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Protectionism, the Freedom to Contract, and Immigration “Reform”

August 1, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken


Congressman Kerry Bentivolio of Michigan has declared that he doesn’t want an award from the US Chamber of Commerce, which he says isn’t really devoted to “free enterprise.”  So far, so good. The US Chamber of Commerce is indeed anything but devoted to free markets as is obvious from its frequent support for corporatist programs from the “stimulus” to the auto bailouts to No Child Left Behind. In short, the Chamber is a rent-seeking organization that seeks government favors for its members, day in and day out.

So, if one wishes to oppose them from a free-market perspective, there is plenty of reason to do so.

Bentivolio, regrettably, has decided that the Chamber is wrong, first of all, because it is too much in favor or free trade, and therefore in league with “Communist China.” Apparently, the Chamber’s support of friendly relations with a foreign country is just too much for Bentivolio to stomach. A cold war with China seems to be much more to the Congressman’s liking.

Moreover, the self-described free-marketeer Benitvolio is angry with the Chamber because it wants more flexibility to employ foreign workers. The Chamber is for “big companies seeking cheap labor” Bentivolio thunders. They “exploit people for profit” he adds. It’s odd for a guy who claims to be for free enterprise to claim that employers “exploit people for profit,” and it’s also unclear if Bentivolio is okay with small companies “seeking cheap labor” (because we all know how small businessmen really relish the chance to find some high-priced labor), or if it’s just big companies that “exploit.”

Bentivolio’s newfound concern about the exploitation of workers appears to stem from his opposition to immigration “reform.” This is fair enough given the many problematic aspects of the so-called amnesty bill, but Bentivolio is unforgivably vague in his stated reasons for opposing reforms.

Is he opposed to the economic aspects of immigration, or is he opposed to the political act of expansion of citizenship? This is of course an important distinction since, from a free-market perspective, using immigration law as a means of protecting domestic labor from competition is thoroughly illegitimate while opposing the political act of expanding citizenship or other political “rights” is another matter entirely.

I suspect that Bentivolio’s position here is guided by the fact that he’s discovered that opposition to immigration wins him votes with populists and other voters who think that it is the role of the state to …read more


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