« Just say "No!" | Main | Dumbest Dicta Contest »


Ryan Bell

Nate, I can't help but notice a real flaw in the analogy of the drug market to the labor market. The intense demand for, and the abundant supply of, drugs, are impossible to keep from satisfying each other by regulatory means because they involve millions of individual actors who all live in relative obscurity. But wouldn't a similar regulation on labor (say, prohibiting businesses from hiring undocumented workers) likely be far more effective, if zealously enforced? The difference is that the market for workers is composed of companies, who cannot hide from regulators and are required to document their personnel decisions, etc. Thus, while I won't disagree about the rightness of the policy, I can't imagine that the ability to prevent American employers from hiring undocumented aliens is beyond America's powers, given the right mix of sanctions and oversight.

Nate Oman

"I can't imagine that the ability to prevent American employers from hiring undocumented aliens is beyond America's powers, given the right mix of sanctions and oversight."

Ryan, I am skeptical. It seems to me that a serious crackdown against illegal immigration without a simultaneous easing of restrictions on legal immigration would require unacceptably high levels of coercion. One can in theory I suppose supress anything -- although I am skeptical. It seems to me that the real quesiton is whether you can suppress something without creating a police state.

Don't get me wrong. There are elements of illegal immigration that are really nasty and ought to be supressed -- e.g. the cayotes who run people across the border -- but in some ways I suspect that drugs are easier to suppress. Immigrants have brains, while bags of cocaine do not.


I don't think that I buy David Kennedy's statement that, "The income gap between the United States and Mexico is the largest between any two contiguous countries in the world." What about Greece and Albania? Parts of Spain are contiguous with Morocco. Also, North Korea and South Korea are contiguous. What about Afghanistan and Iran?

Milton Friedman said something to the effect that every known instance of price controls in history has created a black market. If we look at immigration regulation as a price on immigration, and look at illegal immigration as a black market, then it seems likely that we will have an illegal immigration problem that correlates nicely with the restrictiveness of the legal immigration problem (other things being equal). But there is no question of completely doing away with illegal immigration so long as there are any practical restrictions at all. We can make the problem manageable by resorting to a Stalinesque level of enforcement or easing restrictions to a workable level. Since a Stalinesque level of enforcement is out of the question, that means easing restrictions. This suits me fine, since I'm a big fan of immigration anyway.

Stephen M (Ethesis)

Well, if hiring an illegal could cost you your citizenship (and give it to the illegal) you could easily construct market forces that would make enforcement of the laws much more dramatic than they are now.

It is easy to design regulatory schemes that can work.

It is much, much, much harder to design those that we would find tolerable.


It seems to me though that the only real solution to the illegal immigration problem is to solve the problems of Mexico. I'll give Fox credit for making a dent. But the poor in Mexico simply aren't seeing the benefits that many others are. Part of this is due to the high birth rate but a large part is due to the programs of the Mexican government not to mention the anti-business climate due to corruption and other problems.

The comments to this entry are closed.