Robert Shiller on Open Borders

Nobelist Robert Shiller writes that the next revolution will be an anti-national revolution:

For the past several centuries, the world has experienced a sequence of intellectual revolutions against oppression of one sort or another. These revolutions operate in the minds of humans and are spread – eventually to most of the world – not by war (which tends to involve multiple causes), but by language and communications technology. Ultimately, the ideas they advance – unlike the causes of war – become noncontroversial.

I think the next such revolution, likely sometime in the twenty-first century, will challenge the economic implications of the nation-state. It will focus on the injustice that follows from the fact that, entirely by chance, some are born in poor countries and others in rich countries. As more people work for multinational firms and meet and get to know more people from other countries, our sense of justice is being affected.

Oddly, however, Shiller’s argument focuses not on immigration but on trade agreements. Trade agreements, he argues, will equalize wages through the factor price-equalization theorem but to do this we need a strengthening of the welfare state. The latter part of the argument and how it resolves with the former is, shall we say, underdeveloped.


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