People Are Not Goods: A Response to Nick Gillespie

 

I’m an unabashed fan of Reason’s Nick Gillespie, but that doesn’t mean he’s always right. In a video released earlier today, he bats exactly .500, making an extremely persuasive case in favor of open trade… and a deeply flawed one regarding open immigration. Take a look for yourself:

There are two specific passages I’d like to address:

Gillespie: …Republicans routinely complain that the government can’t deliver the mail or educate children, but they’re convinced that government bureaucrats can perfectly adjust the mix of foreign workers in the vast and complicated American economy.

Yes, but the same United States government is also entrusted with our national defense, something Gillespie does not dispute. The question shouldn’t be whether the federal government can “perfectly adjust the mix of foreign workers” but whether it has constitutional authority to do so (it does) and whether its policies toward that authority are intelligent and wise (they are not).

Speaking of which, Gillespie goes on to say:

Yet even economists who are critical of immigrants with low skills recognize that they don’t take jobs from native workers. Instead, they head to the places where the economy is booming and employers are desperate for extra bodies. And they stop coming or go back home when the work dries up, especially if they know they’ll be able to cross borders safely and legally.

Gillespie isn’t so much wrong here as he is missing so much that his conclusion can’t follow (much like global warming alarmists are correct that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, but wrong to try to end the discussion there). Consider how the following complicate the matter beyond recognition:

    1. US labor and welfare laws artificially raise the price of American labor over that of illegal immigrants, especially those willing to work in an under-the-table, cash economy. The combination likely has a lot to do with the strange circumstance Gillespie notes where we have low-skilled labor shortages and record-high domestic joblessness.
    2. Free-market economics is only one reason immigrants wish to come to the United States. The standard of living available here — or in similar countries — is different in kind from that available in much of the world. As such, a lot of people are motivated to come here because they (understandably) want to escape the poverty or violence of their native countries. Their priorities are (again, understandably) not necessarily ours.
    3. Our immigration and naturalization laws incentivize the wrong things. Chain immigration allows people to immigrate based less on their desire (or ability) to work than on whether or not they have family, loosely defined, already in legal residence. Birthright citizenship further obfuscates the matter. Unmarried, childless immigrants are likely to move back and forth across the border to follow jobs, but the same is not true of those with families, especially families born in the United States. People are often reluctant to move small distances (say from one school district to another) for the sake of continuity of their kids’ education and social life. How much more so if we’re talking about moving to another country to which your child has never been and of which he or she is not a citizen?

I wish all those who want to make a better life for their families well, and I sympathize with those who want to build a better life here. I’ll even say that we all should hope and work for a day when immigration anywhere is easy and legal for those who wish to work productively and peaceably, and become integrated members of their chosen society.

To get there, however, we first need to make our immigration laws sane, fight for free trade — which, interestingly, should reduce the demand to immigrate by making other countries more worth living in — and roll back the welfare state. Those policies are in our interest and, over the long term, the rest of the world’s.

There are 65 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: I’m an unabashed fan of Reason’s Nick Gillespie,

    I am an unabashed critic of Nick Gillespie. I find him obnoxious.  A shame because I do enjoy Reason.

    • #1
  2. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Nick often falls into the trap of looking at questions of liberty in isolation.

    q) Should x be allowed or should x be banned?

    a) Nothing peaceful should be banned, so of course x should be allowed.

    q) But what if x is banned because y is allowed, and x aggravates y.

    a) Just because y should not be allowed, that doesn’t mean x should be banned. We should ban y and allow x.

    q) But what if it’s not politically-feasible to ban y?

    a) Not my problem.

    (x being something peaceful, and y being something non-peaceful.)

    • #2
  3. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Frank Soto:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: I’m an unabashed fan of Reason’s Nick Gillespie,

    I am an unabashed critic of Nick Gillespie. I find him obnoxious. A shame because I do enjoy Reason.

    Having met Nick in person, I assure you he is a friendly teddy bear.

    I should also make clear that Nick and I are on rather different sides of libertarianism, he being much closer to the stereotype of the socially-permissive, let-your-freak-flag-fly variety. He’s a solid interviewer, though, and (generally) a really good video producer.

    • #3
  4. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    Misthiocracy:Nick often falls into the trap of looking at questions of liberty in isolation.

    Conceded.

    • #4
  5. user_104295 Member
    user_104295
    @PeterGothgen

    Frank Soto:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: I’m an unabashed fan of Reason’s Nick Gillespie,

    I am an unabashed critic of Nick Gillespie. I find him obnoxious. A shame because I do enjoy Reason.

    My problem is that he seems to be his own cult of personality.  When I agree with him, he seems like an outrageous character crusading for liberty.  Other times, however, he ends up seeming like a smug hipster.  I forgive him that, though, because he seems to always argue in good faith, and I’m glad he’s there to force us to formulate the counter-argument.

    • #5
  6. Paul A. Rahe Contributor
    Paul A. Rahe
    @PaulARahe

    Tom is right. Nick is great company. But he is wrong on immigration. Having more or less open borders dictates a stagnation of wages for jobs in areas like construction. That is music to the ears of those who populate the Chamber of Commerce, but it is not good for the United States as a country. We need to look after our own first.

    Nick is, of course, right that the federal government cannot get the perfect mix. What it can do, however, is protect American labor.

    I favor making immigration relatively easy for those with skills in short supply and for the highly educated (who nearly always have those skills).

    • #6
  7. Douglas Inactive
    Douglas
    @Douglas

    There’s never been a minarchist nation. Even Switzerland, with it’s polyglot mix of European citizens, has a sense of pride in nationality, and ownership of borders. They have pretty strict immigration quotas.

    My biggest problem with people like Gillespie is that, no matter what they may say otherwise, they really don’t believe in countries or sovereignty.

    • #7
  8. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Paul A. Rahe:Tom is right. Nick is great company.

    I enjoy the company of lots of people who I disagree with.  His general tone of condescension gets old quickly in his writing.

    • #8
  9. TeeJaw Inactive
    TeeJaw
    @TeeJaw

    As a conservative it is easy to agree with libertarians about 80% of the time, and someone I agree with that much should be considered a friend.  But about 20% of libertarian views seem way out of kilter. Open borders, taken to its logical conclusion, is nuts.

    • #9
  10. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    I once had a debate with a lefty on FB about gun control where he presented me with a graph of the murder rates in the OECD countries, with the US being an outlier in terms of frequency of murder and guns per capita.  The graph looked odd to me. As I googled around a bit, I found out why: the unadulterated graph included Mexico, which has one of the highest murder rates in the entire world.

    Once the mask was pulled off, it was obvious what was going on – the geographic proximity of Mexico has spillover effects into our country as the violence leeches across the border – so you have to take the murder rate numbers of the US with a hefty grain of salt.

    What does that have to do with Gillespie?

    Well, like so many Libertarians, he’s possessed of the false notion of what men “must” do given relative economic and political liberty and ignores what people actually do – in this case, commit lots and lots of murders.  The idea that the mass immigration of tens of millions of Guatemalans, El Salvadorans and Mexicans to the United states won’t have serious and deleterious effects upon the body politic (which would have negative impacts upon the Libertarian project) is… short sighted?  Foolish?  Pollyannish?

    Pick your adjective.  People’s countries of origin look the way they do largely because of one thing: the people who live there.  If we import these people, we import their values.

    • #10
  11. JVC1207 Member
    JVC1207
    @JVC1207

    “Our immigration and naturalization laws incentivize the wrong things. Chain immigration allows people to immigrate based less on their desire (or ability) to work than on whether or not they have family, loosely defined, already in legal residence.”

    This is a good point. I’ve recently been travelling in the Republic of Georgia where I met some hard-working, educated, fluent English-speaking young people who would literally do anything to get the chance to even visit America (much less get to actually stay and work/live). The only way that the they can get to the US is by having connections and/or buying themselves visas. They also seem to be discriminated against within the immigration system based on their geographic locale – Georgia is lumped in with “the Middle East” even though it’s a Christian country with EU association.

    They would sadly probably be more successful getting by a visa to Mexico and just walking across the border…

    • #11
  12. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    TeeJaw:As a conservative it is easy to agree with libertarians about 80% of the time, and someone I agree with that much should be considered a friend. But about 20% of libertarian views seem way out of kilter. Open borders, taken to its logical conclusion, is nuts.

    Orwell had a line that Pacifists during WWII were objectively Pro-Nazi.  It offended them greatly, but was absolutely true.  If not resisted, Nazism would have swept most of the globe.  The Pacifists did not desire to resist the Nazis.

    There is a similar phenomenon here with opens border supporters being effectively against liberty.  A quick scan around the globe reveals that people are all to willing to voluntarily give up their liberty in exchange for perceived security.  Supporting an unlimited influx of voters who are willing to sacrifice our liberties makes one anti-liberty.

    • #12
  13. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Nothing breaks my heart more than being reminded of how far people are from realizing the overwhelming evil of immigration restriction…

    • #13
  14. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Frank Soto:

    There is a similar phenomenon here with opens border supporters being effectively against liberty. A quick scan around the globe reveals that people are all to willing to voluntarily give up their liberty in exchange for perceived security. Supporting an unlimited influx of voters who are willing to sacrifice our liberties makes one anti-liberty.

    This is not true if one looks at the data. Immigrants (especially poor ones) are unlikely to vote or care about the political squabbles of a new country. The average immigrant is only somewhat to the left of the average American.

    • #14
  15. user_989419 Inactive
    user_989419
    @ProbableCause

    The problem with no-kidding, literal, open borders is that everyone in the world would move here.  (Now, I’m using the word “everyone” in the teenager sense, as in “Dad, everyone is getting a tattoo,” but you get the idea.)  From a practical standpoint, the idea is untenable.  So therefore, the federal government must regulate the flow of immigrants.  The question then becomes, how many, and who?

    • #15
  16. CuriousKevmo Member
    CuriousKevmo
    @CuriousKevmo

    He’s always in that cheesy leather jacket.  It’s disconcerting.

    • #16
  17. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Mike H:

    This is not true if one looks at the data. Immigrants (especially poor ones) are unlikely to vote or care about the political squabbles of a new country. The average immigrant is only somewhat to the left of the average American.

    Or, in many cases the people who’ve arrived here tend to be on the dodgy side of the law.  A curious thing has been happening in the Denver Metro area for some time now and has been well-documented since before I left town.  There has been a nasty rash of pedestrian-involved hit-and-run accidents in the parts of town most closely associated with hispanic immigration.

    It should come as no surprise to anybody that the surnames of the perps (when they can be run down) are largely hispanic, (the local news media never reveals immigration status… imagine that) and have had numerous run-ins with local law enforcement or are on the run from their home country.

    This is the sort of trouble that we are buying for ourselves which never existed up until this invasion.

    And believe me, contrary to Libertarian beliefs: these people don’t like to buy insurance, as Libertarians insist they “must.”

    • #17
  18. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Mike H:

    Frank Soto:

    There is a similar phenomenon here with opens border supporters being effectively against liberty. A quick scan around the globe reveals that people are all to willing to voluntarily give up their liberty in exchange for perceived security. Supporting an unlimited influx of voters who are willing to sacrifice our liberties makes one anti-liberty.

    This is not true if one looks at the data. Immigrants (especially poor ones) are unlikely to vote or care about the political squabbles of a new country. The average immigrant is only somewhat to the left of the average American.

    This comes from looking at very narrow slice of relevant data.

    • #18
  19. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Frank Soto:

    Mike H:

    Frank Soto:

    There is a similar phenomenon here with opens border supporters being effectively against liberty. A quick scan around the globe reveals that people are all to willing to voluntarily give up their liberty in exchange for perceived security. Supporting an unlimited influx of voters who are willing to sacrifice our liberties makes one anti-liberty.

    This is not true if one looks at the data. Immigrants (especially poor ones) are unlikely to vote or care about the political squabbles of a new country. The average immigrant is only somewhat to the left of the average American.

    This comes from looking at very narrow slice of relevant data.

    I don’t know what you’re alluding to here.

    • #19
  20. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    TeeJaw:As a conservative it is easy to agree with libertarians about 80% of the time, and someone I agree with that much should be considered a friend. But about 20% of libertarian views seem way out of kilter. Open borders, taken to its logical conclusion, is nuts.

    Well, I feel the same about conservatives. ;)

    Also, I think it’s really important to note that while open-borders policies are popular among libertarians, it doesn’t necessarily follow from the philosophy. Libertarianism is about the relationship between the state and its citizens. It says nothing directly about the relationship of the state to citizens of other states.

    • #20
  21. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Mike H:

    Frank Soto:

    Mike H:

    Frank Soto:

    There is a similar phenomenon here with opens border supporters being effectively against liberty. A quick scan around the globe reveals that people are all to willing to voluntarily give up their liberty in exchange for perceived security. Supporting an unlimited influx of voters who are willing to sacrifice our liberties makes one anti-liberty.

    This is not true if one looks at the data. Immigrants (especially poor ones) are unlikely to vote or care about the political squabbles of a new country. The average immigrant is only somewhat to the left of the average American.

    This comes from looking at very narrow slice of relevant data.

    I don’t know what you’re alluding to here.

    Several things.  Firstly, you can see the shift in state voting patterns in border states.  Arguing that it doesn’t exist is a bit like when Fred argues that Iran might not even be building a bomb.  It’s borderline disingenuous.

    Looking only at the voting patterns of the first generation immigrants ignores the patterns of the second and third generations.

    Even small shifts in party affiliation are significant in a country where few presidents win with more than a 5% margin.

    This is one of those moments talking to libertarians where I feel really conservative.  Loving liberty isn’t enough.  You actually have to create the conditions for it to thrive, which includes acknowledging that not everyone loves it.

    • #21
  22. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    It says nothing directly about the relationship of the state to citizens of other states.

    It shouldn’t, but in practice it does.  Theoretically there is no libertarian foreign policy.  And yet, we all know there is one.

    • #22
  23. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Paul A. Rahe:.I favor making immigration relatively easy for those with skills in short supply and for the highly educated (who nearly always have those skills).

    That doesn’t protect American labor. What us biologists don’t count. Why should we have our wages depressed? Why aren’t we stopping assembly line automation or restricting imports? Those endanger the domestic labor market too.

    Frankly the economic arguments for immigration restriction I think fall flat. Open labor laws and movement is necessary for a true free market. When did we stop wanting that? Or do we now believe that the invisible hand no longer knows what it is doing?

    • #23
  24. FloppyDisk90 Member
    FloppyDisk90
    @FloppyDisk90

    Majestyk:Well, like so many Libertarians, he’s possessed of the false notion of what men “must” do given relative economic and political liberty and ignores what people actually do – in this case, commit lots and lots of murders. The idea that the mass immigration of tens of millions of Guatemalans, El Salvadorans and Mexicans to the United states won’t have serious and deleterious effects upon the body politic (which would have negative impacts upon the Libertarian project) is… short sighted? Foolish? Pollyannish?

    Pick your adjective. People’s countries of origin look the way they do largely because of one thing: the people who live there. If we import these people, we import their values.

    US homicide rates are falling.

    • #24
  25. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Frank Soto:

    Mike H:

    Frank Soto:

    Mike H:

    Frank Soto:

    There is a similar phenomenon here with opens border supporters being effectively against liberty. A quick scan around the globe reveals that people are all to willing to voluntarily give up their liberty in exchange for perceived security. Supporting an unlimited influx of voters who are willing to sacrifice our liberties makes one anti-liberty.

    This is not true if one looks at the data. Immigrants (especially poor ones) are unlikely to vote or care about the political squabbles of a new country. The average immigrant is only somewhat to the left of the average American.

    This comes from looking at very narrow slice of relevant data.

    I don’t know what you’re alluding to here.

    Several things. Firstly, you can see the shift in state voting patterns in border states. Arguing that it doesn’t exist is a bit like when Fred argues that Iran might not even be building a bomb. It’s borderline disingenuous.

    Looking only at the voting patterns of the first generation immigrants ignores the patterns of the second and third generations.

    Even small shifts in party affiliation are significant in a country where few presidents win with more than a 5% margin.

    This is one of those moments talking to libertarians where I feel really conservative. Loving liberty isn’t enough. You actually have to create the conditions for it to thrive, which includes acknowledging that not everyone loves it.

    Ahh, right. The problem here is assuming that a 5% shift towards the democrats means the democrats control everything and move ultra left instead of both parties moving 5% to the left and governing accordingly.

    Even most democrats are capitalism-loving. The democrats winning a couple more elections would have less of an influence on outcomes than people in either party like to think. Also, immigrants moving in tend to make natives vote against the welfare state.

    • #25
  26. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    FloppyDisk90:

    Majestyk:Well, like so many Libertarians, he’s possessed of the false notion of what men “must” do given relative economic and political liberty and ignores what people actually do – in this case, commit lots and lots of murders. The idea that the mass immigration of tens of millions of Guatemalans, El Salvadorans and Mexicans to the United states won’t have serious and deleterious effects upon the body politic (which would have negative impacts upon the Libertarian project) is… short sighted? Foolish? Pollyannish?

    Pick your adjective. People’s countries of origin look the way they do largely because of one thing: the people who live there. If we import these people, we import their values.

    US homicide rates are falling.

    We should point out that this is mostly because of an aging population.

    • #26
  27. Majestyk Contributor
    Majestyk
    @Majestyk

    Frank Soto:

    FloppyDisk90:

    Majestyk:Well, like so many Libertarians, he’s possessed of the false notion of what men “must” do given relative economic and political liberty and ignores what people actually do – in this case, commit lots and lots of murders. The idea that the mass immigration of tens of millions of Guatemalans, El Salvadorans and Mexicans to the United states won’t have serious and deleterious effects upon the body politic (which would have negative impacts upon the Libertarian project) is… short sighted? Foolish? Pollyannish?

    Pick your adjective. People’s countries of origin look the way they do largely because of one thing: the people who live there. If we import these people, we import their values.

    US homicide rates are falling.

    We should point out that this is mostly because of an aging population.

    Also, how much more quickly would they be falling if we were to strip out the effects of the invasion of narco-terrorism and illegal immigrants from the statistics?

    • #27
  28. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    TeeJaw:As a conservative it is easy to agree with libertarians about 80% of the time, and someone I agree with that much should be considered a friend. But about 20% of libertarian views seem way out of kilter. Open borders, taken to its logical conclusion, is nuts.

    I think the percentage of libertarians who believe in the elimination of borders and/or national sovereignty entirely (like Nick seems to) would be very small.

    • #28
  29. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Frank Soto:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    It says nothing directly about the relationship of the state to citizens of other states.

    It shouldn’t, but in practice it does. Theoretically there is no libertarian foreign policy. And yet, we all know there is one.

    No. There are many. Just as there are many conservative foreign policies and many liberal foreign policies.

    • #29
  30. Mike H Coolidge
    Mike H
    @MikeH

    Frank Soto:

    FloppyDisk90:

    Majestyk:Well, like so many Libertarians, he’s possessed of the false notion of what men “must” do given relative economic and political liberty and ignores what people actually do – in this case, commit lots and lots of murders. The idea that the mass immigration of tens of millions of Guatemalans, El Salvadorans and Mexicans to the United states won’t have serious and deleterious effects upon the body politic (which would have negative impacts upon the Libertarian project) is… short sighted? Foolish? Pollyannish?

    Pick your adjective. People’s countries of origin look the way they do largely because of one thing: the people who live there. If we import these people, we import their values.

    US homicide rates are falling.

    We should point out that this is mostly because of an aging population.

    I have never heard it attributed to that. Isn’t the homicide rate falling a lot faster than the population is aging?

    • #30

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.