One of the objectives of my starting this blog was to share with people like you just a touch of what I’ve learned in a lifetime in manufacturing and decades spent running my own company. But you know what? A funny thing happened on my way to all that teaching. I started learning. A lot.
Like this week.
Let me explain. This Monday I found myself stewing as I thought about two long-time employees of mine who had run recently afoul of U.S. immigration laws for some falsehoods and half truths they put on their applications decades ago when, as young men eager to carve our new lives for themselves, they first came to this country. As a result, both were summarily deported and their lives left in tatters. And in the process, I lost two of my best employees and hardest workers, machinists who were as skilled as they were dependable.
That’s why I got on my computer this week and why I started researching. And in the course of my research I stumbled upon a relatively unknown economist at George Mason University named Bryan Caplan.
As an unabashed and unapologetic libertarian, Caplan has emerged as perhaps the leading and most articulate proponent of a number of radical ideas, not the least of which is something for which he’s becoming especially famous or infamous, depending upon your perspective; opening nations’ borders the world over and granting people to right to move in an out of countries as they please.
He is advocating, in other words, a world – a job market – without any political borders and one driven almost exclusively by market forces and the tenets of free enterprise.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. That would be nuts. As people in dirt-poor countries like Haiti would undoubtedly flock to developed places like America, if only for the health care and quality of life.
But that’s exactly the crux of Caplan’s hypothesis. His theory is by eliminating geopolitical boundaries we would virtually wipe out the crippling poverty that grips the third world (placing a drag on the overall global economy) and create a level of global wealth, the likes of which man has never known.
Because the difference in salaries between, say, Haiti and the U.S. or Brazil is not 20%; it’s 2,000%. And that money would do more naturally to alleviate global poverty than the trillions earmarked over the years to do the same thing.
What’s more, because jobs would be awarded based on skill level – and those skills in this country would, for example, include facility with the language, ownership of a car and/or real estate, knowledge of the area, and, of course, willingness to work, the current job force in a country would not necessarily be replaced. To the contrary, many workers might qualify for positions supervising such immigrants.
Would some members of the current workforce be displaced? Absolutely, according to Caplan. But only the lowest skilled and least motivated; and they would represent less than 10% of the population. Meanwhile, 90% of the people would benefit as the economy grew and the additional wealth such growth generated got divided among them.
Now, understand, I’m not necessarily buying into the whole notion of open borders. But given how frustrated I am over having just lost two of my best machinists and members of my work family, you can bet I’m more open to it than ever before.
And my sense is the idea of opening the world’s borders is like any radical idea; it may sound insane to some, but there’s more than a whisper of logic to it.
For example, would legalizing the world’s oldest profession be insane? Maybe to many women and those on the religious right. But I’ve also heard it argued that legalizing prostitution would improve public health, reduce crime, free up police assets, ease the burden on the courts, and generate tens if not hundreds of millions in state and local revenues.
And, in addition to granting scholarships, would recruiting our best high school athletes with cold hard cash and paying them openly to play college ball be insane? Perhaps. But it would also eliminate cheating, allow them to share, however lightly, in the billions in revenue they help make possible, and allow the poorest student athletes (kids who will most likely never sign a pro deal) to assist their families to not merely watch them play once or twice a year, but often eat, stay warm, and maintain a roof above their heads.
Look, I’m not saying that open borders are the answer. But I will tell you this; I’m sitting here this morning thinking of my two employees and how much both meant to me, both personally and professionally. And right now, the idea of opening our borders to hard working and motivated workers – even those without
skills – no longer seems that far-fetched.
Besides, lest we forget; such concepts as the emancipation of slaves, giving a woman the right to vote, an economy built entirely on free enterprise and lasses faire capitalism, and the everyday use of the internet by everyday people were once ideas deemed so radical and far-fetched most thought – no, most knew – they would never, ever see the light of day.