Untapped Prosperity in People - Bryan Caplan Edition



I happen to be a dad. I know I would do any number of things for my wife and my boy. Would I set off across the Sonoran Desert, risking death from thirst, heat exhaustion, or the U.S. Border Patrol?

Yes. Yes, I would. Luckily, I don’t have to. Despite the great predatory apparatus in Washington, the United States is still a rich country. If I were living among dangerous cartel elements in a Mexican border town with few opportunities, the trek might not seem so risky.

But what about the economics of immigration? That is, does a more dispassionate analysis complement our instincts about what dads would do for their kids?

In The Superwealth Interviews, I sat down with Bryan Caplan, one of the best economic thinkers in the libertarian movement. Caplan reminds us of a simple fact: immigration laws destroy wealth.

You know that paper he says he gave his dad? It’s right here. If you’re still troubled about the issue of immigration, Caplan's Cato paper is worth reading.

Of course, there are problems with unrestricted immigration:

  • Politicians create carrots for immigrants to become dependent on welfare, rather than to work.
  • Dependent immigrants end up not assimilating as quickly—and sometimes balkanize, as the North Africans of the banlieu around Paris have.
  • Immigrants can become political pawns, because they are easily bought by politicians offering goodies in exchange for votes.

These are all serious problems. But we cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good. One way to create more prosperity is through the gains from trade. And international trade in labor is impossible if your trading partners are languishing abroad, sitting in the back of a patrol van, or dying in the desert.



Max Borders is the editor of The Freeman and director of content for FEE. He is also cofounder of the event experience Voice & Exit and author of Superwealth: Why we should stop worrying about the gap between rich and poor.

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July/August 2014

The United States' corporate tax burden is the highest in the world, but innovators will always find a way to duck away from Uncle Sam's reach. Doug Bandow explains how those with the means are renouncing their citizenship in increasing numbers, while J. Dayne Girard describes the innovative use of freeports to shield wealth from the myriad taxes and duties imposed on it as it moves around the world. Of course the politicians brand all of these people unpatriotic, hoping you won't think too hard about the difference between the usual crony-capitalist suspects and the global creative elite that have done so much to improve our lives. In a special tech section, Joseph Diedrich, Thomas Bogle, and Matthew McCaffrey look at various ways these innovators add value to our lives--even in ways they probably never expected.
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