Immigration and Pie

There’s a long-running argument between the left and right about whether economic policy should focus more on efficiency questions or distributional questions. At the risk of oversimplifying, progressives tend to focus on inequalities of income and wealth, and they worry that unfettered free markets will funnel too much money to the wealthy few and leave the rest of us behind. Conservatives counter that the economic pie is not fixed. Leaving people free to innovate will expand the pie and ultimately benefit everyone. And conversely, government interventions in the economy designed to to make peoples’ slices more equal in size will shrink the pie and leave everyone worse off.

And conservatives have another powerful argument against the government picking winners and losers. Like Jefferson, they believe that our rights come from God, and are only recognized, not granted, by governments. They reject progressive theorists like Cass Sunstein who argue to the contrary. This is why they’re so vehemently against progressive taxation; they believe that everyone is entitled to the fruits of their own labor, and that it’s unjust for the government to take from some to give to others in the name of fairness.

Now, consider the following passage from conservatism’s flagship magazine:

Punishing a minor by removing him from the culture he’s adopted as his own, for the crimes of his parents, does strike me as fundamentally unfair. But what liberals leave out of this story, time and again, is a competing — and in my view overriding — unfairness. Reihan has argued repeatedly, and effectively, that we should treat access to the U.S. economy, not to mention its extensive welfare state, as a scarce resource. We can debate and debate the best way of distributing this resource– from “not at all” to “come one, come all” and everywhere in between. But distributing it based on who manages most successfully to violate the law, at the expense of would-be immigrants who are honoring the process, is surely not a valid option.

Apparently, when the topic turns to people born outside the United States, all that stuff about expanding pies and inalienable rights goes out the windows. Now the pie is fixed—a “scarce resource”—and it’s up to the government to decide who is eligible for a slice. People are no longer endowed by their Creator with the right to keep the fruits of their labor. Rather, the freedom to earn a living must be carefully “distributed” by the government only to those it deems worthy.

Liberals like my friend Matt Yglesias like to argue that conservative rhetoric about freedom and individual rights is a cynical cover for policies that serve the interests of the rich and powerful. I think he’s wrong, but passages like this one do give his argument a certain plausibility.

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8 Responses to Immigration and Pie

  1. albert magnus says:

    In this case, the lack of conservative rhetoric about freedom and individual rights is a cover for policies which help poor Americans at the expense of rich Americans.

  2. Max says:

    Rich and powerful conservatives are pro-immigration (cheap labor!). It’s the masses who oppose it, mainly because of fears that immigrants will “ruin the neighborhood”.

  3. So, albert magnus, conservatives only favor income redistribution if it’s done in a way that screws over foreigners in the process?

  4. albert magnus says:

    The ones who oppose immigration are expressing that, yes.

  5. Chris says:

    Pat Moynihan argued: “The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society.”

    As you replace the culture of San Diego with the culture of Tijuana, you get a smaller pie, not a larger one.

    “conservatives have another powerful argument against the government picking winners and losers. Like Jefferson, they believe that our rights come from God, and are only recognized, not granted, by governments.”

    Burke argued that rights were societal institutions rooted in culture. He specifically dismissed the notion that they were metaphysical constructs existing outside of communal habits of attachment to them.

  6. Mike F. says:

    Oh joy, the same old simplistic “libertarian” critique of conservative opposition to open borders. The key distinction that this post misses, of course, is between private property and common property. Most conservatives and libertarians believe that private property should be freely alienable, and that government ought not to come between willing buyers and willing sellers. That principle applies across borders; hence free trade. If a foreigner’s labor could be imported to this country without the foreigner himself, then the same principle would apply, and conservatives could justly be labelled hypocrits if they tried to prevent such transactions.

    But a state is an assertion by a group of people (citizens) of the exclusive right to use and control a particular territory. The state itself, and the property of the state, is the property of all of the citizens of the state collectively. And you cannot, in fact, import a foreigner’s labor without giving him a share of our commonly-owned national defense, roads, parks, and police, and without giving his kids citizenship and a lot more. Whether and on what terms another person should be given a share of that common property is obviously a decision for the citizens of the state collectively, acting through their government. If the citizens decide not to share their common property with anyone else, it’s not violating any of his rights, unless you view the existence of states themselves as fundamentally illegitimate. To say that the citizens must let in immigrants is like saying that the shareholders of a corporation are obligated to issue new shares to anyone who wants them.

    So there’s no contradiction, unless (i) you believe that the nation-state is illegitimate or (ii) you have an extremely shallow understanding of libertarian principle.

  7. Brittanicus says:

    The ACLU American Civil liberties Union or better known as the American Communist lawyers Union, as it was founded by a Communist, is coming out its hole again. Perhaps someday it will be recognized as Anti-American and the likes of J. Edgar Hoovers phantasm, will dig them out of their pits and throw these illicit so-called Lawyers to the wolves. They redoubtably get their money bounty to torture States and cities from lobbyists, as well as silent handouts from the US Government, like a giant praying mantis, always looking for blood. First this entity joined up with the Liberal-democratic leaders to harass Arizona, but not satisfied with this purgatory, they are now threatening Georgia, Alabama. The ACLU either intentionally are indifferent to the poverty in this country, that has built up even more from the decades of at least a trillion dollars, stolen from Americans to support the illegal immigrant invaders.

    \Every day there is even more bloodshed by drunken foreign drivers causing mayhem on the highways? The crime statistics are not going down, from these people who have scorned the law and now we have the good old ACLU, the religious activists led by the Vatican, the US Chamber of Commerce, as a driving force, that American sovereignty or the US Constitution has no meaning anymore. THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION LED BY THE LEFTIST HOLDER, NAPOLITANO IS ALL OPEN BORDER LEADERS. We have already seen the impact of Sanctuary States and cities, making American taxpayers to dig even deeper into their pockets, to subsidize this occupation by nationals. The Crime, the welfare and public services for illegal aliens are beginning to bleed from the edges as more States find the fiscal deficits rising. While draining state treasuries, the further crippling of our economy is furtively completed, by the rising exportation of 40 billion dollars goes to foreign countries, from illegal alien wage packets. Indirectly its—YOUR—money they are spending.

    This is revenue not being spent in the United States. California the Liberal fortress is struggling, along with Nevada and New York with rogue governors who are going to soak the taxpayers even more, to pacify the 20 million or more foreign nationals. But there is a limit to compassion, as many US citizens and legal households are folding under this continuous bombardment of Federal, State saying give me more dollars. A new survey conducted by Gallup finds that a plurality of Americans favors reducing overall immigration levels. The poll released earlier today reveals that 43% of Americans thing overall immigration should be reduced while only 18% think overall immigration levels should be raised. Thirty-five percent of Americans feel that immigration levels should remain the same. The TEA PARTY is rising to “The Peoples” call, to halt this monetary torment for good.

    The midterm election proved that the people are mad and sick of supporting illegal aliens who are flocking to this nation. The TEA PARTY is rising at a phenomenal rate, with thousands signing up at the national and local websites. We have seen the inability for the Obama’s mob, to slide through executive orders not to deport certain groups of people. We keep sending troops abroad, but the protection of America’s people; specifically in Border States that remain unprotected. The TEA PARTY will exceed any previous administration in stopping the self-destruction of America’s society. The 1986 Simpson/ Mazzoli will be enforced and will impose the mandated E-Verify, Secure Communities to the letter of the law. Much harsher sanctions against incorrigible business that hire cheap labor will be severely punished the border with military interdiction along with the border agents.

    All presidential hopefuls who fall below a B+ plus rating by NumbersUSA, will be ignored and fall out of favor along with the elected carrion that run the cities and communities nationwide. Already D. Huntsman has been designated by NumbersUSA as a bad contender. The Tea Party is an open book of all races, which came to this country through the front gates. ARE AMERICANS PREPARED TO HAVE THEIR SLIPPING WAGES, BEING COMMANDEERED FOR YEARS TO COME, PAYING FOR PEOPLE WHO BROKE OUR IMMIGRATION LAWS?

    The 1986 Amnesty turned into an absolute travesty of our laws, with paramount fraud and millions not processed correctly. On Wednesday U.S. Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., Harry Reid, D-Nev., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Dick Durbin, D-Ill., Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., John Kerry, D-Mass., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., reintroduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill. The bill includes measures to strengthen border security, enhance worksite enforcement of immigration laws, and requirements that the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants present in the U.S. register with the government, pay taxes, learn English, pay a fine, pass a background check, and wait in line for permanent residence.

    As far as I’m concerned, this will end up another big payout slapped on taxpayers. Heritage Foundation has already stated that taxpayers are looking at another mind boggling bill of $2.6 Trillion dollars. If you don’t believe it, then go and view the statistics in black and white at the heritage website. If you feel that another 20 million plus newcomers is alright on the US treasury accounting sheet, then will have even higher taxes slipping from our grasp. All its going to accomplish is millions more foreigners encouraged by our open border politicians, to keep funneling in a growing overpopulated America millions more annually, that the politicians fail to tell us about?

  8. Barry says:

    “There’s a long-running argument between the left and right about whether economic policy should focus more on efficiency questions or distributional questions. ”

    By now, in the range of discussion, that’s been settled. We’ve seen thirty years of neoliberal reforms, with the growth rate not showing much for it.

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