D.A. King’s latest op-ed for the MDJ (“Jobs, the Cobb GOP and a brewing scandal”) is an impassioned plea for the Cobb County Commission to pass a regulation designed to thwart the hiring of undocumented workers. Unfortunately, King’s commentary is also full of economic ignorance.
King proclaims the virtues of the “no-cost E-Verify system” and the “no-cost Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers program” and in doing so demonstrates the ignorance documented by Frederic Bastiat in his famous 1848 article “What is Seen and What is Not Seen.” King views these government bureaucracies and sees they can be accessed at no monetary cost to the user, but there are many real and significant costs which are not seen.
First, is the opportunity cost to an employer and employee of having to wait for the bureaucracy to process the background check. Second are the legal and administrative costs to employers and employees to correct the high percentage of errors in the database.
Third, is the cost of liberty and trade which are lost when citizens must obtain the permission of their government to earn a living.
Fourth, and most significant, is the cost to taxpayers to create and administer the bureaucracy and to investigate and adjudicate non-compliance.
It is possible these costs are outweighed by the benefits of stopping undocumented workers. (I doubt it.) It is also possible the worker verification bureaucracy will be unlike other government programs: efficient, effective, and valuable. (Again, I doubt it and there was a time when Republicans shared my distrust of bureaucracies.)
Still, an honest discussion of the virtues of a government takeover of the employment process would include what is not seen as well as what is seen.