Sunday, April 30, 2006

Scott Rasmussen discusses his polling results on immigration:
Most current discussion by elected officials starts with a focus on illegal aliens. For most voters, that's letting the tail wag the dog.

The best place to start is with the bigger picture where most Americans agree. We've been polling state-by-state on this issue all month and consistently find agreement on a few key points.

1. Most Americans in all states want a welcoming national immigration policy that lets our nation assimilate new people into the national melting pot. Our polls have consistently found strong support for a policy goal that welcomes everybody except criminals, national security, threats, and those who want to live off our welfare system.

2. Just as important, most Americans also want a policy that emphasizes enforcement first. They want the nation to gain control of its borders and enforce existing laws before other reforms are considered.

3. As a pragmatic step to support the first two points, most Americans want to build a barrier along the Mexican border.
Rasmussen also takes seriously the possibility of a third-party presidential candidate winning a few Southwestern states in 2008 based on the immigration issue. I wouldn't bet on that. I think it much more likely the Republican primaries will produce a candidate who endorses #1, #2, and #3 above, regardless of how he talks today.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Why do I love maps so? It's mainly a prerational matter I can't explain; I've always loved maps. (I won the school geography bee in 8th grade, but didn't get very far at the state level.) However, there's also a rational component, or at least a partial rationalization: from a map, I can take in facts at a faster rate than I can from any other data format I know of. Conversely, I am annoyed whenever someone links to audio commentary but not to a transcript. (I also am annoyed by the neologism "podcast," but that's a separate issue.) I value my time, and I can read a lot faster than I can listen.
I just can't stop linking to maps. Here's gasoline prices by county. The map, intended more for drivers than armchair analysts, doesn't control for things like different state taxes.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Sunday, April 16, 2006

He is risen!
There's just so many interesting maps to link to. Check out these maps of county-by-county religious adherence in America. (Hat tip: Dave W.) I'd love to see the first map turned into a population cartogram.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

If you enjoyed "The World Is Spiky," then I recommend the spinning economic globe. The coloring corresponds to economic output per unit area.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Tyler Cowen apparently believes that building a wall along our southern border (part of my ideal immigration policy) is pointless because it's easy to forge the documents needed to get through a guarded U.S. border checkpoint. Cowen knows plenty more about Mexico than I do, and I don't dispute his claim that illegal papers are a a "major channel" of illegal immigration (though an order-of-magnitude quantification of "major" and/or the price of illegal papers would be appreciated). However, I expect illegal papers to become a lot more expensive in a few years.

Dave's filter

Thursday, April 06, 2006

If you believe the latest scientific study, prayer doesn't heal. William Saletan offers 17 hypotheses to explain this negative result. For #15, "God doesn't participate in studies," I'd throw in a few verses from Matthew 4.
Then the devil took [Jesus] to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:
" 'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"
Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
See also Matthew 12.
Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to [Jesus], "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you." He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth...."

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

How not to argue for immigration:
[John McCain] took more questions, including a pointed one on his immigration plan.

McCain responded by saying immigrants were taking jobs nobody else wanted. He offered anybody in the crowd $50 an hour to pick lettuce in Arizona.

Shouts of protest rose from the crowd, with some accepting McCain's job offer.

"I'll take it!" one man shouted.

McCain insisted none of them would do such menial labor for a complete season. "You can't do it, my friends."

Some in the crowd said they didn't appreciate McCain questioning their work ethic.

A better question would have been, "how much extra would you pay for 'native-picked' lettuce?"

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

In January, Bryan Caplan supported "Claim #1: One of the main causes - if not the main cause - of economic, cultural, and other forms of success is genetic," but argued against "Claim #2: Policy-makers can make their societies more successful by improving the quality of their societies' genes." His argument was a simple application of comparative advantage: on the margin, more people, even more dim people, increase a society's productivity by freeing up more bright people from dim tasks.

Randall Parker begs to differ.
  • Low IQ immigrants will inevitably lower the living standards of higher IQ natives by lowering incomes, raising taxes, raising crime, and lowering the quality of government.
  • Low IQ immigrants will pull higher IQ people away from creative design, engineering, and science work.
  • Therefore one result of an influx of lower IQ immigrants will be to slow the rate of technological advances. This will delay technological advances which are the only hope for that half of humanity that have IQs below 90.
  • One obvious piece of evidence for my argument can be seen from the incomes and occupations of higher IQ people in lower IQ countries.
  • Another obvious piece of evidence is found in the steepness of the slope of lines in charts of national per capita GDP versus IQ. The slopes of graphs of per capita GDP versus IQ are even getting steeper with time. The steeper the slope the wronger the Benthamites.
Parker goes on to make the (relatively) obvious claim that evenly distributing the bright people amongst the nations would lower world GDP. Indeed, Innovators need collaborators and institutions to support them.

Do read all of Caplan's post and Parker's post. I'm inclined to agree with Parker, except that it's not clear what happens at the margin. If a society already has a lot of dim members, then how do the relevant economies of scale play out?

Monday, April 03, 2006

I still hate DST.
In a desperate search for a fix to the state's electricity crisis in 2001, the California Energy Commission examined a variety of time-warping scenarios, like creating double daylight savings time. But instead of implementing this super-duper saving time, the commission actually found "total electricity use would be virtually unchanged" if the state didn't use DST at all. The report suggested "the lower electric use typically observed after the spring onset of DST (Daylight Saving Time) may be purely the result of the warmer, longer days and not because of the time change."
After reading this story, the word that came my mind to my was "evil."

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Jane Galt correctly focuses on the most important aspect of immigration:

I think the real limit to the number of immigrants we can accept is the rate at which America's institutions can assimilate them.

"Institutions" is the new buzzword in economics, and like all such buzzwords, it gets bandied around somewhat loosely. By "instititutions" I mean, in this case, all the hidden cultural practices that allow us to transact with strangers with such a high degree of trust and efficiency. If, for example, we allowed so many immigrants that one could no longer effectively be sure of transacting business in a single language, that would have heavy institutional costs. Or if most of the immigrants came from places where family networks were the primary economic unit, and nepotism was viewed as a cultural good, and there were enough of them to change the practice in large swathes of American business, I think that this would make both immigrants and the Americans worse off. Or if there were enough immigrants with anti-liberal (in the classical sense) values to undermine that cultural feature of America, that would be, I think, a bad thing for everyone.

But I don't think we're anywhere near that limit. Yes, there are a lot of Spanish-speaking immigrants in some urban areas (and let's be honest; paranoia about immigration is really paranoia about latinos. No one's worried about high rates of crime and illegitimacy among the Hmong). So what? Cities like Milwaukee and Cincinnati were so preponderantly German that many visitors complained that more German was spoken on the streets than English; until World War I, when German abruptly became politically incorrect, most telephone operators in Cincinnati had to be bilingual, and ended up speaking more German than English. Yet they neither managed to subvert America's vital beer industry for the Kaiser, nor bequeath their cultural separatism unto the umpteenth generation.

Myself, I'm particularly partial to Cubans, Haitians, Mexicans, and Central and South American immigrants, because they work so damn hard to get here. I agree with what Ed Crane, the head of the Cato Institute (as reported by PJ O'Rourke), said about Haitians coming ashore on rafts: if someone crosses dozens of miles of open ocean on a raft made out of popsicle sticks just for a chance to be in America, we should give them their green card on the beach. These are the people we want in this country. Isn't that just the kind of pioneer spirit that we think makes America great?

Frankly, I just don't understand right-wing paranoia about immigration. I mean, aside from speaking Spanish, which seems like a pretty minor pecadillo on the scale of things, latino immigrants seem like a right-winger's dream: hard-working, family-oriented, and religious as all get out.

I'm less confident than Jane that we're nowhere near the limits of our institutions, though at the moment I can't bring myself to sound as worried as I was two years ago. Repeating another two-year-old blog complaint, my opinion of the social science stats I've seen is that they don't give nearly enough information to say where the institutional limit lies. If someone could show me some convincing numbers, I'd advocate more legal immigration, and even amnesty for current illegal immigrants. Until then, I'm sticking with the more cautious attrition strategy.

The second most important immigration issue is quality. We should do more to encourage the world's top talent to come to the U.S. and stay in the U.S. Almost all scientific and technological innovations (see figures C & D) come from a small proportion of the world's cities in which groups of extremely talented folk live and work in close proximity. Of those the select cities, the American ones are particularly reliant on immigrant talent.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

I still hate Daylight Saving Time. I'm sure I'll hate it more next year.