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The Externalities of Border Control - Open Knowledge — LiveJournal

Sep. 30th, 2006

08:31 pm - The Externalities of Border Control

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You often hear arguments against immigration of the form: "Immigrants commit crimes and use government services at higher rates than the native population, thereby imposing negative externalities on the rest of the population. Thus, we must strictly control the number of immigrants into the U.S. to limit these negative externalities."

However, what about the negative externalities of border control itself? Immigration laws imposes negative externalities on both natives and would-be immigrants alike. Let's examine the negative effecs on natives alone. Such laws:

* reduce the number of potential customers for your products and services.
* reduce the pool of potential mates. ( Maybe that smart, pretty girl you would've married wasn't lucky enough to win the immigration lottery -- instead, she's stuck in an Chinese village growing rice.)
* reduce the number of potential buyers of your house or land.
* reduce the pool of friends you might have.
* reduce the range of products you can buy. (Products that are economical to produce for a large, diverse population, may not be profitable for smaller, less diverse population. Also, geniuses that would've been productive in the U.S. lead stunted lives in places without the resources necessary for their genius to develop.)
* increase the costs of many goods and services (since native employers are forced to pay higher wages to natives)
* reduce the willingness of other countries to open their borders, thus reducing the pool of available employers, and choice of legal regimes.

It's difficult to measure the costs of these negative externalities. After all, how do I know how many Chinese girls I would've dated in the absence of immigration restrictions? Or if I could afford my own personal assistant? Or if a key breakthrough in anti-aging research would've been made by Venezualan who instead died of cholera?

But any rational border policy should try to take these costs into account. But how? Development economists have started to perform randomized controlled trials to determine which aid programs are effective, if any. Congress just passed a bill to build a 700 mile, $6 billion dollar border wall. (And this being a government project, I expect that it will cost at least three times the current projections to build and maintain.) It seems to me that before we spend a lot of time and money building a continent wide wall, we should first spend some money on some border experiments to verify whether we should have immigration restrictions at all.


[User Picture]
Date:October 1st, 2006 01:55 am (UTC)
After all, how do I know how many Chinese girls I would've dated in the absence of immigration restrictions?

As many as I possibly could have.

Sorry. Just kidding. Actually, you make some very good points.
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[User Picture]
Date:October 1st, 2006 06:35 am (UTC)
Wealth does not come from population density. Wealth comes from efficiency of production.

* Illegal immigrants tend to be low-skill, low-efficiency producers. This is not a lucrative market. And remittances siphon off much of their production to foreign countries, where it is essentially burned by corrupt governments.
* The existing population already includes tens of millions of potential marriage candidates, more than anyone could possibly date in a lifetime. The problem is one of surplus.
* ...and also the competition to buy land in the first place.
* New, interesting products come from high concentrations of productivity, and bear a proportionate price. Subsistence-level consumers with little disposable income do not incentivize interesting products.
* The marginal decrease in the cost of certain products is a legitimate benefit. However, only if it does not come at a cost of increased criminality, a form of inefficiency. One criminal can easily erase 10-20 human lifetimes of labor. Never mind marginal labor.
* ...This also increases the incentive for your fellow citizens to defend your mutual rights, as their backs are to the wall. It's an efficiency promoter.

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[User Picture]
Date:October 1st, 2006 07:04 am (UTC)
Hold on - from the standpoint of capital, immigration is all good because your money goes farther when the labor supply is enhanced. The same goes for land... in a place with lots' o' migrants, like Cali, houses are 3x as much as they are in Ohio. One of the great problems that migration solves is that white people are too snobby for the trades... you don't see a lot of Anglo welders or bricklayers. The same goes for Russia - I know plenty of unemployed economics majors and not a single tradesman.

But immigration laws preserve traditional inequalities that favor white people from the first world, and if you're not a landowner or an investor it's probably in your interest to preserve those inequalities. Ok - for example - I work for an investment bank in Moscow and I make about $4k after taxes. I can't even afford a mortgage on a 2-room apartment now because the city is facing a huge structural demand for housing. When an area's population grows at a rate faster than would normally be dictated by reproduction you face a housing crisis. Hundreds of thousands of people from the former Soviet Union move here each year, whereas construction firms have only been adding real estate at a rate of 80 million square feet a year. That's about 8 square feet a person, given a static population of 10 million.

Unfortunately the population isn't static - it may have been 10 million 10 years ago, but now it's probably closer to 12 if you include the unregistered people and 20 if you include the regions. In most parts of the world this results in huge shanty-towns growing up around major cities. You can see these from Cairo to Cambodia. Is that what you want? A lot of people don't need a lot to live - just a bowl of rice and a room to share with their family. Do you really want the third world in your back yard?

BTW - I love the idea of fucking economically disadvantaged girls that think I'm their ticket to a better life... unrestricted migration would kill the party...
(Reply) (Thread)
Date:October 1st, 2006 08:46 am (UTC)
Sadly, it seems more and more the American government is making decisions based on what I call “MSM” (Makes Sense to Me), and are not seeking experts and scientists to solve problems, nor use money effectively with their advice.

With MSM, the people of America support this method. American’s don’t tend to like being confused with facts.

Have some fun, ask a “normal” person which credit card they should pay off first?

The strangest thing to me is that history has taught America that influxes of immigrants enriches everything. I ask…show me a single negative example of immigration influxes in the past. To the Chinese (thank you for the trains, and Ketchup), to the Italians (thank you for the shoes, the food, and mastering our waters to bring us fish), to the Irish (thank you for doing the dirty work of the plumbing, and building most of the power plants), and to the Jews (thank you for…wow, the list is long…radio, TV, and most of my favourite scientists). Nothing here is to stereotype any one group, just simply to say thank you to what I know some groups are famous for.

My gardener, who has been with me for about 12 years, came to America after the Earthquake in Mexico killed most of his family, including his wife, and all but one of his children. In America he took a job as gardener even though in Mexico he was a successful stone mason, but hated that the standards of construction allowed for the death of so many people. He loved that America cared so much for the people that they would create standards of construction that are looked to the world over.

He married again, and had several more children, all three of his children of age are now attending college, the first of anyone in his family, ever. I believe all of his children will go to college.

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