Balan on the Immigration Bet
By Bryan Caplan
The noble David Balan emailed me the following observations on our immigration bet. With his kind permission:
I do agree that Bryan has won our bet. But I will commit the
following violation of the Bettor’s Oath.
In the blog post that led to the bet, Bryan wrote:
The upshot: When I hear that from the nation’s draconian
immigration laws, I’m skeptical. Such an action requires the very
iconoclasm the democratic process ruthlessly screens out. Bold
announcements notwithstanding, I expect him to (a) slash the numbers, (b) cave
in to public pressure, and/or (c) fail to effectively deliver what illegal
immigrants most crave – permission to legally work.
In the comments, where I accepted the bet, I wrote:
If you’re offering, I’ll take Nathaniel’s side of
the bet too. I have no deep insight here, just my sense that Obama would have
nothing to gain from saying he’s going to do this and then not doing it. If he
wasn’t committed to seeing it through, he would have just skipped the whole
Bryan’s reason for taking his side of the bet was that Obama would
not go through with a meaningful shielding of immigrants. My response was
that I didn’t see why he would say it if he didn’t plan to do it. What
ended up happening was that Obama lost in court, and we will never know what he
would have done if he had won. I didn’t offer this as a caveat at the
time of the bet simply because I didn’t think of it.
Bryan won fair and square; clearly these bets are decided based on
whether the specified events happened or not, not on the reasons. And
this is certainly not a claim that I was “really right.” But the issue
did end up getting resolved on grounds that were (to a first approximation)
unrelated to, and offered no opportunity for the resolution of, the stated
basis of our disagreement.
If I lose my other
open bet about the price of gasoline in 2018, which I appear to be on track to
do, there will be no such caviling.
My reaction: I actually agree with Balan that Obama “wouldn’t say it if he didn’t plan to do it.” But this neglects the crucial question: How much did he want to do it? In the grand scheme of Obama’s political ambitions, what was its priority? If Obama cared about immigration half as much as I do, he would have made amnesty and liberalization his top issue in his first term when his party controlled both Houses of Congress. Instead, of course, he assigned pride of place to Obamacare.