is a hot topic of late. I haven’t had time to write about it, so here’s a linkdump as I close tabs.

Iraqis who can are leaving Iraq, but they face severe restrictions on living and working elsewhere in the region, and the U.S. is only accepting a trickle. Tragedies abound in this NYT magazine piece, almost all worsened by anti-immigrant policies.

Landlords are beginning to be drafted to uphold apartheid in the U.S., following increased anti-employment raids.

Immigration up, unemployment down in Spain.

How much of a jerk do you have to be to oppose immigration? has been linked by many, but read if you haven’t:

Both Alex Tabarrok and Dani Rodrik have come out in favor of immigration into US on the basis that the relevant “moral community” one should consider is the world and not just the US natives. It might be the case that immigration from Mexico into US lowers the wages of the unskilled workers here (the extent of this effect is subject to some controversy, see the previous post on Ottaviano and Peri). However, the increase in the migrants’ wages is so large that support for immigration is still justified.

This kind of argument provokes the expected response from the expected folks, roughly along the lines that we should care more about native workers – the citizens – then the migrants – the non-citizens. Ok. But how much more? Let’s put on our annoying-economist hat and consider the question; if you consider a foreign national to be only 1/2 a human being (alright, alright, only 1/2 as “important”) as a native citizen, are you justified in opposing immigration? After all, it takes a real jerk to argue that foreign people’s welfare should not count at all. Suppose the foreigners are only 1/10th as important? Surely, if natives’ welfare counts for ten times as much as that of foreigners, we would be justified in banning immigration since it may adversely affect the wages of the unskilled in US? Well, let’s see…

Nathan Smith’s freedom of migration category has lots of good stuff.

CNN needs to fire Lou Dobbs.

Philippe Legrain’s Immigrants: Your Country Needs Them will be available in the U.S. June 21.

Should we end global apartheid? in today’s NYT magazine:

Indeed, Pritchett attacks the primacy of nationality itself, treating it as an atavistic prejudice. Modern moral theory rejects discrimination based on other conditions of birth. If we do not bar people from jobs because they were born female, why bar them because they were born in Nepal? The name John Rawls appears on only a single page of “Let Their People Come,” but Pritchett is taking Rawlsian philosophy to new lengths. If a just social order, as Rawls theorized, is one we would embrace behind a “veil of ignorance” — without knowing what traits we possess — a world that uses the trait of nationality to exclude the neediest workers from the richest job markets is deeply unjust. (Rawls himself thought his theory did not apply across national borders.) Pritchett’s Harvard students rallied against all kinds of evils, he writes, but “I never heard the chants, ‘Hey, ho, restrictions on labor mobility have to go.’ ”

I never understood the appeal of beginning chants with “Hey, ho”, but let’s get on with ending apartheid and destroying nationalism anyway. Atavistic prejudice, indeed.

Speaking of which, I am not fond of the term immigration, which gives special status to political borders. Migration is better. I prefer moving or relocation, regardless of distance or jurisdictions involved.

3 Responses

  1. Gordon Mohr says:

    Landsberg in Slate on the 80% discount applied to born-farther-away peoples’ welfare by immigration oppoinents:

    “One-Fifth of an American: How much is an immigrant’s life worth, exactly?”

  2. djdevvydev says:

    hi mike … stumbled across your blog looking for some rdfa thing and wound up reading for a while. cool stuff. i’m moved to respond to this immigration post though. i suspect i share your position on this one, but i think there’s an important element to the debate which you’re not admitting. that is: economic self-interest.

    those in the lower economic classes who oppose immigration are acting on the rational belief that immigration will depress their wages. those in the chattering, degreed classes (with the notable exception of demagogues like lou dobbs) take the opposite position, based on the rational belief that their jobs will not be threatened, and they will benefit from the lower cost of unskilled labor.

    what’s morality got to do with it? it’s easy to argue for the greatest good for the greatest many when it redounds to your own benefit.

  3. djdevvydev,

    It isn’t at all clear that immigration has a significant impact on the wages of low skilled workers who are already privileged to be citizens of a wealthy jurisdiction. But even if it did, I see no reason to put low skilled US citizens on a moral pedestal above low skilled Bangladeshis (or whatever). Both of these are addressed in some of the links at no inequality in my backyard.

    I’m for any liberalization, including starting out with allowing unlimited immigration only of skilled workers who would in theory depress my wages.

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