Saturday, August 30, 2008

We Need Citizens Not Just Workers

I sometimes am of two minds when it comes to issues. I can see valid points on both sides, but I still feel that one side is the "correct" one. I've been that way about immigration for awhile. I support the legal immigration of smart, hardworking, educated, entrepreneurial people who are willing to embrace all things American. Thomas Sowell recently crystallized my thinking on immigration with a single phrase. I was listening to the Econ Talk podcast. Thomas Sowell is known for his laissez-faire economic approach. The interviewer was taking the position that immigration was economically beneficial because people are a resource and immigrants are often hard working people in search of a better life. That's when Sowell responded. I'm paraphrasing here, but what he said essentially was "we need citizens not just workers." That's when the flip switched in my head and I realized he had just succinctly summarized my position in that single phrase.

On the one hand, I acknowledge that hardworking immigrants are essential to the U.S. and many immigrants just want a better life. I believe that the greatest resource in the world is the human mind and imagination. I believe that the United States of America is a nation built by immigrants. We have prospered due to an ability to attract hardworking and brilliant people from other countries who gladly make America their home and embrace American culture. There are many examples ---- Alexander Hamilton (first Secretary of the U.S. Treasury, a Scotsman born in the West Indies); Albert Einstein; Enrico Fermi (a developer of the atom bomb); Wernher von Braun (developer of the V-2 and then of U.S. rockets); Pierre Omidyar (founder of eBay); and Sergey Brin (Google co-founder). I could go on like this for pages.

As other nations become more capitalist, more technologically advanced, and better educated (e.g., China and India), more opportunities are presented for their smart, highly educated citizens to remain at home and not seek opportunity in the U.S. As the world becomes flatter, we need to attract those people to come here more than ever if we want to remain competitive with their home countries. Our immigration laws ought to encourage them to move here permanently. Creating temporary worker positions, only encourages them to move here to learn and then go back to their homeland to compete.

On the other hand, I believe that secure borders are important and porous borders are a problem. I object to people who ignore our laws living here illegally. I believe that the unfettered immigration of low skilled workers willing to work for peanuts suppresses the wages of low skilled Americans and hinders there entry into the workforce and maintaining employment. Unfettered immigration creates a labor surplus that harms American workers, but benefits big business because it can hire workers more cheaply. I don't buy the idea that immigrants do jobs Americans "won't do." At best you can say that illegal immigrants will do jobs that American workers won't do as cheaply. The agricultural sector is often given as an example of an area where Americans won't work. If that is so, why were 80% of the workers in the agriculture, forestry, fishing, and mining sector native born in 2004? If we have shortages in some areas (engineering, mathematics, computer science), then I'm all for recruiting immigrants, who want to make a life here in the U.S. as Americans, to move here and work. I worry about the Balkanization of the U.S. in the name of diversity and multi-culturism. It seems to me that being a great nation still requires secure borders, a common language, a common culture, and the embrace of shared ideals (liberty, freedom. tolerance, free speech, democracy, hard work; i.e., the "American way").

My inarticulately expressed concern is that we're no longer expecting immigrants to become good citizens or to even be citizens. They are defended on the basis that being a "good worker" is enough. That is why that single phrase crystallized my thinking on the subject. Being a "good worker" isn't enough. No country needs unassimilated masses of foreigners in its midst meddling in its politics to push their own agendas and policies. When supposedly intelligent people advocate a dual legal system that recognizes a concept as alien to the existing legal system as Sharia law; when those who owe their allegiance to a foreign country are allowed to demonstrate in an attempt to influence U.S. policy while waving the flag of their homeland; when high school students attending public schools at the expense of U.S. taxpayers hoist a foreign flag above an upside down American flag, we have the beginnings of a house divided. "A house divided against itself cannot stand." --- Abraham Lincoln We do need immigrants, but we need good citizens and not just workers.

No comments:

Post a Comment