An article published this week by National Review magazine blames the many problems of California on — take a guess — high taxes, over‐regulation of business, runaway state spending, an expansive welfare state? Try none of the above. The article, by Alex Alexiev of the Hudson Institute, puts the blame on the backs of low‐skilled, illegal immigrants from Mexico and the federal government for not keeping them out.
Titled “Catching Up to Mexico: Illegal immigration is depleting California’s human capital and ravaging its economy,” the article endorses high‐skilled immigration to the state while rejecting the influx of “the poorly educated, the unskilled, and the illiterate” immigrants that enter illegally from Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America.
Before swallowing the article’s thesis, consider two thoughts:
One, if low‐skilled, illegal immigration is the single greatest cause of California’s woes, how does the author explain the relative success of Texas? As a survey in the July 11 issue of The Economist magazine explained, smaller‐government Texas has avoided many of the problems of California while outperforming most of the rest of the country in job creation and economic growth. And Texas has managed to do this with an illegal immigrant population that rivals California’s as a share of its population.
Two, low‐skilled immigrants actually enhance the human capital of native‐born Americans by allowing us to move up the occupational ladder to jobs that are more productive and better paying. In a new study from the Cato Institute, titled “Restriction or Legalization? Measuring the Economic Benefits of Immigration Reform,” this phenomenon is called the “occupational mix effect” and it translates into tens of billions of dollars of benefits to U.S. households.
Our new study, authored by economists Peter Dixon and Maureen Rimmer, found that legalization of low‐skilled immigration would boost the incomes of American households by $180 billion, while further restricting such immigration would reduce the incomes of U.S. families by $80 billion.
That is a quarter of a trillion dollar difference between following the policy advice of National Review and that of the Cato Institute. Last time I checked, that is still real money, even in Washington.
Mexico’s former President, Vicente Fox, joins the growing chorus of Latin American ex‐presidents calling for an end on the war on drugs. He’s proposing an open debate on drug legalization.
It’s a shame, though, that these leaders wait until they are out of office to voice their opposition to Washington’s prohibitionist drug strategy. While it’s true, as Fox points out, that any step towards legalization in the region must be supported by the United States, Latin American presidents skeptical of the status quo could use the pulpits at the United Nations, Organization of American States, or the Summits of the Americas to denounce the war on drugs and call for different approaches.
Still, Fox’s opinion on the matter is welcome.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is calling for a large‐scale study on the question of whether to legalize marijuana. Arnold wants the study to include international comparisons to show the possible impact of such a change. Cato just released such a study concerning Portugal.
Our friends at NORML are running ads like this in some markets.
Over at Reason, Jacob Sullum takes a look at national Zogby poll numbers, which shows that a majority of voters support marijuana legalization.
While Iraq’s security situation has been improving – though the possibility of revived sectarian violence remains all too real – the conflict in Afghanistan has been worsening. The challenge for allied (which means mostly American) forces is obvious, which is why the Obama Administration is sending more troops.
But the administration risks wrecking the entire enterprise by turning American forces into drug warriors.
Reports the New York Times:
American commanders are planning to cut off the Taliban’s main source of money, the country’s multimillion‐dollar opium crop, by pouring thousands of troops into the three provinces that bankroll much of the group’s operations.
The plan to send 20,000 Marines and soldiers into Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul Provinces this summer promises weeks and perhaps months of heavy fighting, since American officers expect the Taliban to vigorously defend what makes up the economic engine for the insurgency. The additional troops, the centerpiece of President Obama’s effort to reverse the course of the seven‐year war, will roughly double the number already in southern Afghanistan. The troops already fighting there are universally seen as overwhelmed. In many cases, the Americans will be pushing into areas where few or no troops have been before.
Through extortion and taxation, the Taliban are believed to reap as much as $300 million a year from Afghanistan’s opium trade, which now makes up 90 percent of the world’s total. That is enough, the Americans say, to sustain all of the Taliban’s military operations in southern Afghanistan for an entire year.
“Opium is their financial engine,” said Brig. Gen. John Nicholson, the deputy commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan. “That is why we think he will fight for these areas.”
The Americans say that their main goal this summer will be to provide security for the Afghan population, and thereby isolate the insurgents.
But because the opium is tilled in heavily populated areas, and because the Taliban are spread among the people, the Americans say they will have to break the group’s hold on poppy cultivation to be successful.
No one here thinks that is going to be easy.
The basic problem is that opium – and cannabis, of which Afghanistan is also the world’s largest producer – funds not only the Taliban, but also warlords who back the Karzai government and, most important, the Afghan people. The common estimate is that drugs provide one‐third of Afghanistan’s economic output and benefit a comparable proportion of the population. Making war on opium inevitably means making war on the Afghan people.
Glenn Greenwald’s excellent report (on the successful decriminalization of all drugs in Portugal for personal use) was picked up by Scientific American: Portugal’s Drug Decriminalization Policy Shows Positive Results
What really caught my attention in this article was that they got the UNODC to agree that it seemed to work, but the response was Kafkaesque.
Walter Kemp, a spokesperson for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, says decriminalization in Portugal “appears to be working.” He adds that his office is putting more emphasis on improving health outcomes, such as reducing needle‐borne infections, but that it does not explicitly support decriminalization, “because it smacks of legalization.” Yes, decrim works, but we don’t support something that actually works because it sounds like something we’re afraid want to talk about. Right.
A spokesperson for the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy declined to comment, citing the pending Senate confirmation of the office’s new director, former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs also declined to comment on the report.Well, I guess no policy is better than what we’re used to.
Glenn Greenwald has more on the reaction to his report here.
Yesterday I was invited to Pajamas TV to discuss the increasingly violent situation in Mexico, where the drug‐related death toll continues to skyrocket. The other guest was journalist Matt Sanchez.
The discussion rapidly turned into a debate with Sanchez on the merits of drug legalization as an alternative to the current mayhem. If you’re interested in the topic, the video is available here, and the audio here.