Why You’re Wrong about Immigration and International Trade


Dear Conservative Protectionist,

I’m writing this letter because I want to address a flaw that I’ve heard in your reasoning. You see, you’re out there, speaking on behalf of conservatives everywhere, and telling everyone how it is a conservative ideal to seal up our borders, keeping out valuable labor and the import of trade goods.

It really isn’t hard to show you why you are wrong about these two issues. I can use any number of ways to demonstrate your error. If you are a practical conservative, then I offer you the practical history of the world. In every case, when free trade and free immigration has been implemented, wealth has always followed. Those nations and states and cities which have embraced free trade and free migration have always come out on top. In fact, these sacred principles are encoded in the Constitution itself: there will always be free trade and free migration between the states, and the federal government was instituted to ensure this very thing. If you don’t believe me, go read the Founding Fathers on this matter.

From a moral standpoint, the reasoning is clear. If Joe wants to buy and sell, or work and hire, what right do we have to tell him no? The only case I can think of is where he is trafficking and trading in immoral goods, or treating his employees unjustly such as slavery. In all other cases, I can’t imagine why we should want to tell Joe what to do in this realm of his life. Now, consider this carefully: Does it matter if Joe is American, Canadian, Mexican, German, or any other nationality? As long as Joe is here to work, to trade, and to do things legally, I have no qualms whatsoever with Joe.

You talk about closed and open borders, but really, there are two characteristics of borders that need to be considered, and they are orthogonal. In other words, they have nothing to do with each other. You can have one or the other or both at the same time. One characteristic is openness. This is the quality that determines who we allow to come and go. I suggest to you that as long as people are coming and going to legitimate reasons, such as vacation or business or anything really except something illegal or related to warfare or spying, no conservative would oppose it. Dare I say it — those muslims who come here to buy and sell we have no problem with. Those muslims who want to change our culture and language are also no problem, provided they stick to legal methods of open dialogue and peaceful persuasion. It’s only when people are here to do violence or to break our laws that I and I believe all conservatives get concerned.

The other quality is security. This quality has to do with how the rules of who is allowed to go and come are enforced. The fact is, our borders are insecure. Because they are insecure, they are open to everyone, even those who want to do us harm or want to break our rules or who are carrying infectious diseases. The solution to an insecure border is to secure it, not to close it. You can have an open border that is secure if you simply enforce the fact that crossing the border can only happen at well-defined and well-managed checkpoints. You can have open, secure borders and thus allow people to freely come and go but only if they are here for peaceful purposes. Thanks to technology, it’s really not hard to identify people with technology like facial recognition. We’re living in an age when we can apply technology and force of will to make a safe, secure border.

If you are truly conservative, then you should at least understand why free trade and open, secure borders are the right thing to do. If you are conservative, you’ve likely been convinced that even though they are right, and historically beneficial, we still need to protect our jobs. Lately, a lot of hay has been made about the H1-B visas. I work in the technology sector. Let me tell you why Microsoft and Amazon and everyone else wants to import the world’s tech talents into our country: It’s because outsourcing simply doesn’t work. For some reason, when you bring Indians and Chinese and others into our country to work in our companies side-by-side with us red-blooded Americans, the Indians and Chinese become red-blooded Americans. They learn how to question authority, how to stand their ground, and how to make great things the world has never before seen. When you leave them in their native countries and cultures, they never develop these abilities and thus cannot excel as engineers and software programmers. That’s why we want to bring them into the US.

Am I worried that a Chinese or an Indian will take my job? Absolutely. Every day, I wake up trying to be the very best at my job so that my boss will want to give me a raise, or at least, a hearty recommendation for my next job. This is America, after all, where we are free to do what we think is best. I don’t need to be protected. I feel confident that my abilities are sufficient and I know that even if we don’t bring the Chinese or Indians here, I’m still competing with them. But to be honest, they don’t scare me: My fellow Americans are the ones who are most competitive and who my boss will likely replace me with.

Please educate yourself on these important issues. I recommend reading pretty much any book by Milton Friedman along with Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. There you will see not only why free and open trade is best, but why we are richer for it.


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