Control of immigration

Paul Prescod
Sun, 28 Oct 2001 10:02:29 -0800

Kragen Sitaker wrote:
> 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.

Let my try an analogy. Let's say you have a hundred computers (people)
spread out around the world and you want to distribute a subset of your
MP3 (capital) collection to each of them. One solution is to connect to
the Internet and transfer the data (capital). Another is to physically
ship the computers to a central location and use a LAN. The only time
that makes sense is when the bandwidth (capital mobility) between places
is very limited. Similarly, labour mobility matters MOST when capital
mobility is poor. The more mobile capital is, the less labour needs to
be. Thanks to NAFTA, it is possible to be both a mexican AND an auto
plant employee, both a Brazilian AND a concrete magnate.

> The view that the world consists of capital and labor, separate and in
> conflict, is surely not the whole truth.  

It isn't even part of the truth. :-) Are buyers and sellers of other
products "in conflict"? Sure, there is some aspect of competition in the
setting of prices but as in other transactions each participates because
it is in his or her own best interest.

> 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.

That isn't true at all. There are six billion people in the world.
Billions of them live at a subsistence level. *No matter where they
live* that subsistence level is the "going rate" for manual labour. That
anybody, anywhere, gets more is a distortion of the market caused by
borders, limited immigration, politics and geography. We could even this
out but most people in the world would still be poor until the root
causes of poverty are solved. Moving a billion people from point A to
point B just shifts the problem around.

> 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.

Let's say that Nike pays ten cents per day above subsistence wages. If
that's true then there are billions of people around the world that
would benefit from that wage. That means that the workers have no
effective bargaining power no matter how many just-above-subsistence
jobs they are offered. Let's presume that every American company with
factories opened a factory in China. Then the workers would have the
option of working for any American company. That still would not make a
significant dent in the poverty in China because there are still too
many people for the number of jobs available. The whole global economy
needs to be much larger and better dispersed geographically to affect
the "absolute minimum wage".

 Paul Prescod