Immigration is bad for ….the environment!?!

Last week, my friend, economist Benjamin Powell, was in Denver to talk about what will be the hot topic of the 2008 elections: Is immigration a good or bad thing for the U.S. and what should we do about it? The high-point of his visit was the debate with former Governor Richard D. Lamm. The debate that took place on the Auraria campus was broadcasted on internet. It will also be downloadable on the MSCD’s website and on iTunes(c) and a Spanish transcript will be available as well.  Ben who has discussed this issue several times prior to his visit to Denver received some press notably in the Denver Post, the Rocky Mountain News, and ColoradoBiz Magazine following this event.

Allow me to give some personal thoughts on the debate.

After all the economic arguments and facts Ben Powell gave to Richard Lamm to explain why immigration is a good thing for the United States, the best thing Richard Lamm came up with to counter Powell’s arguments was immigration is bad for the environment!!!! According to Lamm, allowing more immigrants into the country will aggravate the overpopulation problem the U.S. seems to be suffering right now. We will end up using up the nation’s natural resources and will aggravate the global warming problem, ice will be melting, and this will be the end of all humanity. That type of arguments sounds very familiar… was there not a famous economist who argued something quite similar? Yes, there was Dr. Padilla. His name was: Reverend Thomas Malthus. Malthus, famous for writing "An Essay on the Principle of Population" (1798), also argued that overpopulation will result in the depletion of natural resources and massive starvation. Today, 200 years later, the world population is about 6.6 billion people and natural resources are yet to be depleted and the massive starvation predicted by Malthus has not happened, at least not as a result of population growth. The reason why Malthus failed in his predictions is that he underestimated the importance of technology and the ability of human beings to find substitutes. Moreover, Malthus forgot that individual’s needs and wants also change over time so some resources are no longer needed when individuals satisfy their needs for them and they move on to new needs. Of course, despite Malthus being wrong, his thesis still inspires many followers. There is not a day without some doomsayer claiming that we are killing Mother Earth, depleting natural resources, overfishing, overhunting, overproducing, overconsuming, overdriving, overbreathing, overeating, overdrinking, etc. And, of course, we are still awaiting to see those Nostradamuses of the world acknowledging that they are wrong…which is never going to happen because, according to them, they just misestimating their predictions by a few years, decades, centuries….millennia?

Ben Powell did accurately replied to former Governor Richard Lamm’s arguments on resource depletion resulting of overpopulation by mentioning in addition of what I have said above the famous bet that took place between Julian Simon and Paul Ehrlich in the 1980s. Julian Simon bet that the price of a basket of 5 metals will fall between 1980 and 1990. Guess what? He won and Paul Ehrlich in October 1990 mailed a check to Julian Simon for an amount of $576.07.

If I had to make a bet between who was more convincing between Ben Powell and former Governor Richard Lamm, I would have to bet Ben Powell…Sorry Dick…but I still do not understand how you succeeded to be elected Governor? …Hmmm, maybe Bryan Caplan is right after all about The Myth of the Rational Voter…or is it because we economists are so smart?

More to come on this immigration debate…I am not done yet… 

Published in: on October 2, 2007 at 12:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Shocking revelations about the political failure of libertarianism – Part II

After rereading Ms. Hymowitz’s very enlightening piece, I decided to add one more remark or two…

Ms. Hymowitz argues that libertarians are utopians thus making it ipso facto unpopular or doomed to fail in the mundane world of American politics.  Libertarians according to Ms Hymowitz are dreamers who dream of a world "liberated from family, from the past, from tradition, from biology, and perhaps even from the earth itself." What?! Please pinch me! Did I just read this or was it just a dream?

First of all, most libertarians are not against the family, do not wish to be liberated from the past and certainly not from tradition! Tradition is very important to libertarians because traditions and customs are fundamental and essential in the generation of rules of conduct and behavior in the society as opposed to government-created rules and laws that have no ground in past traditions and customs.

Now, it’s true some libertarians are utopian but they do not represent a majority. Most libertarians are pretty realistic and do not believe human beings are perfect and a world with less or no government will be perfect. Most libertarians argue that such a world will be LESS imperfect but certainly do not argue it will be PERFECT. That’s the problem here. Trying to argue that we, libertarians, believe in perfection and the possibility of a Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is total nonsense. What’s utopian is to believe, as Ms. Hymowitz, that a world with government or more government will make the world a better place. Believing that the government is the solution to all our problems, that’s utopian! And those Democrats (who I suspect Ms. Hymowitz might be) who believe that socializing medicine will solve the problem of health care costs and the increasing number of insured, that’s not utopian! Another one, let’s increase minimum wages to $15/hour and poof! the problem of poverty in U.S. will belong to the past! That’s not utopian! Nooo….I can give you hundreds of utopian examples that non-libertarians give us every single freaking day! (after all, this is the main reason newbigprinz and I started this blog)

What’s utopian is to believe that one day every single person on this planet will be more economically educated. It’s to believe that finally every single human being would have learned that there are such economic laws as the law of supply and demand and the law of comparative advantages, incentives matter, and there is no such thing as a free lunch. That, ladies and gentlemen, is utopian! What? I can’t dream now?

Published in: on September 23, 2007 at 11:27 pm  Leave a Comment