Thursday, June 12, 2008

Milton Friedman's argument for illegal immigration

Will Wilkinson gives a long quotation from an argument by Milton Friedman, along with some explication. The basic argument is that free immigration to jobs is a good thing, free immigration to welfare is a bad thing, and in the absence of a separation between legal residency and eligibility for welfare, the best result is achieved by encouraging more illegal immigration:
But the important takeaway here is this: Friedman’s view is that a certain kind of unrestricted welfare state makes illegal immigration good, because it severs residency from welfare eligibility. Friedman is unequivocal about the desirability of free migration. Anyone really committed to Friedman’s stated view about welfare and immigration should by no means try to restrict immigration, but instead should try to enable illegal immigration. A devout Friedmanite should stand stoutly against every fence, every border cop, every increase in the INS budget, any proposed database check for a new workers’ legal status, etc. I think it makes more sense to argue first for a guest worker program. But if that is in fact impossible, then Friedman has it right: more illegal immigration is the best we can do.
See the fuller discussion at Will Wilkinson's blog.

UPDATE (June 13, 2008): And, of related interest, a discussion of how the benefits of remittances are really the benefits of labor migration, and how Switzerland, despite being difficult to immigrate to, has the highest percentage of foreign-born in its population of any OECD country, also both from Will Wilkinson. The latter provides further evidence for the logical separability of citizenship, residency, work rights, and welfare eligibility.


Brad said...

It's my opinion that a country is like a house party. You can let everyone in freely, but eventually it's going to be a different kind of party.

Speaking specifically of Mexican Catholic families, their reproduction rate is above and beyond replacement numbers.
Eventually there's going to be an overwhelming amount of people at the American House Party, and it's going to become a different type of party.

That's only a prediction, and whether it's a good thing, a bad thing, or doesn't matter at all, has yet to be seen. Will the reproduction rate slow down with increased education? Only with the introduction of critical thinking and responsible decision making.

Slooooow friday. ;-)

Jim Lippard said...

There's a very strong correlation between growing GDP, falling infant mortality rates, and falling rates of reproduction. High rates of reproduction in the third world *is* the result of critical thinking and responsible decision-making--if infant mortality is high, you have more kids to ensure that at least some of them make it to maturity.

The American House Party is *inevitably* going to become a different type of party, no matter what. Change is inevitable, regardless of immigration policies.

Immigration policies which are more open tend to encourage economic growth in both the country immigrated to and the country immigrated from. The more mobile the global workforce is, the more wealth is generated overall. And that's positively correlated with education levels, happiness, and lots of other good things.

And higher education levels are positively correlated with lower levels of religiosity.

Jim Lippard said...

BTW, see Gapminder for some nice animated charts--you can look at GDP vs. # of children per mother globally, for example.