24 Apr 2014

This Will Not End Well

Bryan Caplan, Humor, Immigration 19 Comments

Bryan Caplan (a fellow pacifist) lays down the gauntlet:

If Mark [Krikorian] brought me to lunch with an unemployed low-skilled native, I really would tell him, “Sorry you lost your job, but foreigners have as much a right to work as you do.” It needs to be said.

19 Responses to “This Will Not End Well”

  1. Dan says:

    This was my favorite point.

    “9. Though anti-immigrant, I doubt Mark actively hates them. What I sense, rather, is strong yet polite distaste for foreigners. He’s like a husband who makes nice with his mother-in-law, yet groans whenever he finds out she’s visiting. The key difference: Mark is hypersensitive. The husband feels fine once his mother-in-law is out of his house, but Mark’s distaste for foreigners is so intense that he wants them out of his entire country.”

  2. Matt M (Dude Where's My Freedom) says:

    “Have you considered that as a native-born American who can easily prove his citizenship and speak fluent English, you have an inherent advantage as compared to immigrants?”

    Unemployed Americans don’t just want “jobs.” They want easy jobs for high pay. If you had two candidates who were equally skilled, intelligent, and hard working and both were asking for the same wage, 99 out of 100 employers would hire the native.

    • Matt Tanous says:

      Likely because it’s a lot more difficult and costly to hire foreigners, at least if you are going to have them work in the US.

  3. Cody S says:

    Odd statement.
    I assume Bryan can get away with the logic implied because he doesn’t actually believe in foreigners.

  4. Silas Barta says:

    Even setting aside his general tone issues, I don’t see the asymmetry between the cases (displaced native vs illegal immigrant). I would feel just as ~*awkward*~ telling

    1) an unemployed person that they have the same right as the people who out-competed them

    as telling

    2) an illegal immigrant that they should return home for the benefit of natives.

    The fact that Caplan feels fine in 1) but not 2) is a statement about him, not an insight on optimal immigration policy, and it’s not at all clear why we shouldn’t believe that his opponent should believe oppositely.

  5. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    Bob, I could be wrong, but I think Caplan is only pacifist in the foreign policy realm, not necessarily in terms of how people should handle their personal life.

  6. Maurizio says:

    Wait a second… I thought libertarians believed there is no such thing as “a right to work”.

    • Reece says:

      Libertarians support the right to contract and exchange property. That means the right to work if both sides agree.

    • Major_Freedom says:

      A right to the choice to pay whoever you want to pay to work.

      Not a right to wages as such.

    • Tel says:

      Read it as saying that no third party has the right to interfere between one person hiring another to work for them.

      The “right” is essentially protection from interference, rather than guarantee of any particular outcome. It can be difficult to express that in concise English.

    • guest says:

      Another way of saying this is that no one is owed a job.

  7. Andrew' says:

    Unspam me, please.

    • Andrew' says:

      WT…Heck? Jeez.

      • Andrew' says:

        Some thought that we’d be invaded by bugs. Others thought that computers would take over.

        Both were wrong and/or right. We now work for the buggy computers!

  8. JimS says:

    Theodore Dalrymple writes about this a lot. He notes that most of the service positions in Britain, particularly in hotels, are manned by foreigners, mainly Polish. He said they are more polite, have a work ethic (note, not better, but actually have a desire to work seemingly absent in native Brits), and their command of the language is better than native Brits.

    I run into similar things. Occasionally I am told they can get someone better to do my job for less. I always say if that is true, they are a fool not to do so (I care and manage rural properties), in fact, owe it to themselves to do so. However, they need to consider, can this person deal with the various state and federal agencies I deal with, understand what is legal and what is not, comprehend how business is done in the US (many foreign workers take kickbacks from vendors and laborers they hire on someone’s behalf)? Do they understand zoning laws and safe work practices? Or will they mow themselves with a tractor mower, blow themselves up with acetylene, set the house on fire, or sever a leg with a chain saw (My replacements have, tragically, done these things)? Will they, after having caused havoc stand and account for their actions or flee back across the border or assume another name and ID card and essentially victimize someone else or simply sue you (All these have happened too)?

    Largely, you do get what you pay for. The adage that there is nothing so expensive as a free horse can also be there is nothing so expensive as cheap labor. No problem with foreign labor, but be aware that you are comparing apples and oranges.

  9. Bogart says:

    It won’t end well for the low skilled laborers, that is for sure because it rarely happens. The biggest impediments to low skill laborers holding onto employment is first technology and second the government at all levels. These two forces cause significantly more job loss than competition from foreign or “Undocumented” foreign labor. Are there people who have experienced a loss of a job from foreign or “Undocumented” foreign labor? Sure, but there are many more folks who have lost jobs to intelligent machinery and to asinine government policy. Think about the stupidity of Minimum Wage? Not only do low skill workers have to compete with external unskilled labor and new machinery. but this stupid policy has them competing with higher skilled labor as well.

  10. Tel says:


    Just to give some perspective. The UK Conservatives in 2009 promised a referendum on the EU Lisbon Treaty. They broke their promise and have now decided to once more make a promise for a referendum in 2017, this time on whether to leave the EU given that Lisbon is a done deal now… pretty much everyone expects they will break their promise a second time if they get back in.

    One of the things that most ticks off the British about the EU is that immigrants can come straight into the UK and enjoy their relatively generous welfare system. Another thing that ticks them off is the cultural friction where you can get the crap beaten out of you in London for the crime of drinking alcohol and the angering the hardline Muslim morality patrols.

    The UKIP are a little bit similar to the Tea Party in the USA, and get accused of racism in a similar way. Of course, calling people racist enough times results in the word no longer means anything. You can hear primary school kids shouting racist because they didn’t get an ice cream or the ball went over the fence. That’s what people do, they habituate and adapt.

    Unfortunately from an economic perspective, manufacturing jobs will go to the cheapest country, Australia tried to block that by regulation and it failed. Many service jobs such as call centers are also going to the cheapest country. So construction jobs are difficult to outsource, but in the UK they have started importing “fly in fly out” construction teams for project work. Put all of this together and there’s a lot of upset people in the UK. Mind you the EU as a whole isn’t doing too well either, growth is crap, Spain and Greece are mostly out of work, Italy is pretty much bankrupt and they are gearing up for more money printing. Whatever they are doing, they should be doing something else.

    • Harold says:

      To be fair to the conservatives, the manifesto was replaced by the coalition agreement when the coalition with the lib-dems formed the Government. Inevitably some promises had to be dropped by both sides – e.g. the tuition fees debacle for the lib-dems. It will be very difficult for the tories to avoid carrying through with their promised referendum if they win a majority in the next election.

      One of the reasons the British are ticked off about EU citizens claiming welfare and taking their jobs is because the benefits of immigration are rarely talked about by politicians over here. We could do with some leadership instead of followship from our “leaders”. That and misleading campaigns like those of UKIP you link to. They imply that 26 million Europeans are after British jobs, but that is misleading and inflammatory.

      The issue of benefit tourism is often cited – but in fact EU citizens cannot just move here and claim the same benefits as UK citizens and there is no evidence of widespread immigration for benefits.

      From CAB: “In practice, even if you come from one of these countries, you won’t automatically get benefits. For example, if you’re an EEA jobseeker who has never worked in the UK, you won’t be able to claim benefits like Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s allowance, Child Benefit, Housing Benefit or Council Tax Reduction. But if you’re an EEA worker who has been employed in the UK before becoming unemployed, you might be able to claim benefits whilst you’re looking for new work. This depends on which EEA country you’re from and how long you’ve worked in the UK.”

      There have been incidents of assault based on fanatics trying to enforce sharia law in some areas and these are matters for concern. But these are rare and are dealt with by prosecution and imprisonment of the perpetrators. Most Londoners will not have experienced this directly.

  11. The Anti-Gnostic says:

    but foreigners have as much a right to work as you do.” It needs to be said.

    That is absurdly simplistic. People take up space and generate waste. They also have kids, get high and agitate for transfer payments. When you get your own island, then you can invite anybody you want.

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