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Charles Murray on Immigration



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Several readers emailed in after my “Libertarianism in One Country“ piece yesterday to ask what Charles Murray’s current views on immigration policy are.  I posted to The Corner that I didn’t know, but that Charles–a self-declared libertarian–was welcome to tell us if he felt like doing so.

He did, and sent me the following, posted here with his permission.

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What’s my position on immigration? Well, since apparently someone asked (and I have never published anything on immigration), here goes.

Regarding illegal immigration:

1. Making laws about who gets to become a citizen, under what circumstances, is a legitimate function of the state.

2. Protecting borders is a legitimate function of the state.

3. Enforcing the law is a central function of the state.

4. Immigration reform must begin first with enforcement of existing immigration law. If it takes a wall, so be it.

5. And while I’m at it, I’ll mention that English should be the only language in which public school classes are taught (except for teaching English as a foreign language) and in which the public’s business is conducted.

Regarding legal immigration:

1. Immigration is one of the main reasons–I’m guessing the main reason apart from our constitution–that we have remained a vital, dynamic culture, but immigration of a particular sort: Self-selection whereby people come here for opportunity. That self-selection process used to apply to everyone. It still applies to the engineers and computer programmers and entrepreneurs who come here from abroad, but it is diluted for low-job-skill workers by the many economic benefits of just being in the United States. Most low-job-skill immigrants work very hard. But Milton Friedman was right: You can’t have both open immigration and a welfare state. The tension between the two is inescapable.

2. Massive immigration of legal low-skill workers is problematic for many reasons, and some of them have to do with human capital. Yes, mean IQ does vary by ethnic group, and IQ tends to be below average in low-job-skill populations. One can grant all the ways in which smart people coming from Latin American or African countries are low-job-skill because they have been deprived of opportunity, and still be forced to accept the statistical tendencies. The empirical record established by scholars such as George Borjas at Harvard cannot be wished away.

3. I am not impressed by worries about losing America’s Anglo-European identity. Some of the most American people I know are immigrants from other parts of the world. And I’d a hell of a lot rather live in a Little Vietnam or a Little Guatemala neighborhood, even if I couldn’t read the store signs, than in many white-bread communities I can think of.

4. When it comes to the nitty-gritty, I would get rid of reuniting-families provisions, get rid of the you’re-a-citizen-if-you’re-born-here rule, and make immigrants ineligible for all benefits and social services except public education for their children. Everybody who immigrates has to be on a citizenship track (no guest workers). And I would endorse a literacy requirement. Having those measures in place, my other criteria for getting permission to immigrate would be fairly loose. Just having to get through the bureaucratic hoops will go a long way toward reinstalling a useful self-selection process. But, to go back to basics: None of this works unless illegal immigration is effectively ended.

I suppose other libertarians will disagree, but I don’t see a single item in this approach that runs against the principles of classical liberalism.

Charles Murray

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[Derb]  Pure Murray–clear, succinct, data-based, no punches pulled.  And not a thing I can see to disagree with. 



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