James Leroy Wilson's blog

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Absorbing Immigrants

I posted the following the comments section of this post by Logan Ferree at Freedom Democrats:

Freedom of movement does not extend to trespassing on private property. But if we rely on the State to protect our own property boundary lines from trespassers, we'd have to acknowledge its right to proclaim and enforce its own boundaries as well. I don't see a philosophical problem with tighter controls of the borders. Forcing Americans to report their neighbors, customers, and workers to the authorities, however, is reprehensible. Like revoking habeas corpus in the name of fighting terrorism, the solution is worse than the problem.

Even in a purely free market mass immigration will cause short-term harm to the native population, because there will be less available residential space and fewer available jobs. In a free market, people would adjust quickly because the demand for increased housing construction, and the presence of more consumers, will mean more jobs. In a heavily-taxed, heavily-regulated economy, however, it is harder to adjust because the costs of starting or expanding businesses, and property taxes on increased residential construction, inhibit job growth. In addition, a welfare state can not sustain open borders indefinitely.

As it stands today, to be for open borders is to increase the cost of government. Pro-immigration libertarians have to be more pro-active in addressing these concerns. To absorb immigrant populations and benefit from their contributions while minimizing immigration-related problems, I suggest:

1. Slashing taxes and simplifying the tax code to unleash capital into production, creating more jobs.
2. Repealing regulations and licensing laws that make it difficult for workers to find work and employers to hire. If you're out of work, you could put a sign on your car and start your own taxi service, or you could cut hair out of your own home. Such opportunities for legal self-employment will force employers to raise wage rates. Also, law-abiding Americans will be free to work at jobs at wages and conditions now available only under the table to illegal immigrants.
3. States should shift away from income and property taxes to land-value taxes. This will shift more of the tax burden to those, such as landlords, who profit the most from immigration. It will also spur (untaxed) construction of residential space, leading to lower rents. While suggesting a tax sounds anti-liberty, the land value tax is actually a check on the tyranny of "private" (though State-protected) monopoly control over land.
4. If a land value tax is not an option, states should consider consumption taxes and user fees instead of income taxes, so that illegal immigrants, who buy stuff but don't file income taxes, will pay some of the cost of increased government services their presence brings. I understand this is one reason Texas absorbs illegal immigrants better than California.
5. Finally, the fewer services and welfare program the government provides, the fewer opportunities for immigrants to use them for free.

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