Who Wants No Immigration?

A “straw man” argument is one in which the opponent’s argument is claimed to have been refuted by attacking an exaggerated and, frequently, over-simplified version of the opponent’s actual argument i.e.

  1. Creating a weak, cartoonish version of the opponent’s argument (the straw man) and
  2. Attacking that rather than the opponent’s actual argument

It is not the same as a reductio ad absurdum (“reduction to absurdity”). In a reductio ad absurdum a claim is established by showing that to do otherwise would lead to absurdity.

The planning fallacy also known as the “rosy scenario fallacy” is when only the best case scenario is considered rather than the likely scenario. There’s also the tertium non datur fallacy in which only two choices are presented although there are, in fact, other possibilities maybe not just three but potentially many.

I honestly don’t know what Justin Gest is trying to accomplish in his recent opinion piece at CNN, “What America would look like with zero immigration”:

As the US government now grapples with a backlog of asylum-seekers and immigrants at the southern border, a team of economists, demographers and I modeled what America would be like if those earlier policies were to continue hereafter. Commissioned by the bipartisan immigration advocacy group FWD.us, our independent research used the most recent US Census and economic data to project the outcomes of a variety of different policy scenarios — one that cuts immigration to zero as Trump effectively did in 2020; one that cuts immigration admissions in half; one that extends recent levels; one that increases recent levels by 50%; and one that doubles recent levels.


No doubt, the US needs an orderly system of migration management. But the young and industrious newcomers yearning to stabilize their lives and secure their survival are actually critical to our nation’s survival, too.

but I think it’s either a straw man argument, a clumsy and flawed attempt at a reductio ad absurdum, an instantiation of the planning fallacy, or a tertium non datur. I’m leaning toward the latter.

AFAICT no one is arguing that we should have zero immigration. Most polling shows the overwhelming preponderance of Aemricans supportive of some level of immigration. There’s a good argument that he has instantiated the planning fallacy because there are so many variables he and his colleagues have not, apparently, considered. Let me list some of those:

  • a significant number of immigrants with zero productivity
  • the cost per immigrant
  • Japan

Japan is a particularly interesting case. Immigration there is miniscule, the population is actually declining, but the GDP per capita is increasing. That doesn’t sound like a scenario he and his colleagues have entertained.

For my part I don’t want zero immigration as should be clear from my many posts on the subject. What I want is for us to establish rules for immigration and to enforce them. Is that really too much to ask? If so, how could one have “an orderly system of migration management”? I also think that the U. S. will benefit more from immigration if we optimize the immigrants that we admit as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand do.

5 comments… add one
  • steve Link

    “AFAICT no one is arguing that we should have zero immigration.”

    Let me give you a list of right wing blogs and you can find people making that argument, but I would agree that no one we should take seriously makes the argument. This is pretty much the same for open borders. No one seriously makes that argument. Yup, you can find a few oddballs, just like you can with the no immigrants argument.


  • bob sykes Link

    I’m against any immigration, unless the immigrant brings high level skills, and is young enough to have children.

    Japan’s situation, falling population and rising per caput GDP is ideal.

  • This is pretty much the same for open borders.

    I don’t think it’s quite the same. Arguing for open borders doesn’t require you to use the words “open borders”. If you argue against enforcement or think there should be no standards or requirements, you de facto think there should be open borders.

    Additionally, there are a large number of libertarian econbloggers, some quite influential who indeed argue for open borders.

  • steve Link

    You dont have to say no immigration, you can just set the standards difficult enough and effectively have no immigration.

    Who, anyone of significance is arguing for no enforcement?


  • Grey Shambler Link

    Or he’s simply establishing, burnishing his progressive bona fides. He has a book to sell and replacing America’s White population with supposedly gentler peoples is a popular progressive position.

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