Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Immigration is a net benefit to the country - legal or illegal. If I had it my way, labor would be allowed to cross borders as freely as businesses. Why would we afford rights and protections to abstract legal "persons" (corporations) that we do not afford average citizens? Naturally, I realize this goes on all of the time, but speaking from a standpoint of naiveté and idealism, I think the question is worthy of discussion.

What would happen if we let labor travel freely? At first, nothing. Later, we might see some chaos as government systems need to adapt to deal with tracking of benefits and so on, but it would all settle down in the long run. Why do we let governments and national pride interfere with the ability to make a good life for ourselves and our families? There's a lot of discussion in the world today about how "flat" the globe has become in light of communications and the Internet. Why not make it truly flat and allow labor to move freely? Seriously, why do we need to arcane restrictions designed to regulate flow of labor into countries? As soon as a market like the U.S. and Canada become saturated, other markets will open up to attract more workers? It'll all shake out eventually. After all, isn't this really the ideal for laissez faire devotees?

I propose that we try a little North American experiment. Within the NAFTA borders we should throw down the restrictions and allow labor and businesses to move freely. It would be nice if we had some unifying laws governing business and labor, but it's not really necessary. States in the U.S. have differing laws on many of these issues and it hasn't really hurt things. People will gravitate towards the laws the favor a balance (as people have gravitated towards California, for instance). Let's see how the experiment shakes out over a decade or so and, if it works as well as I think it will work, then let's expand and promote it.

Think of the savings. Businesses will find fewer restrictions and have an expanded labor pool. Labor will be able to move freely, courting the best jobs available and be able to return to their "home country" when they like without fear of reprisal, hence it's family friendly. We'd save money by no having to have as strict a border patrol on our Northern and Southern borders in the U.S. In return, I propose we work with Mexico to strengthen it's Southern border for the duration of the experiment. Businesses would have freer access to lower wage workers and, because there would no longer be such a thing as illegal Mexican workers, they can pay the taxes that we want them to pay. Businesses no longer have to fight court cases for hiring illegal Mexican immigrants.

The list could go on and on. But since we're not there yet, I suggest that the current hysterical wankers talking about "illegal immigration" tone it down a notch and read what the LA Times has to say about the immigrants and how they are allegedly tearing our country down. Some highlights:
UC Berkeley's David Card, who studied patterns in different U.S. cities, concludes that immigration has not lowered wages for American workers.

...New arrivals, by producing more goods and services, also keep prices down across the economy. Even Borjas — the favorite economist of immigration restrictionists — admits that the net gain to the U.S. from immigration is about $7 billion annually.

...Card finds that post-1965 immigrants, as recorded in U.S. census data, have a good record of assimilation. Second-generation children have, on average, higher education and wages than the children of natives. Of the 39 largest country-of-origin groups, the sons of 33 and the daughters of 32 of those groups have surpassed the educational levels of the children of natives.

This last point is an especially good one. A lot has been made about immigrants coming to our country and how they should learn "our" language. Setting aside the question of why this should be mandated in the first place, I point you to an article from American Prospect regarding immigration and learning American culture. Clip:
...a recent report on language assimilation by the Lewis Mumford Center for Comparative Urban and Regional Research in Albany, New York, found that the second generation is largely bilingual; 92 percent of the Hispanics speak English “well,” as do 96 percent of the Asians, though most also speak another language at home. The third generation generally speaks English only.
In other words, Hispanics and Asians are generally assimilating at the same rates as previous waves of immigrants to this country. The only news here is that for some reason many Americans haven't heard this news and start foaming at the mouth about the prospect of someone "illegally" crossing our borders (setting aside the irony of how their relatives got here and how some of the alleged "illegals" are descendants of people who naturally crossed borders at will).

A friend of mine, A1batross, suggested an even more radical notion during a recent conversation. He suggested that people be allowed to subscribe to nationality. We'd buy into nations just like magazines and hold onto our nationality until the subscription runs out and we have to renew to another nation. A large part of this was in jest, but there is something attractive about the idea as well. I mean, if as a world we're going to cling to the concept of nations for people while insist on a flat world for business, then why not offer the subscription model as a compromise? If we're not ready of a NAFTA free labor zone, then we're certainly not ready for this concept. Still, what sort of world do you really want and what is really important for it in the long run? Is the concept of nationality so fragile that it will explode through immigration? Hasn't the United States of America experiment already disproved that notion? Haven't countless other countries also disproved that notion (Brazil, Peru, South Africa, Cuba - anywhere with fairly high immigration)? What scares us so much that we'd abdicate rights that we afford companies?

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