Development Economics

Stephen Colbert Calls Bullshit on Congress

This is not a blog about domestic agriculture policy, nor is a blog about politics.  But mental gymnastics create the necessary link between Stephen Colbert's address to the House subcommittee on immigration and the main theme of this blog, poverty alleviation in the developing world.  I enjoyed this clip, not only because I harbor not a small amount of contempt for politicians in general and, in particular, the U.S. congress, but also because it is a good lesson in the cognitive dissonance of supporting free market principles and toughness on immigration. In short, migrant workers will work for less at harder jobs than most Americans.  That is true in the U.S. and outside the U.S.   If migrant workers cannot come to the U.S. to work on U.S. farms, then U.S. farms will move to where labor is cheapest: the home countries of migrant workers.  Putting on the blinders and ignoring the fact that migrant workers are currently lowering prices (or at least making farmers richer) by reducing production costs is like anti-free market.  Over to Colbert:

"So what's the answer?  Now I'm a free market guy.  Normally I would leave this to the invisible hand of the market, but the invisible hand of the market has already moved 84,000 acres of production and 22,000 farm jobs to Mexico and shut down over a million acres of U.S. farmland due to lack of available labor.  Because apparently, even the invisible hand doesn't want to pick beans."
When this principle is applied to trade, it is called protectionism, a policy diametrically opposed to the concept of free trade and a pro-market approach in general.  (more…)