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Presidential Issues: Immigration


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Adam Smith’s Recommendation To End Illegal Immigration

January 24, 2013

By David Bier

Restrictions on immigration have created a black market in labor and movement. Currently, the U.S. government issues only 10,000 green cards to workers who lack higher education, special skills or family connections. These restrictions have incented (as opposed to “caused”) desperate workers from around the world to circumvent the legal process and enter or reside in the United States illegally. The lesson of this aspect of immigration policy is: Ignore the market at your own peril.

Policy makers have little respect for this market. Adam Smith famously called the legislator “the man of system” who “seems to imagine that he can arrange the different members of a great society with as much ease as the hand arranges the different pieces upon a chess-board. He does not consider that the pieces upon the chess-board have no other principle of motion besides that which the hand impresses upon them.” But human beings are not chess pieces -- they do have principles of motion besides what the legislature would choose to impress upon them.

Unfortunately, as Smith notes, the man of the system “is often so enamoured with the supposed beauty of his own ideal plan of government that he cannot suffer the smallest deviation from any part of it.” Thus, when human beings act in accordance with their own plans -- when they drink alcohol, eat fatty foods, or fail to recycle -- the legislature decides to “double down.” But, again as Smith point out, if the legislature ignores the principle of motion of his subjects, “the game of society will go on miserably, and the society must be at all times in the highest degree of disorder.”

Read the full article at the Competitive Enterprise Institute: Adam Smith's Recommendation To End Illegal Immigration

Issue Categories : Immigration,