Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Immigration Paradox

Libertarians believe in unfettered liberty, which means that borders should not be restricted. But immigration has anti-libertarian consequences, such as increases in social security costs and lawlessness.

The first reason is that unfettered immigration lets in large numbers of potential terrorists. If tight immigration laws are enforced, there will be fewer terrorists admitted. In reducing New York City's crime rate to one of the lowest in the country Rudy Giuliani proved that if you police small offenses, larger ones become rarer. If you carefully vet immigrants, and take action against those who come here illegally, terrorists are less likely to slip through the cracks. Heather MacDonald has constructively argued that giving amnesty to illegal immigrants encourages disrespect for the law.

According to Hugh Hewitt:

"federal counterterrorism authorities say they have connected some border jumpers to terrorism. Among them was a South African woman of Middle Eastern descent whose July 2004 arrest at the McAllen airport with wet clothes, thousands in cash and a mutilated passport made international headlines."

Hewitt adds with respect to the immigration bill that:

Many terrorists and terrorist sympathizers have certainly entered the country illegally across our borders-- is an issue ignored by the bill's proponents, and when confronted with it, they attempt to argue that it would be better to get their fingerprints and legalize their work and travel around the country --and back and forth from abroad to the U.S.-- than to keep them in the position of a lawbreaker.

Lawlessness and terrorism would likely be reduced by a coherent law systematically enforced.

The second reason to be concerned about immigration is that it is likely to depress wages of those with lower incomes. Economists used to be skeptical of this kind of effect, but studies by George Borjas and others confirm that this has occurred. Markets are flexible. When immigrants came here in the 1930s and found the Great Depression, many returned to their homelands. But welfare benefits impede market flexibility. Special interest group pressure on political leaders encourages them to extend public benefits to immigrants who cannot find work. This inhibits the functioning of markets, enhancing downward pressure on low-income wages.

The problems surrounding immigration are compounded by the decline of the American educational system. In previous generations, the public schools contributed to the homogenization of the public. In several 19th century cases, German immigrants were told that they had to teach children English in school. Today, the melting pot is nearly extinguished. The politically correct multiculturalists argue that students' ethnic backgrounds should be reinforced at the expense of education about American history and culture. The result is the lack of a shared community. This will result in alienation of recent immigrant groups. Liberals ensure that immigrants will remain impoverished through incompetent, left-wing educational theories. Special interest activists who earn their keep on the sores of the poor reinforce these impulses. The result is a multiplication of sub-cultures uninterested in taking part in American culture or able to take advantage of economic opportunities here.

Gold Bug Howard S. Katz argues that America's libertarian history is one of acceptance of immigration. The libertarian heritage has been sabotaged for many decades. The institution of the Federal Reserve Bank, favorite of left-wing Republican inflationists like Irwin Stelzer at Weekly Standard, was an important step toward state control, as were the imposition of social security benefits, unemployment insurance and Medicaid. These plans increase in costs with immigration.

I would therefore argue that there is a paradox: limitations on immigration reduce government spending, increase respect for the law, reduce the threat of terrorism, hence increase freedom. In this case, a little bit more government results in much more freedom.

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