Sunday, March 15, 2015

On The Boats, And On The Planes . . .

For roughly 70 years since end of World War II, we've been trying to bring America to "them". Isn't it time we gave bringing "them" to America a try?

What a better way to demonstrate the virtues and strengths of our relatively free and open society? This is my essay for Open Borders Day 2015.

We've spilled oceans of blood and mountains of treasure fighting for change in foreign lands. It seems that the best way to make the world safe for democracy is to let the most people into the world's leading democracy.

Instead of exporting The American Dream as an ideal, why not import those who wish to live the dream on very soil from which it springs? I know, I know . . . goods are imported, people are . . . well, they are largely denied a chance to voluntarily participate in a society in which they desperately want to belong. Why must that be?

Do we fear they will arrive only to be wards of the state where they take more than they provide? Then have them forfeit or delay eligibility to the programs we fear they will overuse. Or have them pay an entry fee (tax) of a substantial amount.

Do we fear they will arrive only to begin voting for policies truly "un-American"? Then let them in conditional on not being citizens; therefore, not eligible to vote. Let them stay indefinitely in this status or perhaps be eligible for citizenship after however many years we believe it takes for the assimilation we desire. Of course, I might quibble that all these fears and restrictions are themselves un-American. Nevertheless, let us not argue a side point while those who await our decision suffer.

Do we fear they will arrive only to drive down natives' wages and dilute our standard of living?
Then we must be talking about productive, working people. Now ask yourself how much better or worse off your local community would be if a substantial number of the workers exited (or were removed) from said community.

Another way to look at this is to say, "then for goodness sake let them in!" Surely they will do less economic damage to us as fully part of our national economy being both producers and consumers than if they continue to afflict us with their asymmetric warfare of only being low-cost producers from afar. Disagree with that framing of the economics? Good. You should, but perhaps not for the reason you suspect--assuming you hold the immigration-diluted-economy fear.

Eventually all production must be matched with consumption. If would-be immigrants are producing from abroad things we are buying from them, they directly or indirectly must eventually buy from us (consume our production)--accepting our IOUs is consuming our production in the future. They are already producers and consumers in our economy--they just do it inefficiently from far away. If all of this leads you to the conclusion that we should close the borders to both things as well as people to preserve our economy, I would remind you that economies don't get larger by getting smaller. The bigger the market, the more it can provide, the more specialization it can allow, the more productive and efficient and creative and prosperous it can become.

It is kind to say that our attempts at bringing America to the world has been expensive and with varying results. But why would we expect otherwise? We seem to be solving the problem in the worst possible way--we are trying to move an entire country and ethos to a person rather than move the person to the country.

Someone is knocking at the door. Do us all a favor. Open the door. Let 'em in.