Sunday, January 16, 2011

Selling Immigration Rights:

Immigration is one of those vexing issues for me. Open borders would be nice. Some libertarians are open borders Utopians. But even Milton Friedman qualified his support for open borders with the caveat that we MUST abolish the welfare state (which we will not, anytime soon, whatever you think of the WS). Certainly open borders wouldn't work with government subsidized health-care. Immigration has already wreaked havoc at various border hospitals where medical ethics guarantees care for uninsured folks who have no ability to pay what it costs to treat them.

The "paleo-libertarian" types sympathize more with immigration restriction (which is a defining feature of "paleo-conservatism"). But in their first best world, just about everything is privately owned; you may cross borders according to private property principles. That is, if you are invited by a property owner, if you buy property, etc. Otherwise illegal immigrants are trespassers.

Again, like Friedman's case for open borders without a welfare state, it's Utopian. I don't see laissez faire coming to America, Western Civilization or the Asian capitalist nations anytime soon. Though perhaps inevitable austerity measures will push the developed world towards something closer to it ("the beast" might not necessarily be starved, but is necessarily dieting).

So in this "third way" political-economy of regulated, managed capitalism, with government subsidized safety nets, education and health care, more folks want to come to American than we can afford to let in. This creates a supply and demand dynamic. And markets are the perfect thing for dealing with supply and demand issues.

I know many folks who want to immigrate to America couldn't afford to "buy" citizenship (which unfortunately illustrates the life-boat ethical dilemma of open borders). I'm pulling a number out of a hat. Let's say $100,000 (in addition to whatever other fees you need to pay) is the "market price" for a green-card. That is, anyone with $100,000 in cash gets to step to the front of the immigration line and immediately become a lawful permanent resident (with of course, the right security clearances).

I proposed a similar idea a little while back of automatic citizenship to anyone who buys a bank owned foreclosed house. One note of criticism I received was, basically, only first worlders and (relatively) rich folks would be in the market for this, and why would they be so interested in moving to American anyway? Chances are, for them, life probably is not so bad where they live.

Again, the $100,000 figure was arbitrary. The idea is create a revenue raising/maximizing MARKET for green-cards. Concerned with attracting the "right" kind of folks? When you BUY something, you tend to take pride in ownership of it. And if one pays a premium for American residence rights/citizenship, one will probably act in a responsible and productive way. "Responsible and productive" are the kinds of folks I'd like to see immigrating to America.

This proposal, of course, would be "neutral" on all of the traditional civil rights categories (race, religion, gender, etc.) but I would imagine populations most likely to take advantage of it are from nations that disproportionately finance America's debt (hence nations with American $$ to spare).

The result may well be a massive migration of Chinese and Indians to America. To which I say, so what? With such massive populations (living under governments that restrict freedom more than America), so what if a hundred plus million Chinese, Indians and others buy their way into American freedom over the next 30-50 years?

I plan on blogging more about the future of the world's political economy. The world which we are moving into will have inevitable changes that a lot of people desire not. But I am optimistic.

We need to think outside the box for creative solutions to problems like massive, unsustainable debts of first world nations and the, as Thomas Friedman puts it, increasingly less relevance of national borders in the world political economy.

Change or die. Be flexible and be open. Demographics changes are inevitable and an open society should make the best of it.

Update: I see my idea is PROFOUNDLY unoriginal. See also here.

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