If anybody should be horrified at the idea of open borders, it’s academics in the Humanities. We all know people like my colleague from Peru I wrote about the other day. She teaches 10 courses per semester. Grades 400 essays. On her own. The essays are long and as poorly written as the ones we get from students here. Is there any doubt that for her teaching not 10 but 8 courses for the same salary would be an enormous improvement in labor conditions?

I’m driven nuts by folks who rant against the injustice of having to compete on the job market with candidates who have a PhD from an Ivy, an independent income, a supportive spouse, a helpful thesis director, etc. And in the same breath, these very folks loudly denounce the nation-state and call for open borders, which would mean that thousands of talented, hard-working colleagues from Peru and everywhere else would be on that same market immediately, willing joyfully to take on conditions of labor that none of the current contenders would be able to survive.

I mean, they are not insane, are they? They got to know that their position is total BS, right? There is nothing standing between them and the working conditions of my Peruvian colleague but the nation-state. And it’s obvious to anyone that capital would love to move us all towards the working conditions of Peru. And yet they wail, “bad nation-state, bad parade, bad wall.”

A famous academic in my field just released a book that very pompously argues that the nation-state model is garbage and to hell with it. And his is the accepted, the widely shared position. OK, so he’s unique, he won’t be substituted. But how about people who are not as special?

13 thoughts on “Inconsistent

  1. The people advocating open borders have never advocated removing the various anti-market (guild like medieval holdovers) protections for their own professions. Academia is the best example. US search committees for instance will almost never consider people with UK degrees for jobs unless those degrees are from Cambridge or Oxford. If unguarded US academics will admit that they consider UK degrees inferior because they only take three years (mine took two) rather than ten. In semi-guarded moments they will argue they consider them inferior because they do not include classwork and focus on research rather than being a TA.


      1. In my experience impossible. I am perfectly willing to take over the job of president of any US university for a mere $100,000 a year rather than the standard $1,000,000 and nobody has ever contacted me about it.


  2. I also don’t get all the freaking out about Trump’s wall proposal. Even if you favor high levels of immigration, having people pay large sums of money to shady characters to help them sneak across the desert in the middle of the night is not the way anyone should want immigration to happen. If you support immigrants and high levels of immigration, you should support them being able to go to an office, doing some paperwork and traveling to the US in buses or planes. Building a wall probably isn’t the most effective way to improve border security, but border security is a real issue that people, including pro-immigrant people, ought to take seriously.


    1. ” having people pay large sums of money to shady characters to help them sneak across the desert in the middle of the night is not the way anyone should want immigration to happen.”

      Which is why those in favor of continuous large scale unskilled immigration never talk about human trafficking except as something that immigration will cure (the fact that it actually seems to make it worse is something they carefully don’t notice).


      1. I’ve had nice, well-meaning progressive colleagues actually deny that human trafficking across the southern border exists. It was like talking to somebody who has spontaneously gone nuts.


        1. “deny that human trafficking across the southern border exists”

          It’s my understanding that for a long time (until some time in the 1990s? maybe second half) there wasn’t much human trafficking, the idea of coyotes being paid to transport large groups was mostly a myth.
          Instead most people moved through networks of compadres doing favors for each other and while money (eventually) changed hands it was nothing like money paid upfront to get into the country.
          My guess is that human trafficking networks sprung up sometime after Mexico became a major funnel to feed NAmerican consumerist drug habits.


          1. Actually this isn’t true. Human trafficking across the Mexico-Arizona border for OTMs (other than Mexicans) especially Chinese dates back the late 19th Century following the Chinese Exclusion Act.


  3. The nice interpretation is that they consider themselves as uniquely irreplaceable as that famous academician. The not-so-nice one, that they are in favour of class barriers far more difficult to overcome than simply immigrating* and consider these a strong enough defense. The most plausible interpretation is that they hold both of these beliefs, the first one a bit more consciously than the second one, but none openly

    *and I know there’s nothing simple about that


  4. If anybody should be horrified at the idea of open borders, it’s academics in the Humanities.

    Or you know they should seriously be into international unionism to bring labor standards up all over the globe instead of a race to the bottom. But that’s as likely as me being the principal prima ballerina at La Scala.


    1. Gosh, I can’t get many of our most passionate pussyhatters even to talk to me about our local union. Because they are afraid the administration will find out we talked about it. And then. I’m not sure what but they are terrified.

      So the international union doesn’t seem very likely. I think you’ll get to La Scala first.


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