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The Category Errors of Appealing to the Economy

Howsikan Kugathasan

Conservatives and libertarians are very pro-growth.  Encouraging business and a rising trend in the GDP are a must for anybody on the right.  However, this mentality can be treated as a weakness, at least from a liberal’s point of view.  Progressives will often appeal to the economy to garner conservative support on their agenda.  Take immigration and abortion for example:

To highlight the immigration debate and President Obama’s passing of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) via executive order, his administration published a study titled “Fixing Our Broken Immigration System” claiming that a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants will allow for $568 billion GDP growth and $75 billion tax revenue that will arise from 2013-2022 with citizenship instead of legalization alone.

President Ronald Reagan famously said, “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

But there’s the rub.  The issue with illegal immigration is not economic growth, but it is the rule of law.  It is evident that high-skilled legal immigrants create a net positive effect on the economy with their work (with the premise that they pay more into the system than they take out).  Regardless of their economic benefit to the country, illegal immigration and the tolerance of it undermines the notion that no single person is above the law.  Amnesty only validates that violation of the law. With Barack Obama’s DACA executive action, not only do illegal immigrants violate the rule of law by staying, but so does the President by bypassing congress in the lawmaking progress.

The issue of abortion is similar to the amnesty problem.  Economist Robert Reich created a short video titled “Stand Up for Planned Parenthood”.  While acknowledging that there is a moral aspect to the abortion debate, he quickly defers to his main point: the economic benefits of a pro-choice society and Planned Parenthood.  From breaking the glass ceiling, to allegedly saving $7.00 for every public dollar spent on family planning.  Here, the appeal to economy covers up the true debate surrounding abortions: the question of whether fetuses are humans and thus deserve the same rights as all those who are born.  The conservative position is yes, on the basis of cell theory that the smallest unit of life is the cell; consequently the smallest unit of human life is the human cell.  Here again, the liberal attempts to recast a moral problem as an economic one, with an appeal to pro-growth conservatives and libertarians.

When analyzing policies and problems, one must not forget that a country is not just an economy or a GDP figure.  There is much more than that.  Cultural, moral, and legal underpinnings are equally, if not much more important.  The Declaration of Independence acknowledges our natural rights endowed by our Creator and the Constitution was built on that framework to protect those unalienable rights from an intrusive government.  A holistic view of policy analysis is necessary in order to not fall into any traps.  The next time a liberal tries to sell you some policy by saying it will add fiscally, think about what that policy will subtract from the rest of this country.


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