Control of immigration (was: Multiculturalism)

John Hall
Mon, 22 Oct 2001 11:54:15 -0700

> Behalf Of Clay Shirky
> Sent: Monday, October 22, 2001 11:17 AM
> To: John Hall
> Cc: 'Clay Shirky'; 'Paul Prescod';
> Subject: Re: Control of immigration (was: Multiculturalism)
> > Immigration laws are a political response to the externalities you 
> > would cause by shifting the labor here.
> Yep. Just like raspberry subsidies are a political response 
> to the externalities you would cause by allowing the price of 
> raspberries to move to their commodity level.
> I know that there will never be the political will to drop 
> immigratino controls in a country that can't even drop farm 
> subsidies. All I really want is to see the issues discussed 
> in the same way.

I don't agree that they are the same at all, though there may be some

If I establish a free market in raspberry's (we assume the price falls)
1. We have a transfer of wealth from raspberry famers to society at
large.  At the same quantity, this is a wash.
2. More raspberry's are consumed, resulting in a net increase in weath
for society since more transactions now occur where all parties profit.
3. We also pick up the 'friction'.  The cost of imposing the old system
directly through regulation and indirectly through political

In the case of raspberry's, that is all we are really talking about.
You could argue external costs on increasing raspberry production and
consumption, and they are there, but I don't see them as being in any
way significant.


Introducing an (initially) penniless Vietnamese family into LA has an
entirely different dynamic.

1. The Vietnamese family immediately benefits from, and increases the
costs of, the public infastructure that supports our way of life.
Everything from school buildings to highways.  These things are all a
net transfer from people already living here to the new immigrant.
Raspberry subsidies don't have that problem.

2. Our public enforces a 'minimum standard of living' after which people
become a public charge.  The analogy with the raspberry example ends
when the lowered price of labor pushes the value of labor below this
threshold.  Imagine he raspberry case except you left the policy on the
books that if the price of raspberries declined to far all raspbery
producers would be entitled to tax financed public assistance.

3. In addition to capital costs, the new family generates a host of
government sponsored ongoing costs, education of children being a major

4. Finally, I don't expect the price of raspberries to have an effect on
the surrounding culture.  Enough Vietnamese families, and you would.
The effect depends critically on how many come, over what period of
time, why they came, what members of their society came, and what skills
they had.

Almost all of these things are net transfers from American Citizens to
the new arrivals, and the wealth effect on Americans is negative, unlike
the raspberry case.