Tuesday, April 11, 2006

For the Devil- immigration commentary analysis

From Salon's How the World Works.

I guess my own opinion (and not just on immigration but on everything) is that expansive and incusionary are better than restrictive and exclusionary.

If I were thinking solely as an economist, then the more information generated by more people making small decisions the better the value of that information is and the more competive the market is. So while we are all hemming and hawing about those immigrants using up resources- let's not forget that they don't live in a bubble. They buy food and cars and housing and clothes and, and, and. They pay sales tax. They pay income tax and social security (that goes into the system under fake social security numbers so there is a pool of money contributed by immigrants- especially into social security-) for which no tax return or benefit ever has to be paid out. We also need them to keep the age of the population lower. The older the general population is, the more a country's economy stagnates (go see Germany or any other european country with falling birthrates).

If markets are free, then labor should be as unrestricted as goods are when it comes to flowing across borders. Though if markets were actually free (no more crop subsidies!) then labor would get less benefit from moving across borders because they would have a chance at moving up in their own country.

1 comment:

MdH said...

The immigration debate is so emotional/hot button that rational opportunity cost tends to get lost in the rhetoric. There are a couple of things I’d like to note out the gate. First, learning a new language is something less-privileged, low-income, & under-educated Americans would benefit from. It would position them for “middle management” positions that employ Hispanic workers both legal & undocumented. Fuck… it’s something that privileged, upper-income, & over-educated Americans like myself would benefit from. Second, the plight & declining fortunes of under-educated Americans has almost no connection to immigrant labor. It has to do with a globalization of manufacturing (outsourcing to cheap labor pools off shore) & more importantly with a transition to a post-industrial economy.

I know Americans expect to have their cake & eat it to. We want to be able to buy 36 inch flatscreen TVs at Walmart for a dollar, & then expect that someone without a high school education should be able to make hundreds of times more than other unskilled workers around the world. The global standard for poverty is LESS THAN $1 per DAY!!! The US is absurdly wealthy.

The prevailing economic notion seems to be that if we could waive a magic wand & get rid if all the illegals there would be more employment for low skill US workers. The more likely reality is that if the sugar beet farmer doesn’t have access to low cost migrant labor, she’s not likely to spend a lot more to recruit (really bitter American workers who know this is a shit job & can’t wait to leave) at a significantly higher wage. She’s more likely plant the field to grassland & collect a subsidy check from the government while she opens an import business to bring apples in from China because all of the west coast orchards have been turned into mini-golf courses because labor costs have made apple orchards a losing proposition. & while locking down the border & throwing up protectionist measures would be an excellent way to spark a global economic depression, I think it’s smarter to just acknowledge that “low skill” is not where it’s at.

Rather than spending billions on an attempt to lock down the border (think about the effectiveness of the war on drugs), it would make more sense to spend the money investigating the best ways to make low skill workers higher skilled workers. As the RQ points out…migrant workers are the best kind of global outsourcing, since their spending money on rent & gas & food & fun.