Should it take a 60% vote to increase immigration?

If Rogoff’s serious … : Economist Kenneth Rogoff of Harvard argues that Brexit should have required a supermajority vote — say, 60%.

But what, exactly, is a fair, democratic process for making irreversible, nation-defining decisions? Is it really enough to get 52% to vote for breakup on a rainy day? [Emphasis added.]

Hmm. I can think of an even more* irreversible and nation-defining decision that we make by ordinary majority rule** — the decision to admit large numbers of new immigrants to (in due course) become citizens. It’s irreversible because once they are citizens we can’t un-make them citizens (and in practice they will not be kicked out before then).*** It’s nation-defining because new arrivals bring their culture with them, and culture is extremely important in defining a nation. If we somehow let in 80 million misogynsts we’ll have a very different country than if we don’t.

So should proposals that would dramatically increase (or reallocate) the number of new citizens — like the Senate’s now-defunct “Gang of 8 bill” or the 1965 Hart-Cellar Act — require a Rogoffian supermajority? Sixty percent of the House? Two separate majority votes two years apart? I’m warming up to this line of reasoning.

[via @FelixSalmon]


*– I would say “more” irreversible because, as we are learning. Brexit may not have the finality it appeared to have before last week’s vote. It’s not hard to conceive of circumstances in which the EU would be happy to take the UK back in. It’s inconceivable (I hope) that a class of law-abiding U.S. citizens would be stripped of their citizenship and removed from the country.

**–Yes, a supermajority is normally required to survive a filibuster in the Senate. But a) that’s the ordinary procedure for approving any law, not just “irreversible, nation-defining” laws; b) it’s not a constitutional rule — it’s an in-house Senate rule that can be eliminated any time via the “nuclear option.” Hardly sufficient protection against majority whim! And c) it doesn’t apply in the House.

***–A decision not to admit new immigrants, in contrast, is quite reversible (by admitting them).