Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Un Día sin Méxicanos

I have always felt that The Christian Science Monitor has a reputation for running interesting "think pieces" that are well argued. Faye Bowers has one in today's edition with a fascinating lead:

Fewer people are trying to sneak across the US-Mexico border. As a result, US border officials are nabbing fewer illegal immigrants – 30 percent fewer for the first quarter of this year compared with the same period a year ago. That's a triumph, says US Customs and Border Protection, of new sophisticated detection equipment as well as 6,000 National Guard troops situated along the 2,000-mile border with Mexico.

But enhanced security may explain only part of the decline. A slowing US economy, resulting in fewer jobs, is discouraging immigrants from slipping into the United States, according to economists at Arizona State University in Tempe. In fact, falling border apprehensions may be an early predictor of where the economy is headed.

On the surface this can be read as a be-careful-what-you-wish-for commentary on our current wall-building immigration policy. However, the Monitor filed it under "Economy;" and I would actually view it as a story about economics.

It is no secret that, in the study of economics, there is a wide gulf between theory and practice; and it often seems that, the deeper the study, the wider the gulf. Put another way, it is often a wonder that any expert in economic theory can manage his own finances in the volatility of real-world markets by any means other than setting theory off to the side. Well, if you are a day laborer, you do not have much time for economic theory; but you really do not have any need for it, either. All you need is a good way to gauge supply and demand, because, if the demand is not there, the price is too high and the risks are too great to add to the supply. Much of Ms. Bowers' article, then, exposes us to the "real world of information flow" where jobs for day laborers are concerned and demonstrates that at least Hayek got it right in his efforts to understand economies in terms of the acquisition of knowledge. After reading her analysis, I am beginning to think that day laborers have a better intuition for the acquisition of knowledge, particularly where supply and demand are concerned, the just about any evangelist for globalization I have ever met!

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