Simon, Julian Lincoln Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Perhaps the foremost American academic advocate for liberal immigration policy, Simon argued that immigration’s economic benefits exceed its costs for both native persons and immigrants alike.

An optimist about the future of humankind, Julian Lincoln Simon was an advocate for liberal policies on immigration, population growth, and economic growth. A believer in the positive value of additional human beings both as newborns and as immigrants, he was a leading advocate of economic and political freedom.Simon, JulianSimon, Julian[cat]THEORIES;Simon, Julian Lincoln[cat]BIOGRAPHIES;Simon, Julian Lincoln[cat]DEMOGRAPHICS;Simon, Julian Lincoln

Simon was the scion of immigrant Jewish grandparents from Austria and Poland. The family name, originally Sczymschak, was changed to Simon by officials at Ellis Island. After graduating from Harvard University in 1953, Simon served in the U.S. Navy for three years. He received his master’s degree in business administration in 1959 and a doctorate in business economics in 1961, both from the University of Chicago. He held academic positions at the University of Illinois, Hebrew University in Israel, and the University of Maryland, where he worked from 1983 until his death.

In 1989, Economic Consequences of Immigration, The (Simon)Simon published The Economic Consequences of Immigration, in which he argued that immigrants to the United States increase welfare not just for themselves but also, on average, for native-born Americans. He stressed that immigrants come to the United States not only for economic reasons but also to live in freedom and dignity. Acknowledging that immigration will displace some native workers, he argued that the increased returns to capital that immigrants provide inure to the benefit of workers generally, most of whom have investments in pension funds, thus contributing to making workers as a group better off. He argued that any short-run negative effects on workers will ultimately be dominated by the positive effect of immigration on productivity. His analysis of the data indicated that immigrants use less public welfare services per capita than do native families.

Simon nevertheless understood that the most influential issues in the immigration debate might be noneconomic ones. For example, some immigration opponents worry about how culturally diverse American society can become before it begins to lose its fundamental identity. Simon did not support a policy of open borders, and he granted that when the proportion of immigrants from a particular country makes up too large a proportion of the population to be readily assimilated, the costs might outweigh the benefits for native persons. Even then, he argued, it was important to consider the benefits of immigration to the immigrants themselves, many of whom are desperate to escape tyranny and deprivation.

Simon was perhaps best known for advocating the view that humanity will never exhaust the world’s essential resources. He authored books on diverse subjects, including immigration, demography, business, statistics, advertising, psychology, and managerial economics. He was the author of almost two hundred articles in professional journals and numerous articles in newspapers and magazines. Though his record of accomplishment was formidable, Simon was never offered a prestigious academic post. He believed to the end that his predictions that the world would continue to become materially better off for the foreseeable future earned him the vilification of his academic peers, for whom Simon’s optimism was a challenge to their orthodox beliefs that the world is running out of resources and that each additional person in the world creates more harm than good.Simon, Julian

Further Reading
  • Moore, Stephen, and Julian L. Simon. It’s Getting Better All the Time: One Hundred Greatest Trends of the Last One Hundred Years. Washington, D.C.: Cato Institute, 2001.
  • Simon, Julian. The Economic Consequences of Immigration. 2d ed. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999.
  • _______. The Ultimate Resource 2. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1996.

Assimilation theories

Economic consequences of immigration

Identificational assimilation

Multiculturalism

Nativism

Welfare and social services

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