Culture Wars/Current Controversies

Sanders v. Klein on immigration: The old Left against the adolescent Left

A division emerges between the social democratic labor Left and the cultural Left.

By Ian Smith

The Hill

The recent fiery to-and-fro between old-style social democrat Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and Vox-founder Ezra Klein was a perfect illustration of just how long it’s been since the Left was right on immigration. Klein, an immigration-novice who once stated we need open-borders or else the quality of Chinese restaurants would decline, attempted to rebut Sanders’ once-uncontroversial notion that excessive immigration depresses wages, by touting the increasingly popular, yet evidence-free, idea that an open-borders policy can actually solve global inequality. Although Klein’s response was less thoughtful assessment, more emotional spasm, it’s become standard argumentation for contemporary facts-be-damned Democrats.

Refuting Sanders’ argument that “open-borders” debases American sovereignty and hurts working people, Klein stated that the question was really a more ‘philosophical’ one. By making the “global poor richer”, he said, what immigration policy should really be based on is a ‘weighting’ between national sovereignty and global inequities. This overly moralistic but increasingly common position is a major subject of a new book on immigration: How Many Is Too Many? by Philip Cafaro. A philosophy professor himself, as well as a progressive against open-borders, Cafaro pillories his fellow leftists when they apply “overly abstract” and “highly general ethical principles” to a “particular policy issue in a specific time and place.” This usually shows, he writes, they have “little apparent understanding of the effects [such] proposals might have on the people living in that society.” This is indeed a fair sketch of the left today.


2 replies »

  1. Bernie is smart on this. In the 1920’s the Republicans did somewhat the Trump thing. It went from almost an open immigration system to the quota system. Immigration was slowed down, so companies couldn’t drove down wages with a labor oversupply as they did during the Robber Baron period. Sanders would probably have the people already in legalized but support limits on guest worker programs since they drive down wages. Trump would be more aggressive and try to force them out but have some good back on work visas. In fact when I found out that Mexico has gone from 100 to 300 aerospace companies I agree Mexico needs more of a labor union movement than to use the US as a safety valve for poor people. A county of 300 aerospace companies should not be sending that many people to the US. I know there are poor rural areas but wages should also go up there as well.

  2. Consider working together with at least thousands of other freedom, peace and justice lovers – in finally providing a comprehensive and clear declaration of all individual rights and liberties. Otherwise we get buried in the details of discussing the pros and cons of an unlimited number of wrongful interventions. It could become a common platform for all kinds of anarchists, libertarians and even statists – as long as none of them claims any territorial monopoly for his or her supposed ideal or utopia. This would mean a full development of the ancient personal law tradition. Even the philosophical enemies of “rights” could have their own utopia for themselves – at their own risk and expense. Catholics – and others – could e.g. restrict their right to freedom of expression and information as much as they like – but not those of others. http://www.panarchy is not my own website but that of Gian P. de Bellis and merely offers much of my output.

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