Posted by: Jeff | March 25, 2010

A Black Market We Created

Since we should probably be adding immigration reform to the budding list of political brouhahas likely to follow the passage of Obama’s health care reform, I want to link to this Bloggingheads discussion of the issue by Josh Cohen and Brink Lindsey. The latter is a libertarian, and suggests what is probably the best encapsulation of the illegal immigration mess that I’ve heard.

Basically, illegal immigration is a textbook example of how black markets get created whenever laws try to push against the basic forces of supply and demand. South of our border, there is a huge supply of cheap labor, and it is a supply that wants to move north because prospects there are so much better. Meanwhile, north of our border there is a large demand for that cheap labor.* So what have we done? We’ve attempted to build a legal – and in some cases physical – wall right smack in the middle of that path of movement. We haven’t stopped the movement. We’ve simply funneled it into a vast legal shadowland in which human beings are much more easily exploited and essentially forced to live as members of a lower socioeconomic caste.

Forget principle or morality or humanitarianism for a moment. From the simple standpoint of pragmatics, what we’re doing is completely crazy. It’s the ultimate Sisyphean endeavor.

*The laws of supply and demand also illustrate why the notion that illegal immigrants take jobs from native workers is largely bunk. If they were taking those jobs, that implies intense competition for those jobs with native workers. If there was intense competition for those jobs, crossing the boarder would not be so ludicrously attractive that illegals would be willing to brave the deserts and the dogs and the cops and the checkpoints in the first place.


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