The immigration debate is bringing out the worst in many economists: their devotion to assume-we-have-a-can-opener models over reality, their utter lack of interest in vast areas of empirical data, their unthinking allegiance to their political prejudices, and their desire to further their own self-interests without mentioning how their own behavior confirms economists' traditional skepticism about people's motivations.
Exhibit A right now is Marginal Revolution, where NYT columnist and GMU economist Tyler Cowen's desire to Hispanicize America in furtherance of Tyler's own exotic aesthetic tastes has led him to claim that he'll look for "useful" data on Mexican assimilation rates, then today ignore the enormous amount of useful data displayed in his own comments section, apparently on the grounds that it is not "useful" for furthering his policy desires.
Now, Tyler's co-blogger Alex Tabarrok is pushing "an open letter on immigration reflecting the consensus opinion of economists on the major issues," which is a compendium of sentimental clichés worthy of Oprah.
The bad news is that Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok are are among the best of the bunch: smart guys, sensible and open-minded about most things, whom I read them every day. But, clearly, on immigration, as this impressive comment thread demonstrates, they've gone out of their way not to learn the facts and are allowing their emotions, tastes, and self-interests to drive their policy recommendations.
And Tyler and Alex are among the best of the bunch.