David R. Henderson  

Tear Down These Walls

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My article, "Tear Down These Walls," based on my blog post of the same name, is now out in The Freeman. One highlight:

Immigration reform would dwarf any other measure economists have considered to help people in poor countries. Take microcredit, the lending of small amounts to small businesses. In his recent book, Borderless Economics, Robert Guest notes Harvard University economist Lant Pritchett's observation that the average gain from a lifetime of microcredit in Bangladesh, such as that provided by Nobel Peace Prize winner Mohammed Yunus's Grameen Bank, is about the same as the gain from eight weeks working in the United States. Asks Pritchett, "If I get 3,000 Bangladeshi workers into the US, do I get the Nobel Peace Prize?"


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COMMENTS (11 to date)
Steve Sailer writes:

How many people live in countries where the per capita GDP is lower than Mexico's?

David R. Henderson writes:

@Steve Sailer,
I would guess at least 3 billion. Why do you ask?

Ken B writes:

A little tweak for David (It's Evil Thursday at the office) ...

Why fundamentally would opening immigration benefit so many? At bottom, it is because the west is rich. But we aren't rich because we found a pot of gold, we're rich because our systems just work better. They benefit not because we give them stuff from our hoard but because they can be more productive, and flourish under the better systems.

So, a fortiori, doesn't David's argument apply to colonialism? Wouldn't we do the most good by exporting better systems from the west to the rest?

There are precedents after all. Canada, Australia, the United States, Hong Kong, Botswana ...

Let me add I'm not in favour of colonizing anyone. Well, maybe California could benefit from an invasion.

I'm tweaking but I'm also making a serious point.

ladderff writes:

Quit playing dumb. It's pretty obvious why Steve asks. He wants to know what open borders equilibrium looks like, and he's not content to assume that it's all just peachy. One thing you'd have to look into is the elasticity of population substitution in, say, Bangladesh. If for every one person who leaves Bangladesh for America, .9 or so extra end up being born then...

Look, I have always thought that people should be free to go where they please and that includes crossing national boundaries. I guess that puts me in the open-borders crowd. But Steve's been winning me over lately, and this "nothing to see here" attitude that I think underlies David's reply to Steve above is not helping to keep me on the open borders side.

collin writes:

My guess is colonialism (or better yet US 50 - 70's imperialsim) ultimately fails because:

1) It probably works well for a generation where there is growth but when the pie shrinks during the second generation there is someone to blame. Then preception is the imperial power is at fault and the imperial power will have arm the local government to protect their interest. Then the imperial power and local government becomes the symbol that is all that is bad. The Cuba Revolution was not a Communist revolution but failure of Batista (with the US behind him) to grow the economy.

2) The imperial power long term will have provide armed support for the colony. At some point this creates war and drains the imperial power resources. Long term the imperial power will waste resources on war and lose their economic status. The Iraq war sidetracked the US political-economic system from 2003 - 2006. Or think ~1900 Britian constantly battling South Africa and India all the while Germany was building a stronger military.

It will interesting to see how long term China with little patience for populism is successful with their investments in Africa where revolutions happen fairly regularly.

CR

Bruce Cleaver writes:

@David Henderson -

Do you _really_ think the Iron Law of Unintended Consequences would not obtain here?

A residency requirement for voting is necessary but not sufficient; a large enough population of immigrants would possess political and cultural power despite their lack of franchise. You also implicitly assume the rules ('Residency for 20 years before voting' among others) would be sacrosanct, but immediately pressure would be put upon municipal governments to find ways around these.

AaronG writes:

@ Ken B

In your examples of successful colonization, from whose perspective are you judging them a success? For the United States and Australia, at least, I would hazard a guess that the native "beneficiaries" of exported systems wouldn't have the same take on how successful colonialism has been.

Steve Sailer writes:

"I would guess at least 3 billion. Why do you ask?"

Don't you think you ought to make an effort to find out what the real number is before proposing such a vast change?

Mike Rulle writes:

David is obviously directionally correct. We are the greatest and fastest assimilator of immigrants in the history of the world. It is by far our largest comparative economic advantage in the world (even as we have many others). I do not know what the right answer today is. I believe in boarders, but I also believe in common sense. We have millions of undocumented or illegals because we want them---otherwise it would not have happened. I lean toward broad amnesty and a quintupling of legal immigrants---with few limitations as to background. The only requirement is no welfare the first year plus---limits, therefore, will be based on either family support already in the US or offered jobs in place.

Bob Murphy writes:

But David, I thought you just argued the other day that the best way to help Bangladeshis was to give them Nike factories?

(Ba DUM.)

David R. Henderson writes:

@Bob Murphy,
But David, I thought you just argued the other day that the best way to help Bangladeshis was to give them Nike factories?
I never said it was the best way. I said it was a good way. When I make the point about Nike, etc., I usually say something like, “No one is offering to give them green cards.” Well, I’m advocating that the feds offer to give them green cards.

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