Class Warfare Blog

June 2, 2010

Illegal Jobs or Illegal Drugs?

Filed under: Politics — Steve Ruis @ 10:40 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

It has been mentioned that the two most controversial things coming across our border with Mexico have some substantial similarities: illegal drugs and illegal aliens. Both are considered undesirable by the general polity of the U.S. and significant efforts have been made by the Federal Government to prevent the flow of both across the border. Such efforts have been, shall we say, less than successful. Both issues have been treated less than seriously as “political footballs” to kick around to get votes by being “tough” on something or other.

But one has to ask this question: one importation is people who take jobs Americans do not want, the other is drugs which are killing our children, so which is more important? And with regard to the immigration issue, and based on the lack of success of the “War on Drugs,” why do you think that the government will be more successful in a “War on Illegal Immigration”?

The real similarity between the two issues is that they are both driven by demand. It is important to note that business interests are not represented on the anti-illegal immigration side. They have no big lobbying effort or any effort really to address this issue. Since Adam Smith, it has been recognized that business people have always wanted a surplus of labor. Having extra laborers drives down the costs of labor. Whenever there are not enough workers of a particular kind, bidding wars drive up the prices needing to be paid for those worker’s efforts (e.g. the nurse shortages of the 1980’s and 1990’s drove up wages for nurses substantially). So, the right-wing position is fueled not by business interests but by “we don’t want those people becoming citizens because they become Democratic voters.” Yes, send me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses, but only if they have Green Cards and go home after work. Libertarians go so far as to want the 14th Amendment of the Constitution reworked so that the children of illegal immigrants don’t automatically become citizens when they are born here. (They tend to become Democrats, too. This is the same reason why conservatives had it in for Acorn; they organized poor people to vote.)

The demand for drugs and the demand for cheap labor drive both of these traffics. And supply side conservatives can’t see this some how (quite a blind spot, that).

The only solution to the immigration and drug problems is to lower the demand.

It is simple enough to do. The penalties for hiring “undocumented workers” must be more costly that the benefit accrued by hiring them. This is a simple economic fact. (This showed up in the health care debate in the form of an insurance company amendment to the final bill. Do you know what the penalty is for an insurance company denying a valid claim? It is $100 a day. Compared to the many thousands of dollars per day needed to treat some serious illnesses, you can imagine which course the insurance companies will pursue. The penalties must be greater than the benefits for any such counter-incentive to work.) So, significant penalties and swift, sure justice would lower the demand and Mexicans, while they may be desperate for work, are not stupid enough to make the effort to come here when no work is to be had. So, do this and you can tear down the fence and send the National Guard home, they will no longer be needed.

To address the demand for illegal drugs the simple solution is to make some recreational drugs legal. I have long advocated the legalization of certain recreational drugs, but I am not in favor of legalizing marijuana. (Surprised you, no?) The reason for my being anti-pot is the simple fact that smoking pot is no safer than smoking tobacco; neither is to be recommended. Smoking is a poor drug delivery system. I advocate a more enlightened approach, in fact, a market-driven approach! (Aha, surprised you again, no?) I would have the Federal Government conduct a contest, a contest whose task would be to create safe, non-abusable drugs. (Non-abusable drugs are merely drugs which have an optimum dose that is quite low. Raise the dose and the effect is diminished.) The top three drugs that meet all of the criteria (nontoxic, non-abusable, affordability, etc.) would receive government patents for 50 years to exclusively produce the drugs for the market. The taxes on these drugs would be quite high (to pay off the national debt, say) and use and sale of these drugs would be legal in all 50 states. Illegal drug demand would dry up to a small trickle supported only by anti-establishment types and the judicial hammer could be dropped on these miscreants quite heavily. So, people are going to continue to smuggle illegal drugs into a market that isn’t particularly interested in buying them? Uh, no, I don’t think so, too much risk, too little reward.

So, it is time for some “supply-siders” to be transformed into “demand-siders” and solve these problems.

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