Monday, October 10, 2005


Let me start off by saying that I have no problems with immigration whatsoever. In fact, proportionally, I tend to have more problems with Americans by birth than I do with Americans by immigration. What I do have a problem with is illegal immigration. Illegal immigration is essentially a black market in human labor, and black markets are, as Henry Hazlitt put it "dedicated to removing the constraints on an economy." The easiest solution to eliminating a black market, therefore, is to remove the constraints. There are, however, some constraints that we don't want removed. Particularly in the labor market, we want there to be standards of health and safety. My company, for example, is absolutely devoted to safety. They hire special safety auditors to make sure that we're doing things as safely as possible. They inspect the entire factory every month to make sure that no new safety issues have come up. They'll add safety precautions even if it already meets OSHA standards. (Heck, they have approved all four of my safety-related suggestions.) That emphasis on safety is easily worth the extra few cents an hour I could be paid, or the extra profit the company could make, by ignoring safety rules. Thus constraints can be good things.

Regardless, a good portion of illegal immigration is not caused by people trying to avoid worker safety laws, but is caused by worker scarcity. Thanks to the wonder of borders, unlike oil, steel, and other commodities, we cannot ship labor where it is most needed. There are hundreds of millions of un- and under-employed workers around the world who would be perfect for many of America's unwanted jobs, but we can't employ them, except via the black market of labor--illegal immigration.

To solve future problems, the United States needs to permit a more free flow of labor, but that will not solve the current problem with illegal immigrants already in the United States. So, pulling out my trusty political magic wand, I have a spell for you: a general amnesty for the businesses that employ illegal immigrants. During a certain time period, for example, six months, a business can report an illegal immigrant in its employ without fear of penalty, and, for every illegal immigrant so deported, a new, legal immigrant will be admitted to fill the newly vacated position. This will avoid the moral hazard of an amnesty for illegal migrants (immigrate illegally, in the hopes of an amnesty), and dramatically reduce the black market incentives to fill the unwanted jobs.


Blogger Noumenon said...

I like this idea. We get more immigrants, all immigrants in America are legal, all illegal immigrants become deported as they deserve, and no employers lose workers.

Except those employers who hire illegals not because they're there, but because they want employees they don't have to pay taxes for or keep safe. But if that turns out to be most of them, then we'll realize that the real problem wasn't immigrants -- it was employers. We'll take down the electric fence and hire W-4 inspectors.

8:47 AM  

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