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The Reddest of Red Herrings

Suppose that several proponents of lower taxes argued that one important reason — maybe the important reason — for cutting taxes is that lower taxes save paper.  "If we cut taxes, we’ll use up less paper in record keeping and tax filing.  What a boon such a saving would be to our economy!"

Persons opposed to cutting taxes would surely respond that this effect is so small as to be irrelevant.  Indeed, this effect might not even be real.  But the tax-cut advocates don’t give up: they keep focusing on the paper-saving that they argue will result from tax cuts.

Surely, if this paper-saving argument is the best one for cutting taxes, the case for cutting taxes would be very weak indeed.


The above ridiculous scenario isn’t very far from the scenario playing out now in the immigration debate.  Many people on the pro-immigration side say that immigrants do jobs that Americans won’t do.  Those opposed to freer immigration then correctly respond that if the supply of workers to do these jobs falls (say, because immigration is restricted further), the wages paid to perform these jobs will rise and, thus, attract Americans into these jobs.  In fact, even if we totally prohibit any further immigration into America, Americans’ lawns will still be mowed, our garbage will still be collected, our homes will still be cleaned, and produce grown on American farms will still be harvested.

This claim that "immigrants do jobs that Americans won’t do" permits opponents of immigration to win easy battles by exposing the foolishness of such arguments.  And because so many people today seem to think that the main economic advantage of immigration is that it supplies people willing to do jobs that Americans won’t do, immigration opponents gain much more credibility than they deserve.

The "jobs Americans won’t do" issue is a neon-brilliant-scarlet red herring.