A thought or three on the the immigration policy that Trump (and his Mephistophelian sidekick, Steve Bannon) are pushing. The first thing to grasp is that they are acting in what is easily seen as a classically childish fashion. Their vision is warped by narrow thinking and their decisions are driven by tiny, ego-centric, close-minded fears. There is, so far as I can tell, not a shred of interest in the long-range implications of their efforts, not a nod toward economic theory.
To see this we need to take a few simple principles of demographic analysis into account. These principles are, indeed, simple but they do call for a modicum of decency, a dollop of empathy and a willingness to acknowledge that cultures evolve and change over time. So:
I. When countries become economically stable the birth rate declines. None of the Western democracies are replacing the population through birth. This principle is as rock-solid as any. Children, in poor societies are more than objects to be cherished and nurtured, they are a source of economic growth. As a society become economically viable this benefit becomes a liabilitly and, consequently, the birth rate drops.
II. The elderly in a society are costly. Medical expenses, pensions, Social Security and a host of other support systems for the geriatric set need to be in place. Their costs are covered by the economic engines the younger generations provide. With declining birth rate that engine looses its steam.
III. When birth rates drop, the well-being of the society is threatened by this economic disruption. The only place to find the younger “replacements” is through immigration — an obvious conclusion.
IV. Long-term demographic analyses project that the current rush of immigrants into Europe will provide strong positive economic gain in the decades to come — along with diversity in dress, food and the arts, further enriching the culture. How this plays out will be governed in large measure by the degree to which Europeans shed their fears and suspicion of cultural differences. If they marginalize the immigrants there will be fewer benefits of their presence.
V. These long-range projections also reveal which countries, based on current policy, are likely to blossom over the next several decades and which will not. Canada, for one, is projected to benefit significantly because of its relatively open immigration laws. Countries with xenophobic traditions and relatively closed doors will fare poorly. Amond developed countries, Japan has the worst economic prognosis because of their reluctance to absorb foreigners.
VI. Current analyses show that the US, because of policies in place before the Trump presidency, has a good, long-term economic picture. But if Trump/Bannon prevail, not so much.Their anti-immigration policies will have significant downward impact on the US economy. In addition to being a policy that is driven by fear, nurtures and encourages nativism and xenophobia, it is poor, long-term economic policy.
How much damage can the Trump administration do? This is far from clear. It will depend in large measure on how the courts treat things like the Muslim ban, the planned wall along the Mexican border and other proposed changes in immigration policy. So far the courts have not treated the Executive Orders banning Mulims kindly. It looks like Congress will balk at funding the wall and we have yet to see what specific changes in immigration policy will be proposed.
I’m hopeful…. Not something I often experience since the ugly people took over the government.