Immigration

Conservatives Show Their Economic Illiteracy on Immigration

Obama's deportation order puts Republicans on the defensive.

|

Republicans are hopping mad over President Obama's recent executive order to hand temporary work permits instead of deportation orders to undocumented aliens brought to this country as children. But the more they hop, the madder they'll look—exactly Obama's intention. Instead of allowing partisan zeal to derail their own recent efforts to deal with this issue, they ought to beat the president at his own game—something, it appears, Mitt Romney understands although not his fellow restrictionists in the GOP camp.

There is no question that Obama's move is an act of executive chutzpah, although no more brazen than the torture and indefinite detentions President George W. Bush unilaterally ordered. It is also a politically brilliant move, one that has pulled the rug out from under an almost identical bill that Sen. Marco Rubio—the Florida Republican rumored to be on Romney's vice presidential list—was working on. By supporting the Rubio bill, Romney was planning a grand pivot away from his harsh anti-immigrant primary rhetoric, including his promise to implement policies that would cause unauthorized workers to "self deport."

Such talk has given the president a nearly 40-point lead among Hispanics and detracted from his awful immigration record: He has deported about as many "illegal" aliens in the first three years of his presidency as Bush did in his entire two terms. Romney has himself admitted that Republicans will be "doomed" come November if they don't close this gap somewhat.

But the Obama move has put them in a tough spot. If they support it, they'll earn the wrath of strident Rush Limbaugh-style restrictionists, a core constituency. If they don't, they'll cement their reputation as anti-Hispanic.

So far most of them, with the notable exception of Romney, are opting for the latter strategy. Romney kept a lid on his vitriol against Obama, calling for a "long-term" legislative solution to the problem rather than stop-gap measures. "I believe the status of young people who come here through no fault of their own is an important matter to be considered and should be solved on a long-term basis, so they know what their future would be in this country," said a decidedly kinder, gentler Romney.

But some of his fellow Republicans are hurling their usual accusations of "amnesty"—never mind that the permits involve neither a path to permanent residency nor citizenship. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who last month said he favored an immigration policy that allowed America to choose immigrants like pups in a litter, is planning to sue the Obama administration. Indeed, Republicans are glomming onto every bad economic argument to oppose the initiative, abandoning even the pretense of upholding free-market principles.

The Daily Caller, the news website that is increasingly confusing obnoxious behavior for hard-hitting journalism, is being criticized because its reporter rudely interrupted President Obama as he was announcing his new policy. But, even more obnoxious was the question itself: "Why do you favor foreigners over American workers?"

Conservatives would never sign off on population controls as a cure for unemployment, rightly pointing out that new workers are not mouths that should be regretted because they eat, but hands and brains that should be welcomed because they grow the economic pie. Yet they are now peddling the restrictionist nonsense that immigrant workers diminish economic opportunities for Americans.

The proper course for Republicans is to condemn the president for his unconstitutional overreach—and then pass Rubio's version of the Obama initiative posthaste, and get to work on even more open policies. Otherwise, not only will they lose Hispanics come November, but also whatever standing they have left to counter his anti-free-market agenda.

Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dalmia is a columnist at The Daily, where a version of this column originally appeared.

NEXT: North Las Vegas Says Deficit Constitutes an Actual Disaster

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. The proper course for Republicans is to condemn the president for his unconstitutional overreach?and then pass Rubio’s version of the Obama initiative posthaste, and get to work on even more open policies.

    Keep dreaming Shikha.

  2. There’s no chance that they’ll have any of the ‘Hispanic’ vote no matter what they do (other than the Catholic single-issue voters). Any stance they take won’t sway a single vote, so it’s just wasted effort (which I’m all for in the case of Congress).

    You’re so sexy when you talk immigration, Shikha.

    1. Yep the “Hispanic” vote is primarily motivated by racial identity.

      Romney and Johnson will get plenty of votes from people of latino heritage that care about freedom and not racial solidarity.

      1. @VG Zaytsev – People that care about Freedom are not the ones voting for Romney.

    2. This is the sort of preconventional morality that’s cost the Republicans a lot of non-hispanic votes. Why does it matter whether there’s votes in it? They should support the Rubio bill because it’s the right thing to do.

  3. Whoa, dude, fuckin’ d?j? vu! From now on, no more acid before breakfast!

  4. OR, the Republicans could define the problem as how many people are we going to trap in legal limbo by not reforming the whole mess of our imigration laws, starting with recognizing that any Mexicans entering the country are refugees fleeing a failed State.

    Yeah. I know. Dream on.

    1. Well, immigration is by definition legal. What isn’t legal is crossing a border without approval, which is invading, not immigrating.

  5. The Daily Caller, the news website that is increasingly confusing obnoxious behavior for hard-hitting journalism, is being criticized because its reporter rudely interrupted President Obama as he was announcing his new policy. But, even more obnoxious was the question itself: “Why do you favor foreigners over American workers?”

    “How dare they question our President!”

    1. True, but if you’re going to question him, don’t ask “When did you stop beating your wife?”

      1. He is the labor unions’ President. Why shouldn’t someone ask him a labor union question? Is a conservative not allowed to ask a question that every union Democrat in the country was thinking?

        1. It’s considered obnoxious to do this while the president is still speaking.

          Also, price check on that nation-wide liberal telepathy helmet.

    2. Unfortunately, as expected I suppose, the left and right are both screaming about the wrong, yet different, things on a story.

      1. Well, in this case, politics is driving both positions, despite it being contrary to their normal approach. Lefties would normally want to do whatever Europeans do, which means strict immigration policy, while Righties should favor the free-market approach, which would mean more open borders.

        But what really matters here is who the immigrants might vote for. Principle goes out the window, as is often the case in a Democracy.

        1. The problem with a free-market immigration policy in the absence of an actual free market is that it exacerbates problems with our current non-free welfare state. Europe figured this out a long time ago: you can’t have a social democracy and open borders.

        2. Exactly. I really really hate the whole issue because it seems to be so much more motivated by politics then most others.

          Like, take healthcare socialism. I know that leftists genuinely honestly believe we’d be better off with an American NHS. They’re dead wrong, bless their moronic hearts, but they’re honestly wrong.

          The only reason progressives want immigration to be made easier is because they assume that Latinos will be a monolithic voting bloc who will make Texas competitive in national elections.

  6. Sounds like a plan dude, Wow.

    http://www.Dot-Anon.tk

    1. Don’t blame me. I voted for Anonbot.

      1. Vote Anonbot!
        He pledges to not go on a killing spree.

        1. John Quincy Adding Machine pledged that but we all know how that turned out.

  7. The most basic rule of the free market. Supply and demand. Increasing the supply of workers drives down the rate at which the market pays the workers. Yay, a race to the bottom! Import enough 3rd world savages and we can live like 3rd world savages too! Diversity kills. It is time for an immigration moratorium for at least 40 years. Let us clean up the mess made in the 60s, otherwise you can kiss what is left of freedom in the USA goodbye.

    1. Aww, poor baby doesn’t have skills to compete in the labor market. Perhaps you should have gotten an education instead of counting on inheriting your daddy’s union factory job.

      1. you’re analysis is incomplete… these workers also make money creating new demand for things, and consumers who get lower prices for goods now have more disposable income creating new demand for things. People’s wages haven’t gone down over the past 300 years as the county’s population went from 5 million to 300 million.

        Empirically, there is only a very short term negative effect on wages due to immigration waves. It does’t take long before they are integrated into the economy.

        1. above was supposed to be in reply to chris

      2. tell you what, HM..sneak into Mexico and report back how well that works for you. Immigration and illegal immigration are not the same thing, and the main folks being hurt by illegals is low-skilled Americans whom employers can 1) undercut with 2) a captive work force.

        Immigration system is FUBARed, no doubt. But pretending the 6th-grade dropout who snuck in overnight is the same thing as the MS-holding Punjab is still pretending.

        1. tell you what, HM..sneak into Mexico and report back how well that works for you.

          Why would I want to do that, I go where the work is. Besides, I’ve already worked abroad in S.E. Asia.

          the main folks being hurt by illegals is low-skilled Americans whom employers can 1) undercut with 2) a captive work force.

          Maybe those low-skilled Americans should skill themselves. Jus’ sayin’.

          1. dodging the question does not advance your argument. And when you worked in SE Asia, was their a system that included paperwork or did you just fly in and start work with no one knowing about it?

            There will always be low-skilled people in any society. Raising their skill level is not an answer to illegal immigration.

            1. Oh, no, you can’t do that–you can’t make HM admit that all the forms were filled out and approved.

          2. There will always be low skilled workers. Not everyone is capable, or wants, a degree. We need roofers and framers and ditch diggers and the whole nine yards. The way our laws are set up the system favors illegal immigrants that work under the table over homegrown workers. It isn’t a even playing field. Yes, we need sensible immigration reform. Yes, the current system is completely screwed. That doesn’t mean that we throw open the floodgates and it certainly doesn’t that either party should be using the situation for purely political reasons.

    2. Actually the most basic rule of the free market is that a voluntary exchange increases the wealth of the participants. The immediate implication is that anything the government does to prevent free association between people — such as restricting free migration — is wealth-destroying.

      The additional side-effects of that most basic rule relevant for immigration are comparative advantage, where the complementary skills of immigrants provide leverage to increase the opportunities of natives, and specialization, where the greater population from immigration allows greater specialization and market size for production.

      1. What about “The immediate implication is that anything the government does to prevent free association between people — such as social programs that move a large part of the cost of that association onto third parties who don’t want to be part of that association — is wealth-destroying”?

        1. That’s not free association.

          1. Exactly. But it is the reality of the immigration issue in the present day USA. A pure free association argument is very persuasive in the abstract, but not persuasive at all as it relates to reality.

            If the situation were such that so much of the costs of immigration weren’t borne by those not involved in the free association between immigrant and employer I think a huge part of the opposition would fade away. Not all of it, of course, but a lot of it.

            1. That problem has been, and will always be, easily solvable via an eligibility window.

              This is all just Nationalism. Us vs. them. As long as that mentality persists, the borders will remain.

              1. If the situation were such that so much of the costs of immigration weren’t borne by those not involved in the free association between immigrant and employer I think a huge part of the opposition would fade away.

                I think the immigrant/employer relationship is beneficial to a lot more people than most people think.

                I know single-moms who would have a terrible time finding affordable child care without immigrant labor. I know elderly people who probably couldn’t afford to live independently if it weren’t for immigrant labor.

                Many of the “employers” you’re talking about are women who need someone to watch the kids so they can go to work and elderly people who need someone to do yardwork and other household chores.

                As far as entitlements go, the problem with that isn’t the immigrants anyway. The immigrants are just a red herring, there. If you want to get rid of social programs, don’t let the fact that immigrants benefit from them stop you from slashing them. If those programs are bad for the economy, they’re bad regardless of whether they’re serving immigrants or native born Americans.

                1. If those programs are bad for the economy, they’re bad regardless of whether they’re serving immigrants or native born Americans.

                  Agreed. I think that expanding them and applying them to people who shouldn’t be here in the first place is a problem, but not the only problem with them.

                  1. I dunno, I’m all for slashing the welfare state to the bone but, at least in certain states like Texas, illegal immigrants still pay all their taxes (as property and sales taxes are the only forms of taxation here, and are difficult to be exempt from.) Also, if illegal immigrants filed federal income taxes, most would get refunds, further draining an already empty pool. And many file SS and Medicare but will never be able to claim on it.

                    IMHO they are as entitled to hospital care and public schools as any other person as long as the government is providing it.

                    1. Also, if illegal immigrants filed federal income taxes, most would get refunds

                      Fortunately, that never, ever happens.

                      And many file SS and Medicare but will never be able to claim on it.

                      Depends.

      2. Repeal U.S. minimum wage laws.

        Problem solved.

    3. Are price controls a basic rule of the free market? It sounds like you want to control the price of labor.

      Granted, I should take from the “3rd world savages” comment that you’re not a person worth taking seriously.

      1. He’ll come back with a suitable reply after he wipes the spittle off his keyboard.

      2. There are already price controls on labor, which is in no small part why illegal labor becomes so attractive in certain industries where the marginal utility of a laborer at the legal price floor does not exceed the price.

    4. Isn’t this essentially the same logic unions use for closed-shop laws? That they need to be able to legally restrict the size of the labor market in order to be able to demand monopoly wages for their members?

      1. Unions tend to do the opposite — demand more jobs even at the expense of wages.

        See “feather-bedding”

  8. “He has deported about as many ‘illegal’ aliens in the first three years of his presidency as Bush did in his entire two terms.”

    Nothing like putting “illegal” in quote to underscore the intellectual bona fides of your argument.

    Whether you agree with it or not, people who cross the border illegally, or hire prostitutes, or snort coke are breaking the law. That doesn’t mean the laws are coherent or justifiable, but it does mean putting “illegal” in quotes makes you look like a goof.

    1. Whether you agree with it or not, people who cross the border illegally, or hire prostitutes, or snort coke are breaking the law. That doesn’t mean the laws are coherent or justifiable, but it does mean putting “illegal” in quotes makes you look like a goof.

      Not if you believe that certain rights are inalienable and not up to government fiat. An immoral law is not a law.

      1. Well, it is a law if we want to have any kind of conversation involving the common usage and understandings of words. If you want to go off into Humpty Dumpty land and redefine words so that they better fit your argument, have a nice trip.

        1. Legislation is not law. Law is a set of rules that society lives by. Legislation is words that lawyers argue about in court. They are not the same thing.

          1. “So when someone argues from a different viewpoint than you, it’s ‘Humpty Dumpty land’?”

            Well, not me per se, but the overwhelming majority of our legal system and dictionaries. Discussing natural law is as interesting as discussing objective morality — and has about as much relation to our actual legal system — but I don’t think it bears much on how the law is actually defined or understood in concrete terms.

            Now, you can argue and cite Wikipedia all you want about whether Jim Crow laws were really laws or not, but I think the fact that they were treated as such both in their enforcement and their repeal substantially undercuts any philosophical argument that they weren’t really laws at all.

            1. Discussing natural law is as interesting as discussing objective morality — and has about as much relation to our actual legal system

              WHAAA????? Our entire legal tradition is based on natural law and common law. What alternate universe do you hail from and what is Superman’s origin story there?

              1. And a lot of movies are “based on” true stories; that doesn’t mean the movie has much in common with the incident that spawned it.

                Leaving aside the “self-evident” claims in the Declaration — which aren’t laws, anyway — how much of our legal system can be traced to natural law? Crimes against the person, perhaps. How many of the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of laws across all jurisdictions in this country are derived from natural law theories? 1%? 5%?

          2. Actually, the best part about the article you link to is this–

            This article does not cite any references or sources. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (November 2010)

      2. An immoral law is not a law.

        legislation != law

        That is a distinction that many do not grasp.

        1. law ? ?[law] Show IPA
          noun
          1.
          the principles and regulations established in a community by some authority and applicable to its people, whether in the form of legislation or of custom and policies recognized and enforced by judicial decision.

          ***
          People do not “grasp” that distinction because it is, at best, a philosophical position that doesn’t really bear on the situation at hand and is more like an equivocation fallacy than a cogent argument.

      3. No one seriously denies that slavery or Jim Crow were anything but immoral laws but that doesn’t mean it is useful in any real way to deny that they were, in fact, laws.

        1. No one seriously denies that slavery or Jim Crow were anything but immoral laws but that doesn’t mean it is useful in any real way to deny that they were, in fact, laws.

          Yes, but where they lex humana or lex posita?

          1. I don’t think there’s any intrinsic difference. I don’t think there’s any intrinsic difference between malum in se and malum prohibitum.

            I don’t think laws (I’m not talking about physical “laws” here), or morality, exist separately from the entities that define them. IMO, all laws are malum prohibitum, though I think persuasive arguments can be made that laws against murder, for example, are more justifiable than laws saying the grass in your front yard can’t be more than 4 inches tall. Still, both would be illegal because man, not the universe, has defined it that way.

      4. An immoral law is not a law.

        Hence the widespread flouting of speed limits and MJ prohibition.

        1. because those are exactly the same thing as people illegally entering the country.

          1. Yep, all are victimless crimes. I guess speeding could involve endangerment in certain cases.

    2. @Night Elf: Since you’re so hung up on usage, I’d point out that the usage of ‘illegal’ in the immigration context carries a lot of negative connotations that mean something here. (It is often shortened to “illegal”.) We don’t call speeders “illegal drivers” or those who snort coke “illegal sniffers” or those who hire prostitutes “illegal fornicators”. Illegal typically modifies an action, not an individual. By tying the word to an individual, the implication is that they have less right to exist. Dhalia’s quotes may be intended to counter that negative usage.

  9. The real problem are the 4 million babies born here every year, preparing to steal our jobs. Damn you competition! Don’t take our jerbs!

    1. Sad thing is, some Boomers actually believe that.

  10. Right on, on both the policy and the politics. Immigration is ultimately a small government, free-market issue. Employers should decide who they are able to hire, not some INS bureaucrats in Washington, DC. On the politics, Romney’s best course is to co-opt the issue from Obama by supporting Rubio’s legislation, or something similar, so that the main difference between Romney and Obama would become that Romney follows the law and Constitution while Obama doesn’t. The anti-immigrant Republicans are going to vote for Romney over Obama in any case, so the smart move is to etch-a-sketch towards the center.

    1. if you are going to make the argument, at least be intellectually honest about it. The Repubs are not anti-immigrant; they, and some Dems, are anti illegal immigrant. I realize in ReasonLand, this distinction is non-existent to some, but others believe there are things that define a country, and borders are one of them.

      Most interesting about this article is how this author is just as willing to condescend to and patronize Hispanics as is Obama, by pretending that they all support illegals in every way.

  11. “Republicans are hopping mad over President Obama’s recent executive order to hand temporary work permits instead of deportation orders to undocumented aliens brought to this country as children”

    As well they should be since the executive branch has no legitiamte Constitutional authority to do that. Obama has not authority to unilaterally create defacto legislation on his own by deliberatly creating a policy of selective enforcement of laws.

  12. And where in Dalmia’s article is the proof of the “economic illiteracy” of Conservatives?

    We don’t have a free market system in this country – we have a welfare state. The illegals coming here use the public schools, get various welfare benefits, etc and there is a cost to the taxpayers for all of that.

    Some people claim that these people still create a net economic benefit regardless of all that – but I have yet to see that proven with unequivocal and absolute definitivess.

    And unless Dalmia or someone else CAN prove that with unequivocal and absolute definitiveness, there is no proof of Conservative “economic illiteracy” on the matter.

    1. No, only moral illiteracy, as they are willing to consign people who happen to have been born someplace else to a lesser life without unequivocal and absolute definitive proof that such people harm Americans.

      1. nice Obama-style “some say….” argument but it has little to do with either morality or reality. We have an immigration system that millions have managed to navigate for decades. Why do you think Hispanics are incapable of doing likewise?

        1. Because they’re limited to 5,000 spots annually? Just a thought.

          1. and no one else is limited?

            1. Of course they are — to the same collective 5,000. Meaning Hispanics have even fewer than 5,000 spots.

              1. so what? The country has an interest in controlling the flow of folks in and out, if for no other reason than to prevent even more squandering of taxpayer money than already exists. Because some think the number for Hispanics is too low does not make it illegitimate.

                1. so what?

                  So that’s the response to your 9:03AM and 9:29AM comments.

                  1. make a better argument and you get something more thought out. You act as though Hispanics should be entitled to a greater percentage of whatever number of immigrants is allowed just because.

                    1. I act as though there should not be a “number of immigrants allowed”.

          2. We haven’t had a national origin quota system in immigration since 1965, and our annual legal immigration is over 1 million. Where the fuck you got 5,000 from is anybody’s guess.

            1. 5,000 is the annual quota of green cards for those who neither have a special skill nor have relatives who can bring them in.

              1. That’s a sub-quota for unskilled workers (not Hispanics) in an immigrant category that includes 40,000 visas, plus any leftovers from the categories above it. While I’m sure the Hispanic community greatly appreciates that you’ve consigned them all to the unskilled worker category, that is not even close to what you actually said, which was that:

                Hispanics have even fewer than 5,000 spots.

                No. Unskilled workers of any race have 5,000 spots. We haven’t had ethnicity-based immigration policy since 1965.

                1. Unskilled workers of any race have 5,000 spots.

                  Hence unskilled Hispanics, the plurality of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, have fewer than 5,000 spots among them.

                  Is reading really that hard?

                  We haven’t had ethnicity-based immigration policy since 1965.

                  Tell that to the people from Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland-born), Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland) and its dependent territories, and Vietnam who cannot participate in the diversity visa program.

                  1. Hence unskilled Hispanics, the plurality of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, have fewer than 5,000 spots among them.

                    Correct. But that isn’t what you initially said. Using the correct modifier when you’re lumping an entire race/ethnic group of people together would be helpful in the future for clarity.

                    Tell that to the people…who cannot participate in the diversity visa program.

                    …Because Those born in any territory that has sent more than 50,000 immigrants to the United States in the previous five years are not eligible to receive a diversity visa. Not because of their race or ethnicity. The diversity visa actually works that way precisely so that immigrants from countries disadvantaged by the skill bias still have an opportunity.

                    Interestingly, if all the legal immigrants to the US from, say, Mexico were unskilled as you suggest, it would have been mathematically impossible for Mexico to contribute more than 50k immigrants to the United States in the past 5 years under the 5k-max quota and disqualify itself from the diversity program.

                    Is reading really that hard?

                    Not really. Inferring that you meant unskilled Hispanics have to compete with unskilled workers of every other race, ethnicity and national origin for 5,000 unskilled worker visas when you actually said “Hispanics have even fewer than 5,000 spots” does get tricky though, I have to admit.

                    1. Recall the original question:

                      We have an immigration system that millions have managed to navigate for decades. Why do you think Hispanics are incapable of doing likewise?

                      Of the hundreds of thousands of Hispanic illegal immigrants annually, almost all of them are unskilled and almost all of them do not have legal relations in the US who can sponsor them. Not even being eligible for diversity visas, their only legal avenue is the 5,000 visas set aside for unskilled labor.

                      I meant nothing else. My brevity was perhaps too great, owing to the mistaken expectation that who I was responding to knew these facts already.

                    2. Perhaps I read too much into the question and response, but it seemed as though you were suggesting that Hispanics in general were at some sort of unfair disadvantage with regards to the current immigration system or being specifically discriminated against based on race/ethnicity. They aren’t. At least not by nature of being Hispanic. That’s all I was pointing out.

                    3. Yeah, well, it was wareagle who introduced Hispanics. None of the comments he was responding to brought them up, yet for some reason he found it interesting to single them out as being unable to navigate legal immigration. I’d have offered the same response for most any classification of illegal immigrant.

      2. No, only moral illiteracy, as they are willing to consign people who happen to have been born someplace else to a lesser life

        Is that the new American triumphalism?

        Everyplace not called America is a shithole and living there guarantees a lesser life?

        1. No. Not at all.

          But an individual’s choice to migrate somewhere else means he prefers that somewhere else to where he is. Prohibiting that migration removes his better choice and leaves a lesser condition by his own revealed preference.

          1. There is no moral obligation to take on everyone that wants to enter, which is the heart of the radical libertarian position on immigration.

            1. I would say there is a moral obligation not to prohibit the inalienable rights of movement, residence, and labor wherever an individual can find mutually agreeable terms.

          2. the individual’s “choice to migrate” does not mitigate the would-be host nation’s interest in controlling how many newcomers it takes on. A country’s first responsibility is to securing the rights of its citizens.

            1. Collectivist.

              1. Owner.

    2. And unless Dalmia or someone else CAN prove that with unequivocal and absolute definitiveness, there is no proof of Conservative “economic illiteracy” on the matter.

      How many things are absolutely, unequivocally definitive? I’d say math is absolutely, unequivocally definitive, but then there’s always a chance you did the calculation wrong. Temporary dyslexia, sudden onset.

      Here’s one point of economics they seem to be confused about: the fact that labor is a resource, and the more we have, the more of a resource we have.

      If cheap labor is bad for economic growth, then over the past 20 years, China must have had the slowest growing economy on earth…

      Free trade is a good thing, right?

      How many conservatives do you think are clear on the fact that stopping cheap labor from crossing borders is a bad idea for all the same reasons that stopping any other resource from crossing borders is a bad idea?

      1. There is nothing absolute about it at all. You think it is because you haven’t thought through the subject. Yes, labor is a resource. And like everything else it is subject to supply and demand. Whether immigration is a “good” or a “bad” depends upon your perspective. If you are a low skilled laborer in the United States, immigration is most certainly an economic bad. Even from the larger perspective there is no evidence that countries with large unskilled labor forces are necessarily richer than countries without such. To assume that free immigration is an unmitigated good is to assume that investment in labor as opposed to capital is always superior. And that is hardly self evident.

        1. Labor is a resource. And like everything else it is subject to supply and demand. Whether immigration is a “good” or a “bad” depends upon your perspective.

          If what you’re saying is true, then it’s true for everything else, too.

          …and it’s not!

          That’s like saying that whether free trade is good or bad for the economy depends on whether you’re in a union or not–that’s absolute bunk.

          While there’s no doubt that free trade can be bad for overpaid, lazy-ass, uncompetitive union members, the idea that free trade is anything buy good for the economy– economy wide–is economic illiteracy exemplified.

          That’s failing Adam Smith 101.

          Anybody who can’t compete with unskilled immigrant labor? Is a drag on our economy. And part of the solution to that is competition from outside our borders…

          There used to be a saying that gained some currency back when we were transitioning from a manufacturing economy to a service economy. They were trying to say that service sector jobs were better protected from foreign competitors than manufacturing jobs when they said, “You can’t import a haircut!”

          That’s absolute baloney because immigration does let us import a haircut. My last one came from Iran. I used to import my haircut from Guatemala.

          Competition is a good thing, and protecting domestic labor from foreign competition is just as bad for the economy as protecting domestic manufacturers from foreign competition. …and for the same reasons, too.

          1. Competition is a good thing, and protecting domestic labor from foreign competition is just as bad for the economy as protecting domestic manufacturers from foreign competition. …and for the same reasons, too.

            The facts say differently. There are any number of countries who have managed to get very rich while restricting immigration and access to low skilled labor. If it were so bad, countries like Japan and Sweden would be poor.

            You just don’t agree with borders. And that is your right. But don’t pretend that the economics is on your side. It is not. Open borders may be a great thing for a lot of reasons. But that it guarantees or even helps prosperity is not one of them.

            1. There are any number of countries who have managed to get very rich while restricting immigration and access to low skilled labor. If it were so bad, countries like Japan and Sweden would be poor.

              Japan’s economy has been stagnating off and on since the SL crisis of the early ’90s.

              Their inability to make recoveries is in no small part a function of their protectionism and reluctance to allow in foreign competition.

              1. Their inability to make recoveries is in no small part a function of their protectionism and reluctance to allow in foreign competition.

                Show me on single source that believes that? Their problem is their low birth rate, artifically low currency, and addiction to public spending. I have never seen it blamed on lack of immigration. At most immigration is viewed as a solution to their low birth rate. But that just means they should have more children not necessarily an endorsement of immigration.

                Ken, you are just giving me faculty lounge platitudes. Grow a pair of balls and question some of your assumptions once in a while.

                1. “Their problem is their low birth rate”

                  Gee, I wonder what policies might help address such a problem…..

              2. Japan is the poster child for the failure of Keynesianism. They’ve been “stimulating” their economy for decades now, and have little to show for it but massive debt.

          2. Seriously, any American who can’t compete with Mexican illegal immigrants, who typically have an 8th grade education and can’t speak English?

            Those Americans need to stop snorting so much meth. Those Americans should not have gotten themselves a felony record. Those Americans should have finished high school.

            The choices we make have consequences–and the government’s job isn’t to change that. Conservatives used to understand that better than they do now.

            When I was younger, I worked alongside illegal immigrant construction workers. I had to work my ass off to compete.

            It was good for me.

            1. Seriously, any American who can’t compete with Mexican illegal immigrants, who typically have an 8th grade education and can’t speak English?

              You are just being stupid Ken. You clearly haven’t given this issue any thought. Americans certainly can compete. They just do so at lower wages. That is the point. It lowers wages.

              1. Americans certainly can compete. They just do so at lower wages. That is the point. It lowers wages.

                Oh, well, there’s another example of Dalmia being right about conservative and their economic illiteracy!

                Because lowering costs isn’t bad for the economy–and that’s half of what providing competition is all about.

                Would the economy be better off if oil cost more?

                No?

                If not, it’s becasue the cost of things made using oil would be more expensive, right?

                You don’t think higher labor costs result in more things being more expensive?

                Favoring one aspect of our economy by using the government to protect it results in efficiencies that are worse than whatever “problem” you’re trying to solve–as if cheap labor were a problem for the economy.

                That’s Adam Smith 101, too, John.

                Capitalism and economics, it isn’t just a talking point Republicans can use to bash Democrats with. It’s a collection of real facts and principles in the real world, and if you and other conservatives don’t take them into consideration, there are very real consequences to our prosperity–consequences far beyond the next presidential election.

                Do you understand that?

                Why would the dozens of customers of an illegal immigrant lawn care service be better off if they had to pay more for lawn care?

                1. Let me ask you this, John…

                  Is your disapproval of the UAW based solely on the fact that they tend to vote against your favorite Republican?

                  Because, apparently, you seem to think that them being wildly overpaid to screw in lug nuts is actually good for the economy, right?

                  1. There is a difference between 1) a union (a cartel) artificially raises wages and benefits to unsustainable heights using the force of law, and 2) lowering wages for the lowest-paid workers by increasing the supply of low-wage workers, and during a recession.

                    1. Actually, there is no difference. Both are using force of law (labor law, or immigration law) to distort the market for labor. The two clauses of your sentence above say the exact same thing in differnet words.

                    2. Well, if you want to say both are non-optimal distortions of the market, that’s OK with me.

                2. You don’t think higher labor costs result in more things being more expensive?

                  If the presence of all these sub-literate peasants and their offspring are helping to keep inflation from running out of control, how come it costs four and a half times as much to run the government as it did in 1960 on an inflation-adjusted basis?

                  1. See my comment above.

                    If you want to slash various social programs, don’t let me stand in your way. If you want to cut taxes to starve the beast, I won’t stand in the way of that either. When it comes to entitlements, immigrants are hardly the biggest part of that problem.

                    In the meantime, we need our economy to run as efficiently as possible. And cheaper labor is one thing that contributes to efficiency and economic growth.

                    Are there any other things that make economies more efficient and grow that you want to get rid of in the name of making the government smaller, or are immigrants the one?

                    1. But adding immigrants is going to make the government bigger.

                      What happens when Americans have their salaries lowered because immigrants are willing to take less pay? Or they lose their job entirely?

                      They go on welfare. They get food stamps. They get all sorts of government assistance, which expands the government.

                      A free market approach would be keeping the labor pool its natural size, so wages would increase and thus workers would not need government handouts…

                    2. In the meantime, we need our economy to run as efficiently as possible. And cheaper labor is one thing that contributes to efficiency and economic growth.

                      That’s post hoc, ergo propter hoc bullshit. If your thesis was valid, we wouldn’t be on a decade-long decline in labor participation rates.

      2. Cheap Chinese labor caused pollution. Imagine the pollution if dirty Mexicans could flow in unimpeded. The horror.

        1. Cheap Chinese labor caused pollution. Imagine the pollution if dirty Mexicans could flow in unimpeded. The horror.

          They still have problems with recognizing and protecting people’s rights over there.

          How big of a threat is any individual, over there, suing some manufacturer for polluting their property? Even if the courts would hear the case, how likely are they to rule against the elites who own those polluting companies?

          That’s a problem with the government failing to recognize, respect and protect people’s rights.

          It is NOT a result of cheap labor.

      3. how is an endless supply of cheap labor that you can pay below-market wages and mistreat because who are they going to complain to a good thing?

        Businesses love cheap labor for obvious reasons. Low-skilled citizens might object to it. One of these groups contributes more to political campaigns than the other. I wonder whose interests the recipients of that cash will protect.

        1. 1) It’s not endless.

          2) Wages will rise.

          Everyone seems to fear the year after the borders open, instead of looking ahead to 20 years after the borders open.

          1. I disagree with the last statement; the specter of 20 years hence is exactly why some say the first step has to be gaining control of the border. This is not about being anti-immigrant; hell, my parents immigrated. And naturalized.

            Let’s stop acting like Hispanics are singularly incapable of following the same method that millions of others have followed. Politicians talk about immigration as though the only options are erasing borders or arming every square inch. One easily visible problem is the disparity in how the system treats immigrants: those who follow the rules are often treated like shit; those who sneak in are the new mascot class.

            1. Let’s stop pretending that immigration laws have been static for the last 30 years and that they aren’t regionally biased.

              If you think its easy to immigrate to this country today, even if you are wealthy with no kids, you’re crazy. I know personally know successful Canadians, Europeans, Indians, Asians who are constantly in Visa trouble and are in fear of being uprooted. It’s a complete fucking nightmare to immigrate here.

              The rules are retarded. They are justly flaunted.

              1. I agree the rules are problematic, but abandoning them outright is not a solution. And I did not say it is easy to immigrate; the part where I wrote “those who follow the rules are treated like shit” is a clue to that.

                But because the system is fucked up is no excuse for having no system at all. Bad rules can be righted. By the way, of the people you cited as having had visa trouble, did you notice there are no Hispanics? Which goes back to the central question of – why do politicians content to Latinos by giving the impression that this group of people is singularly incapable of following a system.

                1. But because the system is fucked up is no excuse for having no system at all. Bad rules can be righted.

                  Except I’ve yet to see an argument that justifies the existence of a system beyond:

                  1) Preventing felonious criminals from immigrating.
                  2) Controlling for disease.
                  3) Documenting welfare privileges.

                  As I stated upthread, the fear of welfare overload is easily accommodated by an eligibility threshold.

                  Thus, just about everyone would get a free pass as a Permanent Resident for a period (say 5 years) and then would be eligible for citizenship if they so desired, with the entitlements that come with citizenship.

                  This is not calling for the elimination of rules. Rather simply a refocus.

        2. Those who advocate for a black market of labor (i.e. both those that want to ban illegal immigrants from working and those who wish to set minimum wages) are the reason for the exploitation – not those of us advocating for legal work visas that will permit them to escape bad job situations and advance their skills and careers.

      4. Labor is a not a resource. It is a means to an end.

        People are not ‘labor’.

        If you have a lot of labor to be done, you can employ all your employables.

        If you don’t have a lot of labor to be done, you cannot employ your employables.

        What happens then? In the first instance people are an asset. In the second, they’re a liability.

  13. Economists show their weakness for over-abstraction when they discuss immigration.

    Immigrants are not fungible. Letting in enormous numbers of Latin Americans will change this country for the worse. You can kiss whatever slim hopes we have of returning to limited government good-bye.

    1. Why does letting in Latin Americans, specifically, mean the end of limited government?

      As a bonus question, since when are conservatives concerned about limited government?

      1. Why does letting in Latin Americans, specifically, mean the end of limited government?

        Because they are on average half a standard deviation lower than whites in cognitive abilities. There’s a reason why the relatively free, civil society we so value has developed only in Europe and countries dominated by Europeans (and, lately, in some parts of Asia). People don’t magically acquire the smarts and concomitant self-control to understand and maintain our system simply by crossing a border.

        1. Because they are on average half a standard deviation lower than whites in cognitive abilities.

          Sometimes, we have to make tough choices. When I was a kid, I got into trouble with my mom once for using foul language in talking about my big brother. She told me God didn’t want me using foul language like that. I told her that sometimes God makes us choose between using foul language and telling the truth…

          By which I mean to say, what you just wrote is the dumbest piece of shit thing I’ve read on Hit Run in a long time–congratu-fucking-lations.

          There’s a reason why the relatively free, civil society we so value has developed only in Europe and countries dominated by Europeans

          What part of the world hasn’t been dominated by Europeans? In what way was the Spanish colonialism system capitalistic? …are you one of those lefties who equate capitalism with slavery?!

          How does domination by Europeans account for the fact that Brazil and Chile are so capitalistic now?

          And if domination by Europeans is such a compelling force for capitalism, why are the economies of Europe now are so socialistic?

          1. By which I mean to say, what you just wrote is the dumbest piece of shit thing I’ve read on Hit Run in a long time–congratu-fucking-lations.

            Scream all you want. There’s lots of data to back it up.

      2. they are not being “let” in; they are sneaking in. By the way, trying doing likewise in on their countries, particularly Mexico.

        1. I lived and worked in Mexico for more than a year.

          You don’t know what you’re talking about.

          Regardless, even if Mexico were as hostile to working immigrants as you say, why would that mean we should emulate them? If they jump off a bridge, does that mean we should jump off a bridge too?

          P.S. Have you ever really thought about any of this stuff before?

          1. at least be intellectually honest. Highly doubtful that no one knew of you being in and working in Mexico. And, this is about illegal immigrants, not the kind that host nations are fully aware of. It is that kind of semantic game-playing that one usually expects of liberals.

            You don’t know what you’re talking about.

            so all those stories about how Mexico treats illegals are lies? Please.

            1. And, this is about illegal immigrants, not the kind that host nations are fully aware of.

              You’re right, then. It’s better to know about them–and let them all into the country legally.

              We should pass out six-month visas for Mexican travelers to the United States to fill out themselves–just like the Mexicans do when Americans travel to Mexico.

              1. let them all into the country legally.

                because what could possibly go wrong? And let’s apply the same “policy” to folks from everywhere else, too.

                The one aspect of your answer that is interesting is the visas they would fill out themselves. Those unable of filling in the blanks do not get to come in. With the rest, we treat the expiration of their visas like Mexico would an American’s.

              2. let them all into the country legally.

                because what could possibly go wrong? And let’s apply the same “policy” to folks from everywhere else, too.

                The one aspect of your answer that is interesting is the visas they would fill out themselves. Those unable of filling in the blanks do not get to come in. With the rest, we treat the expiration of their visas like Mexico would an American’s.

          2. Tu quoque fallacy AND red herring. What does Mexican immigration policy (wrong as it may be) have to do with America or this discussion?

  14. Conservatives just aren’t libertarians. Sometimes we’d like to think they are. Sometimes they’d like to think they are, but they’re not.

    The way they shift around on the importance of the Constitution is telling. When George W. Bush was using the Constitution as toilet paper, conservatives painted us libertarians like we were a fifth column for complaining about the abuse of our constitutional rights.

    Once Obama got into office and managed to pass ObamaCare, suddenly conservatives saw the constitution as a sacred trust that can never to be violated.

    They flopped the same way on spending. They flopped the same way on TARP. They do the same thing on just about everything. They’re fair weather capitalists like they’re fair weather constitutionalists.

  15. Did I miss something or is there not a single economic argument in this article? Yet it is headlined “Conservatives show their economic illiteracy”. Really? If so, is it too much to ask that she explain this rather than giving a bunch of platitudes and spin.

    Dalmia is just horrible. She is worst writer on Reason by a country mile. This article makes no substantive arguments for immigration and really seems to have no point whatsoever beyond Conservatives are icky. It is just sorry. Jesus, does the Jacket ever actual exercise his authority as editor? Does anyone?

    1. She works for Glasses Guy. The Jacket just does vids now.

    2. Ironically, she also writes for a conservative magazine/website, NRO

  16. “How many conservatives do you think are clear on the fact that stopping cheap labor from crossing borders is a bad idea for all the same reasons that stopping any other resource from crossing borders is a bad idea?”

    It isn’t an established fact that the labor IS cheap when all the extra costs to the taxpayers are factored in. Public school costs, welfare benefit costs, etc.

    In a welfare state system importing people is not at all like importing consumer goods or commodities. Imported tomatoes doen’t go to school or get food stamps.

    1. the labor is cheap for the guy doing the hiring. For most everyone else involved, including the actual employee in some cases, it’s not such a great deal.

      1. Actually, the vast majority of studies I have seen have found no large negative effect to illegal immigration. The only ones that ever do are those published by groups set up to explicitly oppose illegal immigration and in some casesthe current level of legal immigration. Studies almost always find either a a small net positive gain or a marginal decrease.

        IMO, a marginal decrease in economic activity does not justify signifcantly impeding freedom of movement.

        This is partially because many illegals pay into a system like Social Security without ever taking anything out through the use of fake numbers. In any case, problems associated with welfare or public schools could be fixed by making immigration easier and establishing an eligibility window for certain government services and/or programs. There’s also the idea of making immigrants pay a certain fee to the government upon entry.

  17. Such talk has given the president a nearly 40-point lead among Hispanics…

    Or alternatively, large numbers of people vote on a self identification basis and not in response to specific policy changes.

  18. Conservatives would never sign off on population controls as a cure for unemployment, rightly pointing out that new workers are not mouths that should be regretted because they eat, but hands and brains that should be welcomed because they grow the economic pie.

    That explains our current 3% unemployment rate and the near record labor force participation rate.

    Yet they are now peddling the restrictionist nonsense that immigrant workers diminish economic opportunities for Americans.

    Yes, the laws of supply and demand do not apply to labor markets at all.

  19. Bush unilaterally ordered. It is also a politically brilliant move, one that has pulled the rug out from under an almost identical bill that Sen. Marco Rubio?the Florida Republican rumored to be on Romney’s vice presidential list?was working on. By supporting the Rubio bill, Romney was planning a grand pivot away from his harsh anti-immigrant primary rhetoric, including his promise to implement policies that would cause unauthorized workers to “self deport.”

  20. So, you’re saying Hispanics are as gullible and anyone else?

  21. I’m all for massive immigration, legal or illegal, as long as they are taxed. I need someone to pay for my social security when I retire.

  22. Umm…President Obama did not do anything unconstitutional regarding this issue.

    In case you are not aware, the executive branch is given wide discretion on how to enforce laws the legislature passes UNLESS the legislature expressly removes said discretion.

    Prosecutors are not forced to prosecute every shop-lifter or even every murderer. Across this country executive branch members make decisions about what crimes and what criminals they will use their limited resources to prosecute.

    The immigration issue is no different. The executive branch is charged to use its discretion on how best to expend resources in the battle to protect the border.

    It is not true to say that what the President did was unconstitutional. It was unwise. It was politically tinged. It might even be dangerous. But let’s not confuse stupid and dangerous with unconstitutional.

    1. The difference between prosecutorial discretion and issuing work permits is not insignificant.

      1. People given deferred action can be issued work permits. That is in the immigration law. Nothing in this is unconstitutional.

          1. And I wasn’t trying to bust anybody. To the extent that words are important it is valuable to label this correctly.

            What President Obama is doing is not smart and it might destroy our border states, but it is not outside the bounds of his constitutional powers.

  23. We need immigrants, but you can’t just allow everyone to come here at once for several reasons. The difference between the immigrant of today and that of those before the 1960’s is Government. We know that most immigrants who have come here from the founding and before are the poor looking for a better life. I don’t blame any of them for coming, wouldn’t you if you were in their situation. The problem is if you over populate the work force and the jobs aren’t there, we as taxpayers will be paying through are many government programs to help them out. Things have changed, we need a new immigration policy but it can’t involve just allowing everyone wishing to come to enter for it creates other problems. Some will say it just isn’t fair, we need to help them and the answer is to help everyone we can without hurting ourselves in the process. We need immigration in moderation and we must know who these people are before allowing them to come here.

  24. Today’s immigrant comes not so much to avoid government domination of the economy (they actually enjoy that very much), but to seek out a place where goodies are provided free of corruption.

    In other words, they don’t like corruption only because it robs the state of resources that would otherwise go to providing them with government goodies.

  25. And again, I’m at a loss as to the source of this open borders stance among Libertarians.

    Can anyone say ‘Tragedy of the Commons’?

    I know libertarians can–they use it in other arguments. But here, in this one, ‘private’ property should be public. It won’t happen on this scale? What is the justification for this?

    1. What private property should be public?

      Why do you seem to think that all property should be nationalized, at least with regard to who you allow on it?

  26. “Indeed, Republicans are glomming onto every bad economic argument to oppose the initiative, abandoning even the pretense of upholding free-market principles.”

    Free markets include predictable application of the law. Indeed it has been one of the reasons people have voted with their feet to come here in droves, and one of the things that make our markets preferable to others. If the benefits of American citizenship are sprayed willy nilly out of helicopters every election season, the value of that citizenship is necessarily diminished.

    You can’t compartmentalize the executive overreach from the impact it has on markets. Adding 800,000 legal workers to the labor force puts downward pressure on American wages (I understand this is not true on a global scale, but Republicans and Democrats are running for elected office in America, after all) at a time of high unemployment no matter how you slice it, so there are legitimate constitutional and economic problems that Republicans can and should point out. From an American economic standpoint, this move is counterproductive and baldly political. This article seems to be written from a “one-world” perspective that will never happen.

    http://www.fiscalwars.wordpress.com

  27. My step-father is a bleeding-heart liberal who supports social-democratic policies almost in lock-step. However, he is also a really good carpenter and usually diverges from Democrats on the issue of border security and amnesty. This divergence is based on his real-world experience, not on some political bent or lack of economic knowledge. Quite the opposite; it is based on his personal experience and very basic economics at the most basic, individual level.

  28. Or as someone mentioned, we understand the principle of supply and demand.

    By flooding the market with lots of unskilled labor that will work for extremely low wages, it hurts Americans who also happen to be unskilled, who then have to go on welfare and food stamps and the like.

    It’s a myth that all people can do jobs like blogging and work at think tanks and such if they get enough education (paid for the government) a lot of people simply can’t handle anything more than manual labor and retail and the like. Forcing them to compete with people who are willing to take far less money because they don’t really live here, but are mostly based in another country where the economy is different is unfair. And ultimately the taxpayers pay for it.

  29. Ron Paul’s stance on immigration is a good example of balancing libertarian idealism with border-state reality. Since most libertarians are so fond of him, it’s an area of policy where they’d do well to read what he’s written on the subject.

    The bottomline is: open immigration is perfectly consistent with a laissez faire free market libertarian society. We don’t live in one. We have no true price mechanism in labor thanks to price floors and byzantine labor laws. We also have a generous welfare state with certain guaranteed benefits plus additional provisions for minorities and migrant workers (my state has an entire state-sponsored health care system for migrant workers). There’s a reason why all of the European social democracies have some of the most stringent immigration laws in the world. Adding more recipients pushes the accelerator on the fiscal depravity of the entitlement state.

    Illegal or “undocumented” immigration (kind of a misnomer since 49% of illegal immigrants are actually visa overstays, not Mexican border jumpers) also raises security concerns, since, I think, even libertarians acknowledge some role for the government in ensuring the safety of its citizens from things like foreign criminals, communicable diseases, terrorism (several of the 9/11 hijackers were illegal immigrants), child sex trafficking, etc. Legal open immigration and illegal immigration aren’t the same thing, and it’s stupid to advocate for the latter as if they were.

    1. People aren’t advocating for illegal immigration. People are advocating for legal open immigration while arguing that lax enforcement of illegal immigration is more just than strict enforcement of illegal immigration.

      1. Advocating that the law not be enforced on illegal immigrants and advocating for illegal immigration is kind of a distinction without a difference. And it’s still stupid for the reasons I mentioned. Abrogating one of the few legitimate responsibilities of the state (making sure bad people don’t come in and kill its citizens) is a poor way to remedy the specifics of its policy that you disagree with. It also sets a really shitty precedent for selective enforcement of good, legitimate laws as well.

  30. Any discussion about immigration that ignores the welfare state is a waste of time. Illegal aliens as a group are not generating sufficient economic output to offset the cost of providing them with public services.

    We already have an ample supply of poorly educated, low-skilled workers and they are mostly on the dole. Why bring in more? And illegals ARE displacing American workers, especially in the building trades. Ask anyone who works in that business. This forces American citizens on to the dole who can’t compete with the lower wages.

    Hispanic out of wedlock birth rates are higher, creating more single parent households, more poverty and use of government entitlements. Incarceration rates are also higher, AGAIN creating more cost.

    Lastly, Hispanics are generally FOR welfare programs and any path to legalization would allow them to swamp the pitiful number of Libertarians out there at the voting booth. Your entire agenda would be off the table within a few election cycles should the millions of illegals be given full citizenship.

    California has an enormous number of illegal immigrants, how are they doing right now? Using Libertarian logic LA County should be a paradise right now. Legalization only makes matters worse as it would open the door for more welfare handouts and entitlements. I would suggest reading some of the articles written by Heather MacDonald at the Manhattan Institute. She knows more about this issue than anyone at Reason.

  31. More immigration is a good thing. But it should happen legally, not uncontrollably, and illegal behavior should not be rewarded. If the US wants a million new immigrants, it can get them any time it wants to, it doesn’t have to rely on a self-selected group of economic refugees.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.