The Economic Case Against Immigration

We are frequently told that large-scale immigration to a country helps the economy. This idea has been repeated so often that it has become taken for granted in the immigration debate in Western countries.

A quick Google search will tell you who is pushing this idea, and why it isn’t quite what it seems. Here were some of the publications that appeared when I searched “immigration is good for the economy”.

  • George W. Bush Institute
  • Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  • OECD
  • Center For American Progress
  • oureconomy.org
  • Forbes
  • Financial Post

The first page of results are all transparently neo liberal pro-globalization organizations. Check for yourself. What do you think the George W.Bush Bush Institute means when they say immigration helps the economy? How about Forbes or Financial Post? They mean that it helps firms.

Mass immigration helps wealthy investors, bankers, CEOs, and corporate executives because it adds labour to a labour market. According to the law of supply and demand, when you have more of something, it is worth less. When a country has more workers, accomplished through importing labour, the bosses don’t have to compete for them; workers have to compete for the bosses.

How about one of the innocent sounding organizations on the list? The answer is to always check the funders list. Here are some of the funders of oureconomy.org:

  • Cardiano Insights (Investing firm)
  • The Bank of England
  • The philanthropy arm of Blackrock (a five trillion dollar company known for modern-day war profiteering)
  • The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
  • Allen and Overy (International law firm)

I encourage you to check out the funding lists for the other innocent sounding organizations on the list. Maybe start with the dreamily named American Progress. Then repeat the process on page 2,3 and beyond of the articles that extoll the benefits of immigration.

It’s not that they’re wrong: adding people to a country raises the GDP because the people buy items. Corporate revenue also rises because corporations don’t have to spend as much on workers in a labour-saturated environment (think wage increases, benefits, training opportunities, pensions, vacation time, working conditions, night school offers). Prices on some store items also goes down because corporations are making more money.

But a higher GDP, bigger corporate profits, good stock price indexes and cheaper consumer goods are not all there is to an economy. A good economy must mean more than that. If we define the worth of an economy as living standards, wages, pensions, benefits, and dare I say even the general well-being of workers, then large-scale immigration is an unmitigated economic disaster.

In the United States, wages have stagnated since the 1970s. They opened their borders to large scale immigration in 1965. Average hourly wages in Canada have hardly gone up in 40 years. Canada also started to accept more immigrants in the 1970s and 80s. During these same decades, GDP has risen astronomically in both countries. The benefits have accrued disproportionately to the wealthy.

Have you gotten richer?

There are all sorts of explanations to explain this phenomenon. Many so-called libertarians will tell you that it’s not happening, that today’s poor live like kings in comparison to the poor of the past. The rural working class towns should ignore the fact that their paltry wages haven’t adjusted to the cost of living in thirty years and be grateful that their generous multinational employers give them a job at all. There is no limiting principle in their support for open borders to capital and labour, even to the detriment of their countrymen.

Many progressives will tell you “don’t blame immigrants for low wages, blame the greedy corporations”. Here’s Russell Brand doing just that. Of course, this is just a meaningless talking point. It isn’t blaming immigrants to point out that corporations are lobbying governments to admit massive amounts of labour to over-saturate a labour market in order to keep the wages of workers constant.

Progressives recognize that corporations are doing something to lower wages, because they have a natural suspicion of companies and a sympathy for workers. But they approach the brink of realization and turn back. They wouldn’t be disturbed if the main wage-lowering mechanism was an obscure regulation or tax clause, but they just can’t quite bring themselves to realize that corporations have done the most grotesque thing. They are using people. Lobbying for mass immigration allows corporations to pay lower wages and give less benefits to native-born and immigrant workers alike.

A small amount of immigration does actually make sense economically. For example allowing a limited amount of skilled artisans from a foreign country to set up shop in your country (say, Japanese specialized ‘white charcoal’ makers) could theoretically help the host country since they would not be competing for the jobs of locals. They could even hire and teach locals their unique skills.

What I am talking about, of course, is the large-scale immigration of people who will become software developers, journalists, doctors, fast-food workers, agricultural labourers, nurse aides, assembly line workers, and so on. We already have people here who are qualified or working hard to become qualified for these jobs. This type of immigration, which has characterized the annual inflow into the West since about the 1980s, causes an over-saturated labour market which is good for the boss and bad for the worker.

As a rule, if corporations support a policy, that policy and their arguments defending it have to be viewed with suspicion. This is not because corporations are bad, it’s because what benefits a corporation is not the same thing as what benefits a nation. We must not be ashamed of looking out for the interests of our nation and it’s workers first, and corporations second. It is imperative for the well being of workers to lower immigration.