2013-07-12

Open Borders Just Means Free Labor Markets

As much as opponents of open borders which to imagine otherwise, all that term really describes is a free market for human labor. In the presence of immigration restrictions, both sellers and buyers are forced to pay higher costs for foreign labor or else buy only domestic labor. Regarding the economics of the situation this is effectively no different than taxing a foreign product - and in many instances it is literally no different than imposing an import quota on foreign labor.

Regarding import tariffs and quotas, the economics of the matter are clear. All tariffs and quotas result in a deadweight loss to society on both sides of any border. Those who prefer to import are forced to pay too much money or take a less-preferable domestic good; those who prefer to export are forced to sell too few goods or accept a lower price. One side loses out on the ability to consume, the other side loses out on the ability to produce.

If someone suggests that "we" owe our domestic producers more than "we" owe foreign producers, then the free-market response to this line of reasoning is simply this: By the same reasoning, "we" also owe our domestic consumers; thus, denying them access to foreign products hurts "us."

Americans typically view the importation of foreign goods quite favorably. Despite the loud special interests calling for protection of US factory jobs, we all love buying inexpensive Asian guitars, designer Italian fashions, Japanese family automobiles, European luxury automobiles, Belgian diamonds, Canadian maple syrup, Mexican and Chilean fruits and vegetables, etc., etc. Arguing against import tariffs and quotas in the United States is typically a moot point. Only corrupt politicians favor protectionism. The public abhors it.

And yet, when we talk about imposing tariffs and quotas on the exchange of human labor, suddenly Americans become uneasy. Purchasing inexpensive foreign labor is seen as an act of destroying the country, or even an act of genocide! Buying inexpensive foreign labor is seen as a traitorous affront to the domestic labor supply.

Now, if the concerns raised against free labor markets are economic concerns, then I have nothing further to argue that I have not already stated above. All of the same arguments that apply to importing South African wine apply to importing South African brick masons. The only difference is the particular commodity being imported.

None of this can be refuted, nor has it ever been refuted. Despite the empty claims of some that the principle of comparative advantage is "easily disprovable econ 101 nonsense," no one has ever demonstrated that the importation or exportation of human labor shrinks any country's production possibilities frontier.

It is precisely because the economics of free labor markets are incontrovertible that opponents of immigration are solely capable of making racist arguments against free labor markets instead.

Elsewhere on the internet, someone asks:
Would it be moral to allow socialists free immigration into the US and voting rights? I don't think so at all.
The person asking this question is essentially voicing the concerns of the various racists over here who feel that an influx of immigrants who do not share their own personal political beliefs are an existential threat to their culture, nation, and system of government. One, for example, goes so far as to say:
A quick look at the last election tells the story. If you had the same demographics the US had in 1980, before mass Mexican immigration, Romney would have won by a bigger landslide then Reagen in his best year. Whether you think that is a good thing or not its certainly a huge effect on our politics.
But the hypocrisy contained in these ideas is remarkable. In order to understand this, one has to always keep in mind that the term "open borders" is synonymous with the term "free labor market." Period, full stop. Once you understand that all we are talking about is a free labor market, then the analysis is clear.

An influx of socialists would compromise the security of a capitalist system, but only if those socialists were able to propose socialist legislation and then vote for it. On the first account, non-citizens cannot hold public office, thus any proposed socialist legislation is actually coming from non-immigrants! On the second account, immigrants can't vote - only citizens can. And it has already been noted elsewhere that open borders is not the same thing as open citizenship.

But the hypocrisy comes in when a supposed defender of capitalism proposes closing the border to ward off trade restrictionists. Because "open borders" is synonymous with "free labor market," any proposal to close borders to immigration is by definition an anti-market policy. Fighting socialism by enacting socialism is by no stretch of the imagination a pro-market policy stance.

This idea is only tenable if (a) a person doesn't understand that "open borders" means "free labor markets" or (b) a person doesn't understand that the word "socialism" means a great deal more than "high taxes and redistributionist bureaucracy."

I fear that modern conservatives and some libertarians have unwittingly conflated "social welfare programs" with "socialism." It's true that social welfare programs are socialism, but they are not the only form of socialism out there. It is a lot like eating an apple while complaining about how disgusting "fruit" is, based on the fact that you have an aversion to pears.

The end result of this confusion is that, while socialists in the US Democratic Party are busy expanding the welfare state, and thus spreading socialism within the United States, the socialists in the US Republican Party are busy closing off national borders... and thus spreading socialism within the United States.

None of this will make a very compelling case to people who oppose immigration for racist reasons. Their loyalties are not to economics or production. Their loyalties are to their clan. Their motives are no different than those of the Taliban: They would prefer being tribal chieftains who sleep on dirt floors than middle class schmucks who sleep in the climate controlled marble palaces.

Think about what that means: They would rather be at the top of a dirt heap than somewhere in the middle of Shangri-La. There is no use arguing with that kind of mentality, but it certainly helps to understand it.