Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Immigrant quotas as a tax equivalent

This story on Morning Edition (NPR) got me thinking. Some folks are opposed to "selling" work visas (economists among them). Well, I'll tell you this: A quota (which is how we work it now) ain't much different. Just ask the illegal immigrants. Only difference is this: The people who get the hypothetical "tax revenues" aren't the US treasury - they're the people who are lucky enough to get visas (after about a 15 year wait for some source countries), and the coyotes who smuggle illegals over for a fee (which can run in the thousands of dollars per immigrant smuggled). That doesn't even touch on the laundry list of other externalities that quantity restrictions bring, and the fact that we spend billions of scarce treasury dollars enforcing the quota instead of collecting revenues from the auction/tax/fee.

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