The Social and Political Realities of Immigration: A Reply to Hoste
By Bryan Caplan
Unfortunately, the low IQ masses vote. They demand free health
care, welfare and schools for their children. Since the less
intelligent commit a disproportionate amount of crime your tax dollars
go to more jails and police (not to mention the better odds of getting
robbed, raped or killed)…
In the long run, multiracial societies with vast life
disparities between different groups aren’t known for their high levels
of social peace.
Hoste concludes, “Caplan’s analysis is good as far as economic truth goes but ignores all social and political realities.”
My reply: I’ve addressed these “social and political realities” before. The crime complaint is off-base; despite any IQ deficit, immigrants commit much less crime than natives. The political externalities concern is more serious, but as I explained in this interview:
[T]he simplest model seriously overstates natives’ political losses for natives. Some of the main reasons:
- Empirically, non-natives are markedly less likely to vote
than natives, even controlling for education and age. Immigration has a
considerably smaller effect on the median voter than it does on the
- Natives start with a near-monopoly on political slack. At
least initially, all of the incumbent politicians, government
officials, media leaders, etc. will be natives, and will tend to use
their slack to prevent deterioration of the political status quo.
- “Faith in rulers,” another source of political slack that I
discuss in my book, makes immigrants more likely to simply accept
whatever policies are already in place.
- Although poor immigrants are likely to support a bigger
welfare state than natives do, the presence of poor immigrants makes
natives turn against the welfare state. Why would this be? As a rule,
people are happy to vote to “take care of their own”; that’s what the
welfare state is all about. So when the poor are culturally very
similar to the rich, as they are in places like Denmark and Sweden,
support for the welfare state tends to be uniformly strong.
As the poor become more culturally distant from the rich, however,
support for the welfare state becomes weaker and less uniform. There is
for example, that support for the welfare state is weaker in the U.S.
than in Europe because our poor are disproportionately black. Since
white Americans don’t identify with black Americans to the same degree
that rich Danes identify with poor Danes, most Americans are
comfortable having a relatively small welfare state.
Thus, even though black Americans are unusually supportive of the
welfare state, it is entirely possible that the presence of black
Americans has on net made our welfare state smaller by eroding white
support for it.
Immigration is likely to have an even stronger counter-balancing
effect on natives’ policy preferences because, as far as most Americans
are concerned, immigrants from Latin American are much more of an
“out-group” than American blacks. Faced with the choice to either cut
social services or give “a bunch of foreigners” equal access, natives
will lean in the direction of cuts. In fact, I can’t think of anything
more likely to make natives turn against the welfare state than forcing
them to choose between (a) helping no one, and (b) helping everyone
regardless of national origin.
I’d add that if political externalities are your real concern, you should offer solutions to that specific problem, not lash out at immigration per se.
Hoste’s response, I suspect, would be to repeat his charge that I’m “ignoring social and political realities.” My question for him: What makes you so sure that it’s “socially and politically realistic” to further reduce immigration? Haven’t immigrations’ detractors felt extremely frustrated for decades? Maybe you’d actually make more headway in the real world if you stopped using moderate IQ differences to justify massive oppression of immigrants – and started proposing humane ways to mitigate specifc drawbacks of immigration.