A Pint’s a Pound the World Around (Immigration Edition)


Since it’s #ImmigrantTweetDay, I have been reading a lot of immigration-related articles and tweets. Most of them serve my bias, which is predictable, as my various feeds are not random, or representative. In any case, I’ve come across a disturbing trend in the punditosphere of romanticizing a certain class of immigrants; namely high-skilled immigrants. Daniel Kuehn* sums up the irony here:

#ImmigrationTweetDay Immigration: the one area where smart people think high inc workers should have an easier time than low inc families
— Daniel Kuehn (@D_Kuehn) February 4, 2013

Now, free and open immigration is a topic that I think is important enough, and sufficiently emotionally charged as to warrant the use of ugly preferences against those who old them in order to advance the ball any way we can. However, I think it’s important not to make high skilled immigration an end in-and-of itself, which I see happening. Remember, the weakest aspect of any argument that you can make for a particular action is that will raise revenue for the government. It’s strange to see conservatives in particular resting their case on it. We don’t disallow immigration from California to Texas on revenue concerns, after all.

Also remember, the case is solid that all immigration is a net wash in general equilibrium. There will always be localized effects both strongly negative and strongly positive — and it is important for us as a society to determine was in which we can leverage the positive and mitigate the negative. But when you see that simply stepping over a border, a fellow human being can increase their access to wealth by over 700%**, it is hard to justify the human tragedy of not allowing that to happen on such weak grounds as revenue consideration.

Update: Eli Dourado:

My visceral reaction to arguments for less-than-100% open borders is to scream, and call names, and punch in the face.

Yup.

*Other arguments made in the post may or may not be supported by Kuehn.

**The difference in wealth between a Mexican citizen and a US citizen. Other countries are even more stark.

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