We're long been a nation of immigrants that doesn't particularly like the arrival of new immigrants. Go figure!
My view is that the value of more immigration, much like the value of free trade, is often very much misunderstood. Further, politicians are either afraid to address the immigration 'comparative advantage' issue head on or simply don't have a clue about its value to a free, growing and prosperous society.
Simply stated, immigration has been, is and will continue to be a very good thing for present and future Americans.
Immigrants and 'Comparative Advantage' says this about the enormous value of immigrants to America:
"They help vitalize the American economy and maintain our traditions of hard work and patriotism.
In 1817 the great English economist David Ricardo
coined the phrase "comparative advantage" to identify activities that
one nation can do better than most others. The concept here is that if
the Swiss make the best watches, or the Israelis grow the best oranges,
they should make use of their advantages to profit in the marketplace.
Today, America has advantages in the global marketplace that stem from its immigrant population.
Lets consider some of these.
Modern nations that have expanding domestic markets are more likely
to be economically healthy. For the most part, European nations do not
have that advantage, and it hurts them.
When birth and fertility rates are low, over the decades population
shrinks, sometimes rapidly in places such as in Italy, Germany, Spain
and Greece. In Japan and South Korea, birth and fertility rates are also
perilously low. The result: All of their socialized pension plans and
programs to provide health care for the aged are dreadfully underfunded.
The only serious remedies are higher deficits, reduced benefits or
higher taxes—none of them pleasant.
In the U.S., on the other hand, total
fertility rates are higher and population continues to grow. While the
numbers are down somewhat due to the recession, immigration remains
relatively high—an estimated 1.1 million, legal and illegal, in 2010,
according to the Census Bureau. This immigration will lead the country
on a path of healthy long-term population growth from (roughly) 300
million people in 2000, up to 400 million in 2050 and to half a billion
in 2100. This is good news for the growth of the domestic market.
Moreover, America's immigrant population (median age of roughly 29)
is younger than that of the native-born (about a decade older). That
means they will have many more years of working life, paying into and
helping support our old-age pension and health-care systems for years
before they take out a dime.
Survey after survey shows that Americans are the most patriotic
people on the planet, and that immigrants to the U.S. are among the most
patriotic of all Americans. For example, immigrants serve with
distinction in our armed forces.
Most immigrants, particularly young ones, assimilate rapidly into the
larger American culture. One indicator: intermarriage. There is a lot
of it, according to the Census. Latinos and Asians in particular marry
outside their race or ethnicity, a pattern characteristic of larger
immigrant groups. Their offspring and the offspring of their children
lose much of their ancestral identification, even as the grandparents
may sob a bit.
The new waves of immigrants since the 1960s, when restrictive
legislation was abandoned, have assimilated rapidly and well. The
intermarried couples and especially their children become "blended
families" and likely call themselves just plain Americans. This follows
the traditional pattern throughout American history.
Also traditional is the pattern of how native-born Americans feel
about waves of immigration—which is to say, not well. The Irish were
"micks" and met signs on stores that had hiring posters in the windows
reading "no Irish need apply." The Jews were "kikes" and hotels had
signs that read "no Jews and no dogs." The Poles were "Polacks," the
Hungarians were "Hunkies," and the Italians were "dagos."
Americans have been afraid of each new group of immigrants as they
arrived. As far back as the 18th century, Germans grew almost as
numerous as people of English background; there was even some sentiment
in favor of German as a second official language. All that didn't stop
Benjamin Franklin from writing bitter screeds denouncing them.
Today only the identities of the immigrants have changed. Pat
Buchanan, who celebrates hard work, religion and family values,
regularly condemns Mexican immigrants who honor hard work, religion and
Being an American has always been based on a set of ideals about the worth and freedom of individuals.
It's never been about any particular race, birth right or piece of geography.
The American 'melting pot' is real and has long stood for equal opportunity for those who come here.
Many of our nation's private sector innovators and leaders have been immigrants as well.
To remain the world's leader, we'll need to continue to attract the world's best and brightest to live and work in this great nation.
By their very presence, this will help keep our citizens and country safe, strong and prosperous in the decades and centuries ahead.
And for my fellow oldsters out there, let's be selfish. Encouraging more immigrants to come, work and live in the U.S. is perhaps the best way to assure that we can take care of the aged among us, too.