Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 Best of the Blog, IX

. Thursday, December 30, 2010

Readers: Over the next week or so we'll be re-posting some of our favorite posts from IPE@UNC from this year, interspersed with new content. Partially because blogging is so ephemeral, and some of our posts are worth revisiting. Partially because it's winter break and we've got eating, sleeping, and catching up on research to do. Nominations welcome.

From April 26, "Against the Immigration Pharisees":

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.


2010 Best of the Blog, IX
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