No, You Can't Have Closed Welfare and Open Borders

A free market is not meant to be a suicide pact.


Stephen Moore at the Wall Street Journal writes,

"Republicans and conservatives might want to coalesce around a position of tight welfare and generous immigration rules. That is something Milton Friedman would no doubt regard as the ideal outcome. As another late great economist—William Niskanen, a member of President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers and chairman of the Cato Institute—once put it: "Better to build a wall around the welfare state than the country."

The trouble with that formula is that you can't build a wall around the welfare without also building a wall around the country. You can have both or neither. But you can't have open borders and no welfare. Not without restricting voting rights.

Moore's own article mentions that Obama relaxed welfare rules. Obama's victories and the subsequent pandering has made some conservatives obsessed with winning the votes of Mexican immigrants by relaxing immigration rules and then hoping that somehow the resulting electoral landscape will be compatible with fiscal conservatism.

It can't be. It won't be.

Thomas Sowell responds quite comprehensively to the incompatibility of these premises.

Too much of our current immigration controversy is conducted in terms of abstract ideals, such as "We are a nation of immigrants." Of course we are a nation of immigrants. But we are also a nation of people who wear shoes. Does it follow that we should admit anybody who wears shoes?

The immigrants of today are very different in many ways from those who arrived here a hundred years ago. Moreover, the society in which they arrive is different. The Wall Street Journal column ends by quoting another economist who said, "Better to build a wall around the welfare state than the country."

But the welfare state is already here— and, far from having a wall built around it, the welfare state is expanding in all directions by leaps and bounds. We do not have a choice between the welfare state and open borders. Anything we try to do as regards immigration laws has to be done in the context of a huge welfare state that is already a major, inescapable fact of life.

That's key here. There's no point in arguing abstractions. The welfare state is a reality we have to deal with. And open borders only empowers it. And Sowell adds another important point about the free market and immigration...

Among other facts of life utterly ignored by many advocates of de facto amnesty is that the free international movement of people is different from free international trade in goods.

Buying cars or cameras from other countries is not the same as admitting people from those countries or any other countries. Unlike inanimate objects, people have cultures and not all cultures are compatible with the culture in this country that has produced such benefits for the American people for so long.

And quite importantly, goods do not change the composition and character of a country. People do. The importation of people who do not believe in a free market economy into a country with a free market economy would mean the end of a free market economy.

A free market is not meant to be a suicide pact.

Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post writes,

It is ironic that the right-wingers who argue against protectionism, against the minimum wage, against unions (which inflate wage rates) and against Obamacare want to keep domestic wages artificially high by restricting the labor market (e.g. keeping out immigrant workers).

We've had a great deal of immigration for a while now. Wages haven't gone down. But real wages have as the tax bills have taken a bigger share of the paycheck.

Immigration won't allow employers to pay workers less. It will however cause workers to earn less as more money is taken out of their paychecks to subsidize the welfare state and the social chaos associated with it.

Consider the cost of a family of Chechen immigrants from Dagestan.

Tags: welfare