The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Immigration, The French, French Immigration, Health Care, The Brewers, And People We Like.

Remember the "other" French riots? The Muslim riots? Almost seems like ancient history, doesn't it?

Those riots were to some extent the result of overt racism, but they were largely the result of a 40% unemployment rate among the immigrant Muslim population in France. These people simply cannot find work, and it is difficult in France to start a business. They are permanently on the dole, even though they would like to work.

Fast forward a few months and we get to the new French riots. These riots consisted of students, unions, and communists protesting against a proposal that would allow for young workers to be fired at will. The unemployment rate among people under the age of 26 in France is around 25%. It would have been a much needed reform that would hopefully have led to greater reforms later, and boosted a stagnant economy. Instead, they are now doomed.

Does anyone see a problem with this?

France has a very stiff labor market. There is not much turnover, it is difficult to fire anyone, and consequently, there is not much growth. The rioters in the most recent protests were fighting hard to preserve the status quo because they currently benefit from these protections at the expense of those 25% of unemployed youngsters and 40% of unemployed immigrants. 75% will always beat 25%. If you rob Peter to pay Paul, you can always count on the support of Paul.

Is there any reason for France to deny these immigrants (or young people) employment because they will work for less?

Now, let's move to the US. Immigration is the topic of the day. Many in the citizenry fear that illegal aliens steal our jobs, depress wages, threaten our security, wreck our culture, and increase crime. I covered some of this in an earlier post, and a few of these complaints are viable. Crime does increase in high immigrant areas, however, I believe that the black market culture created by our immigration laws is more responsible for this than anything, in very much the same way that our drug laws are responsible for the seedy drug culture that exists in parts of the country. I've addressed many of these concerns before, however, by far the most prominent anti-immigration argument that I have read is that they drain our government services. I hate this argument.

Here in the US, we have embraced this argument. It is similar to the Coyote Blog's Health Care Trojan Horse Strategy which can be summed up as follows:

Step 1: Convince populace to enter into a "commons" arrangement, such as insurance, or social security, where some people pay in, some people take out, but the extent to which you take out is unrelated to what you put in.

Step 2: Use new arrangement to boss people around by saying things like:

a. They're driving up my health care costs!
b. I don't want my tax dollars to go towards supporting that lifestyle!
c. These immigrants are using our services!

Of course, the real problem here is not immigration or smoking or obesity or homosexuals. It is socialism, or at least, socialistic policies. The solution to these problems is not to exclude certain people, but to end expensive and inefficient programs. As a practical matter this will probably never happen, however, that being the case, the next best solution is to force immigrants to pay into the system. This can be achieved by simply making them citizens.

In my previous post I lobbied for tall fences but wide gates. Illegals are a problem, but the best way to solve this is to make it simpler to become legal. This is simply free trade. It gets right to our freedom of contract.

If someone can do some job better and/or cheaper, does the government have any right to tell that person "no"? By doing so, they deny someone gainful employment, and they deny another person the right to hire whoever they want. And based on what?

Nothing more than "birthplace."

Another frequent argument is nationalism. This is the idea that citizens in a nation should get preferential treatment because those immigrants are from somewhere else. I hate nationalism (and patriotism).

I should briefly clarify. It is fine to love your country, but you should do so for a reason, not just because you were born here. I love this country because it's more free than most countries, and it provides its citizens almost limitless opportunity. I would like to think that, had I been born in some shit country like North Korea, I would have no patriotic feelings. Loving a country simply because you were born there is idiotic, and it is certainly no justification for excluding someone from gainful employment. Nationalism of this sort is based on faith, and you know how we feel about faith around these parts.

Nationalistic faith should be reserved for the Brewers, Packers, and Bucks. With rooting interests, no one gets hurt. (Except Ben Sheets.)

This post was inspired by an excellent comment section debate at Ethan's blog, featuring Ahren, Rashid, and Ace Cowboy.


  • "If someone can do some job better and/or cheaper, does the government have any right to tell that person "no"?"

    You seem to be combining your policy belief that it is good to allow free market for labor with your dislike of regulation and gov’t and coming out with some confused concept questioning whether a gov’t has the ability to act in the perceived interest if its own people.

    There is a very rational, justifiable argument for saying a gov't has the right to control immigrant by limiting access to the workplace. Sovereignty and the purpose of nations. A nation exists in the international community (at least a republic like ours) for the purpose of acting in the interest of its citizens. A nation theoretically is a group of people acting in their collctive interest. Thus, nations have a fundamental right to act in their own best interest. To argue that nations have to be completely selfless toward other people is like saying no person has a right to act in their own best interest. One that does not act in its own best interest will likely fall to the law of the jungle (it will be taken advantage of and weakened by those that are acting in their own best interest). A nation is an entity on the international scale like a person or a family is in individual life. So a nation is the instrument or association by which people try to act in their collective best interest. So if a nation conceives it to be in the best interest of its citizens (members) to limit access to the job market by non-members, then it has a right to do so. If the members decide that they want to limit membership based on specific criteria then they can do so. Were we as a nation not to have this fundamental right, then it would theoretically have to allow all of rural China to land here and fight it out for jobs, or to let other countries exile their criminals here, etc.
    So the question of whether a nation has a right to limit members based on where they are born is foolish. Whether it is good policy, that is in the best interest of its members to do so, is a good question. (Like betting on the Packers might not be such a good idea in 2006.)

    I should take a moment to say this is nationalism, but not pure faith based nationalism as you have described it. That people who are born in a country naturally have more allegiance to it than those that were raised and indoctrinated in another is just the way it works. Just like I have more allegiance to my family and their values than to someone else’s family and those values. It is not idiotic in this sense, because I have more shared interests and thus a greater reason to believe that they will act in a way that benefits me. Certainly, it is ignorant to profess love of your country when you don’t fully understand the alternatives, but really, should everyone have to fully understand everything about every country before deciding to be more loyal to the group of people immediately surrounding them? If this were the case, society would not function because the task at hand would be too large and people wouldn’t act as groups.

    Basically Paul, natural law has evolved a certain way for a reason.

    Remember, this is not an argument that it is good policy to have our current immigration set-up, but rather that the gov’t has a right to set them and govern immigration as it sees fit.

    By Blogger Scott H, at 7:21 PM  

  • "So if a nation conceives it to be in the best interest of its citizens (members) to limit access to the job market by non-members, then it has a right to do so."

    sure, but i think the point paul's trying to make is that what the nation is "conceiving" here is incorrect. besides being eonomically short-sighted, what does america gain (economically) from eliminating migrant workers? certainly not the american owners employing said workers, and certainly not the american consumer when prices rise due to either (a) decreased supply of the product because the american owner goes out of business, or (b) increased labor costs because the owner now has to pay american workers a higher (minimum) wage.

    so basically the question boils down to non-economic issues, like racism, crime, etc. crime is the only of these that should be of true concern (it certainly does not matter if white texans don't like latinos in "their" state. they can hold that opinion, but must also realize it is of no consequence). as to crime - i would wager all the money being spent on this entire issue in washington far outweighs the monetary loss due to crime by immigrants.

    By Blogger ethan, at 11:37 AM  

  • I, for the most part, didn't disagee with Paul's points on the conception & policy so I didn't comment on that portion. He did raise the issue of the basis for regulation of immigration and freedom of contract and I did want to add my two cents on that to say that birthplace is a decent basis for some discrimination in U.S. law and some sense of nationalism is inevitable human nature with a justification in survival. I may have overdone it because I was also reacting to a far more radical post on another blog which questioned the right of gov't to deny people the fundamental right to live wherever they want and such. (My comment there apparently didn't pass the advertising filter on that blog.)

    By Blogger Scott H, at 1:26 PM  

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