Fox News talk show hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham stridently argue for less legal immigration. They support legislation that would cut legal immigration in half. They want to eliminate or reduce H-1B visas for high-skilled workers. Their mantra includes the unsupported assertion that immigration supposedly makes native-born Americans poorer. Immigration, they suggest, means more workers competing for the same number of jobs.
Of course, decades of comprehensive economic analysis and data show that immigration does not make native-born Americans poorer.
Research by the late economist Julian Simon, and more recently by the National Academy of Sciences, shows that immigration improves our economy. Immigrants work more, save more, and start more businesses per person than native-born Americans. They raise the overall incomes of native-born Americans. And, particularly through the taxes they pay, they have an overall positive impact on the public coffers. Their positive impact on federal government finances is greater than their negative impact on state and local government finances.
But there’s another way of seeing that Carlson and Ingraham are wrong on this point. If Carlson and Ingraham were correct, it would also follow that a growing native-born population would also make Americans poorer, because this similarly forces more people to compete for the same jobs. Yet, we know that this is not true — America’s population and prosperity have been growing together since 1776.
Population growth makes Americans richer, not poorer. Economic growth expert and World Bank chief economist Paul Romer put it this way: “The virtuous circle between population and ideas accounts for the acceleration of growth.” People, as Julian Simon explained, are the “ultimate resource.”
Yes, in the short-term, population growth can cause problems. It increases traffic, crowds our schools, and stretches family and government budgets. But over time, population growth pushes us to innovate and find solutions that make us better off. Population growth drives economic expansion, makes us richer, and improves our health and environment.
Population growth, whether by a growing native-born population or immigration, produces economic growth. Economic growth means not only more workers, but also more jobs, more businesses hiring workers, more consumers, and more innovation.
This is the big point that Carlson and Ingraham miss. They see the additional workers and the short-term problems, but they fail to notice the increases in the numbers of jobs, businesses, consumers, and innovation, as well as Americans' ever-improving standard of living.
Why do Carlson and Ingraham miss all of this? Henry Hazlitt’s classic 1946 book, “Economics in One Lesson,” provides the answer. Using Frédéric Bastiat's famous “broken window” story, it teaches that economics requires examination of not only the “seen” but also the “unseen.” Requiring owners of plate glass windows to smash and replace their windows each week would do wonders for the glass production and installation industries (a point that is “seen”), but it would make everyone poorer overall because it would mean that the money spent to repeatedly replace the same glass windows could not instead be devoted to other products that actually make our lives better (the “unseen” point).
Sound immigration policy requires us to examine the full picture. When we do this, we see that immigration means not only more workers, but also more jobs, more businesses hiring workers, more consumers, and more innovation. In sum, we see that immigration makes native-born Americans richer, not poorer.
David M. Simon is a lawyer in Chicago. The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the law firm with which he is affiliated.
If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.