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January 30, 2007


gene berman

Immigration can be (and has been, chiefly) "on balance, a positive thing." But, precisely to the same extent that welfare-state practices come to dominate, immigrants will tend, increasingly, to be of the type decried by rabid xenophobes.

It isn't so much that there are two kinds of people--as though we could pick and choose between the thrifty, diligent, reverent, and clean and the others--dirty, lazy good-for-nothing cretins just looking for a free ride. It's that the welfare state, in all its aspects, not only encourages the latter and de-incentivizes the former but rationalizes behavioral shifts between the two in a negative direction. It is an institutionalized corruption, a veritable sabotage of the wheels of progress.

Furthermore, the entire process enlarges the political influence of those influenced primarily by one or another strain of xenophobia: their positions come to be regarded as "commonsense" because, increasingly, they are just common sense. Literally, every one of the major social problems under discussion today is an outgrowth of results inescapable under socialistic governance and, moreover, tends to breed even greater numbers of its own adherents. And the problems will continue (and grow), whether or not fences are erected, language laws passed, educational "reform" implemented, the social security collapse postponed, health-care insurance broadened, etc. etc.

The single issue is (as it's been for quite some time) collectivism vs freedom. And the good guys ain't doin' well.



I agree that the issue is more the incentive problem provided by the welfare state rather than anything essential to the natures of the immigrants who are drawn to a country, and the fact is that the very same incentive problems exist for native-born citizens just as they do for immigrants.

The political reality, however, is that a large number of people are always going to mind giving out welfare benefits to "foreigners" more than they will doing so to those they see as being "their own", while a radical shrinking (let alone the abolition) of the welfare state is one of those things confined to fantasists even amongst libertarians. Restricting welfare benefits only to immigrants who have had, say, 10 years of prior legal residence, is actually politically feasible, and is both ethically and financially much more palatable than the "stop all immigration!" strain of thinking with which it is competing.

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