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Cato Unbound Symposium on “Immigration and Institutions” –

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This month, the Cato Unbound website hosts a Symposium on “Immigration and Institutions”. The main essay of the economist Benjamin Powell is here. It is based, in large part, on his excellent book Miserable Trash: The Political Economy of Immigration and Institutions (co-authored with Alex Nowrasteh). In my opinion, yours is the best and most sophisticated analysis of this important subject.

Me answer essay was posted today. Here is an excerpt:

There are many possible justifications for immigration restrictions. But perhaps the most powerful is the fear that too much immigration of the wrong kind could kill the goose that lays the golden eggs that make a nation attractive to migrants in the first place. Immigrants who do not value or understand liberal democratic institutions may end up destroying them…. At worst, immigrants from countries with horrendous governments could simply replicate those same regimes in their new homes.

Alex Nowrasteh and Benjamin Powell’s book Miserable rejection? The Political Economy of Immigration and Institutions it is the most complete and convincing refutation of such fears to date. As the authors painstakingly show, far from damaging the institutions of free societies, immigration poses little threat to them and, at times, strengthens them.

I agree with almost all of your main points and analyzes. Therefore, I will focus on two important related issues that the authors largely omit. First, Nowrasteh and Powell’s book focuses almost entirely on the possible negative effects caused by immigrants themselves. But it is also possible that natives’ reactions to immigration cause institutional damage, even if those reactions are irrational or unnecessary. Therefore, some argue that we must restrict immigration not to protect natives from immigrants, but to protect natives against themselves.

Second, what if Nowrasteh and Powell are wrong, at least in some cases, and immigration damages political institutions after all? Even in the worst case, immigration restrictions may not be justified. Instead, we should first consider whether the problem can be alleviated with less draconian measures.

I discuss many of the topics covered in this response essay in greater detail in Chapter 6 of my book. Freedom of movement: voting on foot, migration and political freedom.

Cato Unbound also wants to publish response essays from Prof. Peter skerry from Boston College, and Prof. Eric Kaufmann from Birkbeck College, University of London. Benjamin Powell will respond to the commenters and the discussion will continue for the next two to three weeks.

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