In our opinion: Sign the Utah Compact

Published: Sunday, Nov. 14 2010 12:00 a.m. MST

Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff signs the Utah Compact while Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce President Lane Beattie, former Utah Gov. Olene Walker, Catholic Bishop Mark Wester, Deseret Management Corp. CEO Mark Willes, former U.S. Rep. Jim Hansen and former U.S. Sen. Jake Garn look on.

Brian Nicholson, Deseret News

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Already recognized by Forbes Magazine as the top state in the nation for business, Utah further burnished its reputation for pro-family and pro-growth policies this week as civic, business and religious leaders signed the Utah Compact, a declaration for principled immigration reform.

Historically, during periods of economic recession, business leaders and policy-makers have reverted to what economists call zero-sum thinking — the belief that one person gains only when another loses. When we only have so much pie, it is entirely rational to worry about how the pieces are divvied out. And when the pie is shrinking, the rules for who gets a slice become even more critical.

Fixed-pied concerns are undoubtedly part of what lies behind the complex debate about immigration. There is understandable fear that immigrants might take increasingly scarce jobs and resources from citizens. And any public expenditure on immigrants, whether through social services or law enforcement, draws down a limited public treasury that deserves scrupulous stewardship.

But people also intuitively understand that the best way to ensure more pie over the long term is not to hoard what is being served right now, but instead figure out how to expand the pie. This is what economists call positive-sum thinking — the belief that through exchange we can expand the pie, not simply fret about how it is divided.

The recent recession, followed by a jobless recovery, has served up a fixed-pie economy. But zero-sum or fixed-pie thinking is never the path toward sustained prosperity. And as many of Utah's prominent civic, business, and religious leaders signed a declaration on immigration reform called the Utah Compact, they sent a powerful signal to the world that Utah embraces positive-sum, pie-expanding thought and policies. Instead of creating a hostile environment for immigrants, they have outlined thoughtful principles that embrace the promise afforded through immigration. They have sided with the consensus view of pro-growth free-market economists who recognize that immigration actually creates jobs and revenue. (www.nytimes.com/2010/10/31/business/economy/31view.html)

Even more important than the powerful economic growth message inherent in the Utah Compact is its embrace of those core values that support a free, humane and prosperous society: respect for the rule of law, respect for families, respect for individual liberty and respect for the dignity and humanity of each individual. It emphasizes an orderly approach to the critically important concerns of enforcement and security.

The Utah Compact is not itself a policy — it is a thoughtful declaration of principles that lawmakers should use as they work to craft pragmatic legislation that helps our state deal with the problems and promise afforded by immigration. We are impressed by the array of distinguished civic, business, and ecclesiastical leaders who have signed the Utah Compact or endorsed its principles. We encourage our readers to read the Utah Compact (www.utahcompact.com) and sign it.

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