Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Brain Drain And Xenophobia

Local jobs for local people. This mindset fuels xenophobia. Matthew Yglesias making a false distinction between fear of immigrants and fear of outsiders:

When people hear about a town that's attracting many new residents, they say it's "booming" not that the newcomers are poaching a fixed supply of jobs. Nobody in Texas seems to have proposed trying to close the state to migrants from the Northeast and Midwest; rather, they see the state's attraction to migrants as one of its strengths. The "foreign-ness" of newcomers from other countries distracts people from fundamental dynamics that they understand in other contexts. 

Domestic xenophobia, from Okies to Hillbillies, is alive and well.

You were born here. Used our hospitals and schools. Once graduated, you will toil and pay taxes. Talent, we (i.e. the community) own you:

When Mr. Szabo, 24, graduates soon from law school, he will be free to go wherever in the world he wants. But Mr. Birtalan, 18, was required to sign a contract at the beginning of his first year as a sociology major because of a new rule introduced in September. As a beneficiary of the state-funded university system, he will be obliged to work for two years in Hungary for every year of his subsidized studies. ...

... The Hungarian government sees the contracts as necessary means to combat “brain drain,” said Zoltan Balog, the government minister in charge of human resources, referring to graduates’ choosing to work abroad.

“How can it be that we are training several hundreds of doctors every year — which costs the taxpayers a whole lot of money — who after graduation immediately go to Norway, to Sweden, to England?” Mr. Balog said in an interview.

“I don’t want to enslave them,” he said of Hungarian students. “I want to have a balance between the individual interest and the national interest. This country is investing in higher education, so whoever graduates should also use their knowledge to further the interest of the country.”

I've heard it all before, ad nauseum. Wait a second ... How did I get from fear of Hillbillies taking over Chicago to the connection between talent retention slavery and xenophobia? Local jobs for local people.

Three people apply for a position. One is foreign born. Number two is from out of state. The last is born and raised in Middleamericaville. Who should be hired?

I say the company should be able to hire whomever it sees fit to hire. Who cares where they were born? If you worry about brain drain, then you care. You are a xenophobe. Such xenophobia informs ridiculous policies such as the one in Hungary.

By hook or crook, carrot or stick, trying to stop brain drain is wrong. Helping someone through school doesn't give you a claim on what that graduate does. Restricting geographic mobility does a world of harm. Promoting geographic mobility unleashes economic growth.

Those who seek to plug the brain drain are no better than the folks chanting anti-immigrant slogans.

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