“People are indeed the essential of commerce, and the more people the more trade; the more trade, the more money; the more money, the more strength; and the more strength, the greater the nation…All temporal felicities, I mean national, spring from the number of people.” — Daniel Defoe
Growing up in a conservative household, I was taught the value of free-market economics and limited government from a young age. Government was a thing to be feared and restricted. Human beings, on the other hand, should be allowed maximum freedom — at least in the area of economics. But when it came to the issue of illegal immigration my parents sang a much different tune. In their minds, illegal immigration was a scourge on America’s land that bankrupted both the economy and American culture.
Ironically, most conservatives today share the sentiments of my parents. Why is it that those who are the loudest advocates for laissez-faire capitalism are also the loudest advocates for protectionism? If conservatives truly believe in the power of the “unseen hand,” why do they not extend it beyond America’s borders?
The necessary, logical conclusion for those who truly believe in the free-market is that legal immigration is beneficial for a society. Conservatives need to revisit their belief in supply-and-demand. Perhaps then they would realize it is the demand of American consumers that brings immigrants to our country.
In an interview with New York Times’ blogger, Melissa Lafsky, British economist and journalist, Phillippe Legrain, makes the case for freer immigration which he believes increases prosperity:
“We tend to think it’s fine that foreign financiers cluster together in New York, I.T. specialists in Silicon Valley, and actors in Hollywood, while American bankers ply their trade in London, Hong Kong, and China; surely the same logic should apply to Mexican construction workers, Filipino care workers, and Congolese cleaners coming to the U.S. After all, they are all simply service providers plying their trade abroad.”
Jason L. Riley, author of the book “Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders,” agrees with Legrain. As a conservative member of The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, Riley finds the anti-immigration attitudes rampant among his fellow conservatives troubling.
“Most of the anti-immigrant sentiment comes out of the political right,” Riley said in an interview with the Telegram’s Robert Z. Nemeth. “As a free-market conservative, I find that disturbing.”
Riley Argues that there is no correlation between an increase in population and poverty. He compares the influx of Mexican immigrants to that of the Italians, Germans and Irish.
“Scapegoating foreigners for domestic problems, real or imagined, is something of an American tradition,” Riley said.
“Scapegoating” is quite popular in America today as Mexican immigrants are blamed for crime, job loss and the demise of American culture. As the saying goes, “there is nothing new under the sun.” Since its inception, fear and nativism have directed America’s immigration policies. In the 19th century, Bejamin Franklin spoke out against the influx of German immigrants coming to America:
“Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a colony of aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our language or customs, any more than they can acquire our complexion.”
Illegal immigration is a problem as it allows for millions of undocumented persons to live in the shadows of a nation. However, immigration is the result of market demand. Americans need to realize legal immigration is a benefit, not cost, to them.
Watch Jason Riley at The Cato Institutes’ book forum.