Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Hibernation

Too busy to blog at the moment. Regular blogging should resume in a week or two.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

LOL

Russel is not amused. I laughed.

David Hensel, 64, from East Grinstead, West Sussex, was told the laughing head would be part of the summer exhibition.

But at a preview he found that just a piece of wood intended to support the head was on display on the plinth.

The Academy said the judging panel assumed the two pieces were separate and decided the support was better.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Amnesty: Stuck On Stupid

What's is this Pence plan that's being talked about? Is this Pence fellow, supposedly a bona fide conservative, really this stupid? I'm not sure how this resolves any of the substantive points against amnesty; all it does is muddy the waters in the hopes that the American people are too stupid to know the difference. Unless Pence is too stupid to know the difference, which I concede, given the quality of arguments in favor of mass immigration, is a distinct possibility.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Examining Immigration Policy More Closely

How do we define what makes an immigration policy good or bad? A lot of the rhetoric on the pro-immigration side implicitly sets the bar low, ridiculously low, to more or less this question: Does the benefit of immigration exceed the cost? There are several problems with this formula.

1) We can do better. While I am skeptical that the long-term and comprehensive costs are less than the benefits of current illegal immigration, this is still the wrong question. The appropriate economic question is: Are these immigrants the best immigrants we can get? Even if one accepts that massive immigration is good, that does not mean that mass immigration among the unskilled and uneducated is the optimal policy. Would, for example, immigration among the skilled and educated be of more benefit? Simply put: Can we do better? Economics is about achieving the optimal, not merely that-will-do policy analysis.* If there is a better immigration policy, then we should adopt it.

2) Underestimation of costs. Massive immigration causes real economic losses that are undestimated or ignored in cost-benefit analysis. First among these costs is crime. Killing or injury individuals carries real economic costs (not to mention the emotional impact on the victims, their families, and society). Incarceration then compounds that cost further.

Most cost-benefit analysis does not include the cost to educate immigrant children (around $7,000 per child per year), usually because the children themselves are American citizens. Likewise, welfare and medicaid costs for the American born children of immigrants are excluded from most calculations. This is inexcusable because these children are a direct result of immigration policy, even if they are not "immigrants" themselves. Another cost is the degradation in the quality of public schools. Flooding public schools with low SES students and English learners is a tremendous burden to our public school system that our lower and middle classes depend on; the education of their children suffers as a direct result of massive immigration, reducing the lifetime economic output of those educated in increasingly ineffective public schools. Finally, immigrants place inflationary pressures on our economy in several sectors, principally housing and health services. By importing poverty we import more uninsured, which causes medical prices to increase. As discussed in a previous post and contrary to popular belief, immigrants actually increase the cost of housing.

3) Underestimation of intangibles. Most agree (or at least say they agree) that American welfare should be the exclusive policy concern of American immigration policy. Immigration policy should not be formulated by placing any weight on the benefits to the immigrants themselves (some traitors disagree). If one accepts this premise, how do we not account for the pyschic disutility created by massive immigration? A 45-year-old construction worker doesn't want to have to learn Spanish to keep his skillset competitive. Soccer moms don't want to be bombarded by a foreign language when they visit the super market. They want to live in the country the grew up in; they want to feel at home at home; they don't want to feel like a foreigner in their own country.

Contrary to popular belief, these costs should be considered in economic analysis if the purported objective is to maximize native well being. Though these sorts of costs cannot be precisely defined (they're intangibles) they should bias the analysis in favor of less immigration. If the benefit of massive unskilled immigration is small (if there are long term benefits at all, they are small), one should reject the policy because of the presence of many intangible costs (a partial list of intangible costs: increase in inequality, loss of monolingual society, loss of national cohesion, chance of irredentism, and fear of crime).

*Immigration must be necessarily limited by transition costs and assimilation concerns. Given this limitation, we should offer the limited spaces to the immigrants that will be of the greatest net benefit to America.

Jewish Ideological Tendencies

Steve Sailer discusses some tendencies of Jewish idealogy he has observed. First on his list is a tendency toward Utopian delusions (Communism, Socialism, Neo-Conservatism all have elements of Utopianism).

One possible explanation for the Utopian tendency is that Jews are much more secular than the general population. Religion is a human universal. It's possible that religion satisfies inherent desires for purpose, for meaning, and for immortality. Secular peoples, lacking the fulfillment religion provides, might then seek this purpose from political idealogy and creating paradise here, today (success ensures their immortality as well). Religious peoples, however, tend to accept the imperfection of this world for the promise of paradise in the next, staving off Utopian impulses.

Sailer also mentions reverence for the "all-knowing-scholar-sage." This is also consistent with the secular explanation because this is essentially the replacement of a religious priesthood with a secular priesthood. The priest or rabbi gives us guidance on how to live our lives, and so too does the secular priesthood of "all-knowing-scholar-sages."

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Comments

After chiding Tyler Cowen for his comment policy, I have just discovered my comment "moderation" option was enabled. The problem was I wasn't moderating them because I didn't know I needed to. Sorry to any readers who wondered why their comments weren't being posted, I just thought nobody wanted to comment! The option has been disabled and they should post immediately.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Gender Diversity, Again

In an earlier post, I remarked on the importance in gender diversity in marriage. The Guardian has an interesting story about the differences between men and women's reading habits. The piece is full of all sorts of speculation, but one thing struck me. Only 6 of the top 20 books for women were written by men. For men, only a single book in the top 20 was by a woman author. Why might this be? Men relate better to other men, and women relate better to other women. We're just different. Gay marriage will rob children of that difference.

A boy raised by two lesbians will not have a father, and a girl raised by two gay men will not have a mother. And for those children raised by two partners of their sex, they are denied the mother-son or fauther-daughter dynamic. For all the crap that Freud spewed, I do think he was on to something in one instance--a lot of us do seek out wives that remind us of our mothers and husbands that remind us of our fathers. Does this tendency serve some useful function, does it help us choose the right sort of mate? At the minimum, I think, we should have a little more humility about redefining marriage, for humanity and the institutions we depend on are a lot more complex (and complexity implies fragileness) than is commonly regarded.

Tyler Cowen Rationalizes Comment Policy

Readers of Marginal Revolution have probably noticed that on most immigration posts Tyler and his coblogger have been disabling comments. Tyler says that's because of the low quality of the comments on emotionally charged issues. Not only that but protecting himself from humiliation on his own blog is actually in the interest of free and open debate, "stochastically speaking and properly construed over time." He also cautions not to "overanalyze this." I guess he's already done that for us (e.g. "stochastically speaking and properly construed over time," censorship promotes the exchange of ideas, which I take to mean his ideas). Very libertarian of him, right?

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Does Immigration Increase or Decrease Housing Prices?

Angry Bear, curious if the last few years in real wage growth in construction are different than the trend over the last 20, calculates that even in the last two years, with a booming housing market, real compensation for construction wages still declined. Yet the construction industry promises us that despite all economic evidence to the contrary there really is a labor shortage. No, falling wages are a sure sign of a labor surplus. Using the logic of the pro-immigration folks, I guess this means we must deport illegals rather than let the market work itself out, right? I mean, if we can't let wages change in response to limited supply, why should we let it change in response to too much supply?

The effect on real wages is simply common sense and is time and again proven by the data. Lots of commenters to Angry Bear's post, however, opined that the benefit of all this was found in cheaper housing for the consumer. But is this true? The answer is: Probably not. This seems counterintuitive until one realizes that immigrants are not just building houses and apartment complexes, they're buying them too. Large immigration waves usually appreciably impact housing prices; this is nothing revolutionary.

Now, if Tyler Cowen had his way and we encouraged immigrants to live in shantytowns, housing prices might drop or remain unchanged with an influx of immigrants. But they don't live in shantytowns, thankfully. Immigrants drive up the price of housing because they're not just producers of it, they're consumers of it. This is made even clearer when one realizes that only a fraction, around 10%, of all illegals work in the construction industry. For every one immigrant working in construction, there are nine others that don't but still need a place to live. That doesn't seem like an equation for lower housing prices, but the open borders crowd believes what it wants to believe, evidence and logic be damned.

Related Posts: Here, Here, and Here.