Tyler vs. Tyrone on Immigration

I am unimpressed by Tyler's reply to Tyrone. I don't relish the gimmicky nature of Tyrone's proposals, and my commitment to the rule of law excludes setting forth the intentional disregard for the law as a positive reform. That said, Tyrone is in important ways both a better liberal and a better utilitarian than Tyler, at least in this case. And Tyler's reply, “Poor Tyrone has no idea of the cultural foundations of democracy,” sounds like a glib piece of reactionary agitprop in the absence of evidence that Tyrone's proposals would indeed erode the cultural foundations of the institutions that make the U.S. such an attractive target of migration.
I am the last person to deny that “moral infrastructure” is of fundamental importance. But opponents of liberal migration and labor policies too often confuse dynamic cultural change for cultural erosion. I more afraid that fat, tenured Americans will become too risk averse and insurance-minded than that hungry, entrepreneurial new entrants will undermine the very institutions they came to benefit from. Why not think that, on the one hand, our institutions  transform newcomers culturally more than they transform our institutions, while, on the other hand, newcomers keep our institutions vital and growth-minded, rather than moribund and insurance-mided? I wonder if Anthony de Jasay's reply to a very different argument doesn't apply here, too:

It so happens that under the hypothesis of an accumulated pool of agreeable externalities, the very processes of production and exchange that are enriched by people helping themselves to the pool, and by so doing depleting it so that less is left for latecomers, must be agreed by the same token to be replenishing the pool by the agreeable externalities they generate. For if past social cooperation has left over externalities that enrich the present, why should we not assume that present social cooperation will likewise enrich the future?–though room may always be left for the second-order question about the present doing enough for the future.

[Update: In the comments Tyler clarifies, “Sometimes Tyler is simply too obscure. I meant the line about cultural foundations to be poking fun at others, namely that a nation can be too stupid to embrace certain bright ideas…and that, sadly, that is part of democracy too.” I think I see! So… Then Tyler agrees with the upshot of Tyrone's ideas after all, but just thinks they are too infeasible to take seriously, given democractic stupidity?
 You should of course pre-order Tyler's book and get access to his super-secret blog hideout. I got my hands on a review copy and have read most of it. It's good. Short review forthcoming.]

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center