Sunday, March 11, 2012

America is not stealing the world's doctors

Response to a recent NYT column:

Forget concerns about brain drain; opening international borders to immigration and free movement of individuals is by far the best policy. Its hard for me to believe that dysfunctional nations are better off because their brightest talents are kept captive by political barriers. Certainly, the individuals themselves are worse off.

I happen to think the originating nations benefit in was that aren't appreciated, beyond simple remittances. Well-trained expats around the world can serve as a go-between between the local (originating) economy and the international economy. If anyone is poised to catalyze positive change in troubled nations, it would be these expats, who will be unique in understanding the local economy and the global system.

Another advantage of open borders: dysfunctional nations whose talented citizens consistently emigrate elsewhere have a very strong incentive to reform, do they not? If dysfunctional nations don't have to compete for talent just because it happens to be local, they are less likely to nurture it. Consider if top American researchers started emigrating to China: I bet you that the USA would jack up spending on R&D in response, to keep the talent here.

Ultimately, we should be less concerned with the success or failure of specific nation-states, and focus on what is best for humanity and the world as a whole. Humanity benefits when every individual is able to reach his or her full potential, period. Where that happens is less important than whether it happens. What if Einstein had been born in a nation with few opportunities for science or education? An even more troubling question: how many Einsteins has the world already missed out on?

For further reading, Tyler Cowen wrote this rebuttal to the piece that suggested that recruiting African workers should be a crime.

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