Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Getting my own medical care, I have encountered more than a few medical professionals who are practicing  here from abroad and who treated me very well.  I was glad they are here and I expect that they are also better off practicing medicine in the U.S. than in their native land. Good old fashioned gains from trade.

This morning's WSJ includes an op-ed by E. Fuller Torrey, "How the U.S. Made the Ebola Crisis Worse ... The total number of Liberian doctors in America is about two-thirds the total now working in their homeland."  Torrey wants the U.S. to produce more home-grown health professionals so that this kind of thing cannot go on. Expect others to call for restrictions on how many professionals from abroad are allowed to practice here. Gary Becker advocated auctioning immigrant permits to the highest bidder. That would not address the problem that Torrey writes about.

The very big problem is the one Adam Smith wrote about many years ago.  Some nations are rich and some are poor. And whereas some poor places can become rich (as in East Asia), many others are less likely to make the transition. Local tribalisms and civil wars (and their consequences) stand in the way. The way to address the problem that Smith addressed is to allow in more Liberians (and others) rather than fewer.

It is worth repeating that a flailing Pres. Obama, eager to leave some kind of a legacy, can do more for the legacy (and for the world) by moving away from his left-wing-hack platform (minimum wage, high-speed rail, green energy, and all the rest) towards reformed immigration. He even says he wants this but is blinkered by U.S. politics as her perceives them. That is not legacy stuff.

Open borders is the idea but that scares too many Americans. An enlightened president would promote a version that trades all of the nutty restrictions now in place with plausible controls: no lunatics, no psychopaths, no fanatics. The enlightened part and the serious work would be to fashion these. The rest of the job would be to knock enough heads in Congress to get it passed into law. Barack Obama would have left a worthy legacy.