Undocumented workers

Dr. Wolff, thank you for your efforts to prevent the demonization of immigrants. However, I don't follow the logic in your latest Economic Update. I understand that undocumented immigrants contribute to the economy through rent, and purchases of food, clothes, ... etc.; but isn't this contribution something that would exist without them as well? If an undocumented worker wasn't there to take a job as a dishwasher, for instance, wouldn't it mean that the job would still be performed, a salary still paid, and this money recycled back into the economy as rent and other purchases? In fact, if this dishwasher wasn't undocumented wouldn't we expect his salary and subsequent contribution to the economy to be larger? While I believe undocumented workers currently in the US deserve a pathway to citizenship from a moral standpoint, I don't see an economic argument that further undocumented workers are beneficial given the current difficulty Americans are having finding work. Even admitting that the damage they do through job displacement is mitigated by their economic contribution, don't you think the resentment building among poor Americans and manipulated by politicians is a danger that needs to be addressed by preventing further immigration of undocumented workers?

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  • Steve Cooper
    commented 2017-04-14 04:16:08 -0400
    Hi Nicholas, yes, Marx highlights the basic conflict between capital and labor in capitalism. But he goes further and points out the ways in which capital has distinct unfair advantages over labor. My point is that undocumented workers magnify capital’s advantages in precisely the ways that you mention, thus making conditions even more unfair and heavily weighted against labor.
  • Steve Cooper
    commented 2017-04-14 04:08:09 -0400
    Hi Ben, extra people definitely make extra customers as long as there are jobs for them. It seems evident to me that if a country can’t provide job opportunities, then immigration to that country will have a net negative economic and social impact.
  • Ben Angel
    commented 2017-04-11 05:56:45 -0400
    Extra people must mean extra customers. I know people here in Sweden who rent out properties to immigrants. This has caused a shortage of housing, but that is also good for the building industry. Which in turn keeps the economy rolling.
  • Steve Cooper
    commented 2017-04-11 04:42:43 -0400
    Thanks Nicholas! I don’t recall Dr. Wolff making those points, and I find them curious given their strong resemblance to the arguments of capital (ratcheting down wages because employers claim an inability to support the higher wages, dodging regulatory requirements, …) that Marx works to refute in his work…
  • Steve Cooper
    published this page in Ask Prof. Wolff 2017-04-10 05:30:38 -0400