Bryan Caplan has responded to my previous post on attempting to reconcile an acceptance of HBD with an open borders position, disagreeing with my assertion that increasing the numbers of voters who believe in a welfare state will lead to a bigger welfare state. He reasonably claims that support for redistributionist policies drops when the haves differ ethnically and/or culturally from the have-nots. Caplan brings up the intriguing possibility that the presence of black voters in America has actually led to a smaller state than we otherwise would have had since it has helped turn whites against government.
Immigration is likely to have an even stronger counter-balancing effect on natives' policy preferences because, as far as most Americans are concerned, immigrants from Latin American are much more of an "out-group" than American blacks. Faced with the choice to either cut social services or give "a bunch of foreigners" equal access, natives will lean in the direction of cuts. In fact, I can't think of anything more likely to make natives turn against the welfare state than forcing them to choose between (a) helping no one, and (b) helping everyone regardless of national origin.
The problem I see with this is that the black percentage of the population has remained pretty stable over the last fifty years. The mostly white non-black population has been able to veto most attempts to adopt the worst statist excesses of the more homogenous European democracies. Had blacks grown to sixty percent of the population while voting the way they do it would be a different story.
Right now whites are projected to become 46 percent of the American population by 2042. If Caplan had his way, there would be twenty times as much immigration. The non-statist haves would be completely outnumbered and outvoted, no matter how enraged they might be by the newcomers who are reaching into their wallets. In addition, one has to only look at Jews in Nazi Germany, whites in South Africa or the Chinese in Southeast Asia to see that a welfare state is one of the least of a group’s worries when it’s a small visible minority that’s noticeably better off than the general population. Current immigration policy is at least keeping a Malaysia/South Africa doomsday scenario from happening for the foreseeable future, but if we followed the wishes of open borders libertarians things would possibly get very bad for white and Asian Americans fairly quickly.
Caplan wonders whether I’m the one being unrealistic by hoping for more immigration restriction and whether it wouldn’t be better to advocate “humane ways to mitigate specific drawbacks of immigration.” For example, instead of worrying about how immigrants vote we could simply take that right away from them. There may be some countries in which you’re more likely to deprive some citizens of the right to vote than enact tougher immigration laws, but America isn’t one of them. One of the beliefs of America’s civil religion is the doctrine that everybody should have the right to participate in elections and make his voice heard no matter how ill-informed, a fact that Caplan is aware of and laments.
Caplan also says that if we're afraid that immigrants use too many social services, "the simplest solution is not [to] get rid of immigrants, but to make them ineligible for benefits." That's precisely what the voters of California tried to do in 1994 (and only regarding illegal immigrants to boot) before the courts struck Proposition 187 down. If not the ballot box, what other avenues are available to push for what Caplan recommends to deal with this specific grievance?
Finally, even if the “diversity leads to small government” argument was correct and we saw the state shrink with an increase in immigration, we should think about what’s implied here. Basically, we’d be hoping that citizens learn to dislike and distrust one another to the point where wide scale redistribution schemes became impossible. This mentality sees goodwill between citizens as a problem to be solved. I like the idea of cutting government as much as anybody, but this to me seems the most socially unhealthy way to try to do it.