Politico Technobro: Just Make Immigrants Indentured Servants!

Politics Features Politico
Share Tweet Submit Pin
<i>Politico</i> Technobro: Just Make Immigrants Indentured Servants!

Our major media centers are in the midst of a serious arms race—they are fighting to accumulate men and women who can issue dipshit takes seemingly at will. I detailed yesterday how some of the New York Times opinion page columns are difficult to differentiate from the sewers of Breitbart (and this was before they hired then fired a Nazi sympathizer yesterday).

However, as bad as the Times opinion page is, it pales in comparison to the hire made by The Washington Post. Megan McArdle joined their ranks yesterday, and for the comprehensive takedown of her entire oeuvre, read Jason Rhode’s feature. Suffice it to say, she is famous for takes like half-defending a South Dakota bill legalizing the murder of abortion doctors, fat-shaming poor people in a justification for taking food assistance from them, and being pro-industrializing rich people buying kidneys from the poor. Well, as much as America’s two biggest newspapers antagonized the very concept of reason yesterday, our most famed access merchants over at Politico eviscerated the battlefield with their M-9 Reaper of a nuclear take: indentured servitude is good.

The title is presently “Sponsor An Immigrant Yourself,” but that’s only because some brave editor ran back onto the battlefield to save one last shred of rationality. Here was the original title.

The text is just as bad as the headline, and being a full-time internet person, I cannot in good conscience let this opportunity for a good fisking slip through my fingers. The drivel published in Politico has a gray background, while my hyperbolic rage has a white background. Let’s begin to ramp up my blood pressure.

The raw emotions generated by immigration policy—provoked by heartrending stories of families torn apart by deportation, or citizens murdered by illegal immigrants—have scrambled political allegiances and confused public debate. Republicans, usually the champions of family values and small government, now want to restrict family reunification and give bureaucrats the power to screen people who want to enter the country. Democrats, traditionally the allies of the working class, want big business to select immigrants and have given scant attention to the legitimate interests of working-class natives.

Alright, we’re off to a good start. My doctor just called and told me to stop reading. It can’t get any better than this after that title, right?

The only way to end this politically charged debate is to think carefully about benefits and costs as well as politics and perceptions. We need a new immigration system that offers liberal admission policies but targets its benefits to native workers rather than corporations.

Well…I like what I’m hearing. Maybe the bizarre first title was just an overzealous editor?

The problem posed by migration is that the benefits are not evenly distributed. They flow to the migrants themselves and the corporations that hire them. Consumers do receive better products and lower prices, but ordinary people don’t really perceive these benefits.

Bemoaning that migration benefits migrants and a reference to consumers not seeing the benefits they actually receive from immigration? Uh oh. I can see the storm clouds forming.

Right now, special classes of citizens—mostly corporations (and in practice, big corporations) and family members—can sponsor temporary or permanent migrants, benefiting shareholders mainly, as well as ethnic enclaves.

This system should be wiped away and replaced with a system of citizenship sponsorship for immigrants that we call a Visas Between Individuals Program. Under this new system, all citizens would have the right to sponsor a migrant for economic purposes.

That’s…that’s indentured servitude. You’re advocating that we change our immigration policy to feudalism…oh God…the rage…I…I can feel it. It’s building.

Here’s how the program would work: Imagine a woman named Mary Turner, who lives in Wheeling, West Virginia. She was recently laid off from a chicken-processing plant and makes ends meet by walking and taking care of her neighbors’ pets. Mary could expand her little business by hiring some workers, but no one in the area would accept a wage she can afford. Mary goes online—to a new kind of international gig economy website, a Fiverr for immigrants—and applies to sponsor a migrant. She enters information about what she needs: someone with rudimentary English skills, no criminal record and an affection for animals. She offers a room in her basement, meals and $5 an hour. (Sponsors under this program would be exempt from paying minimum wage.) The website offers Mary some matches—people living in foreign countries who would like to spend some time in the United States and earn some money. After some back and forth, Mary interviews a woman named Sofia who lives in Paraguay.

So let me try to understand professor Eric Posner’s argument here (congratulations University of Chicago Law School! You’ve got a live one on your hands). A Paraguayan migrant is going to hop on the internet—in a country where only half the population uses it—sign up for FiverrFeudalism.com, and then live in some lady’s basement doing whatever she’s told for less than the legal minimum wage? Nope, don’t see any holes in this one. Great plan, professor!

While the program might seem crazy at first, it would not be that different from the existing H1-B program, except that individuals like Mary rather than corporations like Google and Exxon would sponsor the workers.

This is an excellent analogy, save for the fact that corporations are beholden to a completely different set of laws and regulations than us puny humans. Is Mary going to have to start getting audited every year? How are we going to ensure that people like Mary are genuine and aren’t using this gigantic indentured servitude loophole for illegal activity? What happens if Mary abuses her power in any way over this Paraguayan migrant? Do they have any recourse? Does this migrant have any free time or does Mary own every second of her life?

My God, this take is so piping hot that I’m actually defending how we regulate corporations in a positive light.

According to our calculations, a typical family of four could boost its income by $10,000 to 20,000 by hosting migrants. The reason is that migrants to the United States usually increase their wages many times, allowing them to pay as much as $6,000 to hosts for sponsorships (and our average family could sponsor up to four visas, one for each member).


This financial benefit for working families would be a larger increase in income than they have received over the last 40 years of economic growth. (Median household income in the United States was about $50,000 in 1977 and is roughly $59,000 today.) At the same time, a Visas Between Individuals Program would be true to Republican free-market and small-government principles by drastically reducing the role of government bureaucrats, who would merely run security checks on migrants rather than trying to evaluate their likely contributions to the economy.

The man has a point. Slavery does do wonders for cutting red tape. Notice how he doesn’t even consider that the person sponsoring these migrants would be subject to regulation? By not acknowledging this, he’s leaving them exempt and thus, literally arguing on behalf of a feudalist model draped in techno dudebroism. This is insane.

Many people will worry that the Sofias of the world would be exploited by their sponsors. But all health and safety laws would apply to them, and periodic inspections could be undertaken.

“All health and safety laws would apply to them.”

“Periodic inspections could be undertaken.”

Words don’t mean anything anymore. I think I’m having a stroke. Baseball airplane pizza Politico garbage fire.

Yes, Mary would be able to pay Sofia less than the minimum wage, but even at $5 an hour, Sofia would earn many times what she earns on a farm in Paraguay. Sofia would be free to leave at any time if she did not like the conditions of her employment.

“Sofia should be thankful for the $5 per hour she wouldn’t get in her hellhole country and if she doesn’t like it, then she can move back and probably just die or something. I don’t care. Fuck it. EAT THE POOR!”

Wouldn’t lower-income Americans oppose a Visas between Individuals Program because of fears that these immigrants would take away their jobs? At first, maybe. But they would soon realize that they can use the program to make money for themselves.

Most Americans don’t have $1,000 in their savings accounts. The current poverty level in America is $24,257 per year for a family of four, and $18,871 for a family of three. $5 per hour for 40 hours a week and 52 weeks per year comes out to $10,400. The professor is on that Megan McArdle good ish, and frankly, I could use some right now. Anything to take the edge off.

Moreover, a Visas Between Individuals Program does so in the spirit of the market, by allowing every citizen to choose how she uses her right to sponsor visas rather than allowing corporations or governments to manage migration. The program puts the burden of responsibility and choice as well as the freedom to profit on hard-working Americans who seek to better their lot.

I’m sure that a law professor at a major American school published on a major American website asserting that feudalism operates in the spirit of the free market isn’t indicative of a larger trend that has led to 51% of millennials to lose faith in capitalism.

Immigration is just one of any number of social problems that can be solved with what we call “radical markets.” By exploiting the logic of the market in an area that is normally bureaucratized, we can advance equality as well as economic growth.

“Radical markets.” Kill me now.

This is the end of the piece and it’s all so crazy that I’m genuinely wondering if this was an Andy Kauffman-esque stunt in absurdity. If so, bravo professor. In an age defined by irrationality—on one of its most illogical days—you managed to separate yourself from the madness. Yesterday was so utterly insane that it provided us with a sobering truth: Donald Trump is kind of right. Some of our mainstream media is hopeless.

Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.