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Might immigration be the only thing the U.S. has going for it?

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I know this observation is ridiculously aggregated, but when you take a coast-to-coast flight it is impossible not notice that the vast amount of land space is the U.S. is completely empty. You would swear that the country was an uninhabited wasteland. Then you reflect on the immigration debate and get the strong impression that we are fighting for room to breath around here. It’s just a strange dichotomy. It’s one thing for Japan to worry about immigration, or Switzerland, or even Austria. But the U.S.? There are other factors, I know, but it’s probably true that 10 times the world population could live comfortably in the U.S.. The immigration debate is really about other things: fights over voting blocs, for example. Without labor unions, public infrastructure, and political parties, I don’t know why anyone would even care about immigration.

David Veksler, the technical mastermind behind Mises.org, recently went to work in Shanghai, China, and there’s nothing like a move like this to inspire a fundamental rethinking. Let me share with you his facebook update from this morning:

After living in China, I am convinced that the only real advantage America has over other countries is its historical openness toward immigrants. Once that ends (and I am thinking of the potential end of birthright citizenship) the United States will quickly sink into the muck of welfare-statism and never be heard from again.

Great update, and one wishes that all such status updates were as provocative and interesting. I’m sure he never expected it to turn up on the Mises blog. But it does make one wonder: have we properly valued the contribution that immigration makes to the U.S. economy and culture? I mean, I look around at the native bourgeoisie in this country and see incredible dependency, sloth, debt, and the absence of the enterprising spirit of 19th century legend. But you look at the immigrant classes and you see the opposite. Again, wild generalizations of course. But David’s comment taps into enough intuition I have developed from casual observation to make me wonder.

Before you post about the high costs of immigration, consider these two posts by Carden: costs and benefits.

Jeffrey Tucker is Editorial Director of the American Institute for Economic Research. He is author of It's a Jetsons World: Private Miracles and Public Crimes and Bourbon for Breakfast: Living Outside the Statist Quo. Send him mail.

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