James Leroy Wilson's blog

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Trade, Immigration, Freedom

The New American has its first Freedom Index for the 100th Congress. (It used to be called the Conservative Index but that was abandoned because of the confused meaning of "conservative" these days.)

Not all of these issues are specifically about "freedom." The index is based on ten votes in the House and ten in the Senate. One vote in the House had to do with trade/immigration, and two in the Senate. (A third vote in the Senate did have to do with immigration, but also involved Constitutional rights.)

Aside from those, however, the questions really had to do with the Constitution. If a bill is unconstitutional, it doesn't matter what its other merits happen to be. A "correct" vote on an unconstitutional bill in this index is a nay. The reasoning goes, if Congress strays from the Constitution, Congress will begin violating our Constitutional rights and freedoms. I certainly agree.

Because Congress has Constitutional jurisdiction over trade and immigration, there aren't necessarily Constitutional reasons to support or oppose particular proposals. In these cases, the New American seems to favor populism over freedom, because it seems to me that lifting a restriction is pro-freedom, and keeping or adding restrictions is anti-freedom. So perhaps "Freedom" Index isn't accurate.

I am more of a pragmatist when it comes to trade and immigration. To say we should let anything and everyone into the country is just another way of saying we shouldn't have a government or country at all. I agree with that in a utopian sense, but do not see how that is practically achieved. If we are to have restrictions, I believe they should be premised on protecting the public. But all too often they just serve to punish the consumer.

On trade, I could see trade restrictions designed to protect the safety, health, and environment. In addition, as a matter of fairness to domestic producers, I could see requiring imports to conform to the same regulatory standards required of domestic products. But that, to me, is an argument for eliminating the regulations, not for restricting trade.

Likewise, on immigration I could see restrictions designed to protect the safety, health, and environment of the nation - that is, keep out known criminals and carriers of infectious diseases. I could also see restrictions to prevent overcrowding, which could be bad for the environment. Moreover, if foreign governments are facilitating immigration to our land, encouraging it, or intentionally creating economic refugees that swamp our borders, I could see calling for restrictions, as the surplus population drives down wages not due to free movement of labor, but because of deliberate government policy of another country. Lastly, I could see immigration restrictions if immigrants overwhelm government services and brings on bankruptcy - but I see that more as an argument to get rid of the government services.

In any case, restrictions designed to protect American jobs or American wages are really restrictions that raise prices and punish American consumers. If one foreign-made good is produced more cheaply and can sell more cheaply than the American version, there shouldn't be a law against buying the foreign good. Likewise, if an immigrant is willing to work for less than the American, the employer should be free to hire him. Most of the problems concerning trade and immigration are really structural problems with America's tax and regulatory regimes. In a free market, there would be no question that immigrants make the country wealthier; now there is doubt about that considering welfare, public schools, road congestion, etc. And in a free market, free trade would create jobs, not destroy them.

Government is inherently inefficient and most of what it tries to do may be better left undone or left to the private sector. However, just as we understand why we have a military, I understand why we protect our borders from goods and individuals we consider dangerous. When such restrictions venture into economic planning or helping certain segments of the population, they become unjust.

No comments:

Post a Comment