Border Follies: Liberalising Migration Could Deliver a Huge Boost to Global Output

The Economist
November 17, 2012

IN BAD economic times the temptation to bash immigration is overwhelming. “Get the stench out of Greece,” runs a slogan of Golden Dawn, an increasingly popular anti-immigrant party there. David Cameron has pledged to more than halve annual net migration into Britain by 2015. In America Republicans are wondering how much anti-immigration rhetoric contributed to Mitt Romney’s defeat in the presidential election. A change of political tune is badly needed. Evidence suggests that increased flows of people across borders could ignite global growth.

The economic case for migration is similar to that for free trade. Trade benefits countries by letting workers specialise in activities in which they are relatively more productive, raising output. And the larger market created by trade spreads the fixed costs of innovation more thinly, encouraging the development of new goods and ideas. Governments began the long march towards trade liberalisation after grasping that its upsides outweigh its costs, leaving a surplus large enough to compensate the losers.

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