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Saturday, December 1, 2018

Schrodinger’s Immigrant: How Can Immigrants Steal Jobs if They’re “Too Lazy to Work”?

If immigrants are lazy and will go on welfare, how can they also steal American jobs?

Photo by Jhon David on Unsplash

In a recent post, Cafe Hayek’s Don Boudreaux points out the contradiction in opposing immigrants because they work and opposing them because they go on welfare—that is, don’t work.

Jon Murphy, a Ph.D. student at George Mason University, where Don teaches, and a frequent commenter on this site (as well as an Econlib Feature Article author) sums it up beautifully:

Schrodinger’s Immigrant: simultaneously stealing jobs and too lazy to work.
Of course, Jon’s reference is to Schrodinger’s cat. By the way, I wouldn’t have known about Schrodinger’s cat if not for my faithfully watching The Big Bang Theory. (Here’s the link: start at 2:40.) While I was a physics minor at the University of Winnipeg in the late 1960s, I don’t recall the issue coming up, although it might have.

Anyway, back to the two points I want to make.

The first and less important point is that Jon’s statement reminds me of the fact that now that I’m retired, one of the things I miss, believe it or not, is grading papers. It was always love/hate, but one of the occasional pleasures I had in doing so was seeing students showing that the light bulb went on when they stated correct answers in their terms rather than mine. Here’s one example. A sure sign that you “get it” is when you can put the concept in your own terms and get it right. That’s what Jon Murphy did, with a lot of wit added.

The second and more important point is that even those who don’t favor completely unrestricted immigration and do worry about immigrants going on welfare should realize that one of the worst things the government can do is put enforcement resources into keeping immigrants from working instead of putting enforcement resources into making sure they’re not on welfare.

This article was reprinted with permission from the Library of Economics and Liberty.

  • David Henderson is a research fellow with the Hoover Institution and an economics professor at the Graduate School of Business and Public Policy, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. He is editor of The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics (Liberty Fund) and blogs at