The David Brooks Fallacy

David Brooks, in an article titled “The Materialist Fallacy,” comes to this hilarious conclusion:

The American social fabric is now so depleted that even if manufacturing jobs miraculously came back we still would not be producing enough stable, skilled workers to fill them. It’s not enough just to have economic growth policies. The country also needs to rebuild orderly communities.

So now the theory is not that Americans won’t do these jobs, it’s that they can’t do these jobs because they’re so messed up.  If only someone had thought to test this theory. Oh wait, someone did. Alabama decided to crack down on illegal immigrants and miraculously their unemployment rate went down. Funny how that works.

The larger issue with Brooks’ fallacy is that, in my opinion, he gets causality wrong. Communities don’t have unemployment because they’re disorderly; if anything, it’s high unemployment that begets disorderliness. If orderliness were the issue (and it presumably is, seeing as how Brooks is implying that foreign labor have more orderly communities), then you would expect productivity, not wages to be the deciding factor. But, for the most part, foreign labor competes primarily on price, not productivity. As such, the issue of community “orderliness” is quite irrelevant, and appears to be nothing more than a pretty lie that the pro-immigration crowd needs in order to feel good about making life more difficult for their fellow citizens.*

* On a tangentially related note, how come free traders and free laborers argue more fervently on behalf of foreign business and labor interests than domestic business and labor interests? Couldn’t they channel all the energy and righteous indignation into arguing for deregulation of domestic businesses and labor, which would benefit their fellow citizens?

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