A DIFFERENT TYPE OF IMMIGRATION. Sebastian Mallaby has a good column arguing that lax immigration policies are one of the better developmental strategies open to wealthy countries. As he argues, if rich countries opened their borders to allow in the equivalent of three percent of their workforce, it would be equal to an extra $300 billion in developmental aid -- and it would be more effectively directed, too, going through remittances rather than Third World bureaucrats. Better yet, many of those who would train in wealthy countries would later repatriate, bringing new and more globally marketable skills, methods, and ideas back to their homelands. Win-win, right?
But one thing Mallaby doesn't go into is that part of any new immigration consensus should, if it seeks to enrich poorer nations, focus on high-skills immigration. For a variety of reasons, when we think of immigration, we tend to mean the importation of menial labor into the country. But as TAP's own Dean Baker loves to point out, that's not inevitable; it's a result of "free trade" deals that focus solely on removing the barriers that impede the flow of cheaply-made manufactured goods or low-wage labor. But what if, instead, the agreements focused on removing the obstacles that prevent bright kids in developing nations from becoming doctors, lawyers, journalists, and researchers in the United States?
Somehow, the case against protectionism in those sectors tends to be less persuasive to an intellectual class convinced of their own unique abilities and irreplaceable contributions. But little would be better for the developing world than to train more of their best and brightest in the lucrative, elite professions that drive global commerce and command global respect. And whatever inefficiencies and inflated costs that currently exist in the manufacturing sectors are miniscule compared to those in the protected, professional sectors. Plus: Deep down, don't we all really want to see Tom Friedman's column reach its logical extension and get outsourced to a bright recruit from elsewhere in this flat world of ours?