Profile of Lant Pritchett

In The New York Times magazine, this Harvard economist is a strong advocate of open borders, or barring that, guest workers:

About 7 percent of
the rich world’s jobs are held by people from developing countries.  For
starters, he would like to see the poor get another 3 percent, or 16
million guest-worker jobs – 3 million in the U.S.  They would stay three
to five years, with no path to citizenship, and work in fields with
certified labor shortages.  He assumes that most receiving countries
would not allow them to bring families.  Taxpayers would be spared from
educating the migrants’ kids.  Domestic workers would gain some
protection through the certification process.

In effect, Pritchett
is proposing a Saudi Arabian plan in which an affluent society creates
a labor subcaste that is permanently excluded from its ranks…he
estimates his plan would produce annual gains of about $300 billion –
three times the benefit of removing the remaining barriers to trade.

He considers nationalism an "atavistic prejudice," but I think it is, at least for the time being, a necessary atavistic prejudice.  People will identify with some political unit or other and the current alternatives to nationalism usually are worse (my unverified theory is that Pritchett’s Mormon background plays a role in his views).  The key question is how many more people we can take in before this constraint starts to bite.

Not unrelated is this NYT article on the evolution of Larry Summers.


Comments for this post are closed