"So…how much do you love tomatoes?"

It’s settled into a pattern by now:

  1. State contains significant amount of migrant laborers, many involved in strenuous food crop operations that don’t pay much
  2. State legislature passes flamboyantly anti-immigrant law
  3. Immigrants vanish, leaving said low-wage strenuous positions open for Real Merkins (the morons who pushed the law had among their claims “they’re takin our jobs!”)
  4. Real Merkins balk at picking fruit for peanuts, thus leaving the fields to rot.
  5. Morons switch from “they’re takin’ our jobs!” to “why is no one takin’ these jobs?”

The raw market implication on one hand is blindingly obvious: the price you offer is a signal of how badly you want something.  Thus, if you need labor so desperately then offer better compensation.  Since undocumented workers can be threatened with deportation, there is additional leverage against them when negotiating pay — taken in aggregate, their legal status functions as a subsidy for the employer.  Agribusiness owners continuing to offer the same rates after their subsidy has effectively been yanked is clearly counterproductive, yet many seem to persist.

Now think further: suppose within the context of these kind of laws becoming The New Normal, the farm employers finally wised up and offered wages high enough where those positions were in decent demand, filled by people less likely to be subjected to “random” police harassment on their way to work — and their bosses expected the same profit margin they previously had in the pre-Juan Crow era.  Prices crawl upwards at the grocery store, and eventually people panic, some clamoring for…yet more intervention.  Maybe more outright subsidy to replace the indirect one of having workers you can not just fire but have deported, maybe buying into the right-wing fever swamp dream of having convicts pick fruit (which is actually happening in some places already), the impulse of “just DO SOMETHING!” rings out.

This is an example of how a population, digging deeper in a hole that should never have been started to begin with, becomes increasingly complicit in utter nonsense.  We get so used to the distorted prices that when reality makes the slightest break for the light of day we think that is the problem rather than the distortion.

So…how much?  Enough to pay a decent wage for the hard work of others getting them to your salad bowl, burger, or homemade salsa?  Perhaps enough to even try your hand at growing some?

Or enough to use force to get them?


About b-psycho

Left-libertarian blogger & occasional musician.
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