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Inconvenient views – Econlib – Index Investing News

I believe we should all strive to hold some inconvenient views. That is, we should hold views about how the world works that might weaken support for our policy preferences. For instance, I believe that drug legalization would increase the use of narcotics. That view is somewhat inconvenient, as I support drug legalization (for a wide variety of reasons).

A recent comment reminds me of another inconvenient view that I hold. Mark Barbieri suggested:

When I suggest that we could solve the illegal immigration policy by increasing the amount of legal immigration to accommodate most the people that want to come here, suddenly there is another objection.

[I believe he meant, “solve the illegal immigration problem”.]

I’d like to believe that Mark is correct, as I support his policy recommendation. Unfortunately, I do not believe this would solve the illegal immigration problem, for several reasons:

1. A much higher rate of legal immigration would cause the US economy to boom. This would have numerous effects, including a sharp increase in housing construction in places like Texas, Arizona and Florida. This construction would draw in additional immigrants, some of them illegal.

2. Legal immigrants have much better opportunities than illegal immigrants. Thus if we legalized all the illegals, a new wave of illegals would come in to do the jobs that Americans don’t wish to do, such as picking fruits and vegetables in the sweltering heat.

To be clear, I believe a policy of allowing more legal immigration would somewhat reduce illegal immigration, and I favor such a policy for a wide variety of reasons. But I also believe that restrictionists might be a bit disappointed in the ultimate effects. Thus if there are currently 500,000 illegal immigrants each year, then even a policy of allowing an extra 500,000 legal immigrants would not drop that number to zero. There might still be another 200,000 or 300,000 illegals migrating here each year. In other words, total immigration would increase, as the effects would go well beyond just substitution of one type of immigrant for another.

In the long run, it is better to avoid biased reasoning, even if it weakens your argument in the short run.  Honesty will make your views seem more credible.  Seek the truth and let the chips fall where they may.

PS.  David Henderson has a recent post discussing the issue of whether immigration can reduce inflation.  I don’t believe it would have much impact on inflation, due to the Fed’s 2% inflation target. (It depends on how the Fed reacts.)  Nonetheless, it might have some of the positive effects that people associate with inflation reduction.  Thus many people believe a lower inflation rate would boost their real income by making their shopping budget go further.  That’s not necessarily true, as lower price inflation caused by monetary policy is often associated with lower nominal wage inflation.  But immigration actually can boost the purchasing power of the average consumer by reducing price inflation relative to nominal wage inflation.  Thus, while immigration may not reduce inflation, it will likely produce many of the benefits that the average person associates with less inflation.  It may not reduce inflation, but it will boost real incomes.

Immigration does hurt some American workers.  But in my view, most workers benefit.  That is overwhelmingly true here in Orange County, where immigration has significantly boosted living standards.


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