Monday, March 02, 2009

Kondratieff Wave Surfing

I'm a product of world system theory thinking as it relates to political geography. Part of my indoctrination into the secret society of geopolitics was learning about Kondratieff Waves. The up-and-down pattern of global economic expansion drives other patterns, such as democratization. During a downturn, such as the one we are currently experiencing, we would expect to see a rise in political instability and thus growing populism, protectionism and xenophobia.

Leading the charge in the States is the Senator from Iowa, Chuck Grassley. Grassley's parochial approach to workforce development (Iowa first) now manifests itself at the national scale in his crusade against foreign born talent. As unemployment gets worse, Grassley's reactionary policies gain support. The anti-immigrant sentiment is remarkably similar to brain drain hysteria and I see the two issues as artifacts of the same self-destructive perspective.

The real kick in the pants is the shrinkage of labor:

Our country's primary strategy to cope with our labour problems has been to attract workers from other countries; Canada currently draws approximately 220,000 people a year through immigration. Yet, to maintain even a nominal level of growth in our labour force, that number needs to double in the coming years.

The challenge is that other industrialized jurisdictions around the world are feeling the same labour pinch and, like Canada, have also chosen immigration as their policy solution.

The U.S., U.K., and Australia, in particular, have been proactive in luring skilled migrants and thus have made the business of immigration increasingly competitive. Moreover, the two countries that we have traditionally relied on for new workers -- China and India -- have fairly robust economies themselves, resulting in fewer people wanting to emigrate.

The Canadian perspective is a bit too alarmist. I've seen the same shrill in the States. All countries are losing the stomach for more immigration. The boomerang back to India or China won't survive a shock to political stability. Nativism in the UK appears on pace to outclass its competitors. Once again, the United States may sport relatively liberal immigration policies and the bulk of the entrepreneurial opportunities. However, now is a good time to make a talent grab and the Rust Belt should go for it.

No comments: