Whose MONEY Is It, Anyway?

by Don Boudreaux on September 22, 2011

in Immigration, Myths and Fallacies, The Economy, Trade

Here’s a letter to The American Conservative (HT Craig Kohtz):

Pat Buchanan repeats his familiar litany against free trade and immigration (“Whose Country Is It, Anyway?” Sept. 19).  That litany boils down to a simple formula: the U.S. economy declines as American consumers gain better access to lower-priced goods and services, and as American producers gain better access to lower-cost means of production.

In short, competition creates poverty, while monopoly creates wealth.

Economists have repeatedly and utterly debunked such claims for the alleged marvels of monopoly power.  I’ll not here repeat any such debunking.  Instead, I merely highlight one internal inconsistency in Mr. Buchanan’s own arguments.

He frequently asserts that 19th-century America’s policy of relatively high tariffs, along with its impressive economic growth, proves that protectionism promotes prosperity.  End of story; full stop; no further analysis is necessary.  Fact A’s simultaneous existence with fact B proves that A caused B.

Well, 19th-century America also had open immigration.  So Mr. Buchanan ought to join the ranks of those of us who support a return to that policy.  After all, according to the tenets of his own epistemology, the mere fact that booming 19th-century America had open immigration proves that open immigration promotes – or at least doesn’t hamper – vibrant economic growth.

Donald J. Boudreaux

UPDATE: And, in fact, the evidence does seem to indicate that open immigration - unlike protectionism – played a significant role in promoting economic growth in the latter half of 19th-century America.

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Krishnan September 22, 2011 at 9:26 am

All that Obama has to do to win re-election is to keep hammering the Republicans on the Immigration Issue. There is so much hosility on the Republican side about the immigration issue (yes, Illegal AND legal) that it could be a winning strategy for Obama.

Obama can then rule the US for the next four years – unleash the EPA, the NLRB, increase Government Spending, increase debt, keep abusing businesses and innovators – and make sure that the class warfare escalates into a full fledged war against those that can and create.

Great. Terrific.

If so, is there a country other than the US I can move to?

Greg Webb September 22, 2011 at 11:25 am

Not one with more freedom, unfortunately. I would move to a freer country, but there is not one available. I just wish all the statists in the United States would more to another country because socialistic (i.e., less free countries) are everywhere. Also, I wish that all those who have moved to the United States and now advocate for less freedom would return to their native, and less free, country of origin.

Ken September 22, 2011 at 12:16 pm


“There is so much hosility on the Republican side about the immigration issue (yes, Illegal AND legal) that it could be a winning strategy for Obama. ”

Perhaps you’ve forgotten that democrats, including Obama, DEPEND on union votes. Unions and union members are the sector in America most hostile to immigration and immigrants.


Invisible Backhand September 22, 2011 at 12:47 pm

I went to http://www.ehealthinsurance.com, clicked on a family plan and put in a made up family of four. They gave me back dozens of options, one of which was a low as $190/month.

Let’s see, mom and dad born 1980, son born 2000, daughter born 2001, all non smokers, show all plans, sort by price, cheapest is $414.93. Second lowest is $757.68

Again, you shouldn’t tell such easily checked whoppers.

Methinks1776 September 22, 2011 at 12:59 pm

The two options are that Ken is lying or you’re an idiot.

What state do you live in? What state does Ken live in?

In NY, I paid over $1K per month, thanks to state mandates which don’t allow for catastrophic coverage only. In a neighbouring state, I paid under $300 because I had the option to buy catastrophic only. There were no mandates prohibiting the sale of non-comprehensive insurance. The cost of insurance and the type of insurance offered varies hugely by state.

My money’s on you being an idiot.

Invisible Backhand September 22, 2011 at 1:07 pm

My apologies for not anticipating RegardsKen lived where hookworm was still a problem.

Methinks1776 September 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm

I should have known that your single-digit IQ can’t process the meaning of “neighbouring state” and “state mandates”.

Oh wait. I did already point out you’re an imbecile. Can you wrap your tiny mind around what that means or do you need a monosyllabic synonym?

SweetLiberty September 22, 2011 at 4:33 pm


Normally, I have a problem with discussions that deteriorate into name calling. Idiot, Imbecile, etc. But in the case of Invisible Backhand, I can see you are simply using the clinical definitions of these words based upon his mindless feedback and wish to support your diagnosis of his condition.

g-dub September 23, 2011 at 2:06 am

“I can see you are simply using the clinical definitions of these words based upon his mindless feedback and wish to support your diagnosis of his condition.”

I do the same thing with my progressive friends. Like Invisible Brain, they are too stupid to know I am simply diagnosing them, not insulting them.

Invisible Backhand September 22, 2011 at 1:05 pm

I’m going to retract that, I didn’t think you lived in the 3rd world. Biloxi, MS zip 39532 gives you the cheapest one of $175.63, second lowest $231.79 My mistake for not reading your mind, but I should have guessed you were a red stater just from your foxnews talking points. I live in the first world part of the USA where i got the prices above.

You should come visit, we all have shoes!

Anotherphil September 22, 2011 at 1:45 pm

You should come visit, we all have shoes!

Probably matches your tin foil hat.

Ken September 22, 2011 at 1:50 pm


Thanks, man, but if you knew anything about me or read my comments, you’d know that you wouldn’t have to anticipate where I live. I regularly let people know I live in Maryland, the state with the second highest median income.

And again, I responded to your asinine comment on the proper thread. You always insist on being a thread hijacker. Predominantly because you are just too stupid to understand what “coherence” means.


Jim September 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Find another way to make your point. I live in Tennessee and do a lot of business with companies in New York. Most people in both states are damn good people. You are right. Prices are different and cultures are too. You might also think about the fact that there a lot of red states in this country. Plus was it not our great american president that said “there are no red states no blue states but only the United States.” Kind of a catchy phrase. I think I heard it on Fox.

g-dub September 22, 2011 at 3:05 pm

“Prices are different and cultures are too.”

“Progressives” talk how they love diversity, but they hate it. They want the same results everywhere.

Seth September 22, 2011 at 4:57 pm

“You should come visit, we all have shoes!”

…and health insurance mandates we all love, but at prices nobody can afford. Sounds great.

Economic Freedom September 22, 2011 at 5:24 pm

You should come visit, we all have shoes!

But they’re in your mouth.

Economic Freedom September 22, 2011 at 5:23 pm

you shouldn’t tell such easily checked whoppers


Single Male, New York City, Zip Code XXXXX, least expensive plan: $181.97.

Dan J September 22, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Many in Unions will become supportive of whatever policy they are told to support. No matter, as their dues will go wherever their masters at head of union says the money will go.

Statists look to control any and all. When they succeed in absolute controls of the conquered territory they expand into others. No place would be safe.

g-dub September 23, 2011 at 2:08 am

THat is actually goal. If socialism is everywhere, then there is no voting with your feet.

vikingvista September 23, 2011 at 4:16 pm

I’m sad to say, the establishment of a US federal government was no small advancement to that end.

g-dub September 24, 2011 at 1:53 am


vikingvista September 24, 2011 at 4:08 pm

I didn’t come here to revere idols or any other barrier to rational thought. Friends are for my nonanonymous life. I’m here to indelecately bounce ideas around a thoughtful crowd.

Greg Webb September 24, 2011 at 4:15 pm


Greg Webb September 24, 2011 at 4:36 pm

Hmmm…I’m starting to feel like George Selgin did, when after being attacked by both the left and the right, he said that he felt like a moderate. But, “idiots to the left of me and jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle with George Selgin” does not make for a good song. LOL!

vikingvista September 24, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Don’t worry. Having scratched that surface, I can assure you that nobody will ever confuse you with Selgin.

Greg Webb September 24, 2011 at 7:01 pm

LOL! But, we might confuse you with DG Lesvic!

Alexander Hamilton September 24, 2011 at 7:08 pm

“idiots to the left of me and jokers to the right, here I am stuck in the middle”


Greg Webb September 24, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Common, Vik. You can do better than that, idiot.

Thomas Paine September 24, 2011 at 10:42 pm

I’m sad to say, the establishment of a US federal government was no small advancement to that end.

No. As the Founders predicted, you guys did not fight hard enough when the progressives twisted their words to mean things that they never intended.

James Madison September 25, 2011 at 1:30 am

“you guys did not fight hard enough”


Richard Henry Lee September 25, 2011 at 2:02 am


LOL! Keep trying, screwy!

Brutus September 25, 2011 at 2:33 am

Vike, I see that you still have hurt feelings. Would you like a hug, buddy?

vikingvista September 25, 2011 at 9:33 pm


If the Founders knew this was going to happen, as you say, then why do you suppose they went ahead with their scheme anyway?

vikingvista September 25, 2011 at 9:35 pm


Better than what? Better than “idiot”?

vikingvista September 25, 2011 at 9:37 pm


Thanks so much sweetie pie. You know how Cafe meanies have always made me cry.

Greg Webb September 25, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Vikingvista, all this nonsense because you incorrectly said that I was wrong in my post on Constitution Day! If I had known that you would get so upset over a true statement about the reasons the Constitution was written, I would not have posted that day. You will have to argue the “evil” Federalists issue with someone else for my post was not designed to reopen the Federalist vs. Anti-Federalist debate. If anything, you ought to argue with Don because he is the one who presented the wonderful words of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution as his Quotation of the Day on September 17, 2011. But, if you insist, I will accommodate you like I did George. Please set up a separate debate blog where we can argue the merits of the Constitution much as the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists did over 200 years ago. I assure you the result will be the same.

Greg Webb September 25, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Alexander Hamilton, you said, “Sucker.”

LOL! Great retort!

Greg Webb September 25, 2011 at 10:14 pm

Thomas Paine, the Founders did not predict that the citizens would not fight hard enough. The only thing that comes remotely close was Benjamin Franklin’s comment “a Republic if you can keep it” when asked by a woman what the Convention had given the country. That is not a prediction.

Greg Webb September 25, 2011 at 10:20 pm

Vikingvista, no. I meant you can choose better issues to argue about than that. The idiot part ties into your obviously incorrect position. So, are you next going to argue that public choice economics is wrong too?

Greg Webb September 25, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Brutus, you should never offer a hug to someone acting like a big baby…especially after he loses an argument. Res ipsa loquitur!

Rob September 22, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Sorry Ken, but it’s the GOP who are clamoring over themselves to build a wall. On this point, significant portions of the GOP electorate appear very hostile to foreigners….far more so than Democrats.

Ken September 22, 2011 at 6:38 pm


I didn’t say that the GOP was in favor of immigration. I was saying that the Democrats are most likely to be against immigration, if for no other reason than self-interest. There’s a difference between rhetoric and action. The left and democrats are at least as anti-immigration as the GOP. While the dems may not favor building a wall, they are in favor of using drones to close the border.

You can harp about walls all you want, but that’s not the only way to close a border.


JS September 22, 2011 at 8:32 pm

The dems have issues on immigration. The unions are against it but the party likes the idea of all the Mexicans becomming democrats, legal or otherwise.

Ken September 22, 2011 at 11:57 pm


Except that the Hispanic vote has been moving to the right for the last decade.


Krishnan September 22, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Re: Ken – Oh yes, I know very well how Obama (and the Democrats) operate. They may claim to support immigration/immigration reform – but what they are really looking for is more union members who can then demand from the tax paying public whatever they demand.

So? Does that make them less or more hostile than Republicans?

There is no difference, to me.

Buchanan’s venom is as bad or worse than the venom out of the mouths of Chicago Thugs that are in DC. It is shameful that Buchanan is not vigorously opposed by the “lame stream” Republicans – who seem to add fuel to the fire of how immigration destroys jobs and nonsense like that.

Who do I want as President? Someone intent on destroying the US as we know it – OR someone who has visceral hate towards immigrants in general – and use the illegal immigration as an excuse? Both vile choices.

kyle8 September 22, 2011 at 4:54 pm

I just want to know is all reservations about open immigration the same as spewing hate to you?

I just want to know because I used to have a very libertarian view and supported undocumented immigration, but living on a border state I see some very real and very heavy social and economic costs associated with that policy.

Now I take a different view, I want to see some slightly elevated levels of LEGAL immigration, but no illegal immigration.

Forgive be for being a hate spewing nativist, but I think there are valid reasons of crime and public health to know who it is that is coming into our country, and there are some public costs that should be born more evenly by the entire nation than to just stick it to the border states.

Krishnan September 22, 2011 at 8:28 pm

Re: kyle8. To me, Buchanan spews hate everytime he opens his mouth on immigration. It will take a bit longer to explain why I think so … but yes, I do believe it when I hear it. And no, one can argue for or against immigration (legal and illegal) without being hateful – if there are logical reasons for such. The reasons I have heard to restrict immigration (legal) and throw out illegals do not make sense to me – there is far too much noise and many of the things people state are flatly wrong – If one were to believe these loud mouths, one may think that just about all of our problems (legal, economic) are because of immigrants (legal AND illegal).

Illegals come here because our economy demands it – there is an easy way to stop this traffic – Make our economy like those of the former second world or worse – we will not be attractive to people seeking a better life – and yes, the US is today far less attractive than it used to be.

And yes, I know other nations are NOT as agreeable as we have been (historically) – and the US remains, by far, the world’s best destination for people everywhere – and if we leave it to Buchanan (and his ilk) that will change – and we will become this paranoid, venom spewing nation that has forgotten how we got here.

MWG September 23, 2011 at 1:34 am

“I want to see some slightly elevated levels of LEGAL immigration…”

Slightly? Then forget solving the illegal immigration issue.

Anotherphil September 24, 2011 at 11:10 pm

Kyle8, well said.

Anotherphil September 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm

“yes, Illegal AND legal”

And you know this how?

MWG September 22, 2011 at 2:23 pm

As a former conservative republican I can say that what Krishnan said is absolutely true. You cannot name a single republican politician who rails against ‘illegal immigration’ while at the same time, is fighting for expanded ‘legal immigration’. The one exception being Ron Paul, but he’s hardly popular in conservative circles.

Rob September 22, 2011 at 2:45 pm

Sadly, this is one issue that really makes me regret what will likely be the “choice” we have in November, 2012. On the one hand, Obama with all of his problems vs. a “build-the-wall,” “route-out-the-gays,” “don’t-believe-those-scientists” GOP candidate. Sigh.

Krishnan September 22, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Re: Rob – As I noted, vile choices. Who will destroy the US as we know it faster?

Dan J September 22, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Don’t believe those scientists? Huh?!?!

Ken September 22, 2011 at 4:32 pm

I know, Rob, just check out all those Republicans against GMOs, vaccinations, non-”organic” foods, nuclear power, and animal research. Wait, did I say Republican? I Democrat.

For all the bluster about Republicans being anti-science, there is always a Democrat who is just as anti-science. That people think otherwise is just more proof of the liberal media bias. After all, does anyone remember the big uproar over Obama’s declaration that thimerosal causes or is linked to autism? Neither do I, yet he made that claim.


Rob September 22, 2011 at 5:01 pm

I know Ken, I know. The media are out to get you. It just can’t, CAN’T, be the case the the GOP would take positions like those.

Though to be fair (trust me Ken, it’s a real word), in reading what you wrote, you don’t actually deny GOP advocacy of those positions. Your argument seems to be that such positions are less worse than Democratic policies on primarily economic matters (which is what you like to criticize).

So yep, let election season begin….what a choice!

Ken September 22, 2011 at 5:34 pm


“The media are out to get you.”

The media isn’t out to get me, but you are living in denial if you think that the media isn’t biased. A case in point is that the mere suggestion that John McCain had an affair landed a front page story that turned out to be fake, but the well documented and well known affair of John Edwards received a yawn. How about the treatment Palin receives vs. what Obama receives, particularly in 2008. Both were equally inexperienced, both said very dumb things, both hold wrong beliefs, but which was vetted, and actually demonized, while the other got a pass on all things?


Dan J September 23, 2011 at 8:50 pm

The Obama threat to Humana for informing their customers about what Humana may have to do to conform to the Obamacare was passed over by much of the media. The DOJ giving a pass on New Black Panther parties egregious violation of voting rights. Accusatins against DOJ for their choosing to not pursue any black on white voting discrepancies. The DOJ harassment of Gibson guitars

Anotherphil September 23, 2011 at 9:48 am

“You cannot name a single republican politician who rails against ‘illegal immigration’ while at the same time, is fighting for expanded ‘legal immigration’.”

That statement is illogical. A lack of opposition does not mean support for an increase.

MWG September 23, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Krishnan stated:

“There is so much hosility on the Republican side about the immigration issue (yes, Illegal AND legal)…”

To which you replied:

“And you know this how?”

To which I asked if you could name a single conservative republican who is anti ILLEGAL immigrant, while at the same time calling for more LEGAL immigration. The current illiberal system of legal immigration (A system I’ve navigated on more than 1 occasion) is what fuels the black market of illegal immigration. If conservatives were really pro LEGAL immigration they would call for a more liberal system as the current system is anything but pro legal.

Gil September 23, 2011 at 2:03 am

Most anti-American doom&gloomers recommend Argentina.

Dan H September 22, 2011 at 9:39 am


One of your best yet! Pat Buchanan just got served!!!!

And yes, we ought return to a more liberal immigration policy. The most dynamic capital is human capital.

vidyohs September 22, 2011 at 10:05 am

Funny how these things work, eh Mr. Buffet?


Krishnan September 22, 2011 at 10:37 am

If pressed, I imagine Buchanan would say/claim that “the immigration then was different from what it is today” – and that “the immigration of the 19th century was better than what it is today” and that “look at who is immigrating today compared to our ancestors” or “they assimilated while today they do not” (not true, but it seems to have many believing to be true – and even then SO WHAT?)

If I were to manage Obama’s re-election, I would send money to Buchanan so he can write books excoriating immigration and spew venom all over the news media about how immigration has destroyed the USA

g-dub September 22, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Buchanan is a big fan of Alexander Hamilton, if that tells you anything.

kyle8 September 22, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Well let me add something else to your straw man arguments.

How about this one? Previous waves of immigration created some real problems with crowding in our cities, and with crime and unemployment. And those were exacerbated by politicians whipping up sentiments on both sides.

So the result was that each of those waves were followed by periods of slower immigration which allowed TIME for assimilation and for wage differentials to decrease.

We have had no such cooling off period since the 1960′s.

dsylexic September 22, 2011 at 10:41 am

buchanan is being stupid here.he blames the rising divorce rates,the increasing acceptance of homophobia and lack of church attendance on immigration.ri-dick-ulous. if anything,the immigrants hold more conservative social values in general.

Dan J September 22, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Indeed? But, la Raza and democrats will make them dependent on govt, one way or another.

Ike September 22, 2011 at 11:05 am

Don, 19th-Century America also did not allow women to vote. I’d saddle Buchanan with that positive correlation as well.

Anotherphil September 22, 2011 at 1:47 pm

It also didn’t have any social welfare.

JS September 22, 2011 at 8:38 pm

According to how Buchanan reasons, the fact that women didn’t vote allowed for the industrial revolution. Or was the Tariff the reason why women didn’t vote? But we do know the reasons why Buchanan never got elected for anything.

anthonyl September 23, 2011 at 11:18 am

Exacltly. There was no internet in the 19th century. And so what. The point isn’t to figure out if immigration is good or bad for the US. It’s about sticking to our principles of liberty and freedom for all people on earth. Isn’t that what they said we were fighting 2-3 wars for. Our peace loving gov. One little attack and all the hawks take to the air.

Richard W. Fulmer September 22, 2011 at 11:24 am

When an immigrant crosses the border with nothing but the clothes on his back, populists see him as a threat to American jobs, conservatives see him as another mouth is at the trough, liberals see him as proof that there are “two Americas” – one for the rich and one for the poor, and libertarians celebrate him as another mind and another pair of hands.

Ike September 22, 2011 at 11:27 am

I like that. I will steal it.

Richard W. Fulmer September 22, 2011 at 11:51 am

All yours. You might want to correct it first (“another mouth at the trough” rather than “another mouth is at the trough”). Haven’t had my coffee yet.

Ike September 22, 2011 at 12:05 pm
Anotherphil September 22, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Having been a former Medicaid auditor, there’ll all wrong. They are at the trough, the doctor, hospital, in the prisons.

Something like 30% of the federal prison population is illegals. Libertarians are as goofy about the uniform positivity of everybody at the door as the left is about the uniform impeccability of the poor and the state.

Then again, Milton Friedman pointed out the issue with a welfare state and open immigration.

Methinks1776 September 22, 2011 at 2:03 pm

What are they usually in for?

Strawman September 22, 2011 at 2:05 pm

“Libertarians are as goofy about the uniform positivity of everybody at the door…”

Kill me quickly AP… I beg of you. Don’t let me suffer a slow death.

Andrew September 22, 2011 at 3:24 pm

I think they’re in for being illegal.

Methinks1776 September 22, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Illegal immigrants are not imprisoned, Andrew. They are deported.

Ken September 22, 2011 at 4:22 pm


I think you need to clarify that illegal immigrants aren’t imprisoned for being illegal immigrants; they are deported for this offense. On the other hand, if they violate the law, are prosecuted and sentenced, illegal immigrants can be imprisoned.


Methinks1776 September 22, 2011 at 5:27 pm

Not for the reason Andrew gave, Ken.

vikingvista September 23, 2011 at 1:49 am

Hey, if Americans want to voluntarily give undocumented immigrants their own resources, that is their own business.

What? The resources aren’t collected voluntarily? Well, then, I guess we’ve identified the real offender.

Don Boudreaux September 22, 2011 at 11:28 am

Well said.

Anotherphil September 22, 2011 at 2:07 pm

What are they usually in for?

Criminal Activity.

Methinks1776 September 22, 2011 at 2:43 pm

You don’t say? That’s an odd reason for people to be in prison.

What kind of criminal activity (and to cut you off at the pass, I already know it’s “the illegal kind”)?

Greg Webb September 22, 2011 at 12:07 pm

Agreed, and well written. The only exception I have is for immigrants who grow up in privileged families in non-free countries, immigrate to the United States, then advocate for unlimited governmental power. Immigrants who moves here for freedom from the oppression in their own countries are welcome. Privileged elitists who want to change the United States to be like their country of origin should just go home.

Methinks1776 September 22, 2011 at 12:21 pm

What? You mean it won’t be different this time?

Greg Webb September 22, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Methinks1776, I am not sure I understand what you mean.

Methinks1776 September 22, 2011 at 1:02 pm

I was kidding. These people think that the same policies will somehow produce different results this time. Worse, they often don’t understand the connection and talk fondly of “free” health care in the motherland – usually this only comes from people who’ve had the good fortune to never sample it.

Greg Webb September 22, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Sorry, I am being too literal today…:)

Economiser September 22, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Such immigrants don’t come here with “only the clothes on their back.”

Methinks1776 September 22, 2011 at 1:03 pm

True. They’re usually carrying a lot of elitist baggage.

Anotherphil September 22, 2011 at 1:42 pm

And sometimes contagious pathogens, destructive plans and an unfortunate susceptibility to leftist rhetoric.

Methinks1776 September 22, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Phil, Economiser was talking about the privileged elitists from Western Europe. It’s unlikely they’re carrying Ebola and they have already marinated in leftist rhetoric from birth.

BTW, contagious pathogens are as likely to be carried into the country by Americans. Contagious pathogens are remarkably egalitarian.

vikingvista September 23, 2011 at 1:51 am

And those with destructive plans somehow seem to manage to obtain visas.

Krishnan September 22, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Re: Greg Webb: These privileged few (or the elites in the USA) cannot stand the fact that ordinary people can not only seek to become better off – but can actually do so in the US – and the privileged from the non free (or limited free/corrupt) countries do want to do whatever they can to keep the goodies for themselves while having parties for the “poor” and “deserving” –

The condescension of the privileged few and our own elites is often just too much for me to bear.

Greg Webb September 22, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Yes, I agree!

anthonyl September 23, 2011 at 8:43 pm

Many of the comments, with a few exceptions, show why governments should get out of the habit of micromanaging people’s movement around the globe.

a_murricun September 22, 2011 at 12:29 pm

The capitalist, i. e., the entrepreneur who risks capital to produce goods, sees the immigrant as a worker whom the capitalist can employ to produce even more goods, which can be sold to the immigrant.

vidyohs September 22, 2011 at 7:47 pm

I’ll point out that at the time and place the illegal crosses into the USA with only the clothes on his back, there is a fair and equal chance that any one of the populist, the conservative, the liberal, or the libertarian could be right in his viewpoint.

To suggest or believe that any one of the group is always right, is……well naive at best and plain stupid at worse.

Jim September 22, 2011 at 11:30 am

Mr. Buchanan’s celebrated views on immigration and WWII are examples of why Republicans are viewed as the stoopid party.

GDP=C+I+G+(X-M) = a child’s view of the world.

Ken September 22, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Just raise G to infinity, and reduce M to zero! Result!

g-dub September 22, 2011 at 12:58 pm


whotrustedus September 22, 2011 at 11:39 am

When considering the tariff regimes of the United States in the 19th century, we should always remember that, in general, these tariffs were revenue tariffs, not protective tariffs. Tariffs, and alcohol taxes, were the primary sources of revenue for the federal government. The income tax did not exist yet. I’ve read in various places that Congress made some efforts in those days to ensure that tariffs were for revenues primarily and did not protect any particular industries. As such, any suggestions that 19th century tariffs protected domestic industries and therefore promoted growth seems hollow to me.

JS September 22, 2011 at 4:54 pm

What are you smoking? The tariffs were protectioinst measures sold to the public as revenue methods. Eliminating imports don’t raise revenue, and that is what we did on most things.

Brad K. September 22, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Wealth comes about by combining resources with cheap energy to increase the value of the resources. The more cheap energy, the more wealth.

In 19th Century America, open immigration was a form of cheap energy. Resources such as land to live on and grow food on, wildlife as a form of food production, and native old growth forests covering, essentially, everything east of the Mississippi provided abundant resources and burned wood for energy, along with coal. Immigrants personified the industry needed to apply energy to resources.

Open immigration wouldn’t solve anything today, as we have strained access to nearly all our resources, including energy. There just isn’t as much wealth-generating cheap energy (solar, wind, coal, and oil aren’t as “cheap” anymore), and other resources are more expensive from union wages, government regulations, and credit constraints.

That is why the economy is shrinking from the loss of access to cheap energy and resources. Freeing resources from social burdens would help, a bit. The cost of hiring workers could be reduced, a bit. That would help, especially help the workers.

The most accessible way to apply more energy to production — is to reduce the energy applied to industry and to private lives. Commutes further than walking distance to work, shopping, and school are one way, a big way. Local food security, growing most of the local diet by local, diversified farmers using sustainable practices, that would simplify some things.

Scarlett O’Hara (Gone with the Wind), scion of Irish immigrants, couldn’t go back home again, and neither can America. The possibilities of growth are limited as the world’s resources and frontiers (another word for resources ready to be capitalized) reach full utilization. Choosing our directions in ways that make the most use of resources and making sustainable choices, that would allow some growth in selected directions.

Free trade has always been a transitional state. While cheap labor overseas enables lower costs here, the transfer of wealth increases the costs overseas to make local labor more competitive — if we aren’t artificially inflating the cost of labor with labor unions, taxes, and punitive regulations. And free trade benefits everyone that uses the cheaper products.

kyle8 September 22, 2011 at 5:03 pm

Well, technically we could re open lots of federal land to homesteading. I, for one would love to have a few acres near a scenic lake in Montana or Idaho.

anthonyl September 23, 2011 at 11:28 am

Wealth is created when more human wants are satisfied. The best way to achieve this is by a market society where interference in the consenting actions of humans is minimal. This includes free movement accross the face of the earth. I’m not ignoring the fact that political borders exist just saying they hamper wealth!

a_murricun September 22, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Don, I think I’ve already pointed out the roles of “free” land, timber and minerals in the rapid 19th century growth. All exploited by and with and abundant supply of immigrant labor. A one-time phenomenon, not at all like the competitive situation today.

Don Boudreaux September 22, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Most resources today are more abundant than in the 19th century. This is true even for agricultural land, given the incredible improvements in agricultural productivity.

Andrew September 22, 2011 at 3:25 pm

A lot more consumers of those resources, too.

Ken September 22, 2011 at 3:54 pm


Even with all those extra consumers most resources are more abundant today than in the 19th century.

Finite amounts of raw materials does NOT imply finite economic resources.


Gil September 23, 2011 at 2:17 am

Based on what? If Julian Simon were to have restarted that ten-year bet with Paul Elrich right away for another ten years with the same parameters then Simon would have lost . . .

Ken September 23, 2011 at 10:25 am


I put a link right in the comment I made, partly on which I make the claim. Also, Ehrlich still would have lost, again, if the bet had taken place between 1990 and 2000.


anthonyl September 23, 2011 at 11:38 am

Ken is right! A resource is not a finite object. If and when we run out of oil we won’t all just die. Humans will make resources out of something else to replace it. We won’t even miss it. While I’m talking about oil, I heard people in the UK are starting to produce olives and wine. If not for global warming where would these producers be?

vidyohs September 23, 2011 at 7:38 am

This is what comes of not using the correct term for things, a point you have made over and over, In your own words, “people are the resource”, and as I pointed out, “the resources use raw materials” to make or create things.

Here you casually put the lie to your own past statements. Do you really believe people are the resource, or not?

John Dewey September 22, 2011 at 2:16 pm


It is true that 300 million acres of American forest land were cleared between 1600 and 1900, primarily for agricultural use. But our nation still has 750 million acres of timberland. Furthermore, harvesting of that timber is far, far cheaper today than it was in the 19th century.

It is simply not true that American timber was free for the taking prior to the 20th century. Just the loss of human lives alone in clearing the fronteir lands more than offsets the royalties paid to landowners today.

Economiser September 22, 2011 at 2:30 pm

If all those resources were free, why didn’t the Native Americans experience such rapid growth 1000 years ago?

g-dub September 22, 2011 at 3:09 pm

They valued Gaia worship and dying young more?

anthonyl September 23, 2011 at 11:42 am

They did not have the concepts of liberty. They were not allowed to build-up capital. Once one caught an extra fish it had to be shared with everyone. Even those that sat around all day shamanizing.

ArrowSmith September 22, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Guys, I just listened to the Rush Limbaugh program. He played a clip of Elizabeth Warren stating that “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own” that factory owners owe their wealth to society who built the roads, police forces, etc… This is pure Marxism 101.

Jim September 22, 2011 at 1:54 pm

The Left is going ga-ga over this intelligent and beautiful video of Elizabeth Warren:

In case the embed does not work, here is the link:


James E. Miller September 22, 2011 at 4:37 pm

Taken to the next level, her logic implies that all gains in wealth, productivity, and in standards of living are all due to the state. After all, the state keeps us safe, our food not crawling with maggots, the drinking water crystal clear, and the air completely purified all with the power of badges and guns.

Obviously all of Google’s profits should be handed over to the government because Larry Page and Sergey Brin would have never come up with the idea without all of Warren’s buddies shaping society for us.

Jim September 22, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Elizabeth Warren deserves her own 24 website; she is just that productive when it comes to destroying your liberty. Her arguments are gob smacking. There is no other word for it.

Remember that Obama put her in charge of the new laws by Dodd-Frank for the shiny new Consumer Protection Agency.

anthonyl September 23, 2011 at 11:44 am

An agency designed to tell people what they can’t buy!

anthonyl September 23, 2011 at 11:47 am

CPA goes nicely with Ocare which tells you what you have to buy!

Krishnan September 22, 2011 at 9:03 pm

Re: ArrowSmith – Of course SHE did it on HER own. Everyone else had help

The condescending know it all who knows nothing but to demand and take and order.

vikingvista September 23, 2011 at 2:05 am

Well, then, “society” should have included profit sharing in its agreements with the factory owners.

Oh wait, those who actually did help the factory owners DID have agreements with them, and were paid off accordingly.

Retroactive unilateral changes to agreements after the outcome has been determined, will not be recognized by this court.

Ruling: all accounts are already settled. Next case.

EG September 22, 2011 at 2:08 pm

But then again, this is ignoring the relative contribution to the “growth” that international trade may or may not have had in particular times throughout the 19th century. If international trade at the time only represented 5% of the US economy…and if tariffs only applied to 5% of those goods, than its harm would have been small. Except that it is always a harm.

kyle8 September 22, 2011 at 5:09 pm

One final note. I hate to sound like a left winger but illegal immigration is both unfair and it is racist.

It is unfair because it rewards one group (those who share a large border) and punishes all other groups, especially those who have attempted to enter legally.

It is racist because, once again it favors one nation, Mexico, over all other would be immigrants. Mexicans not only have the border, but they also have the advantage of a large support group ready to give them political protection. The same is not true of Africans, Asians, Europeans, or anyone else.

MWG September 23, 2011 at 1:30 am

You definitely sound like a left winger… and not particularly bright… but that’s redundant.

vikingvista September 23, 2011 at 2:08 am

Accidents of birth, desirable or not, including geography, are rightfully yours. Since only violence can change them, to believe otherwise is to believe in the commission of violence against nonviolent innocent parties.

JS September 22, 2011 at 8:55 pm

In a few years this same debate will be over emmigration. They’re focused on assets now, the bodies next.

JS September 22, 2011 at 9:08 pm

Buchanan’s populism appeals to mindsets in both parties, similar to Lou Dobbs and even Donald Trump’s. The unions love them!

Their philosophies are remnants of tribalism. We versus them-in race, religion, language, and any other group trait that they can inspire.

A French observer visiting America in the 1830′s, I think the name was Chevalier, described us as having the….’morals of an army on the march’.

Guys like Trump and Buchanan dream about being the General.

Don Boudreaux September 22, 2011 at 9:19 pm


reinkefj September 22, 2011 at 9:29 pm

I’d like to see open boarders.

{I would assume that an immigrant arriving at Ellis Island, or it’s equivalent, would have the old “support” affidavit or a return ticket, get a quick physical for communicable diseases, allow the collection of identifying info like DNA and finger prints, end then get a “green card” with some kind of annual check in.}

Of course, “welfare” would be eliminated. As well as ending that “(pseudo) War on (some) Drugs”!

Then we should be open to everyone who wants to come here to work and make American a better place.

Methinks1776 September 22, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Do you really want the government to have your DNA and fingerprints on file? Why do greencard holders need an annual check-in? Do you need to be checked by the state annually?

vikingvista September 23, 2011 at 2:17 am

Isn’t it ironic that for the sake of one of the most malignant activities–the welfare state–we must restrict one of the most beneficial–immigration?

Or perhaps it is an example of how good and evil don’t mix.

“collection of identifying info like DNA and finger prints, end then get a “green card” with some kind of annual check in”

You think Americans are less dangerous to you than non-Americans?

Mickey Hobart September 22, 2011 at 11:38 pm

Whose Country Is It, Anyways? That of individual Americans. If they want to hire or rent, and so on, to foreigners that come here, then you shouldn’t interfere against that, Pat.

Gil September 23, 2011 at 2:21 am

Indeed I was surprised Don didn’t simply state that no one rightfully owns the country as a whole (by the extension the government is illegitimate) and the only private people own their little quarter-acre plots and only they could choose who could come and go on their private plot.

Ken September 23, 2011 at 1:23 pm


There are millions, if not tens of millions. of private people who own more than a quarter-acre plot. Additionally, there are millions, if not tens of millions, who DON’T want ANY land because it takes effort to maintain it, which is why people buy condos or rent.


Mike September 23, 2011 at 8:42 am


I just can’t get past the fact you “lost” a debate to Pat Buchanan on free trade (your words). How in the world did this happen? Did protectionists drug you before the big game a la the “Miracle on Ice”. Only half joking with that last sentence.

Don Boudreaux September 23, 2011 at 8:59 am

Face-to-face debating isn’t my strong suit. Success at it requires a skill set that I largely lack. In short, I think too slowly to be an effective face-to-face debater.

g-dub September 23, 2011 at 10:38 am

People who care about the precision and verifiable truth of words often do have trouble in extemporaneous conversation.

May I suggest a few shots before debating?

You’re sort of saying you don’t think you have the skills to be a politican. I wouldn’t be too concerned about your “weaker” areas, if I were you.

vikingvista September 23, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Face to face debates are always less thoughtful and therfore inferior to debates through correspondance. But they are entertaining and succinct.

MWG September 23, 2011 at 3:13 pm

I’ve seen you in a number of debates and you were certainly able to hold your own… you stuttered a bit in some cases, but your arguments tend to be simple and to the point.

JS September 23, 2011 at 3:21 pm


I sympathize with you over that experience. Pat’s position was easy to express, since it was emotionally charged. Your position involves chain link reasoning which takes more time to explain in an emotionally charged debate. Plus, Pat is trained more in live debate than you.

If you happen to debate again, you are smart enough to know the type of arguments to expect. You would need to develop a variety of answers in advance for everything your opponent might say. Once a point is made, you would pick from a few stock responses in your inventory, without having to think much. These responses have to carry some emotional weight. You can accomplish that by always citing how the common people are “robbed” by your adversaries policies, who what “rich” interests are served by your adversaries policies.

This is very easy when you argue with a protectionist. Point out that the common people are forced to pay higher prices so that the owners of huge corporations can exploit them. If the debate is against China, for example, always refer to the poor people who rely on Walmart’s low prices for their weekly sustenance, etc., and that protectionist policies rob them to protect politically connected unions and their wealthy owners. In other words, Protectionism robs the lowest classes to serve the $50/hr unions and the upper class business owners.

My point is that you need to incorporate ‘emotional substance’ into your defense of free markets and to have the answers already memorized before you enter a debate.

Greg Webb September 24, 2011 at 12:31 am

You just need to prepare more for the debate. Pat has lots more experience in debating this topic than you do. So, you have to prepare more to counter the advantage of his experience.

John M. Wadsworth September 23, 2011 at 10:32 am

The article speaks the truth. Open immigration in the 19th Century was a key to economic growth.

Then again, on the other hand, we didn’t have a welfare state in the 19th Century.

Then again, on the other hand, we were relatively short-handed in the 19th Century when it came to farming the arable land, building the railroads, and manning all of the manufacturing facilities. Open immigration supplied the manpower that was essential to economic growth at the time.

Today, we have a welfare state. That makes immigration expensive, and arguably prohibitively so, if we must pay for all the welfare-state and social services of everyone who comes into the country. Also, we are not as short-handed. To be sure, we are not so short handed (like we were in the 19th Century) that businesses completely lack the labor necessary to operate businesses. This fact makes open immigration less compelling. Today we have minimum wage laws precisely because we have too many people competing for the same jobs. Were this not the case, the market would provide for much higher wages even in the absence of unwelcome legislative intervention.

NB – I am not against immigration like Buchannan appears to be. However, I think the arguments for open immigration have changed in the ensuing 200 years since the 19th Century. I think they would be more compelling if we didn’t also have a welfare state to drag down the salubrious benefits of new labor. Such concerns have given many a Libertarian pause before embracing open immigration like they once did.

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