Sunday, August 19, 2007

I imagine a world

. . .In which people can put on their resum├ęs, along with their GPA, the age at which they lost their virginity as an indication of intelligence.

(I suppose this could cause a few problems.) Read more.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

TV rots your brain

Here's our old friend Lou Dobbs on Tabarrok's Open Letter on Immigration that made the rounds a while back.



It's all so funny, I don't know where to start. Well, first, I'll note that many of the letter's signatories are not even close to "free-market economists." They are, rather, cosmopolitan liberals, as interested in redistribution and regulation as any politician worth his salt, but not particularly concerned with the welfare of American citizens over foreign poor. The discussion at the end is sillier in this light.

Second, Milton Friedman's famous immigration quote is mentioned, as if to chastise those free-market economists who have strayed from their father's house. Thing is, Milton Friedman was wrong. As Boudreaux notes, he made none of the necessary distinctions to justify government intervention in immigration but not in, say, the sale of drugs, which could arguably also increase the size of the welfare state, but for which Friedman advocated legalization. In fact, I don't think he could have come up with any such distinction; this was one of his least well-thought positions, a concession to popular politics born of his sometimes ill-fitting pragmatism.

Third, it is an amazing feeling to see one of your former professors briefly interviewed and then called an idiot on national TV. Especially when he's right.

Fourth, the segment makes note that the Open Letter "did not distinguish between legal and illegal immigration." This is probably the most infuriating thing about the immigration debate: every time it comes up, some jackass has to yell, "You aren't distinguishing between LEGAL and ILLEGAL immigration!" Uh, yeah, we are debating the justness and validity of that very distinction. That's. . . I mean, that's what we're debating. That is what the debate is about. It doesn't serve those of us arguing that it is an unjust distinction much good to argue, "Immigration is really really good except when it's arbitrarily illegal" or, "Illegal immigration is really really good too!" It's unnecessary, which is an integral part of our argument. Every time someone points this out--and someone always does, without fail, on any pro-immigration post on any popular political blog--it makes the anti-immigration side look just a little bit stupider, a little more childish. Please, stop. You are hurting your cause.

Speaking of comments, the comments on Marginal Revolution and on that YouTube clip are absolutely hilarious. Here's my favorite (from YouTube):
frightening that these economists have no respect for the millions of Americans who have died defending our nation and its sovereignty over the last two centuries.

This is typical of people who worship the God of Money and subscribe to greed over all else. These economists are probably employed by large corporations and therefore gain to benefit from larger corporate profits.

For two reasons. One, all of these economists work for universities. Two, I just love the argument, "A lot of good men died to keep those immigrants poor!" I'm gonna have to use that one.

A lot of other comments question Dobbs' economics training, saying that he needs to go back and take Econ 101 and so on. Actually, Dobbs has an economics degree from Harvard. Remember, education is a signal but not a sure sign of knowledge.

Finally, what more can I do than link (and heavily quote) the best blog entry on immigration I've seen on the internet? Will Wilkinson writes,
Why do we think we can justify the nation state, but must justify the system of property? Many, perhaps most, people are made worse off by the fact that they are both fenced inside the state where they were born, and fenced out of other states. If it doesn’t make most people better off, the system of states is hardly justified. In light of the fact that most people don’t benefit from the system of internal entrapment and external exclusion that characterizes the global system of states — a rather obvious fact when you think about it for a second — don’t we have to reconsider the previous argument for exclusion?

If there is an ongoing positive-sum game inside the fence, which billions outside the fence would like to come inside and play, then what should we say to them? If additional players to the positive sum game reduces the payoffs to the incumbent players, then the incumbent players will not want to let anyone through the fence. But if the benefit to new players is greater than the loss to incumbent players, shouldn’t we take that into account? I grasp and agree with the idea that in-flow needs to be well-regulated to avoid the erosion of the institutions that make a place attractive in the first place. Yet the idea that we discount the potentional welfare gains to people outside the fence by bringing them inside simply because they are not already inside the fence strikes me as monstrously, stupefyingly immoral.

Take any plausible liberal theory of the moral legitimacy of the nation-state. It will turn out that all but a handful of states fail even a fairly generous test of legitimacy. How, then, can successfully liberal states justify their complicity in an overall system that literally traps billions of people in poverty and injustice?

Until someone comes up with a legitimate counter to this argument (that does not rest on wholly racist or nationalist grounds), you can count me in as an idiot, jackass, free-market economist. Read more.