Monday, February 25, 2008

The Diaspora Network Imperative

Britain is fretting over a recent OECD report about brain drain:

In reviewing Roger Scruton’s England: an Elegy a few years ago, the journalist Christian Tyler described that feeling particularly well. “For people in later middle age,” he wrote, “the present is a place of exile in which they are condemned to live estranged from the country they knew and loved as children. Brought up in the culture and mores of one place, they are involuntary immigrants to another; there they can choose either to acclimatise or to live locked up in a state of permanent regret.” Or they can choose to become emigrants.

That might be why some people leave this country. But I think the most important one must be economic; Britain is a wonderful place to live if you are rich and can pay your way around any inconveniences. Britain is relatively good if you are poor, particularly if your country of origin was even poorer. But for the educated middle classes Britain is no longer a good deal. The main reason for that is simple: it is the oppressive price of property.

If London is world city par excellence, then why is talent leaving the country? The typical reaction is to focus on the push factors of migration and then try to fix what is wrong with home. Putting aside the Creative Class hype, substantial out-migration is a sign of urban health and the geographic mobility of British citizens is a testament to the quality of the national system of education.

Human capital is surfing the Flat World, cause for celebration for cities such as Pittsburgh. The nomads of globalization are in the market for opportunity and they are willing to relocate. But all the talk about strategies to retain highly trained people is nonsense. Pittsburgh should be trying to attract the British mobile class and all the other talent fleeing established global economic spikes.

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