The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Krugman on Immigration.

I meant to rip Pauly K for his recent column, but Brian Caplan beat me to it:

I occasionally quip that I like the whole range of economists from Mises to Krugman. We can squabble amongst ourselves, but it's amazing how much we really agree. Now Krugman is voicing doubts about immigration, but once again, he doesn't disappoint me. What's bad about immigration, according to Krugman?

First, the net benefits to the U.S. economy from immigration, aside from the large gains to the immigrants themselves, are small. Realistic estimates suggest that immigration since 1980 has raised the total income of native-born Americans by no more than a fraction of 1 percent.

Horrors! Only a small gain to native-born Americans? Something's got to be done to fight this small gain.

I had to read that sentence twice to make sure the Krugman actually wrote it. Caplan has more, here.


  • I think that relative to his other columns, this one seemed pretty good in comparison. he did seem to downplay the big benefit to the immigrants. Anyway, I don't think Krugman is out of line for saying there needs to be some sort of immigration reform, but done in an "american" way, and that he would rather nothing be done right now then pass something hastily.

    By Anonymous Phil, at 7:44 PM  

  • I agree with Phil.

    That was a thoughtful article, in that immigration does drive down wages. "That's why it's intellectually dishonest to say, as President Bush does, that immigrants do 'jobs that Americans will not do.' The willingness of Americans to do a job depends on how much that job pays -- and the reason some jobs pay too little to attract native-born Americans is competition from poorly paid immigrants."

    The guest worker program would allow low paying labor -- that can't vote. "Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's plan for a 'guest worker' program is clearly designed by and for corporate interests, who'd love to have a low-wage work force that couldn't vote. Not only is it deeply un-American; it does nothing to reduce the adverse effect of immigration on wages. And because guest workers would face the prospect of deportation after a few years, they would have no incentive to become integrated into our society."

    The last sentence was dead on. "We need to do something about immigration, and soon. But I'd rather see Congress fail to agree on anything this year than have it rush into ill-considered legislation that betrays our moral and democratic principles."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:16 AM  

  • Krugman is an economist. He knows better, and he actually says so. We do benefit from open labor markets. Americans will not do shitty work for shitty pay, but the solution is not to raise the wages of shitty work, it is to expand the availability of good work. When immigrants take on shitty work they do not supplant Americans as much as they free up human capital to perform more productive tasks. Krugman knows this. This is a typical "axe to grind" column.

    Illegal immigration is a problem, and the solution is very simple, which is to allow massive and simple legal immigration.

    Lastly, saying that immigration drives down wages is oversimplifying. It drives down the wages for unskilled labor, but more than that, the fact that it is unskilled labor drives down the price of unskilled labor. If everyone can do something, it will not pay very well. No force on earth is capable of altering this simple fact.

    Supply and Demand is as insurmountable a force as gravity.

    By Blogger PaulNoonan, at 12:51 AM  

  • "No force on earth is capable of altering this simple fact."

    Be careful what you wish for.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5:32 PM  

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