May 20th, 2006


(no subject)


May 2nd 2002
From The Economist print edition

Scientists are uncovering ways of making messages more persuasive. Politicians and salesmen use such tricks already. Who can afford not to read on?

YOUR correspondent was not sure whether to write this piece. But Eric Knowles, a professor of social psychology at the University of Arkansas, was very convincing. He said that he had experimental evidence to support a new approach to persuasion—one that works on removing people's inhibitions, or lowering their resistance.

Dr Knowles is so compelling that he has managed to persuade America's National Science Foundation to give him $163,000 to find ways of making messages and appeals more persuasive. Recently, he and a number of other researchers outlined their work on resistance-reduction at a meeting at the University of Arkansas.

Resistance is useless
When somebody is torn over a decision, some aspects will be attractive and encourage acceptance; others will be displeasing and create resistance. Researchers refer to persuasive strategies that work by making an offer more attractive as “alpha” strategies. Those that work by minimising resistance to the offer are called “omega” strategies. Dr Knowles operates at the omega end of the alphabet.

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Unintended consequences of border restrictions

Like the war on drugs, I think immigration restrictions cause or exacerbate many of the problems associated with illegals (crime, poverty, poor assimilation):

* Without documentation, your job prospects will be limited to employers who look the other way. Therefore, you will be limited mostly to menial, manual jobs. Also, since getting educated won't help you much to get a better job, you have fewer incentives to become educated. This may also tend to create a culture in which educational achievement is devalued.

* If you fear that you will be deported, you will tend to avoid those who are not themselves in the illegal community (or closely associated with it). Therefore, the rate at which you learn English and assimilate "American" cultural values will be retarded. This will also tend to limit your job prospects.

* As a result of the first two facts, the returns to parasitic behavior will be higher than they would be otherwise. Also, tax revenues will be lower than they would've been otherwise.

* Since border crossings are so costly, you will have an incentive to stay in the U.S. permanently (and bring your family across), rather than work in the U.S., leave your family in Mexico, and travel back and forth. If you dislike the Mexicanization of American culture, this is probably not the result you intended.

* If a Mexican is stuck making $8.00/day in Mexico, who would otherwise be making $8/hour in the U.S., the world is poorer in two ways -- the difference in price between the immigrant's wage and the next best alternative, and the difference between the immigrant's wage in the U.S. vs. the immigrant's wage in Mexico, plus the dead-weight loss of immigration enforcement.

Whatever negative externalities the immigrant would've imposed will be imposed anyway, they will just be imposed in Mexico rather than the U.S. The negative externalities will likely be higher, in fact, since the would-be immigrant will be forced to take a much less valuable Mexican job, and will therefore be poorer than otherwise. Increased poverty means less education, poorer nutrition, increased crime, and lower productivity.

Those increased negative externalities will, in turn, result in higher costs of production for Mexican goods and services.

Given the relatively free trade between the U.S. and Mexico, many of those costs will be borne by American consumers in the form of higher prices for Mexican goods and services.

Thus, as with the drug war, I think many of the costs acscribed to illegals are the result of, or exacerbated by, their illegal status itself, and aren't necessarily an inherent property of the immigrants themselves.

Origins of the U.S. immigration system

From Madison Grant and the Racialist Movement:

The effect was felt at both the state and federal level. Twenty-four states passed laws encouraging sterilization of those who were retarded, insane, or had criminal records. At the Federal level, in 1921, Albert Johnson, head of the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, began a series of hearings on immigration. He appointed Harry Laughlin, who in 1922 would be one of Grant's co-founders of the American Eugenics Society, as an expert witness on eugenics. In 1922, Laughlin reported extensively on racial differences in IQ as measured by the new army intelligence test.

In 1923, Grant's close friend Henry Fairfield Osborn, the famous paleontologist who named “tyrannosaurus rex,” spoke enthusiastically about intelligence testing: “We have learned once and for all that the Negro is not like us.”

Congress restricts immigration.
This was precisely the kind of thing Grant and others had been saying for years. These ideas helped pass the Johnson Act of 1924, which established national origin immigration quotas of 2 percent of the number of foreign-born already in America as determined by the census of 1890. This greatly reduced the flow of immigrants from non-traditional sources, a policy that remained essentially unchanged until 1965.

(Note: I don't consider American Renaissance, a website devoted to white nationalism, to be a generally reliable source. However, in this case, their bias would be, if anything, to portray Grant and immigration quotas in an excessively positive light. )