Control of immigration

Kragen Sitaker kragen@pobox.com
Sun, 28 Oct 2001 05:01:25 -0500 (EST)


Paul Prescod writes:
> That's obvious. My only concern is the assertion that Nike's
> shareholders *want them to stay where they are* for economic reasons.
> Shareholders of large western companies do not benefit from the
> immigration status quo because it somehow skews the market for labour in
> a way that keeps salaries down. Salaries are low because there are a
> hell of a lot of poor people in the world and global mobility is not a
> cure for that. There is no more reason to link freedom of capital
> mobility and freedom of labour mobility as to link freedom of speech and
> freedom of labour mobility. All three are good things, together or as a
> package.

I disagree.  Let me elaborate.

A merchant who can sell his wares to any of a hundred people can keep
his prices higher than a merchant who can sell his wares to any of
ten.  A buyer who can buy goods from any of ten merchants can find a
lower price than a buyer who must buy his goods from one of two.

The larger the market you have access to, the better off you are ---
the more people have to compete to get your business.  You have more
power with a larger market.  It need hardly be said that with this
power, you can extract concessions other than better prices --- you can
demand warranties, sell in bigger quantities to reduce your transaction
costs, provide poorer customer service, and break laws with impunity.

Making a business mobile, giving it access to more labor markets, makes
it able to find better labor "prices" --- lower wages, longer hours, no
unions, etc.  Making labor mobile, giving it access to more labor
markets, makes it able to find better labor prices --- higher wages,
shorter hours, unions, etc.

The view that the world consists of capital and labor, separate and in
conflict, is surely not the whole truth.  But to the extent that this
view is true, increasing capital mobility without increasing labor
mobility is a very significant event in this conflict --- it is a major
victory for capital against labor.

To return to your statements, Paul:

Nike's shareholders want Nike's (contractors') workers to stay where
they are for economic reasons; if Nike's (contractors') workers were to
move to the US, they would cost Nike ('s contractors) several times as
much money in wages and would not be nearly as docile.

Shareholders of large companies, western or eastern, benefit from the
immigration status quo, because it makes it harder for their workers to
comparison-shop for employment, while making it easier for them to
comparison-shop for workers.

Salaries are low because there are a hell of a lot of poor people in
the world, it's true.  One reason there are so many poor people in the
world is that most people have nothing to sell but their labor, and
most people's market for their labor is pretty restricted; immigration
laws are a significant factor in limiting this market.

There is good reason to link freedom of capital mobility and freedom of
immigration.  Capital mobility brings power to capital when it makes
deals with labor; labor mobility brings power to labor when it makes
deals with capital.  Capital mobility will tend to decrease wages and
worsen working conditions everywhere; labor mobility will tend to
increase wages and improve working conditions.

Do you still disagree?

-- 
<kragen@pobox.com>       Kragen Sitaker     <http://www.pobox.com/~kragen/>
Perilous to all of us are the devices of an art deeper than we possess
ourselves.
       -- Gandalf the White [J.R.R. Tolkien, "The Two Towers", Bk 3, Ch. XI]