Caplan on Sailer: "Steve Sailer`s Policy Views Are Much Closer To The Typical American`s Than Mine"
August 09, 2013, 02:23 PM
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Economist Bryan Caplan is a cheerful but humorless soul, so he's upset that my readers have been having fun with his Open Borders logo contest, and he projects his anger upon those having a laugh at his expense.

But Caplan does make a good point: Out of all the intellectuals in the country, when it comes to thinking about immigration (and perhaps race and a few other crucial topics), I'm the most sane, sensible, moderate responsible grown-up, which makes me widely hated. In contrast, Caplan's Open Borders views on immigration are self-evident lunacy, which makes him far more respectable. As Caplan says, "I have to admit, it's bizarre."

Caplan writes:

Citizenists strike me as extraordinarily angry people.  But I have to admit: If I were them, I'd be angry too. 

Consider their intellectual situation: Every orthodox moral theory - utilitarianism, Kantianism, egalitarianism, libertarianism, wealth maximization, Rawlsianism, Christianity, and Marxism for starters - straightforwardly endorses open borders, or something close.  Yet almost everyone in the First World strongly opposes this policy.  The moral theory of citizenism, in contrast, does not straightforwardly endorse open borders.  Indeed, combined with suitably misanthropic descriptive views, citizenism handily justifies the strict immigration restrictions that most First Worlders know and love.

So why the anger?  Because even though people love the implications of citizenism, they wince at the doctrine itself, and stigmatize its adherents.  Adherents of orthodox moral theories, in contrast, enjoy respect and approbation.  Americans in particular want to have their cake and eat it, too.  They certainly don't want their country "invaded" by Latin American immigration.  But when a citizenist articulately justifies their anxiety, the typical American feels like the citizenist is too racist to acknowledge, much less endorse.

Think about it like this: Steve Sailer's policy views are much closer to the typical American's than mine.  Compared to me, he's virtually normal.  But the mainstream media is very sweet to me, and treats Steve like a pariah.  I have to admit, it's bizarre.

Still, if I were a citizenist, I wouldn't be that angry.  Relative to the open borders alternative, the U.S. border is already virtually closed.  (Disagree?  Tell me what annual immigration would be under open borders, and compare this to what we currently get).


Indeed.

If I were a citizenist, I'd be grateful that the status quo approximately equals my favorite policy.  Sure, it's frustrating when people flip out at you for forthrightly justifying the policies they already support.  But what's more important: Getting the respect you feel you deserve, or getting the policies you think are morally right?

I'm very happy that the electorate agrees far more on immigration policy with me than with Bryan Caplan.

As for my influence, I've been writing a long time, and I'm stoic about the fact that my influence works through labyrinthine laundering processes, where my ideas eventually show up in more sonorous forms on the op-ed page of the New York Times weeks or months or years after I publish them. Eventually, I expect to be recognized as The Guy Who Figured Out the Answers to the Hard Questions, but I don't expect that to happen before I'm very old. Such is the way of the world ...

On the other hand, the media conventional wisdom considers Bryan's extremism to be admirable, if perhaps a little too forthright for the peasants at the moment. Unfortunately, it's not a good idea to blithely assume that elites won't get what they keep shouting for, no matter how stupid it is. To update for the 21st Century H.L. Mencken's apothegm on democracy, “Mediacracy is the theory that the elites know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” 

The problem is that there can be a lot of collateral damage when sanity is considered unmentionable in elite discourse.