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YYW's RFD for Open Border Debate

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9/13/2015 2:00:27 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Normative resolution, equal burdens. Anyone who disagrees with this is wrong. See my voting guide for further reference.

PRO says that an open border policy is "a policy in which legalization itself is no longer a crime." (This would be one of those instances where good editing is helpful, because this is a poorly worded sentence that basically says nothing of meaning.) All immigration is not, in and of itself, a crime, as well. (Again, editing is a virtue.) PRO opens by saying that immigration benefits the economy, and posits that economists have reached a consensus on the issue. (This is false, and misrepresents the current literature available on the issue of immigration. It also does not delineate between kinds of immigration. There is a consensus that *some kinds* of immigration benefit the economy, but not a consensus that all immigration benefits the economy.) PRO for some very strange reason begins by pre-emptivley rebutting what Roy will say ("Roy will focus on low-skilled immigrants.") which was a mistake. PRO (1) distinguishes between skilled and unskilled immigrants: the former are good, and the latter "smooth ... local economic fluctuations" by "moving away from declining regions and into booming areas," which results in various economic benefits, like cheaper services for consumers. (2) PRO suggests that the immigration creates job opportunities. What PRO is really talking about, though, is "lessening the restrictions to immigration" such that "only the ***right*** kind of immigration will occur." This is NOT an argument for open borders; it's nothing more than an argument for immigration reform of a very specific kind.

CON opens by distinguishing 19th century labor markets from contemporary ones, and talks about the the common cultural connections between immigrants of yesteryear and those of the present day. (I think he's overreaching, but he advances a compelling point in that as between 19th century immigrants to the United States and contemporary ones, the latter would have a more difficult time assimilating.) CON talks about, specifically, immigrants who adverse social and economic conditions, and what reasons might motivate them to come to the United States. (Although the Irish came to the United States for very similar reasons.) CON flips the correlation argument that PRO was advancing; specifically by arguing that to the extent that economic opportunity exists in another country, there is also an incentive to immigrate there. (This should have been better articulated.) CON outlines the social costs of immigration in terms of: impact on taxpayer funded services: health care, public schools, unemployment benefits, other welfare provisions. CON adeptly notes that "under an open borders policy, the best estimate based upon worldwide polling data is that 1.1 billion people would move to the US." which especially makes the taxpayer cost of open borders very high, relative to the average taxpayer contributions that immigrants (a majority of whom would be low-skilled workers) would be able to proffer. CON reinforces the benefits of the status quo, and basically guts PRO's case with this: "the trick is to suppose that open borders immigration will produce the same economic benefits as carefully selected legal immigration."

As was overwhelmingly clear based on PRO's case, the basic thing that PRO is arguing is that immigration leads to economic benefits, so let's legalize immigration so we get the economic benefits. This really isn't a sophisticated analysis, because it doesn't consider "at what point" immigration (legal or otherwise) saturates labor markets (read: too many workers); it relies on extremely bold assumptions (especially in regard to their failure to address economic differences between the United States and Europe); and ignores the marginal impacts of immigration on multivariate fronts (the totality of which are too numerous for me to elucidate here). CON explained on basically all levels why this analysis --limited as it is-- necessarily fails.

PRO tried to rebut this by saying that higher immigration means higher consumption, which even if that is the case does not actually rebut CON's argument. Humorously, PRO tries to attack CON on government's having limited information ("In just the same way the Soviet Union was unable to perfectly plan economic policy because planners lacked proper economic knowledge, this would inevitably happen if we restrict immigration.). This did not rebut the substance of what CON said, any more than CON assumed that the "pie" was "static." A lot of what PRO did in rebuttal was basically talk past CON, which is why CON's lead after the first round remained generally unchanged throughout the course of the debate.

Because I am not interested in retyping this debate, I'll use one example to illustrate how that phenomenon worked out. Recall what CON said about the burden that open borders would cause on social programs paid for by tax dollars: he talked about the number of likely people who would immigrate to the US if borders were open, and then he talked about how much they will contribute to the economy relative to the burden they will impose on it. CON rebuts by saying, in one instance " Evidence suggests that immigrants are more interested in work than in receiving welfare. In many cases, they move out of states with generous welfare benefits if there is a better job market elsewhere ... This means that immigrants, as they are seeking work, will consume as little welfare as possible while producing as much as possible, leading to a net-benefit for our nation"s pocketbook. " That completely misses the point of what CON was saying. As CON noted, "Pro's case and the studies he cites to support it are built on false assumptions. The worst of the bad assumptions is that past immigration into the US is a good model for projecting what open borders immigration would produce." This is correct. It is also correct to clarify how immigration works in Europe, and contrast that with the picture PRO paints. The fact that, ultimately, the beginning and end of the policies that the evidence PRO relies upon supports controlled immigration reform, as opposed to open borders, and that CON articulated that, is why I cannot give PRO the win. In the future, PRO will benefit from (1) clearly distinguishing open borders from generally controlled immigration reform, (2) accounting for differences between examples when making analogical arguments, and (3) clearly and directly rebutting the substance of opponent's arguments.
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9/13/2015 4:45:30 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Thanks for the lengthy RFD, YYW. Much appreciated and very good points throughout.

DDO's Economics Messiah