Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Marginal Revolution's Open Letter On Immigration

Alex Tabarrok writes an open letter on the economic benefits of immigration and invites economists to sign. I'm happy to do so.

And yet there is nothing in the letter that would prevent me from also saying that of the House, Senate, and White House points of view described here, my policy preference starts with the House bill, strips out the penalties to those in the medical and religious fields who may provide humanitarian services to illegal immigrants, and ups the annual number of legal immigrants allowed into the country.

Recognizing the largely positive economic effects of immigration does not require one to favor open borders, a guest worker program, or amnesty for those currently here without proper documentation--all of which I consider very bad ideas.


Arun Khanna said...

Immigration policy cannot be made without having borders that are respected by our neighboring states. It's not a question of immigration; it is an question of illegal immigration from predominantly one country versus immigration from various countries.

Van said...

Arun makes a good point.

But many in Washington do not seem to be interested in national borders, in fact, if one sees people as nothing more than human capital which should be moved from border to border without any limitation, and then a national border is an obstacle.

I heard the President state once, “I intend to match every willing employee with every willing employer". He was speaking in the context of open border immigration.

This is a view shared by many, especially those who support the WTO and other global trade agreements.
But the question that we should be asking is does an open border where people can be moved like pawns of capital, to work for the lowest amount of money, translate into economic prosperity for the majority in the host country?

I would say, in general, no. I would say especially no to a guest worker program. A program that is meant to facilitate the Iron Law of Wages and saturate our labor force with inexpensive, relatively insecure laborers.
The beneficiaries would be the immigrants obviously, but primarily the business owners would benefit. A guest worker program would keep wages and benefits down, there is no reason to suggest otherwise.
Also, the tax payer would still have to pick up the bill for immigrant healthcare.

Guest workers will not be able to unionize, vote or participate in our democracy on any of the meaningful level. It's like saying, "Welcome to America, be my clean my toilet"

To me a guest worker program sounds more like an indentured servitude as well as a mechanism to slow the growth of wages.

Also, where will it end? It won't be just menial labor, believe me.
There will be plenty of companies who will want to hire English speaking professionals to fill white collar jobs.

I think that if our economy requires new workers, then they should be granted the benefits of citizenship.

We do not need an insecure labor force, we already have one - our middle-class is already insecure; afraid of out and in-sourcing, downsizing - layoffs for profits.

Sorry to ramble on.

David Wiczer said...

I think you hit on the key of the argument from an economist's 'perspecitve.
"Recognizing the largely positive economic effects of immigration does not require one to favor [particualr policies]"
In positive, empirical analysis, there are clear benefits to national aggregate national welfare from immigation. Further even, the microeconomic effect on wages does not seem as great as one might fear. These very real, material factors ought to be considered separately from policy questions of implementation.