Saturday, March 25, 2006

Rich Lowry: Jobs Americans Won’t Do?, Think Again

Here's an argument you won't hear often enough in the illegal immigration debate (not that it's needed...the "illegal" adjective is all advocates of stopping illegal immigration need):
...Oddly, the people who warn that without millions of cheap, unskilled Mexican laborers, this country would face economic disaster are pro-business libertarians. They believe in the power of the market to handle anything — except a slightly tighter labor market for unskilled workers. But the free market would inevitably adjust, with higher wages or technological innovation.

Take agriculture. Phillip Martin, an economist at the University of California, Davis, has demolished the argument that a crackdown on illegals would ruin it, or be a hardship to consumers. Most farming — livestock, grains, etc. — doesn't heavily rely on hired workers. Only about 20 percent of the farm sector does, chiefly those areas involving fresh fruit and vegetables.

The average "consumer unit" in the U.S. spends $7 a week on fresh fruit and vegetables, less than is spent on alcohol, according to Martin. On a $1 head of lettuce, the farm worker gets about 6 or 7 cents, roughly 1/15th of the retail price. Even a big run-up in the cost of labor can't hit the consumer very hard...
One can argue that cheap labor is keeping U.S.-based agriculture from further automating and reducing it's labor content...That cheap labor is providing a disincentive to fund further research and development that reduces the labor content in agriculture.

Along with the Homeland Security benefits of halting illegal immigration, we could see an increase in good ole' fashion American ingenuity that would lessen our dependency on cheap labor. Our future would see more innovations like trunk shaker machines, robotic fruit pickers, sheep shearing robots, satellite controlled harvesters and flexible agricultural automation.

The loss of labor argument used against clamping down on illegal immigration is a specious argument that belies a political argument.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

kind of a weak argument...

lower immigration would speed agricultural innovation...

probably you're right...

same thing would happen with industry...

more automation...

putting more unionized labor out of work...

Oh, I'm sure those anti-immigrant union workers would like that, fewer Mexicans, more robots, same unemployment...

March 26, 2006 at 12:11 PM  

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