Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Even More Against Immigration Pharisees

. Wednesday, April 28, 2010

In comments to my previous post on immigration Pharisees, "Anonymous" keeps pushing me to admit that maybe, just maybe, Democrats really are emotionally anguished about immigration while Republicans are all cold-hearted bastards. A sample quote:

these are the bleeding-heart liberals. does the term have no meaning?

Yes, it has a meaning, but the meaning is pejorative.

This really doesn't matter, tho, because my original point still stands: Krugman's argument against a more open immigration policy is that it might erode the welfare state enjoyed by Americans. That is a nativist argument, full stop. The worst Republicans on their worst day can't top it, and how Krugman or anyone else feels about it is wholly immaterial.

Look, I'm not defending the GOP on this, as "Anonymous" seems to think. Nor am I claiming that those on the right and left are biased in the same way on this issue. All I'm claiming is that the median view in both parties is equally disgusting, but for different reasons, and Krugman is being disingenuous at best by not acknowledging that fact. In other words, I am arguing that the "bleeding heart" excuse is no excuse at all.

How does the right and left differ? In a conversation earlier this evening, some colleagues said that Democrats they knew based their view of ethics in politics on a vision of community based on proximity: those in our family, locality, region, and state deserve consideration before all else. Therefore, it's okay to discriminate against immigrants, in order to privilege those closest to us. I agree that this is a strong human impulse, but I'd contend that it's the exact impulse that motivates anti-immigration Republicans; it's just that most Republicans view "community" more narrowly than most Democrats do.

But when it boils down it is a distinction without a difference, and the proximity argument becomes nonsensical very quickly. At their root the conservative and liberal arguments against more open borders are exactly the same, which was my point all along. What do I mean? Take an example: I live in North Carolina. By what ethical standard should I regard the needs of a person born in El Paso more highly than a person born in Juarez? The two cities are equidistant from me, and divided only by a made-up national boundary. What ethical principle dictates that the citizen of El Paso is deserving of my consideration while the citizen of Juarez is not? There is none, except for nativism, which is just as ugly as any other form of bigotry.

At least many of those who oppose immigration from the right have no problem admitting they are nativist; indeed, many are proud of it. As infuriating as that is, at least it's honest and straightforward. The same cannot be said for the Pharisees on the left who seem to think that their illiberal sins are absolved simply by feeling bad about them, and that those feelings make actions unnecessary. No, all they have done is added arrogance to their nativism. They shouldn't be so proud.


Anonymous said...

We can’t directly measure “people torn between more and less immigration” because people haven’t been asked this question, and even if they were asked this question, they might lie about their response. Therefore, we have to measure it in other ways. One indirect measure is how democratic and republican elected officials vote on illegal immigration-related issues or issues that effect illegal immigrants. Another is the types of people that democratic and republican citizens vote for. If more dems. than repubs. vote for legislation that is kinder to illegal immigrants in the U.S. and if more dems. than repubs. citizens vote for candidates that support policies that are more kinder to illegal immigrants in the U.S., then I would think Krugman’s hypothesis is more right than wrong. I don’t have evidence to test the hypothesis, but it seems more plausible than what you make it seem. You don’t seem to be very interested in resolving this issue in a scientific way. Instead, you seem more interested in establishing Krugman's dishonesty and how is arguments are predominantly driven by political (Left) ideology. The quality of your blog posts (assuming it’s by an aspiring academic) should not be a function of trying to achieve the above based on what someone wrote on a blog post, regardless if it’s by a Nobel winner. I’m confident that Krugman would muster significant theoretical and empirical support for his hypothesis if he wanted to write a paper on it. By focusing more on personal attacks, you don’t spend much time on the internal and external validity of Krugman’s hypothesis and ways to scientifically test it. The personal attacks also make it hard to follow the logic of your arguments as well as what empirical evidence would support them and would not support the arguments that you have problems with. I see that a previous Anonymous poster, Oatley, and Drezner had similar problems in some of your past posts.

Kindred Winecoff said...

Some good points, but I think you're missing the overall thrust. That's probably my fault, so I'll try to clarify:

You say that I don't spend much time on the internal validity of Krugman's hypothesis, but that's not true: the whole point of these posts is to show that the position Krugman defended is every bit as nativist as the one he criticized. By writing in response to Krugman I've framed my argument in way that looks like a personal attack, but my point is intended to be broader than that, and to point out that there is a huge gap in the ethics of politics of basically everyone in the country. You cannot simultaneously say that nativism is bad but then insist that it's fine to reserve aid for natives and exclude all others. I think I've been clear enough that my criticism isn't partisan, since I blame the GOP for doing the same thing (albeit less hypocritically).

In other words, you're right: my goal absolutely is to point out the inconsistency and dishonesty (intentional or not) in Krugman's argument. You suggest that this sort of criticism is not appropriate. Why not?

So it doesn't matter to me whether Krugman's empirical claims are true. It could be that Democrats feel more conflicted than Republicans. (Just to clarify, I never said they didn't, and have no reason to think it isn't true.) But so what? That doesn't change the fact that Krugman's position is just as nativist as those he criticizes.

Krugman's positive assertion comes in defense of a normative argument, and I was merely pointing out the inconsistencies in that argument, and the very real ethical problems that underlay it. So "testing" the claim in the manner you describe (by looking at the votes of legislators) doesn't help us at all.

As for other criticisms... Dr. Oatley criticizes me all the time for all sorts of things, and very few of them end up on the blog. That's basically his job. The previous Anon poster agreed with me that Krugman's position was nativist. This is a blog; I don't expect everything I write to be accurate, and I don't mind getting criticism. My goal is to generate reasonable interesting discussion, and to learn from others. I expect that to involve criticism of things I write, and I'm fine with that.

Even More Against Immigration Pharisees
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