Facts are facts, but numbers rule!

How many illegal aliens are there in the United States?

The reason I'm asking is because earlier I clicked on Glenn Reynolds's link to this post by Mickey Kaus in which he says there are 12 million:

If border-enforcement can be made to work (and the implausible premise of the "grand bargain" is that it can--indeed, that it will work so well it can hold off a new wave of illegals lured by amnesty) the problem of the 12 million diminishes gradually, steadily over time. Eventually, it disappears. The Bush administration, which always gins up a "crisis" before its big policy pushes, doesn't like to dwell on this point...
I don't mean to dwell on a point on which George F. Will and Mickey Kaus seem to agree, but I just can't ignore it.

That's because many organizations and activists insist that there are more than 12 million.

Far, far more. According to Newsmax.com the number is 20 million.

According to a spokesman for the Minutemen Project, there are 30 million, and that was last summer.

So what is it? 12, 20, or 30?

Or (from Newsmax this month) "more than 30 million"? (A jump of 10 million in a single year!)

Of course, there's also a much lower figure given by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services:

As of 2003, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services put the number at 7 million. Since then, United States immigration officials have said the number has grown by as much as 500,000 a year.
This would give an adjusted 2007 number of 9 million.

Quite a range.

Now, if we look at this logically, there has to be an actual, accurate number. It's just that not only is it impossible to determine it, but there there's no way to achieve a consensus on what that number might approximately be, because there is no method of independently verifying any of the proffered numbers in a manner which would satisfy everyone. Facts are not opinions, but when opinions vary as to what the facts are, it strikes me as rather pointless to refer to numbers as if they are facts.

Is this a sort of "numbers popularity contest" in which the numbers depend more on which side you're on? I strongly suspect that liberals would tend to prefer the lower numbers, while conservatives would prefer the higher numbers.

But even there.... Is "prefer" the right word?

I wrote about political tastes yesterday, and tastes are of course preferences.

But can numbers be a preference?

If so, then should the numbers to be determined by a sort of numbers democracy, in which the number which get the highest number of votes wins? Or should only "experts" be allowed to decide these things? The problem with that is that the experts would inevitably be selected by people who are elected or who have to answer to people who are elected, so democracy (and things like political disagreements) always end up being involved.

I don't know how much any of this really matters, but I thought it over, and it occurred to me to apply some basic democratic logic. Numbers ought to be determined by numbers, right?

So I've written a democratic numbers poll.

You decide.

Approximately how many illegal aliens are there in the United States?
12 million
20 million
30 million
more than 30 million
fewer than 12 million
no freakin' clue
  
pollcode.com free polls

And may the best numbers win!

UPDATE: Because an alert commenter pointed out that my poll was not democratic enough, I've added the "no freakin' clue" category.

Sorry for the inconvenience, but anyone who was inconvenienced, feel free to vote again!

No voter will be turned away!

(At the time I closed the first poll, there were only four votes: 2 for 20 million, 1 for 30 million and 1 for 12 million, so I don't expect the change to affect the poll in a major way.)

posted by Eric on 05.24.07 at 12:07 PM










Comments

I didn't vote because you don't have no freakin' clue as an option.

Byna   ·  May 24, 2007 12:34 PM

Facts should never be subject to personal opinion, although the great majority of people do permit their prejudices to select the facts in which they believe. The sad fact that even educated people fall far below any reasonable standards of objectivity should not deter us from insisting upon such objectivity; we must at least hold that as a desideratum.

We should never blindly trust experts, either. We should require those experts to publish the methods by which they determine their facts, so that we can understand and criticize their results. A transparent process like this yields the most reliable results.

On the matter of immigrant numbers, I would first reject all estimates that do not publish their methodologies. From the remainder, I would select the one whose methodology is most transparent and makes the least objectionable assumptions.

Froblyx   ·  May 24, 2007 12:36 PM

No freakin clue is obviously the correct number, but I voted for 20 million anyway because it sounds so much more definate. (I would have preferred 21,485,696 for the same reason, but it wasn't listed as an option.)

tim maguire   ·  May 24, 2007 2:56 PM

The situation is strikingly similar to special interest groups that refer to the fact "X number of cases of Y go unreported every year." Unreported?

Hume would have a field day.

Saul   ·  May 24, 2007 3:46 PM

unwittingly submissive Teutonic crime browse blossomed expedient cutaneous

Anonymous   ·  May 24, 2007 6:46 PM

unwittingly submissive Teutonic crime browse blossomed expedient cutaneous

Anonymous   ·  May 24, 2007 6:46 PM

12 million is the estimate I hear most often, and I've done mountains of personal research on the issue.

The Census Bureau always issues conservative estimates. Obviously it would be difficult to get an accurate picture of the number of illegal immigrants living in the country - not all of them crowd into public streets for noisy rallies every year.

And obviously the Minutemen have a vested interest in exaggerating the number of illegals here.

"unwittingly submissive Teutonic crime browse blossomed expedient cutaneous"

Is this like one of those word games where you pull a bunch of words out of a hat and the rest of us have to make a coherent story out of it?

S Wisnieski   ·  May 25, 2007 11:18 AM

Perhaps this point has been made, but I think the fact that we don't know whether there are ten or twelve or thirty million illegal immigrants is one of the most disturbing facets of the illegal immigration problem. Now, I'm no Big Brother advocate, but knowing how many people are actually living and working in one's country seems like a very basic fact, which should be quantifiable and available for public knowledge.

What I think this reveals is that when you lose control of your borders to the extent we have, you've already compromised your nation's interior as well.

P. Aeneas   ·  May 26, 2007 1:21 AM

Perhaps this point has been made, but I think the fact that we don't know whether there are ten or twelve or thirty million illegal immigrants is one of the most disturbing facets of the illegal immigration problem. Now, I'm no Big Brother advocate, but knowing how many people are actually living and working in one's country seems like a very basic fact, which should be quantifiable and available for public knowledge.

What I think this reveals is that when you lose control of your borders to the extent we have, you've already compromised your nation's interior as well.

P. Aeneas   ·  May 26, 2007 1:22 AM

Sorry for the double-post, my computer just had a major hiccup.

P. Aeneas   ·  May 26, 2007 1:23 AM

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