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I Lift My Sword above the Bolted Door

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Emma Lazarus had better stay in her grave if she knows what’s good for her. Why do I say that? Well, the blackhearted villainess deliberately contributed to what is now known as “the immigrant problem.” When she wrote her sonnet “The New Colossus,” and donated it to be auctioned off as part of the fundraising to build a pedestal for “Liberty Enlightening the World,” she openly beckoned the homeless “huddled masses” and “wretched refuse” to emigrate to the United States. In so doing, she became a prominent voice in the movement to swell the U.S. population — thus creating mass unemployment, the draining of social-service resources, and the impoverishment of U.S. taxpayers.

Or at least that’s what some current U.S. politicians and public-policy pundits must believe. Why else would they be calling for the expulsion of anyone they deem an “illegal,” as well as the erection of an insurmountable wall on the border with Mexico?

What! Immigration over the past 120 years didn’t create mass unemployment, drain social-service resources, or impoverish U.S. taxpayers? There must be something wrong with this picture of the evils of immigration.

There is something wrong with it. It’s a picture that is bereft of any knowledge of the most basic of economic principles. That’s the principle that in any free exchange between two traders, both gain more value than they give up in the trade. Free exchange is a positive-sum game and total value always increases as a result of such exchanges.

If I trade my labor services to you in exchange for a paycheck, I must believe that my paycheck is a better return on providing my labor services to you than whatever else I may do with them. If you sell your goods to a customer in return for a sum of money, you must believe that the money you receive more than covers the cost of producing that good. If it doesn’t, you won’t be in business very long. If a customer pays you an amount of money for his purchase, he must believe that the value of the good received is greater than that which he could obtain by using his money in some other way.

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    Sam Bostaph is a professor of economics and chairman of the Department of Economics, University of Dallas, and an academic advisor to The Future of Freedom Foundation.