Monday, June 11, 2007

Massive immigration

I have yet to hear a good argument against this.


Blogger Robot said...

What do you mean? The article itself presents a number of reasonable arguments against it. I think it'd be worth reading the New Left Review article on the United Arab Emirates to get a sense of what seems to me the most glaring problem (and which the article clearly highlights): the creation of a rotating, apartheid, largely masculine underclass with very different cultural assumptions living in the United States. The burden, at least in terms of historical argument, falls on Pritchett. Why would or should Europe, for example, accept massive guest workers when the very consequences of doing exactly that have resulted in swaths of Huntingtonian strife, and the erosion of tolerance and democracy.

Which is not to say such a plan isn't a possibly good idea. It very well may be. But Pritchett acts as if all options have been truly exhausted for the third world, when they clearly haven't. U.S. and European farm subsidies, unfair trade agreements, unscrupulous business by Western corporations, and promised aid yet to be delivered remain key places to start.

10:54 AM  
Blogger Josh said...

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3:36 PM  
Blogger Josh said...

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3:38 PM  
Blogger The Sheriff said...

I might pitch one tentative little notion that Davis maybe mentions in his article on Dubai; migrant laborers live with in a country but are denied any possible means of accessing political rights of citizens of that country. I understand that remissions from migrant workers are incredibly important (the economic, political, and social role that migrant laborers play here in Egypt cannot be belittled or underestimated for better or worse...) However, even simple cases show that in globalized or migrant labor situations abuse (economic, political, and physical) is so rampant as to tempt one to draw a causal connection between the two, and often "globalized labour" looks no different from human trafficking or slavery. I think that beyond just being particular incedents, there is something significant lost when we start adopting guest worker programs and migrant labour as a silver bullet.

4:23 PM  
Blogger Scantron said...

I really liked this article as a sort of zany, out-there, new ideas kind of thing. That said, I agree with some of the problems robot and the sheriff have raised. This guy is obviously thinking within a totally economics-only framework, a sort of rational exchange paradise with no consideration for notions of culture, homogeneity, borders regulation (these would be the complaints of the right) or power/exploitation (these would be the complaints of the left). "I don't think about it a lot because I'm an economist." That about sums it up.

On the one hand, he obviously has his heart in the right place. It's nice to see someone totally blow off the xenophobia of the right. Resident National Review asshat Mark Krikorian isn't convincing anyone with his stupid "press 2 for swahili" race-baiting bit (except, I suppose unfortunately, the millions of rabidly anti-immigrant americans he preaches to).

On the other hand, someone needs to combine the pure economics of this guy with some social-historical context. Specifically, in typical neoclassical economist fashion, he doesn't think that freemarket capitalism (in its historical, not its "pure" sense) might have something to do with the current world situation as we know it, and so thinks more and more of it is the solution. But, as they say, politics is the art of the possible, and, I would add, the practical. From the looks of the article, Pritchett has little of what we would call practical wisdom. His ideas are in the right place but need some guidance from policy makers who understand global dynamics.

Also, interesting is the difference of Pritchett from other neoclassical economists like Hernando de Soto in that he pays scant attention to developing economic institutions on the national level. The assumption is that third world economic disasters like Nepal are essentially dead ends and that the future lies in the already developed world. This isn't exactly promising for the long-term future. Also bleak is Pritchett's belief that a bunch of poor, rights-free laborers in America would not be a "new underclass;" they are a step up from their current squalid conditions. This might be true, but is rather harshly rationalistic, and it betrays a certain historicist sense of "steps to progress," i.e. someone must go through steps a, b, and c out of poverty to reach high levels; more widespread, dare we say "utopian" ideas of global equality and justice are too far-fetched. Pritchett may be right; I am only pointing out in somewhat slapdash fashion what I, as a relatively ignorant commentaror, see as the chief intellectual arguments here. But thanks for posting this--interesting stuff.

1:06 AM  

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