Immigration Ethics from Bryan Caplan

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.

Bravo, Bryan.

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