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A Radical Pro-Immigration Argument

? What We Don't Know About Enron |


| Misleading Paulson Headline of the Week ?

May 30, 2006

A Radical Pro-Immigration Argument

Michael Mandel

So far global trade policy has focused on making it easy to move goods and services across national borders. I've done a column where I lay out the case for allowing people to move easily across national borders as well: open immigration policy produces massive gains to trade, as people move to countries that can make the best use of their skills and pay them accordingly

09:02 AM

Labor Market

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You condclude your article by noting: "The biggest genuine obstacles to an open-borders policy are political and cultural, not economic." Here, you're placing the economic argument on one side, and the cultural/political on another. But until these are able to exist together, they will never come to terms with one another.

Culture has economic value, and economic driven immigration (such as we see today in the nursing and at-home health care industries), have significant cultural impacts.

Let's take innovation as an attribute that is both cultural (as in the U.S. is an innovating society) and economic. What is the long term economic and cultural impact of importing innovation and innovators, rather than promoting home-grown innovations to outside competition (with all possible implications on education, corporate culture, etc.).

These are critical questions. We can no longer separate culture and economy. We must find a way to marry the two.

Posted by: Yariv at May 30, 2006 11:00 AM

unambiguously good

Only if your only measure is economic. If you consider way of life, the environment, social values, etc., it is not. If that includes terrorists, it is far from good even on economic grounds. Immigration will be free only when there is no need for it. I encourage anyone wanting free immigration to emigrate. I am sure they can find similar minded people.

Posted by: Lord at May 30, 2006 01:41 PM

Countries that have an open border policy usually end up as territories of a stronger country.

By sending us millions of people, Mexico has been able to gain a great deal of political power inside the U.S. Some examples here:

If we opened the borders, Mexico would send us even more of their people and California would inch even closer to becoming a de facto Mexican state:

Of course, there are many other countries that would try to take advantage of our new open border policies, and perhaps coalitions might divide and conquer.

The only people who should support this plan are those who support the dissolution of the U.S.

Posted by: TLB at May 30, 2006 02:01 PM

I believe it's generally accepted by historians that the Great Plague, by reducing the availability of workers, drove up wages. Why would not the same supply-and-demand principal be operative today?

If employers have a large number of workers in catgory X to choose from, it's difficult to see how that would not drive down wages in category X. You point out that the new workers create incremental demand--but that demand may well not affect the field in which they are working. The addition of new residential-construction workers, for example, may well increase the demand for food, but not necessarily the demand for houses.

Futhermore, when the new workers leave their families back in the country of origin, a substantial part of the demand occurs in that country, not this one.

Posted by: David Foster at May 30, 2006 05:25 PM

Your articles vision of the strictly regulated flow of people by governments, needs a reality check. We now have one almost million immigrants every year enter the States, to go to school, for employment, and many seeking permanent residence and citizenship.

The economic advantage has come from these millions of educated immigrants that have entered this Nation over the last twenty years.

And then we have, over ten million illegal tourists, that have taken employment and residence in the states over the last ten years. They freely flow into this country with less education and do help depress labors value, that is the reason that business supports their being here. And exactly like low paid citizens and immigrants that need extra social services, they do become a real issue for local civic agencies.

One big point most coming here are not seeking citizenship, they come for economic reasons only. These illegal tourists, still have a Fatherland of their own, that their families still live in and they still love, and that is their real home. The way it is now, we trap them in this nation with the economic advantages of being a citizen.

Posted by: Mike Reardon at May 30, 2006 10:13 PM

Yariv, I agree that things like "culture" have economic value, but I disagree that economics takes any of it into account. Culture, society, and natural resources do not have economic value; at least not as far as economists are concerned... Which has a lot to do with why economic models are crap-shoots at best. "Culture" is only measured as a market to exploit, and "natural resources" are only measured by the cost to rip them out of the planet and destroy them. (e.g., the price of oil only takes into account the price of extraction and the extracted-available supply, not the limited absolute supply of the resource or any resulting damage to other natural resources). Culture is meaningless at best and a hinderance at worst to a methodology based entirely on numerical calculation. While attempts have been made by a *few* to bring the true value of natural resources into the equation, most economists (and certainly the strongest pro-captialist cheerleaders) are horrified at the idea of having to account for those resources because - I believe - it would cause their entire model to collapse. Capitalism as we know it would not work if it were not allowed to rape and pillage societies and the planet's resources.

Posted by: Brandon W at May 31, 2006 10:14 AM

Yes, but which country should someone like myself, disabled due to bipolar disorder, move to??? I have computer skills, have proven to have above 200 IQ when my brain is working well enough, yet am unable to hold a full or part time job for long enough to support myself.

To which country should I move???

Posted by: Lew Hotchkiss at June 2, 2006 03:41 AM

Your article keeps the view of the last sixty years, that the greatest economic advantage is to bring one's talents into this nations economy. Every U.S. business leader and politician still gives service to that formula, business trying to gain more H1B visas, is always on the first page of every Senate bill on immigration.

I feel the facts are global business development, is now the exact opposite to the expressed desires and wants of U.S. business leaders and politicians. Business leader have not misses the economic advantage of the U.S., using talent grow in place inside other nations own domestic markets.

Greater Asia and in particular China and India are now expanding their education systems, well beyond the needs of the global markets. These massive expanding education systems, are happening to meet their growing domestic markets demands.

I think America and Europe business in fact, have learned how to encourage and leverage other home grown talent pools worldwide, they just have not made that fact public.

Posted by: Mike Reardon at June 2, 2006 11:50 AM

Only looking to make the point one more time. IBM over the last three years has invested $2 billion in India, and over the next three years will invest $6 billion more. To expand service deliver centers in the Bangalore's technology hub and in a telecom research center for global telecom clients. They (IBM) are using growing abilities were they are being grown fastest, and we should not miss in this country the leveraging of their growing abilities.

Posted by: Mike Reardon at June 7, 2006 02:36 AM


Actually, one could make the argument that IBM is having to invest in India precisely because there are limitations to Indian immigration to the U.S.

Posted by: Mike Mandel at June 9, 2006 10:18 AM

Having a completely open world immigration/emigration policy would allow the formation of a new type of government?? for profit corporation. The best governments would attract the most people and be the most profitable. Human rights would be protected by this policy and there would be no need for billions of uninformed people making decisions about public policy. Voting could be done by people simply choosing the best place to live.

Posted by: Joe at June 18, 2006 01:12 PM

Definitely any trade, including trade in services or immigration (you choose the world) increases wealth. From economic efficieny perspective, this is a great proposal.

But this is not possible. The question here is who is going to get that increased wealth. This is an arbitrary political decision.

The western governance is the one of lobby groups, where certain individuals have incentive to maintain current arrangement. These guys will fight tooth and nail for their interests despite the fact that it increases economic welfare of migrant or host country.

For example: if US can have a guest worker program for its southern neighbour, where each worker can work legally in US but in turn absolutely needed to withdraw their savings through US supervised body at their hometown in mexico at the end of the contractual period, they would pay tax and even an entry ticket of 2000 USD per year.(the entry ticket is basically the cost of crossing border illegally + some extra legal status premium). Plus there would be a guarantee of their return. The construction firms or hotelers or farmers will win. The immigrant will win. The US and Mexican economies will win. But there will be the losers. They will be the ones who by working 2 hours a day as a plumber could maintain an easy life. In this case this last guy will go and push politicians to preserve the status quo. Voila!

Posted by: santosh at July 12, 2006 06:05 PM

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