Visas and education

by Henry Farrell on May 24, 2007

“Matt Yglesias”: agrees for once with Airmiles Friedman.

It’s really baffling that we would give someone a visa to pursue high-level education in the United States and then do anything other than automatically give them a visa to work here. If we’re going to be stingy with anything, it should be with spots at our universities (in practice, there tend not to be Americans clamoring to get graduate schooled in technical disciplines), not spots in our labor force. Unlike the immigration of unskilled workers, immigration of highly skilled people is a totally uncomplicated balance of considerations. It’s good for the immigrant, it boosts the American economy as a whole, and instead of putting mild downward pressure on the wages of the least-fortunate native born people, the costs are borne by better-off Americans. It’s a total no-brainer.

Not so. It may be a total no-brainer for US economic wellbeing. It isn’t a no-brainer for the home country of the workers in question. Cue Dani Rodrik, who thinks that a “guest worker”: program would be ‘terrific,’ a point that he has developed at greater length in an earlier paper (PDF).

To ensure that labor mobility produces benefits for developing nations it is imperative that the regime be designed in a way that generates incentives for return to home countries.
While remittances can be an important source of income support for poor families, they are generally unable to spark and sustain long-term economic development. Designing contract labor schemes that are truly temporary is tricky, but it can be done.

This is the reason why, for example, people who come to the US to do advanced degrees with support from Fulbright scholarships (such as meself once upon a time) are obliged to return to their home countries (or, in the case of EU citizens, the EU) for a period of two years before they can apply for a proper work visa or permanent residency. Speaking from my personal experience, this can be a considerable pain in the ass, but it has an undeniable logic. The home country in question isn’t going to benefit very much from its most economically productive citizens (which category doesn’t include me; I was always likely to be a net drain on the Irish economy) going to the US to study, if they don’t ever come home. This point applies with _especial_ force to people coming over to study for advanced degrees in technical subjects. I think it’s possible to construct a slightly convoluted cosmopolitanish case against temporary worker programs (this would have to do with labour standards and the need for strong unions in the US to mitigate the global deregulatory impact of US preferences on the world economic regime; I may lay this out in a later post). But I don’t think it’s possible to construct one against the kinds of programs that Matt favors here. So if you are solely concerned with the economic benefit of the US, it’s indeed a no-brainer. If you’re worried about the rest of the world too (or instead), it’s anything but.

Karl Marx: The Pre-Beard Years

by Scott McLemee on May 24, 2007

The Hollywood Reporter, uh, reports:

Haitian auteur Raoul Peck will direct “Karl Marx,” tracing the young adventures of the German philosopher and revolutionary, producer Jacques Bidou said Thursday.

The picture will cover the period 1830-1848, including Marx’s time in Paris before being expelled to Brussels and culminating with the publication of the Communist Manifesto. “Marx was considered a young genius at the time, but it was also a period marked by the birth of a great movement in thinking,” Bidou said.

The story also will encompass Marx’s love for his aristocratic wife Jenny von Westphalen, and his friendship with Friedrich Engels, with whom he co-authored the Manifesto.

No cast is yet attached, but Bidou said the principal characters will necessarily be young….

Well, yes, that is probably true, given that Marx was 12 years old in 1830.
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