Economist Bryan Caplan has been getting a lot of good press for his recent book The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies, which argues that voters should have less power because they make bad decisions compared to experts, such as (to pick a random example) economists.
Thus, Caplan wrote in the online journal of the libertarian Cato Institute:
"Consider the case of immigration policy. Economists are vastly more optimistic about its economic effects than the general public. The Survey of Americans and Economists on the Economy asks respondents to say whether ‘too many immigrants’ is a major, minor, or non-reason why the economy is not doing better than it is. 47% of non-economists think it is a major reason; 80% of economists think it is not a reason at all." [The Myth of the Rational Voter, November 6th, 2006]
And Caplan's belief that “experts” should be deferred to on the wisdom of open borders is even more self-contradictory because the vast majority of economists surveyed are not at all experts on immigration. The true expert economists on immigration, such as labor economist George Borjas of Harvard (described by the New York Times last year as "the pre-eminent scholar in his field") tend to be very dubious indeed about the economic benefits of our current policy—much less about the benefits of more unskilled immigration.
Caplan himself has displayed over the years on his blog little awareness of objective facts about immigration. He does, however, possess a formidable dogmatic faith in the theories of the late Julian Simon about how immigration ought to be benefiting us.
I was reminded of this remarkable imbalance in empirical knowledge between the two sides in the immigration debates while reading Immigration and the American Future, edited by long-time VDARE.com contributor Chilton Williamson, Jr., a fact-crammed collection of 14 essays from Chronicles Press, which is affiliated with Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture of Rockford, Illinois. [VDARE.com note: Chronicles fans will prefer to buy through the magazine].
In this book Professor Borjas is himself represented by a long interview with VDARE.COM editor Peter Brimelow. The two veteran students of economics share a laugh over how the opinion divide on immigration policy between the rich and the rest can be explained by an old economic concept that Dr. Caplan has overlooked: class self-interest.
Borjas: "Who exactly is lobbying for guest workers? Is it you and me? No, it's employers, right? Why would employers tend to go to
and expend their resources lobbying for something that doesn't benefit them? Washington
Brimelow: "It can all be explained in rather crass Marxist terms, can't it? The class analysis works.
Borjas: "Of course! Of course! The Marxist analysis works."
In other words, pro-immigration arguments are so shameless and stupid that they are rehabilitating the reputation of Karl Marx.
November 16, 2007
In my VDARE.com review of the Chilton Williamson-edited book Immigration and the American Future from Chronicles Press, I started off with a detour: