Lant Pritchett concludes “Let Their People Come: Breaking the Gridlock on Global Labor Mobility” not by talking about amnesty, but bilateral temporaryLant Pritchett concludes “Let Their People Come: Breaking the Gridlock on Global Labor Mobility” not by talking about amnesty, but bilateral temporary work agreements. In just 151 pages (available for free), Pritchett not only presents a convincing argument for the reduction of labor movement restrictions, but also thoughtfully and respectfully engages the anti-immigration ideas that keep labor mobility reform off the agenda. While unafraid to voice disagreement with these ideas, Pritchett is careful to acknowledge their political import, and -in a welcomed bow to pragmatism- produces his final recommendations in the context of these realities. This post will be the first in a series to explore Pritchett’s arguments, beginning with an introduction to the matter at hand and the morality of the foreign labor debate.
The great distortion in the international marketplace is not found in trade or capital, but in labor, probabilistically damning billions to lives of poor health, wealth, and education. While it has become easier for goods and money to find their most attractive market, regardless of country, labor laws have made it increasingly difficult for the world’s poor.
At a historically unique time of global consciousness, with tens of billions of dollars spent on development assistance and tens of thousands protesting perceived exploitation of the world’s poor, the world’s democratic powers are making it harder than ever to live and work within their borders. In the 19th century, the wage gap (adjusted for PPP) between Ireland and the US was 2.3:1; today the gap between the US and many countries is three times as great, and the distance between the enterprising foreign worker and the US has commensurately widened.
Pritchett notes that “a recent World Bank study has estimated the benefits of the rich countries allowing just a 3 percent rise in their labor force through relaxing restrictions. The gains from even this modest increase to poor-country citizens are $300 billion—roughly four and a half times that magnitude of foreign aid.” Not only does such reform promise great benefit to the worker, but “the current rich-country residents benefit from this relaxation on distortions to labor markets—so the net cost is in reality a net benefit of $51 billion. It would seem that the choice between spending $70 billion on foreign aid for an uncertain magnitude of gains versus a policy change with a net benefit to rich-country residents of $51 billion for gains to the world’s poor of $300 billion would, naively, be an easy one.” ... The benefit to the migrant worker is clear, a 2003 Jasso, Rosenzweig, and Smith paper found an increase of $17,000 to $37,989 (in PPP) for the same worker upon moving to the US. Even a marginal increase in migrant workers to industrial countries could have an enormous impact (far greater than development aid) on the well-being of the world’s poor. Future posts will address the obstacles to labor mobility that emerge from the perceived self-interest of the industrial world’s general public and false notions of development. The final post will look at Pritchett’s proposal to reconcile the great potential of labor mobility with these obstacles.
The streams of consciousness almost knocked this down to 3 stars, but scores 4 stars for its unique just-a-guy-in-Iraq perspective, a needed complemenThe streams of consciousness almost knocked this down to 3 stars, but scores 4 stars for its unique just-a-guy-in-Iraq perspective, a needed complement to the more "high-minded" officer memoirs....more
I greatly enjoyed the first two-thirds of Michael Sandel’s new book, Justice: A Reader, which only made the final third more disappointing. Sandel begins his book with a long and fruitful discussion of philosophical thought, ranging from Rousseau to Nozick to Rawls, with compelling thought experiments and concise explanations of the different schools of thought. In the end, Sandel argues that each school falls short, in part due to neglecting the moral legitimacy of communal bonds, such as family, ethnicity, and nation, which, he argues, are not contractual, voluntary decisions made by the individual, but inescapable moral obligations that do not depend on individual consent.
Sandel anticipates my objection “that so-called obligations of solidarity are actually just instances of collective selfishness, a prejudice for our own kind. These critics concede that we typically care more for our family, friends, and comrades than we do for other people. But, they ask, isn’t this heightened concern for one’s own people a parochial, inward-looking tendency that we should overcome rather than valorize in the name of patriotism or fraternity?”
Sandel disagrees, citing examples of shame that ethnic groups feel for the behavior of their ancestors. He rightly notes that “pride and shame are moral sentiments that presuppose a shared identity.” I don’t disagree that nationality, for example, serves as a focal point; Americans are ashamed by the behavior of other Americans that might only offend a German. It would be hard to deny that such tribalism is natural. Sandel loses me when he argues that what is natural, ipso facto, is morally just.
Sandel proceeds to examine the cases of Robert E. Lee and David Kaczynski (brother to the “Unabomber”) in light of his moral perspective. As most are familiar, Lee opposed secession and slavery, yet not only turned down an offer to lead the Union army, but led the rebel forces out of allegiance to his kinsman in Virginia. While admitting it is difficult to defend Lee’s decision, Sandel finds “it is hard not to admire the loyalty that gave rise to his dilemma. But why should we admire loyalty to an unjust cause? You might well wonder whether loyalty, under these circumstances, should carry any moral weight at all. Why, you might ask, is loyalty a virtue rather than just a sentiment, a feeling, an emotional tug that beclouds our moral judgment and makes it hard to do the right thing? Here’s why: Unless we take loyalty seriously, as a claim with moral import, we can’t make sense of Lee’s dilemma as a moral dilemma at all. If loyalty is a sentiment with no genuine moral weight, then Lee’s predicament is simply a conflict between morality on the one hand and mere feeling or prejudice on the other.”
A fanciful way to restate the debate: if Lee’s tribal loyalty is moral, then it’s a moral dilemma, if it is not, it is not.
"The merely psychological reading of Lee’s predicament misses the fact that we not only sympathize with people like him but also admire them, not necessarily for the choices they make, but for the quality of character their deliberation reflects. What we admire is the disposition to see and bear one’s life circumstance as a reflectively situated being—claimed by the history that implicates me in a particular life, but self-conscious of its particularity, and so alive to competing claims and wider horizons. To have character is to live in recognition of one’s (sometime conflicting) encumbrances."
Unless I am really missing something here, Sandel’s claim for the morality of Lee’s decision lies in the facts that a) some people sympathize and admire people like him, b) the decision was the product of careful deliberation, and c) a particular life will have a particular context. I do not find these justifications sufficient. If you accept that humans are not perfectly moral in nature, then there is a (strong) possibility that humans might admire a decision that was carefully arrived at and yet immoral.
Sandel then argues that you cannot explain David Kaczynski’s difficult decision to turn in his brother unless you appreciate the moral import of family loyalty. While David made a different decision than Lee, “the dilemmas they faced make sense as moral dilemmas only if you acknowledge that the claims of loyalty and solidarity can weigh in the balance against other moral claims, including the duty to bring criminals to justice. If all our obligations are founded on consent, or on universal duties we owe persons as persons, it’s hard to account for these fraternal predicaments.”
I completely disagree. Evolutionary studies have done a pretty effective job of explaining such fraternal predicaments. Fraternal loyalty has been an evolutionary advantageous trait. Humans exhibit it. The fact that Joe Blow wants to start bow-legged Joe Blow, Jr., at shortstop on his little league baseball team does not mean that this nepotism is the least bit moral; it does suggest that natural selection has conditioned human behavior.
To restate my objection, Sandel equates humans’ natural behavior with morally-just behavior; a slight of hand that avoids engaging the moral question at hand. In the end, his argument fails to dissuade me from that “familiar idea of freedom … the idea that says we are unbound by any moral ties we haven’t chosen; to be free is to be the author of the only obligations that constrain us.”...more
About half way through. As of now, he has aptly distilled a few hundred of years of the evolution of economic thought, and begun to present a tantalizAbout half way through. As of now, he has aptly distilled a few hundred of years of the evolution of economic thought, and begun to present a tantalizing application of complexity science to economics. I picked the book up on the strength of the topic and the reviews, despite the author's lack of bonafides. I have not been disappointed. This book is light years beyond the standard unorthodox economics fare and has much to offer. I'll post more later....more
If I could give the book 3.5 stars I would. If you've read "Bottom Billion" (highly recommended), then I don't think you'll necessarily get much out oIf I could give the book 3.5 stars I would. If you've read "Bottom Billion" (highly recommended), then I don't think you'll necessarily get much out of War, Guns, Votes. This time around Collier is more focused on the political economy of the bottom billion, but his analysis and recommendations echo Bottom Billion to a large degree.
The book has been successful in stirring up interesting blog post reviews, which I think do a good job explaining the good and the bad about the book:
1) Bill Easterly is right on point in questioning whether it's safe to draw any real conclusions from Collier's statistical work, which often looks like data mining: http://blogs.nyu.edu/fas/dri/aidwatch...
2) Chris Blattman responds to Easterly, citing Popper (very nice), while explaining the difficulty of cross-country analysis. He quite appropriately concludes: "This is where most of the literature fails: overconfidence in weak tests on poor data. I actually buy most of Collier's conclusions, and share his intuition. But this is theory-building, not theory-proving, and the answer remains to be found." http://chrisblattman.blogspot.com/200...
3) Bryan Caplan praises an excerpt of Collier's book: "This is political economy the way it should be done: Realistic analysis of politicians' actual situation, not deductions from irrelevant rational voter models." http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2...
Conclusion: Read Bottom Billion first. Read Easterly second. If you still have some time, pick up War, Guns, Votes....more
Great idea for a book. Short read, big on ideas, and soft on data/supporting studies. I buy the narrative, especially after reading Jonathan Haidt's eGreat idea for a book. Short read, big on ideas, and soft on data/supporting studies. I buy the narrative, especially after reading Jonathan Haidt's excellent "Happiness Hypothesis" and reading "Nudge" as well.
I appreciate the neuroscience and morality angle, but it's hard for me to disentangle this book from the 'Hypothesis.' I would suggest reading both to understand how your brain helps and hurts you, and steps to make it run a little smoother....more
I'd like to give the book 3.5 stars. I think this book provides excellent real-world examples of negotiating value-creating solutions for all partiesI'd like to give the book 3.5 stars. I think this book provides excellent real-world examples of negotiating value-creating solutions for all parties to an agreement. While this is a business book, the principles discussed are applicable more generally to how we 'negotiate' the world.
Negotiation Genius is doggedly practical, and that's both its greatest strength, and greatest weakness. I arrived at this book through the earlier work of Max Bazerman on cognitive biases, "Judgment in Managerial Decision-Making," a slim yet dense text that delved deeply into the theory that underlines much of Negotiation Genius, which provides relatively few glimpses of the more interesting (to me) cognitive subtext.
In sum, this is not a great book, but its not meant to be -- it's a useful book. If you want to figure out how to get that raise on a personal level, or make the 'big deal' on the business level, this book will provide you with productive habits of thought to improve how you negotiate your way through the real world....more
This book has many strengths. It is quite thorough. You can find it for free on-line (rightly so). It's packed with terrific history on patents, beginThis book has many strengths. It is quite thorough. You can find it for free on-line (rightly so). It's packed with terrific history on patents, beginning with their inception as a royal privilege (sister of the trading company).
The book wears a bit thin, as arguments are repeated in slightly different formulations.
Also, as the authors catalog just about every reason to get rid of patents, it should come as no surprise that some fall short.
They do succeed in their overarching point: dispelling the myth that there exists positive evidence that patents are a necessary evil.
They deserve credit for taking on the Pharma industry, which provides the toughest nut to crack for the anti-patent movement. This chapter was less than convincing in its logic -- though filled with excellent historical factoids on innovation in medicine -- but they do come up with a very creative alternative to patents to maintain the profit incentive for medical innovation.
At the end of the day, they had me convinced that 95% of the time patents are completely unnecessary, and in the remaining 5%, their value could be replicated by some other institution that didn't carry such high residual costs.