Friday, June 24, 2011

Responding to The Gumball Video

Yesterday, I tweeted the following:
Worldwide, 145 million adults want to move to the US & 43 million to Canada: Let them in! #tcot #tlot #uspoli #cdnpoli
Fellow twit Winghunter responded with this:
@planstoprosper The Gumball Video (5 min) It's always better to have a clue.

The embedded video on that site is tiny, so I've embedded a larger version above. If my embedding doesn't work for you, the Youtube page is here.

In the video, Roy Beck uses gumballs to argue against increasing immigration. The thrust of his argument is that the people who are allowed to immigrate to the US (about a million per year) are so very few compared to the three billion "desperately poor" that it doesn't make enough of a difference. Therefore, he is against allowing even more people to immigrate. Wait, what?

Beck says that there's too little immigration to make a difference, therefore there should be even less immigration. He makes this argument with a straight face, so either he's a better actor than me, or he honestly believes this nonsense (or both-- I'm really bad at acting). Either way, I don't support immigration just because I think it will help other countries (even though it does, however small the effect might be). I support (legal) immigration because I think it will help my country, the good ol' U.S. of A. Maybe that's selfish, but it's true.

There are undeniable benefits to increased immigration. The greatest natural resource available to the United States (or any other country) is the human mind. Only people can innovate, and we need innovation if we want to grow. The more legal immigrants who come to the US, who go to our schools, who work for our companies, the better off we will be. They will bring their own ideas, or improve on American ideas, or work with Americans to develop totally new ideas. Think of Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, I.M. Pei, Joseph Pulitzer, Irving Berling, Andrew Carnegie, Levi Strauss or Muhammad Yunus, all of them immigrants. (Never mind the children of immigrants, or their children!) We would be a far poorer society, both economically and culturally, without the steady influence of immigrants throughout American history.

What about the downsides? Roy Beck makes some vague and unsubstantiated references to the effect of legal immigration "on our unemployed, the working poor, the most vulnerable members of our society," and "on our natural resources." It is true that immigration increases labor supply, and when supply increases, the price falls, if everything else is kept constant. But everything else is not kept constant, because all these immigrants want to eat and buy homes and go on vacations and find other ways to spend the money they're earning. This means businesses have to expand to serve them, which means they have to hire new employees. This increases labor demand, and when labor demand increases, wages rise. Since immigration increases both labor supply and labor demand, there is very little to no net effect on wages or native employment. The downsides that Beck is afraid of simply don't exist, which might be why he spends so little time talking about them.

What this boils down to is the freedom of individuals to act in their own best interests without the government getting in the way. Immigration is one of those bizarre issues where many people who otherwise recognize the power and beauty of the free market beg for government control. As in so many other areas, the best thing the government can do is get out of the way. If people want to move to America, I say let them in.

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