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The Munro Doctrine

Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

When Pres. Obama announced a halt to the deportation of many people whose only offense is being in the U.S. without official papers issued by Uncle Sam, Daily Caller reporter Neil Munro challenged Mr. Obama by asking “Why do you favor foreigners over American workers?” (“Reporter Interrupts Obama Remarks,” June 16).

I beg my conservative friends not to lionize Mr. Munro.  Whether you cheer the president’s announcement (as I do, enthusiastically) or hiss at it, the fact is that Mr. Munro’s question reveals Mr. Munro’s economic ignorance.

To see why, suppose that Uncle Sam had for years forcibly eradicated technologies (such as chemical pesticides and robotics) that destroyed specific jobs (such as for farm workers and shipyard welders).  If the president then announced a halt to the eradication of such technologies, would any economically informed person who supports free markets and welcomes economic growth protest against this announcement on the grounds that it “favors technology over American workers”?  Of course not.  Yet the employment and economic effects of easing immigration restrictions are identical to those of easing restrictions on technological advances.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

UPDATE: My applause above for Obama’s announcement is only for that policy as a matter of economics and as a matter of morality abstracted from questions of the constitutionality (or other procedural proprieties) with which Obama is implementing it.  About these latter questions, I here express no opinion.


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