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Side note- There's a good amount of literature that the relationship between a country's income and emigration is inverse U-shape. Emigration takes thousands of dollars, so when a country is real power their people can't really afford to immigrate to another country. However, as the country's income approves their people have the money to immigrate to a higher income country where they believe their kids can have a better life. However, once the country's income reaches more of the middle income level, emigration slows down as emigrating becomes less attractive b/c of the lower income differential. For example, immigration from Mexico is much lower nowadays b/c Mexico has become middle income country.

So the United States shouldn't bet on immigration from Northern Triangle countries slowing down even if we somehow help their economies. It's going to take more than a one or two presidential administrations to get Northern Triangle's GDPs to converge to Mexico's. Meanwhile if their economies improve, there's a good chance that it might actually increase emigration b/c more people will be able to afford to pay the coyotes.

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Agree with this. Honduras, especially, is so poor that even doubling GDP per capita would still leave it significantly poorer than Mexico and likely *increase* the outflow of migrants rather than decrease it.

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Doesn't this justify part of the "Remain in Mexico" idea? Even if Hondurans can't come to the U.S. their prospects are likely to be better in Mexico than Honduras. In fact, helping Mexico absorb immigrants from the Northern Triangle could be more cost-effective than trying to grow those economies

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The long term answer to that isn't to keep Honduras so poor that it can't send more immigrants though! The solution in the long term best interest of the United States, not to mention Honduras, is for the US to do what it can to bring the GDP of Honduras above where it's a constant source of poor immigrants. In this era of concern about global supply chain insecurity, it seems like the answer is sitting in plain sight.

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What’s the answer? What specific actions should the US take to increase the GDP of Honduras?

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Allow Honduras to apply for statehood.

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My initial take is YES, but I would love to hear a discussion of the pros and cons of offering all three countries statehood.

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Better yet, just colonize the place and force-develop it in the interests of American capitalists. They'd end up better off.

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I say let in any American state that wants to join the Union. It is the United States of America, after all. Just as everyone understands that once you're in, you can't leave....

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You're my kind of madman. :)

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Letting in a large number of Honduran immigrants who can find work here and remit cash back to their families has the advantage of requiring very little positive effort on our part: in fact we mostly just need to stop doing a number of hugely expensive and morally obscene things.

And of course, anything that makes it easier for Honduran farmers and manufacturers to sell their goods in our markets helps.

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In labor market terms, free trade is an equivalent or substitute to immigration - immigration-in-place, if you will. So for one thing, make it harder for US companies to outsource low wage work to far away low-wage countries, in southeast Asia or wherever, than to nearby low-wage countries like those in Central America.

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I’ll admit to some (a lot of) ignorance of Honduras specifically, but I have some knowledge of other S. American countries and the problems seem to go so far beyond this as a fix that I think it’s overwhelming. The issues of violence and corruption seem nearly implacable.

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You could say that about Mexico but Mexico is middle-income and emigration to the U.S. has fallen.

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So something like a North and Central American Free Trade Agreement? NACAFTA, if you will?

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Do you want another GOP president? Because this is how you get another GOP president. Good grief.

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Why is this project better than just instituting effective border controls and effective immigration policies? It sounds very difficult, very lengthy, and and very expensive, all to address a problem that most Americans will view as not our fault, thus no obligation to fix in the first place. It doesn't sound like the effective, popular policy that Democrats want to support if they want to win elections.

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It's not in opposition to effective border controls and immigration policies, just the opposite, because a wealthier Central America eases border and immigration tensions. It's in opposition to trade policies, for example, that make low-wage labor in faraway places like Southeast Asia more attractive to US companies than low-wage labor nearby in our southern neighbors.

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Exactly. Also the United States foreign aid doesn't have a great track record of improving poor countries' economies. The most effective way the United States helps poor countries's economies is through accepting immigrants whose remittances often finance economic development. Remittances are really important!!!

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It's puzzling why politicians seem incapable of explain things like this in plain terms. I don't think the American public is too dumb to understand a well reasoned, comprehensive policy towards Central America with both long and short term goals. And in the long term, isn't the obvious best strategy to build up the wealth of Central American countries. Instead of more free trade agreements that raise low wages in places like Vietnam, focus on Central America. And if our failed drug war is increasing corruption and rule of law there, explain that too. But US policy towards Central and Latin has never really put all the pieces together in a long term strategy that would be best for the US as well as other countries in the region.

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I agree that Biden should make the (to me) unassailable case for muddling through the present mess while taking long-term steps.

That said, strengthening Vietnam is important to any strategy of dealing with China.

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There are always tradeoffs and it's hard to predict the future....but I think the idea that 50 years from now we'll be in a stronger positive relative to China because we prioritized the development and strengthening of poor countries in China's periphery and natural sphere of influence, over the poor countries next door in ours, is delusional.

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I think we can do both on the next few years scale rather than the 50 years scale.

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This crisis was 100% predictable. I'm amazed they walked into something so obvious.

As someone who supported Biden from day 1 in the primaries, I'm just annoyed with the incompetence on display.

The only rational policy is one that removes incentives from making the journey in the first place.

Telling people "showing up at the border gives you your best shot at getting in" leads to disaster.

Trump's final policies (that is, after child separation was stopped) should have been the starting point, at least to start.

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^^^Telling people "showing up at the border gives you your best shot at getting in" leads to disaster.^^^

"Disaster" is a very strong word indeed to describe what's going on. It remains to be seen whether it's even a political "disaster" (I doubt it, but time will tell) for Democrats, much less a substantive disaster for America.

The country isn't harmed when foreigners come to the United States. Really, it isn't.

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Here's what I mean: You could say "we're going to run a lottery to let in X-thousand immigrants under a refugee program, and you need to apply from your home country." And people would apply, and you would give better lives to the people who got in.

But if you say "Your best chance of getting one of those slots is to spend your life savings to hire a smuggler and try to get across the border first", then you're creating a zero-sum game where everyone who takes part pays a high price, and you've saved no additional people. You've only succeeded in abusing the people you let in.

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I've long advocated something similar to address the bulk of traditional, economics-driven undocumented immigration. Have an annual (western) "hemispheric" lottery for US work authorization visas , but reserve, say, half the slots for those who have failed to win a visa in the past. Every year you fail to win you're granted an additional entry in the lottery. So, the more times you fail to win, the greater your odds of winning in a subsequent lottery (which incentivizes patience, and working within the system). Persons convicted of immigration violations would be barred for life from entering the lottery in the future (thus giving would-be immigrants an incentive to refrain from trying to enter the US illegally).

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If you were truly expecting competence from Joe Biden you haven't been paying attention.

https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/06/bidens-chance-disavow-his-bad-foreign-policy-ideas/612787/

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Who else here actually works with a lot of highly skilled/educated foreigners? I do, and watching them--STEM PhDs from fancy schools, etc.--struggle with visa issues has totally radicalized me. They're amazing, and dithering about keeping them when they would otherwise be in China or wherever but they want to be here is the most unbelievably self-destructive thing I have ever observed. I do not need the US government protecting my job from my brilliant colleagues. My brilliant colleagues are the reason my job is fun and prestigious in the first place. Chasing them out so people like me have less competition is the definition of cutting off one's nose to spite one's face.

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Smart people coming here to get educated and then us forcing them to leave is one of the sillier elements of our policies.

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I am a US national who has had to obtain work visas in Tanzania, India and Kenya, and those experiences similarly radicalized me on immigration policy. It's crazy the amount of documentation to collect, hoops to jump through, money to pay, and capriciousness throughout the process in order to get permission to work. I would love the US to make it MUCH easier for people to obtain visas and for that to serve as a model in other countries.

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I'm a university student in Canada, but I've had a similar feeling. Maybe they're technically competition, but I think that this country would simply be a worse places without my foreign friends.

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I am in constant awe of the amount of s**t they go through to live and work here, not to mention up-ending their lives and giving up practically everything and everyone they know. I didn't even want to move across the country! Yet we just take it for granted that the world's best and brightest will always want to come here. I'm afraid we will realize too late if and when it comes to pass that that's no longer true.

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Surprised Matt did not contend with the main issue that frustrates the asylum process- it is broken and largely used as a loophole to get around the legal immigration. Don’t have the exact stats handy, but something like 80% of asylum claims ultimately rejected. However, we have a shortage of judges and limits on how long we can detain asylum seekers awaiting trial. So the old policy was to release them into the US until the trial- except this was abused and many simply skipped the trial and stayed in the US illegally. This was even easier if you had a child in tow because a judge ruled you can only hold children for a short time, and absent Trump’s harsh child separation policy, the adults would be released with the children after a very short holding period.

This became a simple strategy for migrants wanting to enter the country illegally- show up at the border, preferably with children, claim asylum, wait a few days until they release you and presto- you are now safely in the US.

This is not only disorderly but also overloads the asylum system and frustrates the people that actually do qualify for asylum. Many ways to fix it- funding more judges to expedite trials seems obvious.

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While not without its issues, the "Remain in Mexico" policy was directly aimed at addressing this, and not without reason IMO.

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Agree with Matt's point that if Trump had started with this sort of approach instead of child separation, it may have actually worked out or at least not been a huge political backlash. I'm not privy to the exact conditions in Mexico where the migrants where waiting, but it seems to me that Mexico is perfectly capable of providing safe and humane conditions. For all of Mexico's problems relative to a rich country like the US, it's not North Korea. It will be interesting to see if Biden repackages this approach into something that seems less Trumpy.

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I could never figure out why Trump didn't just staff up the courts conducting these hearings and just process those claims much faster. I think the cruelty is the point crowd got too enamored with the cruelty part that they missed a good opportunity to achieve their original goal of sending people back as quickly as possible without needing an act of Congress to change US asylum law.

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I could be wrong, but I thought it was a congressional issue and the executive branch doesn't have the authority to unilaterally add judges or budget. I imagine if you declare emergency that would be mitigated, albeit temporarily.

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I think you are right, but this seems like the kind of thing they should have been able to pass, especially from 2016-2017. Changing asylum law would have been a much bigger lift.

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I think "America needs more of every kind of judge (except perhaps local judges in the back of beyond)" is a pretty good take on our judicial system. (I know immigration judges are technically part of the executive, but let me have my hobbyhorse.) I remember seeing a graph that shows the US is a bit below the OECD average number of judges per 1000 people (or whatever). This probably overstates things, too, since there are a lot of judges in the US who are seriously underworked (the aforementioned local judges in the back of beyond). And because the US is well known to be an unusually litigious society, it's absurd that we don't have substantially *more* judges than OECD average. But we don't because people don't think that's important. /mild rant

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I wonder if creating some sort of immigration category for people who wouldn't meet the criteria for asylum, but are living in a country that definitely has very bad conditions (gangs, poverty) might solve the problem. And then have people claiming that status apply in their home countries. Honduras does have a really serious crime problem and it makes sense for people to want to leave, but the situation is not the same as being a member of certain ethnic groups in China and treating them the same doesn't make a lot of sense.

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Agreed and this is- at least in my mind- mainly lumped in with the broad non-asylum legal immigration category which of course also desperately needs reform. I think that depending on where you draw that line on poverty and crime, it could easily include half the world's population, so it gets a bit dicey.

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Correction: I should say asylum “hearings” not “trials.”

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The missing piece here seems to be discouraging "asylum seeking" by people who are just seeking better conditions than they have at home, by rapidly hearing their cases and sending back those who cannot prove a legitimate asylum claim.

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It really puzzles me the way "refugees applying for political asylum" and "undocumented migration" are conflated. It's really perplexing, and it doesn't seem to make any sense at all to pretend you can disincentivize people theoretically running for their lives

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This is because the asylum system has become heavily "gamed" in order to gain admission to the US, as other posters have noted. Many, many asylum seekers are not actually seeking asylum in the classical sense, just making use of the system to enter the US, after which they will not show up for further court dates. Not passing a value judgement on them doing that here, that's just the facts, which is why it's not possible to separate these two concerns right now.

And of course, with this said, many people applying for asylum in the US do have legitimate asylum claims, even if the system is increasingly used to facilitate regular undocumented migration.

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BTW most asylum seekers do show up for court dates. They just don't show up for deportation when their claims are denied.

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It's not really so strange. The line between political oppressions and poor governance that leads to poverty, gang violence, paramilitaries, etc. is not clear. But it's the role of immigration judges to make that difference.

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"Does what it says on the tin" = the WYSIWYGlesias rule.

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Disclaimer: speaking for myself, not my employer.

"We should be letting Silicon Valley hire foreign-born programmers in unlimited numbers." I can't disagree with this enough. We're just now starting to see companies (large and small) investing in skill development and training programs because the supply for high skill product development programmers is far too small for demand. Full employment is going to force companies to invest in the human capital development and the second you allow unlimited immigration, that all goes out the window. I can't think of a better use for the billions of dollars major tech companies are sitting on than job training programs.

From my recent national hiring round, I'd estimate that 80% or more of the programmers in the US could get 20-30% more productive with the right training and processes in place. We ended up hiring two engineers from another tech hub because nobody else had the skills we needed.

Full employment will force me to hire and train up folks who I just passed on; unlimited immigration will perpetuate the winner-take-all tech hubs setup that so detrimental.

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For America’s dominant tech sector to stay that way, we should hire the best foreign programmers, not marginal Americans.

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Everyone is marginal from the start. Training and opportunities are the key.

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There’s plenty of free training materials available online. If someone wants to train, they don’t really need a company to help them; you could learn everything with your personal computer and the Internet.

I am very skeptical that everyone can “learn to code” as well as, say, the median Google engineer. It requires some unusual aptitude and talent.

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Not everyone obviously but Google hires lots of people who are just CS majors at good schools with warm bodies, not geniuses or anything, and presumably turns them into successful engineers on the job.

Also it's harder than it sounds to train yourself to code well using the internet, especially if you have another full-time job, I think everyone I know who's done it ended up using a bootcamp or worked their way up from lower-end computer-related jobs like IT

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It is very, very hard to get experience with building and maintaining a long lived system with changing requirements outside of a job doing just that. It is very hard to get experience dealing with how a system behaves under load other than working at a job where you have to deal with that. It is very hard to get experience working with a complex distributed system outside of a job doing that. It's effectively impossible to learn how and when to push back against product management unless you work with them. Which of those things do you think require more aptitude than experience?

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That's all true. But I don't think you need those skills to get a programming job. Indeed, a common criticism of tech interviews is that they undervalue experience (like the skills you list), and overvalue what you learn in college or online (e.g. algorithms, whiteboard coding).

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Those are the sorts of things that I'm arguing that non-tech hub programmers are mainly lacking, or at least a significant enough tranche of them. I screened ~40 people over the past few weeks from all over the country. The folks that failed out of my pipeline were pretty evenly divided between lacking a high level of those skills and folks without the aptitude to develop them. All but one person who made it to the final round was someone from a tech hub. It'd a 12-18 month investment to take people who can already code and make them into good software engineers vs. IT programmers. That's the sort of thing I'm arguing for.

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Or rather - America's tech sector is already hiring the best foreign programmers. The question is whether we should have them live and spend that sweet tech lucre here or in other countries.

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I don't get why the assumption in this thread is that it's a dichotomy, having a tech hub with lots of immigrants makes it MORE likely that local people will get jobs in the tech sector than being in a place with "less competition."

Clearly this is a bit of puffery (couldn't find a better source), but San Jose State, which is a moderately selective state school, is a huge source for Silicon Valley hiring. https://www.sjsu.edu/global/about/graduate-students/powering-silicon-valley/index.html

If the competition thesis were accurate, you would expect Cleveland State grads or something to benefit from the fact that there aren't a lot of immigrants in Ohio. But in reality locals have a better shot of getting in to a big and growing industry.

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Do immigrants with a masters degree from San Jose state count as locals?

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What's happened so far is that in tech hubs the progression has gone something like: Pull in all the engineers from local selective schools -> pull in all the engineers from local, not so selective schools and train them-> create local engineers via bootcamps and train them-> ???. With COVID, we're now at a place where a lot of folks are willing to recruit nationally and there is a wonderful opportunity to start actually helping the folks in Ohio get more productive and make more money.

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While there is a difference in aptitude in many cases, the majority of the difference in capabilities is in training, experience, and process.

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I know this is true in sports. Once people have access to high level coaching, nutrition, and competition they seem to be pretty equal.

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They won’t be as good, even with lots of training (the foreigners are training too, for one thing). It’s not really you get trained for a year and then you’re as good as anyone else. Different people are way more or less productive.

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I don't understand your point--are Americans somehow genetically incapable of learning at the same rate as foreigners? (I'm the product of a tech mill in the early '90s, and of the classmates I keep in touch with, most of us are CIO level after very satisfying careers in the field.)

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My view is: there’s a limited supply of programmer talent, and not enough talented Americans to meet demand. So we should important talented people from elsewhere, rather than try and make do with less-talented Americans who won’t perform as well.

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I don't know if I agree. Lots of people can't run the marathon of continuing change and drop out of programming. Being good at it is more about the desire and ability to study a lot than any kind of talent.

Also, lots of immigrants who are programmers are not great at their jobs. There's a lot of randomness involved, and people are bad at evaluating talent on the frontend.

I really think everyone is wrong here. Immigration is unrelated to preserving american jobs, and the talent levels are pretty mixed, it's not the case that everyone stuck in the visa queue is Fabrice Bellard.

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But most of the smartest Americans don't go into tech, no? If Goldman, Bridgewater, and Wachtell have lots of English majors who learn to become genuinely great at finance, which they do, I don't see why Google can't just take marginal coders who are otherwise very smart and train them up

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It can be really damn hard to find people able to do the most demanding tech jobs. Just really, really, hard

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There’s big benefits to the rest of the economy from Google being good (eg you can Google things). Maybe protectionism is good for US programmers, but it’s bad for the rest of the US. And ultimately if big US tech companies get outcompeted by foreign competitors, that will be bad for the programmers too (That’s what happened to Detroit with cars, AFAIK).

I don’t think it’s good to think of industries as primarily jobs programs. The point is to produce valuable stuff.

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Hear, hear. Credentialism is the real obstacle here. That plus a desire by companies to benefit from training other people have paid for.

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Yup; it seems a little crazy to me to suggest permitting unlimited foreign competition in one of the seemingly few domestic fields these days where it's possible for lots of people to get a really good job with great future prospects!

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Wouldn't this suggest that it would be wise for programmers could command higher salaries by leaving tech hubs to go to places with less competition? But the way these jobs usually work is that having more workers in a particular sector creates more opportunities for specialization and makes workers more productive, so they are not really in competition with each other because the size of the tech labor market in a particular place is not fixed.

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This is why many (by no means all) Big Tech employees want to work remotely and why it will be very interesting to see how each major SWE employer makes decisions about remote work.

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We also have intense training programs in high school and community college. If we were to open the floodgates, that effort would be wasted. Didn't we learn from the manufacturing industry?

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Do most Slow Boring readers consider themselves liberal because I feel like the comment section is always really conservatives. Are SB readers just conservatives that like that MY wants to reduce housing regulation?

I feel like we should do a poll.

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I would say that a lot of folks in the comments of SB are heterodox in their thinking. Unfortunately that reads as “conservative” to some folks because politics is increasingly become an “either you’re with us or against us” endeavor for many people.

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I think a lot of SB readers self conceive as heterodox but it feels like there is a lot more traditional social conservativism than people would admit.

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Maybe, definitely possible. I also think that one would find socially conservative views in a batch of folks that are genuinely heterodox.

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That is true but I feel like you would find more socially liberal ones as well. Social conservatism seems to be close to consensus here on many issues.

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On what issues? That’s not my impression.

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Immigration for starters. Policing, Race, anything more cultural than the fed setting interest rates.

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How do you think about "social conservatism"? What would be some issue defining views? When I hear social conservatism ... I immediately think about the Christian right. But maybe this is up for interpretation.

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I think point 2 is very true. I think that is an issue with forums that form from dissatisfaction with existing ones.

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Define social conservatism

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I'm a traditional liberal according to hiddentribes.us and in 2021 that means I'm too left-wing in general for the GOP, and too right-wing for the Democratic Party rhetoric dominating social media. It feels politically homeless, but I vote for Democrats.

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Before I found Matt Y I was a hard conservative. Listen to Rush and Hannity in my car every day. 6 months of reading Matt Y in Moneybox on Slate and I was a moderate Democratic on most issues I voted McCain in 2008 and Obama in 2012. I still see value in having a 0 immigration. Cultural cohesion forcing elites to deal with the people already here rather than import better people etc. But I am basically as open boarders as Matt Y is at this point and I am that way for economic reasons.

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My intuition is, like most of Substack's user base, we're here and willing to pay money to participate in comment threads because there aren't a lot of other options for thoughtful conversation that challenges conventional thinking on the left (and not a lot of thinking on the right--ok that was untrue/mean-ish). So we're mostly disaffected NPR listeners who feel like the liberal side of the argument has already been well-hashed and we're here to dissect the other factors.

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I'm going cold turkey for a week now on my 24 hr a week NPR habit.

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I’m pretty libertarian. Very YIMBY, very pro-immigration. Matt is a little too economically left-wing for me, but spot on on “social” issues. But the Republicans all seem crazy to me (they nominated Trump?!), so I vote Democrat.

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There are only a handful of regular commenters here that I would consider even right of center in American politics.

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I would say liberal. But I'm pretty far from the people, who really seem to sincerely believe, that we can abolish the police and prisons if we have a really generous safety net.

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One of the weirdest things to me when I step back and think, is how many topics are lumped together in ideological frameworks that have very little to do with each other. Being pro-abortion, union supporting, social democratic/socialists, gun control, environmentally conscious, etc. So many of these are unrelated, yet if you agree or disagree with any one of them, you are labeled a particular way.

It also shows how strong partisanship is that people who would otherwise start with one opinion will often change it based on party signaling.

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I'm not big on rigid self-identification, which is why I'm here in the first place. But if I had to pick, liberal for sure. Probably not progressive by today's definition. Never conservative.

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Depends on what you mean by liberal. I am a classical liberal, meaning that I believe in small government and the freedom of all to believe what they want, and live their lives as they want as long as they are not directly harming others - basically the opposite of Authoritarianism.

On a political scale, which is better measured as Progressive (wanting to make changes) vs. Conservative (conserving the status quo) I am an independent. I look at each argument based on it's merits, rather than the political ideology of those proposing it. This means that I side with the Republicans at times, and the Democrats at others. I am thinker, rather than a follower.

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I really struggle with my place along a liberal - conservative dimension. I felt left of Obama in 08 but now feel right of Biden. But then I have pretty extreme single issue views that seem orthogonal (e.g., Chomsky-esc anti-interventionist, more conservative views on monetary policy that debt levels matter, probably radical views on anti tax fraud). Landscape seems every shifting so it’s hard to assess how much I’ve changed too.

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We could do a poll but need more than 2 options.

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We often see people who are pro immigration but also NIMBY but here we get to see the YIMBYers who are anti immigration.

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I am a fiscal conservative, and as you can imagine I agree with very little of what Matt writes in that category. But I like to read his stuff anyway because I think of it as representing the most reasonable and well-articulated case for progressive fiscal policies. If I tried to read an NYT op-ed on the same subject (or, god forbid, some activist's tweetstorm) I doubt I would be able to even get through it.

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I would personally like to hear from you and other right-of-center people more on this substack. There are only a few people I can think of that regularly respond who seem to be right-of-center fiscally. I like reading the debate and hearing both sides. Sometimes it feels like there are great ideas that I support but there is never enough of, "ok so how do we pay for this?" This is not my field of expertise at all so I like hearing both sides.

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Yes! I can get very nervous about some of Matt's fiscal policy prescriptions, but I don't have good counter-arguments. I would love to read some well-reasoned alternative takes on them.

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I support significantly higher levels of skilled legal immigration, but as a programmer myself, I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of letting the tech industry hire foreign programmers in "unlimited" numbers. This is one of the best industries to get a job in domestically right now. I’m all for letting a lot of non-citizen programmers come here, many of my coworkers are not US citizens, but unlimited might be a bit much!

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I’m somewhat confused by the relatively low amount of programming that has been outsourced, given that international programmers are much cheaper and programming seems ideal for remote work.

My guess is Americans are just worth the pay difference? We’d better keep it that way. Welcoming more foreign programmers to work here seems like a good way to do that.

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Managing outsourced teams is about handing a spec off and getting back something that meets the spec. You need stateside folks with experience in writing those spec and managing the process.

American programmers are paid well to be dynamic, with employers like: Finance (needs change daily), Big Tech (me, evil, inventing a future nobody wants, "endless hype-cycles", marked for destruction), and certain startups (burning money as rocket fuel, goal is to go public and dump unprofitable mess on credulous "investors").

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There’s no reason outsourcing has to operate on a coarse spec model, and no reason foreigners can’t be dynamic. You’d probably need middle management to be with the outsourced team, and trust them with some autonomy.

It seems striking to me that even big tech, which has a ton of pretty autonomous foreign offices (that are not just writing to specs), still hires a ton of Americans. I just don’t think outsourcing is such a big threat, because Americans are good enough to compete, and because programming is hard enough that there *isn’t* an unlimited supply of super-skilled foreigners willing to work for peanuts.

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There are definitely cultural factors in play with regards to dynamism, as well as major timezone issues, and some level of communication/cultural barriers.

I've worked with engineering teams in India, Romania, and the Philippines, and while there have been some very talented people on those teams, there have also been unique challenges.

For starters, the time zone difference means that you have little or no overlap with those teams. If you want U.S.-based resources to direct the work of international developers, you end up either doing a lot of inefficient document drops, losing the collaborative Q&A, or forcing one of both groups to work overnight hours, which impairs your ability to recruit and retain top talent. (There are great programmers in Hyderabad -- those often aren't the ones willing to work U.S. hours!)

One approach would be to make those teams more autonomous, embedding the product/design leads in that local office. But depending on the product, local cultural knowledge may be critical. I worked on real estate software projects with international teams, and a huge amount of time was spent explaining concepts about the market and customers that would be second-nature to anybody who had rented an apartment in the U.S. And a lot of effort was wasted building in the wrong direction when those conversations don't happen.

The key backdrop of all this is that much of U.S. software engineering is built around processes that prioritize agility and iteration -- predicated on communication, collaboration, and individual problem-solving -- as opposed to designing an entire spec for a project up-front. There are exceptions, especially for highly-regulated spaces like Health or Finance, but "send them the spec" is anathema to a typical start-up culture where the process looks more like "here's a problem: grab a couple engineers and a designer and show me a solution by Friday."

Some of this work absolutely can be outsourced -- especially for products that are either rigid enough to just "hand over a spec" or else global enough that you can actually invest in having the product/design teams be local to that office as well.

But having U.S.-based business/product/design direct off-hours off-shore development presents a ton of challenges.

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As a programmer myself: get into management ASAP. Democrats don't want to protect us and Republicans only want to protect blue-collar work. Writing is on the wall, we're getting outsourced within a decade or two.

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IIRC that’s what people were saying a decade ago when I got into programming. Hasn’t happened yet, I think. Not sure why though.

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0% interest rates bruh

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Ah, but if you're in management then you're in management, hah! Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

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I agree - it won't be the same, but it's the only off-ramp with any security. Take a look at Boeing for a glimpse into our future: you can manage the creation of self-crashing planes and get political cover from both parties, or you can take a buyout and ride off into the sunset. Or move to the Subcontinent and write the self-crashing software.

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*this* is the question few people on the pro-immigration side attempt to answer, and thus a source of my doubt over their arguments. How many is too many?

I don't have a prescribed answer to that question, and at least the 'totally open borders and completely free immigration' folks have an answer to the question. However, if your position is 'we need to support and enable immigration to <some point less than total unfettered demand>' then the very next statement I look for is 'this is the point after which it is too much' and then 'and here is what we do with person <too much +1> and everybody else than functionally prevents their immigration or presence because <too much>'

The result of not having a clear <this is too much and what we will do> means the immigration argument retreats to extremes - zero, or anybody who wants to can. I feel like a lot of resistance to immigration stems from this problem.

Finally, the absence of 'this is too much and why' means we really are defining the immigration problem in terms of demand, not supply, which feels fundamentally power imbalanced to citizens of a country in many different ways. I think this is actually what Matthew is arguing: a) There is a too much, b) too much is more than we currently legally allow to immigrate but is less than everybody who wants to, thus c) the right answer is more immigration (closer to too much but not over) followed by hard, effective prevention of other immigration.

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This is what I don’t understand about the “high-skilled-good” position. If high-skilled foreign immigrants come here and grow the tech industry as a whole, then Americans get good jobs in that larger industry and all parties benefit. But that’s not the way the the indentured-servant aspect of the H1B program works. So I don’t know why any American in the tech industry would support an expansion of this program, which is clearly designed primarily to keep labor costs down.

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Every company I have ever worked for has employed some programmers in India. Immigration isn't really the bottleneck that keeps American programmers from losing their jobs.

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I'm specifically speaking to the concept of "unlimited" ability for Silicon Valley to hire foreign programmers. I am very much so in favor of high levels of skilled immigration, including programmers, but "unlimited" is a *very* strong word to use.

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I know- they already can though, is my point, and every single name brand silicon valley company has a large presence in India and Europe. If American programmers were definitely not worth it, there would already be large layoffs. H1bs and Green Cards are like a weird sideshow.

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I was thinking this as well. The H1B system is already abused by employers. (Needing jobs to sit vacant for a specified period leads to those ridiculous job postings requiring 10 years of experience and a PhD for an entry-level jobs.) If that system was literally unlimited, I doubt hardly any US-born people would have jobs in tech. There are a lot of educated people in India and China!

Yes, immigrant labor also increases labor demand. That makes sense for cashiers and servers, but for white collar / tech jobs, why wouldn't companies just import more foreign labor? I know academic studies don't show this happening, but would you really going to stake your livelihood on some academics getting it right?

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The H1B thing is so cruel to immigrants it makes me depressed and embarrassed.

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Agree on legal immigration, and I think Biden could have improved on the safe third country agreements instead of scrapping them by committing US personnel to allow for US asylum applications in those countries. I think this is definitely an out of sight, out of mind problem, so the more the Biden admin can do to stem the migrant flow away from US borders the better. Politically, I don't even think it matters much how migrants are treated so long as it's not at the US border. I don't think that's moral, just cynical political calculus.

But can we touch on guns quickly? Nick Kristoff republished his 2017 column about reducing gun deaths, and his primary (correct) point is that most gun deaths are not in mass shootings, but in suicides, accidents, or mano-a-mano homicides. He then makes pretty boilerplate gun control proposals, all of which I support.

But he also tries to de-emphasize mass shootings, which, while its true they represent a small fraction of overall gun deaths, I think it's also true they exact a high psychological cost on the nation every time they occur. They're sensational and terrifying, much more like a terrorist attack than a standard gun death. Reducing mass shootings should almost be a policy goal separate from reducing gun death overall. Gun deaths generally are a public health crisis driven by suicides, poor saftey/storage, and bad socioeconomics. Mass shootings are caused by availability of reasonably high power semiautomatic weapons and someone deranged enough to use them.

I think a full ban on all semiautomatic weapons above a .22 caliber would do the trick. The 1934 National Firearms Act didn't eliminate supply of Sears catalogue Tommy guns overnight, but overtime, attrition cause the supply of civilian-owned fully automatic weapons to drop to basically zero, with the remaining supply being tightly controlled by an expensive and slow stamp system managed by the BATF. Over time, the same would be true of semi-automatics, and you wouldn't even need to confiscate or ban ownership of existing weapons. Just sale of such weapons manufactured as of passage of the law. You'd still have lots of ARs and other weapons in circulation for a few years, but the supply would drop as collectors buy up what's left and they simply break/wear out.

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People should just try and care less about mass shootings. As you say, objectively they are not very important.

One example: traumatic mass shooter drills in schools should be stopped.

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That does sound like the GOP/NRA approach. At the same time they greatly overstate the benefit of owning a gun for personal protection.

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Mass shooting drills in schools primarily exist to emotionally manipulate kids and parents into supporting the Dem party plank issue of gun control.

1- The actual probability that an active shooter will show up at any individual school is almost nothing. The probability that your child will be killed in an accident on their way to/from or at school is dramatically higher than an active shooter scenario (by an order of magnitude or two).

2- The efficacy of active shooter drills for children is highly highly dubious.

What active shooter drills are very effective at though, is supercharging gun control debates with vast quantities of emotional outrage and rhetorical manipulation. "My 2nd grade daughter came home crying because of her school's active shooter drill so you can have your stupid guns!"

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It bothers me that people consider their kids having traumatic active shooter drills as an argument for gun control rather than an argument for stopping the drills.

I’m very skeptical that they were actually added for this purpose though.

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That’s just... not how people’s minds work? I agree that mass shooter drills probably aren’t helpful (https://everytownresearch.org/report/the-impact-of-school-safety-drills-for-active-shootings/), though I think that the tail risk of school shootings are important enough to have clear plans and guidelines for what to do in the event of a mass shooting. I also think that addressing gun crime in general is more constructive than focusing on mass shootings.

But I think that mass shootings are just pretty inherently traumatic for people. It’s just one of those issues where the deaths coming all at once makes it more impactful. Like if an elderly person passes away at a nursing home passes away it’s one thing, but if 15 of them die on the same day in the same place it’ll just naturally have a different impact on people.

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Why? We have evidence from nearly every other advanced nation that they are unnecessary.

It's like seeing a disease that kills 400 people every year, knowing that there is a cure, and deciding that we don't care when our instincts as living beings is to not want to die. That ignores the impact that eliminating mass shootings could have on the larger category of gun deaths (40k/year).

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Because it’s unpopular. Matt made an analogy a while ago I found insightful between guns and alcohol. Alcohol kills a lot of people every year (and is extremely bad in many other ways), but you don’t see too many calls to ban alcohol, because a lot of people enjoy drinking responsibly. Well, a lot of people enjoy owning guns responsibly too.

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Matt puts this better than me at the bottom of this post: https://www.slowboring.com/p/national-democrats-misguided-re-embrace

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And what does that "enjoyment" entail? The best way to reduce the harm of alcohol is to make it less central to our culture, much like we have for tobacco. That also applies to guns.

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Yeah AFAIK America is the only country that does mass shooter drills?

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Two challenges with this

1) Would you be willing to accept the same ban on drugs and alcohol as you call for on guns? Alcohol kills more people and ruins more lives than guns do every year. There is no discussion of reinstituting a ban on it. Imagine the response to a public official calling for a ban on any drink that has more than .5% alcohol. In fact, the current climate is to decriminalize more things. The difference is that most urban people get great enjoyment out of drinking/smoking and don't get enjoyment out of shooting.

2) If we simply stop future production, then we are waiting a century + for any impact. Are we objectively going to seize/confiscate firearms away from people? If so, are we sending in the troops when gun owners object?

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If people could kill me by drinking and smoking, then yes, I would be in favor of stricter alcohol/drug laws and would talk about it more. I understand drunk driving and second hand smoke can kill me. Drunk driving is prosecuted severely and second hand smoke has been largely regulated away outside families.

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"Drunk driving is prosecuted severely"

Sure, but firearm homicides are prosecuted even more severely. Gun laws restrict the activity of gun owners who have not harmed anyone to reduce the overall incidence of harm. The apples-to-apples comparison for alcohol is not drunk driving sentencing rules, but more restrictions on possession/consumption of alcohol.

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I'd have to know how gun owner's lives are better vs. a system like Australia where guns are far more restricted. In terms of alcohol 45% of births are unplanned and alcohol has a lot to do with it. What's the upside to guns?

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" In terms of alcohol 45% of births are unplanned and alcohol has a lot to do with it. What's the upside to guns?"

Never seen it described that way. Made me laugh :)

I haven't checked that deeply into as well, but per this article there are now more guns in Australia than when the major gun restrictions went into place in 1996.

https://www.smh.com.au/national/more-guns-in-australia-now-than-before-the-port-arthur-massacre-report-20190327-p5188m.html

I would like to understand how gun prohibition is going to work better than alcohol prohibition did?

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How many automatic weapons were in circulation when the NFA was passed? How many semiautomatic rifles are currently in circulation? Automatic weapons were never commonly owned, even if it was legal. The AR-15 is the most commonly sold rifle in America. And the existing weapons would likely be in circulation for the better part of a century, not a few years. You can still occasionally find unused Vietnam era SKSs for sale a good half century after they were manufactured.

And good luck stopping the manufacturing of the parts needed to repair these rifles with the proliferation of 3d printing.

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There are ~650,000 fully automatic, transferable firearms in the NFA currently.

The number of AR/AK/etc "assault weapons" is dramatically undercounted in every media report I've seen. I work adjacent to the gun industry (manufacturing consultant). I know one mid-size AR maker has been building about 15,000 rifles a week for the last few years, and they clock in at somewhere between #4 and #6 as far as market share is concerned. Nobody actually tells you their numbers, but knowing what I know, and seeing what I have seen in industry, my back of the napkin math says that since about 2015, we're talking an average of 4-5 million AR pattern weapons a year. It is to the point where if you want a horizontal machining center optimized for building AR lowers right now, you'll be waiting 6-8 months because they are all going to gun production.

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"while its true they represent a small fraction of overall gun deaths, I think it's also true they exact a high psychological cost on the nation every time they occur. They're sensational and terrifying, much more like a terrorist attack than a standard gun death. Reducing mass shootings should almost be a policy goal separate from reducing gun death overall."

yes!

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I thought German Lopez at Vox had a really great article about this https://www.vox.com/2015/10/3/9444417/boulder-colorado-mass-shooting-gun-violence-america-usa. I also think that this article (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/03/23/mass-shootings-response-other-countries-gun-laws/) just highlights how broken are responses are to these shootings. To be sure, I think any gun control program implemented here would take longer to work just because of how committed people are to their guns and the sheer number of guns we have, and that any violence-reduction program would have to take a multi-pronged approach, with gun control just being part of it.

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I agree that mass shootings are more like terrorist attacks. I expect/fear that successful gun control would only change the weapon of choice.

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Why do you believe a ban on semi-automatics is constitutional?

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The 4th, 7th, 2nd, and DC circuits have upheld them in the past (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/02/22/does-the-second-amendment-really-protect-assault-weapons-four-courts-have-said-no/). Unfortunately, I suspect that if one of these cases made it to the Supreme Court that they’d probably overturn 5-4, unless Barret is softer than Scalia on gun control. Certainly Alito, Thomas, and Gorsuch are usually down for the wildest readings of things, and Kavanaugh dissented from that DC circuit decision, but I don’t think we have reason to know yet what Barret’s 2nd amendment jurisprudence looks like (I could see Roberts being... squishy and political on a semi-automatic weapons ban which is why I think 4 votes for that).

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I think Scalia would have tossed out a ban on semi-automatics. (And by the way, most semi-autos aren’t so-called “assault weapons.”)

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Oh no doubt that Scalia would have. That’s why I suspect that Barret, following her mentor’s lead, would too- which is why I said I thought the court would overturn an assault weapons ban if it made it there. I just caveated that we don’t know much about her second amendment jurisprudence yet, and since she’s been voting with the slightly more moderate wing of the conservatives, it’s possible that she’d be a little less aggressive on it (though I’m doubtful).

And I just used semi-automatic/assault weapon like they did in some of the cases, like in the federal circuit case: “Second, the plaintiffs challenge the District's prohibitions of "assault weapon[s]," D.C.Code § 7-2502.02(a)(6), and of magazines holding more than ten rounds of ammunition, § 7-2506.01(b). The FRA defines "assault weapon" to include certain brands and models of semi-automatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns, such as the Colt AR-15 series of rifles, as well as semi-automatic firearms with certain features, regardless of make and model, such as a semi-automatic rifle with a "pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon" or a "thumbhole stock." § 7-2501.01(3A)(A).”

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I know what the FRA said, but the original commenter didn't seem to be discussing that.

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Actually, I don't think the NFA has reduced the number of fully automatic weapons in circulation at all.

Some background for other readers; in response to Probation era gang activity, the 1934 National Firearms Act was passed that imposed a $200 tax on machine guns and some novel weapons (silencers, short barrel rifles/shotguns, etc). Under the NFA, you can buy any of these things, but need to submit lots of paperwork to the ATF for a through background check, wait about 8 months, and you eventually receive an actual $200 tax stamp that allows you to take delivery.

In 1986, the NFA registry for machine guns was closed; any fully automatic weapon made after May of that year could not be registered, and as such, the number of machine guns in circulation has been fixed for 35 years. There are about 650,000 these, and they are extraordinarily high-value items that are well cared for, stored very safely, and trade at high prices. At the low end, a basic 9mm Uzi from peak 1980s action movie fame will run you about $12,000, a transferable M16 is about $40,000, and the handful of full-up belt fed machine guns tend to trade for $200,000+.

Newly made suppressors ("silencers"), short barrel rifles/shotguns, destructive devices (yes, hand grenades), are still available for ownership via the NFA registration process ($200/paperwork/big wait).

Here is the kicker- these things have never actually been used in a crime! The only use of machine guns in crime have been ones that were modified or built from scratch. That makes sense for machine guns (when the cost for a useable one is $20k), but it also applies to suppressors and short barrel rifles.

My view (as a gun owner... actually an NFA item owner at that) is that this is the path to effectively ending mass shootings. With the exception of the Las Vegas shooter, mass shooters tend to buy their guns within weeks of the event. They have little/no formal training, have been through no licensing. Leverage the existing Concealed Weapons Permit infrastructure at the state level to serve as a de facto firearms license, with NFA tax stamps for every semi-automatic rifle caliber weapon sold, and you would reduce mass-shootings by about 90% while minimally infringing on gun rights (i.e. not kicking up that hornet's nest *too* hard).

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Agree it's a nonstarter to try to take guns out of circulation. There's just too many, and plus they're nice collectors items and harmless without ammunition. Ammunition doesn't last forever and could probably be controlled similar to scheduled drugs (not that that's worked so well either)

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You apparently don’t know what a “fully automatic “ gun is. This just encourages the pro-gun people who laugh at you. Please learn about what you are attacking.

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"Own the libs by granting more visas to foreign professionals! I will be extremely owned!"

This is a fair argument, but the Republicans control neither the Senate nor the House floor, right? I would love (for very obvious reasons of self-interest) to see a vote on a bill that says that STEM PhDs get a pathway to citizenship (without that being tied to less popular things).

As we used to joke back in the day "The Republican Party wants to kick us out. The Democratic Party also wants to kick us out, but they would let us stay, if we were willing to violate the law first.".

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Other than for political reasons, why shouldn't Democrats support an Open Borders policy?

This seems like an issue where if you take the rhetoric seriously the policies that follow are going to be pretty extreme. Is there some problem with open borders that we are solving with current policies? It seems like people are still coming in but we are just creating various underclasses of people with less-than-citizen statuses.

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A true open borders policy would guarantee severe social domestic social strife, call into question the ability of the Dems to provide the welfare state policies they want if literally anyone can come here to take advantage of them, and most likely dramatically reduce domestic wages. It's a bad idea no matter how you slice it, and not just for political reasons.

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Only one of your claims is unequivocally true.

"Guarantee severe social domestic social strife": Yes, because nearly 50% of the US has their personal identity wrapped up in a partisan identity that views immigration askance. But by that standard, the government should do nothing opposed by Republicans.

OK, but maybe that's not what you meant: perhaps you think that immigrants come from other cultures that are inherently inimical to the US. If so, you dramatically underestimate assimilation. People have been making that claim at least since the Irish immigrated in the 1820s, and the least assimilated subcultures we see today are…Chinatowns and Spanish-speaking neighborhoods in the Southwest. I don't really think we can say anymore that empirical evidence is consistent with a negative outcome.

OK, but maybe that's not what you meant: you're worried that immigrants won't be politically savvy, or so used to corruption that they vote for demagogues here in the US. I address this at the end.

"Most likely dramatically reduce domestic wages": It's my understanding that the economic literature on this is…mixed. Yes, increasing immigration increases the labor supply. But some immigrants are also entrepreneurs, so the number of job openings usually increases as well. And many immigrants do not directly compete with the native-born, but instead work in complementary sectors, like the dairy farms Matt mentions in the article. In an open-borders policy this might be reduced, but not as much as you might think. Skilled labor is not a binary on-off state: an "unskilled" Indian farmer has likely spent extensive time milking cows, and is thus skilled *in that industry.* A well-run immigration policy would encourage him to immigrate to a part of the US where that skill is in demand, whether or not he immigrates on an H2A visa. Recall how 19th-century railroad advertising policy in the 19th century shaped the ethnic composition of frontier regions without government coercion.

"Call into question the ability…to provide the welfare state": John, in a comment below, calls this "common sense"…but common sense is often wrong!

First, we aren't necessarily going to see 300 million people move to the US. As Gwen commented elsewhere on the page, "Emigration takes thousands of dollars, so when a country is really poor [spellcheck-induced typo corrected] their people can't really afford to immigrate to another country."

Secondly, even if 300 million people move to the US just for our welfare programs, then the instant they arrive, the same incentives that encourage our current welfare recipients to search for work will start applying to them. A giant underclass that lasts longer than a year or two is likely only if the welfare state is extremely poorly-designed already.

Thirdly, and this is key, much of the poor productivity for the rest of the world has *little to do with the workers*. Hernando de Soto (the economist) has done some really good work on this. In poor countries, legal systems often make it hard to attract foreign and accumulate private capital. Government-run industries are (or were in the rest past) extremely ineffective, so that any industry reliant on some public good (which is *every* industry) starves for those goods. Move the same workers to a country with a functioning government (like the US), and their productivity shoots up. And when your productivity increases, more ways to apply your skillset become viable as professions.

"It's a bad idea…for political reasons.": As promised, a discussion of the political effects on a democracy. This claim is inconsistent with fears of a big wave of immigration from around the globe. The conservative political faction in Tanzania is very different from the conservatives in India is very different from the conservatives in Brazil etc., and likewise for liberal factions. People can only import their existing political cultures if immigration is restricted to emigrants from a small number of countries, the exact *opposite* of an open borders policy. Otherwise, the immigrants will have to form a coalition around the values they share with other immigrants: the reasons they came here, which are almost certainly part of American propaganda, and thus *something we like about ourselves*.

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Wow. This was a great analysis, especially since I originally agreed with John (the OP). This is not at all my area of expertise, but I was discussing immigration recently with someone right -of-center who proposed that, culturally, there is a huge nativist backlash when a country allows a big influx of immigrants. He pointed to Germany as an example of a social democracy with a thriving welfare state and strong laws against hate speech, that has now had such a backlash with growth in power and prominence of right wing factions. Is there truth to this? I guess I'm asking if you think unlimited immigration is really that feasible: is there a tipping point where you overwhelm the system both financially (schools, healthcare, services) and culturally?

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"I guess I'm asking if you think unlimited immigration is really that feasible: is there a tipping point where you overwhelm the system both financially (schools, healthcare, services) and culturally?"

This question (or some form of it) has popped up a few times in these comments and I think the answer is that obviously if you were to instantly teleport hundreds of millions of people into our existing schools and healthcare system it would create issues of capacity.

However, I think we should try to be serious about what we think the chance that that would ever happen. Do we think an enormous number of people are going to come right away and overwhelm every system we have? Don't we believe that adding all these people to the economy would expand our capacity to provide.

Finally, we should realize that currently, there is nothing stopping the entire population of Puerto Rico (or West Virginia) from moving to a different state and doing that same thing but it largely doesn't happen. WV has a median income much lower than New Hampshire but a larger population. WV is also a red state while NH is blue. If every West Virginian moved to NH they would certainly disrupt the existing infrastructure but interstate migration is not banned in any way and this doesn't really happen.

NH also happens to be home to the Free State Project which is an attempt by libertarian minded people to move to a state together and change the politics and so far their impact has been pretty limited.

Overall I think it is mostly true that people are not super quick to leave their homes and move and the *threat* of an overwhelming population of people doing that just because it stops being illegal is likely being overstated by some.

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Assimilation takes time. Too much immigration too quickly and people don't have time to assimilate.

Moreover, too many people too quickly would also destroy a bunch of that social capital that makes American labor so valuable.

Again it takes time to adapt and learn.

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How does your theory account for New York City? 35% of the city's residents are foreign-born, and yet its labor is extremely valuable and its government doesn't seem to function noticeably worse than other places (there's some dysfunction, of course, but that's also true for places with very few immigrants). West Virginia isn't going to collapse if you took it from 1% immigrant to 5%.

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Is this based on a study or just things we are saying?

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It's common sense, frankly. No less than Bernie Sanders called open borders a "Koch Brothers proposal" in 2016. Open borders means open borders, which means you could have 300 million people from developing nations moving to the US. It's not hard to think about what implications that would have for American society, and they're not great.

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I think if we take seriously that American values are good then the easiest way to get more people to live by them is to have them living here.

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The foremost concern of the US government is and always should be ensuring the best quality of life for its citizens. Immigration is a means to an end, rather than an end in itself, and there's simply no way to say that a truly open borders immigration policy which would be guaranteed to result in massive social strife and massively reduced wages (look at how much social strife there is right now when we're just approaching the old ~15% of the pop foreign born benchmark!) would improve quality of life overall for current US citizens. Managed immigration, by contrast, improves quality of life for US citizens overall while still offering opportunity to many non-citizens to improve their situation.

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I feel like you are guaranteeing a few things there.

The concerns of people that live in the US currently are something to be considered but they can't be the stopping point for our thinking.

In the same way children yet to be born are a concern to us, people that have yet to immigrate should be as well.

And again, how have we already decided that this would hurt Americans? That seems like something that is asserted but not proven.

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Why don't you go go back to Facebook with the rest of the ga-ga old boomers, where your moron stupidity won't be so blindlingly obvious?

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Hey that's not an acceptable comment for this page. Please try to be more polite in the future or there will be a problem

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I have a sincere question for anyone who finds my comment.

I really appreciate how civil and productive the majority of the threads here are. But I've noticed that on the rare occasions that someone resorts to ugly and pointless ad-hominem attacks, they seem to come only from the left side of the debate Has anyone else noticed this, and what do they make of it? I have a couple theories:

1) This is a left of center substack, so most people are arguing left positions, so of course bad comments will mostly be from the left, as well. The counter to this is I do see a lot of threads around a left wing point with one side taking a more center stance and the other taking a far-left position, and it seems to be the far-left side that is much more likely to go personal.

2) This is a left of center substack, so people with more extreme views are naturally to the left of the left. So I would see the same phenomena on right-wing substacks or forums if I spent any time on them.

3) There's a strain of morality-as-argument type thinking that has become a major part of left-wing culture, and shows up in things like the rude behavior of Bernie Bros ad a lot of left-wing twitter, covid-shaming, "cancelling" (however you define it) and my favorite new term, 'weaponized empathy"

4) It's not a pattern at all, I'm crazy or I'm secretly a right-wing Fascist?

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I'm not sure I accept the premise. But if I do, I'd venture that because it's a serious, left-of-center substack, the more conservative voices probably self-select slightly more than liberal voices for open-mindedness as compared to their peers. Anyway, that's my theory, Mr. Poopyhead.

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Lol. It's a good theory. I should have added down 5) It's a small sample size, you probably noticed a pattern that doesn't really exist, the premise is wrong

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For what it’s worth, I’m also a subscriber to the Dispatch, which is right-of-center, and it seems like most of the outrageous comments there do indeed come from the right.

The kinds of people who are jerks online tend to be politically extreme (which way the causality runs there is anyone’s guess). Extremists also tend not to be especially interested in opposing views, so you just wouldn’t expect to find many extreme conservatives here. Paying to hate-read something is really fringe. You will see a few extreme lefties, though, who will be _especially_ outraged that they’re not being lauded in a group that they expect to generally be friendly to their views.

Twitter is a bit different, since it’s all free. Extremists there just attack everyone; the site is basically designed for hate-reading.

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I don't think there's a pattern. I'd say I've had two less than kind experiences here in the comment section: (1) from the left, I - and two others - were called racist because of our concerns with violence in Chicago and (2) from the right, my thoughts on anti tax fraud were considered the worst of all Slow Boring comments ever posted ... which honestly is saying something after that one thread went down a eugenics rabbit hole and then the Scott Alexander one got dangerously close.

I think it's more on any one single issue - people can have really extreme views and that creates some unexpected tension.

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I feel like ad-hominems are probably not helpful but I also think the people liking these comments that make several unproven assertions should be less credulous of posts like that.

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I think it's more of a practical issue. Deporting 11 million people is not feasible, while keeping them essentially invisible is also untenable (except that's what we're still doing). So punishing them through fines while giving them a way out of the shadows is seen as a net win. Furthermore, one could argue that deporting someone who's made a life here for a decade or more is a significantly bigger punishment than deporting someone who's been here, say, for a month.

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There is evidence that large influxes of low-skilled immigrants do depress job opportunities and wages for the least-skilled Americans...people who are really marginal. You can say that immigration has a positive overall effect, but not everyone wins. The same is true for free trade. We have a lousy track record of compensating the losers in these situations. We already have a crisis of housing affordability for poor people. Open borders would make the worst-off worse off.

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I guess if we presuppose that we can't deal with these issues then keeping suboptimal policies in place makes sense.

If anyone has solutions for any problem that includes no losers that would be interesting to hear.

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I’m sort of loath to get into this, but your premise for all of this is really confusing. At the start you force the whole conversation into a theoretical space where “politics don’t matter”, which allows you to dismiss anything that everyone says by just reminding them that politics don’t matter and we can just use the limitless power of our imaginations to dream of a world where the sensible objection that they have isn’t important. It’s all rather weird.

Nobody asked, but I basically think that immigration is inherently a political issue, so it’s kind of nonsensical to talk about it abstractly like that, especially on a political blog.

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The purpose of the question is to ask if Open Borders is good policy that is held back by political reality or if it is a bad system for national immigration.

A similar question about Medicare for all is something that was widely debated during the democratic primary.

People have given answers which include social strife, inadequate infrastructure and possibly honor killings.

My question was acknowledging that politics make Open borders an unlikely proposal but I was hoping to see if there were other reasons to believe that it would be a bad idea to work towards.

Slow Boring describes itself as "...a blog and newsletter by Matthew Yglesias on American politics and public policy", my question was trying to address the policy question separately from the politics question.

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Do you generally object to discussing policies on merit, even if they are politically infeasible? Like, do you get mad when Matt blogs about housing policy reform?

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I don't really object to the abstractness of the question so much as the rhetorical approach that David appears to be taking- it seems to specifically make the abstract question that he is interested in more confusing rather than clarifying it.

Maybe one of the issues that matters here is that a lot of the objections that he is getting are presumably short-term-ish problems that could be resolved over several decades, but which are also pretty acute and would have a pretty massive social impact. I think that saying "well, we'll eventually figure out a way to stem honor killings and rebuild the economy if we assume a good policy model" effectively ignores the relevant part of the discussion.

And importantly, even if you could box that part away and focus on the abstract discussion, that discussion would itself likely be wrong on its own terms because there are so many other variables at play after you assume and grant a few decades of massive civic unrest. By that time you've basically abandoned most of your conceptual contact with that future society, so inference is sort of nonsensical.

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My understanding is that Open Borders as advocated by those who support it is meant as an aspirational, universal, international goal, not a we flip the switch tomorrow type thing. The reasons seem to me to be less about the concrete benefits of it but more that there should be a right of free movement for people. The US is not a great example of this because its a country almost entirely made up of historically recent immigrants, but worldwide there are a million stories of communities with shared cultured being broken up because new nation-states were drawn, often by colonizing powers. You then have people with family and cultural ties unable to be together and often times end up in conflict because of differing state policies/politics (I think the Indian Subcontinent and Partition is a good example). I personally don't know exactly where I stand on the issue but basically Open Borders is a moral position based on a right to free movement for humans, prioritizing the well-being of people over that of states, even if states (though I think many Open Borders people would also hope to eventually have some form of actual global governance) are still necessary to carry out certain functions.

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I think that might be true on an international level but I also think the more mundane version of just "Let anyone who wants come to the USA" is also a good idea.

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I support much more robust immigration inflows. I'd like to see the US absorb at minimum an annual immigration influx consistent with its long term net average (around .5%), or around 1.7 million persons a year. Given the lowest-in-its history birthrates, the need to support a larger retired population and geopolitical competition with China, ideally we go well about that (somewhere north of 2 million annually). And sure, given such numbers it would make sense to push for an enhanced skill base (that is, highly educated immigrants when possible).

That said, a literal "open borders" (by which is meant a Cato-style, "no limits" approach?) policy would be problematic (to say the least) even if the political will could be mustered to enact it. Virtually everybody in the world with a lower standard of living than the US median would have an incentive to immigrate, and I think it's safe to say that conservatively equates to many hundreds of millions of human beings -- perhaps several billion. Too much of *anything* (at least in a short time) can be bad, including immigrants. I reckon the United States could successfully absorb a number even quite above the one I recommend (three million annually? five million annually?). But I'm not so sure about ten or fifteen or twenty million annually.

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This is a good question, and I think there are two reasons: state capacity and fairness. The second follows from the first.

It is a good thing to process, register, and generally make state-legible new immigrants. We know this because it's a bad thing that there are many immigrants who came undocumented, who have bad outcomes in the US and live in fear. This is sort of because they did so illegally, so if they attempted to live openly, they would be arrested, but there'd still be a problem even if it were legal but undocumented. At some point, someone has to give them papers.

Anyway, this is not hard to do, but it's not completely trivial either. There's an upper limit to what the immigration state can do at a certain budget level, and that should basically be the number of immigrants allowed to enter legally.

Now there's a fairness problem. The capacity of the immigration state should not be totally taken up by accommodating the flow of people from Central America, because they don't have any more robust a case to enter the US than someone from an equally impoverished and dangerous nation in Europe or Asia or Africa. It's a mere accident of geography that these people can enter the US without the clear state-legible bottlenecks of needing to board a ship or fly on a plane.

So there are good liberal reasons to criminalize undocumented immigration and to restrict the numbers of people from any one place.

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The fairness issue only arises if you impose limits.

Limiting immigration because it would be costly to file a bunch of paperwork doesn't seem like a "good liberal" reason but I guess opinions on that could differ.

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Yes, it arises exactly because of the limits. I agree you could differ on whether the reason is good, but I don't think you can disagree that it's real. The gains to having work authorization/permanent residency are so massive that many foreign-born high income college grads I know spend nearly all their energy trying to extend their H1Bs or consider getting married to remain within the system. If it weren't so valuable to be on the books, certainly they wouldn't mind having their authorization lapse and having to work under the table. Processing and registration matters for being incorporated into the rest of society.

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If you didn't need to be authorized to work then none of that would matter. It seems like a system of imposing bureaucracy and then using that as justification for the limits.

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By the way, this extends the other way – if Honduras was able to stand up a perfectly functioning tax authority that knew what everyone made and could collect income and corporate and sales and capital gains taxes with exact precision, I think people would want to stay there. The amount of state capacity needed to do that is a good thing for jobs and security and all the things immigrants want, not a bad thing.

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I think that much of the reason that immigrants want to come here is the cleanliness and well-orderliness of the American economy, which precisely requires bureaucracy and tax IDs and direct deposit accounts! If open borders had to include "also yeah don't worry about joining the formal economy, just get here and we'll figure it out," I wager the case for America would look a lot less good.

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I don't know what you think you would need to join the formal economy the would cause all these hurdles.

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There's probably 10's of millions of people (or maybe even hundreds of millions) that would come.

We can't afford that many people to come.

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Where are we getting these numbers?

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I'm for much higher legal immigration to address the problem but given that's politically unlikely, I favor using our leverage over Mexico or one of the Central American countries to acquire a 99-year lease on a Hong-Kong sized (or better yet, bigger) coastal territory with potential for a decent port. Establish rule-of-law and a fairly libertarianish economy. Maybe you could get Jeff Bezos to run it for the first twenty years as a civic contribution; hire Alex Tabbarok and Zeynep Tukfeci to arrange the legislative and administrative order. Provide free passage for all illegal immigrants and asylum seekers. Anyone anywhere in the world who wants to come directly can do so. Open Borders. Asylum claims can be processed there (best of all would be to internationalize asylum claims so all the better-to-do countries take a share). Individuals retain their home citizenship and have no more rights to enter U.S. than any other global citizen. To the extent that the territory can provide a better life, people will come and it will do more than any human rights program to better the world. The rent paid to Mexico or other Central American country plus the initial subsidies to get it running will probably be less than what we spend on the current disastrous system. It's perfectly plausible that the thing will be financially self-sustaining after a while.

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So, colonialism. Shanghai 1900.

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Why do this in Central America or Mexico. There are plenty of Hong Kong+ sized areas with potential ports in the U.S. Certainly in Alaska

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"Open Borders"

Presumably you'll ask the gangs to check their weapons at the border?

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If someone was trying to get weapons in America there are easier ways than crossing the border with them. We already have quite a few guns here.

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This was in reply to the idea of setting up an American enclave in Central America.

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We're the ones who created the "gang problem" in Central America, deporting all the 18th Street and Mara Salvadorena gangbangers back there in the 90s.

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Perhaps we should have executed them?

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We don't execute criminals except in exceptional circumstances, we generally punish them while trying to rehabilitate them and then reintegrate them into law abiding society. We deported many young immigrants who had grown up in the United States because they were convicted of crimes they committed here despite the fact that many of them had very limited ties to the countries of their birth. They were returned to those countries without a lot of skills, some with limited Spanish, and they then started gangs in their birth countries that had not existed previously. I think that our policies in deporting rather than reintegrating those immigrants created a significant problem in Central America where there previously was not one and that we do bear some responsibility for addressing it, even if it was an unintended consequence. And I think that overall that policy has done more harm than good and we are reaping its unintended consequences. I find it impossible to castigate people fleeing from threats of criminal violence to our borders because I imagine that I would do the same if I were in their shoes (or I hope that I would be brave enough to try and protect my children despite the huge risks involved).

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"We don't execute criminals except in exceptional circumstances..."

Right: We are a nation of laws.

"I find it impossible to castigate people fleeing from threats of criminal violence to our borders because I imagine that I would do the same if I were in their shoes..."

I entirely agree. But not all of them who are claiming to be in legitimate fear of violence actually are. And we are a nation of laws.

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Did we create the "gang problems" in Brazil, too? How about Venezuela's gangs? Gangs in Belize, did we create those? Argentina's gangs?

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At that very least it would be an interesting experiment. Let's see how a true open borders country which anyone can come to would fare in the world order.

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