The Corner

Jawd

I don’t want to restart the whole Jobs Americans Won’t Do conversation, but I’ve been thinking about it a bit and there was one thing sort of left out of the discussion. For some jobs, homebuilding, crop-picking, gardening etc, the logic of JAWD is flawed for the reasons we discussed. Americans won’t do some of those jobs because the pay is too low, not because they won’t do them. Pay a janitor $60K and you’ll see lots of white and other native born Americans lining up.

So if part of the problem with the JAWD argument is that Americans won’t do the work at a very low wage, part of the problem with the response is that there are some jobs employers simply cannot pay an “American” wage for. In the last decade or so, literally billions of workers joined the global labor market just as shipping, communication and transportation costs plummetted. This has been both boon and curse, depending on how you look at it. But the fact remains that a widget manufacturer often only has two choices, import cheap labor to his factory or send his factory to where the cheap labor is. The third choice — protectionism — is no choice at all, if you ask me (and it’s not up to the employer anyway). Home-building obviously cannot be exported, but manufacturing can be — and is. Cutting off the supply of cheap labor won’t change that. So if you don’t like seeing American factories going abroad, we should at least keep in mind that immigration is one of the things keeping those factories here.

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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