Tuesday, May 23, 2006

WSJ's free-market inanity

The WSJ's op/ed page is so enamored by the quixotic ideal of free flow in all things that it is oblivious to how blatantly unappealing its arguments are to most Americans. Like other dogmatic true believers, the WSJ puts a premium on applying the theoretical to the real world, instead of empirically determining what is best for the real world. Having abandoned attempts at marginalizing opponents (calling the 67% of Americans favoring a reduction in immigration--legal and illegal--a "small but vocal minority"), putting out silly emotional pleas, and stringing together baseless assertions about the importance of unskilled migrants to the nation's economy (admitting that the effect of Mexican immigration to the US is embarrasingly diminutive, representing less than one-tenth of one percent of US GDP), Gigot and company have turned to ideological assaults:
The immigration debate is producing plenty of nonsense, not least from conservatives who claim to believe in market economics. So hostile have these voices become to all things Mexican that they are now even denouncing the money that Mexicans working in America send home.

Mexicans in the U.S. sent an estimated $20 billion back home last year, most of that to their own families. But to hear American critics tell it, these voluntary, private transactions are actually a curse.
They are. Mexico exports its social problems to the US. These migrants depress American wages without adding value to the US economy. In exchange for less affordable living, higher crime, a dumber population, stress on the welfare system, and all the other baggage unskilled immigration brings, our economy has $20 billion siphoned off to a hostile neighbor instead of being invested and spent at home. Why would American "critics" come to any other conclusion?

Open border types love to throw up strawmen. In his immigration speech delivered a week ago, Bush claimed that deporting 12 billion people was unrealistic. No one is calling for that. Indeed, I agree. Experience shows that deporting a million would cause eight or ten times that amount to leave voluntarily. Similarly, the piece portrays these remittances in a relatively favorable light by comparing them to government-granted foreign aid (something the conservatives the WSJ is attacking are highly critical of):
In this month's issue of the Cato Journal, World Bank economist Simeon Djankov and two other authors find that while "remittances have no direct effect on economic growth," they do "have a significant and positive effect on investment, without having any effect on government consumption." The authors found such private forms of aid far more helpful than traditional, government-led foreign aid, which they argued had "discouraging" results. What would anti-remittance American conservatives prefer for Mexico: more World Bank loans?
What a ridiculous false dichotomy. How about neither? That's like arguing that getting melanoma is a good thing because it's less fatal than liver cancer.

Is the board incapable of realizing that Americans are not keen on the idea of buoying the Mexican economy at the expense of our own standard of living? Of course unskilled immigration to the US is good for Mexico. Migrants stand to make $5 an hour in the US. Most workers cannot make that in Mexico. The farther below $5 the migrant's earning power is at home, the more attractive minimum wage to the north becomes. So the lowest value-adding Mexicans come to the US (boosting Mexico's per capita productivity by giving more weight to the higher-earning Mexicans who remain at home) where they are subsidized by the American taxpayer, enabling them to send $20 billion in free money back to Mexico. This nauseating cycle is self-perpetuating, as none other than WSJ's own Joel Millman reported in early May:
For years, economists and politicians have said the solution to surging emigration is prosperity at home. If Mexico and other Latin American nations that send millions of migrants to the U.S. could grow fast enough, the theory goes, their residents wouldn't head north for work. ...

Now the theory looks wrong -- or at least simplistic. Emigration often surges along with economic development. In an expanding economy, would-be migrants gain the skills at home that pay better abroad. They also are better able to save the relatively modest sums -- $200 for a cut-rate airline ticket; $1,000 or so for a reliable border-crossing guide -- that workers looking to enter a better labor market need to take their skills north.
The free flow only ebbs when equilibrium is reached--that is, when Mexico and the US achieve parity. Mexico's PPP is $10,100. The US' is $42,000. Meeting somewhere in the middle is not something we want to do.

Ironically, in its zealous defense of the unregulated free market, the WSJ laments Mexico's failure to reign in the free market!
The country [Mexico] has also done far too little to break up domestic monopolies.
Uh, using the government to break up business entities is not a free market tactic. But this is the same board that contumeliously claims a southern security barrier would never work even as it hails the indisputable success of the Israeli security barrier, so perhaps expecting logical consistency is asking too much.



JSBolton said...

Big regulated media haven't caught on to the new dispensation, in which the power of 'framing the issue', of setting up false dilemmas, no longer belongs to them. They have to work many times harder now; but they've lost the ~impuritan~ work ethic. They've lost it!

JSBolton said...

For example, if it is published that we owe loyalty to our fellow national the net taxpayer, over against immigration cohorts coming in on net public subsidy; these media must answer that.
If all they can say is 'isolationism', in response, this shows that they will hardly work at all. They would need to explain why isolationism has to mean capitulation to aggressors, if it does, and what it means, and all within the bounds of rational argument.

crush41 said...

They still try drown it out by firing not only "isolationist" but also "racist", "xenophobe", etc. But the ruse is up, and the Senate is realizing it's harder than before to mold the issue--instead, the issue is to some degree molding them.

But the beneficial rise of the samizdat media is being negated by demographic trends. The race-hustling power seekers enjoy a self-perpetuating strength--as the Hispanic underclass grows in size, the base supporting more importation of the same underclass grows.