April 20, 2010

On _Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders_, by Jason R. Riley

I usually consider myself pretty far on the left edge of the political spectrum, if you can view it as linear. I am for more open borders on a humanitarian basis. I cannot fault people whose only crime is to want a better life for their family. Once here, roots are casts and children are had, making the situation even more difficult. I have long had a tongue in cheek argument supporting open borders from the right side of the spectrum: Capitalism needs growth to survive and in the face of declining native births, the only reasonable solution is to import the growth we need. A secondary facet is that the market will fill a labor vacuum, no matter how difficult we make it and pushing this mechanism to the edge of darkness creates incentive for inhuman conditions on a black market.

In _Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders_, Jason R. Riley takes my argument and expands on it and makes a sound market-based argument for many of the same conclusions I draw from a left perspective: make legal immigration easier; create a guest-worker program; ease the already-here but illegal population out of the shadows. Here in this book is a kind of conceptual aphasia (eg. The minimum wage and unions are bad, G. W. Bush and Reagan have largely redemptive qualities) that takes the market-based approach and runs with it. I have trouble passing along a book whose entire line of reasoning I disagree with and at times find somewhat insulting, but I find it interesting that we can come from such different places and support the same overall solutions to a ‘problem’ based on conflicting spoken and unspoken ideals.

To be fair, the book was completed just before the economy stepped off the ledge. There has been significant return to native countries. So far, the best check on illegal population has been recession, and I doubt that even the most hard-core nativist would argue for slowdown to keep people out of the country. Most likely this current downturn is temporary, so I think the larger argument holds up from both sides. In the end, no matter which path you take, we should let ‘them’ in so that someday they will be us.