Immigration: Has the Public Been Ignored?
By Bryan Caplan
Strangely, he takes immigration as his main example. If I were trying to devise an example of a policy area in which an elite consensus had shown a consistent ability to override contrary sentiment, I would have picked, well, immigration where the public’s consistent preference for dramatically more restrictionist policies have been consistently (and, in my view, rightly) frustrated.
I certainly agree that immigration is freer than the public wants. But immigration restrictions in place still massively reduce immigration relative to open borders. We probably get about 5% as many immigrants as would like to come, so advocates of actually banning immigration currently get 95% of their way. From my vantage point, anti-immigration forces practically get their first choice already. But they’ve got such a sense of entitlement that the slightest deviation from their first choice enrages them.
Admittedly, elite advocates of more open immigration rarely want open borders. They’re more likely to advocate, say, twice as many immigrants as we have. Even if the median voter wanted no immigration at all, current immigration policy would be exactly splitting the difference. That’s not an “override.” It’s a compromise. And if the public underestimates the benefits of immigration, it’s a compromise with bad effects.