Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Economists write to the president regarding immigrants

My take on the immigration question is shaped by thirty years as a manager in the food business. I understand from experience the connection between wages and prices, and how a lack of available staff diminishes what passes for service these days. The public, always looking for value, demands champagne service at beer prices. The only way keep moving the bar up is to employ an ever-changing, ever-improving, willing and able staff that can meet those expectations. The population of people for whom good service is a long-term career is very small. Long-term service people are few and far between. Our kids ain't gonna do it any more. They are too busy playing with their toys and talking endlessly with one another on cell phones. Adult immigrants are the best (and already available) alternative. That word adult is important.

Here is a letter by Alex Tabarrok, who with Tyler Cowen blogs at Marginal Revolution. These men are among the best practicioners of the dismal science working today. Here is a fairly dispassionate look at the immigration issue from the standpoint of economics. I like what it says very much.

Dear President George W. Bush and All Members of Congress:

People from around the world are drawn to America for its promise of freedom and opportunity. That promise has been fulfilled for the tens of millions of immigrants who came here in the twentieth century.

Throughout our history as an immigrant nation, those who are already here worry about the impact of newcomers. Yet, over time, immigrants have become part of a richer America, richer both economically and culturally. The current debate over immigration is a healthy part of a democratic society, but as economists and other social scientists we are concerned that some of the fundamental economics of immigration are too often obscured by misguided commentary.
Overall, immigration has been a net gain for existing American citizens, though a modest one in proportion to the size of our 13 trillion-dollar economy.

Immigrants do not take American jobs. The American economy can create as many jobs as there are workers willing to work so long as labor markets remain free, flexible and open to all workers on an equal basis.

Immigration in recent decades of low-skilled workers may have lowered the wages of domestic low-skilled workers, but the effect is likely to be small, with estimates of wage reductions for high-school dropouts ranging from eight percent to as little as zero percent.

While a small percentage of native-born Americans may be harmed by immigration, vastly more Americans benefit from the contributions that immigrants make to our economy, including lower consumer prices. As with trade in goods and services, the gains from immigration outweigh the losses. The effect of all immigration on low-skilled workers is very likely positive as many immigrants bring skills, capital and entrepreneurship to the American economy.

Legitimate concerns about the impact of immigration on the poorest Americans should not be addressed by penalizing even poorer immigrants. Instead, we should promote policies, such as improving our education system that enables Americans to be more productive with high-wage skills.

We must not forget that the gains to immigrants from coming to the United States are immense. Immigration is the greatest anti-poverty program ever devised. The American dream is a reality for many immigrants who not only increase their own living standards but who also send billions of dollars of their money back to their families in their home countries—a form of truly effective foreign aid..

America is a generous and open country and these qualities make America a beacon to the world. We should not let exaggerated fears dim that beacon.

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If you didn't get it the first time, then read it again.
And keep reading it until it sinks in.
The economic arguments against deporting people are far, far more compelling than any legal arguments in favor of doing so. There is an old saying among lawyers that if your client is innocent, you should argue the facts. But if your client is guilty, then argue the law. In this case, the facts carry more weight than the law.

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