Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Am I Hot or Not: Immigrants

I've been reading some interesting posts on immigration like this one, and I got jealous. I figured we should start our own incredibly controversial thread on the topic.

Is Immigration Good or Bad for America?
It's possible immigrants take jobs Americans are eager to perform, increasing our unemployment. But this picture is incomplete. It only looks at Americans at work, and ignores them at the store.

Suppose open immigration meant 10,000 Americans lost their 25k/yr jobs. But prices decrease by $1 on some essential item, any product 50 million Americans buy at least once a month. The country's collective pocketbook has lost 250m in salaries, but saved 600m on an needed good.

If you're worried about moving money around from workers to consumers like this, we could tax the cheaper goods and provide better unemployment benefits. A fifty cent tax on these items would return the salaries to those Americans who lost their jobs while still putting cheaper food on their dinner table, and giving me a $50m bonus without anyone noticing.

Even if these numbers aren't realistic, I'm not sure we help anyone by insulating them from competition. Adam Smith pointed this folly out a long time ago.

How Should We Enforce Our Immigration Policy?
Whatever the democratic decision is on (1) after all the data is in, we should enforce our laws as if we believe in them. So while I support more open immigration policies (tied to better unemployment benefits), I'm not offended by some of the protectionists' ideas for tougher border controls.

I recommend we stop deportations back to Mexico, and begin deporting directly to Canada.