Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
How did we come to be so certain that closed borders are our salvation? (2013) (openborders.info)
26 points by trextrex on Dec 27, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 27 comments

Shrug. At least they're somewhat open about their politics. That's better than most mass-immigration cheerleaders, who make-believe they care about border security and what not. Standard straw man though. "Salvation"? No one ever mentioned "Salvation". No one. "Sanity", yes.

It's not really an issue that warrants a lot of study, in my view. If the Guatemalan government is happy to see its peasants swarm to the United States, they can probably be trusted as authorities on the value of said peasants. A humanitarian could only say "These people are beneficial!" than he would immediately realize, "And Guatemala needs them more than us. Send them back." That has never happened.

" A humanitarian could only say 'These people are beneficial!" than he would immediately realize, "And Guatemala needs them more than us. Send them back.' "

Faulty logic. One of the biggest reasons for supporting liberalized immigration is that it lets people move to the areas where they are most productive. People in Guatemala become massively more productive when they move to the USA, which earns them higher wages and makes them better off (along with others who benefit from more production).

This website itself endorses that reasoning:


What you're talking about is the more limited concept of "brain drain". IMO its practical importance is a lot more questionable than people think. It's a small factor compared to the global benefits of liberalizing migration.

"It's not really an issue that warrants a lot of study."

And why do you think that? Is it because we already have a lot of research already on this topic, or do you think good data from research is unnecessary?

Perhaps open borders should be treated like inter-national economic agreements. Have open borders with countries who reciprocate open borders with you. So, if Canada will let all and any Americans in, we reciprocate. If Mexico opens borders with Haiti, then Haiti should open its borders to Mexico, etc.

I don't think it can work unilaterally, it has to be bilateral and multilateral --eventually having universally open borders --but given the displeasure with the soft equivalent, global economics "globalization", I don't see this happening any sooner.

If "globalization" --which in theory would eventually bring equilibrium to economic effects-- has such resistance and suffers from criticism from the left and right, wile being a "soft" form of migration, imagine how people would receive "hard' worldwide migration. I don't see it being received well, if done unilaterally.

See http://openborders.info/blog/immigration-trade-and-reciproci... . In particular:

"Now, the analogy between trade and migration is far from perfect. But I think that on the issue of reciprocity, the economists’ objection to mercantilist-style thinking in the trade context can be transferred to the migration context. In other words, unilateral open immigration generates net benefits, even if other countries don’t follow suit. Thinking of immigration law in reciprocity terms is fundamentally misguided."

I think it's not misguided as a way to obtain traction. If, say, Singapore unilaterally opened its borders, it would be overwhelmed by people from ID, PH, TH, etc. But, if they slowly opened borders bilaterally with say, MY, their economies would have time to adjust, as they adjust they can then extend their borders to VN, let's say. It gives economies a way to adjust without the economic shakeout disrupting the locals too much.

Look at Mexico, it clamors for the US to open its borders to Mexico, if they believed open borders were beneficial and without repercussions, they would open their borders to Guatemala and Honduras, among others -but they don't because of labor protectionism (ethnically they are very similar, so it's not so much ethnic antagonism0.

Sure, that's reasonable. This is a specific "slippery slope to open borders" as discussed here: http://openborders.info/blog/slippery-slopes-to-open-borders... . The relevant "slippery slope" is:

"Gradual expansion and merging of free migration zones: For instance, the EU is a free migration zone for European countries, and it is gradually adding countries. Suppose the United States and Canada created their own free migration zone, Southeast Asian countries created their own free migration zone, and a few free migration zones emerged in Africa and Latin America (South America). The US-Canada free migration zone could, after some time, add Mexico and the Caribbean Islands, and then merge with the South American free migration zone. The European free migration zone could eventually merge with the new unified American migration zone. Over time, as the threat of terrorism, and the subjective sense of the threat, receded more and more into the past, the Gulf states could merge with the European free migration zone. And so on, until eventually the whole world would be a free migration zone."

Unless you think jamming between 100 and 600 million people [1] into favelas is a good idea, you will want some kind of restriction on immigration. It's fairly hilarious that he claims the current situation is "closed borders".

And it's also particularly difficult to take Lee seriously when he says that "it’s difficult to find any serious social scientist who believes immigration increases crime rates", or bemoans the lack of research on immigration, IQ, wages, and economic growth, considering what happens to people like Jason Richwine who actually attempt to study the issue.

[1] http://www.gallup.com/poll/161435/100-million-worldwide-drea...

If 99.9% of serious social scientists believe immigration does not increase crime rates, and 0.1% do, then in any situation which tries to be "balanced", like a news program, or a debate, then the people in the minority position become much more known, because it's always the same people.

So you're talking about it not being difficult to find one, out of all the serious social scientists. While I think the comment means that if the serious social scientists are picked at random, then it will be hard to find one that expresses that belief.

As far as I can tell, that's true. Here are some papers I found on the topic, by serious social scientists, who say that immigrants tend to have lower crime rates than citizens, in the US Canada, and Europe:

> "Although a host of reasons exists to expect that immigrants are high-crime prone, the bulk of empirical studies conducted over the past century have found that immigrants are typically underrepresented in criminal statistics. There are some partial exceptions to this finding, but these appear to be linked more to differences in structural conditions across urban areas where immigrants settle rather than to the cultural traditions of the immigrant groups." - https://www.ncjrs.gov/criminal_justice2000/vol_1/02j.pdf

> "it is estimated that the involvement of Hispanic immigrants in crime is less than that of citizens" - http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/3097078?sid=2110551488...

> "First, new immigrants do not have a significant impact on the property crime rate, but with time spent in Canada, a 10% increase in the recent-immigrant share or established-immigrant share decreases the property crime rate by 2% to 3%. Neither underreporting to police nor the dilution of the criminal pool by the addition of law-abiding immigrants can fully explain the size of the estimates. This suggests that immigration has a spillover effect, such as changing neighbourhood characteristics, which reduces crime rates in the long run." - https://ideas.repec.org/p/ubc/clssrn/clsrn_admin-2014-20.htm...

> "Researchers studying the relationship between immigration and crime frequently note the discrepancy between actual rates and public perceptions of criminal behavior by immigrants (Hagan and Palloni 1999; Sampson 2008). A growing body of literature shows that immigrants are less likely to engage in crime than U.S.-born citizens (Butcher and Piehl 1998; Martinez and Lee 2000; Morenoff and Astor 2006; Desmond and Kubrin 2009), and that areas with growing immigrant populations have seen decreases in crime rates (Ousey and Kubrin 2009; Stowell et al. 2009; Wadsworth 2010)." - http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/tsq.12039/full

> Yet, despite evidence to the contrary, public opinion surveys suggest that a large number of Americans believe that continued immigration will lead to higher levels of crime (Kohut et al. 2006).1 This is particularly true when surveys emphasize the (il)legal status of immigrants. For instance, a 2006 Time Poll found that over 70% of respondents were “very concerned” or “somewhat concerned” that “illegal immigrants” “increase the likelihood of terrorism in the U.S.” and “increase the amount of crime,” while a 2006 Fox News/Opinion Dynamics Poll found that 75 percent of respondents were “concerned” that “illegal immigration” could “lead to an increase in crime” (PollingReport.com 2010). - Ibid

> [Europe] There is no simple link between immigration and crime. Most studies find that larger immigrant concentrations in an area have no association with violent crime and, overall, fairly weak effects on property crime. However, immigrant groups that face poor labor market opportunities are more likely to commit property crime. But this is also true of disadvantaged native groups. The policy focus should therefore be on the crime-reducing benefits of improving the functioning of labor markets and workers’ skills, rather than on crime and immigration per se. There is also a case for ensuring that immigrants can legally obtain work in the receiving country, since the evidence shows that such legalization programs tend to reduce criminal activity among the targeted group. - http://wol.iza.org/articles/crime-and-immigration

"It's fairly hilarious that he claims the current situation is "closed borders"."

Most of the people who want to migrate are prevented from doing so by law. That's close to "closed borders". And he makes it pretty clear in the first paragraph that he's talking about restrictive immigration policies (including current ones), so the semantics on "open" vs. "closed" borders aren't the most relevant point.

Regarding suppression of research: Richwine didn't have tenure. Prof. George Borjas hasn't been fired (or censured), but he has numerous influential publications on immigration and he calls for more restrictive policies. There are a lot of studies on the fiscal impact of immigration, and while many are positive or near zero, some are negative. If there's strong evidence of publication bias, I would be genuinely interested in seeing it.

For what it's worth, I don't think Richwine should have been fired just for anti-PC stuff on IQ. But that's just Heritage's PR decision.

IMO a more likely explanation is that economists have a consensus in favor of immigration liberalization as a pro-market policy. There is plenty of research on the issue that does indicate positive effects of immigration:


Re favelas: Okay, it depends what you prefer, to be honest. If you care a lot about avoiding visible poverty in the First World, having open borders is a bad idea. If you care about reducing absolute global poverty, it's probably a very, very good idea. If you wanted some kind of compromise, one option would be to let them enter the country but have restrictive zoning laws to keep the slums outside of existing major cities (and just build new cities where immigrants move to).

Nothing about adding a few hundred million people to the US population (and keep in mind, they would probably trickle in at first at a slower rate) would be inherently catastrophic. Scary-looking numbers aside, it's the truth. The US has low population density by most standards, and it wouldn't be difficult to build some new cities. If anything, it would raise the values of American's homes, which could benefit people quite a lot. And if there really were an issue with some scarce resource (water, maybe), there's a price system to handle that.

Adding to the point about visible poverty, there is also http://openborders.info/blog/the-border-as-blindfold/ , which quotes:

"Migration controls serve as a blindfold, enabling Americans to ignore most of the poverty, deprivation, and vulnerability that exist in the world by keeping it physically at a distance. In the past, people lived without this blindfold. The wealthy lived amidst poverty, sometimes engaging in generous charity to the poor, sometimes learning, perhaps callously, to ignore them.

Citizens of a modern welfare state, by contrast, feel that the state should coerce people to give to the poor so as to remove from the streets the kind of visible poverty that would make them feel obliged to give, allowing them to feel conscientious and affluent at once. The price of this moral complacency is paid by would-be immigrants who are not allowed to come to America to better their condition by honest labor, lest their poverty trouble the consciences of affluent Americans."

Exactly. I'm insulted when a conversation about immigration has a binary premise.

How was Texas created again? Someone remind me....

I think it had something to do with open borders...

Which part of the history had to do with open borders creating Texas? Was it the Spanish explorers in the 1500s? The French? Was it Mexico's independence war? Texas independence war? Texas joining the Union? They don't call it the Six Flags over Texas for nothing http://www.lsjunction.com/facts/6flags.htm

"The Texas Revolution, also known as the Texas War of Independence, was the military conflict between the government of Mexico and Texas colonists, most of whom were land owners from the United States." - Wikipedia

They let a bunch of Americans settle in Texas because they basically had open borders and then they seceded in a huge land grab.

Then it sounds like a case of they did unto others but don't want that done unto them. :-)

The right wing in the U.S. wants more control over immigration, not an end.

The real question is "How did we come to be so certain that open borders are our salvation?"

"Open borders" was the historical situation for much of US history. It's comparatively recently that we've been closing them with anything like effectiveness. That said, the nature of "open borders" changes as transportation becomes easier, which it did dramatically over that period.

From the beginning of the post:

"One puzzling thing I notice about debating immigration is how certain people often are that strictly restricting immigration is the right policy."

He's talking about people who support significant controls on immigration, which is the current policy and the direction which some people want to move further in.

Lee's not just addressing people who want to end immigration. The substantive argument he's making is that significant controls on immigration are bad.

Isn't something like 40% of USA fortune 500 companies started by immigrants?

The percentage of startups founded or co-founded by immigrants should be about the same or higher.

Immigrants from where? And how does this compare to the distribution of people who would like to move to the US, given open borders?

The right wing in the US has been programmed to be eternally afraid of the "other," regardless of what form it takes. Ingenuity is diminished when you try to filter out different perspectives.

Can Hacker News not rise above the partisan politics that pollute every other site? Why am I seeing this trollish post here?

You're likely seeing this post here because it's tangentially related to the debate on PG's recent essay.

> Can Hacker News not rise above the partisan politics that pollute every other site?

I think we know the answer to this because the phenomenon is relatively stable: it appears from time to time, perhaps too often, but doesn't dominate HN and isn't about to. With a little more karma, you'll be able to flag the posts that you find too political.

I think your concern is addressed in the "HN Guidelines"

"What to Submit

On-Topic: Anything that good hackers would find interesting. That includes more than hacking and startups. If you had to reduce it to a sentence, the answer might be: anything that gratifies one's intellectual curiosity. "

More at https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html

Seeing as the post has pretty much disappeared from the site (not in the first 10 pages) only 1 hour later, I'm feeling pretty confident about my assessment of it's quality and contribution.

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