Monday, April 26, 2010

Against the Immigration Pharisees

. Monday, April 26, 2010

Pardon me, but this from Krugman is galling, self-serving, disingenuous pablum:

Just a quick note: my take on the politics of immigration is that it divides both parties, but in different ways.

Democrats are torn individually (a state I share). On one side, they favor helping those in need, which inclines them to look sympathetically on immigrants; plus they’re relatively open to a multicultural, multiracial society. I know that when I look at today’s Mexicans and Central Americans, they seem to me fundamentally the same as my grandparents seeking a better life in America.

On the other side, however, open immigration can’t coexist with a strong social safety net; if you’re going to assure health care and a decent income to everyone, you can’t make that offer global.

So Democrats have mixed feelings about immigration; in fact, it’s an agonizing issue.

Republicans, on the other hand, either love immigration or hate it. The business-friendly wing of the party likes inexpensive workers (and would really enjoy a huge guest-worker program that would both provide such workers and ensure that they can neither vote nor, in practice, unionize). But the cultural/nativist/tribal conservatives hate having these alien-looking, alien-sounding people on American soil.

So immigration is an issue that divides Republicans one from another, not within each individual’s heart.

So let me get this straight... Republicans that oppose immigration do so because they are nativist bigots, but Democrats that oppose immigration are doing it because they care about poor people? This is wrong on so many levels.

1. For every Republican-leaning business group that supports immigration there is a Democrat-leaning labor union that opposes it. And there is plenty of "Dey tirk er jerbbbssss" rhetoric emanating from both camps.

2. Republicans complain more than Democrats about immigrants draining resources from social welfare programs, tho not necessarily for the same reasons.

3. Even if Krugman's empirical claims were true, his justification for his own position is pathetic. It amounts to this: I am willing to redistribute my wealth (and the wealth of others) to poorer people, but only if -- through a cosmic accident -- they happen to have been born within the same imaginary boundaries as me.

How in the hell is this not nativism?

Suppose Krugman had come across a statement made by an American segregationist in the 1950s that went like this: "I would like to integrate African-Americans into American society, but I am not willing to sacrifice the social benefits that whites enjoy to do so." I am quite sure that Krugman would have no trouble recognizing this as the evil that it is. Yet this statement is equivalent to the one he has made after substituting "immigrants" for "African-Americans" and "Americans" for "whites".

By any reasonable standard, immigrant workers are much more deserving of aid and opportunity than those born in the richest country in history. If we were really concerned with inequality, or aggregate welfare, or charity, or any other similar ethical goods then we would orient policy away from domestic social welfare programs and toward immigration-friendly policies. If we really cared about universalist principles like equal access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness then we would orient policy towards the maximization of those things. Of course, those are not our priorities. Our priority is to secure the rents bestowed to us from winning the birth lottery.

I'm not saying that this isn't a real ethical problem. To me, the question of how to determine who deserves our aid and who doesn't in a world of scarcity is the hardest problem in moral philosophy, and it's certainly open to debate. But for Krugman to claim that his side has a completely pure heart, while espousing the same nativist position that he demonizes others for, is despicable. He should be honest and admit that he privileges the needs of his fellow citizens over the (much greater) needs of non-citizens. If he was feeling ambitious he might even offer a rationale to go with it. But he's incapable of that, because he's a Pharisee.


Anonymous said...

I still think that krugman is on to something. I'm convinced that there are more people on the political left (and thus many in the democratic party) that are torn within their hearts to want to give to the poor, but with limited resources, are usually willing to give to the poor that are currently in U.S. citizens, which means limiting large scale immigration. Sure, there is a bit of nativism here, and Krugman should have acknowledged it. Almost all citizens of states are a bit native. I think the point is that there probably are more people on the left (and in the democratic party) that are less native and seriously torn, as opposed to those on the right (and in the republican party) that are less torn and instead predominantly comprise individuals who want to only pretty exploit immigrant labor or just don't want lots of immigrants (especially non-WASPS), even if the U.S. was significantly wealthier (or could afford to provide more benefits to lots of immigrants).

Kindred Winecoff said...

Anon -

I believe that is a story that liberals tell themselves to sweep this issue under the rug. As far as I know, there is no evidence that Democrats are more "torn within their hearts" than Republicans, or that conservatives only want to "exploit" immigrants (by employing at high wages, relative to what they'd earn in their home countries, if you really want to call that exploitation) while liberals are just heartbroken about the whole thing. I call shenanigans and self-delusion.

Anonymous said...

true, this "more democrats are torn within their hearts" is a hypothesis. however, it seems like a very plausible one to me. i think that the far majority of liberal dems. in cambridge, nyc, l.a., san fran. are truly torn within their hearts (yet are still guilty of a bit of nativism). these are the bleeding-heart liberals. does the term have no meaning? this is a large number, yet still a minority within the dem. party. regardless, i hypothesize that there are more of these individuals in the democratic party than in the republican party and that they make up a larger percentage of the democratic party than the percentage that they comprise in the republican party. if so, then the hypothesis is probably valid and krugman is likely correct. i can see how someone's conservative ideology or hatred of krugman could get in the way of viewing this as a plausible hypothesis.

Kindred Winecoff said...

Against the Immigration Pharisees
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