Towards A Good Samaritan World

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

While I don't much like the tone of this Thomas Sowell article on immigration, I agree with most of the argument. For example:

In addition to those with these liberal attitudes, there are some conservatives who think that we need workers from Mexico to do work that Americans will not do.

Virtually every job in the country is work that Americans will not do if the pay is below a certain level. And the pay will not rise to that level so long as illegal immigrants "undocumented workers' are available to work for less.

Sowell is right that the phrase "work that Americans will not do" is a red herring. But it's good for us if the wages of certain jobs fall, because we are all both consumers and producers of labor services. We benefit by paying less for services. Immigrants relieve us of some jobs and allow us to concentrate on other, mostly more attractive ones.

He concludes:

Hard-working immigrants may indeed be a godsend, not only to farmers and other employers, but also to families looking for someone to take care of children or an aged or ill member of the family. But Americans worked as farm laborers and as maids before there were "undocumented workers' to turn these chores over to.

If it has been done before, it can be done again. All that prevents it is the welfare state and the attitudes it spawns.

But why should we do these "chores" ourselves when we can invite immigrants to do them for us? That would make us worse off, while closing an important door of opportunity to the less fortunate.

Sowell's title is "Reverse welfare-state attitude, illegal immigration will stop." No, it wouldn't, because the dynamic American economy does and will continue to generate a lot of jobs at wages that are attractive to foreigners.


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