Prebuttal on Immigration and Poverty

One of the Economist's Free Exchange bloggers, with whom I mysteriously seldom disagree, last night presciently rebutted Robert Samuelson's deplorable column today in the Post. Samuelson, like Robert Rector, who the Economist blogger was addressing, advises that we reduce the poverty rate by allowing fewer poor people to cross our borders—which is to say, by promoting poverty. As the Economist blogger put it:

It takes a special kind of brazenness to propose a reduction of the national poverty rate at the expense of ensuring that more people stay poor by denying them opportunity to set foot in the nation.
If Mr Rector cared about actual human poverty, as opposed to some statistic about the number of Americans beneath what he agrees is an arbitrary line, he'd favour an increase in legal immigration and some kind of guest-worker program. If these policies were to inflate American poverty rates, as they surely would, that would be something to be proud of. From a humanitarian perspective, if a wealthy nation's poverty rate improves, then it isn't letting enough poor people in.

Rector and Samuelson seem to be in the grip of what I like to call the Augusta National Golf Club model of the nation state. It's our club, so we can keep women (or poor people, or anyone) out if we like.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center