Visas and education

by Henry on May 24, 2007

“Matt Yglesias”:http://matthewyglesias.theatlantic.com/archives/2007/05/visas_for_grads.php 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”:http://rodrik.typepad.com/dani_rodriks_weblog/2007/05/the_new_york_ti.html 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.

{ 89 comments }

1

anon 05.24.07 at 3:37 pm

Wait a second here: doesn’t this involve basically forcing people to be somewhere they would rather not be in order to benefit others? Even if we think this is a good idea, why should this burden fall only on people born in less developed countries? Shouldn’t we just send all engineers, doctors, etc for a two-year mandatory stint in the developing world?

2

soru 05.24.07 at 4:01 pm

A conditional benefit (‘in return for a free education, then…’) is traditionally treated rather differently from a mandatory requirement (‘everyone must …’).

3

Aidan Kehoe 05.24.07 at 4:02 pm

Wait a second here: doesn’t this involve basically forcing people to be somewhere they would rather not be in order to benefit others?

Something inherent in any immigration policy that doesn’t involve open borders, anon.

4

Chris Bertram 05.24.07 at 4:08 pm

doesn’t this involve basically forcing people to be somewhere they would rather not be in order to benefit others?

Well a bit of consistency would be nice. The US (and all other advanced countries) is quite happy with the idea of forcing _some people_ (the unskilled global poor) to be somewhere they’d rather not be (back home) whilst being happy to import human capital that’s often been developed at the expense of the taxpayers of other nations. In any case, how does offering people _a deal_ that involves them _agreeing_ to go back home for a while amount to forcing them to do anything?

5

engels 05.24.07 at 4:11 pm

Wait a second here: doesn’t this involve basically forcing people to be somewhere they would rather not be in order to benefit others?

Anon, are you an advocate of open borders, who believes that any state restriction on international migration is an illegitimate use of force? Because your argument appears to be premised on that view.

6

harry b 05.24.07 at 4:21 pm

engels — that’s not a fair reading of anon’s comment. Read his last sentence, which seems eminently reasonable to me.

7

novakant 05.24.07 at 4:22 pm

What if you don’t like your home country or are temporarily sick of your country or like your host country just as well or just want to experience another country for a while? What if you just want to work with the best in your field, make lots of money and have a nice first-world life?

Sorry, I find this incredibly patronizing.

It’s also impractical, especially for those advanced degrees in technical subjects you mention. What’s somebody with a PhD in physics or chemistry supposed to do in a country that lacks the resources to make use of his knowledge and probably doesn’t even need his highly specialized skill-set. And even if there is a need in his home country, would it really be served well by someone straight out of university with no practical experience in the field?

8

anon 05.24.07 at 4:25 pm

In any case, how does offering people a deal that involves them agreeing to go back home for a while amount to forcing them to do anything?

Chris, In the absence of such a policy, the people could simply apply to US universities as usual and then live where ever they like afterwards.

Soru, I don’t think there is any free education involved here.

Engels, I’m an advocate of open borders, yes. Legal discrimination based on the country that one is born in seems like something pretty much everyone should be opposed to.

9

Russell Arben Fox 05.24.07 at 4:31 pm

Shouldn’t we just send all engineers, doctors, etc., for a two-year mandatory stint in the developing world?

Sounds good to me. Combines the best features of higher education, the egalitarian possibilities of the draft, the noblesse oblige of the Peace Corps, and a certain faith-based program I’m highly familiar with…

10

Matt 05.24.07 at 5:02 pm

One reason why we might think a two-year return policy like the US has for certain J visas is appropriate while a mandatory two-year foreign service for all doctors and the like isn’t is that in the case of J visa holders their home countries have invested (we hope, at least) in the development of the person benefiting from the visa by providing them with, at least, the primary education that made them eligible to get the visa. A return period for two years after getting advanced training may be seen as a reasonable pay-back to the country of origin for that initial benefit. But, in the case of domestically trained doctors or the like it’s not clear that foreign countries contributed to their basic training and so there is no comparable obligation for them to work abroad. (There may be other good reasons for it, of course, maybe even reasons of justice, but they are different reasons from those that a return requirement like that found in a J visa are reasonable.)

Anon- do you think _all_ non-chosen ties are illegitimate grounds for different moral claims? (Does Harry, say, have as much obligation to feed his neighbor’s kids as he does his own, since neither kid chose his or her parents?) I think it’s much harder to make out your claim than you think once you start pushing on it at all.

11

thag 05.24.07 at 5:21 pm

is it even correct to say that the Friedman/Yglesias policy makes sense when viewed in the narrow terms of US benefit?

I had thought that for years the NAFTA people were telling us that is was good for the US, in narrowly selfish terms, to adopt policies that improve the economy of Mexico and points south. One rationale being that a more stable and diversified economy south of us would reduce the impetus to come north.

And setting aside Mexico, is it not good for the US, in narrowly selfish terms, to adopt policies that create wealthy trading partners with diversified economies?

I mean–I had thought this sort of analysis was just par for the neo-classical free-trader course.

what changed?

12

Luis Alegria 05.24.07 at 5:23 pm

Mr. Anon, Mr. Fox,

That plan is likely to generate some resistance in the third world. These first-world do-gooders will be displacing some of the (typically) vast pool of third worlders who are educated but underemployed.

I recall a fine article from a US embassador a few years ago, who questioned the value of the Peace Corps, because by now it is much easier, cheaper and more effective to hire locals for humanitarian work than to import US volunteers. It also helps the local unemployment problem.

13

soru 05.24.07 at 5:34 pm

Soru, I don’t think there is any free education involved here.

We are talking about Fulbright Scholarships, right? At least some of those are tuition-free.

14

engels 05.24.07 at 5:51 pm

the egalitarian possibilities of the draft

Possibilities, albeit unactualised.

15

abb1 05.24.07 at 5:56 pm

According to Soru’s link

The program was established to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills.

…as opposed to draining other countries’ talent.

16

krishna 05.24.07 at 6:06 pm

I think patronizing is the right description of this post. See, if the people who come here for advanced degrees could find adequate opportunities back in their home countries, they would (mostly) go back on their own. In many cases, doing advanced degrees here makes them pretty unfit for employment in their home countries (for that matter in most occupations in the US as well).

17

engels 05.24.07 at 6:20 pm

Harry, I’m no libertarian and I’ve spent a fair bit of time in developing countries myself, but I’d still be a bit queasy about shipping people off to the ass end of nowhere against their will, outwith some national emergency, even if they are middle class.

18

pedro 05.24.07 at 6:27 pm

I shamelessly claim that I am in a much better position to have an economic impact on my country by living and working in the US, where my PhD in a technical subject can be put to meaningful use, than by returning to become an unproductive and underpaid intellectual symbol, which I would be destined to become if I returned home, under the circumstances.

However, I am even more shamelessly opposed to measures that grant my country even more power over my individual life than it already has. I did not choose to be born in any country in particular (heck, in fact, I was born in Germany, not in my country of citizenship). I attained a moderate level of accomplishment in a technical subject in spite of the inferior private education that my parents paid for in my country (and in several other countries, when all of our family was in exile), and I hold very legitimate grievances (in my view) against the society that I have come to be associated with by virtue of citizenship. So I’ve got quite a few personal reasons not to make a nationalistic case on behalf of my country, and quite a few incentives to encourage the US to dismiss any paternalistic, nation-centered considerations in cases in which individual interests and the interests of nations of origin are in conflict.

19

engels 05.24.07 at 6:35 pm

Anon – Fair enough if you believe in open borders; that’s a very big issue that I don’t want to try to argue here. One small point, though: don’t you think there is a significant difference between forcibly preventing someone from coming to a particular place on the one hand, and forcibly moving him to and confining him in a particular place on the other?

20

Jim S. 05.24.07 at 6:58 pm

Actually, such immigration does not really benefit America as well. Matt’s “no-brainer” is largely a myth, like most free-trade concepts.
Also, the global deregulatory impact of American preferences would be generally nonexistent if the rest of the world would stand up to America. If that happened American “power” would become quite small indeed. The reason why this has not has much more to do with the lack of any viable, democratic, and humane alternative to capitalism since the fall of communism, rather than “American power,” which is too often used as an excuse not to do any self-examination on the part of the left.

21

James 05.24.07 at 7:05 pm

…in practice, there tend not to be Americans clamoring to get graduate schooled in technical disciplines

How much of the lack of interest is due to external factors, such as lack of funding?

Since it seems important the thread, I favor a regional open boarder policy while maintianing the current citizenship process.

22

anon 05.24.07 at 7:11 pm

matt, it might makes sense for a home county to want to encourage doctors (etc) to return so as to pay off the investment that they have put in. But I’m not sure why the US would want to (also, wee Pedro’s post). As for your question about responsibility, I do think the obligation is the same, but I do not want to enforce it since doing leads to the same sorts of evils as hard-line communism.

soru, I was referring to the visa issue, not the Fulbright issue.

engels, I’m willing to ship developed-world engineers to any developing nation of their choice for two years, if the alternative is denying people from the developing world access to any developed world for two years. That seems equivalent to me. Of course, I would prefer neither.

luis, we’ll allow the first-world doctors (engineers, etc) to charge market rates, so they won’t be undercutting anyone.

23

engels 05.24.07 at 7:21 pm

Anon – I’m sympathetic to the equity considerations which seem to be motivating your answer, but it doesn’t address the point I was trying to make. From the point of view of the freedom or rights of the individual concerned don’t you think there is a difference between the two cases?

24

Matt 05.24.07 at 7:39 pm

Just so there’s no misunderstanding, the ‘matt’ posting here is the one who usually posts here while the ‘matt’ discussed and quoted in the post is the famous matt, Matt Yglesias.

Anon- my first point was directed at Harry’s comment, attempting to show that the case of requiring doctors or whatnot to spend two years abroad isn’t like the J visa requirement requiring two years of return to one’s home country and not anything more. The US might want to take part in such a program since it might think it doesn’t have a right to such up the benefits of the training provided by the home country in primary education and the like. Note also that in most of the cases where there there is a mandatory return period either the US or the host country paid for the education and the return was a condition of accepting the funding.

Finally, is your position really, then, that _all_ of our moral obligation are the same to _everyone_? That’s a pretty strong and not very plausible position, really. It’s also one not implied by liberalism or Kantianism or, at least not in the practical outcome, in utilitarianism, either. (there’s a sense in which it’s implied in utilitarianism, but in most plausible versions this doesn’t play out for various reasons.)

25

Luis Alegria 05.24.07 at 7:43 pm

Mr. Anon,

Adding labor to an already over-full labor market is almost as bad.

The plain fact is that these countries cannot employ the educated people they already have.

26

notsneaky 05.24.07 at 7:46 pm

The benefit to the home country could go either way. It really comes down to the reasons for the income differentials – are they due to low levels of human capital back home, or are they due to insitutional factors (productivity, TFP etc.). If the home country is poor because of low human capital then “brain drain” can be a problem. On the other hand if a highly skilled worker can make a lot more money in the human capital abundant US than back home, and sends back remittances (which can be used for investment etc. back home) then “brain drain” is not a problem and can be in fact beneficial.

My (weak) understanding of the literature on this is that it’s very mixed. However the very fact that incomes of skilled workers are higher in US than what they would be in home country suggest that the problem is institutional. Otherwise human capital would command a higher income back home where it’s scarce and this wouldn’t be a problem to begin with.

27

abb1 05.24.07 at 8:11 pm

However the very fact that incomes of skilled workers are higher in US than what they would be in home country suggest that the problem is institutional.

Sure it’s institutional. Suppose a doctor of country X is a part of the national healthcare system and a doctor of country Y is a part of something like a medical extortion racket. Then to solve the problem country X, obviously, has to convert its healthcare system into extortion racket too, because it’s more profitable for the doctor.

28

krishna 05.24.07 at 9:39 pm

jim s,
“Actually, such immigration does not really benefit America as well. Matt’s “no-brainer” is largely a myth, like most free-trade concepts.”

Care to back this up? When I last checked, the American scientific and technological establishments have a considerable percentage of immigrants in their upper echelons, whether it is today’s silicon valley or the postwar (and pre war) generation of scientists who did so much to establish american dominance in scientific research. The US is unique in its ability to use immigration to economic advantage.

29

Henry 05.24.07 at 9:54 pm

abb1 – let me remind you politely that you aren’t allowed to comment on my posts. I’ll allow this comment (and another you made a few days ago) to stand, but future comments will be deleted.

30

Michael B Sullivan 05.24.07 at 10:36 pm

Matt writes, “Does Harry, say, have as much obligation to feed his neighbor’s kids as he does his own, since neither kid chose his or her parents?) I think it’s much harder to make out your claim than you think once you start pushing on it at all.

This analogy is incorrect. Harry’s kids did not choose Harry as a parent, this is true. But Matt is discussing Harry’s obligations, and Harry did choose to have children (or chose to engage in behaviour which he could reasonably forsee as resulting in children).

While I reluctantly do not support open borders on a pragmatic level, it seems to me fairly clear that on a moral level, they are correct. It is unjust for us to deny people who happen to be born elsewhere the freedom to move here and do the things we do (contingent on the same standards of behaviour we require from native-born citizens). However, to do away with this injustice would cause real chaos.

31

Crystal 05.24.07 at 10:49 pm

Several commenters have posted on underemployment in immigrants’ home countries. I am in grad school currently and there are a lot of Nigerians and other Africans here who plan to stay in the US after they graduate – because they might be selling trinkets on the street back in their home countries.

There are certainly situations where people can bring their US educations back to their home countries to the benefit of those countries – but then there are nations with such poor infrastructure, opportunities, etc. that the human capital would be wasted. Of course, this is a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation – could very poor countries get a critical mass of human capital in order to start an upward spiral of improvement, thus making immigrants want to go back? I surmise this is happening in places like India and China. I think, also, this has to do with the level of corruption in some countries – nothing makes it into the economy but is skimmed off by corrupt elites, which leads to poor infrastructure, few to nil opportunities for educated people to make their marks, and more incentive for said educated people to permanently emigrate.

32

notsneaky 05.24.07 at 10:55 pm

However, to do away with this injustice would cause real chaos.

I tend to think even this fear is exxagerated. Britain absorbed somewhere between 1.5 and 2 million Eastern Europeans in just a few short years with essentially no visible harm and certainly many visible benefits to the native British, never mind the benefits to the migrants. That’s a bit more than 3% of population. Eastern European income levels are about the same as that of Mexicans, and roughly speaking UK income levels are about the same as that of US. Culturally most of the migrants to UK are Catholic (they’re Poles) just like most Mexican migrants to US. The estimates of the foreign born population in US vary but they’re somewhere between 4 and 10%. At the end of the day a modern, dynamic well developed economy like that of US or UK can absorb a lot of migrants without any chaos. I think when people bring that up it’s mostly fear mongering and it works because perhaps there’s a kernel of truth there. We are pretty far away from that kernel though.

33

lemuel pitkin 05.24.07 at 10:58 pm

This is a real problem, isn’t it? — moral distinctions based on nationality or citizenship seem fundmaentally ilelgitimate, and yet there is seemingly no alternative to them as a basis for rights enshrined in law. Goes right back to the French Revolution adn the “Rights of Man and Citizen,” as if the two were interchangeable.

Anon’s position seems logically consistent, but while he writes

Legal discrimination based on the country that one is born in seems like something pretty much everyone should be opposed to

The reality is, it’s something that pretty much no one is opposed to. So there must be some good reasons we continue linking various rights and obligations to nationality, no?

34

Mary 05.24.07 at 11:01 pm

On a slightly different tangent, the trouble with schemes like “Shouldn’t we just send all engineers, doctors, etc for a two-year mandatory stint in the developing world?” is that that’s a rather severe strain on any intimate relationships that the highly educated individuals have, unless there’s going to be some kind of provision for making sure any highly educated professional partner they’ve got themselves entangled with gets to work nearby. (It also nicely tacks on another two year wait for children onto already somewhat narrow reproductive lifetime of female professionals, assuming that they are required to work fulltime in their developing world posting.)

In other words, it’s awfully close to assuming that all highly educated professionals are either single, or have got themselves a housewife or house husband+wet nurse/formula.

I realise I’m exploring a scheme that might have only been proposed as a rhetorical strategy, but the assumption that all twenty and thirty somethings are either highly mobile or damn well should be is bugging me these days. High mobility is partially dependent on deferring or foregoing partnership with someone with a career themselves, or deferring or foregoing childbearing. That is, it’s a significant life choice, not something that should be assumed of everyone pursuing higher education.

35

harry b 05.24.07 at 11:11 pm

Surely Henry is not proposing “send all back for 2 years regardless of the country and regardless of the circumstances” any more than I took it that I was endorsing “send all qualified americans to a developing country regardless of the effects and circumstances”. The idea is just that for some countries there is a real cost to having their elites working in the US (and a real cost to not being able to draw on qualified foriegn labour). Some countries have lousy infrastructures, others have pretty good infrastructures and lose talent which is not obviously compensated by the income from abroad that they generate.

Saying to a member of an educated elite “you must go back for 2 years” isn’t patronising to them. Is it patronising to their countries? Maybe — I’d like people to spell out exactly how a bit more, before commenting on that.

It also doesn’t seem to me that Henry’s suggestion imposes a cost on the educated person that is unaccepable, at least relative to all other foreigners who the US is not willing to admit at all, under any circumstances (an aside — I am not bashing the US at all by making that last comment — it seems to me that by rich world standards the US is extraordinary generous about immigration).

All this is easy for me to say. Like Henry I benefitted from a US graduate education, and unlike him I didn’t have to go back to my home country for 2 years, and if I had had to do that it would have amounted to a pretty severe interruption at the time. Mark you, I had every intention of going back for good, and was derailed from that intention by marriage.

Anon and michael sullivan — matt’s teasing me, because he knows that I have odd views about what I’m entitled to do for my kids relative to other kids. I would say, though, that even though I chose to have kids, I no more chose these ones than they chose me. I had no idea which ones I was going to get, which is typical, really.

36

Michael B Sullivan 05.24.07 at 11:20 pm

notsneaky: Well, it’d be awesome if it were true that we could have open borders without crushing our standards of living. And I certainly support greatly relaxing our immigration laws both in terms of some kind of amnesty for undocumented workers and lowering barriers and quotas to new legal immigrants. If we did that, and found that concerns about depressing wages/assimilation were overblown, I’d happily be in favor of increasing immigration yet further.

However, I’d be concerned that 3% of current population is very much on the low end of the kind of numbers we’d see if we had truly open borders. Combine the relatively easy access of the 100 million people in Mexico with the more difficult trip but 2.5 or so billion Chinese and Indians, and then the usual smattering of whereever, and I could pretty easily see the US getting maybe 50 million immigrants from economically undeveloped countries within a decade or two.

Now, maybe I’m wrong. In that case, great! But I think that a more cautious approach could reduce the injustice while being less prone to a worst-case scenario.

37

Michael B Sullivan 05.24.07 at 11:24 pm

Harry: I understand that Matt isn’t trying to offend you or anything, but his comment was in the context of a (as I read it) serious attempt to refute the justice of anon’s position. I’m not offended by what he wrote or anything, but I do think that it’s a bad argument.

I’m not sure if you meant your comment about not getting to choose the particular kid (rather than “to have kids”) was meant to provide insight into Matt’s argument, but if it was, I don’t get how.

38

harry b 05.24.07 at 11:50 pm

Matt is asking whether I have more obligations and/or permissions to do nice things for my kids than for the neighbour’s kids. The fact that I chose to have kids is relevant, perhaps, to whether I have obligations that others (who didn’t choose to have kids) don’t have. But it is not relevant to which kids I have those obligations to or permissions with regard to. I didn’t choose my kids — if I have special obligations or permissions with regard to them its not because I chose them (since I didn’t), but for some other, choice-unrelated, reason. Matt knows that I think I do have special obligations and permissions with regard to my kids. (My country is a different matter, I think, and I’m inclined to be on the ideally-open-borders-in-principle-if-not-in-practice side of this.)

39

Matt 05.24.07 at 11:51 pm

Michael,

You’re right that my argument wasn’t quite right. So how about this: Harry’s kids do pretty well for themselves materiallly, I gather- not rich, but far from bad. They also have parents that care for so so all things considered they are doing massively better than most of the world. But down the street is another family somewhat better off yet- a fancier home entertainment system, better brands of clothes, and so on. Now, Harry’s kids didn’t choose to have their parents and that other guy’s kids didn’t choose him. So on anon’s account they Harry’s kids should have equal right to the things at the other guy’s place along with his kids. So there’s no wrong committed by Harry’s kids when they go in and take or use the things. But that’s absurd So the argument must be wrong. (Anon seemed later to think that all forms of partiality are wrong. That can’t possibly be right, though, so I hope he or she didn’t really think that.)

Now, the story is somewhat different for kids unlike Harry’s who don’t have enough to have a decent life. Something serious is clearly owed to them. It’s not clear that Harry has to come let them live at his house, but something is owed to them. But the majority of people who are likely to move to the US in most cases are more like Harry’s kids than those who have nothing. (Thomas Pogge has a quite nice paper on this topic though the name is slipping my mind. I don’t often agree with him and he’s got some problems in the paper but it’s the best published one I’ve seen on immigration and the global poor.)

40

bob 05.24.07 at 11:55 pm

Saying to a member of an educated elite “you must go back for 2 years” isn’t patronising to them.

How is this not patronising? Saying that to an individual, no matter what one may know about their country, basically comes down to stating that one knows what’s best for them and their country, given his level of education.

41

Matt 05.25.07 at 12:28 am

Let’s note here that on the large majority of _actual_ visas that require a 2-year return to one’s home country (one type of J visa) two things are the case. First, the education made possible on the visa is paid for by US government funds or, in a few small cases, with home-country funds in an agreement with the US government. Secondly, it’s a condition of getting the visa and the funds that one must return at the end of the period. Since no one has a right to these funds or visa no one is wronged by this condition. What would be patronising would be to claim that people taking them were not competent to make the decision to do so. (This is besides the point that such programs might be bad policy for any number of reasons. But it’s not patronizing to make people live up to their obligations.)

42

harry b 05.25.07 at 12:31 am

No, you’re not saying anything about what’s best for them; but about what is best for their country. What if, as is sometimes the case, everyone — host country, home country, and immigrant — agree that their going back is best for their country? (but the immigrant doesn’t want to do it because he wants what’s best for him, not his country). How is there anything patronising about saying so? Of course, the host country is forcing the immigrant to do something they don’t want to do. Just as it does to others by denying the right to immigrate to the millions it refuses to have at all. But there is nothing intrinsically patronising about preventing people from doing what they want to do — its only patronising when paternalistic to them, which it isn’t on Henry’s proposal.

43

Tracy W 05.25.07 at 12:40 am

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.

It strikes me that I could equally as well be argued that it is the home country’s responsibility to make themselves attractive to their students who study overseas, thus putting pressure on them to improve their policies, not just economically but in terms of political rights and the rule of law.

If we imagine a klepotcratic government, who is out for all they can steal from their local population, then increased migration away is good as it reduces the kleptocrat’s power and thus creates a strong incentive for them to decrease the level of stealing from each particular person so they can steal more overall. Given the difficulty of targeting things like the rule of law only to people who otherwise might go overseas, an improvement in government would likely benefit everyone in developing countries.

Of course this argument is a bit different for medical people where the government is paying their salaries out of its own pocket. But even there I suspect developing countries’ governments can do a good deal to make their own countries more attractive to medical workers by improving the government.

44

Tracy W 05.25.07 at 12:43 am

I guess what I’m saying is that this discussion appears to assume that the attractiveness of the developing country to educated elites is independent of that developing country’s behaviour, when that isn’t necessarily so.

45

bob 05.25.07 at 2:15 am

No, you’re not saying anything about what’s best for them; but about what is best for their country. What if, as is sometimes the case, everyone—host country, home country, and immigrant—agree that their going back is best for their country? (but the immigrant doesn’t want to do it because he wants what’s best for him, not his country).

Well, if the immigrant also agrees, then there is no problem in this case.

Anyway, I must have misiunderstood your position. Because in my post, I was assuming that the host country has no problem with the immigrant’s stay. That’s why I wrote that someone else telling the immigrant that he should go home because that’s good for his home country is being patronising. And paternalistic.

And I didn’t mean to imply that this was Henry’s position.

46

bob 05.25.07 at 2:20 am

I guess what I’m saying is that this discussion appears to assume that the attractiveness of the developing country to educated elites is independent of that developing country’s behaviour, when that isn’t necessarily so.

Good point. This may not be a big deal for immigrants from other western countries but it’s salient for citizens of many developing countries.

47

notsneaky 05.25.07 at 2:47 am

Michael b., sure, I don’t know if US could accomodate a billion (though actually 50 million in two decades doesn’t scare me at all). But first, I don’t think they’d actually come – there are HUGE psychic/non-pecuniary/cultural costs involved in migration (under some sketchy assumptions the non-pecuniary cost is somewhere between a quarter and half a million $ if you’re gonna put a $ figure on it). The people that we see immigrating are the most “rootless” ones for whom this cost is smaller – young males in particular. So I think migrants would hit the margin at which point the non-pecunicary costs outweight pecuniary gains pretty fast. Second, even if that’s not true, the experience of Britain (and if one thinks about it honestly, US) basically shows that 3-5% of population is nothing. We could easily absorb several more million with hardly any effect. While this is not an argument for a completly open borders policy (based on practical considerations) it does mean that all the hoopla about immigration in US is overblown and until we hit, I dunoo 10% or so, it’s really nothing to worry about. Let them come.

48

Crystal 05.25.07 at 2:49 am

There’s also the issue of people wanting to live in a freer country than they were born in. Even if “John” is an educated professional with plenty of opportunities in his home country, maybe his home country is strongly homophobic and he wants to live where he can be out and proud instead of miserable or possibly dead. Same with a woman – “Mary” might have a Ph.D. but if her home country is misogynistic and has few to no opportunities for women, she might want to emigrate to a country that can offer her more freedom. I know a few Jews who have emigrated to the US or Israel because it’s a lot easier to be Jewish there than in their home countries. There are educated immigrants who leave their birth countries not just for the economic opportunities, but for personal freedom. I for one am not in favor of, for example, forcing a gay man or lesbian to live in a harshly homophobic environment for the sake of “giving back.”

I’ve heard of the severity of brain drains from some countries, for example the exodus of medical professionals from the Philippines. This is a problem, especially for Filipinos who need a doctor and can’t get one. But I’m not so sure that the solution is to compel educated professionals to “give back.” It would be nice if they could and did, but there are complicating factors.

49

Matt 05.25.07 at 3:39 am

Crystal,
Many of the cases you mention would qualify for asylum under US law, at least if the harm feared is not just inconvenience but of a particularly serious nature. (Homosexuals have been granted asylum in the US many times. The case of women in misogynistic countries is a bit harder but not impossible.) Jews from the former Soviet Union (and to a lesser extent the other Eastern Block countries) were given refugee status by statute in the US even though their sitution almost never rose to the standard of persecution otherwise required. Jews from Iran and other such places are also often granted asylum. Grants of asylum are some of the few exceptions to the J visa return requirement. So, there is a system to meet your worries even though it, of course, functions less well than we would want.

50

Chris Bertram 05.25.07 at 8:23 am

43 it is the home country’s responsibility to make themselves attractive to their students who study overseas, thus putting pressure on them to improve their policies, not just economically but in terms of political rights and the rule of law.

Wow. It is really hard to overstate the parochialism and complacency behind a comment like that.

51

Sock Puppet of the Great Satan 05.25.07 at 3:06 pm

“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.”

That’s arguable. It’s certainly been to the advantage of India to have a sizable chunk of its highly educated diaspora in tech centers like Silicon Valley for getting FDI.

“Wow. It is really hard to overstate the parochialism and complacency behind a comment like that.”

How so, Chris? Are you asserting that one shouldn’t improve one’s lot by living in a country with a stronger rule of law and economy, if emigrating is part of that strategy? And who would you advocate that view to?

52

lemuel pitkin 05.25.07 at 3:58 pm

“Wow. It is really hard to overstate the parochialism and complacency behind a comment like that.”

How so, Chris? Are you asserting that one shouldn’t improve one’s lot by living in a country with a stronger rule of law and economy, if emigrating is part of that strategy?

I thought he was making the same point as bad, bad abb1 at 27 — that it’s quite a leap to assume that the reaction to a loss of educated professionals will be stronger rule of law and economy, or more generally that what’s attractive to foreign-educated professionals is automatically good for the country as a whole.

53

lemuel pitkin 05.25.07 at 3:59 pm

(oops, forgot how tags work here — the second paragraph is also a quote, only the third one is me.)

54

luci 05.25.07 at 4:17 pm

“Matt Yglesias agrees for once with Airmiles Friedman.”

A semi-silly point, but Yglesias agreed with Friedman on the Iraq War. Yglesias thought the left wasn’t taking “seriously” the danger posed by the “nexus” of weapons of mass destruction, terrorism and failed states. He thought we ought to “clean out the Middle East,” and a war in Iraq was a good place to start.

In this, he agreed with most other prominant liberal bloggers, writers for the NYT, TNR, WashingtonPost, Slate, etc.

Yglesias isn’t a total buffoon like Friedman, of course, but his opinions largely agree with his cohort group.

55

BillCinSD 05.26.07 at 2:09 am

As a profesor at an engineering college in the US, the reason why there are a large number of foreign graduate students in engineering is pretty simple. The amount I can pay my graduate students (depending upon what all one counts $15,000-$25,000) is considerably less than what they can earn working in industry (our graduates this year averaged $57000+ starting salary with 100% placement). We get a few students but miss out on many more that would like to go to graduate school. We did get a fair number of Americans when my field wasn’t hiring in the early 1990s.

56

Timothy Burke 05.26.07 at 2:02 pm

I also find the argument of the initial post disturbing. Zimbabwe on paper suffers from “brain drain”, from the loss of trained professionals whose services are in short supply in the country. But the reason they’re in short supply is not that the developed world is outbidding Zimbabwean institutions for skilled professional labor and that what we really need is a policy that compels Zimbabweans who have received training in North America or Europe to return home. They’re in short supply because the institutions that would employ such labor are in disarray, the economy of Zimbabwe has collapsed, and the state is in the hands of desperately incompetent autocrats. Under those circumstances, I want to help anyone who can leave, but it’s a lot easier in practical terms to modestly facilitate the departure of a trained medical professional who has finished their training in the US.

You could say that this is a special case, that it falls under some kind of asylum accomodation. But Zimbabwe is not really that unique in Africa in many of these respects: Ethiopia, Somalia, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Gabon, both Congos, Cote d’Ivoire, are all currently comparable in many dimensions. But more broadly, it’s a question of incentives. I’d rather say that it’s up to nations to make the conditions of professional labor at least minimally functional if they really value their nationals who have professional skills. I think most people with professional training that I know would like to stay in their home societies, but quite reasonably if they have valuable skills they’re not willing to do so if they’re working for highly dysfunctional institutions, under repressive and capricious regimes. The notion that we should have a policy that is a kind of compact between nation-states to enforce the indenture of professionals to their nations of origin, to make those professionals be virtuous nationalists, really bugs me.

57

Henry 05.26.07 at 3:39 pm

I’ve forebore from responding to some of the commenters who have described this post as ‘patronizing’ until now. But what strikes me as decidedly peculiar about their counter-claim is that it suggests that they have some natural right to live in the country where they have been educated. This seems to me to lead to one of two positions. Either it suggests completely free borders, which is definitely an intellectually defensible position, but one which is unlikely to be realized in the real world at any foreseeable point. Or it suggests that they believe that _they themselves_ as highly educated people who don’t have the opportunities they would like in their home country have the right to stay where they have been educated. Doubtless this is an attractive argument if one is in that position (I’ve been in that position myself). But it doesn’t translate into actual _rights_ under any reasonable argument that I can see (I would certainly have _liked_ my obligation to return to my home country for two years to have been waived, but this doesn’t mean that I had any _right_ to have it waived).

Nor does it seem to me to be a defensible argument on egalitarian grounds (doubtless there are bricklayers, farmers whoever in their home country who would also love to have the opportunities to live in a country with more opportunities; they don’t get them). Also, the people tossing around the accusation of being patronizing should reflect that it isn’t they who do (and indeed should) decide on this; it’s the _government of the country where they have been educated._ I’m not telling them how they should want to live their lives – I am suggesting that governments do make decisions on the basis of broad principles of public policy, and that there is good _prima facie_ reason to think that the government should decide one way rather than another. Unfortunately, this is necessarily going to feel ‘patronizing’ to some of those who might prefer the government to decide differently. But these people, including the commenters, do not have any _right_ (except insofar as _everyone_ would have a right under a free borders policy) to stay in the country that they would like to stay. They may have good self-interested reasons why they _want_ to stay, but so too do many, many other people.

Nor does Timothy’s objection cut much ice – the entire basis of the nation-state system in its 20th and 21st century form is indeed based around border and visa restrictions and making people ‘virtuous nationalists’ under some circumstances whether they want to or not. It isn’t a question about whether we ‘should’ have a policy that is a kind of compact etc etc; it’s that we _do_ have such a policy. One can certainly debate whether a work program a la Rodrik makes for _good policy outcomes_, but it presents no more of an unfair system of ‘indenture’ than does the current system of border controls. Furthermore, the practical outcome of Tim’s proposal – a world in which professionals with training in other countries have the freedom to relocate to those countries, whereas other people don’t – seems extremely dubious on obvious grounds of equity if one is starting from the position that Tim seems to be starting from. Not to mention the obvious Hirschman problems of exit and voice (if a country’s middle class flees, this is likely to mean that those who are left behind are less equipped to put up a fight against an unpleasant regime. The proposition that it’s “up to nations to make the conditions of professional labor at least minimally functional if they really value their nationals who have professional skills” is inarguable, but as far as I can see entirely and completely irrelevant in the absence of concrete proposals about how to make this happen.

58

jon 05.27.07 at 1:17 am

it suggests that they have some natural right to live in the country where they have been educated

I think that’s YOUR idea, not theirs. Although they don’t say anything on the matter specifically, I’m guessing they’re inherently looking at your suggestion as I do, as an addition to the existing US immigration system, where you have to find a job working for somebody willing to to do the paperwork, keep your nose clean for a long time, etc..

How is is it cosmopolitan to force people to return, say, to the common origin point of China before trying to find an employer willing to support your immigration claim? That’s a classic developing spot. And a nasty one.

Nor does it seem to me to be a defensible argument on egalitarian grounds (doubtless there are bricklayers, farmers whoever in their home country who would also love to have the opportunities to live in a country with more opportunities; they don’t get them)

That’s straw. They’re different people, free to try or not try to immigrate, with seaprate cases. In fact, there are plenty of immigrant bricklayers and farmers, so it’s not as though they don’t have opportunities as well.

59

Timothy Burke 05.27.07 at 2:37 am

In a way, my concern here is not with equity but freedom on a more granular level. If I’m talking with a student from an African nation and he asks me, “Should I feel obliged to return home and contribute to my country’s progress even though I like it much better here?” I say, “No, I don’t think you have any obligation in moral or ethical terms. Chase the best life you can for yourself: that’s what I do, too. Part of that is living in the society I know best and was born to, but if things were terrible here, I’d want to go elsewhere.” So if Henry comes along and says, “But it should be a matter of policy to force him to do the ‘right thing'”, I can’t get behind that. Why should this student get to stay when his many countrymen do not get to freely travel and live here? Because: he’s already here, he has skills that have a market value, and there aren’t very many like him. Because he says he wants to be here, he’s certain of what he’s doing by saying so. I’d be interested in further liberalization of immigration and migration on a global scale, to be sure, but this seems to me to be a fair enough start in that direction.

Let me push Henry’s views further. It hurts many smaller rural communities in the United States when the most skilled or educationally accomplished young people in their communities leave to go to bigger cities far from where they grew up. If we should compel a highly skilled person from Togo to stay in Togo because it’s for the good of Togo, why shouldn’t we have forms of compulsion to force people who come from depopulating communities and towns to keep skills in those areas? There are very few doctors, vetrinarians and so on in parts of the interior US West and Midwest; it would make a huge difference to the quality of life of people living in those communities if there were more professionals living there. What makes Togo different from southeast Wyoming? Just because it’s a nation, while the other place is a region within a nation?

60

pedro 05.27.07 at 12:39 pm

Timothy Burke is right.

I wish to add that I am not even convinced that third world countries would benefit more from having their neuroscientists and cosmologists return home after getting PhDs than they do by having a community of concerned expatriates making money in the US. If I had returned home to my third world country, I would have only had a couple of possible career paths, neither of which would have lent me any significant influence. By being a member of the emigrant community, one gets to visit the country, give widely publicized talks, and even get interviewed by local newspapers.

And by being “allowed”, by people with obviously less troubling views than Henry, to work here in the US, some of us foreign scientists also help inform American opinion and policy more than we would, were we to leave en masse to serve our “home countries”.

At any rate, whatever the possible flaws of my views on the subject, I think Henry’s birdseye view of a topic on which local knowledge matters significantly is a case of high-modernism gone wild, the sort of impulse that leads to failed policies like the ones chronicled in James Scott’s marvelous Seeing like a State.

61

pedro 05.27.07 at 1:01 pm

As for what it would take for my home country to lure me back, it isn’t all that much. I would just need a job that pays at least 60% of what I earn in the US, financial support to travel to professional meetings, and access to an online database in my field. At home, I would be a star, whereas in the US I am not, nor shall ever be one.

But I am certain my home country has little use for a PhD in my area, and it does have some use for the money I am bound to inject into the local economy over the years.

One more point: brain drain is a problem that affects disproportionately societies that are in such disarray that humanitarian concerns for the “brains” make it very difficult to send the latter back home, that is, unless you describe these people as claiming to have the right to live in the place they are educated, etc.

62

harry b 05.27.07 at 1:32 pm

timothy — is that also what you say to your American students? I suspect the students I teach are less privileged on average than those you teach, but in both of our institutions most of our students come from the most resource-privileged households both in the world and in the course of human history. Most of our foreign students come from the elite from within their home countries. And we should tell them that they have no obligations at all to others? Even though, in most cases, on any reasonable understanding of what justice requires, they are life-long beneficiaries of continuing injustice? I don;t rub their faces in it, or proseletyse, but I do try to get them to entertain the possibility that in their lives they have obligations to others, and to think hard about what they might be.

As for forcing people to make life in rural communities better… What abb1 says is right on the money in undermining the analogy. But lets put that aside. If there’s some important social benefit to maintaining rural life, sure we should ensure that life there is better rather than worse. By forcing people to go live there? Maybe not. But forgiving student loans for doctors and teachers etc who work in high need communities (ie, taxing the rest of us to make that happen), or providing other forms of subsidy (paid for by taxing the rest of us), sure.

63

harry b 05.27.07 at 2:04 pm

pedro — sure, about neuroscientists and cosmologists. But doctors, teachers, engineers, nurses… ordinary, boring, professionals, with skills that are needed pretty much eveywhere; in poor countries which function moderately well (which is where most foreign studnets coem from) they would be useful.

64

Richard 05.27.07 at 2:30 pm

If there’s some important social benefit to maintaining rural life
For urbanites, or the rural population concerned? Whose benefits count, here? I guess there’s always that boring old food production issue.

forgiving student loans for doctors and teachers etc who work in high need communities (ie, taxing the rest of us to make that happen), or providing other forms of subsidy (paid for by taxing the rest of us), sure.
Are you thinking something like this could happen in the US? I think open borders has more chance of getting political traction.

doctors, teachers, engineers, nurses…
Are all surprisingly dependent on infrastructure for applying the skills they learn in the US to their optimal extent. Sure, they can be of use elsewhere: these broad categories of professionals are certainly needed around the world, but arguably the kinds of training they receive through Fulbright grants etc. are not the best for this eventual application.
The question of why the US is or should be training professionals for the rest of the world is an interesting and complex one as well; one that I think isn’t very well illuminated either by ideas of national interests or a free market economy in education.

65

pedro 05.27.07 at 2:36 pm

Harry B.-

I wholeheartedly agree (and I suspect Timothy does too) that we have obligations towards others. It is just not so clear to me that our obligations need to be nation-specific. Consider the analogy of parents and children. You would not, under any circumstances, force a kid who has been living under your roof, to go back to his or her biological parents, who treated him or her quite badly, to pay back the debt he or she owes for the years before the kid finally split off from the parents.

I understand that this analogy is strained, because my obligation is disempowered fellow citizens, not with the government of my country. Still, I have a hard time accepting any obligation to go back to a country simply by virtue of an arbitrary link, namely nationality. I have solidarity towards the dispossessed, and being the rootless cosmopolitan I am, I let that solidarity bloom where I am planted. And I do have good reasons and incentives to help out those in my own country of nationality, simply because the local knowledge that I acquired during my years there help me make more informed choices and maximize the impact of my efforts.

But I am not sympathetic with measures that can destroy a person’s–nay, in cases, a family’s–livelihood for abstract paternalistic considerations in favor of countries, not people. I also assure you that many of the countyrmen I’ve met here in the US have acute social conscience, and they have become a force for good in my home country, while many of those who do return become voiceless.

I sympathize with the desire to send engineers and doctors and teachers to the third world. But I do not sympathize with the perpetuation of the sort of nationalistic essentialism that Henry’s proposal helps perpetuate.

66

harry b 05.27.07 at 2:38 pm

Are you thinking something like this could happen in the US? I think open borders has more chance of getting political traction.

Richard:
Well, they already tax us to subsidise farmers. Why not to subsidise the services they use? There are already in place lots of small-scale programs like this.
I should add that I framed that comments all in a conditional the antecedent of which I am highly sceptical of.

Completely agree with everything in your last para, by the way.

67

Timothy Burke 05.27.07 at 2:52 pm

Harry: we have obligations towards others. What’s interesting in this case is that you seem to conflate “obligations towards others” with “obligations towards the nation-state of your birth”. A Catholic priest from Nigeria who services a U.S. community is living a life of obligation to others. A Zimbabwean-born nurse who is living in norther Ontario and working as a hospital there is living a life of obligation and service to others.

The premise here seems to be in part that it is the absence of trained professionals from underdeveloped nations that creates or causes underdevelopment. Every person born in Zimbabwe with professional skills who now lives abroad could catch a flight home tomorrow and live there forevermore without altering the developmental trajectory of Zimbabwe one iota. There aren’t positions for doctors and nurses to be filled in crumbling hospitals that have no supplies. A doctor can have all the medical skills in the world, but if he can’t even get a hold of a band-aid, his mere presence alone is not much of a tonic for the sick. Every Zimbabwean with legal training could go home and find themselves with nothing to do, given the state’s contempt for law and legality. Every Zimbabwean with engineering training could go home and have nothing to do.

It is not the absence of professionals that underdevelops Zimbabwe or Gabon or Equatorial Guinea or Somalia. The absence of professionals is a symptom of underdevelopment, not a cause.

If it’s about service to others, a Zimbabwean-born doctor can heal and help far more individuals by living somewhere else. Not to mention, in all likelihood, living a personally satisfying and rewarding life.

68

harry b 05.27.07 at 3:29 pm

timothy I don’t conflate those things; to do so would, of course, be exceptionally stupid, which fortunately I’m not, even on Sunday mornings. Your imagined advice to your hypothetical student said “Chase the best life you can for yourself: that’s what I do, too.” As I indicated way upthread I think Americans and Brits too have enforceable obligations to people in developing countries just as stringent as those Henry proposes enforcing for people who come from those countries. I don’t doubt that Henry does too. (I have a long paper record, by the way, of defending the view that our fundamental obligations to non-intimate others are not affected by national boundaries).

69

Tracy W 05.28.07 at 2:12 am

I thought he was making the same point as bad, bad abb1 at 27—that it’s quite a leap to assume that the reaction to a loss of educated professionals will be stronger rule of law and economy, or more generally that what’s attractive to foreign-educated professionals is automatically good for the country as a whole.

I am trying to think of a country that treats foreign-educated professionals badly but is a good place to live for home-educated locals who never got past primary school. I’m having problems thinking of any. Any suggestions?

Foreign-educated professionals are human just like the rest of us. Speaking broadly, they want comforable lives, safe, interesting work, low crime, somewhere to bring up their kids, somewhere you can support a politician and still keep your livelihood if that politician is in opposition (there are of course always some exceptions, for example there are some people with low boredom thresholds who appear to like living in countries where there’s a significant risk of being shot in the streets, I am only talking generally). Some things are just good for everyone.

I was probably wrong in implying that a country will definitely resort to the rule of law and a stronger economy as a result of foreign-educated professionals, but it certainly is a possible response, and it strikes me as a less morally problematic.

70

Tracy W 05.28.07 at 2:28 am

it is the home country’s responsibility to make themselves attractive to their students who study overseas, thus putting pressure on them to improve their policies, not just economically but in terms of political rights and the rule of law.

Wow. It is really hard to overstate the parochialism and complacency behind a comment like that.

Okay, how is this parochial and complacent?

I’ve just been reading a history of Stalinist Russia. The more I learn of European history, the more grateful I am that my ancestors, at various times, decided to migrate to New Zealand thousands of miles away. Europe is about as far away from NZ as you can get while staying on the surface of this planet, so I don’t think that learning European history is leading me to be more parochial. So the less parochial my knowledge, the more important I think it is to live in a country with a good government.

What is complacent and parochial about thinking that everyone should live in a country where there’s plenty of food, and medical care, and warm clothing and where ex-Prime Ministers earn tens of thousands on the lecture circuit rather than being shot?

What’s complacent and parochial about thinking that governments exist to serve the interests of their citizens and potential citizens, not the other way around?

What’s complacent and parochial about thinking that governments can change and improve themselves to supply the goods I’ve talked about above? Many countries have improved in the past.

71

Matt 05.28.07 at 4:07 pm

“forgiving student loans for doctors and teachers etc who work in high need communities (ie, taxing the rest of us to make that happen), or providing other forms of subsidy (paid for by taxing the rest of us), sure.
Are you thinking something like this could happen in the US? I think open borders has more chance of getting political traction.”

But this in fact does happen already so it cannot possibly be unworkable. It doesn’t happen on as large of a scale as we’d like but doctors and pharmacists are given forgivness for student loans for being willing to work on Indian reservations and many other poor and isolated places that have trouble attracting help. The “teach for america” program, despite its clear flaws, is another form of this. So we do have versions of these things even if they are not as good as we might like.

72

Richard 05.28.07 at 6:57 pm

wow. I sit corrected. I had always thought that the window of opportunity for getting US government support for anything but a military action had closed some time around 1938: mea culpa.

73

Tracy W 05.28.07 at 10:16 pm

There’s gotta be a balance here, Tracy.
Suppose (god forbid) there a terrible pandemic of some sort in New Zealand, people dying everywhere and it’s getting hard to get a good meal in restaurants. Should all the NZ doctors quickly migrate to Australia or UK in pursuit of comfortable lives and good food? Should the NZ, Australian and UK governments make it easier for them to flee, give them some special instant visas and hand them free one-way tickets? See, it’s not as simple as you think.

Well practically in the case of a pandemic the borders would be closed and the country quarantined to stop all those doctors and professionals bring the disease along with them. (Leaving aside that there are dozens of flights a day out of NZ, so a quarantine would almost certainly be too late).

As for your scenario of the Australian and British governments issuing instant visas, and free one-way tickets:
– New Zealanders do not need visas to migrate to Australia, or vice-versa. I can hop on a plane and move over there without getting any permission from the Australian government. This is regardless of my level of education, age, etc (there are some limits on things like people with unpaid fines and children in split parental custody). So issuing an instant visa would add increased complexity to current migration procedures between the countries.
– The cost of an airfare between NZ and Australia is so low relative to incomes that no NZ doctor is going to be put off migrating because they have to pay for their ticket.

New Zealanders and Australians have migrated back and forth in reaction to economic events or personal events ever since European settlements. The gold discoveries in NZ led to a massive movement of labour into NZ, some of it out of Australia. Whenever there is an economic depression in NZ migration to Australia goes up. This has not led to a dearth of doctors in NZ.

So to answer your question, in the case of a pandemic, one of two things would happen
– NZ would be quarantined and no one, including doctors, would be allowed to leave legally, or
– Australia would have it too, due to air travel, so there would be no point in leaving.

In the case of an economic decline, which I think is the more relevant scenario to the questions Henry raised:
– People leave gradually. There may have been jokes in the end of the Muldoon era about “Can the last person to leave the country please turn out the lights?” but there were still millions of NZers at the end of 1984, including doctors, nurses, engineers, etc. Family connections, familiar landscapes, the ease of operating in a society you already know, these keep a lot of people in place for a long time. A number of white farmers in Zimbabwae stayed for amazing lengths of time even though there were violent gangs of thugs around, a few bad meals in restaurants are not going to lead to all NZ medical staff evacuating at once (I’m now imagining a voice over Auckland hospital’s intercom saying “Dr Smith just got food poisoning down at the Viaduct – everyone to Australia now!” :) ). This leaves plenty of time for a goverment to start correcting its policies.
– NZ being a democracy, the government gets voted out.

If NZ collapsed into dictatorship, everyone leaving strikes me as being very simple and smart. I’d be on the plane to Australia, why would I want to deny that right to any doctors? Let the dictators order themselves around and treat their own medical problems.

74

lemuel pitkin 05.29.07 at 3:39 am

In fact, there are plenty of immigrant bricklayers and farmers

Legal ones? In the US? Really?

75

Jon 05.29.07 at 5:04 am

Legal ones? In the US? Really?

Yes, really. The fraction of legal ones is lower in construction than some other occupations, but there are still plenty. Many feel the opportunities are better and threats fewer for their kids, so vast numbers at least try to go through the legal immigration process.

76

lemuel pitkin 05.29.07 at 5:11 am

I am trying to think of a country that treats foreign-educated professionals badly but is a good place to live for home-educated locals who never got past primary school. I’m having problems thinking of any. Any suggestions?

This was absolutely the case for the Soviet Union and other former East Bloc countries.

Foreign-educated professionals are human just like the rest of us. Speaking broadly, they want comfortable lives, safe, interesting work, low crime, somewhere to bring up their kids, somewhere you can support a politician and still keep your livelihood if that politician is in opposition

Sure. And/or, they want affordable & deferential household servants, an assurance their kids will inherit their relative status, an inside track to political office & influence, politicians who will do what they’re paid to, and an exit option if their own society goes down the tubes. Just like the rest of us.

In general, that what elites what is unproblematically what’s good for everyone is, let’s say, not obviously the case.

77

Tracy W 05.29.07 at 5:48 am

I am trying to think of a country that treats foreign-educated professionals badly but is a good place to live for home-educated locals who never got past primary school. I’m having problems thinking of any. Any suggestions?

This was absolutely the case for the Soviet Union and other former East Bloc countries.

Um, when? I’m just reading a history of the Stalinist purges. Professionals, foreign-educated or not, were of course more likely to be killed or imprisoned than peasants, but millions of peasants were killed or imprisoned too. I would not have called the Soviet Union in the 1930s a good place to be a home-educated local who never got past primary school, it was a terrible time and place to be any sort of human.

Once things settled down a bit, how many foreign-educated professionals were there, given the Communist rules? We are after all talking about a system of government that built the Berlin Wall to keep people in. I don’t recall ever hearing about large numbers of people being sent from the Soviet Union to study at university in the West. People *escaping* from the Soviet Union and later on studying at a Western university, yes.

Sure. And/or, they want affordable & deferential household servants, an assurance their kids will inherit their relative status, an inside track to political office & influence, politicians who will do what they’re paid to, and an exit option if their own society goes down the tubes. Just like the rest of us.

Most of the things you list are far more available for a foreign-educated professional in their own country than if they stay in the US:
– inexpensive and deferential household help are a feature of third-world countries.
– politicial corruption is far larger in third-world countries. (See http://www.transparency.org/policy_research/surveys_indices/cpi/2006)

Foreign-educated professionals may want all the tings you list. But given that they don’t seem to be longing to live in the poor countries who have all those things, then it appears that those wants are less important than the things I listed. People on the whole prefer to live in well-governed countries, regardless of their education levels or where they were educated.

Oh, and personally I think everyone should have an exit option if their own society goes down the tubes. Millions of lives would have been saved if people could have gotten away from Nazi Germany.

78

Chris Bertram 05.29.07 at 7:29 am

“politicial corruption is far larger in third-world countries”

Indeed it is (on average, anyway). Have you given any thought to why that might be?

“People on the whole prefer to live in well-governed countries”

So they do. Any thoughts on why some countries end up being well-governed and others don’t?

(Or are we going to hear more about how if only those countries would _sort themselves out_ their skilled people wouldn’t want to leave.)

79

Tracy W 05.29.07 at 9:35 am

You probably think that by elevating individual rights and interests far above everything else you are positioning yourself as far away from Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany as possible, but no, I don’t think it works like this; it’s just another extreme.

Dear abb1, I love this. At one extreme we have Stalinist Russia, at the other we have NZ in the 21st century. But hey, according to you NZ’s just another extreme – beautiful :)

Indeed it is (on average, anyway). Have you given any thought to why that might be?

Yes. This is a topic I could bore you on for days if I had the time. Rather than doing so, I’ll give you some of the writings and ideas I think are particularly interesting:
– Guns, Germs and Steel
Understanding Prosperity and Poverty: Geography, Institutions and the Reversal of Fortune
– The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
– the resource curse (just do a google search)
– Douglas C North’s work on institutions
– the Wealth and Poverty of Nations: Why Some are So Rich and Some So Poor
– Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism
– more other articles than I can remember
– the differences between North and South Korea, and East and West Germany
– English history
– Scottish history
– the difference between the mass killing the communist revolution in Cambodia unleashed and the lack of same in Vietnam
– the difference between Germany’s performance after WWI and West Germany’s performance after WWII.

I also did a course on it at university with a professor who would state some theory and then with a sneer point out that this implies that the rate of return on capital in the Phillipines is 3 times that of capital in the USA, or whatever.

Somewhere out of this I formed a view that wealthy countries is like recessions, they don’t have any one single cause. I may be wrong though. It’s not like anyone can do controlled tests to determine the exact real causes.

But I do think the evidence, especially from things like the resource curse and the European colonisation institutions hypothesis, is that governments respond to incentives and politicians do have choices. Raise the costs to them to get educated people, some of them will respond.

(Or are we going to hear more about how if only those countries would sort themselves out their skilled people wouldn’t want to leave.)

Personally I’m hoping to hear an answer to my questions as to why I’m being parochial and complacent in thinking that many world governments could do much better.

80

Richard 05.29.07 at 10:22 am

re 82: I know it’s bucking the trend of this thread to try a thoughtful analysis, but I’d love to know what thought has been put into these questions. Where should a beginning reader on the topic go?

My casual assumption is that all government starts out “corrupt” (aimed fundamentally at serving the interests and comforts of those in power) and that somehow ideas of social contract or accountability to an abstract mass of people/set of laws gain traction, but I have no idea how they do so. Obviously I’ve heard the old master narrative of Anglo Civilisation (Magna Carta, Civil War, Glorious Revolution, American revolution and constitution etc) but how does that map onto the emergence of a normative standard, against which “corruption” is a sin?

81

Chris Bertram 05.29.07 at 10:32 am

re 83. Thomas Pogge’s work on poverty and his critique of “explanatory nationalism” would be a start. See “this review”:http://www.cceia.org/resources/journal/17_2/reviews/1028.html by Leif Wenar (esp the penultimate para) for a summary

82

Matt 05.29.07 at 10:43 am

Richard- another interesting source (though one much harder for most people to get ahold of, alas,) is Kim Lane Scheppele’s paper “The Inevitable Corruption of Transition” in the Connecticut Journal of International Law, Vol. 14, Fall 1999 No. 2. It’s primarily about eastern Europe.

83

Matt 05.29.07 at 10:51 am

Also, I’d add that I think Pogge’s account is, at least, not fully convincing. I tend to find Mathias Risse’s critique of Pogge’s argument almost completely convincing. You can find Risse’s papers on his web page here:
http://ksghome.harvard.edu/~mrisse/papers_Philosophy.htm

Most relevent “Does the Global Order Harm the Poor?” and “Do we Owe the Poor Assitence or Rectification”? I don’t agree with all of Risse’s views (I think his argument that we infact are co-owners of the world and that interesting things follow from this is crazy, for example) but I think his critique of Pogge is right on and devistating.

84

Chris Bertram 05.29.07 at 11:24 am

_Risse’s critique of Pogge’s argument almost completely convincing_

I’m sure you just mistyped Matt, but it is, of course arguments (plural) and I don’t think that Risse rejects the notion that the resource and borrowing privileges (features of the global order) operate to incentivize corruption and tyranny.

The idea that, for example, the existence of tyranny and corruption in Nigeria is just a matter of the Nigerians lacking the will to put some decent institutions in place would be an instance of the complacent and parochial thinking that I mentioned above.

85

Matt 05.29.07 at 11:47 am

You’re right, Chris- no one rightly thinks (and Risse doesn’t claim- if I did I’d not like his argument) that it’s a lack of willpower or a (special) moral depravity that causes some countries to be corrupt and others not. (That’s a point made well w/ a sociological framework in the other article I point to.) But I think the moral Pogge takes from this nearly banal point is quite wrong and that Risse has it almost exactly right against him. (Having lived in a country where corruption both petty and high is rampent I’m sensitive to how things work but think that Pogge’s account is wrong both noratively and descriptively, and think that he, as is typical for him, ascribes a view that no real philosopher holds to his adversaries.)

86

Tracy W 05.29.07 at 8:57 pm

The idea that, for example, the existence of tyranny and corruption in Nigeria is just a matter of the Nigerians lacking the will to put some decent institutions in place would be an instance of the complacent and parochial thinking that I mentioned above.

Unluckily I don’t think that, so I still don’t know why you think my thinking is complacent and parochial. Governments respond to incentives is not the same argument as “just … lacking the will to put some decent institutions in place”. I don’t believe that placing the moral obligation on countries to make themselves attractive to any foreign-educated professionals they want to come home will cause drastic improvements in all of them, just that every bit helps. And, on a moral level, it seems just as sensible to demand host countries to change their behaviour.

If you disagree with my arguments that’s one thing. But I have put a fair bit of thought into them, and they are drawn from a great deal of reading around the world. My arguments may be wrong, but they’re not complacent or parochial in any sense I know of those words. I’d much prefer you engaged with them seriously rather than insulting them. I rather think that dismissing my arguments as complacent and parochial is rather complacent of you.

87

Chris Bertram 05.29.07 at 9:30 pm

Tracy: I read your comment 43 as suggesting that it was the responsibility of such countries to put their houses in order. Making such remarks in a preachy manner whilst neglecting the very real obstacles they face struck me as parochial and complacent. If I’ve got you wrong, then I apologise.

88

Jon 05.30.07 at 3:12 am

Chris said:
Tracy: I read your comment 43 as suggesting that it was the responsibility of such countries to put their houses in order. Making such remarks in a preachy manner whilst neglecting the very real obstacles they face struck me as parochial and complacent. If I’ve got you wrong, then I apologise.

OK, I’ll say that. It IS primarily their responsibilty. I believe what Jefferson and other Enlightenment scholars said about the people choosing their rulers, by rebellion if necessary. They must be held responsible for their choices in the sense that you have to be careful about what kinds of funding and support are appropriate, and sympathetic to people who don’t want to live there.

Now, remember, Tracy didn’t say that, I did.

I understand that it is hard for a resource-rich country like Nigeria, and that for 20-40 years after Imperialism, those echoes made it very hard to get responsible govt in former colonies, and that some places were affected badly by the Cold War as well. But, for example, even though the US arguably does bear secondary responsibility for Iran, does that mean we shouldn’t try to slow their nuclear development?

Mind you, I certainly don’t think it’s appropriate to use sub-genocidal human rights violations as excuses to invade or occupy, nor do I hold individual citizens responsible unless they themselves are personally contributing to abuses.

Resources aren’t impossible to deal with responsibly. Strange as it seems to accuse Texas of good government, it did make the important decision to fund education by giving schools and universities a proportion of oil lands in trust. It hasn’t been enough to give Texas good public school funding, but it has turned UT Austin into a good enough university to make Austin a place where innovation happens.

I’m curious what your view of human rights problems in poorly-run countries is. Do you think we should ignore them, or hold ourselves responsible for them?

89

Tracy W 05.30.07 at 3:30 am

I was suggesting that it was the responsibility of such countries to put their own houses in order. I’m pretty darn convinced that prosperity and human rights are good universally and that every country should aim for those objectives. You may call me preachy if you like for believing that, but I don’t think my beliefs on that point are parochial or complacent. From my point of view they rather feel motivated by desperation that everyone should have such a good life as I have and despair that so many people’s lives have been so bad.

I didn’t mention the very real barriers they face because it was a comment on a blog post, not an entire book. But why didn’t you ask me to explain this point, rather than dismissing my comments as parochial or complacent? My reason for believing that governments can improve if the costs of being corrupt and self-serving are high is that this seems to be what has driven some governments to develop good institutions in the past, eg when the Europeans couldn’t exploit the local population they built good institutions, if a country has good natural resources it’s more likely to be poor and that’s apparently because the elite can just live off the natural resources rather than labour taxation so they don’t have to nurture the local population. Just because a country faces “very real barriers” doesn’t mean they are insurmountable – Scotland faced “very real barriers” (the kirk, the English parliament), Japan faced “very real barriers” (eg the power of the samurai), England faced “very real barriers” (Oliver Cromwell, Charles I, Henry VIII), etc.

Out of curiousity, Chris, do you think it’s possible for a poor country to improve its institutions?

Abb1 – if believing that governments should exist to serve their citizens, governments are capable of improvement, and everyone should have an bolthole if their country starts going down the drain makes me an extreme ideologue in your eyes then that’s fine with me.

Comments on this entry are closed.