The Corner

Re: Jawd

Jonah: You posted that:

“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.”

All sorts of things are wrong with this. One is that “the supply of cheap labor” is cheap only because it is illegal. Employers can pay rock-bottom wages to illegal immigrants because those immigrants are in no position to complain. So you are saying, as JPod said the other day, that the US economy depends on illegality for its functioning. Are you sure you believe that? Isn’t there a moral dimension you are missing?

Another problem is that the math doesn’t work. A factory employs illegal immigrants because they are cheap, and it’s the only way, other than offshoring, that the factory can stay competitive. But those workers (and their wives & kids) will incur social costs–medical, educational, present and future. So will the American workers who can’t work in the factory because illegals have got all the jobs. If the factory offshores, then society is still stuck with the costs of the unemployed natives as before; but it is no longer stuck with the additional burden of social costs for the illegals.

So of your two choices, sending the factory abroad seems like the better deal for US society. Sure, US factory workers will be out of jobs; but so will they be if factory jobs are done by imported cheap labor.

And this, of course, is to ignore the fact that US society may be something more than merely an economy.

John Derbyshire — Mr. Derbyshire is a former contributing editor of National Review.

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