Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Immigration and Entitlements

David Friedman counters a common anti-immigration argument—the one that suggests that immigrants will be a net cost to the U.S. economy, vis-à-vis entitlements—with a good argument for “open immigration”.
The existence of a welfare state may indeed make open immigration less attractive. But the existence of open immigration also makes a welfare state less attractive—which, for those who disapprove of a welfare state, is an additional argument in favor of open immigration.

Consider the analogous argument applied intrastate. Supporters of higher levels of welfare generally want them to be provided at the federal level—for a good reason. If welfare is provided and paid for by the states, high levels of income redistribution tend to pull poor people into, and drive taxpayers out of, states that provide them. That provides a potent political incentive to hold down redistribution. This is one example of a more general principle: The more mobile taxpayers are, the more governments, like businesses in a competitive market, have to provide them value for their money, and thus the less able they are to tax A in order to buy the votes of B.

The same argument applies across national borders.
Of course, that is eminently rational; but the current electorate has demonstrated, time and time again, that demagoguery works. Too many of us are simply motivated by, and respond to, emotional arguments. That being the case, as long as the voting franchise is freely given to anyone who has a pulse, is over 18 years-of-age and hasn’t been convicted of a felony, politicians will buy votes with public largess; and entitlements are the preferred currency of our esteemed Representatives.

Yeah…I’m holding my breath.