The Corner

Re: Markets & Immigration

From a reader:



So essentially, your formulation is for goods, free market good, but for labor, free market bad.  Fair enough, but just realize that you are implicitly embracing price controls (in this case floors) with respect to labor.  In the end, your “externality” abatement program ends up hurting all Americans as both capital and labor are misallocated lowering our standards of living.  Not to mention the unintended consequence of giving native born less skilled workers a false price signal (artificially high wages for menial work), which tells them that they don’t need to improve their job skills.  This is just a candy coated form of welfare directly from consumers to low skilled workers.  I thought that we, as Conservatives, were all about making people reach their potential through hard work and self improvement.  Not in this case, I guess.

Besides, “externalities” is just a term Liberals trot out when they cannot defeat the logic of free market arguments.  See Warming, Global.  You guys should know better.

Me: I’m really not sure how to respond to this since I thought that’s what I was doing in my earlier post. I will correct the reader on one basic misunderstanding.  He writes: “So essentially, your formulation is for goods, free market good, but for labor, free market bad.”

No, no and again, no. My formulation is that free market for goods (legal goods, I should add) is good.  Free market for labor is often good. Indeed, I am for high levels of legal immigration by the way. But the rules of the free market do not trump the rules all others. I don’t think immigration is all about economics. If I did, I would probably agree with  this reader. But I don’t. Reducing economic questions to economic tests is a good thing. Reducing every question to economic tests is worthwhile as an educational exercise in cost-benefit analysis. Going with the results of the cost-benefit-test every time is an abdication of moral responsibility. If this isn’t self-evident, ask yourself why we don’t let inmates out of jail once their incarceration becomes  too expensive. And if you come back at me with talk about how the freed felons will murder and rape again, I’ll just chalk that up to liberal talk about externalities. 

The upshot of the reader’s position is that there should be no such thing as immigration laws because they form a regulatory burden on employers and pass costs onto consumers. I just think that’s nonsense.

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