2013-02-06

A Quick Thought On Immigration

I generally regard arguments against immigration - illegal or otherwise - to be basically economically ignorant. This is because, despite being an introvert and a bit of a hermit and a homebody, I think people are a net good. The more, the merrier. There is also overwhelming economic evidence and theory supporting open borders. Finally, preventing human migration across "public land" is a clear violation of basic human rights.

Nonetheless, I had a thought today...

Many arguments against immigration revolve around the idea that immigrants enter the country and then become welfare cases, costing "our" society a lot of money at the expense of the "foreign" residents.

Hold that thought for a moment.

Now, consider the nearly universal understanding that one of the major threats to the US welfare state is the fact that the Baby Boomers - a huge blob in the population graph - have started to retire and are going to place a high burden on the welfare systems we have in place. The idea here is that there will be too many non-working recipients of government assistance, and too few working non-recipients, tipping the system over into bankruptcy.

As an economist, when considering both ideas simultaneously, the following idea pops into my head instantly: Why not allow more immigrants into the country so that they can start working, produce tax revenue, and "save Social Security?"

The conservatives have this one all topsy-turvy. If they wish to oppose immigration, their argument should not be that immigration costs the state money. On the contrary, the conservative case against immigration should be that an open-borders policy further enables the welfare state to survive.

But what does that say about me, who favors both open borders and the dismantling of the welfare state?