Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Not a 'Libertarian Moment'

Less than two years ago, the NY Times asked "Has the 'Libertarian Moment' Finally Arrived?" I know the answer. The answer has arrived loud and clear via Hillary and Bernie and Donald and their many followers. Perhaps these three have more in common than sets them apart.

If creative destruction made us rich, it also unleashed the passions that mobilized most primary voters. The three remaining candidates want to "protect American workers." Status quo wins votes these days.

I look out my window at a construction site just across the street and quickly realize that if the immigrants working there were somehow removed, the site would be deserted. The project and countless others would remain unfinished. We are today further away from reformed migration than ever.

Not long ago, the economist Giovanni Peri wrote, "From 1990-2010, scientists and engineers admitted by the H-1B visa program added $615 billion to the economy".  And Congress has seen fit to cap that program at a miserly 65,000 + 20,000 (see here for explanation). And, although directed to scientists and engineers, the program does nothing for my construction friends across the street. And the New Yorker recently reported that Donald Trump's bride (yes, an immigrant) was admitted to the U.S. under the H-1B program. No, she is neither a scientist nor an engineer.

Fine tuning and social engineering are hard work. Politicians have no way to know which talents are most "needed" when and where. Labor markets do that. But the "moment" when we would let free people (employees and employers) agree to who gets hired when, where and how has not arrived. In fact, it is receding with every speech and rally involving Hillary, Bernie, Donald.