The Corner

Jawd Agonistes — and Dynamic Scoring

Derb – I’m not sure you demonstrate that anything I said was wrong so much as illuminated the fact that there are other factors involved. I agree entirely that there are externalities — to use a pompous word — involved when employers hire cheap illegal/labor. One of them is the moral issue you alluded to. Another are the various social costs. But neither of these are carried by the employer. It may be wrong and it may be shortsighted in the big picture for an employer to rely on illegals or to exploit legal immigrants, but it doesn’t render anything I said wrong. As a purely rational decision for the employer, the choice is largely as I framed it. I also find it just slightly jarring to hear you invoking the moral argument this way. On other areas of foreign and economic policy, you’re usually quite fond of amoral argumemts, though certainly not exclusively so.

However, Mark does raise option number 3, which I should have mentioned: automation. The widget factory manager can use robots to replace both Americans and illegals. I take Mark’s word for it that in agriculture the appeal of cheap labor can often be a siren song, though I trust businessmen to make those decisions more than immigration-policy mavens.

But I would like to raise a larger point. As I’m sure Mark and Derb can attest, there is no example favorable to the “pro-immigration” side (quotation marks necessary to fend off all the usual objections) which can’t be countered by an equally compelling “anti-immigration” example. Why? Because we live in a huge frick’n country, with an incredibly complex and diverse economy. My guess is that if we walled-up the border tomorrow, many good things would happen and many bad things would happen. Moreover some of those bad things would seem good to some people and bad to others, and vice versa. Some would be temporary and others enduring. The idea that we can predict with anything approaching certainty what would happen if we adopted this or that policy strikes me as highly dubious.

That’s why my first choice for an immigration policy is to have one. Then, whatever it is, we have to enforce it ruthlessly and see what happens. Then we can make adjustments. The current policy is chaos, which means you can’t make any meaningful fixes or adjustments. I’m certain I disagree with Derb and Mark’s preferred policies on the details. But I would much, much, much rather have their dream scenario imposed and enforced with the caveat that it can be revisited as necessary than to stick with the status quo. Pick a policy and enforce it, from there progress can be made.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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