America needs immigrants. Immigrants co-founded most of Silicon Valley’s start-ups. The Patent Office says immigrants invent things at twice the rate of native-born Americans. – John Stossel, Townhall, 10/6/14.
Fact Check: John Stossel is a libertarian columnist who, like most libertarians, believes that individual self-interest trumps all or most other goods in society. So, specifically, if businessmen want an unrestricted flow of immigrants to obtain the cheapest labor possible, they should have that right. And it doesn’t matter what happens to American workers, or the unity and cohesion of our country. To many or most libertarians, country is pretty much a meaningless concept. Again, self and self-interest are the primary considerations.
Fortunately, most Americans don’t think that way, so libertarians like Stossel have to come up with creative (and misleading) arguments to justify mass immigration. One of them is suggesting that we must admit the highest sustained level of immigration in our history (nearly one million a year) to get geniuses for Silicon Valley. Actually, most immigrants aren’t exceptional. On average, they are less skilled and educated than native-born Americans. They are more likely to be poor and receive public assistance.
Even the achievements of immigrants Silicon Valley aren’t nearly so impressive as Stossel would have us believe. Most of the start-ups had several co-founders. The percentage of immigrants among all the co-founders is only 13 percent, the same percentage of immigrants in the general population. Nothing exceptional here.
As for patents, only a small number of them are of great scientific and economic significance. In the key area of high tech, data show that immigrants are less likely than Americans to obtain patents that result in commercial use.
Stossel goes on to say that, “[W]ell, maybe immigrants in the past were a boon to America, but now there are just too many. They make up 12 percent of the population. But in 1915 it was 15 percent.”
Actually the foreign-born population today is 13 percent, and in 1915 it was 14 percent. By 1920 it had gone down to 13 percent. Even so, at that point that Americans decided that immigration was excessive, a sentiment which culminated in the immigration restriction act of 1924. That legislation was highly successful in promoting assimilation of immigrants and raising wages for both native-born and foreign born.
Today the need for immigration restriction is much greater than at that time. Although the percentage of immigrants is the same as that of 1920, there is a vast numerical difference. In 1920, immigrants numbered 13.9 million. Today the total is 41 million. As numbers increase, so do their consequences beyond their percentage of the population. Specifically, larger numbers have greater social cohesion and are harder to assimilate. Further complicating assimilation is the much greater diversity of immigrants than in 1920.
It is indeed ironic that so many libertarians like Stossel, who advocate limited government, support current immigration policy. The majority of immigrants are of Hispanic background, and more so than native-born Americans they endorse more government as the solution for social and economic problems. Perhaps these libertarians are so caught up in their world of self-interest that they haven’t bothered to notice.