Saturday, May 26, 2007

Give Me Your Vibrant, Your Strong, Your Exploitable

Who Is IOZ?: Give Me Your Vibrant, Your Strong, Your Entrepreneurial Eager to Make a Buck

IOZ, as an unrepentant and only-barely-domesticated anarchist myself, I'm in agreement with you on some basic values. But here's the thing: Why is it that you well-to-do big-L Libertarian free marketeers hate your fellow human beings so much that you're unwilling to pay them enough money to live as comfortable and dignified a life as you do?


IOZ said...

When did you stop beating your wife?

Forget the libertarian label. The answer to your question is that I don't put a premium on false equality. A newly-arrived immigrant performing wage labor won't make as much money as a second-generation, fluent English speaker with a modestly greater level of education and literacy, but then again, he'll make more money than he would in his nation of origin. That's why he comes.

Or, consider a foreign professional--a doctor, a nurse, a teacher--who emigrates from his native country to the United States to make more money and achieve a somewhat greater degree of political freedom, even knowing that his professional credentials will be meaningless here and he will have to work as a janitor, or as a checkout person, or as a security guard.

Now, if we're talking only about the gross disparities between top executive pay and the pay of middle management and the pay of factory labor, then you will find in me a very sympathetic ear. Those disparities create false incentives; they reward the attainment of office but not production; they represent the perversity of corporate business under state-capitalism.

On the other hand, if you asked me: Is a doctor, responsible for the health and perhaps life of his clients, or is a finance professional with a fiduciary obligation to the current and future economic well-being of a whole portfolio of clients, worth ten times the compensation of a back-of-house restaurant worker, or a day laborer, or a maid, then I answer without hesitation: yes.

The terrible treatment of immigrants in this country, including super-poor wages and dangerous working conditions, are the conditions of any underground economy. It is not a question of how much I or anyone else is willing to pay. That's the wrong question to ask. I advocate for open borders for the same reason I advocate for the legalization of drugs: because the legal structures of prohibition create the very problems that prohibitions claim to combat.

I do not for a moment believe that open immigration would lead to Mexican landscapers attaining the lifestyle that I've attained, let alone true wealth and leisure. I do believe that it would result in a substantial improvement in immigrant quality of life and compensation, though it would preserve the capacity of businesses to hire at relatively lower wages, which is necessary for any economy with divided labor.

hipparchia said...

Good point about the labels, and I agree with some of your others here too. I still say it's the right question to ask, but I'll mull it over, and perhaps rephrase it.