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Monday, December 17, 2012

Untapped Prosperity in People – Bryan Caplan Edition


I happen to be a dad. I know I would do any number of things for my wife and my boy. Would I set off across the Sonoran Desert, risking death from thirst, heat exhaustion, or the U.S. Border Patrol?

Yes. Yes, I would. Luckily, I don’t have to. Despite the great predatory apparatus in Washington, the United States is still a rich country. If I were living among dangerous cartel elements in a Mexican border town with few opportunities, the trek might not seem so risky.

But what about the economics of immigration? That is, does a more dispassionate analysis complement our instincts about what dads would do for their kids?

In The Superwealth Interviews, I sat down with Bryan Caplan, one of the best economic thinkers in the libertarian movement. Caplan reminds us of a simple fact: immigration laws destroy wealth.

You know that paper he says he gave his dad? It’s right here. If you’re still troubled about the issue of immigration, Caplan's Cato paper is worth reading.

Of course, there are problems with unrestricted immigration:

  • Politicians create carrots for immigrants to become dependent on welfare, rather than to work.
  • Dependent immigrants end up not assimilating as quickly—and sometimes balkanize, as the North Africans of the banlieu around Paris have.
  • Immigrants can become political pawns, because they are easily bought by politicians offering goodies in exchange for votes.

These are all serious problems. But we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. One way to create more prosperity is through the gains from trade. And international trade in labor is impossible if your trading partners are languishing abroad, sitting in the back of a patrol van, or dying in the desert.

  • Max Borders is author of The Social Singularity. He is also the founder and Executive Director of Social Evolution—a non-profit organization dedicated to liberating humanity through innovation. Max is also co-founder of the Voice & Exit event and former editor at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). Max is a futurist, a theorist, a published author and an entrepreneur.