. . . is that it permits tenured professors to write what they see. Of course this can cut the wrong way but tenure is a double edged sword. Here, an article skeptical about unlimited low-skill immigration is published in of all places the New York Times and is written by of all people a Harvard professor. And not just any Harvard professor but George Borjas, long considered a leading scholar of immigration.
It seems to me he gets to the nub of it. At least as regards a thoughtful approach.
Now, it could be that some issues are so filled with emotion that there is no need, or room, for sustained thought. People are often not motivated by complex, nuanced and wonky policy arguments. The side that has held the whip hand on immigration has not been afraid to use it, keeping up a steady drumbeat of pro-immigration emotionalism. Emma Lazarus! The Statue of Liberty! We are a nation of immigrants!
In turn the challenge to that was also mounted in emotional terms. Rapists! Terrorists!
So there we are. The argument has been successfully joined in moralistic terms but such terms often do not provide traction for resolution short of warfare. It would be nice, and I hope not naive, to suggest that a reasoned approach may find traction under the current circumstances.
As Borjas’s piece suggests, the truth is that immigration is like any other policy argument. There are winners and losers to whatever approach you want to take. Let’s talk about it dispassionately and see where it goes. That is the “immigration debate we need.”
As far as arguments go, I am persuaded by Borjas’s skepticism. Emma Lazarus did not repeal the law of supply and demand. A large influx of low-skilled low-wage labor likely has several effects:
1. it will depress wages of the least advantaged, like blacks, poor whites and immigrants already arrived.
2. it will differentially benefit capital over labor, increasing inequality.
3. it will reduce pressures for assimilation, leading to ethnic enclaves and less of the social solidarity that the communal impulse requires–i.e., it undercuts what the Left itself most values.
4. there will be negative fiscal effects on government finance given the high cost of benefits provided.
Add to that the looming pressures of technology and automation . . . how again do we benefit by an uncontrolled influx of low skilled labor?
Oh wait, I remember now: we educated liberals get to have our yards maintained for cheap and we get to feel virtuous about it!