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Welfare, Corporate Welfare, and Immigration

Here’s a letter to a Cafe patron:

Mr. Tom O’Brien

Dear Mr. O’Brien

Thanks for your e-mail.  For reasons too numerous to summarize in a single response that respects your time, I reject the argument that immigration should be restricted until and unless the welfare state is ended.  So I content myself here to mention just one such reason: those who would use the existence of a U.S. welfare state to deny migration into America look only at potential costs; they ignore the huge potential benefits that are created by those many immigrants who come here to work and create.

Here are questions for your anti-immigrant friend who believes that the welfare state demands restrictions on immigration: Do you also believe that the existence of corporate welfare – including the Small Business Administration – demands restrictions on corporate chartering and business start-ups?  Given the habit of Uncle Sam and state governments to annually dole out hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money to lazy, privilege-seeking small businesses and big corporations, oughtn’t we restrict business creation until and unless such corporate welfare is ended?

If your friend balks at using corporate welfare to justify government restrictions on business creation, then your friend likely – and rightly – intuits that the benefits of unrestricted business creation outweigh the costs of some portion of those new businesses becoming corporate-welfare recipients.  So press your friend by asking him why he thinks it “plain and obvious” that government welfare payments to individuals justify government restrictions on immigration if he does not believe that corporate welfare justifies government restrictions on new-business creation.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

P.S. You can find at my and Russ Robert’s blog, www.cafehayek.com, a longer summary of my reasons for rejecting your friend’s argument.  For example here.