June 13, 2007

Economists preaching morality rather than learning about reality, Part MCXIV

Lots of good responses to the Slate column by U. of Rochester economist Steven Landsburg. From Across Difficult Country:

Approximately not so much

Economist Steven Landsburg calculates Americans who oppose immigration must think immigrants are “worth less than one-fifth of an American citizen.” Obviously a more apposite calculation would be determining how much immigrants’ value the lives of American citizens - to the average immigrant, is an American’s well-being worth three-quarters as much as his, or half as much, or one-quarter as much? I say obviously, but for some reason it did not occur to the great mind of Steven Landsburg, possibly because he’s tired from all the charity work someone as altruistic and unselfish as he is must surely be doing.

Dennis Mangan wonders:

So I'll just ask Landsburg this: how much should you care about your family? Am I, just to use a not-so-random example, worth only one-fifth of Landsburg's daughter? If I'm wort more than that, can I crash permanently on his living room sofa?

A wealthy friend writes to another friend of his:

What if you, [my brother], and I just buy the house next door to [Landsburg's] and make it a "sanctuary" for about a dozen illegal Mexican families. We could cover most of our capital cost via rental supplemented by Section-8 subsidies. Then when Landsburg and all his neighbors flee, selling out cheaply, we buy the homes, end our "sanctuary" program by calling the ICE to come collect our tenants, and re-sell the homes in the once-more-middle-class neighborhood for *huge* capital gains.

Then we repeat the process with Tamar Jacoby's neighborhood. We can "Do Well By Doing Good"!

My question is: why should Mexicans be so privileged? Five billion people live in countries with lower per capita incomes. Why not them instead of Mexicans?

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


Anonymous said...

Steve --

This is the mystery. Back in the old Soviet days the Nomenklatura were a mighty privileged bunch, but they at least tied their position to the nominal defenders of the people. Brezhnev did not decide to replace Russians with say, Turks.

But ... the elites feel very shaky. Threatened. So they want to replace the American people with the Mexican one. Simple as that. With the Mexican people replacing the American people, no threats will happen to their position.

Anonymous said...

What a disgrace for the U. of Rochester. I don't know about economics there, but their finance program is first rate: you'll find Rochester Ph.D.s are on the faculty of some of the top b-schools in the country.

Anonymous said...

What has Landsburg done for Darfur lately?

Anonymous said...

Who could have predicted that immigration would turn the formerly "selfishness is not only a virtue, it is the highest virtue" libertarian crowd into a bunch of Sally-Struthers-style altruists and humanitarians?

Oh wait! That attitude still doesn't extend beyond immigration apparently. From Landsburg's Wikipedia article:

This position extends to health care, and his view that those that choose no insurance should not receive (potentially life saving) treatment.

But don't worry if it's a child who's parents weren't responsible enough to get top-of-the-line health insurance. I'm sure Landsburg will be the first to acknowledge that such a child is not personally responsible and will be happy to chip in at least 20% for some kid's (all kids'?) leukemia treatment. It takes a village, after all!

There is also this:

Before the 2004 presidential election Landsburg stated that he planned to vote against John Kerry because of his belief that John Edwards, Kerry's running mate, was a "xenophobe" due to his opposition to free trade. He compared Edwards' views to David Duke's racism.

So name-calling is apparently nothing new to Landsburg.

Finally, there is this:

Landsburg's articles in academic journals have dealt with many fields, including algebraic K-theory, quantum game theory, module patching, philosophy of science, and moral philosophy.

I'm not sure whether the guy should stick to moral philosophy or stay the hell away from it altogether. Maybe he should abandon economics and moral philosophy and stick to algebraic K-theory where he cannot do too much harm.

MS69 said...


Dont forget Don Boudreaux and his BS. When he gets riled up he pens moral lessons in the form of letters to the editor. Zing!

Anonymous said...

Doesn't he realize that the existence of the nation cannot mean less than that each of us owes loyalty to fellow citizens, and this particularly when foreigners increase the level of aggression on the net tapxayers of our citizenry, via immigration on to net public subsidy?
Not sharing this loyalty means that he reads himself out of the nation, and he does this when he have two wars going.
There are no rational arguments for hostile immigration, which would explain why an unreasonable one involving the assumptions that there are no enemies, no loyalties owed to citizens, no chance of traitorous net public subsidies of immigrants, and more, would have to be used.
The upshot is a smear attempt, in the place where a rational argument was to be expected. the unqualified attempted diagnosis of xenophobia is a smear attempt, quite contrary to reason.
On his assumptions, patriotism is diagnosable as mental illness.
The revered indiscipline of psychonomics allows diagnosis
on the qualification of political passion, one might surmise.

Anonymous said...

Moralizing from the Elite is to be expected. They ARE the elites and moralizing is one of their functions.

But why the moralizing aimed at replacing one people for another?

That's new folks.

Anonymous said...

But why the moralizing aimed at replacing one people for another?
Because it means votes for the Democrats and cheap labor for the Republicans. They let the Goths into the Roman Empire with the same effect. Just because you're afraid of race-replacement doesn't mean that's their intention; it's just a side effect of them getting their way.

Anonymous said...

Pure hypocrisy. Landsburg could send the vast majority of his paycheck to charities that feed starving African children and save thousands of lives, and still live a luxurious life compared to them, but I'm sure he doesn't. I suppose an African child - who is much more desperate than Mexican immigrants - is worth less than 1/4 of a daily Starbucks latte to him.


Anonymous said...

I have wondered how much of the amnesty agenda is being caused by Bush himself or the Elites as a group.

I do not remember Clinton pandering to Hispanics or immigrants in general much. He, along with the rest of the elites, seemed much more fascinated by blacks than immigrants from Mexico or India.

It is kind of funny that Hispanics are getting all the attention during the Bush Reign while media attention to blacks has fallen by the wayside.

Now that I think about it, Clinton never seemed to care much about immigration or mention it much.

The Republicans didn't push for amnesty in the care free days of the 90's.

In fact, I had never heard of these Latino racial supremecist organizations during the 90's because they didn't seem to be making much noise or have much influence until Bush the Inferior ascended to the throne and empowered race pimps like La Raza and LULAC.

The more I look at it, the elites in Washington seem to be dragged/blackmailed/bridbed along by Bush as opposed to vice versa.

Old Right

Anonymous said...

His philosophy is that of a rancher, increasing the total value of his stock, not necessarily improving the lot of individual cows. That's why we now have "Human Resources" departments instead of "Personnel".


Cedric Morrison said...

I know this probably isn't what Landsburg intended, but I don't believe I value a typical foreigner even one-fifth as much as I do a typical fellow U. S. citizen. Why should I? Following his brutal technique of balancing human lives against benefits, I perceive that unless they are military allies, foreigners don't provide any share of the common defense from which my family, friends, and I benefit.

Unless the foreigners in question are from the Anglosphere, we probably don't share a common language, so a randomly chosen foreigner is much less likely to ever become a friend or a potentially useful friend-of-a-friend than is a randomly chosen English speaker.

Because his culture is different from my culture, a foreigner is more likely than is the typical U. S. citizen to be a political opponent to me rather than a political ally.

If the foreigner moves here and becomes a protected minority, his eligibility for special treatment is more likely to hurt one of my family members, friends, or their children than is a randomly chosen American.

If a foreigner moves here and through failure to assimilate his children become part of the underclass, they become an active threat to me and mine.

I could go on, but I'm sure the idea is clear. The average U. S. citizen, in a real-world analysis, really is more valuable to other U. S. citizen than is the average foreigner, and probably by quite a lot.

Cedric Morrison said...

I just came up with of an even more brutal thought experiment. Suppose the Martians fly over and turn Mexico into a sheet of glass with their death rays. How much worse would I be hurt if they did the same to an equal-population area of the United States? Assume, of course, that it is an area that neither I nor my friends or family are living in.

A similar, admittedly disgusting, gedanken experiment is to assume the Martians have something against illegal aliens in the United States and kill them all. How much materially worse off would I be if they killed an equal number of randomly selected U. S. citizens instead?

Anonymous said...

Another contradiction in the Landsburg valuation exercise, is the assumption of equality of moral worth, and general worth, between all humanity.
If that premiss be true though, how is his evaluation more worthy of consideration than any number of other people's, isn't everyone equal in worth?
The contradiction-in-terms would be explicit if he said: I am better than you because I say
no one is better than anyone else.
that would be too brazen even for today's professoriate though, wouldn't it?

Anonymous said...

No one ever valued everyone else equally. I heard that a Buddhist monk once said said "if everyone is my brother then no one is", but I'm sure the same thing has been said by countless others, like Gilbert (or Sullivan, whichever one), who wrote "If everyone is a somebody, no one is an anybody". The 24 k question to me, is why is this even an issue? Why are total absurdities now being invoked as moral axioms? I guess we know the answers though. Some of the elite have a pathological hatred of western civilisation and are attempting to destroy it by exploiting Achilles' heels, such as the inate individualism of westerners and the questionnable aspects of Christianity (e.g. universal brotherhood as an ideal). Others are lickspittles along for the ride hoping to gain favour by displays of piety, and as others have said on this blog, for some, proving ones piety is a matter of contradicting what is before one's eyes, pretending that one apprehends a superior truth beyond the comprehension of the dim unwashed masses. Charles Murray joked that it took a Harvard anthropology PH.d. to *not* be able to distinguish between and Eskimo and a Pygmy (I paraphrased). Also, religion plays a big role. By religion I mean the moral memes people absorb when they are young. People aren't blank slates when it comes to rotating 3d objects, but they can born quite blank when it comes to values, hence the drive to herd children into public schools and fill their heads with hatred of all things western. In summary the truth isn't simple but we all have a rough understanding of the various interplaying factors.

Anonymous said...

If no one has the right to care for their own more than someone else's own, then can I drop my kids off at Mr. Landsburg's house while my wife and I go to Aruba for a month?

I expect them to be treated every bit as well as his own and, of course, I don't expect a bill (or maybe for only 1/5th the going rate).

Anonymous said...

The Republicans didn't push for amnesty in the care free days of the 90's.

Because Republicans had Gingrich there to maintain discipline. They actually passed a slightly restrictive law in 1996 (right before a presidential election), which Clinton actually signed.

Congress needs a good disciplinarian to control its worst instincts. Once Gingrich was gone, they had no one. That's when spending went out of control.

Anonymous said...

Thought experiments about exterminating Mexicans get posted here but you're not a hater. Nice.

Unknown said...

Landsburg has obviously received intense indoctrination at some point. His fractions of course alluded to the worth of a slave when compared to a free man but his numbers weren't evidence of anything.

He reminds me a bit of Noam Chomsky, using his hard earned accomplishment in one field as credibility in another.

We trust Landsburg's judgment because he's a professor of Economics, a subject most of us find abstruse. Like Chomsky he's part of a socialist elite who are almost druidlike in their exclusive knowledge of the mysteries of the universe.

Mystify the masses.

Anonymous said...

Thought experiments about exterminating Mexicans get posted here but you're not a hater. Nice.
How does Cedric's thought experiment about Martians exterminating Mexican's imply hatred on his part? And for that matter how does it imply hatred on Steve Sailer's part? I guess i would have to have a P.H.d from Harvard to understand you.

Anonymous said...

When no rational arguments are available, smears are the easiest, fastest way to put the other side on the defensive.
Prove you're not a hater?
Let Landsburg and his supporters prove that the increase of aggression on the net taxpayers of our citizenry, via mass immigration on to net public subsidy, is excusable on the grounds that existing giveaways to citizens, ought to be extended to large numbers of foreigners, because everyone is somehow equal in some kind of undefined worth.
This cannot be done, but attempted smearing easily can.

hans gruber said...

A previous commenter said it well:

"Pure hypocrisy. Landsburg could send the vast majority of his paycheck to charities that feed starving African children and save thousands of lives, and still live a luxurious life compared to them, but I'm sure he doesn't. I suppose an African child - who is much more desperate than Mexican immigrants - is worth less than 1/4 of a daily Starbucks latte to him."

I skimmed the piece and was APPALLED at the stupidity of it. This guy's an economist? Wow.

The slate piece weirdly conflates material well being (wages) with how human somebody is. The logical extension of Landsburg's argument is total equality, presumably achieved through totalitarianism. Landsburg is disturbingly willing to forcefully redistribute wealth from our poorest citizens to foreigners because it makes him feel good. Which begs the question, WTF has he done to help the world's poor lately?

Apparently Landsburg doesn't value my life at all, as I have yet to receive any share of his income.

Another note about the 3/5th compromise talking point. Do ANY of the baffoons who trot it out as a talking point realize it was the slave states that would have been perfectly happy counting slaves as a full person. Free states didn't want slaves to count at all. So, presumably, Mr. Landsburg thinks the slave-owners had the moral high ground on that one.

Unknown said...

My Personal Fantasy About Mexico

The French achieved and maintained colonial rule over Mexico from 1862 to the present.

This brought about Franco-Mex cuisine.

Mexican universities became famous for philosophers.

Mariachi music never existed.

Mexican peasants developed a new variety of Champagne all becoming insanely rich.

Anonymous said...

Cultural influences do not get taken up equally, or Africa and the Amazon basin, 500 years later, would not need to increase their scientific
publication rates 100's or 1000's of times over, to be comparable to Europe.
It is only when a population brings with it its culture, that we see a significant offshoot of civilization into new lands.
It is in this sense also that one ought not to value populations equally, since loyalty to the advancement of civilization is more important, than trying to value foreigners equally, as if they were more than generically equal.

Anonymous said...

"On his assumptions, patriotism is diagnosable as mental illness." By JSBolton (above)

And that is PRECISELY what is intended for our white/Euro nation and race. If you have (if one has) a higher loyalty to "one's own" than to "all mankind," one is likely to do such evil racist things as prefer your own family, tribe, race, and nation over -- and protect them from the depredations of -- some OTHER family, tribe, race, nation -- and that cannot be allowed by our foreign overlords! (Such preference as appears in blacks, mexicans, arabs, chinese... pick your other-than-white tribe, race or nation... and they are not merely allowed, but encouraged, to prefer -- and protect! -- their own, to our detriment!)

Whites have been propagandized into having a (seeming / overt, if not covert) higher loyalty to every OTHER tribe, race, and nation than their own. That is genocidal, but since it's against whites, apparently it's okay. (Certainly to other tribes, races, and nations


pete said...

Steve's rhetorical question - why should Mexicans receive the enormously valuable privilege of living in the US - is definitively refutes the claim that American has a moral obligation to legalize the illegals. It's the life boat analogy. European nations cannot alleviate all the suffering created by less civilizationally capable peoples by admitting them to European states, because that would replace the prosperity of European nations with the squalor, disease, poverty and crime of the new comers.

Anonymous said...

The impulse to push mass immigration of undesirables on some countries more than others, does look as if it could be motivated by racial hatred.
It is those countries which have been most resistant to the establishment of dictatorship, which are urged to be open to mass immigration of hostiles, of populations which would reliably cause conflict to increase, while other countries no less rich, are not urged to accept this flow. It could be both of the above motivations or neither, but power-greed may be assumed always to be present, while racial hatred against one's own race is hard to precipitate, much less sustain.