Friday, August 27, 2010

Mexican Immigration: The False Dilemma Fallacy

Feed the myth, baby.
The logical fallacy of false dilemma (also called false dichotomy, the either-or fallacy) involves a situation in which only two alternatives are considered, when in fact there are other options. Failing to consider a range of options and the tendency to think in extremes, called black-and-white thinking, is a form of the false dilemma fallacy.

I often read the Mexico enablers justify the 800,000 Mexicans illegally crossing the US border each year, rationalizing this with a statement such as, "well it is either they stay in Mexico and starve, or risk their lives crossing the border." This is the false dilemma fallacy. Those are not the only two alternatives. Let me deconstruct this.

First, we have to consider that people are not really starving in Mexico. Mexico is not a poor country. While it is poorer than the US, it still ranks in the top third of all countries on the planet for income. The per capita income in the US in 2009 was $46,381, ranking it 6th in the world. The per capita income for Mexico was $14,336, ranking it 53rd. In fact, Mexico and Argentina are essentially tied as the two richest countries in all of Latin America.

Do you need more proof that Mexicans are not starving? Mexico has now surpassed the US as having the largest number of overweight adults in the world. It is so bad, that recently Mexican President Felipe Calderón has started a national program on reducing what he called an epidemic of obesity. "Obesity and excess weight are one of the biggest health challenges that Mexico is facing today," said President Felipe Calderón as he introduced the national public-private plan to improve eating habits, mainly among children.

About 70 percent of Mexican adults are now overweight, according to government estimates. That is more than three times the number 30 years ago. About one-third of the country's schoolchildren are overweight. Based on estimates, more than 200,000 Mexicans die each year due to weight-related illnesses, especially diabetes.

Let's look at some dollars and cents numbers. The Mexican government maintains price controls on basic food items, like beans and tortillas. Beans cost about 14 pesos per kilogram in Mexico. That works out to $1.12 per kilogram. The minimum wage in Mexico is $4.50 per day, mas o menos. So a Mexican worker earning only the minimum wage makes enough each day to purchase 4 kilograms of beans. 4 kilograms of beans have 6,039 calories. The average adult needs 2,000 calories per day. That means one Mexican earning the minimum wage makes enough to feed 3 adults. While there are living costs other than just food, the important point is that there is no calorie shortage in Mexico. In fact, Mexicans are the most overweight on the planet. Since they are not starving, the "starve or migrate" dilemma is totally false.

On January 9, 2006, at a press conference in Los Pinos (the Mexican White House), Fox administration spokesman Ruben Aguilar was asked about emigration. Here is part of what he said:

In some cases it [emigration] has to do with real problems of poverty, and in others it answers to other types of personal interest. Statistics reveal that a very, very high number of the persons who emigrate to the United Status had work in Mexico. They don’t emigrate to get a job, but they emigrate for another series of conditions also of a cultural character, because they hope for a better condition of life despite the fact that they had work here. They aren’t going because they don’t have work in Mexico.

The Pew Hispanic Center issued a report in December, 2005 which stated:

The vast majority of undocumented migrants from Mexico were gainfully employed before they left for the United States. The failure to find work at home does not seem to be the primary reason that the estimated 6.3 million undocumented migrants from Mexico have come to the U.S.
Mexicans migrate illegally northward for the money. They can make more money and improve their living conditions much faster in the US. While there are no starving masses in Mexico, there is also little opportunity to advance. That is a result of Mexico's corrupt, indolent and crony capitalistic system.