Sunday , March 24 2019
Home / Project Syndicate / Why Is Immigration Different from Trade?

Why Is Immigration Different from Trade?

Summary:
There is no doubt that immigration brings a host of benefits, both to immigrants themselves and to the native-born population. But if broadly beneficial immigration is to be sustained, destination countries must acknowledge and address the real risks that it raises. MEDFORD, MASSACHUSETTS – Despite the current backlash against free trade, exemplified most prominently by US President Donald Trump’s protectionist “America First” agenda, the economic case for easing the movement of goods and services across borders is strong and straightforward. The case for immigration – that is, the movement of labor across borders – is no less compelling, though it is far more complicated. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Topics:
Amar Bhidé considers the following as important:

This could be interesting, too:

Tyler Cowen writes The economic ecology of Jews as a rural service minority

Tyler Cowen writes What do concert audiences really want?

Tyler Cowen writes Ross Douthat on some reasons for the electoral college

Global Economic Intersection Analysis Blog Feed writes Inflation And Income Distribution: A Reply To The Vulgar Keynesian Policy Enthusiasts

There is no doubt that immigration brings a host of benefits, both to immigrants themselves and to the native-born population. But if broadly beneficial immigration is to be sustained, destination countries must acknowledge and address the real risks that it raises.

MEDFORD, MASSACHUSETTS – Despite the current backlash against free trade, exemplified most prominently by US President Donald Trump’s protectionist “America First” agenda, the economic case for easing the movement of goods and services across borders is strong and straightforward. The case for immigration – that is, the movement of labor across borders – is no less compelling, though it is far more complicated.

For a libertarian like me, the benefits of free trade are obvious: transactions between willing buyers and sellers, within an economy or across borders, almost always benefit both sides. While restrictions may be worthwhile to ensure, say, the safety of goods entering a market, barriers should be kept to a minimum.

On the other hand, it is not worth limiting trade to punish countries that supposedly unfairly subsidize their exports or allow employers to exploit their workers. Limiting imports from countries with low wages and poor working conditions may seem justified; in reality, it deprives these countries’ low-wage workers of what little they can earn. At the same time, it imposes an unwarranted and frequently regressive tax on consumers.

At first glance, immigration appears to be little different from free trade: instead of importing the goods that labor produced elsewhere, countries are simply importing the labor itself. In some ways, the potential gains of immigration may be even greater than those of free trade.

The immigrants themselves benefit from higher wages, as well as greater safety and individual freedom. The native-born population wins, too, because the new labor performs menial or unpleasant tasks, broadens the tax base, and expands domestic markets. More important, immigrants can bring considerable entrepreneurial energy and enrich the local community with their culture, food, and traditions.

Supporting immigration also has an added moral appeal. Hard-nosed free traders can find it hard to persuade tenderhearted skeptics that allowing faraway sweatshops to operate is kinder than eliminating the low-wage jobs they provide. Sheltering immigrants who would face torture or starvation in their homelands aligns more easily with our humanitarian instincts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *