Monday, May 17, 2010

Gall Talk

I find it more than a little galling that corporatists/free marketeers have, throughout the financial crisis, justified bailouts by appealing to the too-high social cost (unemployment) of sticking to free market principles. Probably someone who finds it more galling than I do comes from a community decimated by the social costs associated with sticking to principle in the war on drugs. Oh, unrelated note - one out of nine African-American men aged 20-29 is behind bars right now, one out of three young black men can expect to be behind bars at some point in their life, and "as incarceration rates exploded between 1970 and 2007, the proportion of US-born black women aged 30-44 who were married plunged from 62% to 33%." From that Marxist rag The Economist.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Some Vexations on Illegal Immigration

Just want to vomit out a few thoughts on illegal immigration, the first of which is that, in this debate, it's hard for me to take seriously someone who is completely unvexed. It's vexing as hell - how can you find your way to an extreme position through all those vexes?

Let's start with the extreme "lefty" position, one which I'd rather call the "super forgiving" position because this debate doesn't split awfully neatly into right vs left. The super-forgiving position is characterized by rejection of all interdiction efforts and heavy reliance on the "illegal immigrants do jobs Americans don't want to do" argument. The most nagging vexation about this position is that, while there's no explicitly categorical rejection of interdiction efforts, the rejection is functionally categorical, and it really seems like a lot of its proponents don't want to enforce laws prohibiting illegal immigration at all. Take, for example, arguments about fence-building. A border fence may be stupid and costly, but I don't think it's on its face cruel or morally wrong. (Though it may remind us of things that are cruel and morally wrong.) The implication of making such arguments is that we ought not to do anything about illegal immigration -- also one of the implications of the "do the jobs Americans won't do" argument. This one holds no water for me at all; unquestionably, illegal immigration lowers the wages for these jobs by increasing the labor supply (and exacerbatingly increasing the supply of "shadow labor" enabling wages to be even lower). A final vexation that doesn't get a lot of play is the fairness vexation -- doesn't get a lot of play because the aggrieved group are legal immigrants, not famous for their franchise. It was brought to my attention by my legal immigrant parents, who jumped through many hoops to immigrate, and who would love to have our family members join them here, but they (the family members) have been rejected many times by our very complicated immigration system. Naturally they (the parents) are nonplussed about the circumvention of that system.

There's really only one vexation about the extreme hardline position, but it's a blockbuster: it's simply coded racism. This is not even taking into account arguments that are explicitly racist, although there are plenty of those, and the line is blurred by the "take our country back" sentiment. Rather I'm talking about instances when hardliners make appeals to nominally innocuous things like law enforcement and safety, but there's a scent of racism because some of the arguments are hokey and you start to suspect it's just about not wanting to see as many Mexicans. Take, for example, John McCain's claim that illegal immigrants are "intentionally causing traffic accidents on the freeway" and that "Arizona residents are not safe." The only people endangered by illegal immigration are illegal immigrants. McCain's engaging in demagoguery of the worst kind and the mongering of many bad things. And frankly the coding on this racism is shit.

The arguments of both extremes tend to be made in bad faith, though for me, the hardline position tends to be made in worse faith. Vexing, very vexing. Lindsey Graham's decision not to contribute to his party's implosion over the issue strikes me as totally defensible, but it's not like it's a cakewalk for Democrats either.