Addressism

Racism is ugly. Treating a person badly because of the color of his skin is stupid, petty, and impertinent. And it’s wrong.

Addressism is equally ugly. Treating a person badly because of his address—where he was born—is equally stupid, petty, and impertinent; and it’s just as wrong.

Addressism is the term my dissertation supervisor and dear friend Don Lavoie gave to discrimination against immigrants—treating people badly, blocking their pursuit of a better life, because of their addresses. Perhaps he felt extra strongly about it because he married a (wonderful) immigrant.

Immigration policy is much in the news these days. Last week there were two front-page articles about it in the Wall Street Journal. On Wednesday (April 10), “Senate Plan Sets High Bar On Border Security” discussed some of the politics of immigration. This weekend (April 13-14), “Near the U.S.-Mexico Border, A Grim New Reality,” discusses one of the economic consequences of our current policy: migrants’ deaths from exposure.

In coming posts I will discuss some of the economics of immigration, but first I want to address what’s most important: the right and wrong of the matter. This is far too often neglected in the press and in Congress.

Human beings who live in peace with one another should be free to come and go in the world as they wish. American employers who wish to hire people from an address outside the U.S. should be free to do so. American bus companies that wish to take as passengers people from addresses outside the U.S. should be free to do so. American boarding-house owners who wish to rent a room to someone—or to half a dozen people—from an address outside the U.S. should be free to do so.

The main reason to advocate free markets, including free international labor markets, is not that such free markets lead to a higher overall standard of living than people can otherwise achieve, although that is true, as I’ll argue. The main reason to advocate free markets is that peaceful people should be free … no matter what their addresses.

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