Ron Paul on immigration: What’s the worst that could happen?

One of the more disturbing things about Ron Paul’s popularity is his staunch opposition to legal and
illegal immigration. I pick on him not because his views on immigrants
are especially harsh, but because they stand in stark contrast to his
reputation as an advocate of free markets and Austrian economics. On his campaign issues page,
he warns that “current reform proposals would allow up to 60 million
more immigrants into our country” and that “this is insanity.” I am
surprised to see Ron Paul buying into this tired bit of socialist
rhetoric. The idea that simply allowing 60 million would actually
result in 60 million people rushing into the U.S. is absurd, but
suppose it were true. What’s the worst that could happen?

According to the Malthusian theory subscribed to by socialists and environmentalists, the amount
of resources and capital in a particular region is fixed, so the average income
of individuals can be calculated by dividing the total resource/capital base by
the number of people.  A fixed resource
base means a fixed number of jobs, so a large influx of immigrants means rising
unemployment and falling standards of living.

Fortunately, it is socialism, not open immigration that is
“insanity.”  The premise that
the resources available to meet human needs are fixed – that each new human
being requires a fixed amount of land, metal, and fossil fuels to live – is
absurd.  Each additional individual
creates not only new demand for the products of civilization, but also provides
new resources and insight for meeting those needs.  Every self-supporting worker produces more
than he consumes, adding to total productive output and raising the real wage
rate for everyone.  Historically, the
American standard of living rose fastest during peak immigration periods and
continues to rise today.  Our greatest
source of wealth is not natural resources or the capital base, but the
ingenuity and creativity of our entrepreneurs and workers.

By increasing the division of labor, immigrants free up
workers previously employed in maintaining the capital base to invest their
time in growing capital and efficiency. 
So for example, by lowering labor costs, new immigrant factory workers
free up engineers to invest in expanding production and improving the
efficiency of labor.  This improves
everyone’s living standards.  A free
society allows a growing capital and knowledge base to be multiplied by
entrepreneurs who find new methods to improve human life, proving an
exponential growth in prosperity. 

A further complaint of Dr Paul is
that “taxpayers should not pay for illegal immigrants who use hospitals,
clinics, schools, roads, and social services.”  I completely agree.  However, this is besides the point.  No one
has a right to live of other people, regardless of where he was born.  American welfare bums do not have any more
right to my property than Mexican bums.  It
is the welfare state that is immoral, not immigration.  Furthermore, the argument is misleading
because illegal immigrants and permanent residents are generally not eligible
for welfare, and already pay the property, fuel, and sales taxes that pay for
schools and roads.  Illegal immigrants don’t pay income taxes, which Dr. Paul believes we should eliminate anyway, but they often pay social security taxes via bogus social security cards – effectively subsidizing legal workers.  Do people who oppose
granting illegal immigrants driver’s licenses realize that they are for forcing
citizens to pay for the illegal immigrants’ share of road-maintenance

For more on the issue, read my case for open immigration.