Open-borders puzzle
June 23, 2013, 11:13 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

One of the claims regularly made by pro-open-borders folks is that immigrants (illegal + legal) are not in fact any sort of ‘drain’ on our social system, at least not at any higher rate than natives. They say that this is what research shows, and I have no reason to doubt that. Of course, any such research is, by definition, a Large Calculation. How are the researchers separating out and isolating the effects exactly? How do they know their data is complete? I don’t know. I haven’t checked the research in detail. (And neither have the open-borders folks.)

But let’s assume the result is correct. Then there is a puzzle.


Because equally part and parcel of the case for allowing unrestricted immigration is that immigrants are poorer than the average American. They’d have to be, wouldn’t they? After all (or so we are told):

  • Lots of American employers ‘want to hire’ immigrants. Why would this be?
  • Because, presumably, immigrants are cheaper/more efficient to hire. Why would this be?
  • Because, presumably, they’re willing to do the same job(s) at a lower wage than natives would. Why would this be?
  • Because they’re poorer.

I mean hey, if you’ve got a better explanation, let’s hear it.

Another big prong in the open-borders case is that it increases the utility function of the world. But why would it do this? Why would an immigrant moving to the U.S., in and of itself, increase the utility function of the world? Might it be:

  • Because he was poorer where he was than he’ll statistically be in the U.S.
  • Which is to say, on average, he’s poorer than the average U.S. person.

Okay, so again, we see that if we take pro-immigration arguments to heart, they make sense only on the assumption, belief, expectation, or empirical observation that the immigrants we’re allowing to enter are poorer than the average native.

Poorer. But at the same time they don’t use social services at any higher rate.

How can this be? Why would it be? What is the open-borders explanation? Do you believe it?

Do immigrants, as a rule, have social strictures or taboos against making use of government services? That’s almost like you’re saying that immigrants are somehow culturally-different than Americans, which would be Racist.

Is the idea supposed to be that in the U.S., government social-service providers are, as a class, really good, motivated and efficient at weeding out immigrants and withholding taxpayer-funded benefits from them? (RELATED: IRS Sent $46 Million in Tax Refunds to 23,994 ‘Unauthorized’ Aliens — All at the SAME Address in Atlanta.)

Is the idea that illegals, being off the books, ‘pay taxes too’ (e.g., payroll taxes) but will never collect (since obviously, it goes without saying, they’ll never be naturalized or given amnesty)? Hence they produce revenue but will not, never ever ever (to quote one of my favorite poets Taylor Swift), end up as a Social Security/Medicare liability? I think the technical term for this assertion is ‘Accounting Fraud’. Of course, it is the same assertion being made by the CBO when they say that increased legal & illegal immigration will reduce deficits (=more revenue, and we don’t have to worry about more liability, because that all comes Later). And CBO is an acronym. So I guess I have no right to protest.

So it’s just a puzzle. What’s the solution? You tell me.

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The statistics highly scientifically prove that hispanics have a labor force participation rate only slightly lower than the average for the American population.

If, however, you walk around “Hispanic”, which is to say indio, areas in California that are some distance from the metropolis, which is where you find most of the “Hispanics”, my mark 1 eyeballs say that the labor force participation rate is very small.

The official statistics simply cannot possibly be true.

Comment by jamesd127

Even if they are though, that doesn’t resolve the puzzle. I’m not sure how ‘labor force participation rate’ is defined exactly but it seems clear that not all jobs garner one the same income and therefore telling me that such and such group has the same (let alone ‘only slightly lower’) L.F.P.R. doesn’t tell me anything meaningful about their relative wealth per se, let alone their net fiscal effect.

Comment by The Crimson Reach

There is an empirical true/false question of whether or not they use more social services than other people. Rather than asking the question, why don’t you go find the answer? What is the point of blogging about the question?

Comment by RPLong

“What is the point of blogging ____?” is a pretty hilarious question to be asking of me. But touche. I’ve been asking myself that same question every day for N years…

As for why I don’t ‘go find’ the answer to the question you state, one reason is that it’s not feasible. I am a lay person sitting in front of a computer. There is no humanly achievable way for me to ‘go find’ the answer to a question that, if answerable, would rely on amassing and categorizing detailed data on the behavior of 300+ million people that in reality is available at the following list of places:

[ NULL ]

In case it wasn’t clear, as the preceding implies, I don’t believe anyone else actually has that answer either, and I am skeptical of studies that purport to definitely give such an answer. If what you meant by ‘go find’ was ‘go read someone else’s study’.

Which raises the other reason I don’t ‘go find’ that answer: because I have already stipulated to it! Was that also not clear? I am stipulating that the answer is ‘no, they don’t’. But that then immediately that raises a puzzle in my mind, that my mind would like to resolve. Observations (or purported observations) about the world that contradict (or appear to contradict) have a way of doing that.

So I suppose the point of my blogging about the puzzle is the unease such a contradiction causes me. I seek a way to soothe this unease, by understanding how the contradiction is to be resolved. A secondary effect of my blogging about this unease is that others might have felt the same unease by noticing the same contradiction, and appreciate such a post. I dunno. Maybe. In any event you can see that my going to find the answer to the empirical question (do immigrants use more social services), even were that possible, won’t help at all, because it leaves the contradiction entirely in place.

So, can you help ease my pain? Do you have an answer to said contradiction? Here are two possible ways to answer it:

1) You’re dumb Crimson Reach in thinking that’s a contradiction in the first place. That’s not a contradiction at all, because (something).
2) I see how that appears to be a contradiction, but you’re missing something, so here’s the resolution: (something).

You have supplied neither 1 nor 2. What is the point of commenting below such a blog post yet supplying neither 1 nor 2?


Comment by The Crimson Reach

I don’t have a hypothetical answer to an empirical question, no. I was going to do some digging today but I got busy at work. Maybe tonight.

I’m not sure why you think the answer to this question is epistemically unknowable, but I guess that explains why you’ve blogged about it. I just figure… why not check the numbers first?

Comment by RPLong

It appears that you’ve misunderstood me. Sorry about that.

The question I’m asking is NOT an empirical one. I’m NOT asking, ‘is it true that immigrants don’t over use social services?’ I’m assuming that’s true rather than asking if that is true.

The question I’m asking is how one then resolves a puzzle, between two facts that appear, on the face of them, to contradict: 1) immigrants being poorer and 2) immigrants using social services in no-higher quantities. If there’s a way to answer me on that (which you’re under no obligation to do), it’s not really ’empirical’. Or if it is, it would have to involve more detailed/subtle data than are usually discussed in such a conversation.


Comment by The Crimson Reach

“The question I’m asking is how one then resolves a puzzle, between two facts…”

Correction: “…how one then resolves a puzzle between two assumptions…” Since we agree that these are assumptions, I’ll answer the revised statement.

I assert that the first step to resolve the puzzle is to determine to what degree your assumptions are facts. I realize that would involve more detail/subtle data than are usually discussed in such a conversation, but how else do you propose to get your answer?

Or, is the point just to suggest that in absence of doing any hard work, it looks like immigrants are mostly welfare cases? If that is the point, then there is no puzzle. You’ve reasoned correctly according to two completely unverified assumptions. I’m just not sure what pro-immigration advocates are supposed to say.

So long as we’re not answering the question empirically, I could just as easily assume the reverse and conclude the opposite. But what is the point? These questions have empirical answers.

Anywayzzz… I’ve trolled enough of your immigration posts for a while. I’ll lie lower for a little while.

Comment by RPLong

I assert that the first step to resolve the puzzle is to determine to what degree your assumptions are facts.

Wait what? Now I’m totally confused. *You’re* the one (well one of the people) who has been telling *me* it’s an empirical fact that immigrants don’t cost any more, or ‘not that much’ more anyway (for some unspecified definition of ‘not that much’), than natives in social services. Then I say ‘okay, stipulated, but that means ____’. And your response is that I need to try to determine to what degree the thing *you* said was a fact is a fact?

Or do you mean the *other* assumption, that immigrants are poorer? Do you think that assumption is invalid? Is there a serious reason to doubt it?

I’m just trying to move the conversation forward here. Let’s say what you’re saying is true, and see where that leads. For you to respond by saying I *shouldn’t* accept what you’re saying as true is really strange.

I realize that would involve more detail/subtle data than are usually discussed in such a conversation, but how else do you propose to get your answer?

I propose to get my answer via being convinced, by argument, someone’s argument, that there is a resolution to the contradiction I perceive and an explanation of that resolution. You know, the same way one gets convinced of anything, basically.

If you don’t want to/can’t be the person to supply that explanation, that’s fine. I’ll leave the puzzle out there for someone else to resolve. But aren’t you at the very least *curious*, like I am, about the puzzle and what its resolution is? You’re talking like it’s a totally dumb/irrelevant thing to even wonder.

Or, is the point just to suggest that in absence of doing any hard work, it looks like immigrants are mostly welfare cases?

What? No. Where did you get that from something I wrote? *boggle*

Comment by The Crimson Reach

I thought that Richwine had already done quite a bit of “heavy lifting” on the subject.

And look what that got him.

Comment by Nick B. Steves

” *You’re* the one (well one of the people) who has been telling *me* it’s an empirical fact that immigrants don’t cost any more, or ‘not that much’ more anyway (for some unspecified definition of ‘not that much’), than natives in social services.”

I have certainly NOT made any such claim. I have also not made the opposite claim – I am agnostic on the issue until I see the evidence. I asked whether you had any such evidence. The implication here is to wonder why you are concluding something for which you have no hard evidence. I would hope that the answer is something other than “racism,” but that is a difficult hope to maintain when I see comments by likes of jamesd127 and the guy who set up a special anonymous Google+ account to argue on *my* blog that all the [specifically Mexican] illegal immigrants he sees (and, boy, does he have experience!) are “on the public dole.”

Now, the only arguments I’ve made on your blog are those suggesting that you revise the weakest parts of your own arguments. You don’t tolerate poor reasoning in others, so why tolerate it in yourself?

If you remember, I’m the guy who started leaving you alone about immigration when you made your point about whether open borders applies to foreign armies. I thought that was a good point, I didn’t have an answer for that, and I still don’t. That’s a strong argument.

A weak argument is ignoring the actual empirical data on the subject and then positing logical puzzles that are only puzzles so long as nobody bothers to look at the empirical data.

If you want to say that the data is unreliable, then make that point (you already did), and then LEAVE IT at that. The additional “puzzles” are not really puzzles. They are situations that may or may not apply, about which we can say exactly nothing unless and until some more reliable data is uncovered.

It’s sort of like wondering whether gnomes inhabit a parallel universe. You can make all kinds of arguments for and against the Gnome Hypothesis, but until we actually have the ability to observe the conditions of a parallel universe, asking the question is an exercise in futility. Imaginative futility, yes, but futility nonetheless.

Comment by RPLong

I have certainly NOT made any such claim.

Okay. I was wrong and I take it back. I genuinely thought you had (on your blog if not here). It doesn’t look like it though. I was probably confusing your writing with claims raised in the Tabarrok piece. No excuse for that. I was wrong.

I guess this post isn’t directed toward you then. It’s directed toward people who do tell me that’s what the numbers say (including most recently the CBO, or at least, reporters who described recent CBO output). If your response is ‘that’s not what the numbers say’ that would be interesting. If your response is just ‘why don’t you go look at the numbers’ – where? which ones am I supposed to rely upon? CBO? Back to square one.

I asked whether you had any such evidence.

Okay. The answer is No, I Don’t. Thought that was clear. (Layperson, computer, etc.)

The implication here is to wonder why you are concluding something for which you have no hard evidence. I would hope that the answer is something other than “racism,”

What? Racism led me to ‘conclude’ my baseline stipulation here that immigrants…*aren’t* a net fiscal drag on society? Was it racism against white people that led me to this stipulation?

that is a difficult hope to maintain when I see comments by likes of jamesd127 and the guy who

Now it’s my turn to chastise you for conflating my writing with things other people wrote.

A weak argument is ignoring the actual empirical data on the subject

What empirical data am I ignoring? Please point me to it, since your claim here is that I’m being a baddie for ‘ignoring’ it. Apparently there’s a big vat of (trustworthy and germane) Empirical Data out there that I’m just ignoring to my discredit. Okay: where?

I still think you’re missing the point of my post. Others elsewhere – though apparently not you! – make certain claims about the fiscal cost of immigrants. I am taking those claims at face value and then wondering something about their implication. It seems like you’ve come here to tell me I’m not allowed to do that, or shouldn’t do that, or something.

Why not? It’s a pretty standard thing to do in discussions.

If you want to say that the data is unreliable, then make that point (you already did), and then LEAVE IT at that.

I actually don’t know that the data are unreliable. All that I am saying is that, if I take them at face value, as they have been presented to me, they appear to lead to a puzzle that, to me, cries out for explanation. (Maybe not to you. Maybe those numbers/claims cause you no curiosity whatsoever. Fair enough, but they do to me.)

So I really don’t see why I’m required to LEAVE IT at that. Or, even more oddly, why you would instruct me to do so. This is my blog and I’ll choose what to write on it thanks. You wouldn’t tolerate someone commenting on your blog to not-write Y and LEAVE IT at X. Why are you doing this?

The additional “puzzles” are not really puzzles.

I disagree. They strike me as puzzles, contradictions that I genuinely don’t know how to resolve. If you wanted to disabuse me of that notion (which, you don’t have to), a good way to do that would be to give me an explanation as to how they might be resolved. You are not doing that. You are telling me not to be curious about, ask about, or blog about it in the first place.

Why are you doing that? Does the post I wrote bother you? But why?


Comment by The Crimson Reach

But! Back in the following thread, you were all about the ‘positive economic benefits’ of immigration.

“you’re ignoring the positive economic benefits of a larger US working age population….”

“And that’s just employment. There are also non-employment benefits like a greater number of volunteers, church-goers, artists, and whatever else immigrants happen to be. The fact of the matter is that any time there are more people, more stuff gets done. And since people tend to engage in self-serving behavior, that stuff tends to be of benefit to one or more people.”

That certainly could have been interpreted as you saying that immigrants, well, bring net positive economic benefits – thus in particular, are not a fiscal drain – thus at the very least, are less of a fiscal drain than are native poor people. Or I guess it could have been interpreted as you just saying (trivially) there were *some* positive economic benefits X, even if there are also negative benefits Y, and you took no position on the sign of X-Y, and how dare I suggest otherwise?

So I confess, it’s true, whether because I’m dumb and/or because your comments on this subject are for some reason carefully constructed so as to be ultra slippery & skirt around things, I don’t really know what your actual view is on this matter. I solemnly promise to stop trying to figure it out.

Comment by The Crimson Reach

I would hope that the answer is something other than “racism,” but that is a difficult hope to maintain when I see comments by likes of jamesd127 and the guy who set up a special anonymous Google+ account to argue on *my* blog that all the [specifically Mexican] illegal immigrants he sees (and, boy, does he have experience!) are “on the public dole.”

Reality is racist.

All illegal immigrants, as near all of them as makes no difference, are on food stamps. Illegal immigrants occupy hospital emergency rooms to a grossly disproportionate extent. Female Illegal immigrants are fecund with numerous bastard children to unknown fathers, and and they and their innumerable offspring clog up hospital emergency.

Illegal immigrants seldom work.

Comment by jamesd127

why not check the numbers first?

When politically incorrect numbers will destroy one’s career, where are we going to find these numbers?

Official numbers on our “hispanic” minority are unbelievable.

Comment by jamesd127

I walk around Indio areas, few people work, everyone is on food stamps. What more do you suggest I do.

Hospital emergency rooms in California are full of Indios, short fat ugly pregnant single women, and the hospital takes it for granted that these people are not going to pay.

How, in fact, can one measure welfare consumption and workforce participation? Only the government is well placed to measure welfare consumption, and will not tell, and workforce participation is hard for anyone to measure.

Comment by jamesd127

The first part of this comment is so repulsive that it invalidates the second part of it, which I would have otherwise thought was a good point.

Comment by RPLong

Heh! Jamesd127, disproving the genetic fallacy fallacy, one validated stereotype at a time!

Comment by Nick B. Steves

The point, it appears, is to demonstrate the implicit assumptions of the question being asked. If you have been reading SC’s blog for any length of time, you know that he doubts a lot of the predicitive claims made by the CBO because most claims are based on large calculations, which are notoriously unreliable. Budgetary and statistical extrapolation are almost always incorrect on large scales because there are too many variables to account for, the variables accounted for are too difficult to account for anyway, and human behavior, particularly on a large scale, cannot be reduced to either complex or simple formulae.

To put it in simpler terms, CBO projections are bullshit, and everyone knows it. (Eg., the CBO has managed to predict that various budget proposals would lead to balanced budgets in x number of years, even though there was never any shot of said budget proposals passing). Thus, the appeal the cost-benefit analysis is bullshit, and nothing more than a rationalization because we simply do not know, to a particularly confident degree, what effect importing a bunch of non-Americans while legalizing a bunch of law-breaking foreigners will have on the economy.

TO answer your question, there is no point in looking for any sort of answer because, regardless of the answer, it is going to be bullshit.

Comment by Simon Grey

I’m not necessarily working on the level of subterfuge a lot of my commenters are assuming; I’m not even sure I think they’re bullshit. I’m perfectly prepared to believe that

‘Immigrants don’t cost taxpayers that much more than natives’

is an empirically true statement, for some definitions of (1) immigrants, (2) cost, (3) taxpayers, and (4) that much more. (Definitions I won’t necessarily agree with or find germane, of course.)

What I find puzzling is that the RPLongs of the world seem to want me to stop there. ‘Just look up the numbers.’ I’m trying to *advance* the discussion *beyond that* by saying, OK, Let’s pretend I already did look up the numbers, and they are exactly as you say.

But that doesn’t mean we shut our brains off at that point. (And this is part of my problem with Large Calculations, and Smart People worship. It’s not so much that all large calculations are always and everywhere 100% ‘wrong’, of course. It’s that their output is too often employed as a way to try to *shut down further thinking*. ‘If you don’t simply accept The Numbers in That Journal then you aren’t reality-based’.)

Shouldn’t we also think *about* the numbers? When i do so, I come to a very apparent, straightforward, and obvious puzzle: how can it be the case that recent immigrants don’t use up more than their fair share of social services when they (I think!) *do* use up more than their fair share of, like, poorness? What is the explanation?

I’m just genuinely asking. It seems like a very straightforward contradiction and so I just wonder what the resolution is. In particular, people who totally believe the ’empirical’ numbers should be *especially* acutely aware of this contradiction, should have already thought about it, and (I would think) have an answer at the ready.

Instead I get: “What’s the point of asking *that*?” Weird!

Comment by The Crimson Reach

Look, I like to disambiguate issues. If the issue is “welfare costs a lot of money,” then the issue is welfare. If the issue is “we don’t like foreigners,” then the issue is xenophobia. If the issue is “criminals are bad,” then the issue is criminal justice.

But I consider it a mistake to try to roll up welfare, xenophobia, and crime rates into one big issue, call it “immigration” and then start building fences. Is that so hard to identify with?

Comment by RPLong

Why am I required to conform to your delineation and circumscribing of what ‘the issue’ ‘is’?

I’m not even sure there IS a ‘the issue’ in this conversation. I’m just asking a relatively straightforward question about immigration claims. You don’t want to answer it, fine. But please stop telling me I shouldn’t even ask it and trying to draw boundaries around what I can and can’t think, wonder, ask, or write.

Comment by The Crimson Reach

Please see Lubos Motl on why asking questions doesn’t get you off the hook. People who ask questions have some responsibility beyond the mere posing of a question:

And my response/concurrence here:

Comment by RPLong

Would that meta philosophical assertion about Questions by any chance also apply to such stellar questions as ‘What is the point of blogging about the question?’ that a certain commenter asked me above and then rephrased ad infinitum in an endless number of useless comments that have been a wonderful use of both our time?

Oh wait, darn, that was a question too. There’s just no way out.

ANYTHING to avoid actually addressing and/or talking about the simple point I raised in the OP I guess. All I can say is it must have really touched a nerve with you.

Comment by The Crimson Reach

I doubt you made it all the way through that Motl post in 11 minutes (time between my last post and yours), but if so, I am impressed. I don’t fault you for not reading the whole thing and understanding it, but you certainly shouldn’t respond to me as though you did, if in fact you did not. Your reply sure makes it look as though you could benefit from taking a second look.

Comment by RPLong

For avoidance of doubt, no I did not read that entire post upon your command. I did click, but my eyes glazed over after a couple sentences. Life’s too short. Anyway, your linking to it and trying to take this conversation in yet another meta direction is symptomatic of how for some reason you seem to only want to blow smoke on this issue, not talk about the issue, and I’m really just tired and bored of it. I yawn in your general direction.

Till next time,

Comment by The Crimson Reach

Basically, after N comments it has emerged that your answer to my simple question is,

What’s the point of asking that question? You shouldn’t’ve asked that question. That’s a dumb question! (Look! A squirrel!)

Thanks for your highly useful, informative and substantive contribution to this comments thread,

Comment by The Crimson Reach

Yes, it was immoral of me to report that my mark one eyeballs see a reality wildly inconsistent with official government statistics, and that in view of what happened to Richwine this is exactly what one would expect, and it was immoral of you to observe that the official account of reality is self contradictory.

Comment by jamesd127

I actually can’t believe you posted this comment. You made yourself seem smaller in doing so. Ideas worth having are ideas worth defending. You asked a hypothetical question about something that has an empirical answer. My suggestion is: go find the empirical answer and stop wasting your time on hypotheticals.

Your telling of this is, “Look! A squirrel!”

Sad, really. Your reasoning on so many other issues is so good that I wonder why you allow yourself such sloppy reasoning with respect to immigration. You’ll come around eventually, I am sure. I don’t mind the ad hominems in the meantime. It doesn’t actually detract from my position as much as you’d like to think.

Comment by RPLong

I am sure. I don’t mind the ad hominems in the meantime. It doesn’t actually detract from my position as much as you’d like to think.

You don’t have a position. You are arguing that we should not discuss the question or the evidence, and you denounce the evidence as racist.

You are giving the response we would get from a Christian if we asked a Christian how God can be three and also one, but the difference is that a Christian can plausibly claim that God passeth human understanding, whereas I am pretty sure that Indios do not pass human understanding.

Comment by jamesd127


Again, as I’ve told you, the question I’m asking is not the one that you think has a simple empirical answer, the question I’m asking is how to resolve a contradiction. By continually saying what I need is an empirical answer, you demonstrate that you still don’t, or refuse to, understand what I’m asking.

Seriously, either respond to what I actually wrote in this post (if you want), or shut the hell up. All you have done in these comments is try to blow smoke in my eyes, try to redirect the conversation to a bunch of meta and philosophical nonsense I don’t give a crap about, and give me a bunch of haughty instructions (read this; don’t ask that question), and as you can see you are really getting on my nerves in doing it.

Comment by The Crimson Reach

P.S. And granted, you didn’t literally say “Look a squirrel!”; what you said was technically “Look, a Motl!”. Same function – change the subject, raise irrelevant tangents. Distraction. You post a link to some long-ass article and I’m just required to go read it, if I don’t, I get passive-aggressive sarcastic snark from you.

Why the hell does a post about immigration end up with you giving me a homework assignment about The Nature Of Questions. Either argue with my actual post or ignore it, but don’t give me this crap anymore, I’m not amused and beyond bored by it.

Comment by The Crimson Reach

It should be clear by now that my disagreement is with your assumptions. That is my response to your question. If you asked me, “Should I buy a Ford or a Chevy?” I might suggest: “Consider a Buick.” That wouldn’t be ignoring your question, it would be suggesting that you revise your assumptions. I have spelled that out 10 different ways, and you keep telling me that I am blowing smoke. That’s silly. It doesn’t matter how many times you choose to ignore the fact that my response to your question is to revise your assumptions. That was the statement expressed in my first comment as well as in my last.

I am very sorry if this gets on your nerves, but you are only in control of your own thoughts, not mine. If my reaction to your opinion is that I think you should revise your assumptions, then that is my reaction. Begging me to respond differently does not actually change my underlying thoughts about what you’re saying.

But I see that I have gotten on your nerves, and I will “shut the hell up” and go chase squirrels. In the meantime, if you decide that empirical questions can only be answered empirically, then I think that would be a very epistemically healthy conclusion.

I am not trying to irritate you. I am sorry for the misunderstanding. I will not poison anymore of your posts about immigration.

Comment by RPLong

“It should be clear by now that my disagreement is with your assumptions.


What is his assumption and what is wrong with it?

When I disagree with someone’s assumption I say “You are assuming such and such, but such and such is wrong.”

You have not said this. You don’t disagree with his assumptions in the sense that you think there is a factual error, but that it is racist to even think about such unpleasant facts.

Comment by jamesd127

What is so hard about this? There are no empirically verifiable claims being made here. The issue is that:

1: immigrants use the same or fewer social services than natives, implying they are not poorer than natives, as our social services are weighted towards the benefit of the poor.

2. immigrants are in demand as cheap labor, implying they are poorer than natives, if for no other reason than getting paid less makes you poorer.

Resolve the contradiction, or provide some reason why it isn’t one. 40 comments in and we’ve got nothing.

Here, I’ll give an example of an answer:

“1 is false, as immigrants’ lower use of social services doesn’t imply that they are not poorer than natives. The reason is actually because they are ignorant of available social services and therefore don’t use them.”

Comment by Matt

This is akin to asking how God can be three and one, except that the excuse that the answer is beyond mortal comprehension sounds less impressive.

Comment by jamesd127

As others have pointed out, if you ‘disagree’ with one/more of the assumptions, and say which one and why, you’d be answering my puzzle! When I say X and Y appear to contradict, ‘X isn’t true, actually, it’s untrue because ___’ is a perfectly respectable way to resolve the contradiction.

You haven’t done that though. Instead you’ve used up dozens of comments to tell me, essentially, that I shouldn’t have written the post, or should have written a different post, or something. Complete with external reading assignments, discourses on the nature of Questions, and a neverendingly condescending attitude towards me that as you can see I am only willing to tolerate for finite time.

But do feel free to let me know if you ever wanna actually give your answer to the simple puzzle of the post. Notice that I still don’t know what it is. Are you saying you disagree that immigrants aren’t a net fiscal drag – you think they are? As I said early on, that would be interesting.

Comment by The Crimson Reach

So, the facts are racist, and the question is racist, and we should ignore the facts and not think about the question.

Comment by jamesd127

No, James. You are racist. This post has nothing to do with facts – it is pure conjecture based on a set of assumptions. If you want to talk about facts, then start by producing some.

Comment by RPLong

If you want to talk about facts, then start by producing some.

Fact is, the California hospital system is collapsing under the impact of Indios, largely short fact ugly female indios with lots of bastard spawn.

Fact is, very few Indios seem to have regular jobs.

Fact is, all indios spend food stamps.

Comment by jamesd127

Those are claims. Where is the evidence?

Comment by RPLong

Those are claims. Where is the evidence?

That is what I see with these Mark One eyeballs. What do you mean by “evidence”? That Harvard officially acknowledges that humans are unequal and that categories and groups of humans are unequal? And until Harvard acknowledges inequality, everyone is equal?

Comment by jamesd127

Totally agreed here.

Comment by RPLong

[…] Charmer wonders about the open borders puzzle… that you’re not supposed to wonder […]

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Oh I think I can explain this one.

The key observation behind utilitarian open-borders is that the USA has a vast amount of social capital. And also physical capital, though this is distinctly second behind social capital. Physical capital will dilute with the number of people it is distributed over, but on the other hand, more of it can always be created. So it is at worst a transitional problem. But even better, social capital (which is, basically, the rule of law) is thought to effortlessly extend to cover any number of people. And since people don’t know where it comes from (this gets into thoughtcrime area), they don’t have any notion that it might be degraded. Mexico, in this view of economics, is poor because it is corrupt, and corrupt because of… well, who knows. Something other than the people that live there — history, perhaps. And America, similarly, has the rule of law based on sheer good luck, not because it is inhabited mostly by Euros.

In short: when Pedro moves to America, his wage immediately quadruples, and nobody loses much. Win-win-win!

Note that your “social services” are generally thought of as in the category of social capital, part of the rule of law, since taxes just sort of happen, and in any case the poor are way overtaxed here. It’s the rich that need to pay more, donchaknow.

I might note here that until the era of decolonization, the logical way to bring the benefit of the rule of law to the world was to go out, conquer people, and then impose the rule of law on them. This had certain advantages, most particularly that most people just can’t or won’t move, so by bringing good government to them you reach everyone. However this fell out of fashion — people must now be ruled by men who were born somewhere close by, and who look like them (except whites), and this is a human right (self-determination). Unfortunately it appears that most people are more corrupt that Euros tend to be. Thus, the “third world” was born. So only now does the problem of how to bring uncorrupt government to the third world arise, and it’s pretty much insoluble. However, for those that are willing/able to move, the logical answer is that the entire third world should empty out and come to Europe or America.

Comment by Leonard

But if I understand the empirical results open bordersers are pointing to, the US shouldn’t *need* any extra ‘social capital’ (or, for it to be constant/unaffected) in order to absorb new immigrants: new immigrants don’t use up more in social services and so on than they contribute in…taxes or something, in the first place. (Or they don’t use up ‘that much’ more, anyway.) That’s what they say the empirical results show. So the social-capital/dilution issue is moot here; even if it’s affected by immigration, immigrants can only add to it (or, not subtract ‘that much’ from it). So say the open bordersers.

I wonder if we should just deport all citizens who live below the poverty line, and import immigrants to replace them. It seems like this can only be a net-positive, since the former cost society in social services but the latter magically don’t.

Comment by The Crimson Reach

Yes: new immigrants don’t use up more particularly much more in social services and so on than they contribute in taxes. (Of course, this is immigrants on the whole. If we disagregate them on race, religion, and class, we might discover interesting things. But of course we cannot do that because thoughtcrime.) Not to mention the fact that they are diverse, and diversity is the highest end of modern government.

And you’re right that according to open-borderites, the rule of law just happens, and can be taken for granted as a fact of nature. In case you hadn’t figured it out, it is on this point that I part with them. The problem with replacing the white working class with Mexicans is not so much that it will lower the income of the white working class, although it will. The problem is that in importing a mass of Mexicans you import Mexico.

It would probably strengthen America to deport a few of its worst citizens. (It would also be racist — just saying.) However, just because you are getting social services at one point in time does not mean you are a net negative on the whole. It’s whether you pay more in taxes in your lifetime than you get in services. The same is true of immigrants. In their case, we often get a fully educated person for free — 16+ years of education paid for by the suckers back home. OTOH, other immigrants tend to be poor. But in the long run, if they and their descendants assimilated to Euro levels of productivity, law abidingness, and effective maintenance of the rule of law, they’d be no problem.

Comment by Leonard

Let’s suppose the answer to my puzzle lies in that disaggregation step. Basically, the category ‘immigrants’ includes 1 Indian programmer/engineer for every N unskilled laborers, and so…the math all works out & comes out in the wash somehow.

Obviously, if that’s the answer (is that your answer?) it might suggest an immigration policy other than ‘therefore, open borders’.

Comment by The Crimson Reach

An immigration policy?!? Oh no, we cannot possibly have such a thing! If we were to have a policy, then we would have to favor some people over others. Can we value people? Can we look in people’s soul? We cannot! So that would be wrong. Unequal. Racist. Ray-cyst! Probably sexist and homophobic too. And transphobic. Did I mention microbephobic? So many phobias. Why are you so afraid?

P.S.: yeah, that’s my answer.

Comment by Leonard

Yes: new immigrants don’t use up more particularly much more in social services and so on than they contribute in taxes.

In California, which may not necessarily be typical of the USA, it is glaringly obvious, overwhelmingly obvious, that new immigrants do use up much, much, more in social services (they are destroying the hospitals) and that they seldom pay anything in taxes.

Comment by jamesd127

might note here that until the era of decolonization, the logical way to bring the benefit of the rule of law to the world was to go out, conquer people, and then impose the rule of law on them.

This was less successful than is remembered. When British merchant adventurers settled down from being mobile bandits and became stationary bandits, they provided good government. (Having arguably provided extremely bad government when they were mobile bandits) When Whitehall took over from them, disaster ensued. That is why it is called anti colonialism, not anti imperialism. Imperialism was the original anti colonialism. When it failed dismally, the anti colonialists doubled down by dropping the empire part of their program.

The USA has repeated reconquered Haiti, sometimes openly using military force as when it forced Aristide upon them, sometimes with a mixture of soft power, bribery, and threats of hard power. Each time it does so, it moves Haiti further left, each time with results more disastrous than the last time.

Haiti demonstrates the surprising result that it is better to be ruled by low IQ black thugs than high IQ Harvard PhDs. This is a very strange outcome, particularly when one considers how successful rule by British pirates and slavers was when they settled down to govern Asia.

Bruce Charleton, of course, has an explanation – that Harvard is directly run by demons, who command their wholly possessed tools to do evil even when, indeed especially when, evil is not in the self interest of the evildoer.

I have a more materialistic explanation. My theory, however, is observationally indistinguishable from Bruce Charleton’s theory.

Comment by jamesd127

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