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“They Work Too Much!” “They Work Too Little!”

My latest AIER piece was mentioned on air yesterday by Rush Limbaugh – a happy fact that nevertheless filled my e-mailbox this morning with several hostile missives from anti-immigrationists. This gentleman was one of several who discovered Cafe Hayek and blew a fuse when reading some of my posts on immigration. Here’s my letter to him:

Mr. Nick Poage

Mr. Poage:

You write to object to this blog post of mine. After expressing your support for government-imposed work restrictions that, in your words “stop immigrants from stealing American jobs,” you call “insane” my argument that much hostility to immigration is fueled by the (false) belief that immigrants produce too much and consume too little. You further write that “plenty of us Americans who want big reductions in immigration are pissed off because these people are parasites on our welfare system [which means that] they consume too much.”

First, the data don’t support the belief that immigrants are welfare-state “parasites.

Second, the fact that the data don’t support this belief is especially telling given the many restrictions that Uncle Sam places on immigrants’ abilities to work. By obstructing immigrants’ access to jobs in the formal economy, these restrictions artificially boost immigrants’ incentives to seek government welfare. Ending these restrictions would result in immigrants using even less such welfare. Yet you not only want to keep these restrictions, you wish to tighten them.

I’m sorry, but because you wish to prevent immigrants from working in America I have no sympathy for your complaint that immigrants allegedly free-ride on the American welfare state. You cannot, in justice, with one breath summon the state to prevent people from earning their livelihoods and then, with the next breath, self-righteously call those whom you prevent from earning their livelihoods “parasites.”

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


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