I got wrapped up into a lengthy debate today on immigration at the blog of my friend and illustrious economist Bob Murphy. I thought it was a good conversation, so I'm going to post of my comments and some other responses.
Bob's post and my thoughts are in response to a Cato Institute web video that included a question answer session with famous libertarian economist and blogger Tyler Cowen. [He notes these comments here] His comments set off a firestorm of anger amongst some of the intellectual libertarians, but I'm not concerned with those issues. Among them were some sharp rebukes of those who are anti-immigrant. While I have no time for xenophobic anger or violence, I am becoming increasingly aware that the nativist argument is actually fairly sound.
Def. Nativist - someone who wants to maintain the purity of ones own culture.
Def. Minarchist - referring to minimal or very small government
I am pro-immigration. I believe in open borders. The best way to ensure freedom is to allow people to choose their government. Competition will shrink the size of the state.
However, I have seen noone make a good argument against nativism. Not that I subscribe to the argument, but I don't have a slam dunk reason against it.
My basic nativist argument is this:
You have a democratic minarchist state. The country flourishes economically. Millions of people around the world want to come and enjoy the economic benefits. The minarchist state opens its borders, letting in millions of hard working people who happen to be statists. The minarchist state slowly disappears as the statist immigrants become an increasing part of the voting population.
The issue isn't whether every immigrant will be highly statist, but whether immigrants are likely to be more statist on average. That immigrants are likely to be more statist (and that this effect can last generations) is, I think, amply demonstrated by history.
"Is it also possible that these statists, once they arrive and are saturated by a non-statist society, will begin to adopt different principles, rather than the other way around?"
Then Me Again:
Sure, that's possible, but I lean towards Tyler Cowen's comment that culture is "sticky". Voting patterns amongst certain demographics tend to change very slowly over time.
While I am still not a nativist, I can understand their viewpoint. I won't agree with bigotry anyone who disrespects immigrants as individuals, but for now, I can't really tear down the arguments as I have presented it.