Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The optimal number of immigrants

Hoover's Peregrine asked me to write an essay with the title, "What is the optimal number of immigrants to the U.S?"  (Original version and prettier formatting here. Also a related podcast here.)

My answer:

Two billion, two million, fifty-two thousand and thirty-five (2,002,052,035). Seriously.

The United States is made up of three and a half million square miles, with 84 people per square mile. The United Kingdom has 650 people per square mile. If we let in two billion people, we’ll have no more population density than the UK.

Why the UK? Well, it seems really pretty country and none too crowded on “Masterpiece Theater.” The Netherlands is also attractive with 1,250 people per square mile, so maybe four billion. Okay, maybe more of the US is uninhabitable desert or tundra, so maybe only one billion. However you cut it, the US still looks severely underpopulated relative to many other pleasant advanced countries.

As you can see by my playful calculation, the title of this essay asks the wrong question.

What is the optimal number of imported tomatoes? Soviet central planners tried to figure things out this way. Americans shouldn’t. We should decide on the optimal terms on which tomatoes can be imported, and then let the market decide the number. Similarly, we should debate what the optimal terms for immigration are – How will we let people immigrate? What kind of people? – so that the vast majority of such immigrants are a net benefit to the US. Then, let as many come as want to. On the right terms, the number will self-regulate.

Econ 101: Figure out the price, set the rules of the game; don’t decide the quantity, or determine the outcome. When a society sets target quantities, or sets quotas, as the U.S. does now with immigration, the result is generally a calamitous waste. With an immigrant quota, an entrepreneur who could come to the U.S. and start a billion dollar business faces the same restriction as everyone else. The potential Albert Einstein or Sergey Brin has no way to signal just how much his contribution to our society would be.

Why fear immigrants? You might fear they will overuse social services. Morally, just why your taxes should support an unfortunate who happened to be born in Maine and not one who happened to be born in Guadalajara is an interesting question, but leave that aside for now. It’s easy enough to structure a deal that protects the finances of the welfare state. Immigrants would pay a bond at the border, say $5,000. If they run out of money, are convicted of a crime, don’t have health insurance, or whatever, the bond pays for their ticket home. Alternatively, the government could establish an asset and income test: immigrants must show $10,000 in assets and either a job within 6 months or visible business or asset income.

In any case, welfare is a red herring. Immigrants might go to France for a welfare state. The vast majority of immigrants to the US come to work, and pay taxes. Overuse of social services is simply not a problem. But if you worry about it, it’s easy to structure the deal.

You might fear that immigrants compete for jobs, and drive down American wages. Again, this is not demonstrably a serious problem. If labor does not move in, capital – factories and farms -- moves out and wages go down anyway. Immigrants come to work in wide-open industries with lots of jobs, not those where there are few jobs and many workers. Thus, restrictions on immigration do little, in the long run of an open economy such as the US, to “protect” wages. To the extent wage-boosting immigration restrictions can work, the higher wages translate into higher prices to American consumers. The country as a whole – especially low-income consumers who tend to shop at Wal-Mart and benefit the most from low-priced goods – is not better off.

And finally, if it did work, restricting labor benefits some American workers by hurting Mexican workers. Is it really America’s place in the world to take opportunities from poor Mexicans to subsidize our workers’ standard of living? We are a strange country that rigorously prohibits employment discrimination “because of birthplace, ancestry, culture, linguistic characteristics common to a specific ethnic group, or accent….” [EEOC] and then requires such discrimination because of, well, birthplace.

But if that’s a worry, fine. The government could license protected occupations such that only US citizens can hold the protected occupational licenses. Too intrusive? Well, that’s what we’re trying to do by keeping people out, and good policy is not produced by putting nice appearances on nasty policies.

More seriously, one can worry that our society quickly absorbs educated people: engineers, programmers, venture capitalists, MBAs, and professors, but does not quickly absorb people with less education. If the low-skill, low-assimilation objection has merit, let in anyone with specific skills and credentials. Let’s talk about the terms, not the numbers.

Maybe you worry about social values. One can easily demand that immigrants speak English, and have a vague understanding of American institutions, history, and law, though we don’t require this of our citizens. Fine. Let’s talk about the deal, not the numbers.

Maybe you worry, how will we build homes and find jobs for all these people? “We” don’t. They will. Markets, not the government, already provides homes and jobs for citizens. And anyway, aren’t we supposed to be worried about our stagnant economy? Everyone wants more housing construction in the US, yet there are only so many people who need only so many houses. Imagine the construction boom from millions of additional immigrants each year. Our ancestors did not need the American Indian Federal Government to provide them jobs or build them houses. Neither do new immigrants.

The first order issue facing the US is the ridiculous number of talented people who are forced to leave after visiting, often getting engineering diplomas from US colleges, and our mistreatment of de-facto immigrants who are here. Anyone who gets a degree here should be able to stay. Instead, we kick them out. Another 11 million people are here, working hard, paying taxes, owning property, but scurrying around in semi-legal status. This is a national embarrassment. We criticize other nations for “apartheid” when they deny legal status to people who have been living there for decades, or even generations. Yet one in twenty people living within US borders suffers the same fate.

If you’ve been here x years, have a job, stayed out of trouble, then you should get to stay. If we let everyone else who wants to migrate on these same terms, then we don’t have to worry about the unfairness of letting illegals “jump the line.” Get the terms right, and there will be no lines and no unfairness.

Let’s talk about the deal, not the numbers. For every objection to open immigration, it’s easy enough to find terms of the deal to resolve the matter. The right terms will allow the optimal amount of immigration to settle itself, so that no apparatchik in Washington has to come up with a number. Once we get the terms right, every person who can benefit our society will come, and America will truly be a great nation of great immigrants again.


If I were to write it again, I might add doctors and nurses. While revising "after the ACA," an essay on health issues,  I realized how immigration and health economics are linked. We keep doctors and nurses out. And we bemoan how expensive health care has become. Well, immigration restrictions are designed to keep American wages up, and there they are, working as promised. But keeping doctor wages up means keeping your health costs up. The principle applies everywhere.

I also have been looking for a more forceful analogy for  the plight of 11 million "illegal alien" (right) or "undocumented workers" (left) (I would like to find a neutral, unpoliticized word). Here we have 11 million people, living among us, often for decades or their whole lives, working here, owning houses and cars, starting businesses, paying taxes, taking part in our society... and yet with few legal rights. They can't really sue if swindled, they certainly can't vote on how the society they live in works, they can't get driver's licenses, they live in constant fear.

Watching some of the civil rights anniversaries, perhaps the plight of African-Americans in the 50s south is a resonant example. They had similarly few legal rights and in particular the right to vote. We are outraged. Why are we not outraged at the same plight of 11 million immigrants? OK, they are "illegal." But Jim Crow had the full force of law too.  Does "they should respect the law" apply to segregation laws? The fugitive slave act was a law too. Not all laws are good. And "they should get in line and follow the law" is empty -- it is simply impossible for the average migrant from Mexico, China, or India to come legally to the US.

It's not a perfect analogy. There is not a KKK or systematic violence against immigrants.  Historical analogies too quickly trivialize the past, like calling people Nazis.  But I do think that eventually we will see our current treatment of immigrants as an almost similar moral outrage, and good analogies to things we rightly deplore are worth pursuing. I need better ones.


  1. I would submit that there is actual organized and systematic violence perpetrated against undocumented workers in the US and its possessions and that this fact is widely known from periodic media exposure-Saipan's Chinese and Malaysian workers held in slave like conditions, the Minuteman Militia and similar groups murders of Mexicans (Brisenia Flores). It's tough out there.
    More to the point, though, isn't your rational approach to immigration a place where the business wing of the GOP and the Third Way branch of Democrats wish to apply a rational solution that is unpalatable politically to the rest of either party? It seems like rational solutions are unpalatable from the right, which has apparently abandoned reason, and are hit or miss from the old center (which is now left, as contrasted to the days when actual revolutionary socialists roamed the earth).

    How do you sell this to the Tea Party?

    1. i would add the cartels and zetas do a pretty good job of preying on non-citizens as well

    2. If you let the Mexicans run our government, then the cartels will control the whole of N. America (except Canada).

    3. In my area of California there is gang warfare between the two primary Mexican factions, the Nortenos and Surenos. Working as a substitute teacher, I am now into the double-digits for the number of kids I met in the local schools who are dead from gang violence. Half of them were not even in a gang themselves. Several were blacks killed by Mexicans, an emerging feature that seems to have escaped the media's attention--save for a single story in the LA Times in spring 2013 about the Mexicans running the last black family off their block in Compton. Of course a story that surely would have drawn immediate national attention a la Trayvon Martin, if they could have stuck it on whitey.
      Do you know what a "Sureno" is? It means "southerner", this is the product of the massive immigration wave that came after the last amnesty, the "Nortenos" are the Mexicans who were already here. They already lost SoCal but they are defending their home grounds to the death here in NorCal. Are you all celebrating diversity yet? BTW the majority of counties in California are white minority now.

  2. 300 million of american's use about 33% of world resources

    2 billion of them should need two extra earth's

    well you're all kaputt in some years ....

    1. You are confusing stocks with flows I think.

    2. Thanks, I am glad you pointed that out. Such a commonly misunderstood distinction.

    3. No need to be concerned about additional environmental impact. Once Americans are brought down to 3rd World levels they won't consume so much.

  3. You have already 300 million more than we need

  4. Have you seen Uruguay's immigration policy?

    "They are not required to invest or to buy property here. They just need to prove a monthly income of $650 (£413), which is not much for most foreigners; they need a certificate of good conduct and a birth certificate too."

  5. Ok Professor, where to start.
    Let me start by saying, yes, *in principle* I agree with you.
    However, one of the problems I see with your piece is that you talk in a First Best World, while we actually live in a Second Best (or Third Best) one. As I said in a previous comment to an blog entry of yours: Planet Earth calling John Cochrane.
    You insist several times in your piece that "we need to get the terms right, not the number". Well, you see, that is a big part of the problem. Our politicians cannot get the terms right, because their objectives are so diverse. Party Blue, say, wants more immigrants, because it wants the votes from those immigrants (and their families already here). Thus, Party Blue promises them all sorts of goodies to be paid for by taxpayers like you and me. Party Red wants to take away immigrants (and their votes) from Party Blue, so they promise their own set of taxpayer funded goodies, and in addition they want to please their own constituencies of crony capitalists. Concurrently, taxpayers do not want to fund any goodies for immigrants that politicians in Party Blue or Party Red want to hand out, so that they rebel, and you have factions of one of the parties, say Party Red, that are against everything that the rest of the pols suggest. So, the elected policymakers cannot agree on the terms. Yes, ideally, in a First Best World, we should all agree on the terms, but in the reality of the Second Best World, our reps do not.
    You say "For every objection to open immigration, it’s easy enough to find terms of the deal to resolve the matter." No, Professor, that is the crux of the problem, it simply NOT easy find a deal, because again, the objectives are so, so diverse.

    I would even add one more thing: most politicians who talk about immigration have simply no clue what current immigration law says. Current immigration law is so convoluted, so complicated, that those pols in Congress have no clue what it entails. They have no idea what a Visa L is, what a Visa Q, a Visa O, a Visa M, a Visa B-1 is. Some know what a visa H-1B is because Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page and Bill Gates are pushing to raise the quota, and thus the pols see it written in the press. But do the pols know what a "labor condition document" or a "labor certification document" is from the US Dept of Labor? They have zero clue. And you cannot have a decent discussion about "the terms" (as you say), if you do not have a good idea how the current system works.

    Finally, regarding the 11 million.... On that specific issue, I am not sure I agree with you. As a legal immigrant into this country, and having gone through the whole nine yards of the immigration process, from student visa to H-1B to Green Card, having suffered the abuse of immigration agents at the port of entry (I remember particularly a jerk at JFK Airport in New York), having suffered the abuse of consular officials in several countries when I needed to renew my J-1 visa (I remember another jerk in the US Consulate in Madrid, Spain), and the whole process taking me an obscene amount of years, effort, money for a lawyer, energy, patience, etc, I dunno, just granting legal stay to people who come crossing the border as if they feel at home, does not ring right to me. I confess I have no solution for this. I do not know what I would do with the 11 million. But just granting them permanent residency outright, just like that, no, I do not think it is right. You like to talk about incentives and moral hazard - well, here it is, if you grant the 11 million permanent residency outright, what do you think the moral hazard effects will be?
    Just my 2 cents...

    1. RE: Party Red - Deportation is just lip-service to their base who have a 'they're taking our jobs' problem. If you own a vineyard, you don't care about anything else - your {maximum donation legally allowed x 2[on behalf of your wife]} contribution along with that 50k donor's lunch is to ensure one thing - that you have access to cheap labor.

      An 'average' migrant from China/India/Mexico can certainly find a legal avenue by which to immigrate into the U.S. They already have that policy - get a graduate degree, and work as a 'fruit-picker' in academia until you get a green card. MD's are basically ushered into the US if they have someone to sponsor them and they've passed all 3 steps of the USMLE. An under-staffed hospital (rural hospitals are constantly looking for qualified physicians) will sponsor you in a heartbeat.

      RE: That $5000 bond. I'm all for it, but guess what - in principle it already exists. All you have to do to 'secure a job' here is pay $x to incorporate a U.S. branch of your pre-existing business and seed it with a few hundred thousand dollars (you don't even have to invest/spend that money, it just has to be on your balance sheet) and you're granted a US Visa instantaneously.

      RE: Why should we subsidize the healthcare of someone in Maine rather than Guadalajara? Well, if that person has always resided and currently resides in Guadalajara, they haven't paid a cent into any tax system that would assist in paying for that healthcare. If the person is an immigrant who hasn't legally immigrated in, but has paid a sufficient amount of tax dollars by all means, the ACA should be extended to them.

      As for the underlying point you addressed @Manfred, I'm with you 100% - granting blanket amnesty/permanent residency to undocumented citizens is an outright insult to any legal immigrant who 'played by the rules'. My best friend growing up and I were both second-generation immigrants. His parents lived during the last-days of the USSR, fought for an education to become a skilled laborer (both his parents held Bachelors in subsets of Engineering), and was finally granted asylum after extensive hardship. As I watched my uncle emigrate, I saw his legal expenditures break into the tens of thousands.

      JHC is right on re: anyone who holds an undergraduate degree which can directly contribute to our nations GDP is a valuable asset to this country and as such should likely be granted PR.

      The employment opportunities will disappear and illegal immigration will effectively solve itself. Illegal immigration is an issue which is caused by those who need cheap labor. Technology will replace grunt labor. The second it becomes more economical to buy a John Deere Auto-Pick 3000 - those vested interests buying those 50k luncheon seats no longer have a use for illegal immigrants.

      The real question is what are we going to do with those 11 million undocumented citizens once their rendered technologically redundant. Companies already are reluctant to offer pension packages for documented employees - do you really think those migrants are going to get severance pay? You'll have a humanitarian disaster with a couple million people literally starving to death on US soil. People do desperate and dangerous things to survive. Sexual slavery for the attractive women, Dickens-Style workdays for children, men working mines that have long since abandoned due to lack of structural support all seem like real possibilities to me.

      If there's a corpse decaying under a rock-slide, but it has no social security number, does society make a sound?

  6. Kooky drivel from a post-American elitist, nothing more. And he doesn't even understand the problem. A $10,000 requirement for immigrants sounds fine, but he wouldn't apply that to tourists; yet 40% of illegals came as temporary aliens. And I guess he'd amnesty them anyway, completely eroding his argument.

  7. I generally agree with this post but there is one part where I have to wonder if you have ever been to London or New York City. Not every immigrant is going to the countryside to hang with Dick and Liz Cheney or to some posh English manor to hang with the Queen. They move to the big cities if they want jobs. I know Michael Bloomberg's Manhattan neighborhood is quite nice but if you come to NYC, we'll visit densely populated Queens where our immigrants often live and work.

  8. "Immigrants might go to France for a welfare state.": No. They go there to do the same dirty jobs do in the U.S.

  9. The Chicago intellectual tradition would be to show respect for institutions and social arrangements that have functioned for centuries. So far no country in the world has ever accepted (peacefully) that other population groups than the one which has ruled it would come in and become its majority. America has been for 300 years, up to 1970, populated by immigrants coming only from a very small area of the world. There has never been a case of a country that would let populations groups from all over the world come in and eventually become the majority. The USA is the first experiment of this kind (again, short of military conquer) and is not followed outside the english speaking world anywhere else, namely not in Asia, middle east/israel, africa, south america..... What makes you think that this radical experiment, that contradicts thousand of years of human evolution, where population groups do not let strangers become the majority of their country, will end well ?
    What was wrong with America as it has been for the first 300 years of its history to have to change radically ?
    Does it make a difference which population groups constitute the majority of country or we have to look only at the effect on an "micro" basis in terms of the fact that an immigrant is likely to work and pays taxes
    since 1970 about 40 millions people immigrated to the USA from Mexico, south America, PuertoRico and the Caribbean and from Asia (more or less in that order of magnitude) and given the current immigration trends and relative fertility it is likely that that they will become the majority

    1. "America has been for 300 years, up to 1970, populated by immigrants coming only from a very small area of the world."

      I wouldn't describe Europe and West Africa as "a very small area of the world." And I'd say they are culturally and linguistically quite diverse. In, say, 1700, most Englishmen would not have been able to converse with a Welshman, an Irishman, or a Cornishman, let alone understand the various languages and dialects of France. And that's before we deal with the European/West African differences.

  10. I wouldn't be surprised to learn the guys who mow my grass under the Texas summer sun aren't here legally. I admire their work ethic. Send me more of those.

    I would gladly enter into a program whereby we take in 2 people who want to come here to work in exchange for their country of origin taking 1of our citizens whose (time spent on welfare/time spent employed) ratio is > 1.

  11. Article summary: I want everyone to be treated equally regardless of country of origin, but if not, then as a second best, people's concerns about immigration can be accomodated by (possibly politically infeasible) laws while still allowing for a lot of immigration.

    This doesn't understand the role of the state. The basic function of a state is to enable a group of people to compete successfully with other groups and societies. It is fundamentally discriminatory.

    Claiming and defending resources, especially land, is key to this. Free immigration is basically equivalent to conquest without even requiring competing states to win a military victory. You are giving everyone else your land to move into.

    A large amount of immigration dilutes the current population's ownership of its resources. There can be benefits, if these people can help the state to compete with others. The benefits should be traded against the costs but I don't think the article understands what those costs are.

    You can think about all this in evolutionary terms. Is the dilution of the gene pool by immigration compensated by strengthening of the state's position, allowing it to defend itself against others or conquer others? In a peaceful world, the answer is likely to be no for large-scale immigration.

  12. Actually the US has about 5 billion new immigrants from cyberspace in the form of robotic machines. But you could create 3 billion virtual immigrants (either in software or as robotic machines) and give them Facebook and Twitter accounts as well as virtual homes and bitcoins to consume virtual goods. This will be a new level of reality compatible with the hypothesis that this world is already some type of a simulation, either in the Nick Bostrom sense, or a simulated functional reality in my sense (See:

  13. You shouldn't be embarrassed about having mentioned apartheid. No analogy is ever perfect; that's why it's an analogy, not an identity. The analogy between the U.S. government's treatment of foreigners and the mid- to late-twentieth-century South African government's treatment of non-whites is not perfect, but it's pretty good.

    1. An illegal immigrant comes here and has a baby. We pay for all the medical--did you realize that's like $25K now to start? Now she is the legal guardian of an American citizen, she collects welfare "in lieu of her citizen child". Have you ever seen this explained on any media? Next, as is the case of all the (Democrat-run) major metros with their "sanctuary" policies and all the big blue states, the local Democrat officials gleefully sign them up for every benefit they can muster, in my area they all get subsidized housing right away (and I can show you public housing full of illegals at LAKE TAHOE--built by undocumenteds w/fake IDs while local citizen construction labor is flushed out over to western Nevada).

  14. I totally agree with you, immigration policy in the US right now is schizophrenic and focuses on the wrong issue (numbers), instead of trying to set some standards. Aside note, instead of calling them "illegal alien" (right) or "undocumented workers" (left), one politically correct word is "irregular migrants" see

  15. I'd have to agree on various points the author has made. I personally know many families who have family members that are "illegal". These people are not just using up the space at the community pool. On a a daily basis they try to maintain their current jobs seeking for some opportunities to support their families. With the money earned they participate in the U.S. economy and drive the cycle. Creating an optimal number doesn't diminish the number of families their are in these same situations. I say let those that want to come in, enter without being called illegal or an alien. Applying these standards the author has mentioned would be suffice.

  16. A citizen, in the original Roman meaning of the term, was a person who was sworn to bare arms and lead troops, in defense of the city. Only since the middle ages and feudalism was a citizen (then called a Baron), allowed to "buy-out" of his military duty by the payment of taxes to the crown. An illegal immigrant is essentially an infiltrator who is at war with state and its citizens. By rights, in Roman times, the citizens would have directly taken arms against these enemies. Now however the citizens simply pay the central government to hire appropriate people to take care of the dirty work.

  17. From a political science perspective this is a classic pre-neo-liberal perspective (and even a naive version of that) which would have come straight out of the 1950s. One problem with it is that , while not incorrect logically - in its own way, it leaves out the distributive consequences of immigration. It can create winners and losers, sometimes the latter effect a very serious economic (and political) one. In the end the answer can only be determined empirically on a case by case basis.

    For example, in some countries, the mass movement of people can be destabilising, which is why, for example, China does not allow free movement, what ever neoclassical Anglo-Saxon ("standard") economic theory may tell them. Ditto for trade and capital flows.

    My own feeling is that what you say is probably largely correct for the US, but less so for many other countries.

    Your thesis above shows the need in economics to reintroduce the key historical works of students so they understand the philosophical foundations of the discipline and why, while all are right in their own way, they are not universally applicable. The accumulation of human knowledge and progress is not linear according to many schools of thought.

  18. A good examination question for Professor Cochrane is:

    "Why do we have states and borders? Compare Neo-Marxian and Neo-liberal explanations and refer to two contrasting historical case studies of the creation of a state."

    Mathematical explanations are only acceptable if chosen variables are ontologically and epistemologically defined and defended."

  19. This is a silly blog entry. Your ignorance of what is going on re immigration is staggering. Either you reveal the limits of economics as a profession, or your own limitations.

  20. In response to what everyone else is saying re: Professor Cochrane's removal from planet earth plus these chicago school side-swipe zingers:

    "especially low-income consumers who tend to shop at Wal-Mart and benefit the most from low-priced goods"

    "Markets, not the government, already provides homes and jobs for citizens."

    Like, regardless of the few 'rational merits' of what Professor Cochrane argues in this article (which there are), how are we supposed to even take seriously a man so far removed from reality?

  21. I apologize for being late to the party. The essay covers so many different things, but for now at least let me say that in general I agree with the approaches outlined in it, especially the "bond posting" aspect. It's a breath of fresh air to the usual arguments. (Alas, if fear it won't get much traction amongst the establishment, who will argue that we are "discriminating" against those who don't have money for a bond.)

    One major point, however, regarding the sentence: "Morally, just why your taxes should support an unfortunate who happened to be born in Maine and not one who happened to be born in Guadalajara is an interesting question, but leave that aside for now."

    Rephrasing the question this way should provide much enlightenment: "Morally, just why your money should go to support your children rather that someone else's is an interesting question..."

    Human beings (in fact all creatures) have always valued those genetically closer to themselves than those who aren't. It's the way nature intended. Pretending otherwise is simply another way that an oppressive goverment can control people.

    Remember, most laws are designed to punish behavior that people like -- such smoking marijuana. There is little point, from an oppressive government's point of view, of passing laws against things most people don't like. Virtually all of the money in the prison-industrial complex comes from punishing "drug users" and "drug dealers" -- not from protecing us from murderers and violent criminals. There (thankfully) simply aren't enough of them to go around.

    I suspect the world would be a less violent place if people were honest about their priorities, rather than constantly pretending otherwise. In any case, back to the issue at hand, you're never going to get people to agree to allow lots of immigrants into the country until you get rid of laws against racism. Nobody will admit this, of course, since we've been told by the establishment our entire lives that we should (for instance) marry somebody based on (for instance) how good they are at programming computers, not their race.

    So people will continue to state other reasons for not wanting to allow more immigrants. And there will continue to be essays (such as this one, but not as good) that knock down those arguments. But for the most part it is knocking down strawmen, and evading the real issue.

    We may pretend publically that we aren't troubled by "the browning" of America, or the Muslimification of the U.K. But down deep, where they will seldom admit it even to themselves, most (multi-generational) Americans are.

    Ask yourself: Do you care if a hundred years from now there aren't any more white people left in the world? If so, you're a racist. Pure and simple. Deal with it. In fact, embrace it.

  22. My options are limited. My first grade grand-daughter says you are no longer allowed to call people "stupid" "retarded" or "economist". How about unwise? The only logical immigration policy is reciprocal immigration. Of twenty-five good reason two would be overcoming moral hazard and our genetic tendency to reciprocity.

    1. You're on the wrong blog. I have never called anyone "stupid" or "retarded." This is close to the "polite" line where I delete comments.

  23. Amen to letting in more Doctors. Currently the biggest hidden monopoly practice in US with AMA milking the white coat God syndrome to the hilt. WOuld bring down prices like "*magic*".

  24. Note to readers: I find many of these comments not just outrageous but almost offensive. I'm letting them through anyway, as they are a good lesson in just what kind of mentality people with a sane, analytical, economic approach to immigration will face.

    1. And 18 months later: you suppose they are now Trump supporters?

    2. John, which of the 2016 presidential candidates is closest to you on their immigration views?

    3. I ended up here after following a link posted by Avon Barksdale on Nick Rowe's post today called "Importing people is not like importing apples."

      Nick asks a question (I think in response to Avon / what he quoted from you / your post here):

      "A monopolist faces a downward-sloping demand curve (or a monopsonist faces an upward-sloping supply curve). P(Q), or Q(P). When he picks a point on that demand curve, is he setting P or Q? If the demand curve shifts, would he change P, Q, or both?"

  25. A previous comment was intended to be cute rather than hostile, but the immigration issue does tend to raise the blood pressure. There are two main foundations to a rational immigration policy.

    All growth stops, all exponential growth stops. This is pretty basic but like support for the Book of Genesis there continues to be support for growth in some theoretical or metaphorical sense. The moderate "growther" has to take some responsibility for the evil done by the fundamentalist "growther". Just as the moderate Christian has to take some responsibility for intelligent design and radical Islam. Current immigration is a flawed unsustainable growth policy.

    The royal field of study now is ecology, a well-educated person would have the appropriate balance of training in physics,chemistry and biology to achieve an understanding of ecology, energy flows and complex networks. We all fall short. Economies are subsets of ecosystems and recently have become intolerably large subsets. The previously free environmental services are gone. Every,previously free breath we take now has an expense. We live in at least a full earth if not in overshoot. Therefore..

    Take the UK or USA as an ecosystem. Can you find an ecologist who would suggest improving either by adding another homo sapiens? Even Einstein? ( I would like to see some counterfactuals on Einstein, he might have been more productive in Switzerland.) There are many specifics but one I like: man and his animals now account for 97% of the land vertebrates on the planet. Or the sixth great extinction. Look at the huge bolus of immigration before the last two great depressions. On and on...

    So I would still support reciprocal immigration only, as part of a rational population policy, and thinking beyond immediate employment effects.

  26. I thought this recent post by Economist might be interesting:
    "How immigrants can save dying cities"

  27. Immigration is broken because neither party much cares about it. Once you add the loudmouthed bigots who somehow found even this blog... forget about it.

  28. Immigration has changed the world. It is very important we need to be united as a human being..

  29. Nice to see the optimal number of immigrants post. Thanks for sharing this valuable information. keep sharing!


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Thanks to a few abusers I am now moderating comments. I welcome thoughtful disagreement. I will block comments with insulting or abusive language. I'm also blocking totally inane comments. Try to make some sense. I am much more likely to allow critical comments if you have the honesty and courage to use your real name.