It is good to hear an economist putting generous consideration of one’s fellow man ahead of pragmatic economic arguments. Bryan Caplan did that in his debate on Intelligence Squared last October, which I got to listen to this past weekend. (The audio is available at no charge here and on iTunes.) The resolution under debate was “Let Anyone Take A Job Anywhere.” Here are some highlights:
The resolution parallels “Let any woman take a job anywhere,” or “Let any Jew take a job anywhere,” or “Let any black take a job anywhere.” The resolution is not a request for charity and it is not a demand for government help. It simply asks the world’s governments to stop requiring discrimination against foreign workers. … Now, why on earth shouldn’t we require discrimination against such people? … The same reason that we shouldn’t require discrimination against women, against Jews, or against blacks. They’re fellow human beings.
Allowing someone to take a job is not charity. What is it? It’s call minimal decency.
Caplan’s economic argument for freedom to take any job, anywhere follows. Here is his opening:
Would open borders wreak … harm on our economy? No. Every scholarly estimate of the economic effects of open borders finds enormous overall benefits. Economist Michael Clemens, the world’s expert on this topic, finds that a free global labor market would roughly double global production.
Doubling global production would, on average, double the income of everyone on the planet. That’s a compelling argument. One might call it unanswerable. Nevertheless, Prof. Caplan put “minimal decency” to our fellow human beings first.