Swiss immigration controls are directed against those who are like the Swiss

by on February 11, 2014 at 2:40 pm in Current Affairs, Law, Uncategorized | Permalink

There is in Switzerland the issue of low-skilled immigration.  But arguably more problematic — from a Swiss point of view — is precisely the immigration which feels most Swiss, such as the professionals who come from Germany.  Note that since the late 1990s Germans are the single largest group of immigrants coming to CH (pdf).  The Swiss, of course, fear the European Union juggernaut as a mechanism for taking away their sovereignty.  Having more Kosovars or more Sri Lankans in the country doesn’t strengthen the hand of the EU much.  Those are not EU groups anyway, non-EU migration into Switzerland has been falling for a long time, and besides those groups can be excluded from mainstream Swiss society with relative ease, if need be.  But German arrivals?  Many would gladly see Switzerland join the EU and at the very least it feels like the decision is no longer under the control of the Swiss themselves.  Furthermore they are not so different from German-speaking Swiss and they (sometimes) eat similar kinds of cheese.  And because they are so often highly skilled, and can fit in so well, they cannot easily be excluded (pdf) from positions of influence in Swiss society.

In other words, sometimes it is the skilled arrivals the domestic citizenry wishes to limit in numbers.  And you can see that the share of skilled immigrants has been increasing in Switzerland for years.  Here are some recent percentages.

This study by Sandro Favre (pdf) shows that a major wage impact of EU migration into Switzerland has been to cut down high wages at the top of the Swiss wage distribution.  So there is an economic motive too, and it is not the same story that is sometimes told about say southern California and Mexican competition with low-skilled American workers.

I, too, am a small country of sorts and I am glad I do not have thirty identical twins running around out there, competing against me or speaking on my behalf at meetings.  I would wish to exile them to other planets.

Someone from the other side February 11, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Germans in Switzerland would love it if Switzerland joined the EU? Most certainly not the many I know (mainly professionals but also a bunch of craftsmen).

Will have to read Sandro’s thesis when I get to it (and while he hails from my alma mater, I will also say that they produce quite a few gems but they float in a sea of BS there).

Someone from the other side February 11, 2014 at 2:50 pm

For starters, “Surprisingly, however, I find no significant adverse wage effects in low skill occupations.” unlike him that does not surprise me that much because a lot of low skill occupations are covered by collective bargaining (and government can and does set minimum wages based on those agreements for many industries even for people who would in theory not be covered), anyway.

Rahul February 12, 2014 at 2:27 am

The whole thing’s darn confusing. Low wage earners were mostly insulated & high wage earners didn’t vote against it in spite of an adverse wage effect. So who voted against it?

nl7 February 11, 2014 at 4:22 pm

It would be a little self-defeating to arbitrageurs if Switzerland integrated further into the system they are arbitraging against. But that doesn’t stop Massachusites from trying to change New Hampshire or Californians from trying to change Nevada, so it’s still possible. Maybe they expect EU membership to make Switzerland only more accessible rather than also less successful.

prior_approval February 12, 2014 at 12:14 am

Yeah, I was just about to point this out – of the Germans I know who have ‘immigrated’ to Switzerland, not a single one wants Switzerland in the EU, and the programmer colleague finds Switzerland not being in the EU one of the benefits of having moved from Baden to Zürich.

J. Ott February 11, 2014 at 2:56 pm

“I am glad I do not have thirty identical twins running around out there”

Nope, just one Tyrone.

Steve Sailer February 11, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Swiss workers recognize they have class and national interests. In contrast, Silicon Valley workers have largely been politically and intellectually disarmed in resisting the constant class warfare of the billionaires against the engineers. Steve Jobs and other billionaires ran a “no poaching” monopsonistic cartel for years. Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates pour large amounts of money in FWD.us to pay off Congress for more H-1B visas so they don’t have to pay as much in salary.

Someone from the other side February 11, 2014 at 3:02 pm

Except that all the well educated ones I know were against that initiative (most very decidedly so). And they are by default libertarian leaning and by any account far from leftists… So you’re imagined class differences did not drive the outcome (I would still be interested to see voting behavior by education levels but it seems unlikely that there will be any decent data on that). Best proxy we have is geography and that seems pretty clear cut to me.

Swiss Guy February 11, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Well the reason why so many well-educated people were against the initiative is that they recognized that the cut on immigration could have terrible macroeconomic consequences. The return to immigration quotas could cancel all the agreements that Switzerland has with the EU and could lead to restrictions on access to the single market. That would be a disaster for a country that exports more per capita than Germany. The cancellation of these treaties with the EU might trigger a collapse of the housing bubble and lead unemployment and even recession. So it might not be in the interest of the skilled/educated class to vote for this initiative.

Ultimately this referendum was a debate about what was in the interest of the middle class. There will always be those who vote based on ideals when it comes to immigration. That divide is not new. What tipped the balance is that the proponents of restricted immigration focused on economic issues, such as those outlined in this blog post. What is the impact of these immigrants on unemployment? on housing? on salaries? The opponents made no effort to address the concerns of those worried. Had the government (and cantonal governments) acknowledged these legitimate grievances by introducing more measures aimed at favoring Swiss workers against ones from the EU, the result would have been different.

I was against this initiative, because I think that the uncertainty that comes from renegotiating the agreements with the EU is more dangerous than the impact of immigrants from the EU. But I saw so many opponents of the initiative dismiss those who voted for it as being backwards xenophobes. That’s missing the point and I appreciate that this blog post has explained the argument in favor of cutting back on immigration.

Rahul February 12, 2014 at 2:31 am

A very nice, pragmatic summary.

Axa February 12, 2014 at 2:50 am

So, the cantonal goverments and people against the proposal were too sure of a defeat and just watched things happen? It makes sense, in the media (Neuchâtel & Vaud) all the attention went to the abortion and train infrastructure proposals.

Yesterday, people from the University of Laussane were worried about the funding for the Human Brain project. Money comes from the EU. A lot of research made in Switzerland is payed by EU funding, what will happen?

Art Deco February 12, 2014 at 9:12 pm

Well the reason why so many well-educated people were against the initiative is that they recognized that the cut on immigration could have terrible macroeconomic consequences

Why not define ‘terrible’ in quantitative terms?

Someone from the other side February 13, 2014 at 4:04 am

Because nobody really knows what will come out of the negotiations with the EU so even if we had a decent macroeconomic model (which I doubt) we could not parametrize it.

Z February 11, 2014 at 3:53 pm

I wish I had a nickel for ever guy I know who had at least one job in-sourced to an Indian or Chinese programmer. There are firms that specialize in it. They get people in on visas, stack them up in cheap apartments and then rent them out to programming shops. We think of immigrant labor as the parking lot of Home Depot. Well, I can take you to places where vans pickup a dozen Indians and take them off to the cubicle farm. Same concept, different job.

But diversity is our strength.

Jonah February 11, 2014 at 4:01 pm

And what exactly is wrong with that? There is a dearth of programmers; you’d think the high prices the job attracts would solve that, but it does not seem to…

Z February 11, 2014 at 4:15 pm

Except there’s not a shortage, but that never matters to the fanatics.

Steve Sailer February 11, 2014 at 4:15 pm

I’m always fascinated by how economists always say “There are no such things as ‘shortages’ in a market economy — the price just shifts” … except when the subject is immigration. Then, suddenly, there are dearths everywhere.

You know, if the Silicon Valley billionaires like 29-year-old Mark Zuckerberg couldn’t get H-1B visas for foreign men, they could try hiring American women to program, as was common a generation ago.

Z February 11, 2014 at 4:25 pm

Ha. Yeah, the market is always great until the results are not to their liking. It seems that beneath the breast of every economist beats the heart of a central planner.

Al February 11, 2014 at 4:28 pm

It’s as if the billionaire tech genius cannot make the transition from being the fastest growing, most interesting person in the universe to being an also-ran. So they blame everyone else. “You mediocrities are just too dumb to appreciate my vision. I simply must be allowed to bring in _real_ talent!”

But the reality is quite different. The “local mediocrities” are smart enough to recognize that the vision has already played itself out and wasn’t really that great in the first place. They yawn and move on.

Anti-ummm February 11, 2014 at 7:47 pm

Plenty of unemployed US programmers. There’s no dearth and if there was they could bump salaries to get more people into the field. Skilled labor shortages are a myth – fat cats simply want to depress wages via H1B.

DK February 11, 2014 at 8:25 pm

Lazy cats, too. That’s why there are so many foreigners in graduate schools. Their professors like cheap labor just the same – it increases their profits.

Al February 11, 2014 at 4:09 pm

One of the main “weapons” which Silicon Valley engineers have against “the billionaires” is leaving the big company for a tiny company in which they share equity and have better (by engineer standards) working conditions. Bill Gates once mentioned that Microsoft’s dominance (at that time) was really in the hands of about 200 key engineers and program managers. Without these key people, the overall technical capital begins to shrink and decline.

And that’s all it takes. It doesn’t matter that it’s a slow decline. The fact that it’s a decline and not an incline is critical. When a tech company is perceived to be in decline, the brightest engineers are far less likely to join it. So the enterprise recedes further. It becomes an uninteresting place to work, a place where the stock options will never be valuable, a bore. Enter the foreign engineer who thinks that company’s salary is, all by itself, sufficiently enticing…

Steve Sailer February 11, 2014 at 4:25 pm

“One of the main “weapons” which Silicon Valley engineers have against “the billionaires” is leaving the big company for a tiny company in which they share equity and have better (by engineer standards) working conditions.”

Sure. But what if you aren’t quite a world-beater? What if you are just a hard-working individual of above average intelligence, but you aren’t the next Mark Zuckerberg. Or if you can’t imagine yourself not being worry of being invited to Galt’s Gulch by the Big Boys, what about one of your children or nephews or nieces? There’s this thing called regression toward the mean, and it even operates in the families of techno-libertarians.

Of course, in a region of three bedroom ranch houses that cost a million dollars, a lot of Silicon Valley engineers are on the cusp of not being able to afford to have children. From Zuckerberg’s point of view, why should he pay his workers enough to afford to marry, buy an 1800 sf house and have a couple of kids, when that house could serve as a dormitory for six H-1B visa bachelors from abroad?

Do you realize that there are days when Zuckerberg’s net worth drops below $10 billion? Think of our poor billionaires!

Al February 11, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Yeah. I’m not making an argument in favor of more H1B Visas holders. I’m not making an argument in favor of these highly questionable billionaire “anti-poaching” strategies.

It seems to me that, despite their technical brilliance, the big tech billionaires have not quite mastered the art of taking the existing, local talent pool, and creating from it a world-beating organization. (The Japanese corporations of the 70′s and 80′s and the South Korean corporations of today provide interesting counterpoints.) A case can be made that Silicon Valley’s problems lie not in a dearth of talent but in its organizational structures and the management layer.

Steve Sailer February 11, 2014 at 5:10 pm

Here’s the huge class action lawsuit against the monopsonistic cartel (Apple, Google, Adobe, Intel, etc.) who agreed not to recruit each other’s employees:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/01/15/siliconvalley-collusion-lawsuit-idUSL2N0KP02P20140115

It’s old fashioned class warfare by the super rich against the middle class.

Rahul February 12, 2014 at 7:43 am

Do you mean there’s no local talent in places like Google or Microsoft? By local I suppose you mean native / domestic? You could say the fraction of foreign employees is higher than 70′s Japan, but then again, I’d argue Silicon Valley firms scaled greater heights than the Koreans or Japanese ever did. Maybe there’s only so high you can go if you stick to the policy of hire locals only at any cost.

Bob February 11, 2014 at 5:46 pm

I don’t doubt that some companies abuse H1-Bs in the way you describe, but many just don’t. Around here, you find the H1-B living in the same neighborhood as the citizen. 1800sf houses or more.

In many parts of the US, the developers really have the upper hand, since the job is so mobile, and the costs of training someone are so high. H1-Bs that know what they are doing move to those parts. We are hiring people to work remotely, from within the US, just because we can’t fill the positions locally.

If there is a problem with H1-Bs, is that the transition to permanent residency is way too slow, mostly due to the limits on green card numbers. Theoretically you can only spend 6 years as an H1-B, unless there’s a pending green card application. The issue is that said applications can take a decade or more, depending on where you are from, so you might have a competent developer who has been working in the US forever, and yet can’t change jobs easily. The minute they get a green card, they are pretty much equivalent to a citizen when it comes to their employment rights, so they will compete with citizens in even terms.

Shawn February 14, 2014 at 2:56 pm

I think the solution is for Silicon Valley workers to go on a strike…

Z February 11, 2014 at 3:49 pm

The elephant in the room is culture. I give the CML a lot of credit for making the mere mention of culture toxic. If you can’t mention it, it does not exist, but it does. People like being around people like themselves. This is not only supported by mountains of studies, it is obvious to anyone with eyes and a little bit of time on earth. Tribalism, it turns out, is not a bunch of people waiting for the bus. There’s more to it than cold cost-benefit calculations. The Swiss like their country the way it is and they see no reason to fill it up with people not like them. Tyler seems to hate the Swiss and would like their lands to be taken over by non-Swiss, but he does not get a say in the matter.

Finch February 11, 2014 at 4:02 pm

> The elephant in the room is culture.

While I think you’ve got a point, I’m not sure culture is the only thing that’s important here. The cultural differences don’t seem to be some huge chasm. The nice thing about this example is that it removes race as a motivation for people’s feelings, and lo and behold they still feel averse to high levels of immigration.

I suspect they’d feel the same way even if the immigrants had exactly the same culture. The issue is that a group of people have formed a club, and they want to define how one gains access to that club in a way that preserves for them the qualities of the club that they like. Current Swiss care a lot more about current Swiss than potential Swiss. Adding a bunch of people to Switzerland would change Switzerland even if the new people were basically Swiss.

Steve Sailer February 11, 2014 at 4:18 pm

“Current Swiss care a lot more about current Swiss than potential Swiss.”

That’s Fiduciary Ethics 101. Let me describe Swiss citizenism using a business analogy. When I was getting an MBA at UCLA many years ago, I was the favorite of an acerbic old Corporate Finance professor because I could be counted on to blurt out in class all the stupid misconceptions to which students are prone.

One day he asked: “If you were running a publicly traded company, would it be acceptable for you to create new stock and sell it for less than it was worth?”

“Sure,” I confidently announced. “Our duty is to maximize our stockholders’ wealth, and while selling the stock for less than its worth would harm our current shareholders, it would benefit our new shareholders who buy the underpriced stock, so it all comes out in the wash. Right?”

“Wrong!” He thundered. “Your obligation is to your current stockholders, not to somebody who might buy the stock in the future.”

That same logic applies to the valuable right of being a Swiss citizen and living in Switzerland.

Finch February 11, 2014 at 4:33 pm

This framing does raise the question of why it’s okay to regulate immigration but not births. I originally put something about that in my comment above, but I removed it because it made the point too complicated.

I think the difference mostly comes down to it being a far greater imposition on a person to say they can’t have a child than to say that when they look at resumes from Berlin they need to follow different rules. Further, immigration can change things a lot faster and more dramatically than births and the cultural evolution that comes with new generations, especially at low modern birth rates.

Finch February 11, 2014 at 5:01 pm

If people could have 10,000 children instead of about 10, a functioning society would need to regulate births too.

Steve Sailer February 11, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Functioning societies try to _influence_ the quantity and quality of births.

For example, the U.S. government has been campaigning against teen pregnancy for many years, and it has been pretty successful: teen birth rates are way down since the bad years of the early 1990s.

On the other hand, the U.S. government has not campaigned against extra-marital births, and the illegitimacy rate is up to 40% (although it has stabilized during the recession as Hispanic immigration has dropped).

The reigning champ at this is of course the government of Israel, which has been hugely successful at driving down Arab fertility and driving up Jewish births.

Art Deco February 12, 2014 at 9:06 pm

The reigning champ at this is of course the government of Israel, which has been hugely successful at driving down Arab fertility and driving up Jewish births.

Jewish fertility has not changed much in 50 years. As for Arab fertility being an artifact of public policy, I think you’ve imagined it.

prior_approval February 12, 2014 at 12:17 am

‘Let me describe Swiss citizenism using a business analogy’

Instead of actually listening to Swiss commenters telling you just how little you know about the Swiss.

Someone from the other side February 13, 2014 at 4:07 am

Na that doesn’t work. We are pesky foreigners, after all.

Rahul February 12, 2014 at 2:17 am

You seem a lot smarter now than in your college days Steve! :)

You really believed that or were you merely trolling that Professor?

Z February 11, 2014 at 4:20 pm

I don’t know. We like to hold this image of the Swiss as just a bunch of stern chocolate makers and bankers. A few decades ago I had the job of helping a Swiss importer collect up auto accessories to send back to Switzerland. He was keen to get as much junk as he could. Things like brightly colored wind shield wipers and furry seat covers. I asked him what he was going to do with such tacky junk. He said, “Sell it to the Italians. They are our Puerto Ricans.”

Race is not just black and white.

dearieme February 11, 2014 at 4:59 pm

“Race is not just black and white.” Surely in the US it is, to a good approximation.

Amy Chua February 11, 2014 at 5:18 pm

Fifty years ago, yes.

Jim February 11, 2014 at 6:02 pm

dearieme, hardly. Latinos outnumber African-Americans by quite a margin. Amy is right about the situation 50 years ago, but a hundred years ago race in America was as much about Irish, Italians and Poles as it was about African-Americans.

Steve Sailer February 11, 2014 at 6:30 pm

A racial group is a partly inbred extended family. So, race is about who your relatives are. Not surprisingly, something involving relatives turns out to be highly relativistic.

Rahul February 12, 2014 at 7:31 am

In this context, Race is any identity you use to stereotype. Might as well have sold over-sized glasses to a hipster and called that a “race”.

Nick February 12, 2014 at 6:08 am

The problem with your analysis is that (a) culture in Switzerland is different between cantons (b) Germans are very similar to German speaking Swiss.

For the most part the integrate very, very well. One big group I know a lot about is German medical workers. The small local country hospital has huge amount of Germans and the are comply integrated in to the local hospital community. The play tennis in the hospital tennis club, go to the birthday party and what not.

nl7 February 11, 2014 at 4:29 pm

My understanding was that the Swiss dialect (as well as the accent) is considerably alien to Germans, particularly Low/Central Germans, such that it remains an obvious distinction. Yet the Swiss write Standard German for formal situations more or less like Germans and Austrians, so it’s still all compatible. Perhaps the problem is not inability to discriminate against Germans, but an unwillingness to punish foreigners who are still highly functional and conversant, as well as educated to a similar standard.

dearieme February 11, 2014 at 5:00 pm

The problem is that the Swiss have no desire to invade Poland.

Øystein February 11, 2014 at 4:33 pm

> I am glad I do not have thirty identical twins running around out there, competing against me or speaking on my behalf at meetings. I would wish to exile them to other planets.

Surely they would be speaking on their own behalf at those meetings. I am surprised that you would want to exile them rather than create something positive together.

nl7 February 11, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Pioneer experimenter Michael Keaton determined that sustained cooperation with multiple clones eventually results in rampant involuntary adultery.

nl7 February 11, 2014 at 4:34 pm

Just wanted to note how jarring it is to think of migration from a highly successful economy to an even more successful economy. This situation is more like people fleeing California for Texas, or Philadelphia for New York, rather than people fleeing Honduras for Atlanta or Morocco for Madrid. Similar cultures, comparable standard of living, but still improved job opportunities. “Immigration” sounds like “keep out the poors” but to a large extent that’s not who’s coming to Switzerland.

So which country is best poised to pick up the Germans, Italians, and assorted Balkaners who might be deflected from Switzerland? Luxembourg, Germany itself, maybe Canada?

Steve Sailer February 11, 2014 at 4:54 pm

“I am glad I do not have thirty identical twins running around out there, competing against me or speaking on my behalf at meetings.”

Or, you could all promote each other as brilliant thinkers, and wind up dominating intellectual discourse in America.

For example, think of how the five prominent members of the Kagan-Nuland foreign policy family (currently engaged in trying to overthrow the elected government of Ukraine on the U.S. taxpayers’ dime) have scratched each other’s backs for years.

Rahul February 12, 2014 at 2:22 am

Steve, why didn’t you ever try to run for office. Serious question. Not being sarcastic.

I mean, obviously you feel strongly about a lot of policy, and sure seems like you have no dearth of fans. Why not get elected and try to change things? Why always an outsider commenting from the sidelines?

Art Deco February 12, 2014 at 9:09 pm

think of how the five prominent members of the Kagan-Nuland foreign policy family (currently engaged in trying to overthrow the elected government of Ukraine on the U.S. taxpayers’ dime) have scratched each other’s backs for years.

Or maybe the four of them are just reasonably competent academics and able to stay employed in that trade. As for number 5, she’s a foreign service lifer.

Brian Donohue February 11, 2014 at 5:29 pm

One take away is that this shows quite clearly that the anti-immigration crowd need not be racially or culturally motivated. Nope, good old-fashioned exercise of birthrights appears to be a human universal.

I always find the invocation of birthrights to be vaguely un-American. This country gives you a shot, not a guarantee.

Europeans like their welfare states, so they’re hauling up the immigration rope. And the Sailer / leftconservative coalition appears to endorse this combination, at least when immigration is the topic.

American liberals are pushing the incoherent combination of bigger welfare state and lax immigration.

My preference is a skimpy welfare state and lax immigration rules.

Finch February 11, 2014 at 5:57 pm

My preference is for immigration slots to be sold rather than given away.

I arrive at that through Rawlsian reasoning. If A has something B wants, and we want to be indifferent about being either A or B, the “right” answer is not that A should give what he has to B for free (the Bryan Caplan theory of immigration morality), it’s that A should sell it to B at a price they both agree on. If A is a US citizen, the thing he has is the power to create US immigration slots. The thing B wants is a US immigration slot.

So you could have an expansive welfare state and a high price for immigration (and a high differential between the price offered 30 year-old German chemistry PhDs and 55 year-old illiterate laborers) or a minimal welfare state and a low price for immigration without much differentiation. You could have a price that changed (and presumably rose) with the number of immigrants.

I have an opinion about the welfare state, but my “price immigration” suggestion is orthogonal to that opinion.

Bagehot February 12, 2014 at 8:22 am

That is what market-oriented states like the UK do. Immigration is run as a profit center, with permanent residency and subsequent citizenship costing between $1000 and $2000 each.

This commercial practice is against EU rules if they apply it to EU citizens, but this doesn’t face the UK: the EU route is nominally free, but applications on that route simply do not get processed for months or years. So anyone who wants/needs the citizenship has to pay up.

Of course this deters the people who have alternatives – desirable professionals/professors/employees who can find a job in other places – and encourages people for whom $3000 is an investment towards the subsequent welfare/healthcare surplus that they are able to extract from the UK government.

Finch February 12, 2014 at 9:31 am

It’s not obvious that the price offered top immigrants should be positive. Price discrimination makes a tremendous amount of sense, as I outlined above. One could imagine paying the best prospects to sign up. One could imagine pricing out the likely welfare dependent.

All that said, $2000 seems ridiculously low for a more typical immigrant. That’s probably closer to what it costs to process the paperwork than to the present value of citizenship. Without surveying the market or anything, I’d guess $100,000 would be a reasonable starting point for an immigration slot with a clear path to citizenship? Less if you just graduated from MIT, more if you are near the end of your career.

Elite earners with global markets could be given a kickback to pay their taxes here and not somewhere else. R.K.Rowling or Alexander Ovechkin come to mind.

Finch February 12, 2014 at 9:38 am

$100,000 is my guess with today’s government. Brian is right on in identifying the trade-off between quantity of government and quantity of immigration. It’s not the only consideration, but it should be a major one.

A better run country could lower this number a great deal.

Finch February 12, 2014 at 9:39 am

Good god…

J.K.Rowling. Where did R.K. come from?

The Anti-Gnostic February 11, 2014 at 6:47 pm

It’s funny how professionals like doctors, lawyers and academics, and business-persons like IT companies, farmers, etc., all strive mightily to protect their own sinecures through credentialism, aggressively prosecuting IP claims and restrictive covenants, subsidies and regulations. And it doesn’t stop at the workplace either. They go home to their low-density housing, which they keep that way through zoning. They form patronage networks designed to give themselves and their kids a leg up. Everybody does that. It’s a cold, cruel world and it helps to belong to fraternal associations that can insulate you from some of those hard knocks of the marketplace.

But when it comes to wage-earning schleps, man, those barriers can’t be knocked down far enough. Think there’s something special about being “an American?” Think that merits some sort of consideration by your “fellow Americans?” Well think again, pal. We give you a shot, not a guarantee. And if you’re not cutting the mustard, then we’ll find somebody else and make him an American. Who cares if he’s from a completely alien culture and could have as easily ended up in Canada or Sweden or Germany. (Anywhere but a place run by his own kith and kin.)

Brian Donohue February 11, 2014 at 7:07 pm

The fact that everyone tries to insulate themselves from the vicissitudes of life doesn’t mean I have to support such restraints on trade for anybody, from doctors on down.

I do think it’s hilarious how, for example, someone can conclude that a doctor makes a comfortable living simply because of all the carefully constructed barriers to entry erected by the profession. Some doctors, like the guy who saved my life, are worth every penny and then some, guild or no guild. And that goes for some people working any jobs in all walks of life.

The idea that hiding behind the walls is the path to long-term prosperity is mistaken. For 400 years, the West was hungry. Now the worm is turning. It’s not like foreigners have these amazing skills they didn’t a couple generations ago. Americans have lost their edge. My dad didn’t graduate from college, but he’s better educated and more widely-read than just about anyone I know under the age of 50. If we ask more, instead of less, of ourselves, we may be pleasantly surprised.

The Anti-Gnostic February 11, 2014 at 9:34 pm

The idea that hiding behind the walls is the path to long-term prosperity is mistaken.

Is it? We seem to have built quite a prosperous society to which the whole world wants to relocate behind those walls. And those walls seem to go up–from families, gated communities, colleges, fraternal organizations, guilds, Amish settlements, Hasidic townships–wherever and whenever they are allowed. This model of barrier-free competition that the economists keep pushing on us is (1) not one to which they subscribe as far as their own families and livelihoods, and (2) appears to be at some variance from reality.

Steve Sailer February 11, 2014 at 10:57 pm

Ukraine is right in the middle of things with no natural borders to speak of, so it couldn’t hide away from Mongols and Russians and Poles and Germans, so Ukraine is now much richer than England, which has been hiding since 1066 behind its ocean.

Brian Donohue February 12, 2014 at 8:07 am

Steve, I dunno- maritime powers like the UK and Dutch, it seems to me, have a record of engaging with, rather than withdrawing from, the wider world, to their benefit. The counterexample I had in mind was 15th Century China.

Matt February 12, 2014 at 8:35 am

They have a record of trading with other people, yes. Importing goods and importing people are two different things.

JWatts February 11, 2014 at 10:50 pm

“My preference is a skimpy welfare state and lax immigration rules. ”

I’d be on board with that, but I wouldn’t agree with lax immigration rules unless we reduce the cost per capita of the welfare state.

Ricardo February 11, 2014 at 6:08 pm

I suspect you would actually be thrilled to have 30 copies of yourself floating around. Even “identical” twins do not have exactly the same preferences or capacities… so it is likely that the 31 of you would get together and find ways to specialize which would make all of you happier. Isn’t that what makes us wealthy?

MikeP February 11, 2014 at 8:38 pm

The problem with this logic is that anti-immigration laws were most favoured in the Italian cantons. The immigration law was rejected in Zurich, Basel, Geneva, and Lausanne, the cantons with the highest concentration of skilled employees. This law was straight up racism / xenophobia.

The Anti-Gnostic February 11, 2014 at 9:43 pm

If I have some extra green to spread around, I prefer to spend it on my wife, my daughter, my parents, my in-laws, my aunts, uncles, cousins, fellow parishioners, etc. because when I’m on the wane that’s who’s most likely to help me help out. The Swiss prefer other Swiss to strangers they don’t know and with whom they have less in common. What’s the problem with that?

Art Deco February 12, 2014 at 9:10 pm

This law was straight up racism / xenophobia.

How do you figure? (And why must any country tailor its policies so that more than a quarter of the population is foreign born?).

CBBB February 12, 2014 at 3:16 am

Tyler Cowen this is pretty obvious. The high skilled immigrants which economists seem to be constantly fetishing are in fact the worst and most dangerous – not just in Switzerland but in America too. Unlike others here I’ve never been concerned about Mexican immigration – in America there were waves of Irish, German, Slavic, Italian, Chinese, Korean immigration with along with all the usual fears. But this model basically followed the dictum of “Bring us your poor, your tired, your huddled masses”. They worked their way up over generations, integrating themselves into American life.
Nowadays walk into most any graduate program in engineering or computer science and it’s Indians and (although less now because these guys have gotten the message) Chinese as far as the eye can see. From hre they are funneled into the biggest tech companies in the US bringing with them all their often nasty, unreformed, cultural baggage.
They are here because the graduate school professors and corporate CEOs want cheap labour, they want to lower the status of engineering careers so that the wages can be slashed. But the Indians and Chinese don’t play the globalization, free market game – once they start creeping up into middle management ranks they make sure that their pal Deepak from Mumbai gets the job and not Jonny from Boston.

Axa February 12, 2014 at 7:23 am

I’d love to hear your opinion of the new Microsoft’s CEO =)

CBBB February 12, 2014 at 7:56 am

Haha, well that’s one guy. I’m not some sort of absolutist but the push for more H1B visas, the fact that foreigners (particularly from developing countries) utterly dominate technical graduate programs, it’s largely class warfare pushed by a coaition of CEOs who want to surpress wages, professors who want exploitable lab workers, and their PR lackies in economics departments.
This canard that there simply are no American citizens interested in entering these fields is just that – and having an ever higher percentage of immigrants from developing countries dominating these fields just makes it a self fulfilling prophecy.

Winand February 12, 2014 at 11:45 am

I am not totally convinced. Germans in Switzerland are generally spoken more Anti-EU. They like the federal system, good institutions and the fact, that the swiss people are utterly positive on wealth and performace.

M. N. Toller February 13, 2014 at 12:38 pm

TIL cheese is a shibboleth. Note to self: eat more American cheese “food” to keep the NSA away.

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