Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Illogic from the Pro-Immigration Camp

UPDATED BELOW (07/04/07)

The usually sensible Don Boudreaux, writing at Cafe Hayek, says:
James D. Miller is not alone in arguing that the existence of the U.S. welfare state means that more open immigration -- particularly of unskilled foreign workers -- is unwise policy. My reasons for rejecting this argument are several, but at the top of the list is this reason: If immigrants come to America to suckle on the tits of American taxpayers, why does Uncle Sam spend so much effort trying to prevent these immigrants from working?
Boudreaux's argument amounts to this:
  1. Some (including James D. Miller) argue that open (i.e., illegal) immigration is unwise because the existence of the U.S. welfare state attracts immigrants whose presence imposes a (net) cost on taxpaying Americans.
  2. The cost arises because the U.S. government spends "so much effort trying to prevent these [illegal] immigrants from working" instead of getting jobs and paying taxes.
  3. Therefore, if the U.S. government made it easier for illegal immigrants to work, their presence would not impose a (net) cost on taxpaying Americans.
Boudreaux's simplistic response to Miller (et al.) omits these considerations:
  • Illegal immigration is...illegal. For the U.S. government to condone it (openly) by making it easier for illegal immigrants to work would create yet another excuse for the U.S. government to bestow special privileges (monetary, most likely) on yet some other "downtrodden" group (e.g., subsidies for U.S workers "displaced" by immigrants). Boudreaux, in effect, counsels behavior that would encourage the expansion of the welfare state.
  • Relatively few illegal immigrants have skills that are marketable at an above-subsistence wage. Legalizing the immigration of their ilk would only encourage the entry of even more unskilled workers, thus further increasing the burden on taxpaying Americans.
For a detailed analysis of the folly of open immigration, please read "An Immigration Roundup."

UPDATE: Boudreaux, in this post, points to his article at TCS Daily ("Absorption Nation"), in which he argues that

America today can better absorb immigrants [than in the great wave of immigration that ended in the 1920s]. For example, compared to 1920, per person today we:

  • have 10 times more miles of paved roads
  • have more than twice as many physicians
  • have three times as many teachers
  • have 540 percent more police officers
  • have twice as many firefighters
  • produce 2.4 times more oil -- as known reserves of oil grow
  • produce 2.67 times more cubic feet of lumber -- as America's supply of lumber stands grows
  • have conquered most of the infectious diseases that were major killers in the past.

Boudreaux conveniently overlooks (forgets?) the fact that the welfare state was almost non-existent in 1920: no Social Security, no Medicare, no Medicaid, no tax-funded courses in "English as a second language," no AFDC (or little of its equivalent), no tax-funded day-care centers for the children of illegal immigrants, etc., etc., etc. America can absorb immigrants who pay their own way -- as did the immigrants of yore (or their friends and families). But American should not absorb the type of immigrant Boudreaux seems so willing to subsidize -- at my expense.