Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Economists for immigration 

There's a letter at Marginal Revolution, sponsored by the Independent Institute, that makes the economic case for immigration. Alex Tabarrok, pushing the letter, says
The goal of the letter is not to cover all the issues but rather to say, 'here is the hard-won consensus that economists have come to on these major issues. By all means let us have a debate but let it be an informed debate.'
That's important because if you just read the letter itself, I'm not sure you'd come away thinking anything more than "they want open borders", with arguments that immigrants "do not take American jobs" and "[o]verall, immigration has been a net gain for existing American citizens." As I was scrambling for yesterday's interview I kept flipping around the internet to a variety of articles on economic effects of immigration, and the conclusion I came to and expressed to Lee and Jeff was that it's not clear-cut. Tyler Cowen and Daniel Rothschild do a fair job summarizing the competing evidence, though they would come down on the same side as Tabarrok. Reading summaries of the work of George Borjas and David Card, as Cowen and Rothschild do, would greatly benefit people who are currently entrenched on one side or the other of the issue. An open debate of the Borjasistas and the Cardians would highlight some very bad thinking on both sides of the debate that I've heard thus far.

Maybe politically, "build the damn fence now" is a winning strategy (though I find this note from Deacon at PowerLine quite interesting in arguing the converse). Maybe. But many bad policies are the product of hasty, politically-motivated stategery. I am more convinced, the more I read, that the Bush speech is good policy, even if it doesn't end up painting the map red.