Saturday, June 02, 2007


From Reason Magazine Blog in support of open borders:
In his 2004 paper, Boom Towns and Ghost Countries, World Bank socioeconomist Lant Pritchett uses the example of mid-19th century Ireland to illustrate the inefficiencies of today’s labor market, where bureaucratic barriers have never been more intractable. To leave a country that is failing, Pritchett explains, it helps to have somewhere to go. But in important ways it is harder for today’s immigrants to relieve pressure on a failing economy than yesterday’s.

The simultaneous opening of markets for goods and closing of markets for labor has sparked a strange dissonance in debates about free trade. The same Republicans who will go to the mat for your right to buy cheap widgets from Bangladesh will fight as hard to keep the widget makers safely behind the fence.

How does it follow that I want cheap widgets therefore I should want to assume the public costs of uneducated low skilled labor?

Immigrants are a risk because they have to achieve a certain level of productivity to compensate for the public services that they will consume. Free trade lets some other country assume the social costs. How much of the health care crisis is really a result of an overburdened medical system treating 12-20 million aliens that can’t pay?

Work conditions in America were rough 100 years ago, but it was still work and was much better than starving in Ireland. Using unskilled labor freely helped to build our economy. We’re too sophisticated to allow unskilled people to work for $2 an hour now. They need to live in free housing and get checks from the taxpayers instead. Bangladesh is stepping in to fill the void.

Post-War Japan is a prime example of a country that rebuilt with cheap labor and cheap products and improved to the point that Americans would rather own a Lexus than a Cadillac. Our consumers benefited without the social costs. Mexico could do the same thing, but it’s more expedient for them to export their citizens and then import our dollars.

A libertarian magazine like Reason should understand the benefit of cheap labor elsewhere versus the costs of inviting it into our welfare state. And any benefit currently realized will diminish with legislation that brings these people out of the shadows, especially with modern-day Boss Tweeds ready to troll for votes.

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