Friday, September 21, 2012

I guess I have no brain

Alex Tabbarok calls recent high skill immigration policy proposals "the no brainer issue of the year".

Why is it that so many economists get the logic that you can't generally count on governments to pick winners on every other issue except immigration policy.

As I've said in the past, this sort of thing is a big slap in the face to low skill immigrants. If anything, given credit, travel, and information constraints, the weight should be in favor of lower skilled workers, not higher skilled.

This is the one issue where I hear what smart people have to say and I consistently feel like this:


  1. Also as I've said in the past - you have to remember the context of why these policies are so popular: because of huge misconceptions that we've got some sort of "shortage of scientists and engineers", or that the market can't correct those shortages.

    Let's push for an open, all-inclusive immigration policy. High skill workers don't deserve advantages over low skill immigrants.

    1. Sure, just cut off all redistributive government benefits and see what happens.

      I'm against states, so surely I am against borders. However, the state shouldn't be able to bleed my wallet dry to redistribute benefits to a newly immigrated person. If you have a highly accommodative welfare system, then surely the awaiting immigrants to your country will be in high demand. Even further, if your political system is highly accommodating to redistributing wealth amongst certain groups, then surely this represents a problem regarding immigration policy (they can eventually move in at high enough numbers to directly affect policy).

      Too often the welfare state can be like a union's last ditch effort to save its pension program, so it tries to get new people into the system in order to fund old debts. Forgetting all of the while that there is no work for these new people, thus they can't pay their dues (or, at least not enough to cover the expenses). Ultimately, it is unsustainable.

      I would say that as long as you have a welfare system, no immigration policy is non-arbitrary, and is thus unsustainable (or at least irrational).

    2. Hmm good point Daniel I had never thought of it in terms of "picking winners" etc. I think the "no brainer" part comes from a lot of GMU-type guys favoring open borders, and getting pushback from people worried about welfare checks, bigger enrollments in government schools, more people showing up without insurance at the ER, etc. So I think the reason it's a "no brainer" to Tabarrok is that there's no way a brain surgeon from India is going to bring those types of problems.

    3. This is part of the reason why, in the next post, I acknowledge that you might not want completely open borders.

      You could also imagine a residency requirement before getting benefits. That's not a bad idea.

      I don't know if the research is clear that immigrants even are a net drain on public finances, though. I know many people contest the suggestion, but I'm not exactly sure how the numbers work out myself.

    4. See


  2. Although one could argue our current system discriminates against this so this would only tend to rebalance immigration. Actually it is more of an educational sales promotion. I would still prefer auctions, for seeing how much it is considered worth as much as anything else.

    1. How do you figure our current system discriminates against this?

      Ever heard of H1-B?

      We basically have a big chunk open to everyone and a big chunk open to only relatively high skilled immigrants. This bill makes that worse, not better.


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