Saturday, May 1, 2010


I believe in freedom.

Like nearly all economists, I believe that freedom to trade makes us better off. This trade includes free trade of labor.

If I am made better off by trading with someone across town (maybe she mows my lawn) then there is no reason that I cannot also be made better off by trading with someone in another state. Perhaps someone in another state can so something for me cheaper or better than anybody in my town.

Non-economists might say, at this point, "But you are killing jobs in your state by trading with other states." That is true. Just like when I hire someone across town I am killing a neighborhood mowing job. Get off my back, neighbors! I should be free to hire whomever I want.

If I buy Wisconsin cheese I'm putting a Georgia dairy farmer out of work. Too bad it's more efficient to do dairy farming in Wisconsin. Should I support people who want to raise reindeer in Georgia since the climate is all wrong for the reindeer? Enough with you pushy reindeer ranchers!

And if Wisconsin seceded from the U. S., it would still make me better off to trade with them, rather than starting up more Georgia dairy farms.

So I believe that trading with Mexico or Lichtenstein or Japan makes us better off. We only engage in trade with people who can do it better or cheaper or will do lousy work that we do not want to do.

And if it is efficient to import grapes from Mexico, then it may also be efficient to import grape harvesters from Mexico and put them to work in grape orchards. If it did not make me better off, the vineyard, who wants my business, would not hire them.

Yes, somebody will be hurt by immigrant labor, just like that poor Georgia dairy farmer is hurt because I buy cheese from Wisconsin. This is the way that resources go to their most valuable use. (Warning, this link contains strong language.)

But I insist that we not import problems into the U. S. We have enough murderers and thieves here. Let's do a background check on anyone who comes in. Further, we need to keep the murderers and thieves from sneaking in.

I would also insist that not one dime be taken involuntarily from anyone and given to those poor grape pickers. Sorry, no public schools. No public health care.

But, if you have read my views on freedom, you already know that I do not want a dime to be taken from anyone involuntarily to support that Georgia dairy farmer either.


Last fall my son picked me up at work and made an illegal turn as he left the parking lot. Campus police pulled us over. My son did not have his license with him.

The cop chewed my son up one side and down the other, then chewed on me for a while. How could I let him drive without a license? I did not tell the officer that I do not usually frisk people before I get in the car with them--I did not even tell the cop that I remind my son to grab his license every time he leaves the house. How could I let him make an illegal turn? I did not tell the officer that fighting my son for control of the steering wheel as he started the illegal turn could have been dangerous.

The cop seemed ready to haul my son in. If I had not worked for the university my son would have likely been arrested for driving without a license and making the illegal turn. After all, my son once spent a night in jail because he did not obey an officer directing traffic at night at a Y intersection on an unlit curve in the road--because he did not see the officer until he was upon him.

You may not like that we have to carry I. D. when we drive. Heck, legal residents of the U. S. who are not citizens are instructed by federal law to carry their green cards. MyVenezuelan brother-in-law always carried his green card. It's not that hard.

So what is the big deal about the state of Arizona saying they would detain those who were stopped in the normal course of police work if they could not show ID? I do not hear a lot of logic from those who object to Arizona's new law. I just hear the chant of "Nazi, Nazi, Nazi."

If requiring I. D. is the test of a Nazi regime, then our requirements to carry driver's licenses and green cards for non-citizens made us into Nazis decades ago and the chanters are just waking up to that. The chanters should all burn their driver's licenses.

I hear a tumult of illogic that police in Arizona are going to detain every Hispanic in Arizona. The latest census says Hispanics make up 30% of Arizona's population. Are the police really going to pull over one of every three cars and ask for ID? The prison population of Arizona is (by my best Internet search) 30,000. Are the police going to arrest the 2,000,000 Hispanics in Arizona and make their prison population 2,030,000? That could be expensive.

Can't you folks in the other world think about this just a little? Or is it just that you enjoy being outraged more?