Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The dismal science--somebody's gotta do it

Here's how economists argue against the minimum wage:
Spin it as you wish, we should not have a major party promoting, as a centerpiece initiative and for perceived electoral gain, a law that might put half a million vulnerable people out of work, and that during a slow labor market.

And the American people will never understand the ins and outs of the monopsony debate and the like. Overall, what kind of useful lesson is being taught here about the determinants of wages and prosperity?

I’m sorry people, but those are the bottom lines on this one.
Verily, thou shalt not mess with the supply-demand curve.

Immigration, by contrast, is the categorical imperative. We can because we ought!
The moral argument for open borders is powerful. How can it be moral that through the mere accident of birth some people are imprisoned in countries where their political or geographic institutions prevent them from making a living? Indeed, most moral frameworks (libertarian, utilitarian, egalitarian, and others) strongly favor open borders or find it difficult to justify restrictions on freedom of movement. As a result, people who openly defend closed borders sound evil, even when they are simply defending what most people implicitly accept. When your opponents occupy ground that they cannot–even on their own moral premises–defend then it is time to attack.

Alex Tabarrok works himself into quite a tizzy there. Personally, I don't see people grabbing their rifles and manning the ramparts so they can have more numerous and more exotic peoples in their school districts.

It’s hilarious how economists wring their hands and weep great tears and dust off their Immanuel Kant when the subject is immigration, but when the subject is the minimum wage suddenly they’re all gimlet-eyed dismal scientists again.

You could actually give a nice little boost to the bargaining power of American workers just by halting immigration and booting out the trespassers. But the agendas of academic economists--dovetailing nicely with the agendas of American billionaires--are that American workers should take a pay cut so immigrant workers can get a pay raise.

This is the allegedly moral outcome that all these suddenly warm, fuzzy economists embrace on this particular subject. But where is the limiting principle? There are a lot of Africans who would be perfectly happy to pitch a tent in the extra space of the George Mason University campus--who are we to deny them?

The other argument that gets trotted out is that who's on this side or that side of the border is just "an accident of birth." The concept that's being eluded here is posterity. A specific people built the place, took care of themselves and their institutions, and handed the place off to their kids to hand off to their kids. How much traction would the idea that people are not entitled to an ancestral homeland because of their "accident of birth" get outside the US? Try telling that to the Georgians, Russans, Israelis, Croatians, Ethiopians, et al. They'd probably be rather offended at your telling them they were Georgian, Russian or Israeli by an "accident of birth." Generally speaking, parents choose the circumstances of their children's birth rather deliberately.


Scotsman said...

"There are a lot of Africans who would be perfectly happy to pitch a tent in the extra space of the George Mason University campus--who are they to deny them?"

Now there is an immigration plan I can get behind.

Porter said...

I made a similar observation at one of their open borders burrows:

When I come to visit the site of a reputable seminary like this, I don’t expect to be subjected to the droning of some econ cyborg in costume vestments. I suppose pastor (or it’s rabbi, no?) Caplan understands with all his wailing about morality and monsters that he’s not making an economic argument, but a theological one. And when I am being ministered to I expect a more exalted path to salvation than “turn your nation over to Pepe.”

So please, offer the flock a more inspirational liturgy. Your glistening cheeks don’t get me to church on Sunday.

Toddy Cat said...

So do I have a right to give my kid to Warren Buffett or Bill Gates to raise, with all the perks to be expected of such a "father"? After all, he's only my kid through an "accident of birth".

These people are beyond parody.

Bob Wallace said...

I would like to see the hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies that goes to McDonalds and Wal-Mart every year cut to nothing.

Then we can talk about the minimum wage.

lannes said...

And yet, "the mere accident of birth" is enough too make you a US
citizen if you're born here.