A Journal for Western Man
The War on Illegal Immigration Will Fail
Wade A. Mitchell
Issue LVII- May 11, 2006
In the midst of the current immigration debate, let’s look at the problem from another angle. There exists a market demand for low-skilled cheap labor. Part of this demand is being met by outsourcing of jobs overseas. The rest is met by the hoard of immigrants coming to this country. Illegal immigration is the market supplying a demand. A demand is being met and satisfied. When viewed this way, how is this a problem? This triumph of the market is not in and of itself a problem.
This can only be viewed as a problem when the illegal immigrants demand services from our welfare state and force a change in our way of life. For the last generation or so, we have been bombarded with Spanish ballots, bi-lingual education, and numerous welfare handouts for illegal immigrants. If none of these programs existed, the immigrants could not take advantage of them. If it were not for the “Welfare State” and the political correctness that exists in this country, no problem would exist at all. (For that matter, natural-born citizens should not have any of these programs available either, but that is a subject outside the realm of this discussion.)
History will teach us everything we need to know about starting this so-called “War on Illegal Immigration.” The U.S. government has been somewhat less than successful with other “Wars.” Let’s look at it, beginning with the “war” on alcohol.
The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution brought us Prohibition. During this time, the government tried to stop the manufacture, distribution, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages. At least the citizens at that time had enough respect for the constitution to realize that no such authority existed, and they passed an amendment giving the Feds the authority. This exercise was an abysmal failure. The damage to our system of jurisprudence was so great and the cost so high that the people repealed the prohibition in just 14 years. Once again, the government tried to place obstacles in the path of the market and failed.
The so called “War on Poverty” was begun in the 1960’s by my fellow Texan Lyndon Baines Johnson. By some estimates, this war has cost from 7 to 10 trillion dollars. Just using the lesser of these estimates, the federal government could write a check to every man, woman, and child in the country for $23,333.34. Yet we still have poor people in our midst. Why? Were our intentions not honorable? Did we not mean well? Regardless of our intentions, this war is also a failure in every respect. LBJ is currently enjoying his just reward, and we are still paying the bill for his folly.
Today we find ourselves engaged in a “War on Drugs.” Like Prohibition, this war has been very costly in blood, treasure, and liberties. Even those of us who do not use illicit drugs have been forced to surrender our liberties in an effort to fight this so-called war. This war is also un-winnable because there is a market for hallucinogenic drugs. I am not arguing that it is wise to use drugs—just that this war is far too expensive in too many ways, and it is also a total failure.
What do these three examples have to do with illegal immigration? They are just examples of what we might expect to get if we demand that government do something about this or any other problem. Do we think for a moment that the new war on illegal immigration will be any more successful than any of these previous wars? The market will overcome any obstacle government can place in its path. As long as there is a market for anything, the demand will be met. Let’s look at some more of government’s attempts to interfere with market demand.
Jail—the most secure facility that government can construct—still leaks. Contraband products still make their way inside of the walls of every jail. Why? Because, there is a market for these forbidden products. If government cannot stop the flow of contraband into a jail, how on earth do you think it will ever stop immigrants coming in through a porous border with Mexico? Sure, we could spend billions of dollars in the effort, but it would enjoy the same level of success as the other failed attempts.
Various talking heads have suggested the problem could be fixed easily—with the stroke of a pen. They are convinced that all we have to do is put an armed guard every four feet along the southern border, and this will stop the flow. It will do no such thing. As we have seen, the market will simply devise ways to get around any obstacle that government can create.
Others have suggested throwing the employers in jail. I find this approach particularly troubling. This employer did something illegal when he hired an illegal alien—but what did this employer do that was immoral? He has hurt no one. He has helped a person climb up out of poverty. He has done so without the aid of his fellow citizens, and the immigrant has improved himself because of this one employer and his actions to meet a market demand. To deprive an entrepreneur of his liberty for doing nothing immoral is repugnant to me as a citizen.
Besides, we would then be without whatever this person was producing. We would have to pay for his incarceration and possibly add the members of his family to the welfare rolls. This would be terribly expensive, and the potential for abuse is enormous. What if I had a competitor whom I knew to be using illegal immigrants? Couldn’t I turn him in to the authorities to eliminate the competition? That way I could jack my prices up without improving the product at all. The consumer would be forced to buy my higher-priced product. Does this really sound like a good idea?
Let’s look at government just like we would look at any other supplier of services. If they don’t do a good job, quit using them and go on to someone who is better equipped and has more incentives to get the job done right.
If you took a broken chair to a wood shop to be repaired and when you got it back home it fell apart the first time you sat in it—would you go back to this same shop and insist the proprietor take more money from you to do the job right the next time? I doubt it. Yet this is exactly how we respond to government failure. When the schools do not educate, we give them more money. When the jail mistakenly sets free a condemned man (as happened in Harris County just last summer), the authorities call for more “resources” for better training and such. Examples of incompetent government are almost limitless.
If we continue to clamor for tougher enforcement of immigration laws, the politicians in Washington—who always have a damp finger in the air to see which way the sheep would like to be led—will certainly spend billions of your dollars in an attempt to do just that. When government fails, as it surely will, the politicians who pushed for this program will be enjoying a very lucrative retirement (at your expense), and a new crop of liars and thieves will be sitting on their perch at the helm of government, arguing for more money for better tools and training, more manpower, etc. But rest assured, this program will enjoy the same level of success as any previously mentioned attempt to thwart the market.
If we truly want to solve the illegal immigration problem, we would do well to look at abolishing the welfare state. Without it, there is no problem.
Wade A. Mitchell lives in Pampa, Texas, and is a supporter and admirer of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is also a contributor to The Rational Argumentator. You can contact him at email@example.com.
This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.
Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, at http://www.geocities.com/rational_argumentator/rc.html.