Leaderless Politics and the ?Immigration Crisis?


  • I was pleasantly surprised by the positive reaction I received to my blog yesterday1. For those of you who wrote in, thank you. That said, I wanted to rewrite it, but didnt quite get to it. I would have changed the title to read Failed Leadership: organizing disorganized crimes.” Why As I have thought more about the woeful state of the world with its wide-spread absence of good leadership, it seemed to me that when important institutions and organizations suffer from a leadership deficit, what might have otherwise been disorganized crimes, are more likely to become organized criminal activity.
  • At first blush, this might seem paradoxical, but common sense and thoughtful reflection provide good evidence for the proposition. A family that suffers from inadequate parenting creates risks for its children. The data on this are overwhelming, and most of us know this from our own life experiences. Mentoring a child is terribly important to the childs progress. Professor Gary Becker, who made his life work the study of Human Capital2in its various dimensions, gave us a model to understand this process. Parents invest in their children by educating them and leading them with good role models. In general, more investment in those children leads those children to higher levels of human capital, and as a consequence, the choices and opportunities open to children with higher human capital are better and last longer. They tend to finish high school with greater frequency. They go on to college in greater numbers. They get better jobs and their lifetime incomes are substantially higherthan those with significantly lesshuman capital. They live longer and as a group, they experience less crime and far fewer penal outcomes.
  • You can reverse that causal sequence in a poorly parented family. An absent parent is not a leader. A single parent has greater leadership responsibilities and often, single parents cant carry the load of being both a breadwinner and the leader in the family at the same time. In a family with poor leadership, children are first disorganized and then they become self-organized by leadership outside the family. Some of those leaders outside the family provide unhealthy lessons for these children. Mentoring by outside “parents” can involve joining a street gang or becoming attracted to the drug trade. It often leads to poor schooling experience and an ultimate drop out. This is why the absence of leadership is critical. Deficient leadership can convert disorganized lives into organized crimes.
  • The inference we draw from this sketch is that rules organize human activity and that social organization works best with good leadership. Whoever leads generally follows some schema of rules but not all rules are good rules. Bad rules are often based on an uninformed prejudice, not credible facts. Some prejudices become the fuel for outrageous displays of Xenophobia. Xenophobia lies at the root of the so-called Immigration Crisis. Is it a crisis, or is there substantial misperception, deliberate or otherwise
  • No area of American (and European) life seems more fractious than the issue of immigration. Xenophobia also runs through European politics. Sadly, it is infecting the American Presidential campaign.3. In our view, the immigration crisis, is largely based on bad data or in the worst cases, no data at all supportive of such xenophobic contentions. In the era of Big Data, it is shocking to see those claiming to be leaders, basing their outrage and their solutions, on such an uninformed basis. It is particularly shameful for those who claim to be true conservatives or libertarians to fall prey to these claimed facts that are simply not true.
  • Poor leaders thrive on phony data, on facts that are untrue, or on lies that are politically expedient and dangerous to the body politic. Have we learned nothing from the horrors of World War II as well as all the other ethnic cleansing stories in recent years from countries led by awful officials Repeated intensively, the big lie, becomes the factual basis of a terrifying cure. What is the Mexican problem, after all—a revival of the Jewish Question We should know better and we should demand that our potential leaders immediately stop pandering to big lies. It will take courage for these candidates to get their head wrapped around the real facts and our own American historybut isnt courage one of the vital qualities that we look for in our leaders To lead well, they must begin with the truth.
  • As I have listened to these debates from alleged conservatives, I could not help but think, not only is the US suffering from a huge leadership deficit, but campaigns such as we now observe, extend and intensify that leadership deficit. Over the long run a leadership deficit will bring more trouble to this country than a fiscal deficit. We can cure the latter even in a modest amount of time. We reduce the size of government and much of the fiscal deficit will disappear as economic growth takes place. All of this is so well known by those who wish to know that it scarcely seems necessary to point it out. Yet, immigration, legal or illegal, has become the whipping boy of slow wage growth, increased crime and an expanding fiscal deficit. Resort to such factually empty explanations only underscores our growing leadership deficit. What about immigration, then Is it or is it not a serious problem
  • This country was built on immigrants. Immigration, particularly the heavy immigration of the later half of the 19th and early 20th century was positive for growth, positive for the growth of real wages and positive for the existing residents and surely positive for the immigrants. Those were years of mighty economic expansion, but note, there was no welfare state. That is a big difference as compared to today. The economics of that period is well understood by economists. Yet, some economists think that our immigration problems today are different. They are and they arent. Lets carefully understand where differences between our 19th and early 20th century experience and our current circumstances in the 21st Century lie, particularly since the 2007-2008 economic crisis.
  • The late Professor Milton Friedman made the issue of immigration totally clear years ago to Americans of every political stripe. As frequently happens, however, lesser men and women didnt understand or distorted what he said. Worse, they misquoted him and turned his powerful logic upside down. Heres the long and the short of it.4
  • The existence of the Welfare State changes the game. A legal immigrant by definition lowers welfare of those already here! An illegal immigrant raises welfare! Thats a paradox that seems at first blush difficult to understand. Clearly the Presidential candidates dont understand it. But, it is actually quite simple as Professor Friedman explained. It all depends upon who gets the welfare!
  • Suppose that all legal immigrants are entitled to the welfare benefits that existing citizens possess once they enter the U.S. And, for the simplest case, imagine that the sum total of all these welfare benefits amount to a trilliondollars (of course this is just a simple illustration). Further,imagine that there are no new immigrants in the first instance. Then, the per capita welfare benefit of a trillion dollars is divided over the existing population (excluding immigrants). Now suppose new immigrants (legal and illegal) appear and are entitled to the same benefits By definition, the rest of us suffer a diminution of welfare. Of course, our leaders can easilyincrease the welfare budget and laythe expenseon future generations. In either case, our welfare declines.
  • Now suppose there isonly illegal immigration An illegal immigrant cant qualify for benefits (when the rules are enforced). Thus, if a million illegals enter, the work force expands, (more GDP) but no more is spent on welfare than before they came. Whoops! Welfare for the rest of us goes up, because output goes up with no extra Federal Expense! Wheres the rub Simple: if you dont have a welfare state, then immigration (of either kind) is beneficial because output rises. Professor Friedman concluded that as long as we have a welfare state (which we are not ready to truncate), legal immigration can reduce our welfare, but illegal immigration, where welfare benefits are strictly enforced and illegals dont qualify, is welfare increasing! Ok, Candidates! Wrap your heads around that one!
  • The Candidates have it exactly wrong. They should all either agree to abolish the welfare state—in which case legal and illegal immigration benefit the rest of us—or they should permit only illegal immigration and enforce the law!
  • There is a moral to this story. If we have a rule, we need to enforce it. If we have a welfare state that we are unwilling to give up, then enforcing rules is very important. Politicians who find ways to leave rules unenforced, walk our citizens into a trap. But that is what we observe from our politicians who have huge leadership deficits.
  • At the end of the day, most of what comes out of the so-called immigration crisis, is gibberish in the best case, awful pandering or the Big Lie in the worst of cases. And, dont forget, at the base of this pile of dung, there are politicians who have failed at their most basic task: to be leaders. World history offers literally endless examples of States gone sour when their leaders failed to properly lead their citizens. Our founding fathers knew this, and they were deeply worried about how to prevent the future destruction of the Republic they had delivered to the world.
  • They started from the Articles of Confederation that had produced a weak national government and left the citizens of the new Republic as potential victims of foreign powers who would meet a fractured and weakened country. They labored in Philadelphia to produce a founding document that would answer the observed defects of prior, failed Republics. Together with the first 10 Amendments (The Bill of Rights, demanded by the Anti-Federalists as remedies to absolute power by the State), they produced a remarkable document. The Constitution has flexed and swayed and adapted to the exigencies of a rapidly growing country, suffused with immigrants who were building the New World. Implicit in this construction, however, was the need for thoughtful, courageous and diligent leaders. We were very lucky to have survived the early years of the Republic.
  • You know the rest of the story. Fourscore and seven years ago. To advance the cause of liberty and freedom, we found ourselves in a great Civil War that tested our principles and our leaders. Fortunately, when we needed them most, we did not have a leadership deficit and we entered the 20th century as a surging, growing, expanding, young nation ready to take on the world. We did it with masses of immigrants who arrived here looking for a better life than the one they had left. Those immigrants did very well, and so did the residents they joined. They were a powerful force for building America. We absorbed them, and they helped to transform America. Germans, Irish, East European Jews, Italians and a multitude of other nations and cultures. They took the jobs that those already here were not willing to take; they raised their children, they learned our language and our customs and they rose or fell strictly on their own efforts. There were no requirements for entry into the U.S. until we again got that immigration crisis mentality and started to restrict who could come here and under what conditions in the 1920’s. In the years after World War I, we had a series of business cycles that disrupted and changed America. Immigrants were blamed again. We began restricting entry.
  • We are now living in difficult times when many more demands are placed on Government to help the disadvantaged, and create a security blanket for those already here. When the immigrants come today, they dont face thenarrower government of the 19th and early 20thcenturies. They see an expanded Welfare State and by neglecting the rules, we have gotten into the habit of passing out the benefits to newcomers as well asexisting residents. That makes some people mad, but their causal reasoning is terribly faulty. We dont seem to have leaders willing to tell them the truth. Instead, we have politicians who want to use the immigration crisis as a path to office and power.
  • We have seen this movie before. Its time to shut it down. We have to stop confusing the so-called immigration crisiswith the problems that stem directly from the Welfare State we have created and the ‘leaders’ who run that state. Lets face it. We dont have an immigration crisis. We have a leadership crisis. Its time to put the leadership crisis to bed.










  1. DISORGANIZED AND ORGANIZED CRIMES: failed leadership and its consequences []
  2. Gary Becker,Human Capital: A Theoretical and Empirical Analysis, with Special Reference to Education, UChicago Press []
  3. The Immigration Boogeyman: Separating Fact from Fiction, at wharton.upenn.edu, 9/30/2015 []
  4. What Milton Friedman really said about immigration,Classically Liberal, May 8 2008 at freestudents.blogspot.com/2008/02/what-milton-friedman-really-said.html []