Queuing Up for a Bad Analogy II

by Don Boudreaux on May 19, 2006

in Immigration

Robert Cote, commenting on the first installment in this series of blog-posts, says:

I suggest you test your theory at Disneyland.  Ignore the parking regs, jump the lines, sneak past the security checks, don’t pay at the gate and when you get inside avail yourself of the attractions and services. If as you predict the theme park becomes a better place for your actions and indeed those waiting in line applaud your actions and eventually approve of your brave actions as being in their best interests I shall withdraw my clam.

This response is appropriate and sensible; it gets us to the heart of the matter.  The heart of the matter is not queue-jumping; it is, rather, the belief that the object sought by those waiting in the queue – and by those jumping the queue – is scarce.

The Disneyland analogy works better the more the following is true:

- the U.S. is crowded

the number of jobs and amount of capital per worker are more or less fixed in quantity

- people, once here, frequently free-ride on goods and services provided by government

Disneyland, after all, is a small space, and privately created, maintained, and owned. Frequently it is on the verge of being over-crowded, so that each new entrant into that amusement park reduces other people’s ability to enjoy the park.  Disney has a strong incentive to keep the park from becoming too crowded; it achieves this goal largely by charging high prices.  (I’ll note that Disney doesn’t deny large swaths of people any real chance of entering its park. An aspiring customer doesn’t have to be related to an existing customer, for example.)

Also, Disney has an incentive to keep the length of its queues as short as possible.  I’ve been to DisneyWorld three times, most recently in April 2005; never have I had a significant wait to enter the park.  (I did wait in several queues for a variety of rides and attractions within the park.  But for these queues, the standard queue-jumping analysis that I explained in my previous post fits perfectly.)

Moreover, Disney’s customers are not producers.  Disneyland is a consumption experience. People pay to get in to consume scarce experiences and things. The rides are there for customers to consume; likewise for the food, drinks, and mouse ears and other trinkets.

But immigrants who come to the United States are not just consumers; most are also producers. (Incidentally, even if they were exclusively consumers, if they – like Disney’s customers – paid for all that they consume, there would be no problem.  Problems arise when immigrants – and citizens – free-ride on goods and services supplied by others.)

It’s here that I believe the analogy with Disneyland breaks down irreparably.  Not only are immigrants not coming to America to crowd us Americans out of ‘our’ spaces and jobs, most come to produce.  I support more open immigration because I am quite confident that

- the U.S. is not crowded

- the number of jobs and amount of capital per worker are emphatically not fixed in quantity

- while people, once here, free-ride on goods and services provided by government, the first step in solving this problem is to enable more foreigners to work in America legally; that way, immigrants’
contributions to the economy
in general, and to the provision of public goods, will be even greater than it already is;

AND

- people, being the ultimate resource, help deepen and widen the division of labor — which is the chief source of human prosperity.

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{ 13 comments }

KipEsquire May 19, 2006 at 11:37 am

"Also, Disney has an incentive to keep the length of its queues as short as possible."

Um, no. Profit maximization is not the same as revenue maximization and is certainly not the same as queue minimization.

Robert Cote May 19, 2006 at 11:45 am

I invite you to Ventura County for evidence that the resources being consumed are both scarce and expensive. We can visit my daughters' High School where translator salaries alone would cover a new laptop for every student every year. We can visit the local Catholic hospital and county hospital emergency rooms. We can meet with the Supervisors to discuss the recent hiring of 24 translators to facilitate access to free services. Those translators? Mixteca to Spanish, no English required to avail oneself of the free clinics here. Then we can stop off at county health where the director can explain the prepartions for the coming drug resistant TB epidemic and the current Whooping Cough problem. As we continue our tour a quick stop off at my insurance agent so you can see the premiums for uninsured motorist coverage which while driving without insurance illegal is not enforcable as actually asking is an intrusion into the drivers' possible immigration status. Of course this will take a long time as we don't have the billions in infrastructure funding necessary to accommodate the traffic. No coincidence that Oxnard has some of the highest density, most illegals, worst traffic and most overcrowded living conditions in the nation.

Please, this is about illegal immigration, several of your supporting claims do not address the distinction. This is to be expected as those who try to claim benefit are actually trying to blur the difference for their own purposes.

Don Boudreaux May 19, 2006 at 11:46 am

Yes. Yes. I should have said "As short as possible consistent with profit-maximization." All things equal, Disney has an incentive to have shorter rather than longer queues as the shorter the queues, the more desirable the experience of being in Disneyland and, hence, the higher the demand to visit.

Matt May 19, 2006 at 11:59 am

Sounds like the problem is free clinics and schools and the dreaded DMV, not illegal immigration. If you build it, they will come.

Josh May 19, 2006 at 12:21 pm

Robert,
I come from a community with a huge immigrant population (Lowell, MA) as well and I think that the problems you point out pale in comparison to the benefits of having immigrants in your community (legal or otherwise).

Come to Lowell where you will see hardworking immigrants busting their butts every day to bring home the bacon (notice that they have taxes withheld without getting many of the services that most citizens get), see the vibrant cultural center that my city has always been, go into one of the shops started by some of the most entrepreneurial people you will ever meet.

Matt is right, the problem is not immigration, but all the so-called "public goods" freely provided by the government.

And the larger problem is the stupid immigration laws that we have today. I really don't have any respect for laws that criminalize actions that do not violate anyone else's rights. (Side Note: Thus I was really peeved yesterday when I tried to buy a pet turtle for my girlfriend and was told it was against federal law to own a turtle under four inches.) Look, borders are an arbitrary thing. We have no laws regulating migration across state borders, so I don't why we should regulate national borders.

John Dewey May 19, 2006 at 12:35 pm

"you will see hardworking immigrants busting their butts every day to bring home the bacon"

That's also true in Texas. I do not believe these workers are taking jobs from citizens. I cannot imagine that chronically unemployed American citizens would do any of the tough jobs now done by illegal immigrants. Consider the unemployed we saw last September at the New Orleans Convention Center. Would any of those folks push concrete to build foundations of our houses? Could any of them be trusted to mow my lawn?

"the problem is not immigration, but all the so-called "public goods" freely provided by the government."

Very true. I cannot fault immigrants for taking advantage of these goods. If our nation's laws allow them to do so – even if they are not legal – then why blame them. Blame the idiot voters.

"We have no laws regulating migration across state borders, so I don't why we should regulate national borders."

On this point I disagree. I'm all for allowing millions of guest workers to meet job requirements. But I'm not ready to allow uncontrolled access.

Cletus May 19, 2006 at 12:39 pm

One of the concepts people miss in this debate is the basic tenant of biology that in any eco-system there is a struggle for existence. Due to this stuggle there is a competition for resources. Thus, species naturally immigrate to find new resources.

Why do people who want to curtail immigration think they can violate basic laws of biology?

Bungler May 19, 2006 at 12:50 pm

Cletus writes: Why do people who want to curtail immigration think they can violate basic laws of biology?]

Why do people that build damns think they can violate the basic law of gravity that causes water to flow downhill?

MTguy May 19, 2006 at 1:55 pm

I don't think people would object to Disneyland Employees cutting in line. We would prefer it if they could enter immediately so they could serve us when we get inside. So the issue becomes, are the line-jumpers patrons or service providers? Depending on your opinion, you view the problem very differently.

Cletus May 19, 2006 at 3:10 pm

Bungler,
I think you are missing some key ideas. There is a fundamental difference between taking a system from its natural state of being and violating the laws of science. We can do the former with two things — feedback and gain — and both of which are present in a dam. However, you can never violate the laws of science. Although biology says that immigration cannot occur when there are closed borders, we do not have a mechanism (feedback and gain) to drive our country from its natural state of an open border to one that is closed. Therefore, there will always be immigration into this country (illegal and legal). And the sooner our populace understands basic laws of science, the better of our country will be.

Noah Yetter May 19, 2006 at 4:02 pm

"Why do people that build damns think they can violate the basic law of gravity that causes water to flow downhill?"

A dam has a finite lifespan. The laws of physics enable us to build dams whose lifespans are many times longer than our own. The laws of economics do not allow us to construct barriesr to immigration (or any other peaceful, mutually beneficial human behavior) that last to the same scale.

TGGP May 19, 2006 at 4:41 pm

I'll blame the idiot voters, as has been suggested. Now considering the political systems we see in Latin America compared to political systems created by former inhabitants of England (the U.S and Hong Kong are both examples) and the political attitudes expressed in the general social survey:
http://inductivist.blogspot.com/2006/05/mexicans-love-government-reader.html
http://inductivist.blogspot.com/2006/05/mexicans-are-conservative-on-some.html
http://inductivist.blogspot.com/2006/05/immigrants-are-liberal-and-their-kids.html
do you think immigration will make the average voter more or less idiotic?

jade March 23, 2007 at 5:40 am

do you train your staff to ensure the safety of your employees? do you have emergancy procedures? what type of uniforms do your staff wear?

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