the Economy: Home and the World

Many libertarians support relaxed immigration.  I don’t wish to argue for or against any particular policy – or even suggest that a liberty-oriented framework is right for this question to begin with – but want to examine the conceptual consistency of a liberty-based defense of greater migration or open borders.

To start, let’s define the purpose of a liberty-oriented state.  One might observe that a minimal amount of government coercion is necessary to attenuate threats to life and property that exist in pure anarchy (in fact, the idea of property is conceptually meaningless without a state that is willing to protect it coercively).  Such a state probably enforces some property rights, militates against tortious behavior, and possibly engages in other action that secures a broader basket of liberties (maybe freedom from hunger through welfare or freedom from stupidity through public education, though there is a natural limit to redefining positive liberties in the negative since there is obviously no philosophical merit to the freedom from being slightly uncomfortable on a transcontinental flight).

Reasoning in favor of further coercion ought to be precise about the broader liberty being protected.  This is naturally relevant to immigration law because, in anarchy, people would be violently defending their own borders.  There are clearly enough people in this country that are very invested in the effort to reduce migration from the southern border and I would guess their opponents would not have the conviction to physically prevent the building of a border wall by a volunteer army thereof.  This does not happen today because the state coercively prevents such organization.

Of course, some extremely fundamental liberties are secured through this coercion (ignoring the many other laws that then constrain the realization of these liberties):  hiring anyone that can afford to live nearby, marrying and starting a family with a foreigner, and taking care of your elderly parents, among many others.  Even if you don’t agree that it is within the state’s remit to secure some of these liberties, it is clear they are fundamental and reasonable to advocate.

But in the modern state immigration is inextricably connected with a host of other coercive results – the dilution of native franchise in the election of a government that has the authority to choose who should be richer and who should be poorer; which people commit what crimes deserving incarceration for how long; indeed who should live and who should die.  Immigration also naturally entitles migrants to native property.  (Note that the possibly-true economic claim that immigration makes people richer is not relevant to the political claim that it naturally incurs a native liability in doing so).  Those not libertarian might argue that this is a good thing, but that’s not relevant to the premise of this post.  Those who are libertarian might argue against the existence of such transfer programs to begin with, but there are two problems associated with such a response.

  1. Such transfer programs do exist, and libertarian arguments in favor of open borders seem to be held and argued-for independently and therefore the point isn’t immediately relevant.
  2. Removing transfer programs erected within a liberty-oriented state on the altar of permitting grander migration might itself violate the people’s liberty of coordinating to help poor and weak natives.  This is obviously a rather complex invocation of some sort of second-order liberty –- that is, the liberty of a people to abridge some rights of individuals to secure a higher-order liberty for the people.  It seems to me that any philosophy grounded in human history and culture would afford at least some agency to people and not just individuals.  But I only wish to point out this problem rather than arbitrate its validity in detail.

It may be possible to reconcile open migration within libertarian thinking by removing birthright citizenship and generally making citizenship somewhat unavailable.  Whether or not this is a practically good idea, it creates more problems for the purpose of this argument than it solves.

  1. It creates the new questions, including fundamentally “who should be a citizen”, that retain central features of the old question “who gets to come in”.  Maybe certain economic liberties are no longer at stake, say hiring foreigners, but many political liberties remain unclear, like the right to have American children that have many of the liberties we argued Americans should have.
  2. Ad infinitum it creates a permanent, de jure class of second-class people.  Do these people not have the right not to be taxed without representation?  Their right to “exit” isn’t a good enough answer, especially because the liberty-oriented justification of their presence is solely as an exercise of native liberty.  Offering the right of exit as defense also shares the same flaws as arguing that taxes in general are not coercive because people can always choose not to work.
  3. Expanding on (2), it also creates a phantom line of between the total set of liberties secured by the government, and the subset thereof afforded to migrants.  If the justification of their arrival is premised only on native rights, there seems nothing conceptually abhorrent about permitting their slavery, or perhaps less abominably, imposing greater taxes on their production.  It’s possible to solve this problem by appealing to a “liberty of a people” type argument like the one outlined above, but such an argument is specifically predicated on closed borders of some kind.

This extreme might highlight why a liberty-oriented framework is not practically relevant for this question – since in reality we a migration policy that gives some rights, but not others, to foreigners until they pass an arbitrary requirement to become citizens that might be considered acceptable by many people.  But that’s not philosophically interesting.

The constraining factors of a “second best” solution should also be noted.  A libertarian may want only small coercive transfers, if any, and generally limited government; and open borders may be ideologically consistent in this version of his ideal world.

But when we don’t have open borders, every quasi-legal migrant — that is everyone that is either permitted into the country or not coercively removed after their arrival — represents the active choice of the government to permit the migration of some and not that of others.  It is possibly true that in this world, factors like economic genius or familial connection should be prized over geographic happenstance.

The other interesting thing is that affording some rights to non-citizen migrants – as we obviously should – would seem to also logically imply the security of such rights to the same people before they are migrants.  It is indeed true that we don’t want and should fight against people starving on the streets.  But if that person is an Indian migrant it’s not clear why we shouldn’t at least in principle fight just as hard against his brother starving on Indian streets.

(Unless, of course, the reason we don’t want someone starving on the streets is to prevent public consumers of those streets from suffering the image of starvation.  Just as we would probably ban slavery since it is aesthetically disgusting, the right move for the wrong reasons.)

Or perhaps commitment towards liberty does justify, or even require, coercive sacrifices of lower-order freedoms to secure the life and liberty of non-citizens abroad.  But this probably includes interventionist militarism, sometimes known as “neoconservatism”, which is unlikely to find support among many, or even most, people that want more immigration or open borders.  Arguments against such intervention from liberals probably reference some idea of foreign self-determination, which would also afford natives here the right of constraining immigration policy through ideas of who they are as a people, rooted in ideology, history, religion, and likely allergic to unbridled migration.

As I understand it, free trade ideology became prominent in a world where the most obvious barriers to the realization of comparative advantages were between not within borders.  Since then, income taxes and labor market regulation have become the most substantial sources of government interventionism.  Why do many economists find it obvious that tariffs would signal economic calamity, even if they are accompanied by broad, within border liberalization?  To put it another way, why do so many economists fiercely argue against taxes between countries while ignoring, or even cheering, taxes between people?

In his “Contract with the American voter”, Donald Trump pledged to “direct the Secretary of the Treasury to label China a currency manipulator”.  Though Trump would likely have some degree of discretion to do this, I think he will be constrained by statutory restrictions pursuant to the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 and Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 which will serve to limit his discretion.  These restrictions are important given the latitude of defensive actions an Executive may authorize against classified currency manipulators.

It’s also relevant that Trump has not surrounded himself with people eager to label China as a currency manipulator.  In 2009, Democrat Tim Ryan (who is now, notably, is trying to unseat Nancy Pelosi as minority leader) introduced the “Currency Reform for Fair Trade Act”, H.R. 2378, which was primarily aimed at China and would have authorized a “countervailing tariff” against exports from the country in question commensurate with the degree of fundamental undervaluation, as determined by the IMF.  The bill never became law, but passed the House 348-79, with majorities of both parties in favor of passage.  (Democrats and Republicans respectively voted 250-5 and 98-74 in favor of the bill).  And among the Republicans voting against H.R. 2378 were Mike Pence and Jeb Hensarling, both of whom are seen as top advisors to Donald Trump (Mike Pence for obvious reasons and Jeb Hensarling as an advisory on financial issues and possible Treasury Secretary).

The Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 offers the clearest statutory provisions for labeling and penalizing a country for manipulating its currency.  Among other things, it requires that Treasury submit a report to Congress regarding “macroeconomic and currency exchange rate policies of each country that is a major trading partner of the United States”.  It further requires an “enhanced analysis” for trading partners that,

  1. have a “significant” bilateral trade surplus with the United States,
  2. a “material” current account surplus, and
  3. engaged in “persistent” one-sided intervention in the foreign exchange market.

The Trade Enforcement Act requires Treasury to publicly describe the factors used to make this assessment “not later than 90 days after [the Act] is enacted”.  In April, Treasury presented such a report which included explicit thresholds necessary to meet the aforementioned conditions:

  1. An economy has a significant trade surplus with the United States if its bilateral trade surplus is larger than $20 billion (roughly 0.1 percent of U.S. GDP) which captures around 80 percent of the value of all trade surpluses with the United States last year.
  2. An economy has a material current account surplus if its surplus is larger than 3.0 percent of that economy’s GDP.
  3. An economy has engaged in persistent one-sided intervention in the foreign exchange market if it has conducted repeated net purchases of foreign currency that amount to more than 2 percent of its GDP over the year.

For countries that require “enhanced analysis”, the 2015 statute prescribes several remedial actions, while reserving executive discretion to waive such action if it would negatively affect the US economy or threaten national security.

In general.–The President, through the Secretary, shall commence enhanced bilateral engagement with each country for which an enhanced analysis of macroeconomic and currency exchange rate policies is included in the report submitted under subsection (a), in order to, as appropriate–

  1. urge implementation of policies to address the causes of the undervaluation of its currency, its significant bilateral trade surplus with the United States, and its material current account surplus, including undervaluation and surpluses relating to exchange rate management;
  2. express the concern of the United States with respect to the adverse trade and economic effects of that undervaluation and those surpluses;
  3. advise that country of the ability of the President to take action under subsection (c); and/or
  4. develop a plan with specific actions to address that undervaluation and those surpluses.

Most importantly, the President is required to follow one or more of the following defensive actions if one year after after the commencement of enhanced bilateral engagement “the country has failed to adopt appropriate policies to correct the undervaluation and surpluses” :

  1. Prohibit the Overseas Private Investment Corporation from approving any new financing (including any insurance, reinsurance, or guarantee) with respect to a project located in that country on and after such date.
  2. Except as provided in paragraph (3), and pursuant to paragraph (4), prohibit the Federal Government from procuring, or entering into any contract for the procurement of, goods or services from that country on and after such date.
  3. Instruct the United States Executive Director of the International Monetary Fund to call for additional rigorous surveillance of the macroeconomic and exchange rate policies of that country and, as appropriate, formal consultations on findings of currency manipulation.
  4. Instruct the United States Trade Representative to take into account, in consultation with the Secretary, in assessing whether to enter into a bilateral or regional trade agreement with that country or to initiate or participate in negotiations with respect to a bilateral or regional trade agreement with that country, the extent to which that country has failed to adopt appropriate policies to correct the undervaluation and surpluses described in subsection.

The most recent report to Congress pursuant to the 2015 Act did not identify China as satisfying all three of the necessary conditions, which means Trump would likely be required to wait at least a year and a half before labeling China as a currency manipulator and pursuing any bilateral negotiation authorized thereof, as China would first have to be found to be in violation of the the appropriate benchmarks in the next report, due around April 2017, allowing retaliative procedures to begin in April 2018 if China fails to change course.

Furthermore, it’s not clear Treasury would even have the authority to find China deserving of “enhanced analysis” in the first place.  For one, the Act requires that Treasury publicly provide factors used in this assessment within 90 days after its enactment last year, and does not seem to authorize an amendment of these specific factors.  (That said, if a Trump Treasury redefines the specific benchmarks within the scope of the statutory requirements, it’s unlikely anyone would complain – especially since there appears to be bipartisan support for this policy.)

Therefore it seems quite unlikely China would even qualify for “enhanced analysis”, let alone be classified as a manipulator unless Congress amends existing statute.

  1. As the most recent Treasury report to Congress notes, China has been intervening to increase the value of its currency and their foreign exchange reserves have fallen substantially as a result.
  2. China’s current account surplus is below the 3 percent of GDP necessary under Treasury’s existing guidelines.
  3. Bloomberg recently reported that “Beijing was embroiled in a spate of frenzied dollar-selling last month as capital outflows and a depreciating yuan saw foreign-exchange reserves tumble by $80 billion”.
  4. Even new benchmarks, were they allowed, would need to be standardized, which might unwittingly require classification of Japan, Germany, and South Korea as trade manipulators.  (These countries are already closer to being currency manipulators under current guidelines – this year Germany, apparently, overtook China with the world’s largest current account, despite having a substantially smaller economy.)

The 2015 Act also prohibits any action that “is inconsistent with United States obligations under international agreements”.  I’m not familiar with the details of international trade treaties, but singling out China as a currency manipulator and pursuing actions required thereof, while tolerating greater grievances from other countries would seem to violate some Treaty, though that’s just speculative.

The President also has some authority from the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988, though the language of relevant provisions suggests to me that the 2015 Act supersedes the 1988 Act insofar as currency manipulation is concerned.

If the Secretary considers that such manipulation is occurring with respect to countries that (1) have material global current account surpluses; and (2) have significant bilateral trade surpluses with the United States, the Secretary of the Treasury shall take action to initiate negotiations with such foreign countries on an expedited basis, in the International Monetary Fund or bilaterally, for the purpose of ensuring that such countries regularly and promptly adjust the rate of exchange between their currencies and the United States dollar to permit effective balance of payments adjustments and to eliminate the unfair advantage.

(By language I mean “significant” trade and “material” current account surpluses.)  China was last labeled as a manipulator in 1994 pursuant to this requirement.

In short, given that Trump may be accompanied by advisors that are against labeling China as a currency manipulator, is probably not authorized under current statute to direct the Treasury secretary to label China as a manipulator unless it rapidly changes its course, would still need to wait a year after the next analytical report to pursue any action, would unlikely find that China’s currency is even undervalued if it did perform an “enhanced analysis”, and would probably have to also label Germany and Japan as currency manipulators for any reasonable interpretation of the statutory requirement, it seems unlikely that this will become a problem in the foreseeable future.

On the rather simple question of whether banning low-wage employment would increase overall employment, Paul Krugman has offered an answer that refers to the real money supply, liquidity trap, short-run interest rates, Federal Reserve, monetary base, outside money, among other economic concepts we can barely define, let alone measure.

First and foremost, Krugman’s premise that a decrease in minimum wage results in lower wages assumes his conclusion that a reduction in the minimum wage does not increase employment.  A lower minimum wage results in lower wages only if it does not increase employment.  To the extent it increases employment, many wages w = 0, become positive.  The mistake he makes is clear in one of the introductory paragraphs.

Here’s how the fallacy works: if some subset of the work force accepts lower wages, it can gain jobs. If workers in the widget industry take a pay cut, this will lead to lower prices of widgets relative to other things, so people will buy more widgets, hence more employment.

The first and second sentences are not consistent.  Those arguing the minimum wage will increase employment are, by definition, not referring to workers in the widget industry that take a pay cut.  As I’ve explained in this post,  to the extent the employer has a lot of bargaining power to siphon surplus from labor, it should be able to pay heterogeneous wages.  To the extent the employer operates in a very competitive labor market, it is difficult to imagine many workers taking a pay cut only because the minimum wage was reduced.

There are ways to contrive an effect where the increase in employment is offset by decrease in the wages of those already working.  Typically this assumes the desired conclusion, as above.  Additionally, even if this were to be the case, Krugman’s conclusion is channeled through complicated monetary mechanisms that are not well-defined, hard to measure, and embedded with lots of uncertainty.

(It is true that one day someone will write a paper demonstrating how newly employed workers have a high marginal propensity to save because their employment means the price level of goods will fall increasing expected deflation and the present value of debt, which furthers the liquidity trap, resulting in even greater unemployment.  The paper might conclude with the “paradox of employment”, where banning employment actually increases employment.)

Krugman also relies upon a conflation between general wage levels and the minimum wage.

But if everyone takes a pay cut, that logic no longer applies. The only way a general cut in wages can increase employment is if it leads people to buy more across the board. And why should it do that?

Most people are not employed at the minimum wage, and therefore it seems unlikely that a decrease would somehow trigger a “paradox of toil”, wherein the increase in labor reduces the price level, thereby increasing the real value of debt at any meaningful threshold.  By definition the minimum wage is not a general change in wages.

The minimum wage is a 100% tax on all wages wk.  Perhaps instead of increasing k we should reduce the tax rate.  Does Krugman believe a decrease in the low-wage tax rate would have contractionary effects in a liquidity trap?

Say there is a rich country without a minimum wage.  Some people rightfully dislike challenging labor.  For example, in a remote college town, some people fold student laundry at $4/hr for 40 hours a week, and work at the local library for $6/hr for another 20 hours a week, yielding a weekly salary of $280.  The federal government determines that $280/week is necessary, and therefore requires a $7/hr minimum wage based on a 40 hour work week.  Some time later an economist uses regression analysis to show that neither employment nor output fell, how could this be?

Though wages at existing jobs probably increased without reducing net employment to some extent, through some third-order mechanism, a simpler and more tangible answer is available.  Suppose individuals in the above example had a target wage of $250, without which they would die.  The available hours for employment doing laundry or working at the library are no longer high enough to meet the target.  Therefore, some such individuals started working as low-end construction workers earning $11/hr part-time, a job which they never wanted given its physical rigor.

Small increases in the minimum wage at non-random times over a long history may not demonstrate this effect.  But there are lots of people who may be working jobs that are mentally, emotionally, or physically strenuous because easier labor has been criminalized. Hence, demonstrating that there is not a significant decline in employment after the minimum wage, by itself, does not show anything.

Lots of people could be truck drivers or natural gas workers in North Dakota, probably earning way more than they do today.  They choose not to because they don’t want to drive around the country all day or leave their families as modern-day migrant workers.  People have the right to make this choice.  If it is offensive for whatever reason that some people are not rich enough, we should give them cash instead of criminalizing their choices.

A friend pointed me towards a description of a labor market where a minimum wage would increase employment and output from two economists at the Cleveland Fed.  I’m not sure whether the model they propose is novel, or from the literature.  I wanted to explore this claim in more detail, since I am told that the presence of monopsony employers is an important feature of arguments in favor of the minimum wage.

Consider a local labor market in which a large coal mine is the community’s dominant employer (a monopsony). Because the mine has negligible competition from other firms, it can set a wage that maximizes its profits. Unlike a competitive firm, however, a monopsony cannot hire as many workers as it wants at a constant wage. If the mine wants to add workers, it must offer a higher wage to attract new labor-force entrants. Suppose, for instance, that 10 potential hires have reservation wages below $5 and another candidate has a $6 reservation wage. If the mine wants to hire 11 workers, it must raise its wage from $5 to $6 across the board. Thus the mine’s cost of adding one worker, the marginal cost of labor, has two elements: the $6 hourly wage it pays one person plus a $1 hourly increase for each of the other 10. In this case, the marginal cost of labor is $16 ($6 + $10).

The firm maximizes its profits when the cost of having an additional worker equals the value of that person’s output. Thus, in the right-hand panel of figure 2, the point where the marginal product of labor intersects with the marginal cost of labor is the employment level for a monopsonistic firm. Notice that the employment level is lower than it would be in a competitive labor market. The wage, which can be read on the labor supply curve for the monopsonistic employment level (denoted wM in figure 2), is lower than the competitive wage. So a monopsonistic firm employs fewer workers and pays them less than their marginal product.

Suppose that Congress sets a federal minimum wage that is higher than the monopsony’s wage but still below the competitive one. In that case, the curve representing the marginal cost of labor (right-hand panel of figure 2) flattens until it intersects with the labor supply curve. This happens because the cost of an additional worker is now simply the minimum wage (as long as the firm does not want to hire more workers than the number willing to work at or below this minimum wage). In this case, a minimum wage increases employment by mitigating the negative effects of a monopsony’s power. All workers gain: More of them have jobs, and those who do receive a higher wage. The employer loses because the minimum wage policy reduces its profits. In fact, the optimal level for the minimum wage is the competitive wage that maximizes employment (right-hand panel of figure 2).

I think this model fails to accurately portray the economics of a monopsony employer.

  1. Suppose the firm knows the reservation wage of each worker.  If it were truly a monopsony it would just pay that amount, since it has all the bargaining power it would not be constrained by a constant wage rate.
  2. Suppose the firm does not know the reservation wage of each worker.  It would just announce how much it would be willing to pay the nth worker for n = 1 to n = population and accept bids for employment.  Without unionization or collusion this handles heterogeneity in reservation wage.  This obviously would not happen in reality, but nor would total monopsonies, if that’s our metric.  The firm probably also has reasonably good heuristics about reservation wages based on easily observable factors.  (Additionally, in the above case it is almost certainly true that the government in charge of a minimum wage has substantially less information about reservation wages, preventing a reasoned ability to set policy.)
  3. Suppose a monopsony initially hires 5 workers at $1 and another 3 workers at $2.  The imposition of a minimum wage at $2, assuming the premise about equal productivity and everything else is correct, would increase wages for low-reservation workers and reduce profits by $5.  This effect remain true even if all workers had a reservation wage of $1.  This suggests the premise is unnecessarily complex and noisy; or relies on odd assumptions about ability to pay heterogenous wages for a supposed monopsony.
  4. Furthermore the reduction in profits from the minimum wage is realized as an increase in the cost of capital.  This increases the required rate of return from workers on new projects, which unfairly hurts those whose necessary value to firms falls below the minimum wage as required rate of return increases.  The minimum wage is not statically imposed but affects future periods, cost of capital, etc.
  5. The example in (3) provides a distributional effect.  However this could just be accomplished through tax and transfer.  There is the concern that this would let the monopsony underpay the higher reservation wage worker since the government pays some or all of the difference.  To the extent that is the case, the government can just increase the tax rate.  This doesn’t matter as it normally would since the only taxable entity is a monopsony.
  6. It seems unrealistic that there is no correlation between reservation wage and quality of labor.  For example, the higher reservation may reflect greater talent in normal economies.  In a monopsony it just reflects a higher labor preference.  However, that means the increase in employment is not welfare increasing per se.  Even in the contrived example of constant wages, imposing a minimum wage at the higher reservation only results in surplus for the lower wage employees, as the new entrants sacrifice equally-valuable leisure.
  7.  In reality there are probably not monopsonies like the ones described above.  Congress should not set a federal minimum wage on that basis.

Let me briefly address the idea that minimum wage addresses the problem of market wages being far lower than return to each worker.  Surplus has to be distributed between two parties in some way.  If workers receive less because they have lower bargaining power, it might be a good idea to encourage union formation.

It’s unclear why the minimum wage would increase bargaining power – especially since it prohibits threat of competition for those who have a preference for easier jobs.  Some unskilled workers that like peace and quiet might have worked for $5/hr folding clothes for college students in a remote suburb.  The imposition of a $15/hr minimum wage might force such workers into low-end construction or other harder jobs.  Employment does not fall and wages increase but happiness and freedom does.

In any case, the normative claim should not be “workers should deserve x percent of surplus” but rather “workers should be rich enough to buy y“.  A tax and transfer looks like a better solution here, even in the face of contrived examples.

I also don’t understand the following claim from the article.

If the market wage is too low and workers lack bargaining power, the introduction of a binding minimum wage strengthens labor force participation, even though the duration of unemployment increases. In contrast, if the market wage is high, a minimum wage reduces the supply of vacancies and increases unemployment duration, which discourages workers from entering in the labor force.

  1. Market wages may be low relative to productivity if reservation wages are also low for some reason.  Meaningful lack of labor force participation occurs when market < reservation < value.  For one, this is unlikely to occur with heterogenous wages which would be attempted in any number of creative ways were such a situation to ever exist.
  2. The existence of low participation could just as easily reflect value < reservation as it does market < reservation.  In normal economies, increasing the minimum wage will result in mandatory productivity that may be greater than some people can reasonably muster, reducing participation.

Finally let’s just observe that we aren’t capable of measuring productivity, marginal revenue product, reservation wage, competitive equilibrium wage, bargaining power in at the conceptual and statistical resolution necessary to advance a policy that can change the lives of many individuals.

Some journalists like to cite stories of farms that would be empty without migrant workers.  Many of the same journalists also refer to academic studies which point out that immigration actually increases the wages of would-be displaced workers.  It’s impossible to believe that both of these narratives are generally true.  We cannot reason about economic decisions without reference to price – there is definitely a wage at which native American workers are more than happy to till the Alabama soil.  It is also implausible that farms would just disappear under the weight of higher wages. Increases in the input cost for goods with inelastic demand, like basic food and shelter, are substantially represented in the market price.  It might be that with existing citizenship laws the efficient market outcome requires more food to be imported, though that may not be worse than relying on low wages guaranteed by the captive supply of illegal workers.

This isn’t to say that an ideal outcome would not tolerate all willing immigrants.  Unfortunately, the liabilities incurred on behalf of foreigners that avail themselves of birthright citizenship creates a “second-best” world where further liberalization of cross-national labor is not always optimal.  Electoral franchise in a country where the government can choose which jobs deserve to be subsidized and which to be taxed – where it can choose who should be richer, and who poorer; where it adjudicates which parents love their children and which are negligent; indeed where it can choose who should live, and who should die – is a sacred institution protecting the essence of freedom.

It ill behooves the proponents of a more cosmopolitan society to belittle the concerns of those whose franchise is diluted on the altar of immigrants chosen not by cultural affinity or economic genius, but sheer geographic happenstance.  That the harbinger of this sentiment may sound angry and crass does not excuse public thinkers from arguing against the most ideal version of their opponent’s argument, instead of its ugly manifestation.  It is not Donald Trump’s fault that flagship American media outlets make scant effort to understand and interpret his followers’ beliefs, with the same benefit of the doubt they frequently afford equally unsophisticated advocates of their own received wisdom.