Friday, November 21, 2014

The big issues

When you think about immigration, the gains from trade argument is fundamental and significant ("Trillion Dollar Bills Left on the Sidewalk"). The humanitarian angle is also profound; the accident of birth arbitrarily leaves many people in hell holes. One has to like liberalized immigration -- by all of the "rich" countries. It would be nice for the U.S. to show the way.

I cannot get Arnold Kling's "three axes" model out of my head. He suggests that different people emphasize one of three "axes". These include freedom vs. coercion, oppressor vs. oppressed, civilization vs. barbarism.  He suggests that libertarians focus on the first, progressives on the second and republicans on the third.  And the three often talk past each other.

But each of the three views holds a grain of truth. This is why liberalized immigration cannot mean "open borders." The latter would bring in some bad actors. What to do? Pres. Obama as well as his Republican critics talk about "securing the border."  This is rhetoric. The U.S. War on Drugs is almost fifty years old, involves billions of dollars, and countless civil liberties abused -- and has failed completely. Borders were not "secured."  Anyone who lightly banters this one around owes us an explanation.  The "hell" really is in the details.

What markets cannot handle is left to politics. The drafters of the U.S. Constitution knew that politics is a necessary evil and thought hard how to guide and contain it. Change would be subject to checks and balances.

 LBJ had very big politics on his hands with civil rights in 1964. He won and settled the controversy by winning in Congress, not by issuing an executive order.  I trust that some lawyers will opine that the executive order(s) that Obama described last night have a legal foundation.  But that is not the point. The big questions (civil rights as well as immigration) are only settled when the three branches of government find a way to agree. LBJ understood that. I have no idea what Obama is thinking.