by Jacob G. Hornberger
The title of today’s Los Angeles Times editorial says it all: “Get moving on immigration reform.”
The operative word is “reform.” Here we go again. More calls for immigration reform after decades of immigration reform. I thought that Berlin Wall type of fence they were constructing down on the Southern border was supposed to be their final reform. I thought they said that the fence would solve America’s immigration woes once and for all.
But of course, we have heard this reform claptrap for decades. Every few years, the immigration “crisis” surfaces once again. The anti-immigration crowd, reinforced by the mainstream press, goes into one of its periodic paroxysms of outrage over the fact that the United States is being “invaded” by the illegals.
People get all upset and demand that something be done to protect our jobs and our nation’s borders.
Enter the calls for reform. The anti-immigration crowd demands reform. The editorial writers demand reform. The members of Congress demand reform. The president demands reform. Every statist in the country demands immigration reform.
But as soon as the reform is adopted, no one is happy. Almost immediately, the anti-immigration types start screaming about how the illegals are taking over America and not speaking English. The editorial writers pick up the theme and call for action to deal with the new immigration crisis. The statists go into emotional hyper-drive … and call for immigration reform.
How many decades of this ridiculous nonsense must be go on before people finally realize that no reform is going to work? Let me repeat that: No matter whose reform is adopted, it’s not going to make one bit of difference. The reform will immediately begin producing a new series of crises, which will then produce more calls for reform.
The reason that no immigration reform will ever succeed is because the basic immigration paradigm is fundamentally flawed. Immigration controls are nothing more than a system of socialistic central planning, one in which some government body plans, in a top-down command-and-control manner, the peaceful activities of people. Central planning was a core element in the socialist economic system of the Soviet Union, where people were beset by the same endless series of crises and reforms that Americans have been subjected to in the area of immigration.
Why is immigration central planning inherently flawed. As the Austrian economists Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek pointed out, government planners lack the requisite knowledge and understanding that is entailed in the constantly changing valuations that are taking place in the marketplace. The more people whose activities are being planned, the worse the problem.
In a free market, each individual is planning his own life and making his own decisions. In doing so, he is taking into consideration a multitude of factors that affect his own individual life, factors that are constantly changing. Since such factors are personal, subjective, and constantly changing for each individual person, there is no way that government planners can accumulate, process, update, and incorporate them into the central plan. In fact, as soon as the planners come up with a plan, it’s already seriously outdated because of constantly changing subjective valuations of the people whose activities are being planned.
Consider an immigration central plan. It sets forth a quota for its concept of the ideal number of immigrants from a particular country. It sets forth what the qualifications that the immigrants should have, including educational background, work skills, amount of wealth, and age. At the same time, the planners are examining the domestic scene and evaluating what types of workers are needed in the marketplace.
However, the plan always results in perversions and distortions because, again, there is no way that government planners can ever have the requisite knowledge to plan a complex human activity, especially a labor market involving millions of people from different parts of the world. The workers that American businesses need — numbers, types, background, etc. — are constantly changing.
Why should it surprise anyone that there are immigrants risking their lives to cross the borders to seek to better their lives through labor? All that reflects is that the central planner’s plan was all screwed up. It failed to allocate a sufficiently large number of workers to a particular country in accordance with the subjective valuations of American employers. That’s because the planner can’t do it, and when he tries to do it, he is afflicted by what Hayek called the “fatal conceit.”
Unfortunately, all too often it is the illegal immigrant — the person who has done nothing wrong in a moral sense — who pays the price for the planners’ fatal conceit, by becoming a fatality in the decades-long folly known as immigration controls.
What’s the solution to perpetual immigration crisis and endless reform? Abolishing immigration controls and restoring a free market to immigration, which means opening the borders to the free movements of people (and goods and services). It is the only way to bring peace, prosperity, harmony, and morality to the immigration arena.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.
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