Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: November 7, 2012

Why Conservatives Should Embrace Free Immigration

After the election, Righty circles are naturally engaging in some soul-searching, finger-pointing, and bickering.  Some of this is unproductive venting, but it’s also the start of the process of working out how to move on and improve, and there’s no time to waste.

My conversations with fellow Righty operatives and bloggers have spurred me to suggest several ways Republicans could simultaneously make the party more attractive (or less repulsive) to voters and achieve more conservative results.  This post is about immigration and reversing the trend of Hispanics rapidly abandoning the GOP; the next is about gay marriage; and the final post is about entitlement reform.

First, let’s dispense with the notion agreed upon by many on the Right: seal the border first, so that whatever follows is more controlled and orderly.  This is an expensive fantasy.  Conservatives need to apply their skepticism of huge, complex, market-distorting government plans to every issue surrounding immigration, starting with any plan to spend tens of billions of dollars on thousands of miles of fence, surveillance, unionized government employees, and a verification system forced on every employer in the country.

It’s a joke that the Republican Party, which is practically defined by marriage, babies, and mortgages, holds at arm’s length a whole demographic (Hispanics, especially foreign-born) that tends to be more religious, marry younger and longer, and have larger families than the average American voter.

Mass immigration could work for the GOP if the GOP went with the tide instead of trying to stop it.

  • If Republicans want school choice, they should have natural allies among those who are religious, have large families, and see their children suffer under the worst public schools.  When you hear complaints that Hispanic immigrants don’t speak English, suggest vouchers and education savings accounts for private-school English language instruction.
  • If Republicans want to revive farms and stop the population drain from rural areas, make legitimate cheap labor more available: open up a bunch of farm worker visas.
  • If Republicans want to cut the cost of new housing so that young people can form households and families, make legitimate cheap labor available for that too.  Heck, why not try to break various trade unions by inviting enough skilled immigrants to swamp or bypass their system?
  • So the entitlement system is a problem?  Yeah, Milton Friedman famously said you can’t simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state.  Shouldn’t the Republican response be “Bring on free immigration“?  If math dooms Medicaid and the subsidized industrial-age hospital model, why not make the math even harder?
  • Conservatives have longed to shift taxes away from production and toward consumption.  Nobody wants to remove labor tax wedges (AHEM: the payroll tax) as much as someone in a labor-intensive business, the kind that tends to thrive when there’s a lot of cheap labor available.  That goes for both employers and the employees whose compensation is tilted toward wages rather than benefits; we know it suppresses the Hispanic savings rate.  And the payroll tax, of course, helps to maintain the accounting fiction that SocSec and Medicare are like savings.

Now, about the security problem: is it easier to pick out a genuine security threat in the crowd if everyone just has to pass a security check, or if hundreds of thousands of people are trying to cross the border undetected because the only legal route is a seven-year byzantine process?

Heather Mac Donald at NRO offers a potential counter-argument: Hispanics are more suspicious of Republicans for supporting class warfare than for opposing immigration according to a poll (from March 2011), and a majority favor gay marriage, so they’re not such a conservative bunch.  But:

  • Immigration may not be most Hispanics’ top concern, but it isn’t trivial either.  And because politics is so tribal, there are many ways to alienate a group without actually disagreeing on policy – many of which Republicans blunder into when discussing immigration.
  • Finally: social issues.  Mac Donald points out that a majority of Hispanics favor gay marriage.  I’ll argue in my next post that conservatives should proactively embrace gay marriage, which should resolve this issue nicely.

Obama Re-elected

And I was dead wrong.

When you get it wrong, what you normally should do is check your premise.  Mine was that the polls couldn’t have it right running a D+ anything.  That, based on 2010 and the resounding GOP victories then,  the 2008 model wasn’t valid anymore.  But it was, or at least D+ was.  Not as much as 2008 but still a plus.

Part of my premise rested on the assumption that the conventional wisdom of “this is a center-right country” was correct.   That particular bit of CW has been shaken to its foundations by this election.  I’ll never again make that assumption.

So, a tip of the hat to the pollsters who I claimed had it wrong.  They had it very right and tight.  The only consolation I have with my prediction is that I didn’t say “landslide”.  I knew it would be tight, but the other thing that let me down apparently, was my feeling I had read the “atmospherics” right.

Unlike 2008, I didn’t see the same level of enthusiasm on the left that I had seen then.  And actually, the results bear that out, but not at all to the degree I thought it would.  There was obviously just enough to see Obama through.  Romney did better than McCain but not “better” enough.

I knew my prediction was in jeopardy fairly early when NC and FL lingered and lingered and lingered without a winner being declared.  As I write this, FL is still lingering very near mandatory recount territory – not that it matters.

By any measure this was a close contest.  But when the dust has settled, Obama has won.

It will be interesting, in the coming days, to dissect the exit polls and try to determine why.  There are likely a myriad of reasons, some of which will be surprising and others which will likely surprise no one.

I’d like to say I’m not disappointed, but I am.  I still think Obama is a disaster and I haven’t seen anything in his recent campaign to change my mind. In fact, it did nothing but reinforce that feeling and add “meanspirited”, “small”, “petty” and “vindictive” to discriptors of the man.  Again, not that that matters in the big scheme of things because more Americans than not disagree with my assessment.

That brings me to the question of “why”?  Why did he get a 2nd chance?  And the answer lies somewhere in this shift to the left throughout the  electorate I believe.  Many Americans, apparently – and at least according to some of the exit polls I heard last night – are looking for someone to “take care of them”.  That’s quite a change and sort of sounds a death knell to the now “myth” of American self-reliance.  It also signals a profound change in how we view government.  I find that unsettling.

Another thing that bothers me is accountability.  I’ll make this a general statement.  For the most part, we don’t hold our politicians responsible for what they do or don’t do.  That very basic mistake is one of the reasons we’re in the shape we are now, in my opinion.  It is my assertion that Obama should have been held accountable for his failure to do what he said he’d do in his 4 years.  He hasn’t been. He failed miserably and he’s being given another chance.  No accountability, just excuses for his failure. Ironically, about half the country still holds George Bush responsible while apparently not holding Obama accountable for much of anything.

I’ve been through this before with Bill Clinton and other Democrat presidents.  However, even while I was not happy with them or their presidencies, we survived.  The difference, however, was I at least felt that they had some level of competence.  I have no confidence in Obama’s competence and, with nothing to lose now, expect to see the next 4 years devolve into something of a nightmare scenario.

But, in the end, we’ll survive it.  I’m not sure what the country will look like in 4 years, but it’ll still be here.

I now concede the floor to the predictable commenters who will show up to crow.  Go for it.  And even to the drive-by trolls who will show up this once to do the same.  It’s your day.  Just remember, I’m going to hold your comments up to this man’s performance over the next 4 years and compare “results” with promise.  I think, as we did in this 4 years, we’ll find the results to be sadly lacking.

The good news?  We’ll have plenty to write about here at QandO.  But we’d have had that had a Republican won as well.

~McQ