Bryan Caplan has a clever idea (he has many clever ideas). His claim is that libertarian economists can explain the liberal position on economics better than liberal economists can explain the libertarian position on economics.
The state forces us to attend public schools which teach us liberal positions. For example, you now have to know environmentalist propaganda to graduate in Maryland. If we do well in school, the state puts lots of pressure on us to go to college, where we learn advanced liberal positions. In other words, we all know how liberals think.
However, if you study economics, you also know how mainstream libertarians think about economics. So, I think most liberal economists can explain Milton Friedman (though not Mises or Rothbard) just as well as most libertarian economists can explain Keynes.
I went to school for 16 years. In that time, all of my teachers were liberal except for one, who was libertarian and who taught economics. My point is that you never, ever have to learn how conservatives think.
As if to prove this point, here’s Bryan Caplan trying to articulate the conservative position on immigration:
A few liberals – and many libertarians – literally advocate open borders. I recognize that immigration is the greatest foreign aid program in human history, and I sympathize with the plight of would-be immigrants in the Third World. Most immigrants – legal or not – are nice people. But open borders is crazy. It seriously risks killing the goose that lays the golden eggs. I’m very open to more cost-effective and humane ways to deal with the negative effects of immigration. But as long as immigrants are eligible for government benefits, hurt low-skilled native workers, and vote, the only people we should readily admit are the highly-educated and clear-cut humanitarian cases. I’d put Haitians in the latter category. Asking Mexicans to live on a $10,000 a year in Mexico is reasonable, but asking Haitians to starve in post-earthquake Haiti is a disgrace.
To be honest, I can’t really figure out what Caplan is saying. I think he ends up reverting to the libertarian-anti-immigration position, which says that open borders are preferable when there’s no welfare state, but that since we have a welfare state, we shouldn’t have open borders.
I think the root of the conservative position is that not all people are identical. If you import 25 million Mexicans into California, you don’t get California the way it was before it had 25 million Mexicans filled with 25 million rich Mexicans. You actually get something that looks a lot more like Mexico. Instead of California acting as a “foreign aid program,” post-immigration-California will likely need to be bailed out (i.e. will need some foreign aid of its own).
Or put another way, there are lots of Americans who are only cut out for low-skilled jobs. Importing an effectively infinite amount of unskilled laborers may then cause problems.
Both libertarians and liberals simply cannot admit there might be some people who are only cut out for low-skilled jobs. They can’t admit it even when they’re pretending to be conservative.
(As if to prove my point, Aretae has a super long post in which he basically argues you can’t possibly determine which people will be more productive.)