Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Economic Geography Of Xenophobia

Inert populations are more risk averse than the geographically mobile. Cosmopolites have a greater capacity to trust strangers and expand market. Then there is the tale of technological diffusion and global economic development:

[Jared] Diamond hypothesized that Eurasia's east-west orientation allowed freer movement of people and animals than did the Americas' north-south orientation because of the greater climate variability when moving north to south. This gave Eurasia an advantage in the spread and development of technology.

In a Sept. 13 article in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Sohini Ramachandran, assistant professor of biology, and Noah Rosenberg, an associate professor of biology at Stanford University, report on data from 678 sites in the human genome exhibiting a high level of genetic variance. These sites provide information about genetic similarities and differences between populations in the Americas and in Eurasia. The researchers studied how geographical variables, such as latitude and longitude, affected these variations.

Their results show greater genetic differentiation of people in the Americas, indicating a lower rate of migration. "If two populations remain isolated, then they have an opportunity to diverge in their patterns of genetic variation over time," Rosenberg said.

Eurasia developed more quickly than the Americas thanks to greater geographic mobility. Migration means greater prosperity for the individual and the two communities at each end of the journey. Somehow, the latter gets lost in translation. Most communities would rather be like the Americas, more rooted in place.

Such thinking extracts a high cost. Autarky cannot compete with economic liberalism. In other words, talent retention policies retard growth and entrench intolerance. This negative feedback loop feeds risk aversion and patronage. The politics of brain drain is the economics of failure.

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