Saturday, May 27, 2006

I hereby call on all governments to allow free mobility of university professors. All universities and other institutions of higher education should be allowed to hire whoever they want to reside, teach, and do research at their universities, without let or hindrance by any government whatsoever.

Answering Matthew Yglesias and following Brad DeLong

Yglesias wrote "I'll believe that this is all about altruism when I see an open letter from economists demanding that we scrap the complicated H1B visa system and instead allow unrestricted immigration of foreign college professors without all these requirements about prevailing wages, work conditions, non-displacement, good-faith recruitment of natives, etc." Let's convince him. I think his point is that such a gesture would help economist convince a politician or maybe even two.

I am sure that most economists consider H1B visas a hassle and barrier to recruiting the best colleagues (although really a very minor barrier). I don't think that young US citizen economists would be willing to tacitly accept protection from non US citizens by refusing to sign such an open letter. They might get a slightly nicer house by remaining silent, but they wouldn't want to look at themselves in any of the mirrors in it. Now it is true that policy makers don't care about economists' sincerity but what's better than a chance to make an self sacrificing offer that no one will accept ?

I admit that I, being an emmigrant economist, can obtain only benefits from my adherance, however they are trivial. National borders have only been a problem for me when I couldn't get out of the USA because my passport had expired and the US government was shut down for lack of funds. I'm pretty sure that I was an undocumented alien in Italy in 1989-90 but no Italians, including those who were paying me, seemed interested in the question, so I didn't bore them with it.

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