Jasper Smith

Commentary on politics, economics, culture and sports.

The ethics of importing skilled workers

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Greg Mankiw is mostly in agreement with Bill Gates on the desirability of allowing more skilled workers to come to the US:

As I have said before, there is a strong case for allowing more skilled workers into the United States. They would pay more in taxes than they receive in government services. And by increasing the ratio of skilled to unskilled workers in the economy, they would reduce the wages of the skilled compared to the wages of the unskilled, thereby reducing U.S. income inequality. In other words, from a U.S. perspective, the economic pie grows larger, and the slices are divided more equally.

Mankiw, though, does express at least one reservation:

More troublesome, from an cosmopolitan ethical perspective, is that unskilled workers abroad might end up losers. That is, if skilled software engineers leave India for Silicon Valley, the unskilled workers left behind in India could well be worse off. Allowing more skilled workers into the United States might exacerbate global inequality, even if it enhances global efficiency.

Personally, I don’t agree with Mankiw about the existence of an ethical concern. If we’re willing to give our own consumers (and our society in general) the benefits they receive from foreign competition, we shouldn’t deny other countries the benefits they’ll enjoy from having to compete with us for the talents of their best and brightest (chief among these being the necessity for them to get their acts together, lest they lose said best and brightest).

Moreover, there are the rights of the would-be immigrant to consider. China’s loss, in other words, is Mr Chang’s personal gain. Preventing him from immigrating in order to give some sort of benefit to China strikes me as an utterly unjust case of the ends justifying the means


Written by Jasper

March 11, 2007 at 10:12 pm

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