Thursday, August 23, 2012

The big win-win

Craig Newmark has fun with this list of young economists' big ideas. 

But on a more serious note, James Surowiecki writes about The Track-Star Economy. He cites all of the athletic successes at the London Olympics by foreign atheletes who trained in the U.S.  He elaborates on the importance of letting in the "stars" from any an all fields.  But U.S. immigration policy is not there yet.

The national debate on immigration makes it seem as if immigrant workers were competing with native-born workers for shares of a fixed pie. That’s always a questionable assumption, but in the case of skilled immigrants it’s simply wrong. Their presence makes the pie bigger for everyone.

In theory, fixing the system should not be a tough thing to do, since the immigration of highly skilled workers is one of the few issues on which there is genuine bipartisan support. Mitt Romney and Barack Obama, remarkably enough, have called for streamlining the system in similar ways, and John Conyers, a Democrat, and John Chaffetz, a Republican, are sponsoring a recent House bill that would make it easier for small-business owners in the U.S. to get green cards. The catch is that, for all this bipartisan comity, there is no urgency in Washington on the issue, and voter anxiety about the weak economy and the scarcity of jobs gives politicians an excuse for inaction. Tough times have always lent themselves to nativist sentiments and closed-door policies. But in the case of highly skilled immigrants these policies are a recipe for stagnation. The U.S. is excellent at importing cheap products from the rest of the world. Let’s try importing some human capital instead.

I agree.  But the international talent pool also includes many non-stars and each should have the chance to go where he or she is most valued.  Even the non-stars should find their niche (and thereby enrich) any number of supply chains.  The real economic win-win is realized in this way.