Open Borders, American Elites, and the Minimum Wage

Read at The Unz Review

Last week I took a brief break from two months of concentrated software development effort on my new publication The Unz Review to travel to NYC for a debate on a hypothetical “Open Borders” proposal for private employment, one in a long series of such public events produced by Intelligence Squared. The event was carried on NPR and rebroadcast on some television outlets, but may most easily be watched online at their website, with the organizers also making available a convenient transcript.

Although the debate was a useful discussion of an interesting issue and went well, I believe its greatest value were some of the ancillary aspects, including the important insights it provided into the unchallenged assumptions of America’s insular ruling elites.

Under the regular operating rules, the organizers held before and after votes of the large New York City audience, regarding the winning side as being the team that shifted the margin in their direction. Given my two decades of past writing on immigration issues, I found it quite ironic and amusing that I had been selected for the “anti-immigration” side of the debate, together with Kathleen Newland, co-founder of the eminently pro-immigrant Migration Policy Center. This indicates how yesterday’s fringe ideas have now become the accepted mainstream views of the American elites. The resolution under consideration was certainly as extreme and radical a formulation of the views of economic libertarians as might be imagined: “Let Anyone Take A Job Anywhere.”

Under the literal interpretation of such a proposal, one can easily imagine twenty or thirty million of the world’s desperate poor coming to America within the first few years of enactment, drawn from a global pool numbering in the billions. The resulting social and economic changes would be on a scale unprecedented in human history let alone America’s past, and the potential for an utterly destructive outcome leading to the collapse of our society seems completely obvious.

Nonetheless, at the pre-debate vote the supporters of this proposal outnumbered opponents by a landslide margin of some twenty-five points, 46% to 21%, while one-third of the audience remained undecided. Indeed, during the televised pre-debate discussion between the moderator and the Intelligence Squared chairman, some doubts were expressed that any intelligent person could oppose such a sensible free market policy in labor mobility.


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