Wednesday, May 17, 2006

On toxicity and dosage: Feed a mouse an Apple that was grown with chemical fertilizers and he'll be just fine. Maybe he'll be 0.7% more likely to develop a brain tumor in the next 20 years, but it's a pretty tough sell.

Feed a mouse enough Alar to simulate eating about 100 of those apples a day and he's gonna develop some nasty conditions. And Meryl Streep will never leave us alone.

The toxicity is relative to the dosage, whether its chemicals, twinkies, video games, taxes or...wait for it...immigration.

Bruce Bartlett argues similarly at NRO today, using salt in his analogy instead of apple juice, and its a worthwhile point, even if, intelectually, everyone already gets it. After all, noone is proposing we cut off immigration entirely, or that illegal immigration can be eliminated (although I haven't listened to Pat Buchanan lately), or that we should let 2/3 of Mexico just move right in and get comfy. We all know that there is a middle ground, but there's a hell of a lot of difference on where that spot is. Tom Tancredo and George W. Bush are quite a ways apart, as are, probably, Nancy Pelosi and Bush (although, to be fair, I can't tell where right and left start and stop on this issue, so maybe Pelosi wrote half of Bush's speech Monday). And I don't see anything wrong with spirited negotiation on where that ground is and how to bes achieve it. That's how this is supposed to work, right.

But I am vexed, and I suspect Bartlett is at least partially moved to make his case by, the level of discourse in some arguments on both sides. It's tough to treat this issue dispassionately, but at the end of the day it's all about the costs incurred at various immigration levels, both legal and not. And there are economic costs either way, to be sure. Robert Samuelson points out some of those costs today. Bartlett points out others, like the cost of lettuce going up to the point where we're keeping the rabbits out with IUDs. Who wants that?

But imbuing any of those costs with a certain morality or fairness is no help at all. We should set the levels of immigration, and enforcement, where they will help to minimize costs and maximize benfits on either side. In short, I don't mind if domestic workers take the shaft a little bit if turning a blind eye to SOME illegal immigration is overall better for us. I'm sure the border patrol is understaffed, but I'm not okay with giving them a blank check or with sending a bunch of guard troops to Texas to stop every Jose sixpack from coming across the border. It's expensive, dangerous and I think makes us look weak. Israel needed a wall because Palestinians were coming in three a day to have a slice of pizza and blow themselves up for dessert. We don't need a wall to keep out illegal immigrants who want to cut our grass because the costs, while very real, are not that great or are offset by gains elsewhere that we'd lose.

Or maybe I'm wrong about that, but if you want me to change my mind don't asinine arguments about compassion or fairness. I am a big rock when it comes to policy and it takes big numbers to move me.


Razor said...

Boy Flyer, where did that one come from? So well written! ;-)

I'm with Lou Dobbs -- don't call them "guest workers", don't forget the "illegal" part of the immigration, and for god's sake, don't call it a racist policy. It's about border integrity -- a border should mean something, and it should mean the same thing to Jose Diaz as it does Azziz Mohammed as it does Peirre LaForge from Quebec.

If you're going to work here, pay our taxes and abide by our laws. If the price of my lettuce has to go up because the wages do too, then that's the price of doing legitimate business.

Flyer said...

Sure, they should do all those things. Nobody should evade taxes, for that matter (avoiding them is another matter, though) or brak the law. But when does the cost of tracking down every tax cheat or illegal immigrant become greater than the costs they impose on our economy.

There's no moral quality to these crimes, though, as there as with something like murder. We're willing to spend a lot of time and money to find one killer, because the cost to society is much more than just an economic one. I don't think that's so with illegal immigration (I'm ignoring the cultural "costs" of immigration for now becuase a)there's lots of cultural benefits and b)much as I like speaking English, I don't think my children's children have a birthright that it be the only language they speak).

We have laws, and they should be enforced as much as possible, but building walls and sending national guard troops to the border? I'm not convinced its worth it.