People face tradeoffs. To get one thing that we like, we usually have to give up another thing that we like. That principle is one of the most basic in economics — and yet the most frequently ignored when it comes to public policy. A prime example is the tradeoff that is required on two frequently debated political issues: immigration reform and minimum wage laws.
Many of the same people who support increasing the minimum wage also support increased immigration and amnesty for illegal immigrants. But increases in minimum wage can have a severely detrimental impact on immigrants.
(For the sake of argument, we’ll set aside the question of whether amnesty is a policy that should be promoted and assume that is a policy we’d consider beneficial, at least for illegal immigrants.)
Imagine that Congress passes two laws that take effect on the same day — January 1, 2016 — one granting amnesty to illegal immigrants and the other raising the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour. What would be the result?