Saturday, May 3, 2008

Just another commodity

After ruminating on the subject for quite some time, I've finally reached the point of publicly disseminating my thoughts. And just what subject might that be, DAL357? The employment of illegal aliens/immigrants.

Labor is a commodity, nothing more or less. As with all commodities, its price will--or at least should--fluctuate with the supply of it and the demand for it, and in a free market, it would. A person should be free to sell or proffer his labor to any employer he likes, just as an employer should be able to accept or decline his offer. For example, perhaps an employer is offering a wage too low, in which case the prospective employee decides to look elsewhere. Perhaps the wage the job seeker wants is too high, in which case the prospective employer says no. If no one is coming to work for a company, the employer will eventually figure out that the price he is offering is too low and raise it enough to attract labor. If a job seeker can't find work at the price he demands, it may dawn upon him that the price he demands is too high and adjust it accordingly. Eventually, over time, both prospective employer/employee will reach a wage point on which they can both agree and the deal will be consummated.

The above is the way things should work in an unfettered economic market. It is a beautiful system that works extremely well, but it is wholly dependent upon both parties being free to pick and choose. Problems arise when outside (coercive) forces give either party a bit more weight than the other. The delicate dance of wages offered/accepted between employers/employees is upset when a third party dictates who must dance with whom.

That is the situation faced today by both employers and employees. Why would an employer choose to hire a person who is not in this land legally? Cost, plain and simple. Labor is one component in the production of a given product/service and if an employer can get that component at a lower cost, why would he spend more if he didn't need to? Do you routinely spend more for a product than you need to? If not, why then demand that an employer do so?

American workers, as productive as they may be, carry with them a lot of hidden costs that employers must bear (FICA/income taxes, medical benefits, the attendant bureaucracy needed to administer all of this, etc.). This is true of all labor, be it repetitive/menial or white collar. When we track it back to what is responsible for the high price of American labor, we find government mandates and regulations, of course. But that's too easy an answer to leave it there. Who is responsible for putting the government we have in place? We, the American people, are, via our insistence on wearing economic blinders, living as if life has no limits, and generally eschewing reality. (By the way, unions have done their fair share of elevating the cost of some American labor to ridiculous heights, but they have steadily lost influence over the years and are much less of a factor today, although the inflated-wage damage they've left in their wake is still with us.)

Those with a thorough understanding of libertarian principles (notice the small 'l') should not only understand, but be actually cheering the innovative ways some employers are circumventing the high cost of labor. Just like safe tax shelters/dodges, hiring off-the-book labor is another way of weakening the massive, liberty-consuming, beast government has become.

"But," you ask, "how will I make a living if there are folks willing to work for a lower wage than I?" as if it is an employer's obligation to pay you a wage that meets your needs. Perhaps you will have to adjust your spending to meet your wage. I realize that's anathema to a lot of people conditioned to believe that they're entitled to a certain level of prosperity, but that's the way it is. Who promised you a rose garden? Things change in life and you have to deal with the vagaries life throws in your path. If you want to make more money, make yourself more valuable to an employer than Jose Gonzalez by learning a skill/trade in demand and not relying on the government forcing an employer to hire you at an inflated rate merely because you were born here. Forcing an employer to hire available labor at the highest cost rather than the lowest cost is un-American.

Take care.

No comments: