Is Anti-Immigration the New Mercantilism?
I have to wonder if the anti-immigrant people are not some sort of new version of Mercantilism. Mercantilism was a view that a country could achieve economic prosperity via economic regulation, primarily of trade. Right there a red flag should go up. How can every country have a favorable balance of trade at the same time? The idea is that by putting tariffs in place for our markets we protect them from foreign competition and at the same time our industries will be able to sell in foreign markets. A great theory is you assume the politicians/policy makers in other countries are complete dolts.1
Much of the anti-immigration rhetoric strikes me as being very similar. I’ll often hear claims about protecting the middle class. The implicit idea here is that the middle class is entitled to a given lifestyle/income level. The difference between this view and that of a living wage is pretty minimal, IMO. Yet the anti-immigrant crowd will loudly decry the notion of a living wage, but will go on at length about how a guy who hangs dry wall used to make $18/hour and wouldn’t it be grand if the wage for dry-wall-hangers would go back up to that level.
And it applies to legal immigration as well, IMO. When President Bush first floated the idea of a guest worker program several of the conservative talk radio shows hosts I listen too sprang into action. “This is a dagger aimed at the heart of the middle class!”2 What the rhetoric really means is the following: There will be more competition in some job markets and as such the wage will probably go down. Funny….I thought conservatives liked competition. I guess they only like some competition. Also, don’t we often hear the conservatives saying, “So what if a company relocates to Bangladesh and hire people for $0.25/hour? It is captialism and a big component of capitalism is competiton and making profits!” Apparently this only holds for some firms.
Frankly, these anti-immigrant supporters should be supporting legislation against off-shoring/out-sourcing. In fact, these people should oppose out-sourcing here inside the U.S. If a company finds that it could save money by out-sourcing say its human resources department, what about all the people currently working in that firm’s human resources department? Don’t they deserve protection from the nefarious agencies that will get the out-sourcing business? Shouldn’t the HR employee have some degree of certainty that he or she will continue to get that $18/hour just like the dry-wall-hanger? The logical inconsistencies on the part of the anti-immigrationists make my head hurt when it comes to their tortured economic
1It shouldn’t take a brianiac to figure out that the politicians/policy makers in the other countries will strongly consider placing tariffs on their markets. Hence there is either ongoing trade wars that actually reduce exports and imports which is generally not a good thing, or there is not net gain from the tariffs.
2In actuality it means more competition for those who work in low-skill/low-education jobs. A guy hanging dry wall is more likely to face more competition than a computer programmer or a nuerosurgeon.