Thursday, April 29, 2010

Immigrants in the Material World: A Free-Market Solution to the Immigration Debate

As the implementation date of the Arizona immigration bill creeps nearer and nearer the debate on what to do with migrant workers continues to heat up. Just as was true when the debate was a hot button issues in the early 2000’s, I am always surprised by the reaction such debates receive from the average American. We hear claims that immigrants are stealing jobs from hardworking Americans and that they are lowering wages for law abiding citizens. While this may sound logical to some, when you realize the group of people making such claims buy nearly all their manufactured goods from factories overseas and even manage to get some of their services from foreign countries , the assertion than loses all validity.

According to Jeffrey Nallinger’s “The New Free-Trade Heel”, America lost roughly 65,000 footwear related jobs between 1982 and 1989 after Nike closed their last United States factory in Saco, Maine in order to establish factories sin South Korea. In doing so the wage went from roughly $6.94 an hour to $1.03 a day per worker. Feel free to check out pages 145-147 in Before the Law

Aren’t the aforementioned wages “stealing” jobs from hard working Americans? If Nike, an American based company actually located its factory in the United States wouldn’t Americans be willing to make the shows provided they were paid minimum wage? The answer is of course yes Americans would do the job. But of course, you never hear the Americans opposed to “illegal immigration” arguing in favor of Nike replacing their workers with Americans. No, the only time you hear such claims are with companies such as Dell who outsource customer service. And even these complaints have nothing to do with loss of jobs for Americans, but rather the frustration of communicating with an ESL employee (English as a Second Language). So why are American’s opposed to having American companies hiring foreign employees on American soil, but not American companies hiring foreign employees on foreign soil? The answer has nothing to do with jobs, but I’ll let the readers answer that one for themselves.

So how do we deal with this problem, or rather perceived problem? The answer as is the answer for most things, is the free market. While ideally this would include repealing minimum wage laws, thus increasing total employment, decreasing the cost of goods across the board, and invalidating the argument of immigrants lowering the national wage. However, repealing the minimum wage law would be politically unpopular and thus highly unlikely. Yet a non-government solution to immigration is still possible; consumer sovereignty. This is entirely economics 101, all based upon supply and demand. According to consumer sovereignty, consumers can vote on a company’s policy by how many dollar votes they choose to give it. In terms of the current debate, those who oppose immigration would have three options to exercise this consumer sovereignty.

1) Research: Before you buy a product do research, discover if the company you are buying from either hires illegal immigrants, has lax hiring standards, or politically supports those support who the right of illegal immigrants to work in the United States. If you discover it does move on to step two.

2) Dollar Votes: Stop buying from a business whose practices you disagree with. Besides using your own dollars votes, you have the ability to influence the dollar votes of others. If you disagree with the hiring polices of companies, disseminate the information. Make it known that this company isn’t acting in a manner you find acceptable, call headquarters, email newspapers, send the information to news stations.

3) Hiring: The simplest solution. If you own your own company or even small business simply don’t hire illegal immigrants.

If the vast majority of Americans find illegal immigration so unacceptable and then choose to undertake the aforementioned steps, profits will shrink and businesses will be forced to stop hiring illegal immigrants.

Returning to reality, we know this will not happen, and not because businesses are unresponsive to the demands of it’s consumers. When given the choice (which they already are), Americans nearly always choice affordability over what they think is right. In fact some U.S. cities, such as Oakland California have vowed not to enforce federal immigration laws. Said cities cite they enjoyment of cheap labor that allows for revitalization of run down structures that would normally go unfixed due to prohibitively high cost of “legal” construction companies.

That being said, until Americans opposed to illegal immigration adopt a policy of buying only goods manufactured in the United States and manufacturing products not made in the United States themselves, until they admit that the problem of illegal immigration (if it really is a problem) is one created almost entirely by the American public, until they stop demanding low wage workers and low priced goods, and until they are willing to take a hit in the wallet for what they believe their claims of will go ignored by me.

*Even if these conditions are meet, I will continue to support the right of an individual to enter any employment market they so choose, without interference form the government, so long as said employment does not violate anothers right to life and liberty.

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