The fruits of immigration

by on July 12, 2011 at 7:31 am in Current Affairs, Economics | Permalink

A tough new law cracking down on illegal immigrants and those who hire or “harbor” them has created a severe shortage of agricultural labor in Georgia right at harvest time.

The head of a farmer’s group estimates that the state’s $1.1 billion fruit-and-vegetable industry could suffer a loss of $300 million.

Gary Paulk, a blackberry farmer interviewed by PRI’s the World, says he has lost $200,00-250,00 this season, as unpicked berries rot. “Having a fake ID, a first-time offense can be up to 10 years, and a $100,000 fine,” Paulk said. “I mean that’s, that’s like a felony. A felony to use a fake ID to get a job to support your family.”

To combat the shortage, Governor Nathan Deal has authorized using criminal offenders out on probation to replace the mostly Latino migrant workers. It’s not working out so well:

The first batch of probationers started work last week at a farm owned by Dick Minor…So far, the experiment at Minor’s farm is yielding mixed results. On the first two days, all the probationers quit by mid-afternoon, said Mendez, one of two crew leaders at Minor’s farm.

“Those guys out here weren’t out there 30 minutes and they got the bucket and just threw them in the air and say, ‘Bonk this, I ain’t with this, I can’t do this,'” said Jermond Powell, a 33-year-old probationer. “They just left, took off across the field walking.”…

By law, each worker must earn minimum wage, or $7.25 an hour. But there’s an incentive system. Harvesters get a green ticket worth 50 cents every time they dump a bucket of cucumbers. If they collect more than 15 tickets an hour, they can beat minimum wage.

The Latino workers moved furiously Thursday for the extra pay.

Jose Ranye, 37, bragged he’s the best picker in Americus, the largest community near the farm. His whirling hands filled one bucket in 25 seconds. He said he dumped about 200 buckets of cucumbers before lunch, meaning he earned roughly $20 an hour. He expected to double his tickets before the end of the day.

None of the probationers could keep pace. Pay records showed the best filled only 134 buckets a day, and some as little as 20. They lingered at the water cooler behind the truck, sat on overturned red buckets for smoke breaks and stopped working to take cell phone calls.

In short, we have turned good workers into criminals and turned criminals into bad workers, losing on both ends of the deal. Incredible.

Walter McGrain July 12, 2011 at 7:40 am

I guess some company will have to hire some engineers to design machines capable of picking the vegetables. Then they’ll have to build factories to build those machines, and pay others to maintain them.

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 1:57 pm

WM,

Indeed. After the Bracero program was ended in the 1960s, tomato picking was mechanized. Costs plunged. Wages rose. Productivity and output rose dramatically.

Illegals are just a bailout / handout for uncompetitive enterprises. It’s funny how so called “free market” libertarians are willing to see the entire manufacturing economy of the United States go down the drain in the name of “free trade” and “free markets”, but when some grower can’t compete in the labor market, overt criminality (hiring illegals) become OK.

By the way farmers have a guest worker program (H2C). They just don’t like it because they have to actually take care of the workers. The horror.

Philip Martin is America’s leading authority on agricultural labor. I quote

“Proponents of a new temporary worker program argue that increased immigration enforcement would lead to fewer illegal agricultural workers and, as a consequence, the American consumer would face a major increase in the cost of food. This is factually incorrect according to experts. Dr. Philip Martin, a leading academic authority on agricultural labor, notes that American consumers now spend more on alcoholic beverages on average than they spend on fresh fruits and vegetables.1

An average household currently spends about $370 per year on fruits and vegetables. If curtailing illegal alien agricultural labor caused tighter labor conditions and a 40 percent increase in wages, the increased cost to the American family would be $9 a year, or about 2.4 cents per day. Yet for the farm laborer, the change would mean an increase in earnings from $8,800 to $12,350 for each 1,000 hours of work (25 weeks if the worker worked 40-hour weeks). That increase would move the worker from beneath the federal poverty line to above it.”

See also http://www.cis.org/GuestworkerPrograms-AmericanAgriculture
http://www.cis.org/AmericanLaborMarket%2526Immigration
http://www.cis.org/articles/2006/guestworkertranscript306.html

Pedro d'Aquino July 12, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Peter, I think that it is presumptuous to assume what would best for the farmers. If it were was more productive for those guys hiring the immigrants, there is no reason to assume they wouldn’t have mechanized the whole thing on their own.

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 2:21 pm

PA,

Farmers bitterly opposed the end of the Bracero program and claimed that tomatoes would never grown in California again.

They were wrong.

The question is what’s good for America, not the plantation plutocracy.

Pedro d'Aquino July 12, 2011 at 2:42 pm

The auto industry didn’t switch to robots because of a regulation. They did so because it would be cheaper. Why would it be different with agribusiness? The farmers are the ones who have the greatest incentive to be productive. Besides, it’s very hard to predict how an economy will respond to changes like that. Just because it worked once, like you said, doesn’t mean it will work again.

My quibble here is with your argument that this would make the farms more productive. I don’t think it will. I think the prices will go up, and on the long run the USA will be less wealthy because the resource allocation will be less than optimal. But of course, the losses may be offset by the net gains of not having so many immigrants, whatever they may be.

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 2:48 pm

PA,

From “Barry R. Chiswick’s Testimony on the Economic Impacts of Immigration” (http://www.aila.org/content/default.aspx?bc=1019|6712|12178|21554|19197|19200)

“”But,” I am often asked, “don’t we need low-skilled immigrant workers to do the jobs that native workers are unwilling to do?” I respond: “At what wage will native workers decline to take these jobs?” Consider the following thought experiment: What would happen to lettuce picking or the mowing of suburban lawns if there were fewer low-skilled workers? Earlier this month on ABC’s Nightline program a winter lettuce grower in Arizona provided the answer. He acknowledged that he would pay higher wages to attract native-born workers and he would speed up the mechanization of lettuce harvesting. The technology is there, but with low wages for lettuce pickers there is no economic incentive for the growers to mechanize or invest in other types of new technology. If the supply of low-skilled immigrant workers decreased substantially, mechanical harvesting would replace many of them with capital (machines) and more highly paid native workers. How would suburban lawns get mowed if there were fewer low-skilled immigrant workers? Wages for lawn care workers would surely rise. The result would be that more teenagers and other low-skilled native workers would find it worth their while to make themselves available for this work. ”

By the way, low skill immigrants impose such massive negative externalities that they reduce productivity. Like it or not the welfare state exists and in a welfare state, poor people are a burden.

Rahul July 12, 2011 at 3:27 pm

@Peter Schaeffer:

The question is what’s good for America, not the plantation plutocracy.

Your stance might be reasonable were the planters asking for a handout. Their demands are more akin to a removal of a trade barrier. It is difficult to trust anyone to make these “what is good for America” decisions in a centralized fashion. I’d rather leave the inputs choice to the farmers: Use cheap labor or mechanize.

And since you mention the H2C program. Have you ever tried dealing with the US immigration bureaucracy? The problem isn’t the requirements in the program themselves but the onerous paperwork, arbitrary decisions making and incessant delays. If US guest worker programs were streamlined we’d see more farmers take that route.

rpl July 12, 2011 at 3:46 pm

The question is what’s good for America, not the plantation plutocracy.

And you’re just the person to decide what’s “good for America,” I take it? So, you’ll tell us that we should mechanize the farms in Georgia because that’s “good for America,” although by your own admission in another comment you posted it might require restarting the farm mechanization research funding program. How much funding? I’m sure you’ll pick just the right amount that’s “good for America,” right? I don’t suppose there is any chance of you showing exactly how you arrived at those numbers, is there?

By the way, is it only jobs currently performed by immigrants that should be eliminated through judicious application of research funding (not to mention making it illegal to hire them), or should we give the same treatment to jobs performed by American citizens? If the latter, could you give examples? If the former, then how do you account for this extraordinary coincidence?

I look forward to your response.

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Rahul,

“Your stance might be reasonable were the planters asking for a handout.”

They are. They don’t pay the costs of illegal / low skill immigration. It’s politely called “privatizing profits, socializing losses”.

See “That glass of OJ is squeezing back – Huge hidden costs of cheap labor are borne by welfare agencies, schools, hospitals, police – you.” (http://www2.palmbeachpost.com/moderndayslavery/reports/realcost1209.html). I quote

“But cheap labor also generates significant hidden costs, costs that one national labor expert says are so staggering that an 8-ounce glass of fresh orange juice that retails for 42 cents from the carton really costs Florida taxpayers a whole lot more”

“Their demands are more akin to a removal of a trade barrier.”

Human beings are not articles of trade (see the post Civil War Amendments to the U.S. Constitution). Trade involves goods (and services). Imported shoes do not massively expand the welfare state. Imported cars do not crater public education. Imported TVs don’t fill our prisons.

“It is difficult to trust anyone to make these “what is good for America” decisions in a centralized fashion.”

Of course not. Let the free market decide. If Georgia growers can’t cut it growing produce, they can switch to other crops. No centralization required.

By the way, the farm labor visa is H2A (my mistake). See http://www.usimmigrationlawyers.com/resources/immigration-law/us-visa/h2a-visa-temporary-seasonal-farm-workers.htm

Quote

“The H2A visa is designated for individuals who will be employed as TEMPORARY seasonal farm workers. There is no limit to the number of H2A visas issued each year.”

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 6:02 pm

RPL,

“And you’re just the person to decide what’s “good for America,””

No, I favor the free market without welfare handouts (illegal labor) for the plantation plutocracy.

“it might require restarting the farm mechanization research funding program.”

No. I have provided several examples of existing technology that can and will be used once the handouts are removed. Of course, the U.S. government should fund additional research particularly given that research was stopped for political rather than economic reasons.

Of course, if the growers can’t compete, let them switch crops. Something called capitalism.

“I don’t suppose there is any chance of you showing exactly how you arrived at those numbers, is there?”

Which numbers? See “Farm Labor Shortages: How Real? What Response ” (http://www.cis.org/no_farm_labor_shortages.html) for a very detailed analysis of the economic of farm labor.

“By the way, is it only jobs currently performed by immigrants that should be eliminated through judicious application of research funding”

Of course not. However, eliminating given the spectacularly bad economics of low skill immigration, produce mechanization should be a priority.

rpl July 12, 2011 at 6:33 pm

No, I favor the free market without welfare handouts (illegal labor) for the plantation plutocracy.

This is a false premise. Being able to hire whomever you like at whatever rates you can mutually agree on is not a “handout.” Suggesting that it is is a downright Orwellian abuse of language. Without that faulty assumption your entire argument falls apart.

Of course, if the growers can’t compete, let them switch crops. Something called capitalism.

This statement is risible in light of the previous quote. So, it is your position that “capitalism” is the government interfering in the labor market by blocking people with work they need done from hiring willing workers? And refraining from such interference is a “handout”? Who knew we were living on Bizarro World?

No. I have provided several examples of existing technology that can and will be used once the handouts (i.e., free labor markets -rpl) are removed. Of course, the U.S. government should fund additional research particularly given that research was stopped for political rather than economic reasons.

Who decides whether funding was “stopped for political rather than economic reasons”? You? Why do we need that funding anyhow, if, as you say, the technology already exists? Why bring it up at all (your exact words were: “Note that the U.S. government used to fund farm mechanization research. Carter (yes, Jimmy Carter) closed down these programs because the race lobbies objected”) if the funding isn’t necessary? By the way, you’ve made the same mistake again: allowing people to hire other people who are willing to work for them is not a “handout.”

Of course not. (i.e., it’s not just immigrant jobs that should be eliminated through forced mechanization -rpl)

Examples? Timetables for implementation? Just to be clear here, you’re saying that we should forbid these industries from hiring willing workers because you have decided it would be “good for America” to mechanize those jobs, right? I’m eager to hear which jobs you have identified as overdue for replacement. Will government research funding be needed to realize your plans for those industries too?

You objected when someone else described your warped take on capitalism as “central planning,” but it’s sounding awfully centrally planned to me. You’re advocating some guy (i.e., you) sitting around and deciding which industries are ripe for mechanization, ordering producers to mechanize by forbidding them to employ laborers, and allocating government research money to develop the technology to make it work. If that’s doesn’t amount to central planning, then what, in your world, does?

J Thomas July 12, 2011 at 10:08 pm

The auto industry didn’t switch to robots because of a regulation. They did so because it would be cheaper. Why would it be different with agribusiness?

Because illegal immigrants do not have an effective union?

I’m not sure I see what the trade-off would be. Instead of importing illegal aliens, we would import foreign oil to run the new farm machinery. Probably import the machinery too. Productivity goes up, employment goes down.

You’d have to know all sorts of things to predict whether it would be more efficient for the nation. It might not even be easy to find out whether it’s more efficient for the farmers.

Our problems with illegal immigrants would change if we could arrange to merge Mexico and the USA. And of course if we eliminated the minimum wage and the various laws that protect labor. Then there would be no advantage for illegal immigrants.

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 11:06 pm

RPL,

Hiring an illegal is against the law. No one has the right to violate the law. However, the bottom line is that when your supposed “freedom” costs the rest of society real money (and ultimately the viability of our nation), your “freedom” is actually an organized crime with ordinary Americans as your victims.

“So, it is your position that “capitalism” is the government interfering in the labor market by blocking people with work they need done from hiring willing workers?”

Yes, when you hire an illegal you are stealing from the rest of society. Theft is crime that government has a responsibility to stop.

“Who decides whether funding was “stopped for political rather than economic reasons”?”

Easy. Check the history.

http://articles.latimes.com/2005/jan/02/magazine/tm-oranges01
http://fruitgrowersnews.com/index.php/50th-anniversary/entry/50-years-of-fgn

“Why do we need that funding anyhow, if, as you say, the technology already exists?”

Much of the technology does exist. Research can extend it.

“If that’s doesn’t amount to central planning, then what, in your world, does?”

If you can’t tell the difference between government funded research, and a centrally planned economy, I guess I can’t help you.

Here is a quote from the L.A. Times article

“The national public policy battle that erupted in California in the wake of the tomato harvester left two distinct visions of agriculture–one that promoted machines and eliminated the need for many workers but would give those who remained higher wages, far better working conditions and year-round employment on large, efficient farms and another that preserved jobs for a vast group of people. Those competing visions remain today.”

You want an Latifundio economy sustained by massive taxpayer subsidies. I don’t. Your supposed “freedom” requires a massive drip feed of taxpayer handouts. Taxation isn’t voluntary. Just as the government has an inherent right to make me pay taxes, it also has an equal right to stop you from hiring illegals.

rpl July 13, 2011 at 6:00 am

Hiring an illegal is against the law. No one has the right to violate the law.

That is a red herring. In a democracy such as ours the law is what we make it. Right now the law prohibits employers from hiring a category of workers that would otherwise be willing to work for them. We could readily change the law to lift that prohibition if we chose to do so. The question before us is whether we should make that change. Anyone who pretends that the question is whether employers should be allowed to violate the law, as you have here, is arguing in bad faith.

You’ve clearly started with the conclusion that we should maintain our prohibitions on immigration and attempted to work backwards to produce a set of premises about agricultural policy that will support the conclusion. The result is an incoherent hash of special pleading. Your proposed policy sounds as though it should apply equally to at least some industries dominated by American workers, but you refuse to address the question of whether we should also prohibit employment in those industries. You decry liberal immigration policy as a “handout” (as if merely leaving people alone to do business peaceably is some sort of special favor), but then keep waffling over whether real handouts in the form of government research grants would be necessary to keep agricultural production up. Finally, you clearly have no idea what the phrases “”capitalism” and “central planning” mean, as you consistently use the former to mean “interfering in markets to produce the result you favor” and the latter to mean “leaving people alone to conduct business as they see fit,” which is almost exactly the opposite of what they actually mean. As a result, tt really is impossible to take you seriously.

mjw149 July 12, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Well, isn’t is reasonable to assume that mass failure of small growers would result in farm consolidation, which would then result in entities large enough to solve their labor problems, either mechanically or politically? Fact is, small growers don’t have the capital to invest in technology. It’s similar to digitizing health care records, in our capitalist system, you need the individual businesses to raise the necessary capital themselves, slowing innovation. Farmers have even less time and money to invest in tech than individual doctors. There are economies of scale here.

Obviously some crops are mechanically managed better than others (corn has had robotic harvesters for years iirc) but then not all crops are created equal. Blackberries aren’t necessary for survival and aren’t a large part of the market.

$300mil is small potatoes for something as radical as immigration reform.

I’m all in favor of foreigners coming here to make a better life, and they’re a net benefit to the economy (iirc) but the law is the law. It’s time that it was enforced and enforced predictably, and then it can be reformed honestly. The Mexican economy is doing very well, I hear, and immigration is down while our unemployment is up. So NAFTA is working and perhaps this is the best time to wean ourselves off our undocumented shadow economy.

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 2:42 pm

mjw149,

“Well, isn’t is reasonable to assume that mass failure of small growers would result in farm consolidation, which would then result in entities large enough to solve their labor problems, either mechanically or politically? Fact is, small growers don’t have the capital to invest in technology. It’s similar to digitizing health care records, in our capitalist system, you need the individual businesses to raise the necessary capital themselves, slowing innovation. Farmers have even less time and money to invest in tech than individual doctors. There are economies of scale here.”

Some truth to all of that. Philip Martin addresses these issues in some detail. However, if all growers lose access to illegals, the farm machinery companies (which do have economies of scale) have an incentive to invest new machines to serve them.

Note that the U.S. government used to fund farm mechanization research. Carter (yes, Jimmy Carter) closed down these programs because the race lobbies objected.

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Another point. Farmers can always switch to crops that have already been mechanized. America can export more wheat and soybeans and import more produce.

Called “trade” by some people. Libertarians claim to support unless it might cost an illegal his job.

The Anti-Gnostic July 12, 2011 at 2:50 pm

The South Carolina legislature circa 1859 agrees with you Pedro. Everybody knows you can’t farm without a team of stout darkies to harvest and refine the crop. It’s almost like people believe in a Magick Cotton-Picking Device or something.

I bet they’d even have us believe it’s possible to gin cotton by Mechanickal Process.

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 3:52 pm

“Farmers can always switch to crops that have already been mechanized. America can export more wheat and soybeans and import more produce.”

Exactly. And consumers get less variety and probably pay more and our agriculture system becomes less diverse and less robust and more dependent on hydrocarbon or corn ethanol. And maybe the technology is not yet available to mechanize crop picking. Reference the de facto patent Phillips is getting for incandescent light bulbs. Perhaps it is available but requires a large amount of fossil fuel which is subsidized. All because you call allowing free range people a handout. The actual handouts have to do with the welfare state. We can discuss that.

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 6:22 pm

From

That glass of OJ is squeezing back – Huge hidden costs of cheap labor are borne by welfare agencies, schools, hospitals, police – you.
http://www2.palmbeachpost.com/moderndayslavery/reports/realcost1209.html

“”If any other U.S. industry used business practices that caused long-term social costs on this scale, literally billions of dollars a year, Congress would hit them with an impact fee or regulate the practices out of existence,” labor analyst Kinney said. “But who’s going to make the argument? Poor farm workers who came from worse poverty across the border who are here illegally? Giant companies piling up profits? The consumer who appears to be getting bargain-priced fruits and vegetables because they can’t see the hidden costs?

“This is Big Agriculture’s dirty little secret: They’re still engaged in the shameful labor practices the typical American consumer believes ended decades ago. The reality is these workers will be trapped in poverty. Taxpayers of Florida, California, Texas, New York and the other states that absorb most of agriculture’s throwaway people will pay the price for decades more.””

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 11:26 pm

From How to Pick an Orange? – http://articles.latimes.com/print/2005/jan/02/magazine/tm-oranges01How to Pick an Orange? – http://articles.latimes.com/print/2005/jan/02/magazine/tm-oranges01

Twenty years ago, in an article in Science magazine, Martin and colleague Alan Olmstead analyzed the issues raised by the anti-mechanization lawsuit and the political tenor of the times. They presciently outlined the future that labor-intensive agriculture would face if mechanization research stopped: “Slowing the rate of mechanization is a prescription for increasing the industry’s vulnerability to foreign producers and intensifying the pressure on American fruit and vegetable farmers to import foreign workers who are willing to work for low wages. This could complicate the nation’s already serious immigration dilemma and perpetuate the ‘harvest-of-shame’ wages and working conditions that isolate the harvest labor market from other U.S. labor markets. Instead of preserving a labor-intensive industry dependent on alien workers in the United States, a rational strategy might be to phase out dependence on foreign workers by mechanizing wherever possible and importing more of the commodities that cannot be mechanized.”

So call “libertarians” embrace the Harvest-of-Shame and all of the myriad social ills that mass unskilled immigration inevitably brings to any nation so afflicted. Sensible Americans don’t.

vanderleun July 12, 2011 at 6:10 pm

No, what we’ll have to do instead is build a comprehension machine for Tabbarock and pay someone to maintain him: “we have turned good workers into criminals and turned criminals into bad workers, losing on both ends of the deal. Incredible.” Sigh.

Here’s the deal: If you are an “illegal immigrant” you are, by definition, a criminal already. What you’ve got here is (unconvicted)(undeported) criminals vs. convicted criminals.

bjk July 12, 2011 at 7:46 am

Being pro-open borders is like being a pacifist. It’s great for striking moral poses, just as long as it never becomes actual policy.

Bo July 12, 2011 at 8:30 am

Right, because the policy we have now is really practical.

rp July 12, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Fallacy of the Excluded Middle, FTW.

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 2:57 pm

A useful quote on the reality of immigration.

Seeing Today’s Immigrants Straight (http://www.city-journal.org/html/16_3_immigration_reform.html)

“If someone proposed a program to boost the number of Americans who lack a high school diploma, have children out of wedlock, sell drugs, steal, or use welfare, he’d be deemed mad. Yet liberalized immigration rules would do just that. The illegitimacy rate among Hispanics is high and rising faster than that of other ethnic groups; their dropout rate is the highest in the country; Hispanic children are joining gangs at younger and younger ages. Academic achievement is abysmal.

Conservatives pride themselves on reality-based thinking that rejects utopian theories in favor of facts on the ground. Yet when it comes to immigration, they cling, against all contrary evidence, to the myth of the redeeming power of Hispanic family values, the Hispanic work ethic, and Hispanic virtue. Even more fanciful is the claim that it is immigrants’ children who constitute the real value to American society. The children of today’s Hispanic immigrants, in fact, are in considerable trouble.”

Rahul July 12, 2011 at 8:39 am

Of all the western nations USA has been fairly pro-open borders for a long time. And the policy seems to have worked reasonably well. Not sure which immigration unfriendly nations bjk looks up to.

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 8:45 am

Further, recent history comes down on erring on the side of pacifism too. So, bjk you need to find a better analogy.

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 8:46 am

The non-pacifists have Hitler, which is both an extreme case and a even still a debatable situation.

Rahul July 12, 2011 at 8:55 am

Is Hitler debatable? Who thinks he was working out well?

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 9:38 am

Hitler is the poster-child for anti-appeasement, which is not the same thing as armed pacifism by the way (I would never appease an invader with OUR territory, what other people call appeasement is really entangling alliances). But even WWII is not as much of a no-brainer case for pre-emptive war as most people assume. That’s all.

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 9:49 am

Don’t get hung up on Hitler. I said he’s their best argument. Think about all the wars we have had, and importantly those we haven’t. A lot of people wanted us to attack the Soviet Union for example.

rp July 12, 2011 at 12:21 pm

You said:

But even WWII is not as much of a no-brainer case for pre-emptive war as most people assume. That’s all.

Please elaborate.

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 12:58 pm

You said:
But even WWII is not as much of a no-brainer case for pre-emptive war as most people assume. That’s all.
Please elaborate.

Hitler almost lives up to Hitler, so again, he’s the best argument against pacifism. I have a feeling I’ll have to keep repeating that caveat. What would have happened had we not joined the war in Europe? That’s the question. Possibly the war in the pacific would have been over faster. Possibly the Soviet Union wouldn’t have occupied half of Europe for half a century. More Jews would have died but you can hardly claim that we did a heck of a lot to save them a priori. Does Hitler get nukes first? I don’t know, but again that is hindsight. Would Hitler have conquered the entire planet? Of course not. Would Stalin have conquered all of Europe? Nope. If someone really tallies up the actual possibilities and not the chicken little hyperbole, where I come out is that we could have sat out the European theater, maybe just helped defend England and not have the end of the world as people often claim. And it’s not inconceivable. We allowed the people in the Soviet Bloc to live under repression until their system collapsed. Where we intervened militarily (Vietnam, Afghanistan/CIA, etc) we cost a lot of lives and yielded little benefit. I have faith in our system overall.

Mike July 12, 2011 at 9:41 am

The denial of reality here is outrageous. I don’t know any country in the world other than the US and Israel where enforcement of immigration laws is considered unwise, oppressive and racist.

It wouldn’t dawn on me or any Americans I know to slip across the borders of a foreign nation, take illegal employment, operate vehicles unlawfully, steal the identities of citizens, consume publicly provided goods and services without paying taxes, and then expect complete amnesty, a path to citizenship, to bring my extended family there, and face absolutely no consequences.

I’m supportive of more legal immigration when labor, such as farm labor, is needed, but tell me who used to do this work before illegal immigrants arrived, and what are they doing now? Who made our hotel beds? Who worked in restaurant kitchens?

With 9% unemployment nationally, up to 20% in some areas and for some demographic groups, homeless people on our streets and in shelters, and high labor underutilization, how can we let these foreigners take jobs?

Perhaps the government dole has become so large that the pinch of hunger no longer motivates a man to work here. Work, somewhere, at least part time, should be compulsory for convicts and those receiving social assistance.

Noah Yetter July 12, 2011 at 9:50 am

Of course it would never occur to you to do those things. You have the good fortune of already living in what is by far the richest nation (per capita) on Earth. Our fellow human beings to the south are not so lucky.

The whole point of the article is that Americans do not want and often cannot do the jobs that immigrants take.

Someone from the other side July 12, 2011 at 9:56 am

Used to be richest nation per capita. Has not been for quite a while, and it is not even true if we look at PPP GDP anymore.

Jamie_NYC July 12, 2011 at 10:02 am

“Americans do not want and often cannot do the jobs that immigrants take.” This is such a pabulum that I have to comment. What do they do in Canada without Mexicans? Who washes the dishes there, mows the lawns, collects garbage? Just because illegal immigrants occupy these jobs right now, it does not follow that they will go unfilled without illegals. Adjustment will take time, but it is eminently doable.

There are a lot of developed countries that severely restrict immigrating from poor nations: Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Finland. Some of them have relatively high immigration rates, but immigration policy is based on selecting people that would most benefit those already there (point systems in Canada and Australia).

Rahul July 12, 2011 at 10:17 am

@Jamie_NYC:

I question your assumptions:

Are you sure that the current crop of immigrants is not benefiting the nation? I agree we could our immigrants select better but I still think the current crop of immigrants are a net benefit.

The question isn’t if the US could cope without the low end labor immigrants; I am sure we could. The question is would that be an adjustment for good or worse.

The Anti-Gnostic July 12, 2011 at 11:04 am

“You have the good fortune of already living in what is by far the richest nation (per capita) on Earth.”

That’s why rich nations with high capital investment per worker engage in trade with poor nations with low capital investment per worker. There is no good reason for a rich nation literally to import a poor nation.

“Our fellow human beings to the south are not so lucky.”

Well if you feel so bad for them, why don’t you take that part of your salary that exceeds their average wage and send it there? Or better yet, they can all move to YOUR neighborhood and go to school with YOUR kids. Alternatively, capital flows and trade can raise the standard of living in both countries instead of LOWERING the rich country’s standards to the global mean.

Really, the “you can’t see borders from space” crowd is no different than the Southern planter Luddites. “Why suh, how am ah suh-post to grow cotton if ah can’t hi-uh a team of stout darkeh’s to pick it? What am ah suh-post to do, invent some sort of auto-mated cotton-pickin’ device?”

The General July 12, 2011 at 11:27 am

The A-G, I hope your kids never have to go to school with brown people. The horror!

Can they afford your neighborhood?

J Thomas July 12, 2011 at 12:42 pm

You have the good fortune of already living in what is by far the richest nation (per capita) on Earth. Our fellow human beings to the south are not so lucky.

Obvious solution: Arrange some way to annex Mexico.

If every Mexican state became a US state then they would have representation proportional to their population.

The USA would then be a much poorer nation per capita, at least for awhile, which would do us good. We would no longer have illegal mexican immigrants because they would all be citizens. Americans could look for investment possibilities in Mexico, knowing that the Mexican government would not be allowed to do anything a whole lot more stupid than US states do.

This is something we need to start negotiating. Mexicans would probably be resistant to the idea at first.

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 2:17 pm

NY,

The vast majority of illegals don’t work in agriculture (95%+). They do construction, wash dashes, cut grass, etc.

Will American’s do those things? Of course, they all get done in every part of America not overrun by illegals.

Americans mine coal and work in red hot steel mills. For a reasonable wage, Americans will do anything. This is about cheap labor and pretensions of moral superiority (and crude racial politics).

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 10:17 am

“The denial of reality here is outrageous. I don’t know any country in the world other than the US and Israel where enforcement of immigration laws is considered unwise, oppressive and racist.”

What are you talking about?

Even if the opinion of other countries who are often even dumber than we are mattered, did Alex say “unwise, oppressive and racist.”?

No, he said it basically raises labor costs. That may or may not be unwise, oppressive, and racist, but it’s a fact.

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 11:09 am

We did the experiment. There were problems, there are problems, and there will continue to be problems. What didn’t happen was the sky falling and exponential influx of an unwashed horde.

The Anti-Gnostic July 12, 2011 at 11:46 am

The General – no, and that’s how I like it. And I just hope the elites don’t import so many people to put the price of segregation out of my reach while they can still afford their exclusive white enclaves from which they lecture me on how bigoted I am.

Nick July 12, 2011 at 12:44 pm

“I’m supportive of more legal immigration when labor, such as farm labor, is needed, but tell me who used to do this work before illegal immigrants arrived, and what are they doing now? Who made our hotel beds? Who worked in restaurant kitchens?”

Answer: Immigrants from Europe

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 1:36 pm

Or noone. Make something too expensive to produce tomorrow and we don’t just get more expensive workers for free without losing what the more expensive labor is doing today. We get fewer cars or fewer cucumbers.

Racism, by the way, argues FOR immigration if you believe one race could have a higher average heat tolerance for example.

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Nick,

Try reading some history. America ended mass immigration from Europe around 1920. Somehow we fought and won WWII and enjoyed decades of prosperity without Open Borders. Around 1970 mass immigration resumed.

Notably, that’s just about when “The Great Stagnation” began. See any connection between mass immigration and stagnating productivity and soaring inequality?

Probably not.

Morgan Warstler July 12, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Mike, it sounds like you’d do it, if we stopped taking care of you here.

Tangurena July 12, 2011 at 2:50 pm

>” I don’t know any country in the world other than the US and Israel where enforcement of immigration laws is considered unwise, oppressive and racist.”

I am aware of both Germany and Japan where people who have lived in those countries all their lives were illegals and thus deported. In the case of Germany, even Turks residing there for 3 generations are not Germans. In the case of Japan, there have been a number of people deported who were born in Japan, speak nothing but Japanese and identify solely as Japanese.

Less than 20% of the countries in the world practice “jus soli” where citizenship is a function of where you were born. The majority practice “jus sanguinis” where you’re a citizen if your parents are citizens.

Rahul July 12, 2011 at 3:47 pm

The German laws changed a while ago. All Turks born in Germany are eligible for citizenship I believe.

The pragmatic (and humane) option seems to practice jus sanguinis and jus soli at the same time. I suspect the modern world will naturally trend towards adopting this policy (many nations already do).

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Rahul,

Ireland changed its laws a few years ago. They abolished birthright citizenship. It was actually a referendum. The entire establishment favored birthright citizenship. The people votes 4:1 to end it.

Vox Populi

Phogmahone July 18, 2011 at 2:57 pm

“Ireland changed its laws a few years ago. They abolished birthright citizenship. ……. The entire establishment favored birthright citizenship.”

This is incorrect .The establishment wanted to get rid of it and they are the ones who pushed for a vote on it though not against much resistance .

ziel July 12, 2011 at 7:46 am

The timing for the crackdown might not have been best if indeed there was a crackdown right at harvest time, but employers and new workers will adapt. Using parolees not a good idea – these people are proven to have high time-value and so not likely to be good workers.

We’ll see if this perennial disaster – “fruit lay rotting in the fields” from displaced illegal immigrants – actually ever manifests itself in ways that consumers ever notice – like “Hey, where’s my peaches!?” So far, year-after-year, it’s a false alarm designed to rile up the libertarians.

Pedro d'Aquino July 12, 2011 at 8:00 am

It will probably be along the lines of “Why are my peaches so expensive?”

Nick Bradley July 12, 2011 at 11:48 am

Exactly. There won’t be a shortage — you’ll just have to buy a lot more peaches from greenhouses that cost more.

ziel July 12, 2011 at 12:31 pm

We’ll see. We get these armageddon stories every year and nothing ever comes of them – no shortages, no outrageously priced produce. I suspect the same will be true this year – or do you think “this time It’s different!” – ha.

joshua the postlibertarian July 12, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Exactly. Supply and demand have a funny way of lurching toward solutions, even despite obstacles. The hullabaloo about the law and rotting crops all came out around the same time. I wanna know what it looks like a couple months from now. Maybe criminals aren’t good workers, maybe some skills take some time to learn, but American citizens picked these crops before the immigrants did, and American citizens can again. 11,000 missing workers is a pretty small number, especially when the state has 100,000 on unemployment benefits and a total population of 10,000,000. There are a lot of perverse incentives at play here, but surely somebody‘s going to take those open positions. I’m not saying it won’t be a net loss when it’s all said and done, maybe even a substantial one, but I’m not ready to believe it will be a disaster just yet.

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 2:24 pm

PA,

Three errors.

1. Peaches are tradeable. Libertarians are supposed to believe in free markets and free trade.
2. Low wages are embedded in land values. If wages rise, land values will fall. The total cost of production won’t materially increase.
3. Field labor is a very tiny fraction of the cost of a supermarket peach.

Keep trying..

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 2:31 pm

PA,

Three errors.

1. Peaches are tradeable. Libertarians are supposed to believe in free markets and free trade.
2. Low wages are embedded in land values. If wages rise, land values will fall. The total cost of production won’t materially increase.
3. Field labor is a very tiny fraction of the cost of a supermarket peach.

Keep trying..

RZ0 July 12, 2011 at 8:02 am

In other labor markets – say, doctors – a wage increase might be in order.

Noah Yetter July 12, 2011 at 9:52 am

Agricultural margins are razor-thin. If farmers in Georgia raise their prices, they will be not be competitive with farmers in other states without draconian laws. Letting the fruit rot is their profit-maximizing option (which we could infer anyway by Revealed Preference).

The Anti-Gnostic July 12, 2011 at 11:09 am

LOL at “draconian laws.” Try wandering into any other nation with no grasp of the language and no documentation and let me know if they allow your feet to touch the ground.

Nick Bradley July 12, 2011 at 11:50 am

Did you even read the article?

Matt Waters July 12, 2011 at 5:49 pm

I wouldn’t call 10 years in prison just “enforcing immigration laws.” Making the punishment the same as manslaughter or rape is beyond insanity.

DK July 12, 2011 at 8:38 pm

The primary goal of punishment is deterrence. The prison time is not set based on some moral considerations but rather on what works. If two years works – great, no need for anything longer! But if ten doesn’t, it should be increased.

J Thomas July 12, 2011 at 10:38 pm

Ten years in prison is not an unreasonable punishment for a farmer who hires illegal immigrants.

Matt Waters July 13, 2011 at 2:08 pm

DK: People speed all the time. Clearly a $100 speeding ticket does not sufficiently deter people from speeding. Should we keep increasing punishments until all people stop speeding? No, there needs to be a sense of proportionality.

Floccina July 12, 2011 at 1:03 pm

There is u-pick.

Slocum July 12, 2011 at 8:14 am

Long term, the most likely outcome is that delicate fruits and vegetables that require hand-picking will increasingly imported from South and Central American and U.S. farmers will be forced to switch to lower-value crops where the harvesting can be done mechanically (mirroring the pattern in manufacturing). Either that or the farmers will prove to have enough political power to get the rule changes reversed (or a seasonal guest worker program instituted).

Rahul July 12, 2011 at 8:35 am

It puzzles me why more guest worker immigration is not encouraged in agriculture operations. There’s hardly any local competition so doubt there’s any significant American lobby opposing this. These are jobs that Americans just don’t want to do themselves.

Pedro d'Aquino July 12, 2011 at 9:09 am

I agree with you that this is a possible outcome, but the whole idea is to let the market allocate the resources efficiently. And the best way to do this is opening the border. Maybe the combination of mexican workes + American lands has a comparative advantage over other countries.

Rahul July 12, 2011 at 9:16 am

The problem with the current morass of immigration law is that we over depend on the skill of some central immigration czar to decide piecemeal which and how much immigration is good for the country. Agreed that this winnowing does needs to happen at some level and extent, but today’s US systems have made it into a spectacle that has little bearing on actual economic efficiency.

The Anti-Gnostic July 12, 2011 at 11:16 am

Sounds like a good argument for abolishing the social democratic State and letting the market regulate international labor and capital flows. No more INS and Homeland Security, no more civil rights and equal access laws and no more welfare to socialize costs and privatize profits. But that’s probably not what you want to hear.

Contemplationist July 13, 2011 at 5:17 pm

+1

I would be for an open border conditional on all the above.

Thomas July 12, 2011 at 8:32 am

Well, if the wage you’re offering gets you nothing but lazy criminals, you might just consider raising the wage.
But that would probably be too crazy…

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 8:44 am

The wage level only gets lazy criminals when immigration policy is used to constrict the labor supply.

The problem is not that either side is wrong in their observations per se, the problem is that most people on each side think they have to line up with a side.

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 10:08 am

Also notice that the governor had to approve the probationers for some reason.

DF Sayers July 12, 2011 at 8:38 am

“None of the probationers could keep pace. Pay records showed the best filled only 134 buckets a day, and some as little as 20. They lingered at the water cooler behind the truck, sat on overturned red buckets for smoke breaks and stopped working to take cell phone calls.”

This is what having your labor chronically undervalued does (especially under prison system slave wages which not only are way below minimum wage, but compel you to work by withholding “good behavior” rewards for cheap labor). People who are used to solving problems one way (i.e. by witholding hard work, and therefore energy, since prison labor isn’t typically rewarded for innovation and hard work) aren’t likely to jump into another problem-solving system with much interest. The lack of innovation or incentives on the one hand probably makes this much worse. It’s not even clear whether or not the physical duress of the job was comparable to the probationers’ work histories. In short – don’t expect big changes from people who haven’t seen much valuable change in the first place.

At least you recognize the real problem: “we have turned good workers into criminals and turned criminals into bad workers.” You don’t get a whole class of people acting in the same way simply because they are inherently bad – its a response to conditions.

Rahul July 12, 2011 at 8:41 am

That assumes that the parolees had a much superior work ethic before they entered the prison system. Not sure if that holds.

Right Wing-nut July 12, 2011 at 8:57 am

VERY unsure that holds. A thief doesn’t steal because he’s into manual labor.

qwan July 12, 2011 at 12:10 pm

Why would a thief steal then?

to quote DF Sayers “its a response to conditions”

Dean Sayers July 12, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Rahul, I’m not necessarily saying that prison is the only thing that factors into this. Assuming that most prisoners were born in the US, entering the same market as migrant workers doesn’t provide nearly as much relative incentive, either.

Prison doesn’t help, though, and I think that’s clear. I’m of the opinion that public institutions should help to solve the problems they confront.

Right Wing-nut, I’m talking about more than just prison: also what goes into the makeup of a person before they choose a life of crime in the first place. “Nothing comes from nothing,” as it were – there is a reason why people do this and that, and I think its pure fantasy to say that more than a negligible number of human beings are innately born with a desire for violent or antisocial activity (or in this case, laziness). I think the opposite is true.

A big part of this issue is, how can we construct and arrange social institutions to combat the generation of violent or apathetic behavior? I think authoritarianism will inevitably backfire; wherever it is necessary (i.e. prisons) its capability to be socially productive (without being more authoritarian) should be fostered. This means more rehabilitative programs, and less criminalization of non-violent, non-anti-social behavior. And there is a point at which we can’t do much more than to rely and trust on people’s constant need to innovate and improve our conditions, too. This is the attitude I’m trying to emphasize by talking about the importance of conditions.

Ren July 12, 2011 at 8:39 am

I understand the point, but the new guys are not going to be as fast as Latinos who have been doing this for years. It takes time to build up heat tolerance and picking skills. New agricultural hands of all demographics don’t reach their top speed immediately. Maybe prisons culd start growing a bit of their own produce and letting people start acquiring some skills.

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 8:47 am

As my old boss used to tell me, ‘that’s not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard.’

Rahul July 12, 2011 at 8:48 am

The fact that the new guys are slower is understandable. What’s sad is that the ex-cons just walk away from the job (and probably prefer to stay unemployed).

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 10:14 am

Zero Marginal Produce.

qwan July 12, 2011 at 12:11 pm

that is actually a really good idea. make a prison’s food system totally sustainable.

The Engineer July 12, 2011 at 8:46 am

Well, it seems that there were some “Latino” workers. They must have been legal, huh? I wonder what happened, or will happen, to their wages? I wonder how many “probationers” will stick with it and become good workers (probably a number greater than zero).

It is strange to read a story like this. What, you expected no unintended consequences for such a radical change in policy in such a short time? That there are kinks in the short term means the policy must be abandoned?

The fact is that the welfare-prison state we live in has created a whole class of people, poor people, who simply do not know how to work. They have poor future time orientation (see description of what the probationers were actually doing instead of working). You don’t fix the root cause of the problem overnight. But getting these people to work picking fruit IS the first step on the road to fixing the problem and getting the underclass to work again.

Thomas July 12, 2011 at 8:56 am

Turning criminals into bad workers doesn’t sad like a loss to me. At most there’s loss only on the other end of the deal.

Thomas July 12, 2011 at 8:57 am

*sound*

Lou July 12, 2011 at 10:00 am

That’s because you’re not the employer. You might change your mind, however, when you start paying double for fruits and vegetables, particularly if you’re one of the poor people that liberals really care about.

Bernard Guerrero July 12, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Jokes on you, poor folk don’t eat veggies. :^)

Ted Craig July 12, 2011 at 8:58 am

Part of the appeal of illegal immigrants is their illegality. It costs a lot of legally hire somebody, even a guest worker.That’s why it’s something of an intellectual con game when people like Alex uses immigrants and illegal immigrants interchangeably. It can be a lot cheaper to buy a stolen TV off the back of a truck than to buy one at Best Buy.

Mike July 12, 2011 at 9:40 am

Except in this case the labor is not actually stolen, but given voluntarily. It’s illegality protects no one except Best Buy (metaphorically.)

Ted Craig July 12, 2011 at 10:03 am

Not really. It gives farmers an advantage over other businesses. Manufacturers wind up shipping their plants overseas to get cheap labor. In a sense, it’s another government subsidy.

Rahul July 12, 2011 at 10:05 am

Immigration violations are irrelevant under natural law, unlike stealing. The illegality of immigration is a man made construct. It still makes it illegal, but it is a stretch to morally equate an illegal immigrant with a store robber.

The Anti-Gnostic July 12, 2011 at 10:17 am

The State’s borders are owned by its citizens, who are free to restrict ingress as they see fit, just as you are free to restrict ingress to your property as you see fit.

Under natural law, all movement off your own property requires the permission of adjoining property owners. And since people take up space and generate waste, your importation of 10,000 Meso-Americans to work in sub-standard conditions on your plantation gives me a say on the load you’re putting on the commons.

The General July 12, 2011 at 10:31 am

Would it be a violation of “natural law” to prohibit people of Jewish descent from crossing your state border?

The Anti-Gnostic July 12, 2011 at 11:11 am

No. There is no fundamental right to cross somebody else’s border.

How do you feel about Arab immigration to Israel, btw? How about Israeli immigration into Palestine?

The Anti-Gnostic July 12, 2011 at 11:20 am

No. There is no fundamental right to cross somebody else’s border.

How do you feel about Arab immigration to Israel, btw? What about Jewish immigration to Palestine?

The General July 12, 2011 at 11:31 am

I’m totally cool with it.

ChinaSuperficial July 12, 2011 at 10:32 am

What is a “Meso-American”?

The Anti-Gnostic July 12, 2011 at 11:25 am

Somebody with acestral roots in Meso-America.

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 11:44 am

Ted Craig,

I’ve always thought of your argument as one FOR legalization.

Nick Bradley July 12, 2011 at 11:56 am

Asinine. You are confusing the right to enter a voluntary contract — letting someone else on your property — with getting collective permission to do so. To extrapolate border laws to private property, you would have to get the permission of your entire neighborhood to let someone visit your house.

The Anti-Gnostic July 12, 2011 at 12:22 pm

This should be real simple for a libertarian:

If all property were privately owned, then all movement off your own property would require permission from your neighbors. There would be no “immigrants.” There would only be owners, tenants and licensees. That’s why immigrants who don’t use the State’s public roads or the State’s due process get shot as trespassers or die in the desert.

The State’s borders are owned by its citizens, no different in essence than the shareholders of Apple owning Apple’s property. Shareholders are 100% free to allow or restrict access to their property as are the citizens.

The General July 12, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Can the citizens also determine whom to expel from the state?

Contemplationist July 13, 2011 at 5:20 pm

A good model here is Switzerland. Granting of citizenship in many cantons is done by petition and referendum of the other citizens. But working/investing/living is easier.

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution

“The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.”

Nick Bradley July 12, 2011 at 11:53 am

“Part of the appeal of illegal immigrants is their illegality”

— this is a fallacy. You would be much better off having legal labor that you can invest in to increase their skills.

Jeff July 12, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Maybe, I doubt there is much interest in investing in farm labor to increase fruit/veg picking skills. I’m sure most farming operations are content with on the job training and incentives.

Michael Cain July 12, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Yes. It varies somewhat from state to state, but to bring in agricultural workers for seasonal work under temporary visas requires that someone pay for recruiting, at least marginal health screening, transportation, and minimum housing standards. The grower may have to deal with state labor department inspections to see that working condition standards are being met. Lots more expenses (and hassles) than hiring local day labor.

Josh Fulton July 12, 2011 at 9:21 am

Hmmmm, if there’s a “shortage,” it looks like maybe they’ll just have to start paying more.

Imagine that!

RJ July 12, 2011 at 2:14 pm

John Fulton! I’ve seen your standup in Boston! Now you’re a politician?

RJ July 12, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Whoops, I meant Josh, sorry, typed too quickly on my phone.

Josh Fulton July 14, 2011 at 3:03 pm

Ha. Yeah. I’m down here for grad school in creative writing, and thought I’d get into politics a bit.

I’m flattered that you still remember me!

Pedro d'Aquino July 12, 2011 at 2:23 pm

…but because farmers aren’t in the business of losing money, they will charge more, too. Essentially the whole country will pay for the privilege of having fewer immigrants in Georgia.

DK July 12, 2011 at 8:59 pm

That would be preferable to paying for the privilege of having the immigrants. In the first instance because it would be cheaper.

Scoop July 12, 2011 at 9:39 am

Where, oh where, will they ever be able to find workers given that American unemployment is zero?

Seriously, Alex, the fact that you could not replace a large group of people who have specialized in a particular sort of labor with a group that, by definition, hates the effort/pay tradeoff for legitimate unskilled work — and make that swap work almost instantly — does not illustrate anything. To the contrary, the bit about the most skilled guy, the guy who is a human picking machine being able to make a mere $20 an hour illustrates why we need far, far fewer unskilled workers in this country if we want unskilled laborers to have any chance of supporting themselves. $20 an hour is $40,000 a year, if it’s steady work. Using spotty farm work, plus whatever else you can cobble together for the rest of the year, the top guy there just might be making $30,000 a year. And that’s the top guy. No. Labor supply needs to fall and wages need to rise.

Your best argument is that it’s stupid for the states to do this because the labor market is national. If wages rise in Georgia but not elsewhere, the Georgia farms will go out of business (or shift production to something that doesn’t rely on illegal pickers) and the jobs will be lost. But your opponents will beat you by conceding that federal enforcement would be better but that state enforcement is better than the zero that the feds are willing to do.

Rahul July 12, 2011 at 10:29 am

. Labor supply needs to fall and wages need to rise.

And what does that do to prices?

heyref July 12, 2011 at 11:19 am

They go up. And maybe they should go up. Maybe closed borders are expensive. The question is whether maintaining a legal (with all the protections that go with legal status) labor force is worth the cost.

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 11:22 am

Immigration was high when unemployment was low. Immigration is low now that unemployment is high. Immigration is not the cause of our unemployment.

Chris July 12, 2011 at 11:21 am

Why do we want to intentionally use less efficient workers? That seems silly.

Better to focus on giving the low-skilled people more skills, than creating make-work that fits the lowest skill available.

stephen July 12, 2011 at 9:50 am

One seasons harvest: short term cost. Fewer net-tax consumers: long term benefit.

Noah Yetter July 12, 2011 at 9:55 am

Illegal immigrants are NOT net tax consumers.

Ted Craig July 12, 2011 at 10:04 am

According to a meta-study by the CBO, they are.

The Anti-Gnostic July 12, 2011 at 10:06 am

Of course not. They’re hardy entrepeneurs crossing the Rio Grande with their copies of Road To Serfdom held aloft to keep them dry. They wouldn’t even THINK of going to a public hospital or AFDC office. Most of them end up working for the Cato Institute.

Jamie_NYC July 12, 2011 at 10:09 am

Hmm…. how so? They pay zero income taxes and consume… what, imaginary quantity of services (police, firefighters, national security, emergency medical)?

Honesty is a virtue, you know. Even if you don’t win every argument.

The General July 12, 2011 at 10:18 am

Is their net tax consumption less or greater than a legal worker making a comparable wage?

Rahul July 12, 2011 at 10:21 am

It’s a myth that illegal immigrants pay always zero income taxes. Oftentimes the taxes are still withheld at source; they just used a fake SSN. The zero income tax stuff happens only in those cases where they are completely off the books.

ExtramMedium July 12, 2011 at 11:15 am

“they just used a fake SSN”

so they’re guilty of id theft?

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 11:27 am

“so they’re guilty of id theft?”

Not really. ID theft has a completely different connotation. But that is what Alex said. The government made them criminals.

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 2:53 pm

NY,

Every serious study shows illegals are a net tax burden. However, unless you propose to keep them illegal, the real question is the burdens they will impose after Amnesty.

A reasonable estimate is that each low skill immigrant family costs the U.S. (net) $20K per year.

Note that the National Academy of Sciences looked at this 15 years ago and reached similar conclusions (with smaller net losses).

Chris July 12, 2011 at 11:23 am

How about this: make them legal and tax them.

The $20/hr latino picker will generate a lot more tax revenue than the $7.75 parolee.

The Anti-Gnostic July 12, 2011 at 11:39 am

If they are legalized, their wages will go down to $7.75/hr as the farmer recaptures his costs bringing his workplace into compliance for legal labor. Then the immigrants can file for EIC and not pay any taxes. Or the farmer can go out of business.

There’s some phrase on the tip of my tongue that gets us around all these problems. What is it…free trade…comparative advantage…it just escapes me somehow.

Nick Bradley July 12, 2011 at 11:59 am

If they are legalized, their wage will NOT go down to $7.75. Ag wages are higher than other unskilled wages because, well, the work sucks.

The Anti-Gnostic July 12, 2011 at 12:04 pm

Are you speaking from experience, or is this just a fervent hope?

spencer July 12, 2011 at 1:14 pm

Actually the minimum wage for agricultural workers is lower than the general minimum wage.

Nick Bradley July 12, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Because it’s self-evident. All those people making $7.75 an hour would go pick fruit for $20. And are you seriously saying that labor compliance overhead is 150% of wages?

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 11:54 am

Ted Craig,

Is this the report to which you refer?

Here are some of the one money quotes:

In most of
the estimates that CBO examined, however, spending
for unauthorized immigrants accounted for less than 5
percent of total state and local spending for those services.
Spending for unauthorized immigrants in certain
jurisdictions in California was higher but still
represented less than 10 percent of total spending for
those services.

Most of the estimates found that even though
unauthorized immigrants pay taxes and other fees to
state and local jurisdictions, the resulting revenues offset
only a portion of the costs incurred by those jurisdictions
for providing services related to education,
health care, and law enforcement. Although it is difficult
to obtain precise estimates of the net impact of
the unauthorized population on state and local budgets
(see Box 1), that impact is most likely modest.

Federal aid programs offer resources to state and
local governments that provide services to unauthorized
immigrants, but those funds do not fully cover
the costs incurred by those governments. Some of the
reports that CBO examined did not include such
federal transfers when estimating the net effect of
the unauthorized population on state and local
governments.

So, you are probably right although we aren’t sure because they didn’t fully investigate Federal reimbursements, the overall impact is modest, and they we don’t know the alternative which is the costs of more rigorous enforcement. We could also do pretty simple things to compensate like charge user fees for education (such as English as a second language) and law enforcement.

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 11:54 am
J Thomas July 12, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Interesting!

So, the government subsidizes illegal immigrants who work for low pay, which subsidizes the farmers. The illegal immigrants can be sent away whenever they get inconvenient. The farmers vote and make campaign contributions.

So who comes out best from this? The illegal immigrants? The farmers? The farmers’ customers? Consumers?

I guess without enough illegal immigrants subsidized to work cheap, fruit prices will go up. But is that because costs go up? Or is it because somebody somewhere along the line increases his profit margin?

If we had great competition we wouldn’t have profit margins, there would be enough competition to eliminate profits except for whichever competitors have some special edge. But what’s the chance of that?

Rich P July 13, 2011 at 1:13 pm

J Thomas – “So who comes out best from this?”

You missed one answer here: The politicians come out best. The politicians direct the government to subsidize farmers. The politicians receive votes and campaign contributions from the farmers.

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 2:28 pm

A,

Poor model. The Open Borders lobby wants Amnesty which makes illegals a vastly greater burden on society..

The 1996 NAS study found that the low skill legal immigrants are a very large drain on the economy. A Heritage study a decade later found even higher net losses from low skill immigrants. Numerous foreign studies have reach similar conclusions.

None of this should be a surprise. Native poor people are a vast net burden. Why should imported poor people be any better?

The right question is not what do the existing crop of illegals cost the U.S., but what will they cost when they get Amnesty (which the Open Borders crowd invariably favors).

Jack Davis July 17, 2011 at 11:21 am

Excellent suggestion, Chris. Illegal laborers provide needed work, but also cause negative externalities such as health care, education, etc.. at taxpayer expense. A Pigovian tax would solve the shortage of labor problem without busting the budget. (I’ve been waiting to use that word for months:)

Why make the laws then? July 12, 2011 at 9:59 am

Let me preface my comment by saying that I agree with you on the larger point regarding immigration (I’m an immigrant, now a naturalized citizen, so I can speak in the first person of the pareto-improving characteristics of immigration).

But, your conclusion that “we have turned good workers into criminals” is past risible.

*WE* haven’t turned good workers into criminals. THEY broke the law when they entered the country illegally.

Perhaps you, as I’ve seen from some politicians, are not familiar with the meaning of the term “illegal”?

It *means* “contrary to the law”. As in criminal.

So *WE* didn’t turn them into criminals — they *CHOSE* to committ a crime!

This is what makes your statement go beyond being risible, to the level of being contemptible.

Someone committs a crime. And your narrative of the event is that we turned him into a criminal.

Right.

It’s a fine line from this to “society made him do it”.

Why make the laws, Mr. Tabarok?

You know, my family immigrated to the US legally. Did all the paperwork. Waited for years for “our turn”.

It’s a gross perversion to say that I made the other guys, the ones who jumped line, who broke the rules, into criminals.

The General July 12, 2011 at 10:22 am

Methinks it would suit you better to direct your anger at the hoops you had to jump through in order to legally immigrate rather than at those who circumvented the system.

Chris July 12, 2011 at 11:24 am

Creating laws that are meant to be broken ruins respect for the law. Solution: change the law.

Examples: immigration policy, the war on drugs, inappropriately low speed limits.

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 11:29 am

Agree with Chris. Speed limits is the clearest example. Nearly all are too low and intentionally so. Of course people “choose” to break the arbitrary laws, but it takes two to tango.

troy July 12, 2011 at 10:10 am

I’m reading this to say that, without the ability of the farm to make use of illegal labor (who perhaps suffer wage discounts due to being illicit), they are unable to get other laborers to do the work by paying them minimum wage. So they are paying wages that are too low, and should raise them to entice more people to take the jobs. If they can’t purchase their inputs for less than the output they are able to generate with them, it’s not a viable business. If you can’t get people to do the work at minimum wage then it doesn’t really factor in to the story.

Chris July 12, 2011 at 11:26 am

If you can’t get people to work at a wage that allows you to sell the product at a price the consumer will pay, production will shift to less expensive regions of the world.

I’d rather have a legally immigrated mexican picker earning $7.75/hr and paying US taxes on it than a mexican in mexico doing the work and paying $0 US taxes.

Careless July 12, 2011 at 2:09 pm

Are you really unaware of how much more he’ll cost the US as a legal immigrant making that sort of money?

blah July 12, 2011 at 2:24 pm

I take it you haven’t read Alex’s prior thread in which the accepted wisdom seems to be that paying taxes is on par with serfdom/slavery. Guy’s probably better living free of our onerous shackles south of the border.

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 11:31 am

And then people buy marginally more big macs because cucumbers are that much more expensive. Yeah, it’s simple, but not that swooft.

Indy July 12, 2011 at 10:22 am

Eric Hoffer “The True Believer” once picked peas for a living and was later a longshoreman. How do the lazy, unemployed, but otherwise able-bodied criminals survive without the wages from hard but available low learning-curve work? I mean, it’s work hard or watch your family starve and go homeless, right? It’s almost as if they have some kind of preferred alternative to work to acquiring the wealth necessary to achieve a tolerably comfortable level of existence. Maybe the availability of that option has something to do with all this too, but I don’t know, it’s all quite mysterious to me.

Jeff July 12, 2011 at 2:40 pm

Ex-cons may have a lower tolerance for hard work than others, and many Americans are physically incapable of performing farm labor.

I also wonder if work that becomes associated with illegal immigrants becomes denigrated in the eyes of many which makes it less attractive as work.

dave July 12, 2011 at 10:29 am

In my industry we have a good number of H1-B visa’s. They typically earn a lower wage then natives and are more easily abused by management.

We recently had an open position but could not fill it with a native because the wage offered was too low. I know it was too low because we have pretty well defined salary surveys in our industry and they were at or below even the lower bound for the experience level sought. Once they could find someone willing to work at such a low wage, they can claim that Americans don’t or can’t do the job and hire a desperate H1-B to fill it at whatever scraps they will pay him. I don’t believe the lower wage is necessary for competitive purposes either, because our company is making money head over heals and the cost our department represents is minimal while our impact is huge.

Down the line I suspect to get much lower total productivity from the H1-B, as has been my observation that they usually have extremely poor communication, teamwork, and initiative. But for the next quarter they can click the right buttons on the automated processes the last person left behind and the manager that found a way to “save cost” will get a bonus.

I imagine the situation with the fruit pickers isn’t much different, though with the added distortion of welfare at the socioeconomic level.

The General July 12, 2011 at 10:36 am

How much should people get paid to “click the right buttons” on an automated process, in your opinion?

dave July 12, 2011 at 11:53 am

Do you know how knowledge workers function?

In a typical knowledge job you build organizational capital. Systems, people, processes. Its not like your making widgets. When faced with a problem people will work hard to develop a process to solve it. Then they will spend time working on making it more easily automated. And finally they will be able to complete that task with less effort and move onto solving the next problem.

So you can get by doing what your doing by piggy backing on previous effort building processes. But unless your still working on new problems, new processes, or new efficiencies your going to stagnate. It’s not going to show up in the next quarter because you are just following the template already there. But its going to show up down the line when you no longer have a team capable of innovating and meeting new challenges because its a hodgepodge of comparatively low skill immigrants who aren’t very good at working together.

The General July 12, 2011 at 12:37 pm

It will be interesting to see how it turns out (a future Harvard Business Case if it fails). Seems like they are making huge profit margins now; how do they plan to reinvest that?

Everyone makes widgets.

dave July 12, 2011 at 10:51 pm

“how do they plan to reinvest that? ”

Executive bonuses.

Rahul July 12, 2011 at 10:41 am

This does sound like more of an internal management problem than a fault of the immigration policy per se. I doubt we ought to design national immigration policy to protect stupid managers from taking bad cost-saving decisions that harm firms in the long run. (Taking bad decisions is a qualification for becoming a manager anyways ;-) )

Your manager could have committed an equally bad mistake by hiring, say, a underqualfied American at low cost.

dave July 13, 2011 at 10:46 am

Managers are required to hire certified people for the positions. Americans with the certification won’t work for that wage. However, many foreigners manage to get the certification but the problems I listed are still there (and there is a lot of problems with cheating on the certification test abroad).

Jim July 12, 2011 at 10:37 am

>we have turned good workers into criminals

No, they did that all by themselves when they broke in to the country. Try to focus on the facts here.

And the unpleasant fact is that the Feds have their head up their collective ass when it comes to immigration policy, as with most other things. Obviously a guest worker program is the solution here, but apparently it does not create sufficient opportunities for graft, so the Feds have very little interest.

Chris July 12, 2011 at 11:27 am

Civil disobedience is the first step in changing unjust or silly laws.

It was illegal for Rosa Parks to ride at the front of the bus, too.

The General July 12, 2011 at 11:37 am

Sort of, but your point is still valid….

“In 1900, Montgomery had passed a city ordinance for the purpose of segregating passengers by race. Conductors were given the power to assign seats to accomplish that purpose; however, no passengers would be required to move or give up their seat and stand if the bus was crowded and no other seats were available. Over time and by custom, however, Montgomery bus drivers had adopted the practice of requiring black riders to move whenever there were no white only seats left.”

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 12:43 pm

“No, they did that all by themselves when they broke in to the country. ”

No, they didn’t do it all by themselves. Breaking the law required the law.

Richard A. July 12, 2011 at 10:41 am

The solution to a labor shortage is for the employer to pay hire wages. Agribusiness has the H-2A visa which allows them to import foreign indentured labor but they don’t like the prevailing wage provision.

8 July 12, 2011 at 10:47 am

I believe this is what as known as a negotiating tactic. Just like how government always cuts the most popular programs first in order to jam through tax increases.

Richard A. July 12, 2011 at 10:50 am

We have a record number of legal immigrants in the US. Why doesn’t agribusiness hire these legal immigrants? What agribusiness wants is captive labor–labor that is unfree to sell their labor to other employers.

D. Nigel Hayes July 12, 2011 at 11:00 am

Alex T. is on fire these days

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 11:32 am

Correct. Detractors don’t know what they are talking about.

The Anti-Gnostic July 12, 2011 at 11:57 am

On the contrary, it’s abstract analysis from an academic who’s insulated from the consequences of the government’s demographic social engineering. When his hometown is as crowded, polluted and violent as most Third World cities, he’ll say we need better zoning and more police. When he sees his new neighbors resorting to the casual bribery and police corruption that is the norm in most of the world, he’ll reconsider. By then it will be too late.

Morgan Warstler July 12, 2011 at 2:32 pm

hello Steve Sailor, you retard.

TGGP July 13, 2011 at 9:41 pm

You misspelled Sailer.

The Anti-Gnostic July 12, 2011 at 12:00 pm

On the contrary, it’s abstract analysis from an academic who’s still insulated from the consequences of the government’s demographic social engineering. When his hometown is as crowded, polluted and violent as most Third World cities, he’ll say we need better zoning and more police foot patrols. When he sees his new neighbors getting around such policies by the casual bribery and physical threats that are the norm in most of the world, he’ll reconsider. By then it will be too late.

The General July 12, 2011 at 12:42 pm

You are insinuating that immigrants are by nature predisposed to violence, over-crowding, and pollution?

The Anti-Gnostic July 12, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Yes. Just look at their homelands.

It’s an IQ issue. British and French engineers and technicians who came over in the Brain Drain were highly desirable as immigrants. Polish appliance repairmen–Catholic, jovial, honest–they’re good too.

Low IQ Meso-Americans, Africans, Albanians et al., like I say, you want them you can move them to your neighborhood.

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Wrong! Alex is already on record calling for increased police foot patrols.

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Today we have the problem of expensive produce.

How far are we from this future problem of collapse into 3rd world misery?

Considering we have probably already hit peak immigration and didn’t have the end of the world, whose predictions can we believe?

shecky July 12, 2011 at 1:32 pm

The mask slips off…

blah July 12, 2011 at 2:47 pm

“Wrong! Alex is already on record calling for increased police foot patrols.”

Perhaps, but if his attitude is anything like his “house number painting on the curb” attitude he’ll rail about the taxes to pay for it all the while free riding.

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 4:02 pm

“Perhaps, but if his attitude is anything like his “house number painting on the curb” attitude he’ll rail about the taxes to pay for it all the while free riding.”

That’s not exactly correct. One point is that a non-economist will feel the need to have his house number painted. The economist knows this is inefficient and mostly irrational conformity.

ExtraMedium July 12, 2011 at 11:19 am

“they just used a fake SSN.”
so they’re guilty of id theft? that doesn’t help the illegals’ case…

Joe July 12, 2011 at 11:41 am

and the $300 million they supposedly lost was made up by the fact that the state of Georgia will save all that and probably 10x more in less welfare, less cost of schooling and less cost of prisons…..state of california’s prison population is 33% illegal aliens….chew on that while you wailing about fruit and vegetable pickers who actually move on to better jobs after a year or two now anyway, because they have no fear of being deported as it is…wait until its your $15/hour job they take…

qwan July 12, 2011 at 12:15 pm

anyone who uses the word alien to describe another human, is severely disconnected from their own humanity and thus reality. and i feel sorry for them.

Careless July 12, 2011 at 2:26 pm

What the hell? You’re talking about a word as old as the English language that always meant other humans until the fairly recent past.

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 2:36 pm

qwan,

You have a problem with the dictionary. Get over it.

al·ien
   [eyl-yuhn, ey-lee-uhn] Show IPA
–noun
1. a resident born in or belonging to another country who has not acquired citizenship by naturalization ( distinguished from citizen).
2. a foreigner.
3. a person who has been estranged or excluded.

The General July 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm

source on that %? Are they in jail BECAUSE they are “illegal” aliens?

When was the last time you lost your job to an illegal alien? Did you really want to land that leaf-blower gig for 50 cents an hour?

k July 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm

That’s an interesting conclusion. I wonder what the costs are to making the illegal immigrants legal.

A lot of people here are supposing that immigrants don’t want to contribute to (US) society, and I believe that it may be too costly to them to do so.

In any case, Mexican immigration has slowed down considerably as the country has done better.

Mercy Vetsel July 12, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Simply asinine. Of course importing illiterate peasants for agriculture work lowers labor costs (e.g. wages) and of course these people work hard for the money.

This post is exactly the sort of incessant mortal posturing and straw man building that make it impossible for us to have a rational pro-immigration border policy and/or guest worker program as they do in Canada, Australia and Singapore.

Nothing better illustrates the utter worthlessness of academic libertarians to the cause of liberty than their embrace of selecting immigrants (and future voters) based solely on their willingness to break the law.

-Mercy

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 2:13 pm

“Nothing better illustrates the utter worthlessness of academic libertarians to the cause of liberty than their embrace of selecting immigrants (and future voters) based solely on their willingness to break the law.”

QOTD.

Rahul July 12, 2011 at 3:38 pm

Peter, so what’s your political position I am sincerely curious. Obviously, you don’t like libertarians. I doubt you are left wing either. What;s your flavor?

dirk July 12, 2011 at 2:14 pm

“This post is exactly the sort of incessant mortal posturing and straw man building that make it impossible for us to have a rational pro-immigration border policy and/or guest worker program as they do in Canada, Australia and Singapore.”

There’s no moral posturing here. He’s not talking about the plight of the poor immigrants. (That’s the moral posturing on this issue — and even that moral posturing is a straw-moral posturing the reactionaries moral posture against.) He’s spelling out the facts. These facts sound to me like a strong basis for a discussion about a rational pro-immigration border policy and guest worker program.

A guest worker program would be a much better solution for migrant workers who travel to the U.S. to work but who prefer to retain their Mexican identity instead of becoming Americans. Get rid of the anchor baby law, allow no the path to citizenship for Mexican migrant workers, and have an immigration policy which makes it easier for Eastern Europeans to come to American.

Thanks to Alex’s strong post, I had some context to make this rational pro-immigration/guest worker comment.

Morgan Warstler July 12, 2011 at 2:30 pm

This mistake you make is in assuming that those born here deserve any extra help just because their neighbor is kicking ass in the global market.

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm

“based solely on their willingness to break the law.”

No, the law is arbitrary. It only filters the Mexicans. The real filter is the individual’s ability to do a job better than their competition. They achieve this despite the added burden of the border filter.

Bernard Yomtov July 12, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Amazing to me how quickly I go from calling one of Alex’s posts idiotic to agreeing whole-heartedly with the next.

John July 12, 2011 at 1:31 pm

Ted Craig probably feels the same, but with the ordering reversed.

Floccina July 12, 2011 at 1:05 pm

Does anyone know how much it costs per pound to have peaches picked?

Lou July 12, 2011 at 1:57 pm

How’s this for a compromise: we’ll accept any immigrant who is willing to work in the USA, but in exchange we’ll send one American union worker back to the immigrant’s country of origin.

Morgan Warstler July 12, 2011 at 2:28 pm

+1

Danny Noonan July 12, 2011 at 2:30 pm

I’m already preparing my “Lou for 2012″ buttons as we speak, er… type.

Really sad to watch the immigration debate in the US. Illegal immigration is basically a big subsidy that allows for easily exploitable labor. Normally, the Democrats would scream bloody murder about such a thing, but they derive political advantage both from (1) lots of brown people, and (2) conditions that inure those brown people stay nice and poor. And so people who have spent their entire lives decrying economic exploitation- happily sign up to insure it in this context.

And most businesses in this country that utilize low-skilled labor, either play along and hire illegal immigrants, or they have to leave the field. Literally in this case.

We deserve better. And when I say we, I’m including the poor guy who will die of dehydration today somewhere in an Arizona desert.

Jeff July 12, 2011 at 2:43 pm

Yeah! Fuck those union guys for wanting to get paid more!

Andrew' July 12, 2011 at 4:04 pm

No, fuck them for using a club to get paid more.

Jeff July 12, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Yes, you’re right. All unions members are thugs, and all capitalists are GALTIAN HEROES.

Matt Waters July 12, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Unions are a cartel on labor. Period. You can’t do electrical work in many places without IBEW workers. You could do the work yourself or you can hire a perfectly legal American nonunion worker, but laws require you to use union labor. If you don’t, then the locality fines you. If you don’t pay the fines, then you are forcibly taken to jail.

That’s coercion and, at the end of the day, thuggery. All cartels require some form of violence to keep those outside the cartel from infringing on the monopoly. That could be patent laws using the US government to enforce a monopoly or it could be union labor laws keeping a monopoly on labor.

Jeff July 12, 2011 at 6:44 pm

@Matt

Unions are a counter to the coersive, thuggish power of capital. In your libertarian political theory, you may see unions as being coersive, but in practice, historically, capital is quite oppressive when it gets to run wild over labor. You’ve probably read a lot of wonderful philosophers with wonderful theories about how people can live wonderful lives without horrid, leftist things like government and unions, but in the real world, if the weak don’t organize, they get trampled (“enslaved” in libertarian lingo) by the powerful.

Now, if there are laws which you disagree with, I strongly suggest you organize (like people forming a union?) with other like minded people to change those laws.

J Thomas July 12, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Jeff, I agree with you that factory workers etc who do not organize will do poorly, in general, and will be trampled by the powerful.

However, those who do organize effectively will only manage to join the exploiting class. That won’t do anything to help the ones who’re still weak.

They’re fundamentally no better than the AMA.

I don’t see anything particularly wrong with them doing that, if they can manage it. Like, if somebody manages to set up a tollgate on the road and charges everybody who goes by, and somebody else manages to set up a tollgate on the path the first guy uses to reach his tollgate and charges him, that’s like poetic justice. Nothing particularly wrong with it.

But it doesn’t help me any. Chances are I’m going to wind up paying for both of them.

What helps me is if there’s some way for hundreds of millions of Americans to set up their own private businesses and make a go of it. If everybody had a good alternative to being employees, then employers would treat their employees better — and if they didn’t, it wouldn’t much matter because their employees could just quit.

It’s the labor surplus that’s the problem. When most of the work force has no choice but to find jobs, and there aren’t enough jobs to go around, then free enterprise says to adjust the population downward until there is no longer a labor surplus. And unions only separate the have-jobs from the have-nots. “I’ve got mine, Jack.”

Jeff July 13, 2011 at 3:13 am

Unions have lobbied for labor laws which benefit unionized and non-unionized workers. I actually don’t agree with all labor laws, and unions have pushed for policies which harmed their industry (e.g., the NHL). As far as a “way for hundreds of millions of Americans to set up their own private businesses and make a go of it[,]” I would like that to be possible. I can remember advocating that in my political philosophy class in college – I was the class libertarian. But two decades later, after college, crappy jobs, grad school, law school and practicing law, I have a much less sanguine view of human potential.

Lou July 13, 2011 at 10:07 am

If unions simply “organized”, that would be fine. But that’s not what they do. They game the democratic system to enrich themselves. Benjamin Franklin famously said the Founding Fathers created “a Republic, if you can keep it”. They were well aware of the danger of mobs using the ballot box to confiscate wealth, but they trusted the character of American people. Unions have betrayed that trust and have become a danger to this country. Indeed, look what they’ve done to the world’s oldest democracy- Greece. Greece is a window into our own future if we don’t get unions and other redistributionists out of our government.

Matt Waters July 13, 2011 at 2:20 pm

Jeff,

I will say that unions counterbalance the political influence of corporations is a more worthwhile argument. It was a stronger argument though in the 19th century. Then, labor markets were far more inefficient and many employees had no recourse to working in a certain factory.

Today, the only truly effective unions are those granted implicit monopolies. The public-sector teachers union in California, for example, has “negotiated” a pension starting at 50 at 80% of their last salary. 80% of their salary for doing nothing! For the rest of their lives! Construction unions in Chicago also earn much higher wages than elsewhere and it isn’t like non-union construction workers were dying on the streets during the construction boom (I’ve worked personally in union and non-union construction sites across the country). As Thomas says, those unions have become part of the plutocratic elite rather than great forces standing against them.

Paul Johnson July 12, 2011 at 2:16 pm

There’s a “shortage”? How about the pay rate is uncompetitive? If the farmers paid $20/hour think there would be no good workers? Illegal immigration has accustomed them to pay lower than the true market rate.

Morgan Warstler July 12, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Dude, THEY PAY $20 per hour, you just have to have fast hands and work like a dog.

Paul Johnson July 12, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Right! So if this became the norm for a good worker, and the word got out, workers like Jose Ranye would find their way to Georgia. Since Jose is the first and most experienced he would get promoted to supervisor.

Paul Johnson July 12, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Should have added this: illegal immigration is a barrier to people like Jose Ranye and his family moving up the income ladder.

Danny Noonan July 12, 2011 at 3:03 pm

From the perspective of the Democratic party, that’s the point.

Rahul July 12, 2011 at 3:54 pm

Having a fake ID, a first-time offense can be up to 10 years, and a $100,000 fine

I’d be very curious to see some follow up study on the impact this might have on underage drinking. Unintended side effects?

I live in Madison, WI, a college town, and Friday nights downtown bars are teeming with fake-ID toting coeds. I’m waiting for some overzealous prosecutor to slap a long jail term on a cute 19 year old. The uproar that follows would probably herald the natural demise of this law.

Jamie_NYC July 12, 2011 at 5:32 pm

“I live in Madison, WI, a college town”

I see… That explains it.

Indy July 12, 2011 at 4:34 pm
James Davies July 12, 2011 at 4:40 pm

As pointed out above, when we restrict the labor supply, that generally means that employers have to start paying higher wages. That’ at least what economics tells you. And yes, this will increase the cost of fresh berries, just as when Congress, the AMA and medical schools work tirelessly to keep the supply of doctors at roughly a third of the number they should be in our country, we should not be surprised that health care is expensive. There’s a cost to policy decisions.

Matt Waters July 12, 2011 at 5:59 pm

That’s not all economics says, however. If the demand curve is elastic, then volume may drop dramatically, perhaps all the way to zero, if supply is throttled. Many farms in Georgia will probably idle because production elsewhere will pick up their slack with illegals.

J Thomas July 12, 2011 at 11:52 pm

Yes, but in the short run it takes 5+ years to get a new orchard producing.

Matt Waters July 13, 2011 at 2:27 pm

I don’t mean to demagogue the issue, but that sounds extremely socialistic. It’s like saying “We could raise the top rate to 90% and in the short-run most rich people won’t stop working.” As Thatcher said, however, the issue with socialism is eventually you run out of other people’s money. So we could try to artificially raise wages in agriculture by limiting immigration, but eventually production will move elsewhere. And if it doesn’t move elsewhere, consumer tastes will switch to foods that can be mechanized because non-mechanized foods will become too expensive.

In other words, both supply and demand curves become much more elastic as the time frame increases. And at a certain point the demand curve intercepts the y-axis, i.e. at a certain wage the demand goes to zero. Considering that even the lowest of the low of American workers couldn’t stand one day in the fields, the wage needed to meet the American supply curve is probably much higher than where the demand curve meets the y-axis.

Jack Davis July 17, 2011 at 11:33 am

Matt, you’re not demagoging the issue, you’re making perfect sense (not being sarcastic here). Restricting the supply artificially to prop up wages doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Floccina July 12, 2011 at 5:23 pm

It is good to know that it is possible to make $20/hour picking fruit. I am pretty fast when we get u-pick blueberries. This gig could end any time. I know a little Spanish too.

Peter Schaeffer July 12, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Floccina,

Me to. Love em. Picked 35 pounds a few weeks ago.

Brittanicus July 12, 2011 at 7:11 pm

VERY URGENT! DON’T LET TIME RUN OUT..?

Before the August recess of Congress, the American people can aid jobless citizens, legal permanent aliens by insisting that The Legal Workforce Act, H.R. 2164 be brought to the House floor for a vote. Time is of the essence and Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith has an answer, to produce millions of jobs quickly and efficiently requiring the use of E-Verify nationwide that would free up jobs currently held by illegal aliens. This is a chance to help your fellow unemployed countryman by Calling House Leadership NOW Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask for the “Speaker of the House’s office” or the “House Majority Leader’s office. This is a very distasteful situation but birthright and legal individuals have a right to be employed over foreign cheap labor. You can also call the direct lines by dialing:

* House Speaker John Boehner — 202-225-0600
* House Majority Leader Eric Cantor — 202-225-4000

America has been silently invaded and we are heading towards a future of overpopulation. We do not have the financial resources anymore and taking money from US taxpayers to pay for illegal alien’s welfare, emergency hospital visits and more throughout America is wrong. In all the discussions about cutting back on the US treasury deficits, both parties are refusing to consider in these opposed debates, the fact that illegal aliens are compounding this major issue; the dollar amount to the $14.5 Trillion dollars, in this depressed meltdown we are facing. The Department of Homeland Security estimated in 2003, that 8 million to 12 million illegal aliens had settled in America and 700,000 new people enter illegally and stay each year, with 8 million plus taking jobs from low income, middle class workers. This is about illegal immigration? An immigrant is not illegal and people need to be enlightened.

E-Verify will reduce Sanctuary Cities and States policies, counter react The Dream Act, Secure Communities and place on iron fist of another fraudulent Amnesty being enacted. Secure Communitiesis also an excellent policing enforcement tool, but that is already enacted, but receiving negative publicity. Highly skilled Professional workers are always welcome, not indigent ECONOMIC illegal aliens who are driving this country, into a third world condition. We cannot accommodate any longer those who come here to steal welfare and public services from valid Americans. It is estimated that illegal aliens send home by wire transfer around $40 billion dollars annually, which should be going into state treasuries. Join the TEA PARTY; join the people of Black, White, Hispanic and every race and backgrounds who believe in the “Rule of Law.”

PASS THIS INFORMATION ON TO EVERYBODY YOU TRUST.

FE July 12, 2011 at 10:15 pm

How many cucumbers per bucket? From the photo I would guess 50, which is on par with Jose Rayne’s 25-second record (one cuke per hand per second). The rate is 50 cents per bucket. So the wage is one penny per cucumber. It would seem that the farmer could double wages to a princely 2 cents per cuke and the market for cucumbers would still clear. Or is the hypothesis that the cucumber market is so perfectly competitive that a one-penny difference spells ruin?

Hieronymus Bosch July 18, 2011 at 7:06 pm

I am a white person and I have not had a job in a long time, the illegals have all the jobs here.
And they are nasty to anyone who is not Mexican, they deliberately do not learn English, it is a new generation that doesn’t have much respect for anyone but themselves.
They actually think they are taking over Texas.
How do I know all this? Because the trailer next door to me is being used to shuffle illegals into this country.
They have guns and cars, but no drivers license.
One of them was obsessed with his gun and kept shooting over the top of my Rv trailer, I had to get the trailer park owner to go and take the gun away from him.
The local police here will not do anything about them, they told me to call ICE which I did and ICE said they would not start a case without evidence.
I have always prided myself in treating all people with respect, but these guys are making that tough.

whatsogreatabouthat? July 18, 2011 at 8:49 pm

ah yes … let’s build pickin machines so that they can be built in china

Nun July 18, 2011 at 11:45 pm

Teenagers used to do this work in the summer, at least I did as a kid. Today they wouldn’t dare think to lower themselves.

John Williams July 19, 2011 at 1:26 am

The claims that tomatos have been mechanically harvested without field picking since the 1960s are completely inaccurate with no basis in reality.

It’s true that mechanical tomato harvesters were sold in the 1950s and 1960s. These require that tomatoes be picked green, shipped green, then sprayed with nitrogen in order to make the skin reddish and give a false sense of ripeness to a tomato that runs in flavor from astringent to cardboard. There is also tremendous waste with mechanical harvesting. Consumers have rejected these awful products and few tomatoes today are mechanically harvested.

The current national production is around 130,000 acres of tomatoes dedicated to fresh tomatoes producing 1.3 billion pounds of tomatoes. These are harvested by about 9000 tomato pickers nationally. Rounding to the nearest 1%, 0% of tomatoes are mechanically harvested.

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