Clint Bolick

Clint Bolick

Clint Bolick is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution. He is also the president and general counsel of the Alliance for School Choice, a national nonprofit educational policy group advocating school choice programs across the country. Formerly, Bolick was the vice president of the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest firm that he cofounded in 1991.

Valuing Immigrants


The debate over US immigration has persisted for nearly 350 years.  The cast has changed but the arguments have not.  Benjamin Franklin famously warned about the “Germanization” of Pennsylvania, predicting that German immigrants would no sooner abandon their language or culture than Americans would adopt their complexion (whatever that meant!).

In reality, immigrants fuel our economy and enrich the American spirit.  Our nation could not have become the richest and most powerful nation on earth without our immigrant pedigree.  Nor are we likely to remain so if we abandon it.

Some might be tempted to think that the immigration era ought to be over.  As Milton Friedman once famously said, we can’t have open borders and a welfare state at the same time.  And yet the converse is equally true: we can’t sustain our promises to current and future generations without plentiful immigration.  For that reason, we need young, hard-working immigrants more than ever.

For the first time in our history, our population is no longer self-sustaining.  Without a reversal of the birthrate decline—which is not likely to happen—we will have fewer workers supporting an ever-increasing number of retirees.  That leaves us with three options: reduce benefits, raise taxes, or increase the number of young, hard-working immigrants.  The first is not politically palatable, the second would harm our economy—only the third is a win-win.

A major part of the debate, which has split conservative policy analysts, is whether immigrants contribute to the economy or represent a net drain on social services.  The answer is that it depends on who the immigrants are.  Workers, both high skilled and low skilled, are net contributors to the economy.  Highly skilled workers are net job creators, producing far more tax revenue than they consume.  Lower-skilled workers are essential to production in key industries such as agriculture and tourism.  When Alabama cracked down on illegal immigration, it cost the state billions of dollars in gross domestic product.

The trouble is that our current immigration laws favor less-productive over more-productive immigrants.  Nearly two-thirds of legal immigrants come as the result of family preferences—not only spouses and children but siblings and parents.  They in turn become eligible for family preferences, leading to a chain migration that crowds out work-based immigration.  Indeed, only about 13 percent of our visas go to immigrants on account of their work or skills.

Other countries are figuring this out and are working to attract the best and brightest, an advantage once held by our country.  The United States gives out fewer work-based visas than does Canada, which has only one-tenth of our population.  Other countries, such as Chile, New Zealand, and even China, are increasing immigration opportunities for high-skilled workers and entrepreneurs.  Given the abysmal state of our K–12 education system, we cannot produce enough high-skilled graduates for technology jobs.  Hence we either import more skilled workers or export the jobs.

The “Gang of 8″ proposal in the US Senate is far from perfect but does improve nearly every important aspect of immigration policy.  It strengthens border security, reduces family preferences, limits welfare benefits, increases high-skill visas, and creates a guest-worker program for low-skilled workers.  The House of Representatives has a chance to make the bill’s provisions even better.

We are not writing on a blank slate.  If comprehensive immigration reform is torpedoed yet again, we will keep in place a disastrous immigration system—one that promotes illegal immigration because it provides too-few outlets for legal immigration.  We can restore America as a beacon for people who want to work hard and prosper—but only if we jettison a dysfunctional system and embrace immigration policy that reflects our nation’s needs in the twenty-first century.


Clint Bolick is vice president for litigation at the Goldwater Institute, research fellow with the Hoover Institution, and coauthor (with Jeb Bush) of Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution (Simon & Schuster, 2013).

Following the passage of the massive federal health-care bill, inquiring minds wanted to know the dimensions of the new bureaucracy it had created. So the question was put to the Congressional Research Service (CRS): How many new agencies, boards, and commissions were created by the law? Estimates ranged from fifty to the low hundreds. The CRS, with perhaps more research resources available to it than any other entity on earth, scoured the bill and its surrounding context, and finally came up with an answer: The number of new agencies created by Obamacare is “unknowable.”

That is a scary pronouncement. Not only don’t we know the number of new agencies, but we don’t know which ones are the same or separate entities, what the contours of their jurisdictions are, or the extent to which they will intrude upon some of the most important and intimate decisions we make as individuals.

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(photo credit: Brett Tatman)

The War on the Secret Ballot

The Obama administration has fired its opening salvo against a cornerstone of democracy: the right to secret ballot.

Last fall, voters in four states voted overwhelmingly to amend their constitutions to protect the right of workers to vote by secret ballot in deciding whether or not to form unions. That right has been enshrined in federal law for 75 years but is threatened by bills pending in Congress.

Nonetheless, the Obama National Labor Relations Board has filed a lawsuit against Arizona seeking to halt its protection of the right to secret ballot. Federal law governs labor relations, the NLRB asserts, and states cannot provide greater security for worker rights.

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Save our Secret Ballot

Frustrated by the failure to enact its pro-union agenda in Congress, President Barack Obama’s administration has unleashed its bureaucratic minions at the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to achieve it through regulatory fiat. The core agenda is to reverse decades of eroding union membership by eliminating the right to secret ballot in union organizing.

The NLRB’s latest salvo is a lawsuit against Arizona. Arizona is one of four states where voters last fall resoundingly added to their constitutions the right to secret-ballot elections in union organizing. The lawsuit is the most recent of many recent cases pitting state power against federal power. The outcome will determine in large measure the amount of individual autonomy Americans will enjoy in the years to come.


Private-sector unionization has steadily plummeted since the 1950s, when roughly one in three private-sector workers belonged to a union. As of 2008, only 7.6 percent of private-sector workers were unionized. In 2010, that number fell further to 6.9 percent. Meanwhile, the number of unionized public-sector workers eclipsed those in the private sector for the first time in 2010, with close to eight million public-sector employees (or 37.4 percent) enrolled in unions compared to slightly more than seven million in the private sector.

Continue reading Clint Bolick at Defining Ideas

(photo credit: mandiberg)

Caveat Vendor

Imagine a country in which the right to a welfare check is vigorously protected—but where the government can destroy legitimate businesses and professions with impunity.

Is it China? Russia? Cuba? A socialist utopia dreamed up by the likes of George Orwell?

No: it’s the United States, supposedly the beacon of free enterprise for the entire world.

But is it really? Governments at every level—not to mention unelected regulatory agencies—regularly deny individuals the basic freedom of enterprise that is every American’s birthright. Often they do so not to defend public health or safety but for naked protectionism.

Continue reading Clint Bolick at our sister site Defining Ideas