Niall, meet hammer

The “celebrity historian” Niall Ferguson1 recently applied his keen intellect to the illegal immigration question [America's problem isn't immigration - it's education]. There are numerous errors in Ferguson's essay, some minor, some not so minor, but only one error is necessary to address, as it’s embedded within his conclusion, and therefore its existence is utterly fatal to his entire line of reasoning. Ferguson writes:
"It makes no sense to jeopardise the benefits of globalisation to protect the employment prospects of high-school dropouts. So here's a modest counter-proposal for the House of Representatives. Instead of building an expensive, hideous and probably ineffective new Iron Curtain, why not use the money to get this simple message across to the kids in America's high schools: If you flunk, you're sunk. Yes, boys and girls, academic achievement is the only route to decent employment in an economy at the top of the technological food chain. Drop out of education without qualifications, and you'll be lucky to get a job alongside the Mexicans picking fruit or stacking shelves.

Sounds kind of harsh, I know. But a second Great Depression sounds a lot harsher."
Actually, coming from the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at Harvard University it sounds more facile than harsh. But the reason to reject Ferguson’s “modest counter-proposal” is not because of how it sounds, but because - and here is Ferguson’s fatal error - mass immigration increases the number of Americans who are poorly educated. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the high school dropout rate of first and second generation Hispanics is nearly twice that of non-Hispanics. Even more disturbing, the educational attainment of Hispanics improves little over time, as only 41% of fourth generation Mexican Americans graduate from high school.

How can Ferguson be unaware of such easily discovered data? This may sound harsh, but he must be so convinced of his own brilliance it never occurred to him to do the slightest bit of research.

1As his publicists tirelessly remind us, he's been called “the most talented British historian of his generation”, which, sadly, may even be true.


  1. Are you sure that wasn't Gef speaking? Was there some mix-up in posting?
    I'm surprised to learn that the "benefits of globalization" depend entirely on massive inflows of unskilled, cheap labor.
    Whatever would we do if Mexico wasn't so poor relative to us? If it was like Canada? Would the whole enterprise fail then? For all their faith in globalization most of these guys seem to think it forever teeters precariously on the brink of collapse before any resistance from staid notions of national borders and sovereignty.

  2. Of course not. Because Switzerland limits immigration, has it rejected globalization? It's absurd.

    Free trade and capital flows are what matter, Ferguson has no justifaction for yoking them together, giving them all equal weight, and then claiming if restrictions are placed on illegals, restrictions on trade and capital inevitably follow.

    I think a greater concern with mass immigration is that it will increase regulation of trade, capital, and the economy in general (Mexico is 60th on the index of economic freedom).

    Did you see the front page of the Wall Street Journal yesterday? There was an article on how immigration lowers educational standards:

    "When San Diego’s school district began overhauling its science-education curriculum five years ago, it wanted to raise the performance of minority, low-income and immigrant students.

    But parents in middle- and upper-income areas, where many students were already doing well, rebelled against the new curriculum, and a course called Active Physics in particular. They called it watered-down science, too skimpy on math.

    A resistance movement took hold. Some teachers refused to use the new textbooks, which are peppered with cartoons. They gathered up phased-out texts to use on the sly. As controversy over the issue escalated, it played a part in an election in which the majority of the school board was replaced. Now, further curriculum changes are under consideration."

    Surely Niall reads the WSJ. Do you think, given that he's a genius and all, he was able to connect the dots?

  3. Somehow I just noticed this commentary from Dana Rohrabacher as reported by the Washington Times on 31 March.
    But Mr. Rohrabacher called the guest-worker proposal "the foul odor that's coming out of the United States Senate."
    Mr. Rohrabacher offered a terse "no comment" when asked whether his "foul odor" comment also applied to Mr. Bush, who first proposed a guest-worker plan more than two years ago. Mr. Rohrabacher later added: "The American people can take a deep breath and determine for themselves what smells and what doesn't and where it's coming from." (...)


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