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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/15686/powell-on-immigration-in-denver/

Powell on Immigration in Denver

February 14, 2011 by

For readers in the Denver area – event is free to the public:

The Economics of Immigration: Myths and Realities
WHAT: Economist Dr. Benjamin Powell on Immigration Misconceptions
DATE: Thursday, February 17, 2011
WHERE: Tivoli Turnhalle – Auraria Campus
900 Auraria Parkway – Denver, CO 80204
TIME: 11:00 am – 12:15 pm
(Denver, Colo.) —
“We need not fear that immigrants will burden our economy, take more jobs than they create, or depress our wages. Quite
the contrary, immigration brings economic benefits, so it should not be artificially limited.”
- Dr. Ben Powell
Dr. Benjamin Powell, is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Suffolk University, a Senior Economist at the
Beacon Hill Institute, and Vice President of the Association of Private Enterprise Education. The Auraria
Campus is welcoming him on Thursday, February 17th, 2011, for an in-depth discussion on the misconceptions of
the impact of immigration throughout our economy. According to Dr. Powell, the #1 misconception about
immigration is that it harms the economy, while in reality conservative estimates put the net gain from current
immigration around $20 billion. He drives home the notion that a less obvious, but no less important,
consequence of immigration is that with a greater supply of labor, more goods and services are produced. This
leads to lower prices and an increase in purchasing power of existing American wages.
Dr. Powell is the editor of Making Poor Nations Rich: Entrepreneurship and the Process of Development and coeditor
of Housing America: Building Out of a Crisis. He is the author of more than 50 scholarly articles and
policy studies. His primary fields of research are economic development, Austrian economics, public choice, and
housing economics. Dr. Powell’s research findings have been reported in more than 100 popular press outlets


patrick February 14, 2011 at 4:05 pm

Legalize immigration. Abolish the borders.

The Anti-Gnostic February 14, 2011 at 4:07 pm

According to Dr. Powell, the #1 misconception about immigration is that it harms the economy, while in reality conservative estimates put the net gain from current immigration around $20 billion. He drives home the notion that a less obvious, but no less important, consequence of immigration is that with a greater supply of labor, more goods and services are produced.

That’s great news! Twenty Billion Dollars! Net! I hope Dr. Powell’s neighborhood gets a HUGE influx of Third World immigrants. That way he can get rich from all the goods and services they provide to free up his time generating these fantastic ideas!

Better yet, Dr. Powell and all the other people who enjoy high population density can just MOVE to some place like Bangladesh or Liberia or Rio de Janiero or Bombay or Egypt, where the high supply of labor assures super-abundance of goods and services!

Walt D. February 14, 2011 at 6:41 pm

If 10 million people generate $20 billion, that means we only need 800 million people to balance the $1.6 trillion budget deficit. We could do this by annexing India !
This way we would not need to outsource call centers. :-)

HL February 15, 2011 at 4:30 pm

Outstanding idea! I nominate you Czar of the new immigration intergration initiative.

prettyskin February 14, 2011 at 4:49 pm

Spot on, Right on. Do away with immigration laws. Immigrants are needed in any economy that wants to flourish. As established immigrants move up the ladder of prosperity, new immigrants are needed to take their places. Someone has to do the jobs that established immigrants won’t do. Go west young man(Greeley, H), go west and labor.

Those who are concerned about population growth, may leave or volunteer to leave earth all together. Last I checked, suicide was not a crime.

Lee February 14, 2011 at 5:27 pm

People like Powell have a rightful place where they need to be. It’s called HELL.

newson February 15, 2011 at 1:44 am

leaving together sounds suspiciously like organized white racial action. strictly verboten, last time i checked.

Stranger February 14, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Immigration only improves the economy in countries with a shortage of labor. The USA currently has a shortage of capital, and the only thing immigration does is worsen this shortage. There is an exception for individuals with very specific skillsets where there might be a real shortage of capital.

In a world with free trade and free movement of capital, unlimited immigration is unnecessary, as capital and production can be moved from regions with shortages of labor to regions with shortages of capital. Immigration then becomes a purely residential matter – one does not want to live amongst people who do not share a common culture.

newson February 14, 2011 at 7:59 pm

i thought homo economicus was a caricature. why is it surprising that people might incorporate non-monetary elements into their views on immigration? what if people were happier to be poorer in the company of people they have some sympathy for?

newson February 14, 2011 at 8:24 pm

one thing dr. powell can be certain of, there will be no thugs, no standover tactics, no threats made against him as he delivers his message. would those who oppose open borders be afforded the same decency.

RWW February 14, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Let’s see — so far the anti-freedom side here has come up with the following:
* If you don’t like it here, leave. (Anti-Gnostic)
* Dr. Powell should go to hell. (Lee)
* Attempts to pass off subjective judgements about “shortages” as demonstrable, objective fact (Stranger)
* Conveniently vague and collectivistic notions of “culture.” (Stranger again)
* Various other non-arguments (Walt D., newson)

Underlying all of this, of course, is the implicit but necessary belief that there exists some individual or body of individuals entitled to absolute control over the entire land mass currently known as the U.S., including my property.

In short, barbaric views put forth with barely a pretense of justification.

Lee February 14, 2011 at 10:35 pm

Not so. Freedom implies freedom from as well as freedom to. If you can’t take that and put it in this context then you know nothing about freedom or immigration either.

RWW February 16, 2011 at 12:44 am

Your comment is far too vague to even begin to make sense of it. I have better things to do than deal with someone who beats around the bush.

Walt D. February 14, 2011 at 11:45 pm

In a global economy, why does the labor have to be resident in a particular country? My post was flippant (as I indicated). Nevertheless, Dr. Powell’s numbers do not appear to make sense – they appear to suffer from Chevy Volt Syndrome.
On the other hand, on a micro level, what he claims may actually be grossly underestimated – consider Andrew Carnegie and Alexander Graham Bell.
Also, legal immigration tends to cherry pick – doctors from India, nurses from the Philippines or South Africa. The US imports people who have been trained for free in other countries. You would expect a net benefit.

newson February 15, 2011 at 1:48 am

what about illegal immigration? how would one fit their contribution into some macroeconomic modeling?

Walt D. February 15, 2011 at 3:27 am

Depends on what type of macroeconomic modeling. Under Keynesianism or Krugmanism illegal immigration boosts GDP, first from actual economic output and the leverage obtained by the employer, and then by the State, who has to borrow money to spend to buy services for illegals and their families, should the taxes paid by the employer, either directly on the labor, or indirectly on the increased economic output fall short. Under Keynesianism or Krugmanism when the Government borrows and spends it increases GDP. Other economists would argue that the “marginal productivity of debt” is in fact negative.

newson February 15, 2011 at 1:26 am

i agree with rww on a purely moral plane, but then i would probably resort to calling the police for protection in spite of my philosophical opposition to the state. i’d be happy with the no-borders argument were all taxes and imposts abolished.

Fritz February 15, 2011 at 12:13 am

Powell attempts to sell fool’s gold. This is the same guy trying to tell everyone how great Somalia is relative to when a government was in place despite never being close to the country. Not to mention the thousands of Somalis that wash up dead on the beaches of Yemen as they attempt to flee across the waters.


newson February 15, 2011 at 2:14 am

i’d say that private somali militias would likely be quite effective at monitoring and expelling those they deem unwelcome.

Sione February 15, 2011 at 1:08 am


Have you been to Somalia? Do you have any first hand experience?


Sione February 15, 2011 at 1:10 am


“Freedom from”?

What do you mean by that term?


Lee February 15, 2011 at 6:33 am

We used to have one of those “old sayings” down south which I think sums it up nicely: A Yankee is someone from the north who comes to visit. A damn Yankee is someone who comes to stay.

Nothing is more natural than that people should want to live with others of a similar race and culture. Any group, strictly speaking, requires for peacefulness a monogamy of viewpoint; every deviation creates a certain amount of stress within the group. Diversity is interesting but like salt and pepper only in small doses. Furthermore, when people are forced together the end result is the destruction of both cultures and a very long period before a new one is built, indeed if it ever is. No intelligent group of people are going to stand idly by and let themselves be destroyed. Immigration laws catch a lot of flak here on this site. But I think I can say with certainty if there was no law the people themselves would violently stop what’s going on now.

Sione February 15, 2011 at 12:17 pm


I still don’t understand what “freedom from” is.

Is it a right? If so, how is it derived? Does it cost someone else for you to possess it?


Robert February 15, 2011 at 7:37 am

Another important point is managing our relative decline compared to Asia over the next century. China has a billion people and India, nearly, Indonesia 200 million, Pakistan 170 million and so forth. All of these economies are growing faster than ours and will continue to do so for the forseeable future.

In order to experience a “British decline” (slow and prosperous) and not a “Roman” or a “Soviet” decline, we need continued qualitative improvement (good economic growth). That is probably the most important thing. But it will also help to be of a reasonable size — to have a growing population with a fair amount of young people, not a shrinking one dominated by retirees.

Gentle population growth is good for our security.

Lee February 15, 2011 at 1:10 pm


Consider the American Indians. They wanted to live as they always had. But since whites had much larger populations, and since white culture revolved around fences and farming, both couldn’t live in their accustomed manner. Don’t you think the Indians wanted freedom “from”?

I’ve stated this a number of times here and I’ll say it again: “Rights” in anything but legal terms, are a totally mythical invention of those who want to gain something for nothing.

Would it have cost anyone else for Indians to have had those “rights”? Of course. It would have cost the whites a country.

However the immigration problem is resolved, if it ever is, won’t be on the basis of rights; it will be on the basis of power, because that is how the world works. Some will lose and some will win.

Sione February 15, 2011 at 3:01 pm


What I asked you about was what your term “freedom from” actually means. After all you did write, “Freedom implies freedom from as well as freedom” to.

Rights (as in individual rights) are a recognition of particular attributes of Man. They are a negative obligation in that they presuppose that an individual should be treated in a certain manner because that individual possesses certain attributes (such as the ability to apply a faculty of reason). They also presuppose a specific morality. Whether such rights are written up and codified in legal stautute or not is irrelevant to what individual rights are and how they are properly derived.

Re “freedom from”.
If by this you mean that you have a right to prohibit certain types of people from existing adjacent to you, by, for example, purchasing or renting the house next door (or even every house in the entire neighbourhood), then it is to be confirmed that no such right exists. Unless you own the house next door (or have a previous agreement with the owner) or, indeed, the entire neighbourhood (or have previous agreement with ever owner in the neighbourhood), you have no control whatsoever on who moves in. That is exactly as it should be.

You are not “free” to control other people or their property. There is no “freedom from” dealing with the world. That world includes other people, some of whom have funny skin, weirdo languages, strange habits, odd clothes, terrible music and even follow religious practices (ugh!).

Of course, if the position is that there are no such things as rights, then the only way for any individual to survive is to attempt to harness as much force, fraud and coercion as he or she can muster. That is what the power you referred is constructed from and in the end that path leads inevitably to violence. It doesn’t work in the end. Inconsistent and against human life (let alone civilisation).


Lee February 15, 2011 at 4:45 pm


You’re playing the “invent a right” game.

If people are not allowed in then they are not going to own the property, are they. If a neighborhood, group, ect. want to exclude me from buying property there because I have ten fingers, they have as much “right” to do that as someone else does to tell them they have to allow me in. That is to say, none.

Violence works, Sione. Most of this earth is inhabited by people whose ancestors gained the land by violence. Even the American Indians on this continent over time gained and lost and gained new land by violence.

We humans aren’t special, Sione. We’re just another damn animal with our own particular traits. If you can say we’re “special”, at what point in our evolution did we become so?

Sione February 16, 2011 at 4:15 pm


What do you refer to when you employ the term “right”? I ask this as it is clear we are not discussing the same thing.

You state, “If a neighborhood, group, ect. want to exclude me from buying property there because I have ten fingers, they have as much “right” to do that as someone else does to tell them they have to allow me in. That is to say, none.”

If you turn up at my village and none of the property owners wants you there (for whatever reason they choose), none are prepared to rent you a fale, or sell you one or even allow you to stay in one as a guest, then you have no right to stay in a fale in the village. You are going to have to leave the village as you have nowhere to stay. You retain ownership over your legs though and you’ll be using them to depart the village. You are going to have to move on until you find a locale where at least one property owner is prepared to allow you onto his property or is prepared to sell you some (which is unlikely to be anywhere on the island- word gets around fast). This is fair enough and is as matters should be since THEY are the owners of the property and they are entitled to exclude anyone from staying on THEIR property.

On the other hand, should you demand to be allowed to stay or have some friend or representative turn up at the village to make such a demand, that demand is merely a demand. It has no authority. The property owners are free to turn it down and ignore it should they so choose. This is fair enough and is as matters should be since THEY are the owners of the property and they are entitled to exclude anyone from staying on THEIR property.

This matter goes back to who has ownership. It is exactly a matter of rights- who possesses them and how they choose to exercise them.

“Violence works, Sione.”

Actually, in reality it does not work. In the end violence is destructive of freedom, wealth, productivity, well-being, rationality and eventually of life itself. It ends up costing those who employ it just as certainly as it costs those who support it or attempt to justify it, just as certainly as it costs those poor wretches who are its initial victims.

The ex-President of Egypt is in the process of experiencing some of the costs of his glorious exercise of violence (for him matters are going to end poorly). Many subjects of the US are also in the process of experiencing the costs and consequences of the glories of violence or are about to embark on the process of experiencing them. Look around and watch.

Realise this. The initiation of violence works against civilisation. It exerts a tremendous toll which has to be paid. The initiator is not immune.

“Most of this earth is inhabited by people whose ancestors gained the land by violence.”

You may as well state that since most of this earth is inhabited by people whose ancestors were cannibals, cannibalism is justifiably good.


“We humans aren’t special, Sione. We’re just another damn animal with our own particular traits.”

Speak for yourself.

Interestingly I am unaware of any animals speaking; for one to so do would indeed be special- very, very special!

“If you can say we’re “special”, at what point in our evolution did we become so?”

I don’t know. I wasn’t there and I have not studied the subject in detail.

Nevertheless, human beings do possess the faculty of volitional reason. They are conscious. That is more than a little special.


Sione February 16, 2011 at 4:47 pm


While I remember, a great proponent of violence was President Teddy Roosevelt. He is interesting. His life is well recorded and much of his correspondence and papers still exist- available to read. He esposed a philosophy of which violence was a large portion. He eulogied the supposed “qualities” violence developed in men.

A particularly important incidence in his life was the death of a son. Teddy had consistently excoriated the boy for not being manly enough. When WW1 broke out Ted had more than a little to do with pressuring his son into joining up and travelling to Europe to join in the hostilities. Here was the chance, Roosevelt reasoned, for the boy to be blooded and to emerge a tested man. His son suffered and was killed. The loss changed Teddy utterly. He was destroyed. All his nonsense and mumbo-jumbo beliefs about the glories of violence were revealed as empty cant- falsehood all. He had the consequences of what he had lived for and done, as well as how he had contributed to the destruction of a loved son, bought into sharp focus. Teddy did not live so well after that. I read that he bacame particularly bitter on realising he had caused to many, many other people the same awful suffering he was experiencing.

His life’s story is worth chasing up. Read his papers.


newson February 16, 2011 at 1:44 am

to lee:
here’s one for you. takes an american indian to speak sense to a white audience.

Sione February 16, 2011 at 4:56 pm


One can’t be guilty about what one was not involved in doing. Of course, being made to feel guilty about such things is a means some use to gain authority over others. In the Orwell book “1984″ there is a situation described where people are made to feel guilty about wanting to express desire, love etc. A well employed way to make people yield to arbitrary authority is to create in them a guilt for being that which they are. For example, Christian religions gained great authority by denegrating the human condition as dirty, sinful, filthy, shameful, weak etc.

To people who would have you apologise for things in which you were not in any way involved, state the obvious, “I am not sorry and I do not worry. I don’t care because I wasn’t there!”


newson February 16, 2011 at 7:45 pm

personally, i feel no guilt for sins i haven’t committed, although i do recognize past injustices. as you say, 1984 showed how guilt can be used as an instrument to render a population more submissive. i’m worried by that parallel.

Sione February 15, 2011 at 12:50 pm


You should quit with the “we”. It’s a term that misleads. You are not the USA.

The USA is a political entity, a regime which claims a monopoly privledge of authority to rule over all people within a certain territory and also to project an authority to rule internationaly, by various means. It is not you. It is not the continent. It is merely a political structure. The costs of acquiring , maintaining, operating and expanding this political structure’s claimed authority is immense. Those who are captured are coerced and forced to pay for its continued and expanding existence. These immense costs represent a burden which prevent those forced to pay from attending to their own requirements, goals and objectives. Their lives are emburdened as they are forced to submit tribute to the regime, the political entity.

To avoid a decline in living standards what is required is the elimination of the unearned burdens and costs preventing each person from acting in their own interests. The biggest by far are those of the regime. Start there. Immigration and emmigration are a side issue- not really worth much focus at all really. The economic decline is hardly going to be fundamentaly affected from that source.


Lee February 17, 2011 at 9:26 am


To take your last post first: I’m not going to take to take the trouble to look any up but cases where people died because they didn’t use violence are commonplace; that’s too obvious to devote more time to.

Violence: you’re still trying to say violence doesn’t work because you don’t like it, rather than looking at reality. Most of us occupy the land we do because of violence. Governments exist on the basis of violence and the threat of violence. When a government falls or makes large changes it’s usually because it failed to use sufficient violence to quell the opposition. Non-violence is only a winning tactic when government won’t use force to put down the rebellion; when they will you just wind up with a lot of dead protesters.

Property owners “rights”: If a sufficiently strong group comes along they will take your land and your legs regardless of how loud you scream “right”. Violence trumps imaginary right every time.

Cannibalism: Situation determined. Plenty of examples, look them up.

Even most “dumb” animals have enough sense to defend their territory. But purely gratuitous violence? Mostly only practiced by “noble” humans. “Homo-not-very-muchSapiens”, Sione. Ingenious? Of course. Wise? Don’t make me laugh.

newson February 17, 2011 at 7:24 pm

as the developed world’s economies worsen and internal security becomes more precarious, people will coalesce to gain protection. that coalescence will not likely be along ideological lines, but in the main along tribal, racial ones.


Lee February 17, 2011 at 8:06 pm

For once I’m ahead of you on that link, Newson_thanks to an earlier post where you listed the site. Interesting stuff.

newson February 17, 2011 at 11:50 pm

i believe dr. powell’s intentions are kindly, but his prescription is poison for the very libertarian order he envisages. there’s some very bad economics on too, but the sociology seems to me far superior to much of what libertarian sites offer.

newson February 18, 2011 at 12:07 am

to lee:
this is another site that may interest. some great archived stuff from old-school libertarians and anarco-pessimists like myself.

Sione February 20, 2011 at 2:20 pm


Let’s take a look at what has occurred here. Remember you started by stating, “Freedom implies freedom from as well as freedom to.” I then asked you to clarify what you meant by “freedom from”. I also asked you whether “freedom from” was a right, how it was derived and whether it cost someone else for you possess it. On all this you remained silent, failing to provide an answer, instead substituting assertion that rights are imaginary fiction unless legislative. What precisely is your notion of “freedom from”? More importantly how is it derived? How is it justified and validated? Since it would appear you do not regard “freedom from” as a right, what exactly is it?

Moving on, to what exactly do you refer when you write assertions regarding “rights”. What do you mean by the term “right”? What is it? How is it derived? How is it justified and validated?

Note: When I use to the term “right” I am referring to a precisely defined concept or principle derived from a specific hierarchial philosophy which holds reality as axiomatic. I am happy to disclose it to you but at this stage I’d prefer to see what your idea is first and avoid the possibility of corrupting or altering your notion in the first instance.

“Violence: you’re still trying to say violence doesn’t work because you don’t like it, rather than looking at reality.”

I don’t like violence because it doesn’t work in reality. It impoverishes. It is destructive. It operates against life. It is uncivil. It is anti-civilisation. It is an impractical means to attain one’s goals and hence immoral.

While there may be circumstances where a mode of self-defense is chosen that requires deployment of retributive violence, understand that nothing is gained by it. All one is doing is attempting to preserve one’s situation or position. Even when successful in defense, a loss is incurred (whether material, physical or intellectual) and a cost is paid. As far as an aggressor is concerned, violence is expensive for him. For one thing, it breeds more of the same. Note that he who applies violence to others has no moral defense when others behave likewise and apply violence upon him. Men of violence place themselves beyond reason, outside of civil discourse or transaction. They deal in violence and in the end violence deals with them.

It is to be recommended that you take a careful look at the condition of those who are active in employing violence through their lives or at those who have been subject to it. Hardly aspirational.

There is a book that was recommended to readers of the site recently. It is “Non-Violence. Twenty-five lessons about the history of a dangerous idea.” The author is Mark Kurlansky. Get a copy and read it carefully. It turns out to be a good and relevant read.

“Most of us occupy the land we do because of violence.”

Again, you speak for yourself (although I seriously doubt you personally have expressed violence sufficient to successfully attain a block of land from its rightful owners and then retain it).

I own the land I have by either purchase (most of it) or inheritance (the rest of it, including in the islands). There was no violence involved whatsoever. I do not believe most people own the land they do as the direct result of violence. More than likely they purchased it. I’ll just bet that despite your worshipping of violence any land that you might own you acquired by honest trade and not by violence or theft.

“Governments exist on the basis of violence and the threat of violence.”

Yes. I agree with you on that point. Governments are a prime source of violence in modern and not-so-modern societies. They are anti-civilisation and are a cause of warfare or at the very least, the means for engaging in it on unimaginably vast scales. They are hugely costly, fraudulent and coercive. Immoral as an idea and disasterous in practice.

“When a government falls or makes large changes it’s usually because it failed to use sufficient violence to quell the opposition.”

When a governed people decide they no longer grant consent to be governed, the government is doomed. Don’t forget that a government is made up of many individuals. They are non-productive and rely for their continued existence on the efforts of the productive. Without the goods and services of the productive those who reside within government are helpless. The greatest danger they face is that loss of consent. The entire purpose of their coercive and violent apparatus is to attempt to force people to support them, to force people to continue to grant consent, to make them fear not allowing it. The moment the victims refuse to grant sanction to the thugs, then the violence has failed. What can be done then? More violence? Unlimited violence? Kill absolutely everyone? Nuke ‘em all?

As time proceeds it is becoming more and more difficult for governements to retain authority or sovereignty. Some people are starting to lose belief in the ideas of govt validity. More follow to arrive at similar conclusions. The “arrow of civilisation” points away from government because it points away from violence.


Let’s see what occurred here. You wrote, “Most of this earth is inhabited by people whose ancestors gained the land by violence.” To which I responded, “You may as well state that since most of this earth is inhabited by people whose ancestors were cannibals, cannibalism is justifiably good.” You then write, “Cannibalism: Situation determined”, which has nowt to do with the fundamental point at issue.

The point is this. The structure of argument you employed failed to justify violence just as it would fail to justify cannibalism.

Re “Special”

Your contention was, “We humans aren’t special, Sione. We’re just another damn animal with our own particular traits.” I’ve already indicated one reason why this is false. The rant at the end of your recent post does nothing to alter that. What it does do is demonstrate that your view of yourself is negative. That’s a shame.

In reviewing a philosophic system of thought it is important to study its position on the Nature of Man. This informs a great deal about where adherence to that philosophy is likely to lead. Unfortunatly the fashion in most academic institutions these days is to present the idea that Man is defective or barbaric or fundamentally deficient. While that may allow certain authorities, govts, religious leaders and the like etc. to exert control over those who buy into those ideas, it reduces or eliminates an individual’s ablility to evaluate reality and act in his own best interests to perfect his own life. My recommendation to you would be to dump such nonsense and start again with something better.


Glenn R May 2, 2011 at 8:31 am

The estimated number of illegal immigrates in Canada is more than 100,000. About half cross our borders entering through inadequate border security. The other half breaks the law by not leaving when their visa expires. The number must have increased drastically with the expiration of temporary employer work permits issued in 2007 and 2008, which were not renewed because of the shortage of work due to the recession. Though they have to face lot of trouble like low wages, sexual harassment, discrimination etc, the claim that comes right after “they took our jobs” is “they’re going to take our welfare.”

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