever your complaint happens to be, immigration restrictions are a needlessly draconian remedy.'"

Further along in the article, what is to me the scariest possible outcome of huge immigration is mentioned: "Naik points out that 'political externalities' may be a major drawback of allowing anyone who wants to move to stable, wealthy nations to do so. Gallup polls have found that 700 million people would like to permanently move to another country, many of them from developing nations with failed political systems. If the U.S. or another wealthy nation were to see a sudden large increase in immigrants from these countries, it's possible that the new populace will vote for bad policies in their new home. As Naik puts it, some people believe that 'if you're coming from a place that has a problem, you are probably part of the problem, and if you move to a new place you might bring the problem with you.'" I would indeed want a keyhole solution to acculturate new immigrants to United States political culture (which I have seen done, for my wife) before allowing them to vote in local or national elections. One great advantage that the United States has over many other countries is that its sources of immigrants are so diverse that the immigrants tend to educate and broaden the perspective of one another. As I have related before here on Hacker News, all my grandparents were born in the United States, but three of the four spoke a language other than English at home, and my two maternal grandparents, one born in Nebraska and one born in Colorado, received all of their schooling in the German language. My grandparents learned English and learned American attitudes about civic culture because they interacted with other people who had come here from other places besides where their ancestors came from. That's always the strength of American society, and that's why I'm generally sympathetic to very open immigration policies. I am aware many Europeans don't feel the same way, but most countries in Europe LOST population to emigration until rather recent times, so the European experience with the benefits of immigration is not as deep as the American experience.

The other reason the policy suggestion is plausible to me is that I have visited Hong Kong, a territory that was flooded with immigrants during my lifetime, on more than one occasion. Countries that receive large influxes of people from elsewhere can learn to deal with that.

AFTER EDIT: Here's the website with the policy case for open borders

http://openborders.info/

mentioned and linked in the submitted article.


It's worrying to see that Caplan thinks his "keyhole" solutions are politically feasible.

Let's say you let the genie out of the bottle and allow open immigration with several restrictions (higher taxes, no right to vote) for this new group of immigrants. First you have a problem with deciding when to lift these restrictions (10 years, a test, only the next generation?).

Even if you find a solution, you will be breeding resentment due to imposed inequality. Now you are facing a protest and political movement composed of immigrants and their citizen sympathizers who are demanding the ever-popular "justice, equality, etc". For a recent example see the illegal immigrant Debate in the US. Southern illegals are already entering the US (illegally) as if the borders are open, already face discrimination and restricted rights and already have a political movement to fight for things that matter to them.


>Even if you find a solution, you will be breeding resentment due to imposed inequality. Now you are facing a protest and political movement composed of immigrants and their citizen sympathizers who are demanding the ever-popular "justice, equality, etc". For a recent example see the illegal immigrant Debate in the US. Southern illegals are already entering the US (illegally) as if the borders are open, already face discrimination and restricted rights and already have a political movement to fight for things that matter to them.

Worst case I see is something like France, (and I'm picking on France, but my understanding is that this is super common. Japan and much of Europe also have a 'blood' component to citizenship.) where they don't have 'by right of the soil' citizenship; you can be born in France, but still not be a french citizen, because of who your parents were. And yeah, they see problems from it. They have a permanent underclass of hereditary non-citizens.

Personally, I think that as long as we keep that particular Americanism (which is to say, if you are born on US soil, you are a full American, and at least legally equal to any other American, regardless of who your parents were or what you look like, or what hoops you choose to jump through.) I think we'll be ahead of the game (vs. other countries)

"keyhole solutions" I think are feasible if they aren't multi-generational. You /really/ don't want to grow that multi-generational non-citizen underclass. If you only have those restrictions on people who immigrate, and not their children born here? I would see that as an expanded guest worker type program, and it would probably have similar political consequences as an expanded guest worker type program.


Jus Soli[1] has its own share of challenges and problems[2][3]. Personally I would prefer the US to abolish or drastically modify the American Jus Soli provision. It has caused too many heart-breaking situations where the illegal immigrant's child is a citizen and has to enter the foster system because his parents get being deported.

Overall only education, integration and the political clout to refuse to sacrifice democratic principles in the face of potential demands from new immigrants is a way that open immigration can work.

[1] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jus_soli

[2] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birth_tourism

[3] - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anchor_babies


meh, the idea is to give yourself a way to heal mistakes you make. You will make mistakes. insuring that anyone born here is a citizen, I think, is a good start to insuring that those mistakes will heal.

It's also a nice, neutral way of defining 'American' that doesn't have racial overtones.


What mistakes are you talking about? How will granting "jus solis" heal these mistakes?


The big problem I see is creating this 'underclass' of people who don't have the rights of a full citizen. I mean, it's normal to do this when someone immigrates; depending on visa, sometimes they can't even legally work. Or they can work, but they are put in a legal position, for instance, where they have to leave the country 15 days after they get fired.

But, to me? the really bad thing would be to make that hereditary. To say you don't have full citizenship because your dad didn't have full citizenship, even if you have never set foot outside of America.

"jus solis" means that whatever legal restrictions we place on immigrants will fade with time, as they die off.


> you will be breeding resentment due to imposed inequality.

Telling those people to stay the hell out isn't exactly winning you any points either.

In any event, political article, consider flagging.


Discontented people within your borders are a much bigger problem then discontented people outside your borders though.

Also, as a potential future immigrant (native English speaker, doing a PhD in the US, not very culturally distant from Americans except perhaps for a greater appreciation of Monty Python) I would feel extremely alienated if told I had to pay higher taxes for the rest of my life just because I was born elsewhere. The current immigration system may be frustrating at times, but at least I can hold onto the hope that if I become a citizen here, I will have the same rights as everyone else. (Except running for president, which isn't relevant to my planned career path anyway.)


Winning points with whom? Who is keeping score in this case?


"If the U.S. or another wealthy nation were to see a sudden large increase in immigrants from these countries, it's possible that the new populace will vote for bad policies in their new home."

Then perhaps the solution is to not give them the vote, at least at first. Here's an example: Australia decides to set up a new city on an isolated part of its coastline. It accepts very poor immigrants from anywhere and pays them very low wages to work in factories. They cannot vote for 20 years and cannot move to any other part of Australia, but they can choose to return to their country of origin at any time. The city is administered and policed by Australians.

The idea is to repeat the experience of Hong Kong where British rule mixed with cheap immigrant labour produced very rapid rises in standard of living. It's basically the same as the Charter Cities [1] proposed by Paul Romer, except that the city is located in the rich country rather than the poor one.

[1] http://chartercities.org/concept


Social capital is important in societies. Trust between people, people's trust of authorities, trust between corporations.

When people migrate from regions where there is no trust in the government, it's natural that some of these bring problems with them. You could say it's no fault of their own -- they are used to the authorities being the bad guys and don't care to follow their rules or tax law.


Do you think that's part of the cause of (relative) turmoil with respect to the recent influx of immigrants into the (previously) culturally uniform, high-social-capital society of Scandinavian countries such as Finland?


I don't know. A north african friend of mine explained to me how important the difference was. How in his country, you were successful if you were in a situation to be corrupt and make money off your government job. The less legitimacy the government has, the more sense it makes.

To Americans reading this: You have nothing to win from discrediting "the government" or "othering" it, it does you no good. Make the problem yours and solve it; no one else but you owns your country.


I think immigration has had a huge influence on those countries. It comes down to trust. The liberal policies of the Scandinavian countries work to the extent that people trust each other. And people don't and can't trust unassimilated immigrants in the same way they can trust people who are similar to themselves.


Sounds logical that you'll get a major cultural clash when you insert people who have had to "gouge the system" and live every man for himself in their native land into a society where "helping one another" and giving for the communal good from which everyone benefits. (ex: high taxes in Scandanavian countries and great public infrastructure w.r.t. health, education, etc.)


Bryan Caplan's essay (http://www.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/cato-...) doesn't mention immigrant crime. Or, if you like, the extra crimes that will be committed by those whom Caplan is happy to penalize: the poor folks living next to you who pay higher taxes, are ineligible for benefits, don't have the right to vote, etc. What would be the Caplanian response here?


I've never seen a good idea come out of George Mason's econ department, and Caplan is no exception. They push the kind of head in the clouds politically oblivious oblivious economics that became passe outside hack thinktanks years ago.


rayiner, aren't you from an immigrant family yourself? It would be really helpful to have your perspective on this issue, so either by an edit of the parent comment here, or by a new reply below, why not follow the model of Paul Graham's essay "How to Disagree"

http://www.paulgraham.com/disagree.html

and tell us point-by-point what you think is incorrect about Caplan's policy proposals?


I am from an immigrant family (I am in fact first generation, having moved here from Bangladesh at age 5 with my parents), which shapes my perceptions and makes policy proposals like Caplan's seem naive to me. They seem to me the kinds of ideas that seem attractive to those blessed by good government and a viable culture for so long that you think that human society is naturally that way. My family left Bangladesh to get away from Bengalis and Bengali culture. It seems ridiculous to me that someone born here would want to import that toxic culture into the U.S. wholesale by allowing free immigration.

I don't think a point by point rebuttal of Caplan would be fruitful. I disagree with him fundamentally, about everything from the relevance of macro-economics to political debates, to the notion that "world GDP" matters as opposed to "American GDP per capita." A people, acting through a sovereign government, have no obligation to care about the well being of anyone but their own. I think there is a fundamental equivalence between the set of people who would fight in a war to preserve a nation and the set of people that nation's government should care about.


All I'm reading here is that we should be able to decline immigrants based on cultural stereotypes.

How is their culture toxic?


Speaking for Bangladesh: everything from attitudes about women and Jews and gays to acceptance of free speech to business ethics to expectations regarding the rule of law.

My father was a college student at the time of the Bengali independence. He had great hope for the country when it adopted a constitution with western-style attitudes (secular democracy). But now he's bitter because the people reinstated the theocracy, made Islam the official religion, made the religious leaders ever more powerful, turned the democracy into dynastic rule by two families, and perpetuated the culture of corruption and graft that exists in government and business. This didn't just happen to them. They're not the victims of external forces. They got the government and society they deserved and tolerated.

There are good people and smart people in Bangladesh. Letting people immigrate in a controlled way, and an emphasis on adoption of American culture, works. But but letting them just import their culture wholesale would mean the destruction of what makes America worth living in in the first place.


> I've never seen a good idea come out of George Mason's econ department

Really? Prediction markets, futarchy, signalling, ems economics... not even anything in Launching The Innovation Renaissance?


This comment over at Bryan Caplan's blog pretty much sums it up nicely: (http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2013/02/open_borders_in....)

1. Poverty is endogenous to population, not exogenous. Admitting a flood of poor immigrants to your country makes your country poor. All this stuff about being born on the wrong side is misleading, because the difference between the two sides is not natural resources or something* but the people themselves.

Also your stuff about willing employers and landlords is incomplete, because those people do not keep immigrants in cages. The immigrants impose stiff externalities on other people in the destination country, who are not able to adjust their costs and benefits vis-a-vis immigrants by lowering their wages or raising their rents.

2. Restricting immigration is necessary to avert the destruction of the high-capital-to-worker society which is uniquely conducive to technological progress. Even if mass immigration may please some poor immigrants in the short run, it is 'eating the seed corn.' As commenters have pointed out to you before, virtually all the world population growth in the last two centuries has been enabled by the diffusion of technology from advanced countries to poor ones (and one reason most formerly-poor countries are still poor is that they put nearly all their economic growth into population growth rather than capital accumulation, so they stayed near the Malthusian limit!). Transforming all the advanced countries into poor countries by mass immigration will kill the goose that lays the golden eggs. Anyway, hard-core utilitarianism is a suicide pact; clearly non-adaptive. The moral duty to refrain from harming strangers, which is a form of cooperation (offer to participate in 'mutual altruism') does not extend to a duty to relieve all strangers' opportunity costs of not having been born or invited into the community.

Also, there are diminishing marginal returns to immigration. The first few poor immigrants may enjoy big wage gains over their home-country wages (though higher cost of living in rich countries will mitigate those gains) but as more immigrants arrive to compete down wages and fill all the jobs enabled by the available industrial capital, each new immigrant gains less and less over staying home. (We know for sure there isn't much demand for low-wage workers in rich countries-- low wages==low demand!) It is therefore misleading to suggest that open immigration will relieve much poverty around the world, because only a modest amount of migration will force the marginal gains to zero. Sadly, by that point, the quality of life for citizens of the (formerly) rich countries will have dimished toward poor-country levels. So open borders means economically destroying rich-country citizens to benefit a small percentage of world poor people. Temporarily.

3. You tend to destroy your own credibility when you lie, even by omission or by statistical legerdemain. Poor immigrants pay much less in taxes than they (and their offspring) consume in benefits. This is very well documented (in Europe as well as in the US) and conceded even by (intellectually honest) open-borders advocates, and it has been pointed out to you with links to reliable references many times. The closest you can come to justifying your propaganda is to average (as Julian Simon was wont to do) a few hyper-rich Google-founder-type immigrants in with the millions of low-IQ Mexican peasant illegal aliens. That's dishonest because we don't need open borders to admit math geniuses-- we do that already.

4. The "guest worker" approach doesn't work: (1) even immigrants "ineligible for benefits" collect them. They have children and claim welfare payments and schooling for them. They get sick or injured and go to the E.R.. They file for EITC. (2) Poor immigrants excite the sympathy of nice people, the duplicity of leftist politicians, and the cupidity of businessmen. Every grocer in a neighborhood of poor immigrants funds politicians who work to extend benefits to immigrants because the grocer wants his customers to spend more money and he doesn't mind if that money is taxed away from citizens somewhere else. Every employer of poor immigrants is a big advocate for government subsidies to them because those reduce the wages the employer must pay to maintain his workforce-- it's a matter of socializing costs and privatizing benefits. In our society, the only way to avoid subsidizing poor immigrants is to exclude them from the country.

(Nobody is "forcing" anyone to go and live in Haiti. Your prospective immigrants already live in Haiti. They were born in Haiti. Haiti may be a dump but the Haitians made it that way. Americans have no duty to import Haitians to make America a dump like Haiti. Americans who feel sorry for Haitians can send them money. Hope springs eternal, but experience is the best teacher. More than a century of American experience with Haitians in and out of Haiti suggests that no amount of subsidy improves Haiti because the Hatians themselves squander any resources given to them, and bringing Haitians to the US simply adds mouths to the welfare rolls (and inmates to the jails). The only way to "fix" Haiti-- an approach I oppose completely-- would be conquest and imperial administration. I do not advocate doing that.)

Generally speaking. Oil sheikdoms and so-forth are noise.

*Eventually a disproportionate number of the children of low-quality immigrants become criminals and impose additional stiff costs on citizens.


As someone who has visited Haiti multiple times and has read the history, the above comment is way off base. Read "The Uses of Haiti" by Paul Farmer to get an in-depth understanding of how Haiti went from being the first Republic in the Western Hemisphere that was thriving to one of the poorest. Some find the facts difficult to accept, including exploitation and externally orchestrated political coups, even when the facts are agreed upon by historians the world over. Yet we have misinformation lines like the above "Haiti may be a dump but the Haitians made it that way" still going around. It's shameful, really.


> Americans have no duty to import Haitians to make America a dump like Haiti. Americans who feel sorry for Haitians can send them money.

I sincerely fail to understand why some Americans always assume everyone wants to emigrate to the United States. It is a fairly probable assumption, but I often see it being the default one whenever I discuss the topic with some people from the US. Most people from the UK/Australia/NZ at least often ask "immigration to which country?".


When I imagined open immigration I imagined uneducated refugees from the USA clogging up the Australian and Canadian health and welfare systems. The horror..


People don't like to hear it, but this is true. Part of what makes America successful is Americans. Community and culture, not just capital. When my dad left Bangladesh, he did so partly to get away from Bengalis.


Same here. I am going the US because I am much more like Americans than the people from my country. The last thing I want is the ability of the pervasive unethical mindset from back home to make its way to the US.


"All this stuff about being born on the wrong side is misleading, because the difference between the two sides is not natural resources or something* but the people themselves."

Would you care to elaborate on this? In contrast to other segments of your comment, it appears to be incredibly ignorant and chauvinistic, at least to me.


Typical american self-centered bu*it. Streets filled with homeless people and unemployment over 25%. Yet somehow world poverty would magically disappear if entire world population would move to New York or California.


Only in a very simplistic model. Otherwise, the answer is no.


A really good way to make this happen would be for the US to just "open its borders" around the rest of the world so that every place currently outside of the US becomes a US state. (Either that or China should do it.)

Think of the efficiency: it would save many thousands of tons of fuel, reduce greenhouse gas exhaust, save people transport time and travel stress, etc.

It reminds me of the old "How do you move Mt. Fuji?" challenge. Problem solved. Next question please.


NO. There are plenty of places that only allow you to build a home on 25 acres. You can't build a home in these places if you're poor.


No. Two reasons:

A. Poverty is always relatively defined. There will always be a bottom n percent in the population.

B. A high bar for immigration acts as a filter to select the hardest working, most intelligent, most willing to take risks, and sometimes the richest. Take that filter away and the profile of immigrants looks quite different.


I think once a country reaches a stable population, you can implement free immigration. You could have multi country treaties where for every person that is allowed in another country you could have one person get in. That would keep flows under control and give freedom to the people.


The mobility of labor will never offset the negative externalities of globalized mercantilism.


Immigration has nothing whatsoever to do with relieving world poverty and could never fulfill such a goal.

The primary effect, and perhaps purpose of immigration (excluding asylum), is to keep labor costs down. One could even convincingly claim that wages, in general, are controlled by immigration and certainly not the "free market".

A useful side effect is that it maintains a healthier demographic profile.


As long as there are privately owned central banks and debt based money there will always be extreme poverty.


The costs of such a project -- downward pressure on working class wages, elevated levels of crime among urban poor, dangerous and degraded public schools, etc. -- are not born by writers at The Atlantic, or economists like Bryan Caplan. They know semi-literate peasants pose no threat to their livelihood and they don't feel any more solidarity with another American than would with urban poor in Bangladesh. That people in positions of influence can believe such things is a damning indictment of the United States.

In historical terms, there is an important distinction between inimicus vs hostis; that is, hostility between individuals within a given political order vs hostility to the political order itself. To someone who views a country as nothing more than a utilitarian vehicle for atomized and rootless individuals to maximize their earning potential, this distinction vanishes and thus someone like Bryan Caplan -- a rootless cosmopolitan in every sense of the word -- can publicly and proudly endorse to the destruction and displacement of a people in their own country.

People like this are not men with legitimate opinions and ambitions -- a man who is a traitor to his own people is by definition an evil man and a criminal. He is categorically animated by malice and he's an unjust hostis (enemy) of his own society.


Open Borders can eliminate poverty only if evolution from the neck up doesn't happen.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | DMCA | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: