Thursday, May 24, 2007

Arguments I Love: The "Who'll Do Your Dirty Work?" Argument

The immigration debate is just filled with amazingly bad arguments, but my favorite so far goes like this:

If we don't do x (refuse to enforce immigration laws, give amnesty to illegals already here, etc.), then there'll be no one to do the crappy jobs Americans don't want.

Oh, man, for connoisseurs of bad arguments it doesn't get much better than this.

Apparently there are a couple of ideas here. The argument is generally articulated in a vague and abbreviated form like the one I give above. That makes it largely a matter of gestures, presuppositions and suggestions. But those are clear enough. One idea here seems to be that it's o.k. to pay someone less than what their labor is worth so long as they're not American citizens. Another is that the market wouldn't take care of this problem (in the absence of illegal immigrants) by forcing employers and consumers to pay more. Another is that it's better to allow large numbers of illegal and undocumented immigrants into the country than it is to have to pay a fair price for e.g. hamburgers, lettuce and landscaping.

None of these ideas seems even vaguely reasonable to me.

I'm willing to listen to arguments on this issue...but not excremental arguments like this one. Irascible as I am, such patently crappy reasoning tends to push me in the other direction.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

One idea here seems to be that it's o.k. to pay someone less than what their labor is worth so long as they're not American citizens.

Not just pay them less, but also deny them health insurance, benefits, sick days, compensation for job-related injuries, safe work environment, etcetera.

Before I moved, I was talking to a friend about the factory job I had. I had gotten in through a temp agency, and despite the fact that I was a hard worker who was always there on time, HR was dragging their feet over hiring me in directly.

I knew why, of course. Once I was hired in, they would have to give me all the aforementioned benefits. It was in their advantage to keep me as a temp worker. They'd make more of a profit that way.

My friend, who did a lot of factory work in previous years, agreed, commenting, "That's why factories love hiring illegal Mexicans." They not only pay them less, but don't have to give them benefits or worry about them complaining about unsafe conditions or harassment. After all, if they try to stand up for their rights, it will be discovered that they're undocumented, and they'll be deported.

It's sad, really. Both that companies put their profits above treating their workers like human beings, and that people actually make (and believe!) the crappy arguments like the one you outlined above.

3:50 PM  

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