Borjas: What's His Problem?
By Bryan Caplan
George Borjas, the most academically reputable critic of immigration in economics, is now blogging. To be frank, I just don’t get him. There isn’t a decent economist alive who would oppose free trade in textiles by pointing out that it hurts American textile workers. But Borjas has made a career out of pointing out that unskilled immigration hurts unskilled natives. (The only surprising thing is how small an effect he finds). A major point of economic reasoning, as far as I’m concerned, is going beyond the obvious losers of trade to all of the less-obvious – but equally human – winners.
Borjas’ latest post just reinforces my puzzlement. He blogs his research showing that immigration increases black crime by reducing black wages. In other words, “The immigrants made me do it.” I’m not surprised by the result, but I’d think the obvious solution (drug legalization aside) is harsher punishments for a few thousand murderers, not exile for millions of hard-working immigrants.
When I read Borjas’ work, it brings to mind the old saying, “If your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” If your only policy reform is reducing immigration, then everything looks like it’s immigrants fault – even native-born Americans murdering each other.