Lion of the Blogosphere

David Brooks makes standard business-elite arguments for immigration

I think that David Brooks is wrong about everything he says, but this stuff is probably what most rich donors to the Republican Party actually believe.

[Immigrants] are more likely to earn patents.

Only engineers earn patents, and immigrants are disproportionately represented in our corporate engineering departments and at STEM degree programs. Could native born Americans do these jobs? Of course they could, but the flood of immigrants depresses wages and the prestige of STEM. Americans are smart to avoid STEM in which they have no comparative advantage over the mass of immigrants and where they may be permanently fired after fifteen years because their skills are considered too old.

A quarter of new high-tech companies with more than $1 million in sales were also founded by the foreign-born.

Brooks is a journalist and has never had a real job in corporate America. I’ve dealt with immigrant-owned businesses, and they are all involved in outsourcing programming jobs to India, or they are body shops providing temporary IT employees who are mostly from their home countries, many of them on H-1B visas. These businesses don’t create jobs for Americans, they take jobs away from Americans. But they are good for people who have ownership interests in corporations, the top-level executives and investors.

Thanks to the labor of low-skill immigrants, the cost of food, homes and child care comes down, living standards rise and more women can afford to work outside the home.

Brooks expresses bobo values here. Notice how he says that women can now “afford” to work. As I keep pointing out, the new paradigm of labor is that only the rich can afford to work, and work is considered something desirable and self-actualizing. Maybe Brooks has been reading my blog, but doesn’t realize I was being ironic? Brooks doesn’t say much about how the foreign-born nanny feels about all this. Who is taking care of her children while she’s taking care of some rich woman’s children? How does she “afford” to work?

One group, using one methodology, found immigration had a negligible effect on low-skill wages.

The floor price for low-skill wages is the mandated minimum wage, and wages are known to be sticky at all levels of the labor force which explains why wages didn’t plummet with the bad economy. So the short-run result of immigration tends to be unemployed Americans rather than Americans working for lower wages. In the long run, wages in industries dominated by immigrants stagnate and don’t increase. Workers in IT might be making twice as much money as they do today if we hadn’t allowed massive immigration to do IT jobs.

Because immigration is so attractive, most nations are competing to win the global talent race. Over the past 10 years, 60 percent of nations have moved to increase or maintain their immigrant intakes, especially for high-skilled immigrants.

The United States is losing this competition. … [I]f we can’t pass a law this year, given the overwhelming strength of the evidence, then we really are a pathetic basket case of a nation.

All these pro-immigration editorials always end with a paragraph designed to scare and shame readers into supporting immigration. I’m surprised Brooks didn’t mention the other common scare argument, that Social Security is doomed without a constant source of younger workers from foreign countries.

* * *

Here’s a Wikipedia explanation of stickiness

Many firms, during recessions, lay off workers. Yet many of these same firms are reluctant to begin hiring, even as the economic situation improves. This can result in slow job growth during a recovery. Wages, prices, and employment levels can all be sticky. Normally, a variable oscillates according to changing market conditions, but when stickiness enters the system, oscillations in one direction are favored over the other, and the variable exhibits “creep”—it gradually moves in one direction or another. This is also called the “ratchet effect”. Over time a variable will have ratcheted in one direction.

For example, in the absence of competition, firms rarely lower prices, even when production costs decrease (i.e. supply increases) or demand drops. Instead, when production becomes cheaper, firms take the difference as profit, and when demand decreases they are more likely to hold prices constant, while cutting production, than to lower them. Therefore, prices are sometimes observed to be sticky downward, and the net result is one kind of inflation.

Because everything about employment tends to be sticky, you seldom see any significant short-run effects from changes in stimuli, which is why I don’t believe any studies purporting to show that immigration has no bad effect on the job market, in contradiction to the normal rules of supply and demand which tell us that when you increase the supply of something (such as labor), then the result is lower prices.

But probably, we are right now seeing the effects of a decade of loose immigration in that the job market refuses to recover from the recession.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 1, 2013 at 7:00 am

80 Responses

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  1. “[...] wages are known to be sticky at all levels of the labor force which explains why wages didn’t plummet with the bad economy.”

    Agreed that employers are extremely hesitant to lower wages/salaries of current employees, however, this seems to be a bit of an overstatement.

    Since ’08 I’m pretty sure employers have: foregone giving raises/bonuses, fired employees while increasing work loads for remaining salaried employees (but same pay), and reduced salaries for new hires. And this is to say nothing of management playing games with benefits that won’t show up on monetary-only compensation statistics.

    anon

    February 1, 2013 at 8:10 am

    • One of the benefits of loose monetary policy during a recession is that it inflates prices thus lowering the relative value of wages, which brings wages back in sync with labor supply and demand.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 1, 2013 at 8:24 am

    • Oh, they’re definitely increasing workloads. My girlfriend has been working past 8pm a few days per week in her finance job. She gets a little extra pay at the end of the year for the extra hours, but it actually works out to less than what she would be getting paid if she were an hourly employee — she gets something more like half-pay than time-and-a-half.

      I wonder how long it will be until some enterprising labor lawyer sues a big corporation for all the extra hours they’ve squeezed out of their white collar workers. Don’t labor laws apply to them too, or can they duck them by giving every key employee a manager title?

      DaveinHackensack

      February 1, 2013 at 7:44 pm

      • “Oh, they’re definitely increasing workloads”

        I hat this “they” stuff. The elite are people and many of them aren’t as bright as LOB. Perhaps their hands are tied.

        It’s kind of paranoid and unsophisticated talking about “they” and “the elite”. It’s like talking about “the economy” or “technology and robots” as if these were alien threats rather than the result of human labor and human intelligence.

        The truth is that neither man collectively nor a small number of men is or has ever been in control of Man’s destiny. Human society (norms, mores, ideology, the range of acceptable opinion, the level of techno-material development, etc.) has a life of its own and individual men adapt themselves to their societies well or ill.

        “God is God only insofar as he knows himself.” — G W F Hegel

        Nicolai Yezhov

        February 1, 2013 at 10:50 pm

  2. “All these pro-immigration editorials always end with a paragraph designed to scare and shame readers into supporting immigration.”

    More like a social-proof argument, no? “EVERYONE ELSE is doing it. Follow the HERD, that is the way to go.”

    ATC

    February 1, 2013 at 8:35 am

  3. Thanks to the labor of low-skill immigrants, the cost of food, homes and child care comes down, living standards rise and more women can afford to work outside the home.

    Immigration lowers wages, causing goods to become cheaper.

    One group, using one methodology, found immigration had a negligible effect on low-skill wages.

    Immigration doesn’t lower wages.

    Why is it that ostensibly intelligent people like Brooks become complete idiots when the topic of immigration comes up?

    Matt

    February 1, 2013 at 10:21 am

    • When businesses employ low-wage immigrants, management does not want to pass the lower costs on to the customer, but to charge the same price to the customer and pocket the difference as increased profit.

      It is not at all obvious to me that the price of homes and child care is “down” because of immigration. Not to mention, having your wife work so you can pay for child care is economically stupid for most people (and doesn’t even take into account the effect on the kids).

      Tarl

      February 1, 2013 at 1:07 pm

      • I have a friend with a STEM masters degree (an ABD Ph.D. actually) who lost his staff scientist job at a blue chip company due to a merger, and then worked a temp job as scientist. Until he and his wife realized that the cost of child care and commuting was more than he was getting paid. So now he’s a stay at home dad.

        This is a guy who used to teach chemistry to medical students while he was in grad school. There is something wrong with our labor market when someone like him can’t find a decent-paying job.

        DaveinHackensack

        February 1, 2013 at 7:49 pm

      • Much better women stay at home for a certain length of time for the children (limited in number). Child care is despicable. But even so women’s talents are wasted on the children if they stay at home forever.

        The woman who’s been out of work for years taking care of the kids has an advantage over the man who’s been out of work for years, but it’s still too difficult for women to balance career and children.

        A career woman is way sexier than a stay at home forever. Male hypogamy is a myth.

        Nicolai Yezhov

        February 1, 2013 at 10:58 pm

      • “A career woman is way sexier than a stay at home forever.”

        –I’m sure a career woman’s boss would agree with that. I wouldn’t dogmatize about the career woman’s husband’s attitude.

        Lucius Somesuch

        February 2, 2013 at 12:34 pm

      • “There is something wrong with our labor market when someone like him can’t find a decent-paying job.”

        Free market ideology, the burden of the talentless, flushing money down the toilet on the military mean that research is underfunded. It’s too risky for the private sector to do. Retarded Randians, like Paul Ryan, actually believe that the market is efficient in spending on fundamnetal research.

        Nicolai Yezhov

        February 2, 2013 at 5:36 pm

      • “I wouldn’t dogmatize about the career woman’s husband’s attitude.”

        I bet that even uglies like Angela Merkel and Hillary produce some “tension” in the men they work with. Bacause all human beings are narcissists deep dwon an equal is more attractive than an ego boosting inferior or “complement”.

        Nicolai Yezhov

        February 2, 2013 at 5:41 pm

      • Zipi Livni or Merissa Meyer —- all night long.

        Nicolai Yezhov

        February 2, 2013 at 5:46 pm

      • DaveinHackensack – your story is basically the premise of “Breaking Bad.” Maybe your friend should sell meth to proles.

        Peter the Shark

        February 3, 2013 at 4:47 am

      • “Equal” is a word for a thing which does not exist, Nicolai.

        A man on horseback could be the World Soul in the saddle. A woman–? Catherine, Elizabeth, Maria Theresa perhaps–these are the exceptions– but you won’t find Women of Destiny down at your local law partnership. Nor men, to be exact.

        And a man would rather have a Mme. de Pompadour than some imperial, indefatigueable Catherine or Elizabeth. Du Barry better still, by most men’s standards. Good god, what sort of masochist are you?

        Coming from someone who’s ostensibly picked up Hegel, I find your amorous tastes disturbing.

        Lucius Somesuch

        February 3, 2013 at 12:59 pm

    • “Why is it that ostensibly intelligent people like Brooks become complete idiots when the topic of immigration comes up?”

      Brooks is much more widely read than LOB. At his level of exposure the range of acceptable opinion is very narrow. He is conscious or semi-conscious of this, and conforms. BUT his conformity isn’t just behavioral. He internalizes this absurdly narrow range of opinion as if it were perfectly natural. Such conformity/adaptation is required to move up past a certain point. (Is the pope Catholic? Well, he’d have to be. No one could fake it long enough and with enough apparent conviction to make it to the top of the Roman church.) This explains why 1. political/business leaders are blind to the real solutions to the world’s problems and why 2. although they are smart they aren’t that smart. The elite are largely just the winners of a sophisticated American Idol.

      Nicolai Yezhov

      February 1, 2013 at 10:37 pm

  4. Brooks doesn’t say much about how the foreign-born nanny feels about all this. Who is taking care of her children while she’s taking care of some rich woman’s children?

    They will be in government subsidized day cares, for which we will need even more immigrants women as workers!

    Tarl

    February 1, 2013 at 11:10 am

    • Immigrant women not immigrants, sheesh.

      Or, the kids will be handcuffed to the radiator with some doritos and a water dish within reach.

      Tarl

      February 1, 2013 at 11:11 am

  5. Democrat liberals want you serving colored people… Conservative Republicans want you serving their $3,000 dinner. For those that can’t quite grasp it, that’s called a lose/lose scenario.

    Now, if “The Intelligentsia” of the long-winded post variety somehow feel above it all, go figure out which of these two categories the elite determine your career/job description serves best.

    Firepower

    February 1, 2013 at 11:39 am

  6. It is like sports. If you are weak, you are afraid of other weak. If you are strong, you welcome more punching bags coming in.
    So elites benefits from immigrations. Underclass suffers from it.

    IC

    February 1, 2013 at 12:12 pm

  7. “the flood of immigrants depresses wages and the prestige of STEM. Americans are smart to avoid STEM in which they have no comparative advantage over the mass of immigrants and where they may be permanently fired after fifteen years because their skills are considered too old.”

    This whole post is just loaded with typical jaded older worker bitterness. I’ve met people in many fields that have precisely these types of gripes. Almost everyone on this planet thinks that they didn’t get what they deserved in life. What makes STEM worse than any other field?

    Even most bitter programmers that I know, agree that people are paid pretty well. The ideal worker age is generally 25-35. There are lots of successful people older than that, but generally your age works against you, and that’s not just STEM that’s society.

    Lawyers are having a harder time finding work than STEM workers. Some financial workers are rich, but tons of areas of finance have just completely collapsed and that’s rough on those in those fields. Pharmacists seem to have stable, well paid jobs, but that work looks obscenely boring and seems like it will inevitably be replaced by some cheaper type of automation.

    If I could start my career over, the dream job seems to be university research work. You have the best opportunities to do meaningful work that you care about and that excites you, lower ratio of crap work, it is probably the highest respected field in society, it pays better than private industry work, provides far larger vacation time, and lifestyle flexibility, and seems to age the most gracefully: it seems more people have status rises with age, where you have lots of high salaried, dream job superstars in their 60s and 70s. In private industry, it seems the career peak is usually 25-35.

    Clay

    February 1, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    • Have you considered that if many people in a field are bitter, then maybe they have a reason for being bitter?

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 1, 2013 at 12:46 pm

      • A career path with a shelf-life of 10 years is not a bad career path? Being shit out of a profession at 35 is good career path to get into? The argument against STEM writes itself.

        map

        February 3, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    • In private industry, it seems the career peak is usually 25-35.

      LOL go to an airport on Monday a.m. or Friday midday (like, right NOW) and look at the age of the expense-account briefcase army. Average age 45-50. 90% male.

      Fiddlesticks

      February 1, 2013 at 2:10 pm

      • That was the ideal age for engineering/programmer types. These employees don’t normally travel that much.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        February 1, 2013 at 2:16 pm

    • “Lawyers are having a harder time finding work than STEM workers.”

      I have more sympathy for STEM workers, for one reason: for years everyone has heard that “we have too many lawyers”, while for years everyone in government has talked about the importance of STEM fields and how these led to good-paying jobs. STEM workers did what policy makers told them to do, and they’ve gotten the short-end of the stick for it.

      “Some financial workers are rich, but tons of areas of finance have just completely collapsed and that’s rough on those in those fields.”

      True. They’re not all doing well. Hedge funds, for example, are a winner-take-all field: a lot of small ones are struggling. I once had a manager of one ask me for a free trial to a $30-per-month short selling tool I created. I checked his company’s website, and he was a Harvard MBA. I’m sure the guy could afford $30, but I can’t imagine he’d be acting that niggardly if he weren’t under financial pressure.

      “Pharmacists seem to have stable, well paid jobs, but that work looks obscenely boring and seems like it will inevitably be replaced by some cheaper type of automation.”

      In some other countries, pharmacists have long given injections. That has started recently here, with flu shots. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the motivation there was to help avoid getting automated out of a job.

      DaveinHackensack

      February 1, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    • Clay wrote –

      “If I could start my career over, the dream job seems to be university research work. You have the best opportunities to do meaningful work that you care about and that excites you…”

      Most people in university research work — “most” includes most graduate students, postdocs, adjunct faculty, and technicians, and a good number of research faculty and tenure-track assistant professors — have quite poor prospects in their chosen field. On the other hand, for most people who have already reached the top of the cliff — associate and full professors — professional life lives up to Clay’s description.

      How many people do you suppose are in the first group, compared to the second one? Put another way, what do you think are the odds of a fully trained and credentialed member of Group 1 making it into Group 2?

      A few years ago, the grim odds were largely ignored by aspiring professors. Google can show you that they are now more widely understood.

      My advice is to make sure that you are a super special snowflake before embarking on an academic STEM path, lest you join the frustrated ranks of the very special ‘flakes.

      amac78

      February 1, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    • “univeristy research work” is like making it to the major leagues even if you’re a world-beating smartie. The competition for the absurdly low reasearch dollars is the same.

      BUT in general the present day organization of society is redonkulously ineffecient. Blame free market and limited government “liberal democracy” ideology. Not only are there too many talentless people, most talent is unrealized. This is partly an externality of mass media, which glorifies everything except the honest work of engineers and high proles. This Old House is an Exception I guess.

      Nicolai Yezhov

      February 1, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    • Clay: “If I could start my career over, the dream job seems to be university research work”

      LOL. Talk about being clueless! Do you want to talk about your chances of getting one? (Low) Once you got it, do you want to talk about chances getting funded to support your industry-comparable salary? (Low) Do you want to talk about proportion of time you get to devote to that interesting research? (Very low; teaching dolts and begging for money takes most of the time).

      Bottom line is: you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about!

      md

      February 2, 2013 at 12:41 am

    • “If I could start my career over, the dream job seems to be university research work. You have the best opportunities to do meaningful work that you care about and that excites you, lower ratio of crap work, it is probably the highest respected field in society,”

      You’re trolling, aren’t you? Approach a man in the street and ask him to name one mathematician from Harvard or MIT.

      “it pays better than private industry work”

      Such as postdocs earning in the upper 30k range?

      And you’ve never heard of PhD overproduction either. Basically, the output of Math and Physics PhDs could be cut by half without causing any harm.

      WRB

      February 2, 2013 at 1:35 pm

  8. “Only engineers earn patents, and immigrants are disproportionately represented in our corporate engineering departments and at STEM degree programs. Could native born Americans do these jobs? Of course they could, but the flood of immigrants depresses wages and the prestige of STEM. Americans are smart to avoid STEM in which they have no comparative advantage over the mass of immigrants and where they may be permanently fired after fifteen years because their skills are considered too old.”

    I am a native born Caucasian American. I have worked in STEM in silicon valley since 1979. I am now in my sixties. I am a software engineer and still going strong in the field. I have around 10 patents.

    Most software engineers in this field are Chinese and Indian immigrants. In the 1980-2000 period companies were desperate for software/hardware engineers. Salaries went up rapidly, Asian immigrants good enough to get into US Colleges overwhelming chose to major in STEM because it was easy to find a job in the US after graduation. Believe me, in the 1980-2000 companies did not want to hire immigrants. Lack of language skills was an issue. It was a lot of extra hassle to hire immigration lawyers and get visas and green cards for them. In that period salaries were not really lower for immigrants. In 1998-9 at the peak of the tech bubble, anyone who knew a few buzz words could get a programming job in silicon valley. After the tech bubble burst, most of those hopeless programers lost there jobs and had to leave the field. Most of the people who left the field were bad programmers who never should have been hired in the first place.

    Since 2001 salaries have been mostly stagnant in the US and companies have off shored many of their programming jobs to India and China. Because of the tech bubble in the 1990s salaries for computer programmers in the US got too high. The company I work for could hire really smart programmers in India for a fraction of the salary in the US in the 1990s. That has been correcting itself since 2000. Salaries have been going up rapidly in India and China. The hiring situation is far more competitive in India and China today. Given the inefficiencies of managing remote software development, companies are not really saving much if anything by off shoring anymore.

    The opportunities today in software engineering are not as good as they were in 1980-2000 and starting salaries are not as high as they were in 1999, but there are still lots of opportunities. You just have to be good. In 1980-2000 companies were desperate and hired really bad programmers. I think this is the origin of the idea that you will be forced out of the field after 15 years because your skills are old. Good programmers are smart and easily learn new languages and new technologies.

    mikeca

    February 1, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    • Bad programmers would not admit that they are bad. They would like excuses above to give them psychological defense to blame on immigration or whatever. Losers admitting failure = depression or suicide.
      Marxisim, religion, wining blogs are all helpful to a truely depressed world of losers. Music or songs are another form of psychotherapy. Sad people produce best songs.

      IC

      February 1, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    • “You just have to be good.”

      YES. Americans shouldn’t be so selfish. Indians and Chinese are humans too. While American wages have stagnated, the wages of Indians and Chinese have gone up.

      But, obviously, though true and sympathetic, this Randian story misses that globalization gives Capital an undeserved advantage.

      The American comedian, Steve Martin, when asked how to make it in entertainment said, “It’s not the answer you want to hear….Be so good you can’t be ignored.”

      Nicolai Yezhov

      February 1, 2013 at 11:20 pm

  9. Jim

    February 1, 2013 at 3:20 pm

  10. I have been doing software and web work for over 15 years in start-ups, big companies, and creative services. I think there is a coming break where technology will end up high status again for certain roles. McKinsey had an article on it where they differentiated between enabling IT and factory IT. Big companies that want to compete with pure tech plays for talent will have to do something like that. But accounting systems and systems like that will be built offshore by a different caliber of developer.

    jonnystiles

    February 1, 2013 at 3:26 pm

  11. “The opportunities today in software engineering are not as good as they were in 1980-2000 and starting salaries are not as high as they were in 1999, but there are still lots of opportunities. You just have to be good. In 1980-2000 companies were desperate and hired really bad programmers. I think this is the origin of the idea that you will be forced out of the field after 15 years because your skills are old. Good programmers are smart and easily learn new languages and new technologies.”

    Really, everyone I know has started in the mid 100ks out of undergrad.

    Alex

    February 1, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    • They graduate and their first job is for 150k? Maybe they’re all HYPS grad or maybe they lie.

      Nicolai Yezhov

      February 1, 2013 at 11:27 pm

    • Alex, Yes, I know lots of people making over $100k per year in software development. Half Sigma keeps saying immigrants have wrecked the software dev job market. But that’s so not the way I’m experiencing it on the West Coast. I know people making over $200k. Some in their 40s and 50s.

      I also have known lots of bad programmers who ought not have a job but they do.

      I think conflating all STEM subjects is a big mistake. The market is telling us do not become a chemist. Ditto a zoologist or botanist. The market is telling us to learn machine learning algorithms. So, hey, guess what books I’m reading. Not about botany. Not about Microsoft APIs either.

      The demand is high for people with stats, software dev, and machine learning chops.

  12. “Thanks to the labor of low-skill immigrants, the cost of food, homes and child care comes down…”

    I seem to remember a few ago some well-off couple in Manhattan had a very bad experience with one of those low-skill, low-cost immigrant nannies.

    E. Rekshun

    February 1, 2013 at 6:45 pm

  13. Blog Raju

    February 1, 2013 at 6:46 pm

  14. “Wages, prices, and employment levels can all be sticky.”

    My personal definition of “Sticky”: 0% wage growth (nominal, real or otherwise) from 1999 to present!

    E. Rekshun

    February 1, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    • More like 1980 to the present.

      Nicolai Yezhov

      February 2, 2013 at 12:13 am

      • Real wages have fallen greatly at least since 1970. Back then a man could support a family easily, paying maybe 20% on housing to have a nice suburban house with a yard. Now a couple will both have to work, and might spend 50% of their income just to rent an urban apartment (no equity, no yard, not enough room). In real terms (quality of housing/hours worked) families today only earn about 20% of what they earned 40 years ago. That’s an 80% pay cut in a generation and a half.

        T

        February 2, 2013 at 4:21 am

  15. Excellent bit of analysis!

    JayMan

    February 1, 2013 at 7:20 pm

  16. off topic, but:

    “Law school applications are headed for a 30-year low, reflecting increased concern over soaring tuition, crushing student debt and diminishing prospects of lucrative employment upon graduation.” — and people learning about the truth!

    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/31/education/law-schools-applications-fall-as-costs-rise-and-jobs-are-cut.html

    rivsdiary

    February 1, 2013 at 7:38 pm

  17. BTW, interesting comment thread about immigration over at NYC venture capitalist Fred Wilson’s blog this week: “The Start-Up Visa”.

    The top-rated comment there is by a tech exec who is a joint US-Canadian-Israeli citizen with degrees in electrical engineering and business (according to his blog). He says,

    “Let’s welcome every darn immigrant who has no criminal record, wants to work to better his/her future, his/her family and by extension the society and dedicates him/her self to the democratic principles of an open and liberal society (real meaning, not political).”

    I asked him why it made sense to import 3rd and 4th world poverty, and he claimed that poor countries aren’t poor because of their people but because of their “systems”, and that people were a source of growth. So I asked him why Israel is building a wall to keep out African immigrants — does Israel not want growth?

    No reply from him on that yet, but it’s interesting that of the three countries he is a citizen of, 2 have much more selective immigration policies than the US, but this is the only country where he wants to see the flood gates opened. Why? Because “we’re a nation of immigrants” (unlike Canada or Israel, where they current citizenry just sprung up out of the ground, presumably).

    DaveinHackensack

    February 1, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    • The ideology of Israel is that Jews are the “indigenous” people of that land who have finally come home. Israel can’t really afford to turn into a land of immigrants – that would undermine the whole rationale for a Jewish state.

      Peter the Shark

      February 2, 2013 at 5:31 am

  18. Wow, Lion, so many top dog coders at your blog! Maybe Zuck himself is hiding behind one of these aliases. Please, gentlemen, spare us no humility and do converse here on in strictly in Korn shell. Our enlightenment awaits.

    chucho

    February 1, 2013 at 8:19 pm

    • The horrible truth, the Darwinian truth, is that the enlightened feel no obligation to enlighten. Those who make their living by claiming to confer enlightenment, the religious, have no enlightenment to confer.

      Nicolai Yezhov

      February 1, 2013 at 11:33 pm

  19. “Why is it that ostensibly intelligent people like Brooks become complete idiots when the topic of immigration comes up?”

    Well Matt, offhand I’d say it’s sentimentality e.g. “my grandfather was an immigrant, and he was a nice person. Therefore, all immigrants must be nice people.” Or it could be that they’re surrounded by people in their little coccoon who all hold the same attitudes, so no one notices that what they all agree on is at variance with observable reality. The third possibility is that they know that their beliefs are based on shaky assumptions, but to question those assumptions would mean a loss of social status, so it’s better just to parrot the party line.

    Sgt. Joe Friday

    February 1, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    • Brooks has a New York Murray Bubble.

      de Broglie

      February 1, 2013 at 9:12 pm

  20. “more women can afford to work outside the home.”

    Wait… what?

    anonymous

    February 1, 2013 at 9:07 pm

  21. If we don’t change our immigration policies, in another generation China will have about a 10 point IQ advantage over the US. That’s a hard gap to make up for. Letting in STEM workers hurts STEM workers in the short run, but it raises the average intelligence level of the nation. Letting in millions of low-skill, uneducated workers will make things worse. Yes, immigrants do get a lot of patents and start a lot of companies, but almost all of them come from Europe and East Asia, and those aren’t the people that are going to benefit from an amnesty.

    John

    February 1, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    • I fonly the US were separated from Mexico by the Timor Sea. Australia’s Mexicans are Chinese.

      It used to be easy to move to Australia. It’s not so easy now. Bet on Australia.

      Nicolai Yezhov

      February 1, 2013 at 11:36 pm

  22. ” Brooks doesn’t say much about how the foreign-born nanny feels about all this. Who is taking care of her children while she’s taking care of some rich woman’s children? How does she “afford” to work?”

    So far the only one to respond to this.

    Brooks and others in his class (journalists, intellectuals, ideologists, apologists for the stautus quo and the elite worldview) view the brown immigrant in the same way one views his dog. One must care about his dog, but at the same time his dog isn’t human (he kills squirrels and brings them into the house for God’s sake).

    But for people like Brooks and for the Randian, suppose that the nanny and the “moochers” saw themselves as you see them. That’s pain!

    Their verbalizations are convenient and justify convention but do no more. Talk and talk and the only effect is to assuage some presentiment of guilt.

    Thanks to the academy every verbalization is taken seriously as long as it’s in the right idiom (another social convention). Never mind if its motivation is mercenary.

    Nicolai Yezhov

    February 1, 2013 at 11:51 pm

  23. On the other hand, more immigration of low-skill poor people will create taxpayer-funded jobs for law enforcement, prosecutors, public defenders, judges, and jailers.

    LoB has mentioned a few times how law enforcement might just be a good, growing, well-paying career to pursue.

    E. Rekshun

    February 2, 2013 at 7:26 am

  24. There’s a high cost to cheap labor.

    bobo

    February 2, 2013 at 9:33 am

  25. Another argument journalists like Brooks tend to make is that immigrants help grow the GDP. While that may be true, the benefits of any GDP growth are generally consumed by the immigrants themselves. So native born Americans don’t benefit. When you add in the entitlements consumed at taxpayer expense its a net loss to native born.

    destructure

    February 2, 2013 at 5:51 pm

  26. Perhaps it is inevitable that, with globalization, we will see a process of equalization between the 1st world countries and 2nd/3rd world countries. It’s like homeostasis in the human body – unless energy is actively exerted in the direction away from homeostasis, things will tend to even out. I mean, is there any reason why, just because I was born in America, that I should necessarily have a higher standard of living. I have lived in 2nd/3rd world countries and found it in many ways superior to living in the US – mostly because of the culture.

    The problem is though, that other nations do not have this kind of pathologically altruistic universalism. Globalization, and a general evening out of the wealth of nations, would be a lot easier to handle if, for example, I could go work in Russia as an office clerk, or in India as a telemarketer and be like the guy in Office Space. But most countries, unlike the US, have wisely implemented protectionist policies such that, “if a job can be done by a local, a local should be hired. Expatriates can only work in our country if we can’t find a local for that job.” For example, in India there is a rule in the past 2 years that you must make $25,000 US per year in order to get an employment visa. Needless to say, that’s a lot of money in India and as a result, you have to have a highly specialized and in-demand job to be able to work in India as a foreigner.

    shiva1008

    February 2, 2013 at 6:33 pm

    • correction – it’s actually more like diffusion than homeostasis. With improvements in technology, it has become easier and cheaper to travel. So this makes diffusion possible on a larger scale.

      shiva1008

      February 2, 2013 at 6:46 pm

      • This so called equilibration can’t happen without massive immigration. Free trade isn’t enough, because there is work which can only be done in country In a country with the built environment of the US and Europe there will be some work for its maintainers and builders. Job losses to trade and contraction of the govt sector should result in further collapse in real estate prices.

        Nicolai Yezhov

        February 2, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    • shiva1008 wrote –

      > I mean, is there any reason why, just because I was born in America, that I should necessarily have a higher standard of living.

      Excellent observation.

      Related: Why should you prefer to devote your resources to your children, when I think that my children should be able to call on them? To what extent should you be able to exercise such a preference?

      As far as U.S. immigration policy, what drives the elites’ policy implementation? The U.S. electorate keeps showing that it thinks the answer should be “the interests of American citizens.” The elites demonstrate their greater concern for potential immigrants (non-citizens) — which, by happy coincidence, tracks with their own narrow self-interests. Doing well by doing good, as Tom Lehrer quipped in a different context.

      I know an American engineer who works for IBM in the U.S. She told me about the company’s policy of allowing U.S. employees to transfer to India, to work on projects that have been outsourced there at prevailing Indian wages. She and her colleagues are less grateful for this worker-friendly innovation than you might expect. Go figure.

      Funnily enough, I’m not aware of any members of IBM’s senior management team who have taken advantage of this program. I guess that while all animals are equal, some are more equal than others.

      amac78

      February 3, 2013 at 8:18 am

    • Countries with “wise” protectionist policies are poorer than the USA. That’s because denying your economy access to as broad a range as possible of goods, services, talent, investors, capital, etc, doesn’t make you rich. It makes you poor.

      Note how within the USA, there is a Constitutionally enforced free trade zone. Imposing free trade over nearly half a continent didn’t make America poor. It made us rich. If Michigan could stop Michiganders from buying Alabama-made cars, it wouldn’t make Michigan rich. It would make them even poorer.

      Josh S

      February 3, 2013 at 8:42 am

      • Free trade may increase TOTAL wealth, but how is that wealth DISTRIBUTED? When a developed country is trading with an undeveloped country, workers in the developed country LOSE and the winners are the management/owners in the developed country as well as everyone in the undeveloped country.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        February 3, 2013 at 9:17 am

      • You elide some crucial distinctions between free trade within the United States and international free trade: Manufacturers in Alabama can’t start paying their workers $1 per hour, because there is a federally mandated minimum wage. There are also other federal laws relating to intellectual property, environment, etc. that prevent a race-to-the-bottom in business standards in US states, which isn’t the case internationally.

        And you also ignore that “wise” protectionist policies are part of what made the US a rich country in the first place (see “America was founded as a protectionist nation”).

        DaveinHackensack

        February 3, 2013 at 2:04 pm

  27. Nicholas Yezkov,

    “I hat this “they” stuff.”

    “They” refers to employers. That most employers are trying to restrain labor costs isn’t a conspiracy theory; it’s an accurate observation.

    DaveinHackensack

    February 2, 2013 at 8:21 pm

    • Right, but they may have to. They themselves may be victims in a way. The other theory that they are clueless selfish douches sounds wrong.

      Nicolai Yezhov

      February 2, 2013 at 9:31 pm

      • I haven’t said they were clueless or douches. As for whether they “have to” squeeze labor costs: this would be more plausible if corporate profits weren’t at record highs.

        DaveinHackensack

        February 3, 2013 at 1:58 am

      • Clueless sefish douches is about right. It’s tempting to say only in coporate America but the farmers hiring illegal immigrants, the family I know that owns several large apartment complexes who havent hired a native born in the last decade, aren’t multinational corporations.
        As far as being victims, I guess they would argue that burdensome taxes, etc cause them to seek out the illegals and the questionables. Assuming one is naive enought to believe that, one should still recognize that they are responding to the problem as clueless selfish douches.
        I work in corporate America, I make more money for the company than it pays me but I have no illusions about it.

        S_McCoy

        February 3, 2013 at 8:30 am

  28. We need to run our country like a good college fraternity. If we feel a prospective immigrant will help our country and make it stronger, let them in. If not, cut them. I suppose we can give preference to family members, but preference isn’t getting a bid. If the prospective immigrant is a detriment, cut him.

    As practical matter, anyone able to make about 25 percent more than the average wage is an asset to the nation. Assuming no health or behavioral problems, let them in. I’m all for opening offices all over the world to allow anyone anywhere to take the SAT at our expense. If they score in the 95th percentile — roughly a 1400 m/v — invite them in and give them a signing bonus to cover their moving expenses. As a nation we could use another 50 million people with a 125 IQ. (Of course, just as in the case of the PSAT, the high SAT score would need to be “validated” by scoring well a second time under secure conditions).

    Yes, I know, using the SAT test is unfair. It’s in English. Well, if they want to come over here they can at least learn the language. And let’s face it, anyone who studies hard enough can make a 1400. So let’s reward the DREAMers, but first they have to make a 1400 on the SAT.

    ColRebSez

    February 3, 2013 at 1:57 am

    • I agree. This will solve almost all the important problems at once. 1.) It will ensure they have relatively good English. 2.) It will ensure that they are unlikely to be a drain on the public resources. 3.) It will drastically limit the number of immigrants.

      de Broglie

      February 3, 2013 at 12:22 pm

      • “As a nation we could use another 50 million people with a 125 IQ. ”

        What do you mean? He wants another 50 million immigrants.

        There are only so many jobs that require that high an IQ anyway.

        Twain

        February 3, 2013 at 4:18 pm

      • Twain said: “What do you mean? He wants another 50 million immigrants.

        There are only so many jobs that require that high an IQ anyway.”

        Almost all jobs can be done more effectively by someone with a high IQ. No question having lots and lots of really smart people would bring down wage levels for the elites, resulting in more equality, but it would be a natural equality, not a government-forced one.

        Charles Murray cites the example of a waiter in a restaurant. A high-IQ waiter can remember and do far more than a low-IQ one. You simply can’t have too many smart people.

        ColRebSez

        February 4, 2013 at 1:35 am

    • Theoretically, enough really high-IQ people would balloon the size of our “smart fraction”, leading to a surge of economic productivity. These people would create new jobs.

      Of course, this argument is undercut by the reality of automation. It’s doubtful we will have enough jobs for the masses.

      And, it would be a painful adjustment process as the market adapts to the glut of high-IQ people.

      Then there’s issues of ethnic cohesion, particularly considering that these 50 million IQ 125+ people would have to be Chinese, since that’s the only country that could supply anything close to that number.

      JayMan

      February 4, 2013 at 11:14 am

  29. I’ve been teaching in STEM for about a decade, and I have worked in the industrial sector as well. No, American students are not as good as foreigners. They don’t work as hard, they expect good grades just for showing up, they neglect homework, they cheat incessantly, and they demand extra credit when they have failed to perform as expected during the semester.

    Immigrant engineers had to work their asses off to get here. They either worked their asses off to get into an American graduate school, or they worked their asses off overseas to navigate our Byzantine legal system.

    It has nothing to do with “depressing wages.” And no, the effect of competition on wages is not making American engineers poor. (If the effect of competition on wages made everyone poor, America would be the poorest country on Earth, since people can move freely across state boundaries…our size would be our undoing rather than our strength.) Engineering still offers one of the highest starting salaries for any bachelor’s degree and one of the best chances of getting hired.

    The problem is half of Americans fail out of the program in the first two semesters. This is because public school has prepared them to be whiny and lazy, and they can’t cut it in physics or calculus. More government planning and central direction of migration and hiring will not fix this problem. Preventing Indian, Chinese, and Brazilian engineers from entering the country will not suddenly make illiterate, innumerate Americans more capable of designing products that are worth buying.

    Josh S

    February 3, 2013 at 8:39 am

    • Josh S wrote -

      “It has nothing to do with ‘depressing wages.’”

      But you eloquently explain why native US engineers should have their wages depressed, from your point of view. And last I checked, nobody has repealed the Law of Supply and Demand. So it’s a bit of a mystery how encouraging immigration of large numbers of engineers from low-wage countries would fail to lower wages in the profession.

      Anyway, more immigrants are busboys, roofers, maids, nannies, and landscapers than are cutting-edge designers of electronic circuitry. “The jobs Americans just won’t do [at prevailing low wages]” seems to be the same argument, re-purposed for the low-skill sectors of the economy.

      Cardiologists could lobby for a less-stringent credentialing regime that accepts a Chinese degree plus a passing score on a multiple-choice test. So could accountants, architects, physical therapists, lawyers, surveyers, clinical psychologists, etc. Instead, crickets. Funnily enough, nobody except for dyed-in-the-wool libertarians — who seem a little cult-like in the fervency of their beliefs — seems to be terribly keen to apply the mass-immigration cure in ways that would affect their own fortunes.

      amac78

      February 3, 2013 at 12:12 pm

  30. [...] embracing of the vaunted “Other” end?  The intellectual sodomite David Brooks thinks it’s clear as day that free immigration is a win-win, and in every Western nation the restful natives are encouraged [...]

  31. As an aside, I think the Democrats are really pushing it with gay immigration. While each issue may slowly gain acceptance on their own, together they’re going to so offend the sensibilities of the average American enough to begin a new Tea Party-like movement

    anonymous

    February 3, 2013 at 12:53 pm

  32. ***One group, using one methodology, found immigration had a negligible effect on low-skill wages.***

    The problem is that low skill immigration is a net cost. Super Economy blogger Tino Sanandaji pointed out in 2009:

    “The most reliable estimate of the fiscal impacts of immigration was done by the prestigious National Research Council, NAC (the research arm of the National Academy of Sciences, NAS).

    Low skilled immigrants earn less than the average, pay less in taxes and receive more in public services such as health care, public housing, income aid etc. The NAC estimate is that the total net cost of each low-skilled immigrant for the US. State is $120,000 in 2009 dollars. (High skilled immigrants in contrast are a net fiscal benefit for the U.S).

    These figures may underestimate the costs. Since this study was made the costs of welfare services to lower income people has further expanded, especially Medicaid and S-CHIP, and may go further yet..”

    Kiwiguy

    February 4, 2013 at 9:29 pm


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