THE ECONOMICS OF...

THE ECONOMICS OF SELF-INTEREST. I tend to agree with the consensus in the economics profession in general, and with Alex Tabarrok in particular, in the current immigration debate. But this is a bridge too far for me: "Economists are probably also more open to immigration than the typical member of the public because of their ethics -- while economists may be known for assuming self-interested behavior wherever they look, economists in their work tend not to distinguish between us and them." That's a mighty generous self-interpretation. A skeptic might think that this has less to do with "tend[ing] not to distinguish between us and them" than with the fact that economists reap benefits from high levels of Mexican immigration.

I'll believe that this is all about altruism when I see an open letter from economists demanding that we scrap the complicated H1B visa system and instead allow unrestricted immigration of foreign college professors without all these requirements about prevailing wages, work conditions, non-displacement, good-faith recruitment of natives, etc. Obviously, there are many foreign born professors in the United States, but there could be many more, wages for academics could be lower, and college tuitions could be significantly lower. If there's really no difference between "us" and "them" economists should be leading the charge to disassemble the system of employment protections they enjoy.

--Matthew Yglesias

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