Thursday, March 30, 2006

Immigration sense

Michael Blowhard was kind enough to note on this immigration post on 2Blowhards my comment on EconLog in response to Bryan Caplan's frankly silly post containing this language:
OK, suppose you could give American high school dropouts an 8% raise by deporting every man, woman, and child from Latin America back to their home countries. Would that be the right thing to do?
Call me a Non-Bleeding Heart Libertarian, but for once, the shoe doesn't fit. My heart does bleed for people born in poor countries who come here to better their condition with hard work. What about low-skilled Americans? They were born in the U.S. and speak fluent English. Let them count their blessings.
The arrogance and irrationality and pandering contained in that one short post sum up pretty well why the immigration situation is the way it is.

This is my take on it:
I'm glad someone realizes that if our government had enforced our laws over the last few decades the income of a segment of our country would be 8% higher than it is today. The question is how to keep America the most prosperous and freest country in the world for the average guy. The American legal system decided that the best way to do that was to impose certain conditions on immigrants. The wisdom of that course is proven by the economic problems, rise in crime, decrease in the educational level and increase in the threat of subversion and terrorism that a failure to enforce those laws has brought.
Posted March 29, 2006 02:00 PM
Thanks, Mr. M.B.!
Last word on voting

I think I've said enough about voting. I say the same thing over and over again, so I must have settled on a position. Jane Galt posted some thoughts on voting and economic rationality, such as this:

Obviously, people are getting some sort of utility out of voting that has nothing to do with casting the deciding vote. There are lots of theories about what this utility might be, but like theories about what makes men so defensively territorial about remote control devices, they tend to be speculative and heavily biased towards the theoreticians personal experiences.
I have no idea what she means about "remote control devices". Hogging the TV? How does that relate?

Somebody brought out the "well, what if everyone did(n't do) it" meme, so I struck back:
Just as one vote will not change an election, one person voting or not voting will not have any appreciable effect on whether "no one does it" or not. The individual's interest cannot be perfectly, or even approximately served, by a faction of millions. Some people influence others' votes more, so they have a greater obligation to vote. The reason for ethics is to be able to sleep at night, not to influence "everyone's" actions. The major effect that voting a particular way, or voting at all, can have on an individual is acceptance or rejection by his immediate peer group. That's reason enough for most people to vote, but it doesn't change the infinitesimal effect of the individual's vote by enough to matter.
I'm bored with people bringing up the same obviously faulty points again and again.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What if?

The pesky riots in France that threaten to interfere with my Paris trip set me to thinking. The protestors are objecting to a law that would make it possible for employers to fire employees under the age of 26 without jumping through nearly-impossible hoops. So what if the restrictions on employers that have for some time now been in effect in France had been in effect in the US? Ever been fired from a job? Laid off? Even left? Was it always the worst thing that could have happened?

What if you had not been fired or laid off from your first real job? What if you had hesitated to leave a job in order to go to, say, law school, because you knew once you left it might be impossible to find another one as good? Where would you be now? I've got a pretty good idea where I'd be. And it wouldn't be half as good as where I am now.

These restrictions aren't just on employers. They also restrict employees' freedom of action, their freedom to take moderate but intelligent risks to get ahead in life. Like most government measures, they do exactly the opposite of what they're promoted as doing. Instead of decreasing fear and uncertainty, they increase it. Instead of reassuring anyone that they can get ahead in a prospering economy, they make prosperity less sure. They destroy people's faith in themselves. As Janet Flannery said about Andre Gide when he came back from a tour of the Soviet Union in 1936: "He no longer believed. He now only hoped."
I scare myself
On a Samizdata post about national IDs, I came up with this idea:
Why not just combine the national ID with a credit card, so the government can regulate people's credit and can be made aware of any socially undesirable transactions? Then there would be the automatic mandatory deductions for the purchase of government securities. Don't want to give anyone ideas, but something tells me they're already thinking along this line.
It seems frighteningly possible. Fascism in the electronic age. When you already have money-laundering laws and mandatory income reporting, how far-fetched is a unitary Govcard?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Getting ready for Paris
Three weeks from tomorrow I am going to Paris for a week with my two older children. I've even found a hotel. There's just too much to do and only six full days to do it in, so I'm bound to come away a bit disappointed. But since we may run into strikes and riots I will just be satisfied to come back in one piece and a bit better informed about the possibilities of living overseas. Would I really like to be an honorary Frog? Is it better than being a Turk or a constant nomad? Some conundrum.
This seems to push my analysis one interesting bit further. Now I just wish I could remember where I put it:
Any Objectivist has to realize that the enemy is not just Al Qaeda, but the political system at home. To avoid being impeached and removed and leaving the destruction of the terrorists to the likes of Gore and Kerry, Bush has to moderate, unfortunately, the level of violence by US troops. This is as much a tactical consideration as what kind of weapons to use in the assault on Fallujah. He needs political support. He could have pushed harder in some places, at some times. And he could have downplayed the democracy angle. He could have shown more and clearer contempt for the obscenity that is Islam. But I don't think his decisions are driven by any motive other than the crushing of the enemies of the United States, the best hope for individual freedom and rationality in the world today. Overall, I'd give him a B-. Who else could do better?