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Free Minds & Free Markets

What Milton Friedman Really Said About Immigration and Welfare

Restrictionists have distorted and weaponized the late, great economist's views

Crops are rotting in the fields. Developers can't find workers to hang dry wall. Summer tourist hotspots (such as Michigan's Mackinac Island) areImmigrant rallyErik McGregorPacific PressNewscom unable to fully function because they can't find enough seasonal help. Help wanted signs are proliferating everywhere. Yet one of the biggest barriers to alleviating America's labor scarcity and enacting humane, rational, and pro-growth immigration reform is a statement by the late, great, free market economist Milton Friedman that "free immigration" was incompatible with the welfare state.

"Free" immigration might be as distant a goal for mankind as flying at the speed of light and no one is talking about it. Yet Friedman's vague and general statement has become a potent weapon in the arsenal of restricitonists to thwart any loosening of America's insanely restrictive immigration laws. Worse, Friedman's comment has become a way for justifying Trump's draconian immigration crackdown.

But all of this is a terrible misuse of Friedman's real views on immigration and welfare. If he were still alive, I note in my column at The Week, he would denounce Trump's immigration policies. He'd never be on the restrictionist side.

Go here to read the piece.

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  • Mickey Rat||

    No one is talking about "free" immigration except every specific restriction on immigration gets characterized as an affront to freedom. If no one is talking about it, then it because to openly support such a thing is incredibly unpopular. Dalmia characterizes the USA immigration policy as "insane" despite it being one of the least restrictive in the world.

    And then there is the case of Germany, which has more or less proved the critics of open borders policy correct in their scepticism about such schemes.

  • Brandybuck||

    What color is the sky on your planet?

  • Mickey Rat||

    I can assure you it is not plaid like where Dalmia resides.

  • Dan S.||

    From Libertarianism in One Lesson by David Bergland:

    * Should it be legal for people to travel or move into and out of the
    U.S. without limitation?

    Liberal: We should give more help to people trying to escape poverty and
    political oppression so they can to come to America, but not without
    limitation because they take jobs from Americans.
    Conservative: No. We have too many immigrants already. Everyone will
    want to come to America. They increase welfare costs, take our jobs,
    increase crime and disease, and refuse to learn English.
    Libertarian: Yes. All individuals have the same rights, regardless of where
    they were born or where they live now. Anyone willing to take responsibility
    for himself or herself has the right to travel and seek opportunity, including
    across international borders. America has always benefitted from immigrants
    who arrive with nothing, work hard, start businesses, become
    educated and improve America's economy.
  • damikesc||

    ...and if they DO NOT take responsibility for themselves? If they become basic wards of the state?

  • Agammamon||

    Then the problem is the state having power to take on wards.

  • vek||

    Well, let's fix that problem first... THEN we can talk about open borders :)

  • Rhywun||

    Talk about strawmen.... I also note than none of the three positions as described actually comport with reality.

  • Fuck you, Shikha (Nunya)||

    So the libertarian response to allowing the market to determine who and what they should be paid to hang drywall is to alter the market using government enforcement.

    OK.

  • ||

    Mackinac Island is a hotspot because cars are banned, which means they need people to clean horse manure off the streets and peddle white tourists around in peddle carts and rickshaws. Turns out not even immigrants living in places like Chicago, Milwaukee, and Detroit want to work for white tourists on a tiny island with no cars in the hot sun picking up horse shit. Shikha's magnanimous solution to the issue is to hand out work visas so the island can employ more brown-skinned coachmen and buggy whip makers.

  • damikesc||

    ...she totally isn't advocating slavery...

  • Leo Kovalensky II||

    Quite the opposite. The response is to remove barriers for employers to interact freely with potential employees, whether native or immigrant.

    The distortion is in the government regulations that already exist... ie immigration control; a control on the supply of labor.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    Uncage those babies and put them to work.

  • Rhywun||

    "Because as long as it's illegal the people who come in do not qualify for welfare, they don't qualify for Social Security, they don't qualify for all the other myriads of benefits," he pointed out. "They take jobs that most residents of this country are unwilling to take, they provide employers with workers of a kind they cannot get."

    Largely bullshit. They get tons of welfare at the state and local level. And they take those jobs only because they're priced below what all levels of government combined are willing to hand out to natives for doing nothing.

    But it is refreshing to hear an admission that the main reason to support illegals is to get cheap labor that doesn't talk back.

    But many economists believe that more immigration is essential to extend the life of old age entitlement programs given that these are pay-as-you-go systems that will become much harder to sustain if America's already plummeting worker-to-retiree ratio (due to declining fertility and aging populations) is allowed to drop any further.

    And to prop up collectivist pyramid schemes.

  • KevinP||

    Exactly. There are many ways in which illegals get taxpayer support. As just one example, every illegal alien's child is entitled to a public school education (even if the child is also illegal) and the average cost of this education is $11,000 per year (2014 figures). An illegal alien's child enrolled in first grade will cost the taxpayer $132,000 to graduate from high school. This $132,000 of course becomes unavailable to educate the children of citizens and legal immigrants.

    So a $25 billion wall will pay for itself if it deters just 190,000 illegal aliens of child-bearing age from crossing the border illegally.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    The cost of the welfare state is north of $1 trillion per year.
    Even according to the biased statistics of outfits like CIS, undocumented immigrants cost taxpayers around $100 billion per year. And that figure includes BOTH welfare AND the cost of immigration enforcement.

    So a reasonable estimate is that welfare from undocumented immigrants constitute somewhere between 5-10% of the total cost of the welfare state. Going apeshit nuts over undocumented immigrants consuming welfare, when it is AT MOST 10% of the problem, is simply irrational.

    An illegal alien's child enrolled in first grade will cost the taxpayer $132,000 to graduate from high school.

    Even assuming your figure is correct, that is the cost for EVERY CHILD in public school, not just the undocumented ones. What are you doing to prevent the MUCH LARGER expense of native-born children consuming the 'welfare' of public school? Why are you going after the costs borne by the undocumented immigrants which are such a comparatively small part of the problem?

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    It's dishonest to characterize the discussion as "going apeshit nuts"

    I'm sorry, did you miss the 2016 electoral campaign? The entire thing was centered around scapegoating foreigners in one way or another. Yes, the political right has elevated the 'problem' of undocumented immigrants far beyond its rational effects.

    If you view the welfare state itself as the problem, then devoting extraordinary energy to at most 5-10% of the problem, while largely ignoring the rest of it, isn't rational.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    It is not a mischaracterization to state that the immigration restrictionists on the right have elevated the problem of undocumented immigrants consuming welfare to a level far out of proportion to its rational effects. "Going apeshit nuts" is a colloquial way to state the same thing.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    As opposed to going apeshit over defense spending? Or going apeshit when the gop didn't fully repeal obamacare and offered only some of the cuts? BUT THEY PROMISED!!!!

    Gotta love that fickle purity.

  • ||

    Two problems with this.

    Don't argue. Just mock.

    As poorly written and reasoned as Shikha's article is, chemjeff is apparently determined to undercut her. The article is literally about immigration and the welfare state and he starts off chastising... someone, for ignoring 90% of the welfare state in order to focus on a marginal increase in the other 10%.

    I have a feeling you could poke him in the eye right now and he wouldn't blink.

  • ||

    Going apeshit nuts over undocumented immigrants consuming welfare, when it is AT MOST 10% of the problem, is simply irrational.

    Johnny Cab was far more entertaining.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    This $132,000 of course becomes unavailable to educate the children of citizens and legal immigrants.

    This comment reveals the real reason to go apeshit nuts over welfare consumed by undocumented immigrants. It is not because they are opposed to the welfare state in principle. It is because they want to *preserve* the welfare state for those who *deserve it*, namely, citizens.

    Immigration restrictionism will make it HARDER to tear down the welfare state not, easier.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    That is some exceptionally stupid reasoning when immigrants overwhelming vote to increase the welfare state.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    The immigrants who might vote to increase the welfare state are far outnumbered by the native-born citizens who ALSO vote to increase the welfare state.

  • damikesc||

    Don't slow jeff down now.

    Jeff admits that illegals want more welfare. But, he argues, citizens also want more welfare. So the Libertarian solution is to bring in MORE people who want more welfare. That will, surely, end welfare as we know it.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Jeff admits that illegals want more welfare.

    Of course they do, just like native-born citizens want more welfare. They aren't any more inherently predisposed to wanting welfare than anyone else who is similarly situated.

    The correct solution, when it comes to reducing the welfare state, is to go after where the problem REALLY IS. Spending all your energy on tackling at best 5-10% of the problem isn't very productive, is it? But it does make you look like a bunch of xenophobic retards whose 'concern' for the ever-expanding welfare state only extends to those undocumented immigrants who may receive it.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    How do you end welfare when the immigrant hordes and American welfare queens/kings become the majority and never end welfare?

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    And yet can prove to be the deciding margin. Are you seriously this dense?

  • Procyon Rotor||

    Michael Hihn lays out the new Libertarian platform yet again. Social Security and Medicare are totally legitimate! Tax cuts are government largess, you filthy parasite! That money's not yours! Spending doesn't create debt, lack of revenue does! That cloud looks racist, I'm gonna shake my stick at it!

  • Bubba Jones||

    An illegal paying rent is also paying the property taxes to fund that education.

    An illegal man who is paying rent while sending his money back to Mexico is paying those taxes without consuming the education.

    If it weren't for Mexican teenaged girls, Texas would not have a positive birth rate (citation needed). That doesn't seem sustainable.

  • Nardz||

    An illegal paying rent is also increasing the price of rent in the area thus distorting the market.
    Boom

  • Sometimes a Great Notion||

    So a $25 billion wall will pay for itself if it deters just 190,000 illegal aliens of child-bearing age from crossing the border illegally.

    Does this account for lost tax revenue even if the illegal themselves pays no property, income, FICA or sales tax someone is because of their efforts. Just wondering if the loss of 190,000 people who may be working and improving this country (granted it may not be a net positive) could be a drag on the economy and cause tax revenues to fall greater then the savings on the cost side?

  • vek||

    Sure, they're producing GDP... But so does a peasant farmer in India.

    The thing is they don't generally earn enough to pay for their use of socialized costs. They lower the average per capita income in the country, which is really what makes a 1st world country 1st world. All of this is also true for native born poor... The thing is we're stuck with them, why import more poverty?

    Thing is we're not "stuck with" allowing in any schlep off the street. This is AMERICA. We could let in nothing but PHDs and we could probably fill our full quota of 1 million a year just with hyper high productivity people. They are all but guaranteed to more than pay their way. As a matter of fact they will likely LESSEN the burden on native born Americans, instead of add to it.

    We already have low labor force participation rates, and teenagers can't hardly even get jobs when they want them anymore because they're competing with adults. That's how shit the labor market is. We don't need more low skill people, we just need to nudge slackers and teenagers back into the work force.

  • Zeb||

    Largely bullshit. They get tons of welfare at the state and local level.

    But it was probably a lot less bullshit in 1980 or whenever Friedman made his comments.

  • Brandybuck||

    If immigration is incompatible with the welfare state, then get rid of the welfare state! Duh.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    This is the proper response.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Great, so how about we focus on that and come back to immigration when it's done? But you're super serial and will get around to welfare reform real soon now. Promise.

  • vek||

    Everybody gets welfare Hihn!

    Schools, roads, everything is socialized in terms of costs. I pay for the roads for people that world at McDonalds because they don't make enough money to cover their share. Illegal immigrants overwhelmingly fall into the lowest income tiers. Every extra one that is here is taking cash right out of every middle class on up persons wallet.

  • MatthewSlyfield||

    This is the proper response.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Agreed.

  • Weigel's Cock Ring||

    100% correct, but do you notice that Reason never advocates getting rid of the welfare state? Nowadays, if anything they argue that it should be EXPANDED!

  • Tom Bombadil||

    If deporting Shikha is wrong, I don't want to be right.

  • WhatAboutBob||

    Well she's not an American so why not deport her? She sure as hell doesn't care about this country. She has not loyalty to her own shithole country so now she's here trying to turn the USA into a shithole country. It never stops with these people.

  • AlmightyJB||

    "Crops are rotting in the fields. Developers can't find workers to hang dry wall."

    And yet wages remain stagnant even as the economy is heating up. If only there was some market solution to respond to a lack of supply.

  • Mickey Rat||

    Raise wages to attract employees? That's just crazy talk!

  • damikesc||

    "Libertarians" only believe in supply and demand in terms of cost of goods...never in cost of labor. Workers do not warrant higher wages when jobs cannot be filled at their current salary level. We just need to bring in more people to work cheaper.

  • Rhywun||

    Well, it says up above that libertarians believe everyone in the world has the right to move to any nation they wish. I'm sure that fantasy will come true any... day... now.

  • ||

    "Crops are rotting in the fields. Developers can't find workers to hang dry wall."

    Wasn't unhung drywall plague No. 3? Somewhere between fields lying fallow and rivers turning to blood, right? Fields lying fallow, drywall unhung, rivers turning to blood, tourists unable to get fresh hand towels, frogs, locusts, fiery rain, and then the death of first-born sons... right?

  • Bubba Jones||

    The problem appears to be one of a "bubble" economy. People have already stretched themselves to buy their mcmansions. They aren't going to pay 10% more.

    So, everyone would have to come to grips with buying a smaller house at the new equilibrium.

    We can't let that happen!

  • Microaggressor||

    Clearly the only possible problem here is the lack of desperate foreigners to work under the table. Let's not talk about labor regulations and a welfare state rendering an entire class of natives unemployable.

  • lap83||

    This. Being in favor of free markets doesn't mean you never recognize that some employers are cheap jerks

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Take a look at this table very carefully. It is a little old, but I doubt the figures have substantially changed.

    There is not much of a constituency among both the R's and the D's for ending the welfare state.

    Welfare consumed by undocumented immigrants became an issue not because those who were most angry by it were opposed to welfare in principle. Instead they wanted to preserve the welfare state for those who were "worthy".

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    And even less of a constituency amongst libertarians.

  • ||

    Take a look at this table very carefully.

    8+21-6-9-23+11+4+4 = 10, Republicans favor cutting spending by 10% more (whatever that means exactly). If you take out Foreign Aid (which neither natives nor immigrants, legal or otherwise receive), homeland security, and defense spending (both of which are also distinct from welfare for a whole host of not-dissimilar reasons) the difference becomes 34% more favorable on the side of Republicans.

    Duly noted.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    Talk about lying with numbers. The areas of spending that Republicans most favor cutting are drops in the budget bucket, the big area of spending that Republicans oppose cutting is gigantic (defense), and the rest are about a wash.

  • ||

    Talk about lying with numbers.

    They're your numbers! Unlike yourself, I've said absolutely nothing the table doesn't say. If all the numbers and all the differences are just a wash, why even link to the table at all? I think you just want the table to say something it doesn't clearly or definitively say.

  • damikesc||

    loosening of America's insanely restrictive immigration laws.

    What country has less restrictive immigration laws?

    I'd like a list of this.

  • Rhywun||

    I'm no export but I *think* Canada may have looser laws. I know a guy who got into Canada when the US wouldn't take him back. I suspect his problem was having no relatives here nor any desire to pick strawberries or hang sheetrock.

  • Nardz||

    Canada's immigration laws are much more strict (I hear)

  • vek||

    They have essentially 2 systems that allow people in.

    Their immigration system, which leans heavily towards skilled workers, but as I understand it they'll basically let in as many as apply. This is why many people from the USA or Europe can get in easily, THEY HAVE SKILLS. The other is their insane asylum policy which lets in a ton of people from war torn countries etc.

    Their immigration system is good... Their asylum policies have some issues.

  • perlchpr||

    Somalia? (Just guessing, don't actually know.)

  • Iheartskeet||

    I think its hard to quantify, but since we're handing out H1Bs via a lottery, I think we've crossed over to "insane" pretty easily, even if there are other insane ones out there two.

  • ||

    I think its hard to quantify... I think we've crossed over to "insane" pretty easily

    "It's hard for me to be rational, but I'm pretty sure you're the one who's crazy!"

  • Iheartskeet||

    "Its really hard for me to read or quote someone's entire post, or even get their point, so instead I'll misquote them and make sick burn out of it, that in fact doesn't make a lick of sense"

  • Harvard||

    Shecky Dullmia schooling Milton Friedman. I swear, Reason seems intent on preventing any Libertarian Party candidate from ever being elected to any office, anywhere.....ever.

  • Weigel's Cock Ring||

    Because Reason isn't run by real libertarians any longer. The very few real libertarians who still occasionally get featured here, such as John Stossel, now get a disclaimer put on their material that their views "don't necessarily" represent the views of Reason.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Why would Lefties that work at Reason want Libertarians to beat Democrats?

    Its bad enough for the LINOs at Reason that Republicans are kicking Democrat ass.

  • Agammamon||

    But all of this is a terrible misuse of Friedman's real views on immigration and welfare. If he were still alive, I note in my column at The Week, he would denounce Trump's immigration policies. He'd never be on the restrictionist side.

    You're right - and so was he. End the welfare state and 90% of the legitimate reasons to oppose open immigration lose their foundation.

  • Iheartskeet||

    True, but of course the welfare state isn't going anywhere.

    So...now what ?

    She makes the case that illegal immigrants are a net $$ contributor. Haven't seen that refuted, though I am skeptical.

    It seems like the best thing is some variation on the Guest Worker program. Let them in to work and pay taxes, and then return home. One of the things is many/most of these folks don't want to be US citizens, but we make it so damn hard to go back and forth that they settle here, have kids etc. If we just let them come in and work, and go home, perhaps we'd have a lot fewer here soaking up benefits. It would eliminate the need for a wall and all the costs that go with it, not to mention people trying to cross deserts etc. Meanwhile, with a Guest Worker card, they'd be documented, and all US laws would apply.

  • chemjeff radical individualist||

    This would be a terrific step in the right direction.

  • ||

    True, but of course the welfare state isn't going anywhere.

    So then you agree that 90% of the reasons to oppose open immigration are legitimate and not going anywhere?

  • Iheartskeet||

    Did you read the rest of my post ? It doesn't look like it.

    No. It means let's look at what we should do given that idealistic perfection ain't gonna happen. You know, like every other fucking thing in life.

  • Harvard||

    Simple solution to simple problem. Build the wall. Issue green cards. Surprised Trump isn't a shoo in for a Nobel.

  • Iheartskeet||

    I'd say that what I proposed is even simpler.

  • Agammamon||

    I've been supportive of that.

    Open up for legal immigration and the illegal goes to a trickle and you don't need the wall.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Im not going to click on Shikha awful at some website that values her Lefty rants.

    Go away.

  • Butler T. Reynolds||

    Amazing what passes for a "lefty rant" among conservatives these days. And what brings these anti-capitalists over here anyway?

    You know, Fox News is just a click away.....

  • Graphite||

    Could we *not* encourage the use and spread of this bullshit term "weaponize"? As near as I can tell, it just means deploying an argument or legal doctrine in support of a position that the person using the term "weaponize" finds unpalatable. As in "weaponized social media," "How conservatives weaponized the First Amendment," and other dumbass takes.

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