2013-10-09

Immigration Crazies

Sometimes the things we believe wrap up far too nicely and too tightly for anyone to take you seriously.

When It Strains Credibility
Imagine someone told you about a surprising conspiracy theory that, while it sounded incredible, was not outside the realm of possibility, and you could imagine such a theory being a realistic description of how things really were. If you heard this kind of conspiracy from someone who believed a great many different kinds of conspiracies, you would probably disregard the theory in question. But you would you would find the theory especially ridiculous if the person who described it to you thought that it explained pretty much everything bad since the beginning of the 20th Century. On the other hand, if you heard that same conspiracy theory from someone who had a reputation for being fair, objective, and level-headed, you would probably be more inclined to believe it yourself.

To sum it up: A believable conspiracy theory is more believable when posited by someone who seldom believes other conspiracy theories than it is when it is posited by someone why very often believes them; a conspiracy theory is not at all believable when someone uses it to explain everything.

When It's Academic
Now let's set aside conspiracy theories and consider NGDP level-targeting as monetary policy. Regardless of how anyone feels about John Taylor, he his a highly respected macroeconomist who has a reputation for analyzing all sides of issues things carefully. When he says something favorable about NGDP level targeting, I think carefully about what he says, myself. By contrast, when Scott Sumner says something about NGDP level targeting, I simply don't pay attention anymore. The reason is because John Taylor's blog involves discussions of many different sides of the issues, whereas Scott Sumner's blog is pretty much an excuse for Sumner to reframe every issue in terms of NGDP level targeting.

The impact of a discussion of NGDP level targeting has far more impact when it's had by people who think about all kinds of stuff than it is when it's had by a bunch of people whose only stated mission is to promote the idea of NGDP level targeting.

When It's Commercial
Okay, now forget about the tough sells. Think about simple things like, say, the newest item on the menu at McDonald's.

If you were watching television, and a McDonald's ad came on the screen, claiming that the company's newest menu item is "the tastiest thing we have ever produced, and guaranteed to satisfy your hunger in a way normal food can't," how seriously are you going to treat those claims? Not very seriously at all, right?

By contrast, if your good friend came up to you today and started talking about how she tried that new menu item at McDonald's for lunch today, and in her opinion it's the tastiest thing they've ever made and really satisfied her hunger, you'd treat that claim pretty seriously. It's not because your friend knows more about food than the McDonald's marketing department (although, she might - who knows?). Rather, it's simply because the only thing you ever hear from McDonald's marketing department is that their food is delicious. Whereas, your friend tends to talk to you about all kinds of other stuff.

Now To The Point
Yesterday, at Marginal Revolution, anonymous commenter "asdf" (these people are always anonymous) takes the racist approach to immigration restrictionism (emphasis mine):
In addition, birthright citizenship is in the constitution here and unlikely to change. So once these immigrants are here their kids will get full citizenship rights. Since the problem with immigrants is mainly genetic this is a problem.
Well, it's easy to see the racism in a statement like this, so I pointed it out in a comment of my own. Mr. anonymous "asdf" replied to me as follows:
Because I’m not a sperg I have some understanding of why in-group/out-group distinctions get made sometimes and the sound reasons behind them.
For the unitiated, "sperg" is a shortened form of the phrase "person with Asperger's Syndrome." This concept is fairly common among the immigration restrictionist racists. For example, here's The Crimson Reach saying that Bryan Caplan has Asperger's Syndrome:
What sort of Asperger’s is it exactly that causes this brain sickness of seeing all human activities in terms of their impact on or relation to ‘jobs’?
Here is infamous immigration racist Steve Sailer calling Judge Richard Posner a sperg:
I love Judge Posner dearly, but I have this sneaking suspicion that he is ever so slightly autistic, or an Asperger, as they now say. Anyway, there's something slightly autistic about how he hates novelistic detail in a book that's supposed to be be making an argument.
The admitted psychopath who runs Chateau Heartiste also joins in on the "fun" here and here, for example.

What all these websites have in common is that they all belong to a community of blogs that self-identify as "the man-o-sphere." Sooner or later, the "man-o-sphere" always seems to trace its ideas back to Steve Sailer. As you can see from the above links, his Asperger's Syndrome reference occurs first, chronologically speaking. That's not to say he invented the term, but one has to wonder to what extent any of his parrots would be using the term at all, had he not started doing it first.

Of course, the real issue here is that the "man-o-phere" seems to be carving out the following theory for itself:

  • First, they think that immigrants are not just inferior to natives, but genetically inferior.
  • Second, they declare that open borders advocates suffer from Asperger's Syndrome.
Now, these claims are being repeated over and over again every time the issue of immigration hits the world of economics blogs. I may be inclined to think twice about open borders if those who were arguing against it weren't also the same people claiming that immigrants are a genetically inferior group of people. But the coup de grace is when they state that their debate opponents suffer from cognitive problems.

What this essentially means is that immigration restrictionists are racial supremacists who believe that anyone who disagrees with them has mental problems.

In light of what I've said above about conspiracy theories, NGDP level targeting, and the McDonald's menu, how seriously do you suppose we ought to take the claims of immigration restrictionists? Clearly, not very seriously at all.