Bryan Caplan  

Vivek Wadhwa Responds

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My debate teammate Vivek Wadhwa accepted my offer to post a response to my analysis of the debate.  Vivek:

Bryan, feel free to post what you like. I am in favor of legalizing all the workers who are in the US and bringing in people that the country needs. I do not advocate open borders. I believe in exporting prosperity, not importing poverty.

You can blame me for the defeat, but the consensus at the event by the people I spoke to was that what lost the day was the image that our opponents planted of 20 million Haitians begging on the streets of NYC. You didn't refute that or answer the question about how we would provide medical assistance and schooling to these people when we can't even look after our existing population. No one--including me--bought your analogies or arguments. You were smug, arrogant, and resorted to silly analogies. Your views on the minimum wage show that you are out of touch with the hardships that people in this country suffer.

Also you would not open up your home doors to the poor or be happy if someone with lesser skills was given your job because they were ready to work longer hours and accept a lower salary. It is easy to preach.

Please do add these comments to your post.

Regards,

Vivek



COMMENTS (89 to date)
Hadur writes:

He sounds like he would be right at home in the comments section of a major blog

David C writes:

Wow. I don't think you said anything to warrant that sort of response.

Motoko writes:

"I believe in exporting prosperity, not importing poverty."

I don't see why it matters where the poverty is, so long as we can reduce absolute levels.

"You didn't refute that or answer the question about how we would provide medical assistance and schooling to these people when we can't even look after our existing population."

... Implies that we only have to help them if they're on our doorstep.

I would love to hear a full elucidation of Vivek's geography of morality.

Daniel Schmuhl writes:

I agree with Vivek on his assessment of Bryan though not on economics. Bryan has never addressed serious criticisms of his position on immigration and constantly demonizes his opponents.

Vivek Wadhwa writes:

The reason for my angry email to Bryan was that I was unhappy with the way the focus of the debate was being positioned as one on open borders. That is not what the Intelligence-Squared debate was about--it was Jobs.

A living minimum wage is essential for the health of this country and its people. We must provide workers with healthcare, shelter, food, and enough money to live comfortable lives. The obsession with open borders--at the cost of the livelihood of people who are already in the country and suffering is something I do not support.

As I keep saying, we need to export prosperity, not import poverty.

Vivek Wadhwa

pyroseed13 writes:

I would ask Vivek this: Is he in favoring of kicking out recent immigrants, illegal or legal, that we are not equipped to take care of? If he isn't, then it is hard to understand why one's position on immigration should be contigent on our current welfare polices.

Gary writes:

Hm, I didn't expect this kind of a response. He's now demonstrating even more why he didn't belong in Bryan's side of the debate.

Vivek Wadhwa writes:

pyroseed13: No I am not in favor of kicking out anyone. We have the resources to look after everyone in this country. What I am saying is that we should look after everyone here first, strengthen our economy, and then help others.

Bryan was asked a direct question in the debate about how we would provide healthcare to millions of new immigrants if we opened our borders. He made light of this and simply tried to position the person who asked the question as inhumane. This is not the way to win a debate.

Noah Yetter writes:

"A living minimum wage is essential for the health of this country and its people. "

This is false.

"We must provide workers with healthcare, shelter, food, and enough money to live comfortable lives."

This is also false.

See how annoying it is when your opponents make assertions instead of arguments?

Vivek Wadhwa writes:

Noah Yetter: No, it is not false. This is my opinion. We must have a baseline so that workers are paid fairly and not dependent on social welfare.

Try living on a wage of $7-8 per hour. You will realize how inhumane this is.

Daniel Schmuhl writes:

Vivek are you familiar with any of the arguments against your position?

Minimum wage is a form of social welfare, when It does work it's a tax on employers and a poorly designed on at that.

pyroseed13 writes:

Vivek, it's not clear to me why you think that the only poor that we have an obligaton to help are the ones inside our borders.

AlexM writes:

Vivek: It seems that you didn't actually agree with the position that you volunteered to defend. Is that fair?

All Bryan seemed to be saying was that you guys lost because the audience realized what the position was quite radical. But it was not just the audience, it was you as well who did not understand the implications of the question that you had signed up to defend. Then, when it became clear, you realized you should probably be in the other camp.

(Definitely no need to take the rude tone that you did in your email.)

Motoko writes:

Vivek,

"That is not what the Intelligence-Squared debate was about--it was Jobs."

Your position is that the poorest and least skilled workers should not be allowed to take jobs in America. That doesn't sound like you think "anyone should be allowed to take a job anywhere". You should have been on the other side of the debate.

BK writes:

If living on a wage of $7-8 per hour is inhumane, how can it be humane to prevent people earning less than $1 PER DAY from migrating to earn many times that, even if it is less than $7 per hour?

Setting that aside, the text of the resolution was "let anyone take a job anywhere." Haitians with low education in the US can and do earn more than the current minimum wage working low-skill jobs. A minimum wage set so high that the low-skilled could not get jobs would also prevent low-skilled natives from geting jobs.

Gene writes:

Vivek, I agree with your criticism that Bryan failed to refute "how we would provide medical assistance and schooling to these people when we can't even look after our existing population."

Even though in my eyes it's a very silly question, with an obvious answer, Bryan still should have addressed it better, and exposed how bad of a point that is.

The answer is the same way it's provided now. Goods/services don't exist in fixed quantities. More people means more production too, not just consumption. Extra people produce, earn money, and purchase medical care, education, and whatever else you can imagine. "we" don't have to provide anything for them. They can get them themselves.

It appears Bryan is the only one who was arguing for open borders in that debate.

MikeP writes:

Bryan was asked a direct question in the debate about how we would provide healthcare to millions of new immigrants if we opened our borders. He made light of this and simply tried to position the person who asked the question as inhumane. This is not the way to win a debate.

So how should we provide healthcare to those millions of prospective immigrants in their home countries?

RPLong writes:

I didn't see the debate, but I have followed along with Bryan Caplan's posts about the debate here on EconLog. Here's what I see from my perspective:

(1)
If you tell someone you think anyone ought to be allowed to drive a car regardless of race, gender, creed, etc., everyone will most emphatically agree.

(2)
If, on the other hand, you choose to argue for the abolition of drivers' licenses, the overwhelming majority will vehemently DISagree.

To a certain extent, we can dismiss this as "status quo bias" or say that people reject "extreme" views, but there is materially little difference between (1) and (2).

So why do people embrace (1) and not (2)? The reason is because if you ask what people are entitled to do, then people take the liberal/free view of the topic. But if you ask what people should be allowed to do, then people take the restrictionist view.

There's no difference between drivers' licenses, immigration, victimless crimes, or anything else. It all comes down to the way human brains react to the way an issue is framed.

Thus, when asked whether anyone should be able to accept a job offer, nearly everyone says yes. But, when asked whether anyone should be allowed to cross any border they please, a lot of people get nervous.

It's just how the brain reacts to the very different problems of (1) affording liberties and (2) designing rules.

I think we advocates of open borders should pay close attention to the way the issue is framed.

Tim M writes:

Vivek, in comments above: "That [open borders] is not what the Intelligence-Squared debate was about--it was Jobs".

IQ2 debate title: "Let Anyone Take A Job Anywhere". (http://intelligencesquaredus.org/debates/upcoming-debates/item/909-let-anyone-take-a-job-anywhere)

So, the debate was not about "Jobs", it was about "Let Anyone Take A Job Anywhere". I guess he didn't understand what he was debating.

It is clear to me that Vivek arguments he's presenting here are not consistent with the "for" side of a debate on "Let Anyone Take A Job Anywhere". How can you let anyone take a job anywhere, while simultaneously implementing a non-open border policy? The first person you choose to block at the border is strictly incompatible with the "Let Anyone Take A Job Anywhere" principle.

DCM writes:

@ Vivek, if living on a wage of $7-$8/hour is inhumane, surely living on a wage of $1-$2/hour (PPP adjusted, etc.)--as you might have to do if you couldn't take a job outside a Third World country--is even worse.

MikeP writes:

RPLong,

That's a fair point.

Open borders could be phrased like your #1: allow anyone to apply for and receive an unlimited work and residence visa -- and refuse it only to for terrorists, foreign agents, violent felons, and carriers of contagion.

Vivek Wadhwa writes:

Gene, the debate wasn't about open borders. It was about jobs.

I know the people on this website believe passionately about doing good for the world, but the academic theories you are espousing about how the world will eventually be a better place are not persuasive. Even I am not convinced.

Frankly I am also surprised to see the negativity about the minimum wage.

I am not going to debate this further. There is no point in harassing me on Twitter also--as a bunch of people have been doing. I remain steadfast in my belief in exporting prosperity.

johnleemk writes:

First, Vivek, thanks for venturing into the comments section of this blog. Not many people typically do this!

Second, while I agree that many things are inhumane, I would pose the question, what is the least inhumane thing to do about a Bangladeshi sweatshop worker who wants to find a better job in another country?

Or to put it slightly differently, should we use armed force to prevent that Bangladeshi worker from taking a job in the US? Even if that Bangladeshi worker would be paid several times the wage he or she would be earning in Bangladesh? Even if that Bangladeshi worker would at least be able to work in a factory that is much less dangerous and life-threatening than the kind of sweatshops you'll find in Bangladesh?

It's easy to say "export prosperity, don't import poverty". But the kind of poverty a Bangladeshi sweatshop worker would face if we allowed him to work in the US (at a minimum wage of $8/hr!) is by far more humane than the kind of poverty we force Bangladeshi sweatshop workers to endure. It's our border patrols who limit their choice of employers and workplaces to only the options found within the arbitrarily-defined geographical territory of Bangladesh.

Even if you legislate a higher minimum wage, that doesn't get rid of the tricky problem of what to do about all the people who will want to immigrate, legally or not, to do the jobs that pay those wages. If you really want to keep them out, you have to endorse a "border security" policy that will murder these poor people -- either by outright execution, as is the practice of countries like Iran, or by consigning them to the fate of those migrants shipwrecked near Lampedusa.

If the choice is between killing (or consigning to death) these immigrants so as to keep their kind at home and in poverty out of our sight, or to allow people to come and work for a subsistence wage that is still far better than anything they might find in their home country, the choice is easy. Let anyone take a job anywhere.

Sean writes:

I'll double down on pyroseed's question.

Also, it isn't true, as Vivek suggests above, that Bryan 'made light' of healthcare concerns. He simply observed that if your goal is to better the lives of the poor, it's pretty callous to say to them, 'you could come here and better your life with a good job if only we could give you healthcare, but we can't, so we'll lock you in the third world with neither'.

Isn't a good paying job in the US without state subsidized healthcare better than a horrible paying job (or no job!) in Haiti without state subsidized healthcare?

Gene writes:

Vivek

Thank you for responding. You say that you remain unconvinced, but haven't pointed out why point I made was wrong.

How does the criticism sound to you that you shouldn't been allowed to come here because I'm not convinced as to how we're gonna provide medical care for you and education for your children, when we can't even take care of existing people?

Wouldn't you say that you pay for your own medical care and education? What makes you think new immigrants wouldn't do the same? Even if they're poorer when they first come (I doubt most would stay poor for long), doesn't mean we have to subsidize them.

johnleemk writes:

Sean, my guess is that a lot of people, Vivek included, see letting people migrate as tantamount to assuming a positive obligation to them. So it's morally shameful to allow people to migrate without honouring those obligations.

The problem with this thinking is that you wind up endorsing disasters like the shipwreck at Lampedusa as a more ethical and moral outcome than allowing those dead people to come peacefully and work for minimum or sub-minimum wage.

Kinanik writes:

While I am not fully convinced of Bryan's position, VW's critiques of his position are really awful.

1) If living off of $7-8/hour is so awful, what about living on $2 a day? Bryan would probably admit a tradeoff between the two: some who make $2/day would make significantly more, some people people who currently make $8/hour would make less; overall prosperity would be higher (the cost of living for people of low income would be lower, but by how much is hard to say). Unless your moral standard is "maximize people making over $10/hour, everyone making less than them counts equally, whether $0.25/hr or $8/hr." which is a pretty bizarre standard.

2) Why does the moral imperitive extend only to people within our borders? Health care to people from Haiti only matters when they move here?

3) Ah, the "people who receive state support would not get support if only they earned more at work" argument. First, that's not how prices work. People presumably go to their best paying opportunity. That opportunity does not include health care. If you take away state supported health care, their best opportunity is still the job without health care. Only if the workers are slaves/in a highly monopsonistic market does government support "allow" low wages. Second, minimum wages reduce job growth and marginally increase unemployment. Will the total welfare bill be lower for people who all have jobs that pay poorly and be partially reliant on welfare, or for some people to have jobs and others be entirely reliant on welfare?

4) Living on $7-8/hour is not all that hard. When you are young and living with lots of roommates, or at home, it's fine. Maybe not a cakewalk, but hardly 'inhumane.'

5) 'Exporting Prosperity' is hardly an answer to the question of reducing absolute poverty. Wealth comes from the deepening of the division of labor and using new technology in production. Both require good institutions. If we want to get prosperity to as many people as possible, it's much cheaper to expand good institutions to more people within our borders than trying to force them elsewhere.

6) Why is the 'would you let them move into your house' thing even a thing? I wouldn't let most Americans in my house, rich or poor. A country is not a house.

Quinn writes:

I'm open to any position and have been interested in this, would love a more structured discussion between the two of you. One thing I do want to know Mr. Wadhwa, is what precisely you mean by the term "export prosperity" It sounds like a nice phrase, but I would like to know details on what it means.

ConnGator writes:

Vivek Wadhwa:

Your opinion on a minimum wage seems to be out of step with mainstream economics. Therefore I think you have a responsibility to defend this position.

My take is that it is inhumane and immoral to prevent someone from working for a wage that you deem too low. This prevents them from gaining skills and moving up the wage scale.

How is not working at all better than this?

Zac Gochenour writes:

Since Vivek seems to be reading the comments:

Try living on 70 cents a day or less. That is what you are asking all the world's low-skilled workers to do since you insist they cannot work in the U.S. for wages lower than an arbitrary amount that you set and almost no one will pay. Most of the world's poor are not worth employing at $10/hr, but they may be worth employing at 10 times their current wage. They are not able to realize that potential because they are indeed not allowed to take a job anywhere.

So, by taking the position that we should not allow people to voluntarily work for wages less than an arbitrary amount, you have repeatedly stated your opposition to the proposal "Let anyone take a job anywhere." So my question to you is why you consented to argue for a position with which you did not agree and actively undermined during the debate? Even after you and Bryan met to discuss your debate strategy?

You keep asking how we will take care of all the new immigrants. This question is simply not relevant. How are we taking care of them right now by keeping them out? We're not. The entire question is absurd. We don't have the resources or moral obligation to give everyone in the world the standard of living that you and I enjoy. But we do have the resources to let anyone take a job anywhere, since it will cost us less than nothing: we only lack the will.

Ben Kennedy writes:

You can also appeal to lefty-types with Rawls's original position. Behind the veil of ignorance, knowing that there is a non-trivial chance you could be born into country where you are living on a dollar a day, wouldn't you choose a world where at least you could freely migrate to a country with better job prospects?

BK writes:

John,

Your analogy identifying immmigration enforcement with "poverty or murder" is over-the-top rhetoric. Only an incredibly small minority of people affected by migration law suffer such harms, even among those illegally migrating to rich countries.

If the only way to enforce laws against fraud or burglary was with an automatic death penalty we might prefer to drop the laws. But we are willing to accept imprisoning people for these crimes in the knowledge that many will be deterred for each punishment, even though imprisonment raises the death rate for the imprisoned.

According to wikipedia, maybe 1 in 1000 illegal crossings of the US-Mexico border end in death. This is almost always by the desert, not by intentional action of the authorities, e.g. being shot. The border patrol works to save people from the elements while enforcing the law.

A 1 in 1000 chance of death using American value of statistical life figures is the equivalent of a fine of a few thousand dollars, not a large penalty. It is obviously worthwhile to spend on reducing these exposure deaths, and the randomness of who pays a huge cost is troubling, but if the immigration restrictions are justified then the fact that people take on a tiny risk of death to cross the border is not a strong reason to change one's mind about that justification.

Many, many laws and practices inflict larger death tolls. The minority of criminals among the migrants and their children will directly murder a number of people similar to or larger than the number dying of exposure at the border. But if migration is otherwise justified, that fact would not defeat the justification.

The actual death rate of illegal immigrants is much less, since about half of illegal immigration to the US is made up of people who enter legally on false pretenses and don't go home. And if we consider the population of potential migrants, most are deterred from even attempting illegal entry. So the average level of coercion used in enforcing immigration laws per person affected is not large, the equivalent of a fine of a few hundred dollars at most.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Migrant_deaths_along_the_Mexico%E2%80%93United_States_border
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexico%E2%80%93United_States_border#U.S..E2.80.93Mexico_border_enforcement
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illegal_immigration_to_the_United_States#Definition
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Value_of_life

Noah Smith writes:

I'm much more on Bryan's side in the substance of the debate...I think freedom of movement is a basic human right, even though I think that right needs to be balanced against practical concerns.

But I think Vivek has a point that Bryan doesn't seem to be very interested in winning people over. Bryan, if really want to convince people, you may want to change your rhetorical tactics! Next time, get me as your debate partner, and we'll blow em outta the water!

Vivek Wadhwa writes:

More final comments.

Why do you assume that the best way of helping poor workers in Bangladesh and other developing countries is to bring them here to the US? Trust me, these people don't want to leave their families and friends, culture, heritage, and homes to be here. They would rather stay where they are and make a living minimum wage. Even in poverty you can be happy if you have enough to eat and your family is in good health. These people have rich cultures and values that are different than ours. They want to maintain these--not to leave them behind for American-style materialism.

It is the same for many of the people who have come here. They came so that they could save enough money to help their families back home. They came out of necessity--not a desire to be in America.

Many of you show an ignorance about the people you say you are trying to help. The comments I am reading about lowering the American minimum wage--just so that we can bring more people here--are shocking to me. I can't believe that anyone would advocate that the poor that are here should get poorer so we can have more of them; that they should to be more dependent on social welfare than they already are.

Also: Bryan was a great debate partner. I hold him in the highest regard. The Intelligence-Squared organizers have acknowledged that the debate topic was badly worded and that this may have led to the misunderstandings that Bryan and I had about the objective of the debate. And frankly, I don't care who won or lost. It was a fun and lively debate that we all learned from. When it is played on NPR stations nationwide, it will provoke healthy discussions and educate many.

Steve S writes:

So the debate was titled "Let Anyone Take A Job Anywhere" and one of the proponents is stressing the importance of a minimum wage? (Bryan you didn't stand a chance...)

If I may pull an Arnold Kling - is this perhaps the result of viewing the offering and accepting of jobs along an oppressor/oppressed axis? Vivek may think that people have a right to $10+ per hour and thus they should be allowed to take any job without having to worry about making less than that. Employers are oppressing their employees by not "letting them" work for more than $10/hour.

Does that make sense to anyone else?

Richard Harper writes:

In the ancient training of classical rhetoric the courtroom advice was that if your opponent has the stronger arguments for justice and morality then argue on the basis of what is efficient and effective - and vice versa. Here we see it being played out again. The moral argument is a global utilitarian values system treating everyone's happiness everywhere the same (an implicit assumption behind much of positive economics as a way to neutralize normative economics considerations.) The efficiency argument is that allowing unqualified open borders means importing poverty. Both seem to be valid positions and individuals will favor different trade-offs based on their own views and experiences. Myself I'm inclined to see open borders as improving global-level welfare in the short run but leading to greater long-run universal immiseration.

Steve S writes:

I feel that the "providing benefits/welfare to immigrants" argument is a little tangential to the actual debate of letting people take jobs anywhere. The issue is should a willing employee and willing employer be forced to consider nationality and arbitrary political borders in their decision making?

I guess it is impractical to expect a poor Haitian to get a job offer via e-mail before getting on a boat. But I would bet there would be job fairs and hubs set up to get people employment prior to entering the country if we made that compromise.

johnleemk writes:

Vivek:

Why do you assume that the best way of helping poor workers in Bangladesh and other developing countries is to bring them here to the US? Trust me, these people don't want to leave their families and friends, culture, heritage, and homes to be here. They would rather stay where they are and make a living minimum wage.
I'm not interested in subsidising the migration of poor workers in Bangladesh, etc. I'm not even going to say that the best way to help them is to allow them to migrate.

What I do know is that it is inhumane to use the full armed force of the state to essentially murder the poor workers of the developing world who risk their lives to immigrate, because they might wind up taking a sub-minimum or minimum wage job in the developed world. I don't need to make any assumptions about them or their motivations. The fact that they pay thousands of dollars to be smuggled into the developed world, on boats that would fail any reasonable seaworthiness test or on foot through harsh deserts, tells me just how much they want to immigrate.

Even if we assume that enforcement of a minimum wage would solve all the economic problems of the developing world and slow immigration to a trickle, there is no clear way for any of us to enforce a minimum wage on the developing world. Even if their governments wanted to do this, most of them don't have the capacity to enforce it.

The question is pretty darn clear: how should our governments treat unarmed civilians who want to find work outside their home country, for whatever reason? And is it truly more inhumane to allow them to come and work for the wage of $8/hr, than it is to maintain the status quo, where the gunboats and gunships of the developed world treat these unarmed civilians as if they are terrorists, and force them to die in a desert or at sea?

eli writes:

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Cpt. Monsford Patlief writes:

"Smug"? Wow. I thought Bryan was being the sore loser.

"You didn't refute that or answer the question about how we would provide medical assistance and schooling to these people when we can't even look after our existing population."

Newsflash: WE ALREADY DON'T provide medical assistance and schooling to these people.

Vivek is right about one thing, your analogies are silly. Not because they're wrong but because you don't even need to make them. The lady said at one point "I don't think we want to live in a society where poverty is tolerated". How in the heck do we not already literally tolerate Haitian poverty? That's all you need to say: we already do all the things you think open borders would cause.

"I can't believe that anyone would advocate that the poor that are here should get poorer so we can have more of them; that they should to be more dependent on social welfare than they already are."

So let's say that you thought it was a good thing to redistribute wealth between Americans because of the overall gains in utility. How does the same thing not apply to natives and immigrants? Just because you can point to American losers doesn't mean you won the argument, because there's a really good reason to believe that gains overall would be epic. So epic that you should have to have a better argument than "look, there's a loser!"

And Bryan came up with a lot of ways to compensate the losers anyway.

David writes:

Vivek Wadhwa defense of the minimum wage paints a clear picture of his inability to understand the debate topic.

Bob Montgomery writes:

I wrote last week in the comments that Bryan's sour-grapes posts were counter productive and made him look ridiculous. Since then, you've upped your "game" by ragging on your own partner, comprehensively detailing all the doubts you had before the debate and all the ways he let you down during the debate.

The inevitable result was this angry and dismissive response from your own teammate!

If the alienation and anger of your debate partner doesn't convince you that your response to losing the debate was ill-advised, I don't know what will.

Danyzn writes:

This is what I think the debate would look like carried to its logical conclusion:

V: But we can't let in all the Haitians who want to work here. Their productivity and wages will be too low for them to be able afford to pay for the standard of health care that we as a society demand that everyone must have, even if just by showing up at a public emergency room.

B: OK then let them come here to work while denying them access to any uncompensated public healthcare. A low-paying job in the US even with no free healthcare may be vastly better than scavenging in Haiti with whatever healthcare Haiti manages to deliver to its citizens.

V: But what happens if a penniless immigrant gets hit by a cab and is denied emergency care? Would you let him die in the streets? That would be monstrous! We could never allow that. We would feel obliged to provide uncompensated care and we can't afford to do that!

B: Surely it is more monstrous to bar him from the US altogether than to allow him the choice. He may judge dying in the gutter in Haiti a more likely and worse fate than getting hit by a cab in NYC.

V: We're not responsible for what happens in Haiti. We're a civilized society that guarantees emergency health care even to those who can't pay. It's very unfortunate that poor Haiti is not up to our standards, but we can't lower our standard even if doing so make make some Haitians better off. That would be "importing poverty".

In this argument B is not even attempting to argue that a Haitian should have the same endowment of rights as a US native. He is willing to concede that one may endow the US native with a right to uncompensated emergency care while denying it to the Haitian. He is merely arguing that the Haitian should be allowed to make other bargains with US employers in a Coasian fashion.

V on the other hand is arguing that it is OK to deny to the Haitian rights that are endowed to the US native if and only if the Haitian stays in Haiti. It would be completely unacceptable to allow the Haiti to move to the US and then deny him free healthcare.

There is something about geography and promixity that feels special to most people. I think Bryan's logic is impeccable and I'm willing to argue and vote on his side. Yet if open borders really did come to pass and we had many more Haitians working freely in NYC and living in slums and some of them getting hit by cabs and dying for lack of healthcare, I know that it would feel especially unpleasant to me just because it was happening right here, in a much greater way than knowing of the far worse conditions in Haiti right now.

johnleemk writes:

Danyzn: I agree, I think you've hit the nail on the head well here. However, if we are to explore the nuances of Bryan's argument, I would say: well, saying we should deny all benefits may be stretching it too far. But we can guarantee some minimum level of care to foreigners without guaranteeing them identical benefits to natives. Even though it won't be exactly the same as what is guaranteed to citizens, it can be enough that you don't need to let a Haitian bleed to death on the street -- and still avoid breaking the bank.

This is in fact what the US already does today, and nobody seems to have a huge problem with it. Almost all federal benefits are denied to legal immigrants until they have been present for a certain amount of time, typically 5 to 10 years. But legal immigrants (and illegal ones for that matter) still have recourse to things like emergency room healthcare and some other very very basic safety nets. From a fiscal perspective even before the passage of these welfare reforms, empirical estimates of the fiscal burden of immigration found that the typical immigrant in the US (and i.e., immigration on the whole) is NPV-positive to the government. So the typical immigrant *today* is almost certainly a good thing for the fiscal burden of the US.

(BTW before anyone chimes in with that food stamp story as some supposed illustration of how it's impossible to stop the welfare state from leaking: the FDA was promoting food stamps to Spanish-speaking immigrants who are parents or guardians of children who are US citizens. Those children are citizens and therefore eligible for food stamps, but the only way they can get them is if an adult -- who might or might not be an immigrant -- claims those benefits on the citizen child's behalf. If you think about it, it's much easier to govern welfare eligibility than it is to police thousands of miles of physical border, so there's an additional fiscal benefit from being able to shave a good chunk off the budget currently spent patrolling the border for and imprisoning unarmed civilians who happen to be foreigners.)

One might find it objectionable that foreigners legally present on our territory don't have recourse to *exactly* the same benefits as citizens. To which I say, quoth Kathleen Newland: "I think our governments are obliged to discriminate on our behalf." Better that governments discriminate in the redistribution of economic resources than they use violent force to coerce private citizens to discriminate in, say, their hiring decisions.

MikeP writes:

Those children are citizens and therefore eligible for food stamps, but the only way they can get them is if an adult -- who might or might not be an immigrant -- claims those benefits on the citizen child's behalf.

As an aside, one change I advocate is that even citizen children of immigrants are on the welfare schedule of their parents. If you are not eligible for government assistance, neither are your children, even if they were born in the US. It's one more extremely reasonable step to prevent welfare from being a draw for immigration that makes free migration more politically tenable.

Thomas Sewell writes:

I think allowing Vivek to make his own arguments here has done more for advancing Bryan's case than any of Bryan's own recent posts on the issue.

I had forgotten how illogical the popular and mainstream arguments made against open borders generally are.

DoJ writes:

Geography is extremely important because of long-term demographic effects. Vivek's insistence on "exporting prosperity, not importing poverty" resonates with normal people because they realize it is, in fact, a requirement for any effective strategy to improve global human welfare.

A roundabout way to understand why, if you're the sort of systemizing person who finds the apparent short-term advantages of radical open borders compelling, is to study applications of Verhulst's equation (and when crimestop "that model doesn't reflect 21th century human dynamics" thoughts show up, force yourself to think through the details carefully). Asymptotics matter, not just immediate rates of change.

The debate went from 2-on-2 to 3-on-1 because Caplan is plainly doing the math wrong. After he corrects his mistake and adjusts the rest of his worldview to compensate, his position will be closer to Vivek's and exploratory discussion can resume. (I'm not gonna hold my breath waiting for this to happen.)

DoJ writes:

In an oversimplified model, it may not appear to be logical for a government to discriminate in favor of its own citizens. In the world we actually live in, in which institutional quality can be highly variable over time instead of just space (the term "place premium" reflects a lack of understanding of this concept), this variability is partly driven by demographics and cultural diffusion, and world cultural and demographic trends are affected by policy choices instead of being exogenous, it absolutely makes sense for governments to discriminate in favor of their own citizens, and any government which fails to do so without their citizens' consent should be overthrown sooner rather than later.

I am actually sympathetic to the open borders cause, but it needs to become widely understood that the "right" to migrate freely is one that has to be created. Treating it as axiomatic tends to lead to suicidal policy proposals. Instead, the effective way to work toward a world with greater freedom of migration is to increase prosperity and enlightenment just about everywhere, and then demonstrate by voluntary example (i.e. move to a cooperative small country rather than forcing this down Americans' throats; the current lack of interest among prominent open borders advocates in properly "eating their own dogfood" signals that they actually do suspect their current proposals are destructive) that more liberal border policies even toward the relatively low-skilled can yield good results for all parties.

Dan S writes:

I just watched the whole replay. In my opinion, Bryan lost because he didn't engage (or only tangentially engaged) the two substantive issues that most people have with open immigration: 1) this will have a very large negative effect on the wages of native-born Americans, and 2) this will have a large negative political externality because a critical mass of non-freedom loving people will suddenly arrive and upend our beloved Anglo-American culture (admittedly this didn't really come up, but I think it matters to a lot of people). Instead Bryan, by emphasizing the moral imperative of open borders, seemed almost to concede the point. To me, Bryan came across as admitting, "yes open borders will be harmful to native-born Americans, but you have a moral obligation to go ahead with it anyway," which is alienating. It's possible that Bryan is perfectly correct about the morality, but that is simply not going to fly with most people.

On the other hand I thought Vivek just kind of rambled on and kept coming back to the minimum wage and the power of the internet, which didn't really convince anybody.

Frank Pepper writes:

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Simon Cranshaw writes:

I don't understand the value of exporting prosperity over importing poverty. For one thing, if this is an academic question we should consider the welfare of all individuals equally and the concern should just be the alleviation of poverty. What is the relevance of the location of the poverty?
Also doesn't experience suggest that exporting prosperity is very difficult, whereas importing poverty to richer locations can very quickly alleviate that poverty? What is the reason for choosing the former?

MikeP writes:

Further to Simon Cranshaw, often the most effective means of exporting prosperity is to import poverty, inculcate it with the institutions of a successful developed society, and then watch it go back to its homeland and spread the institutions there.

What is the alternative? Colonization?

Ross Levatter writes:

Vivek, two quick questions:

1. You say the Intelligence Squared debate was about jobs. If the debate question were "Everyone should be allowed to accept any offer to eat", would you think the debate was about food, or about eliminating any political restrictions that had the effect of preventing people from accepting food offers?

2. Are you aware--not in agreement, but simply aware--that Bryan's position on the minimum wage is also that of a significant majority of professional economists and not some idiosyncratic libertarian view?

Ross Levatter writes:

Vivek, one other question:

Given your actual views, as clearly stated above, what did YOU think "ANYone" and "ANYwhere" in the debate proposition referred to that allowed you to claim, incorrectly it seems, that you supported the proposition?

Tom West writes:

Wow, it's kind of different to see Libertarians beat the Left with the sort of moral stick that the Left usually use to beat the Right.

The difference is that those on the right usually defend themselves by saying that "That's just how humanity is, and wishing it away won't change it", while the Left can't really bring itself to admit the truth in this instance.

For the vast majority of people, the moral crime of letting someone die close at hand *is* vastly larger than letting someone die far away.

So, yes, letting someone suffer poverty on the streets of New York *is* a more of a sin (for most of us) than letting him die of starvation in Haiti.

It's sad, but it's true.

On the other hand, I do understand not admitting this. Once you've admitted to yourself that your feeling of social responsibility rests upon something as intellectually flimsy as locality, it might lead down a dark path where one questions one's social responsibilities altogether...

Motoko writes:

Bryan, I think you have some friends on the internet.

Philo writes:

Vivek Wadhwa judges that Haitians begging and going without medical treatment or schooling *in Haiti* is preferable to their begging and going without medical treatment or schooling *here*, even considering that if they were here many of them would not have to beg or to go without medical treatment or schooling, because they would be able to earn much more than they could in Haiti. How great a cost is he willing to impose on Haitians to keep them and their fate *out of our sight*?

johnleemk writes:

Philo: Probably another way of looking at it is that Vivek, Kathleen Newland, and others may well hold the view that as long as Haitians stay in Haiti, then their poverty is the problem of the Haitian government, not the US government. From this perspective, immigration restrictions are simply preventing Haiti from "exporting" its poverty to other countries.

This, of course, completely denies the agency of individual Haitians who spend thousands of dollars of their own income and risk their lives to try to get into the US so they can work there, only to be turned away by US government gunboats. From my perspective, it seems pretty darn inhumane to use armed force to treat a bunch of unarmed civilians seeking work as if they are a band of armed militants.

I completely agree, FWIW, that poverty in Haiti is the Haitian government's problem. But once we've banned poor Haitians from taking jobs that a private citizen in our country would be willing to employ them for, we've made those Haitians' poverty our problem. We're the ones who've prevented those poor Haitians from bettering their condition. Like it or not, we have become responsible in some way for their condition. (This is why the smartest leftist academics who oppose open borders often conclude that more aid to the developing world is required as restitution for the impact of immigration restrictions.)

Floccina writes:
living minimum wage

One man's living wage is another man's great wealth.

jack writes:

Does Caplan support open borders for Israel? It would be intellectually consistent, wouldn't it?

HH writes:

My favorite part is VW insisting in the comments that Bangladeshis don't even want to come here, and also that we can't have open borders because too many Bangladeshis would come here.

8 writes:

Importing poverty: giving people fish.
Exporting prosperity: teaching people how to fish.

You're not going to have a successful multicultural nation with open borders. So you will need cultural destruction and forced assimilation. To the foreigner, you are offering them this: your culture and people are inferior, if you want to be rich (and I note that all of the open borders arguments I've seen appear to be focused on money, not on non-monetary values) you must come to America and become an American. Also, to be consistent, we are going to force open your borders and destroy your culture anyway, so you might as well come here.

Exporting prosperity says to the foreigner, we can offer you help and teach you how to build the nation you wish to live in (within your closed borders).

DoJ writes:

Further to Simon Cranshaw, often the most effective means of exporting prosperity is to import poverty, inculcate it with the institutions of a successful developed society, and then watch it go back to its homeland and spread the institutions there.

Exporting prosperity only requires moderate immigration. How many Chinese have immigrated to the West, as a share of their total population? Yet they're successfully developing their home economy now, with the help of former immigrants who have returned home.

Any level of immigration above what has historically been permitted for Chinese must be justified in terms of value to natives; there is no further obligation to foreigners at that point even if you start with universalist axioms.

Bedarz Iliaci writes:

it may not appear to be logical for a government to discriminate in favor of its own citizens.

Is't American govt supposed to be just a servant of the American people? It is not some kind of overlord lording it over citizens.

poverty in Haiti is the Haitian government's problem.
Again, the same mysterious idea. Poverty in Haiti is Haitian problem, not the Haitian govt's. The Haitian govt is just an agent of the Haitian people.

There is something about geography and promixity that feels special to most people.

The lengths some people go to avoid mentioning the word "nation".

John Smith writes:

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Svigor writes:

What do you guys say to Americans who prefer the Israeli model? You know: I only care about my own kind, I don't care much what happens to the other kinds, I want a country for my own kind, not all kinds, and I will fight anyone who tries to force any of this universal compassion stuff on me?

I mean, I know you guys think that's immoral. But I don't give a fig for what you think is immoral. I think trying to drag me into your way of doing things is immoral, and I'll fight it.

So what's your solution for dealing with me? Force me? Trample my rights and ignore me?

RPLong writes:

Svigor - Have you ever read The Federalist Papers?

Mike H writes:

jack: Does Caplan support open borders for Israel? It would be intellectually consistent, wouldn't it?

I believe Bryan's response would be that when there is a highly curtain very good reason to restrict another's freedom, i.e. - they would like to go on a killing rampage, then it becomes acceptable.

Denying someone who would like to peacefully take a job and increase his earnings by a factor of 10 because it might reduce another's by 10% is not a very good reason.

Mike H writes:

Svigor: So what's your solution for dealing with me? Force me? Trample my rights and ignore me?

Your rights must be considered with the rights of others. It's not trampling your rights to have someone peacefully live next to you. If you want to build your own enclave with those of your kind, you are free to band together and keep others from buying the property. When you try to extend your will beyond your property, to not let another interact with people who are not you, you are violating the rights of them far more than they are infringing on yours.

Dan Carroll writes:

The earlier comments are better, then they deteriorate as we go along. I suspect few will read this far into the comments. I didn't see the debate, although I am familiar with the outlines of most arguments for or against immigration. I'm surprised about these points:

* that the minimum wage was successfully integrated into the debate. The minimum wage is not really relevant because a Haitian transported to New York is not likely to earn the minimum wage, just as a New Yorker transported to Haiti is not likely to earn a New Yorker's wage. Haiti is non-functional, and formal jobs outside of NGO's and charity are few and far between. As much as I criticize the socialist mentality of New York, it is paradise compared to Haiti. In New York, Haitian's will earn wages across the spectrum, especially after a generation or two (adjusting for US racist stratification).
* that the image of millions of Haitians begging on the streets of New York wasn't called out as wrong. Hundreds of years of North American immigration in the US and of economic knowledge teach us many things - one of those is that immigrants will create their own wealth and will create wealth for others, if allowed to do so. There is a reason the US grew from nothing to the most powerful nation on earth. And it is not location nor luck. Wealth is a function of work and productivity, not location. The US is far more productive than Haiti, and therefore Haitians working in the US will create far more wealth (for themselves and others) than Haitians working in Haiti. There is no serious challenge to this argument - the debate is over the degree of wealth creation and the timeframe for adjustment.

I am of the opinion that a sudden mass influx of immigrants would be disruptive and could create chaos. Disruption can cause serious harm - cook the goose that lays the golden egg. Our economic, cultural, and government institutions aren't flexible enough. However, I support measured open borders - that we allow immigration at a much higher level than we are allowing it now, but limit it sufficiently to prevent disruption.

I am also surprised that Vivek seems unaware of the negative unintended consequences of minimum wage laws. These are fairly common knowledge among individuals trained in economics, even if not universally accepted.

Brian writes:

It's worth pointing out that Vivek was absolutely right when he said the debate was about jobs and not about open borders. Many people here seem to think (wishful thinking) that the two are either the same or strongly linked, but in fact they are not.

"Let anyone accept a job anywhere" could look something like this. Those who want to enter the country must apply for entry with a job offer in hand with intent to accept. They may not bring anyone with them (kids, spouse) who do not also have a job offer. If they lose their job, they must leave the country within some short amount of time unless they obtain another job offer. If someone is in the country illegally and get caught, they must be deported unless they have a job offer. The right to remain in the country would not depend in any way on whether said person had married a citizen, or was the parent of a citizen (by having children while in the country), but would depend only on whether the person had a job. Finally, even with a job the person could be deported IF THEY COULD STILL DO THE JOB after deportation (i.e. remotely). That is, obtaining a job would only give temporary residency if the job required residency, etc.

It's not hard to see that these conditions meet the requirement of "let anyone accept a job anywhere" but are nothing like open borders.

It is unfortunate that the debate got caught up on peripheral issues, like open borders and the minimum wage. That it took the turn it did points to the debaters having ulterior motives, which they were only to happy to push once they commandeered the stage.

Tigger writes:

I don't think the moral imperative to improve the lives of people in other nations is very compelling in a world of lots of moral imperatives. I can agree that it is morally good to improve the lives of people in other nations by allowing them to come to the US without allowing them to do so. In the real world we do not attain every good thing.

I think it is morally imperative for everyone to have healthcare, shelter, and food. However, considering the relative tradeoffs of the current conception of this activity I don't think that moral imperative is enough to erect a giant state apparatus of redistribution.

Being correct about one possible benefit for others from poorer countries does not lead directly to concluding that open borders is a desirable situation. Maybe I could answer that I think the US does more moral good by being an example of good government and economic systems and that is how I feel we should answer that moral imperative.

Additionally, if the math is correct that the poor and others in the US would lose 10% of their income to bring this 10x benefit to people who come here why should the poor support this idea among many possible moral imperatives? This idea seems to have an incredible amount of uncertainty around it and seems like the libertarian version of global warming -> one group of experts trying to put them in charge of a huge and dramatic change in our civilization with the "trust us" label. I think a good bit of skepticism should be warranted for such ideas.

Also, as many skeptics have discussed elsewhere (but not directly relevant to what people are discussing here) is the reality that most of these people will be used to voting in non-libertarian ways. Do you really want the legacy of libertarian thought in the US to be its own destruction? Unless we are going to limit immigrants from nations that are above us in the economic freedom index we are likely importing people far more tolerant of state control, corruption, and regulations than we may be. That also seems like a dangerous net negative. In the political world we inhabit there is very little to no chance of any safegaurds being in place to stop these recent immigrants from hitting the ballot box at the first opportunity to vote themselves goodies from their neighbors (indeed that is the stated goal of one of the two major US political parties).

Anyway, my overlong comment has one simple idea - skepticism to open borders seems pretty natural to me and I am its natural audience.

Wallace Forman writes:

@Brian

"Finally, even with a job the person could be deported IF THEY COULD STILL DO THE JOB after deportation (i.e. remotely). That is, obtaining a job would only give temporary residency if the job required residency, etc."

I don't think that really captures the spirit of "Let anyone accept a job anywhere"

Philo writes:

@ johnleemk:

You write that “poverty in Haiti is the Haitian government's problem” (and so in general). That does not square with my conception of government, which is more in the “nightwatchman” vein. I take the responsibility of the government to be settling disputes involving its residents (and enforcing its decisions, if necessary). I do not see that government has a moral responsibility to alleviate poverty that it has not wrongfully caused.

But you make a good point: that the American government is implicated in Haitian poverty by restricting immigration from Haiti. Your "smart leftist academics" are onto something; they're just not smart enough to see that committing a wrong and then (partially) compensating for it is not as good as not committing the wrong to begin with.

Rick Hull writes:

HH > My favorite part is VW insisting in the comments that Bangladeshis don't even want to come here, and also that we can't have open borders because too many Bangladeshis would come here.

That one is definitely a howler. I don't have enough time right now to catalog the rest.

Thomas Boyle writes:

Vivek,

I applaud you for posting, and hanging in there. You knew you were unlikely to get a very welcoming audience, but it's important that people hear what the other side is thinking, and you had the courage to speak up.

I lean more toward Bryan's side of the debate, but I share some of your concerns about open borders, and I think Bryan greatly underestimates the importance of framing his moral views from the perspective of his intellectual opponents.

It is a principle of marketing, that you must start with a concept people are already familiar with: you cannot explain the product/service from "scratch" and succeed.

One other thought for you, though: it is, of course, difficult to make a living at $7/hour, but the minimum wage does not guarantee jobs; it prohibits any job that would have paid less. Also, not all jobs need to provide a full living; we have social safety nets, and a job may simply reduce the need to rely on those. This is something of an issue for young, low-skilled people, and a real issue for elderly people living on limited budgets, whose energy level is also limited. It is, literally, illegal to offer them jobs at the kind of pay they could justify, even though many of them would willingly take such jobs as supplemental income. I think the minimum wage is cruel, often extremely so: it is a severe intrusion on the self-determination rights of the individual. I know you don't think about it that way; perhaps you'd be open-minded enough to consider it.

Thanks again for speaking up, and I hope you continue to do so!

jack writes:

@JohnH
"I believe Bryan's response would be that when there is a highly curtain very good reason to restrict another's freedom, i.e. - they would like to go on a killing rampage, then it becomes acceptable."

So in practice then, this becomes blocking people from immigrating based on their country of origin or religion, right? You believe Israel is wise to close their borders to their neighboring Muslim countries on the basis that some of those Muslim's will want to do their citizens harm?

Why is the U.S. and the rest of the western world not free to adopt this same mindset? Certainly allowing Muslim immigration, visas, and refugee status has not been all gravy for them. See 9/11, boston marathon bombings, see Muslim rape statistics in Sweden.

If security is an issue, should we start comparing crime of immigrants against the rates of natives (even at the same income level)? Do you believe an influx of Haitians and hispanics to the United States, or Muslims to the UK, will not increase the overall crime rate?

Carl writes:

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JohnB writes:

"Our" job is not to look after people. The job of the government is to set the rules of the game so that people living in America can generate wealth. If we lived in a system where the government limited itself to providing security and enforcing basic property rights, anyone willing and able could move here and be responsible for their own lives.

The idea of exporting prosperity rather than importing poverty is preposterous. By allowing people to move to someplace where they are more productive, the world as a whole becomes more prosperous. Prosperity is about production and with more open immigration production would go through the roof. Wadwa is seeing this as a zero sum game when it is not.

Mark V Anderson writes:
I am of the opinion that a sudden mass influx of immigrants would be disruptive and could create chaos. Disruption can cause serious harm - cook the goose that lays the golden egg. Our economic, cultural, and government institutions aren't flexible enough. However, I support measured open borders - that we allow immigration at a much higher level than we are allowing it now, but limit it sufficiently to prevent disruption.

What a breath of fresh air this is after reading so many unrealistic comments masquerading as high morality. I agree with the paragraph above 100%.

Rick Hull writes:

Thomas Boyle (addressing Vivek Wadhwa)

I applaud you for posting, and hanging in there. You knew you were unlikely to get a very welcoming audience, but it's important that people hear what the other side is thinking, and you had the courage to speak up.

Thanks again for speaking up, and I hope you continue to do so!

Seconded, heartily. Vivek Wadhwa is a man of great character, and he does not deserve any targeting (on Twitter or anywhere else), even if you or I disagree with many of his ideas.


Brian writes:

"I don't think that really captures the spirit of "Let anyone accept a job anywhere""

Wallace Forman,

Yes it does. The "anywhere" is a description of the job's location, not the person's location. We know this because when a person accepts a job, they do so with the understanding that they will go to a location needed for doing the job. They can't just work anywhere. But they CAN accept a job no matter where it's located. I guess a simpler way of saying it is that borders should never be an impediment to accepting a job.

DoJ writes:

The idea of exporting prosperity rather than importing poverty is preposterous.

Again, this idea has already worked on a massive scale in East Asia, so your model of reality is clearly broken.

Andrew Hofer writes:

Candidly, I think it's a bit rich for Vivek to get his nose out of joint about the reaction to his comments when he was so obviously personal and nasty to his debate teammate Bryan. He can do that, but he should expect that sort of treatment himself if he does. The very first comment gets it exactly right "He sounds like he would be right at home in the comments section of a major blog"- Apart from that, I join the kudos for wading in.

He keeps saying "export prosperity" without defining how that works or is a superior strategy. It sounds good, and certainly the Western appetite for goods and services has increased prosperity abroad. But it hasn't solved the living condition issues he seems to prioritize in wanting to keep non-Americans from taking jobs here.

Wallace Forman writes:

@Brian

That's a clever parsing of the text of the resolution, but not a fair understanding of the spirit of the resolution. People don't want the debate to center around tricky semantics.

Brian writes:

Wallace,

Just to be clear, let's go back to your first comment to me. You were specifically targeting my comment about deporting people as long as they could still work remotely.

I actually agree with your criticism. That comment was meant to be soemwhat facetious, designed to push the limits of the debate topic. You were accurate to say it didn't fit the spirit of the topic. My response to you was meant to be neither clever nor semantic. Of necessity the job defines "anywhere," not the job seeker. But...if you dislike that argument, how about the rephrasing given in my last sentence:

"borders should never be an impediment to accepting a job."

Do you agree that THIS statement is true to the spirit of the resolution? If so, please note that it is still a long way from an open borders position, which was my point from the beginning.

Mr. Econotarian writes:

"Frankly I am also surprised to see the negativity about the minimum wage."

79% of economists polled agreed with "A minimum wage increases unemployment among young and unskilled workers "

(see http://gregmankiw.blogspot.com/2009/02/news-flash-economists-agree.html)

So for those familiar with the science, there is plenty of negativity about the minimum wage.

Mr. Econotarian writes:

Trust me, these people don't want to leave their families and friends, culture, heritage, and homes to be here. They would rather stay where they are and make a living minimum wage.

Sweatshop workers in developing countries are not making a low wage because there is not a "minimum wage". They are making a low wage because their labor when combined with low amounts of skills & capital investment make them not highly productive. A high minimum wage would simply force these people out of legal jobs. In developing countries with minimum wages above the market wage, most jobs are in the even less productive "informal sector", off the legal books, paying less than the minimum wage - and paying bribes, laying low, and staying small and inefficient to avoid punishment.

When a worker comes to the US, they are now in an economic environment with high capital investments that can make these workers far more productive. Even a gardener from Mexico who doesn't speak spanish will be armed with a $100 power leaf blower in the US.

Furthermore, the low skill workers living in the US can provide complimentary services to the high skill workers here, allowing both to concentrate on what they are most productive at, making their total output greater due to the Law of Comparative Advantage. For example, a low-skill nanny helps a high-skill mother to work as a highly productive computer programmer rather than be a stay-at-home mom.

I agree that few people like the idea of leaving behind their family, friends, and culture to move to another place. I didn't even like changing US coasts, but I did it because the increase in my income was worth the loss.

It would be great if all countries adopted enough economic freedom to allow capital to be invested to raise the productivity of workers so that their wages could rise. Red tape that pushes businesses into the informal sector can be found all over the developing world. Occasionally there are mild improvements in economic freedom (such as in India in the 1980's and China in the 1990's), but still there is plenty of over-regulaiton that strangles the growth of industries in developing countries.

One can argue that perhaps we should not allow immigration to somehow "force" less free countries to reform. But it is unclear that would achieve the results desired. In some ways, seeing your best and brightest leaving your relatively economically unfree country may help to put pressure on that country to change. Or a diaspora can also themselves help to apply the pressure to change.

At least once there is economic reform in a developing country, a diaspora can help that country more quickly gain foreign trade and investment through foreign contacts made and fortunes made by diaspora members in foreign countries.

But indeed, the public-choice conundrum of how you change a country to become more economically free is a really good question worth further study.

Mr. Econotarian writes:

Sorry, rather than "Even a gardener from Mexico who doesn't speak spanish...", please read "Even a gardener from Mexico who doesn't speak English..."

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