Caplan recently had a debate over immigration. He has posted his opening statement which is really good. Here are two excerpts:
Let’s start with our [immigration] laws’ injustice. Imagine the U.S. made it illegal for blacks, women, or Jews to take certain jobs or live in certain neighborhoods. You wouldn’t merely object. You’d be appalled. Whatever your specific moral views, you know it’s wrong to prohibit a black, woman, or Jew from accepting a job or renting a home.
My question: How is mandatory discrimination against foreigners against less wrong than mandatory discrimination against blacks, women, or Jews? The leading rationale is that “we should take care of our own first.” That might be a good argument against sending foreigners welfare checks. But it’s an Orwellian argument for stopping immigrants from working or renting here. Minding your own business when two strangers trade with each other is not a form of charity.
This is not a weird libertarian point. The fact that I never put Krazy Glue in the locks of the Center for Immigration Studies does not make me one of its donors.
Make sure you get what he’s saying in the above: When the federal government intervenes in the name of immigration control, it is (often) grabbing a foreign-born person who was going to have a voluntary, win-win relationship with a domestic-born person and blocking that deal. Thus, that would be like the government putting crazy glue in the locks of a building (that it didn’t own). Now, if for some reason the government decides to NOT do either activity, this shouldn’t be construed as a form of charity.
In other words, Caplan is objecting to the typical framing of the debate, where the US government is doing immigrants a favor by letting them in. No, Caplan is saying the US government is actively hurting potential immigrants by keeping them out.
Back to Caplan:
Friends of immigration restrictions often compare nations to families. I’ll accept their analogy. I love my children more than I love the rest of you put together. This is a good reason to worry that I’ll treat you unjustly if there’s ever a conflict of interest. But it’s no excuse for me to treat you unjustly. “I want my beloved son to get this job” does not justify slashing rival candidates’ tires the morning of the final interview. The same goes for immigration policy. Your love for Americans may tempt you to treat foreigners unjustly, but it’s no excuse for treating them unjustly.