Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Bush v. Reagan on Immigration


Scott Summner posted this beautiful exchange between Ronald Reagan and George Bush Sr. on immigration. Direct link (youtube).

Scott titles the post "when the GOP still had some decency," which I think he should more accurately state as "when the two leading GOP presidential candidates still had some decency." There are many people in the party -- in Congress, governors, state legislators, losing Presidential candidates, in Republican think tanks and so forth --with quite sensible ideas on immigration, and with the kind of personal decency Scott notices in the video, and lacking of the presidential candidates today.  There are also many decent and sensible Democrats too.

In this era that the battles within parties are as important as those between them, we have to get out of the habit of tarring whole parties with the behaviors and attitudes of some people in them.

Scott also characterizes the debate as "Bush stakes out a very liberal position on immigration, and then Reagan responds from a position even further to the left.." That's not quite accurate either. While it's accurate that the "left" wants to allow "undocumented immigrants" access to schools and services,  they typically do not want to open labor markets. Both Bush and Reagan explicitly welcomed people to come and work. Letting people come and not letting them work is a recipe for disaster. These are now libertarian positions, not right vs. left.

But I'm quibbling. Thanks Scott for a great video.



17 comments:

  1. So how many should we allow to come in and work? According to Gallup (http://www.gallup.com/poll/161435/100-million-worldwide-dream-life.aspx) 138,000,000 adults would like to immigrate to the US. If you include their kids that's probably around a quarter of billion potential immigrants. Of course, once they settle here they'll probably want to bring other relatives here as well.

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    1. My answer:
      http://johnhcochrane.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-optimal-number-of-immigrants.html

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    2. Well obviously the chance that one of the millions of people we take in turns out to be the next Sergey Brin is certainly worth risking the country for.

      Perhaps the University of Chicago should accept every applicant in the off chance that one of them turns out to be the next Friedman?

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  2. One point that bears making is that, in between that video and now, we've had Simpson-Mazzoli and a good amount of immigration, both legal and illegal. Is it really more likely that people randomly got nastier than that, having seen the effects of that immigration, people decided that the costs were rather higher than advertised?

    If there are serious adverse effects to immigration, I seem to be isolated from them, and when I look at the economic studies that say sunshine and roses, they make sense to me. But when economists are saying sunshine and roses while the masses doom and gloom, I start to get a little nervous that the economists may have missed something. And right now a solid chunk of the masses want to make Donald Trump president.

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  3. It's also worth pointing out that even among GOP primary voters, most oppose deporting illegal immigrants who are working.

    http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2016/05/09/exit-polls-show-split-decision-on-donald-trumps-policies/

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  4. it's worth pointing out that we have one presidential candidate who agrees with people in this video and one who doesn't. Republican party as a whole has moved away from sensible views on immigration. Just admit it, there is no point pretending as if this is not a partisan issue today.

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    1. Clinton doesn't agree with this position. Clinton wants to grant citizenship because she's trying to strengthen the political position of the Democrats. The Dems are happy to get more low skilled citizen voters while continuing to restrict high valued work visas, and continuing to implement costly labor regulations which price low skilled labor out of the market. Reagan and Bush were talking about work permits- the free flow of labor. It's a very different calculus.

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  5. One more "old" video on this I was recently watching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C52TlPCVDio
    [Milton Friedman - Illegal Immigration only helps when its Illegal]

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  6. Excellent! I hope I won't seem small point out that you capitalize Republican and not Democrat. I know your work well enough to know that was a slip. You did not say the Democrat Party, for example. That is a way to get under the skin of liberals that works; and you did not use it.

    Separately, "the nominee" (stage whisper: don't mention his name) demonizes immigrants. Hillary does not. The class conflict stuff that J McLane points out may be true, but it is secondary to the ugliness.

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    1. Fixed the typo. Thanks for pointing it out.

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  7. Bush Sr., Reagan and W. Bush for that matter deserve to be shamed for their disgraceful dereliction of duty to defend against the illegal alien invasion of the United States. The church of economism is fickle, culture matters Dr. Cochrane. Language, traditions and heritage. Thankfully at least one candidate has the decency to stand up for the citizens of this country who have been victimized by the cheap labor lobby. I'll be glad to reconsider my position once all of these decent politicians and policy wonks accept an illegal alien family into their homes instead of dumping them on our neighborhoods.

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  8. Great tape...and who remembers that Bush Sr. was a good-looking guy back then?

    I get a little nervous when both candidates make opaque references to "the labor situation" in the US as a reason for an open border with Mexico.

    I often wonder if the voting public would embrace free enterprise more if the domestic economy was typified by chronic "labor shortages" than if high unemployment was the norm.

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  9. Interesting watch, for sure.

    A few quibbles about the quibbles.

    re; tarring the entire party: normally i would agree, but I do think it's worth mentioning that presidential candidates are a bit of an exception. They are more or less the defacto leaders/symbols of the party, for better or worse. They're not longer just members. (although your point is still important and good to remember, even for them!)

    And I would consider it lefty to want to open markets, at least with respect to immigrants.

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  10. JC asks the question of what optimal immigration is, and says that it has no real answer. True enough. His implied answer seems to be to let the market work it out. So why can't we agree on that? To me, the answer is that we need to look at immigration not just as a simple labor market problem, or a demand for US welfare problem, or a criminal problem. The part of economics that needs to be applied is public choice. The solution to what feasible immigration reform can be attained can only be answered by how we can aggregate diverse political, economic, philosophic, legal, and moral preferences into a stable legal solution that can be enacted by Congress, and enforced by courts and executive agencies. The implied answer, as I see it, is that the reason we have had decades of inconclusive and increasingly heated debate on this issue is that the polity's diverse preferences cannot, under current circumstances, be aggregated into a stable solution. Some people's preferences must be disregarded, i.e., some oxen must be gored, pretty severely it seems to me. If your political system is based on interest group representation, as ours is, then only a sensible bargaining between affected interest groups that reaches a workable compromise can offer a stable solution. But we are not there, not yet, and not for a long time, I'm afraid. I don't even think we can agree on what interest groups should be represented at the table. Hence, status quo is always the most powerful solution when real agreement is not possible. Look for immigration to be a political problem for another hundred years or more.

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  11. it would have been great if we had fixed the underlying problem as Bush and Reagan indicate but the fact that we have done nothing in the intervening 30+ years suggests another approach is needed

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  12. John, you have one too many "m"s in Sumner's name in your 1st sentence:

    "Scott Summner posted this beautiful exchange..."

    Also, good post.

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