Adam Smith on Congress on Immigration

Checking a reference for my book in The Wealth of Nations today, I came across a passage which shouted to me in response to this morning’s Wall Street Journal article about the continuing failure of those creatures in Congress to take down America’s answer to the Berlin Wall (“Prospects for Immigration Deal Blur”). Here is the Adam Smith passage,* with my comments on its relevance to immigration:

It is thus that every system which endeavours, … by extraordinary restraints, [to] force from a particular species of industry some share of the capital which would otherwise be employed in it, is in reality subversive of the great purpose which it means to promote.

By way of “extraordinary restraints,” an amendment to a Senate “reform” bill, the Wall Street Journal says, would “double the number of border-control agents to nearly 40,000 and require 700 miles of fencing on the Mexican border.” These restraints would “force from [various] industr[ies] some share of the [human] capital [from south of the border] which would otherwise be employed in it.”

[Such a system of restraints] retards, instead of accelerating, the progress of the society towards real wealth and greatness; and diminishes, instead of increasing, the real value of the annual produce of its land and labour.

Congress! Immigration restraints make us poorer!

All systems either of preference or of restraint, therefore, being thus completely taken away, the obvious and simple system of natural liberty establishes itself of its own accord. Every man [including Americans who would like to hire immigrants, as well as the immigrants themselves], as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way,

That’s what I’m talkin’ about!

…and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man, or order of men,

including those small-souled individuals who would deny their foreign-born brothers and sisters an opportunity they themselves enjoy.

The sovereign [that’s Congress in this case] is completely discharged from a duty, in the attempting to perform which he must always be exposed to innumerable delusions, and for the proper performance of which no human wisdom or knowledge could ever be sufficient; the duty of superintending the industry of private people, and of directing it towards the employments most suitable to the interest of the society.

Congress! “[N]o human wisdom or knowledge could ever be sufficient” to do well what you deluded, impertinent so and so’s are trying to do. In “the interest of … society,” try “the obvious and simple system of natural liberty” instead.

* Book IV, Chapter 9, paragraphs 50 and 51

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