In the recent American election, immigration has been a major focal point. From “the wall” to the travel ban to the H1B visa program, this topic has been brought up again and again. The most commonly vocalized concern in all of this was the fear of natives losing their jobs to immigrants. These jobs are both skilled and unskilled professions. Legal forms of immigration (as well as non-immigration work permits) tend to bring in skilled workers while illegal border crossings tend to bring in the unskilled workers who do their jobs off the books.
Whatever the merits of these concerns, I find that the they reveal some important aspects of society that get left out of discussion. Our worries over immigrants reveal a fatal flaw in our system. Our failure to address this has been responsible for much of our trouble.
Immigration Is Inherently Meritocratic
There is no way around this. If an immigrant takes your job, they were in some way better qualified. Even if it was only because they were cheaper, this is still a qualification. You could choose to work for the lower wages yourself.
No matter how uncomfortable it makes you, being born into a prosperous nation is a form of privilege. Why should foreigners be penalized for not having been born in the same country? There are practical concerns, of course. You are free to bring those up, and they deserve consideration. The moral aspect, however, tilts entirely out of your favor. There is no moral reason you should be provided with opportunities that are denied to others. Therefore, you have no right to expect that these be protected at all costs.
This should be a massive gut check. Perhaps you can find a job if you only have to compete with your fellow citizens. What happens if the pool opens up to the entire world? If a Third World inhabitant can outperform you, are you then to be resigned to switching places? Is the Third World where you belong?. If all legal and logistical barriers to immigration were removed, you can bet that only the best of the best in your country would be able to find serious employment at home. 7 billion ups the competition regardless of where you live.
Immigration Mixes Poorly With An Ownership Class
Fortunately, there is a saving grace (of sorts) in all of this. We know for a fact that there are enough resources in this world that nobody needs to live in Third World conditions. So we know you should not be resigned to Third World conditions (and neither should those who live in the Third World!) Nevertheless, the Third World exists and your finances remain stretched as it is. Why is this? If you live in the First World, you know there’s enough, but your bank account is stretched despite the fact that you are leagues ahead of a good many others. It doesn’t seem to make sense.
Actually, it makes perfect sense. Similarly, it makes perfect sense that a completely open immigration policy would ruin you. These both make sense for the same reason.
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Consider this. We bring in a skilled immigrant. They are an expert in a particular field. They can provide a service to your society that only a select group of natives could. They perform that service, but the benefits probably don’t go to you. The benefits probably don’t even go to society. The benefits go to the company that employed the immigrant. You only see those benefits if they happen to augment work you are doing or if you have the capital to purchase that company’s services.
The current arrangement is that the elite bring in the immigrants, the elite profit from them and the elite throw them away as soon as they have out-lived their usefulness. If you are suffering from this arrangement, it is because you, yourself, have outlived your usefulness. Your happiness is contingent on your ability to satisfy the desires of this elite. In this increasingly globalized world, there are three classes: the elite, those with the skills and abilities to (temporarily) serve the elite, and everyone else. An influx of immigrants merely hastens the trajectory towards you becoming everyone else.
The Woes Of Immigration Are The Consequence Of Half-Measures Meritocracy
We do not have to live in a zero-sum world. This arrangement is entirely unnecessary. It is the fault of a half-way implemented Meritocracy. Immigration is (in a very specific way) meritocratic in who is able to get a job. Despite this, the people who provide the jobs are not selected according to merit. They are selected merely on the basis of how well they help themselves.
We have an ownership class who are becoming increasingly international. They are the gatekeepers. They decide what work gets done and what work goes unfunded. At the end of the day, all work completed must satisfy them in some way. They have this privilege purely by virtue of their position. They may have an inheritance or they may be living off of capital gains that were originally earned assets. Either way, they are being paid to do nothing but be the owners. Their power is contingent on their existing and little else. Their job at this point has become little more than simply deciding what goes where and who gets what. This is an entirely senseless, unmeritocratic occupation if there ever was one!
In this way, the concerns over immigration mirror the concerns over automation. In the past, we had imagined that we would soon be living in a leisure society. This proved to be false. Automation has proved to be a threat to our employment. We can’t win this one either. We are forced to work. We are forced to work even if there is no work to be done. We would think that if all work was getting accomplished without us, we could kick back. That is not the case because the work being done is not going to society. It is going to the elite. Again the elite are chosen by how well the help themselves and not by how well they help society.
Meritocratic policies, such as the 100% inheritance tax, serve to prevent large amounts of undue wealth from concentrating in the hands of only a few people. However meritorious your path to ascendancy was, how you conduct yourself at the top remains of paramount importance. A sane world cannot abide unaccountable high-fliers rearranging the world to suit their tastes. When major decisions are made, they need to be made with regard for society. Inasmuch as wealth grants decision making power, access to wealth must be controlled by those with proven character and unmatched ability.
Jason Calhoughney writing for the Apollo Institute of Reason AIR Review©