July 8, 2006

My VDARE scoop is up:

George Borjas vs. David Card's Unworldly Philosophy

By Steve Sailer

The Immigration Equation is an 8,000 word article by journalist Roger Lowenstein in July 9th's New York Times Sunday Magazine on the controversy over immigration within the economics profession. (It was available to paying subscribers of Times Select on Thursday.)

It focuses on the rivalry between VDARE.COM contributor George Borjas, professor of economics at Harvard and the "the pre-eminent scholar in his field" according to Lowenstein, and Berkeley economist David Card, who is, well, not the pre-eminent scholar in his field. But Card has gotten lots of publicity recently by telling economists who, for ideological, emotional, or personal reasons favor immigration, but who would prefer not to worry about its effects on America's poor, that, hey, there's nothing to worry about.

Lowenstein's last paragraph sums up his biases:

"The disconnect between Borjas's results and Card's hints that there is an alchemy that occurs when immigrants land ashore; the economy's potential for absorbing and also adapting is mysterious but powerful."

"Alchemy" … "mysterious but powerful" … When you hear those words in a discussion of immigration, you should put your hand on your wallet.

Lowenstein goes on:

"Like any form of economic change, immigration causes distress and disruption to some. But America has always thrived on dynamic transformations that produce winners as well as losers. Such transformations stimulate growth. Other societies (like those in Europe) have opted for more controls, on immigration and on labor markets generally. They have more stability and more equality, but less growth and fewer jobs."

This statement would appear odd to the Chinese and to the smaller Asian Tigers, who have enjoyed the fastest growth in economic history with virtually no immigration.

And that Europe has a shortage of immigrants might seem strange to anyone who recalls the endless car-burning riots by immigrant-stock youth in France last fall, the terrorist bombings by Muslims in Britain last summer, or the Mohammed cartoon riots across the continent last winter.

One might think that any consideration of American immigration would at least cast a glance at the now clearly disastrous European experience with importing foreigners to "do the jobs that Europeans just won't do" and realize that it, too, seemed like a good idea at the time.

"Economists have highlighted these issues, but they cannot decide them. Their resolution depends on a question that Card posed but that the public has not yet come to terms with: 'What is it that immigration policy is supposed to achieve?'"

That's really not a hard question. A general but powerful answer was provided in the Preamble to the Constitution 219 years ago:

"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity…"

In other words, American policy should be for the benefit of Americans and our descendents, not for the advantage of, say, the five billion potential immigrants who live in countries with average per capita GDPs lower than Mexico.

And we definitely should not make immigration laws based on status competition ploys by people who want to show off their status as "winners" unthreatened by competition from uneducated illegal immigrants, unlike all you losers out there whose jobs could be done by some peasant from Chiapas.


In my VDARE article, I answer the question I asked yesterday in regard to David Card's celebrate study showing that the Mariel Cuban boatlift of 1980 didn't lead to lower wages in Miami relative to other American cities in 1981-1985: Was there anything else going on in Miami in the early 1980s that might have been boosting the Miami economy more than the rest of the country's? It seems like I remember something distinctive about Miami's economy at the time ...

By the way, here's a Miami New Times article about those years covered in Card's study.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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