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Damn Immigrants! They Produce Too Much and Consume Too Little!

The topic for discussion in my International Economic Policy class (ECON 385) for this evening was immigration.

While preparing my lecture it dawned on me with unusual clarity that for many (most?) American anti-immigrationists the ideal immigrant is someone who comes to the United States with a bank account filled with billions of dollars that he or she immediately commences to spend on goods and services produced and sold here in America by Americans, yet who never lifts a finger to produce as much as one cent worth of output. But because almost no one immigrates to America exclusively to spend money without earning money – that is, to consume without producing – immigrants in general are regarded by these Americans as scourges who must be kept out.

How bizarre. How utterly, inexplicably bizarre.

The – or, at least, a – typical American anti-immigrationist is someone who complains about immigrants “stealing” American jobs. (How else to explain the enormous amount of resources and effort that Uncle Sam pours into efforts to restrict immigrants’ prospects of working in the U.S.?) But to issue such a complaint is to complain about immigrants coming here to produce. And to support restrictions on immigrants’ freedom to work is to support government efforts to prevent immigrants from producing.

When this hostility to immigrants producing economically valuable outputs in the U.S. is considered along side complaints about immigrants sending dollars back to their home countries as remittances, the fear that many Americans have about immigration becomes clear: this fear is that immigrants come to America to produce lots of stuff but then refuse to consume anything made in America. (Forget here that anti-immigrationists who complain about immigrants sending the dollars that they earn to their native countries as remittances fail to understand that those dollars do indeed return to the U.S. as demand for U.S.-produced goods and services. What matters here is what anti-immigrationists believe to be true.)

How bizarre. How utterly, inexplicably bizarre. Many (most?) anti-immigrationist Americans are hostile to immigrants in large part because these Americans worry that immigrants come to America only to increase the supply of goods and services available for us Americans to consume without then themselves consuming anything from this increased supply. In short, these anti-immigrationist Americans complain that immigrants produce too much for our economy and consume too little from our economy.

I repeat: how bizarre; how utterly, inexplicably bizarre to demonize people who come to America to produce.


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