Speaking Contrarianism to Power on Immigration

Jim talks briefly about Heather MacDonald, a conservative who he praises for being rational on account of her atheism. But when I checked her views out, I found out she’s anything but rational. She’s an atheist for sure, but she’s a racist, immigrant-hating one, who goes out of her way to deny racism and deny immigrants rights.

First, in an interview on Gene Expressions, she trots out the usual cultural excuses for poverty:

Given that the liberal elites have ignored the 70% black out-of-wedlock birth rate for decades in discussing the causes of black poverty, I am confident that open borders conservatives will prove just as capable of ignoring the 48% Hispanic out-of-wedlock birth rate as they perpetuate the myth of redemptive Hispanic family values.

While out-of-wedlock births are offensive to conservative moralists who would rather everyone adhered to their Victorian values, they’re not a social problem by themselves. A conservative blog notes that in the US at large, over 30% of births are out of wedlock now, up from 5% in 1960. At the same time, the poverty rate in 2000 was barely over 11%, the lowest since the trough of the early 1970s.

In Sweden and Norway, the majority of births are out of wedlock, but the poverty rates are 6.5% and 6.4% respectively. Furthermore, in Norway the bottom decile has the same mean income as the bottom quintile in the US and the second decile has twice as much income.

In other words, it’s not that out-of-wedlock birthrates are a social problem; it’s that conservatives pretend that they are so that they’ll have an excuse for bashing people who have the wrong skin color.

MacDonald’s views on immigration are even worse. GNXP calls her “a realist on immigration reform”; based on the article it’s linking to, I’d say “an ignoramus who should’ve majored in pol sci rather than lit crit” is a better description.

The entire article is based on the flawed premise that any kind of border control can curb immigration. The only support she ever gives to that view is a bad analogy to crime control. But let’s suppose for a moment that New York’s crime rate started plummeting only after Giuliani came to power rather than three years before. How is that relevant to the research that shows border controls only increase the rate of illegal immigration?

That little premise is what shatters the entire corpus of anti-immigration politics. Laws, its practitioners say, must be enforced. Never mind that it’s impossible to enforce them; they have to be enforced nonetheless. But in the real world, murder isn’t illegal because it’s bad, but because making it illegal makes it less likely to occur.

Worse, MacDonald tries throwing sand in people’s eyes by pontificating in length about “the elites.” The precursor to my radical pathologies series, Mark Rosenfelder’s Left = Right, notes how both sides claim to speak for the people and against some amorphous elite. It didn’t make my series only because it’s not specifically radical.

Here MacDonald tries to claim to speak for the common American who’s oppressed by rootless cosmopolitans. In fact, 57% of American voters say illegal immigrants should be offered legal status. In California, it’s 64%; in Arizona, 56%; in New Mexico, 63%; and in Texas, 59%. It seems that the further an American is from where he might know illegal immigrants, the likelier he is to support deportion. If that’s not an elite trying to infringe on local control, I don’t know what is.

Instead of MacDonald’s unenforceable principles, I prefer to use the following principles when formulating immigration policy, and by extension policy on other issues:

1. Laws that cannot be realistically enforced don’t belong on the books. It’s a specification of the more general libertarian idea that any law that can’t be universally enforced will be selectively enforced. It’s impossible to make a dent in illegal immigration; however, it is possible to deport those illegal immigrants who a Minuteman hates personally. Laws rarely get more immoral than that.

2. Civil rights, including the unrestricted right to freedom of movement, should be paramount. With the exception of reasonable public policies on matters such as health and education, negative rights always precede positive rights. MacDonald’s right to publish articles trumps my right not to be subjected to racist trash; a Mexican’s right to live in the US trumps MacDonald’s right to live in a minority-free country.

3. Economic costs and benefits should be investigated impartially. One paper I’ve seen concludes that the net cost of illegal immigration to each American household is 0.1% of GDP. Studies rigged by anti-immigration advocates don’t get much higher than that. Considering that the net cost of private health care to each American household is on the order of 8% of GDP, I reserve the right not to care about a 0.1% shift, especially given principle #2.

4. Cultural policies should be made with the intent to promote integration and equality of opportunity. This does not mean the state should try to force people to integrate, which tends to only cause them to integrate less. The US is doing fairly well on integration, with virtually all immigrants’ American-born children speaking English fluently, but on social mobility and equal opportunities, it performs worse than almost every other developed country, even when one looks only at white Americans.

These principles don’t generally leave much leeway to xenophobia, but that’s only an indication that xenophobia isn’t good policy.

9 Responses to Speaking Contrarianism to Power on Immigration

  1. Alon,

    Why do you love terrorist immigrants?

  2. Alon Levy says:

    Because they distract the racists from the fact that the International Jewish Conspiracy is surreptitiously undermining their culture.

  3. Because they distract the racists from the fact that the International Jewish Conspiracy is surreptitiously undermining their culture.

    With any luck SLC will think you’re serious.

  4. SLC says:

    Re Levy

    Mr. Levy should really try to be more politically correct. He should use the phrase “international Zionist conspiracy.” After all, even though the man whose birthday we celebrate today once stated that anti-Zionism was just a cover for anti-Semitism, we all know that anti-Zionists like Pat Buchanan and the good folks at counterpunch are not anti-Semitic, are they?

  5. battlepanda says:

    That entire GNXP site is kind of scary. It’s like the underbelly of evolutionary biology/psychology. Very much the Bell Curve crowd.

  6. You all sound like a bunch of race-traitor loving Jews who want to take over the world and steal our money.

  7. Alon Levy says:

    It’s exactly the Bell Curve crowd, Battlepanda. I first heard of GNXP when it sent PZ trolls a few years ago when he criticized the Bell Curve too much. Later it sent trolls who argued that Summers was right to say women were biologically inferior scientists.

  8. Axel says:

    Your empirical arguments about out-of-wedlock birthrates aren’t very convincing. You say they’re not a social problem by themselves — that’s right but also trivial because, as Stanley Kurtz in the linked article “The End of Marriage in Scandinavia” complains, the massive welfare state largely has displaced the family as provider. So I don’t understand the meaning of the statistics you present. For me, they only demonstrate the positive social effects of working welfare states. And this leads to the question if a majority of Americans also wants similar welfare policy so that out-of-wedlock birthrates are no social problem.

    And for the US data: The conclusion from a simple comparison of two global variables — percentage of births out of wedlock and poverty rate — for two dates is very weak, not only because you always face the risk of an ecological fallacy. There are a lot of other important social factors both for income and out-of-wedlock births you neglect. I think, an improved indicator would be the income distribution of parents with children out of wedlock, statistically controlled for family size.

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