Milton Friedman once famously remarked that "It’s just obvious you can’t have free immigration and a welfare state.”
And, speaking as somebody who still, doggedly, likes to think of himself as a libertarian, I think he was right. Once the taxpayer is shelling out thousands of dollars worth of benefits to poor immigrants, it's simply ridiculous to discuss the issue of immigration as if it were merely a matter of private contracts between employers and employees, in which the taxpayer has no legitimate interest.
Yet certain prominent libertarians, like Will Wilkinson, persist in doing just that. What's worse, they don't hesitate to tar as bigots those who dare to raise certain facts inconvenient to their position - without ever even attempting to refute those facts.
Shame on them.
Update below the line.
Mr. Wilkinson has has done me the honor of responding to one of my comments over at his place. He asks:
"(1) the average gain to taxpayers from immigrant labor more than compensates for immigrant-related welfare spending.
"Would you then be in favor of more immigrant labor?
"(2) it was possible to have a large guest worker program in which guest workers were explicitly ineligible for most forms of welfare.
"Would you then support the guest worker program"
(1) The *average* gain to taxpayers, if any, is not dispositive, even if we are considering this in narrowly economic terms. It all depends on the distribution of gains and losses. If the majority of taxpayers lose, then why should they support more immigrant labor, just because relatively large gains to a minority of taxpayers (i.e., the immigrants themselves and their employers) make the average come out positive?
Consider a mini-welfare-state of a hundred citizens. One of them is a vegetable farmer. Two of them are farm-workers in his employ. The other ninety-seven buy vegetables at the store, but are otherwise unconcerned with agriculture. All of them pay taxes to support public highways, public schools, public health clinics, etc.
At this point, an immigrant family of four shows up on the doorstep. The parents are farmworkers, willing to work for half the wages of the current citizen farm-workers. They bring with them two school-aged children.
The farmer is delighted, and proposes that they be admitted.
Should the current citizens vote to admit, or to exclude?
If the immigrants are admitted, here are the obvious gainers: (a) the farmer, who can cut his labor costs in half and make a higher profit while at the same time reducing prices, and (b) the immigrants, who can make a far better wage than they could where they came from while at the same time enjoying the superior public highways, public schools, public health clinics, etc. of their adopted country.
And here are the obvious losers: the current citizen farm-workers, who must either accept a lower wage or move on to other employment (or unemployment).
As for the other ninety-seven, they gain from lower vegetable prices, but lose from higher public welfare costs.
Let's suppose, for purposes of argument, that the gains to the farmer, and to the immigrants, are so great that voting to admit results in an average gain to taxpayers (including the newly admitted immigrants). But let's also suppose, again for purposes of argument, that for the other ninety-seven, their gains from lower vegetable prices are smaller than their losses from higher public welfare costs.
In that case, I count ninety-nine rational votes against admission, and only one rational vote in favor, even though admission would result in an *average* gain to taxpayers.
(2) Possibly yes - but it's not possible, so...what?