Friday, November 16, 2018

The Weaponization of Milton Friedman

By Don Boudreaux

I’m pretty sure that I linked to this excellent essay by Shikha Dalmia when it first appeared back in July. But whether I did so or not, I link to it again here, for it’s filled with important context on Milton Friedman’s (in)famous expression of skepticism about open immigration into a country with a welfare state. And it is in this essay by Shikha that we find this especially relevant passage:
Now, if he [Friedman] had stopped at that, it would have been one thing. But he did not. He went on to declare that despite the welfare state, Mexican immigration was a “good thing” for America, particularly when it was of the illegal variety. Why? “Because as long as it’s illegal the people who come in do not qualify for welfare, they don’t qualify for Social Security, they don’t qualify for all the other myriads of benefits,” he pointed out. “They take jobs that most residents of this country are unwilling to take, they provide employers with workers of a kind they cannot get.”
In other words, as far as Friedman was concerned, free illegal immigration was perfectly compatible with the welfare state and slamming the door on it would be utter stupidity.
The above originally appeared at Cafe Hayek.


  1. Unfortunately that world doesn't exist anymore. Illegals can and do get benefits.

  2. I actually think Friedman is wrong on this particular point.

    It's true that it's a plus that illegal immigrants are eligible for fewer welfare benefits than legal ones. However, the fact that they must generally resort to the black market for employment and entrepreneurship opportunities significantly hampers their ability to produce. This means that they cannot contribute as much in taxes and, more significantly, cannot create as much private wealth. I suspect that these factors far outweigh the amount saved by their smaller receipt of government benefits.

    To be sure, illegal immigrants are preferable to no immigrants, but legalizing them would likely be even better (and simply ceasing immigration enforcement better still, as it would allow the best of both worlds.)