Immigration, Inequality and Pie
Punishing a minor by removing him from the culture he’s adopted as his own, for the crimes of his parents, does strike me as fundamentally unfair. But what liberals leave out of this story, time and again, is a competing — and in my view overriding — unfairness. Reihan has argued repeatedly, and effectively, that we should treat access to the U.S. economy, not to mention its extensive welfare state, as a scarce resource. We can debate and debate the best way of distributing this resource– from “not at all” to “come one, come all” and everywhere in between. But distributing it based on who manages most successfully to violate the law, at the expense of would-be immigrants who are honoring the process, is surely not a valid option.
This statement – that we should “treat acces to the U.S. economy, not to mention its extensive welfare state, as a scarce resource” set off alarm bells the moment I read it. Why should we treat access to the economy as a scarce resource? Tim apparently had similar thoughts, noting that when people on the left talk about inequality they “worry that unfettered free markets will funnel too much money to the wealthy few and leave the rest of us behind. Conservatives counter that the economic pie is not fixed. Leaving people free to innovate will expand the pie and ultimately benefit everyone.”
But suddenly, when it comes to immigration:
Apparently, when the topic turns to people born outside the United States, all that stuff about expanding pies and inalienable rights goes out the windows. Now the pie is fixed—a “scarce resource”—and it’s up to the government to make sure the slices are doled out fairly. People are no longer endowed by their Creator with the right to keep the fruits of their labor. Rather, the freedom to earn a living must be carefully “distributed” by the government only to those it deems worthy.
It really is a strange double standard. I would note a second double standard many conservatives deploy: military spending. Whenever talk turns to cutting military spending, conservatives argue that it will lead to job losses, a downturn in the economy, and so forth. This is nothing if not military Keynesianism. After all, military spending is no different than any other government spending, and if we can create jobs by hiring soldiers and buying jets, we can create jobs by spending in the domestic economy. We certainly can’t have it both ways.