The Conflict between Obama’s Immigration and Economic Policies

President Obama would like to legalize the vast majority of immigrants who came into this nation illegally. Indeed, his commitment is so strong that he appears to be considering suspending deportation and giving work authorization to a large number of them this fall. But the President’s immigration policy is in tension with his economic policy.  Labor market restrictions and other burdens on companies – imposed and proposed – make it less likely that these immigrants, most of whom are relatively unskilled, will be able to find steady work.  As a result, they are less likely to be assimilated into American society—a harmful result not only for immigrants but also for the rest of us.

For instance, raising the minimum wage makes it harder for the least skilled workers to find jobs, particularly in age when it is increasingly possible to substitute technology for unskilled labor. The President’s advocacy of a much higher national minimum wage is especially harmful.  Many of the immigrants live in low cost jurisdictions, like Texas, where the distorting effects of a high minimum wage are the likely to be greatest.  The disproportionate effect on low-cost-of-living states is no accident. The President was elected largely by states with higher costs of living, where the additional costs often stem from onerous regulations.  These states want a national minimum wage to stem competition from lower cost jurisdictions.

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Contraceptives, Immigration, and the Great Libertarian Convergence

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A plausible interpretation of America and the world at the moment is that the imperatives of the 21st century global marketplace are so powerful they trump anything religious and political leaders say or do.

Techno-economic change does not, to be sure, trump anything and everything that nature might do. We recently had the near-miss of the stormy sun disrupting our electric grid and plunging us into the 18th century, and experts think there’s a 12 percent that could still actually happen over the next decade. That’s a lot more scary, if you think about it, than the possible long-term effects on the climate of anthropogenic global warming, although I’ll admit there’s an inconvenient truth or two there, too.

There’s also, of course, the disturbingly successful indifference of Putin and ISIS to the market, and the maybe more disturbing agility by which the Chinese manage to be both authoritarian nationalists and techno-cagey capitalists.

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Is There Standing to Challenge Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program?

Two years ago, President Obama adopted the DACA Program, which announced an enforcement policy that “defers deportations from the U.S. for eligible undocumented youth and young adults, and grants them access to renewable two-year work permits and Social Security Numbers.” It has often been said that there is no way to challenge this program, since no one has standing. But I wonder whether this is true. Imagine the following scenario. An employer interviews to fill a position and ultimately decides to hire A, with B his second choice. A is an individual who has a two year work permit under the…

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Hayekian Sifting: The Role of International Competition

Hayek argues that international or inter-society competition will cause regimes to evolve for the better through natural selection: Most of the steps in the evolution of culture were made possible by some individuals breaking some traditional rules and practicing new forms of conduct - not because they understood them to be better, but because the groups which acted on them prospered more than others and grew.[1] I take the argument to be that when one or a few societies stumble on sound rules, their innovations will spread to others by competitive selection. My object here is to reflect on how (if at…

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Federalism in the Weeds

Federal law (the Controlled Substances Act) prohibits the possession, use, sale etc. of marijuana. What to do about state laws, such as Colorado’s, that not only permit but affirmatively license (and regulate) this commerce? For an instructive discussion of the legal problems, see this debate, co-sponsored by the Federalist Society and the Center for Business Law and Regulation at Case Western Law School (headed by the excellent Jonathan Adler, who organized and moderated the event). Most conservatives, myself included, find this difficult. On one hand, why shouldn’t states be allowed to have their own laws on marijuana, just as they do…

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Friday Roundup, November 22nd

A new Liberty Law Talk is available on how the growth in interest group politics and a centralized administrative state undermines America's exceptional principles regarding immigration. Our feature book essay this week: Reviewing the extraordinary path to power of Obamacare: The story of the Affordable Care Act is as twisted and bizarre as anything ever written by Stephenson, Kafka, or Orwell. It is an Act that saw the President oppose his signature legislation, before he supported it, and that saw the President’s challenger sire the Act, before he disowned it. The Act sparked conservative outrage around the country, though it was conceived…

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Immigration and the American Exception

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This next conversation is with Richard Samuelson on the constitutional principles that have guided our nation's approach to immigration, that is, until recently. In an essay in the Summer 2013 Claremont Review of Books, adapted from an academic version published in Citizens and Statesman, Samuelson argues that Our political institutions strive to treat individuals as individuals, who relate to the government on that basis, rather than as parts of groups, castes, or classes. A regime dedicated to protecting the rule of law and the rights of men–including the right of each individual to make his way in the world, and to…

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The Conscience of a Madisonian Conservative

Nathaniel Peters’ review of Robert George’s Conscience and Its Enemies is an insightful introduction to the Princeton scholar the New York Times Magazine resident anthropologist of conservatives, David Kirkpatrick, described as “this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker.” Aptly titled, “The Dynamic Unity of Conscience,” the essay was almost entirely devoted to George’s understanding of marriage and the philosophic analysis that supported it. In summarizing George, Peters elegantly illustrates how conscience is the first pillar of a decent society, followed by marriage, justice, education, and wealth. Conscience is the central philosophic issue to be sure, but a broader audience might appreciate how George’s understanding of the conscience influences his public policy choices.

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Making Free Men and Women

Richard Samuelson’s timely Claremont Review of Books essay, “The Genius of American Citizenship,”  presents the Founders’ argument for the citizenship of American exceptionalism, as opposed to the cultural and economic arguments that have dominated today’s debate over immigration. As Jefferson feared then, citizen identity without a sense of political duty will produce a “heterogeneous, incoherent, distracted mass”—the conditions for centralized bureaucracy we are seeing ever more realized today.

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Libertarian Wars

One of libertarianism’s more admirable traits is its spiritedness, a welcome addition in a grey world. My blogging colleague Mike Rappaport adds thoughtfulness to spiritedness in his various elaborations on libertarianism. Lately he has asked what a libertarian immigration policy  might be and has responded to Michael Lind’s provocation that there are no libertarian countries.

Mike’s responses raise questions fundamental to the adequacy of libertarian thinking. I speculate that a kind of universalism originating in the Declaration of Independence underlies his thinking, but that a decisive Lincolnian correction is needed.

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