Fear, loathing and class warfare

Fear, loathing and class warfare

— Andrew Leonard

Permalink [19:40 EST, April 10, 2006]


This was a fascinating piece on the current debate in the US over illegal immigration. I wrote a blog entry on borders awhile back that applies here somewhat, but I also wanted to make a few specific statements about some of the points raised in this article.

This has led to the amusing sight of David Frum pointing his guns in the National Review at the traditionally friendly confines of the Wall Street Journal's editorial page. Give the Journal some credit — on ideological grounds, it is staking out an absolutist free trade position: If we're going to let capital free to roam the world, then labor should roam free as well. Frum, however, wants his free-trade cake without any illegal immigrant icing, and ties himself into knots trying to prove that the benefits that accrue to the U.S. from free trade are far greater than society's gains from illegal immigrants. It's a dubious position to stake out: OK to hire the cheapest labor possible outside of U.S. borders, but not inside.

This is, perhaps, one of the most interesting, and simplest, arguments in favour of open borders I have heard yet. Its a bit surprising that it comes from the Wall Street Journal, as they tend to think in more conservative ways typically, and while there IS certainly a laizze-faire, conservative attitude to parts of it, drawing a parallel between the free movement of trade and labour is truly revolutionary in economics, as far as I know.

So I suppose my question for detractors of immigration, and of the free movement of people and labour around the globe, why should production markets be freely globalized, but not labour markets? Why should protectionist policies with regard to production be shunned, while protectionist policies with regard to labour be embraced?

If the world we live in constitutes one giant marketplace, doesn't that marketplace apply as much to labour as it does to goods and production? And if it doesn't, then why not?


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