no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

Exploitation: Immigrants and Slaves

May 6th, 2008

Continuing my recent ponderings and pontifications on the topic of “illegal immigration,” I came across the following argument, which I believe to be a widely-held, yet erroneous belief:

Illegal immigration causes an enormous drain on public funds. The seminal study of the costs of immigration by the National Academy of Sciences found that the taxes paid by immigrants do not begin to cover the cost of services received by them.

And if slavery persisted to-day, some would argue that freed slaves would consume far more in government programs than they would pay in taxes. But the freed slave, or the immigrant’s comparative poverty and misfortune is the result of the system which has been holding them back; it is not caused by a desire to “cheat” the rest of us! Specifically, in the case of the immigrants earning black-market wages, one reason they don’t pay taxes is because they’re not allowed to pay taxes! Give them a legal job, and voila – they’re taxpayers.

That they may be a “drain on public funds” is an argument that is at least as true for the native poor, and the elderly, the latter being among the wealthiest individuals to have ever walked the earth. Yet nobody is clamoring to kick them out of the country, or to build a wall to keep them at bay, even though such extradition would almost certainly enrich the rest of us. The very notion of paternalist “social safety nets” is founded upon the belief that those less fortunate are more deserving of assistance, and that we ought to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Yet some people only care about the less fortunate as long as caring for the less fortunate does not impact their livelihood, which is to say: these people don’t give a shit about the less fortunate, since any act of compassion requires some amount of self-sacrifice.

If there is a problem, it is not with poverty or immigration, but rather the incentives created by such programs. FAIR continues:

Additionally, job competition by waves of illegal immigrants desperate for any job unfairly depresses the wages and working conditions offered to American workers

This statement would be more accurate if it read: “The violent suppression of the non-native poor is a contributing factor to the benefits packages offered to uneducated and unskilled Americans.”

The eradication of chattel slavery presented the same sort of alleged problems: the new waves of workers would drive down the wages of all workers in destructive competition. This is an argument that is simply not born from the facts of reality. Were some people harmed? Undoubtedly so, but the brunt of this was borne by those who had, for generations, profited from the exploitation of others. This is no less true when applied to would-be immigrants, whose standard of living is artificially suppressed by draconian immigration laws and the State’s usurpation of private property rights, free association, and voluntary contract..

Along the same vein, FAIR pulls out the “population growth” scare-tactic:

Illegal immigration also contributes to the dramatic population growth overwhelming communities across America

[Come to Detroit, where factories sit idle, and the population is dwindling!]

In all seriousness, as I’ve previously noted: the “population explosion” argument is patently untrue. Over the past 200+ years, the population growth in America has slowed substantially. Growth was at its peak, many years ago, when the people were arguably dumber and less productive than we are today.

Curiously, and in spite of these natural handicaps, the population continued to grow, and wealth continued to increase to such a point that generally, even the poorest Americans are now wealthier in real terms than just about anyone in the history of the world! Clearly, the mass-immigration that characterized the Industrial Revolution era did not destroy America, and it will not now destroy a wealthier, more productive America.

Like slavery in years gone by, laws forbidding the peaceful migration of people represent the basest imaginable form of economic rent-seeking. Of course, those who believe (rightly or wrongly) that they benefit from the status quo will probably be its loudest proponents. So we see Big Labor fighting against immigration, just as we historically viewed the Plantations’ vested interests as the mouthpiece for the continuation of slavery. Releasing men from the chains of slavery (proper, or economic) has the necessary side-effect of eradicating any “advantages” accruing to others as a reslult of that gross inequity. .

When it becomes necessary to right a wrong such as slavery, there are undoubtedly going to be “victims” whose way of life has only been sustained by the perpetuation of that injustice, but removing the inequity does not cause economic harm; it merely destroys the capacity for one man (or group of men) to continue earning economic rent through the exploitation of the less fortunate.

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics