The truth about immigration

My local community is having a celebration of immigrants. It’s timely, given our national panic attack over immigration. Unknown-1Forgetting Ronald Reagan’s “Tear down this wall,” now a presidential candidate wants to build a new one.

Do immigrants take jobs from Americans? Many think there are only so many jobs to go around, and anyone hired means someone else unemployed. Economists call this the “lump of labor fallacy.” It assumes a static, unchanging economy, whereas the reality is constant dynamic change.* Add productive capability, and uses for it will be found.

Immigrants do add to such capability, thus making our nation economically stronger, not weaker. Especially since they have more drive than the pre-existing population’s average. Countries like Mexico are not sending us “wretched refuse.” To the contrary, anyone willing to face all the hazards of emigrating is among the most courageous, ambitious, enterprising, resourceful, capable of people. We need them. They come here to get ahead, not to get hand-outs.

images-1In fact, we have a huge problem with a growing imbalance between our rising elderly population, collecting benefits, and those working and paying taxes to fund those benefits. Young work-hungry immigrants help redress that imbalance. Thusly replenishing our work force is a key factor making America’s economy stronger than Europe’s (actually more anti-immigrant than we are).

America believes in freedom. A fundamental freedom is to live where you want. Should we then let everybody in? It’s not a crazy idea. Economists have estimated – get this – worldwide free movement of people would double global GDP. Because migrants would multiply their earning power by going to where their work is more productive (often because of better technology). Most poor people are poor because they’re trapped where their productive potential is vastly underutilized. Remedying that, through freer movement, would go far toward eradicating poverty. And the resulting more efficient production of goods and services, globally, would make everyone richer.

Some fear immigrants will degrade our culture.

Learn English or get out

Learn English or get out

But successive waves of immigrants have enriched U.S. culture, continuously rejuvenating it; our polyglot diversity is what makes our culture the world’s most vibrant and attractive. Ironically, those who fear this cultural flux are not themselves paragons of cultural refinement. No, it’s not immigrants who threaten America with cultural degradation – it’s the immigrant-haters, who would hand the presidency to a braying, bragging brute.

Real Americans love apostrophes!

Apostrophes belong to Americans too!

*Automation is a similar jobs bugbear. So far employment has always actually expanded. But is technological progress finally leading to all production needs met without jobs for all? Ever fewer people are employed making stuff — but more in services. Unskilled work is disappearing, hurting the less educated. Our challenge is to make everyone productive.

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5 Responses to “The truth about immigration”

  1. Joseph Sermarini Says:

    Well over 2 million people are employed as vehicle drivers – that skill will be replaced with automation sooner than most people think. But It isn’t just unskilled work that has been or will be replaced by automation. I suspect soon enough automation will be able to replace surgeons, pharmacists, and just about everyone. Many “service” jobs really offer nothing more than a human face or voice – quite unskilled and often low paid. The world is going through huge changes and the old promise of technology not replacing employment may not hold true. I hope it does, but I have doubts. If it does not hold true, if demand for labor falls below living wage, what then? Could we already be on the cusp of this new world?

  2. dons Says:

    My son was born in 1988. When he was old enough to go for his first loan, my son was told that he was dead. An illegal had been using his social security number for years. When he later applied at a meat processing company that is well known for hiring illegals, he could not even get an application.

  3. Lee Says:

    Reduced labor sounds like extended leisure time to me. That’s a net positive so long as no one is trapped in a position where he/she cannot benefit from the leisure.

  4. Bruce Says:

    Here is an observation, take from it what you will.
    In the early 70’s many young men entered construction, because it was good money and low talent threshold.
    By the late eighties finding construction labor was increasingly difficult. Most of the non Union men I meet had substance problems. Then in my town an influx of Mexican labor appeared. It was welcomed because I couldn’t get any talent.
    Was that because wages had not kept up, or the population expected something else. I can’t answer that.
    Would wages have climbed high enough to make the native population work in construction, certainly, but it would have been 3 or more times what was the going rate. And, I’m sure it would have been from small towns, city breed kids would not have made that choice.
    The reason I mention anything, I was able to buy a house in a middle class neighborhood about two years after starting in construction. Try that now, add five years for increased regulations costs and your still homeless.

  5. Greg Says:

    Bringing new blood into the country can invigorate our nation. But it needs to be done in a sensible manner. I’m still waiting for our leaders to come up with some reasonable immigration policies, but they seem incapable of doing so. Kicking millions of people out of the country doesn’t seem particularly reasonable to me, but neither does the current lack of control along our borders. Why is it so tough to come up with some practical solutions?

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