Yet another weird SF fan

I'm a mathematician, a libertarian, and a science-fiction fan. Common sense? What's that?

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Yet another weird SF fan

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Immigration Laws as Suppressing Competition

According to George Will (when did he turn into a libertarian?):

The semiconductor industry's problem is entangled with a subject about which the loquacious presidential candidates are reluctant to talk -- immigration, specifically that of highly educated people. Concerning whom, U.S. policy should be: A nation cannot have too many such people, so send us your PhDs yearning to be free.

Instead, U.S. policy is: As soon as U.S. institutions of higher education have awarded you a PhD, equipping you to add vast value to the economy, get out. Go home. Or to Europe, which is responding to America's folly with "blue cards" to expedite acceptance of the immigrants America is spurning.

Two-thirds of doctoral candidates in science and engineering in U.S. universities are foreign-born. But only 140,000 employment-based green cards are available annually, and 1 million educated professionals are waiting -- often five or more years -- for cards. Congress could quickly add a zero to the number available, thereby boosting the U.S. economy and complicating matters for America's competitors.

You can think of our de facto immigration policy as a matter of suppressing competition. On the one hand, we have laws on the books that limit immigration. On the other hand, we don't keep people out. On the gripping hand, we punish people who can be shown to have hired illegal aliens. That adds up to a policy of allowing in manual workers but keeping out anybody who needs documentation to get a job, e.g., educated workers. In other words, New York Times readers get to hire low-wage nannies and gardeners but suppress anybody who might compete with them.

This is not done deliberately. I doubt if many people set out to suppress competition. (There are exceptions.) I suspect it's a matter of not bothering to resist the nominal opposition. In other words, when conservatives try enforcing blue-collar immigration laws, they are resisted, but not when they try enforcing white-collar immigration laws.

In related news

Another case of suppressing competition

The recent freeze on solar projects (discussed here) might be another example of the same thing. When environmental laws seem to indicate that solar projects should be delayed, it's possible that the current administration could resist it but won't bother.

Query: Is the same thing true for nuclear energy? Could nuclear energy be stalled simply because the people we might trust to push through nuclear project aren't bothering to resist?


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