As our nation approaches the one-year mark in the administration of arguably the most controversial president in our history, we were all treated to the latest “you have got to be kidding me” moment when Donald Trump referred to immigrants from Africa and Haiti as people from “shithole countries” and openly questioned why we would want people to come to America from those places when it would be better to receive Norwegians instead.
Beyond the usual eighth-grade vulgarity of this peculiar person, and beyond the pretty obvious racial overtones of his derogatory remarks, it is a very good question.
Why, indeed, would the United States want to see people from Africa and Haiti seeking our shores when far richer people from Norway might be available?
Mr. President, here’s why:
First, using your own words, you said that would wanted an immigration bill that would be based on “love.” What could be more indicative of your desire for a love-based immigration policy than to reach out to people in poorer nations with open arms? If you want to find support for your love-based policy, you should visit the Statue of Liberty the next time you are in New York. The statue gives you all the ammunition you need to show love for Africans and Haitians in these words: Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
Second, when we look at the cost-benefit calculation used by potential immigrants, we see that there are good reasons to celebrate the arrival of Africans, Haitians and other immigrants from your so-called “shithole countries” list.
When people decide to move from one location to another, they first examine the likely benefits they would receive from the place they are considering. Those benefits are then compared to the direct cost of relocating and, more importantly, the opportunity cost of that move. Opportunity cost is the value of the second-best choice a person can make.
Every year The Heritage Foundation ranks nations based on economic freedom. That measure looks at taxes, regulations, property rights, the level of corruption, ease of starting a business, trade freedom, government spending and more.
African nations and Haiti do not fair well on this list. Out of 180 nations evaluated last year, North Korea ranked last. Several African countries, including Chad (162nd), Sudan (164th), Zimbabwe (175th) and the Republic of Congo (177th), were, along with Haiti (159th), in terrible shape.
The reason these nations rank so low is because in every case, corrupt governments have destroyed the economic freedom people in those nations have a God-given right to enjoy. Corruption is rampant, property rights barely exist, and citizens of those countries know that if they pursue their self-interest to make a better life for themselves, they can lose it all to the politicians who run roughshod over these nations.
People from those nations who move to the United States do so in order to gain economic and political freedom — not to live off the welfare state. In fact, Americans make up a far larger portion of social-welfare payments than immigrants do. Immigrants from horridly poor nations routinely arrive in the United States, look around, and get to work. If immigrants wanted only to arrive somewhere and then do nothing, Norway would be a better choice.
Speaking of Norway, while Norwegians enjoy a higher standard of living than residents of poor African nations, they also tend to use their votes to support higher taxes, greater regulations and more welfare spending. Since you have been president, you have called for less of these things. So, if we recruit people from Norway, won’t we be receiving folks who oppose your agenda?
Moreover, if we want free markets and capitalism, wouldn’t it make sense to welcome people who have been longing for those ideals and who are moving in order to get away from too much government in their lives?
So, Mr. President, as you prepare to sign love-based immigration reform, it would be wise to ask the question, “Who needs America’s love more — white socialists from Norway, or black freedom-seekers from Africa and Haiti?”
Jack A. Chambless is an economics professor at Valencia College and a senior fellow with the James Madison Institute in Tallahassee. He wrote this for the Orlando Sentinel.
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