Saturday, August 12, 2017

"We support free speech, but [we don't support free speech]."

Those who follow me on Facebook know that I enjoy quoting the various "We support free speech, but..." excuses from censors as they explain why they fired or disinvited or blacklisted people whose views they don't like. Remarkably, two different vice presidents at Google used this formulation in their reactions to employee James Damore's common-sense points about gender differences.

From one VP:
Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But...
And from another VP:
Questioning our assumptions and sharing different perspectives is an important part of our culture, and we want to continue fostering an environment where it’s safe to engage in challenging conversations in a thoughtful way. But...
In a recent piece for National Review, I took the opportunity to list several other examples of but's and however's that I've come across over the years. Two that I did not list -- to avoid making the piece seem self-serving -- were statements made by Harvard students who wanted the university to retroactively reject my dissertation. From a coalition of 23 ethnic student groups: "In any healthy democracy there is always disagreement, but..." And from a student petition with nearly 1,000 signatures: "Academic freedom and a reasoned debate are essential to our academic community. However..."

Maybe it should be encouraging that censors feel obligated to praise free speech in the abstract. But there's something Orwellian about their statements that troubles me even more than a straightforward rejection of free speech would. "We support X, but we oppose X" feels like an attempt to dull people's senses, to encourage them not to think too hard lest they become troubled by what's happening around them.

Friday, May 5, 2017

"California Fails the Immigration Test" published at Real Clear Policy

From my perspective, much of the immigration debate takes place on the right. Traditional conservatives feel that mass immigration is a cultural and economic disruption, while libertarian-leaning conservatives emphasize how immigration makes the American economy more efficient. To the extent that progressives are involved in the immigration debate, it is generally as advocates for the immigrants themselves -- arguing that deportation is unethical, for example, or that immigrants should be allowed to sponsor their extended families. For progressives, to what extent is immigration seen as a positive good for natives rather than just for the immigrants? More specifically, do progressives believe immigration moves us closer to their ideal vision of American society?

If so, please read my new piece for Real Clear Policy. I describe how America's leading progressive state, California, is failing on the issues most important to progressives -- poverty, low education, and social distrust. Many factors contribute to that failure, but one that stands out is the demographic change caused by decades of mass immigration. From the piece:
Given the impact of immigration, it is tempting to excuse the failure of progressivism in California on the grounds that the state faces demographic challenges that other states do not. After all, one can easily identify both blue states and red states that perform well on various social indicators, and that performance is largely driven by the states’ people, not by their governments. But here is the problem for progressives: They told us immigration-related challenges could be overcome through policy. High tax rates, strict labor regulations, and strong unions were to lift the least-skilled into a middle-class lifestyle. Investments in education were to close early-learning gaps. Ethnic tensions were to be smoothed over with diversity training seminars and multicultural textbooks. 
Needless to say, however much progressive policies in California are helping achieve those goals, they have not succeeded nearly enough. In the showdown between mass immigration and progressivism, immigration has won, hands-down. The California experience thus stands as a hard lesson on the limits of public policy.
I would like progressives to engage more on this question.

Update 5/18/2017: None ever did.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

When is the March for Large-Scale Preregistered Replications?

Why are progressives calling this weekend's demonstration the "March for Science"? Why not the "March for Equality," or the "March for the Environment," or even the "March for NIH Funding"? The reason, of course, is science-gilding, the covering of one's ideological positions with the veneer of scientific objectivity. It's very tempting. Ideological debates are messy and difficult to win, but Science sounds so authoritative. Just say "Science" and drop the mike.

Unfortunately, some scientists are only too happy to help. In a piece for National Review this past week, I wrote that researchers are subject to similar biases and pressures faced by others in the public sphere. The "replication crisis" is the best evidence. After quoting the passage from my American Conservative article outlining how replication failures have left psychologists uncertain that bilingualism makes people smarter, I noted that the prevailing scientific view on bilingualism had previously just happened to follow the prevailing political view on multiculturalism:
“Bilingualism makes people smarter” is itself a reversal in the literature. Before the 1960s, the opposite view predominated. “The general trend in the literature relating to the effect of bilingualism upon the measure of intelligence, has been toward the conclusion that bilinguists suffer from a language handicap,” according to a 1953 review paper. So at a time when assimilation was the prevailing ideology among political elites, science told them bilingualism is bad for the mind. Later, when multiculturalism became the prevailing ideology among elites, science told them bilingualism is good for the mind. Which is the cause and which is the effect here? 
Thank goodness for the replication crisis and the renewed interest in scientific transparency that has come along with it. If there were a March for Large-Scale Preregistered Replications, I would be on the front lines.
Has that march been scheduled yet?

Friday, April 14, 2017

Would you fly "Liberty Air"?

With bad flying experiences in the news again, I thought I'd resurrect this article of mine, which made the case for allowing airlines to determine their own security procedures. (You can tell the article is ancient because of the reference to a Blackberry.) Here's how it starts:
Let us imagine there were a major airline that could opt out of all TSA regulations. Call it “Liberty Air.” Liberty Air openly advertises that it takes zero safety precautions when it comes to screening passengers and baggage. Would you fly on this airline?  
The upside to Liberty Air’s approach is a far more pleasant airport experience. Liberty Air has no metal detectors, so there are no long lines after you get your ticket. Get to the airport ten minutes before take-off, not two hours. Pack whatever you want in your carry-on, including “dangerous” liquids, disposable razors, a hunting knife, whatever. If you have a laptop, don’t worry about taking it out of its case. Wearing a metal belt buckle? Have a lot of keys? Don’t want your Blackberry to leave your sight? No problem. You won’t have to juggle your boarding pass, your driver’s license, your cell phone, and your laptop. No need to take off your shoes. Don’t feel hassled to collect all your belongings pouring out of the X-ray machine—there is no X-ray machine!   
Most important of all, Liberty Air does not do body scans. No machine will take revealing photos of you, nor will X-rays zap you, nor will any uniformed official fondle you in the name of national security.   
Not only is Liberty Air more pleasant to fly, it’s also easier on your wallet. Free from paying for security officials and upkeep for expensive equipment, Liberty Air passes the savings on to you. No “September 11 security fee” on your bill. You pay only for the flight, not for the TSA bureaucracy. 
Of course, there’s an obvious downside to Liberty Air: it is clearly more vulnerable to a terrorist attack. Does the added risk outweigh the benefits? This is the question everyone should ponder. Would you fly Liberty Air, or would you still choose a TSA-compliant airline?

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

"California's Bilingual Gamble" published in The American Conservative

I have a new essay in The American Conservative, on the dangers of nationwide bilingualism. The piece is on the long side (2,600 words) but hopefully an entertaining read. It's chock-full of statistics, studies, and anecdotes. A sample:
Separate media lead to separate political messages. We often hear of “dog whistles” and “coded language” that politicians use to appeal to a particular interest group without alienating the general electorate. In the U.S. today, Spanish is the ultimate “code” for speaking to Hispanics about immigration and other issues on which non-Hispanics may have opposing views. 
An egregious example occurred last fall, when Arizona Sen. John McCain put two very different immigration positions on his campaign website. The Spanish version of his site touted his work on behalf of “immigration reform that is humane and sensible to the needs of the immigrant community,” including his leadership on the Schumer-Rubio amnesty bill from 2013. The English text on McCain’s site, however, featured tough talk on border enforcement exclusively. No mention of amnesty. No mention of the “needs of the immigrant community.” 
A related controversy arose during the Republican presidential primaries, when Ted Cruz implied that Marco Rubio spoke more favorably of amnesty on Spanish-language Univision than he did on English-language media. “First of all, I don’t know how he knows what I said on Univision because he doesn’t speak Spanish,” Rubio replied, unintentionally highlighting the problem with conducting a campaign in two languages.
Stay tuned for more from me on language assimilation.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

What the National Academies study does not say

The National Academies of Sciences (NAS) recently published a mammoth, book-length study of the economic impact of immigration. It features comprehensive reviews of the existing literature as well as original analyses, with the underlying finding that immigration has both benefits and costs. How people weigh those effects determines their position on the overall issue.

For a general summary of the NAS study, I recommend George Borjas's blog series. (Borjas was my advisor in graduate school.) And for a discussion of the long-term fiscal effects, please see my piece for National Review.

Though I was pleased with the quality of the NAS study, I was displeased to see the media attribute conclusions to it that it never actually drew. Specifically, some media outlets are claiming that the study found no significant wage or employment effects on natives. I first saw this claim in an ABC News "fact check" of Donald Trump. (Regular readers already know how I feel about the fact-check movement.) Here's part of my response that I wrote for the Center for Immigration Studies:
The study's authors are very open to the idea that immigration depresses wages. For example, the fourth chapter of the study is devoted to an economic model in which immigration improves efficiency by reducing the wages of native-born workers by $494 billion. The next chapter lists nine different studies that find at least some negative wage effects, mostly on lower-skilled workers. "While many studies conclude that, economy-wide, the impact of immigration on average wages and employment is small, a high degree of consensus exists that specific groups are more vulnerable than others to inflows of new immigrants," the study says. It goes on to name prior immigrants and low-skill natives as examples of groups hardest hit. 
The "little to no negative effects" on wages is not even a quote from the study itself, but rather from a press release accompanying it. And ABC's fact-checker leaves out a crucial qualifier in that press release: "little to no negative the long term" (emphasis added). It is true that as capital adjusts over time to accommodate a new group of immigrants, wages should revert to pre-immigration levels. This is actually an assumption built into some immigration models. Efficiency gains as well as wage effects disappear in those models in the long run, leaving natives no better off than they were without immigration. But, more importantly, if we keep taking in over a million immigrants every year, then new short-run wage losses are suffered over and over, and the long run never comes! 
The National Academies study simply does not say, either literally or in spirit, that immigration has no effect on wages. Furthermore, the conceit that such a sweeping and decisive "fact" could be derived from the study's chapter-length, much-caveated review of a complex literature is implausible.
The misleading "little to negative effects" claim appears to have originated in a New York Times article about the study, though at least it offered details. After ABC News latched on, it was repeated in a Wall Street Journal review of George Borjas's new book. It's time to retire this narrative.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Video and reaction to panel event

Our panel on Monday, titled "Immigration and Less-Educated Workers," was a success. My thanks to the whole Center for Immigration Studies staff for putting on a good show. Video of my presentation is embedded below.

CIS has the rest of the videos -- including Amy Wax, Charles Murray, and Steven Camarota -- collected here.

The panel has received an unusual amount of media attention because of Charles Murray's declaration that he no longer supports low-skill immigration. National Review, The Daily Caller, Breitbart, and several other sites reported on it.