Monday, October 01, 2007

A modest proposal for anti-immigration libertarians.

Some alleged libertarians argue that the combination of welfare and immigration (legal or illegal) is lethal. Thus, until the welfare state is abolished (unlikely), government must restrict other freedoms such as freedom of movement. Hayek argued that government interventions lead to problems which lead to more government interventions which lead to more problems. He called this “the road to serfdom.” Apparently it is a road some “libertarians” travel down happily, at least when immigrants are involved.

Generally this argument is bolstered by fake statistics and dishonest arguments. They falsely claim immigrations are more prone to crime than the native-born. The opposite is true. Nor are they welfare drains. The illegal status of many means that taxes are deducted from wages but they never file a 10W40 to claim their refunds, which gives them an inordinately high rate of taxation compared to native born citizens earning similar wages.

In spite of the facts the anti-immigrant Right still insists that the presence of state welfare means that government must act to restrict immigration. Freedom must be sacrificed because these immigrants will consume more than they pay into the outdated welfare state system.

And while anti-immigrant loud mouths concentrate mainly on Mexicans who cross into the United States, without government permission, there is another group of individuals who arrived in vast numbers and who consume massive amounts of social welfare. These anti-welfare activists ignore them entirely.

In an average year over four million of these individuals arrive in the States. And I’ve looked up some of the numbers of what they consume. The United States government, at all levels, doles out in excess of $500 billion every single year in order provide them with free state education. Police resources spent to keep these individual in check amounts to around $14.1 billion per year.

The reality is that these individuals do, over the course of their first two decades in the country, commit far more crimes than the average American. In fact, they commit a higher percentage of crimes than do the illegal immigrants. A report from the state of California, that I read, said that it is almost impossible to accurately estimate how much these people cost due to crimes they commit but the report said all estimates “conclude that nation-wide costs are in the tens to hundreds of billions of dollars annually.”

And I’ve seen some horrifying numbers. These people are more prone to use illegal drugs than average. They are more likely to be involved in drunk driving, as well as automobile accidents, than average. They are more violent and more crime prone than average. The social costs they impose on society are in the hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars every single year, probably the trillions of dollars.

One in three of them relies on government services for their health care. Add billions more for that. And, unlike the Mexicans who immigrate illegally, they are entitled to massive amounts of welfare. The Urban Institute estimates that these individuals consume around $333 billion per year in entitlements alone. That doesn’t include all the money spent on crime control or the cost of those crimes or what is spent on education.

The arrival of these 4 million+ people every year consumes vast amounts of government spending. Far more than we could ever accurately calculate. And none of this includes the trillions of dollars in private spending.

And what do they put into the system? Unlike the typical illegal who comes to America to earn a living these new arrivals rarely enter the job market during their first two decades in the country. Those that do tend to take part-time work at minimum wage. It takes around 20 years or more before they are acclimated sufficiently to the culture before many of them make their first tentative steps into the employment market.

Who are these individuals that impose such massive government expenditures and contribute so little to the economy for such an extended period of time? Babies.

Every child that is born in the United States racks up massive amounts of government spending for at least the first two decades of their life. The Justice system spend billions to keep them in control. And the largest program of wealth redistribution in the world is the American educational system. A typical education, through high school, could cost the taxpayers anywhere from $100,000 to $160,000. Then many of them go on to subsidized higher education as well which, depending on where they are studying and for how long, can double the educational costs.

And unlike illegal immigrants they rarely find employment until decades after they arrived.

Would these social costs, imposed unwillingly on others, therefore justify government restrictions on reproduction? If not, why not? With infants there is clearly a net social cost in the form of entitlements for two decades. With immigrants there is net income as most work and most pay taxes. They are productive almost immediately. Not so with children.

As I see it the arguments that conservatives and anti-immigrant types make concerning social entitlements and immigrants applies far more accurately to giving birth than to immigration. Using their logic, that would make the case for state restrictions on reproduction far more compelling than their arguments for immigration restrictions.

Obviously I don’t think the state should be restricting the reproductive intentions of individuals. Nor do I believe it should be subsidizing them, which it does to the tune of trillions of dollars per year. I don’t think that the existence of entitlement programs justify the extension of state control in other areas -- as do the anti-immigrant “libertarians” I refer to. And I take this position even though the entitlements spent on children far exceeds that spent on immigrants.

Of course there is no movement worth speaking of to stop people from having children. It’s hard to rile up people to hate kids. It’s easy to get them to hate foreigners. It’s been going on for centuries. I think that raw prejudice is far more likely to explain the presence of anti-immigration libertarians than the welfare argument does. If it were really welfare that concerned them they’d spend more time lobbying for government restrictions on giving birth. I would be curious though, to see exactly where they would build the wall to prevent reproduction.

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