Monday, August 27, 2007

Finally, a respectable argument against immigration

RIO GRANDE, Texas: Along muddy roads invisible from the highway, some families crowd into battered trailers patched with plywood.

Others jam into self-constructed dwellings that seem designed by Dr. Seuss - wood and tarpaper shacks attached to half-finished concrete-block rooms, wires and hoses snaking in.

The counties of south Texas are among the nation's poorest, and their jumbled subdivisions, known as colonias, home to 400,000 Hispanic Americans, can certainly look the part. Since the 1950s, developers have carved small lots from mesquite woodlands and flood plains, selling them to workers with the promises that utilities, sewers and paved roads would follow. They rarely did, and for decades the colonias were seen as hopeless slums.


Through frugality and hard work, in a process known as "incremental building" that is rare in the United States but common in the Third World, families are transforming hovels into homes, one wall and window at a time.

While the jerry-built shacks may look crude, they are often the works in progress of determined parents willing to spend decades to create a heart for their extended families. Many start with used trailers and upgrade as their finances improve. Their determination perhaps explains why the colonias, despite infrastructure gaps and a lack of amenities like parks and street lights, are not suffused with the bleak resignation evident in the most blighted urban centers or parts of the Deep South.

Based upon this story, can anyone guess what the argument is?


Blogger Oroborous said...

Based upon this story, can anyone guess what the argument is?

Well, my guess was wrong, although somewhat related.

But there was an interesting mistake in the article:

"Delfino and Martina Martinez bought their lot three years ago on the Las Lomas colonia near here for $19,800, paying 18 percent annual interest to the seller. [...]

"The Martinez family, with an annual income of about $15,000, worries about its $200 monthly payments to the seller..."

If they're paying $ 2,400/yr on a $ 20K loan at 18%, they have reason to worry, 'cause they'll never pay it off.

August 27, 2007 8:40 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...

Hint: It is related to American exceptionalism.

August 27, 2007 11:33 PM  
Blogger erp said...

It's called American Ingenuity! The operative word -- American.

Bienvenudos amigos.

August 28, 2007 7:26 AM  
Blogger Susan's Husband said...

I guessed it was either destroying the environment or people living non-fully regulated for safety lives, but after reading the actual article I have no idea.

August 28, 2007 7:27 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

I have no idea either and since I'm impatient, tell us already.

August 28, 2007 10:32 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


Part of the reason America is exceptional is that, historically, it has taken exceptional people to make the leap of faith and come here.

Those characteristics are finite, desireable to whichever country's population possesses them, and heritable.

It is Mexico's great loss, and our inestimable gain that people like this come to the US, and (demonstrating their exceptionalism) overcome significant obstacles. If my daughter was to bring one of their sons home wishing to marry him, I'd be a fool to say no.

I think the answer would have been more obvious if you looked at the problem from Mexico's perspective.

From our perspective, that is an argument for unlimited immigration (presuming the government essentially completely ignores immigrant welfare).

August 28, 2007 4:04 PM  
Blogger David said...

So, what's the respectable argument against immigration?

August 28, 2007 5:40 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

I thought that the thrust of the article was that more funding is needed to provide infrastructure for these pioneers.

August 28, 2007 6:37 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


The respectable argument against immigration is that it deprives the source country of the human qualities it most needs.

Mexico is not better off for having people like those featured in the article decamp to the United States.

That, of course, is from the Mexican point of view.

From our view, we should downplay that aspect of it and silently say "bring it on."


That, indeed, was the thrust of the article.

It just occurred to me that the most important part of the article was not what it was ostensibly about.

August 28, 2007 7:15 PM  
Blogger Oroborous said...

Mexico is not better off for having people like those featured in the article decamp to the United States.

While that's generally the case, it might not always be specifically true.

Because Mexico has fewer opportunities available, these people, although the type that one would want to put to productive use, are essentially surplus.
In America, there is potential work available for them.

So while it is indeed Mexico's loss and our gain, it's mostly a potential loss to Mexico - they have lower potential future growth.

But if their economy wasn't going to grow fast enough to put these people to work anyhow, (and it isn't and won't, they'll be lucky to maintain meager postive growth over the next few years), then the loss is moot.

August 29, 2007 10:26 AM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


In the short, even medium, term, you are correct.

However, presuming such personal qualities are heritable (I don't have any cite to say that they are, but it seems a safe bet to me), then Mexico will be less dynamic in the long term, and the US will be more so.

August 29, 2007 11:11 AM  
Blogger Bret said...

hey skipper,

I think that's far too much of a simplication. In the long term so many factors will come into play in this complex system that the conclusion that Mexico will be less dynamic just isn't supportable in my opinion. For example, how do know that the enhanced dynamism of the U.S. won't pull Mexico along? Then, as the U.S. becomes more sclerotic that the Mexican immigrants won't take their new and learned dynamism back to Mexico?

August 29, 2007 12:19 PM  
Blogger Hey Skipper said...


IMHO, one of the unique things about the US is that it is a 400-ish year eugenics experiment, albeit not intentional.

If certain character traits are heritable, and the difficulty of the immigrant experience selects against those without those traits, then the US population is "exceptional" as a consequence.

Ceteris paribus, the US will be a more dynamic society less likely to incline towards moribund government dependency, simply because of that it took to come here.

Which is why it occurred to me that the point of the story wasn't what it is ostensibly about.

August 29, 2007 4:42 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home