Acton Institute Powerblog

Overcoming ‘Anti-Foreign Bias’ in Trade and Immigration

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Many conservatives exhibit a peculiar tendency to be pro-liberty when it comes to business, trade, and wages, but protectionist when it comes to the economic effects of immigration.

It’s an odd disconnect, and yet, as we’ve begun to see with figures like Donald Trump and Rick Santorum, one side is bound to eventually give way. They’ll gush about the glories of competition, but the second immigration gets brought up, they seem to defer to labor-union talking points from ages past.

When pressed on this in a recent podcast, immigration protectionist Mark Krikorian argued that the difference is that immigrants are people not products, and thus they make things a bit more problematic. It’s more complicated and disruptive, he argues, when you’re dealing with actual people who have diverse and ever-shifting dreams.

The difference is surely meaningful, but it would seem to support precisely the opposite conclusion. A free flow of humans means a free flow not of static objects but of creative beings with capacity to love and sacrifice, innovate and explore, cultivate and multiply the fruits of civilization. This may indeed be more “complicated” and “disruptive” than many might prefer, but that is how authentic mobility and prosperity works. One man’s hassle is another man’s mosaic.

It reminds me of this LearnLiberty video from a while back, in which Bryan Caplan connects the dots quite well.

If we focus on the economic arguments alone, the point sheet for a supporter of free markets is far clearer than the latest crop of presidential candidates would indicate.

Free-flowing trade, whether of products or labor, empowers us to give and receive, to share our gifts with neighbors old and new, near and distant, and weave our work into the fabric of civilization. The more partners, the more dreams — and where humans are allowed to partner and dream together, flourishing is bound to follow.

Joseph Sunde is an associate editor and writer for the Acton Institute. His work has appeared in venues such as The Federalist, First Things, The City, The Christian Post, The Stream, Charisma News, Juicy Ecumenism, Ethika Politika, Made to Flourish, and the Center for Faith and Work. Joseph resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and four children.

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