Obey the Law (of Demand)

The fact that walls and violence are needed to slow the flow of immigrants into this country is proof that more immigrants are economically beneficial.

If immigrants did not create wealth, they would have little incentive to come here.  In a market of voluntary exchanges, both parties benefit from trade.  For every immigrant who can command a higher wage in the US than elsewhere, there is an employer on the other side of that transaction, who benefits more from hiring the worker than not.  Wealth is created.

How much wealth is being left on the table by restricting immigration?  The evidence suggests quite a lot.  If immigrants consider it worthwhile to spend days sneaking through the dessert to avoid border patrol agents and face the very real threat of dehydration and death, the potential payout must be pretty significant.  That means a lot of value for both parties to the exchange.  Despite all the policies and restrictions passed, markets continually push towards equilibrium.

What’s odd about all of this is how revealing it is of our capacity for self-deception.  Americans push for laws that restrict immigration.  Many say that their preference is for fewer.  Yet when they take action in the market place, they reveal that what they really find valuable is just the opposite.  While the laws of the land say fewer immigrants, the laws of economics, reflecting preferences, beg for more through the price signalling mechanism.  Imagine a robot fluent in both English and the price “language” of economics, programmed to interpret the desires of Americans.  Americans would be screaming, “Don’t come here” with words, and begging, “Give me your tired!” with dollars.  I think we’re more honest in the face of trade-offs.  I’d program it to obey actions, not words.

We see the same double-mindedness with bans on box stores, import restrictions, drug prohibition, and a slew of other regulations.  Black markets are evidence of what people value.  If you have to use force to stop something, it’s because people really like that something and opportunities for mutual gain exist.  The more force required, the bigger the potential win-win being squelched.

If you want to know what people value, not just what they claim to value, the law of demand is a better indicator than the law of the land.  Those who follow this law, despite what the rules say, are listening to the true desires of consumers and taking on huge entrepreneurial risk to satisfy them.  How much wealthier we would be if we’d get the state out of the way and let these win-wins occur unencumbered.

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