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Are you saying that parents should stop trying to make their kids eat broccoli? Horror of horrors!

I think the institutional ceteris paribus (which most economic models assume) is being violated here. A couple of recent studies here in Sweden indicate that trust goes down in areas that have seen a large influx of immigrants. That is to say people become less inclined to believe that everyone they interact with will behave honestly.

I think you're equivocating a bit. Equivocating between "immigrants" and "invaders". Both are foreigners. But the first want to come and work, the second want to come and take your land. Big difference. So even if you don't care about culture, you'll oppose the second and not the first.

And isn't this whole "culture" thing just a polite way of saying that the public which opposes immigration is xenophobic (or even racist)? Which may make for a good descriptive analysis but if you're going to turn that into a normative statement, then you have to make the argument that society in general should respect these kinds of preferences. Which is the tough part.

As far as Vortigern and the Saxons goes you have to be careful taking the chronicler's word as truth. The most likely scenario of what really happened is that Vortigern promised the Saxons a bunch of stuff if they helped him against the Picts, they did, he didn't pay up (welched?) so they started plundering.

"So immigration probably doesn't matter much for natives"

One thing that a fairly macro approach to immigration fails to account of is that immigration has different effects on different labour markets, and has different effects on new entrants as compared to established workers. Foreign trained lawyers find it almost impossible to practice law in Canada, hence immigration has almost zero effect on the supply of lawyers, and quite likely increases the demand for lawyers, so one would not be surprised to see lawyers enthusiastically supporting high levels of immigration. If we think, instead, of relatively unpleasant jobs requiring minimal language skills or Canadian training, e.g. working in a meat processing plant, the ability of firms to employ temporary or permanent migrant workers basically removes upwards pressure on wages.

Also being able to deport anyone who shows up late for work removes the need to pay efficiency wages.

So for people on the margins of the labour market - unskilled workers who would otherwise see their wages bid up, as well as the less-than-perfect potential employees who would otherwise get hired - immigration policy can matter a great deal.

This is, however, not your point. Your point is that Rules and Institutions matter, and these rules and institutions are based on a set of social norms, unwritten rules of behaviour and conduct. If just one or two people behaving differently enter a group, the social norms, unwritten rules can still persist. But if a certain number of people start deviating from the unwritten rules, breaking the social norms, it is not clear that the existing social institutions can persist.

I tend to agree with you on this. But I think it's important to differentiate between two different things:

First, resistance to change - the "I don't like foreigners who smell of garlic/curry/butter/whatever" phenomenon. Societies change. Even societies that are isolated from any outside contact evolve over time - just watch a 1940s movie and marvel at how much accents have changed in 75 years. That's an inevitable part of aging - the old become strangers in their own country. But I don't have any right to impose my prejudice against new fangled things like, say, ear buds on other people.

Second, real threats to social institutions. Think, e.g., of a rule "don't litter" or "pick up after your dog". As long as everyone follows that rule, parks will be clean and pleasant places. But as soon as just one person doesn't follow that rule, we end up with garbage or other nasty things in the park, and once the park is bespoiled, no one else will bother to follow the rule, because it doesn't matter any more.

So the question is - which of the two scenarios here are we really talking about? And the truth is, I suspect, a mix of both, which is why immigration policy is complicated.

My personal view is that some amount of immigration is good, but I have some serious problems with the idea of temporary foreign workers, and also it's not obvious to me that the current level of immigration to Canada is the right one.

Frances, I think that the argument that immigration affects "people on the margins of the labour market" is essentially a partial equilibrium thinking (and Nick, you were criticizing that in the post on robots). It's also a static effect. Once capital accumulates, wages come back to where they were, same pressure. And that's basically what most studies of effects of immigration on unskilled worker's find, a small short run effect (around 3% decrease in wages) and a zero or even positive effect in the "long run" (a few years).

And even those estimates tend to be based on the assumption that within a particular skill category natives and immigrant workers are perfect substitutes, which is quite unlikely.

Overall the purely economic argument is very very much pro Open Borders.

Hugo: Yep, I think the institutional ceteris paribus (institutions are just ignored) is the big one.

notsneaky: If immigration is seen as an elite project, public opinion might see immigrants as invaders. Perceptions might be very fluid, depending on perceived legitimacy. And if immigrants change the rules and institutions, it might be hard to distinguish buying and taking (land and other goods). Terra nullis?

"The most likely scenario of what really happened is that Vortigern promised the Saxons a bunch of stuff if they helped him against the Picts, they did, he didn't pay up (welched?) so they started plundering."

Could be. Whose court of law could have decided that claim?

Lovely (un-PC) use of "welched" in this context. Welsh/welch has 3 meanings: 1. Saxon word for foreigner/Briton, hence 2. modern word person from Wales, and 3. un-PC (and archaic) slang for not paying what you owe. (Were you punning on all three meanings?)

Frances: yes, I suffer from the Macro vice. Lots more is going on when we look at distributional questions.

The Vortigern argument is about ethnogenesis, the process by which ethnic groups come into being by the common consent of their members. The language question is here a bit tricky, but not terribly applicable to the bilingual context of Early Medieval western Europe.

There are two prongs to the argument. The first is ideological, letting that word do some heavy lifting, while the the second is economic. (In a broad sense, as I could equally well write agronomic.).


i) Romanitas is, at its core, all about ethnogenesis. To be Roman is to participate in the Roman way of life. Period. At the beginning, Romulus and Remus populate their new city with a motley band of outlaws, escaped slaves and cattle rustlers. (And with the Rape of the Sabine Women, but let's not go there. Oops, too late...) They are Romanised by accepting Romanitas.
ii) This ideology facilitates the largescale incorporation of "barbarian armies" into Roman-controlled spaces in western Europe: Franks, Goths, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Burgundians --various argument may now be had about Arabs, Vandals, Lombards and Isaurians.
iii) Since we don't know crap about what happened in sub-Roman Britain, and it is debatable that our sources do, we can look at the story of an invited Saxon settlement as either something that happened (extrapolating a bit from Gildas, who claims that the Saxon settlement happened, but was then reversed), something that it is polemically important to claim is happening (Gallic Chronicles); or something later writers (Bede, Anglo-Saxon Chronicles) want to have happened.

Intermission: I have put so much emphasis on the ideological context of stories about the Saxon emigration/invasion/assisted immmigration because I have serious doubts about the logistics of a largescale movement of population under early Medieval populations. The Occam's Razor argument is that we hear about this migration because it is a good story, and not because it happened, because it didn't. But I could be wrong!


The division within Britain between English and British (P-Celtic) speaking regions maps onto the 60" isohyet which divides the eastern and western parts of the British Isles into a higher-rainfall, more hilly west, and a flatter, less wet east. The high rainfall zone is more suitable to transhumant stockraising, the drier east to mixed in-and-outfield farming. This is a claim about the boundaries of ancient dialects, so it is probably telling here that the 60" isohyet also maps still-existing differences in the distributions of mitochondrial DNA. Further, this differentiation of a western and eastern British population group predates the Migration Period. As far as we know, it is primordial.

We can argue that this statistically observable difference in population groups represents the persistence of difference established in the Paleolithic. It strikes me as much more reasonable to assume that someone from Belfast is more likely to marry someone from Liverpool, because she is handy to go a-milking in the summer pastures, while a Hollander is more likely to marry a Whitbyite, because he knows what trouble sheep can get into down in the saltmarsh. Carry this trend down through six thousand years, and you get the genetic distribution that appears in the maps.

Now a conclusion: It doesn't matter where they come from! Over time, ethnogenesis depends on the job skills you learn. (Okay, a bit of a jump, but also a way of making a programmatic statement, which is that high immigration will be readily smoothed over by a high pressure economy.)


notsneaky: " Once capital accumulates, wages come back to where they were, same pressure. And that's basically what most studies of effects of immigration on unskilled worker's find, a small short run effect (around 3% decrease in wages) and a zero or even positive effect in the "long run" (a few years)."

Yes, I know the research. But I don't find a lot of it tremendously convincing. Immigrants tend to go where there are jobs. If we see good things economically happening in places where there are immigrants we don't know whether it's because immigrants go where there are jobs, or jobs go where there are immigrants. Now there are various attempts to get around this problem by looking at exogenous immigration events - waves of Cuban emigration, Hurricane Katrina, for example. Those studies are more interesting, but their limited scope makes it difficult to generalize from those studies to the 1%-of-population-per-year level of immigration Canada has had for a long time.

If what you're saying is true, i.e. "Once capital accumulates, wages come back to where they were, same pressure" it is hard to explain decades and decades of owners-of-capital pushing for the ability to import low-wage labour from e.g. China (if you ever have a chance, and you haven't already, visit the canning factory in Steveston (Richmond), BC - fascinating in terms of the long long long history of temporary migrant workers in this country), and decades and decades of worker resistance to same. The only explanation we can come up with is "people are stupid" which - as an economist - is an explanation I avoid whenever possible.

Erik Lund - fascinating!

Frances, yes, it's true there's the obvious endogeneity in many of those studies, but even the ones which try to control for that come to roughly the same conclusions. And just intuitively a 1% immigration rate is very unlikely to have much of an impact no matter how you slice it.

As far as why capital owners support immigration there's two reasons. One, there is still the short run gain to them from increase in labor. Two, if immigrant labor and native labor are substitutes (maybe imperfect) and both kinds of labor are complements to capital then there is also a long run gain to capital (at least assuming a constant saving rate).

I don't think "people are stupid" is the explanation. "People are xenophobic" very well might be.

Nick, yes, that was on purpose and I guess un-PC. Anyway, just because the public perceives immigrants as "invaders" does not mean they are. Unlike with Vortigern and the Saxons, we do have a court system which would settle any claims.

I also see no evidence that immigration changes institutions at least not over any reasonable horizon. Culture, maybe. And even there the historical norm - with very very few exceptions - has been that it's the immigrants who assimilate (sometimes faster, sometimes slower) into the native culture rather than vice versa (of course that's not true with conquest but the point is exactly that that's a different kettle of fish)

Finally, given that immigrants usually have less political power relative to natives - whether due to lack of citizenship or information or cultural capital - it's more likely that any expropriation (of land, wages, whatever) that happens is going to involve existing natives taking from newly arrived migrants, rather than vice versa. And again, it seems like that has been the historical case.

One also sees this in the attraction many economists have in gdp over gdp per capita under the presumption larger markets, increased specialization, faster growth, even though this should be true per capita as well and is a better measure. Far too much of this ends in absurdities of all or none, while most do see the advantage of some at the same time seeing the disadvantage of unrestrained. This demonstrates the weakness of an argument that can't admit any negatives for fear of losing the argument, absolutism reigns.

Erik: fascinating. But if Saxon immigration was a steady trickle over centuries, why did the Brittonic language get replaced by English (except in Wales and Cornwall)? Same with place names. A steady trickle of immigrants will presumably speak the language (and practice the religion) of the people already there.

notsneaky: it's presumably going to depend on the speed of immigration (some sort of non-linear function), and whether or not all the immigrants come from the same place and settle in the same places, and whether their children intermarry with the natives or bring wives and husbands from back home.

Lord: short run macroeconomists (like me) normally focus on GDP, because population doesn't change much at business cycle frequencies. But long run growth theorists should pay more attention to GDP per capita.


Regarding capitalists lobbying for immigration, this issue is a bit subtle, but the short answer is that they are not lobbying for more immigration, they are lobbying to 1) outsource jobs and 2) for guest-worker programs.

There are obvious reasons why an employer would prefer to hire a guest-worker who cannot leave the employer for a competitor, or who does not know their rights. But there is a big difference between something like an H1-B program (for which employers are actively lobbying) and an overall increase in immigration (for which employers are not actively lobbying).

Looking back historically we see the same thing, employers wanted the right to be able to bring in their own foreigners to displace domestic labor, with the proviso that if the foreigners caused trouble or tried to find higher wage employment elsewhere, they could be sent back home. The solution is to give more rights to immigrants and ban guest-worker style programs, not to curb immigration per se.

rsj - agree with you on the guest worker programs, not sure I agree with you here: "The solution is .... not to curb immigration per se."

That statement is unlikely to be universally true. Some countries have much higher rates of immigration than others. Given the wide range of currently existing immigration policies, it is implausible that all countries are currently at the optimal level of immigration.

Some countries are probably too restrictive with respect to immigration. Some countries are probably too lax. But to say that no country should curb immigration - well, I guess that's the Libertarian Party of Canada's position. Which makes sense. Because an open borders policy is basically incompatible with large scale income redistribution. The quid pro quo of having, say, a child tax benefit program that raises all families with children out of poverty is some restriction on the ability of families with children to move to Canada and collect said benefits.

notsneaky: "And just intuitively a 1% immigration rate is very unlikely to have much of an impact no matter how you slice it."

The relevant comparison is not to the population but to the number of new labour market entrants. At any one point in time say 1 or 2 or 3% of the currently existing Canadian population is entering the labour market. Now not all immigrants enter the labour market- some are too young, some are too old, some are not interested. But even so, the number of new immigrants relative to the number of new labour market entrants who are either native-born or established immigrants is still high enough to matter quite a bit.

We abhor states that point guns at people to keep them. I hope one day we will equally abhor states that point guns at people to keep them out.

The two branches of Celtic languages are both quite different from English. I studied Irish a little, and it's completely different from both English and French. English has tons of words originating from the Normans and the Saxon etc ... but not so much from the Celtic languages that existed England at the time. I wonder if the differences in structure of the Celtic languages (and culture) created too much friction for them to be assimilated like almost everything else English come in contact with? Anyway, there are no doubt people who actually know something about this with better theories.

The experience of the US in the 19th century would suggest that it would take truly staggering numbers of immigrants to overwhelm the institutions of a modern democracy. DId it change their culture? I suppose it did, but I doubt anyone views it as a bad thing today. Though I suppose it was terrible for some to be forced to live next to a Jewish or an Irish family.

Avon: "We abhor states that point guns at people to keep them. I hope one day we will equally abhor states that point guns at people to keep them out."

Would you also abhor states that point guns at their own people forcing them to emigrate to live in a foreign country?

What's the difference? ("Physical geography" is not a good answer.)

Patrick: "Anyway, there are no doubt people who actually know something about this with better theories."

Razib Khan had a lovely long post on this, about a year back, exploring both the linguistic and genetic evidence, informed by his knowledge of similar events elsewhere in the world, to try to figure out what was happening in post-Roman Britain. But (as usual) I can't find it.

"DId it change their culture? I suppose it did, but I doubt anyone views it as a bad thing today."

If people are small-c conservative, nobody will view past changes as a bad thing, because going back in time would also be a change.

If you put people temporarily behind the Veil of Ignorance, so they can't remember which country they live in, and ask them "would you like to be re-allocated to another country/culture at random?" I think most people would say "no".

Aha! I found Razib Khan's post on "Celts to Anglo-Saxons". Half of it goes over my head, of course. God only knows how that guy does it. The New York Times made a terrible mistake when they fired him on the same day they hired him, because some nasty SJW objected.

Or people that point guns to force their way in.

The ideal is where everyone has the option and no one feels the need, but if we are only going to solve half a problem, let it be the the latter. That is much better than everyone having the option but no one having the desire because everywhere is equally bad.


What are you taking about? No, the state should not force people to emigrate.

Here's how Alex Tabarrok puts it:

"No defensible moral framework regards foreigners as less deserving of rights than people born in the right place at the right time.

Not every place in the world is equally well-suited to mass economic activity. Nature’s bounty is divided unevenly. Variations in wealth and income created by these differences are magnified by governments that suppress entrepreneurship and promote religious intolerance, gender discrimination, or other bigotry. Closed borders compound these injustices, cementing inequality into place and sentencing their victims to a life of penury.

The overwhelming majority of would-be immigrants want little more than to make a better life for themselves and their families by moving to economic opportunity and participating in peaceful, voluntary trade. But lawmakers and heads of state quash these dreams with state-sanctioned violence—forced repatriation, involuntary detention, or worse—often while paying lip service to “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

The grandest moral revolutions in history — the abolition of slavery, the securing of religious freedom, the recognition of the rights of women—yielded a world in which virtually everyone was better off. They also demonstrated that the fears that had perpetuated these injustices were unfounded. Similarly, a planet unscarred by iron curtains is not only a world of greater equality and justice. It is a world unafraid of itself."

> What else might it leave out?

Isn't this a story of transaction costs and network effects? This is easiest to see with language, but it would apply to many other essentially arbitrary preferences we consider "cultural."

If Canada lets in one immigrant who speaks crypto-binary as their native language, then that immigrant must learn English or French to do business. Existing residents are unaffected, since the new immigrant must strongly conform to the existing language; even if the new immigrant starts a business that language of business must be English or French for it to attract any customers.

If Canada lets in a million immigrants that speak crypto-binary, the situation changes. Now, it is possible for these immigrants to exist in a few isolated enclaves. While the enclaves' internal business is of little concern to already-present Canadians, the concentration means that business that crosses the enclaves' borders will be in some sort of compromise state. Perhaps dry cleaners and grocers will need to hire bilingual cashiers, for example. Most importantly, existing residents who would ordinarily go to the more-conveniently-located crypto-binary dry-cleaner may be unable to do so for want of speaking the language: they may even lose out if their existing haunts pull up stakes and relocate further away.

In the first case, immigration is very close to a Pareto improvement, or at least no worse than natural population growth. Existing residents see only generalized competition and supply from the newcomer, and the newcomer who arrives voluntarily is presumably valuing the opportunity over the cost of assimilation.

In the second case, we see only a Kaldor-Hicks improvement for existing residents. A substantial set of existing residents must bear the cost of adapting to handle the new cross-cultural transaction costs, which would not be imposed if the new immigrants all assimilated perfectly.

I don't think it too much of a stretch to suggest that elites are more likely than the average person to improve of a larger Kaldor-Hicks improvement over a smaller Pareto improvement.

Avon: the more foreign people enter my country, the more my country becomes a foreign country. I emigrate without moving a foot. The foreign country comes to me.

"Not every place in the world is equally well-suited to mass economic activity. Nature’s bounty is divided unevenly."

Yes, physical geography matters. But social institutions matter more. Very few people want to migrate to Finland because of the weather and lakes. And social institutions are part of the people, not part of the physical geography. If all the people change, the social institutions will change too, even if the land stays the same.

Do you have the right to share a home with someone? Or does he/she have to give his/her consent? All trade is by mutual consent. Why should migration not also be by mutual consent?

The quid pro quo of having, say, a child tax benefit program that raises all families with children out of poverty is some restriction on the ability of families with children to move to Canada and collect said benefits

This whole discussion is a bit futile unless all involved agree on the relevant set of people to optimise for. What you're saying is that, to the extent that the two are mutually exclusive (which I doubt , btw), the right of Canadian families to collect such benefits to escape relative poverty ranks morally higher than the right of the immigrant famliy to escape whatever it is that's causing it to emigrate. Can economics do that?
If anything, it would have to answer the question whether total world welfare rises faster if people are allowed to move from poor / war torn / whatever regions to relatively more prosperous regions or whether on the contrary, in the short or long term, overall welfare it rises faster if each subset of humans has to to figure things out for themselves (that's keeping it georgraphy neutral, just to please Nick).

That statement is unlikely to be universally true. Some countries have much higher rates of immigration than others. Given the wide range of currently existing immigration policies, it is implausible that all countries are currently at the optimal level of immigration.

Might it also be that what's optimal for all countries individually is not attainable in aggregate? After all, net world migration is 0.


Trade is by mutual consent. I want to trade with a Mexican who only has low skilled labour to trade. To make the trade, he needs to move to Canada. The state prevents the trade from happening. Canada is not at home, it's an means to an end, that is all. There is no moral or economic ground on which you improve the situation by preventing that trade.

Let's be honest about your objections. Immigration reduces the ability of the state to redistribute. But prosperity and economic growth do not spring forth from redistribution. The descendants of poor Sicilian immigrants who live in NYC have smartphones in their pockets not because because the US was a great a redistributionalist state.


Immigration reduces the ability of the state to redistribute.

That's only true if you assume that immigrants are net receivers of transfers. Of course you can achieve that by design, if you make sure immigrants get the worst jobs if any and thus qualify for redistribtution. But that's the result of a xenophobic setup, not of any inherent vice or virtue of the average immigrant.

Why not look at immigration like a high birth rate?

Nick, if I kick you out of your house and make you move to another neighborhood, that's different than me allowing someone to move in next door, no?

Every single part of the argument about culture here applies equally well to things like residential (and other forms of) segregation. And arguably at one point desegregation was seen as an "elite project".

Suppose I like oranges but I really hate it if other people get to eat oranges. Should a benevolent social planner incorporate this preferences of mine into the social welfare function and restrict the consumption of oranges (at the margin) by others to increase "social welfare"? Suppose I really hate it when people wear sweatshirts, just purely for aesthetic reasons. That's a real negative externality right there. Should there be a Pigouvian tax on sweatshirts just because I feel that way? Not all externalities are created equal and for some society just needs to say "tough noogies". Maybe that's elitist. But it's also right.

I challenge open borders people to move where others want to leave and work to make life better there. That is a respectable moral position.

Avon: "To make the trade, he needs to move to Canada."

Or you need to move to Mexico. Now ask yourself, if Mexico had Open Borders, but Canada did not, and if the climate of mexico were exactly the same as Canada, would that resolve the issue? I think not. Because you (very probably) don't want to move to Mexico. But why not 9if the climate wee the same)? It's because social and economic institutions are different.

"Canada is not at home, it's an means to an end, that is all."

Well, a lot of Canadians will disagree with you on the 'Canada is not a home' bit. And if Canada is a means to and end, what is that means, and what is that end? I would say it's a club of people who have joined together for mutual defence, and to provide other club goods. And it is not obvious to me that club goods should be abolished, and converted into public goods, by preventing excludability. It's like saying the initial price of membership must be $0. And as you know, price controls like that tend to have undesirable consequences. Would the existing members of a club invest in the club if later entrants can free ride?

"Let's be honest about your objections. Immigration reduces the ability of the state to redistribute."

Phew! I thought you were going to accuse me of something else. OK, I confess, I'm a rabid lefty.

Khan is an interesting case. My take on the stuff the so-called SJW's got upset about is "so what?". Ideals about human rights, equality of individuals before the law, etc aren't predicated on, and thus not threatened by, any particular statistical distribution of attributes in a given population with some arbitrarily selected genetic traits. That's their power. They make us all better off, and nobody worse off.

You know, we don't actually have to ask Arthur. All we have to do is visit the nearest Indian Reservation and ask the first person we meet. They probably wouldn't be too keen on immigration.
As Frances says it all depends on the Rules and Institutions. If the immigrants accept our rules and institutions (and they probably would because our rules and institutions are a big reason why they want to be here in the first place) then immigration is going to work just fine. If not well...
Personally I am all for open borders. This is partly because I've learned to love ethnic foods and I am comfortable interacting with people from around the world, etc. But it is also because I believe have a firm belief (delusional or otherwise) that my property rights to my house and pension savings, and my professional qualifications, etc. would all be respected and honoured.
But a short drive away there lives a community of people whose rules and institutions weren't respected by the immigrants (including me), and who have really, really suffered as a result. A humbling thought.

Patrick: that's roughly my take on it too. Razib did a couple of posts on whether race is a social construct, to which he answered yes and no. (And the pure social construct theory is just looking sillier and sillier with every genome sequencing. Especially with neanderthals and denisovans and all that.) But for a lot of questions, so what!

Brad: yep. I was trying to think who would be the Native American equivalent to Arthur? But being a Brit (of mixed saxon-celtic ancestry, probably) I decided it was safer to stick with Arthur.

Pontiac or Tecumseh? It'd probably be harder to find a Native American Vortigern. And I think it needs reiterating: immigration is not invasion, no more than trade is theft. This is a false equivocation.


Paris - not so much the bloodshed - tragic though that is. (After all there are over 3,000 motor vehicle related deaths in France and that will not have the impact of this attack.)

It is more what Paris reveals about the different value structures of the French vs assailant's communities. The French people may well welcome strangers, but what they don't want to do is to have their value structure imposed on their community.

Some simple correlations on big countries apparently failing to grow faster than small countries

On your land point, you present immigration as a gain (since the value of the land rises). But in a country - like Canada or NZ - where natural resources (fertile land,minerals) contribute materially to wealth there is a depletion effect to consider (natural resources - the value of which probably swamps net national public debt- spread over a larger number of people. My favourite comparison is Norway vs the UK: the UK had about a third of the north sea oil and gas, and Norway two thirds, but with 5m people that resource took Norway to the top of the oecd income per capita tables, and made much much less difference in the UK with 60m or so.

You can consider allowing immigration a charitable contribution of public goods and open borders an attempt to persuade others to join in, but if they decline I doubt calling them racist xenophobes will persuade them.

Nick - please don't go there. Don't have to look far to find places where a few young men choose to embrace violence and kill people - don't need immigrants for that to happen.

What Frances said.

Well at least you're being honest now Nick. I now know how you think - wasn't far off what I thought.

So why would people not choose to contribute? Because they have their own interests and responsibilities. Because they want to preserve and protect what they have. Because they don't feel safe, secure, or wealthy enough to do so. Rather than address them, these and even the choice not to contribute are denied, by those who deem themselves superior.

Countries are first and foremost mutual defence associations. It is easier to offer mutual defence if you defend a border around an area of land within which members of the association live. All agreements are hard to enforce, and mutual defence agreements are hard to enforce. They need all the help they can get, from a sense of sharing a common community. If elite opinion does not recognise these facts, and the consequences become too hard to ignore, the elite will eventually be changed.

I would say it's a club of people who have joined together for mutual defence, and to provide other club goods. ... Would the existing members of a club invest in the club if later entrants can free ride.

What about new entrants who happen to be born into the club? In which way are they different form other entrants? You're desperately trying to construct a moral imperative from what seems to me a fairly accurate description of the nation state as a club. It's a complete non sequitur. Just because club members of most clubs like the club rules as they are does not mean the club rules are just or moral or in any other way right. You need a separate moral theory to do that. And starting from the axiom that all people are equal, I don't see how you can possibly treat people who happen to be born into one jurisdiction differently from those born into others. So yes, nations are like clubs, and politics is mostly a national affair. And no, there is no world government alternative on the horizon. But that still makes a moral story not.

All trade is by mutual consent. Why should migration not also be by mutual consent?

If migration really worked like free trade, people would be free to buy land through consensual bilateral trades wherever they liked and live there. The category foreigner in such a scenario is just another name for a possible trade partner who happens to speak another language. And what national borders do, is they prevent such trades (in the name of national defense).

Oliver: people care for their children, and children are born into their parents' community. We want our club rules to say that our children are automatically members. Because we want to extend our mutual defence to each others' children.

Are club rules moral? Well, it depends on the club, and its constitution. I don't have any special insights into that question. Political philosopher have been debating it for centuries.

If a non-member wants to join a club, and the club wants that non-member to join the club, then his joining the club is by mutual consent.

French lives matter. We need to go there. Though it's not yet obvious to me where exactly "there" is.

Played us like a violin. Queue the over reaction and the next, and worse cycle of blowback.

I was just watching an old BBC documentary from the '60s about WWI. It's a amazing how a criminal outrage can turn tensions over irrelevant bits of land into a conflagration.

trying to find a way of making sense of your comment last night. The point of this post is that rules and institutions matter. There we are in agreement. The relevant question is, therefore, "how can a society achieve and maintain desirable social institutions."

Immigration has the potential to change social institutions. But that does not necessarily imply that the resulting social institutions will be less desirable for society as a whole - though some undoubtedly will win, and some lose, as a result. Furthermore, social institutions change even in the absence of immigration. They're like languages - they inevitably drift, even in completely isolated populations.

Moreover, as others have argued earlier, enforcement of a zero immigration rule would be costly and/or impossible and/or undesirable and would furthermore create unnecessary hardship.

Terrorism is multi-faceted, so it would probably be overly strong to say it has absolutely nothing to do with immigration. But if I was looking for ways to combat terrorism, I'd go to the root causes - which are more likely to be over-population and inflation and starvation and the crazy politicians than migration per se.

Now I'm going for a walk in the forest to clear my head - there being my favourite place. (Text if you're free, Nick).

"All agreements are hard to enforce, and mutual defence agreements are hard to enforce." What are you talking about? The US is an immigrant rich society and finds it pretty easy to spend 3.5+% of GDP on defence creating the most powerful military force ever seen on this planet by far.

Look Nick, this immigration debate is not about who can come to this country - that’s just about getting a tourist visa. This argument is all about who is allowed to work here, and, later, who is allowed to become a citizen. Governments have massive programs in place to stop people from working. That is immigration law.

If you believe in free trade of goods, and free investment, then you must believe that the free movement of people has the same benefits. This blog goes on and on about inequality in the narrow sense about inequality in rich countries like Canada. Most of this planet lives on less than $2 per day. Allowing people to vote on a country's institutions with their feet is the surest way to increase world GDP and deliver a crushing blow to abject poverty.

Yes, Nick, French lives matter; so do the lives of the huddled masses yearning to breathe free. It's not mutually exclusive.

Nick, I've seen you post on West Hunter, so I know there's some RealTalk within you.

Please don't be discouraged by the PC mob that will surely come for you if you dare to commit the thoughtcrime of saying what you actually think about Paris and Merkel's insanity. But I know in my heart of hearts that you realize what's up (and I completely understand your reluctance to say it publicly, given that you work in academia in one of the most SJW-dominated countries in the world; hell, just look at what happened at Yale).

This may not mean much to you, but I sincerely respect and support your efforts to fight PC-tyranny in whatever way you can. You have at least one spiritual ally.

John S

Since when does free trade mean zero price?

Patrick: for WW1 that sounds about right. For WW2 I think it's maybe the opposite. Neville chamberlain said something similar about the Sudetenland, IIRC. The trick is being able to tell which is which.

Frances: well, it all depends on whether potential immigrants share (or will come to share) the host society's views of rules and institutions, or whether (at the other extreme) they will try to destroy them by killing people. And clearly there's some of each. And, once again, the tricky part is telling which is which.

Avon: tourists go back home, you don't have to let them in, and you can kick them out if you want. Citizens have the right to stay.

Take an example: an individual applies for entry. There's a probability P that he is huddled masses who will (sooner or later) be a good citizen because he wants to live in your libertarian society. And a probability 1-P that he will kill hundreds of people to impose his own quite different views on rules and institutions. For what value of P do you point your gun and say he can't come in?

I don't know the answer to that question either, but it's neither 0% nor 100%.

John: thanks. But it's a little more complicated than that. These posts aren't really addressed to SJWs. They are addressed (mostly) to economists like me. And economists aren't generally PC or SJW's (except in their own peculiar way). And economists are good people, but do tend to have some blind spots. It's just a bit of a fluke that the more libertarian end of the economists spectrum tend to hold views on immigration that look like SJW views.

The 10ky explosion is a great book, and Westhunter a good blog. I don't always agree though (e.g. Greg is wrong on human capital theory, though that's maybe our fault for using the words "human capital" in two different ways (input and output)).

Lord: yep.

You do realize that that "P" in your question above is epsilon, where epsilon is defined as the smallest number greater than zero. The problem is people pretending that it's something else.

Basing policy on an emotional but completely and utterly unrepresentative event is just not a good idea. And this is especially true when that event is completely unrelated to the issue under discussion.

Lassana Diarra just confirmed that one of the people killed in the terrorist attack. I actually don't follow European football. But I'm willing to bet that Diarra and his cousin broadly fit under the definition of "immigrant".

This isn't about immigration and it does not service to the discussion to pretend it is.

"one of the people killed in the attack" ... was his cousin

Nick, "Frances: well, it all depends on whether potential immigrants share (or will come to share) the host society's views of rules and institutions"

I'm not sure if I understand. Immigrants might not share the host society's views of rules and institutions, yet immigration could still be a good thing. From a rules and institutions point of view, would you rather live in the Ontario of today, or the Ontario of Robertson Davies novels? I'd pick today anytime.

Moreover, one point I was trying to make is that even if we don't have immigration, rules and institutions will change over time in response to changes in technology, to demographic changes, or just spontaneously. Look at Japan - and keep on looking as it tries to work out how to deal with a seriously inverted population pyramid. One can say "I don't want rules and institutions to change" - and that's only slightly more useful than standing in front of one's sand castle and saying "I don't want the tide to come in." Societies evolve over time regardless - just look at the massive change in the rules and institutions governing sexuality (GLBT) which have taken place in the past 20 years.

This post has been really valuable in terms of opening up a discussion about the effects of immigration that people are reluctant to have - there is a reluctance to admit that policies create both losers and winners, and that their long-term consequences are serious and profound. That our current policy might not be the right one.

But immigration policy is one area where I wouldn't want to be Turning Japanese.

notsneaky: I hope you are right, but I fear you might be very wrong.

Frances: Most of us would want to live in our own time-place. We don't want to go back to Robertson Davies Ontario, but if I were living there then, I'm not sure I would want to forward to today (holding GDP/capita constant). People are conservative like that.

Yep, people don't want to talk about this stuff.

Why not look at immigration like a high birth rate?

Because babies don't bring culture and religion with them, they absorb the attitudes of their family and their school.

... did anyone alert European voters that they would have to dismantle their social model to make a success of their immigration policies?

— David Frum (@davidfrum) November 14, 2015

The Devil makes work for idle hands. So if you don't want the Devil's work done, busy those idle hands. That really should be the beginning and end of the "social" argument about Paris.

Now, as to sub-Roman Britain, genetics, migration and language change. Again, personally, I think that the way that these supposedly contingent and historical changes line up with the 60" isohyet tell us just how contingent and historical they actually are. It's all about the agronomic substructure, you guys!

But people will have this argument, largely because this whole "Vortigern let in the immigrants, and that's why we speak English, except for those poor Welsh blighters" argument is so deeply engaging. If we're going to have this argument, and I am going to argue the case for assimlative ethnogenesis over narratives of cultural change, then I guess I owe a discussion of the evidence.

First, we have a documented, historical mechanism for genetic change in British populations. At Eastertime, fleets set out with fair wind from downwind ports from Dublin around to Exeter, bound for Galicia, Portugal, and the Levant far beyond. In the fall of the year, with winds fresh noreasterly, fleets sail from the eastern shore, from Skane down to Flanders, bound for the east coast of England. Each fleet is full of young men, masterless, on the edge of civil society and beyond --it was hardly unknown for London to sell the contents of its jails to the outbound ships--. Those who survive, arrive in an unusual position, with skills born of learning-by-doing, money in their pocket, and all the erotic capital of foreigness. Some settle where they land, while others bring wives home, wives as far outcast from their own society as their men were from theirs, and equally likely to experience a sea change into something socially respectable in their new homes.

This is known.

Now, it is supposed that a radically different social mechanic operated in sub-Roman Britain. Specifically, a massive population change was organised, precisely in an era defined by an absence of evidence for organisation. No kings, no states, no tax rolls, abandoned cities, impoverished graves --but, somehow, tens of thousands of men, women and children set out for unknown locations where they will have to either fight for land and crops in the field, or clear lands to feed themselves. Nineteenth Century historians waved all this away with talk of "folk movements--" an argument so abhorrent that its modern adherents have to sneak it in with a preliminary nod to "ethnogenesis" before deciding that seventy years of historiographic and social progress is wrong, and returning to pre-WWII arguments that pottery-does-so-have-a-language. (Jesus H. Christ, Peter Heather, I'm talking about you. Let proto-Nazi precursors rest and consider the possibility that you're wrong, and Walter Goffart is right, enter your head.)

So we look to other evidence: first of all, language. Well, good, because there's nothing so crazy that a historical linguist won't argue it. Indo-European was the Paleolithic language of Europe! The east coast of Britain already spoke German in pre-Roman times! Celtic and German did not actually become distinct until sub-Roman times! The Anglo-Saxons were so preternaturally organised that they could impose "apartheid" on the subjugated British!

Personally, I prefer to throw out theories that assume that language operates as it does now, in a unilingual, literarily-anchored context. There is no reason to think that the incoming "Germanic" peoples (notice that while we speak of Saxons, or of Angles, Jutes and Saxons, our one source, Bede, changes the ethnic composition of the invaders from chapter to chapter) spoke a single, inter-communicating, intelligible language. They don't now! Dutch, Danish, Swedish, Frisian, Low German, High German, Scotch, English. . . And that's after centuries of public education!

Conscious of these problems, more careful users turn to anchored and quantifiable aspects of language change: linguistic borrowings and placenames. Since English contains few Celtic roots, it is supposed that it is a "superstructure" language, and this is used, even by David Rollason, whom I otherwise vastly respect, to suppose that the apartheid argument must have merit. Personally, I prefer the idea that Bede has an agenda of promoting the idea tha the "Anglians" of "Northumbria" speak a Germanic tongue when they let their hair down. Perhaps that is prejudice, perhaps I am succumbing to the desire to talk about my authentic roots on the shore of the saltchuck. Chinook jargon really did enter the predominantly English-speaking milieu of my childhood, and it most certainly did not do so through elite appropriation. Modern historical linguistics studies language change in these sorts of complicated situations, but I think I speak for most befuddled non-experts trying to use that scholarship when I say that clear and simple rules of thumb elude us.

Then, there are placenames. At least we have the Domesday Book! Old regional and river names on the east coast of the island of Britain often have identifiable British roots, while placenames do not. That's like America! (Shenandoah, New York. . .) Therefore, sub-Roman Britain is like colonial-era America. On this, as a way of telegraphing a longer argument, I only note an antebellum New York county historian writing that "Washington" is a rendering of an Algonquin word meaning "Boston man. . .")

A more serious way of making the argument is to point out that placenames are usually derived from the name of the person who establishing the holding. Therefore, placenames are likely to reflect the prevalent language at the time that the landscape is reorganised --that is, at a time of significant agronomic or administrative change. That throws us far, far forward from sub-Roman Britain, probably to the establishment of parishes, not long before the Domesday Book. Placenames are not good evidence, is what I am saying.

Evidence-wise, we have two book ends. Gildas, writing probably in the first third of the 500s, tells us that Vortigern let in a Saxon army, as many local Roman rulers let in "barbarian armies." Notice the overwhelming, ideological framing of the Franks, and France, an episode that we know actually happened. Then they got kicked out. Not exactly a promising beginning for our argument! Writing two centuries later, Bede tells us that the Saxons came back later, and this time they won. Leaving Nennius and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles aside, it all now depends on Bede, and his agenda. (Goffart says that we don't have to look much further than the surviving literature for ample evidence of a death struggle between adherens of Wilfrid and Bede --no grand historical sweep here, just a tempest in a cathedral close.) Notice that it is very imporant to Bede that pagans invaded Britain and overthrew the Christian church east of the 60" isohyet because Bede has an adversarial relationship with British Christianity. I'd probably reach the limits of a Wordpress comment pretty quickly if I talked about all of the textual and archaeological evidence that the relgious landscape of Britain at the time of the Augustine Mission was much more complicated than saintly missionaries arriving in a paganised island. Trust me, then, when I say that the literature does exist.

You're only going to get anywhere with these arguments when you get rid of vast, impersonal forces (or the anxieties that kind of talk is so often code for), and let empathy for the actual people involved in.

All trade is by mutual consent.

Well, all trade but not including Obamacare for example. Not including the military forces, the police forces. Not including fire departments either. In many countries education doesn't fall into the "mutual consent" category, neither do roads and rail. Probably a large range of other stuff.

We could have a fruitful discussion as to whether a lot more trade SHOULD be handled by mutual consent, there might well be advantages in doing so, but regarding what the situation IS right now, we have plenty of exemptions from that "mutual consent" concept.

Why should migration not also be by mutual consent?

Well the obvious reason would be that in a club scenario there exists a general agreement in place amongst club members that matters effecting all of them (such as the atmosphere of this club for example) must also be part of the general consent of the club as a group, rather than specific consent of one or two members.

Let's suppose we have a club where gentlemen gather to drink rum and play chess. Clearly their shared tastes makes them agreeable toward one another. If one particular member decided on his own to insist on drinking whiskey and playing poker then it wouldn't quite fit in with the other members. But suppose the poker player just held the door open and rushed a lot of other poker players in the door while the long term members weren't paying attention... well it wouldn't be quite the same club anymore. Further suppose that a few of the chess players spoke up about it, "See here, what to you think you are up to?" to which the response is screaming "Shut up! Shut up!"

People are no doubt going to find fault with my analogy, but I've just been reading about how many times Brigitte Bardot has been fined for blasphemy, writing about her support for French culture and not wanting to see that culture displaced by Islam.

In the US situation there was the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which had two parts:

[1] Provide ways that established illegal activity of the day could become legal (the "Pathway to Citizenship") and thus be brought under labour laws, pay taxes, get legal rights, representation, etc.

[2] Deliver a promise that government would discourage future illegal activity with stronger border protection and fines for illegal hiring.

This was in response to a clear opinion amongst US citizens that the border should not be wide open, people should obey the law, and there's a right way and a wrong way to handle immigration. What happened was the US Federal Government completely reneged on the promise of [2] which was their half of the agreement. Borders were not secured, indeed the Feds have actively prevented states from being able to secure their own borders. Laws against illegal hiring were largely ignored, with lax enforcement, and hiring of illegal workers for maids, etc being considered almost normal.

In other words the members of the club came to a compromise agreement amongst themselves, they shook hands and decided to handle this a certain way... but then a small group of members went right back to holding the door open again, ignoring the agreement they just made. The remainder of the club have now said, "Wait a minute. This does not look right!"

Now you have the problem, there's a law as written, and a completely different law as practised. In other words, rule of men, not rule of law at all. Governments have proven time and again they cannot be trusted to keep promises, and because of this no one wants to attempt any future compromise given how badly it worked in the past.

If you believe in free trade of goods, and free investment, then you must believe that the free movement of people has the same benefits.

Only if you also believe that people are just another type of goods, and that labour is just another type of commodity.

Such a belief might lead you to wonder why culture and religion exist at all, but I guess economists generally don't bother wondering about that because there's no convenient macro totals to represent those things.

This blog goes on and on about inequality in the narrow sense about inequality in rich countries like Canada. Most of this planet lives on less than $2 per day. Allowing people to vote on a country's institutions with their feet is the surest way to increase world GDP and deliver a crushing blow to abject poverty.

I would think that if the best, brightest, and most adventurous people in a poor country tend to migrate themselves for economic benefit into a rich country, then adopt the culture of that rich country and become successful by working hard... the logical outcome would be to deplete poor country and further enrich the already rich country. To some extent, this was already demonstrated when East Germany rejoined West Germany and the West attracted most of the talent. It's happening in places like Greece where young entrepreneurial Greeks are moving to Germany for economic reasons.

This does provide a nice example of successful institutions vs failed institutions; but the people remaining behind in the poor country rarely seem to suddenly enlighten and strive to improve their own institutions, trying to adopt the culture of success. More often they fall to bitterness about how unfair it all is. In some cases (like the Middle East) the richer country bombs the poorer country as an unnecessary and cruel reminder that it's good to be top of the heap. Strangely enough, the people under those bombs don't think to themselves, "Gosh! We should adopt the amazingly successful institutions of those guys who are bombing us."

You won't find Greeks jumping up and down demanding to be more like Germans.

If the members of club A decide to periodically take-up arms, beat-up the member of club B and trash the club B club-house because, say, they don't like the colour of sweater club B wears. It would not be surprising if at some point club B gets annoyed and tries to give the members of club A a sound thrashing in return. But what if the members of club A are bigger and stronger? Club B members will do things like try to catch the member of club B alone. Or use weapons.

Is the answer to the escalating violence for the members of club A to burn down the club B clubhouse and murder all the members of club B. Or should club A mind it's own business and stop trashing other people's stuff?

@Avon Barksdale, you write:

"If you believe in free trade of goods, and free investment, then you must believe that the free movement of people has the same benefits."

You make these beliefs sound like a religion. Since I'm a skeptic of all religions, I'll ask you what I always ask the religious: What empirical evidence would convince you that your beliefs here are wrong?

Nick, it's not a question of hope or fear but of simple probability which I'm sure could be easily calculated. People who commit terrorist attacks are a negligible - essentially 0 - fraction of immigrants. It seems strange to dispute.

Let's switch our areas of economics here. To Behavioral. We know that people make mistakes in their judgement when their base their assessments based on rare but extreme events. Specifically, they tend to overestimate the probability of such an event. We also know that people are particularly bad at estimating probabilities when these are close to 0 or 1; specifically they overestimate "true" probabilities which are very small, acting as if these were much larger. We also know that a lot of biases arise from the fact that people approach a phenomenon with a given set of beliefs and then rather than then using data to test these beliefs, they interpret the data in a way which will confirm their existing beliefs.

All of this adds up to the fact that this just is NOT an important consideration in understanding the effects of immigration and the question should approached without either fear or hope.

Of course it might be an important consideration in understanding of what individuals in society BELIEVE about effects of immigration, but since when is it an economist's job to enable and confirm erroneous beliefs on the part of the public? Lots of anti-immigration people DO wrongly believe that "immigrants are stealing our jobs!" when there is no evidence of that. Lots of anti-immigration people DO wrongly believe that "immigrants are driving down wages" when generally there is no evidence and in fact the opposite is true. Lots of anti-immigration people DO wrongly believe that immigrants come to rich countries only to live off of welfare or to commit crimes or to engage in terrorism.

All of this is nonsense. You want to say "I don't like the idea of immigration because it messes with my culture"? Fine, that's an honest argument. But then you DO have to confront the fact that exactly the same argument can be made by a segregationist in 1960's American South in defense of Jim Crow (those guys had a "club" too). Or by a segregationist in 1980's New Jersey trying to block desegregation of housing. Etc. What's the difference? Is it a matter of degree?

notsneaky: here's some data from the Pew survey (pdf), Look at page 70 in particular. Some of those percentages are bigger than epsilon. Or pages 46 and 55. (I thought they had a similar survey for France and the UK, but my memory may be off.)

Erik: very interesting, as before. But if the only thing that happened is that a few dozen Saxon boys sail to Britain every year and marry British girls, I still don't get how all the people in what is now England switched to speaking English, with very few Brittonic words, in a couple of hundred years. Compare to Latin America, for example, where the Spanish and Portugese went as conquerers, and took some women with them.

Nick, I can't believe I am saying this...

In principle Avon is right and you are wrong. I don't think you are being fair to him unless you two have had a private exchange and there is information I don't know. Avon is arguing in a sense for the fundamental equality of people.

I agree, sorry Avon, that his implementation won't work but *much* larger immigration is possible. And Avon's point that people should be able to come here because they are people rather than desirable economic actors is a good statement.

We need a more humane immigration policy. We also need much better policies for other parts of the world so they can improve.

There is an important role for economic analysis in all of this but on tbe value question Avon is right.

(Avon, I am 5 nines certain this is the only time Ill say this ;) )

Chris: Avon and I have not had any private exchanges (to my knowledge)!

And it's perfectly OK (and in fact perfectly consistent) to agree with people on some things and totally disagree with them on other things.

If everybody were perfectly altruistic, we wouldn't see borders. But then we wouldn't see property rights or markets either. Property rights are borders. Therefore Avon's view (property rights + open borders) has a problem, in my opinion.

Chris: if I can match your support for Avon:

I am now starting to feel on the same side as the old lefty Canadian nationalists, who strongly opposed the Free Trade Agreement with the US. They said the FTA would destroy Canadian culture. They fought the right battle on the wrong ground. (I'm beginning to wish we hadn't defeated them quite so thoroughly.)

Nick, my theory of economics is based a real micro and macro understanding with an awful lot of mathematics.

Let's imagine that you were to come upon an economy with 6 billion people in it. Would your theory of economics cage them into 200+ countries with an assortment of immigration restrictions? If borders are so important, tell me how to calculate the optimal number of countries as a function of population and geography. Tell me how to calculate how permeable the borders should be. If you want to make the case for closed borders, do it as a serious economist, not on some Donald-Trump-throw-away comment like you did yesterday. Furthermore, your altruism argument makes little sense – it means the abandoning the rationale behind all markets. As an economist, you should thoroughly understand that markets work not out of altruism, but out of self-interest. The most remarkable fact in economics is that markets, based on self-interested individuals, produce what appears to be deeply altruistic results.

In reality, all of the justifications for closed borders are them same arguments that people gave against the abolition of slavery or religious freedom. They are based on fear, ignorance and in many cases monopoly protection. The left likes to talk about equality of human beings, but they care little for real results. Unionists side with the Confederacy, fearing the competition from cheap black labour. The Know-Nothing Party opposed Catholics immigration for fear of undermining republican values.

On the Pew survey: looks to me like there's correlation between corrupt states and Muslims wanting Sharia Law. I wonder if the respondents see Sharia Law as potentially fairer and more efficient.

In the specific case of Syrian refugees coming to Canada I don't think there is much to worry about. They are fleeing religious nuts who want to follow Sharia Law. If they wanted it, they could just stay in place. They are also fleeing a murderous dictatorship linked to the Bath movement, which was aligned with the Soviets and had its roots in Socialism/Communism.

So they don't like religious nuts, and they aren't keen on lefties. What's the problem?

Avon: if you don't like my comparing countries to clubs, think of countries as corporations. Citizens are shareholders (with democracies having all voting shares, if you are over 18). Now, why do corporations exist? And would they give away shares for free?


Holding shares in a corporation is a voluntary arrangement. Corporations do not get to use guns on people. I can choose to buy the shares of any corporation I want, I can't work in any country I want.

Like I said, Canada is not a home, it is a means to and end. We use government to solve those problems which are best solved collectively so that we can maximally enjoy our individual liberty and freedoms. That is the means to an end part. The trade-off is that government solutions are conformist and require coercion or the threat of violence. In such circumstances, we desire unanimity before acting with government, but because unanimity is so difficult to achieve, we use democratic voting as an expediency. That falls far short of the ideal and as such we should be cautious in using government solutions.

Immigration restrictions – which are in fact trade restrictions on labour – are mean, anti-human, and poverty entrenching. Most immigration restriction centers on narrow monopoly, protectionist interests if not grounded in the racist fear of the other.

Nick, your arguments are incoherent and by analogy. Corporations sell shares to generate capital. They could have borrowed for it. Sorry, but Modigliani-Miller just has nothing to do with immigration. Stick to the actually substance. Countries are not clubs or corporations. They are entities which have a monopoly on violence and with solutions of conformity. I prefer strong constitutional limits on monopolies of violence; I think it is immortal to use monopolies of violence on humans who just want a better life.

"Erik: very interesting, as before. But if the only thing that happened is that a few dozen Saxon boys sail to Britain every year and marry British girls, I still don't get how all the people in what is now England switched to speaking English, with very few Brittonic words, in a couple of hundred years. Compare to Latin America, for example, where the Spanish and Portugese went as conquerers, and took some women with them."

I hate to be mean, here, but you're assuming what you want to prove. The conquest of Latin America demonstrably imposed Spanish and Portuguese prestige languages on a complex polyarchic/heterarchic society. Note that Nahuatl, Mayan, and Quechua survived in areas previously united by higher-level cultural institutions, and while the first and last are imperial languages spoken over large areas, Mayan has many regional dialects. Former prestige languages survive, with Spanish and Portuguese sitting on top, while in other areas, local langauges are all but obliterated.

What happened in Britain is that, east of the 60" isohyet, in both England and Scotland, a language which shares many features of the North Sea-Baltic basin tongues, is spoken today, and has been spoken for a long time. (Note that we have absolutely no written evidence to show that "long time" goes back before 735AD.) West of the isohyet, other languages, P- and Q-Celtic, survive persistently. As far as we know, Q-Celtic replaced P-Celtic in the north, oddly enough. We have no contemporary source to tell us exactly what happened (although we do know that there were "Saxon invasions.") We do have Bede (735) to tell us that the Angles-Saxons-Jutes (one chapter) or Saxons-Jutes-Frisians-Franks (another chapter), or "Saxons" (Life of Wilfrid) won out in the end.

So that's the facts, as we have them.

First, the framing context: we have a number of ongoing arguments about the nature of society in immediately post-Roman (sub-Roman) Britain, of which I will specifically mention the contested dating of social collapse, which might range from 411 to after 530AD. (The "dark age" of Sub-Roman Britain might be as long as 184 years, as short as 65.) From 30,000ft, think that it is safe to characterise society in sub-Roman Britain as intensely localised, with patrons not much more than a day's walk away from their clients, and such larger communities as existed being organised as sub-county level, perhaps well below it, and large interstital areas with no contested higher level of social organisation than hamlet/farmstead. I do not subscribe to all aspects of Chris Wickham's picture, but I will direct attention to Inheritance of Rome, 150ff. For a short treatment. For those looking for a longer treatment, important, but not capable of delivering a clearer generalisation beacause the argument is that there is none to be made, see Robin Fleming, Britain After Rome (2010.) I'd talk more about it, but my cleaning lady has moved it...Unfortunately, there does not appear to be a Kindle edition for those who want to see it now, now now now. But I do find a book review online, so there's that.

With this framing context in mind, we can move on to questions of language. First, it is important to appreciate what we know. No texts, and not even many inscriptions survive, so we are working with Roman information, and the Romans made terrible anthropologists. Most maps of language distributions in pre-Roman Europe show Britain as uniformly "Celtic," but the Romans cannot agree on whether the Belgae of Flanders and Batavians of Holland are Germans or Celts --and clearly neither know nor care what their "vulgate" tongue was. It follows that we cannot say with absolute certainty that the people living on the thorps of the west coast of the North Sea in Roman times were "Celtic" or "Germanic" speakers, as far as their everyday language of work and play goes. At the end of the process, we nominally have Bede's 735AD History of the English Church, but we need to be aware of just how tendentious this work might be. cf. N. J. Higham's Re-reading Bede, and note that Higham is stepping back from the even more skeptical reading of Goffart. Whatever be the case, Bede is deeply committed (he has an argument! An axe to grind! A political case to make!) to persuading us that the "Anglian" nobility of his time spoke a Low Germanic tongue when they let their hair down. Whether he inadvertently provides us with evidence which allows us to read him against the grain on this claim is contentious.

If, then, Bede is transparently telling the truth, low Germanic languages have elite status on the east coast of Britain by 735AD. If he is not, we are free to push the date of language transition forward a very long way indeed, and which Scots certainly want to do. Does Lothian have a Gaelic phase? People want to be able to say "yes."

This is all a bit incendiary, however. Looking specifically at the sub-Roman period, we have a linguistically polyarchic or even heterarchic society, and must turn to anthropological linguistics for guidance. I'm no expert, so I just say what Lyle Campbell says on this. Or, because Google is funny, Jay Jasanoff:

"The nineteenth and early twentieth-century scholars who created
the myth of the “Aryans” committed every possible methodological error in leaping from
Proto-Indo-European to the Proto-Indo-Europeans — the error of confusing language
with “race”; of uncritically ascribing language spread to violent conquest; of attributing
conquest to racial superiority; and of selectively interpreting the material evidence to
locate the IE homeland where their prejudices led them to expect it. Current-day
reimaginings of the past are usually more subtle. But the use of linguistic data to support
prehistoric scenarios of conquest or ownership, often with an ethnic or national bias,
remains surprisingly common. Linguistically literate readers should be prepared to
correct for this practice when they encounter it. . . "

In a polyarchic/heterachic oecumene, no prestige-speakers exist to enforce linguistic norms: no lawspeakers in the Thing, no poets declaiming epics at games, no troubadours singing to courts. Everyday speech can support complex speech acts, but travellers and traders must reach for an impoverished pidgin/jargon/creole to go about their business. Those three words might denote levels of complexity, but we need to calibrate our understanding. Basically, all of this builds on field studies in the Southwest Pacific, and we are highly dependent on the theoretical priors of the field workers. Attempts to bring in other areas (the Caucasus, Northwest Pacific coast of North America, Caribbean) fall afoul of historical problems. How accurate are the reconstructions of early field workers dealing with now-extinct tongues? In general, I think that far too little scrutiny is given to methodological issues here, in comparison with the brutal skepticism that, say, witness reports and police interrogations are subjected to in the courts.

So here, again, I think that it is safer to take a view from 30,000ft than to get down in the weeds. (The view that I am obliquely criticising, if you had not guessed, is that there might have existed uniform languages over large areas, which skilled case workers can pick out.) We do not know, and cannot safely reconstruct, the everyday language of a village in Lindsay in 550AD. We can make some assumptions about the kind of language they would have used to trade in York, had this area been uniformly populated by villagers with the same level of social organisation, and no language other than their own everyday, transactional language. It would have been a trade jargon, with a radically simplified grammar and vocabulary, incapable of supporting complicated speech. It does not matter whether one village speaks a "Celtic" and another a "Germanic" dialect, or whether they all speak a "Celtic," or "Germanic" dialect. The speech acts in the market of York are not going to be reducible to sentences in a language in a given family.

Yaka yiem halo kliminawhit,
This is a true story
Waum illahie klip sun, kopa Byrne Oakut,
On a late summer evening on Byrne Road
kimta tenas wahm snass chako,
after a gentle summer rain,
Spose hyack colley konmokst chikchik, Ford pe Chevrolet,
in a race between a Ford and Chevrolet,
spose Ford tolo kopa tenas-sitkum mile
if the Ford won the the quarter mile
pe Ford man mamook klahwa,
and the Ford guy slowed down
kopet cooley, yaka halo mamook fly
soon enough to avoid going airborne
oakut opoots,
at the end of the road,
Ford, yaka skookum chikchik.
then the Ford was the skookum car.
Nawitka, Ford skookum chichik
A right skookum car.

Yaka yiem halo kliminawhit.
This is a true story.
Spose mika hiyu mamook,
If you had a job
pe chickamin sun chako
and it was pay day
pe mike halo mahkook lum kopa tillicums,
and you still didn't buy a round,
mika mitlite cultus bastard.
you were a cultus bastard.
Nawitka, cultus bastard.
A right cultus bastard.
Saltchuk, yaka mitlite saltchuk,
The oceans was the saltchuk,
klootchman kopa mika tillicum
your buddy's girlfriend
yaka mitlite klootchman,
was his klootchman,
pe kopa okoke oakut, lelang mitlite
and this is how the language lingers
yukwa pe yahwa.
here and there.
Yaka mitlite kopa tenas wawa
It is in the little words
pe ole shantie.
and old songs.

Hyas Tlakowa nika
I am so happy
Spose steamboat klatawa yukwa
When the steamboat arrives,
Tlonas nika cly
I think I will weep
Spose steamboat klatawa.
When the steamboat leaves.

(Terry Glavin, 2014)

Apparently, that's based on the actual Chinook language, with Nootka vocabulary transferred by English-speakers, with a heavy overlay of English dialect on top. I would expect, on historical grounds, that there would be other Chinooks, with Cantonese, French and Russian (and Spanish?) substituted for the top layer of English, but those are not documented.

But, the situation described does not apply to someone marketing from Lindsay in York on a fine day in 550AD, because there already exists an elite language which can be deployed in inter-regional interactions: Latin.

The presence of Latin removes any need to coordinate, unify and standardise the village languages of Lindsay and York. We all know how this works: one person sounds the "r" in February, another the "h" in Cool Whip, a third writes "-ize" as "ise," and we look at them: we get it, you're precious. Now get over yourself. Because of Latin, no-one is saying that. Each village decides whether it is "Febuary" or "February" for itself.

So, when and how did there arise an "elite vulgate" in eastern England? When did hierarchic social institutions find it necessary to set a standard for speaking not-Latin in legal, ecclesiastical, poetic contexts? What language was chosen as the model? by whom? These are not easy questions to answer: my contingent answer is that the Beowulf-poet is best situated to answer the question, and we should all high ourselves off to Anglo-Saxon Literature studies to get best recent information on the conversation. Again, I'm no expert, and here I have to defer to Wikipedia: "8th to 11th Century." So perhaps Bede, perhaps Canute.

But certainly not the Conquest period. Uniform language changes across wide areas do not occur in the heterarchic social context of the sub-Roman Dark Ages. Even if there was a wave of conquerors migrating across the North Sea, they would have spoken multiple everyday languages, and they would not have uniformly displaced speakers of native everyday languages across the whole landscape.

So the short answer is Jasanoff's: actual evidence of language spoken is non-existent, so to produce the race-national scenario of your choice, you turn to the black box of historical linguistics (with historical genetics as a supplementary black box in recent eras.) Press the button, and it churns, grows warm, and, after a while, beeps. Out comes the result desired.

Open the black box, and things get very complicated, indeed. Also, they're unlikely to deliver the results wanted, or, indeed, any high level synthesis at all.

Now, a final thought about "borrowings." The Chinook jargon is the pre-English language of the Pacific Northwest Coast. What "borrowings" into English are there from Chinook? The answer to that question is going to be very complicated. How "precious" do you feel using a word like "chuck," "tyee," or "skookum" in everyday conversation? "Chuck" was, in my boyhood, a universal usage --but so was "cork" for "caulk," which I do not think is a Chinook borrowing at all. Both usages have been all but erased --I think, because I haven't talked to a logger in years, they being hard to come by in downtown Vancouver. The process by which prestige English was washed clean of British could easily have been long and slow and prescriptive without implying a pre-history of race-apartheid.

Nick, do you monitor your blog at all? Is this a blog or a message board? A treatise on the evolution of the English language is just a touch off base.

Avon: I was just reading it with fascination (though a little less than 100% comprehension). My original post was (in part) about legends of a particular era. Erik is talking about the history of that same era (as much as we can figure it out). And both legends and history are about culture and the extent to which and the ways by which immigration would have shaped that culture. Which is on-topic. Putting it very crudely, Erik is of the "pots not people" persuasion. Other people I have been reading say the genetic evidence and hill forts point to a European history of violent invasions and are of the "people not pots" persuasion. And it's always good to see the other side of an argument. And it is a debate which is directly relevant to the subject of this post

Plus, I did say this post was my pathetic foray into "cultural studies", which is supposed to be interdisciplinary. Plus, people who have really researched something, and take the time to try to explain it, get an additional break.

And no, I don't monitor it every minute. I have a life too. And my GF has been over.

Avon: don't complain about the free pizza.


I've never understood your comments about pizza. I will tell you this though, every serious blog on economics has some kind of vetting to prevent the conspiracy theorists and random nut-jobs from hijacking the debate or taking it way off topic. Unlike physics or math blogs, everyone has an opinion about economics, so policing nonsense is an extra burden for economics bloggers.

Just like bad money driving out good, you'll end up with only kooks and nutters if you don't watch the comments. Insightful people will just leave.

Nick, that's the wrong "P".

Avon, what we do is here is give people who we find intolerable one or two friendly warnings, and then, if they don't shape up, ban them for life. We much prefer this to a system of vetting or hands-on moderation, as it allows the conversation to be fast moving and spontaneous, and continue on days when we're off-line or busy. Moreover, it's much less effort for us, and generally - judging by the quality of comments on the blog - works pretty well.

Nick you know I love you, but your assumption about K/L offended me far more than any possible xenophobia.

Ah Bob! I'm so glad that someone finally picked up that assumption of the "standard model" and questioned it.

Assume "perfect capital mobility". What the heck do we mean by that? We can't just mean that foreign and domestic IOUs are perfect substitutes. There must be some real goods flowing into the country in exchange for those IOUs that flow out. Now what are those goods? Machines? Or consumption goods that the workers consume while they build more machines? And are foreign and domestic machines or consumption goods perfect substitutes? And can they be imported at zero transportation costs? Well, maybe not.

Plus, if the "standard model" were true, and were equally true everywhere, and there were "perfect capital mobility", why would some countries be richer or poorer than others, and why would anyone ever want to emigrate anyway, unless it's for the weather or scenery?

Uh, you don't need "perfect capital mobility". Same thing will be true in a closed economy. And in a way, it's really just accounting (you can stretch it some, but not much, by different assumptions about what happens to the saving rate as income changes). And Bob, it's not "mean-reverting" which frankly makes no sense in this context.

How fast will it come back? 60 years? Where in the world did that come from? A baseline estimate for US is something like a 3% to 7% short run (couple years) effect on (unskilled) wages on impact (pretty much anyone with some amount of human capital beyond that sees an increase in wages) with a half life of somewhere between 10 and 12 years (though it may even be faster). So if it is 3%, after 10 years the wages of the unskilled worker will be 1.5% lower than they would be if immigrants had never arrived.

And this is under the assumption that native and immigrant workers are perfect substitutes. If they're not, the effect is even smaller.

And to repeat, this is under the assumption of a closed economy. Obviously capital mobility speeds up this process. If it was perfect the adjustment would be instantaneous. If it's not that still shaves off a few years off of that half life. "60 years" is just patently ridiculous. Probably because Bob is actually calculating "how long will it take for an average African country to catch up to US" and substituting that number - for reasons which are beyond me - for the "how long will it take for US to accumulate capital to offset the initial impact on wages". This makes no sense. I'm having trouble understanding Bob's post.

There really is no way to win this argument based on the pure economics of it. The economic impact of immigration in US is negligible and mostly beneficial. That's why Nick is arguing culture rather than economics. Which, however much I disagree with it, actually gives the anti-immigration argument a fighting chance.

Also, even with perfect capital mobility GDP per capita's would not be equalized (GNI's would be)

(Here's what I posted at my blog in response to Nick copying his own comment here.)

Eh, I dunno Nick, you started listing all sorts of things we could relax in your post, but you never brought up your quick line about labour and capital moving in tandem. To me, it sure looked like you were saying: “People trained in economics know that your standard of living in material terms won’t be affected by open borders, so why are people scared of open borders? Maybe because we rightly don’t like their culture, or maybe because they will invade us.”

That didn’t sound like you were really thinking, “I wonder who will notice my long-run capital accumulation Easter egg! Heh heh I’m so naughty, hiding it in plain sight.”

Bob, it's perfectly possible that

1. Countries' income per capitas differ
2. Countries' capital-labor ratios differ
3. Within each country, if there is an increase in labor, capital accumulates to keep the capital-labor ratio constant.

In fact 3) is more or less what "constant returns to scale" means in any setting where one of the factors can be accumulated.

And we don't need no stinking "perfect mobility of capital" to get all three of those.

And it's not like this is just a theoretical postulate. Absent drastic changes in saving rates, or sudden destruction of either capital or labor due to wars or natural disasters, in most countries the capital stock tends to grow at the same rate as population. And even with wars or natural disasters what we often observe is that the capital-labor ratio tends to come back to what it was before the event (that one's a bit more conditional).

You appear to think that there's some great contradiction here but there isn't. You appear to think there's some crazy assumption here being made but there isn't. You seem to be trying to ridicule something you don't quite understand (it's okay, it's happened to me many a times)

Bob: you missed the bit where I said "Maybe the standard model leaves something out? Starting with Arthur wanting to continue to live in Britain, and not England. People's preferences can be a bit conservative like that. Foreign holidays are OK for a bit of novelty, but it's nice to come home afterwards. Most people don't want to be forced to live in a "foreign" country.

What else might it leave out?"

Now it's true, I think "social capital" (rules and institutions) are much more important for the economic consequences of this question than "capital" in any narrower sense. But don't go all Austrian on me Bob, let's try to model this:

Take a simple model which is non-Solow because the investment good is different from the consumption good. Curved PPF between C and I, so Pk/Pc is not bolted down at one. Assume,say, the investment good must be produced domestically, but the consumption good can be imported at zero transportation cost. Assume "perfect capital mobility" in the sense that the real interest rate (in terms of the consumption good) is pinned down at Rw.

We need to distinguish stocks from flows of population. With a sudden jump in the stock, Pk will rise, I will increase, and K will slowly rise over time, and the economy will slowly approach the original steady state in per capita terms. Natives will gain in the short run, I think, for much the same reason they gain when we have land in the model. Because the representative native owns capital goods.

But with a flow of immigration, the short run will persist forever.

How would you model it?

But no, it does seem that "social capital" is potentially much more important than physical capital. Why are poor countries poor? It's rules and institutions, mostly, not because they don't allow capital flows.

notsneaky: Bob's actually very good on capital theory. A helluva lot better than the vast majority of economists. (He's probably an Open Border fanboi though, being an Austrian.)

He's probably an Open Border fanboi though, being an Austrian.

Bob seems to be more of a Rothbardian (as opposed to a GMU Austrian--a significant difference).

Interestingly, Rothbard was not proponent of open borders near the end of his life.

Rothbard (page 7, from the PDF cited in the link):

"However, on rethinking immigration on the basis of the anarcho-capitalist model, it became clear to me that a totally privatized country would not have "open borders" at all. If every piece of land in a country were owned by some person, group, or corporation, this would mean that no immigrant could enter there unless invited to enter and allowed to rent, or purchase, property. A totally privatized country would be as "closed" as the particular inhabitants and property owners desire.

It seems clear, then, that the regime of open borders that exists de facto in the U.S. really amounts to a compulsory opening by the central state, the state in charge of all streets and public land areas, and does not genuinely reflect the wishes of the proprietors."

I dunno I consider myself an Austrian but I'm not a fan of Open Borders.* At least not in general in the world as it exists now.

Bob's position on the subject is, in his own words, "more radical" than Open Borders:

"First let me deal with the question of the libertarian ideal. If politics weren’t an issue, and we could get the society we really want, I think both Bryan and I would want all real estate held in private hands. There would be no such thing as “immigration policy” or “border control,” except for what each landowner decided for his or her property boundary. If the current border between the U.S. and Mexico ended up being divided among 2,870 different people, owning contiguous plots of land that collectively reached from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean, then those individuals would have the legal right to decide whether to build a fence to keep out Mexicans or whether to have a giant neon sign saying, “Hola Amigos!”"

I think that's a very defensible, ideologically pure position. In principle, at least, I'm inclined to agree.

But in practice I think my views are closer to your own. And I think a lot of your commenters do you a disservice by insinuating your concerns are that immigration will adversely effect the ability to governments to operate extensive welfare states (which is, as far as I can tell, exactly backwards, at least in the US) or some thinly veiled moral failing like xenophobia.

Both the US and Canada are relatively economically free countries. The primary sources of immigration to these countries are less economically free countries. This could be a good thing: early Cuban immigration from the time of the communist takeover consisted of people very much aware that their country had been harmed by socialist policies-that they had personally been harmed. But most people, including most immigrants, never make any connection between the consequences of bad policies, and the policies themselves. Being realistic, it is hard to see how people who, in their own countries, favor bad policies, would not come to countries with relatively good policies and change them to be more like their home country's policies. This is what I primarily think about when you talk about how immigration can the institutions of the receiving country.

*Strictly speaking there's no reason being an Austrian precludes having any opinion about any policy. The reason it seems otherwise is that most peoples' moral intuition recoils from the consequences Wertfreiheit economics reveals for various policies. In principle one could favor socialism as an Austrian, provided that for some obscure reason your personal moral philosophy held that rational economic calculation was in fact undesirable.

John and Andrew: good comments. And I may have got Bob's own position quite wrong.

If I were coming at this from an Austrian/Libertarian position, I think I would argue like this:

Groups of adjacent landowners form a mutual defence pact to protect their property rights, by mutual consent. They set up a corporation to carry out these responsibilities. Part of the deal is that you cannot bring other people into that area of land unless the corporation agrees, because it's hard to do mutual defence otherwise. And nobody else joins the corporation unless the corporation agrees.

Maybe one day I will do a post on countries as corporations. (They are corporations, of course.) It will piss of both the anti-corporate left and the anti-country libertarian right.

What if one person wishes to leave this corporation and bring in some people? What if a majority decides that everyone must let people in? Your statement just appears to be the claim that immigration policy should be decided democratically (or through some well defined political process). I don't think anyone's arguing against that.

I guess it depends whether you want the argument to be over whether countries have a right to decide their immigration policy (whatever the answer, it doesn't matter, because in practice they do, so this isn't really an interesting question) or over what that policy should be. You (and Rothbard actually) are slipping between these two questions.

notsneaky: I agree those are two different questions. But the hard line Open Borders libertarians say countries don't have the right to restrict. So a first step is arguing against them.

I'm trying to think up a clear "behind the veil of ignorance" way of posing the question. Also trying to think of a clear way of posing the closely-related Groucho Marx question.


1. "But the hard line Open Borders libertarians say countries don't have the right to restrict."

I think this is a strawman. You are confusing proposals for a national policy of immigration liberalization as an argument that nations do not have a *right* to set such policies. That is absurd.

2. Notsneaky is the voice of reason.

3. It's wrong to site opinion polls in nations where civil society has been destroyed as a generic marker of propensities towards violence. The causation goes in the other direction, from lawlessness to radicalization. There is also a lot of hypocrisy here -- Why is firing a hellfire missile into a crowded wedding in Afghanistan preferable to a suicide bombing in a crowded disco in Tel Aviv? Please explain the moral distinction. Yet I can cite the 43% of Canadians that support drone strikes to your 40% of Palestinians that say that suicide bombings "can be often/are sometimes justified". Neither Canada nor the U.S. suffered anywhere near the level of bloodshed and social disruption as has been endured in the Middle East, yet we manage to consistently out kill our opponents and do so with disturbingly high levels of public support.

I agree that those who oppose immigration tend to do so because of visceral reasons -- fear of foreigners, for example -- but there is no factual basis for these fears, other than the fact that the world is changing and we are afraid of the change.

rsj: what would Afganistan look like if the US and its allies had been trying to kill as many civilians as possible? Why do the Taliban use civilians as human shields? Because they know it works. They aren't that stupid.

How do you know that causation goes in the opposite direction? Why is it that some societies are more stable and prosperous than others, so that people want to migrate there? Might it have something to do with their (written and unwritten) rules and institutions?

Some change is good, some change is neutral, and some change is bad. Small-c conservatives (which we mostly are) dislike neutral change. But all of us should oppose changes we think are bad. If you and I agree that countries have a right to control immigration, then it would be very sensible to think about how different immigration policies will have different consequences for changes in rules and institutions, and take that into account when choosing our immigration policy. It would be irrational not to do so.

I can understand why a hardline libertarian would object to our doing so. It sounds like social planning. It sounds "keynesian". But I can not understand why those on the left, for example, who normally like social planning, suddenly switch sides when it comes to immigration policy. It looks to me like an irrational desire for novelty for its own sake, or else some irrational form of social self-hatred.

Probably because they don't presume, as you seem to do, that the impact on institutions would be either significant or negative.

And again, historically it's the migrants that assimilate not vice versa.

And I'm just not seeing this effect on institutions or even the manifestation of culture in the public sphere. Have any developed countries which experienced inward migration over the past twenty decades also experienced less democracy as a result? Fewer property rights (specifically as a result of migration)? Lower economic growth? Fewer Hollywood movies? Less pop music? Have they moved to restrict access to abortion? Passed new anti-gay laws?

Just not seeing any of that. Nick, you seem to want those of us who are pro-immigration to prove the negative that these things could never happen. But the burden of proof I think is on you.

And without some concrete strong evidence that immigrants have a negative impact on institutions the whole argument just comes down to "I don't like people who wear jeans, wearing jeans imposes a negative externality on me so I'm going to insist we ban jeans" (i.e. culture)

notsneaky: "And again, historically it's the migrants that assimilate not vice versa."

I think that's *usually* the case, where the flow of immigrants is small relative to the host population, as it usually has been. (Or where the total flow of immigrants is relatively large, but comprised of many different groups. And it seems to depend on the host country too, and Canada and the US for example seem to have been more successful than some European countries.) But would it always be the case, especially with a full opening of borders where the flows might be very large, especially nowadays where transportation is easier?

Aboriginal Canadians might say that European immigration had a large negative impact on their institutions.

notsneaky: "And again, historically it's the migrants that assimilate not vice versa."

I'm not at all sure that it's justifiable to expect immigrants to assimilate in any way other than to abide by the laws, just as everyone else. Assimilation is a pejorative. Social integration is what should be expected in my opinion.

from Wiki:

Social integration can be seen as a dynamic and structured process in which all members participate in dialogue to achieve and maintain peaceful social relations. Social integration does not mean forced assimilation.

Social integration is focused on the need to move toward a safe, stable and just society by mending conditions of social disintegration and social exclusion - social fragmentation, exclusion and polarization; and by expanding and strengthening conditions of social integration - towards peaceful social relations of coexistence, collaboration and cohesion.

Translate that into what the existing club members have to do and you get: work, money, change and all sorts of other things that often trigger xenophobia.

And the more difficult you make it for immigrants to be accepted (not only to get a passport), the more difficult it is to achieve social integration. And this I think is also part of the reason that immigrants, especially those from former colonies, have a harder time becoming integrated in European societies as, say in the US. It's more difficult to become a 'real' Frenchie or Brit than a 'real' American. Being American is a much more open concept, which in this respect has definitive advantages.

On the moral side, one needs a general framework by which to put the two possibly opposing sets of interests in relation. The minimum requirements are of course laid out in UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Anything beyond that is indeed for individual nations to decide unilaterally. So as far as existing international law is concerned, there is indeed no 'right' to move wherever one wants. But one can of course argue that it should be otherwise and indeed might even be materially advantageous or spiritually enriching to the hosts, at least in the long run.

Personally, I think immigration laws could be relaxed quite substantially in most places to the benefit of ALL involved, which is also the set of people I would consider relevant to make any moral judgement. Arguing morals from the perspective of only one group is ridiculous. It's a category error based on the acceptance of the nation state as some universal constant from which morals flow. Via the Queen, I suspect...

Today, the Supreme Court of Canada said that (in regard to AB and SK), the 3rd group to have arrived (in the second immigrant wave) can tell the others that their languages have essentially no right to be used (in provincial matters)...
When you arrive, after and before whom and when have strong implications for your status.

Jacques Rene: yep. Plus how big your numbers are. And strong implications for all rules and institutions, of which language is one example.

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