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February 02, 2006

Comments

Minor housekeeping note that it's good to put one's name at the top of one's post, although it does make a fun game to guess the author as one scrolls down to check. I assumed it was Sebastian from the title and first couple of sentences.

More new posts on my blog, by the way, including Alito's Very First Act on Scotus, and some Israel and Palestinian stuff, among other topics.

"I really don't like seeing statistics misused."

Probably not going to be a lot of people standing up to argue with this controversial thought. Which isn't a criticism in the slightest, of course. Just dryly observing. Good post, but I don't think I have any other comment, I'm afraid.

"Probably not going to be a lot of people standing up to argue with this controversial thought."

I'm allowed one or two non-controversial posts per year right? In any case, I don't always know what is going to strike people as controversial around here. But if you want we could turn this into a thread about misusing statistics. To keep from turning into a political foodfight, let's focus on probably accidental misuses of statistics--journalists do it all the time, so it shouldn't be tough.

Living as I do in Norway, I can attest to your macro level argument, that oil is what fuels a great deal of the prosperity you see in the numbers.

I will add my personal micro- anecdote (yeah, yeah not evidence). My standard of living is actually higher here than it was in the States, and I am now working at a lower level than I was there (and I have two kids now). Of course, oil money helps to pay for some of the services I receive from the government (health care, pension, unemployment, receiving money for just having a kid, reduced daycare prices) but not as much as you would think (a yearly debate here).

I'm not sure what my point is. Only to say that I live as comfortably here as I did in the States, with less worry about health costs or unemployment and more free time (37.5 hour work week and 5 weeks of vacation). There may be macro reasons for this, but on my micro level I am satisfied with how and where I live.

I have a pet peeve. I really don't like seeing statistics misused.

I'm surprised (no, not really) that we haven't seen more from you about the Bush administration's notorious misuse of statistics to defend their tax cuts, then.

I have a pet peeve. I really don't like seeing statistics misused.

I keep seeing an SAP commercial that irritates me: "Companies that run on SAP are 32% more profitable than companies that don't." The underlying statistics could probably be more accurately described by, "Large companies in operation for more than a decade are, on average, 32% more profitable than the average profitability of all companies."

The "liberal market" UK economy is also highly dependent on North Sea oil and gas. We'd probably have been in recession last year if not for the hike in oil prices.

I keep seeing an SAP commercial that irritates me: "Companies that run on SAP are 32% more profitable than companies that don't." The underlying statistics could probably be more accurately described by, "Large companies in operation for more than a decade are, on average, 32% more profitable than the average profitability of all companies."

Or maybe even: companies that run SAP are profitable enough that they can afford the implementation cost. Regardless, I doubt that there's any supporting data for the suggestion that switching to SAP will increase your profits by 32%. Or even further; the suggestion that a 32% increase in profits will offset the investment cost in any short-term sense.

I'm surprised (no, not really) that we haven't seen more from you about the Bush administration's notorious misuse of statistics to defend their tax cuts, then.

Criticism of Bush is always not only on-topic but, well, obligatory. Four out of five dentists think so, anyway.

Six out of seven Bush voters like seeing statistics misused by the Bush administration, because it gives them the warm fuzzies. And four out of five Bush voters don't floss.

Don't floss how often? Ever? Now and then? Or only when I have a chunk of steak stuck between my teeth?

That steak chunk better not have any human genetic matter floating around in it, BBM.

The only Bush-approved hybrid is the Prius.

After I floss, the steak and human genetic matter are inextricably intertwined. I blame the floss.

Doesn't weight the countries? That makes the statistic nearly useless.

Hmm... I think it really depends on what one is trying to measure. Despite his groupings, each country has its own economic system; a population-weighted average would essentially ignore these differences and treat each entire group as if it were a single autonomous system. Shea's description of Pontusson's average is obviously wrong -- without the population weighting, you can't say that those countries had a 5.2% unemployment rate overall; but you could fairly say that the average unemployment rate among those five independent systems is 5.2%, and maybe that means something. Or maybe not -- it's a very small sample size, and his groupings seem pretty tenuous.

kenB took the words right out of my mouth. Of course, a comparison of systems should probably not consider America to be one discrete unit, since I believe that there are significant differences between the welfare policies of different states.

Have you ever seen the Dihydrogen Monoxide research site?

http://obsidianwings.blogs.com/obsidian_wings/2006/02/pet_peeve_278.html#comments

I know it's been in the news in the last few years, due to people (in at least one case, a city council) not getting the joke.

The writers make a very good point about how easy it is to manipulate any kind of information to any end. I really think all high school students should be shown the site, and it's rebuttal site.

"More new posts on my blog, by the way, including Alito's Very First Act on Scotus, and some Israel and Palestinian stuff, among other topics."

Hmm... if I were someone else this is were I would accuse Gary of straying off topic in order to promote himself.

Concerning part one, the goods comparison, my first thought upon reading the MR post was a question as to how many of those items were now made overseas that used to be made in America.

That doesn't negate Boudreaux's point, but does make the question even more complicated as to why we have greater productivity, if we do. Technology, or globalization which I consider a subset of technology? And in calculating real value, should we perhaps include Chinese or Mexican wage rates in our calculations?

I am also not sure that I would always count economies-of-scale as productivity or well-being improvements. If the US population has doubled since 1975 (it hasn't) and the number of people buying circular saws has tripled (who knows) the cost of saws may go down, but that doesn't necessarily demonstrate a general improvement in well-being or happiness. Economists or social scientists like Tabarrok will have a very hard time calculating the hidden or sunk costs of population increase.

I grew up in the 50s and 60s with a ten acre wooded summer home on a 4 sq mile fishable lake with only seven other cottages. On a plumbers income. Not sure a cheap circular saw would provide an equivalent amount of happiness.

"Despite his groupings, each country has its own economic system; a population-weighted average would essentially ignore these differences and treat each entire group as if it were a single autonomous system."

The problem is that such a method would weight small countries as equal to large countries for purposes of analysis, despite the fact that small countries (and it is probably most accurate to say smaller economies) are much more likely to have the analysis greatly impacted by factors you didn't control for than large countries. Norway is an excellent example of this. In a German-sized economy the oil extraction wealth wouldn't swamp all the other economic data. In Norway it does. Norway's success isn't particularly tied to it economic system. In Germany, a large part of whatever level of success you want to ascribe to it is tied to its economic system. Is Mexico successful compared to all the other Latin American countries more because of its brilliant social and economic policies, or because it has a huge border with the largest economy in the world and trades across it regularly? Don't ask me for a study, but I strongly suspect the latter.

If the groupings are meaningful (which I'm very skeptical of) you should definitley weight the results by population once you put the countries in the groupings. Doing so makes it far less likely that your results will turn out to be swamped by something you didn't control for--your sample size works to protect you. It doesn't protect you against all ills. But it does protect you against lots of them.

Now I don't know enough about the smaller countries to automatically know which factor might be swamping things--but the misuse of the statistics that was made with Norway makes me strongly suspect that there could be other very important lurking factors which would be problematic if ignored. It is the kind of mistake where I only know enough economic data to catch it every now and then, but when I see it so blatantly it makes me wonder about the whole analysis.

I was required to take a course in stats as part of my master's in curriculum. The professor was quite frank; educators are often uneducated about statistics and statistics are misused to sell bandwagons to credulous school districts. I can't say that I learned any statistics, but I did appreciate the backing the class provided for my innate skepticism and dislike of panaceas.

Well, I second kenB and Anders. USA may - just - have enough integrity to be meaningfully used as an entity (although, say, Alabama and California would probably be poorly represented by this entity). Europe not only lack such integrity, it contains at least three different socioeconomic systems. At least one of those systems – the nordic social market model - is based on the welfare state, and yet achieve decent economic growth. Although it is true that Norway is flush with oil, Denmark's economy is based on agriculture, Sweden's on manufacturing, and Finland's on telecommunications. It may be the case that the welfare state and growth is impossible to combine, but someone forgot to tell the Scandinavians.

Sebastian, I wouldn't disagree with your analysis of the pitfalls of his approach, but the population-weighted average can introduce problems of its own -- in Pontusson's "continental social-market economies" group, Germany's population is more than double the rest of the countries combined, so any peculiarities of Germany's economy will have an overwhelming effect on the statistics, maybe to the extent that you might as well just work with Germany's rates and not even bother with the rest.

I'm going to venture into terribly, terribly dangerous waters here and suggest Scandinavia's success might have something to do with a homogenous population, very restrictive immigration policies, AND an educational system that actually manages to, y'know, educate its students (the literacy rate in all four Scandi countries is 100%).

The deciding factor isn't so much what a nation's economic system is, or how much of a "welfare state" there is. The deciding factor is the people administering and using said economic/welfare system.

suggest Scandinavia's success might have something to do with a homogenous population, very restrictive immigration policies AND an educational system that actually manages to, y'know, educate its students

I'm not sure that either party is willing to agree to shutting off immigration almost totally in exchange for more welfare-state apparatus, but probably the disagreements come from completely different sets of concerns.

I find this topic fascinating! And I reflexively question stats etc. when I come across them in my travels (comes from a background in editing, I think, as well as natural inclination).

It's also why I enjoy the books written by John Paulos Allen, especially "A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper." They're worth every penny. And no, I don't know the man and am not affiliated in any way with the book. I just thought you might find them interesting, given the post, if you've not seen them before.

"Hmm... if I were someone else this is were I would accuse Gary of straying off topic in order to promote himself."

Oh, no! My clever plot to conceal my evil commercial, amongst my other comments has been revealed! Whatever shall I do!?

The shame! The shame! Only an investigatory genius could pierce the huge cloak of concealment I thought I had placed over the intent of that sentence. I am as awed and humbled as I am thwarted.

1 out of 8 times, it is tempting to respond to a troll.

Are we discussing innumercy in general now, by the way? I guess. Nothing wrong with that, 3 times out of 4.

"Innumeracy," that is.

Sorry, didn't think I was being OT.

Well, I was being a little OT, but I consider one of the vital questions in economics and the social sciences to be the discounting of what isn't measured or can't yet be measured.

Like measuring the worth of a movie by box office, DVD sales, or award nominations. Metrics are being used to generate norms and values. The important question about Boudreaux's post is whether it has any meaning or value at all, not how accurate the calculations are.

reader_iam "Sorry, didn't think I was being OT."

You weren't. Gary was repsonding to an earlier comment.

I am going to play Gary here and make a recommendation.

Wghen a prior person's commenst are being quoted, it would help to preface it with the name of the person who made that comment.

A: It would avoid the above confusion.

B: Particularly on a lengthy thread, it would help the rest of us to locate the comment in question.

Thank you for your patience.

Or maybe even: companies that run SAP are profitable enough that they can afford the implementation cost.

As someone who's witnessed a number of disastrous attempts to roll out SAP in large organizations, I can say that even that isn't a given...

I really need to preview more often. Sorry for the typos.

"I'm not sure that either party is willing to agree to shutting off immigration almost totally in exchange for more welfare-state apparatus, but probably the disagreements come from completely different sets of concerns."

Well, to be fair to the Scandis, open immigration isn't, and never has been, a core part of their national ethos.
I'm not particularly anti-anti-immigration. My problems with the antis are that, one, their concerns are pretty transparently racist; and two, they don't address the fact that open immigration is and always has been an important part of the American ethos. We want to stop most immigration? Okay, but we need a new national identity while we're at it, and maybe some discussion about what kind of national identity that should be.

"We want to stop most immigration?"

Why would we want to do that? Immigration strengthens the economy and strengthens the country.

"Immigration strengthens the economy and strengthens the country."

Context is important, and it might be helpful to remember that the comments regarding immigration started from this comment:

"It may be the case that the welfare state and growth is impossible to combine, but someone forgot to tell the Scandinavians."

-- which led to speculation as to why the Scandis manage to combine both a fully-funded public sector AND a thriving, growing economy.

And I said, maybe it's because Scandinavia has a homorgenous population, restriuctive immigration policies, AND an education system that focuses on actually educating people.

Then Sebastian suggested that the consituencies for restricting immigration were not the same as the constituencies for spending a lot of money on public education.

And I said that I might be willing to consider that kind of devil's bargain, except that we would have to redefine our national ethos, since our national ethos is bound up in the ideal of open immigration.

There. Does that recap the matter sufficiently?

I AM AWARE that immigration is considered a good thing for our country. Public education used to be considered a good thing for our country.

If I have to choose between open immigration and a public education system that can actually educate anyone, I'll opt for the latter any day, any time. If the only way to get public education fully funded is to restrict immigration, then I'll go for it. This is a devil's bargain, and I'm fully aware it's a devil's bargain, but in case you hadn't noticed, Satan is alive and well and running the country nowadays, and devil's bargains are all we have to work with.

Well, we know what they say about statistics being worse than lies.

83% of all statistics are bogus anyway.

And the other 16% are suspect.

But the other 9% are accurate.

CaseyL: they don't address the fact that open immigration is and always has been an important part of the American ethos.

The ideal of open immigration has always been an important part of the American self-image. The reality is rather different...

The Pontusson study seems open to the charge that his classification system was designed to produce the results he wanted ("exclude outliers," don't put Italy, France or Spain into any of the categories), rather than being defined ahead of time as a set of categories to be analyzed. The differences he describes between Nordic and continental systems - union membership, availability of state-run day care - don't seem particularly convincing to me as sources of major differences in economic performance. Did he really pick these out ahead of time?

This sort of error is sadly widespread in dealing with economic questions. It consists of taking the data you use to develop a hypothesis and then using the same data to test it. Of course it's going to be supported. This used to be called data mining - an uncomplimentary term - before that took on other meanings.

CaseyL: My problems with the antis are that, one, their concerns are pretty transparently racist
I lean pretty strongly toward immigration restrictions; does this make me a racist, or just make my concerns racist? Are the Scandis racist retroactively for not having open immigration? Or, perhaps, are there some perfectly legitimate reasons for restricting immigration that are not racist?

Questions abound.

Posted initially on the wrong thread, JFTR.

Actually, Scandinavian immigration policies differ quite a lot. Yearly immigration to Sweden fluctuates between 0,5 - 1 % of the population and we - ok, coming clean, I'm Swedish - used to actively encourage immigration til 1970. 15% of the population consist of first and second generation immigrants. I think Norway and Denmark are sligthly more restrictive, while Finland have allowed around 1500 people to immigrate ever (I'm not kidding).

"I lean pretty strongly toward immigration restrictions; does this make me a racist, or just make my concerns racist?"

Dunno. Did you dress up in your best khaki/camo and camp out on a beach chair with your best buds, and a few cases of Bud, rifle in hand, and hope to see a few wetbacks cross the border illegally so you could put a little whomp'n'stomp on 'em?

Does your concern about illegal immigration start and end with Latinos and Haitians; with day laborers, migrant laborers, and other employment categories generally occupied by the dark-skinned and heavily accented?

Does your anger regarding illegal immigration extend to the American citizens who employ illegal aliens, and who use the threat of deportation as a way to keep the braceros from complaining about wages/working conditions/living conditions?

Maybe you can point me to an anti-immigration advocate who gets just as upset over creamy-skinned girls from Europe violating their visas to be nannies and au pairs as he does at dirt-poor Mexicans sneaking across the border to make some money for their families.

Objection: nonresponsive.

But, to answer the questions: no, no, not applicable, and maybe, maybe not. All of which is, actually, neither here nor there.

Thanks for answering my question; and your own, come to think of it.

who gets just as upset over creamy-skinned girls from Europe violating their visas

For that comparison to be valid the number of the above mentioned violaters would have to be in the millions, but whatever advances your agenda.

Immigration is an investment. Short term costs, long term substantial benefits. Migration (working here for a short to medium period then going home) imposes the same short term costs with few of the longer term benefits.

The initial costs aren't carried evenly nationwide, though immigration policy is made at the national level. This aspect of current anti-immigration groups' arguments is legitimate, all the more so as it pertains to migrants. The costs are primarily at state and local levels, in infrastructure (schools, hospitals, etc). The taxes, when paid, go mostly to the federal government, not the states and localities. Sales tax is something of an exception, but using that as a "cure" for this problem is ... I'm not going there.

Immigrant communities being an investment, it is reasonable for states to be willing to do some of the funding themselves; especially if they see it as likely that the immigrants and their kids will stick around. It also is reasonable for the federal government to in some aspects force that cooperation. The later benefits accrue to the country as a whole; we want the freedom of movement anywhere in the country for our citizens, current and future; and we absolutely want the population - will want it more in a generation.

We should acknowledge the cost/benefits and who pays what/when, however. Low-immigration states like mine will see the long term benefits partly as a result of high-immigration states' initial investments. To the extent that immigrants settle in NYC, L.A., etc. by choice and not coercion, it may be ethical to just note the transfer in relation to other federal taxation and spending issues and move on. But to the extent that this preference is coerced by anti-immigrant policies/sentiment elsewhere in the country it is unethical towards the future citizens and also unethical free riding on our current fellow citizens - though if you question the political wisdom of making this argument at the national level I may sit here quietly. It's always good to remember that coming between a man and his free lunch can be dangerous.

Examining contributions and gains of current citizens in high-immigrant states/cities at the individual level is a threadjack above and beyond this one.

Likewise examining our current legal immigration policies and the proposals out there to "improve" them.

Thanks for answering my question; and your own, come to think of it.

Hmmm...antis are racist; I'm an anti. It seems like we have two choices: I'm racist, or your generalization is invalid. Or maybe both; three choices, maybe.

Slartibartfast,

I'd be interested in hearing your reasons for your position in your own words. I have no desire to leap to conclusions, as CaseyL seems to have done.

Were you speaking about national policy or state/local? Do you feel that distinction is meaningful on this issue, or not? Which immigration restrictions do you favor and why?

"The ideal of open immigration has always been an important part of the American self-image."

Funny, as an American I didn't know that. I always thought that we have controlled immigration. I guess that whole Ellis Island thing was all made up, much like the moon landing.

Interesting how YOU a non-American know more about how we Americans think than we do ourselves.

I've always considered Ellis Island a symbol of immigration. "I hold the lamp beside the golden door" etc.
Our country has always been pretty schiztzy about immigrants, oscillating between letting them in an hating them when the numbers get too big. My part of the US, the Puget Sound region, is so full of immigrants that we take the salad bowl for granted and it is no big deal.
I visted Norway for a month back in the seventies and one of my memories is the overt, unapologetic, unembarrassed bigotry expressed by nearly everyone toward Pakistani immigrants. I have no idea how things are in that country now, but in the seventies Pakistani immigrants were treated with loathing, even by the young, college educated "liberal" Norwegians I hung out with.

The ideal, Windle, is on the Statue of Liberty. Give me your tired, your poor, you huddled masses, yada, yada, yada. It sounds welcoming and inclusive and compassionate. But you knew that.

"Funny, as an American I didn't know that. I always thought that we have controlled immigration."

Well, the cure for ignorance is reading, and ceasing to be ignorant.

Naturalization Act of 1790 Stipulated that "any alien, being a free white person, may be admitted to become a citizen of the United States"
1875 Supreme Court declared that regulation of US immigration is the responsibility of the Federal Government.
1882 The Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited certain laborers from immigrating to the United States.
1885 and 1887 Alien Contract Labor laws which prohibited certain laborers from immigrating to the United States.
1891 The Federal Government assumed the task of inspecting, admitting, rejecting, and processing all immigrants seeking admission to the U.S.
1892 On January 2, a new Federal US immigration station opened on Ellis Island in New York Harbor.
1903 This Act restated the 1891 provisions concerning land borders and called for rules covering entry as well as inspection of aliens crossing the Mexican border.
And:
1840s Irish Potato Famine; crop failures in Germany; the onset of industrialization; and failed European revolutions begin a period of mass immigration.
1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, concluding the Mexican War, extends citizenship to approximately 80,000 Mexican residents of the Southwest.
1849 California Gold Rush spurs immigration from China.
1850s Know Nothing political party unsuccessfully seeks to increase restrictions on naturalization.
1854 Chinese immigrants are prohibited from testifying against whites in California courts.
1870 Naturalization Act limits American citizenship to "white persons and persons of African descent," barring Asians from U.S. citizenship.
1882 Chinese Exclusion Act restricts Chinese immigration.
Immigration Act of levies a tax of 50 cents per immigrant and makes several categories of immigrants ineligible to enter the United States, including "lunatics" and people likely to become public charges.
Basically, before the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act -- which had no justification whatever other than racism -- there was effectively no restriction on immigration to America.

The major restrictions came here:

1917 Congress enacts a literacy requirement for immigrants over President Woodrow Wilson's veto. The law requires immigrants to be able to read 40 words in some language. The law also specifies that immigration is prohibited from Asia, except from Japan and the Philippines.
1921 Quota Act limits annual European immigration to 3 percent of the number of a nationality group in the United States in 1910.
HTH. HAND.

Oh, and Ellis Island opened in 1892. Feel free to discuss your understanding of immigration law, policy, and history prior to that, or contrawise, ask questions. I imagine you're also familiar with the parallel center in San Francisco.

Ellis Island opens; serves as processing center for 12 million immigrants over the next 30 years.
You might or might not be interested in learning what controls did and did exist during that 30 years, if you are unaware. (When my grandparents arrived, incidentally.)

The New Colossus by Emmar Lazarus.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame,
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

by Emma Lazarus, New York City, 1883

Regarding Lily pondering how the Norwegians treat immigrants today compared to the 70's I may have something to say since I am living there now.

In a nutshell, I think it is better here now than it used to be, as a generation has grown. None of the people I associate with has a problem with immigrants, of any color.

However, there is a significant portion of people here, primarily rural or at least outside the major cities that maintain a striking bigotry, especially to non-white immigrants. My wife and I often joke that the loudest anti-immigrant Norwegians, who display the greatest fear about all the crime that is committed by those foreigners (ignoring the fact that most crime is committed by Norwegians and among immigrants the Swedes, Danes and Brits top the list) live nowhere near anyone who isn't pure Nordic.

Generally speaking, it is similar to the States, in that if you are in the cities or around Universities, you meet people less likely to have some bigotry. No one in my circle is bigot, but then there are several immigrants of all races in my circle, so...

I should add that Norwegians in general display a rather intense patriotic streak, being very vocal about their love of their country and all things Norwegian(which leads to the fanatacism of their sports fans in international competition.). They are a proud people. The backside to this is they tend to prefer Norwegians to foreigners of any kind, including white, when it comes to hiring and such. It can be difficult to be here until one learns the language (even though EVERYONE speaks English, many better than a lot of people in the States) and assimilates themselves.

Excuse punctuation, spelling or grammatical errors. I have two kids under five swirling around my feet as I write.

I'd be interested in hearing your reasons for your position in your own words. I have no desire to leap to conclusions, as CaseyL seems to have done.

Were you speaking about national policy or state/local? Do you feel that distinction is meaningful on this issue, or not? Which immigration restrictions do you favor and why?

Kudos! I commend you for refusing to jump to Conclusions, however evilly I may lead you there.

Brief answer:

Population density in 1790: 4.6 per square mile.
Population density in 1900:21.5 per square mile
1920: 29.9 per square mile.
1950: 42.6 per square mile
1990: 70.3 per square mile
Current (estimated): 84 per square mile
2016 (projected): 92 per square mile

At some point it becomes reasonable to narrow the influx down a bit, don't you think? I do. Sure, we're nowhere near the top half of the population density list, but I don't aspire to ever come close.

There are other issues to consider, certainly, but I don't think the idea of immigration restrictions ought to be dismissed because some people think it's racist to impose restrictions. And I do think it's reasonable for the INS to actually enforce immigration laws until such time as Congress sees fit to change them. If that takes Sean Hannity showing how one can just walk back and forth across the border without being challenged, at least he's provided some service.

Policy is of course national. I don't know of any legal state/local policy that deals with this sort of thing, although in Florida we've started to impose impact fees on new housing. There are good reasons for doing something in that regard, and it's got nothing to do with immigrants.

"Current (estimated): 84 per square mile
2016 (projected): 92 per square mile

At some point it becomes reasonable to narrow the influx down a bit, don't you think? I do. Sure, we're nowhere near the top half of the population density list, but I don't aspire to ever come close."

The numbers you are talking about work out to be over 6 acres per person. I recognize that not every acre in the country is usable for housing, and we need substantial land for farms, manufacturing, stores, roads, etc. Nonetheless, overcrowding does not seem to be an immediate problem.

While not on topic, I tend to think this country suffers from the opposite problem, as was once said: The problem with America is that there are too many wide open spaces surrounded by teeth.

For that comparison to be valid the number of the above mentioned violaters would have to be in the millions, but whatever advances your agenda.

So certain classes of people should be permitted to violate their visas with impunity until they reach a certain critical mass. Noted.

Interesting how YOU a non-American know more about how we Americans think than we do ourselves.

It might interest you as well to know that not all of us Americans think alike.

At some point it becomes reasonable to narrow the influx down a bit, don't you think? I do.

Given that a country like the Netherlands or Japan has 10 times that density, don't you think it's a bit early to be narrowing down things?

I'm not trying to make this a snark by leading questions, and I agree that we need to address illegal immigration in an appropriate way, but Sean Hannity is not addressing it by walking back and forth across the border, he is trying to stir up fear. Which is a service, but a service for whom is the question.

Being a starry eyed liberal, I feel that the problem is the world-wide gap between haves and have-nots and addressing that needs to be done rather than 'plugging up porous border', which would require an effort and an inconvenience much greater than the US can handle, because of the drag that it would put on the aimed for "frictionless economy". But more importantly, what putting the kind of effort into sealing our borders tells the rest of the world is a message that I don't think is appropriate or useful.

Given that a country like the Netherlands or Japan has 10 times that density, don't you think it's a bit early to be narrowing down things?

And here I thought I'd made myself clear: I don't, and I don't think it's a good idea to wait until we're as crowded as the really, really crowded countries to start.

he is trying to stir up fear

I don't really care what his motivation was, LJ. If we're going to have the law on the books, let's enforce it. What enforcement looks like isn't all that important to me, just that it's an absolutely worthless law unless it's enforced. If we're going to simply let people walk across and live and work here without papers, let's make it legal for them to do so.

I am among those who tink it is too crowded here. But I agree with Jim Bridger's assessment of Wyoming in the 1850's, so it's all a matter of perspective.
If Americans would learn to live huddled together in tightly packed metro areas we could accommodate more without the terribel impact on wildland and habitat. However, that is not our habit. I am hoping gas prices will make people less inclined to sprawl all over creation taking up two, three, five acres per family the way we are now.

I'm simply waiting for the people referring to scarce resources and excess waste and unsustainable rates of consumption to have it dawn on them that a healthy chunk of the problem is too many people.

Not that I think people are unaware of this, just that I rarely see population control suggested in the same context as conservation. Could be my reading habits, though.

Slarti,

I think it's your reading habits. I have been reading this argument since at least my teenage years (circa 1980). For that matter, wasn't that the basis of the Club of Rome environmental disaster predictions of the early 1970's?

I'm not saying no one has ever been concerned about overpopulation, Dantheman. And not exactly claiming that anything that Lyndon Larouche takes a diametrically-opposed viewpoint on is automatically something we ought to consider as axiomatic, but it does give one pause.

But I think the real question is not can we continue to grow and consume at this pace but rather: do we really want to? Things are going to get unpleasant for quite a while before they get downright nasty. Is that the path we choose to walk?

Slarti,

Please explain how your comment relates to mine. You said that you rarely see this argument made, and I am showing that it is not uncommon, nor of recent vintage.

Actually, I said I rarely see this made in the same context as arguments for conservation.

Is that supposed to answer my question? If so, it failed entirely.

It's still true, despite your datum. If I'd used a word like never instead of rarely, I might consider it a correction. Despite your single reference to the contrary (haven't read the book, so I have no idea how relevant it is as refutation, or even if it was submitted with that in mind) I still rarely hear suggestions that we might want to slow down population growth or even pare back a bit in population when politicians, for instance, are calling for reduction in consumption. Rarely ever. If you can show me that, for instance, at least 10% of the time these things go together, I might have to agree that maybe I just don't get out much.

Or you could try being more unpleasant. That'll show me.

"I still rarely hear suggestions that we might want to slow down population growth or even pare back a bit in population when politicians, for instance, are calling for reduction in consumption."

And, as you noted as a possibility and I agreed with, it may reflect your reading choices. It is hardly an uncommon argument. If you think a google search would cast light on the subject, please feel free to do so.

"Or you could try being more unpleasant"

Coming from a person who is a master of (and for whom this constitutes the vast najority of the comments of) snarky and unenlightening short comments, this is truly funny.

I'm a member of the Audubon Society, the Wilderness Society, Defenders of Wildlife and a half dozen other nature perservation type organizations and all of them link conservation with population control and reduction of consumption.

I'm simply waiting for the people referring to scarce resources and excess waste and unsustainable rates of consumption to have it dawn on them that a healthy chunk of the problem is too many people.

But moving a person from Mexico to the US does not change the number of people in the world. Are you are saying is that it adds to the problem because Americans consume so much more than Mexicans, so adding an American and subtracting a Mexican makes things worse? Then don't we get the same problem without immigration if the Mexican economy improves so that Mexican consumption increases? I doubt you think that we ought to inhibit Mexican economic growth, but that seems like one implication of your argument.

Geez, what's in the water?

Actually, I should point out that because Japan has large mountainous areas, the population density is actually higher. Yes, it can be grating, but it's not like some Phillip K. Dick dystopia, I promise. At any rate, Japan is now experiencing negative population growth, and the concern is that we won't have enough people here.

Of course, I faintly recall some posts many moons ago about yard work in South Florida, so suggesting that it might be better to switch than fight might be falling on deaf ears. But I wonder, if you have ten times as much as your neighbor (or your neighbor has 10 times as much burden as you do, if you want to look at it that way), how fair is it to keep such a state of affairs? I think this is the same question as your 'Do we want to continue to grow and consume at this pace?', except asked from the other side of the glass. Unless your answer is 'yes we do, and we need to take steps to prevent anyone else from stopping us', at which point we part company.

As far as Hannity is concerned, one could make the argument that Rush Limbaugh's diatribes against light sentences against drug abusers while he was abusing Oxycontin served some purpose, irregardless of his hypocrisy, but at some point, it really doesn't matter what service you think he's providing, it isn't one you want to make use of. I would say the same if your choice of argument bearers was someone less loathsome, say Lou Dobbs.

I also hope I'm not bringing a wet noodle to a snark fight here, but I wonder if you would address the argument that closing up borders requires too much oversight and resources, as well as denying the image that the US has historically presented. Of course, we could go to a Dickian dystopia for that as well.

A few playful jabs here, but nothing too aggressive, I hope.

Is anyone else having problems with previewing comments? It seems to get hung up and then crash, losing my carefully composed comments. (Is it trying to tell me something?) I'm using Safari.

The same in Firefox. If it wasn't preview, DO NOT REPOST!!

In firefox at least, if it hangs on preview, you can still apple-c your magnum opus (since Bernard is using Safari, we can assume it's apple) and you can close the window and open a new one. Still can't get a look at the layout of your comments, but who proofreads around here?

I doubt you think that we ought to inhibit Mexican economic growth, but that seems like one implication of your argument.

I don't think that. No, I'm simply saying that if one thinks that things are too crowded here now, bringing in even more is probably unwise. If you think things aren't nearly crowded enough, on the other hand, you'll probably tend toward a quite different conclusion.

But I wonder, if you have ten times as much as your neighbor (or your neighbor has 10 times as much burden as you do, if you want to look at it that way), how fair is it to keep such a state of affairs?

I don't know the answer to that. I do know that there are countries in the world that are at present much worse off than we are, and we don't have elimination of disparity in conditions as anywhere near an immediate priority.

I also hope I'm not bringing a wet noodle to a snark fight here

I'm not employing any snark at all, lj. And, to be clear, I'm no fan of Sean Hannity. There are quite a few people that I find disagreeable that I nonetheless agree with, when...well, when they say something I agree with. In the other direction there be logical fallacies.

There are quite a few people that I find disagreeable that I nonetheless agree with, when...well, when they say something I agree with. In the other direction there be logical fallacies.

Sure, but one has to examine whether (cf Hilzoy's latest) they are saying things because they agree with them for the same reasons that you do, or that they are saying them because they want you (and others like you) to move part of the way down the path that they want to go. I don't know what Hannity's specific or continued contribution to this debate (beyond your mention of taking a cross border stroll) but I do see this dynamic at the heart of the notion that the Republican party and this administration is a natural ally with libertarians of most stripes.

Slartibartfast,

Thanks for the responses and sorry it took me so long to return to the thread. I really didn't intend any portion of my post as snark, and I'm sorry if it came off that way (since several other people did intend theirs as snark and you were fielding all the questions, it's also quite understandable).

To this section of your response:

At some point it becomes reasonable to narrow the influx down a bit, don't you think? I do. Sure, we're nowhere near the top half of the population density list, but I don't aspire to ever come close.
I can have no disagreement with you on your personal preference in living space. I disagree though with the idea that it isn't in our national interest to increase the population (this was implied somewhat because of what your post was responsing to, but clarification here would be excellent). My disagreement is definite if we'd put a little effort into some very do-able tax and policy changes, and possibly even if we didn't. First off, the largest single component of our total production is the labor force. It is better if their work can take advantage of capital expenditure for productivity increases, but regardless it is the largest component. More people equals more total production, and thus more wealth in absolute terms. I deleted a section on tax law changes section for brevity's sake. Second, I imagine you know as well as I do how unlikely it is that we'll go gracefully from a position now of unparalleled global dominance to a status better described as second-chair (where Britain is now). But with China having 1.3 billion people, it is hard to argue that we won't face exactly that within 25 years; if we're still a country of under 300 million people. There are richer per-capita countries than the U.S now. They aren't important in the geopolitical sense. The absolute valuations are far more important - and in 25 years what will ours look like compared to China's? The U.K. is a wonderful example of how to step down from pre-eminence relatively gracefully. Do you think we'll be anywhere nearly as likely to manage it this well (and I'm saying we'll have to within at least my lifetime if China has over 4x our population)?

This:

There are other issues to consider, certainly, but I don't think the idea of immigration restrictions ought to be dismissed because some people think it's racist to impose restrictions. And I do think it's reasonable for the INS to actually enforce immigration laws until such time as Congress sees fit to change them.
I agree with; additionally I agree with the sentiment that there is no point having laws on the books that aren't enforced. I'd also defend Slartibartfast over several other commenters on the merits of agreeing with peeople's statements when you agree with what they are saying, even if you don't share their motivations (as much as you can ascertain these). A statement you wholeheartedly agree with is exactly that, regardless of how the person making it got there (though if their reasoning is available and you disagree it is good to note your disagreement in rationales). Simply quoting their statement may not be convincing to others, but there is nothing inherently wrong with agreeing when you, you know, agree.

I'm afraid I may be less coherent than I'd prefer tonight, but I'll offer my url for amusement value, for those who'd like to see if Canada wants them. Slart is probably ok on this count, being an engineer. I'm borderline. The policy differences are interesting. Canada's immigration policies and realities are by no means perfect, but it is an interesting juxtaposition to U.S. policies.

I'd like to re-emphasize my original post's differentiation of immigation (ostensibly legal) and migration/illegal immigration, with some explations of why/how this matters. Applying those to certain guest-worker proposals is an exercise left to the reader. And now I'll finally shut up.

A statement you wholeheartedly agree with is exactly that, regardless of how the person making it got there (though if their reasoning is available and you disagree it is good to note your disagreement in rationales). Simply quoting their statement may not be convincing to others, but there is nothing inherently wrong with agreeing when you, you know, agree.

Perhaps, but then those agreements are seized on in order to create black and white choices where what is at issue is shades of grey. I really don't know precisely what Hannity's position on immigration is, but googling Hannity+immigration has this link as the second one, and from my cursory reading, I don't think any intelligent person should agree that Hannity is right about anything concerning this, unless the notion that a stopped clock is correct 2 times a day is firmly embedded in that agreement.

More people equals more total production, and thus more wealth in absolute terms.

Sure, but it doesn't necessarily do anything for per-capita wealth. Total wealth isn't of much interest to me. Growth isn't of any interest to me. Again, this is a matter of what one holds to be of value versus what one wishes to avoid, and I hold that growth for its own sake is something that tends to create new problems and destroy natural resources more quickly than nearly anything else. Encouraging growth to fuel the tax base to provide benefits for the new population is, in my view, a snake eating its own tail.

For nearly everything else you said, though, I thank you.

lj: He might be right for the wrong reasons, but occasionally he does something right even if by accident. Think of him as an Irish Geraldo if that helps. If loathing for a person causes one to disagree with him even when he's said or done something one agrees with...one has just adopted dysfunctional thinking.

At the risk of keeping this alive far longer than it should be, what precisely did Hannity say or do that you agree with? Demonstrate that it is possible to walk across the border between the US and Mexico? Shown that illegal immigrants can cross the border on foot? Demonstrate the need to have the border sealed off? Because the first two are self evidently correct, and I don't disagree with them simply because Hannity statement them, but they don't demonstrate the need to seal off the border, because there are lot of places Hannity can go on the Canadian border and do the same thing and we don't have to seal the Canadian border, unless it is to keep Mad Cows from going north. I don't think it is adopting dysfunctional thinking to be very suspicious of what he is actually arguing for and since I don't get Fox here, I hope you could let me know exactly what you think he was demonstrating and why you agree with him.

Because the first two are self evidently correct, and I don't disagree with them simply because Hannity statement them, but they don't demonstrate the need to seal off the border

Hannity actually demonstrated a need to seal off the border where the intention was that it should be sealed. I can't recall the exact situation, but I think that that particular place was one that was thought to be secure. You and I being cognizant of such gaps don't necessarily equate to the rest of the country being aware, and certainly our awareness doesn't directly translate to corrective action being taken.

there are lot of places Hannity can go on the Canadian border and do the same thing and we don't have to seal the Canadian border

Do we have a problem with Canadians pouring across the border to work here illegally? I was unaware of that.

Let's be clear: I don't advocate fencing in our borders. I do advocate enforcing the laws in place; what that means in terms of execution is less immediately of concern to me. If it means the INS spot-checks businesses for undocumented aliens, or whether it means surveillance and apprehension instead of fences or walls, or some third, fourth of fifth option, I don't have a preference inside of this conversation.

Morning Slarti,
If it means the INS spot-checks businesses for undocumented aliens, or whether it means surveillance and apprehension instead of fences or walls, or some third, fourth of fifth option, I don't have a preference inside of this conversation.

But, and I think this is my point, Hannity does, and it's to fence the border. I take this because I can't find him complaining that businesses hiring illegal aliens are creating the conditions which make the people come over the border.

As I said, I don't ever see Hannity over here, so I don't know precisely what you are referring to, but agreeing with what are essentially 'stunts' that can't be referenced or discussed is pretty dangerous to me, and making the meta-argument that to not agree is a sign of 'dysfunctional thinking' is covering up the fact that Hannity is merely wanting you to agree with him because he advocates fences. So, having said my piece(s), I'll bow out of this one, thanks for responding.

I take this because I can't find him complaining that businesses hiring illegal aliens are creating the conditions which make the people come over the border

I've heard him advocating INS crackdowns on the businesses that employ illegals. Maybe I listen to him entirely too much, but there's rarely anything else on during the evening drive home.

I get your point, but my point is that I reserve the right to agree with people regardless of who they are, when they say things that I think are correct, regardless of context. If David Duke says the sky is blue, I can agree with that no problem, without accidentally agreeing with any of his other opinions.

And thank you. I've come to appreciate the civil exchanges here more than ever.

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