In The Neighborhood Of IMMIGRATION
Few pedestrians would argue that the Republic of Northwest Queoldiola is anything but a quaint and courteous country. The Northwest Queoldiolans have a cute habit of wearing those little hats with the squirrel tail hanging from the back. They also manufacture the best sundials that money can buy. As a tourist mecca, there's nothing quainter or more courteous than the Republic of Northwest Queoldiola. But, as you may have noticed during our pedestrian trek, several Queoldiolans have decided to pursue permanent residence, and presumably U. S. citizenship, right here Shady Valley. They have undertaken the age old process of immigration. BUT WHY SHADY VALLEY? These Queoldiolans have some pretty darn peculiar habits. While we're all found of sundials, they've raise fondness to a religious fervor. Their clothing is, to put it mildly, pretty darn peculiar. The worst part of it -- they're willing to work cheap!
To the Ends of the Earth
Before we let Winston Smythe Kennsington III assault some of the newly arrived Queoldiolans with a verbal tongue lashing, we had better get to the bottom of this immigration stuff.
Our point of departure for immigration is a close conceptual relative -- migration. It's probably a good idea at this point to take a look at migration issue and give yourself a good feel for its whys and wherefors. While you're doing that I think I'll scrap off some bubble gum from my jogging shoe. Ah, the trials of a pedestrian.
Are you back? Good. Here are two summary points on migration:
- When we move from one place to another we do so in search of higher wages, better jobs, and improved living conditions.
- A barrier to migration is distance and the associated cost of moving. This has become less important in the United States in recent decades because of better transportation, but it remains pretty significant worldwide.
How does immigration fit into what we already know about migration? Immigration is simply migration that occurs between countries -- that is, people cross national boundaries when they move. More specifically, we talk about immigration as migration into a country, while a related term emigration is migration out of a country. These, of course, are merely two sides of the same action. Immigration into one country is nothing more than emigration out of another. In that immigration tends to get the most publicity, especially from vote-seeking politicians, that's the term we'll use here.
Here is the key for immigration: Immigrants tend to move from poorer, lesser developed countries to wealthier, more developed ones. Those immigrants from Northwest Queoldiola are attracted to Shady Valley because we have higher paying jobs, a better standard of living, goods of unmatched quality, superior public services, and all sorts of things that make our lives more enjoyable. Shady Valley is like a porch light attracting Queoldiolan moths.
Similar immigration occurs in most of the wealthier nations in the world. Immigrants come into the United States from many lesser developed nations, especially our close southern neighbor -- Mexico. The European nations of Germany, France, and Britain get theirs from poorer African, Middle Eastern, and east European countries. In fact, any country that's doing better than it's neighbors is likely to see immigrants knocking on the door asking for a piece of a slice of economic pie.
A Natural Nation of Immigrants
While I haven't seen the scientific documentation from those biology-types who carve up our chromosomes in search of what makes us tick, I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't eventually identify some kind of "wanderlust" gene. As a species, we've certainly shown the inclination to move around.
That fact is most evident right here in the good old U. S. of A. While some people, like Winston Smythe Kennsington III, have been American born and bred for several centuries, you'll find that their ancestors were born and bred elsewhere if you go back far enough. That also applies to Native American indians who did their wandering thing thousands of years earlier. In this nation, we're clearly a bunch of immigrants.
Our wanderlust inclination is not the only natural inclination that plays a role in immigration. We're also naturally suspicious of strangers. In that our evolutionary survival over the eons was made possible by quickly identifying and reacting to potential threats, we tend to be wary of anything that's new and different (like Northwest Queoldiolans). When we've staked out our territory in a given country, we don't look to fondly upon strangers who move in.
Now that we've had our genetic, biological overview of immigration, let's consider the economics of this issue.
The New Kids in Town
The most important question we need to ask is: What's the big deal if some Queoldiolians move into Shady Valley? Or as some pointy-headed economic-types would ask: What is the cost and benefit of immigration?
Let's list a few of the more well known concerns expressed by "natives" when immigrants hit town:
- One of the biggest is that immigrants will take away jobs from the natives and cause wages to drop. The extra competition alone is likely to push wages down. However, a big reason for immigration is the dismal state of life and employment opportunities in the home country. Many immigrants are willing to do more for less.
- Another big concern is that immigrants, being poor people from poor countries, are likely to need more public services such as health care and welfare, than the natives. This costs the taxpayers, of course, and probably keeps some deserving natives from being helped.
- An often unstated concern, that's probably shared by most natives, is cultural infringement. When immigrants move into a country, they bring with them their own culture, beliefs, and social values. This isn't a problem if the immigrants take up the native culture. If, however, they hang onto their own values or try impose their beliefs onto the natives, then resentment fills the air like a Los Angeles smog alert.
These problems accompany any immigrants from a poorer, culturally different country who seek a better life in a more prosperous land. Immigrants, though, bring some good stuff as well.
- Labor is, of course, an important resource for our economy and a key source of economic growth. A significant amount of growth in the U. S. economy during the 1800s can be traced directly to the millions of immigrants who came from assorted European and Asian countries.
- Being from poor countries, most immigrants are not only willing to work for lower wages, they're also willing to do stuff that natives won't. Immigrants often perform the grungy work that comes with being a housekeeper, migrant farm worker, or gardener. Many of the jobs are too disgusting for the natives and might go wanting without immigrants.
- Continuing this line of thought, because immigrants are willing to work for lower wages, the cost of producing goods is also lower. This is, of course, a windfall for the profit-seeking members of the second estate. However, it's also good for consumers who pay lower prices.
Like a lot of other stuff in our economy, immigration doesn't just have good and bad points, it's good for some people and bad for others. If you're working in a grungy, low-paying job, in an area that tends to attract new immigrants, then you stand to suffer. Immigrants will compete for your job and inflict their culture on your neighborhood. If you're a middle-class suburban consumer, then your taxes might go up for the public services used by immigrants, but you also stand to get lower prices on what you buy.
Keeping in mind that we all have a different stake in this immigration issue, here are a few tips to consider:
- First, try to avoid being a knee-jerk when it comes to immigrants. Our natural inclination is to be suspicious of foreigners, but people are okay once you get to know them. Don't forget that we're all from a long line of immigrants.
- Of course, it's not easy being compassionate when an immigrant has taken your job. If you're in this position, the best long-run solution is to remove yourself from the grungy-job competition by getting a better education or more training.
- An often overlooked solution to immigration "problems" is to improve conditions in other countries. Immigrants come here in search of a better life. Why not give them a better life back home? While it's unlikely that all countries will achieve equal wealth, improvements among the poorer ones will reduce the inclination to search out our bright porch lights.
- We should keep in mind that immigration is not all bad. It's a source of growth and prosperity. Like all types of migration, it moves labor resources to places where they're more efficiently used to produce stuff. With that, we all benefit.