I’ve noticed that comments on my piece at The Freeman today have been largely negative. Most of the negativity surrounds my claim that immigrants don’t come to the United States to become unemployed, and will therefore stop coming en masse when there are no jobs for them. I’m wrong, the commenters say, because immigrants are incented to come for the welfare benefits and therefore open borders is a bad idea and only makes things worse.
Boiled down, however, what these commenters are saying is that because we have a bad form of government intervention (welfare), we should create another bad form of government intervention (border fence/stifling free movement of labor) to counteract it. Just like the statists many of them claim to despise, they advocate for more government intervention to solve problems created by previous forms of government intervention.
Also, what many of my critics implicitly assume is that we somehow slow the progression of the welfare state and bankrupting of the United States government by limiting immigration. We have this terrible welfare system, they say, that perverts incentives and slows economic growth. We should forbid free movement of labor into the country for that reason because, I’m guessing, they think the system is sustainable or won’t get worse otherwise. To that I say: Couldn’t the effect by exactly the opposite? Could not the free entry of labor into the country spur more economic growth that outpaces additional strain on the welfare system? Could not restricting immigration slow economic growth and leave even a higher proportion of Americans unemployed and demanding/earning welfare handouts? Is not this alternative equally as feasible as the other? In light of historical data about immigration’s effect on economic growth, I’d say my proposed alternative is far more likely.
Finally, I will admit that some immigrants come to the United States to live off welfare. My guess, however, is that this includes less than one percent of them. Firstly, illegal immigrants cannot receive welfare. Secondly, legal immigrants must reside in the United States for five years before they are eligible to become a citizen and receive welfare. This means that if someone does indeed want to come to the United States to live off the welfare system (which still leaves them in poverty), they must be able to work and support themselves for five years–not something I’d suspect people want to do who are so lazy they’d rather change countries than go to work.
I have more thoughts on this issue. I’ll post them here later.