Sunday, March 4, 2012
Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto!
An argument that is often used by opponents of immigration enforcement is that it will lead to labor shortages that will harm businesses and burden consumers with apocalyptic $10 tomatoes. Those who put forth this argument fail to realize the ability of firms to adjust to changes in labor and commodity markets. When labor or any commodity is cheap and plentiful, they are generally used in an efficient manner. But, when their cost rises and their supply decreases, consumers and firms become more efficient in how they utilize them and seek alternative commodities, in other words they innovate. As the availability of cheap labor diminishes in any given sector of the economy, wages increase and production increasingly relies on the use of capital and mechanization. This may be painful in the short run, but over time it results in economic development and a net increase in living standards. This was seen when a growing number of viticulturalists in California responded to relative labor shortages, brought on by tighter border control, by shifting towards mechanized grape picking. So, opponents of immigration reform would be advised to rely on humanitarian arguments, rather than on facile economic arguments, because a shortage of low skilled labor is one problem that the United States does not face. And to those who decry the lost of low paying agriculture jobs, I respond "Domo Arigato Mr Robot"; mechanization lowers cost, while creating good paying jobs via the individuals needed to: design, build, operate and repair the new machines. And I would encourage those who still believe in the virtue of a limitless supply of cheap labor to visit the workers paradises of China and India